A Memory from Mom’s Recipe Box

Today I wanted to do some baking but I wasn’t sure just what I wanted to make.  I’ve been thinking of making cream puffs again, but that takes a lot of vigorous stirring to mix the batter for the shells and I didn’t feel in the mood for that today.

I got out Mom’s recipe box and started to read recipes that she had collected and saved.  For a while, I forgot about baking and enjoyed the memories that came to me about the foods we had eaten when I was a kid at home.  The fondant Easter eggs!  Mom made those every year and we really loved having them.  She made enough for our family and one for each of us with our name in decorative icing on the chocolate covering the fondant.  Some were fruit and nut.  Some were coconut.  Some were plain fondant.  Each was delicious. Mom always made enough to give some away, but there was always enough for us.

Some years I have made the fondant eggs, but I haven’t made them in recent years.  It’s easier to make them if two people are working together and I’ve been alone for some time now.  Maybe this year, if John wants to do this with me, we’ll make them together.

I think there is a good possibility that we will try this recipe together.  You have to keep the syrup boiling and very slowly add small portions of it to the beaten egg whites.  This is much easier to do with two people.  I’ll keep this project in mind for us to tackle in a couple of weeks.

What did I decide to bake today? I made Bisquick Rocky Road Bars.  I had written the recipe for Mom, but I don’t remember doing that.  It sounded so good to me, though.  It’s a kind of cookie layer baked for 15 minutes and topped with chocolate chips, chopped nuts, miniature marshmallows, and I decided to  sprinkle shredded coconut over that.  Then it is put back into the oven for another 15 minutes.

We both thought the result was beyond delicious.  We didn’t wait till the treat was completely cool.  John wanted two servings!  I should definitely make this recipe again soon.  What I made today won’t stay around for long!

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Shrove Tuesday

Our church had a pancake supper this evening, for Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday).  Since I’ve been involved with this church, they have been doing this almost every year.  We are served pancakes, sausages, scrambled eggs, and this year we also had hash brown potatoes.

There is plenty for all and the fellowship is very enjoyable, too.  So many people work together to make this dinner come together just right.

John was able to talk to some people he hasn’t seen for a while.  I sat beside Lois, a former post office employee.  When I asked her if she collected stamps, I was surprised to find out that she isn’t really interested in stamps at all.  She doesn’t collect anything, –oh, except, she said, “Cats!  I collect cats.”  She has 10 cats right now.  They have been dropped off near her and have made their way to her home.  She has named each one of them, and has done them the favor of having them spayed or neutered, so there will be no kittens.  Sometimes they are in the house and sometimes they go outdoors, but they come back.

Her grandson, a carpenter, lives with her now, and when he lies down to relax on the couch, there are four of the cats who come to him and stare at him until he says, “Okay.”  Then they jump up and find places to nestle with him, and he’s fine with that.  Her family likes her cats, too.

Both John and I had a great time at the Pancake Supper this evening.

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I have told many people during the last ten years or so, that I read the book, Be Younger Next Year, and learned a lot from it and I’ve tried to put to good use the information that the author shared.  Most people just listen and don’t relate to my enthusiasm about the book, but today when my cleaning lady and I were talking about healthy habits, I told her about the book and she told me, “I read that book!”  Aha!  Connection!

She said that she was flying home and there was a delay in the flight and she had to wait a long while, and eventually she was seated in the first class section of a flight that went the long, long way around to get home.  The gentleman who sat next to her told her about the book, and he told her enough that she wanted to read it.  She found it in our local library and she really liked the book, too!

Finally, I found someone who shares my enthusiasm for the book.  The gist of the book is, “Never put trash in your mouth.”  Most of the rest of the book is about the junk foods that the author considers to be trash.

Am I younger today, than 10 years ago?  Not really, I admit.  However, I have few aches and pains, I get around quite well for my age, and I really enjoy my life.  I’m very glad that I read the book.

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Koco Takes a Little Tumble

Koco checks out the neighborhood.  She is usually sure-footed.

