Tag Archives: Mom

A Yellow Tomato

We’ve been growing a Sweet 100 tomato plant in the house for a couple of months. Last time was 15 years ago, outdoors, and we had bugs and worms and three tasteless tomatoes all summer.

Finally we have about fifteen, more to come, tomatoes and one turned yellow today. When it turns red and is ripe, I plan to halve it and we will cheer. It suffered for a few weeks even though it was re-planted to a larger container delicately. Now it is growing tomatoes over a cage and watered every day, and we have new flowers that have been pollenated.

Our major coup was to find and adopt our hip-less wonder dog Zoe, and keep her happy and healthy for 13.5 years. She is a light in our lives, and many others, a neighborhood mascot. A sole tomato plant is only the icing on our cake. Zoe is the cake. Don’t ask me what kind of cake because it will determine north and south and the “war of northern aggression.” Let’s call it what Mom used to make for our birthdays. Viennese Chocolate Pecan Torte. I don’t have the recipe and she’s gone nine years. Dee

 

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Sugar and Spice, and Herbs

At lunch time my major concern is that window washers are coming down and there are ropes hanging. Our poor old dog doesn’ know what to do so I’m awaiting their arrival and introducing them as our friends, as I do every year.

I cannot go out or get lunch anywhere until they are below us and friends.

Today my husband went out a new adventure. Part of it is attending a wedding for a young cousin. Brava! We sent her one gift this morning, no, two. I had the opportunity to teach the bride and her cousin cooking classes, two years at Thanksgiving, when she was just a little girl. I heard that she and her future husband  like to cook together.

All I’ll tell you about the first gift is that it includes reference works (how romantic) plus the same spiced nuts I place on Nanny’s table every year for 14 years come next week. The spiced nuts were not sent to the bride, but to her mother, to calm her nerves and know everything will be OK. Don’t stress! Nanny and I are there in spirit for you. Just place the nuts on the table, take a breath.

Of course for Thanksgiving I never would have tried to do pies or cakes. First, I do not bake. Second, you couldn’t imagine the tastes up there on that Thanksgiving table. Forget the table after being satiated by turkey, ham, brisket and numerous side dishes. Feeding 50+ with just desserts, one must use windowsills et all!

I thought a lot of fresh spices and herbs would complete our wedding package so ordered it from Penzey’s this morning and it will arrive before the wedding as well. I remember when the bride’s youngest brother climbed off his mother’s lap and insisted on kissing me goodbye. He’s grown now and would hate to hear that story. I’ll keep it for blackmail!

For the bride and groom come common herbs, chilis and cinnamon sugar, sugar and spice. Congratulations, newlyweds!

In the beginning I  concentrated on two things and knew no-one left much on the kitchen table. I brought my homemade boursin and crackers, plus spiced nuts and just left them on the table. During The Game all the ladies congregated in the Kitchen and I hope I had a part in that. Next year I gave them spinach balls but left that recipe to a new bride in my new family.

Mincemeat tarts, Brussels sprout and cauliflower vegetarian (but rich and sinful) gratin. I don’t remember the rest at the moment, only that the boursin and nuts always are on the kitchen table and after all the good dishes are cleaned and replaced that’s where we go to relax before the next round. Yes, there’s a next round after The Game and it entails plastic cups and paper plates.  That’s why I wanted cousin the MOB to have the nuts on the kitchen table in a bowl, or wherever she wants them. My husband flew them south this morning and will take another flight and car to the wedding.

Sorry I will not be there. I did go off the bride’s gift list but then again, I taught her cooking when she was a little kid and her cousin K said my first year (before marriage) that “Nanny has shoes like that.” Ouch! Love these gals and it makes me feel really old to see one getting married. To Bride and Groom! Dee

Dear Mom

It’s been over six years since you passed. Your address and phone number are still on my address book and phone. I think of you and dream of you often.

We’re doing OK. A move is in the works but we will be married 12 years near the end of the month. Sorry to tell you this but our nearly 11 year-old dog was born at the end of January 2004 so I made it your birthday. Your real birthday and not the one the Feds made up for MediCare.

Yes, I remember going to the pharmacy for you, making you homemade chicken stock and freezing it for you, and taking out the overnight nutrition from your pic line every morning and cleaning it all out.

I hoped that my legacy as your eldest of four children would have ended with you liking me, for a change.

I fought my brother and sisters to get you permission to ask for a Priest for Last Rites. It took hours and finally I won. Since you never liked me and my younger siblings didn’t want religion involved I asked the hospice Chaplain to ask you if you wanted a Priest. You said yes, but he had gone for the day, and was from your Parish.

