Grandma’s Jam Cake

… and it’s Fight Back Friday!

Sorry – it’s been a while – was sick, in the hospital, yada, yada, yada. But I’m back! And here you go!

Quite some number of years ago now I worked several months at a Conference Center in rural Michigan as the baker. Being the consummate city girl – I had no idea that rural America still existed. In fact, I actually mouthed the words to my Grammy as she drove from Oregon to Michigan with me, “It’s just so sad that all of America is just one big huge suburbia!” That, of course, was before I was in Nebraska – at which point in time I turned to Grammy and said, “How can we – as a nation – possibly consume this much corn?!” I was young and dumb enough to know virtually nothing about anything but – well, anything is a good word here. Okay – I was a decent baker – must have been for them to want to move me all the way to Michigan to bake, huh?!

It just so happened that for a week each summer said Conference Center had a week off. All staff packed up and went somewhere else for a week. I didn’t really have anywhere else to go. Well… unless…

And that’s when the bright idea hit. I would drive to North Carolina and visit one of my all-time favorite cousins – Bobby.

(My Dad on the left, me, and Bobby. Circa 1964.)

Bobby is my redneck, Southern Baptist preacher cousin. I love the socks off this guy. He’s as real, transparent, fun, hilarious, loving, kind, hilarious, amazing, hilarious kind of cousin that every girl needs. He was living in North Carolina – having been born and grown up in Mississippi for pretty much most of his life – finishing up his Masters of Divinity. He’s not your typical redneck, Southern Baptist preacher kinda guy. He’s the kind who wanted to ride his Harley across the stage at his graduation from Seminary. Have I mentioned that I love this cousin?

So I thought – “Hey! I’ll go visit Bobby! Can’t be too far – driving from Michigan to North Carolina, right?!” This was back in the dark ages – you know – before Google maps and reality checks that they sometimes provide. I called Bobby – told him my plan, and he said he would count the days until I arrived.

So, the day of departure arrived. I had a little cash. I had my stereo and a good selection of music. Some snacks. A huge refillable cup for Diet Coke stops. (Shudder – back in the day when I drank the vile stuff! YUCK!) I hopped in my 1978 Toyota Corolla Station Wagon with 189,000 miles on it and headed South East. 862 miles – I’d driven more than that in one day – I was determined to make it a one day trip – with little stops at places I’d always wanted to see – like Lexington, Kentucky, and Knoxville, TN.

Remembering that I was a virtually uneducated in the ways of other parts of this Great Country that we call home – I was slack jawed most of the trip. It was wild, wonderful, beautiful, amazing – at every turn of the road. I love history. I love architecture. I took LOTS of pictures that I’m sure other people would laugh at. But it was stuff I’d never seen before – and I was awestruck.

I arrived at Bobby’s and was greeted by hugs, kisses, and laughter by his wonderful family. I had the best four days with them. My car had been a little “cranky” on the way down, so Bobby and a mechanic pal of his did a thorough once over on it before I left – getting me a new battery, changing the oil, making sure the radiator had the right mix of water and coolant. Have I mentioned I love this cousin?

My plan for the return trip to Michigan was to take a different route – a more off the beaten path route. I’d studied my map and thought eventually ending up on Hwy 52 and taking it until it ended, until Hwy 23, and then making my way back from relatively familiar territory to my little corner of Michigan.

So I left North Carolina with hugs, love, well-wishes and a sadness that I wasn’t sure when I’d see this much loved family again. I made it 178 miles – until here:

…where my car broke down. I stopped. I looked at this broken down old truck next to me and thought, “This may not bode well.”

I tried every trick in the book. I was a halfway decent tinkerer with that old beater car’s engine. But, nothing I tried worked. I was so relieved I had AAA, found a pay phone (yes – way back THEN – before any of us had cell phones!) not too far away, dug out my change, and made the call. I explained where I was. The operator eventually found my location on the map, and said a driver would be there to assist me within the next 2 to 3 hours.

I just happened to be just a stone’s throw away from a roadside store – with all sorts of interesting stuff – and beautiful seasonal produce. I decided to walk over and take a peek.

I had precious few extra dollars, but something I found here I knew I couldn’t leave without.

It was a little home-produced cook book entitled “Old Timey Recipes.” All hand written. Originally copyrighted in 1969. Its chock full of the kind of recipes that every girl ought to have on her bookshelf. (Like the recipe for Pork Cake! Or the Keepsake Biscuit recipe that was written down by Mrs. Colonel Moore in 1890. Or the Pickled Peaches recipe. I could go on and on – but I’ll spare you.) So I forked over the $3 and left with my treasure to go wait in my car for AAA.

It didn’t take me long to stumble across “Grandma’s Jam Cake.” I’d just been talking to my Grammy about a jam cake that she remembered from girlhood. She’d remarked it was her favorite cake ever, and that it had blackberry jam in it – her favorite. Lo and behold! This little cookbook had what – I was sure – the very recipe Grammy remembered! How cool was that?!

As it turned out, my stay in nearby Hillsville, Virginia ended up being 3 days longer than anticipated. Bert’s 24 Hour Garage and 24 Hour Wrecking Service had to get parts in to fix my poor car.

