Category Archives: In the Company of Angels

There are some people who come into your life and are truly “angels” and such a blessing.

Nothing Says “I Love You” Quite Like Banana Pudding

A few weeks ago, the phone rang. All plans were set aside. The busy-ness on my ever-present “to-do” list suddenly became unimportant and I found myself hastily throwing a bag together and waiting in the airport for a seat on a flight to Oklahoma.

My husband’s Uncle Milt passed away. My Uncle Milt passed away.

We quickly decided I would be the one to go and be with the family for the funeral services and my husband would stay home with the boys (Sara is in Washington with my mom for a month). It might seem strange that I was the one to go when the loss was on my husband’s side of the family but that is the funny thing about family, love blurs the lines. And I loved my Uncle Milt so very much.

I first told you a little about Uncle Milt and Aunt Peggy last fall when I shared Aunt Peggy’s delicious corn casserole recipe with you. I told you a bit about their love story and what they came to mean to me so many years ago when I was a new military bride desperately missing my own family. And I briefly mentioned the banana pudding.

This is the first chance I have had to sit down and gather my thoughts after the five beautiful days I spent in Oklahoma (that busy list didn’t go away while I was away). And I am struggling a bit. It is hard to find the words to sum up this sweet man. To sum up what he meant to me; to so many. To sum up a life lived so well that left behind is a far-reaching legacy that winds its way through an entire family, binding together a wife of 56 years, four children and their spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, sisters and brother-in-law, nieces and nephews. And me, married to a nephew but embraced as a daughter.

As I write, I remember that today is Aunt Peggy’s birthday and I am thankful that these words have waited until today. I can think of no better gift than to remind her of the blessing she and Uncle Milt have been in my life.

And it all started with banana pudding.

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I don’t remember the exact moment I had Aunt Peggy’s banana pudding for the first time but it instantly became my absolute favorite thing in the universe. No exaggeration. Better than French fries.

And Uncle Milt quietly took notice.

We lived about 45 minutes away from Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg when my husband was stationed at Altus Air Force base. We spent a lot of weekends playing cribbage around their cozy dining room table; always Aunt Peg and I teamed up against Uncle Milt and my husband. Those boys like to think that they won most of the time but I don’t remember it quite that way. What I do remember is feeling loved and welcome. I remember missing my own family a whole lot less because Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg became like parents to us and their four children and their families like siblings.

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So many times I walked through their front door to hear Uncle Milt quietly say “it must be ‘That Girl’! Go look in the fridge, you might find something in there for you.” Always there was a banana pudding waiting for me. If it wasn’t Aunt Peggy’s banana pudding, it was a Styrofoam container from Ryan’s Buffet heaped full of banana pudding that he had gone and gotten for me. He was a big man with a big presence and an even bigger heart and I adored him.

We were stationed in Oklahoma for only two years and too soon, it was time for us to move to Arizona where my husband would fly part-time for the National Guard and full-time for American Airlines. I was devastated to leave and cried most of the way through Texas. Life quickly took over and we didn’t see or talk with Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg nearly enough but the bond we had forged with them in that two years remains such a part of us.

Over the years, Uncle Milt’s health declined with the onset of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s/Dementia. He eventually had to be placed in the Veteran’s Center where his growing needs could be met. Aunt Peg was right by his side everyday. Such love. Such an example.

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I have heard it said that while Alzheimer’s may rob your loved one of his memory, what matters is that you remember. You remember.

I remember.

I remember and was blessed to join this amazing family  to celebrate the life of a man who meant the world to me. Cousin Jim’s sweet wife Yvonne even made a banana pudding for me shortly after I arrived and I jumped off of the gluten-free/sugar-free wagon with reckless abandon. Only for banana pudding. And I did stick five spoons in the bowl and share it. The only thing better than a big bowl of banana pudding all to yourself is a big bowl of banana pudding shared with five people you love.

We told stories, we laughed, we cried, we prayed and we rejoiced in the knowledge that Uncle Milt is restored and again whole in the arms of the Savior he spent his life glorifying.

I promise you Uncle Milt, I will remember.

And I will forever remember so many things about saying goodbye.

