The Recipe

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Good things come to those who bake.  ~ Anonymous

I spent Thanksgiving with my siblings at my brother and sister-in-law’s house. I was charged with bringing an appetizer and my applesauce “muffins” and corn muffins.  Now I admit that the corn muffins come straight from the Jiffy mix box. I don’t try to hide that fact. The applesauce “muffins” are a different story. They are made from scratch with a recipe from my 1979 spiral bound (cover notwithstanding) Betty Crocker Cookbook. The recipe is actually for an applesauce cake, but I took liberty years ago of making the batter into cupcake tins.  Since we eat them with our meal and not for dessert, we call them “muffins.”

On Tuesday night I went to double check the recipe and make sure I had everything I needed.  Panic set in. The cookbook was not in its place on the bookshelf. I scoured my office to no avail.  I did however find my mom’s copy of her 1950 Betty Crocker Cookbook. It was missing its spine and had envelopes from 1966 with recipes written on the back tucked into various pages. Thankfully, there in the section on fruited cakes was the recipe for the applesauce cake.  I wasn’t sure if it was exactly the same, but it was close to do my ingredient check.

After many prayers to St. Anthony, my copy of the cookbook appeared, but that’s a whole other story!  I opened the books up to compare recipes, and they were almost exactly alike. The “newer” 1979 version had baking powder, while the 1950 version did not. But what really had me chuckling were the specific directions in the 1950 version.  First, make thick unsweetened Applesauce. What, no dumping in a jar of Musselman’s?!? Bake at 350 (mod. oven). What exactly is a mod oven? I am guessing they didn’t mean convection bake! While I think that my baking is an act of love, the women of the 50’s and 60’s really had to love their families to go through all the preparation it took back then.

I had fun sifting through the pages of my mom’s cookbook, seeing her handwriting, and wondering if she ever really tried those recipes out on us. It made me feel connected to her even though she is no longer with me to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Giving Thanks

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In everything give thanks. ~ 1 Thessalonians

The week of Thanksgiving finds me very reflective.  Sure I have my share of challenges, aches and pains, and crosses to bear, but they pale in comparison to all the blessings I have in my life.  Today I take the time to start a list of some of the many people for whom I am thankful.

My mom – Mom passed away in September just short of her 91st birthday.  She taught me patience and perseverance, kindness and compassion. She had a zest for life that she never forgot even after dementia took its toll on her memory. She certainly did celebrate life every day.

My husband – Chuck and I have been together for almost 45 years (married 38).  We were high school sweethearts. Our life together has been a roller coaster, but I would not want to be on this wild ride with anyone else.  He is my rock. He makes me laugh and dries my tears.

My children and their spouses – Angela and Charlie continue to make me proud every day.  I have loved every minute watching them grow into the incredible adults they are today.  The passion and drive they have for their chosen professions is extraordinary. They both have wonderful partners in life.  Ryan and Krysten complement Angela and Charlie, and each couple makes a fabulous team. I am so lucky to have gained another “son” and “daughter.”

My grandchildren – Just when I thought life couldn’t get any better along came Parker and Emma just six weeks apart. I felt like the Grinch on Christmas morning.  My heart grew at least three sizes that year. Then along came Isabella (Izzy) and a year later Nolan. Life as a grandparent is so much better than life as a parent.  They are a healing elixir for whatever ails you.

My siblings, their spouses and significant others – I am the second of four (boy-girl-boy-girl).  We are all very different, but what binds us is a strong loyalty to family. We may tease each other more than necessary sometimes, but don’t let anyone outside our little circle mess with one of us…there will be trouble!  My siblings have been so supportive to me over the years in ways I can never repay.

My family-in law – They have been there for us over the years in many, many ways, and I am grateful for their love and concern.

My Book Club (The Chapter Chicks) – We are ten women strong who have been meeting almost monthly since February of 2004.  We sometimes get off track and don’t always discuss the book, but oh well.  It is like group therapy.  We have been through parent deaths, a spouse’s death, graduations, weddings, grandchildren, serious sickness, aging, and just life.  They are amazing!

My colleagues at OLM – I couldn’t ask to work on a better team.  While we may not always agree, we always come to some sort of compromise.  We complain together, laugh together, and support one another. They certainly make my day more enjoyable.

