Weekly Chat: January 22, 2021

Grab a Coffee….

A few mugs from favorite places… I’ll write on them in another chat.

I can never seem to chat here without my coffee mug snuggled alongside of me. At least with my new flip top mug I’m not spilling coffee… on me and the couch as I often have recently. Hope you’re enjoying a coffee on this wintery feel of a week in late January. We still have no snow on the ground… so odd for us, but we did have one snowfall before Christmas that left over 6-plus inches… so we had a white Christmas, but warmer weather and rain made most of that go away except what’s all pushed together in the parking lots. The other week we parked next to one of those huge snow piles with the granddaughters in the car… their job, while eating their happy meal was to find all the things lost in the snow piles. It kept them busy for awhile until we ran out of things to find. And what was the very first thing we found… oddly enough, it was a black mask laying plastered to the side of the huge mound of snow… and I didn’t take a photo!

In needing a few things from the store, I did a grocery shopping list online for pickup. It’s the one thing that I’ve begun using… and enjoying. So instead of walking the aisles, I walk their online pages to place my order. I don’t usually order meat, as I’d rather pick that out myself, but this online ordering really saves time. I spend less and since my knees hurt me more in long walks, especially on those cement floors, it’s easier… you just drive up… and they load your car. Have you used any online delivering services during these crazy times?

I bought celery and tomatoes in my grocery order to add to the small pot of chicken soup I started last night. If you’ve never added chopped tomato to your chicken soup… do try it… so good! Last week hubby took our last container of soup out of the freezer… mainly because after all my folding and moving around fabric… I seemed to have irritated his allergies… his sniffling just wouldn’t stop. The soup and broth seemed to help! Nothing better than a pot of soup simmering on the stove when it’s a bit chilly outside… and it was quite chilly this morning at 26 degrees when we left to pick up the groceries. I suppose I could try having them delivered, but then I would have missed out on stopping for breakfast sandwiches… LOL! There’s always a scheme to my madness in planning out our day… or sometimes not! I think the cold weather gave me the sniffles today… so I’m enjoying a cup of soup tonight… with extra broth! It’s 43 now, but it still looks cold and gray out the window.

Maybe chatting about my ideas here on the junk journals I want to make/design will keep me thinking… and make it happen. I have gathered/saved so much “junk” over the past few years since I became interested in them… and I really need to use it up! Have I actually made one, well yes and no. I have made a few little books/journals for the girls but still have procrastinated on a bigger one for me… as I can’t seem to decide on a cover. 2021 needs to be the year that I finally make a few for me. I make so much for everyone else… and very seldom make myself anything. I definitely need to design a book cover for my Nancy Drew journal I want… as I have saved so much to put inside. Any thoughts of a cover… let me hear!

My Jello Dessert with the failed crust!

I made a new-to-me dessert the other week… strawberry pretzel dessert. Have to say it took more preparation than I anticipated, but next time I’m sure it’ll go easier. I probably should have read and compared more than one recipe before I began… as making the jello didn’t go as I thought it should… so I made a small change, and it all worked out. The one thing that flopped (LOL) was the crust of the pretzels, sugar and butter. Personally I think the recipe I chose called for too much sugar and butter as after baking it for only for 10 minutes… like it said… well, it was rock hard! I shrugged it off… and thought maybe the cheesecake-like mixture would seep down and soften it… Not! The cream cheese mixture with the fresh strawberries and jello was delicious and we didn’t have a problem scooping it out and enjoying. I’m planning on making this again, but I decided to transform it into a graham cracker pie crust with the cream cheese mixture and jello on top. I’ll let you know!

I’m still addicted to my new youtube channel of The Old Homely House with Kate Jackson… and No it’s not one of Charlie’s Angels! The only drawback is she’s giving me wayyyy too many ideas to sew, craft and knit. I’m good with watching her take care of her chickens, the bee hives, gardening, or even a walk to the nearby lake for Eileen, her goose, to take a swim. Hubby is not going to let me have chickens or bees, and definitely not a goose… and I have no lake nearby, so all those things are off my list. But I seem to have a growing list of things I want to make… that Kate makes; my sewing scraps are growing into other things now! Another problem I have is I have 5 granddaughters… and when I make for one, I make for all… which is quite time consuming.

My scrappy dog paper piecing for the girls… I had heard of paper piecing mentioned before, but never knew the science behind it.

Another of Kate’s sewing projects, but new-to-me is English paper piecing… while I had heard of it… I had no clue what it actually was. I’m used to cutting out with a paper pattern, not sewing on it. It seems the paper piecing helps to keep nice straight edges, but I do enjoy it as I can sit at night on the couch, or even in bed and sew mindless while watching tv. I enjoy sewing by hand more than sitting at the machine… and right now, my sewing machine area is chaos! I won’t be showing it until it’s clean!

In looking for fabric scraps to use in my paper piecing I discovered these hexagons I sewed many, many, years ago. I chose to sew them as the flower pattern was always one of my grandmama McKinley’s favorites to sew. At one time, when my children were small, I sold in local craft shows and sewed denim bags with them appliqued on the front. I’d forgotten I had all these saved… guess that means I need to make more bags.

My found flower garden pieces found… from long ago. Guess that means I’ll have to make bags to applique them on… so they have a permanent home. At least there are 5, so won’t have to make more!

I dug this one out of my bureau… it was actually made for my mother in law… her initials are embroidered on the reverse. Not sure where mine is, but I bet I’ll rumble across it soon.

I’ve also gotten back into selling on Marketplace… hubby, or rather I, thought maybe we should begin selling off our cast iron collection of the past several years. While we had fun collecting, hate to leave it to someone else to have to sell… another job for me… sell, pack, and ship! Being married almost 50 years, we have accumulated way too much stuff… but we had fun doing it. Now time to let someone else enjoy it! (I’ll show you some of our favorite pieces someday on a chat.)

While it’s been a chilly, sometimes bone-cold past couple weeks, only snow flurries have we seen. The weather shows possibly snow coming next week… we shall see! While I don’t mind watching it snow from the comfort of my couch, hubby doesn’t share my sentiment. Last snowstorm, one of the neighbors snow-blowed quite a bit of our sidewalks… I sent over a warm pound cake that afternoon. In posting today, it seems snow might be coming in later… oh yuck!

Another job I began this month (attempted) to tackle is the kitchen cabinets… I’ve been wanting to clean the ones out above the counter garage ever since I saw Kate clean her cabinets on The Homely House. Hubby took it upon himself to begin the emptying process before I came into the kitchen… so I have no before pics. What was he thinking! I did find many things didn’t even remember I owned… and also found at least a trashcan full of out-of-code food packages. Don’t judge… the cabinets are very deep… guess I just kept shoving in. Now I need to buy more salad, as I have 4 bags of croutons and 3 bags of dried cranberries… although I could use them in the scones I’ve been wanting to bake, but not sure what else I could make with those croutons. If you know… send ideas!

So here’s some of my mess after I realized I hadn’t taken photos from the beginning…. all my candy molds were way in the back, along with way out-of-date candy. Guess I haven’t made cupcakes in awhile as I seem to also have 3 containers filled of cupcake papers… need a craft for them as I’m sure I’m not going to bake cupcakes.. or I’ll send them to the granddaughters to bake for me… that sounds like a better plan! Have I made you want to go clean out a cabinet or two… or Not!

After writing a long list of all the projects I want to craft this year… way too many, but when you have 5 granddaughters… you make for all, except winter item… as the Florida girls have no use for those. I make myself very little… except a couple pairs of socks. While cutting squares today for a window hanging I’m making for the girls… after watching my favorite youtuber on The Homely House… I am so addicted! She showed her new wool drum carder… later spinning the wool she carded… oh I am so hooked, as I’ve always wanted a spinning wheel. I just might treat myself this year to a new hobby… haven’t mentioned this one to hubby, but he never denies me… although he did mention just tonight that I have a very full plate of things to make, probably because the living room becomes more crowded with each project I begin! If you’d like to watch Kate card and spin, click on the link up above. If I could go anywhere, I think I’d love a vacation at Kates in Northern England. If she opened up a BB at her Homely House, I bet she’d have full bookings… I’d love to stay in her treehouse! Kate are you listening??

Well, I guess you can tell I’ve been a busy bee this January… I’ll preview my planned A to Z for April for you on the next chat. It’s taken me longer than usual to decide on my theme this year, but it’s a perfect one for me, and I’m already enjoying the writing aspect.

Go grab another cup of coffee… I know I am!

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© 2021, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Stories: Blackberry Winter… and more

In thumbing through an older magazine, I turned the page… and an article entitled “Blackberry Winter” caught my eye… it made me laugh as it brought back many memories of all the conversations I’ve had with mama on the topic of blackberries… and remembering the first time I heard the term “Blackberry Winter”.

My first encounter with the terminology of “Blackberry Winter” was on mama’s birthday… April 6th, 2009. As we talked, or rather she fussed, about how cold and windy it had been that afternoon… when suddenly she said, “I guess we’ll be having a Blackberry Winter, that’s what the older folds always called a cold spell that came around Easter. It’s something to do with the first beginning of blackberry season… I’ve always heard it.” Well that was the first time I’d ever heard of it!

I seemed to have often visited in April or early June, as again on another late April in 2015… it turned cool at night, and mama’s friend called it a “Blackberry Winter”… signaling that blackberries would soon be ready for picking.

Blackberry Winter has really nothing to do with the winter season, but actually referring to one of many cold snaps that follow the blooming of blackberry vines in late spring. The flower buds on the vines are just threatening to bloom when Blackberry Winter comes; it’s actually part of the springtime process. The terminology is more of a southern term, as I’ve never heard anyone refer to this in the north… our blackberries bloom much later. Blackberry picking seems to be more prominent in the South… in the North, you’d really need to search them out… and in the almost 50 years I’ve lived in Connecticut, I’ve never been blackberry picking!