I spent the time taking long walks throughout Hillsville, visiting the public library, and eating at the local diner. The diner, incidentally, employed the granddaughter of the lady who submitted the Jam Cake recipe to the cookbook. She, in fact, did some of the baking for the diner and happened to occasionally bring in a Jam Cake for the offerings. I thought that pretty amazing.

In my opinion – being a Food Renegade is all about honoring the heritage recipes and traditions about food that our forbearers knew to be the only way to live and eat. So I love sharing this traditional, very down home recipe with you!

So at long last – here it is – from “Old Timey Recipes” – Grandma’s Jam Cake.

Ingredients
1 cup Butter
1 1/2 cups Blackberry jam or jelly
1 1/2 cups Granulated sugar
3 cups All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Baking soda
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup Buttermilk
1 teaspoon Ground cloves
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
3 Eggs

Preheat oven to 350° F.

  1. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and blackberry jam. Beat thoroughly.
  2. Sift the flour, measure and resift with soda, salt, and spices.
  3. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk to the creamed mixture. Beat well.
  4. Pour into well greased tube cake pan.
  5. Bake at 350° F for about 55 minutes.
  6. Frost with Quick Caramel Frosting.

Notes:

Find the Quick Caramel Frosting recipe here.

I still don’t know how I feel about the Caramel Frosting on this cake. I don’t know – it seems kinda – well, weird. I think it’s far better served with a simple confectioner’s sugar, whole milk, and a tad of vanilla extract glaze. Do what makes you happiest! I honestly think it’s just fine plain with no frosting whatsoever!

I found “Old Timey Recipes” – a hand-written, 64-page cookbook that includes a thorough description on how to make Moonshine in it, at a roadside store and produce stand outside of Hillsville, Virginia in 1992.

Home again!

One has only to spend 17 days in the hospital (two stays) over the course of a month (first admission 7/23/09 – second discharge 8/23/09) to really come to appreciate one simple fact:

Home is precious.

I’m so glad to be home.

I’m about a weak as a kitten, but I truly feel the beginnings of well. I haven’t been there for a while.

I have a lot of work ahead of me- remembering to eat (even though I don’t have much of an appetite), remembering to rest (probably the hardest thing), resigning myself to doing what I CAN, not what I feel I OUGHT to do. Can put a kink in a girl’s preconceived ideas of doing stuff!

And just in case you didn’t know.

I adore my husband.


(John holding William – Oregon Coast, 1997. William was just 6 months old.)

He’s so kind. Patient. Loving. Compassionate. Conscientious. You know – one of those guys who do the right thing – even when it’s not the easy thing to do. A guy who has the character of God deeply ingrained in his heart. His smile and laugh just make my heart glad. I’m just so thankful to God for the great honor of being John’s wife. Something I truly do not deserve. But God…

So – guess what I did when I got home from the hospital yesterday afternoon! (Okay, after I checked email.) I grabbed the camera, headed out to the yard, found a place to plant myself, and I took a few pictures.

Stuff happens when you’re away from home!

The babies stopped looking like babies and look more kinda like awkward teenagers now! At first we thought we had one Dominique and one Silver Laced Wyandotte. Now we don’t know. I’m hoping they are two different breeds – cause one of these might be a roo if not!

Note the differences:

Birdhouse gourds galore have grown!

And so exciting!

Someone has started to lay the cutest little white eggs!

They weigh in right at 1 ounce each.

Kinda piddly compared to BB’s 3 oz eggs!

Here’s my guess as to WHO the layer of said adorable eggs is:

One of the Blue Andalusians. Isn’t she pretty?

So – it’s good to be home.

Happy sigh.

I refuse to think about the fact that it’s only two short weeks before my kids head back to school again. I am SO not ready for that yet. Jessica comes home from camp tomorrow late afternoon – after a summer away. She will be a senior in High School this year. I want every moment with her possible.

Off I go to rest.

Totally True!

I have a thing for doors.

Not just any door.

It’s gotta be cool.

Ask me to define that. Hmmm…. Um, well, you know! Cool!

Shall I show you?


That’s a cool door. The Cathedral in Old Altea, Spain. It’s kinda understated on the outside. I wish I had pictures to show you of the interior – they’re on my desktop at home, not the laptop, here at the hospital. But, suffice it to say, you walk in, you make it past the foyer – and then your breath just sucks in, tears fill your eyes, and you wonder, “Is this what heaven will look like?” Literally breathtaking. I love this door – what you see on the outside tells you nothing about the inside. The average visitor to Old Altea isn’t there during the hours when it’s possible to enter the Cathedral. They snap pictures of the exterior and quickly move on. The patient ones wait around a while, “donate” a couple of Euros to the little old lady in the foyer who blatantly promotes her son’s restaurant with fliers – J, and then – unsuspectingly, step around the divider wall and gasp. The beauty is nearly blinding.

I know people like that.

Average on the exterior, blindingly beautiful on the interior.

Here, I’ve got a few – let me show you.

I love this one.