My Writing Project (PAWLP) colleagues – Becoming a writing fellow in 2000 was a life-changing experience.  All of the women and men I have met and worked with along the way have helped me to grow as a teacher, a presenter, and as a writer.  They helped me spread my wings and pushed me out of the nest.

I am sure that I could go on, but there is always tomorrow to continue my list.  Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and the time to give thanks.

Election Day

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Our days begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. ~Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is election day – a day of duty and privilege. I have to admit that over the past 42 years, I haven’t voted in every election to come my way.  I always voted in the major presidential races and usually in the November general elections. It is the primary elections I sometimes abandoned.

I often become weary with all the phone calls,  television commercials, and advertisements that arrive at my door during the campaigning season. I don’t have a “winning” track record when it comes to my election day choices, so why bother?  How can my one vote make a difference anyway?

Well, recently I was listening to KYW News Radio in Philadelphia.  Larry Kane, a beloved news anchor, ran a three-part series entitled, “Skipping Election Day?  Your 1 Vote Counts.” In it, he outlined some major elections/decisions which were determined by just one vote.

  • Congress elected President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 by one vote
  • One vote made Texas a part of the US
  • Thomas Jefferson became president by just one vote in the electoral college
  • One vote in Congress authorized  the draft – the selective service

Although I had already planned to vote today, that really struck me.  Maybe my one vote will matter. Maybe I can make a difference, a change.  If not, then the will of the people will override me, but at least I can rest my head on my pillow knowing that I live in a country where I am afforded the duty and privilege of voting.  It isn’t about the “winning” it is about letting my voice be heard. If the change I want doesn’t happen at this election then I need to be part of the change I want to see for the next one.  

Off to the polls!

Something Good

Every day might not be good, but there is something good in every day. ~Unknown

I have been in a funk lately. The last six weeks have been a challenge.  My mom passed at age 90; I turned 60, and Daylight Saving time began. It’s not enough that I am already sad and melancholy, but now I am plunged into darkness by 5:30 each evening. I haven’t been able to write, and my usual inspirational music is making me teary.  I think I need to have a Moonstruck moment, smack myself, and get over it!

I don’t mean get over my mother’s death or turning 60 that quickly because I really do need time to process and come to terms with each of those things, but they can’t be all consuming.  My daughter gave my mom a kitchen magnet with the above quote on it. My mom used to quote it to me often back in the days when we could still have phone conversations. Angela also gave my mom a small charm on a present one time that said “celebrate life.” Boy did my mom do that!  She celebrated life until almost the very end. She died on a Thursday. On the Friday before my sister-in-law and I went to visit her. Mom had fallen out of bed twice that week, and when we got to her room she was taking an afternoon nap which was unusual. Even though she was weak and tired, when an aide came and asked her if she wanted to go to the salon and get her nails done she said, “Sure.”  That would be her something good for the day.

So I decided that it was time for me to stop sliding down the rabbit hole and start embracing life again – find the something good in every day.  What better time than in the month of November, the month of Thanksgiving? While it is OK for me to feel sad, or lonely, or melancholy, it isn’t alright to stay there too long.  

Today my “something” is the fact that I am caught up with all my grading! Now I know it will only last for a hot second, but I am going to enjoy tonight with a cup of tea, my new Autumn throw (one of my birthday presents from my kids) and a new book to read.

What is your something good?

A Mother’s Love is Eternal

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I haven’t posted in awhile. Back to school had me tied up the first two weeks of September, but I never dreamed of what would keep me from writing the rest of the month. My mom passed away on September 20th. Although she was 90 and had been suffering with dementia the past few years, I did not expect it.
I visited her on Labor day with my daughter and two grandsons. She played catch with Parker using her hip pillow, and called out my name when Nolan started crawling out of her room. She hadn’t said my name in a long time, yet she told me to “watch him!” She was laughing and clapping. Seventeen days later she was dead. Though I was not ready, it was her time, and I take solace in the fact that she did not linger and suffer too long. It was a very quick two week decline.

This is really the second time I have lost my mom. The first was when dementia took away her ability to carry on a phone conversation, or give me advice. That took some getting use to, but I still always enjoyed our visits and so did she.