There were many blackberry bushes all around granddaddy McKinley’s farm in Siloam, Georgia… and I often picked there as a young girl; spending time at his farm holds dear memories to me. I only remember once going to pick when we lived in Perry… there was a fence loaded with them behind the high school. It was probably the first and last time mama ever took me picking… as snakes also like them. As I stood picking with my pail, mama loudly and sternly said, “Jeanne step back from the bushes… Now! I suppose I complied, as I wasn’t bitten that day. Mama always told the story that my hand was headed to the very spot where she’d just spotted a snake lying in wait… if I had picked in that very spot… I might not have survived as there was a rattlesnake lying in guard over the berries… maybe she’d heard the sound of the rattle which had alarmed her.

Even though farmers don’t plant blackberry bushes every spring, they still know the signs of when the berries will bloom. Mama often talked about how her father looked to the moon and the stars as to planting times… and he waited for them… never rushing to plant. The Blackberry Winter usually meant three to five days more of cold weather… and it often became a waiting game… waiting for it to end. It’s mother’s natures way of reminding you to never plant your garden to early.

Blackberry bushes behind Mama’s barn

Blackberries have often been the subject of conversations with mama over the years, and… “the young girl next door brought me over supper tonight, but the dessert was the best part… she made blackberry cobbler; her husband went picking yesterday. I only remember one woman who made a blackberry pie to equal my mother’s pie and that was when I went to a McKinley family reunion in Siloam. After spotting the blackberry pie on the table, and after eating a slice… I asked who baked it. It was brought by an older woman who was related to my cousin Kenneth McKinley’s mother Ulma. In telling her that it was the best pie I’d ever eaten… other than the ones my mother baked when I was a young girl, she laughed at the compliment and told me to be sure and take the rest home.I would, but I don’t want anyone to think me selfish… but I could easily have taken the rest out behind the house and eaten myself silly.” She smiled, saying, “go ahead.” “I didn’t… but I never stopped thinking about that pie on the ride home… and wishing that I had taken the rest of it.” A previous blackberry post can be found HERE.

Mama’s pie was made from the old-fashioned small blackberries I picked on our farm, not the big seeded ones you buy in the grocery store today. There’s a big difference in taste between the small and large.”

Anytime I chatted with mama and mentioned blackberries… I opened up a can of worms. Another night after telling her I made blackberry muffins… and before I could even finish, she began… “I so remember my mother’s blackberry pies… they were so good… the best I’ve ever eaten! I remember how she made them too… first making the crust, and before adding the berries, she’d bake the crust until it was a light brown. The house would be smelling so good! While the crust baked in one of her deep pie plates, she cooked the blackberries on the stove… adding sugar to sweeten. After they cooked down, she’d pour them into the waiting baked crusts… always adding a lattice style crust for the top and brush with butter… the berry juice would ooze out through the lattice topping.

After watching her mother make all those pies… you’d think mama would have learned how to make a blackberry pie as she always said it was her favorite… but there was never a blackberry pie ever in my house… but she did make a great lemon pie. Mama was a cook… never a baker!

In telling mama I made blackberry cobbler last night…. “Oh don’t tell me that, I’d sure like a piece right now with my coffee; I wish I could have one like my mama made. She always made up a dough for the crust, rolling it out really thin… laying it in the pan to cook until it was lightly browned. Mama used the same biscuit dough for pie crusts, as she used for her biscuits… it was so good. We used to pick the berries on the side of the road, just down from the driveway… there was lots of them there, but the best ones we picked in the back field where it was marshy… they were the big juicy berries. There was also lots of snakes back there too, so we had to take Frank or Brownie with us… they’d kill a snake in a minute. The dogs would first go in the bushes, then after coming out, we knew it was safe to go in… they were smart dogs. The bushes were back in the fields behind the barn… by that big rock I liked to sit on. There was another rock back there also that looked like a fireplace had been carved out on one side… it even looked like someone really used it. This area had once been Indian land, so it may have been used like that many years ago. Daddy often found arrowheads when he plowed the fields.. he’d empty out his pockets at night; at one time you had a box full of them.” (I think today I may only have one left)

Fancy, our dog when we lived in the log cabin, was also good at sniffing out snakes and killing them. She always came with us when we went blackberry picking around there. She’d go in first under the bushes and let us know if it was ok to pick. Snakes love blackberries! Funny though, she eventually died from a snake bite.”

Another night in telling mama I made blackberry cobbler…. “dam you, I wish I had a piece, but I want it like my mama made. I had a seedless blackberry bush in the backyard here for years, but it’s finally died out. My mother used to cook hers in the wood burning stove… the crust and the bottom would be so crispy when you stuck your fork in… all juicy with berries. I could never make one like she did… it’d come out all gooey, not crispy like my mama’s.”

“We had blackberries today at the senior center. I remember coming home from school and immediately going to pick mama a pail full… as I wanted a pie! On the backside of the farm, they would be as big as my thumb. It’d be nice if we could just pull back one of those days… and enjoy the blackberry bushes alongside the road again… they were so delicious!”

I found this blackberry cobbler recipe in Woman’s Day magazine… ripped it out… and it has been my go-to for cobbler making for many years.

BlackBerry Cobbler

  • 5 cups blackberries
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 cups sugar – divided
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter – chipped up into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt – divided
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cup hot water

Directions: Wash and pat-dry berries… sprinkle the berries with lemon juice and pour in a well-greased buttered 2 1/2 quart baking dish; my favorite dish size is 9 x 13.

In Bowl: Add flour, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, butter, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and milk. Mix well with a fork or spoon… pour over the berries. In same bowl, mix the topping of 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle over the batter.

Assembling: Pour hot water slowly over all. Bake 350 for about 60 minutes, or till topping is lightly brown and bubbly. You’ll be smelling it all over the house when it’s ready… but it’s not ready to spoon out just yet… have a little patience for it to cool slightly… letting all the juices soak in. My recipe can be halved or even adjusted to your amount of berries… it’s very forgiving.

I can’t wait for blackberry season… need to make another cobbler and have a slice for Mama! This is one of my favorite summer desserts to bake.

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© 2021, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Photographs… and their stories: All About the Marbles

Enjoying the marbles today… glistening from the rays of sunshine… while my penguins keep watch over! The penguins are another acquired collection I found at my mothers… something attracted me to them!

How did I acquire all these marbles… you ask? While I wasn’t a marble collector, but I’m sure hubby had a few from what he says… he often talked about shooting marbles, but nothing was saved. This collection of marbles was brought into my kitchen one afternoon by my son Steve. I looked up as he came running into my kitchen saying, “look what I found in the garden.” I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect marbles… maybe thinking he picked something he shouldn’t have… as he was only about 8 years old. But he stood there, all proud, holding something heavy hidden in his t-shirt and with pockets bulging.

About this time… every mother would be right on top of their child… looking to see exactly what he was hiding… and I certainly was… and was soon quite intrigued as to how he found all these in our garden. We certainly had not planted marbles!

Such pretties…

As we sat at the kitchen table looking at all those “found” marbles, my neighbor came upstairs. She laughed when I showed her what he’d found in the garden… and said, “I threw those in there, they were my boyfriends… and I’m not giving them back to him.” Well that settled the mystery… and one happy boy left the kitchen with a shirt full of marbles.

I packed them up today, out of my pretty jar which I now have one of my many button collection in… and will be taking them to him on our next visit. They need a new home!

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© 2021, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Weekly Chat: January 10, 2021

Weekly Chat….

I had nothing on my mind to actually work on today other than trying to organize my many stashes of projects surrounding my couch and dining room table… and I won’t dare show photos of that! I’m sure you know what I’m talking about!

While watching my new chat/craft program on YouTube today, I thought… maybe I’ll journal my day of organizing… or rather trying to. But first let me mention my new YouTube channel I’ve been glued to… when hubby isn’t around. It’s called The Last Homely House with Kate in the North of England. I find her English accent soothing and sometimes funny on some shared words… where we say a word one way and she says another. It’s often nice to have noise on when you’re re-organizing or just relaxing… and not have to pay close attention to. If I’m watching a movie with hubby, I can always ask him what happened when I don’t pay attention… then I get the usual response… “aren’t you paying attention?“…. well no, that’s why I just asked you! If you check out Kate, do let me know… she’s quite the artistic crafter, quilter, cat lover, and generally seems to know something about everything… and there’s always room on her lime green sofa for everyone! Granddaughter Gracie was here the other day and while watching with me… although she was mostly watching her cats jump on and off her lap… she said, “she sure has a lot of stuff in her house, kinda like you GiGi.” Yes Gracie, I do have lots of stuff!

I do watch more television in retirement.. and, well I have more time, but it’s never without a project in my hands. Youtube has recently become my companion as I can knit socks, write on my blog, or reorganize my stuff… while listening to the chatter.

Before Christmas, I began watching videos on “loom knitting”, as I had bought Granddaughters, McKinley and Grace, knitting looms. That meant I had to first teach myself how to use… especially before Christmas day. Hate to admit it, but it’s not the first time I tried learning… and if you haven’t guessed… that learning experience didn’t go so well, so I packed them away, but I hate defeat, and I’m not a quitter! Being that first try didn’t work out so well for me, leaving me frustrated… I gave it another go, and it finally seemed to click for me. I joined a loom knitting Facebook group… and after reading and asking questions there, it definitely helped; reading their hints and ideas brought it all together for me. I think my original problem was… that I already knew how to knit with needles.

Miss Grace intense on her knitting!

During Christmas vacation, the girls spent a couple days with us… McKinley and Gracie brought their knitting looms… and I was prepared to teach! Granddaughter McKinley had already mastered knitting needles, but Gracie had found them a little overwhelming so she was excited when she unwrapped her knitting loom. I sat showing her how to wrap and knit off the yarn loops, and she picked it up quite easily. McKinley took the instructions and taught herself, but she wasn’t as interested as she seems to like the needles more. Grace was excited as she wrapped and knitted and saw a hat soon appear below the loom… she was knitting a hat for her “baby” today. As Gracie sat next to me… very intense on her knitting, she said, “now I can knit with McKinley and mama.” Afterward I took it off the loom for her, while she made a pompom, and “baby” left nice and toasty… being it was a very nippy January.

