In which this non-baker makes Christmas cookies

Our basement remodel is nearly finished and we are in the process of putting everything back to where it belongs. I’m being a grown-up and donating or throwing away things I don’t use or don’t need. It’s a tough process because maybe, someday, I might use the three burner food warmer or the old electric frying pan.

One of the items I thought about donating was a bread maker that was covered in all kinds of disgusting dust including scented cat litter dust, dryer vent dust and construction work dust. After dusting it off (and vacuuming it really well) I made the first loaf of bread it has manufactured in probably a decade. It was pretty good and didn’t taste at all like Fresh Step® with Febreze Multi-Cat Litter. I’m keeping the bread maker.

Another item I considered tossing was a cookie press kit that I bought when the kids were young because my mother (despite being a hoarder ) gave away the cookie press kit from my childhood. I have fond memories of making cookies with my mom using her cookie press kit like the one below.

vintage cookie press with discs

Vintage cookie press

I mostly remember the cookies made with the Christmas tree disk. We’d dye the dough green before putting the dough in the press chamber. They always were brown around the edges and a not-very-pinetree-green color on top.

Dean looked at the discs in my kit and marveled that they could become cookie shapes. I decided to make cookies to see if I wanted to keep the kit, so set to work softening butter and preheating the oven after finding a recipe online.

Before I continue — I am not a baker. I can bake, but I don’t make a habit of it. I think I like the idea of being a baker, but it always seems a tad too much trouble. Anyway, with the recipe in front of me and the oven preheated, I proceeded to make the dough and figure out the cookie press.

It took me a while to understand where the chamber went, how to open it, how to fill it and how to get the ratcheting thing to work, but I did eventually. I chose a disc that I thought would make a star shaped cookie.

Cookie press loaded to make star shaped cookies

Cookie press loaded to make star shaped cookies

I was right. Star shaped cookies were created from the disc.

Cookie stars with sprinkles

Cookie stars with sprinkles

After that I tried the Christmas tree, then something with a long oval hole and holes all around it which turned out to be a flower. Maybe a poinsettia?

Here are some cookies baking.

cookies baking

Cookies baking

Finally, the finished product. They were tasty. I’m keeping the cookie press. I may make cookies again in 2026.

delicious cookies

Delicious cookies

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Camping Meal Memories

Example deal from woot.com

Example deal from woot.com

I check woot.com every day and a lot of time they have deals for dehydrated meals — the kind you might take camping or have in your pantry to prepare for a disaster. My brain always says “yuck” but something else in me says “yum.” A couple of years ago, visiting the family lake house in Wisconsin, I saw a container of dehydrated beef stroganoff and had a strong desire to make it, but it was there for my nephew to make in case of an emergency, not for me to make because I wondered what it tasted like. Besides, I told myself, it probably was disgusting.

Jack and "Cinder"

The cook, not cooking

Why, then, does part of me that want to eat dehydrated food? Not because I am a wilderness camper. Not because I like disgusting things, but because I have a memory of loving the food that Jack Burgoyne made for us in 1976 when I accompanied his family on a “caravan holiday” in Scotland. Normally his wife, Pat, cooked but when on vacation — at least that one– Jack made dinners and they were, as far as I recall, always from a freeze-dried packet. And, to me, they were delicious.

So that’s why I always stop and ponder buying a bucket of freeze dried lasagne or curry or Jamaican jerk rice with chicken from woot.com or consider making freeze dried beef stroganoff on trips to the lake house — memories of a long-ago trip to Loch Sween and a week in a mobile home on the grounds of an ancient castle and meals made by a kind and good and funny and wonderful man who left this world too soon.

Categories: Food, Memories | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Old Corduroy Jacket

At some time in my distant past I inherited a light brown corduroy jacket from my dad. I remember him wearing it, but don’t know why I ended up with it. I may have been a teenager. I may have worn it when I first got it, but I never threw it away.

Dad wearing the coat

Dad, Kevin and me in Chetek.

A few years ago I found the jacket in a box of stuff in our attic kneewall. I pulled it out to see if Clare wanted it. She didn’t. It’s been sitting around for a number of years, sometimes in the closet, sometimes in a box, occasionally on the coat rack in my bedroom.