My very good friend, Dr. Aniceto Baltasar, has given me this lecture more than once; I feel the need to share! J THIS is a castle. Castles are places of defense. Palaces are what Cinderella lived in. Got it? This is a castle that was just by chance glanced at the top of a hill, and so it was pursued, and I eventually got out of the car, hiked up a bit of a hill, and came face to face with three towers in a cluster – this one I actually went in. If this post weren’t all about doors, I’d show you the amazing pictures of the interior, etc. But it is all about doors – and I need to tell you – this doorway speaks to me. First – this tower dates back to the Crusades. Yes THE Crusades. This doorway (I’m sure the door was wooden back in the day and has long since rotted away.) was built to withstand attack – sheltering the innocents within. When alarms were sounded to villagers, farmers, and peasants – they would grab the babies, a few food stores, and then would literally run for their lives to the castle for protection. Some doors are gateways to protection and sustained life. I find great beauty here.

Can you see that door? It’s pretty much right in the center of the picture. This is in Salt, Spain – right outside of Alcoy. This is my house. The one I’ve adopted in my heart. I’m pretty sure it’s meant to be mine some day. I know the picture is a little bit obscure – I wish I had a better picture to show you – I’ve got lots, because I visit my house every time I’m in Alcoy. J But the stained glass around that door speaks joy to me. Someone took great delight in crafting a beautiful doorway for this home. Lovely.

I know – this is supposed to be door-oriented – but I just GOTTA show you the view from that door:


(Those are almond orchards there in the foreground. Olive orchards on the terraces behind.)

I think it’s really interesting how different areas have different door “attitudes.” And era of door origin plays a lot into overall feeling, too, of course. These doors are from Madrid. They’re a little bit high fallutin.

Pretty, right? But a little bit deceiving… Here’s what you find when you enter – this is a door that leads to a door! A BIG door.

What’s not to love about this door?

That’s a TALL door.

This is an IMPRESSIVE door.

This is a very OLD door.

It’s the entry way to what is still an active religious order. The building has been a palace, a convent, and a prison over the course of hundreds of years.

Do these doors keep in? Or keep out? And why?

A beautiful door:

Here’s a plaque that goes to a door you wouldn’t have wanted to go through way back when:


It says: “En este inmueble tuverion su sede el consejo supremo y tribunal de la inquisicion desde la decada de 1780 hasta su extincion en 1820.” (Please keep in mind that I don’t speak, read, or write Spanish!) Which our handy dandy iGoogle translator says means: “Tuverion That building houses the Supreme Court of the Inquisition and the decade from 1780 until its extinction in 1820.” Yeah, whatever, you get the idea – this is where the Inquisition guys got together and bad stuff went down!

And a door that needs guarded.


The Royal Palace, Madrid, Spain – we just happened upon the changing of the guard. Most days – you don’t see the fancy guards and the doors aren’t guarded quite this heavily. But on days when a member of the royal family is holding meetings or an event is being held at the Royal Palace, then all of the pomp and circumstance get unfurled and security gets tight.

I guess the reason I have such a thing for doors – regardless of where they’re found – is that you can go along for ages and see mundane door after mundane door – and then, all of a sudden, you run into something like this:


Sanitorio San Jorge, Alcoy, Spain

Doors are so about real life. Each one is a decision to make, a path to be chosen, an opportunity.

So you should know – if ever you and I are walking down the street somewhere and I should happen to spy a cool door – there’s a very real chance you’ll find I’ve stopped in my tracks, started digging in my purse for my camera, and have taken some time to just stare at beauty.

So Cool!

My husband – as I’ve mentioned before – is an awesome, amazing, godly, wonderful, brilliant, genius type of guy.

While I’ve been lying around my hospital room being lazy, he’s been home – doing everything. (I mean EVERYTHING! Have I mentioned before what a blessed woman I am to be his wife?)

Look what he did yesterday:

SIX new nest boxes! This after getting up at the crack of dawn, doing all sorts of household stuff, then bringing me my Zune and headphones – oh and my lipstick, gotta have your lipstick while you’re in the hospital! Then he drove out to TCBC to pick up our daughter – about a 75 mile round trip from our house. Then picked up the other kids, came and visited me, got everyone fed, did EVERYTHING, and then THIS!

Isn’t he the coolest?

The girls think so, too:

This is Henrietta. Whenever John is in the yard she follows him. She has a big crush on him. (Who can blame her?!) She loves to be close at hand whenever he’s building anything. She seems impressed, doesn’t she?

The view from outside the coop – cool double doors to gather eggs from.

Nah… chickens aren’t curious at all! LOL! Ducky, Henrietta, and two off the Speckled Sussex girls who should start laying any old day now!

Ducky – she’s so cute! She’s got to be the first to check it out up close and personal.

I think she likes it.

Good little Speckled Sussex! This is where you’re supposed to lay your eggs! Not out in the yard. Not on the floor of the coop – HERE. Pass the word, okay?

See that? One of the Delaware chicks on the right? Oh, I hope she figures it out fast, too!

One of the Blue Andalusians on the right – she’s so pretty. And… I kind of suspect she may have already laid an egg. I’m so glad she’s so interested in the nest boxes!