… and now “Baby” has a hat, knitted by Miss Grace!

The granddaughters in Florida are anxiously awaiting our trip there so they can also learn… three more eager learners! I’ll be ordering more knit looms soon… as I’ll need to arrive fully armed with looms and yarn. If you ever have a yarn stash that you don’t know what to do with… just buy knit looms for your grandchildren… they are fast user-uppers!

My dining room table quickly turned into a sewing area last year when I began sewing masks, and the sewing machine hasn’t left. I figure, if I’m not going to cook as much, I might as well just sew there! I decided today to separate all my fabric into more organized and accessible bags… one for me, the kids, and a Christmas bag… so that’s what I did. In clearing out my mother’s house last year, I found several pieces of fabric that I brought home, plus I’m cutting up some of her clothes to use in my rag quilts… it’ll be a nice memory to see the fabrics and know they were hers. After all that folding and unfolding… I seem to have aggravated hubbies allergies and he soon began with a runny nose for the afternoon.

My many spools of thread in Aunt Lena’s spool cabinet!

After finishing the fabric sorting, I tackled the “too many to count” spools of thread I had in almost every sewing box I have around the house. You can never have too many sewing boxes, right? I have an heirloom antique spool cabinet from Aunt Lena… (do check out the story) but it only holds so many spools. Naturally I can’t throw anything out… so every spool of thread I found at mama’s… I brought home. I can’t use them all as there was a good size bag of wooden spools with not so strong thread, but I already have ideas for those wooden spools …so they are put away for another day… and another project!

It’s good to sort and resort your crafts periodically… as you always find things you have lost misplaced. I’m looking forward to beginning the process of cutting squares for my rag quilt. If it works out well, I’ll make some cuddle-up rag quilts for the girls… using some of the very same fabrics I used when I outfitted their little cribs. I sewed a set of crib bumpers and blankets for the baby crib they first used… and I even made the crib sheets! It really wasn’t that hard… once I got over the intimidation of sewing a crib sheet. Who knew you could even sew those! I think I need to finish my already started heirloom post on that baby crib!

My treasure trove of buttons… Thanks Mama!

Buttons, buttons… who’s got the button! I think that was an old game my mother talked of playing as a child, and I’m sure grandmamma had a button box. Oh, I wish it had been kept to look through… but it’s been long gone. Mama had many buttons I’ve brought home over the years, but nothing really special, but she did give me a box of special ones she gathered from clothes donated at the senior center. I remember mama showing them to me and so proud of how she’d cut them off… knowing that I’d love them… and she was right! She said many came from older coats… it sure would have been interesting to have seen those coats.

As hubby looks around her house at all the “stuff” she’s amassed over the years, he often says, “she did have a good eye in the things she brought home.” He always rambles through drawers and cabinets while there… and always leaves with his own little stash of finds! She always says, “you can have anything here you want, just show me before leaving so I don’t go looking for it… and not know what happened to it.” The only thing she never let us take was her jewelry… she loved her costume jewelry… it was nothing fancy or of worth, but it was her valuables. She’d always say… “when I die, you can then take all my jewelry home”… which I have; that will be another story… the taking of her jewelry.

Between my cups of coffee today, which never seemed to end… it was a day of sorting and trying to organize! Hopefully tomorrow I will continue, as I can’t begin to cut squares for my rag quilt until I completely empty off the dining room table of sewing supplies.

While writing and listening to Kate on The Last Homely House… I became side-tracked when she visited the glass shop of PhillippaLee, where she learned to make “wish sticks“. I had to stop and watch… and quickly search out the artist. Who knew there was such a thing… what a great gift to give… and give to me! You hang the wish stick in a window and as the light shines through the colors, your wishes come true. If my mother ever saw this… she would probably be cutting glass and making one… mama was very adamant about making it herself… seems to be where I inherited that trait! In her later years, she sadly gave up wanting to make anything… that made me sad as I so enjoyed listening to her talk nightly about what she was making at the moment. I hope I don’t end that way… as if I do, someone is going to have a lot of “stuff” to sort through here… right Miss Grace!

Will I be making wish sticks in the future… we will see, but mine won’t be near as nice as the ones I saw… as I don’t have a kiln, or her expertise! Looks like I just might be buying one in the future… have to give a wait for more to be crafted as I want reds, pinks and purples, but if you’re a blue or green person, yours is there!

Thanks for stopping in for a little chat… hope you enjoyed your coffee while reading!

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Family Stories: My Favorite Posts of 2020

Family Stories:
My Favorite Posts of 2020

Knitting at a time Canva

It’s always fun to review your writings for the past year… and I certainly started off strong in 2020, with my very first post of Knitting FAAT Socks, which I had every intention of finishing, but… at this time… one year later… they are still sitting on my needles, taking up space. Now why didn’t I just finish them as I’m not far from turning the heels now. Probably because I’m like a fish… something else caught my eye and off I went in another direction. I am definitely going to push myself to put this on my list of UFO’s to complete before winter’s end!

My Valentines Day post had me remembering so many things… from my saved Valentine candy box from hubby… to reminiscing and rereading our love letters, but the biggest memory was in remembering that our daughter married on Valentines Day!

A funny post I wrote entitled… If I Invited You to Dinner was quite comical as I set the table and thought about how it would be to have these family members at the table once again! Who wouldn’t want just one more meal with some of your favorite family members?

Finally in March I blogged on my annual Christmas ornament of 2019… knitting all the girls a very detailed Scandinavian-type mitten with their age knitted in along with the design. They were very time consuming, and actually were from an advent calendar pattern. My original intent was to make two advent sets… giving one to each family. After beginning, and finding them so detailed… I knew I could/would never finish in time… and actually didn’t want to knit that many… meaning 50 mittens! What came to me quickly was that they could easily become my yearly Christmas ornament, by knitting the one that matched their age. The girls were thrilled!

Every April I join in on the April A to Z… and I had so much fun on last years as I wrote Family Stories… mostly on my husband’s side. I began with All The Family’s Cars…. but the one that was the closest to my heart was the writing of Cleaning out the Family Home... it took me almost five years to finally be able to write it… even though it was my husband’s family home, it held many dear and loving memories for me. I learned to cook in my mother in law’s kitchen and where she taught me to knit and crochet. It always felt like home to me also… and I still miss it. I’ve recently learned a nice young couple have purchased it… and I hope it becomes a loving home where they raise their family. The Traveling Wedding Dress post was so awesome to write and I so wish that I had been at those weddings… as who ever heard of so many family members wearing the same dress! After coming up with that post idea, I had to follow up on my in-law’s Honeymoon Mystery… after discovering so many cute photos she had taken. If only I had asked more questions… I would have known exactly which Inn they stayed at in Vermont… and I could have had a conversation with dad on those roads he traveled in arriving there! I put my Nancy Drew hat on in searching out the name of the Inn… but every door I opened, I hit a brick wall. Memories of the Farm finally had me pinpointing exactly where their family farm was originally situated before I-95 came through their farm and shuffled them out. I ended my A to Z with Zee Things the grandchildren have said… which has led me to still continue in remembering and writing their funny quips… the ones that come out of the mouths of babes. I’ve learned from my own children… if you don’t write it down… you will forget!

And how could I be amiss to not mention my favorite heroine and detective Nancy Drew? Nancy celebrated her 90th birthday in 2020 and I didn’t forget to write on it in April. I always laughed with mama in calling her Nancy Drew, as she shared the same birthday month and age with Nancy!

2020 was a tough year for several reasons… one being that I was suddenly having to realize that my mother was now dealing with and changing daily due to dementia. My days of having conversations with her were few and far apart, and I began focusing more on stories I hadn’t written… begining with Best Friends… ironically, and sad that and mama and her best friend both ended their lives with the same disease. After later discovering a new photo of mama in school, along with many other school photos that one of her favorite teachers had saved in a scrapbook… prompted me to write Mama’s School Memories.

With all what we all have endured this year in 2020… I chose this special mini doll as my annual Christmas ornament to make for the granddaughters… Do check them out over HERE... hope you like them. It is a free pattern and I have posted the link on my blog post.

My last post of 2020 seemed fitting as part of my life has ended… the part I have shared with mother for over 68 years. If you have followed me along the past several years, you have possibly read some of my nightly conversations with my mother. It’s been a struggle this year for me… in coming to terms that I was losing her… and mama in herself knowing that she was losing bits and pieces of her memory, and her life was changing. I’ll not go into her life here, but I have written bits and pieces on it in my last and final Conversations with Mama… no. 51. I’m still finding it hard as I sort through her treasures… don’t we all have them. Ever so often I see or hear something and think I’ll tell mama… and quickly realize I can’t do that anymore. Often I only have myself to tell that to, as I have no siblings… it’s been all my decisions… right or wrong… and I pray I did my best in doing right by her at the end of her life, although I often still question myself.

If you’ve stopped by my blog during the year, I sincerely “Thank You” for stopping in and enjoying what I have shared over the past years. I hope your holidays, despite the pandemic, went well and that the “new year” brings you good health… as that is what we all strive for at this time. I’ll be writing in the yearly April A to Z of 2021… but it’s still up in the air as to my theme this year… which I’m finding to be so frustrating, as usually by this time, I have began my posts, but it’s now into the new year, and I’m still tossing ideas around… I need to get busy and solve that dilemma! Send some suggestions my way!

See you soon… with more bits and pieces of… whatever pops into my head!

