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From the Heart...

Welcome to Creative Writing From the Heart. And while I must admit I am new to creative writing, I really do enjoy it, and hope to write more as the memories come my way! 

In life, there are so many happenings, people, and changes that affect us deeply. As kind and loving people, it is only natural that it will spill over into all that we do, know, and love...and while writing down stories and ideas is not new, these stories are mine. 

I decided to dig them out of my memories, write them and others down, and post them here. To share yes, but more for self-encouragement to write even more...and not always be the girl in the back, where I felt safest for the vast majority of my life. With that, I thank you for indulging me...

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The Welcoming Quilt.

This blanket is old, and stained, and falling apart! It is also 67 years old having been started in 1954 for my birth in March of 1955. A second blanket was in the works, but sadly I was the only baby to come home. So this is the only blanket.

I keep calling it a blanket, but in reality, it is a quilt, with many layers for warmth and held smooth with knotted yarn ties. My grandmother taught me how to quilt when I was quite young, and I have remembered it since that day.

From the Heart, stories about life.

This quilt has (miraculously!) moved with me the 30 odd times I have moved, in my lifetime. In addition to the qualities above, it is butter soft! It brought me home from the hospital, then my firstborn son came home in this blanket. Four years later, my daughter came home in this blanket.

From the Heart, stories about life.

Looks like, I got some mending to do...

Later when the grandchildren started coming, it brought home my first grandchild, and now soon, it will bring home my own baby's baby... There is something so profound about your youngest becoming a mother.

From the Heart, stories about life.

You see the firstborn is the first in line for all things, first step, first haircut, first lost tooth, starting school. But your youngest child's firsts are so memorable because you know as a mother there will be no more babies until the grandchildren come.

And grandchildren are wonderful, all of them. Different from one another as night is, to, day. They are proof of love without bounds. And that is why your baby's baby is the most wonderful extension of those baby years with the holding and the rocking, and a whole new world of firsts!

From the Heart, stories about life.

I can't wait to meet this little guy...

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From the Heart, stories about life.

My Dad's hammer.

I was about seven years old when I found this propped up against the tire of a car parked along the street, as I walked home. I picked it up from where it laid and took it home to my dad, never thinking that someone actually might have placed it there for just a moment or two...

I gave it to my Dad when he got home from work. I am fairly certain he ever used my gift, it is a carpenter's finishing hammer, and my dad was not a carpenter. He was a refrigeration repair mechanic. But he never threw it away or lost it either. It was pretty much always on top of the other tools in his toolbox. I wonder how many times he moved it out of his way to reach the tool needed, only to put it away again, when he packed up his toolbox...

When my Dad died suddenly, there was a whirlwind of things to do, and to think about. There were decisions to be made about some of Dad's personal belongings. His Boson's pipe and other items from his time in the Navy went to my brothers. His metronome and other personal items were offered to his mother and sisters.  

Then one day I saw Dad's toolbox open, and the hammer was right there on top. I could not wait any longer, I just took it. It was scraggly when I picked it up those many years before, and it had not improved with time in the toolbox! Which is probably why no one else wanted it. But I did. The handle was loose in the hammerhead, it was also full of gouges and had spots of oil or some other substance on it. But it was mine, from my Dad, so I could always remember him. 

Later when I married we used the hammer to hang up all the pictures and artwork in our little house. And each time we redecorated or moved, again the hammer was called into service. And here it is 53 years later and I still hang artwork with this hammer. Funny, I never changed a thing about this hammer, but the handle is now held tight by the hammerhead, and I personally think all that patina from years of use is quite beautiful. 

Thanks, Dad for keeping it for me. 

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Baby chicks and a forlorn snowfall. 

Our Son-in-law built the brooder box, and then we ordered baby chick. Wanting to be prepared, we knew we would need to let them mature, then harden them off to a coop with outdoor time as they grew and the weather grew warmer. In the meanwhile, we would have plenty of time to get the chicken house and attached chicken run completed. We already have the plans for the house, and the needed lumber stacked in the yard. 

We got the call this morning from the Postmaster, our package had arrived! When I got to the post office I was handed a small box. Surprised I said, "that's it, 15 baby chicks are in that box?" The Postmaster was kind when he replied, there are only about 3 or 4 still alive. My guess is, he knows the sound of a full box of young birds as well as the sound of a box where the little ones are not doing too good. The drive home from the post office was odd, tiny anxious-sounding cheeps coming from the box, and a snowflake dropping every now and again...

Chickens have been mailed out for years, my husband remembers them from the Sears catalog when he was just a kid, 60+ years ago. But this was my first time picking up chicks that did not come from a feed store...I put the small box on the seat beside me in the truck, hoping my husband would be back from men's breakfast at church. I am pretty tough, but 12 dead baby chicks if the postmaster was right were more than I wanted to deal with alone, this morning. 

He saw me drive up and came out to greet me, also surprised at the size of the box. I remarked, that I had figured out the box, their own body heat would collect and keep them warm during their journey to us. We began the process of holding each one and stroking their little beaks with a wet finger to get them to drink a little water until they recovered enough to be offered a saucer of water. We weren't sure any of it would work, but soon they began to drink on their own, then little legs began searching for solid ground, so we knew it was time to set them into the brooder box. 
 
From the Heart, stories about life.

And now it was time to think about the ones that did not make it. I knew my husband could bury them, but to be honest, I am capable, so I did. It would have been easy to simply dig a big hole and place the box down into the earth and cover it up. But there is something in me that feels I must do things differently. I did dig a hole, then I began placing the little guys gently into the hole, first one by one, until I had to tip the box to empty the last couple of out. But one would not fall from the box. I had to firmly tap the corner of the box to dislodge the last one. 

