Iced Tea Month

June is National Iced Tea Month, which is very appropriate. When you think of June, you think of summer and swimming and graduations and weddings and refreshing iced tea.

I grew up drinking iced tea. Let me rephrase that, I grew up drinking very sweet iced tea. My mama, and then when we were old enough, my siblings and I, brewed a two gallon jug of iced tea every single day; winter, spring, summer or fall (all you have to do is call. Thank you, Carole King, for that lovely, timeless song). 

We boiled water on the stove in a funky, triangular-shaped iron pot. We put in eight teabags (always eight) and boiled for a few seconds, then let it ‘brew’ for about five minutes more. We then poured that beautiful copper red tea into one of those old-fashioned Tupperware jugs with the lid that has a small hole and cap for pouring. The jug had been previously filled half way with cold water and two cups of sugar. We stirred that sweet nectar until it blended beautifully then stuck it in the fridge until dinner time. 

The sweet tea at our home affectionally became known as “Ray Tea”. It is still called that today. Whenever there is a family event ~ Thanksgiving, picnics, reunions, birthday parties, Ray tea is expected to be on the counter. 

I have had a lot of sweet tea from various restaurants, and it is pretty good, but my mama’s sweet tea is the best I ever had.

As a young wife and mother, I thought it was cool to jump onto the sun tea bandwagon and made it that way for years. It was always so fun to put it out in the morning and by dinner time, it was perfectly colored and ready to drink. I definitely modified the sugar measurements, though. Of course, it wasn’t as good, but knew that it was better for my family. 

I have stopped making fresh iced tea. For one, I have hard water and it just never comes out the same coppery red color. Two, I drink my tea and coffee sans sugar. I have been drinking it that way for at least 15 years. When I want iced tea, I buy a gallon jug of Tradewinds or Pure Leaf unsweetened tea and pour it over ice. It always satisfies.

We hear a lot about green tea and the latest trend, matcha green tea. There are apparently real benefits to partaking. But even old-fashioned black pekoe tea has healthy pluses. 

Black tea is full of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that help protect cells from DNA damage. Increasing evidence hints that the antioxidants in black tea may also reduce atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), especially in women. 

So it is your national duty to drink in a tall skinny glass of iced sometime this month. Wait for a real scorcher of a day and guzzle it down like you’ve been in the desert for two weeks. It is incredibly satisfying, and sans the sugar, is actually very good for you. 

Go ahead, take the (Nestea) plunge. 

May Day

May Day is a public holiday celebrated on May 1. It is an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival and a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the festivities.

Dancing? Singing? Cake? Yes, count me in!

May Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. In the United States May Day was celebrated by some early European settlers of the American continent. In some parts of the United States, May baskets are made. These are small baskets usually filled with flowers or treats and left at someone’s doorstep. The giver rings the bell and runs away. That sounds like fun!

May Day celebrations were common at women’s colleges and academic institutions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a tradition that continues at Bryn Mawr College and Brenau University to this day. Good for them for keeping up tradition!

I have vague but sweet memories of celebrating May Day at my childhood school, Kirby Road Elementary. I remember a Maypole with beautiful colored streamers hanging down and we would each grab one of the streamers and walk around the maypole while singing a song. I remember carrying flowers or wearing them in our hair. 

I googled Maypole to see what was the ‘411’. Here is the official definition:

A pole painted and decorated with flowers, around which people traditionally dance on May Day, holding long ribbons that are attached to the top of the pole.

Yep, that is how I remember it. I wonder when that stopped? I do not recall my boys celebrating May Day at school, which is unfortunate. I remember it fondly as the highlight of spring. 

For the record, the distress call “Mayday! Mayday!” is in no way related to the May Day celebration on May 1. “Mayday” the distress call comes from the French term m’aidez, which means “help me.”

On this May Day, perhaps you won’t leave a small basket of treats at someone’s doorstep or dance around a Maypole, while holding onto beautiful ribbons, but do something! 

Sing a little song, if only to yourself. Pick a flower and put it on your desk in a vase, or behind your ear. Or bake a cake and decorate it with pastel colors. Notice spring, in some way. 

Happy May! 

Doorbell! Pizza Delivery

It is Friday, which almost always means pizza at my house. That tradition has been ongoing for at least 25 years. That is a lot of pizza. But that is also a lot of family time and love and memories made.