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© 2021, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #51

Conversations with Mama: You never know what she will say and more… #51

Mama and granddaughter Melissa

I began Conversations with Mama in 2008 because I realized that through our nightly phone chats, she was telling me more stories than I had written. Mama was now also relating to me her daily activities – that I found sometimes amusing, and always led me to always having paper and pen ready when I called. As she chatted, and she can be long-winded, I  scribbled and often asked more questions. Sometimes I even initiated the conversation to draw more information out of her …and once in awhile she’d ask, “what are you doing, writing down everything I say!” Yes I am mama!

July 23, 2020: The past couple of days have not been good as mama often has “mean” days now… I think that comes after she’s had days of not sleeping well, but today she sounds more like her “nice” self. Her thoughts today were “It’s no fun getting older and being by yourself. I wish I had enough money to buy back the farm. We could could all go there and live… then asking me… why did you have to go and move so far away? If I ever have to go to a nursing home, I think I’d like to go to the one in Greene County, maybe I’d even know someone there… I could have an ambulance bring me up there. But what I really want, is to stay in my home here with Boo. If something happens to him, I don’t know what I’d do. I wish I had friends who would come visit, but hardly anyone comes.” Mama tells me that she is afraid of being lost, often asking me, “you won’t forget me, will you?” I constantly tell her that I will never forget her and will always know where she is, whether I can be there or not. These conversations are so hard… as our life and times are changing now, and not for the good.

It then changed to… I’m lazy today, how are you? “I’m also tired… drinking a chocolate Boost drink right now. I need this world to change or the people change. We don’t go to the center anymore… so I just wake up and then go back to sleep. I just don’t feel normal anymore. I’m going back to sleep.”

By August mama was really changing… it’s been way too much of her calling 911 when not feeling right, going to the hospital… then they bring her back home after a few hours with often a UTI… but taking meds on a daily basis is always a problem; changing daily with worse symptoms of non-functioning dementia. Now she’s begun leaving the house on days when something happens that she needs help with… like the phone not working one morning. I could see her on the Ring camera, but had no communication with her… although I tried talking to her through the camera, but that seemed to agitate the situation… as she heard me and thought I was in the house… and suddenly she was out the door… looking for me; I called the police to go make a wellness check. They came and even tried to fix her phone, but no luck… an officer called to tell me they had no idea why the phone wasn’t working. I called the utility company to ask them about her phone, and after explaining that this is the only communication for a 90 year old woman, who’s already called the police over it, they told me they’d send someone out. I kept watch over her on the Ring, and within about twenty minutes, I see her answer the door… a man came in and went right over to the telephone and within 5 seconds, her phone was working. Somehow it was plugged into the wrong port on the modem… maybe she moved it? Who Knows? He was her guardian angel that day coming so quickly… and I was so very thankful!

It was becoming the norm that anytime she needed help, she began going outside… to the street, she’d tell me. She lived on a very busy street, and would go to the edge of the street and wave her arms trying to get someone to stop and help her. There was no reasoning with her in why she should “Not” do that… I knew her time of living home alone was coming to an end if this continued.

I called her Dr. and they suggested I take her to an ER with a geriatric department that could evaluate and get her on meds, but until we could drive down, I lucked out in finding someone to stay with her during the day. She had always been against having someone stay with her, saying she didn’t want anyone underfoot… how she liked being alone. Deep down, in what reasoning mind she had left, she knew she needed help, but the pride in her didn’t really want to give in.

I began making calls to local assisted living facilities… and an administrator at a local facility took the time to talk to me, offering many suggestions… and suddenly she said, “I probably shouldn’t offer a name, but my family recently had to admit my grandmother here, and the woman who sat with her for years is now out of work.” She gave me her name and number and before I could call her, she called me; she started the following week… still against mama’s wishes, but she relented to let her come. The woman was very nice and good with my mother, making her breakfast and lunch, and talking to her… although mama would say to me afterward, “that woman talks way too much, too chatty… I’d rather just go lay in my bed and watch TV.” I could see mama quickly changing again, as she had been refusing food for the most part, surviving on Boost, but she was now eating what was served to her… even if she didn’t finish it all, she was eating.

Unfortunately, it only lasted a couple of weeks before mama wandered out one night at 2:30 in the morning. She must have had it in her mind, her closest friend was coming over, and she went out looking for her. A woman, on her way home from work, found mama standing in the middle of the road and brought her back into the house; actually the woman used to live on the street and recognized her… another guardian angel watching over my mother.

I began making plans to travel home, but before I arrived my best friend took my mom to the ER the Dr. suggested. She knew it was easier for her to do this than me… I don’t know if I could have left her there… even knowing it was for the best, but I have mixed feelings on that today as I felt she went downhill from that stay. We arrived the next day and while she could have no visits, I called her daily. Those calls never went well, as she really wasn’t understanding what was going on… and why she was there. I still have thoughts about whether the Dr. pushed me in the right direction, but it was suggested because she kept telling the visiting nurse that she didn’t want to live anymore; I never felt she’d take her life, but they looked at it differently. Being in constant communication with mama, I could tell her mind was changing day by day… at times she was in the present, and then other times she’d talk about how she had to go home to take care of her father… and how she’d been picking up bottles in the hall until the nurse took them all away from her. The mind is so complex… and often it seemed she was happiest when living in the past… that is where she now wanted to be as living in the present didn’t seem to be working for her anymore.

Mama often said to me… “I just want to be Helen again!”

During the past five years or so, I saw changes in my mother and it began when she didn’t want to go to the senior center… it was a slow change as she was still going, but not as much… or staying as long… or being happy there. The biggest change came about when the running of their clothes closet was taken away from her… although I’d only heard her view… but had wondered why. I did think that maybe I should call and see what was going on, but again thought maybe I was meddling when it was really nothing… so I let it go.

I did call the director there in the past year to talk to her in regards my mother coming there… as often she came home so unhappy. Mama had always been a talker and knew how to come back with anything said to her, but now talking to her was difficult at the center. Her friends couldn’t pick at her anymore as she couldn’t handle it… she now felt like they were mean to her when they were only trying to make her laugh. In talking to the director I asked her to relate to them that she couldn’t handle the “picking at” any longer. I was told that most of them now were afraid to even talk to her as she flew off the handle very quickly now… often storming out if anything was said to her.

In remembering what an EMS medic once told me… “you can’t reason with an unreasonable person.” That was the best piece of advice ever given me!

Mama stayed consumed with being unhappy in not running their clothes closet… she had volunteered there for over thirty-plus years… that was her life. She had amassed quite a clothes closet of her own that spawned in taking over the back room. At one time, the back room had been a bedroom that my daughter took over when visiting… but slowly the bed disappeared… and the clothes took over.

Last year my husband installed rods under the bookshelves, and I hung up all the pants and shirts… and what a job that was! At that point, she wasn’t really wearing anything out of there, but wasn’t willing to let me pack them up to donate. So, the only thing I could do was hang them up to eliminate the piles of clothes scattered all over the room. But the clothes in her room were hung on clothes racks, piled on her bed, a stool, a chair… anywhere there was space; she wasn’t willing to let me hang them up either. For some reason, she liked looking at them and I couldn’t reason that they’d still be accessible from a drawer or a hanger.

I’ve never seen one person have so many clothes… she always reasoned them as, “I never had clothes as a young girl, so I’m going to have them now.” Maybe I’m at fault, as I should have pushed harder on just the clothes part, but if you knew my mother, you’d know that it’s always been her way… she could never see your way, or even try to see how it might affect her future. But we all want our independence and I’m sure I just might tell my daughter one day  to “stop“… especially when she tells me to throw out all my crafts and my Nancy Drew books… I see her roll her eyes in looking at my things… and I know what she’s thinking…

We all want our things… not having other adults telling us how to live! So I always stepped back to let my mother have her way, and live her life as she wanted in order to make her happy. For the most part, she was happy for almost 90 years, which is a blessing. My father died at a young 54 years of age and I wasn’t able to say goodbye to him, but I’ve always felt that he called me that Friday night to say goodbye. It was a very unusual phone call on that evening when he called to tell me he loved me… it was totally out of character for him to make that out of the blue phone call… then a few days later I get the other call. Daddy died way too young, never seeing his grandchildren grow past 6 years old or even know he had five beautiful great-granddaughters.

Mama still drove up she turned 90… we then finally dismantled the car and gave her every excuse in the world as to why it was no longer working. The director at the senior center had mentioned to me that she wasn’t driving well… pulling out in front of cars… she wasn’t focusing. Whenever I mentioned driving to mama… “I can still drive, and when I’m behind the wheel I focus and pay attention.” She saw it one way, but everyone else concerned… saw it another. Even though she couldn’t drive, she wanted those car keys… she kept them laying on the bed along with her treasures.

Taking the car keys away from a parent is not an easy thing… we had to do that several years ago with my husband’s mother after receiving a call from the the police that she had side-swiped parked cars. It’s funny to think about now… but we arrived to find her sitting in the back seat of the officers car. He was very nice in releasing her directly to us and filing no charges. She fussed all the way home that she was going to drive… but was much easier to deal with then my mother. My father in law knew he wasn’t comfortable driving and easily let me drive him wherever he needed to go… he was the easiest. Mama kept insisting that she wanted to buy another car… and if she had had a chance… she would have! The check book quietly disappeared before I had another nightmare to deal with!

Mama has always been a crafty person… as a young woman she sewed her own clothes, even making all mine as a young girl. She thought nothing of cutting up old clothes for the fabric. I learned that when I asked if Daddy had kept his Navy uniform, she promptly said, “Oh I cut those white pants up and made myself a pair.” She sewed all the long curtains throughout her house, and never thought twice about painting anything inside or out either… but we always laughed that she painted everything either black or grey. Until her heart surgery, in her middle 70’s, she even cut her own grass… and that backyard took quite a bit of work. Besides the grass cutting, she had several large gardens surrounding the front and back. Spending time in her flower gardens was her love… often neighbors told me how she’d be out there when they left for work, and still there when they came home. She had more strength and stamina than I’ve ever had! She slowed a bit after the surgery, but after several months, it gradually came back. The grass cutting soon stopped though, but she continued working in her flower gardens.