I will remember Uncle Chuck’s story about the anger he felt when his own father passed. A man poor in the pocket but rich in all the ways that matter. How he was unable to comprehend that the sum of a man’s life could end up a few papers and documents in a shoebox. It was you who showed him that the true sum of his father’s life was not in that shoebox but was in him and his four beautiful sisters. It was you who helped him to realize just how remarkable his own father was. He remembers.

I will remember Jim’s eulogy and the stories of a husband and father’s love and strength. Your wife and your children and their children remember.

Peg-&-Milt

I will remember the internment ceremony at the beautiful military cemetery that is your final resting place. I will remember the full military honors for a man and a career that included two tours in Korea and one in Vietnam. I will remember the cry of the bugler sounding TAPS as the wind gusted mightily and it was finished. All of your family remembers. And a grateful and free nation remembers.

I will see you again Uncle Milt. I know you will have the cribbage board waiting and I will smile to again hear “oh, here comes ‘That Girl’ – go look in the fridge, you might find something in there for you.” Until that day, I will remember.

Aunt Peggy’s Banana Pudding

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It isn’t a fancy recipe. It isn’t a complicated recipe. But it is how someone very special shared with me just how much I meant to him. How he reminded me how much I was loved. I am happy to share it with you and hope that you will make if for someone you love.

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Ingredients

  • 1 – 3.4 ounce package of instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 2 cups heavy cream, whipped
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • 36-48 Vanilla Wafers

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Directions

Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and water. Add the instant vanilla pudding and whisk again until smooth and well blended. Chill the pudding mixture for 5 minutes.

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The pudding mixture will be starting to set. Fold in the whipped cream.

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Begin layering the ingredients …

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Start with pudding,

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add a layer of vanilla wafers

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and then a layer of sliced bananas.

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Top with more pudding, wafers and bananas and finish with pudding.

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It is always pretty to have some of the wafers peaking through a glass bowl.

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Top with crushed vanilla wafer crumbs. You can garnish with a few fresh banana slices and vanilla wafers just before serving.

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Or dress up individual serving bowls. You can also eat it right out of a Styrofoam container. Whatever works for you!

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When I got home from Oklahoma, I whipped up a batch for the girlfriends who had stepped up to take care of my boys for the two days I was gone and my husband had to work. One batch fit nicely into two 8×8 disposable pans.

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Just layer in the same manner as above.

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Top with vanilla wafer crumbs and pretty up the packaging and you will have a gift that is well received.

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It is simple but it is my absolute favorite banana pudding. For many reasons. I hope you love it too!

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Happy Birthday Aunt Peggy. I love you so much!

One final note, I am working on a gluten-free/sugar-free version. Right now, as we speak. I’m having a little trouble with the vanilla wafers but I am determined to eat this whenever I wish. Well the bananas will still be a splurge but not the end of the world. Stay tuned …

Mother’s Day Blessings and Memories

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there who love everyday in big and small ways. In ways that are noticed and acknowledged and in so many ways that are not but will be felt, remembered and cherished. Generation after generation.

I know I am a little behind on sharing Mother’s Day sentiments but I had a busy Mother’s Day myself; enjoying church with my family, doing a little antiquing on my own, and then watching The Avengers and Captain America with my husband and kids.

Yes, those were my movie choices.

What? Well we couldn’t watch Thor, we’d just seen it a few days ago.

Then yesterday, my husband and youngest took me out for sushi and to browse the bookstore and enjoy a treat in the café. So today is the first chance I’ve had to share Mother’s Day with you.

While Mother’s Day is a day for watching action movies … what? … it is also a day for reflection and celebration of the women who have mothered us. The women who have nurtured us, stood by us, been both patient and frustrated with us, disciplined and molded us, mentored us but above all, loved us. Always.

Everyone’s story is different. But I hope with all my heart that you had or still have a mother or mother figure in your life to remember and be thankful for. Whether you are able to hold her hand or just her memory.

I am blessed to have some wonderful women to celebrate on Mother’s Day …

Mom-and-MeMy fabulous mom who was always in my corner.

I am so thankful for all she taught me (and all she put up with from me in the process). Self-sacrifice, the reward of  hard work, the ability to do a lot with a little, dinner at the table as a family, cooking, gardening, homemaking – homemade is best, anything after 1am is just going to get you into trouble and to pray, attend church, read and study my bible and look to God in all things.

