I ‘m back home after a week away — my niece’s wedding, followed by a cousins reunion.

Family time is always great, but this was particularly special.

Reinforcing family bonds.

Reliving cherished memories.

Creating new ones.

And of course having fun!

Please join us!

Family Time

You all know how important family time is to me.

In fact, I built this home here specifically with family in mind.

Thanksgiving dinners around the table.

The magic of Christmas together.

If I am lucky, a birthday celebration or two.

And, of course, the glory of Maine summers here on the coast.

My grandchildren, Jamie and Poppy, will be here in August, and I can’t wait to take them to our local beach to explore the tide pools and dip their toes in the frigid water.

In their future, I see lobster bakes, adventures out on the water, lawn games, blueberry pancake breakfasts, family game nights, s’mores at the fire pit, rainy days spent with a puzzle or a good book.

And more cousins to join in on the fun.

An August Tradition

Playing dress-up. I am the elegant one on the far right@
Celebrating my birthday surrounded by family.

You see, growing up, August with family was a tradition in my extended family.

When we were young our family — cousins, aunts, and uncles — would gather at my grandparents’ home outside Chicago for three weeks every August.

My sisters and I would make the trip from New York. Two cousins would journey from London. And others had only a relatively short drive from a nearby Chicago suburb.

I have the very best memories of these summers.

Swimming in Lake Michigan, with a rinse in the big basement laundry sink when we returned.

Outings to the zoo, an amusement park, mini golf, a Cubs game. Once, the Bozo the Clown Show.

And always a visit to the Federal District courthouse in Chicago, where my grandfather served as Chief Judge for many years. We would watch tv in his chambers, bang his gavel on the tall bench in the courtroom, and step inside the holding cell.

Most of our time, though, was spent at our grandparents’ home — playing dress-up and pool, putting on stilts and pogo stick shows, playing sardines (a kind of reverse hide-and-seek), exploring the attic, and passing messages via the laundry chute.

I still have vivid memories of grilled burgers, just-picked corn-on-the-cob, hand-cranked peach ice cream, and a freezer full of Good Humor ice cream treats. (My favorite is still Toasted Almond.)

Every evening we would gather for “happy hour”, with snacks and drinks. Always a bowl of cheese puffs for my grandmother.

But my fondest memories are of my birthday, celebrated every summer with my cousins gathered around.

When we grandkids got older, “Lele and Pop” started to take us on trips to Europe in August instead. The last, to commemorate their 50th wedding anniversary, was an epic multi-week road-trip in a school-bus-yellow van from Paris down to Nice. But that is material for a whole other blog post!

A Cousins Reunion

As we grew up, life got busier, of course.

We scattered and started building independent lives.

Eventually we all had families of our own.

My grandparents passed away, and the home where we made all those summer memories was sold.

We cousins would still see each other at family weddings and the occasional visit.

Then, this past weekend my niece got married in Milwaukee.

And the cousins descended to celebrate. All but one, who lives with his family in Spain.

As a bonus, while planning for her daughter’s wedding, my sister invited the cousins to gather afterwards at her home outside Chicago for a few days.

The cousins reunion was on!

My Cousins Reunion Journal

The cousins with “Lele and Pop”, me on the far right.

When we traveled with my grandparents, our grandmother always made us keep a journal, recording what we did each day.

In her memory, here is my cousins reunion “journal”.

You might find it useful if you are planning a trip to the Chicago area!


Farewell wedding bagel breakfast.

Jack and Margaux were my only children who were able to make the wedding. I saw them off, on their way home to Michigan and a James Taylor concert. Lucky them!

The cousins piled into a few cars and headed to the Chicago area.

Lou Malnati’s Chicago Style Pizza

Dinner was takeout from Lou Malnati’s, considered by many to have the best Chicago-style pizza. I had their “thin” crust instead of the classic deep-dish they are known for. It was still delicious!

Good news for all you who love authentic Chicago deep-dish pizza, you can order Lou Malnati’s pizza shipped straight to your door!


Walker Brothers The Original Pancake House

Breakfast at another local institution — Walker Brothers The Original Pancake House.

Walker Brothers has 7 locations in the northern suburbs of Chicago. In the 1960’s, they were one of the first franchisees of Portland, Oregon’s The Original Pancake House.

Now there are Original Pancake House franchises all over the country. We even had one in Bethesda where we used to live.

Chicago Botanic Garden

The Japanese Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden

An afternoon visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden. We had lunch in their cafe, then strolled around the gardens. My grandmother’s favorite area was the Japanese garden, so we posed for a group picture there. Rather tricky with 12 of us!

Monday evening we made tacos for dinner.


Tuesday was our big day in downtown Chicago.

Chicago French Market

We started with lunch at the Chicago French Market, a “European-inspired indoor food market for grab-&-go meals, fresh produce & specialty kiosks”. They had a great selection of different international cuisines. Perfect for our group, which included vegetarian, and gluten and dairy free. We all picked up our food and then met at a table to eat together.

When we got there shortly before noon the place was empty, but filled up quickly with workers from surrounding offices on their lunch breaks.

Chicago Water Taxi

From the Market, we rode the water taxi on the Chicago river down to Michigan Avenue. It is actually more like a “water bus” than an individual “taxi”. It was a fun way to get around and avoided street traffic.

Chicago Cultural Center

We headed next to the Chicago Cultural Center to see the Tiffany glass domes and tile mosaics.

