Tag Archives: recipes

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.

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“Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime”

My blog has officially been neglected. I can’t believe it has been ten days since I last posted but as usual, Christmas has gotten away from me. My efforts at planning, preparation and time management were just not enough to accomplish all that I piled on my plate. This is not unusual. I am a work in progress. The good news is despite one visit from Monica (read about her here)  and a few sleepless nights, I truly had a wonderful and blessed Christmas. Now, after a couple of days to regroup and renew, which included a much-needed “Castle” marathon on TNT, I am back and am excited to share some of the highlights of our Christmas.

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For us, Christmas starts immediately after Thanksgiving when the trees, garland and lights go up. I love decking the halls and tend to over do it (shocking, I know) but it is always festive – not always finished, but festive none the less. Christmas-Decorating-3

The Christmas Tree(s). My husband likes colored lights and I like white lights so we compromised long ago and decided to do two trees. Is that truly a compromise? A fancy tree with white lights in the main living area and a fun and festive tree with colored lights in the family room. Truth be told, I love them both.

Decorating the family room tree or “kid tree” as we now call it, is a big family tradition complete with hot cocoa and Christmas songs on the radio. Just as my mom did when I was a kid, I put up the garland and the lights and then daddy and the kids hang the ornaments (and then I move the ornaments to more suitable locations after they go to bed) …

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Nathan has the honor of putting the star on top of the tree, with a little help from daddy of course.

Along with decorating, there is always a lot of baking to be done this time of year. A LOT! This year, I baked for friends, for charity, for parties and for family and neighbors. The good new is when you bake so many cookies, after a while, the last thing you want to do is eat one. I wish the same could be said of french fries.Cookies

We also enjoyed lots of celebrations and parties including a couple of birthday parties right smack in the middle of all the hustle and bustle – but that is for another post.

We enjoyed giving to others.

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You are never to young to experience the joy of giving.

And we remembered what had been lost …

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Two of the little boys killed in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut were Tiger Cubs in the local Cub Scout Pack, one of the first responders was their den leader, one of the lost teachers had been a Venture Scout and three other scouts lost siblings that day. We remembered them at our Cub Scout Christmas Party by taking donations and cards and letters of sympathy and well-wishes.

As we remember what has been given …

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We also celebrated ongoing traditions and started new ones, like our first year with Noodles, the elf on the shelf.Bob-the-Elf-Rock-Climbing

This is Bob, the imposter elf, rock climbing on the fireplace. You can read about Noodles and Bob here.

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A gift from Noodles when he departed Christmas Eve. Watch for his final Christmas Post for 2012 as he will share the last of his antics and adventures while visiting with us.

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Dressed up and heading out for Christmas Eve services.

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Comfy and cozy in Christmas Eve pajamas and new slippers.

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Opening gifts Christmas Morning.

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Santa even left a little something for Gracie.

So much to be thankful for and so many things I want to remember about this Christmas.

Nathan’s first eggnog and the pure delight that washed over his face as he smelled and then tasted, exclaiming “mmmmm, it is sooooo good! Like bubble gum milk!”

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Funny guy.

The generous hearts of my kids as they showed immediate willingness when asked to give up Christmas gifts and instead spend the money to help others. How they were still filled with joy and understanding as we talked about that decision Christmas morning and remembered why there were only a few presents to be opened.

Christmas Eve services when it was announced that our church met our goal of digging 8 deep water wells and feeding ALL of the vulnerable children and orphans in one of the poorest and most ravaged regions of Malawi Africa. And when it was revealed that at last count we were actually tens of thousands of dollars over the goal, my son said “WOW! Now maybe some of those children can even have seconds!” He knows that to them, life is one cup of porridge each day and his heart was hoping some might get to have another. It truly is better to give than to receive.

The beautiful Christmas stockings my sister Dana made for my kids that were just like the ones our grandmother had made for us. Look for this story in a future post.

