Friday, December 14, 2012

Lura, Part 2: Christmas

Do you have holiday memories?

Of course you do. It might have been around 8 crazy nights or Christmas carols, but the memories are there. Some are joyful, some are painful. But memories boil up when you least expect them and, when some of your memories are not so good, you have an opportunity each season to make new memories. Yay.

Lura (my grandmother) loved Christmas. Honestly, I don't know much about her holidays as a child, but I do know fresh fruit was a special treat in her stockin...oh, wait, maybe I read that in a Dickens novel. EIther way, Christmas was very special at my grandmother's house.

Nostalgic ornaments...lined the Christmas tree, multicolored lights, children's homemade ornaments from decades ago, glass balls with picturesque winter wonderland scenes, tinsel all over.

Glass jars of Hershey's kisses in the formal living room...that we'd always go around and sneak.

Christmas Eve services and other celebrations at church.

Breakfast pizza or casserole on Christmas morning. We all wore red and/or green. She wore the cutest matching Christmas sweats each year. With matching earrings. And socks. And necklace. You get the picture.

Food all day...turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole (never "yams"), mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing (not "stuffing"), sometimes oyster stuffing, carrot souffle, green bean casserole, corn casserole, gallons of iced tea. And pies...pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, with a heaping scoop of Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream on the side. This is the stuff homes are made of.

Presents around the tree. Cameras and happiness. Unwrapped gifts for the "kids," even when we were 22. Santa surely is real. Smiles, laughs and lots of hugs and "thank yous" around the room. Another sunny Christmas day in front of a large bay window of a white brick house in Texas.

Oh, and I mustn't forget the trash...the edible trash...but for another day...

Hold each other tight and remember the special memories. Be sure and make room in your heart for the new memories, too.  :)


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lura, Part 1: Dresses

I've talked about her a lot, especially here on this blog.

You see, I can't go even a day without little things here and there reminding me of her. She was my grandmother, one of my very best friends. Her name was Lura.

She is very much alive in my heart (and others' hearts) and in memories, but she is no longer here on this Earth with us. She and I have a scheduled 'tea' when we're in Heaven together. We will have iced tea and her amazing lemon chess bars around her kitchen table.

Lura (or "Mama" as we called her) was a sister to *SEVEN* brothers. Her father (a real live mailman who rode a horse around to deliver the mail) passed away when she was only 7, so her savvy & resourceful mother had to figure life out from there. She ended up being raised in the Masonic Home for girls in Meridian, Mississippi with visits from her mom whenever she could afford it.

Mama was, understandably, devastated to be torn from her close-knit family and her beloved seven brothers. She was in the middle in the order of their ages, so she felt especially lonely when the boys went to the Masonic Home for boys (hours away) and she went to the girls home by herself. The year was 1927, & the recession was soon upon the U.S.; little did she know that growing up in the Masonic Home was a huge blessing in the midst of financial ruin around the country. She remembered times when Masons (members of the male service organizations that funded the Home) often gave to the Masonic home in their community, remembering the orphans to the point that their own children went without any 'extras.' Families like these sacrificed for families like mine, the social orphans of the Masonic Homes.

The headmaster and his wife soon saw something in Mama that they did not see in the others girls. She was a caretaker, a compassionate leader; therefore, she was assigned to be a houseleader at the young age of 8. She took care of 20-something younger girls, including bathing them, washing and ironing their dresses, getting them ready for school each day and even teaching them manners and life skills. I remember one Masonic home reunion where I met a lady in her 70s telling me that my grandmother taught her all she knew back then. She had so much gratitude for Mama's care. They were only 5 or 6 years apart, but Mama had love and wisdom beyond her years to embark upon 'her little girls.' Can you imagine that? Mama was a little girl who was grieving the separation and loss of her family and home, yet she mustered up the love and maternal instincts that those little girls needed. Through her time at the home, she helped raise dozens and dozens of little girls; she would come back from college to visit them and keep the relationships with the girls going.

Speaking of girls, one of the few moments that Mama had 'social time' with the Masonic home girls her own age was on the school bus. Each girls was given one dress ONLY, and it was handmade by the headmaster's wife. The girls had their own bus to get to school and would tell the bus driver to turn his mirror so the girls could switch dresses on their way to school. One girl would keep guard while the others would scurry into a different dress. Then, on the bus drive back to the Home, the girls would switch back so they wouldn't get in trouble with the headmaster's wife. I suppose fashion was important to them, too.

Funny, even when she was well enough to voice her opinions, she liked it when I wore a dress. She was a classy lady. My mom taught herself to sew at a very young age and, EVERY SINGLE MOTHER'S DAY, she would make my grandmother a dress or suit. Amazing. And I know they looked incredible on her. Nothing wrong with a dress every now and then, right?

Happy eating! Laurel

Gingerbread Cookies: crunchy or soft & chewy

Matt and I had a lot of fun making gingerbread cookies last weekend.

They were

  • Portland-themed
  • fun and messy
  • really crunchy
Here is a pic:

So the cookies were fun, but they were sorta too crunchy to I made chewy ones. I totally used a lady's recipe, and it was a good one. Thanks, Michelle.

Soft & Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
Adapted from Michelle

Step One: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine these 7 ingredients in a large bowl. (Use a whisk or large spoon and stir for about a minute.)
   * 3 cups AP flour
   * 4 teaspoons ground ginger
   * 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
   * 1 teaspoon ground cloves
   * 1 teaspoon baking soda
   * 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
   * 1/4 teaspoon salt

Step Two: In a second (smaller) bowl, combine these three ingredients.
   * 3/4 cup margarine, softened but not melted
   * 1/2 cup  brown sugar (not packed)
   * 1/2 cup white sugar

Step Three: Pour the smaller bowl of wet ingredients into the large bowl of dry ingredients. Stir for a little bit. Then add these 3 ingredients and stir until the dough becomes moistened and thick.
   * 1 egg
   * 1 tablespoon apple cider (OR orange juice OR apple juice)
   * 3/4 cup molasses (use light, full flavor or robust--whichever type you like!)

Step Four: Roll the dough into balls, about 2 TB of dough in each. Space them out onto a greased baking sheet.

Step Five: Using the bottom of a glass (I used a 12 ounce beer glass), wet the flat bottom side and dip it into a saucer or shallow dish of white sugar. With each cookie, DIP into sugar and PRESS down onto the cookie. (DIP and PRESS, smooshing the cookie down to 1/4-inch thick. (NOTE: For a festive look, use red or green sugars.))

Step Six: Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are not shiny looking on top. Let cool on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Eat! Chew! Yum!

Happy eating!