Tag Archive | Dedicated to My Mom

Grandma’s Garden

A couple of mornings ago, the sunshine crept through a tiny crack from behind the window shade to wake me. The shade doesn’t flush up completely close to the window. That little beam comes through this time of year, because that’s where the sun is on its path. My first thought was about the garden. It hasn’t rained for a while, and the day before, I promised the growing plants I’d give them a drink of water.

As I positioned the hose in between the slats of the fence, it felt like I woke some mosquitoes. 🦟 I tried to be aware and feel if they landed on me. Some tickled my skin, but I don’t think I got a bite. Sometimes it takes a day or two to find out.

The daffodil leaves now either lay flat or reach for the sun, their blooms long gone. The yellow irises and the purple irises still reach for the sky. Soon the little plants with the yellow flowers will bloom. Then the flowers from the phlox will appear. The phlox are trying to catch up after being chomped down by the Lucky Rabbits. The grapevine is starting to poke through. I wonder if the cone flower, which came up this year, will bloom and spread. A wire fence surrounds it to keep it safe.

My mom gave me the daffodils, irises, wild geranium, and yellow flowers, which are getting ready to bloom. The chives have been here since we moved in. For some reason, I tried to get rid of them, but it wouldn’t stop growing. Thankfully, they stayed and have been in our garden since the beginning, with the grapevine and ferns.

Our granddaughter painted the blue heart a couple of years ago. Her mom’s careful printing says it all. It cracked, but we glued it back together. It’s all better now, sending its love. The little gnome was a gift from them too.

That early morning visit to the garden felt magical. A cardinal was singing a tune when a huge bumble bee 🐝 came for a visit and landed on a yellow iris. The bee was so welcomed that the usual goosebumps did not appear. Mom always said the bees are our friends.

When I see the heart that says “Grandma’s Garden,” I sometimes wonder does that mean my garden, or my mom’s, since most of the flowers started in her garden? We’re both grandmas now! I keep the garden in my heart and know Mom keeps it too.

Now, if only a hummingbird and a butterfly would appear…

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. ~Audrey Hepburn


First Turkey

Photo by Kranthi Remala on Pexels.com

My husband and I were newly married, when we invited my parents and brother over to host our first Thanksgiving.  I followed the directions, recalled other instructions learned until that point, and felt very proud.  Since Mom made wonderful Thanksgiving dinners, I copied her menu plan.  Just before our company was about to arrive, I thought it all looked good, after I peaked at the turkey browning in the oven.  It smelled delicious, especially when I opened the oven door and the steam wafted towards my face.  When I was younger, there were many times when Mom called me into the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day.  

“Mary Ann, come in here and watch me do this,” she’d say.  “I’m stuffing the bird!  You’ll need to know how to do this someday.”  Sometimes, I pretended I didn’t hear her, and she would have to come and find me from wherever I was hiding in the house.  Back then, I didn’t like looking at anything that used to be alive and was pale and unmoving.  Mom used to cut up chickens, and I would tell her to stop because she was hurting the poor little thing.  The sound of cracking bones made me feel nauseous.

“I can’t hurt it, because it’s dead,” she would tell me.  No smile accompanied those words, because cooking is serious business, even though Mom liked to giggle at most things.

“You will need to know how to do this,” she repeated.  I groaned and wondered why.  Why did she call me and not my brothers? The Thanksgiving mornings at the house where I grew up smelled like toast and simmering onions and celery.  Mom toasted the bread and tore it up into bite-sized pieces for the stuffing.

Yes, I see how the nails go in and how the string wraps around to keep in all the stuffing, I thought.  The way the string went reminded me of shoe laces.

The day I roasted my first turkey, I toasted bread too.  Now I use Pepperidge Farm bread cubes seasoned with onion and sage.  When I first started using those packets, it felt like I was cheating, but it worked out okay, and no one minded that it wasn’t bread that I personally put into the toaster.  As things moved along, the cooking made our house smell delicious too.    

When Mom, Dad, and Brother came over, I’m sure they told us how good everything smelled, but when Mom looked at the bird in the oven, she informed me that I had it upside down.  Again, no giggles came my way. I must have missed that part somewhere!  I pulled out the roaster and flipped the main course over.  It only had a little more time to roast.  After Husband carved it and we enjoyed our first bites, it all tasted flavorful – just like Mom’s.  Ever since that day, I roast the turkey breast side up.  I’m still not sure if it makes much of a difference.

