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.

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?

Growing Older

I think I’m already old and there are so many things about my age I was not prepared for. Like the fact that it hurts to get out of bed in the morning.  Or the need for eve-increasing eyeglass prescriptions.  Or the fact that I now tip over so easily, kind of like a Weeble.

I’m not sure when this all happened.  Just sort of gradually over the years.  I know I don’t walk as fast as I used to and I certainly don’t run anymore.  I have arthritis in a couple of my fingers and my eyesight is definitely not what it used to be.  I forget more things but I am still able to learn new things.

My body has declined as I have aged.  That is a fact.  But I am still mobile and am still able to do my hand sewing.  Those are big gifts I have been given.

I am definitely a lot smarter and wiser than I’ve ever been.  Over the many years of experience, I have gained knowledge that is indispensable to me now.  It was earned, it was paid for, it is mine.

As I age, I gain wisdom and grace to deal with life in all its forms – the good and the difficult. Decisions become easier because I’ve tried many options in the past.  I’m now the one that passes that learning to the younger ones in the family.

So it seems to be a real balancing act.  As part of me is losing strength, another part is gaining.  I remember past days when I could do something that I no longer can do, but I also look forward to tomorrow when I will be better than I am today.

Which means every day is my best day.

A Letter To My Teenage Self

Dear Sweetie –

I know you’re busy being an active teenage girl, but I have some words of wisdom for you.  I have gained this wisdom through many years of experience and lots of trial and error.  I hope to relieve some of your anxiety and give you hope for the future.

Most importantly, know that the difficult times in life are survivable.  It may not seem that way now, but only because you have had such a short life and maybe so few hard times. Each success in hurtling a storm will make you more equipped to face the next one.  By the time you reach my age, you will be a master and a teacher, and others will look to you for counsel in the stressful times.

Don’t take yourself or anything else for that matter, too seriously.  Learn to see the humor in everyday life and you will always have a smile on your face. You will find that humor will get you through a lot of difficult situations.

Always tell the truth.  No matter what, tell the truth.  It shapes your character for the rest of your life.  Make your word and your signature your most solemn promise.

Meet all sorts of people and value diverse relationships.  Learn to make and maintain friendships.  Some of the people in your life now will remain close to you for the rest of your life.  Make good memories.

Try all sorts of interests.  Join after-school activities. Take up a musical instrument.  Try out for a team.  All these things help you discover your strengths and weaknesses – all good knowledge.  And they make you a more well-rounded person.

Don’t abuse drugs and alcohol – just don’t!!!  They bring you nothing but heartache and will steal your life.  They will take everything from you and I do mean everything – your money, your job, your family, your home, your friends, your name, your trust, your health and finally your very life.

Finally, have fun!   These are some of the best years of your life – enjoy them. Go to school with a positive attitude.  Attend school functions.  Spend time with friends and family. Explore hobbies and sports.  Keep a journal.  Look for ways to share with others.  Be goofy.

Have faith in yourself.  You will do well and will be successful.

Remember, I will always be here to help you.

Your grown-up self

How I Learned To Forgive

When my son Ken got married, we were all very excited.  It seemed, at the time, like a perfect match.  As time progressed, we learned more about Amy and saw more of her true character.

She turned out to be a very hurtful person and we saw odd changes in our son.  Amy was also physically abusive to Ken and he showed many signs of an abused spouse.  He started to become less than his best self.

When the breakup finally came, our son was a broken man and Amy was blaming me for everything.  Ken cried harder than I had ever seen a grown man cry.

He grieved so hard for all his losses, including the two stepsons he had come to love so dearly.  He became almost non-functional for a time.

To say I came to hate Amy would be an understatement.  Truly I had never had such feelings for any human being in my life.  She had damaged my loving son, intentionally with no regrets.   I couldn’t believe my negative feelings towards her.

I was going to hurt her with my negative thoughts. Get revenge with my hateful mind. Maybe damage her the way she had damaged my sweet son.

