Friday, December 26, 2014

Visions of Sugarplums

danced in their heads.

But someone had to make them first.
They're candy, you know.  Those Sugarplums.

My Gram didn't make Sugarplums, but she made a delightful assortment of other candy, including divinity, peanut brittle and fudge.  I remember making all of it with her in her kitchen when I was young.  It meant Christmas was coming and that was a thrill.

My husband's grandmother baked walnut rolls, which are a Polish tradition.  I learned the recipe years ago and have made it an integral part of our Christmas.

My mom bakes sugar cookies and various quick breads, but if I had to guess, I would think that the Christmas confection that Mason will always remember his grandmother making will be the chocolate dipped pretzel sticks.

And so it goes.  Candy, cookies, breads.  Various goodies and delights.  Often made from recipes handed down from one generation to the next.

In the past few weeks, I've had friends who have experienced terrible personal loss, which can be so much more poignant during the holidays.

The one common thread that I have noticed, though, is the continuation of these family traditions of baking and cooking.  All the while remembering the sweetness of learning the recipes as a child and now passing them on to our own, often as hand written treasures.

Somehow that little treat coming out of the oven or off the stovetop becomes a way to connect today with yesterday and it makes Christmas time truly magical.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It was a very good year


So many things happened in 1914.

Many were not good.  This was, after all, the year that marked the start of the first World War.

Others were markedly better.  The Panama Canal opened in August and President Wilson signed the proclamation making Mother's Day a national holiday.

For me, the most important date in 1914 was December 11.
On that day, a girl named Mary Ann was born to Paul and Martha Mason in Baxter Springs, Kansas.

Years later, she would be my Gram.

A century has passed since that day.

No matter what else happened in 1914, I believe it was a very good year.

Mary Ann (far left), two schoolmates & her sister Opal

Mary Ann (3rd from rt) with sister,
cousins & grandfather

Opal & Mary Ann Mason

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chop, chop...

Growing up, I spent more days (and nights) than I can count at my Gram and Granddad's house.  When I was very young, my great grandparents lived there too.  And in their kitchen, I remember watching my great grandmother make homemade chicken and noodles.  I would sit on the counter while my Gram would make me a chocolate milkshake in her blender.  Years later, my son would do the same.

This is the kitchen where I learned to make fudge and divinity and peanut brittle.  Its where Mason learned how to make my Gram's cream cheese dip better than anyone else.  

There was nothing especially fancy about this mid-century, mid-America kitchen.  It had the original cabinets that were built with the house in the 50's.  There was a vinyl floor.  There was no dishwasher.  The countertops were just regular laminate - except for the 24 inches just to the right of the stove, where my granddad had replaced it with butcher block that he made himself.

The house where I spent so much of my first 35 years is gone now.  The city took it down in the name of "progress".  

But before they did, I took that butcher block out and now it's been beautifully transformed thanks to my talented husband.  It's no longer just a section of countertop.  It's a gorgeous "new" carving board that still has all of the knife marks in it from the years of use and memories that were made in that kitchen. 

It was used again this year to carve our Thanksgiving turkey.  
It will be used for the Christmas prime rib.  
And it will always be used to bring back memories of the good times spent in my grandparents' kitchen.