Chocolate Chip Cookies

My mother loved to cook.  That is to say, she loved to bake.  Everyday meals were not her forte, but desserts and special occasions were her real love.

She had a real sweet tooth (which I inherited!), and so we had a dessert at every meal. Yes, even breakfast had something sweet and yummy.

Mother was well known for her homemade pies, especially apple.  The crust was always crispy and golden.  Daddy loved her apple pie with a slice of cheese on it.  I think he learned that growing up in South Dakota.

Christmas was a big baking time.   She would start in September, making cookies, candies, bars and pies. Everyone would get something – the mailman to the doctor’s office to the pharmacy to all the neighbors.

There was always something in the cookie jar and more stacked in the freezer, waiting for the right occasion.  Mother never went to visit anyone empty-handed. That was her rule, “Never go out with a bare face or an empty hand.”

The one item that brings back the most memories of my childhood is Mother’s chocolate chip cookies.  Just the aroma of the cookies baking makes me feel like a girl in her kitchen, helping her bake.  I suddenly feel all warm and safe with a smile on my face, eager to see how the cookies turn out.

Then there is the joy of tasting the first warm cookie from the oven.  That was always “cook’s treat” at Mother’s house.

My daughter feels the same about my chocolate chip cookies. When she takes a bite now, she closes her eyes and sighs, “Ah, my childhood in a cookie!”

Her son, Mac, says my chocolate chip cookies are the best.  Little does he know he’s talking about Mother’s recipe, passed down through all these years.

And I bet his children and their children will say the same.

Peggy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1 C packed brown sugar
  • 1 C Crisco
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 t soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 T water
  • 12 oz. semisweet chips

Cream sugars and Crisco.  Add eggs.   Sift salt and soda with flour. Add to creamed mixture.   Add water. Add chips by hand.   Drop onto cookie sheet by spoonful . Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Cool on rack.

Family

The one thing I always wanted was family.  I loved the thought of having many cousins, aunts and uncles.  I always wanted a sister.  I thrived on large family gatherings.

Having said all that, family is the one thing I was never blessed with.  I don’t relate to either of my brothers.  One just doesn’t respond in any way.  The other was in the prison system most of his adult life and died early.

My mother died at age fifty and none of her family has spoken to us since then.  My dad’s family has never related to us in all these years.  I have cousins I have never met, seen or talked to.

Because Gramps is a genealogist, I know more about my distant relatives than I do about relatives my own age.  It broke my heart as a child.  Wanting what I couldn’t have and having no way to fix it.  I had no power to get the family I wanted, when I was young.

When I got married and had children, I thought now I had the family I was looking for.  I had a devoted husband and two children.

Except now our son is not speaking to us.  Our daughter and her family live nearby but we only see them about once a month.  But lucky me, I have our niece who has become our daughter and her five children, who have become our grandchildren.  We see them a couple times a year and those times are so special.

Still there are no large family gatherings.  No extended family to relate to.

So I have devised my own way to have a family.  I have friends that care about me the way a relation would.  Some of these friends have been in my life for many years and some are recent acquaintances.  But all of them fill a hole in my heart and my life.

My friends share my love of sewing and quilting.  We love to sit together with fabric, needle and thread in our hands, sharing our thoughts about everything.  We care for each other in good times and difficult times.

My friends call me.  They check-up on me.  They ask me if I’m okay.  I do the same for them.

My friends invite me for dinner and holidays.  We have lunch together.  We share potlucks and buffets.

My friends share my good news and are happy for me.  They hold my hand and cry with me if the news is bad.  My friends do not abandon me – ever.

My friends are my family.   My lifetime wish has been fulfilled.  I have many sisters now.  I have gatherings large and small.  I have the equivalent of dozens of cousins.

The one thing I always wanted, I now have to my heart’s content.  I couldn’t be happier.

The Best Things About Being A Woman

Okay, I’ll admit it!  I’m a woman!  And proud of it!  Maybe I wasn’t always – proud, that is.

I remember wishing as a young chil that I could be strong like a boy and do some of the things the boys could do.  But age brings wisdom and now I bask in my womanhood.

I think women have so many options these days in so many arenas of life.  We can be gentle and strong, quiet and loud, a follower and a leader, a teacher and a student, a stay-at-home mom and a CEO.  We can be anything we can envision or dream.

Women are the heart and soul of the family. We set the mood and tone of the whole unit through our interactions with each individual.  As the old saying goes, “When mama’s happy, everyone’s happy.”

We are allowed, by society, a much broader range of emotions and emotional responses than men.  How refreshing it is to to be able to express ourselves in such a true manner and to know we have an arsenal of feelings at our disposal.

Women are blessed with the ability to bear children.  It’s a special gift given and should be viewed as such.  It creates a bond with a child that is unique in the world.  I wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything.

We women have a special bond with each other.  Having sisters in heart is a great privilege and great fun.  I can’t imagine getting through life without the support and love of my friends and fellow females.  We form the most wonderful little villages of interests, concern and hobbies, and build into forts of protection, help and family.

