Two large white onions
2 tbs butter
Swiss cheese slices
Cream of celery soup
1 cup of milk
Bread (you can use french bread or just plain sandwich bread, sliced and with the crusts removed–I make my own homemade bread the day before and use that. It’s amazing!)
Slice onions into rings and saute in the butter. When the onions are soft and translucent, transfer to a casserole and place the cheese atop them.
In the same pan used to cook the onions, heat the soup and milk, blending together. When it’s thick and bubbly, pour over the onions and cheese in the casserole.
Top with slices of bread and bake in 400 degree oven until bread is toasted and sauce is hot and bubbly. YUM!! (This is great as a leftover, too. I love it better the next day.)
From my mom:
1 Devil’s food cake mix
2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup oil
1/2 cup Kahlua
1 cup chocolate chips
Mix cake mix, sour cream and eggs together. Pour in oil and Kahlua until well-mixed. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into well-greased bundt pan and bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes. Great with powdered sugar on top. Even better with fresh made whipped cream!!
Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce
1.5 cups flour
3/4 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup boiling water
Grease a square baking pan. Combine the first six ingredients. In a mixer bowl, beat shortening about 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg and molasses; beat one minute. Add dry ingredients and water alternately to beaten mixture, beating after each addition. Turn into prepared pan, baking 30 minutes at 350.
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon rind
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Combine sugar, cornstarch and sale in sauce pan. Stir boiling water into mixture and return to boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat and simmer, stirring, until sauce is thickened and clear. Stir in butter, lemon rind and juice. Pour over warm gingerbread.
From my Auntie Harr
Chinese Chicken Salad
1 head of lettuce (I used romaine, but I think my mom always used iceberg)
3-4 green onions chopped fine
2 chicken breasts, shredded (I usually boil mine and then shred it with a fork)
Mandarin Orange Segments
Toasted sesame seeds
Dressing: 1/3 cup sugar (I used honey and it was just as good–and better for you!)
1/3 cup sesame oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar (or you can use apple cider vinegar)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Wash and prepare lettuce–toss with green onions, chicken breasts, asian noodles, orange segments and sesame seeds. Mix dressing ingredients in the blender, then toss with salad.
Did you even know there was such a thing as Winnie The Pooh Day? I did not until it was upon us today!
Here’s my Pooh history:
I don’t remember being particularly enamored with WTP in my early years, but perhaps I was, because on our very first trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, in 1972, my grandparents apparently offered to buy me something, and it was Pooh I chose.
(Incidentally, I must have been a fan of larger animals and dolls; I also had a HUGE Snoopy, courtesy of my uncle Mitch, and a big, nearly life-sized doll called Blue Boy who had belonged to my dad.)
So Pooh came home with me and took up a permanent spot on my bed, as the guardian of my pillows. He was comfy; as a small child, I used him almost as a bolster pillow, leaning against him as a read.
But my most vivid memory of Pooh is that my dad hated him. I have no idea why Daddy despised WTP; perhaps the voice, slow and somewhat measured and sometimes a bit daft, irritated him. Whatever the cause, he did.
When I was about four, I began having nosebleeds, particularly at night. It was alarming to me, and I would become very frightened. Daddy decided to blame Pooh for the nosebleeds, and he would give the bear a soft punch to make me giggle and take my mind off my fear.
Pooh is still with me. Many of my childhood favorites have gone by the wayside; I don’t know what happened to the supersized Snoopy or Blue Boy or some of my most beloved dolls (I know where my Barbies are, but that is another story) , but Pooh remains–he’s outlived Daddy, something that I think would make my father chuckle ruefully.
What is it that we love about this silly old bear? Well, for me, it’s more than just Pooh himself; it’s the community about him, Piglet and Eeyore and Owl and Kanga and Roo and Rabbit and TIGGER!! It’s the relationships between all them and of course Christopher Robin, too.