Good girls!

Now all we need is for everyone to KNOW that this is where they are to lay – and to start! J

Great-Grandma’s Toffee Cookies

…and it’s Fight Back Friday!

And this is the latest I’ve ever posted and joined the fun on a Fight Back Friday. That has everything to do with the fact that I’ve been sick and I’ve just been readmitted to the stinking hospital, darn it all!

However – I’m determined to still have some fun while I’m here I brought the laptop with me and I’m going to do my best!

Recently, I’ve been determined to try and find my Great Grandmother’s recipes. Unfortunately, I’m not as organized as I ought to be and they are not close at hand. There ARE, however, a few that we use regularly – so much so that it was a surprise to come across little notations written in my Mom’s beautiful script identifying the point of origin to my Great Grandmother Laura.

This recipe today is one such treasure.

The first conundrum: they’re called toffee cookies. I have no idea why. There’s really nothing about them that I would consider toffee. They ARE undeniably delicious – yes, without question. But toffee? That just confuses me.

The second conundrum: they really aren’t a cookie, per se, they’re a bar cookie. I know, semantics – but, well, I think that’s kinda weird too.

The third conundrum: I have never seen a cookie made quite this way. It is really its own little anomaly.

But you know what? They’re so darn delicious, I really don’t care anymore! I just make them, cause they’re fabulous.

I should interject here that we pretty much only make these cookies from late November to early January. Why? Cause that’s when my Mom, Grammy, and Great-Grandmother would make them. They are synonymous with the holidays, family, good cheer, warm and fuzzy memories. I realized today that they really OUGHT to be made more often – they’re just that good!

Great Grandma’s Toffee Cookies

 

Ingredients

1 cup

Butter, softened

1 cup

Brown sugar

1 large

Egg, separated

2 cups

All‐purpose flour

2 tablespoons

Cinnamon

1 teaspoon

Vanilla extract

 

Whole Almonds

 

Preheat oven to 350° F.

 

  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add egg yolk and vanilla, mixing well to incorporate.
  2. Blend in flour and cinnamon a little at a time.
  3. Pat out mixture about 1/4″ thick into a greased 9 x 13″ pan.
  4. Brush with egg white. (I just put the separated egg white on top, swirl it around, making sure the entire surface gets covered, and call it good! Of course, discard any excess egg white.) Mark into squares – but don’t cut through. You’re just giving yourself a guide for cutting after they’re baked. Place one whole almond in the center of each marked square.
  5. Bake bars at 350° F for about 25 minutes, turning the pan half way through the baking time.
  6. At the end of baking time, remove from oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, and then cut the bars at the marked places. Now allow to cool completely before removing from the pan.

 

Notes: My great‐grandmother used to make these and taught my Mom how to make them. Why they’re called “toffee” I have no idea – I just know they’re delicious and incredibly habit forming. Mom always made them for Thanksgiving and Christmas and sometimes my birthday (New Year’s Eve). The smell of them brings a flood of wonderful, warm memories!

Totally True!

As I’ve mentioned previously, my Mom went through a season of dementia before she graduated Home to be with the Lord.

I think the thing that was hardest about it – well – like there could be ONE thing – was the fact that we really didn’t know what was going on at first.

For about four or five years before any of the dementia stuff happened we’d be walking from the house to the car – heading out on some errand or something, and she’d laughingly say, “I know – I can’t believe I did that! So – just so you know, some day when I have Alzheimer’s, remember that I want you to…” and she’d then rattle off the instructions I was to follow.

I’d always laugh, shrug it off, and then say, “Mother – hello! You’re doing 500 bazillion things a day – you’re the supervisor of a large PBX in a major hospital in a metropolitan city, you’re raising grandchildren, and living life – you’re not going to have Alzheimer’s. You’re just a normal person!”

We’d laugh, and then go on. But regularly – to the point that it was never a surprise when she gave me her “advance directives” on stuff – that I’d never be surprised she was given them. And I’d file those little tidbits away for the day I’d never need to use them.

There was a call one day that made me stop cold in my tracks and question what the heck was going on. My Mom was meticulous about details. I mean the woman kept a prayer journal – every single day – for 30 years – without fail. (I know – I’ve got them!) She did everything on time – if not early. She always had perfectly coifed hair and perfect make-up. She wouldn’t even go out to get the newspaper until her hair and make-up were done and she was appropriately attired. That call was a call when she said; “I can’t remember if I’ve done…” and then she started making a list. She’d written it down. It was basic stuff. Stuff she’d never not done before. Stuff she’d never NOT know if she’d done.

And that’s kind of when it began.

They say stress accelerates dementia.

Mom had more than her fair share of stress in her life. Let’s just leave it at that.

There were a couple of specific events that we saw marked declines in her “condition” – extraordinarily stressful events.

But here’s the thing – we didn’t know what the condition was – we just knew Mom was slipping away a little bit more each and every day – without fail.

I was angry, confused, afraid – no, really – terrified.

There was the day when she called me and she said she couldn’t remember how to take a bath.

There was the day when she called to tell me she couldn’t remember how to get dressed.