This place was also a favorite of my grandmother’s. The building was completed in 1897 as Chicago’s first central public library. In addition to the spectacular glass and mosaics, there were also a number of exhibits that we did not explore.

Admission is free!

Millenium Park and the Bean

Right across the street is Millenium Park with the famous Bean sculpture.

I had, of course seen pictures and heard about the Bean, but I had never “bean” there. It was more impressive than I expected. It was fun to see the different ways people and the surrounding buildings were reflected in the Bean’s shiny surface. And the clarity of the reflections was remarkable.

Definitely worth a stop!

Chicago Architectural Center River Cruise

I said this was a big day.

Next we headed back to the river for the 90-minute Chicago Architectural Center River Cruise.

There are a number of different tour boats, but the locals in our group agreed this one is the best.

I went to graduate school in Chicago and have visited there many times through the years. For me, though, Chicago was always about the Lake. I never really thought about the Chicago River. The only thing I knew was that they dye it green for St. Patrick’s Day.

Well, I learned it was the river that was seminal to Chicago’s original settlement back in the 1800’s, not the lake.

Over the last several decades, the river water has been cleaned up. Old warehouses have been renovated and repurposed, and tall glass buildings have been erected.

This is all to say that the tour was fantastic! The views were great and I learned a lot.

Highly highly recommend if you visit Chicago!

Greek Islands restaurant in Greek Town

For dinner we headed to Greek Islands restaurant in Chicago’s Greek Town.

For this meal we were a whopping 17, with my dad, his friend, and some cousins once-removed joining in the fun.

The food was delicious and the atmosphere even better. With its bright interiors, I felt like I had been transported to a Greek island!


Wednesday morning some of us hung at the house and others did a few errands.


Our big throw-back mini-golf outing took place in the afternoon.

We went to Novelty Golf and Games on W. Touhy Ave. in Skokie. Though it has changed name and ownership, it is apparently the same place our grandparents took us to when we were kids.

Some of my older cousins recognized parts of it, but I did not. (I am one of the younger…)

I have to put this out there in case my cousin Scott happens to read my post — yes, I beat him by 1 point! We were born the same year, so have always had a bit of a rivalry going…

Rivalries aside, we all had so much fun!

My grandparent’s house

My grandparents’ home. The two windows on the second floor right are part of a new addition.

On the way back to my sister’s we stopped at my grandparents’ house.

My grandparents were the first owners of their house. They raised their three boys there, and then hosted the extended family for years.

After my grandfather died and the large house became too much for my grandmother, the entire family felt a loss.

Even though I spent only a few weeks there each year, that time and the home itself played a huge roll in defining who I am and what is important to me.

My grandparents were both collectors, and they filled their home with antiques and collectibles from their travels. I learned at a young age to recognize staffodshire figurines, treen, tiffany glass, and more.

But most importantly, by gathering all the cousins there each summer, my grandmother taught us the importance of family. And how a home is so much more than just a house.

Now, here I am each week writing to all of you about family, home, and all my treasured collections.

So, imagine 3 carloads of us standing on the sidewalk in front of the house. Pointing. Taking pictures. And, well, just looking.

The house has been renovated and updated. Some of it we approve of, and some of it not so much.

An extra bedroom was added above the garage. It looks like it has always been there.

Eventually someone came to the door to see what we were all doing. The nanny and a young boy. The nanny was kind and understanding. She said the owners were not home, and it was not her place to invite us in.

That was okay with us. We were content to hold onto our memories of what it had looked like when it was “ours”.

But also happy to know that once again there were three boys growing up at “2418”.

May the legacy of that home continue.

Dinner and photos

The whole family together in Majorca.

For dinner that night we did Indian takeout.

But the big event was a walk down memory lane, with family photos from through the years.

Baby and wedding pics, birthdays and “happy hour”.

Sporting fancy dresses, bathing suits, hats, “dress-ups”, and plenty of questionable 70’s fashion.

Pictures from France, Portugal, England, Wisconsin, Oregon, and, of course, Illinois.

The last time we all gathered together was for my cousin’s wedding in Majorca.

That photo is particularly special. It includes both my grandmother and her great-grandchildren, the second-cousins.

I can only hope that someday I too will know how she felt at that moment, surrounded by the large family that she had created and nurtured.


Thursday we parted ways.

All saying we must do this again soon.

Next time including all our children and grandchildren.

Our grandmother Lele must surely be smiling in heaven.

Thank you, Amy and Steve, for hosting us all!

This Week Into Next

Coastal Maine cottage with patriotic decor

Well, no need for me to tell you about this week…

I did have such a great trip!

But it always feels good to come home too.

July 4th is the true start of summer here in Maine, and I am ready!

For summer, that is.

With all the prep work I did for the Homeworthy shoot, I haven’t put out any of my usual patriotic decor.

I am a bad blogger!

If you are looking for ideas for July 4th (and beyond!), you can check out my blog post from a couple years ago: Coastal Maine Patriotic Decor to Enjoy All Summer Long.

I have friends visiting next week for the holiday. Maybe I need to reread my post for some inspiration too…

For those in the U.S., I wish you a fun and safe July 4th holiday!

May we make a point of remembering and celebrating all that binds us together as Americans too.

I know that I, for one, am grateful to call America the Beautiful home.

And a Happy Canada Day to our neighbors!

Thank you for joining me on my cousins reunion!


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