As I watched them laying there, one MOVED. I picked him (I keep referring to them as boys, but our goal has been for egg-laying hens) up and quickly took him back to the house and gave his care over to my husband. At that point walking back from the house I noticed that the ground was speckled with snowflakes. It had been snowing all this time, and I had not even noticed. Maybe because the job I was tending to was important/sad/and not one we will repeat. As my husband warmed and cared for the saved one, I went back to finish my own task, one that is solemn but necessary. 

Fortunately, as I write this, I hear their little cheeps growing stronger and stronger from our little survivors. They are pecking at food, walking around, napping, and drinking water on their own. And, it turns out, the prediction from the postmaster was off by a few, but sadly so was the information from the chicken shipper...

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Goodbye, big brother...

Now as a family, we are down one member. When I got the call, I had immediately remembered a conversation I had had with my younger sister. I had said that we had all reached that age, where we would start to die. And while I am not a morbid person in any way, I am a realist. 

Having spent nearly twenty years serving the needs of the aging population as an Administrator in Assisted Living. I even went on to say, that the first one could very well be me...

To which my younger sister replied, "why you, you have taken the best care of yourself." But I know in my heart there is no rhyme or reason to that time a person will leave us. I saw it year after year. It is quite simple really. We stay until we go. There is no karma to it (not really), the good often go early, but so do those you won't miss...

From the Heart, stories about life.


But with my brother's passing the thing that touched my heart, the most was learning more about my Mother than I ever knew before. We were a blended family coming together in 1968. 

In 1968 I lost a father but I gained a brother. It was only after his passing, that I learned about our Mother and her broken heart from not being allowed to raise her firstborn. Seventy years later there is nothing to be done with the information, nothing I could change in our family's history, not by action or by hope. 

But my newly found out information did allow for a better understanding of my Mother, and many of her decisions, comments, and actions over the years. And that is always a good lesson, for us all. 

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Live Your Life.

Creative Writing From the Heart.


In less than six months I will have the honor of turning 65.  In reality, the honor of aging is denied to many, even my own father. Because when I turn 65, I will be 20 years older than he, at his passing. 

I think of my years surpassing his own and each time I try to reflect on the life goals I hope to master. And while I have not learned everything there is to know, I can tell you the following.

The greatest thing we can do for ourselves is to feel. Feel everything, the joy, the sorrow, even the anger because there are lessons in every feeling, just as there is life in everything we set our sights on.

This past year there have been many changes. The sale of our homes, a year of volunteering and full-time travel, and a permanent move several states away from where we started out. 

The move was planned, the location was not. But I can say that this is exactly where I need to be, for this last life I will be making for myself.

We make many lives throughout the years, our family life, a work-life, maybe if we have time enough a community life for volunteerism until we come to our last life.

And this is where we can and do wrap it all up! 

Where there is no dress code, no conversation requirements or business meetings, no boss over us!

We are our own boss, and scheduling coordinator, and the HR department, and even payroll department! Because make no mistake, you and you alone will be responsible for the business of living. 
And since it will be your last life, YOU NEED TO DO IT RIGHT!

So feel it all!

Surround yourself with joyful people, people that find you as wonderful as they are to you. Allow yourself to have an opinion, respectfully of course, and give yourself permission to indulge in the "don'ts".
  • Don't worry about what you look like, choose comfort.
  • Don't worry about what you think you are missing, because you choose what fills your day. 
  • Don't keep quiet, saying what you mean is healthy.
  • Don't regret what you should be doing, do what is important to you.
  • Don't let anyone tell you how to live, this is your life to make the most of!
And finally,
  • Don't regret it! Live your life, and love your life, and feel everything. 

Creative Writing, from the heart
Through the years 6.5 months to 65 years.

So that you may celebrate this last life with complete and utter enjoyment!

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The story of Appetite versus Hunger.

Food is an incredible substance. It will nourish, perfect creativity, interview your food desires, and fill your belly.

Hunger is also incredible, it will develop an appreciation, for the simple, for the nutritious, for the here and now.

But appetite is amazing but can be tricky. It is slick and glossy and choosy. It will blindside you into mindless eating when you should be satisfying your hunger.

Appetite asks, "what do I want?".

Hunger asks, "what do we have?"

Hunger is much easier on a cook, the food resources available, and the entire household.

For the most part, a response to hunger is practiced in our home.

We have a large stock of foods in the dry goods pantry, in the freezer, and in the refrigerator. From this, we cook, dine, and satisfy hunger. When we enter the kitchen to prepare a meal, the question asked is, "So what do we have?" and for this reason, we do not employ a weekly meal plan. Instead, we see what we have, and use what we have, and from there, we enjoy what we eat.

Creative Writing from the Heart.

We had made the above vegetable casserole for one of our dinners that week, it was enjoyed, and then after dinner prepared for storage in the refrigerator. We did not serve it as leftovers the next day, and there is a good reason. Each dinner should be different than the one before, this prevents boredom with eating at home, plus encourages creativity. 

I prefer to skip a day and have a little taste break. When you return to the food waiting in the refrigerator, it is appreciated more since you did not see it or taste it last night...plus you will find that as the week rolls on, and you have gotten most everything crossed off your to-do list, you grow a bit weary.

And so, by the time Friday rolls around, any easy yet delicious dinner is, in fact, the preferred choice for the evening's meal. This is where the concept of Add a fried egg and some toast comes into play. This arrangement has on more than one occasion been our Friday Night Special.