The other day, I introduced Delia to one of my favorite Pooh story–the one where Pooh visits Rabbit, eats too much honey and gets stuck in the hole trying to exit. We both giggled, and then I showed her Tigger and sang her the song (The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers!). I hope she’ll enjoy those old tales as much as I have and as much as her mother did.
Today, I’m going to give my silly old bear an extra cuddle and listen to Kenny Loggins sing about Pooh Corner. I’m going to think about a time when the world was kinder and imagine that if we all took a lesson from Pooh and friends, we might be better off.
I’ve been waiting for a special day to share this one, and today is that day. This is my very own story of true love and happily-ever-after.
In 1984, I found myself at one of those cross-roads in life. It was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, which may seem as though it should have been a carefree time of fun, but I was always old for my age, and at that point, I was tired of high school. Tired of the needless drama, tired of the games and ready for my life to really begin. After years of straight living and toeing the line of good-girldom, in my junior year I’d gone a little wild. Now, trust me, ‘a little wild’ in my vernacular and in the mid-80’s was not today’s wild. It involved a little bit of alcohol, a little bit of dating–but ONLY dating–a series of boys, but I never did anything that would negatively impact the rest of my life.
Still, in early August before senior year, I was restless. I was done with high school guys, I knew that. I didn’t want to party away my senior year. Craving something more solid and real, I returned two stalwarts that had never failed me: books and my relationship with God.
I remember very clearly standing in the local Christian bookstore, looking for something to read, when a small wooden plaque caught my eye. It was Psalm 37:5: “Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.” That verse resonated with me that day, and I bought the little wall hanging. I remember clearly the odd sense of rightness I felt. As I drove home, I also realized I needed a hook for the plaque, so I stopped at a store I’d never visited before, even though it had been around forever in our town. Kandle Lumber and Hardware just had never been on my radar, but it was on the way to my house, so I ran inside to find what I needed.
The man who helped me was the owner of the store, and I’d met him before. Actually, I knew the whole family vaguely: their son had begun West Point the year before, and he’d come to our house a number of times to chat with my dad, both before he’d started at USMA and then after, to share experiences. But up until then, Clint had been just one of many cadets coming in and out of my house. My father mentored quite a few.
I don’t remember exactly what Pete Kandle said to me that day, but it was something about his son, hinting that I should consider seeing him the next time he was home for a visit. Did I say I would? I don’t know, but that day stuck in my memory as a turning point in my life. I thought about it over the next few months.
The Army-Navy game had long been a huge deal in my family, and we were pumped in early December of my senior year. For the first time in a long time, Army had a real shot at winning. My family had been invited to a post-game party at the Kandles’ home, and I brought along some of my friends, at Mrs. Kandle’s request. But what I remember most clearly was the hour I spent talking to Clint, leaning up against his dad’s desk in their den. The house was filled with people, and there was no place else to sit. Clint saw me on the floor and ran to grab a down-filled blanket to make me more comfortable. I didn’t know it then, but that was totally who Clint is: serving others, reaching out and giving of himself is at the core of his character.
I didn’t hear from Clint after that celebration, at least not immediately. But about a week before Christmas, he called and asked if I wanted to go Christmas shopping with him. He’d just gotten home on leave, and he needed to buy his mother a gift. What I remember about that day is that I’d never laughed more or felt immediately comfortable with any boy ever.
We went out a few more times over his Christmas break, but I wasn’t sure if we were just friends or . . . more. That is, until New Years Eve, when we went to a party at his friends house. As the clock struck midnight, ending 1984 and ushering in 1985, he kissed me for the first time.
Over the next months, we exchanged hundreds of letters, shared long phone calls (to the chagrin of Clint’s parents, who were footing his phone bill!) and I visited West Point as often as I could. He gave me an A-pin on March 1st that year. I was thrilled, and we were both deep in the throes of young love.
I started college that fall at the University of Richmond, but my heart was up in the mountains along the Hudson. Every Friday, I’d get on a train north, get off in Philadelphia, spend the night at my parents’ house, set my hair . . . and the next day, I’d drive three hours up to West Point, going to football games, dances or other social events, or just sitting with him in the lobby at the Hotel Thayer, doing homework and talking. The rules at West Point were very strict: no PDA, and no cadets were allowed above the mezzanine level at the hotel. Most weekends, Clint couldn’t leave post. But we always enjoyed just being together.