But the person I was hurting the most was me.  I couldn’t sleep.  I had headaches.   My blood pressure was up and I thought about Amy all day.  My life was now being taken by her and I was allowing it to happen.

I had to learn to forgive Amy or become a cripple.   First step was wishing her no harm. That came with a lot of prayer and the counsel of others.  After months of work, I could honestly say I wished her no harm and did not fantasize about her death any longer.  (Yes, I had real issues with her!).

Next step was being able to wish her well.  That also was very hard.  I had to keep visualizing her two boys and wanting the best mother for them.  To do that, I had to think of her being her best self.

I don’t know that any of this has changed Amy but I am now able to sleep, have no more headaches and my blood pressure has returned to normal.  I don’t think about her anymore, except very rarely.  And when I do, I wish her all the best.

I am certainly the better for it.

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.

For The Love Of Selvedges

So what the heck is a selvedge anyway?  Well, for those who really don’t know, it’s the edge of either side of a woven fabric, so finished as to prevent raveling.  That’s according to Merriam-Webster, that is.

To me, it’s the fun narrow border of a fabric that usually has written words and color dots, and more recently, colorful designs.  Selvedges have become so charming, I am absolutely enamored with them.

Sometimes selvedges will have more than just the name of the company and/or the name of the fabric.  Nowadays they will have words of wisdom, like these.

How can you go wrong, when your fabric tells you how the world should be!

And the selvedges with those cute characters!  I mean, who doesn’t love colorful, charming, little animals or objects just marching across the edge?  Usually the objects pertain to the pattern of the fabric and sometimes . . . who knows where the idea came from?

But I save all selvedges – the smooth edged and the ruffly edged.  I cut the selvedge plus at least one inch of fabric.  That way, when I overlap the selvedges to make fabric, I will get some of the color.

Which is why I save the selvedges – to make more fabric out of the strips.  Sounds insane, I know, but it is so great-looking.  I have covered my sewing room chair with that fabric. Here’s a photo:

Also made a tote.

Basically, once you make a piece of fabric from the strips, you can do anything with that fabric.  Use it like any other fabric and sew into any shape you want.  The possibilities are endless.

I’m not sure why selvedges speak to me the way they do but I sure am hooked.  I confess that once I bought some fabric only because the selvedge was so outstanding.  My love of selvedges is so well known, that many people now save them for me.

It’s kind of like being a drug addict and having dealers who give me the drug for free.  I mean, really?  I once even talked a lady at my Quilt Guild Meeting, who had won a bag of selvedges as a door prize, into giving me the whole bag.  I think I need an intervention.

So next time you see a piece of fabric, look at the selvedges.  Careful!  You might become addicted, just like me!

Oh, I see some now!  Gotta go!

A Cat Named Starsky

It all started when I looked out into the backyard one day and saw a white rabbit hopping around.  He looked very domesticated and very lost.  So, of course, we adopted him and named him “Hutch.”  We thought that was very clever.

Within a month, I was coming home from work in the rain and saw a small cat in the street.  I stopped to see how I could help and when I opened my car door, a wet black cat jumped into my lap.

And that’s how we adopted a completely black cat who subsequently was named “Starsky” after the TV series “Starsky and Hutch.”  Now we thought we were practically brilliant at naming pets.

When I took Starsky to the vet to be checked out, the tech asked me all the necessary questions including the cat’s name.  I said I was a little embarrassed to tell her the cat’s name and she said that was okay – she had heard them all.

So I told her his name was Starsky, and how he got his name.  She said that was not bad. She actually thought I was going to say his name was “Sammy Davis Jr.”  Now that would be a great name for an all black cat!

We eventually gave Hutch to a friend who owned a farm, but Starsky lived with us for many happy years.  He grew up to be the best cat ever.

He was calm, gentle, playful and great with our two children.  They could easily dress him in clothes and he would never make a fuss.  Or put a hat on him and he would just stare at me with a “come help me” look on his face.

We even have a picture of him with red checkers all over him and the poor cat is just frozen in position.  He was the best!