No matter what you have in the fridge, a fried egg and some toast will always round it out, into a meal. This gratin proved the point and made for a delicious and lovely dinner. And I know, we will do this again, because we have done this in the past......here is what takes place.

Creative Writing from the Heart.
Friday Night Special, leftovers with an egg on top!

Friday Night Special
by the seat of my pants!

Leftovers like a Vegetable Gratin, or a Vegetable Cobbler, or other casserole/vegetables on hand in the fridge or pantry
Eggs
Whole Grain Bread
Butter
Salt and Pepper
Jam and Mustard, if desired

Warm the Gratin setting it aside.

Slice whole grain bread, begin toasting.

While bread is toasting, fry an egg (or 2) for each person.

Butter the toast.

Top the Gratin with a fried egg, place buttered toast on each plate.

Serve this forth, offering jam for the toast and possibly a bit of mustard for the eggs. 

It really is delicious. Healthy, creative, frugal and it satisfies one's hunger.

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Women are superheroes too! I am Supper Mom!

Creative Writing from the Heart.

There she is now!
After a long day working hard,
She comes in the door ready to go, she is:
Supper Mom!

Faster than the blink of an eye,
Tastier than a take-out meal,
Healthier than Casserole in a box,

Yes, Supper Mom does it all,
with generous love for her family!

Supper Mom, cooking supper in kitchens,
all across America!

I have written about this wonderful gift from my son before, but only in passing, then I came across it while opening all the boxes when we moved to this house. She had always been in my kitchen, since her creation, and I was happy to find her again. 

My son did not know it at the time, but when he gave me that first Mother's Day card from grade school, he set the stage for Supper Mom. He intended to say, “To a super mom” but what his little fingers typed was “To a supper mom” and right there, Supper Mom was born. I have several hand-made cards from those early years and I think most of them say “to a supper mom”. What great memories they hold. And it is also possible that he was letting me know that he was just hungry!

Looking at my son and my daughter I can see many traits of my folks present within each of them. Separately they each carry traits that are clearly from their grandparents. It warms my heart the way generations before us, are still with us now, in the latest generation of the family. To me, this is amazing and comforting at the same time. But we have a fun story of how our family came about...

Creative Writing from the Heart.
Mom and Dad in 1951

Mom spotted Dad the very first time he stopped in for lunch at the little cafe where she worked. It was Friday the 13th, which apparently was a lucky day for her, as they married 10 days later on June 23, 1951. I have always enjoyed the story of how they met and a family was started. And I have enjoyed the look on some of the faces of the folks hearing the story!

I've told it often and it never ceases to inspire comments. Some folks say how impulsive they must have been. Others have remarked, how lucky they must have been. But I think it was about being brave. Brave enough to trust in each other, and in tomorrow. 

Today I made Mom's favorite apple cake, the one she loved and served as often as she could. It is delicious and was always looked forward to by all. Plain or with ice cream, you will love it, I am pretty sure!

Creative Writing from the Heart.
Raw Apple Cake

Mary's favorite, Raw Apple Cake
Recipe source unknown but thanked countless times
350-degree oven 

4 c peeled and diced apples - about 5 medium

2 eggs
1 c sugar
2 t vanilla
1/2 c oil 

2 c flour
2 t soda
1 t salt
2 t cinnamon

3 T sugar
1 t cinnamon 

Start with the apples, wash, rinse, peel, and dice. 

How to make the best apple cake anywhere, @ Creative Writing from the Heart.


This is 4 cups of apples, @ Creative Writing from the Heart.

I never found it to be a problem using more than the listed 4 cups of diced apples. The truth is you see, I have never been able to pick out the perfect number of apples that yield exactly 4 cups of diced fruit! 
So in this kitchen, once an apple is cut, the whole apple is used. 

Women are superheroes too!, @ Creative Writing from the Heart.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, beat in sugar, oil, and vanilla. Fold in diced apples. Let sit 5 - 10 minutes or until apples "juice" slightly.




In a medium-size bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and the 2 t cinnamon, whisk to combine. 


Stir into the apple mixture, mixing until no dry pockets of flour remain. 





Turn batter into a 9X13 prepared baking pan. Spread batter evenly, working into corners of the pan. Stir together remaining sugar and cinnamon, sprinkle evenly over batter.

Done, Mary's favorite Raw Apple Cake, @ Creative Writing from the Heart.

Bake 50 - 60 minutes, or until the cake tests "done" in your oven. 

This cake is perfect warm out of the oven with a bit of vanilla ice cream. It keeps well, re-heats well, and is delicious through the very last piece! I would think that it would also freeze well, but there is never any left to put into the freezer!

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The story of Grandmother, Apple Pie, and Sunday Dinners!

Creative Writing from the Heart.
My Grandmother is on the right...

Sunday, September 12, 2010, was Grandparents Day. This is a relatively new holiday, not one I celebrated officially when I was a kid. However, I had a wonderful Grandmother, and time with her was always a celebration. In my opinion, our grandmother was one in a million. She was always happy, made the best of any situation, and could make you feel like a million bucks when you were in her company. I got to spend time with her only infrequently, as we moved or she was on the move!

She was a sharp dresser and a lover of hats. The picture I share is from my memories book, a sweet gift from my sister. It has copies of all the important pictures. You know the ones, where you are just a family, doing what families do. When our Mom wanted to "stage" a photograph, she would say, "OK you kids, stand close together" and if we had had a particularly hectic day, she would add "and act like you care about each other".