On Sundays, after chapel, I’d drive back home to New Jersey, repack and get on the train south, usually back in my dorm about midnight. It’s no wonder I failed calculus that semester, is it? I was miserable at college most of the time I was there. We knew once Clint finished at West Point, he’d be stationed somewhere in the world, and I’d still have two years of college left. At that time, this future seemed impossible.
And so we did what any two kids in love might: on Christmas Eve of my freshman year, after we’d been dating just about a year, Clint proposed and I said yes.
We were married in June of 1987, ten days after his graduation. We spent our first six months together in Richmond as he attended Officer Basic and I got in another semester at Richmond, and then we moved to Hawaii for his first duty assignment.
That was four children, one son-in-law, many cats, dogs, homes and almost 30 years ago. We’ve lived in Virginia, Hawaii, Wisconsin, New Jersey and Florida. We’ve lost all of our grandparents and all but one parent between the two of us. We’ve weathered parenting, illness, homeschooling, many different churches, changes in career, moves and so many challenges . . . but there is no one in the world I can imagine sharing my life. Clint has always been the first one to support me, the first one to tell me I can do anything I want. I know without a doubt that he would–and does–move mountains to make me happy. He’s still the same boy who will do anything to make me a little more comfortable.
And almost 32 years after that very first date, he still makes me laugh more than anyone in the world.
I’m more in love with my husband today than I was when we got married. Then, I had no idea what love really was. Now, I think I’m beginning to catch glimpses of it. I think we need at least another thirty years to really get it down. I pray that we have those years together. When you’ve lost parents relatively young, you realize that nothing is guaranteed, and so I am grateful for every day we have together, and I am also greedy for even more.
This is a real happily-ever-after. It’s not all sunshine and cloudless skies; as my grandmother told me once upon a time, you must have just enough clouds to make a beautiful sunset. There must be rain to enjoy a rainbow. But we’re living out our happy ending, day by day. That’s the very best kind of story in my book.
This is a bonus love story, in honor of their 41st anniversary.
I don’t know all the details of how Aunt Terry and Uncle John met, except that it was in high school, and probably, if I know them, through friends. They’ve been together ever since.
I met them in 1985, when I began dating their nephew. He was at West Point, and I was still in high school. When he was home for a weekend, he invited me to a family dinner, which was completely overwhelming. I came from a large extended family, but they were not like this: there is nothing like an Italian family gathering to completely overwhelm a girl! I was sure I’d never remember the names. My only safe spot was with a sweet four-year-old little boy, who invited me to sit on the floor and play cards with him.
That was little Johnny, and before too long, I got to know his parents, Terry and John. Although all of Clint’s family was kind to me, there was just something extra about these two. They were open, welcoming and charming. Pretty soon, their house was my favorite place to visit with my boyfriend!
Over the thirty-one plus years that have passed since our first meeting, I’ve been blessed by this couple in ways too numerous to list. But all the details boil down to this: in their world, there are no ‘in-laws’ or degrees of relation. You are family. Pure and simple. I never call them my aunt and uncle-in-law; long ago, I decided that they are my family, and sometimes I think I forget that we’re not technically related by blood.
Their house is my home in New Jersey. It’s where I feel welcomed and loved and accepted, no matter what. Their love created this home. They are my children’s safe place, the surrogates for the grandparents my kids lost too early. All of my kids feel this way; I think it was Cate who said recently, “Aunt Terry just wraps me up in love.”
I’ve written them into books. Uncle John is in The Posse as the supplier of the infamous limoncello (he really does make it, and it really IS delicious!). They were the basis for a couple in The King Quartet. From day one, they have both been supportive and encouraging of my writing–they even hosted a signing for me at their dance supply store in New Jersey.