I also got her sassiness, temper and eye rolling death stare. It’s true.

And if you ever wonder why I am a little “over-the-top”, this was my 4th grade Halloween costume …

Marie-Antoinette-for-HallowMarie Antoinette

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She made the whole thing.  The dress. The powdered wig.  I got “over-the-top” from her.

And I love her for it!

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I celebrate my Aunt Andi (my mom’s sister) too. She’s fun, independent and tenacious!

And I still look at her like that sometimes.

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And my grandma Ibby. I’ve told you a lot about Grandma Ibby and her incredible recipes have been the subject of many of my blog posts. I’ll be posting her delicious banana bread recipe on Friday. You won’t want to miss it! So much of what I learned from my mom came from the lessons and example of her mother, Grandma Ibby. She is deeply missed.

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I love this picture of me with my great-grandmother Rose, my great-grandmother Clara, my grandma Eileen (my first best friend) and my very own super-mom! It is a blessing to have known two of my great-grandmothers. I will share their stories one day. But I do hope you will click the link just above and read about my grandmother Eileen. She was such a huge part of my life and I have so many wonderful memories of her. A love of antiques and making all that is old new, beautiful and loved again comes from her. Plus she let me eat Fruit Loops (banned and forbidden by my health conscious mother) before bed. Which was awesome.

So now, I am a mom too. I have learned from the best. Not how to be June Clever perfect  but how to give everything I have, to keep trying when I fail, to say I’m sorry when I need to, to love the Lord with all my heart and to pray for my children in all things.

I received some pretty incredible gifts this Mother’s Day. Gifts that let me know my kids love and appreciate me, even if I don’t always think they show it.

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Ask any mom, that is what she wants most and the simple gifts made by her kids are the most precious!

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Nathan gave me a sweet card and poem and “mom’s helping hands” with the things we like to do together written on them.

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Purple was my favorite color as a child. Sara knows that and made a purple necklace for me. Her sense of humor came through with a piece of paper with the word “PEACE” written on it. Whenever they ask me what I want for my birthday or Mother’s Day, I always answer “peace” as in a peaceful relaxed day with no kids fighting or arguing. So, she gave me peace.

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David made a book for me at school which was filled with his creative writing and story art all the way from the beginning of the year.

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This is a picture of him in his Halloween costume. He was a Ninja and that is exactly what it looked like right down to the “spider” treat bag and the “fluf pads” muscles. So cute!!

No, I did not make it.

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He answered questions about me. He knows me. I love that!

He also said my favorite TV show was “Beerfoot” which is Barefoot Contessa. My favorite hobby is cooking. My favorite book is a cook book. My favorite restaurant is “all” restaurants. I enjoy cooking. And that if there were four extra hours in a day, he would spend them cooking with me.

I’m sensing a theme, maybe I need to expand my horizons a little.

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He also listed three reasons why “you are special to me.”

You love me.

You say prers (prayers) with me.

You love me more than I can love you.

And then he wrote this. And I cried.

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I’ll never forget the time you “never gave up to adopt me.”

And that is what being a mom is. We never give up. Not ever, no matter what. We are always there for our kids. Fighting for them. We sometimes fail and we often regret but we never give up.

Mother's-Day-2013Because our mom, or someone who loved us like a mom, was always there for us.

Fighting for us.

And just when you think your children don’t realize or appreciate it, they come out of left field with just what you needed to hear.

“You never gave up …”

Of course I didn’t, I’m your mom.

Today – A Thank You; Tomorrow – The Backyard

I know I invited you to join me in the backyard today but I’m going to have to reschedule for tomorrow. This week is Teacher Appreciation Week and the big PTO auction to raise money for our elementary school is tomorrow night. I have been busy making treats for teachers and putting together auction items today and haven’t had a chance to finish my “backyard” post.

I do promise I will have it for you tomorrow.

But for now, because it is Teacher Appreciation Week, I would love to share with you a post I wrote last Fall about the incredible blessing of some amazing teachers in our life.

Mrs. Skinner, David and Mrs. Stapley

Mrs. Skinner, David and Mrs. Stapley

In the Company of Great Teachers

Click the link and it will take you to the post. And for the record, Mr. K has turned out to be the most incredible principal a kid and his mom could ask for! He has gone far above and beyond and my son has had a fantastic year!