My Grandmother Carter was born in 1900. She came across the prairie in a covered wagon when she was a young girl to live in the state of California. She went to work in the lumber camps in Northern California at the age of 13. She was hired to be the camp cook. Yes, at 13! She cooked for a group of hungry loggers, their job was to log down the trees with hand-drawn saws. Needless to say, they would be ravenous at mealtime. One day she had a bit of extra time and a few apples, so she made an apple pie. Well, that did it.....

Her duties were expanded to include making one pie a day, for each logger. At that point, she needed some help. A cook's helper was brought in to be of help, so she could accomplish it all. Imagine, here was this 13-year-old young woman, with her own helper, working as the head cook, in the lumber camp. From there she never stopped cooking! Grandmother went on to marry and raise a family. Later she would work out of the home, then semi-retired and cook as a hobby and raise a little cash when she got bored. Then finally retire to travel a bit, but she never ever stopped cooking...

Creative Writing from the Heart.

Creative Writing From the Heart.

This is my grandmother's cookbook she used when she started cooking again after raising a family. Her cooking took her many places. But she always came back home to see her family. The book was full, so Grandmother did the frugal and the sensible, she added some pages for the handwritten notes. This book is my treasure.

I have so many great memories of my grandmother. And of course, she was not only my grandmother. I got had to share her with a lot of other siblings and cousins. But the memories that I adore are mine, and firmly planted in my heart. I can only hope that my siblings and cousins feel the same way about my Grandmother.


My family.

But this story is bout pie. I should get back on track, and start talking pie, apple pie to be exact.

Creative Writing From the Heart.
Apple Pie, made with love!

Grandmother was the best pie baker! She always put a lot of love into her cooking, and by the sheer volume of food cooked through the years, a lot of skill as well. In my family, we all love pie. Because of that love, we also tend to be good pie bakers. In my opinion, there is nothing as delicious as homemade pie. I have stopped ordering pie in a cafe or restaurant because it is always just a bit disappointing. Probably because Grandmother's secret ingredient, is missing.


Creative Writing From the Heart.

Grandmother baked a pie by touch, and with a lot of love (yes, the secret ingredient). Honestly, I am not that good. I usually follow this recipe. Tailored from my memories of Grandmother, and our baking together through the years. As I remember those times, I can still hear her saying, " work the flour and fat together, with your hands", "don't add to much water, you only want it to cling together", and of course " treat it gentle, if you want a tender crust".

As a young girl, I would listen intently and in awe, right there by her elbow as she worked and I stood at the corner edge of the table. Then before I knew it, a beautiful pie would come out of her oven. This pie is from my Grandmother's oven 
via my memories, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Grandmother's Handmade Apple Pie, seasoned with love 
by the seat of my pants!
Makes 1 large pie

Start with the apples:
7 large apples - peeled and sliced thin
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
2 T flour
1 T cornstarch
1/4 t salt
1 1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg

Peel apples, quarter, and core, the apple quarters will measure approximately 8 cups.

Creative Writing From the Heart.

Rinse, slice into a large bowl.

Creative Stories From the Heart.

Combine remaining ingredients and stir into apples to coat well.

Creative Writing from the Heart.
Season your apples and let them sit while you make the pie crust dough. That is the secret to a pie that is full of fruit after baking. 

Let apples sit and "juice" while you make the pastry. The "juicing" process will shrink the apples slightly. Ensuring that the shrinking of the fruit will happen before baking the pie, and not during baking. The pie will be full of fruit, with less of an air pocket right under the top crust.

Pastry:
400-degree oven to start, reduce to 350-degrees 

ice water - place 2 or 3 ice cubes into measuring cup, add 1 c water, place in the fridge

2 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
1 T sugar
3/4 c chilled butter, lard, or coconut oil, cut into small dice

additional flour for rolling out the dough
minute tapioca, to sprinkle in the bottom crust

Prepare ice water.

Combine all remaining ingredients in a large bowl, cut the fat in with a pastry cutter (my preference) or work the fat into the flour with your hands.


Creative Writing from the Heart.

When fat is cut into flour and there is an overall even look to the mixture of flour and fat, begin working in the water. Only use a T measuring spoon to add water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Important:  Do Not Use More Than 8 T of Water - Total. 
The dough will come together with some assistance, gently use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball.

On a floured surface, roll dough in flour to coat. Cut into 2 pieces.

Creative Writing From the Heart.

Using one-half of the dough, roll evenly into a 10inch circle. The easiest way to do this is to stand at the corner of your work area, roll the rolling pin North and South gently a couple of times, then East and West a couple of times. Continue rolling in this manner evenly until dough is the correct size for your pie pan.

Use the rolling pin to roll the dough onto, lift the dough onto the top of the pie pan, and unroll the pie crust dough over the pie pan. Use your hands to "fit" the dough down into the pan and shift it if necessary to fit the pan evenly, in order to seal the edge when the top crust goes on.



Creative Writing From the Heart.

Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with the minute tapioca.

Add the apples, using your hands to "fit" and arrange the apple slices in the crust.  Roll out the top crust, and again, use the rolling pin to support the dough and bring it over the apples, and unroll.

Creative Writing From the Heart.
Always treat the crust dough with careful handling to keep it tender.

Adjust the top crust, and seal the edges. Make one small hole in the top crust, and put in a vent so that you do not lose the good juices onto the bottom of the oven floor. I prefer a small stainless steel funnel. Having the vent allows the juices to boil in the crust, and cook the pie completely, without a lot of mess. There are also ceramic pie birds that work well, they are much cuter, but I am partial to my funnel, it comes out clean when the baking is over.