A few months ago I debated throwing it away, so I tried it on. It felt like a hug from my dad. No way was I getting rid of that. It is very worn, has rust stains and is fraying at one wrist. But it is soft and warm. These days it hangs on the back of my work chair and when I get chilly in my office attic I sometimes put the jacket on. For the first few seconds I can feel my father’s presence.

The coat now

The coat

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Pop Quiz about Reagan

Have I mentioned that Mom kept everything? Well, she did. I came across this today while attempting to organize my attic office. After Tuesday’s election, I’d not mind Reagan as president again.

Pop Quiz about photo of Reagan

I don’t know why Mom had this and I don’t know what the occasion was but I probably sent it in a letter (remember letters?) to my dad who was a Republican and voted for Reagan.

If you have trouble seeing the image, here’s a text alternative: Photo of Ronald Reagan pointing at his head with his two index fingers. Text: “What is this man saying?” 1. Only my hairdresser knows for sure 2. You reporters may think there is something up here but you are dead wrong. 3. Guess what I am! … A zit! 4. I leave all my most important decisions to my two little Martian friends Bernie and Ernie. Can you see them? 5. If you come any closer, I’ll shoot. 6. Other___________.

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Not okay x 4

First time:

When I was in high school or middle school I was walking on a path across a park with my friend, Carol. It was a beautiful day and we were talking about whatever teenaged girls talk about. A group of prepubescent boys approached us and as they passed us one reached out his hand and grabbed my crotch. He and his friends laughed. I remember feeling ashamed, embarrassed and angry at the same time. Carol and I didn’t speak of it then nor any time after that.

Second time:

I rarely took our dog for walks, but one night when I was about 16 decided to take Franz for a walk around the block after dark. It was a chilly night and I wore my red winter coat. I was approaching my house and as I did a person in a green snorkel parka (the kind with an orange lining) passed me near a tree that grew close to the sidewalk. I may have nodded hello to the person, I may have not but just after the person passed me he grabbed me, said “Hi there, how are you?” while feeling my breasts through my coat. I was stunned, embarrassed, and again ashamed.

Third time:

It was Christmas eve. I wore a red turtleneck sweater and long skirt. I was 16. We were at my mother’s youngest brother’s house. At some point I went upstairs to use the bathroom and my mother’s oldest sister’s husband walked out of the bedroom where the coats were. I might have said “hi”. He grabbed my arm and pulled me into the doorway and leaned against me. I pulled away and ran downstairs. I felt it was my fault because my sweater was too tight and I went upstairs by myself.

Fourth time:

I was about 17. Our neighbor was a guitarist in a local band that played country and western music. My brother and I wanted to learn how to play the guitar so we took lessons from the neighbor. The lessons were usually done in the basement — and my brother and I were usually at the lessons together. One time, however, the lesson took place in his bedroom because the basement was being used for something else. Now he was married to a really sweet woman. I babysat their kids, so it didn’t seem that weird and while my brother didn’t attend this lesson, there was another student in the room with us, so I was ready to learn more on the guitar. At some point the other student left the room to wait in the living room. The neighbor asked if I liked the student — a guy about my age. I said I didn’t know him enough to know if I liked  him and besides, I was not that into boys or dating. The neighbor then walked over to me and kissed me on the lips. I was stunned. He must have known I was upset because he left the room. I picked up my guitar and walked out of the bedroom. The other student looked up but I just kept going and walked out the front door. I never went back for guitar lessons. I never talked to that neighbor again.

I told no one about these incidents at the time. When I did, later, mention them to people who were supposed to be outraged all I got were pats on the back and phrases like “he was drunk”, “he makes passes at everyone”,”don’t tell your dad”. The walking dog incident got me scolded for going outside by myself after dark. I learned that these are the things guys do. No big deal.

Each of these incidents still make me angry. The fact that both adults in these incidents, the neighbor and uncle, died tragic deaths does not lessen my anger.

It’s NOT okay.

 

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Good-bye to Burrens and hello to Pat’s Appliance Service

When my dad was about 50 he made a considerable change of employment. He struck out on his own and started “Pat’s Appliance Service.” I was in college, I think, and more than a little worried about his decision. That didn’t stop me from making him a card out of construction paper and markers. (did I mention I was in COLLEGE?)