My oldest son, Andrew, the Yale Divinity School student, and his lovely bride, Lindsey are scraping along like newlyweds usually do, especially when one is a full-time student. A couple of months ago I had the idea to find a pizza delivery shop in New Haven, Connecticut, who would allow me to order the pizza from Ohio, pay for it by credit card on the phone, and have it delivered hot and scrumptiously to Andrew and Lindsey.

I found (with Andrew’s help), an authentic little place. The first few times I called, I had to go through the logistics of ordering from far away; the phone numbers of all parties, the delivery address, the ordering address, the credit card number, etc. Now when I call, the owner answers in his rushed, raspy Italian voice, apparently recognizes my voice, and says “ya, ya, ya, large Margherita pizza to…”

Since they are far from home, we like the idea of having pizza “with” them on a Friday night. It does not happen every Friday night. They often have plans or are in Manhattan for the weekend. But when it works, it is fun.

I have a small book entitled “Little-Known Facts about Well-Known Stuff”. In this book, I found this little nugget about pizza.

According to the staffs at the Domino’s Pizza locations in and around Washington, D.C., if there is a marked increase in the number of late night deliveries to the White House or the Pentagon, it usually signifies that a major news announcement of national importance will follow in 48 to 72 hours.

Here is another fun fact. The record for the most pizzas delivered nationwide in one evening was set on June 17, 1994, as O.J. Simpson fled in his white Ford Bronco down the Los Angeles freeway and Americans couldn’t take their eyes off of their TVs.

In my early fifties, I competed in a pizza-eating contest. I did not win, but I gave an impressive effort. The competition was with high school students. I was the only “old” one, so I did quite well!

Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza a day or about 350 slices per second.

The highest-grossing single-unit independent pizzeria in the nation, Moose’s Tooth Pub and Pizzeria, is in Anchorage, Alaska. Its annual sales are approximately $6 million.

The pizza at Moose’s Tooth must be pretty darn good. I consider myself quite the connoisseur so I would love to try their’s. I am wondering if they deliver to Ohio…

Olympic Dreams

The 2018 Winter Olympics are underway. I have such fond memories of watching the Olympics over the years with the boys. We especially love the winter sports. The boys always liked the bobsleigh, freestyle skiing, snowboarding and skeleton. I have always loved the figure skating. I think it would feel amazing to be out there on that smooth frozen surface, floating and twirling like an ice princess.

For women competitive ice-skaters, skirts are mandatory. If not, a deduction penalty is applied. However, as of 2006, ladies were also allowed to wear full bodysuit, down to the feet.

I especially love those longer skate dresses that hit right above the knee, paired with nude-colored skates. I am not a fan of the tiny little flare skirt that barely covers the undies, not so much because I think it is indecent. I simply think the longer, flowing silk skirts are feminine and look beautiful flying through the wind as they skate.

Maybe that is what all 60 year-olds say.

The photo above is Mikaela Shiffrin embracing her grandmother, Pauline, and her mother, Eileen, after winning the women’s slalom race in the 2017 Audi FIS alpine skiing World Cup in Killington, Vermont.

Mikalea is representing USA in five Alpine events – downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G and combined. She acknowledged that five events is incredibly ambitious.

When asked about her weeks leading up to the Olympics she stated: “Six or seven days of training in a row, a couple of days off, physical therapy, meals and sleep. I’m fairly boring”, she said with a sheepish grin.

I’m not necessarily Mikaela Shiffin’s biggest fan. I had never heard of her. I simply ran across the photo and loved the moment and loved the looks on the faces of all three women.

I am a very patriotic person. So, join me in saying “Go USA!” every day until the closing ceremony. I will be listening.


I am away with my cousins at our annual weekend retreat. This is our 20th year! For 20 years we have been setting aside a long weekend in the fall to be together.

We had strong grandparents. Strong in true strength and faith and tenacity. When the going got tough, these two got going. And they never stopped until they stepped into the arms of Jesus.

We have a rich Christian heritage, for which we are grateful. Every year we say it aloud. May we never forget.

In the beginning, these weekend trips felt nearly awkward. First cousins, but some of us almost strangers, seeing each other once or twice a year at a reunion or funeral. All of us very different. Yet, each year that we are together, the cord is drawn tighter and the differences among us are paled in the light of our foundation.

There were 18 of us. Eighteen girl cousins. This year, 12. Dear Paulette departed this earth before we began our tradition. Two live far away. Two are distant, which is not the same as far away. And this year, the youngest, Kimmy, unable to be with use due to a house move.

