Friday, November 28, 2008

Grandmother's Rolling Pin

Ever since I can remember, this rolling pin has been part of my life. My mother always used it to make her pies, and as far back as I can remember it has been missing one of the red handles. The spot where the other handle should have been is clearly visible, but I was probably approaching my teen years before I realized that this rolling pin wasn't quite normal. Rolling pins were actually supposed to have two handles. And yes, I did have one of those tiny replica rolling pins that little girls everywhere had (and continue to have, I guess). But I thought the little toy had two handles because it was for children, and that real, grown-up rolling pins needed only one handle.

My maternal grandmother, Anna, was the first person to own this rolling pin, which makes me a third-generation owner. I never knew this grandmother because she died a few weeks before my parents got married back in 1954. I know only what my mother and aunts have told me about her through the years. She had rheumatic fever as a child and always had heart problems thereafter; in fact, her early death was caused by a massive heart attack. The only surviving child of a Baptist and a bookie, she was much loved. She was also quite beautiful and it is no wonder that she captured the heart of my grandfather shortly after he arrived in the United States from Great Britain. Together they had five children, burying one in the dark days of summer diphtheria outbreaks. My mother was the baby of the family and, from what I can gather, the sunshine of her parents’ lives.

I’m not sure how my mother came to own the rolling pin – I don’t know if she was given it when she moved out after college or after her mother died or what... I inherited it at the time my parents’ marriage dissolved, when I was 16. Through the years and several moves, one across the country, I’ve somehow managed to hang onto this most pedestrian of kitchen tools, the wooden rolling pin with the red handle. Every pie I’ve ever made has been rolled out with this pin. I think of Anna and I think of my mother each time I’ve used it.

My own childhood contains vivid memories of sitting at the kitchen table, watching my mother roll out dough and slice up apples. Even now, just the faintest smell of cinnamon will bring that memory back to me. If we were very good, Mom would let us play with the trimmings of raw dough after she’d finished putting the pie together. What great fun we’d have with that stuff – colorless and a little greasy, yet we considered it better than playdough, for some odd reason. Even better were the rare occasions when Mom would have enough leftover dough to make what she called “tarts” for us: small pieces of pie dough rolled out, liberally sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, and then baked until crispy. I can see -- and smell -- them coming out of the oven now.

The solid wood rolling pin is a classic, even with one handle missing. This one isn’t much to look at, but when I do look at it, it’s a lot.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008


First, let me extend my thanks to everyone who has wished me well during this ordeal with my shoulder -- I truly appreciate everyone's concern!

While my shoulder is still bothersome, I am able to type for short periods of time now – with two hands, that is. Thank goodness! I’ve been typing in excess of 70 words per minute since I was in high school. Being reduced to one hand was really a trial, to say the least. My husband (who has had only one arm for the last 20+ years) couldn’t resist saying what I knew was coming when I complained about it: “Welcome to my world,” he joked.

But even one-handed, I can still type faster than he can. Heh. Heh. Heh.

Today I have another therapy session and then it’s off to the grocery store for some things we’ll need this weekend. I will be careful not to do too much with my left arm, though – the shoulder is still pretty touchy.

My gluten-free stuffing attempt of last week didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped, so I will be experimenting again today with a different mixture of seasonings. The texture of the stuffing was really great – but the taste just wasn’t there. In fact, it was what I refer to as the “double whammy” – gluten free AND taste free.

In addition to the stuffing, I’ve found a recipe for gluten-free corn pudding that I’m planning to try today as well. If it works, it will go with us to the Thanksgiving feast at my mother-in-law’s house tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll keep it for our weekend parties (of which there will be a few).

Thanksgiving weekend is one of my favorites here in Pocatello. There are a lot of things going on in town – a parade of lights, an evening of fireworks, special shopping events in Old Town, all kinds of fun, small-town stuff. I’m thankful to live in a place where community is so important.

I read an interesting article yesterday in Christianity Today online about how a daily spirit of thankfulness can really help a marriage partnership get through the tough times. That concept seems like a no-brainer at first glance, but the subtlety of the attitude orientation really has quite a powerful effect. A habitual spirit of thankfulness preserves and protects the partnership, rather than letting everyday life tear at its fabric. I like that. And I think that same principle can be applied to all of life.

My cousin, Karen, ends every one of her blog entries with the reminder, “Be thankful.” Today I will do the same.

Be thankful!


Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Update

I've no idea how I managed to separate my left shoulder, but I did just that. So I'm in a sling and getting physical therapy for the next little while.

Typing with one hand does not lend itself to updating the blog regularly, as you can well imagine. I am working on a piece, but it will probably be a while before I can finish it. I hope to be back soon!

