Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Two brief years ago today, while staying with my oldest daughter, Amanda, she gently woke me at about the same time I awoke this morning.  Wrapped in a robe,  a towel on her hair, she quietly informed me--with no need to rush--that it was time to embark on a long anticipated journey...the arrival of her second daughter, Emma.

Rising to the occasion in a cloud of excitement and fear, I went through the motions that had been rehearsed in my mind a thousand times.  Washed and dressed, I  grabbed my pre-packed 'Coach's Bag' and tip-toed down the stairs so as not to disturb the 3-year-old cherub, Addy, unaware and dreaming in the next room.  No need to startle her at this early hour to tell her she would be a Big Sister before the day was through. 

A quick phone call to Pappaw Tim alerted him that Operation Baby Drop was underway.  He was assigned to arrive, stay with Addy and act as a surrogate for her normal daily routine so Baby Momma and I could leave for the hospital.
All went according to plan and the arrival of Emma Ann was a blessed event.  I loved her before ever meeting her face to face--but oh, what a face!  A slightly larger version of her older sister, without a doubt, this sweet baby girl would be entangled in my heartstrings always.

In two short years, this bright, ornery, little comedian has given our family such pleasure.  Every day spent with her is better than the one before.  Thank you again, God, for one of the most cherrished gifts to have ever received as we celebrate Emma's big day!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Today is my sister's 65th birthday.  Sandra Lynn (Zeigler) Dennis, born twelve years and two-and-a-half months before I joined the family. 

I decided I would make her a small cake resembling a potted violet.  The recipe I used yielded an additional dozen cupcakes, so I attempted to decorate those to look like an on-going garden stone path between grass with flowers.  The cake turned out fairly well--pretty much the way I wanted it to.  The violets were made from colored fondant, which I allowed to dry overnight.  They seemed quite crisp when I put them on the cake.  I am not a huge fan of fondant as it is not very flavorful, but it did seem to serve the purpose I had in mind for this endeavor.  Plated together, the cake and cupcakes looked quite colorful.  However, I've got to remember to make my frosting "grass" a lighter shade of green.  It always end up much too dark.  Lesson learned I guess.  After driving very slowly with my flashers on in an effort to keep the potted plant cake upright during transport, I arrived at her house this afternoon with all intact. 

We had a pleasant visit, talked briefly about the cake I'll be doing for her 'son' Nathan's graduation from high school on June 2nd.  She shared with me some cookbooks she was putting together for her daughter and daughter-in-law.  Filled with recipes of family and friends, they included pictures of some of those whose recipes were included--one of my sister, Jane, who is in North Carolina and one of my Mom.  Mom's recipe was for round steak prepared in her electric skillet with thick sliced potatoes and mushroom soup gravy.  Reading it, I was momentarily transformed to that old kitchen on Court Street.  That photo of her with her glasses hanging from the chain around her neck made me want to turn back the clock and be six years old again.  And Sandy would be 18!  Where DID all those years go?

Sandy was planning to meet her family for dinner at Red Lobster at 6:00 p.m.  I admit I was tempted to volunteer to accompany her (as I am a BIG fan of crab legs).  On second thought, I decided it would be rude so I said my goodbyes and headed for home.  I shall have to satisfy my seafood craving another time.  That and a slice of red velvet cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory, but that's a whole other matter entirely.

(And many more...)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Special Memories of Aunt Joanne

'Twas two days before Christmas, and I had a visitor stop by carrying a large black bag.  No, it wasn't Santa Claus.  It was my mother-in-law, Marlene, bringing me the most wonderful surprise.  Inside the black bag she held was another bag filled with cake and cookie decorating treasures that belonged to my husband's Aunt Joanne, together with a variety of baking pans in various shapes and sizes.  I could not believe my good fortune.

Aunt Jo was my father-in-law's younger sister.  She was also the most wonderful cake baker and decorator.  Back in May of 1979 (my then boyfriend, now husband) Tim and I had just made the decision to get married.  Our first purchase was the cake topper for our wedding cake.  We returned to the "ol' brick" home of his parents on Saturday night, where we knew we'd find them playing Canasta with Aunt Jo and Uncle Jim in the back room at the old oak table.  Walking in, I handed the cake topper in its brown bag to Aunt Jo and told her we had a little something for her to help us with in October.  She gave a gasp as she opened it, hugged me and whispered, "Welcome to the family!" in her sweet, soft voice.  I can still remember how special it made me feel, as if it were yesterday.