Below are the Words of Remembrance spoken at her funeral. I wrote them with some input from my brothers and sister and my nephew did a wonderful job delivering them. It is the best writing I have done in over a month because she was the best mom a girl could hope for, and was easy to write about. I would have written more, but we were limited on time allowed. Mom memories just might be creeping into my blog posts as I work through this “new normal.”

“Lucy was not the typical mom of her time who would bake cookies or crochet scarves. Lucy worked outside of the home as long as we can remember. Whether it was at Klein’s or Wanamaker’s or selling advertising with Al, Lucy spent most of her working years in the sales industry, and she was very successful. Her grandchildren knew how to recognize a John Wanamaker’s box before they could read. They knew it held something special she had purchased with her employee discount just for them.

But like Mary, in the story of Martha and Mary at the time of Jesus’ visit, no matter how much time work took up in Lucy’s life, she was never too busy to take one of her four children to whatever activity was on the calendar. From sports practices, to scouts, music lessons and more, Lucy was our chauffeur letting us listen to whatever radio station we wanted until we were old enough to drive ourselves and coax her into letting us borrow her car. Some of the greatest conversations were had sitting with Mom in the car in the driveway right outside of our house. It was in those times you knew you had Mom’s undivided attention. You could tell her anything, and she would offer gentle advice and make you feel like you were doing a great job and could accomplish anything.

Lucy was the epitome of optimism. She never complained or had a bad word for anyone. The words that most often come to mind when thinking or speaking of her are: kindness, joy, laughter, sincerity, smiles, and Sinatra.

Lucy was devoted to her faith and the Blessed Mother. She was a regular church goer until her health prevented her from attending. However, that did not deter her faith life. She continued to say her 54 day rosary novenas until just a couple of years ago. When any of us were in need of extra prayers for a special intention, we would make sure to get on Lucy’s prayer list because we believe she had a hotline to heaven.

For as “saintly” as Lucy appeared, she also had a little bit of a mischievous side, like when she would wait for the trolley car to go by so she could sneak into her house without being heard because she was coming home late from a date, or when she let Matthew drive the car before he was 16, or when she would pose for pictures with her grandsons pretending to be smoking a cigar, or when she came out with one of her infamous one-liners – you know what we mean. She certainly lived up to her motto of “celebrating life every day.”

In her last years, dementia stole some of those cherished memories from her, but it could never shake her happy and loving spirit. She continued to light up a room with her smile. She continued to sing her signature song – “If I knew you were coming I’da baked a cake,” and she continued to dance on her walker, which her caregivers fondly dubbed the “Lucy Shuffle,”

We would like to thank her wonderful caregivers at Rose Garden at Ann’s Choice. We could not have asked for a more loving group of women who treated Lucy with such dignity and respect. This really put our hearts and minds at ease especially during Lucy’s last days.

We would also in a very special way like to thank, Nancy, who Lucy called her Guardian Angel. Nancy has been Lucy’s personal valet for at least the last 15 years, taking her to doctor’s appointments, the hair salon, or to meet friends for lunch. She has been the coordinator of Lucy’s care at Rose Garden. The staff there was surprised to learn she wasn’t Lucy’s daughter. They remarked about how well our family got along and agreed on all things pertaining to Lucy – noting that this was not always the way things happened between family members.

This is Lucy’s legacy. She raised her children to be caring. She welcomed their partners as if they were her own children. She idolized her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She taught us what it meant to be an incredible parent, a supportive partner, a loyal friend, and she showed us how to be happy in life and always look on the bright side.

So while we may be very sad, we need to remember the words from “City of God” – “Let our tears be turned into dancing” because that is what Lucy would want us to do.”

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

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The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.  ~ Mark Twain

By the time the dismissal bell rang on June 15th, I was definitely ready for summer vacation.  I was tired, and I need a break. So, what did I do with my 11 weeks “off” this summer?