He would let me carry him anywhere and would sleep on my lap.  He also slept at the foot of our bed at night.  He was quiet and didn’t snore a bit.  But he could also be playful. Have you ever seen a cat play fetch?  Well, our Starsky would!

If anyone would throw a bottle cap or fire a rubber band down the hallway, that silly feline would run as fast as he could, snatch the object and trot back with it in his mouth. Casually he would drop it at the thrower’s feet and wait for the next toss.

This would go on for as long as the thrower had energy or until Starsky got distracted by something fun . . . or maybe food.

Which brings me to poor Starsky’s weight problem.  He loved to eat and he was no athlete, so eventually he ballooned to a whopping twenty-five pounds.  Vet said, “Put him on a diet!”.

That’s when the begging began.  Our wonderful gentleman of a cat became a real pest for food.  At every meal there would be a little black paw running along the edge of the table, just in case any crumb happened to be there.  Steady as clockwork.

And our Starsky was a pacifist every day of his life.  He wasn’t a good fighter either.  I know, because after every disagreement with another cat, he had an injury on his backside.  Never anywhere else.  Always the tush – from him running away, I suppose.

Our Starsky set the standard for all the other cats we ever owned. He was the most mild-mannered, cutest, gentlest, funniest, best cat ever.

He left a huge hole when he was gone.  Hard to believe for such a small animal.  We still talk about him in all our “remember when” stories.

Everyone should have a pet like Starsky to enjoy and then remember forever.

My BFF

Paula has been my best friend since we were in sixth grade.  We are now seventy-two years old, so that’s . . . sixty years!  Hard to believe but true.

We lived close to each other and would often “meet in the middle,” which was halfway between our houses.  Sleepovers were common in those days, as they are today.

We clicked right away and did most everything together.  I remember when we taught ourselves sign language and would sit silently in the back seat of her family car, happily signing back and forth.

There was a time in high school when we made clothes alike, so we could dress like twins. I think we both secretly wished we were real sisters all those years.  Point of fact: we look nothing alike.  How we thought we would pass for twins is beyond me.

For several summers during high school, we went on vacation together with her family. Those are some of the greatest memories I have.  Especially the night we stayed outdoors on cots so we could see the deer come up to the cabin.  We planned to stay awake all night in shifts.  Well, the next thing I remember is us waking up in the morning and seeing the deer tracks where they had come up to investigate us while we slept.

Or the time we planned to row across the lake in a very small boat. That lasted about half an hour and it seemed we were getting nowhere.  So we turned around and came back. Best laid plans!

We shared most everything in those days – ideas, activities, goals, worries, laughs and dreams.  Where one went, the other was not far behind.

College found us going in separate directions – different career paths, different jobs, different friends.

After college, we stayed in touch by phone and letters.  We were in different states by then. We both got married and had two children each.   We visited each other a couple times during those years.

Then one day Paula called – she was getting divorced. How could we help?  “Come get me,” she said.  We helped her move and she stayed with us for nine months.

It was just like before.  We laughed.   We cried. We shared everything.  Paula and Gramps became gardening buddies.  Gramps would enter the house after work and announce, “Hi Honeys, I’m home!”

Paula has since moved out, remarried and bought a new home.  But we remain close.   She is my best friend forever.

We share a love of quilting and belong to the same Quilt Guild. We keep in touch with phone calls, lunches, birthday and holiday dinners and sleepovers.

The best part of our relationship is the shared history.   We don’t have to say a word. Sometimes a look will get us laughing and only we know why.  Everytime we get back together after a time apart, we just pick right up where we left off.  No awkwardness.  No reintroduction necessary.  We really know each other.

The two of us have been to many of our high school reunions over the years.  They have all been fun but the best part has been sharing them with Paula.  Remembering those years together has been most special.

In fact, Paula and I are going on a cruise this year for our high school fifty-fifth reunion.  We will be roommates for ten days to Alaska.  Can’t think of anyone I’d rather go with. (Except Gramps. But he didn’t go to my high school)

We are going to have so much fun.  Share such a wonderful trip.  And make more memories together.