Tag Archives: Family

Memories of molasses and ginger

I come from a Christmas Cookie baking family – on my mother’s side.

I can never remember a year of Mom’s life when there were not crisp, thin, cut out sugar cookies – “plain” and with variations of flavor: coconut, black walnut or anise. It was her mother’s recipe, passed around that large family.

I do remember my Grandmother Amelia with plates of cookies. Hers were thicker and cut with very old fashioned cutters but the lovely taste was the same. One Christmas, her platter included brown cut out cookies. I expected a treat – perhaps chocolate… Oh my. So bitter. So very nasty.

oak leaves

Whenever I find the leaves of the Chestnut oak with their rounded lobes, so like that cookie cutter, I remember those brown leaf-shaped Ginger cookies! A survey of my siblings revealed we all remember them, and we all thought they were terrible!

My husband’s Aunt Dolly once returned from a visit to a cousin’s and brought this ginger cookie recipe to our home for a baking session. I’ve made this recipe for many years now; these cookies are delicious with fruit and I make them year round.

ginger cookie recipe

When I make them, I use Grandma’s® Original Molasses. Their Gingerbread is another favorite with family and guests. One Christmas, my niece made these cute little houses for dessert. Gingerbread houseWe were inspired by some at  King Arthur Flour, another pantry staple for me.

It is fun to have memories of a distant time and place triggered by something as simple as a pile of leaves from the park! I’m sure you have some small memory triggers too.IMG_7048

A day for musing

A quiet day, much of it spent almost nose to the ground picking up wood shaken from the trees in wind and rain. I’m mindful that this is minor damage and very grateful that our saturated ground was spared the hurricane hit. But it is a tiring chore.

So I’m sharing a brief September trip to Ithaca, home of a dear family member. As I have noted a number of times, I’m smitten with the bird cams sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology located on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

During a leisurely breakfast, we watched the live-streaming of the historic inauguration of Cornell’s new President, Elizabeth Garrett, the prelude to Homecoming Weekend. Although there were many events planned on campus, we managed to evade them all and see the things really important to Elaine :) The field light post where the hawklets were born and fledged was the first stop…

lamp post

It was lovely to stand and look around at the sights we watch on the bird cam. Then it was off to Sapsucker Woods to see the cams at the feeders and on the pond. feeders    sapsucker woods pond

It was a brilliant late afternoon and a luxury to sit on the well placed bench with family and enjoy this peaceful place.  Later we were off to the fabulous Zaza’s to celebrate my upcoming birthday. There, after a wonderful meal,  I met my new dessert love – Affogato al Caffè – “Freshly brewed espresso poured over creamy vanilla gelato”, and, available as de-caf! Such a satisfying day!

sapsucker woods pond

Luminous life

White flowers offer us luminous, glowing life in a garden.

collage of white

They bring a cooling refreshment to my soul. Many years ago I read about moon gardens – gardens to delight by moonlight.

Mountain laurel

I have planted many white and light colored flowers to capture the glow as the summer night settles in. Like moonlight itself, there is a kind of comfort from their glow in the dark; fragile beauty lighting the night.oakleaf hydrangeaI’ve also learned that some plants only give out their fragrance in the dark hours.

Sometimes the fragrance of love can seem most fragile and exquisite in dark hours too. Even as a long distance watchman, I could hear it, sense the beauty and the fragrance, hear the heart cry  as another beloved family member slipped from the darkness of this life into brilliance – luminous, glowing beauty beyond our knowing.

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, 

And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.          Psalm 36: 7-9 NKJV

Tradescantia

A Simple Gift

snow day    The words of the old Shaker song go round in my head. Finding myself in “the place just right” seems hard some days – like the other day when I realized that the inkjet cartridge had leaked black all over lovely wood and then I picked up the wrong can of paint and though I thought it looked a bit dark – it was wet… I went on painting. And then I had to paint again. <sigh> I know, in the grand scheme of life, not so big a deal but it is the little things some days that seem to overflow the cup. What do you do with those days? When the wind blows hard and there are even waves in the birdbath.

