59 Candles, 59 Things – part forty seven

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Spence, me and my Mom

Fifty fifth thing: It seems fitting that today’s Post in this series featuring 59 Things that make me happy should include……my Mom.  After all, today is Mother’s Day and my Mom makes me happy!
In 1956, I was born on Mother’s Day (falling on the 12th that year) so this day bears special significance.

As a baby, she sang songs while rocking me.  After my sister was born, she would read us wonderful children’s stories while sitting on the hall floor between our bedrooms. She taught us card games and made delicious meals.  I have vivid memories of coming home after school to the aroma of fried chicken or cookies baking.

As I grew, she encouraged me to stand up straight and “own” my tallness. “Miss Americas are all tall” she pointed out.  She began teaching me to cook launching my passion for it at a young age.  Our family recipes are among my favorites and still make me nostalgic.

The lessons she taught my sister and I about honesty, friendship, kindness and being trustworthy became integral parts of us.  She truly taught by example, my first strong female role model.

As an adult, she remained Mom (of course) but also became a best friend.  Always supportive of my independence, forgiving my missteps, she encouraged me and was my sounding board. Plus she’s fun to hang out with to this day and my friends adore her.

Last year, I spent several weeks with her as she packed up her home in Florida and we drove back to Michigan, where she now resides only a few miles away from my sister and I.  (This was chronicled in my “Moving Mom” series).  It was an amazing experience to share that time together, something I’m grateful to have done for her – and myself.

To meet my Mom, you’d be struck be her enthusiasm, energy and positivity. She is vibrant, fun and loved by all lucky enough to know her. And her beautiful smile can light up a room.

So on this Mother’s Day, I pay tribute to the best Mom ever.  I love her dearly and am beyond grateful to be her daughter.

Like my Dad

I never knew of Buster until last year. We lost my Dad a few years ago just shy of his eightieth birthday. I was visiting my step-mom at the home they shared in Traverse City last summer when she said “I have something I think you’d like”. I was intrigued, feeling it was something that belonged to Dad. Knowing that I’m majorly sentimental, she produced a stuffed woolen dog.  “This is Buster and he belonged to your Dad”.  Buster had seen better days, one leg appeared a bit wobbly but he was adorable. I was touched both by having him but also by having a new nugget of knowledge about my Dad. The fact that at 59 I still have my “Baby Teddy” imagine my surprise that throughout his life, Dad preserved and kept Buster.

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Buster riding “shotgun” on the drive back home.
Buster now resides in the same room as my Baby Teddy. But it’s different for him, a homecoming. You see, I live in the house that my grandparents built when Dad was a young boy and though Buster hadn’t lived here for a long time, it was once his home many years ago.

I’ve been told many times “you’re a lot like your Dad” and through Buster I see a glimpse of his childhood and know that even our youthful selves were aligned.

I know how happy it made my Dad that I love living in his childhood home and feel certain he’s smiling now, knowing that Buster’s returned here to live with me.

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Happy Father’s Day Dad! I miss you every day.

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As part of the Blogging University Grads (BUGS) bi-weekly challenge, our prompt is a tribute to Dad.  I did a post earlier this year based on my trusty childhood teddy bear.  Apparently this lifelong attachment to a childhood stuffed animal was something my Dad and I had in common.

To read the story of Baby Teddy, follow this link:

https://spencesgirl.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/baby-teddy-one-good-bear/

Running Away

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Mommy,

I’m running away from home. 

You can’t just take away my teddy bear cause I broke the TV.  It isn’t fair. I didn’t mean to. I found where you hid Baby Teddy and I rescued him. We’ll be together forever.

I made us a bag of brown sugar sandwiches and took my fuzzy pink sweater.  Don’t look for us.  Especially at Grandma’s house.  That’s not where we’re going. 

From Writing 101 – Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter. Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible. My twist: I find a letter recently when helping my Mom move.  I wrote it as a little girl, the only time I ran away…..to my Grandma’s house, across the street.  I had no idea she’d kept it.

Just Some Vanilla

Storyshucker

I’m no fan of snow, but as my eyes roll in disgust at weather forecasts I concede there were times when snowfalls thrilled me. Not due to missing school, sleigh riding, or building snowmen, but because Vicki and I would go to the store for Nannie.

At an unknown point in our youth, after one snowstorm or another, my sister Vicki and I decided we must plod across the field through snow, no matter the depth, to see if our grandmother needed anything from the store. Nannie lived in a huge old farmhouse, had always cooked for many, and could have at any point in time prepared a meal for forty out of what she had in her cabinets and refrigerator. Not even touching what was stored in her cellar.