To all of the teachers out there, THANK YOU!

Thank you for your patience, love and guidance. Thank you for all the hard work, the late hours the dedication. Thank you for all you do for our kids!

As a special thank you to the teachers at our school, I did what I do and made them something to eat …

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Sourdough Strata with Roasted Tomatoes and Greens 

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and lots and lots of Pain au Chocolat 

 Nothing says “I think you’re awesome” like a chocolate croissant.

 To Mr. Kaczmarek, Mrs. Skinner, Mrs. Marr, Mrs. Stapley, Mrs. Walsh,  Mrs. McConnell, Mrs. Weaver, Mrs. Miller, Ms. Alfonso and Mr. McCarron and all of the support staff who work with our kids everyday, you guys are absolutely incredible. It has been a GREAT year we are so blessed to have you in our children’s lives.

You ARE awesome! And very much appreciated.

Just a side note, Nathan starts Kindergarten next year. Wait till they get a load of him.

I may need to bring teacher appreciation treats on a monthly basis.

Never Tire of Doing Good

With the bombing at the Boston Marathon, our world faces yet another violent, senseless tragedy.

Such an absence of regard for human life.

We get comfortable. We forget or remember less and less. Daily life continues and the realities of the ongoing horrors of this world become removed. War, human trafficking, slavery, abuse, murder, unspeakable brutality. The pain and suffering of rampant disease, hunger, starvation; all a world away.

But this, this jars us awake.

Our own backyard. We are not immune and we cannot live as if we are. There is an enemy and his insidious evil reaches into every corner of this world.

But so does light.

We are all grieving the injury and loss of life in this tragedy. We grieve with the family of an eight-year-old boy. A boy who’s heart carried a message of peace. A life filled with promise. We grieve with a father who right now can’t imagine how he will draw his next breath. How he will tell his wife. How he will help his daughter to cope and to heal. I have fought for that same breath. Not in exactly the same way but enough to know that the next breath will come and then the next and then the next.

I am the mother of an eight-year-old boy who came to my husband and I an abused and neglected toddler only to leave us just after his third birthday, returning to uncertainty; taking my breath with him.

I am the mother of an eight-year-old boy who has experienced the worst of this world. Abuse, neglect, trauma at the hand of the very person who should have loved him the most. But he was not defeated and the next breath came.

I am the mother of an eight-year-old boy who has been delivered from the darkness and who’s light now shines brightly. Piercing that darkness.

Monday afternoon, as I watched the early news reports with him, we talked about what we saw. Not the horrors or the violence.

No, we didn’t talk about you.

We talked about the people we saw helping other people. People rushing to the aide of strangers. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Selfless acts of courage; the best of people. That is what we saw.

We didn’t see you.

We didn’t see an enemy at work. We saw good, people doing good.

And while we watched, do you know what my son said to me? My precious eight-year-old son who has been through so much. “I will be like them mommy. I will run to help.”

He is awake.

I am the mother of and eight-year-old boy who will NEVER tire of doing good.

You have made sure of that.

Your injustice has only made him desire what is right. He will be a “righter” of wrongs.

Your pain and hurt and horror has given him a heart of empathy and understanding; a deep desire to relieve suffering. He has overcome the worst and he will be a light in the darkness.

You have lost.

Yes, another eight-year-old has fallen. His precious life has ended; but still, you have lost. His message is alive. And it has been heard.

Martin Richard Peace

“No more hurting people. Peace.”

If your aim was to strike fear. We are not afraid. We are awake. And you have lost.

If your aim was to devalue, destroy, defeat; know this, the battle has already been won and it is  you that has been defeated. It is written. It is our promise. It is our hope. And we will never tire of doing good.

In the midst of the most unspeakable darkness, there will always be someone there to do good. To shine a light. To shine His light. You have lost. My eight-year-old has picked up the banner of Martin Richard and will carry on. He is awake and he is not alone.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we
do not give up. Galatians 6:9 ESV

Grandma Ibby’s Apple Dumplings

My Grandma Ibby, age 22 circa 1942.

My Grandma Ibby, age 22 circa 1942.

