Wednesday, March 6, 2019


A favorite place for breakfast in San Diego is Swami's Cafe in North Park (2920 University Avenue)—especially on weekends when the locals line up to place their orders at the counter. The line moves fast and the staff is friendly. There are numerous choices for both breakfast (served all day) and lunch. After you place your order, you find your own table either inside or outside.
The food comes reasonably fast. However, we were in no hurry because we like to take our time at the self-service coffee bar trying out new flavors of Gavina gourmet coffee. Our favorites are Guatemala Organic or Hawaiian Hazelnut. With more than 12 flavors to choose from (always fresh on weekends when they are busy), it is a coffee lovers delight. They also offer a self-service tea counter.

Ron always orders the Lobster Omelet that comes with a generous portion of lobster and a tasty sauce. I rotate between the Lobster Benedict or the Acacia Bowl (rated as the #1 thing to eat in San Diego). One of these times, I plan to order the scrumptious looking Buttermilk or Organic Multigrain Pancakes—offered in a wide variety of flavors. The restaurant is known for fresh and healthy foods—they also cater to the vegetarian diet. The choices are many and the servings are plentiful.
 Swami's Cafe is privately owned with 11 locations throughout San Diego—all having different hours and variations. I have found each one to be unique to its location, however, my favorite is North Park where the millennials gather on weekends. 

Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival
of life on Earth as the evolution of a vegetarian diet.” 
                                                                                        -Albert Einstein

Thursday, February 14, 2019


San Diego


I recently wrote about my Uncle Bert's postcard collection that dates back to the early 1900s. Since a lot of my readers enjoyed them, I decided to see if any related to Valentine's Day. However, I could only find one. It was printed in the U.S. and mailed to my Uncle Bert on February 14, 1910, from Saint Paul, Minnesota:

Here are some others for fans of old postcards:

Related Post: Vintage Postcards 1908-1912 -  February 6, 2019

Wednesday, February 6, 2019


Through the years, I've enjoyed looking at a collection of vintage postcards from the early 1900s that were given to me by my parents. 
The embossed and colorful cards were produced in Germany when it was the world's leader in lithographic processes. It was the Golden Age of postcards. This changed during World War I when lesser quality postcards started being produced in England and the US. It was also during this time that the telephone began replacing the postcard as a fast and reliable means to keep in touch.

To me, they are far more than just a collection of old postcards because they tell a story about a young boy from a poor family who suffered a serious injury from a fall. He was unable to walk for a number of years. At the age of ten, he was referred to Dr. Gillette at the City Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota for care. He needed to be hospitalized and lived apart from his family for approximately three years. The young boy was my Uncle Bert—my father's older brother.

The postcards were written between 1908 and 1912. Most of them were written to Bert by his three older siblings or by Bert to his mother. They were postmarked, written in pencil, and each one had a one-penny US postage stamp on it.
 They often refer to his mother coming to visit on Sundays. I expect that she traveled by streetcar to see him. The distance from the family home in north Minneapolis to the City Hospital in St. Paul was about twenty miles—a long trip in those days.
Here is one of the messages written by Bert that was addressed to his mother and mailed on November 11,1911: 

My Dear Mother

I am feeling fine and hope you are all the same. Say mama will you make
me a pocket in my old pants for my watch. Today is Thursday but the doctor
isn't here yet. Well good bye from your loving son.
     Bert ”
                                                                        * * *
The City Hospital, established in 1907, eventually became known as Gillette Children's Hospital. It was the first in the nation to provide free medical care to disabled children due to the work of Dr. Arthur Gillette. Today, Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare remains one of only a handful of nonprofit hospitals nationally that offer long-term care and rehabilitation services for children with rare disorders and injuries.