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In 1985, it was really big deal to have our beloved Nana diagnosed with dementia. We tried keeping her at home with helpers, but the disease took her away in giant steps. Too soon, for her safety and well being, it became a necessity to place her in a care facility. It was a time of busy grief.

Christmas was coming. I had so much on my mind that day I drove the beltway – from where and to where – I no longer remember. But on that drive, the thought came to me that we could give her an album quilt for Christmas. Only one problem. I had no idea what an album quilt really was but I thought of blocks, large ones, that would tell a story, the story of her life.

I went to a small quilt shop with my idea and the staff was so helpful with the project from beginning to end; even supplying fabric from personal stashes when I cut the border fabric wrong and there was not enough to finish.

I sent fabric and the plan out to family and everyone worked on squares that said something about her life. Everyone worked quickly, taking comfort in being able to do something, anything, to bring some comfort to her, and ourselves. Soon, all the blocks were back and it was time to make the quilt.

I had never made a quilt before…

Sewing the blocks and borders together was the easy part. Then came backing and batting and I recall taping it to my kitchen floor as the only place to stretch it out and layer it. Finally it was pined together and ready to quilt.

I had never made a quilt before…

I called my friend Lucy. She was a Southern girl with a country background. Did she know how to quilt? “Quilting should enhance your design, don’t do too much.” What did that mean?! I stitched some, and then some more. Then came the binding – and somehow – it was done – by Christmas.Nana's quiltThe quilt became a great gift to us as we felt we could wrap her in our love. Nana used the quilt for 4 1/2 years. At first the staff thought it a nuisance, then it changed their view of this wonderful woman. It gave her an identity, a life; it became a conversation point. It reminded them that she was loved and cared about.

There is nothing fancy about the quilt but it is now a family treasure, faded, worn and soft.

And today? That gift to Nana, opened a space for me. For when the wind blows hard, the ink spills, the paint goes on wrong… there is a calm that comes with fingering fabrics, hearing the whirl of the machine.

                   quilt     quilt

We woke to snow today, rather like a celebration to remember Nana on her birthday, with love.

Loretta    1906 – 1990

Nana

Searching for my voice in 1920

A few weeks ago I saw a notice for an upcoming on-line writer’s workshop. One evening, free, and an interesting topic – sounded easy and fun.

Marilyn Bousquin of Writing Women’s Lives posed thoughtful questions in the workshop, “Writing Our Grandmothers, Discovering Ourselves: Women, Silence & Voice. Before the workshop, she had us sleuthing our female heritage. What country did these women come of age in? What year did that country grant women the right to vote? Since I’ve done some family genealogy, those answers were easy to find.

I had been looking forward to the evening of hearing my voice as I analyzed their lives. I thought I would be exploring my life through Grandmother Anna. But then the second prompt came and I could only think of Grandmother Amelia. I didn’t want to think about her but it seemed important so I wrote my letter to her:

“Dear Grandmother Amelia,

This is Elaine. I didn’t know you well and I didn’t want to either. I was too young to know your story or have any understanding of your pain and loss. Your gruff voice and “children should be seen and not heard” attitude frightened my shy little self and hiding from you became habit. I don’t know that we ever had a real conversation, not even during those months when you lived in our home. I wish we had, I think.

When we cleaned out the garage at the home place, I found letters carefully saved in an old covered dish.  Two letters written by Bro. Albert to you and Grandfather. I was struck by his compliments to you on your writing.letter

I wonder now if his words of affirmation thrilled your heart. When this was written, you did not yet have the right to vote. I can’t find many facts, but based on records found, I suppose that you, like your 14 siblings, had an elementary school education before going off to the mills to work. I found that at 18 you had advanced to the rank of ‘weaver’ at the silk mill. I doubt you had many choices in your life until you married. 

Amelia

Other things were found in that garage and I’ve come to admire your thirst to increase your home skills and crafts as evidenced by the pamphlets and instruction booklets carefully saved. 

