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.

Our True Heritage

By Thich Nhat Hanh

The cosmos is filled with precious gems.

I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning.

Each moment you are alive is a gem, shining and containing earth and sky, water and clouds.

It needs you to breathe gently for the miracles to be displayed.

Suddenly you hear the birds singing, the pines chanting, see the flowers blooming, the blue sky, the white clouds, the smile and marvelous look of your beloved.

You, the richest person on Earth, who have been going around begging for a living, stop being the destitute child.

Come back and claim your heritage.

We should enjoy our happiness and offer it to everyone.

Cherish this very moment.

Let go of the stream of distress and embrace life fully in your arms.

 

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 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.

Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate!

I’ve always had a sweet tooth.  I’ve always loved a little dessert at the end of every meal, even it’s just a mint (no, not a rock!  See earlier blog entitled “Don’t Eat The Rocks!”) And believe me, if dirt was covered in chocolate, I would eat it in a heartbeat.

In my world nothing can be too sweet or too chocolatey.  Nothing soothes my taste buds like smooth gooey chocolate or dark chunky chocolate or even creamy white chocolate.

My favorite dessert is a hot fudge sundae, which in my mind is the perfect combination of textures, temperatures and colors.  And the perfect sundae ends evenly with no leftover fudge or ice cream.

My favorite wine is always sweet too.  The sweeter the better.  And let’s talk about chocolate wine, shall we?  Can it get any better?

Chocolate-covered anything is a great snack.  Put the perfect coating on nuts, raisins, fruit or, dare I say it, more chocolate and you have a food you can’t stop eating.  I mean it.  I’ve tried.

And are chocolate chips not the greatest invention since. . .  well, since chocolate sauce. Chocolate chips are the cutest little items that can be eaten by the handful or added to almost anything.  Think about it.  What wouldn’t be better with a cupful of little chips added to it?  I can’t think of a thing that wouldn’t improve with chocolate chunks.

Chocolate is such a useful substance.  It can be the center of a celebration on Valentine’s Day, anniversary, or birthday.  It can be your friend in times of stress.  It can be shared during a movie or be the highlight of a reception or gala.  It can be solid, gooey or liquid.

It very seldom spoils and will last a long time. . . except at my house!  Some people have allergies to chocolate and they are much to be pitied.  A life without chocolate is very small indeed.

Chocolate is most definitely a central part of my life.  And why not?!  I love it.  It could be worse.  But it can’t get much better.  I understand chocolate is even good for you.  That’s what I want to believe anyway.

Pardon me while I lick my fingers.  M&M’s eventually do melt in your hands, you know.  But they go down well with chocolate milk.

Oh my, I feel so good right now.  Chocolate high!!!

Sisters

I have no natural-born sisters.  But sisters at heart – I have dozens!

A sister to me is a girlfriend whom I love, who loves me back, no matter what.  If I hurt her or if she hurts me, we forgive each other and carry on.

A sister revels in your successes and cries with you when you are sad.  She wants the best for you and will defend you to the death.

A sister believes the best of you and supports you in your efforts.  No one enjoys your good times more than she does or laughs louder at your jokes.  She also points out your mistakes and loves you through them.

A sister is a soulmate in many ways.  She shares your secrets and confidences.  She knows your likes and dislikes and can often predict what you will order at a restaurant.

I have such sisters in my Quilting Bee.  We have known each other for years and yet never get tired of each others’ company.  We often comment how we all feel the need to get together more often than we do because we miss each other when we are apart.

We give each other good advice and not just about quilting.  About everything really – cooking, entertaining, grandparenting, decorating, car repair, computing, marriage, etc.  I learn something every time we are together.

Our group is very eclectic and economically diverse, but you would never know it.  You’d think we were all from the same family by the amount of love in the room.

In all the years I have been a part of this group, I have never heard a harsh word against anyone.  There are no cliques or little gangs amongst us.  And I believe the only curse word I ever heard was said by me in a frustrating sewing moment.  (I know!  I’m still sorry!)

This group is so special to me.  I knew I had to be a part of them the moment I first met them.  It’s a good thing they turned out to be quilters and not miners, because I would be deep in the mines right now.