He started out, after the Navy, first as an Electrolux salesman, then he worked as a speedometer repairman with a company in Elgin called K & D. After that he worked at an appliance repair place called Reber’s Appliance. When they closed down he worked for an Appliance store in downtown Elgin where he was sent to school to learn how to fix Frigidaire refrigerators. Finally he shifted gears a bit and worked at Burren’s Transfer in Elgin fixing the refrigeration units on trailer tractors.  This last job was pretty bad — he worked for a man called Walter Schock who was an angry foul-mouthed man. Dad would come home from work and say things I’d never heard him say. The “f-word” flew out of his mouth often and easily. I think he only worked there a year — enough time for us to take advantage of the Teamster’ insurance plan.

Here’s the card I made him to mark this momentous event.

Good-bye to "Uncle Walter" and *drawing of someone cursing next to a truck.

Good-bye to “Uncle Walter” and *drawing of someone cursing (*!!?*x) at someone else next to a truck*.

Hello Pat's Appliance Service and *drawing of someone saying only sweet nice things -- flowers, happy faces, butterflies, peace sign, music*

Hello Pat’s Appliance Service and *drawing of someone saying only sweet nice things — flowers, happy faces, butterflies, peace sign, music, dove with olive leaves* Love, Your family — we’re proud of you!!!.

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Father’s day card to dad

My mom saved everything. I look like a hoarder now because my office is wall-to-wall boxes full of stuff she saved. Stuff that I need to toss. Here’s a card I sent my dad about 6 weeks before he became a grandfather.

The card’s printed text was “With All My Love On Father’s Day”. I crossed out the “On” and wrote, “more than a week after”.

6-19-91

Dear Dad,

This is the last Father’s Day in which you will be just a dad. Next year you will be a grandfather. (Your grandchild just kicked me, as if to say, “I consider him a grandfather already!”).

We got our camcorder today — so watch your mail for home movies of Dean and his fat wife!

School is over — Yay! We are going up to see Neal and Marie on Friday. Dean’s sister, Diane, and her family are visiting us next month.

See you in about 8 weeks!

Love Dona (Dean sends his love too!)

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My brief dalliance with the art of wood burning

My cousin gave me her old wood burning set when I was a kid — at least I think it came from her. Anyway, I made a couple of things. And of course my mother kept them. Judge for yourself, should I have kept it up? Did I show promise?

 

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Eulogy for Mom

I lost what I wrote about my dad, at least I think I did. I don’t want to lose what I wrote for Mom. Here it is…

First of all, I cannot believe how difficult this has been to write (even before I sprained my wrists). My dad’s eulogy was written in fifteen minutes or so, but I’ve been trying to write this for over a week. I’m trying to think of why, and the only thing I can think is that while Dad told stories, Mom listened to others. For her it was all about other people.

So as I prepared to write this I thought about Mom’s qualities. I listened to what other people remembered about her, what people said on Facebook and in the obituary guest book and narrowed it down to a few special qualities Mom possessed: She was almost always upbeat, she immediately became friendly with almost everyone she met, she was thoughtful — nearly to a fault, and she had the best laugh.

Not counting my teenage years, my memories of Mom are mostly of her being really happy. She always had things going on with friends (coffee klatches when she was a young mother, projects such as painting fire hydrants to resemble American patriots during the bicentennial, raising money for a young girl named Angie who needed medical aid, and finally burgers or coffee with her church or grade school friends). She loved spending time with her family and would spend a lot of time planning for our visits after we’d left the nest. Her grandchildren (and great grandson) delighted her.

Mom talked to everyone. People in line at Jewel, people in elevators, people at museums, people on the Washington DC Metro. She and her sister, Ginny, would strike up friendships with strangers wherever they were often to my embarrassment.

Mom was incredibly thoughtful. If she knew you collected this or liked that she’d always be on the lookout for it for you. She used her artistic talent to make cards or Decoupage collage posters for others, some of which are on display around the room. After her Decoupage poster period, she created stained glass for family and friends, after that came quilts, then folk art painting. Earlier tonight someone gave me drawings Mom did of her young daughter and house.