There was the day when she called and asked why there was fire coming out of her toaster oven.

I moved in that day.

Then came the days when she stopped being able to figure out how to call.

And the days when she stopped being able to articulate.

Things started going downhill in January. In October we had a diagnosis.

That’s a long time to go without knowing what is going on.

Scary.

In April I moved in to care for her (and Grammy).

In June, after Grammy went Home to be with the Lord, Mom moved in with us.

Dementia does crazy things to the thought processes. It can make a person think that they’re at the WRONG home. You can put them in the car, drive around the block, come back to the same home, and then they’ll settle down and be so relieved to be at the REAL home.

Dementia has moments when the person looks at you – knows you, loves you, is happy to be with you; and milliseconds later will look at you with a complete blank – ZERO recognition – and the flight reflex will kick in.

In September, shortly after the kids had returned to school, Mom and I were tooling around the house. I’d gotten her bathed, dressed, got her hair done. I’d gotten her fed. And she was having SUCH a great day. She smiled brightly at me and said, “Let’s go to the grocery store! That would be so much fun!” She seemed SO like her old self. How could I say no?!

So, I grabbed my shopping list – I really did need to go to the grocery store! We got our sweaters, and got in the car. We drove to WinCo – our local discount grocery store. We got a cart, Mom agreed that holding onto the cart with one hand, and my other hand with the other was the best thing to do.

It was going so well!

We went through the produce department. She saw a few things she thought she’d like to have. We put them in the cart – and she was delighted!

About half way through the store she started being a little bit fidgety.

I thought to myself, “We ought to wrap this up. I just need one more thing, and we’re out of here!” So I steered the cart toward the dairy department and Mom came along – a little less enthusiastically.

That’s when it happened.

A woman with – I kid you not – five – not crying – but SCREAMING – children in her cart came around the corner.

It was all kind of like it happened in slow motion.

Mom turned – scanning the scene around her – and a look of utter and complete BLANK hit her face. She didn’t know who she was. She didn’t know who I was. She didn’t know where she was. And she panicked.

And then she ran.

Right out of the store.

Fast.

Really, really fast.

I looked on in disbelief. I couldn’t believe this was actually happening.

I snatched my purse out of the cart and took off in hot pursuit.

When I hit the front of the store I grabbed the Customer Service Manager and gave her a quick rundown, a description of Mom, and asked her of she’d call 911 for me.

She said, “Let’s not panic. Let’s go see if she went to your car.”

It was too late for me to not panic, of course, but we did go to the car.

No Mom.

Nowhere in sight.

Nada.

CRAP.

I pulled out my cell phone and dialed 911. I was quickly connected to the 911 operator and gave them the rundown and her description. They said they’d have an officer there as soon as possible – and I should stay with my car.

WHAT?!

I needed to go look for her!

But they assured me that staying put was best – she might come back to the car looking for me.

The Customer Service Manager rounded up a couple of employees and they set out – combing the adjoining stores in the vicinity.

I was seriously having a heart attack here, people! My heart must have been beating 2000 beats a second. I had tears in my eyes. I was what if-ing every single possible scenario. I was thinking through the potential news headlines… “Daughter loses Mother in grocery store… Film at 11.”

OH MY!

It was probably 20 minutes before the Sheriff showed up. He asked me a lot of questions. I told him my concerns – and conviction that Mom wouldn’t know her own name – and she had no identification on her – she wouldn’t know my name on about a 50% basis, and she wouldn’t know her phone number, or my cell phone number, or the address where she lived.

“Alzheimer’s?” He asked.

“No – I don’t think so. We don’t know. But she’s – well, she’s not the same as she used to be.”

He assured me that we’d find her and he drove off – instructing me to stay put.

I hated staying put.

My kids call me “Paranoid Mom.”

I deserve it.

I have an uncanny ability to project the worst possible outcomes on any given scenario. And I then make my decision as to what they are or aren’t allowed to do – okay, some of the time – I am mellowing out some in my old age – based on those potential outcomes.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking it through – but I’m pretty sure I’ve never lost a kid anywhere. You know – the horror scenarios that every mother prays to God will never happen to her or her child. You’ve heard them – the overhead pages, “Will the parents of Billy Jones please come to the Customer Service Desk.” You know what’s happened. Billy Jones has wandered off, Mom and/or Dad didn’t see it happening, and now Billy has found the nearest store employee and asked for help.

I have a confession to make. We used to do that to our Mom when we were growing up just to bug her. She’d get so flustered! And then she’d come running to the Customer Service desk – totally upset – and we’d be cracking up. We were bad children. Bad, bad children.

I think it’s just by the grace of God that I’ve never misplaced a child. He knew what it would do to my blood pressure.

So imagine my HORROR at losing my MOTHER.

My MOTHER, people!

It took about 30 minutes more, but the Sheriff found her wandering – unsure of where she was or where she should go – about half a mile down the street. She was headed back in the right direction, at least.

The kind Sheriff gave me a firm handshake, a squeeze on the shoulder, and whispered under his breath, “I’ll keep you in my prayers.” And then with a smile, “I think this was your last outing with her.”

Yeah – no joke!