Apple dumplings are traditionally a wedge of apple sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and wrapped in a biscuit type dough which is then baked in a rich simple syrup that does magical things in the oven. My grandmother’s dumplings are unique in that the apples are diced and the dough is rolled up and sliced in cinnamon roll fashion. I truly can think of no way to describe to you how special these perfect apple dumplings are. You simply have to try them and judge for yourself. When you have regained your faculties and are once again able to communicate, I would love to know how you liked them.

Grandma Ibby’s Apple Dumplings

Dumpling Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Sour Cream
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Milk or Half and Half
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Table Salt
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 3 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon

Dumpling Syrup

  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. Flour
  • 1 Cup Boiling Water
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter

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Directions

Dice apples into small pieces so they are easy to roll up in the dough. Toss with 1 tsp. Cinnamon and set aside.

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In a large bowl, combine the sour cream and milk and whisk until well blended and smooth. Add in the baking soda and salt and mix well. Sift together and add the baking powder, flour and sugar.

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Mix until combined and dough just starts to come together, do not over work the dough. Dough will be sticky. Place the dough on a floured surface and roll into a rectangular shape about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.

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Cover with the cinnamon apples.

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Carefully roll like you would for a jelly roll or cinnamon rolls. Flour your hands and be gentle with the delicate dough.

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Cut into 1 inch slices and place in a buttered baking dish.

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I ended up with 11 but probably should have gotten 12. Oh well, bigger dumplings.

Dumpling Syrup …

Combine the granulated and brown sugars and 2 tablespoons of flour and to the mixture, add 1 cup of boiling water and 2 tablespoons of butter, diced.

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Mix until sugar is dissolved and butter has melted.

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Pour syrup over dumplings.

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Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, until dumplings are golden brown and bubbly.

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When serving, be sure to drizzle a little syrup from the baking dish over each dumpling.

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Amazing is one of the most over used descriptive words in the writing world.

These apple dumplings are A – M – A – Z – I – N – G!

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It is okay to lick the plate. I won’t tell.

Preserving Family Memories, Stories and Recipes

I come from women I am proud of. Women whom I love dearly and are such a part of who I am. And the women who came before them; women that I never knew personally but feel a love for and a connection with through the memories that have been shared, the wonderful stories I have heard and the incredible food I have eaten all my life.

Not perfect women but strong, loving and faithful women none the less. Women who worked hard and never quit. Women who found joy and made the most of what they had, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Many, the wives and daughters of farmers and loggers in the Pacific Northwest. Women who pulled meals together everyday to feed countless crews that worked hard and needed to eat hearty; maybe that is why I love to feed people, it is in my DNA. Sturdy French peasant stock as my husband likes to joke. He may be teasing me but in truth, he is right; not entirely French peasant but adding the whole mix of heritage would be too complicated.

I come from mothers and grandmothers who’s cooking and baking filled their kitchens with warm and welcoming scents. Scents that have become synonymous with home and nurture. Scents that linger still, swirling through the memories of their children and the recollections that have been passed down; generation to generation.

I am truly thankful to know where I come from, who I come from. And I am blessed to have heard so many stories of an earlier time and to have countless photos and recipes to go along with those stories. At this point in my life, it has become very important to me to remember the women who came before by preserving their stories and recipes for my family, for my children and for the children to come. And if I can share them with others who enjoy stories of food and family and a good recipe or two, all the better.

Many of these recipes and stories will come from the life of my Grandma Ibby (short for Elizabeth), my mother’s mother; the wife of a Gyppo Logger on the Yak River at Hell Roaring Creek above Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho. That, however, is only part of her story, only a part of who she was; but that is where I will start.

AD-23Elizabeth “Ibby” LeFebre Chapman, age 18 circa 1938 

My grandmother raised four children in many a harsh and remote location and she cooked incredible meals, for a lot of people, with no electricity and no running water. Propane fueled the stove she used and powered the refrigerator and once a week my grandfather would fire up the generator so she could run her mixer and bake. Water had to be hauled in daily to fill two galvanized tubs, bucket by bucket from a creek about a quarter mile away.

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My mom (in the back) uncles and aunt, circa 1954

Very early, every weekday morning, my grandmother arose to prepare breakfast for her family and a 6 man logging crew and to lay out meats, cheeses, bread, sides, fruit, and homemade cookies, brownies and treats for the lunches the crews would pack to take to the job site. When the men returned in the evening, they would be welcomed by the hot meal my grandmother had ready and waiting for them.

