Category: Family – JoAnn
It’s that time of year again where everyone who enjoys cooking for the holidays is interested in exchanging recipes. I have always enjoyed cooking when I’m in the mood, that is, and I have always loved finding a new recipe. My favorite ones, of course, are for anything that may be sweet. If there is sugar or chocolate involved, I want to hear about that recipe.
Lately, there has been an upswing in posting recipes for different sweets on social media. I tend to gravitate towards the ones with fewer ingredients and fewer steps to prepare. The easier, the better. Sometimes the most simple recipe can be delicious. I have also learned that the fewer ingredients and steps, the less likely anything will go wrong. That’s a win-win in my book. Today, all this recipe sharing brought back some lovely memories for me.
I grew up watching my mother work hard during the holidays to make all of her family’s favorite goodies. The recipes were always handwritten on a sheet of stationery or an index card. They were yellowed from age and sometimes stained from the occasional spill or sticky fingers during their making. They were more valuable to Mama than anything in her kitchen.
Mama was a perfectionist. She wanted whatever she cooked or baked to turn out exactly as it was supposed to, every time. No exceptions. She once told me that she had tried a new cookie recipe that turned out “Not fit to eat!”. So she took them to the outhouse and dumped them so my daddy would not know she had made something so horrible. I really doubt he would have been upset, but I think if he had laughed at them, her ego might have been crushed.
Everyone that knew my mother knew that she could cook! Especially in her later years, after having experimented with her family for so very long. And one of her specialties was homemade fudge. She made fudge, chocolate, and peanut butter in her retirement years nearly every week. She would cut the fudge into perfect 3-inch squares and wrap each individually in plastic wrap. She would fill a cooler with the fudge and take it to the flea market where she and my dad had a reselling business. No surprise, the fudge was first in sales every week. At only 25 cents apiece, sometimes a customer would rush in and purchase every piece she had. So during the holidays, she made extra. Mama was very proud of her “little candy business.” That being said, you will understand better what I am going to share next.
Long before my Mama and daddy were selling fudge at the flea market, my sister and I were little girls. Mama was a good cook but still learning, as are most mothers. One year she wanted to make fudge. I have no memory of whether or not she had ever tried her hand at fudge before. I must have been around age 5 or 6. Anyway, something must have gone entirely wrong with how my Mama made that batch of fudge. Because instead of setting and becoming firm as it cooled, it remained pretty liquid. I can still remember the disappointment on her face and in her voice. She couldn’t hide it. I remember she was sad that she had “wasted” so many ingredients. We lived on a tight budget, and it was challenging to have enough money for the holiday season. So every teaspoon of vanilla and every cup of sugar was accounted for.
Suddenly Mama calls my sister and me into the kitchen. Mama tells my sister to retrieve the child’s size Blue Willow porcelain tea set Santa had brought her for Christmas. That set was to be treasured and guarded for safety. So, of course, my sister and I got very excited that we would play with it.
After placing the tea set around the table, Mama brings over the “fudge.” She poured some into the little teapot and the small cream pitcher and sugar bowl. She smiled and told us to enjoy our special tea party.
I don’t have to tell you how much fun me and my sister had with this fudge tea party! What a treat it was. We didn’t get sweets daily, not even weekly, so we were in Heaven. We enjoyed that special “fudge” until none was left. Eating it from a fancy little tea set with tiny spoons made it all the more fun. I don’t remember having a belly ache afterward, but I imagine maybe we did. I remember how my Mama took something so disappointing to her and made one of our best childhood memories. I also remember washing the little tea set afterward. That was fun too.
Long gone are recipes handwritten on index cards and notepaper. All you need now is a smartphone and Google. It has been over 22 years since I tasted my mother’s fudge. I still miss it, especially around the holidays. My favorite fudge she made, though, will forever be the batch she poured into that little tea set. She may have thought she failed that day, but as a mother, she triumphed.
Happy Holiday Season to all of you!
Another Thanksgiving Day is around the corner and it’s hard to believe we are already here in 2021. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. This time of year, with its beautiful fall foliage and crisp air, is by far my favorite season! Nothing feels better than wrapping up in my softest old sweater and turning on the heat for the first time.