I asked to bring him back as your morphine intake was enough to take down a horse and you were only about 70 lbs. and fighting. The last night I made up a story about a Fr. McGuinness as Kevin was having a Guinness at the time. Next morning I was walking down the hall to the ladies’ room and a priest came up to me and said, “You must be Dee, I’m Fr. McGuinness,”

I kid you not, Mom. He did Last Rites and we all walked around your bed and said we love you. And my Jim said to you that he would take care of me. You said he was a sweetheart, Mom, at an earlier surgery, and he has been for many years.

Calling you is always on my mind, especially when I want recipe advice. Last year 12/25/14 I ordered a capon from South Dakota, that took four years to find and interview and blog for the ranch owners. This year, wherever we are living, I would like to re-create your prime rib, Yorkshire pudding dinner. I’m already making mincemeat tarts and berry trifle. It will be a challenge but Mom, I believe I’m up to it. With love from your eldest daughter, Dee

Childhood Taste Memories

My dear husband, with whom I’ve cared for 12 years now (married eleven next month) says I made him a food snob.

I was seven when I got the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook out of the local library and amassed $ 31 cents of late fees. The library called my mother on the serious debt. I didn’t want to give it up, and did not have to do so because a new copy arrived for my 8th birthday two weeks later.

By then I already knew how to make a perfectly dry vodka martini, but had never sipped one. Dad liked his when he got home from work, though.

My tastes were plebean, but I remember a few favorite things from then. We always tried to make Mom and Dad breakfast in bed. We’d get the cinnamon rolls and orange rolls you unwrap and pop on the side of the counter, turn on the oven, bake and frost them. Of course they were in the dining room by then.

My younger sister and I were not allowed soda so I asked if I could add orange juice to ginger ale. Now, decades later I cut my OJ with sparkling mineral water and always keep a warm bottle of ginger ale in case my tummy is upset.

You’ll love this one. We were not allowed to have individually wrapped American cheese slices. Every few years I get a loaf of seeded rye bread and top it with individually wrapped American cheese. My bad, I did it today!

There are some old taste habits one never loses. At this point in my life, who cares who knows? My father and brother always liked the dry packaged soup mix that said it was “chicken noodle” but had no chicken in it, only salt. To each his/her own. Dee

Praise

I was praised for having a “good” blog by two fellow writers today, two people who are very important to me.

And I want to pass along this praise to another, the only grandparent I ever remembered, who died in 1984,  my maternal grandfather. Papa knew that we had a cliff less than 20′ from the front door when we were kids.

The last thing my parents wanted was for us to go down the 150′ cliff using a rope. The boys next door used the rope by our house. We were forbidden from doing so for about six days after moving in.

But Papa spent several months a year with us and even with one leg, he scrambled down the 12 feet to the rope that went about 75 feet down. It was frayed and he was worried about our safety, knowing that we would only use the trail to pick wild strawberries and blueberries on our land.

He bought thick natural rope and tied it (he used to build bridges) so we would have hand-holds up and down. It went down about 100′ and we slid through the rest of it, the ground could at least hold ferns, down to the creek.

We used to call him the “Summer Santa” because he got us roller skates and other things, but this rope will forever be in my mind as I age because it meant freedom and trust and my ability to jump off a cliff and be OK.

The other part to this, which happened just a couple of months after my mother died, is that now friend Juni Fisher sang her Whippoorwill song for my husband’s grandma’s surprise party and I cried throughout. Her mother whistled to bring her home. Mine beeped the horn of the old station wagon they gave me as a college graduation present, three times meant get 150′ up here and wash up before dinner is on the table and your father gets home.

No matter what happens, it all comes down to the ones you love, family and friends. I always told clients to draw a series of concentric circles, and these are in the center and remain so for me, including my husband’s family, of course, they’ve been very good to us.

I don’t need to bungee jump or fly out of a plane, I jumped off a cliff and am still here 40 years later. When a challenge confronts us or we have to move for a job, I remember that time when my parents let me grow up, take risks and become a responsible adult. Oh, I won’t do the cliff thingie again, Dee

Cancer and Pain

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/04/health/policy/04medicare.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The NY Times talks about Medicare fraud and doctor-shopping by senior citizens.  Much of that is because they are in pain and their doctors don’t know how to relieve that pain or refuse to acknowledge it.

We’re very lucky that my mother’s pain doctor ran the hospice across the street, so she knew she was in good hands when she decided to go to hospice.

Yes, I studied geriatrics a bit in college but most doctors think pain, especially espressed from a female patient, is invalid.  If women in pain talk about it and men in pain mask it, how is a doctor to know?

I do know that the last two weeks of my mother’s life were relatively comfortable and she had all her family around.  Her doctor said she was a fighter, and that he wish he’d known her better before her decline.