Creative Writing From the Heart.

Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees, reduce heat to 350, and bake 45 - 55 minutes more or until fruit is cooked and pie is done, in your oven.
Remove and let cool before slicing and serving.

My grandmother was the driving force in our Sunday dinners we enjoyed as a family. When I married, I carried on this tradition. And it is just as strong in me today, as it was 60+ years ago as I sat around my own family table and we began passing bowls and platters of food. Today when I cook Sunday dinner, there are four generations in my kitchen. My Grandmother (always present in my heart), myself, my own children, and now, grandchildren.




Creative Writing from the Heart.

PS, the only change I have made to this pie, through the years is that I am now a whole grain baker! And this pie is just as delicious with my whole-wheat crust!

Let's eat!

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The story of the Red Apron.  

I have always been a "get in and get it done" sort of person. If my clothes get dirty along the way, and they usually do, so be it. When done with whatever job I might be doing, I will put on a clean pair of jeans and a fresh shirt. Run a comb through my hair,  and away we go.

Aprons always seemed like a good idea, but I never remembered to put one on. After a few years (like 30 or so) I no longer had aprons. I gave them all away. Then last Christmas, my daughter made me a beautiful red apron. It was a wonderful gift, red just like my kitchen, and from her.


It now had a permanent home, folded neatly next to the big standing mixer. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter asked me if I used the apron. I had to confess, no, I did not. She remarked that no one, she had made aprons for at Christmas, used their gift.

At the time, I did not feel bad about not using the apron, because I knew why. But I did feel sadden by her disappointment. I had not even used the apron, I had folded it neatly and placed it in the kitchen, just like a decoration. You see...

As a child, I had been taught that something "too pretty to use every day" was saved. The red apron, is certainly that, too pretty to use every day. And so I did what I had always done, I put it up and saved it!

But saved for what I still do not know, and "it" was never ever explained to me when I was growing up.

Certainly not saved for a rainy day, we have hundreds of them here in Vancouver. Certainly not for a dinner party, I really don't have dinner parties. I do have "company" and when my company comes, it is my pleasure to make them feel comfortable. I just never found an apron, was required for that.

This morning I threw a pan of rolls into the oven, and before I began the dough,  I reached for the apron. I slipped it over my head and began working. It felt comfortable, much like time with my daughter. I completed the pan of dough and placed it into the oven to bake, knowing what I would blog about this morning, wearing my red apron.

My daughter is a fighter. A quiet, but strong fighter. She is tall and beautiful and dedicated. She is fearless. She is accomplished because she is always willing to try. She makes me proud. I say all this, without taking credit, because many of the skills she has, were learned on her own.

She will be 30 on her next birthday. I had a long labor with her, 30 hours actually. Our running joke has been that she "owed" me a year for each hour of labor. She knows it is a joke, but still, I have gotten many a cup of coffee delivered to me, using that as a ploy! But you see, I owe her and my Son, for it is they who have taught me, how to grow love............
.


Today I still do not wear the apron when I cook, that is just me and how I roll! The apron, however, has a new residence, it is folded neatly over the handle of the stove. A very handy spot actually, and when the lovely Jess comes to help in the kitchen, it is right there, for me to enjoy, and for her to use. Because it is beautiful and I always offer the best I have to those I love...


Creative Writing from the Heart.

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Stories About Work, tell of memorable folks from my years working with Seniors and others needing care. 

The Story About Taking a Risk...

Creative Writing from the Heart.

In my job, I work with life and I work with death. It is not always pretty, but it is always important. Some of my tenants had been homeless before coming to my building, some were quite prosperous before an economic fall. Some were disabled through no fault of their own and others have worked hard at low-paying jobs. But they all are treated fairly by myself and those that work in my building.

I am not a nurse, I am an administrator. Currently, I manage low-income senior housing. My building is independent housing, with no services provided. Previously I was the Administrator of an Assisted Living Facility. The difference? In independent housing, I have many more terminal tenants, than I had in the Assisted Living Facility. Yes, you read that right, I have more terminal disease in my current building.

I am not a saint, but I am a hard worker. I have no office staff, I am all I have. I do have excellent support for maintenance and janitorial (thank you, gentlemen!). I must follow and adhere to all federal housing mandates, conduct all business per federal standards, and do it all, in a timely fashion. And I have to care because I do not know any other way. And let it be known, I love my job.

I have a nine-hour day on most days, plus the hour and a half commute. I sometimes have to be reminded to leave, because I have an open-door policy, and some days that door simply stays open. I also help with some of the tenant activities and often donate funds to keep the program fresh and fun. I often serve as a Social Worker, Mental Health Counselor, or goofball for comic relief. But it is important to repeat this, I am no saint.

And now that I have yammered on for four (yep 4) paragraphs, what is the point? The point is about taking a risk. You see, from time to time this been very difficult for me. Maybe I was not interesting enough, or expressive enough, or too brash or even ________________ (you can fill in the blank with your personal favorite). Funny how we get these ideas, isn't it?
  • Do you need to tell someone something? Please go and tell them. Yes, there is a risk, do it anyway. 
  • Do you need to apologize or explain an action on your part that possibly was not understood? Go and start talking. Yes, there is a risk, do it anyway. 
  • Do you need to nudge yourself to do what is needed to be done? Start nudging. And yes there is a risk, but nudge yourself anyway. 
Today I learned that one of my favorite people in my building will be passing away. She is 95 and only stopped driving about 4 months ago. As she explained it, she kept driving because her license was still valid. In some ways, you cannot argue with that logic. She was never in a wreck, was never ticketed, and never put anyone in harm's way. For 95 years, She took the risk to be all she could be.