These dear sisters share everything – no holding back.  They will give anything that is needed – ideas, knowledge, tools, patterns, fabric, support, hugs.  They will sit beside you, go with you, stand behind you, hold your hand and pat your back.  I have seen them make meals, finish others’ quilts, clean a house, drive a friend, pick up a family member and babysit a dog.

And talk about huggers!  These gals are the best huggers in the world!  I can always count on getting my quota of hugs on Bee day.  I always feel so warm and loved.

My quilting sisters set the bar high for kindness and goodness.  They make me a better person by just being around them.  How could I not be a better me when surrounded by my mentors of such high caliber?  I hope to be just like each one of them when I grow up.

These sisters of mine are top-notch quilters, too.  How lucky am I to have the best teachers to guide me?  They challenge me gently to constantly improve my skills and to never accept less than my best from myself.

I dearly love my sisters and know they dearly love me.  I count the days until we are together again.  We will greet each other with hugs and smiles.  We will laugh, talk, share stories, show our quilting projects, eat and continue on with more of the same.  It never gets old.

We can’t get enough of each other.  My sisters and me.

My House, My Home

I’m a real homebody, a nester, so my home is especially important to me.  I love everything about it.  From the front door to the back door to the garage to the yard, it’s my special haven.

We bought the house in foreclosure, which meant it required an immense amount of work. Every surface needed some sort of work, replacement or refinishing. The labor nearly broke us physically and emotionally.

It was much better when we decided to hire out the jobs.  And the nice part was we got to make the house ours.  We added our own touch to every corner of every room.

Now the house is a real home – it’s ours.  Gramps and mine.  The original black front door (really? black?!) is now a welcoming cream with a seasonal wreath hanging on it.  Come on in!

The front foyer greets everyone with horizontal blue and white stripes with blue and white plates scattered all around.  The large chandelier is named Elizabeth.

I know that’s strange but grandson Mac and I where very into naming things when he was younger.  Several things in my house have names.  Don’t judge!

The rest of the house is also very blue.  Blue is my favorite color.  I can’t get enough of it – in all shades and hues.

We have a dining room because we had to have one.  I love having meals with loved ones all around me at the table.  Most of my memories involve meals, so this is important to me. And, of course, all the blue and white dishes.  Enough said.

The family room is, steady now, blue with a fireplace.  It’s very cozy and has two blue recliners for Gramps and me.  We are like a pair of bookends on either side of the table with the lamp.  Gramps does a lot of reading in his chair and I do a lot of sewing in mine.

We are surrounded by several collections of family antiques.  They mean a lot to us and give us comfort.

The kitchen is white with a blue backsplash.  It’s very country in style.  I have a large cast iron sink and an island with a marble top.  The old chopping block from Aunt Gladys is there too.

The kitchen eating area is surrounded in beadboard paneling with, you guessed it, blue walls.  It’s a lovely sunny corner with windows on two sides.

The master bedroom is, careful now, yellow with blue accents.  Our bed is over one hundred years old.  My grandmother was born in that bed.  The room has many antiques, which I love.

There’s a guest room and an office.  The guest room holds many of my quilts. The office is mostly Gramps’ space.

Then there’s my sewing room.  The HQ of all fabric-related jobs. It is my favorite room. Lots of lighting.   Lots of storage. Lots of fabric.

One whole wall has shelves of fabric.  And yet that is never enough.  Somehow every project I start requires some fabric that I do not have.  I hate when I have to go to a fabric store.  NOT!

There’s a wonderful cutting table in the middle with an ironing surface.  My sewing machine sits in the corner facing out so I can see everything.  Sewing projects are stacked everywhere.

On the outside, Gramps has singlehandedly made our yard a green haven.  He has added grass, trees, bushes and walkways.  There is now a wonderful patio and a colorful yard beyond in the back.

The front has a welcoming walkway with lights, trees and shrubs.  Our sunset walk always starts with an inspection of the front yard grass for weeds and other stray growing things.