Wishing you all the best,


Monday, November 10, 2008

Veteran's Day 2008

I am descended from a Revolutionary War veteran – a man of Dutch descent whose first name was Koert (probably pronounced in a way that sounded like “Curt”). The Battle of Monmouth, which raged near Old Tennent Church in Monmouth County, New Jersey, is considered to be one of the non-decisive battles of the War for Independence (read: a draw). I know my ancestor was in that particular battle, but I don’t know much more than that.

Of course, there was no Veteran's Day holiday at that time.

Generations later, my own grandfather (from the same family as ancestor, Koert) fought in both World War I and World War II. I know very little about his military service in the first World War, but I do know that he volunteered to go back in for WWII and went over to Europe as military police (he had been a mounted police officer in Newark, NJ, at the time). After the war, he remained in Bavaria for a short time as one of the Military Governors assigned by the Allies to aid the transition process. He also witnessed at least part of the Nuremberg trials.

Two of my stepsons currently serve in the Idaho National Guard, with one of the boys already having completed a tour of duty in Iraq. (That’s a year that we spent pretty much down on our knees.) There is talk that the Idaho Guard may be deployed again within the next 18 months, and I will confess that I am very, very reluctant to see them go.

I won’t pretend to know whether our current war is justified or not justified, and it’s not a point I’m willing or able to debate with anyone. It is what it is, and our hard-working troops go where our government sends them.

The point is that we owe all our veterans a great deal of gratitude – and that’s true whether they fought in a popular or an unpopular war. The scars they receive from battle are not just physical and can shadow their whole lives. The scars their families bear as a result of the enforced separation can be long-lasting and deep.

We really do owe them a huge debt for the sacrifices they have made/are making on our behalf.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

And now for something completely different....

The election is over, thank goodness, and now we can go back to real life. The real life of cleaning, cooking, walking the dog, getting ready for Christmas.....

Oops! Did I mention it's time to get ready for Christmas? Yep. I'm not a last-minute kind of gal when it comes to Christmas. Can't be, with a family that is the size of ours! Plus, I really enjoy the Christmas season. Not the commercial stuff, but the real meaning of it (i.e. We are loved so much by God that He was born into this messy world of ours!) And I love the memories, the tree, the food, the family gatherings, going to church on Christmas Eve, having some time off that week to play, listening to the music (it's already playing on my MP3 player!), the food (oh, did I already say that?).

This year I'm intending to make fudge. I don't do it every year because I often run out of time. But this year it's on my list, and now that I have a proper kitchen to play in, I think it will get done. Plus it's one of the few sweet treats I make that Tim can eat without getting sick.

My mother made fudge EVERY year at Christmas. Tied up with a pretty ribbon, it made (and still makes) a good gift for neighbors and friends, for one thing. My brother and I absolutely loved it and would cram down as much as we could get our hands on! I have vivid memories of Mom reminding us (rather forcibly) to refrain from eating the entire contents of the crystal candy dish within minutes of her setting it out. Vain hope! I'm pretty sure we got in trouble quite a bit over that.

Mom's recipe called for cooking the mixture and using marshmallow fluff -- a really messy experience. My recipe uses melted chocolate, but doesn't require cooking and doesn't include marshmallow in any form -- and I prefer the taste and texture of this recipe. (Plus, you can add a drop or two of peppermint flavoring to the batch and get 'chocolate-mint' fudge in a jiffy!).

Here's my basic recipe:

1 14-oz. can of sweetened, condensed milk
1 12-oz. pkg. of semi-sweet chocolate bits (or milk chocolate bits, if you prefer)
1.5 (yes, that's "1 and 1/2") squares of bitter baking chocolate

Melt all the chocolate together. Add the condensed milk. Beat until smooth (this is the step where you'd add a drop or two of flavoring, if you wish). If you want to add 1/2 c. chopped nuts, stir them in after you've beaten the fudge.

Pour into a buttered 9" square pan. Cool completely and cut into small squares.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Get out there and vote!

One of the wonderful things about our country is that we, the people, have a voice. We can vote. So, today, please let your voice be heard!

I'm heading to the polls very soon. So should you!

Monday, November 3, 2008


So, while I've been whining about life, everything from uncivil discourse to my mother's health, what I didn't know is that old friends (with whom I have been out of touch) have been coping with their toddler's cancer. And that cancer, after a 15-month ordeal of often torturous treatment, has returned and now threatens their child's life.

No complaint that I have in my life could ever equal the pain and terror of this situation. It is every parent's nightmare.

Please pray for Ben and for his parents, Carin and Jeff. He's three. It's neuroblastoma. His parents are beyond worn out and need every ounce of strength and courage that they can get.

If you want to read their odyssey, you can find it here. Click on the Journal link to see all the posts.

UPDATE this afternoon: the new tumors in Ben's brain are growing so rapidly (i.e. overnight) that the doctors have determined further treatment to be futile. Ben was sent home this afternoon with his parents. Their only focus now is to treasure every moment that they have left with their first-born son.