So if I stumble on my words, in person or in written form, it was still worth the risk. If my brain works faster than my mouth can keep up, yes it too was worth the risk. If I make a choice and quickly change my mind, yes, it was worth the risk And even if I choose not to trail behind, instead, going my own way, it is worth the risk.

You see, taking a risk did not come easily or early in my life, but I am learning how to be comfortable when taking one. Often I will blurt out my thoughts or concerns, rather than speak them. Often I said how much I cared, thinking later, that possibly I should have waited. In the past, I have wondered about how, what I had already said, was received. Even thinking later that I lacked polish in how I presented my thoughts and feelings.

But maybe, just maybe, I was already taking the risk and did not realize it in myself.

Creative Writing from the Heart.


How about you?

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Stories About Work, tell of memorable folks from my years working with Seniors and others needing care. 

The story about Barbara! 

When I first went to work at my present job, one of the folks I was to meet was Barbara. She was everywhere and she helped with everything. Barbara helped anyone she noticed needing help or had asked for help. She was just one of those people, always did what she could for as many people as possible. 

I received a lidded food container for Christmas. It was filled with a buttery cheese spread, made by Barbara. The recipe for this delicious spread had been safely carried around by her, for years and years. She indicated to me when I made my own photocopy, that the copy she held, had even survived a fire.

Now let me tell you, Barbara is a wonderful woman. She has worked hard her whole life and still in retirement works hard. She does all that she can for her neighbors in our little community and enjoys keeping her granddaughter before and after school. Like I said, busy busy busy.

Years (and years!) ago Barbara worked as a waitress at a restaurant called,

THE PANTRY
Portland's favorite restaurant-lounge...across from the Lloyd Center. 

Barbara thought it was about 1958, and probably her first job out of High School. In those days the waitresses wore a uniform consisting of a short skirt with lots of petticoats, and a garter belt. That garter belt held a working cap gun.....All dinner entrees came with creamed spinach, and if you did not eat your spinach the waitress got to "shoot" you with her cap gun. 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, those were the days! I hear tell that creamed spinach was on every plate (yes, every plate). Apparently, not every patron enjoyed creamed spinach. Either that or they loved all the fun that the waitresses had with those cap guns. Honestly, knowing the Barbara I know today, I'm pretty sure she had a fun time with that cap gun too.

The Pantry closed many years ago, but it must have been a popular restaurant. You can find a copycat recipe for their Chicken Bisque Soup,  here.

Creative Writing from the Heart
You are looking at a very poor scan of the copy I have.....

This gift from Barbara shows we keep our memories through the years and recall them to enjoy and share with others!

Creative Writing from the Heart.
This cheese spread was already a favorite of the patrons!

Cheese Spread
adapted from:
THE PANTRY Restaurant ~ Portland Oregon

1 pound butter
1/2 pound Sharp Cheddar Cheese - grated
1/4 pound Romano cheese - grated
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t garlic powder
1/2 t paprika

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Combine ingredients with a stand mixer, starting out slowly and increasing speed. Mix/whip until fluffy.

To use and enjoy: Spread on sourdough or French bread and toast under the broiler. Generously season a baked potato, or toss with some freshly cooked pasta. Use it to butter asparagus and then quickly run the spears under a broiler to finish the dish to perfection........but really the possibilities are endless!

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Stories About Work, tell of memorable folks from my years working with Seniors and others needing care. 

The Story Of Anna...

When I returned to work this November, I found myself in an old yet distinguished building, built-in 1863. It has been remodeled and updated per need and change of law, as years turned to decades and decades turned to centuries. This is home to many people. Each of them with a past, personal history, and stories to tell. These lives, also having been updated as life changed and personal decisions made, took effect. It is rare to find an unchanged person, for change is the only constant in this journey.

This building is owned and operated by the Oddfellows. Knowing the history of the International Order of the  Oddfellows mandates that you be a kind person, who has a silent yet strong desire to serve others. The service you provide may be hands-on, such as caregiving, cooking, or cleaning. Or you could be one of the necessary folks who process paper, enforce rules, or oversee the day-to-day operations that a Senior Housing complex might need. All positions, however, are service and caring-orientated. I am one of those who works on the day-to-day operations and lots of paperwork!

There is a woman who lives in this building; she is soft-spoken, traveled, and kind. Anna walks her dog Lady several times a day and cares for the dog deeply. Lady is also in the older category, prone to falls, and has at times has simply fallen over. Lady’s sight is also failing, yet she “knows” where the treats are kept in my office. Lady, like the rest of us, needs to be concerned about her weight, so her treats are broken in half, that way she gets “two” treats when she visits. I have yet to share this "tip" with those at home, I have concerns it might affect the cookie jar!

When I first began working, it was casually mentioned that Anna’s mother had written a book. I was at some point going to research that bit of information, to help me, get to know Anna better. I would then have a bit of knowledge, that I thought might act as a commonality for us to chat about when she and Lady dropped by. Shortly after that, I learned the title of the book. At that point, I had enough information to help me in my search, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Creative Writing from the Heart.
St Helena, CA
My personal philosophy is that you should always be kind because you never know to whom you are talking. Now we know that all folks deserve kindness, but some folks have very interesting histories that they bring along with them. I have learned, however, if you have not been kind from the beginning, it is very difficult to enjoy spur-of-the-moment casual conversations with him or her. And such is the case with Lady’s owner.

Remember all this started with a simple remark that a book had been written.