With the lovely colors on the trees and ground, along with the smells of pumpkin, hay, and dried leaves in the air, it’s the perfect time of year to stop for a while and take an inventory of what we are thankful for in our lives. Yes, we should stop and count our blessings every day. But one holiday a year, towards the end of the year, is a perfect time to do some serious reflection. Usually, by this time, we have lived through many experiences in the past 10 1/2 months.
I think a lot of us just plow through life at a steady rate and choose to just “Keep on Trucking” as the old saying goes. Getting through another day, week, and month the best and quickest way we can. Sometimes it feels if we fall during the race, we will surely end up in the ditch. So, I think it’s fitting that during this season, along with nature slowing down to prepare for its Winter slumber, we too should slow down and not only rest, but take time to meditate on what the previous year has brought to our lives.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to only count the many blessings and to not miss the things we have lost. There is no way around that. Missing our loved ones that are no longer here to enjoy a big family get together is especially hard for all of us. One of the last photos I have of my mother is of her in the kitchen, with her hands full of chopped celery and onions, as she was preparing her famous dressing on a Thanksgiving Day. Every year I miss my mama like crazy. And yes, I miss her dressing too.
For me, it is impossible not to daydream about the wonderful, loving, family Thanksgivings of my past, the warmth felt in every home visited. The smells of food cooking, the scents of spice, and a warm fire. Seeing loved ones that we may have not seen for the entire year. Catching up on family gossip. Noticing how much the children have grown in the past year or meeting a brand-new family member for the first time.
There are so many things that make Thanksgiving special. To me, it is the best holiday to just enjoy family, friends, and being together. There is no pressure to exchange gifts, no pressure for money to be spent at all, just spending time together over some tasty food in a relaxed environment. It’s just perfect!
Wherever you are this year for Thanksgiving, my prayer is that you feel the love and peace that the holiday should bring. Even if you are alone, which I have been too, some years, stop and be thankful, and reflect on your most precious memories of your past. Remember those you miss with love and gratitude for having had them in your life. And if you just happen to get the chance to eat a piece of your favorite pie, do that too!
Happy Thanksgiving from me to you…JoAnn
This is going to be a strange missive. Or should I say a stinky one? It will either make you laugh, or ponder your own personal habits.
I have noticed over the years that many things seem to change with age. Most are just natural occurrences that happen so gradually, we barely notice anything different. Unfortunately, there may be some things that others might notice, even if we don’t. Yes, I am talking about body odor.
When I was a young mother of three little girls, I had a strict daily routine for them that included a daily shower or bath every night. No matter what was going on, a perfectly bathed child would be put to bed at night. No exceptions. I chose this nightly ritual because I believed a child slept better having washed off their day and climbed into their bed sparkling clean. It was the routine my mother had started with me and I still had for myself. I remember looking forward, all afternoon, to the time of evening that I would have my children tucked into their beds and smelling of No Tear baby shampoo. It would then be my turn to unwind from the day and soak in a relaxing tub. It was something that I really looked forward to!
I will be the first to tell you that now, at my age, I no longer look forward to bath time. Gone is the desire to step into a tub and get wet. The thought of getting wet all over is almost appalling to me at times. And sometimes, I will put this now dreaded chore off for as long as I possibly can. I am telling you all this personal information as I try to understand what is happening to me. I am not being “lazy”. And the chronic pain I deal with daily is not an excuse every time either.
So what is it then? I have come to the conclusion that it is simply another stage of aging. Having watched my parents be “Seniors” for many years, I noticed both of them having the same feelings about bath time. My dad seemed to not really care if he had one or not. He usually did only to appease my mom. My mother would only take a shower when it was absolutely necessary. She had arthritis in every joint in her body, and I always knew it was a painful ordeal for her, not to mention a dangerous one.
Having been a home health care worker, I also witnessed other seniors who had no interest at all in bath time. It seems the older a person gets, the less of an interest they have in all types of personal hygiene, not just bathing.