I went straight home.

Mom, exhausted went straight to her bed and took a nice long nap.

I got online and ordered her Medic Alert bracelet and had it expressed to me. You better believe it never got taken off!

I wish I could say it was the last time I lost her.

It wasn’t.

But I’ll save that story for another time!

Moral to the story? Yeah – if you come up with one, let me know, okay?

I’ve been given an award!

I’ve been feeling kinda not so okay the past 24 hours or so. Little more pain. Little more fever. Way more tired. I admit it – I’ve been doing a whole lot of nuthin. I’m loving my bed. Loving my heating pad on my shoulder. And trying hard to not hurl.

Imagine my surprise when I learned I’d been given an award! Jenn at From the Desk of a Princess bestowed it upon me. Here it is:

Apparently the rule is to bestow the award on 15 of your blogging friends once you’ve won. Jenn (being the rebel that she is) decided to bestow it on two friends – and I’m one of them. How cool is that?

Just so you know – Jenn is a pretty cool gal. She’s a newlywed. She loves to write – and does a great job at it! She loves Jesus with reckless abandon. And she’s got a really cool tat! J

I’ve done lots of thinking and nosing around amongst the blogs that I’m subbed to, and I’ve decided to pass the award on to the following:

Laura at Milkland – a wonderful young woman, also a newlywed, who is choosing to live her life firmly rooted in faith – even when life seems to be crumbling around her. I’ve spent quite a lot of time praying for this young couple. They’ve really been through it!

Nicole at Linn Family Adventures – my own sweet, beautiful, wonderful, amazing niece. I love this girl to bits. She’s an awesome Mom and an amazing woman. I’m so proud of her.

Jules at You Don’t See That Everyday – who does a beautiful job of conveying the wonder of being a wife, mother, and navigating the waters of life. She makes me smile.

And, finally (cause I’m a rebel, too!)…

FarmChick at Four Sisters Farm – a wonderful family blog – a family going through the transition of moving to a new to them farm, establishing their homes, and relocating to be closer to one another. They’ve done amazing things thus far – and I anticipate more! They’re wonderful to follow as they go through life!

So that’s about it! I’m honored to have been awarded – my very first award! Woo Hoo!

Now – back to my comfy bed for my next IV antibiotic infusion.

Y’all take care now!

What am I gonna do?

My chickens are insane.

I’m serious.

Well, not all of them.

Ten of them at least.

These ten are of the 2009 chick batch.

They’ll be 18 weeks old on Tuesday – time to start egg watch – and they’re looking like they’re gonna start laying soon – getting combs, wattles, and are redding up.

Okay – so fine. Why do I think they’re insane?

This is why:

They want to sleep in the Willow.

Every night.

With my telephoto lens setting I can get a blurry picture of one of the girls way up toward the very top of the tree.

They don’t understand.

They don’t realize that there are all sorts of dangers out there!

What is with this?

Why won’t they go in the coop to sleep anymore?

They used to!

Then it got really hot – and they started roosting in the Willow at night.

They’re insane!

How do I get them to change this behavior?

I’ve tried treats at bedtime to lure them down.

They aren’t impressed.

I’ve tried calling, cajoling, scolding, pleading.

They don’t care.

Ideas?

Anyone?

Help!

Yellow Angel Food Cake

…and it’s Fight Back Friday!

I am the fortunate recipient of my Great-Grandmother’s recipes. I wish they were organized. I wish I knew where they all were. Man, I wish that.

Her name was Lora Opal Gatton, she was born March 15, 1889 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She married my great-grandfather Carl Leslie White on April 10, 1910 in Verona, Missouri.

And she was a GREAT cook. In fact, she was a professional cook. My great-grandfather was a dairyman and farmer.

They were famous for the meals at their home – after they moved to California in the 1930’s – often shared out of doors, by lantern light, in the garden. I remember Grammy (their daughter-in-law, my maternal Grandmother) telling me that famous people sometimes shared the dinner table in their home – and all were treated alike – just like family.

I wish I’d known her. She died a couple of months before my Mom turned 16. Mom talked of her often – very fondly – and mentioned more than once how much Laura and I would have hit it off.

One day, not too long ago, as I was going through some old boxes that I’d stashed into storage, I ran across this recipe for Yellow Angel Food Cake. It has – in my Mom’s flawless script – GG’s recipe notated on the corner. That means it came from Laura, my great-grandmother.

Cool!

But I gotta tell you. This cake goes against EVERYTHING I learned in baking school about angel food cakes. But you know what? It works. And it’s fabulous.

Go ahead – give it a whirl. I know – not as much detail as we are used to – but this is exactly as she wrote it.

Yellow Angel Food Cake

Ingredients
11 Egg whites
9 Egg yolks
1 1/4 cups Granulated sugar
1 cup Cake flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon Orange extract
1/4 teaspoon Lemon extract 
1/4 teaspoon Almond extract 
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla extract 

Preheat oven to 275° F.