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Grandma Ibby, circa 1956

These meals are before my time and are the childhood memories of my mother. Even so, I can picture the bounty of them placed along the long wooden table of the cookshack. I can picture the comfort they brought as a hardworking logging crew began to unwind over a meal that certainly nourished more than their hungry stomachs and weary bodies.

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My grandfather on his Skagit loader, circa 1957.

My mom is back for a visit and has brought with her a wooden recipe box containing many of my Grandmother’s recipe cards. In her handwriting. I lost my grandmother in 1986, when I was just 15. To me, that box is filled with treasure.

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The process of compiling stories, photos and recipes for this family cookbook has been shared with my mom and has made for some very special moments. With each recipe card we pulled from that plain brown box, came a story and a connection to the past. The shared history of mother and daughter.

 “Oooh, here is grandma’s gingerbread recipe. I remember coming home from school to a house permeated with the smell of that gingerbread. The house was big and open but not fancy; it was warm and it seemed as if that smell lingered in every corner. I could hardly wait for that piece of gingerbread dolloped with whipped cream.”

And then the hunt for the apple dumpling recipe.

“Oh, we have to find her apple dumpling recipe, you have to include those! The first time I ever had these apple dumplings was when we lived in Lincoln, Montana; I was about six or seven (which would have been about 1951-’52). I remember grandma struggling with the dough a little bit when she rolled them, but she made them for us anyway because they were delicious and we loved them.”

We did find the recipe, and made them this weekend. There is not one left. I am still trying to stop dreaming about them.

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Just the other day, as my mom and I continued to talk over these recipes and the memories they contain, she casually mentioned to me “you know, I have a box with your great-grandmother LeFebre’s recipes in it. Do you want that one too?”

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My great-grandmother May LeFebre, circa 1958

Yes. A thousand times, yes!

“Yes, mom. I would like to have that one too.”

Please visit again tomorrow for my Grandma Ibby’s Apple Dumpling Recipe. These dumplings are unlike any apple dumpling you may have had before and something you have to try for yourself because I really can’t begin to describe to you how incredible they are and I can’t wait to share them with you.

Friday Morning

I haven’t been able to post the last several days. My heart has been heavy and grieving. How do I talk about the Elf on the Shelf or cookies or meal planning or lights or tree trimming?

Friday morning. It is all we are hearing about, thinking about, talking about. I have read so many beautiful posts, thoughts, prayers and scripture uttered in the search for hope amid such unimaginable grief.

Beautiful insight.

Exactly what I wanted to say.

What I would have said had I been able to find the words.

I have read the prayer of St. Francis posted on Facebook by Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) … Lord Make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O’ Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Yes, Lord.

I have read the words of fellow blogger Derek Maul, “But my God is still the God of hope; and that hope is still articulated most eloquently in the promise of the Christ-child and the imperative of love. And while I can’t offer my faith as any kind of a ‘now I understand’ explanation, or an excuse for ‘unfairness,’ or a tidy answer, I can offer it as proof positive that the very real presence of God both sustains and encourages me – especially in the face of such consummate evil.”

Yes, Lord.

And I have turned to scripture, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will show mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3-10

Yes, Lord.

No, up to now, I haven’t myself been able to find the words but I have been sustained by the words of others; by the words of my Heavenly Father. What more can be said? What more can I add? And yet I feel like I can’t take another breath or go through another motion until I acknowledge the message He has for me and accept the words He is laying on my heart.

I watch the news, too much of it – and I hear discussion in regard to the shooter. He has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. He has Aspergers. He was a loner. He was odd. My heart breaks again as I read the words of Liza Long in her post “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”  that has been circulating everywhere. I have compassion as she cries out for help with her own son whom she fears but I am frustrated as she throws out possible diagnoses such as an Autism Spectrum Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), ADHD, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder and links them and her son to what happened on Friday morning. I understand she is frustrated with the lack of mental health services and options. I understand she is looking for answers to the challenges she faces and the fear she has. My heart goes out to any mother who feels that she has to fear her child. I will pray for her. A lot of people have commented about her and have responded to her essay both in support and anger but who is praying for her? Who is praying for her son?