Whenever my children traveled home with me, she put them to work lugging rocks or railroad ties… as she had a new plan for the yard every summer. They enjoyed those vacations, and we traveled all over visiting old cemeteries and all the places I loved to revisit every summer. Mama would often say, “you’ve been there hundreds of times, why do you want to go,” but we’d all pile in the car while she’d be mumbling from the back seat as I drove. There’s something about going home… and recreating the paths you walked in your early years. Being the family researcher… and always wanting to take more photos of where I had already photographed, I often told the kids, “you ask to go there, so I don’t have to hear her mumble.”

September 14th of this horrible 2020, I had to admit mama to a nursing facility as her dementia was becoming unreasonable and she refused to come home with me… although it never would have worked. I tried talking her into coming to live with us many years ago, but she always had a reason not to! She had every excuse… “I don’t know anyone there”… “maybe later on”… “it’s too cold”… “I won’t be able to drive there.” And like always… I’d give up! She was determined to live in her own home, with her cat Boo!

Mama’s cat Boo… his favorite spot to keep watch!

Pretty much the last conversation I had with mama was when we picked her up from the hospital in Thompson on the morning of September 14th… while it wasn’t our usual conversations of years past, it was actual conversation. She talked of how she wanted to go home… but she could hardly even walk at this point. I explained to her that she was going there for physical therapy, but she wasn’t paying me much attention at that point. I had handed her a box of glasses I’d found in her bedroom and she was busily, almost childlike, trying on each pair and handing me the ones she didn’t want. I have memories of her sitting in bed calling me… and always with a pair of glasses on.

I never saw mama again after that day as there were no visits due to Covaid restrictions. She was quarantined for the first 14 days before going into her own room… but from day 1… she hated it! She couldn’t understand the “quarantine” part and often fussed about where those people were keeping her. She made them think she couldn’t walk well, but they quickly learned that she could walk as she would walk down the hall… unzip the large plastic they had at the end and go visit them in their offices. She even managed to escape outside once when someone left a door not fully shut… when they found her, she told them she was trying to find the bus to go home to Siloam.

Everyone tried their best to make her comfortable and happy, but she digressed every day in memory and weight loss. Mama weighed 124 on admittance and lost about twenty pounds in the two short months she was there. Our phone calls became mumbles… she wasn’t walking well, falling whenever she tried to get up alone. Eventually they moved her to a ‘gerri’ chair that was supposed to keep her from getting up, but mama was strong, and determined… and managed to escape out of it at times.

Mama was sent to the local hospital on Nov. 25th due to breathing issues… after talking to the ER doctor, it was more than just breathing problems… her heart was in serious arrhythmias… we packed to drive to Georgia. Mama wasn’t really talking, only mumbling, but mostly sleeping; we arrived two days later. Mama was sleeping and looked peaceful, not in pain like she sounded whenever I had talked to her on the phone. She had said for months how she wanted to go home… home to her mother, father, and brother… home to the farm she loved… and home to Boo. They were planning to move her to hospice, but the night before mama left this world to go home, where she could again be happy and with those she loved, and had so missed.. especially her father, as she had been daddy’s girl. The night before, I held her very warm hand in mine and told her, “it’s ok to go home to your mother and father and the farm where you were happy… I will miss you, but I will be ok… I love you mama.” Those were my last words to her, and I strongly believe that she heard me and knowing that I would be ok… she let go and went home.”

Many believe that cardinals visit for a reason… and on many visits before at mama’s house a red bird would fly and perch on the window box outside the kitchen window whenever I walked into the kitchen; I even managed to grab a photo of him once. I felt it was a sign that her father watched over her… but on this last trip, he never showed on the weeks we spent there… he didn’t need to come anymore… she was now with him.

Mama’s angel cardinal that kept watch over her!

While staying at mama’s house this year I began going through her “clothes closet” of the many, and I mean many clothes she had… and what a job that was, and I’m still not finished. Mama always talked about how she usually carried money just in her pants pocket… telling me I’d need to check all her pockets whenever the time came for me to clean them out. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing… while mumbling at the many pairs she had… and wishing I wore the same size. I found several dollar bills folded neatly in the pocket of a few, and then I almost didn’t put my hands in the pocket of one pair as I thought they were the ugliest pants ever… but I stuck my hand in and out came ten dollars! Ha… I guess she wore them on one of her less frugal days when she enjoyed making the rounds at the thrifts shops before coming home.

She stuck money in odd places… making me laugh as I searched through drawers in gathering up all her jewelry. I did find money I had left her buried under a felt drawer bottom… guess she thought she was hiding it. She owned no jewelry of great value, but she loved her costume jewelry. Anytime we stopped in an antique store, I could always find her in front of a basket of costume jewelry. I packed up all her costume jewelry… every single piece. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it just yet, but I wasn’t throwing it away. She has lots of pins she’s gathered through the years, so I’d like to fashion them into something one day… maybe a framed art piece. If you have any suggestions… send them my way.

I’ve had conversations with many over the past months, especially with mama’s best friends daughters. Mama was always close to Willie Mae’s girls and spent a lot of time with them after moving back home to her father’s farm. I remember her telling me this story about Pat and Karen coming to sunbathe there… mama laughed as she remembered how the man working on the roof couldn’t keep his eyes off them in their bikinis… and he almost fell off the ladder in watching every time they stood up.

Karen wrote me this remembrance of us as young girls… “I remember a fun time we had once… we were in your mama’s station wagon… my mama was in the front with your mama driving. We went through the Dairy Queen drive-thru… all getting a drink, nothing more. You, me, and Pat were in the back open area… toys & books were there to entertain us. I think mama ordered me, Pat and herself a small coke… your mama said you would get a small coke too. You were hollering & insisting you wanted a “big gulp” size coke. Your mama said no and you kept saying you wanted a big gulp. Well, you got the big gulp! It was so big you had to use both hands to hold it. When we started back down the road on our way, you let down the back window and was busy pouring out most of your drink. I laughed so hard! I don’t think our mama’s caught on to what was happening… no one ever told on you. I’m laughing now in thinking of you pouring out that Big Gulp!” Unfortunately I have no memory of this… but it was a nice shared memory with me.

Thank You to all who have followed me along in my “Conversations with Mom”… I’m thankful that I felt the need to write all mama’s stories… she truly was a storyteller and the best mom ever, always there for me… and I’m truly going to miss her!

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© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Stories: 2020… It’s Been a Year!

Goodbye to searching for toilet paper and hand sanitizer… Hello to hopefully a better and healthier New Year… and we can hang our masks up… for good!

When we rang in “2020” New Years Eve, no one was wearing a mask, or even worried about the then-called “Wuhan” or “China Virus.” Day by day, things began changing, and Never in my wildest dreams did I foresee where we would be today on the last day of 2020! I’m hoping for a better 2021… as it’s been a rough year. I lost my mom on Nov. 30th… and even though it wasn’t from Covid, it was a loss. She slowly suffered the past few years from dementia, and at age 90… it was time for her to be free from suffering… time to go home to her happier times.

The Wuhan Virus soon became known as the China Virus, Coronavirus, Covid-19… and now only known as Covid! I have a few other names for it, but…!

It’s been a long year of worrying about this virus… hearing words like pandemic, be safe, quarantine, vaccine, the “new normal”… then constantly being told to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, wear a mask, social distance, no hugging or shaking hands, don’t visit your grandchildren, stay home as much as possible, no holidays with your family, curbside pickups… which I have to say I like, takeout only, standing in lines to enter a store… limit of people inside a store, 6 became the magical no. of feet to stand away from everyone, and contactless pickup… can you add more?

In the earlier part of the year we were told to wipe off our packages and groceries… making me afraid to even lay the mail on the table… or open without letting it sit for a few days. That didn’t last long with me, I just can’t live my life like this… made to feel like cattle being led to slaughter. I’ve always been skeptical about this entire pandemic… as I’ve lived through them before, and didn’t blink an eye. We all lived through the West Nile, Sars, Measles, Ebola, Bird Flu, Hiv/Aids, Hong Kong Flu… then others before my time like Cholera and Smallpox.

Posters soon appeared on store doors telling you “you must wear a mask to enter“… then arrows appeared in the grocery aisles telling you which way to walk… and stars on the floor at checkout telling you where to stand… mandating you stand 6 feet apart! Hand sanitizer was everywhere you looked… except in the aisles to buy! People counters stood at the doors… counting you in and out… as their were mandates on how many people could be inside at one time. Even at the end of the year I am still finding lines outside small stores, with signs on their doors… “only 3-5 people allowed in the store at one time.” It’s not how any of us want to live!

Everyone soon began sewing masks… even me! You can read all about my mask experiences HERE.

No one needed to even walk down the cleaning and paper aisles in the grocery stores for the longest… as they were bare to the bone! It became a hunt to even find toilet paper! Since when in my lifetime was I ever excited to score a 4-pack of toilet paper! Even though I had a supply, I still wanted more… and on the day we turned the corner in Costco and found their 20-roll packages stocked sky high… it was exciting… since when have you ever been excited to find toilet paper! Against my husband’s wishes… I bought one package… and it was guarded by employees… as you were only allowed to purchase one. People had become hoarders and some even sold paper and cleaning supplies at price-gouging prices. While you can find it all on the shelf today, it’s never fully stocked… cleaning supplies are still not as plentiful as it once was. Just the other day, someone on Facebook announced how they had bought a can of Lysol at a certain local store… you know people raced there to buy… stocking up for the next pandemic!

Restaurants were made to close except for takeout… later reopening for limited dining with plexiglass everywhere… it was like eating in a bubble, which might have been better. Who cleans all that plexiglass… and do they? More important, who became rich from selling all that? If you’ve ever bought plexiglass, you know that it is way more expensive than glass!