  1. Beat egg whites and salt until foamy, then add cream of tartar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, but not until dry.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until light and fluffy.
  3. Fold in sugar, then flavorings.
  4. Fold in the flour first, and then the well-beaten egg yolks.
  5. Pour batter into an ungreased angel food cake pan. Bake at 275°
  6. When the cake is done, cool by allowing to stand in inverted pan until thoroughly cold. Remove from pan and enjoy!

Notes:

A delightful dessert may be made by carefully cutting out the center of the cake leaving the bottom, sides, and tube intact. This leaves a trough of the cake to be filled as follows:

1/2 pint whipped cream, whipped

1 cup canned apricot pulp, carefully drained

Break all the removed sections of the cake into small pieces. Combine the cake pieces and apricot pulp and add sugar if desired, frost with whipped cream. Allow to stand in the refrigerator until well chilled.

*This is one of my Great-Grandmother’s recipes. The notation above was in her penmanship.

Totally True!

My Grammy – Helen Omega Bennett White – born October 17, 1912 in Booneville, Arkansas – was an extraordinary woman.

She was beautiful.

She was a pretty horrible cook. She made a few things really, really well, though. Her Sunday pot roast was legendary.

She was funny.

She was sort of a granola girl ahead of her time. She LOVED the health food store!

She was intelligent.

She had the greenest thumb you ever did see – she could get just about anything to grow – and did!

She believed in women’s rights.

She was very well known for being out in the garden with her butt up in the air – horrible body mechanics, but that’s what she did!

She loved literature.

She especially loved children’s literature. She would go to the library – well past 90 years of age – and check out a huge bag full of children’s books and go home and gleefully devour each and every one.

She was an amazing artist. She loved to paint especially. I have a framed watercolor she did of a rose in my dining room – it’s lovely!

And she loved God with her whole heart.

She was passionate about God’s Word. She read her Bible EVERY SINGLE DAY. She simply did not EVER miss.

She listened to J. Vernon McGee on the radio (and volunteered in his ministry’s offices when she still lived in California) pretty much from day one. Man, she knew her Bible!

And she was very into politics. You did NOT want to get involved in a debate with her on anything of a political nature – she’d totally whoop your butt!

She was a little bit of a wild woman, too! When she was just a girl her Dad ordered the first car – I believe in their county – and when it arrived it was in a big crate – in pieces, with literature on how to put it all together.

My great-grandfather – as you can see here – where he’s holding my Grammy when she was a baby:

…was a one-armed man! He lost his right arm in a cotton gin when he was 11 years old.

He didn’t let that stop him from doing much of anything, though.

He put that car together and taught himself how to drive. And then he taught Grammy how to drive.

She was a young teen – and thrilled!

Ever heard the saying, “Couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn!”?

Yeah, well, she could.

And did!

You know – her driving skills never much improved. Yet she was the first to propose a road trip. Or offer to run to the store. Or pick someone up from school. She and my Mom would take driving tours of the United States – like month-long driving tours – and they’d split the driving. How they made it back alive, I just don’t know.


[Here she is at age 93 – Christmas Eve 2005.]

Less than a month after this picture above was taken, Grammy drove for the last time. Lord, it was nearly the last time for more than one person!

Some time in about 1999 Grammy’s doctors told her she shouldn’t drive any longer. She had an eye condition that made it unwise. She had an arrhythmia. She’d had some mini-strokes. She consistently had stroke-level hypertension – and didn’t believe in taking her medication.

All good reasons that she shouldn’t drive.

The fact that she could barely see over the steering wheel probably ought to be thrown in there.

And the fact that she was truly a HORRIBLE driver – oh, the tales we could all tell you. The house she lived in Southern California for fifty years had a long, long driveway. With a cinderblock wall on the driver’s side as you drove in. I have instant flashbacks to that screeching sound as she backed down that driveway. Shudder.

There was a point in time when her driving children, grandchildren, and eventually great-grandchildren would quickly pop up and say, “Oh you need to go where? Let me take you! I wanted to spend a little time with you anyway!” And she’d protest, saying no one needed to bother about her – she could do it herself. And we’d always counter, “Of course you can, but when else are we going to have a chance to spend some time together?!”

The fact that she didn’t have more accidents, and nearly no traffic tickets – is a testament to the tough stuff that guardian angels are made of!

So… January 2006 rolled around, and it was a ton of change going on in all of our lives. It’s too long a story to go into, but suffice it to say we were all moving – all of us – after decades and decades. And Grammy, for several weeks had been casually hinting that maybe the best course of action for her driving future was to donate her car to a ministry that she believed much in. We – OF COURSE – cheered that thought, but she seemed never nearer to actually following through with that plan.

One day – when John and I were at the house we had all moved out of, with Grammy in tow – and said car parked in front – she looked up and said, “Well, I think I’ll just drive on over to Byron’s house and leave the car there. Maybe he can give me a ride home. If he’s not there, then I’ll just go ahead and drive back.”

John and I instantly got the deer in the headlight look, and I scrambled… “Um… Hey… I should call him and see what he’s up to!” I smiled, and fumbled for my cell phone. I quickly dialed my Uncle Butch (aka Byron). “Hey Butchey Wootchie! How ya doing?” I used to call him Butchey Wootchie when I was a toddler and he lived with my Mom and Dad.