Yesterday, John’s son came for a short visit and while he was here, I asked him to bring my clivia (plant) up from the basement.  It’s starting to get ready to bloom and it needs to be where it can get full daylight.  It’s not heavy but it’s cumbersome and I need to have my hands free to steady myself with the hand rails.

I saw my husband, Marlin, lose his balance coming up the stairs with his hands full.  What a fall he had, but miraculously, he didn’t get hurt.  I know to not take chances with losing my balance on stairs.

Anyway, Tim was willing to get the clivia for me, so he and I started down the basement stairs.  Koco decided she wanted to go also, and she wanted to be first.  She edged past me.  Though I have a railing on either side of the stairs, it’s open at the side.  Koco ran past me, she got too close to the edge, her foot went over the edge and she was stepping into space.  She couldn’t keep her balance and down she went.  Her side hit into a piece of furniture that I have near the stairs, but she got her feet under her an bounced right up again.  Well, she wasn’t holding anything in her hands!  At any rate, she wasn’t hurt, but it startled me to see her fall.  She usually has very good footing.

All’s well that ends well!  I like that ending.

The clivia fully in bloom.  It’s not blooming yet.


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Fun with Recipes

Years ago I read a library book which really ignited my interest in recipes and made me think about women and recipes they hold dear. The book has the unlikely title of The Cure for Death by Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargaratz. The story is told by a young girl, Beth Weeks, living in the depression era, on an isolated Canadian farm. The writing is excellent and I loved the way she talked about the recipes in her mom’s old scrapbook. Her passion for cooking and baking was contagious.

Here is a quote: “This was a woman’s pride, to have a recipe worth stealing. To this end my mother hid her scrapbook. . .” I have always been willing to share recipes when I am asked. I thought it unusual that a woman would not want to share her recipe with friends. Beth’s mom wanted a recipe worth stealing and just in case she had one, she hid her recipes in a scrapbook.

As I talked to others about this idea, I learned that keeping secret recipes is not at all uncommon among women. Some women willingly share their recipe when asked, but intentionally leave out a key ingredient that makes all the difference in the world in the finished product. One friend told me that her grandmother didn’t like to share recipes and wouldn’t give exact directions as to how to make them. She always had secret recipes that called for a pinch of this or a pinch of that, which she never shared. She wouldn’t even share those recipes with her own granddaughter! To this day, her granddaughter wishes she had the secret recipe for Gram’s graham muffins. Gram had never written even the basics of how to make them and though she tried by experiments to duplicate those moist flaky, rich muffins, she never got it figured out.

Another friend, Lucy, told me that she had enjoyed eating a great chocolate chip cookie at a friend’s house and she asked for the recipe but the friend’s mom did not want to share. But then some time later, she saw a recipe pinned to a bulletin board at a school that was like the cookies she had enjoyed. She copied the recipe and made the cookies for herself. Some time later her friend visited her and Lucy shared cookies with her. When her friend realized that the cookies were the same as the ones from her mom’s secret recipe, she became very upset and accused Lucy of stealing the recipe from her mom. This, in turn, upset Lucy, because she had not stolen the recipe and wouldn’t even think of stealing it. I don’t know if it ended the friendship or not, but it was a dramatic experience for Lucy.

Back to the book again, another excerpt: “Some cooks, to convince you of their miracle working, maintain that sponge cake is a difficult thing of chemistry, of eggs three days old and flour just so and the temperature and humidity just right, but making a sponge cake is the easiest thing in the world. A sponge cake is nothing but eggs, flour, sugar, and air, and if you’re new to the sponge cake, a little baking powder too, to ease its way against gravity. The secret is eggs, lots of eggs.”

Can you picture this activity taking place in an old fashioned kitchen? Beth’s mom used two bowls to make the cake, which was named, “Daffodil Cake.” One was for the egg whites and the other for the egg yolks. She added the ingredient of air by whipping the separated eggs until they were stiffened, then folded them into each other. There were two more secret ingredients to making this cake. One was the knowledge of folding and the other was to have an absolutely clean pan. A spot of grease on the baking pan would cause the sponge cake to come out flat.