To this day, when I get a chance to host Thanksgiving dinner, I use Mom’s menu plan.  Others may think that’s boring, but I find it to be a great comfort. It brings back memories of other blessed Thanksgivings I’ve been lucky to enjoy over the years.  Plus, I love that lime jello with cottage cheese, marshmallows, and cool whip that was probably popular in the 50s!

Today I am thankful for the memories Mom gave me when she taught me how to stuff a turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is possible only for those who take time to remember; 
no one can give thanks who has a short memory. ~Author Unknown

Gather it Up

nature flowers summer plant

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I “inherited” the purses.  There may have been five.  There may have been more, but each one was filled with old emery boards, crumbled tissues, a pack of TicTac mints with varying amounts within, and a couple of pieces of chewing gum.  Almost each one had a pouch inside the zippered pocket in the lining.  The little white pouches have the words “My Rosary” stamped on the front.  I didn’t know my mom had so many rosaries.  I took the rosary I liked best, which is blue, and I put it in my own purse, right inside the zippered pocket.  Before the blue rosary went in, the white rosary came out.  The white rosary was a First Communion present from my godfather and his wife.  I transferred my rosary to a little wooden box.  It stays there until I gather it up, along with a frayed pamphlet entitled “How to Say the Rosary.” 

I’ve recently noticed that the beads of my rosary look worn.  The stones are soft and smooth.  The chain between is soft too.  It is the one I’ve been using since second grade.  I’ve never prayed the rosary with any of my mom’s rosaries.  There’s no reason why I haven’t.  I just like mine, and I’ll use it as long as I can.

I kept all the pouches and the rosaries I found in the purses.  Those rosaries stay in my desk beside the Bible Mom had.  I kept the black purse Mom crocheted, but I didn’t like the others because they were not my style.  They were either too big or looked like snake skin.  Those went into the donation pile to be appreciated by someone else.

You might wonder why my mom and I had the custom of keeping rosaries in our purses.  Mom might have told me it was something I should do, but I don’t remember her telling me.  Maybe I was following her example, like little kids do.  Rosaries can be thought of as protection.  Moms and Our Lady want to protect us, plus you never know if or when you might need a rosary to say prayers.  It’s comforting to know Mom’s rosary is always with me, in case I need to gather it up.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are looking for a million of the faithful to pray the rosary everyday for an end to the pandemic.  If you have time and feel called, you should check it out!  Here is a link to their website: http://www.littlesistersofthepoor.org.  As of today, a little over 12,000 people have signed up.  I’m sure many have been praying for the end of this crisis, so let’s hope it’s over soon.

Let us run to Mary, and, as her little children, cast ourselves into her arms
with a
 perfect confidence. ~ Saint Francis de Sales

Long-Lost Cravings

sliced vegetables in white ceramic bowl

Photo by Silvia Trigo on Pexels.com

Our family room now houses a temporary eating area because we are in the process of getting our kitchen remodeled.  Squished in by our fireplace is our refrigerator and kitchen table.  The microwave and toaster are taking up space at the table with a lot of other things that used to have a special spot to stay, but now have nowhere to go.  Things like scissors and vitamins and such.  My husband bought a two-burner cooktop, but he ended up taking it back to the store because we never took it out of the box.  It seemed like too much work to use, since we have no running water on our main floor. Thankfully, the weather has been nice because a lot of grilling has been going on.  The microwave and grill have been meeting all our cooking needs, so far.

Not having a functioning kitchen has caused me to seriously miss cooking and baking. I haven’t made my favorite recipe of banana bread for years, but suddenly I have a craving for it that will not go away.  Another thing I miss is the usual spaghetti meal we have on our table about once a week.  Luckily we got to have that when we babysat. I’ve never been so thrilled to boil water as I was last weekend when we used our daughter and son-in-law’s kitchen.  I made that simple spaghetti meal, served with fun garlic bread, and a tossed salad.  Now thoughts are coming to me about how much I miss the taste of my mom’s tuna pasta salad.