“Good!” He countered. “What’s up?”

“Well, I said,” Grammy looking on as I spoke, “Grammy was just thinking maybe she should drive her car out there to you. You going to be there?”

“She’s WHAT?!” He sputtered on the other end. Then recovering… “She’s standing right there?”

“Yep!” I answered.

“Why don’t you ask her if one of you guys could drive her there instead?” He offered.

“Hey Grammy. Butch is going to be there. But he was thinking that maybe John or I should go ahead and drive you over.” I smiled.

“NO!” She said VERY adamantly. “I will be driving the car over. You can tell him that.” She said in the stern Mom voice. Even at 4’10 and 95 pounds – she could be scary!

“I heard.” He said. “Maybe one of you could follow her?” He asked.

Amazingly enough, she looked kind of puzzled, looked to John and said; “Maybe you should follow me, though. I’m not sure I can find the way. It’s been a while since I’ve driven out there.”

“LORD HAVE MERCY!” Butch said into the phone. “She has no business driving!”

John quickly answered to cover up Butch’s enthusiastic response, “Sure, Helen, I’d be happy to do that. Do you want to follow me, though?”

“Well, maybe that is a good idea.” She conceded.

Phew!

6.5 miles of mostly straight shot. Okay – maybe she could do it.

Maybe.

Please Lord!

So – moments later, John and Grammy loaded up in their respective cars, and John led the way.

I worked on cleaning up the house, prayed, worked on cleaning up the house, prayed, and prayed some more. This was back in the day before anyone else in the family had a cell phone. So I had to wait – not knowing!

A couple hours later John and Grammy came through the front door. I quickly went to them. “How’d it go?” I asked Grammy.

“Terrible!” She spat and stormed past me.

I looked up at John – who was working really hard to keep from laughing. He motioned me out front. I quickly followed.

“What happened?!” I asked.

“We were driving down Murray. She was going about 10 miles an hour under the speed limit like she normally does, and I was going slow to keep us together. It wasn’t too long before I realized she was really weaving in the lane. REALLY weaving.”

My eyes got wide.

“Well, we get down to the part of Murray where there’s no divider – you know, the bend past the fire station – before you get on the bridge. She starts drifting from her lane – into the oncoming path of a SEMI TRUCK!” His blood pressure was rising just recounting it!

“OH MY WORD!”

“Oh – it gets better!” He assured. “Just as before impact is unavoidable she swerves back toward her own lane – RUNNING OVER ONE OF THE SAPLINGS IN THE MEDIAN! – and going on her merry way – just as if nothing had happened!”

“NO!” I gasped.

“Oh – wait. It still gets better.” He promised. “Just as she gets righted in her lane she looks up and I can see from the look on her face that she doesn’t really recognize where she is – or the fact that I’m in the car in front of her. I see her get in the right lane at TV Hwy – past the point where I can get there safely – and she takes a right!”

“Oh dear!”

“So I quickly swing around the little traffic median there and make a right anyway. I’m following her – and I can see that she’s not sure where she is still. As we go down TV Hwy a little while, she puts on her left signal and turns left onto 170th. I thought, ‘phew – okay – at least she’s on a side street!'” He shook his head. “But then the cop pulled in behind her and put his lights and siren on. I thought she was going to stroke out behind the wheel!”

“Oh my goodness!”

“Yeah – well, it took her quite a while to realize that there was a cop behind her trying to get her to pull over. I figure the truck driver must have called and reported her.” He shook his head. “The officer approaches her window; she rolls it down – good thing she went to such great lengths to find her driver’s license before we left!”

It’s true – she’d torn through a bunch of stuff trying to find it. Good thing, huh?!

“So I approached the officer as he got out of his car and introduced himself, explaining that I was her grandson-in-law, and that we were in the process of taking her car to her son’s home – and that this would be her last drive. He nodded knowingly, and we both went to the car.”

“He did the normal ask for the driver’s license and registration thing. She produced them.”

“Mrs. White,” the officer began. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

She was very flustered, and said, “No officer, I have no idea why you pulled me over!” She really didn’t.

“Mrs. White, do you know that you ran over a tree back there a ways?”

“No! I did no such thing!” She insisted.

He reached over and pulled a limb of said tree from the undercarriage of her car and displayed it for her. It was sizeable.

“I did?!” She asked, in dismay.”

“Yes, Mrs. White, you did. Not only that, you nearly hit an oncoming vehicle.”

“Oh my!” She was truly perplexed – she had no memory of any of that.

“Mrs. White, I’m going to have to suspend your license. I could write you a ticket and charge you a fine, but I’m not going to do that. And I’d like your grandson-in-law here to drive the rest of the way to your son’s home. And Mrs. White – I’d like this to be the last time you drive. Do you understand that?”

“Yes, alright officer. Thank you.” She said dejectedly. She got out of the car, went around to the passenger side, got in, buckled, and that was that.

Poor Grammy.

But honestly – she should have given up driving – oh, about the day after she started learning how!

We all breathed a collective sigh of relief that day.

We also prayed many prayers of blessing on the head of that wonderful Washington County Sheriff.