Knowing my interest in cake decorating, Aunt Jo told me about classes scheduled in the nearby village of West Liberty.  Signing up, I spent one night a week during the months of June, July and August learning the basics of cake decorating to cut costs by creating our cake for the wedding.  As our guest list grew larger than we had first anticipated, I realized this would be no small task.  Aunt Jo assured me that we could do it together and sketched out the design that we would need to serve such a large crowd.  As a bridal shower gift, she presented me with a large set of cake pans that would be needed to prepare our beautiful cake.  Elated, my excitement grew.

For three days before our big day, Aunt Joanne traveled the miles from her home in Catawba to my home in Urbana on East Court Street to create the three-tiered white and blue confection and four additional side cakes.  It was there, in my mother's tiny kitchen, that Aunt Jo patiently guided me, giving more instruction in cake decorating than I'd received in a summer of classes.  As an added bonus, she shared her recipe for no-fail buttercream icing, which I still use for the cakes I make today.

Over the years, I've made and decorated a variety of cakes--mostly for family and friends.  In the past year of my retirement, it's become my main hobby to create or closely duplicate cakes when asked to, including a few wedding cakes.  And as I decorate the cakes (at the same old oak table where Canasta was played, by the way), using many of the skills Aunt Jo taught me, I'm remembering our time spent together.

Aunt Joanne passed away a couple of years ago after a long battle with illness.  Uncle Jim still mourns his loss.  It could not have been an easy task for him to sort through and part with that collection of her sweet existence.  But I am so grateful to him for thinking of me and giving me that precious gift.   

Now in my own tiny kitchen, utilizing many of the tools of Aunt Jo's skilled hands, I hope to continue her tradition of creating decorated cakes, cookies and cupcakes.  As I'm working, I like to imagine seeing her sweet smile, nodding her head in approval.  Aunt Jo, you've given me some very special memories and they are always in my heart.

My first cake made using a few of the many tools from Aunt Jo's collection.

Monday, December 12, 2011


The most wonderful day of the most wonderful time of the year, and I'm so very excited! 
Just two more weeks 'til December 25th and the Moose have all been invited.

More fun than a teddy bear's picnic, much better than toys on parade.
My collection of moose have been turned loose, all have come out to play!

So many personalities, these moose, at first glance, almost too many to see.
When they arrive, the house comes alive.  It's time to trim the Chris-moose tree!!
That's where you'll find moose of artistic kind, moose who are whimsy in nature,
Speaking of which, three of pinecones and pitch, and a few realistic in stature.

Several came from the Great State of Maine, where Tim and I love to vacation.
Even more, I believe, gifts from friends I received with wonderous anticipation.

Like Debbie who got Marvelous Macey, in heels and hot pink feathered dress,

My mother-in-law gave Mad Mike, Mitch and Maw, tho' I don't appreciate his mess...

                        Roger, my bro' sent Melody Moe,
whose same song over and over he sings.

Karen turned loose Melis, the albino moose,


Sister Sandy brought Maynard, who swings.

All gave a cheer once the Blues Brothers got here,
Merv and Marv; they even brought their own game.

Basketball center, Mervus, whose arrival made me nervous, 'fraid he might have brought his whole team.

The Moose family of five, plus Bear, finally arrived,
all tired and thirsty from travel.
Dressed to the nines, sitting beneath the pines,
They sipped tea on a pathway of gravel.

Meriweather came, sat under the weather vane, and exclaimed, "This moose be the place."
Then Monroe sauntered in, eyed every moose around him, all with a grin on their face.

When in stomped Max, with a pack on his back,
filled with presents of which there were plenty.
Each gift wrapped and tied, a surpise hidden inside,
numbering more than one hundred and twenty.

Finally along came the quads--Mel, Millie, Milt & Maude, two sleepy polar bears and Maggie tagging with them.


Now with my halls decked and jolly, feeling somewhat melancoly,
'Cause once more, MERRY CHRIS-MOOSE begins!!!