Women influence the world just by being who they are.  They don’t have to go through somebody else or be somebody else to make a positive mark.

Every good word I speak makes a mark.  Every good example I set makes a mark.  Every positive act I support makes a mark.

I am a woman and I love it.  I’m right where I’m supposed to be and doing what I have been charged to do – make a difference.

A Good Movie Plot

My mother was born in a hospital in a small town in South Dakota. She was the youngest of all girls.

My dad was born in the same hospital four days later. He was the youngest of all boys.

My two grandmothers met each other in the hospital, of course and joked about how they should trade babies so they would have a different sex child in the family. That did not happen!

But the two children grew up knowing each other from day one. My mother recalled, in kindergarten, that my father brought cupcakes in for his birthday four days after she had brought cupcakes in for her birthday. She wasn’t impressed at the time.

I’d say she wasn’t much impressed with my dad for most of the years they were in school. He was pretty wild for his time and she was very shy.

In high school, they dated some. My dad was a cheerleader. I still have a hard time imagining that but it was an activity with some status. He was part of the group of kids that went to mom’s house often.

I think he began to fall in love with her in those years. She was very cute and lots of fun.

During WWII, they both joined the military. My dad went into the CB’s and mother became a Marine. I don’t think they saw each much during those years but they exchanged letters a lot.

It was always expected that mother would marry another boy from home. But somewhere in there Daddy proposed to her. I believe they were both on leave at the time.

Mother said she was on a train coming home, having to decide which man to marry, when a vision of her deceased mother appeared to her. The vision told her it was alright to marry my dad.

Mother always said she knew in her heart that was the right choice for her and had no second thoughts from that moment on.

They were married in the small town in South Dakota with both families in attendance. Myself and my two brothers arrived not long after. A family was born.

I’ve always thought that my parents’ story would make the best plot for a movie. I’m thinking Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed would play my parents. In fact they even look a bit like my folks. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful tribute?

My Favorite Possessions

I think about the things I would try to save if there were a fire in my house.  Those objects that are precious, have memories attached to them and can’t be replaced.   Those possessions that can give you a hug and a good feeling just by being there, being seen and being touched.

I have several of these irreplaceable items Some are out to be seen.  Some are safely tucked away.  And some are used daily.

My quilts are very important to me, but one is especially precious.  It’s hanging on the wall in our guest bedroom.  It’s so valuable to me because it is made from linens stitched by my grandmother and mother.  There are tablecloths, towels, napkins, dresser scarves and doilies in the quilt.  Then it is bordered in colorful handkerchiefs.

I can just feel those women around me when I am in the presence of that quilt.  It’s like a great big hug.  It speaks to me through its stitches and linens.  I would definitely grab it first, if there was a fire or a flood.

My great-grandmother’s bedroom set is in our bedroom.  Gramps and I have used it since we were married.   My grandmother was born in that bed.  It is made of cherry wood and is very ornate – very Victorian.  It has a tall headboard and footboard.

I can’t even tell you how cuddled and comforted I feel in Gram’s big bed.  I can just imagine the generations of women dusting those wooden boards and changing the linens and fluffing the pillows.  It’s an honor to keep up the tradition of loving my bed.  My dilemma?  I’m not sure I could carry it out in a disaster.

Now my mother’s silver tea set is very portable in case of a calamity.  It’s tucked away in a cupboard because we never use it anymore.  That’s not to say I don’t get it out and pet it periodically.  My mother had it sitting on the buffet, always polished and always shiny.  It reminds me of her in many ways.  She too was always polished and shiny.

I have some of my Daddy’s tools, which also are not very useful but are a treasure to me. He was a carpenter in the CB’s during WW II and was a general all-around fix-it kind of guy.  To have those tools that were used and touched by him so many times is a gift for me.  When I see them, I can almost hear him working and banging away on some project. Thinking of it now almost brings tears to my eyes.

Then there’s the diamond ring that Gramps gave me many years ago as a birthday present.  I wear it all the time.  It’s a daily reminder of his love and devotion to me. Coincidentally, the large diamond in the center is surrounded by six smaller diamonds, exactly the number of grandchildren we have.

The whole ring is a little remembrance of my entire family – all three generations.  I don’t go anywhere without it.

So obviously, all these possessions could not be gotten out of the house very rapidly.  But they could in a slow evacuation.  And you know what?  It doesn’t matter if I have any of these items really.

Because I carry all the people and memories in my heart, where they are safe from every disaster and can never be lost.

Childhood Christmases

When I was a child, Christmases were a lot less commercialized and a lot more innocent. Gifts were often homemade and so were ornaments and decorations. More children believed in Santa Claus and wrote letters to him.

It was just a more innocent time. There was no TV or very little TV for most of my childhood. So we weren’t overloaded with all the Christmas stories and animated movies that we have now. We had to make our own entertainment.

