Friday, December 24, 2010

Kuni's Chocolate Cake

Over the course of the essays on this blog, I have repeatedly written about my paternal grandmother, Lakie Pearl Hill Livesay, otherwise known as MaMa. The “Turkey Bag” story was candidly what inspired me to start writing this blog, inspiring me about the idea of leaving a “legacy.” Additionally I have shared the story about the “Tobacco Plug”, and last year I shared two of her recipes before Thanksgiving. Today, Christmas Eve 2010, I want to share some thoughts about my grandmother; but this essay is about my maternal grandmother, Kunigunda Lindemann Wark.

My grandmother, known affectionately to her friends as “Kuni” was a true New Yorker. Having been born in Manhattan in the early 1900’s, she lived her life in and around that magnificent city. Growing up in a small town in western Pennsylvania, our annual visits to New York were exotic. I remember fondly the rides on the subway, lunches at automats in Manhattan, and summer visits to Jones Beach. I still remember sleeping on my grandmother’s living room floor waiting to watch the lunar landing live on TV in the summer of 1969.

I have very fond memories of “Kuni,” my very proper German grandmother. The picture above shows her, my grandfather Wark and Aunt Lorraine standing behind my sister Alice and me many Christmases ago. I remember how my Grandmother was always so well dressed, was always so kind and gentle with us kids, and I remember her teaching us the card game “Crazy Eights” after dinner one warm summer night in New York. Simple and delicious memories of long ago!

One very clear memory is that my grandmother was a wonderful baker. There was always something sweet to enjoy in her kitchen during our visits. What follows is the recipe for “Kuni’s Chocolate Cake,” a simple and delicious small square cake that I have baked a number of times, always to rave reviews. Try it for yourself

kuni's recipe1

As I close this essay with very fond and sweet thoughts in mind, I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Regardless of faith or tradition, the aspirations of hope, love, and “peace on earth, goodwill to all mankind” resonate as strongly today as they did thousands of years ago!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Unexpected Inspiration on Concourse E

Monday morning is always a wild scene at the airport in Atlanta. Last week, my Monday flight was taking me to LA, and I was there in plenty of time for my 9:30 flight. After grabbing a coffee and a paper, I headed to gate A-10 to find out that my flight had been cancelled for mechanical reasons and that I had been moved to the next flight at 11am. After the wave of frustration passed, I realized that I had an extra hour or so to spend at the airport…how to spend that time????

My first inclination was to find an outlet, crank up my computer, and start working on one of a number of items that were on my short list for the week. For some unknown reason, an idea came to mind that I could use this extra window of time for a bit of exercise. Leaving the A concourse, I decided to walk out to Concourse E and back, a distance of more than a mile probably taking me somewhere between 30-45 minutes. Off I went with roller-bag and briefcase in tow!

As I made my way to the far end of the airport, it hit me that I could grab a water on concourse E, then head back on my walk, so I went up the escalators with hydration on my mind. At the top of the escalators is an exhibit of MLK jr., a little treasure in the airport that I had totally forgotten. The first exhibit case held a gray suit which Dr. King wore on a visit to see President Johnson when they discussed the voting rights act. A little further along, I was surprised to see a pair of glasses and a Timex watch both everyday items for an extraordinary man. The last display contained two gold medals and upon closer scrutiny, I realized that one of them was the Nobel Peace Prize that Dr. King was awarded in the winter of 1964. I was amazed! For many years I have been very inspired by Dr. King’s acceptance speech from that event and over the past ten years I have shared that speech with hundreds of work associates, friends, and colleagues. Here in the airport that I travel from/through every week is the actual medal awarded to Dr. King, connected to the speech that continues to resonate for me on some universal themes: the “isness and oughtness” of mankind, and that we are not merely “flotsam and jetsam” of history.

As I came around the corner of the display, I was surprised to find a small interfaith chapel tucked behind the exhibit. I took a moment to sit down, pause for a moment of reflection (remember the essay "PBR") and I looked up that speech, once again freshly inspired.
You can find it at
Take a moment a read it for yourself. I am confident that you will find some inspiring thoughts that will affect your day/week and maybe your life.

Totally forgetting about my water, I gathered my things and left the chapel to head back to concourse A. When I returned to gate A-10, I had taken a bit more than an hour for my “little adventure.” An hour that could have been filled by emails, work calls, and other “pressing” issues instead was filled by a walk, a medal, and an unexpected moment of inspiration.