More than any other recipe that Beth talked about, this recipe for “Daffodil Cake” made me want to make such a cake. But I never did! I had good intentions, but no follow through.

It’s just as well that I didn’t try to make the cake because I have a problem with following cooking directions to the letter. Invariably I come to a place in cooking where I don’t have or can’t find one of the ingredients. Therefore I improvise. Often my product is edible, even quite good, but it’s nothing like the recipe I set out to follow.

An example: I had to have a dish to take to a tureen dinner. I decided to make “Dreamsickle Salad.” I violated the first rule. Don’t make something new when hosting company. This wasn’t for company, and I wasn’t the hostess. It looked easy and it sounded good, so I decided to make it anyway. It called for boxed cooked puddings, two different kinds. My first substitution happened right here. I made my own tapioca pudding, from scratch, doubled the ingredients and skipped the second kind of pudding. Next step. Prepare one package of orange Jello. Oops. I have no orange Jello. I’ll use cherry Jello. Smooth sailing from there because I have the crushed pineapple and Mandarin oranges. Last step is: Combine puddings and Jello and refrigerate over night. Another oops! It was 9 AM and I needed it for 6 PM. In the morning break up the Jello and pudding and whip together and add the fruit. Am I defeated? NO! I improvise. I put everything into one bowl, beat it together and taste it. It’s going to be okay. Refrigerate until time to leave for the dinner. It becomes a very nice dish to take, but is nothing like the recipe I was using. Don’t ask for the name. It has no name.

If I ever try to make Daffodil Cake, my first step might be that I don’t want to use a dozen eggs. That way, if I cut the recipe in half, I won’t waste six eggs if I don’t do it right. On second thought, I really won’t be trying to make Daffodil Cake any time soon.

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When I’m working, or doing something around the house, I really concentrate on what I’m doing.  I focus.  Today I was mixing dough to make cinnamon rolls, and I was also listening to a program on the radio.  I was focused on program I was listening to, but I was also focused on adding flour to the dough, –counting the number of cups of flour that I was stirring into the dough.  Suddenly John was right beside me, and saying something to me.  I was really startled!  I had not heard him coming.  He thought that surely I had heard him coming into the kitchen, but I was already focusing on two things at once and I didn’t have room in my mind for a third thing.

I think people get upset with me when I startle when they enter a room and are right behind me and suddenly (to me) speak to me.  I’m not sure why they seem to be offended by my startle reaction, but they sometimes seem to feel upset that I have that startle reaction.

John wasn’t upset with me but several weeks ago it happened with the pastor at the end of the church service.  I was standing in the pew, with my back to the aisle, and I didn’t see or hear him approaching.  He came up behind me and boomed out, “How are we doing today?”  I was so startled that I really jumped and felt that my heart had lurched.  Then he said, “Oh, a little jumpy are we this morning.”  Then he didn’t listen to my explanation that I hadn’t heard him at all.  He just walked down the aisle, to the back of the church.  That was a week before Christmas and he hasn’t greeted me from behind me since.  He only greeted me once since then and that was to say, “Merry Christmas, as he walked past me without pausing.  If he wasn’t offended, he seemed to be and I’m sorry that I really jumped.  But I really couldn’t help my startle reflex.  I was completely unaware that he was walking down the aisle behind me.

I’m glad that John understands that I startle easily.  He really thought I had heard him come into the kitchen.

My heartbeat went back to normal and I finished my work with the cinnamon rolls.  They turned out very well.  John really appreciates having the cinnamon rolls.

I don’t like surprises most of the time, but of course, some really nice surprise, like someone bringing me a hot fudge sundae unexpectedly. would be a very welcome surprise.

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In the Mood for Christmas

I keep thinking that I will decorate the house a bit for Christmas this year.  Maybe I won’t get much company, but John and I can enjoy the decorations together, and he’ll help me with some of the decorating.

Today I mailed my first three Christmas cards.  It’s a slow start, but I think it’s a good start.  If I do some Christmas related things each day, by the 25th, I should be able to feel pleased by my efforts.