Does she need help? Yes. Does her son need help? Yes. Do we need to address the lack of appropriate mental health services in our country? Yes. Are there people who suffer from mental illness that pose a danger to themselves or society and need to be given the appropriate help and treatment? Yes. Do we need to recognize their suffering and watch for warning signs? Yes.

But we also need to be careful of where we place blame, point fingers, misdiagnosed and allow fear to creep into our good intentions; our judgment.

Was this tragic shooting on Friday caused because a young man had Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, PTSD, ODD, OCD or mental illness alone?

I am not an expert. I am not a mental health professional, psychiatrist, therapist or counselor. But I do have a gifted child who has been diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and PTSD due to the extreme trauma he experienced before we adopted him. We have been through a lot with him but I am not afraid of him. In fact, quite the opposite; I am amazed by him and admire his resiliency, compassion and desire to overcome his past. I see his heart and his goodness and I see God at work in his life every day.

I feel a great push to share this because I have put a part of my son’s story out there in the world by talking about his challenges in earlier posts and my heart now breaks at the though of any condemnation or judgment he could face because of the labels he bears; because of the “links” being made in the media and by those seeking an answer. My hope in sharing a part of my son’s story is only to praise how far he has come, to offer encouragement to others and to give glory to God for what He has done in our lives.

There is hope and healing is possible.

I also have a nephew with Aspergers and a close friend with an Autistic son and I myself have faced OCD. And I can’t, not for one more moment, hear this unspeakable act being linked to or blamed on conditions, disorders and/or diagnoses that millions of people live with. Diagnoses or labels that may remove them from the mainstream make them “different” and cause them to struggle but certainly do not make them cold, calculating mass murderers. How often in our history has the fear of “different” resulted in tragedy of its own?

What this young man did was something sinister.

We live in a world where there is good and there is evil.

What happened in that sleepy Connecticut town on Friday morning was evil; “consummate evil.”

  • People with Autism are not evil.
  • Autism is not mental illness.
  • People with Aspergers are not evil.
  • Aspergers is not mental illness.
  • People with mental illness are not evil.
  • People with OCD are not evil.
  • People with ODD are not evil.
  • People with PTSD are not evil.
  • People with ADHD are not evil.
  • People with depression and anxiety disorders are not evil.

Because it is close to me, I write specifically with thoughts of the thousands of foster children in our country who suffer from conditions resulting from abuse, trauma and loss. Overcoming that trauma, hurt, loss and lack of trust is not easy and takes a family or at the very least, someone who cares, a great team and a lot of love and hard work. Being loved and cared for by people who walk along side you and help you is a start. Being prayed for and shown the God who loves you allows for the breaking down of even the most difficult hurts and starts the process of true healing; replacing brokenness with hope. We cannot turn away or refuse to accept, love, help, guide and adopt hurting children because we are fearful. With God … WITH GOD, all things are possible.

As I repeatedly hear the question, “where was God that Friday morning?” I find myself compelled to answer because I know where He was, where He is. I know, because I know who He is.

I know because He was with me as I struggled with OCD and He ultimately delivered me from that which threatened to cripple me and hold me back from my purpose.

He has been with my husband and I every moment of our journey as parents called to nurture an abused and hurting child (children). He has walked with us through the rages and the anger and the trauma and has held our hands through diagnoses and therapy. And He has rejoiced with us as our children heal and are made new. As we watch them blossom into who they are intended to be as God delivers them from the hurts this world has visited upon them. He has also been with my children, through it all, and continues to walk every step with them.

He was there Friday morning.

He was with the teachers and staff who stood in the face of evil and overcame it to leave a legacy of love and sacrifice; a heroic testimony to us all. And He was waiting to welcome them home.

He was with each of those precious children; children that He first loved and are now with Him.

He was with each first responder as they ran into that building without hesitation. He is with them now as they struggle to overcome the trauma and heartache of Friday morning.

He is with each parent and family in Connecticut as they grieve the unspeakable and seek a way to forgive the impossible.

And He is with me as I write these words; as I pray for Him to give them to me. As I pray that we will notice and embrace the lonely and hurting before they become the lost. That we will offer hope and light and grace. That we will move forward with understanding and open eyes and not with fear.

“Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and everyday. Either he will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.” St. Francis de Sales

Blessed be to God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3