My mom made tuna pasta salad for us for as long as I can remember. When our kids came along, I made the salad every Sunday, after we got home from church.  It’s one of those family recipes that is not written down anywhere (until now).  Somehow it morphed into my brain from watching my mom make it so many times. Adjustments needed to be made for some of my kids, who don’t like peas, which, ironically, I think is the best part! I like it when the peas hide inside the shell-shaped noodles.  When they fall into place that way, it looks like they were made for each other.  🙂

Here’s how I make it: I boil two to three cups of the small shell-shaped pasta in water, depending on how many hungry people there are to feed.  While that’s cooking, I drain one small can of albacore white tuna and combine it with two or three stalks of chopped celery, a couple of slices of chopped onions, Miracle Whip (with olive oil), a 16-oz. can of drained peas, and a splash of lemon juice.  Sometimes I add a little salt and pepper; other times, I leave it for others to add their own seasonings.  Mom didn’t use the “splash of lemon,” but I think it adds a little flavor.  I can’t tell you how much Miracle Whip I put in.  A person has to “eye ball it” until it gets to a certain consistency of deliciousness.

Until the kitchen is back where it belongs, I will keep my chin up and continue to create a list of things to make. Seems like the list is going to be kind of long because long-lost cravings keep popping up and the tile for the floor is on “back order.”  😦

Do you have a recipe that you had when you were a child that you still enjoy today?

Jell-O Soup


When I was a little kid, Mom used to take me to the Forum Cafeteria in downtown Minneapolis for lunch. Sometimes we would meet one of her friends or it would just be the two of us.

“Mom, I want a hamburger. What do they call it here?”  I would always ask, my nose barely reaching the counter while I pointed up at the tray of patties.

“Tell them you want ground beef,” Mom would say. It was a deliciously seasoned patty that came with mashed potatoes, gravy, and a vegetable.

“Make sure you order the Jell-O, too,” Mom would remind me. The Jell-O came in evenly cut squares, shaped like a brownie.  They put the Jello-O in its own separate bowl.  We carried our trays over to one of the little tables close to the cafeteria line and were able to see the front entrance.  The place was always abuzz with clanking dishes and echoing conversations.  It wasn’t only a good place to eat; it was a great place to visit to look at the Art Deco decor.  The floor was black and white checkers, the lights sparkled down towards us, and the decorative mirrors surrounded us.


The Saxe Bros. of Milwaukee built the bulding in 1914. The Saxe Theater was intended to be the best theater in the country to watch motion pictures.  By 1916, the theater name changed to Strand.  Then by 1929, the Forum Cafeteria Co., of Kansas City, signed a lease and converted the space into a restaurant.  The Forum Cafeteria was in business from 1930 until 1975.  It re-opened under many different names after 1975, as a disco or other restaurants.  An article in the StarTribune gives a good history of the places that tried to make a go of it after the Forum Cafeteria closed.


This photo was taken after a renovation.

Even though I appreciated the Art Deco at an early age, the best part of the experience was when Mom and I acted silly when we were eating lunch. It was the only place where we took mouthfuls of Jell-O squares and swished it around to make Jell-O soup.  Even though the giggles escaped while we swished, we kept all that Jell-O inside.

Mom and Me Picture

Little memories like that can make your day a happy one.

Mom, when thoughts of you are in our hearts, we are never far from home.
~Author Unknown

The Right Amount of Sweetness

Every Saturday when I was a kid, my mom made pies – two pies of the same flavor – to be exact. The kinds of pies Mom made were blueberry, apple, cherry, rhubarb, pumpkin, or lemon meringue. She used the same two glass pie pans. As she rolled out the dough on the wooden board in our kitchen, I watched sometimes, but didn’t quite get the knack of making a crust like Mom made. It was flaky on top and crunchy on the edges. When my fork dug into a piece of Mom’s apple pie, tiny flecks of cinnamon could be seen in the juice of apples that had baked away. Each remaining apple chunk was the same size and each bite melted in my mouth. The rhubarb was just as nice as the cherry and blueberry.

The fruit and pumpkin pies were Mom’s specialty, and then she experimented by making lemon meringue. The lemon was tart and made my mouth water and pucker up underneath my cheekbones. The meringue reminded me of clouds floating up to make mountain peaks, and the taste was just the right amount of sweetness to blend with the lemon and chase the tartness away.