Our neighborhood is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  I won’t do much outside but I can express joy of Christmas in my home.  “He is born, the divine infant!”

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Grandma Katherine — A Memory

My grandma, Katherine Baker, was a very quiet, timid woman.  My earliest memory of her is of visiting her in the Creighton Hollow home, a row house that no longer exists because it was torn down for the new highway to go through there. I remember going through the living room, at the front of the house, into the kitchen and meeting Grandma there.  In my memory, the first thing she would say was, “Do you want a piece?”   “A piece” was a piece of bread with butter and jelly on it.  My brother, Ed, and I would sit at the kitchen table and eat our jelly bread.  We liked the jelly bread and expected to have it when we visited Grandma.  It was a treat.

Grandma did not show affection in a tangible way.  I don’t remember hugs, or kisses, and she never, in my memory, said, “I love you.”  I remember once when I felt really loving toward her and I said, “I love you,” to her, she did not respond in any way.  I wanted her to say that she loved me, too.  I felt disappointed, kind of let down.  But I think I felt love, even though there were no hugs that I remember, and no expression in words.

I remember sitting on the porch swing with her one day.  It seems like I was visiting her by myself.  I asked her, “Grandma, what is your name?”  She told me, “Katherine.”  I said, “Katherine, can we go for a walk?”  She was indignantly upset.  “Don’t ever call me that,” she told me.  “I am your Grandma!”  I never tried to call her that again.  I think we didn’t go for a walk either.

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John and I have been married about three and a half months now and we are settling into married life happily.  We feel like two “old” married people, old as in “married a long time.”  It feels so good to be together as we are.

John decided to move into my home which was what I wanted also. My home is bigger and it’s set up to be a good place for my dog, Koco, who has become “our” dog.  She really loves John and he loves her, too.

I wanted to make room here for John so that he could have his personal possessions here in our home.  I’ve lived here a long time and I’ve been alone in my home for over 12 years, which means I have lots of stuff all over the house.  I’ve been working to get rid of things I don’t use or won’t ever need, and I’m making progress in freeing up space for John’s interests and hobbies.  Of course this takes time, but we are having a great time putting our mark on the furnishings and making sure it really is “our” home.

One thing I did early on that gives me satisfaction that it was a good thing to do was about the breakfast bowls.  Long ago I bought a blue bowl for me to use for my breakfast cereal, but I didn’t have another special bowl for John to use after our marriage.  I asked him about his favorite color and he said it is green.  I wanted to buy him a special green bowl, as nice as my special blue bowl.  But there were no nice green cereal bowls that I could find.

Later when we went shopping together, I told him what I was trying to do.  At first he said that I didn’t need to do that.  He was okay with the usual everyday bowls that he used.  But I wanted him to have a special bowl, too.  I still couldn’t find a satisfactory green bowl, but then I saw two very nice bowls, white with a blue stripe around the top of the bowl.  John agreed that it would be nice for both of us to have special bowls which are alike, and that’s what we did.  I always feel very good as I set the breakfast table with our matching bowls. They are just a tiny bit bigger than the everyday bowls.  In a way, it’s a silly little thing to do, but it’s the little things that mean something to each of us that keeps on cementing our bonding.

Little things which are invested with our own enjoyment and delight become building blocks of contentment and growing love.  I’m glad that we chose and bought the bowls together.

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Two Months!

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This is my husband, John!  We were at the beach on Presque Isle in Erie.  I was taking pictures, therefore I didn’t get a picture of John and me together.  I like this picture because I love to see John smile. He had been alone for three years before we got to know each other.  He didn’t smile much at first, but that has changed.  We both smile a lot since we started seeing each other.  We shared a lot of happy laughter before we married and now that we married, the joyful laughter continues.

I don’t have as much free time for writing now as I used to have, but I willingly share time with John now and I know that I’ll have more time for writing as I plan for writing time during the times when John is golfing or bowling.

These have been busy, happy days, and I’m thankful the God brought us together and gave us these joyful days.

We are still newlyweds.  Today marks two months that we have been married.

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