As I seldom shopped “in person” during this past year… those arrows never worked well with me, as I often didn’t even look down to see them… always looking up to find the aisles I needed for a quick pick up. And later, even when I did realize they were there… it didn’t stop me from going in to get what I needed. My knees were often hurting… telling me to hurry up.

Beauty and barber shops closed… and for a long time! Men’s hair grew longer than normal… along with new beards… and grey hair soon showed up in everyones roots! My husband began cutting his own hair with the clippers we had… he’ll probably never go back to the barber shop again… especially as the last time he went, the barber did a terrible job… so why go and pay for a bad haircut! We had an extra set of clippers with tools so I packed them up to send to my son, as you couldn’t find them anywhere… the newest thing was how everyone was now cutting their own hair… clippers were like gold! I’d been cutting my hair for like forever… trimming my ends was always easy for me, as having long hair was easy to cut… so why pay! Some people love going to the salon… having their hair washed with manicures and pedicures, but I must be strange, as it’s never been for me!

When schools first began closing… leaving the kids in limbo… it really hit home. Working parents suddenly panicked… how do they go to work with no daycare, and what’s going to happen to their children… would they ever go back to school… how were they going to finish the school year… would they all repeat the same grade in the fall? No one had answers! Many parents even found themselves out of work… so that solved daycare, but then there was the other problem… no job!

Churches closed, no graduations anywhere, no summer camps, no dance recitals, unemployment skyrocketed unless you were an essential worker in the health field or a grocery store. The parents that were working, juggled work with no daycare, but many turned to the grandparents for help. My house soon came alive at 7 a.m. instead of our usual waking after 8:30. My morning coffee was now shared on the couch with two squirming girls fighting over which Netflix show to watch; they quickly scattered when I changed to the news.

By April, President Trump began 15 days of Stop the Spread… and we all hoped that if we could slow, and stop the spread… things would return to normal… but it didn’t seem to be that easy. We were soon hearing and seeing how the virus was spreading worldwide, with much emphasis on Italy at the moment. Everyday they talked of the deaths… rising and rising with no end in sight! Italy was hit hard and most everyone there was locked in with curfews. We saw videos of them on their balconies singing to the world… they seemed to take their lockdowns in stride!

I felt for those who working during all this chaos, the “essential workers”… having to wear a mask every day! My daughter and son were both such people… and the mom in me still worried about all they came in contact with… but also thankful they had jobs.

I don’t know if I could have managed the mask-wearing for hours… as I often became quickly frustrated when forced to wear one! I always wore a mask inside the stores, but usually not without having to take the walk of shame… back to the car to retrieve it. Even now I still forget… and still mumble about having to wear it. Will it every stop? Every store you walk into now has masks hanging for sale… but the cleaning aisles still seem to be half empty… the aisles never look full to me anymore. 

Summer came… parents scrambled for solutions and sitters… it was a long summer worrying about what would happen in the fall… would schools reopen… how would this affect our children… when would this end!

Many beaches closed, and when they did open, they wanted you to sunbathe 6 feet apart there too! Several local towns even closed their beaches to out-of-towners, so that left us with no place to park to enjoy watching the water. We no longer lived in my husband’s “beach” hometown… so without a parking pass, we were doomed to now only be able to enjoy the scenic beach from a drive-by. Luckily we discovered a small parking area just outside their town-line that had no signs on parking… yay! We could now park at almost the waters edge and enjoy coffee or a late pizza at the beach. It wasn’t long before others also discovered our little hide-away, as many times if we came too late in the morning, those “5” spaces were taken! Bah Humbug!

Parades were canceled, no birthday parties, except for the new norm of “drive-by” birthday parades… which meaned decorated cars with streaming balloons and horns honking as they sang Happy Birthday to the birthday child standing at the side of their yard. While our granddaughters were excited to see the many cars making noise as they rode by on their special day… you could see the look on their face afterward… is this all there is? My grandchildren were being cheated out of life’s joys by this virus! What will they remember of all this at the young ages of 6 and 8? I hope they remember nothing!

I haven’t seen my granddaughters in Florida during this entire year… and it’s becoming to seem like forever! The twins there are 7 and our oldest is 10… and like the rest of us, they are confined mostly at home. They didn’t return to school like my granddaughters in Ct… as my son decided to have them remote learn for the entire school year… and I’m told they have done very well… mama bear made sure of that! School year here has been on again, off again… first returning with only two days a week… later to four days with the middle of the week being a remote day from home. I have had them at our house occasionally on their remote day and I’ve seen a big change from when they first began from home… much improvement now with their attention span!

People stopped flying, airports were empty, NYC became a ghost town, broadway shows closed, no Radio City Christmas show, no Rockettes… kids even worried if Santa would come this year? We did have the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, but minus the spectators. Even though it wasn’t the normal parade of thousands of people lined up for blocks and blocks, they had many of the famous huge balloons, musical dancers, floats and marching bands… hopefully it will return next year. They filmed it ahead of time over a few days, and only on one block in front of Macy’s… making it seem kind of normal.

We ate our Thanksgiving meal alone this year… no family… just us and the couch. I’ve always enjoyed the Thanksgiving Parade, but I seem to have been the only one in my household who truly enjoyed watching, and as I was usually busy cooking, I often recorded it to watch later.

We traveled a few times during this pandemic year… I was a little scared, but I needed to check on my mom… so we went. On our April trip, I even brought wipes to clean the room… laughing, how that I now felt like Aunt Catherine… who never traveled without cleaning supplies in her suitcase; she cleaned the room immediately upon entering. I tended to slack off on our other trips… as by those times, I was just tired of living in a bubble. I’ve continued to wear my masks… but I need to live my life… and not be scared.

In traveling, I always felt like our car might be singled out at state borders… especially entering back into our home state. Some states had flashing signs on their highways telling of how you must quarantine in their state… made me afraid to even stop to eat! I had heard of some people pulled over at state lines inquiring on where were they headed, and why were they even there? I would have panicked… if we had been one of those people pulled over. In October, I had thought about taking a long weekend in Vermont, but after hearing of how they weren’t allowing anyone from my state to enter, … that ended that! you could visit for the day, but not spend the night… life was becoming more ridiculous every day!

I asked my granddaughter McKinley recently if she was happy to be back in school and no longer distance learning… “I’d rather be home on my laptop… I don’t like having to wear a mask all day.” It broke my heart to think of her having to endure the mask all day. School was a place she had once enjoyed, a place to laugh and play with her friends. Now my granddaughters go to school to only spend time in their classroom, no playground time, no lunchroom, no touching or hugging their friends. For the most part, they sit at their desks… touching nothing, or no one; on warmer days their teacher often took them to sit outside to eat lunch… that was a treat!

My granddaughters in Florida spent their entire school year “virtual” from home, as their parents decided it was best to keep them home, rather than the stop and go of in and out of school when it would shut down for various reasons. One granddaughter didn’t want to go back, one was missing her friends and one didn’t care one way or the other. But the homeschooling with mom seems to be going well as their grades are showing high marks. What will the girls remember one day from all this?

Christmas trees and lights popped up earlier before Thanksgiving this year… even farms sold out early, selling all their live trees for the first time. Everyone wanted to see lights sparkling in their homes, making them feel like there is still something normal. More outside lights went up… making you feel good inside!

All my Christmas shopping, was pretty much done online this year, mostly because I can’t tolerate wearing the mask for a long time in the store… and the knees don’t like to walk on those hard floors. I don’t think I’ll ever give up my online grocery shopping… I’m enjoying the ordering of groceries online and having them loaded in my car; now if someone could unload and put away, well that would be perfect! After working in a grocery store for over 36 years… grocery shopping has no attraction to me. I laugh when people tell me how they enjoy walking the aisles of a grocery store… are they in their right mind? I spend less by shopping online… no impulse shopping, and on the rare occasions I do venture inside, I find myself dawdling… and spending more money!

Even my yearly Christmas ornament wore a mask this year! Read about my knitted nurse dolls HERE.

New Year celebrations on TV was certainly different at the end of 2020… no crowds in Times Square this year. It was only open to health care and essential workers. I always had wanted to go, but after 911… I was afraid to go and be in that tight crowd. Even watching it yearly made me feel a little scared in knowing if something ever happened there… but the NYC police have done a great job in keeping it safe. Just be forewarned, to wear a “depend” if you really feel the need to go! Me, I think I’d rather watch the ball drop in my pj’s, on the couch… nice and warm. The one thing I yearly miss on New Years Eve is the phone call from my father. No matter where he was on New Years Eve, he always called to wish me a Happy New Year.

What confused me on this pandemic is how did this specific virus blow-up more than the past viruses… while I haven’t researched data on each one I mentioned, it did make me wonder why we didn’t change our lifestyles through the other pandemics. We never stopped work… our kids remained in school… and our holidays never changed. I did have family and friends who unfortunately contracted Covid… but thankfully with mild conditions… all recovered. The yearly flu seemed to have taken a backseat this past year… as I didn’t hear anyone talk about having the flu… and it did just make me think… and wonder! I pray all my readers have been safe this year… as it’s been a tough year for us all… in one way or another. No one was unaffected!

Wishing all a healthy and safe 2021!

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To read my 15 Days Stop the Spread: Life has Changed… click HERE.
© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Stories: What the Grandchildren Say… and more

In April I wrote a post entitled Zee Things the Grandchildren Say… and more. It was in my 2020: April A to Z writing challenge… it’s that what I came up with for the letter Z. How often do you think or say… “I’m going to remember that… well, you won’t… unless you write it down. I so wish I blogged when my children were small, as I’m sure they said things that I didn’t want to forget… but I did. As the grandchildren came, I often chuckle at some of the things they’ve said… or eavesdropped on their conversations and immediately now I jot that conversation down for safekeeping.

