Wednesday, July 23, 2008


During a leisurely afternoon stroll, I popped into a little candy shop on Damen Avenue, just a bit south of where I live. I've gone past Suckers Candy a million times, but never entered. When Colleen and I moved to the neighborhood a couple of months ago, we nicknamed the life sized penguin outside the place "Ferdinand," or something equally as stupid, and joked that we should steal it to act as our butler. Of course we didn't actually do it, as we're both law abiding citizens, and our apartment is really more earth toned, which would clash with Ferdi.

Anyway, I went into Suckers today, and it was really unlike anything I've ever experienced. Penny candy was before my time. The candy aisles that I'm accustomed to are of the Walgreens variety. Suckers changed all that, and reminded me of what I've never known - rows upon row of jars, teeming with sweets in every color of the rainbow. There are gummy candies of every shape and flavor imaginable. Older items I rarely see, like bulls eyes, which remind me of my grandmother, and Mary Jane's which remind me of the cheapest neighbors on Halloween are available individually. There is Bazooka Joe bubble gum, which is still wrapped in a comic. Classics from my childhood include Fun Dip and Pop Rocks, and of course, Suckers has those too. I overheard another customer remarking about the selection of British goodies. A counter stocks chocolate dipped confections.

The thing that really blew me away though, that really stood out in this 50 square feet of cavity inducing heaven, was the ice cream cooler. Suckers carries individual serving cups of Plush Horse ice cream in a variety of flavors.

I remember The Plush Horse. As a kid, when my parents told us to get in the car, that we were going for ice cream, all I could do was squeal with delight, scramble for the seat belt, buckling it tight across my lap as to restrain my flailing limbs which were uncontrollable with excitement. Back then, and still now, I love ice cream. It's the stuff of dreams.

The first time we went to The Plush Horse, my parents didn't tell us that they were going on a pilgrimage, on a fantastic voyage that would lead us past thirteen Dairy Queens. They didn't elude to the fact that perhaps we should bring along a canteen of water to stave off dehydration. Rather, they packed Colleen and I into the car and started for Palos Hills, which was approximately no where close to our house. I've never been good with directions, and to this day I still have no idea where Palos Hills is located. We drove through miles of forest preserves, where the only illumination came from headlights. Occasionally a deer meandered close enough to the road to be spotted. Other than that, there was no entertainment. The drive seemed to last forever, especially considering the deliciousness that waited on the other end. Colleen and I must have been bouncing off the walls by the time we actually stepped out of the car and into The Plush Horse. It's a cute little old fashioned place. They make their ice cream in house and have 30 varieties. I remember ordering our cones and taking them outside to sit in the hot summer air. After all of the ice cream I've eaten in my life, I can't speculate on what I ordered, but I can bet that Dad had a chocolate malt. That's what he always gets - bet the house on it.

I've never seen The Plush Horse ice cream for sale outside of their shop in Palos Park, and when I came across it today in Suckers, it made me smile. I had to tell the shopkeeper about our trips there, about how the drive seemed to last forever and the ice cream never lasted long enough. It's a really nice memory to have, and one that wouldn't exist if my parents had chosen any one of those Dairy Queen locations.
Although I was thrilled to see it, I didn't buy any ice cream. The chocolate malt I'd had just prior was keeping me full. It gives me a good reason to go back to Suckers.

Monday, July 7, 2008

When Life Doesn't Give You Lemons

This is my lovely little Meyer Lemon tree. Some day, it will bear me fruit.

After seeing rows upon rows of lemon trees in the flower markets in Paris, I needed to have one. The dark green foliage acts as a canvas for the bright yellow fruits. If you rub a lemon leaf between your fingers it leaves behind the most sunny, clean scent. They also make great templates for making chocolate leaves.

Dave bought me one for Christmas, and I've faithfully watered it twice a week. The little tree survived the winter inside my Chicago apartment. It flowered minimally on two separate occasions, each time producing only three or four buds. I took a tip from a gardening website and attempted to cross-pollinate the buds using a cotton swab, which prompted many jokes about my having sexual relations with trees. Mock me if you must, but I really want lemons. When your tree gives you lemons, you make lemonade. And lemon meringue pie, and salad dressing, and herbal teas, and cleansers for the kitchen sink. Despite my efforts to speed up nature, no fruit grew.

Enter the month of June, and more moderate temperatures. It's not surprising that my little tree has recently begun to thrive. It's been living outside since the threat of night time frosts passed. I've tricked this plant into believing we're in Florida, with plenty of sunshine and lots of heat. It's flowering out of control. The pretty pink and creamy white buds are too numerous to count, and more pop up every day.

This afternoon I spotted a bee doing it's thing amongst the flowers. Nature's taking its course, so I'll leave the cotton swabs in the medicine cabinet for now. Yes indeed, this tree will give me Meyer lemons some day, and then I'll have my lemonade.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Summer Vacation

Thursday was my last day at Tags Bakery. This was one of my final projects. Don't look at it too long, or your retinas might burn out.

I've just returned from a long Independence Day weekend in Wisconsin - beautiful weather, raucous boating, tasty eats and drinks, and excellent company. It was a great beginning to my mini-summer vacation. There's no work this week. The Sweet Miss Givings project is in full effect on July 14. Our kitchen is under construction, and they will be plenty to do. Better enjoy myself while I can.