Friday, January 4, 2019


Happy New Year to everyone and thanks for reading my blog. Life is a journey that keeps getting better and I'm expecting a lot of good things for 2019.
We spent the last week of 2018 in the rather chilly and historic city of Saint Paul, MN. The temperatures did not go below zero, our flights were on time, and there were no blizzards—I guess you could say we were lucky. Most important, the warmth and love of being with family and friends made for a wonderful week.
We were among the very first to stay at a newly opened Residence Inn by Marriott in downtown Saint Paul and the first to occupy the room we stayed in. The neighborhood is just west of downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota and is home to 100s of charming historic homes, wonderful restaurants, bars, and antique shops.
Irvine Park, St. Paul, MN
We walked through the nearby Irvine Park area one morning—being careful not to slip on the ice which was worse than usual because of a rainstorm. The carefully restored historic homes surround a New England-style public square and date back to the 1850s. Except for one dog walker, everything was quiet on this cold winter day.
In the early 1970s, the city planned to tear down most of the old historic homes in this area and replace them with high-rise apartments. Fortunately, the plans changed and the neighborhood became a National Register Historic District in 1973 and was named a Saint Paul Heritage Preservation District in 1982.
Here are some pictures of the lovely historic homes of Saint Paul that were taken by a photographer with cold hands:
Alexander Ramsey House
        The Alexander Ramsey House, built in 1872, was the residence of Alexander Ramsey, the first governor of Minnesota Territory and the second governor of the state of Minnesota. The Victorian home, built with limestone, is open to the public as a museum.
John McDonald House
The John McDonald House is an Italianate design from 1873. It was moved from its original location on Smith Avenue in 1978.

Waldmann Brewery
    The Waldmann Brewery, a former German lager saloon, is located in the oldest surviving commercial building in the Twin Cities. Built in 1857, it was reopened as a brewery in 2017, featuring "Wurst & Beer" in the old German style. We began our Christmas celebration here, it is one of my son's favorite restaurants.

     I always like to hear from my readers and promise to respond. My email address is

Related Posts: Victorian Homes Of Summit Ave, Saint Paul, MN - August 28, 2016
                        Vintage Journey to North Minneapolis, MN, Camden  - August 14, 2016

Historic Homes in Saint Paul, MN

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store.                                        -Dr. Seuss

The Grinch endures for children and the “young at heart” in San Diego. This is the twenty-first consecutive year that Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has been featured at the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park. In the production, the Grinch's heart grows three times bigger, and I like to believe that everyone who attends this play departs with a bigger heart as well. 

I had been looking forward to sharing this San Diego holiday tradition with my granddaughter, Mila, for some time now, and finally decided that this was the year—she's four and one-half. When I told her about it, she was excited and it lead to many conversations about how and why this Grinch would steal Christmas. I was glad we were finally on our way to find out what really happened.
We chose an 11 a.m. performance on a Saturday in November. Mila and I meandered along El Prado to the Old Globe, enjoying the sunshine and other visitors who were starting to gather for another pleasant Saturday in the park. Mila had meticulously chosen her favorite dress and brown boots for the occasion. 
Today you are you! That is truer than true!
There is no one alive who is you-er than you!      
                                          -Dr. Seuss

The first thing we noticed when arriving at the theater was the white Christmas tree that towers over the plaza entrance during the holidays. It's decorated with banners that say “Merry” and pink candelabras that light up after dark. The tree is always a popular backdrop for photos, however, Mila did not care to have her photo taken today. The next thing she noticed was the snack bar; we sat down at one of the nearby tables and enjoyed a cookie and the many other snacks that her mother had sent along. 
Plays at the Old Globe are always extremely well done with top quality performers, and this was no exception. Mila loved it and so did I. She might have been a bit frightened of the Grinch at times, but wouldn't admit it. I knew she was having a good time when she started singing along with the audience during one of the songs.
We sat up in the front which made it all the more exciting. The front row seats, off to the side, are priced in the least expensive ticket category, which is another reason I like to go to the Old Globe. It was a 90-minute performance with no intermission. 
San Diego has a special connection to Dr. Theodore Seuss Geisel (pen named: Dr. Seuss)–he was a long time resident of LaJolla, a section of San Diego, where he lived from 1948 until his death in 1991. Audrey Geisel, his second wife, continues to carry on with his love of the arts, education, and literacy through numerous foundations and projects. 
Performances of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! will continue through December 29, 2018. Tickets can be ordered by phone (619-234-5623) or online (

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it

becomes a memory.    -Dr. Seuss 


Tuesday, November 6, 2018


 Užupis is one of the tiniest republics in the world. It's located in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, a city we visited in September. My first thought, when I recently read an article read about it, is that we might have missed this small “nation” of free spirits. Then I remembered the quirky little Bohemian neighborhood (1 sq. km.) with a population of 7,000 where we strolled along the cobblestone streets and returned to enjoy the quaint outdoor cafes. One out of seven of the residents are artists, which explains the abundance of sculptures,  colorful wall murals, and art galleries. 