It would be nice to get a taste of any one of those pies today because no store or restaurant can top the flavor of what Mom used to make. I never became good at it myself because it seemed like such a chore. A pie crust needed to be made, and it had to be an even thickness and in a circle to fit a pie pan.  Apples needed to be peeled or pumpkin had to be cooked (yes, she really made it from scratch), and an entire hour would have to pass by before the pie was done baking. Mom would always laugh and tell me it was so easy to make a pie crust! To me, the entire process seemed like so much work and the pre-made crusts at the grocery store weren’t the same.  Plus, what had been created disappeared faster than the effort.

I wonder if I ever really appreciated that labor of love when I was making Mom’s creations disappear. Even if I forgot to thank her for the pies, I bet she knew we loved the treats by how fast we made them vanish.  If I can drum up a little patience, I’ll bake a pie and hopefully it will taste just as good as Mom’s. I just have to remember to use the right amount of sweetness.

I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone
who’s close to you is about as nice a Valentine you can give.
~ Julia Child

To Keep Them

Not changing something is sometimes a relief. For instance, the grapevine that was planted in our garden before we arrived will stay. My husband and I have often talked about whether or not we should tear it out, but the backdrop of leaves makes a pretty sight, acts like a canopy behind the flowers, and it gives us some privacy. We have to watch our grapevine closely and cut away any little tentacles that reach out to wrap themselves around innocent flowers. When their direction gets changed that way, the vines grow to take a trip along a neighboring tree. They stretch and climb as far as they can. We let it go along the trees because we know it will be fine once freezing temperatures arrive. It’s too bad that other things live in the grapevine and are causing problems.

Last spring, I planted a tray of multicolored zinnias among the daffodils, irises, and yellow-four-o’clock flowers. As I checked the zinnias each day, I noticed some sort of insect got ahold of their leaves and worried they wouldn’t blossom and mature as they should. After they were planted, of course, I read zinnias like to have a lot of breathing space, plus it didn’t help that little bugs live in the grapevine. I hoped the zinnias would take over when the other flowers settled down. Now the coneflowers and phlox are making a grand appearance in our little garden – our treasure that’s stuck in the corner of our yard as if it’s our own little secret. There are times when I look at other gardeners neatly manicured show places and wonder what went wrong with our little potpourri. Even though theirs are perfection, our garden is more true to life, I think. It’s squished, has blemishes, craves attention, but is beautiful at the same time.

We could thin it out as we should, but we want to keep those flowers, just like we want to keep the grapevine. Almost all of the flowers made their beginning in my mom’s garden. Mom shared with us her daffodils, irises, four-o’clock flowers (which are all done blooming now), and coneflowers. Mom would probably laugh at how I’m taking pictures of flowers all the time because it used to drive me crazy the way she had Dad take pictures of all her little beauties. Now I know it’s another way to keep them since soon the cold weather will take them away.

Next year, we hope to expand the garden out a couple of feet, install a new border, and get rid of the decaying railroad ties that now frame our mixture of blossoms. I hope to plant zinnias or some hardier flower in the expanded spot. Hopefully they will be able to breathe there. We’ll also have to figure out how to trap the pesky pests.

Thankfully, the zinnias are doing better than expected but not looking as good as some of the neighbors. Talking and whispering sweet little nothings to them on a daily basis has helped. 🙂 If things go well, I hope to make another garden in the other corner of the yard.  Maybe if there were more flowers in our yard, our garden wouldn’t seem like such a secret.  I’d like to separate out some of the flowers and plant them in the new garden because I want to keep them.  Then, when the time is right, I’ll share those little beauties just like Mom did!

Weed it and reap. ~Gardening Saying

The Secret Garden

After waking up to find eight inches of snow on the ground this morning, I thought it would be a good day to visit Macy’s Flower Show in downtown Minneapolis.  The fragrant flowers welcomed us the moment we exited the elevator.

The theme this year is The Secret Garden.  I am not familiar with this story, but after wandering around the auditorium for a while and noticing little secrets amongst the flowers, I realized the story must be true to its name and have many secrets hidden within its pages.  See if you can notice some things hiding in the pictures below.

Did you find the sleeping man and the tortoise topiary?