In past years, we have often been in very secluded and wooded settings; an old house up a long and dark lane. We have joked about being afraid. But the joke is that the perpetrator would be the one in fear. These women are formidable. I trust them with my life.

Another standing joke is this line: “It’s a Hall thing.” Our grandparents were Ezra and Bratchie Hall.

We are strong willed and opinionated. Those are Hall things. We are also loving and dedicated and protective and fiercely loyal. And those are Hall things.

Even now as I write on the second floor of this big house, I hear the faintness of several different conversations below. The sonancy lilting through the air is melodious and sweet.

We all have struggles with life; jobs, relationships, husbands, children, grandchildren. And when we are erring on weakness and lack of fortitude, we remember who we are. We remember the sacrifices and the laughter and the tears and the prayers and the love. We must continue the fight. We must stay on the path. We must keep telling the story so that our children will know.

And may all who come behind us find us faithful, as well.


It is Halloween Eve. I know that for some, Halloween is not a real holiday; not a day to party or celebrate or even speak of.

I am privileged to have been reared in a home where I was taught about the love of Jesus. I began my church-going when I was a mere eight days old. Everything “church” was what my life revolved around; Sunday school, bible quizzing, church camp, teen choir, youth group activities, revival services and vacation bible school.

But…we did trick or treat, every year. I remember well my mother making us costumes. That is costumes for six children! Occasionally she would literally sew something. Often she would put things together and come up with an outfit. She was creative in that way. Still is.

I have a few favorite outfit memories. One was a gypsy. I wore a long, printed skirt with a white blouse and black vest. Mama also made me a cute little bandana to tie around my head. My favorite part was that she sewed lightweight, gold curtain rings to the bandana in order to give me “gypsy earrings”. Thus began my love of earrings. What a pagan.

Another favorite costume was an Indian princess. Somehow Mom came up with a tan, suede fringy outfit. My hair in low braids hung over each shoulder. Headband across my forehead and a feather in the back. Perfect.

Halloween for me was always associated with creativity, pumpkin carving, family fun and pouring out a pillow case full of candy on the living room floor. I would take in the beautiful scene before taking in the beautiful taste.

I may be naive.

Evil is in our world. That is blatantly and painfully obvious. It is here always. And always it must be fought with the full armor of God; the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation.

I am not sure we can hang all of the world’s evil on one day. But if that is true, I will choose a costume with the above named accessories.



Graeter’s Ice Cream

Today I attended an awards luncheon, sponsored by the media company for which I work. It is an annual event to honor entrepreneurs in Cincinnati. Many of them are long-time entrepreneurs, having inherited a business. Others are lone rangers who have pushed through with Ramen noodles and pure grit.

One of the honorees was a fourth generation member of the Graeter family. Yes, as in ice cream.

The Graeter family began making ice cream in Cincinnati in 1870. Back then, ice cream was a rare treat, hand made in small batches. Louis and Regina Graeter made ice cream just two gallons at a time with the traditional “French Pot” process in a little neighborhood parlor for 50 years.

Mass production methods ensued and big companies began pumping air into reformulated recipes full of preservatives and artificial ingredients. Ice cream was never the same again. Except at Graeter’s, where Louis’s widow, Regina, stubbornly refused to adopt new-fangled methods. I love that.

Graeter’s ice cream is widely acclaimed as the best that you will ever eat taste. By slowly freezing their ice cream in small batches to a point much colder than the large modern producers, they are able to achieve an irresistible creaminess that is unique to Graeter’s. This process prevents air from whipping into their ice cream. A lower quality pint of ice cream can weigh as little as eight ounces. A Graeter’s pint weighs nearly a full pound. Lord help me.

What Graeter’s is fabulously famous for is the massive chunks of chocolate found in their signature chocolate chip flavors. They create those unique chips by pouring their specially prepared liquid chocolate into the French Pot just as the ice cream is finishing. A large paddle is then used to break up the frozen chocolate into chips and chunks of all sizes. I’m drooling right now.

I learned that few family businesses survive to the fourth generation of family ownership, but the Graeter family fully intends to pass on Cincinnati’s historic and beloved ice cream tradition. I love that, too.

Lest you think otherwise, Graeter’s Ice Cream is not paying me to promote their product. However, if someone at the company catches wind of this blog post and in deep appreciation chooses to send me massive amounts of raspberry chocolate chip or mocha chocolate chip, I would probably accept it. Hint, hint, hint.