The season started in about September when Mother began baking cookies and breads and making candy. She gave some to everybody she knew in little Christmas tins she collected all year. Everybody looked forward to their little tin of goodies every year. Some people returned the tins to get them refilled the next year.

Then the decorating started. Every room had its own theme. It took days to get the whole house done, but did it look spectacular. My Mother had some decorating favorites in those days. Lots of candles and lots of angel hair.

I remember the year the angel hair on the dining room buffet caught fire. My Mother was always in charge of noticing problems and sending out the alarm. My Dad was in charge of fixing said problems. And so it was with the fire. Mother saw the fire on the buffet and began screaming. Daddy, knowing his job, immediately jumped up and threw his drink on the fire. It worked and the fire was instantly out. To which my Mother responded, “Well, that’s going to leave a stain!”. Ah yes. That was a good year.

But most years were not so “firy”. Usually we just decorated and put up our tree like normal folk. Well, maybe not so normal. We never had a green Christmas tree my whole life. In those days, tinsel trees were very popular, so that’s what we had. A tall sparkly heartwarming silver Christmas tree. Every year. My entire childhood.

Oh it looked great when it was decorated. It really did! And we all decorated it – the whole family. Then we had our Christmas tree picnic.

We would turn all the lights off except the tree lights. Put a picnic blanket down by the tree, where we would all sit. Then we would eat cookies, drink cocoa, talk and sing Christmas carols. It was wonderful fun and sometimes would last for hours. It’s a tradition I carried on with my family too.

No one ever peeked at their presents before hand in our family. I’m not sure why. I guess it would have spoiled the fun of Christmas morning.

Mother would carefully wrap each present. She was gifted at that. She could tie beautiful bows and the tape didn’t even show. Her presents were works of art. I hated to unwrap mine because they were so beautiful.

We opened gifts on Christmas morning – at o’dark thirty actually, when my brother woke up. He was a real early bird.

Mother had coffee and OJ ready for us. We usually all got new pajamas to wear for the pictures. First the stockings were emptied. There was always candy and an orange in the toe.

I never understood the orange, until I was an adult. My parents lived through the Depression when fresh fruit was so hard to come by. To have an orange all to yourself then was a real treat and my Mother was just passing that on to us.

Then we got to open gifts one at a time, so everyone could enjoy each one. Sometimes one child was designated as “Santa Claus” and would hand out each present from under the tree

Most years we had more than we knew what to do with but I remember one year when I was pretty young. Christmas was little sparse. But a week later my parents told us that Santa Claus had brought some gifts that he had “forgotten” the previous week. We were beside ourselves with excitement. And were we ever popular in school that year. Santa Claus had come to our house TWICE!

I was grown before I figured out that my parents had to wait for the after Christmas sales to get us Christmas gifts. How hard that must have been. But they made it so wonderful for us.

My parents always did that. They made every holiday special. They ept a positive attitude when it wasn’t easy to do and protected the children from adult concerns. Even though they must have had many Christmases when they were uncertain how they would manage, I never felt fear or worry.

My childhood Christmas memories are filled with fun, laughter, good food, family, bright colors, a silver tree, and an occasional fire (but no one was hurt!). I hope my children can say the same.

My Neighborhood

Gramps and I moved to this neighborhood almost eight years ago.  We loved it from the start.  It was exactly what we were looking for.

First of all, it had sidewalks.  We had gone without sidewalks for about twenty-five years and that was the most important thing in our move.

Sidewalks make neighborhoods friendlier and closer.  They connect all the houses and make them safer.  The people in neighborhoods with sidewalks know each other and spend more time talking to each other.   It’s a proven fact.

Our neighborhood has great sidewalks.  Gramps and I walk them every evening and run into numerous neighbors and their dogs while we are out.  We stop and chat with them each time because we know our neighbors – all of them.

Our little village here is very safe because we all check up on each other.  We know when someone is gone on a trip or when someone is sick.  We know when a strange car enters the neighborhood or when someone has visitors.

We feel very comforted and cared for right now in these hard times.  Our younger neighbors have checked in on us and made sure we have everything we need.  Gramps and I know for certain we could go to anyone for assistance and get it with no questions asked.

Gramps and I are the unofficial grandparents of the neighborhood and used to be almost the only ones home all day.  But now during this health crisis, a great majority of the folks are home.  Our village now looks like Saturday, every day.

Everyone is out doing lawn work, washing cars and odd jobs around the house.  We are still visiting with each other and the dogs are still running up to greet us.

All the neat lawns and well-kept homes attracted us to this neighborhood.  We could tell that everyone was proud to live here and worked hard to keep their homes looking nice. Such a good neighborhood without an HOA!

Gramps and I love the diversity of our sweet neighborhood.  There are elderly, young families, children, teens, singles, people of color and lots of pets.  I think we would be bored if we were living in an all-seniors environment at this stage of our lives.

Now that we have found the neighborhood that is so perfect for us, we plan to never move again.  This is our last home.  We will stay here and be part of the best neighborhood for the next person who moves here.