Now I do not want to offend anyone reading this! That is the last thing I would ever want to do. But this subject has been on my mind for some time and I just wanted to express how it makes me feel. It has become a definite problem with me personally. I have witnessed it being a problem with many others my own age as well. It appears it is just a natural part of aging, but it saddens me. I know when I do take the time to bathe, and am feeling squeaky clean, and moisturized from my head to my toes, I feel like a new person. Then why on earth do I not want to feel that way daily? I certainly don’t want to smell bad. I don’t believe anyone does really. Yet there does seem to be a real problem among many older individuals.
Maybe it’s just my peaked interest in seniors that has me pondering this subject for so long. My parents didn’t have me until they were in their 40s. They were always “older” than the norm and I have always had an interest in geriatrics. I’m sure that’s why I took my job as a home health worker so seriously. I was truly interested in my clients and found myself studying them. But even those experiences haven’t helped me with my own plight of dreading a bath!
I guess the answer is to just keep on living life like I always have, and that is to take one day at a time and do the very best that I can. Hopefully I will smell good doing so, but in the event that I don’t, I apologize now.
Here’s to a squeaky clean day!
As I sat in front of my air conditioner this past summer, trying to fend off yet another series of “Heat Advisory” sessions, I started daydreaming quite a bit about what my summers were like as a kid.
Dealing with “feels like” temperatures over 100 degrees, I find myself asking, did we even feel heat as children? I do not remember summer ever being too hot for me to enjoy my day. Now, if it’s in the 90s or higher, my body feels as though it’s going to melt. Literally. I vaguely remember sweating as a kid.
But I remember how good it felt to run through a spraying garden hose on a beautiful summer’s day. I remember well how good cold ice cream tasted on a summer’s night. The taste of a chilled Coke in the thick glass bottle was like no other drink in the world. Walking into a store that actually had air conditioning and thinking “WOW”! And to this day, the sound of a simple box fan will put me right to sleep.
I remember well, sitting at the picnic table we had in our front yard, while Mama spread out newspapers so Daddy could slice up an ice-cold watermelon. We each had our own little saltshaker. It was such a treat!
I remember spending most of my summer days playing with my sister in either the cool dirt basement where Mama kept the many jars of home canned goodies, or in the thick woods that surrounded our home. Daddy would always have the woods cleared of weeds and especially poison oak or ivy, so our play time would be a joyous one. He even built us a playground one year beside his organic garden so he could keep an eye on us as he worked. Mama could also see us from her kitchen window as she washed dishes.
Probably my favorite summer memory would have to be when Daddy would take us to the public swimming pool. I can still remember the feel of the wet concrete under my bare feet as we walked through the front gate, and the sound that gate made closing. I knew instantly I was in for a day filled with pure joy and fun that only a child could understand. It didn’t matter that it was hot, or if I got sunburned. The smell of chlorine in the water, and the smell of Coppertone suntan lotion will forever be something I adore. In my mind, I can see Daddy sitting in his car, parked out front, waiting for us to come out when the pool was closing. I remember him asking if we had enjoyed our day and saying how he wished he could have spent the day in that cool water, too. This was the 1960s, when kids could be kids without fear of being abducted or harmed. What a blessing it was for every child at that swimming pool.
It wasn’t all fun and games during the Summer. There was work to be done as well. Helping Mama and Daddy in their sizeable gardens was of utmost importance. Daddy grew organically, and that meant he had to spend a lot of time in the garden. But he loved it and would reap a beautiful bounty. Mama home canned or froze all the vegetables and fruits she could, so it would stock us for the coming winter. Canning was a hot, messy, and exhausting job back then. Especially with no air conditioning in the house. We spent hours tending to the garden, picking the produce, and preparing it to either be canned or frozen. I look back now and realize how hard my parents worked. I wish now I would have strung more beans, shucked more corn, and shelled more peas. I didn’t look forward to the chore as a kid and can see now that I wasn’t much help. I feel bad for that because I sure enjoyed the fruits of Mama and Daddy’s labor!