I love my little bungalow of a house.  It is my shelter, my haven.  It is sweet and welcomes me home every time.

It has become like an old friend.  Always there.  Always comfortable.  Always reliable.

It’s getting dark out now.  I need to go turn on the front lights.  Yes, even Elizabeth!

Goodbye Libby

Libby was a swell dog. She was happy to see anyone who came through the front door. She would run around the room and wag her tail as if to say, “Oh boy, someone to play with me!”

After awhile she would calm down and lay at your feet quietly. And she would do almost anything for a treat.

She was Mac’s dog, for his whole life. Until two days ago when we all had to say goodbye to a swell dog.

Mac loved her very much. They played together and slept together as most boys and doge do. He fed her and watered her – his daily chore. They were very close as most boys and dogs are.

When it was time to say goodbye to Libby, Mac was right there by her side. He held her close until the end.

Even though he was grieving, he didn’t back away. Even though he was sad, he held her. Even though he was afraid, he remained brave.

Mac talked to Libby in a soft voice. He told her what a good dog she had been, how much fun he had with her and how important she was to him.

It was so important for Mac to do all this but it was just as important for Libby to receive such a send off. She needed to feel safe, loved, warm, in familiar arms and surrounded by a voice she knew

She got the proper medication, so she was calm, comfortable and relaxed the whole time. That was important as it took a few hours for Mom, Dad and Mac all to get to the Vet’s from different points.

The final minutes together were very meaningful for the whole family and provided a thoughtful closure for all of them

The hardest part now is dealing with the quietness at home without Libby there. She has left a definite hole in the lives of Mac and his family.

She will be missed for quite some time especially by Mac. He has not known life without Libby. He will have a lot of adjusting to accomplish in the future.

But he will do fine because he not only lived well with Libby, he let go of her well also.

When it was necessary, he gave her the best goodbye ever.

Lessons From “Emma”

Gramps and I went to see the movie “Emma” today.  Despite the fact that it is pretty much a chick-flick and he had a tough time keeping up with all the characters, he was very concerned that everyone would end up with the right partners. Good man, Gramps!

The movie is an adaptation of a Jane Austen novel.  That alone would be reason enough for me to see it.  But the costumes and the sets were astounding!  Even the hairdos were captivating!  Needless to say, I loved the movie.

Besides reveling in the look of the move, I enjoyed what Jane Austen had to say.  She always has plenty to say about love and “Emma” was no exception.

Here is what I learned in two hours of period drama:

Lesson #1-Never interfere in others’ love choices.  People fall in love for a lot of reasons, most of which we are unaware. Maybe even they are unaware of them.

Interfering in, or worse, judging, someone else’s choice of love can lead to unbelievable heartache.  It hurts both parties and you.  It can damage a relationship forever and can break a trust for a lifetime.

It can be so hurtful that the friendship can never be repaired.

Best to be a good friend and supporter.  Be happy for their choices and rejoice in their joy.

Lesson #2-Never judge people by their wealth alone. The amount of income a person has can be the least important thing about them.  Of much more importance is their character, their morals, their ethics, their spirit, and their humor.

The income or wealth of a person may be temporary.  It may be the result of something beyond the person’s control, such as a health crisis.  It is beyond our knowledge to know and so should be beyond our ability to judge.

Lesson #3-Love words should be spoken often.  Too often we think our loved one understands what we are thinking and feeling.  Even if they do, they need to hear the spoken words of love.

More often there is miscommunication through looks and gestures that are unclear.  False conclusions are assumed and actions are taken based on false premises.  The ending couldn’t be farther from the intention.

We all must speak what is in our hearts every day.  Feelings of love, gratitude, pleasure and need should be expressed often to that special loved one.

Very often, they too are simply waiting for the opening to speak those very words back to you.  They are bursting to tell you exactly what you have been dying to hear from them – love words.

Don’t miss any occasion or opportunity.  Don’t let a precious moment go by when those caring words can be shared.  You’ll never regret saying them.  But you will regret locking them in your heart and keeping your silence.

That will haunt you to your dying day.  Jane Austen gave good advice through the language of her novels.

Listen and learn