After seeing all these beautiful sights, I can only imagine what the story is all about.  It looks like I will have to add The Secret Garden to my reading list.

Happy Spring!

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. ~ Buddha

“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.”
– Edna St. Vincent Millay

Read more at http://www.beliefnet.com/Inspiration/2010/03/Inspirational-Flower-Quotes.aspx?p=4#Td0RmSg6fKqWcAHh.99

I Heard Someone Say “Rhubarb”

Today I bought a bunch of rhubarb at the Farmer’s Market downtown. I passed by several stands before I came to one that looked to have a very nice selection of ruby-red stalks with some green parts in between.

“This is all grown on a farm in Elk River,” the lady said to me from behind the stand.

“It looks beautiful,” I said. I thought it looked like a real bargain too at $2 a bunch. Other stands were selling their rhubarb for $3 or $4 a bunch and the colors weren’t as vibrant.

“The honey dew is a $1 each,” she said as she opened a plastic bag. My friend and I looked at the large melons, and we looked at each other and laughed.

“No, we both ride the bus, and it would be too much to cart on there. I can just imagine the melon rolling down the aisle,” I laughed.

“Well, we don’t want to haul it back either!” she said. She packed up the rhubarb for me, and away we went.

It all started about a month ago when I heard someone say rhubarb. I started to think about the rhubarb sauce my Mom used to make for us when I was a little kid. She served it to us warm over cold vanilla ice cream.  I searched recipes on-line, looked through my own cookbooks to see what recipes I could find for rhubarb sauce, but deep inside I knew that I really wanted to use the recipe that my Mom used for her rhubarb sauce.  I wish I knew I wanted that recipe way before now.

Today when I got home, I searched through Mom’s recipe box and cookbook for the first time since I became their new owner. The recipe box had tabbed dividers that said: Beverages, Bread, Cake, etc. When I found casserole recipes under the Sauce tab, I figured out that Mom didn’t divide the recipes up accordingly, so I leafed through the entire box. There I found the many recipes that I typed up for Mom when I was just a little kid. I loved to type away on the old black typewriter. It was the kind that had ink on a ribbon and you had to push the keys down so far that you built very nice muscles in your fingers. It didn’t work from any electrical energy. It was all done by manpower. Those lovingly typed up recipes were mixed in with Mom’s handwritten index cards and lots of recipes cut out of newspapers. I found a pepper enchilada recipe that sounded good, but there was not a recipe for rhubarb sauce.

I pulled down the large green cookbook from the top shelf of the pantry in the kitchen. The Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book, © 1942-1946, informed me that rhubarb is a vegetable even though it is usually served as a fruit. I always wondered! Many pages are devoted to rhubarb, but page 254 explains how to make spiced rhubarb, stewed rhubarb, baked rhubarb and rhubarb sauce. My own Betty Crocker Cookbook doesn’t even have that many options! The rhubarb sauce from Mom’s book called for lots of water and cornstarch, and I knew that wasn’t right. I decided to try the stewed rhubarb:

  1. Clean and cut 2 pounds of rhubarb in 1-inch lengths. Place in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water and 2/3 cup of sugar.
  2. Cover and simmer over low heat 12 to 15 minutes or until tender but not mushy.
    Makes about 3 cups.

I cooked it a little too long, and it looks a little mushy. It tasted okay but not as good as Mom’s. I’ll always wonder if this is the right recipe, or did she just make it up on the way every time even though it always tasted the same. Now, for the rest of my days, I will be trying to figure out how to make rhubarb sauce that tastes just as good as Mom used to make.

The Painted Garden

One of the first signs of spring in Minneapolis is the Macy’s Flower Show which takes place in the 8th Floor Auditorium of Macy’s downtown store.  Every year all the colors are such a welcome sight for those of us who have been surrounded by white, drab snow.

This year the theme is the Painted Garden which celebrates India and the southern regions of Asia.   Every color ever imagined can be found here in the beautifully designed creations, and the fragrant flowers remind us that spring will soon be here!

The free event is being held from March 24 through April 7.  Most of the flowers looked great yesterday, but don’t wait too long because the hyacinths were starting to look a little tired.













Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom.  They just open up and turn toward the light and that makes them beautiful.  ~Jim Carrey

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Easter!