But the point is this: forty-one years ago, these two people committed to love only each other. But in doing so, they started a ripple effect that has changed countless lives, including their family, oodles of friends and their community. The love they share–which is beautiful and still romantic and an example for all of us–has reached out to encompass others. They gather in, rather than closing off; they embrace rather than divide. They choose to love, even when that choice is difficult.
And they love in truth. Uncle John will tell you, to your face, when he thinks you’ve done something stupid. But then he’ll pull you in for a hug and do whatever he can to help you fix it. Aunt Terry will defend you to the death, no matter what, even when she’s helping you to solve your problems.
Romance is wonderful. You know that I’m a big advocate! But it’s even more wonderful when it spreads over the world in the form of a love that never ends.
When I first began writing (seriously), I had a tradition of rewarding myself after each book I finished. The dangling carrot could be anything from a diamond ring (my very first book!) to a new handbag or a pair of shoes.
It’s telling that nowadays, my reward is permission to read a book I’ve been saving just for this occasion. Time for reading is much more precious than anything material, and reconnecting with my favorite authors is a special treat.
For this last book (I just finished writing ALWAYS MY OWN, coming January 26th–and yes, it was down to the wire. Long story, but it’s done), I sort of cheated. Christmas fell smack in the middle of writing this book, and under the tree I had a gift I don’t often see anymore: a real book. As in, a physical, hardback book with pages that really turn. My oldest daughter and I have a love affair with Fannie Flagg’s books, and she’d discovered one we hadn’t read.
So with this beautiful book tempting me, I just might have sneaked some reading time when I was in situations that precluded having my computer open to write. And as always, I fell in love with Fannie’s characters, her world and her unique and heart-rending view of family and history.
One of Fannie’s specialities is taking a family situation, tossing a quirky character into the midst of it and then giving the reader insight that goes beyond the knowledge of the main characters. We saw it in Fried Green Tomatoes, during one of my favorite parts of that book, when Evelyn, in the middle of her search for self-knowledge and direction, goes to an African-American church and ends up talking to a friendly church member. Evelyn doesn’t know it–but we the readers find out that the woman to whom she speaks is the daughter of one of the characters in the long and colorful story Evelyn’s new friend Cleo has been sharing.
In All Girl Filling Station, the main character is Sookie, a wife and mother of four in her late fifties. Sookie has just finished marrying off her three daughters (one of them twice to the same man). She’s exhausted and ready to dive into the next phase of her life. Complicating this transition is her mother, Lenore, who lives next door. Lenore is the kind of woman my grandmothers would have labeled a Handful. She’s demanding, attention-seeking and controlling, but she’s also the sort of woman outsiders find quirky and amusing, even when her own family doesn’t necessarily see the appeal.
Sookie is a wonderful daughter, much more patient that I would be. But everything in her life is turned upside down when she receives a letter from Texas that throws into question her past, her history and her understand of self.
Sookie’s long and complicated adjustment to this new information is juxtaposed with flashes from the past, giving us more insight and detail into what led up to the situation affecting Sookie.
All Girl Filling Station tackles a number of complicated themes: the fathomless and multi-layered relationship between mothers and daughters, the dichotomy of self knowledge vs. the world’s perception, family, the evolving role and understand of women in the twentieth century and the love between sisters. I was especially fascinated by the detailed history of the WASPs, an often-forgotten chapter in our nation’s history during World War II.
And as always, Fannie’s fabulous writing had me laughing aloud–and crying. Full-disclosure: I cried hard and ugly tears for about the last 30 pages of the book.
The story also made me think about my own relationship with my late mother. Like Lenore and Sookie, we had both our charming similarities and our extreme differences. I struggled for many years with the idea that because I was not like my mother in some ways, I was a disappointment to her. I made choices in my life specifically to win her approval, at times, and I dealt with the repercussions of the decisions of which she is disapproved. In the end, though, like Sookie and Lenore, I know that my mother loved me to the best of her ability, given her own history and struggles.
Laughter, tears and deep personal insight: what more could I ask from a book?