When Vilnius (pop.575,000) finally received independence from Russia in the 1990s, a group of locals got together to form a republic—kind of tongue in cheek, but not really. Užupis is not formally recognized by any other government, however, it has become a source of pride in Vilnius and throughout Lithuania. From 1941, when the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania, there was heavy censorship and many writers and artists were imprisoned. After 1990 came Lithuanian independence and restoration--art and literature once again flourished, free of forced ideology. Since 2002, The Angel of Uzupis (sculptor, Romas Vilčiauskas), has stood in the main square blowing a trumpet, and sending a message to the world that artistic independence is back in Eastern Europe after many years of oppression.

The Užupis Constitution, written in several languages, is posted on
mirrored plaques along a wall for everyone to see. It was written in a few hours by Tomas Čepaitis and Romas Lileikis in 1998 at the Republic's Parliament Bar, where the government meetings still convene most Friday evenings. The day they wrote it, Tomas couldn't get hot water at his home which explains why one of the 41 clauses is: Everyone has the right to hot water....” Others include: “Everyone has a right to celebrate their birthday or not celebrate their birthday.-----Everyone has a right to die, but this is not an obligation.------Everyone has the right to understand.----- Everyone has the right to understand nothing.-----People have the right to live by the River Vilhele, while the River Vilhele has the right to flow past people.”


If I return to Vilnius again, it will be on April Fool's Day, or Užupis Independence Day, as locals call it. In addition to concerts and parades, this is the one day that travelers get their passports stamped as they cross the bridge into the Republic. They will also use the local (unofficial) currency and treat themselves to beer that flows from the water spout at the main square.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


The village of Bryńsk (formerly Bryńsk Kolonia) is located 173 km (107 miles) northwest of Warsaw, Poland. It's not a typical tourist destination—you could say it is “on the road less traveled.” However, when you are on a mission to find your roots, you may need to go to places that are out of the way and where little English is spoken.

This small village in northern Poland is where my grandmother, her siblings, and parents lived until they immigrated to the US in 1881. It was part of West Prussia and settled by Evangelic Germans after the third partition of Poland in 1795. Baptismal records indicate that my grandmother, Emma Nowak, and her siblings were baptized here. Most Germans fled Poland in the early 1900s. This village was almost completely destroyed by the Russians after World War II. The school, church and their home no longer exist. 

We recently spent some time in Warsaw and I was determined to make a side trip to Bryńsk (pop.700) to see with my own eyes where these ancestors came from. We had hoped to do it on our own, however, it quickly became clear that we were not going to get much accomplished without help. Fortunately, I was referred to a wonderful English speaking tour guide, Ula Modzelewska (Ula Warsaw Tours) who could drive us to the Lidzbark/Bryńsk area and spend the day with us.

Ula picked us up at 8 am. Our first stop was Lidzbark-Welski (pop. 8,500) where we visited the Evangelical and Catholic churches as well as two cemeteries. The town is on Lake Lidzbark and is a popular summer resort. However, it was quiet on this September day. We enjoyed a great homemade meal with meat, potatoes, and vegetables at Cabin Place—the only restaurant we could find open. 

It was about 3 pm when we left Lidzbark-Welski and headed south for the five-mile drive on the isolated, tree-lined road to Brynsk. The village is basically a straight line with about 150 homes on either side of the main street. It has one small grocery store, one Catholic church, one school, and a cemetery. This is the peaceful quiet area, surrounded by forests, where my ancestors decided to settle 150 years ago.

Ron, Michael, Susan
Our first stop was the Catholic church. Ula quickly scouted out a nearby neighbor who could open the church for us. She returned with Micheal Kwiatkowsky, the village councilman, who had a vintage skeleton key to the church and a smile on his face. He gave us a tour and told us about the church and the history of Bryńsk—all in Polish. Thankfully, Ula could interpret for us. She also made a video of the interview which she later sent to me. Michael generously shared part of his day with us, and after we left the church, he walked with us across the street to see the old Protestant cemetery. Unfortunately, there were no markings left on the gravestones or crosses. I had hoped that they would still be readable and I might find a tombstone with Nowak or Pikar written on it, but no such luck.

Michael said that his grandmother told him about the beautiful brick homes that the Germans lived in and how impressive Brńysk was in the 1800s. He then went on to tell us that they were all destroyed by the Russians after World War II.

In 1864, records indicate that there was a wooden evangelic church and school located in Bryńsk Kolonia—they no longer exist. The current Catholic church was built in 1909 as a Protestant church and converted to a Catholic church after the war. 

It was getting late and time for us to head back to Warsaw. We slowly drove down the main street one last time, and Ula stopped so I could take photos. I could have lingered longer, but it was time go.