Oh, do you want to know the book that was written? I must tell you right now; in actuality, it is a book among many books written. The third book written more than 20, in a life lived with passion, hard work, and some sharp-witted humor. The book title was,

Creative Writing from the Heart
How to Cook a Wolf, by MFK Fisher

I must confess right here and now, I was not familiar with the title of this particular book. But I clearly knew of M. F. K. Fisher, the writer. When I brought up the title of the book on Google search that evening, I was flabbergasted. I even shouted out, not my usual method of communication, to describe my enthusiasm! I was stunned and thrilled at the same time. 

Fortunately, I already had had several enjoyable encounters with Anna and Lady to develop a very nice rapport. In a short time, we had learned of several commonalities shared. I knew instantly I would want to write about this, yet I also wanted permission from Anna, in order to do so. So I did what any bold person does, I asked for permission, and she said yes. Yes! When I got home I could not contain myself and told my husband all about it! 

Creative Writing from the Heart.

"First we eat, then we do everything else."

On Christmas Eve my granddaughter and I paid a visit to Anna and Lady. We took a small gift of rhubarb jam and a clove-studded orange pomander for Anna and a dog bone treat for Lady. We stayed only a brief time, as Anna had guests coming for dinner and there were tasks left to be done. During our stay, we also got to meet Mr. Elliott. A feisty apricot-colored cat, with his own multi-story cat tower. My granddaughter was very interested in playing with Lady and Mr. Elliott, but in a short time, we said our goodbyes and made our way home to wrap presents.  

Creative Writing from the Heart.

“People ask me: "Why do you write about food, and eating, and drinking? Why don't you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way the others do?" . . . The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry.”

Creative Writing From the Heart
Last House, Sonoma CA

I am excited about the opportunity to learn more about Anna and the life she lived. I already know from our Christmas Eve visit, that her daughter is a performer with an all-woman circus (Circus Artemis). She has three grown children, two that live close by and one in Virginia. She is a mother, a grandmother, a sister, and now a friend. There is more, as there always is when learning about someone and the life they have lived. Alas, this story today is simply an introduction, to my friend Anna. 

"When shall we live if not now?"

— M.F.K. Fisher

Creative Writing from the Heart.
MKF Fisher's War Cake
MFK Fisher's War Cake
adapted from:
How to Cook a Wolf
350-degree oven

1/2 cup shortening - (note: you may use part bacon fat**)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon of other spices (cloves, mace, ginger..)
1 cup chopped raisins or other dried fruit (prunes, figs, etc.)
1 cup sugar, white or brown
1 cup water (note: you can substitute coffee for part of the water)

How to Make MFK Fisher's War Cake.


Creative Writing from the Heart

Bring to a boil, cook for 5 minutes. Cool thoroughly. 

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside. 

When the raisin mixture has cooled, add sifted dry ingredients, mixing well. 

Creative Writing from the Heart
Creative Writing from the Heart

Turn into a loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes or until done in your oven.
Let cool 15 - 20 minutes then turn out from the pan, if desired.

** I adore bacon, yet I have found that personally, I do not care for the taste of the bacon fat in baked goods. But I know from my own beloved Grandmother, cooking during sparse times takes courage, patience, and a bit of creative luck. 

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Don't forget to enjoy the last week of the year...


Creative Writing from the Heart.

I love the hush that takes over the neighborhood and my small town the day after Christmas. All the frenzy is put to rest and the celebration we all enjoyed is now a warm memory to enjoy time and time again. But then we come to that last week in the year, you know the one, where it is difficult to know what to do with yourself. Because...

You're a bit tired from the wonderful Christmas you just enjoyed with family and friends and possibly a little too much of those holiday foods that you don't routinely eat, except for special occasions, like Christmas.

And.

You're pretty sure you really, really want to take a vacation in a warmer climate, but that old bank account is saying no, no, no...

And.

You're growing a bit tired of the decor that spilled out and all over the house in this wonderful celebration we just enjoy. But you're not ready to invest the energy to put it all away, as you clearly remember how much work it was to put it all up!


Creative Writing from the Heart

And.

You're missing the cookies that have already been eaten. And wishing the ones you don't enjoy quite as much, had been baked in a smaller batch or possibly not at all. Unfortunately, there is still too much food available to bake anything new to eat...

And.

It is the middle of the week, and there is no football to watch, or shopping to do, or chores that are calling your name (well not loudly enough, anyway!). So you are feeling a bit off-kilter.

But then...

All of a sudden someone gives you a big hug and a heartfelt Thank you, and you truly know that Christmas and all the work involved is so worth it and you really can't wait for next year!

But for now, you have decided that any New Year's resolutions, will just have to wait. Because right now is the perfect time to do nothing but enjoy all the memories of this year. Because this is the last week of the year, and this moment will never happen again, for you to enjoy!


Creative Writing from the Heart!

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Retirement is more than not having a job!


Creative Writing from the Heart...


I missed the Monday deadline to write and use some creativity that does not involve my kitchen. Granted it is just a goal that I had set for myself, but still, Monday is gone, much like the Super Moon. The next few months will be a transition, going from full-time work to retirement. And I can already see that I am having some challenges.

Being off the clock can lead to nothingness if one is not careful. Which means I must be careful. There is much to get done enjoy, in this life of mine. So many things I have not yet done because I had to go to work the next day. So many things I put off until I did not have to go to work the next day. This brings us to today...
Creative Writing from the Heart.