Nathan talking to my mom on the phone and asking her why she hadn’t come home for Christmas because he thinks her home is or at least should be with us.

My deconstructed Christmas Eve dinner because I just couldn’t do it ALL. Another future post.

The hugs and thanks of elderly neighbors for the gift of a simple plate of cookies and of being remembered. I need to remember to visit them more often.

There are also a few things I have learned this Christmas …

We gave up a lot and we didn’t miss any of it, kids included. We can give more.

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If you don’t open the damper on the fireplace, merry and bright become stinky and hazy.

No one notices or has less of a Merry Christmas because you were never able to finish the outside lighting and finally gave up and boxed it all back up and put it in the garage. Let it go.

When you have two little boys, two scooters are better than one – luckily, David was easily convinced that it would be a good idea to spend his Christmas money from grandparents on a scooter of his own.

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Yes, we ride scooters in flip-flops and Wellies.

Burgundy mushrooms are definitely worth getting up at 6am to start so they can simmer in butter and wine for nine hours. Pioneer Woman’s Burgundy Mushrooms.

The answer is five. Five years old is the age when you finally work up the courage to ask Santa for the scooter and monster truck you are hoping for instead of bursting into tears and burying your face in your mom or dad’s shoulder while clinging to them for dear life when he asks you what you want.

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At five years old, you are a big boy.

If I can’t get my family to eat brussels sprouts that are baked in a creamy cheesy gratin then I am NEVER going to get my family to eat brussels sprouts. Brussels Sprouts Gratin with Carmellized Shallots.

Hot cocoa is best with a little bit of fresh nutmeg grated over the whipped cream.

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I know this as well, next year I may or may not improve my time management skills. I will probably be exhausted again and over do it and despite my best efforts, Martha may try to take over and Monica might even show up a time or two. I also know that despite all of that, I will continue to seek the true meaning of the season and will be ever grateful for the Savior who came and died that I might have everlasting life. I am imperfect. He is not.

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Merry Christmas.

May you find peace and contentment in these last few days of the season. God Bless.

Pesto – the reason God made basil!

Even in Arizona, it is starting to cool off … finally! The kids are still swimming – because they are crazy little people who won’t admit they are cold even when their lips are blue and their teeth are chattering – but even so, it won’t be long before my basil is done for the season.

Ahhhhh, basil!

So, last weekend David and I harvested most of the basil in my herb garden and made 6 batches of pesto. I love pesto. I could eat pesto on anything, even ice cream (well that might be an exaggeration but not by much). My favorite pesto recipe comes from one of my favorite foodies, Ina Garten – The Barefoot Contessa. I was very excited to share this amazing recipe with you so that you could make your own pesto and be fulfilled and happy.

Did you catch the “I was” part? Surely, it would be okay to share another’s recipe if you give them full credit, right? Somewhere in the back of my head that little voice was saying “you’d better check before you do it” – look before I leap, what? Okay, just this once though.

As it turns out, I learned two things; 1. it IS NOT okay to post another person’s recipe, even if you give them credit and 2. apparently I should listen to that little voice in the back of my head more often. I am very disappointed by this (actually, by both of these). I get it but I am bummed because I have made some really great recipes that are not my own. The good news is that I have also made some really great recipes that are mine, or at least my family’s, that I can and will share. I will also still share some of my other favorites and will point you in the direction of finding the recipe for yourself.

So, for now, here is what I can show you of Project Pesto …

The necessary ingredients, when properly combined become a little taste of heaven. I can’t tell you how to properly combine them and I sure hope you can’t read that recipe because I took the picture before I knew the rules – story of my life. I can show you what the finished product looks like though …

And I can very subtly give you a clue where you can find the recipe for yourself …

So the moral of this story is “look before you leap” (why is that so often the moral of the story), “give credit where credit is due” and buy Ina’s cookbook because as far as I’m concerned it is impossible to have too many cookbooks or too much Pesto.