I want you to know that the quilts you made for my siblings touched my heart with
comfort as a child. The long gone yo-yo quilt inspired me to stitch hundreds of
them for a coverlet. 

 yo-yo quilt project

The quilts you saved in your trunk were given to your great-granddaughters. And the unfinished top – for William? – I stitched a plaid floral medallion on it, quilted it, and your daughter used it in her final years. I like to think it brought you close to her. 

shirting quilt

I have lots of questions now. I wonder why you said “no” to the thought of your daughter attending High School. Was it your own insecurity or that need for each child to have the same as the others who went before? You know she chose to have her own voice and went to night school, graduating just shy of her 21st birthday.

 Amelia

Amelia, how I wish you had used your voice, told your stories, written a diary or journal. I would have listened. I would have known you and your family, my family. And me, I think I would have been free to have confidence as a storyteller and writer.”

I was surprised to find myself feeling emotional while writing this letter that night.  We went on through the workshop and the overall experience was very good. And the next day I started another program, Intentional Blogging with Jeff Goins. His webinar on Blogging Personalities had been very encouraging. I had my niche, I was happy. I was excited to sign on to this program, tweak a few things and move along as a blogger.

But things had been set in motion within my soul and I didn’t know it. And I was silenced.

Last Sunday, we drove to the river. One of the same roads led to my Uncle and Grandmother’s home. When it came time to turn off for the park, I was overwhelmed with such a longing as I cannot explain – oh, for one more chance to walk into her kitchen, one more chance to look and really see her. Amelia.  I wonder if she was a story teller, I wonder about her style of writing, I wonder if she wrote to her many siblings. I have only wonders and complex emotions churning. There is a power in writing I don’t always like.

Grandmother Amelia, gone from my life for 48 years and yet, not gone at all; I still don’t think I like you.

 Amelia

I think I’ll call her Goldie-locks

Her real name is Marigold. Youngish and still a bit skittish with strangers, our new Gran-pup came to visit with her mom and dad. Marigold was rescued a few months ago and then adopted into the family a few weeks ago. This is her first visit and we found her to be a lovely houseguest, quiet and polite. Isn’t she lovely? The sound of her nails on the floors brought back so many memories of our Ada and the silence when she had gone was loud.

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August days bring parties and birthdays and here in the “land of pleasant living”, steamed blue crabs covered in seasoning are on the table. Smiles are on faces and warm memories are being made. I hope you are enjoying these last warm days of summer! IMG_3751

July 4

Happy Independence Day, USA!

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Hope you are celebrating with family or friends or even by yourself. Remember those who hoped great things, turned their backs on all that was familiar and came to this land bringing us to this day and place, home.

Secrets held close

Memorial Day, 2014

I’m thinking of my Uncle John today and all my now questions unasked and his stories never told.

     Uncle John      John

I remember my mother saying that he had been part of the troops of the Normandy Invasion and fought on through the end of the war. I really had no idea then what that even meant. I regret that I never took the time to ask, listen and understand his part in the events that shaped our world. I regret that I never thought to thank him and appreciate his heart of courage.

But what I do remember and so appreciate was his great smile that showed forth his joy of being with us. Maybe that is all that really matters now.

 

Scent of spring

Early in the morning on the warm spring air, scent drifts through the garden chores and speaks to me of Mom.

And I remember the bottle with the French name that sat on her dressing table tray. She taught us to take the tiniest bit on a finger and daintily apply it to wrist and neck. Muguet Des Bois Eau de Toilette.

 

Lily of the valley

I only pick a few Lily of the Valley blooms but they are enough to bring back her smile and her laughter this spring morning.

Mom

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April love

I’ve been opening the genealogy files again and stirring memories. Holidays and holydays always stir them as well. I think my first awareness of extended family came at my Grandparents anniversary party. I was one of the youngest of their twelve grandchildren.Anniversary party Anna was six years older that her beloved August. There is a story that her family wanted her to marry his older brother, but she preferred to wait on August. Such a good choice! They had 60 years together.