For me, keep me pain-free and allow me to spend precious moments with family and friends.  May more doctors learn this art and science.  Respectfully, Dee

I got to the B’s

My mother died 2 1/2 years ago. A year and a half ago I got a package from my youngest sister. First let me tell you that three boxes were sent to me the day before we moved away and they were placed into storage, unopened, where they sit today.

To say that my relationship with my mother was rocky would be an understatement. She always treated us kids well and I appreciated and learned much when she took an interest, in the 1980’s in food, when a family friend gave her a subscription to Gourmet. Gone were the cream of mushroom canned soups. It was a new world, for me, anyway.

The package from my youngest sister has sat there, along with a small check from my mother’s estate that I will not cash and hope my sister has used wisely, for well over a year. Tonight I tore it open, and it contains 3×5 card recipes from a plastic box my mother had for eons. When I got to the B’s her BBQ Beef (a recipe I’ve wanted in order to transform it) was in my handwriting. I teared up and put the lot back in the envelope to tackle tomorrow. Apparently my sister is still missing a lot of recipes mom wrote on thin paper in green typewriter ink, probably on her classic IBM Selectric they bought used. I might actually have her infamous birthday cake recipe in storage, Viennese Chocolate Pecan Torte. It’s something I should have because we get at least 2# of fresh pecans shelled and picked by my mother- and father-in-law each year.

The torte is a decadent pecan cake, with milk chocolate ganache and a dark chocolate frosting on top. It was a birthday treat for all and I thought my sisters, the bakers, knew how to do it. I may have that recipe in the vault in air-conditioned storage but that will remain to be seen.

My thought was to do a book of favorite family recipes. We all depend on those taste and scent memories to bring us home. I’ll let you know when I get beyond the B’s. Cheers, Dee

Can You Top This?

Today my dear friend of 35 years lost his mom, as I did two years ago. We’re that age, being at the end of the boomers, where we may not be fully grown yet but our parents are dying.

We don’t talk about keggers anymore (at least I don’t) but my mother lasted two weeks in hospice and his lasted three. I don’t know if that’s better or worse because everyone is different and their conditions differ as well. Let’s hope the suffering was kept at a minimum for the patients, and the families.

At this age and with time after a parent’s death the “kids” are able to explain a good or bad hospice experience. I feel like just yesterday I was fearless, fit and fabulous. Now I’ve taken on a volunteer commitment that requires physical activity like kneeling on concrete floors and it reminds me that I’m aging too.

So when you’re feeling down, no matter the cause, think about the good stuff, listen to Jerry Jeff Walker’s London Homesick Blues and go home with the armadillo. With utmost respect, Dee

O Canada

Our home and native land….

Yes, my mother came from Canada and had a Green Card here for 50 years. She’s gone now but family abides in Canada and nearby and everyone loves the Olympics. We happen to be living where the 2002 Olympics resided and are keeping our eyes out on Vancouver.

Apparently Lindsey Vonn is a neighbor of ours who is using cheese (topfer) to help heal her shin. Let’s hope Lindsey and our other neighbor Shaun White do well in the Olympics.

My godfather/Uncle Don had the honor of carrying the Olympic Torch prior to the Calgary Games. I salute all the athletes, thank Canada and Vancouver for hosting the Games, and wish everyone the best. OK, I’m from the USA so will shout a little bit louder there.

As a nation, we’ve spent a lot of time walling off one neighbor, Mexico. We’ve ignored our Northern neighbor, Canada, for far too long. It’s as if we’re such good friends that we forget about Canada because it doesn’t pose a threat to our borders.

We’ve been engaged to Canada for many years. While I don’t have inside info on what Canadians think of the US right now I believe we pay Canada no mind. It seems we like to be involved with Iraq and Afghanistan but ignore our kindly neighbors to the North.

For me, I hope the weather allows for a good and fair Olympics. Kudos for taking on this monumental challenge and we look forward to visiting Vancouver and sacred places nearby where my mother has been memorialized in future years. Cheers, Dee

Dear Mom

It’s been over a year now, another new year. My blog didn’t start until June of last year so you didn’t know about it. A couple of nights in the hotel after spending the day at your room in hospice I wrote a post.

What’s interesting is that on the “favorites” your name is always up there in bold. That’s because I talk about how you taught me to cook and I share some of your family recipes and ideas for others. So “mom” usually pops up on a post somewhere. Go figure.

Wherever you are, I hope you’re content. We’ve moved further West and are living our lives and trying to keep up with family. It’s been difficult not having a day off this year to visit our or Jim’s side or just take a weekend off. You are missed. Love, Dee