So Enjoy…

How did I forget how McKinley learned names of stores by associating their colors… the orange store was Daddy’s favorite store, Home Depot; the red store was Target, and the purple store was Mommy’s workplace, Stop & Shop. (I reminded her the other day and I could see the wheels turning… then… “Oh yea I remember that!“)

2016: While at a carnival in West Haven, McKinley said in walking to the rides… “ are we going to just look at the rides or actually ride them?”  I told Melissa and she said earlier that Grace had done something and McKinley said, “Seriously Grace, Seriously! Melissa said, “she gets all that from me, she seems to copy what I say.”

Dec. 13, 2017: I told Mama today about going over to Melissa’s and helping make cookies. Grace and I were unwrapping the Kisses, but Grace was biting off the tips on them until I caught her! Then she helped me put the Kisses on top of the warm peanut butter cookies. After smooshing one, I cut it in half and gave to Grace telling her to be quiet…. Melissa looked over and saw Grace chewing and asked, “what are you eating?” Grace looked at me and said, “Gigi gave me a cookie.” (Boy it’s hard to get the kids to keep a secret!)

When Gracie was 4, (2018) I made Kraft Mac and Cheese for lunch one day… she took a few bites, and told me… ‘this is horrible”, we only like the frozen one“; Such food connoisseurs she and her sister are!

April 9, 2020: I asked Grace today if she knew who the president was, and… “well, Barbie was a president!” Then I asked her if she’d like to be president… “no, (laughing), I’m only a kid!” I then asked, “well how old do you have to be to be president“… “Oh, about 100.” I then asked if she knew where the president lives… “he lives in the White House, it’s a big house.” I continued with, “do you know what the president does?” “Not really, but I’ll learn all about it when I go to college.” “So what do you want to be Grace?” “I want to be a yoga teacher.”

May 2020: Gracie was sitting in the living room chair crafting with glue and paper. I asked her “aren’t you supposed to be at a table using glue and paper, and not in my chair?” Miss Grace replied… “isn’t this Pop’s chair?” Me… “I think you’re cruising for a bruising from me today!” (She knew exactly what she said… and what I meant… I could tell from the look on her face… and off she went to the kitchen table)

Somehow as I cooked in the kitchen later, a fuse blew. As I realized the internet modem was off, and trying to get it back online, Gracie said, “our generator just turns the lights back on when we lose power!” Eye rolls by me!

May 18 2020: We watched an Indiana Jones movie with the girls today… and they actually liked it… catching details I missed… like when professor Jones was teaching class, the girl in the front row had the words “Love You” painted on her eyelids. Good catch McKinley! I didn’t even see it! At one point McKinley turned to me and asked, “Is Pop going to quiz us on the movie?” I smiled… “he might.”

I asked McKinley today if she was getting her hair trimmed before school… she said, “if I can’t go to the hair salon then daddy is going to cut it.” I’m assuming daddy told her that… but don’t young girls think their daddies can do everything!

McKinley was excited about her 3-day birthday present her parents gave her to Camp Odetah, and said ‘I’m going to take a bath before I go, so I don’t have to take one there… their bathrooms are gross and the water is cold.” I told her she could take a cat bath there in the cabin bathroom … she’s like “what’s a cat bath?”

May 20, 2020: The other day Grace noticed my small Nancy Drew mini books in my cabinet and asked “can I have one of those small Nancy Drew books?” “Why do you want one Grace?” “I want it for my Barbie”. Guess she probably thought Gigi mean… as my answer was No; one day she’ll understand why I said No! If she only knew… those small Nancy Drew books are from an American Doll collection.

June 22 2020: I can’t remember what I was doing, or saying, except that Miss Grace said to me… “Ok Nancy Drew”! It gave me a laugh to think how she associates me with her. Probably because I wouldn’t let her take my miniature Nancy Drew books in the bookcase the other day for Barbie. One day Miss Grace you can have them!

July 13 2020: I made popcorn for our afternoon movie of Mighty Joe Young… Gracie immediately said… “don’t burn it this time”… then she gigged! Last time I didn’t read directions and over guessed the minutes… and came in the kitchen to find smoke pouring out the microwave door … and a week later it’s still smelling like burnt popcorn!

What kids don’t say… while watching Mighty Joe Young with McKinley & Grace, the patrons of the club had gotten poor Joe drunk and as everyone was running out of the club, I asked “Is this how you’d exit in an emergency? Shouldn’t you exit in an orderly way?” Gracie says… “I’d push them all out of my way!” 😂

July 29, 2020: I asked McKinley today if she was looking forward to going back to school in the fall? “No, I don’t want to go back wearing a mask all day. My friends mom said if they say we have to wear a mask she’s not letting her daughter go… she’s afraid she’ll die in gym class.” McKinley is only 8 years old… thinking those thoughts of what could happen… it made me just stop in my tracks, and I didn’t even know how to answer her. Children shouldn’t have these worries and shouldn’t have to worry about what is going on… she’s afraid!

Aug 19, 2020: I asked the girls today if they’ve been swimming lately, and Gracie said, “I wanted to do a lap around at Aunt Ruthie’s pool the other day, but then I noticed the pool was too big… Aunt Ruth has an Olympic size swimming pool.

In riding by two graveyards today on the Ella Grasso Blvd… the girls were looking and Gracie said, “that’s a big graveyard“… then when we passed the second one… she said “it just keeps going on and on.” I told them it was an Irish cemetery and they even put the name of the town in Ireland from where they were from, so if you’re researching your family history it’s a big help. McKinley said, “well you can just go on Ancestry.com to search.” I asked, “how do you know that?” McKinley said, “I see it advertised on tv… with Covid now, we spend more time at home. We go out more now, but when it first started we stayed home all the time and went nowhere.

Gracie and McKinley went with me today to look for fabric as I’ve been sewing masks for them… and they found way more choices than I wanted to sew, but… Gracie then said, “Gigi, you’re very crafty… you can make anything!” My heart melted… “Thank you Miss Grace.

Aug. 29, 2020: I posted a Facebook meme of “when did you stop believing in Santa.” My daughter told me that McKinley (age 8) supposedly figured it out last year, but said she wouldn’t tell Grace, now 6, but Grace was somewhat suspicious last year. My mother told me that I figured out who Santa was after she left out tomato slices for him… only my mother loved to eat them… she should have left cookies!

Sept. 20, 2020: Melissa and the girls joined us at the beach today for coffee. Gracie headed out in her tank top and barefoot. She’s a barefoot girl… hardly ever cold. Eventually she untied her sweater and put it on as it was so windy; probably wouldn’t have if we hadn’t yelled to her. McKinley went out with her sweater on but still barefoot and yelling to us to come feel the warm sand. Then she proceeded to lay on the warm sand. It was super windy, but she quickly figured out how to tame her long hair blowing in her face… which is super annoying! She wiggled out of her denim skirt that was over her leggins, and pulled it over her head and snuggled it on her shoulders… solving her hair dilemma. Leave them to their own… and they’ll devise a solution. We were all laughing at her invention… you go girl! Where there’s a will… there’s a way!

Sept. 28, 2020: McKinley found a bag of balloon animals to blow up that Pop had sitting somewhere. I put YouTube on the tv set for her to watch and she soon began twisting them into shapes. Gracie had a hard time holding them to twist, so she said, “Sissy I’ll blow them up, and you twist them into shapes.” I sat there laughing as Gracie was putting all her might into stepping on Pop’s air pump to blow them up. When they left, McKinley asked if she could take the air pump home… of course Pop said yes.

Nov. 9, 2020: Grace brought to me one of my empty plastic bear “animal cookies” jar and asked if she could have. I hedged in saying yes as I use them for my crafts, but before I could say anything, she said… “well, you have two of them so you should give me one.” I laughed… and of course she left with it. I did tell her not to leave it laying around as her mother will throw it away!

Nov. 16, 2020: McKinley was sitting on the couch with me this morning and I looked over to see her cracking her toes. I told her that I crack my fingers all the time, but I can’t crack my toes… it hurts. “Well it only hurts the first time, then it’s ok.” LOL… that comes from a girl who can look at food like it’s going to attack her!

Nov. 24, 2020: The girls arrived this morning and as Pop held the door, he asked Miss Grace if she was cold as she was wearing a coat… “No, they made me wear it, I wasn’t cold.” McKinley yelled out… “daddy made her wear it.” Grace came and bounced on my bed and I said, “I heard you wore a coat this morning”… “yes, daddy told me to.” Then I asked, “do you listen more to daddy than mommy?” Grace smiled and said, “yes a little.”

As school has been off again – on again this year, I asked McKinley if she was happy to be back in school and not distance learning at home? “Well, I’m happy to see my friends, but I’d rather be home and on the computer, I don’t like having to wear a mask all day.” (That broke my heart… I hate that our children are having to endure this pandemic.”)

Nov. 26, 2020: The girls came over for a Thanksgiving breakfast and Melissa began telling us about the flying squirrel that Gina was fighting with at 5 a.m. in their bedroom. I then asked, “I wonder how far they can fly?” McKinley quickly answered, “90 meters.” She’s a sponge on learning information regarding animals! Melissa said the entire time Frank was trying to capture it, she kept spouting off info on flying squirrels. I’m surprised she wasn’t asking if she could keep it as a pet. Just so you know… Frank captured and released it outside… and it quickly scurried away.

Dec. 7, 2020: Melissa told me today that they were having movie family night and watching Home Alone. I told her we tried to watch it with the girls one day, but McKinley didn’t want to watch… she said it was too scary. Melissa said, “I guess she’s older now, as in the morning she’ll get up before all of us and go downstairs and I’ll find her on the couch playing video games. She tells me it’s the only time she can be alone!

Dec. 30, 2020: I’ve had this running story with the girls that I’m really a witch. Out of the blue today Gracie says, “you can’t be a real witch as they have warts and pointy noses and a broom.” “I have a broom Miss Grace.” Immediately, she came back with, “can I see it?” Me… “Oh no, a witch never shows off her broom.” What this child must think! Hope she doesn’t want to bring me to school for show and tell one day… I’ll be in trouble!

