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I planted a hibiscus plant in the corner of my garden.  When all the vegetables are starting to fizzle out, this beauty opens her huge blooms and shares a wonderful touch of red to the garden area.

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I think what makes it even more special as it was given to us by the man of the house’s mother.  She has beautiful gardens which should be featured in a magazine.  However, she is getting older and gardening is harder and harder for her.  This plant reminds me of her beautiful gardens and I know she loves to look at it when visiting our home. 

It’s a touch of “Grandma Ruth” in the garden!!


The Italians

grandparents giambra wedding

Charles Giambra, Carmella Oddi Giambra, Josephine Giambra, Gerald (last name unknown)

This was my father’s parents (paternal grandparents) wedding day in the late 1930’s.  I have written about my grandfather in a past post.  They were Sicilians through and through.  I had many wonderful years with them and am thankful to this day for the blessings they were in my life and the many traditions they shared with me to carry on their legacy with my own family!!

Poppa (Maternal Great Grandfather)


This is my great grandfather, Joseph Serneels.  I was 10 when he passed away but I remember so many wonderful days spent with him.  He was so cool driving a gray camaro.  I hope to find a picture of it someday as he passed it down to my parents (we did not have much money and needed a car) when he decided he could no longer drive.  He would take us for ice cream (even driving over the bridges to get us from the Island we live on when many others would not), to a local amusement park and out for a special lunch.  He loved little birds and when he died I bought a few to put in his casket as it was a special thing for us looking at pictures of little birds.


poppa, his mother, sister standing, father, and aunt seated

This is my great great grandmother with poppa’s hand on her shoulder and my great great grandfather


Gigi (Ruth Serneels) was Poppa’s wife.  You can see she matched his cool style.  This is my great grandmother.  She was extremely independent for her time.  I come from a very long line of independent women which probably explains my intolerance of “needy” women, but that’s a story for a different post.  She died of uterine and stomach cancer before I was born but I heard many wonderful stories of her standing her ground and being a spitfire for her times.


grandma Jeanne Serneels


This is Gigi and Poppa’s daughter Jeanne Serneels Link.  She is my grandmother.  She is active and involved in all of her grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren’s lives to date.  She is the best grandmother, nana one could ever ask for. At 89 she is going strong.  She taught me many things throughout my childhood and I love passing these traditions on to my children and she loves to come help and watch. 


Poppa’s mother, Poppa, my mother, grandma Jeanne

My mother is the little girl in the picture.  The above picture is exactly how I remember my Poppa. He had a few more wrinkles and thinning hair but always had a sunny smile and soft eyes.

These are my roots and I love exploring them and sharing them with my children.


Grandpa Giambra


My grandfather, Charles Giambra.  He was full blooded Italian, a big burly man with huge arms. I spent many nights sleeping over at my grandparents house and would hear him get up at 4:30 a.m. getting his tin lunch and thermos packed and shaving in the bathroom upstairs next to the bedrooms my aunt and I used to sleep in before heading off to work.  He always came home smelling like dirt and oil.  He had many jobs working the concrete business.  He helped in building the bridges that span our Island and would tell me long stories about the heights he dangled from, the men who traveled in and out of town to work odd jobs, and the hard work they did. Most of the men did not know how to swim and their pride would not let them wear life jackets.  

My grandmother always made supper so when he would get home it would be ready.  Being Italian of course there was the Thursday gravy night with the sauce, braciola, and homemade pasta.  After you finished that you would have your salad.  Salad was always served after the meal before coffee and dessert.  My grandfather loved his food and would slurp the sauce while he ate.  I still hear that noise in my head sometimes while making our sauce.  He taught me many things about food and not wasting it.  One of his favorite things to do was eat the bone marrow out of the bones.  He explained how nutritious it was and how it kept a man and child growing and strong.


That is me on Grandpa’s lap probably 37 years ago. I hated pictures but he always made us take them. You can see his burly hand on my shoulder

Grandpa was bald by the time I knew him and my aunt would always take me to bingo when I stayed over.  Grandpa would tell me to rub his bald head for luck and by gosh I would usually win.  I remember the first time it happened and I was upset they would not give me the money I won because I did not understand you had to be over 18 years of age to collect winnings.  Grandma’s brothers worked at the bingo hall and always doted on me.  I had 3 siblings, but I was by far the one who spent the most time with my grandparents and aunt who could never have children.  I loved going there and spent most of my summers with them when not in school because I was the only child and did not have to share with my sister or brothers.

Grandpa’s birthday is May 21st and while he’s been gone for quite some time, I still smell the dirt and oil smell when I see a concrete truck drive by.  I have his old fireman’s hat in my attic to hand down to my children some day.  When making my gravy I remember his words about not too much garlic but enough to flavor it.  When my son slurps his sauce, I am reminded of the great times of my childhood spent in their home.

How good those days were!!

Grandpa’s Birthday

May is filled with birthday’s in our family.  It’s funny as the girls (my daughter, myself and my stepdaughter) are all born in May and ironically in the Chinese year of the horse.  The boys (Dad and son) were both born in September.  So tonight, May 1st kicks off the May birthdays with paternal Grandpa turning 83 today. 

We met for dinner at a restaurant in Lackawanna, New York to celebrate with Grandpa.  Grandpa is German but somehow it turned out to be an Italian restaurant which was great for us as we normally eat the “gravy” on Thursdays with my Italian background.  The restaurant boasted homemade pastas which turned out to be gnocchi and ravioli that were homemade.  They also push their “baseball sized” meatballs which truly were that size. 

Everyone liked their food, but it’s not a place I would go out of my way to eat at again.  I ordered a special which was goat cheese and walnut ravioli and of course I had to have a side order meatball.  The ravioli looked pretty but was sitting a thick buttery, oily sauce.  A drizzle of the sauce would have been great.  This way was overpowering and while greasy was not very tasty.  I removed the ravioli to a separate plate and it was ok, not fabulous.  The meatball was true to size but again a disappointment.  My son did not even eat half of his.  It was salty and the sauce was very sweet.  The meat was overrun with breadcrumbs and garlic.

All in all, Grandpa had a nice time and we are thankful to have a special dinner with him!!