My mom’s laughter is what I will miss the most. She laughed easily (although it took a while if she didn’t get a joke). Often the laughter was directed at herself if she did something she considered silly. Sometimes, often, she’d get an entire roomful of people laughing, stop for a breath of air, and then start laughing all over again.

Many of these qualities were present in her illness and after she went on hospice care. While she was not as upbeat as she’d been before, she did find things to be happy about, the rainbows that moved around the room, her “baby”, visits from friends and family (she especially loved when her great grandson, Preston would visit). She’d often thank someone who helped her (for instance getting from her bed to her chair), even after showing displeasure while being helped. She had a lot of visits from strangers these last few months, and seemed to enjoy many of them. Most importantly, she even managed to find things to laugh about.

Nearly 6 years ago when my dad died, I shared my vision of Heaven with you. The vision began with my beloved Uncle Don sitting at a café with John Kennedy. As more people from my life passed away they joined Uncle Don and President Kennedy at the table, the table grew to accommodate everyone. A few days ago Mom joined that table. I believe she’s there drinking Malibu and Diet Coke with Dad, her parents, her brothers and sisters, and all of her friends and family who preceded her to the café.

Finally, I would like to thank Richard Peabody for taking such loving care of Mom over the past few years. I don’t know what we would have done without you. I also am eternally grateful to Kevin and Connie for welcoming Mom into their home and taking care of her for the past several months. I don’t think I could have done what you did.

Categories: Death | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Pastor Keith does it again

Nearly 6 years ago I wrote a post about how Pastor Keith helped us through our father’s death and I shared the amazing sermon he gave at my father’s funeral. I’m here now to let you know that he did it again, this time at my mother’s memorial service. We were not entirely sure this would be possible because Pastor Keith moved from my mother’s church to a different church, but since Mom was so fond of Pastor Keith and she’d never met the interim pastor at her church until she was on hospice care, Kevin and I (mostly Kevin) made sure Pastor Keith was able to be involved.

A few days before the memorial service Pastor Keith called to get some ideas for the sermon. We talked about mom’s qualities, about her illness, about her friends, about Kevin’s upcoming wedding. I also shared with Pastor Keith the dream I had the night my mother died.

Without further comment, here’s his sermon:

Funeral Sermon for Patricia Ann Patrick (February 16, 1936–August 26, 2016)
Texts: John 14:1–4 and Romans 8:18–21
Preached: September 9, 2016 at Moss-Norris Funeral Home, St. Charles, Illinois

Grace and peace to you from God our Father, in whose house are many, many rooms, and from Christ Jesus, who has gone to prepare a place for us. AMEN

I’m grateful to Pat Patrick’s family, and to Pr. Michael Rothaar, for inviting me to participate in this service for Pat Patrick this evening. I was Pat’s pastor for five years, and she holds a special place in my heart. Pat was the only parishioner I’ve had, and I suspect will be the only parishioner I ever will have, who invariably as she was leaving worship on a Sunday morning would bow her head in front of me as she was leaving the service and… would kiss my ring. I don’t know for sure how that started, but she did it week in and week out. Someone a couple of years ago noticed her doing this, and privately afterwards said, “Pastor, do you think that’s a sign of the Alzheimer’s?” And I had to laugh and say, “No, no, not at all, she was doing that long before that became an issue! That’s just Pat.” And even after her mind became clouded, she never failed to kiss my ring, and then would smile sweetly and somewhat slyly at me. There was a delightful, childlike quality about her, an almost pixie-like quality, that enabled her to look at the world with wonder, and to laugh that infectious laugh, and to get away with some slightly goofy behaviors that only she could get away with. You can see that delight in the photos of her as a young woman—still a girl, really—as she looks up adoringly at Elvin as he embraces her. Even when she went through trying times across the years, through difficulties and challenges and losses, she still kept that air of eagerness, that spirit of amazed wonderment.