I asked McKinley today if she’d like to learn to ice skate. “I tried it once, but I’d rather have a pair of those skates that have four wheels.” Duh… did I feel old! I guess she thought I’d never seen them before. Then I told her, “I have a pair of those type skates.” Immediately she said… “can I wear them?” One day I’ll show her my skates with all the pom poms that her GiGi wore as a teenager. Wish I could skate just one more time… and not break anything!

And that’s all I have for 2020… see ya next year with more of what the grandchildren say… need to get to Florida to hear what my girls there are saying!

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© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Recipes and Memories: Poor Man Soup

Family Recipes and Memories

“Poor Man Soup

A recipe I always thought my mother invented until I discovered it online… although the recipe ingredients and veggies vary; it can be made pretty much to anyone’s taste. It’s pretty much the only soup I remember my mother ever cooking… although I suppose her chicken and dumplings would be her Southern version of chicken soup. I have never tackled that one yet, but she did write out pretty specific directions for me… just might have to try my hand at it soon.

My daughter used to call this “Old Man Soup” when she was small… later telling me that’s what she thought I called it. It’s also referred to as just plain hamburger soup. I assume it was devised out of the depression era and continued on.

As mama never had any hand written recipes in her kitchen, I have always only been told how she cooked her soup and veggies she used. She always said, use what you have on hand, or what you like. What was usually handy in our house was always fresh vegetables that came from either grandfather’s farm; mama never used canned veggies. When you have both grandfathers who are farmers… you are kept well supplied with vegetables in the summer… always fresh.

INGREDIENTS:
1 lb. ground hamburger (can use more or less) I use 80% fat
1/4 cup onions (chopped) sometimes I use and sometimes not.
garlic (optional)
1 can carrots (I like LeSueur brand) Save the juice
2 to 3 potatoes, small (chopped) use as much or as little as you like
1 can Butter Beans / Lima Beans (use all the juice with beans)
1 can condensed tomato soup (save can to add water)
salt & pepper – to your taste
water – I add water to the tomato soup can to get the goody out!

DIRECTIONS:
Brown hamburger meat and onions (opt) in a 5 quart cooking pot, drain off excess grease. Add 1 can of tomato soup. (save can to add water) Add garlic (if using) when meat and onions are almost done. Add 3 cans of water to start with as you’re going to need liquid to cook potatoes in. If you want to substitute real carrots, feel free to do so and add them along with the potatoes. I just happen to love the sweetness of the LeSueur brand so they are my choice. I add the entire can of carrots with the water, as also the butter beans; they’re juices help thicken slightly. If you feel you need more soup broth, add more water.

This is not a long cooking soup, after about 1 – 2 hours its done, but I enjoy simmering it on the stove. You’ll know when it’s ready… taste along.

I never have understood the difference between lima beans vs butter beans, but whenever I asked mama, she’d immediately say, “I don’t like lima beans”… no answer as to why, just that she didn’t like them and wasn’t going to eat them. I’ve used both small and large versions of the beans and they both have worked just fine. They tend to sink to the bottom of the soup, so if you’re a fan, dig to the bottom when filling your bowl… I do, while hubby skims more off the top, and that’s ok with me… more for me!

In making this soup today, I only had one can of lima beans… frankly I didn’t find any difference in taste from butter beans. If anyone can explain the difference between the two varieties… let me hear from you.

Add salt and pepper to your taste, but I never over salt my foods in the beginning as I find it cooks out, and often other ingredients have sodium in them… so go easy. Like I always told my children… you can always add, but you can’t take out!

When I first began cooking this, I used tomato paste to flavor the soup liquid, but for some reason I switched to tomato soup at some point and actually I like the taste much better. I think it sweetens the soup a bit… or it’s just me… but I only make it now with tomato soup.

This soup has never been a complete family favorite, but that never stopped me from cooking it… as it’s my favorite in the winter, especially a snow day! It’s a thumbs up for my daughter and myself… a thumbs down from my son… and my husband eats everything I cook with no complaints… he’s the “Mikey” in our family.

It also quickly became a favorite with my father-in-law… always enjoying it with a loaf of Italian bread… he loved anything that was dunkable. Just give him a loaf of Italian bread with a bowl of soup… and he was a happy man! I never saw him refuse only a few foods… with broccoli being one. In as much as I love broccoli, and make an awesome broccoli cheese casserole, I often begged him to try. He relented only once to try, but promptly told me that he’d only try it once… and held to his word. I think he mentioned later that broccoli was served all the time in the Army, and that’s why he didn’t want to eat it anymore. He liked to reference back to President H. W. Bush… as he didn’t like broccoli either and always mentioned how he disliked it!

My choice of bread to serve with this soup has always been a pan of Southern corn bread… and preferably cooked in a cast iron pan.

I don’t actually remember if my son ate the soup when he was younger, but he probably did as I’m sure I told him he had to eat his veggies! I discovered later that when I cooked liver and onions, he often fed the dog his liver when I turned my back… but feeding soup to the dog would have been a tough trick! When I told him I was making it on the day of our first Nor’easter of 2020… his answer was “yuck, but my daughter responded with “yum!” I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to persuade her two girls to eat it… maybe Grace, but not McKinley… she’s not easily persuaded in trying new foods! My son’s girls, Ana, Nina and Ella would definitely try it… they eat almost everything… what’s in there not to like?

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© 2020, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Stories: “2020” Thanksgiving for Two!

Like everything else this year… large family dinners have been frowned on, but even though it’s only the two of us… we still have to eat. I’m not as crazy for cooking anymore, but I still like to eat! After giving it more though… I told hubby that I really need a cook… I received no response!

Last year’s Thanksgiving was spent in Florida with my son, daughter-in-law and our three beautiful granddaughters. What’s best about being there for fall and winter holidays is… you’re able to eat outside! They have an enclosed back porch where most meals are enjoyed unless it’s sweltering hot, but Thanksgiving and Christmas is usually eaten outside. We enjoyed Thanksgiving there and even celebrated Christmas on Saturday before leaving. The granddaughters were treated to an early Christmas as they opened our presents while we were there.

Turkey dinner with my son, daughter-in-law and granddaughters in Florida (2019)

Anna patiently waiting at the table! Someone was hungry!!!

And finally…. we sit down to dinner on the enclosed Florida porch where you always eat Thanksgiving and even Christmas dinner!

Now this is the sign of a great dinner… and typical of a Thanksgiving meal! (one of my favorite photos of 2019)

This year I opted for a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey. Hubby always suggests the breast each year and I usually balk, saying “well, I can save the dark meat to freeze for pot pies.” The problem with that is, too many times I’ve never used it… later to only be thrown away. This year I caved in…. and as we had turned off our basement fridge, I didn’t want to be turning it back on anytime soon. Two people “shouldn’t” need two refrigerators, plus a separate freezer.

In preparation this year, I began cooking on Tuesday as my granddaughters were coming for Wednesday… and I have difficulty cooking with anyone in my kitchen; I tend to lose concentration and forget ingredients. Just ask my kids, and they’ll tell you how I always shooed them out of the kitchen! I feel bad now, as they don’t have those memories of baking with me… only of being shooed out of my kitchen!

Tuesday’s work consisted of making our favorite Broccoli Casserole with cheddar cheese and lots of crushed Ritz crackers on top. I used to layer Velveeta cheese on top of the broccoli, but lately I have tried using shredded cheddar as I always have it in the fridge… and the Velveeta is so pricey.

Next on my list was sweet potato souffle, and as I had more potatoes then needed, I decided last minute to make a sweet potato pie. I had to call my daughter to bring me pie crusts as the ones I’ve been shuffling all around in the freezer, didn’t smell like dough… guess I’ve been shuffling them around for a tad too long! And the old saying of “if in doubt, throw out” definitely applied to them. For the brown sugar topping, I substituted regular pecans for a bag of chopped cinnamon pecans that I bought in Perry last year… figuring they should be perfect!

I even sauteed my trio of celery, onions and mushrooms for my stuffing; after I fry the sausage on Thursday, I’ll add them into the stuffing mixture. I’m so looking forward to eating my stuffing this year… in eating out it’s just never the same when it’s not your own! I’m adding a new ingredient of cranberries in my stuffing this year… hope I remember. Last night I read that you should let them plump up in water before adding; I’m sure it’ll be tasty as we enjoy cranberry sauce on our plates.

My last veggie dish will be cooked on Thursday morning as it’s an easy peasy dish… my “Cooked to Death Green Beans“. I learned to cook them from my mother, but I’ve changed it up a bit from her way of using canned green beans. I like using the frozen Italian flat beans the best… and just recently I’ve learned that they are actually called Romano Beans. If I use canned beans, which I’m using this year, I always drain off the water they come in and rinse, then add to a pan with low-sodium chicken broth with a few slices of bacon cut in pieces, about half a cup of chopped onion, and lots of pepper. I never add salt because I’m simmering them in chicken broth, but I taste at the end to see what’s needed. If you’re wondering what the funny name of “Cooked to Death“… it’s because you simmer them to death on low, for the flavors to meld together and become very soft. It’s the only way I enjoy green beans other than a summer cold green bean and potato salad. This is a true Southern dish along with my sweet potato souffle… but many all over the country now make them! Thanks to the Food Network channel, many Southern dishes have gained popularity.

Two of my favorite pies… Sweet Potato and Chocolate Lemon…. I opted to buy the lemon as who has time to bake everything!

Our Thanksgiving for Two

    • Turkey Breast
    • Stuffing with cranberries
    • Sweet Potato Souffle
    • Broccoli Casserole
    • Cooked to Death Green Beans
    • Cranberry Sauce
    • Desserts:
    • Lemon Chocolate Pie
    • Sweet Potato Pie

I would like to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving… and no matter where you are, or who you’re eating with… family and friends are thinking of each other, even if we can’t all be together this year. Let’s all pray that 2021 will be a better year for us all!

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