Tag Archive | Dedicated to My Mom

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

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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.

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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!