Daddy always kept our large yard mowed neatly. Oh, to walk barefoot in that cool grass again would be Heavenly. Or to take a nature walk with Mama into the woods. We searched for berries and mushrooms. Mama would dig up a fern from the ones that grew wild on the side of the mountain. She would take it home and plant it in her favorite McCoy pot. Of course, with her green thumb, it grew big and lush.
Like with all good things, Summer would indeed end. But before it did, Mama would take me and my sister shopping for school clothes. We always caught the yearly going back to school sale at J. C. Penney’s. If Mama didn’t have the money to purchase what we needed that day, she would put all or some items on layaway. We would try on so many dresses that Mama would pick out. In the 60s, dresses would be the normal attire for an elementary school aged girl. I would get so excited about the new dresses. Having outgrown all the ones from last year, I couldn’t wait to see what new style Penney’s had for the new year.
Mama would pick out tights, anklets, and knee socks to match each dress she purchased. If we were really lucky, we would go shopping for new school shoes on the same day. I remember always begging for a new purse to match my school wardrobe. Usually, Mama would say no. But I would come home from school a few weeks later and she would surprise me with a new purse or two. My guess is, she caught them on mark down later. I was a blessed little girl.
By the time we went back to school, I think we were all ready for Summer to end and a new season to arrive. I loved school back then and couldn’t wait to ride the school bus again and to see my friends. Of course, by the next Spring, we would all be champing at the bit for another summer vacation. And we would do all our favorite things all over again.
What wonderful memories we made.
Today I unplugged. Unplugged from the world of social media by staying off Facebook and Instagram. Refusing to watch any news on the television, both local and worldwide. I also put down my cell phone and did not pick it up for about 16 hours. All in hopes it would help relieve the feelings of anxiety and depression that I have had this week because of the catastrophic happenings all around me. Both around the world and closer to my backyard. And it helped!
Many people find the need to “unplug” to spend more quality time with their loved ones. I feel unplugging gives me a mental break from all the chaos and negativity in our world right now. It’s like taking a mental health day for myself.
I have always been a rather empathetic soul. Seeing others in pain of any kind is difficult for me to handle. If I allow myself to dwell, it can quickly become overwhelming for me mentally. I used to react personally by crying and being an anxious mess. As I’ve gotten older, I disengage. Taking myself away from the situation and choosing solitude as to avoid anything negative. That is not the best for me or the people who are hurting. Other than praying for them, I’m not really helping anyone. But this practice has become my norm. I feel more in control of my emotions, but I do not feel better. I would rather be more constructive in ways of helping. It is a battle I will continue to fight.
As if all that is happening around the world right now with Covid and Afghanistan weren’t enough, this week we had a disaster hit a town here in Tennessee. Seventeen inches of rain fell within 24 hours onto an already saturated area. The horrific flood in Waverly quickly took the lives of 20 people, many of which were children. Houses were lifted off their foundations and moved for blocks down the road. Homes are completely lost, and it left many homeless with only the clothes on their back. The waters quickly receded, but the damage was complete and permanent. The town will never be the same, nor will its people.
I can no longer look at another picture of this flood or hear another story of a precious life lost. It was literally making me physically sick. Waverly was a town much like all the surrounding towns near me. Why were they not spared from such a horrific scene? It could just as easily be my very own hometown, and me and my neighbors suffering. The sad stories played repeatedly in my head. And my soul. Praying was the only way that I could help anyone hurt. But as a Christian, I believe prayer is the most important thing to do. So that is what I will continue to do.
I guess I will continue to unplug to keep my sanity in check. I know many people who watch no type of news, and do not use social media of any kind. I don’t believe I would be happy to go that far, as I get much enjoyment out of social media, and it is beneficial to someone who lives alone like I do. I also like to keep up with what is going on in our world. I think it’s important. Maybe it’s just that there is too much going on right now for anyone to handle! Maybe I am not alone in my desire to withdraw and avoid the negativity at the risk of being selfish. I guess only time will tell. My prayers are we all have that time given to us.
Wherever you are in your world, I hope you are doing well with all life is handing you right now. I hope you can enjoy something every single day and are surrounded by good people.