  • Joined LA Fitness and began going to Aqua Fit classes two or three times a week with my sister to hopefully relieve some of the pain of osteoarthritis in my knees and my all over body aches from fibromyalgia.
  • Tutored one day a week at the local library.
  • Joined the Summer Reading Program at my local library
  • Read four adult books for pleasure (reading one more now)
  • Read two YA books for my middle school students (still have one to go)
  • Took a mini-class on podcasting at my local library
  • Sent out a couple of things for publication (no luck just yet)
  • Co-taught a PAWLP graduate class – Strategies for Teaching Writing at West Chester University.
  • Attended two book club meetings.
  • Had breakfast with friends and lunch with other friends
  • Intermittently babysat by grandchildren (always a joy)
  • Visited the Bucks County Children’s Museum with three of my four grandchildren
  • Had one grandson sleep over which included him being my sous chef. He was the “whisker” at breakfast as we made French toast, and the “dumper and pusher” as we made chocolate chip cookies in the afternoon.  He dumped all the ingredients into the bowl and pushed the batter off my spoon onto the baking sheet.
  • Read professional books
    • 180 Days by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittles
    • The Unstoppable Writing Teacher by M Colleen Cruz
    • Writing Strategies by Jennifer Serravallo (not the entire book- but participated in the Summer writing camp.  (LOVED IT!)
  • Beginning to read Teaching the Core Skills of Listening and Speaking by Erik Palmer
  • Saw two movies and loved them both
    • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
    • Crazy Rich Asians
  • Bought three new picture books, 30 notebooks, and some dollar store finds for my classroom (so far)
  • Got a couple of massages.
  • Caught up on a couple of doctors’ appointments.
  • Spent a long weekend at my brother and sister-in-law’s home (check out last week’s post) which we affectionately have dubbed “the spa”.  It is a place where you can enjoy a beautiful view from any room in the house and almost guaranteed to see a fawn in the backyard.
    • Viewed fireworks on the veranda with a glass of wine
    • Shopped for new sneakers with an incredibly patient sister-in-law
    • Ate delicious food, drank lots of wine, watched Phillies games, another movie (Ladybird) once we got the Netflix working, and just savored the time to talk and catch up with each other’s lives.
  • Spent three nights in Atlantic City.  
    • Played the slot machines – win some/lose some.
    • Met my husband’s brother’s family for lunch and a rendezvous at Historic Smithtown, NJ.  
    • Enjoyed a wonderful seafood buffet.
    • Relaxed by the pool and hot tub.
  • Did A LOT of thinking about how my classroom will be different in September. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two weeks from today I start back to school. I am ready (well almost).

As you can see by the bold items on my list, school was never far from my mind this summer.  I am sure that there a few things that I have forgotten to put on the list – both personally and professionally.  But, when I begin to think about all the things that were on my summer “to do” list that didn’t get done – most of them things around the house, I wouldn’t beat myself up or look back with regret on how I spent my time. There is not one thing on the above list that I would have been willing to cross off.

Happy start of school!

An Unexpected Extravaganza

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  Cheese improves the flavor of life. ~ Unknown

This past Saturday evening I had a dining experience, not just dinner at a restaurant.  I had the good fortune of enjoying an evening with Rynn and Dave Caputo of Caputo Brothers Creamery in Spring Grove, PA. (Menu pictured below)

The evening began with an “Antipasti Misti Della Casa” served on beautiful artisan plates. My favorites on the plate were Brenda’s sweet green tomato pickles and the red pepper jelly, both made by Rynn’s mother.  

After our first course there was a rousing welcome from Rynn Caputo and a short video of the creamery’s  history. It gave a glimpse into the lives of our host and hostess from the time they decided to quit their corporate jobs and travel to Italy as a couple to attend culinary school to the namesakes of Caputo Brothers – their boys Giovanni and Matteo.

After the second course, Rynn demonstrated the cheese making process and explained how their cheese was different from any other cheese you can buy in the grocery store. Caputo Brothers’ claim to fame is having the ONLY fresh mozzarella curds in the United States that do not contain citric acid. If you are like me, you a probably wondering what’s the big deal.  Well, after Rynn’s very engaging explanation of the cheese making process, I am now a convert. There are no words to describe the rich buttery flavor of the mozzarella she made for us.

All the food was delicious, but one of the highlights of the evening was the “Spaghetti Alla Pesca” made with ripe peaches from the Caputo’s own garden.  (Rynn’s mom is the gardener/farmer who attends to the acre and a half garden.) It puts a whole new spin on “mac and cheese.”

Every morsel of food was better than the one before it.  My only regret is that I forgot to take pictures of each course as it came out because not only was each one delicious, it was also a work of art.

Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law who treated us to this delectable dinner and a “show.”

You can learn more about Caputo Brothers Creamery below.

Caputos

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https://caputobrotherscreamery.com/