I will tell you right now, it can be a difficult task transitioning from job-ready to self-ready

Job-ready was easy, you were expected to arrive at a specific time, work hard to accomplish a specific standard or production quotient, then go home. The details of your fatigue and what might be possible for your own self later that day were not the concern of any supervisor or manager. They were not responsible for that part of the program...

Whereas, self-ready means you are not only the supervisor but also the employee. With that responsibility, you must organize what needs to be done, along with all the things that you want to get done. Plus you must manage your own self, you know that same self that might have already started down the path to nothingness. The truth is, to self-manage is to have a clear understanding of the important things in one's own life, and get them done.

Creative Writing from the Heart...

When you think about all of that, and understand the job description now before you, you begin to realize that essentially retirement is a full-time upper management job.....Wait, did I see a pay increase as part of the deal?

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In honor of my Mom.

I usually keep it pretty factual around here. I usually post a recipe with a photo and a commentary as to why you should make up the recipe just posted. But always it is all about the food, the cooking process to follow and the family we share it with.

From the very first post and each one since; it has always been about family, cooking healthy food, and sharing it with family. And since I really like that topic, it will always be about the food and the sharing and the family.

Creative Writing from the Heart...

When the family changes with the usual suspects like jobs, a new home, marriage, kids, etc, etc (and every family has their share of, etc's!) I try to be fast on the trail and get things back to a manageable level of enjoyable chaos. But sometimes at the next family gathering, not everyone can be present. But along with whoever is able to come, I try to remember that all family gatherings start with mom.....

She might be a great cook or not. She might work outside of the home or not. She might be the happiest woman on the face of the earth or not. She might be many things, but one thing is true and will never change, she is your mom. 


Creative Writing from the Heart...

She loved you first, 
loves you still,
always has, 
and always will. 

Today I would like to share a few things about my mom.

She was not the happiest person on the face of the earth, but she did love a good laugh.

She was a stay-at-home wife and mother, later she did work out of the home. Especially after we were all on our own and of course for her secret spending money...........

She was one of the greatest cooks on the face of the earth. But she did not like (or know how?) to share her kitchen.....I still learned a lot by watching and being allowed to grease a cake pan, shred some cheese, or thinly slice a head of cabbage.

She was the only girl in a family of 13 children, that's right 13! I guess being the only girl is why she had three first names, Mary Ann Louise. She did not like the Ann part, and only went by Mary with Louise as her middle name, and not as a real part of her first name.......she actually preferred to go by Mary L. and not use her full middle name at all.

Creative Writing from the Heart...

She hated beans but would cook our dad's favorite white bean dish. Not very often mind you, but she did cook them.........

Creative Writing from the Heart...

She loved to make this fresh apple cake, so much so that it was a regular at any dessert offering......... sometimes serving it with ice cream.

Creative Writing from the Heart...

She canned, made jam, and yeast bread. And a wonderful Pineapple Raisin Sauce for ham.

She sewed, mended, and crocheted, but she did not iron unless there was absolutely no other option! The year I was 13, I earned a trip at the end of summer by ironing baskets of "ironing" that had piled up, and there was a lot! Hmmm, maybe that is why I only iron when there is no other option.......

She loved dachshunds, coffee with sugar, and the song Proud Mary.

She was born on January 1, and always started celebrating her birthday on New Year's Eve because as she told me one day "the world celebrates my birthday". As a young child, I was unaware that the world was not celebrating her birthday!

She could take not much at all and make do or make it better. She had big dreams, oftentimes bigger than her follow-through.

She drove a bright red Thunderbird. She listened to country music and could talk over, anyone she chose.

And, included in all of that, she was my mom.....


Creative Writing from the Heart

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Happy Birthday!

You better, 
Creative Writing from the Heart...
This was her favorite saying...

I am sitting here tapping out this memory because I just took laundry from the dryer. Laundry that was warm to the touch on this winter's day, which is very cold. As I unloaded the clothes from the dryer I spied my favorite long-sleeved sweatshirt and immediately put it on. Ahhh, just like I remembered from so many years ago, warm and comforting.

I was immediately taken back to the cold winter days of my childhood, where (I should say our Mom, she wasn't just mine) mom would be trying to herd us out of the bathtub and into bed. But of course given the choice of a warm bath or a cold room to dry off in, which would you choose? Yeah, I thought so... 
No one wanted to budge from the warm water, and yet time was tight and kids needed to be put to bed for the evening.

So my mother had a trick, she would put a towel for each child in the dryer and get them warm and inviting, and sure enough, before you knew it, we were out, dried, and into bed.....As the years go by, these memories are very important and become more so. I quietly treasure them, Mom would have been 86 today. Born during the great depression, into a large family of 13 children, she was the only girl.

She always began celebrating her birthday on New Year's Eve, because, January 1st was her birthday, and the world celebrated with her! Or that is what it seemed like. My folks would leave the house for an evening out, to ring in the new year. The next morning there would be party hats and whistles for us kids to make noise with, so we did. Later in the day, we would ask, why did you go out? "It was my Birthday" was the reply.

Creative Writing from the Heart...

The morning would ensue with my father reminding us to "keep it down, your mother is sleeping" and we would try, but 5 kids do make a lot of noise.....Dad would cook us his famous fried cornmeal mush, which was golden brown and crunchy and just a bit greasy in all the right ways. I loved the salty taste and crunch. Other brothers and sisters topped theirs with maple pancake syrup. Dad, however, ate his with fried eggs.

This is how we started out each new year, and to this day, I still think of New Year's Eve as the start of my Mom's birthday.


Creative Writing from the Heart...
3 generations, my mother, myself, and my daughter, 1995


Happy Birthday, Mom, I love you and miss you! 

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