Still… Vicki and I were sure Nannie needed something and we’d save the day by trudging through snow to ask…

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Grandma’s Corn Beef Casserole

I’ve mentioned in other blog entries that my love of cooking came in large part from my Mom and her side of the family.  However, my Grandma Nelson is responsible for several of my best-loved family recipes.  Though I lost her just before my 13th birthday, for the last 30 years I’ve lived in the home that she and Grandpa built when my Dad was a young boy.  I know she watches over me as I prepare meals she once cooked in this same kitchen. So nodding to my Dad’s side of the family on this wintry day, I wanted to share a favorite casserole recipe with my followers with hopes that you’ll try it and enjoy it as much as we do!

Ingredients for the casserole. (Not pictured here - the bread crumbs)
Ingredients for the casserole. (Not pictured here – the bread crumbs)

Corn Beef Casserole                                                                        serves 4-6

  • 8 oz egg noodles, cooked
  • 1 can corned beef – diced
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar (I like sharp cheddar)
  • 3/4 cup onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup celery, diced
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 2/3 of a soup can milk (I use 2%)
  • Bread crumbs for topping (plain, italian) or crumbled buttery crackers (like Ritz)

Saute the celery and onion in about 1-2 T butter until the onion is translucent but the celery is still bright green.

Yum! Celery and onion as they saute in butter.....
Yum! Celery and onion as they saute in butter…..

After cooking and draining the noodles, add the soups, milk, 1 c of cheese (reserving the other half cup for topping) and veggies together and stir to fold all ingredients together.  Top with remaining cheese and bread crumbs.

All assembled in my favorite oval casserole, I used plain breadcrumbs - about 1/2 cup.
All assembled in my favorite oval casserole, I used plain breadcrumbs – about 1/2 cup.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until it’s bubbling and slightly browned on top.    Allow it to set for 5 minutes before serving.

Ready, set, eat!
Ready, set, eat!

Sentimental Attachments

Mom has sold her home in Florida, moving back to Michigan to be nearer my sister and I. Part of the process is letting go of things she won’t need in her smaller senior apartment. Cupboard by cupboard, drawer by drawer, closet by closet, she’s offered my sister and I numerous items before donating them. Not unexpected, the items I feel most drawn to wouldn’t be of interest to others; sentimentality has played a large part in items that I’ve said yes to.

Mom’s Mixing Bowls

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Formerly Red, Green, Blue & Yellow

Her mixing bowls have seen better days.  Once a vibrant green, blue, yellow and red, they’ve faded to a more “rustic” look.  What I see are bowls used when mom made cookies and cakes, teaching me how to use a rubber spatula with my reward being able to lick off the batter.  I fondly remember the large one brimming with bubbling casseroles of baked spaghetti on Sundays and Six Layer Dinner, my Grandma’s recipe.   She taught me how to measure and follow recipes, sparking my love of cooking and nurturing it.  These bowls were always present.  Years later when I’d visit, those bowls appeared when she cooked a requested family favorite for me or we prepared something delicious together.  Good times.

Grandpa Fox’s Knives

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Seriously sharp knives

My love of food and cooking came from not only my Mom but her father as well.  My Grandpa Fox found his passion and talent for cooking after a long illness in his forties that necessitated early retirement.  Memories of his cooking make me salivate to this day.  He was gifted in the kitchen and on the grill.  His enjoyment was evident, his enthusiasm contagious and he loved feeding his family.  So many memories – the aroma of his fried chicken wafting out the door giving us a preview before we entered. His veal scallopini for which he became a legend (now a recipe I’m known for). His homemade beans, made in a special sunken bean crock built into their stove lovingly stirred and coaxed along over what seemed like several days. His ham glaze and homemade peach jam – divine. His perfectly crispy hash browns made using a potato ricer, dusted with minced parsley from his garden, browned in butter then expertly flipped – in the air.  His famous charcoal grilled, rotisserie chickens that drew neighbors to his yard in awe and to whom he offered “a peek for a nickel” (with a wink and twinkle in his eye).  And then there’s his Lamb Stew, so beautiful that you wanted to photograph it, the pop of green peas, bright orange carrots and perfect pearl onions in a glistening rich gravy with chunks of melt-in-your-mouth lamb.

So when Mom asked if I’d like two of Grandpa’s stainless steel knives is it any wonder that I’d want to inherit those instruments used to create meals ingrained in my memory and so much a part of my happy childhood?

While this photo is not of my Mom nor I, it evoked the mood of this blog.
While this photo is not of my Mom nor I, it evoked the mood of this blog.