Earlier this week, Pat’s daughter Dona shared with me an experience she had the night of Pat’s death that I think in some way captures that quality. Dona had finally gone to bed that night, sleeping near Pat’s bed, knowing that the end of this life was not far off. As she slept, Dona began to dream. And in her dream, she saw Pat get up out of bed, all dressed in white. There were windows all around. It wasn’t Kevin’s house, but some other place. And in the dream, Pat kept heading toward the windows, drawn like a moth to a flame. She would get up close to a window, and would stand with her hands behind her back like a child who has been told not to touch something very precious, standing up on her tiptoes, straining delightedly, expectantly to see what there was on the other side of the glass, as though there were something of great beauty and fascination to be seen that she couldn’t quite make out. She went from window to window, trying to get a clearer view. Others in the dream kept coming and trying to tug Pat back to her bed, but she couldn’t be held back…she kept going back to the window to stand on tiptoes. Finally, someone took hold of her and pushed her into Dona’s arms, but not even that could keep her from the irresistible attraction of the sight she was straining to see. And suddenly, she broke free from Dona’s grasp, and instantly was transformed into sparkles of light. And at that moment, Dona awoke, and Kevin told her that their mom was gone.

When I heard that account, I was immediately reminded of some verses of scripture, actually verses that come just before the very same passage that Pr. Rothaar read a few moments ago from the Letter to the Romans. This letter was written by the Apostle Paul to people who were going through profoundly difficult struggles in their lives, people who were being persecuted and even killed, people who needed to hear a word of hope and encouragement, people who were unsure about what might lie in store for them. And in the verses that we heard, there is that stirring affirmation that not even death itself, not even life itself, can hold us back from the love that God shows to us in Christ Jesus. Those are amazing words to hear. We can have confidence in them. But now I want you to hear what Paul had to say just before those words. These verses come from another translation that I think captures something very important, and it’s why what Dona had to say caught my attention. Listen to them:

18-21 In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the children of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God! (Romans 8:18–21, J.B. Phillips Version)

“The whole creation is on tiptoe…” Most translations give a very dry, “The creation waits with eager longing,” but the original Greek word there is actually very picturesque, describing the whole head being stretched forward, trying to see something wonderful that is about to come. And that is what I pictured when I heard Dona describe her mother in that dream, darting from window to window, standing on tiptoe, hands behind her back, craning to peek into those rooms Christ has prepared to see the wonderful sight of the future God has planned for her and for us. As the children of God, we need have no fear of death, because we have the incredible assurance that death is not the end, that there is resurrection life that will be even more wonderful than anything we’ve experienced so far, when “the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!” We can approach even our own mortality with expectancy and hope.

Now I can’t tell you exactly what lies just the other side of the glass. Scripture says that right now we see only in a darkened, obscure way, only catching a pale reflection of the glory that will be. But Jesus often gives us word pictures of what God’s fully realized reign will look like, as did the prophets before him, and one of my favorite images is of a wedding banquet, a great feast where there is joy and laughter, where there is plenty for all, where the wine flows freely and the food is abundant, where all those who have struggled, all those who have experienced sorrow and crying, all those who have suffered in body or mind, will be brought in as welcome guests to enjoy the fullness that God has intended for each of us from the very beginning of creation, brought to sit at the banqueting table in their rightful places as beloved children and heirs of God.

I couldn’t help thinking of that picture on this evening, knowing that tomorrow Kevin and Connie, along with some of the same folks gathered in this room tonight to mourn, will be feasting and dancing as they celebrate their marriage to one another at their own wedding banquet. Yes, it’s a contrast, but I think it’s a beautiful expression of a very deep truth: Even in our profoundest sorrow, we can stand on tiptoe, eagerly awaiting joy. And as I picture Pat standing at the window, up on her tiptoes, I think maybe what she was glimpsing was that great marriage feast that will have no end, where she will join with all those claimed by God as God’s own beloved children, completely restored in body, completely restored in mind, sorrows forgotten, tears dried, and infectious laughter ringing out in wondering delight at the magnificent gift of life and freedom that is hers as a daughter of God claimed by Christ Jesus in baptism. And I picture her bowing her head and kissing in gratitude the hand of the one who has invited her to the feast, then looking up and smiling that sweet smile. And that, sisters and brothers, is very, very Good News. Thanks be to God. AMEN

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