Sunday, May 28, 2006


And that's the end of my Memorial Day 2006 roadtrip down memory lane. Until next year - stay safe!

Kennebec Cemetery, May 2006

The last stop in my Memorial Day road trip is Kennebec Cemetery. It is a rather plain, mostly unused cemetery serving Kennebec Township. This is Castana's cemetery where my mother and her brother grew up. I never met my Uncle "Bud" (Alvin was his real name) because he was killed in WWII on D-Day. There is a marble monument at the entrance that has the names of Castana's native sons who died in WWII listed on it. It's a short list, but Alvin Moss is on it.

I have no family buried here either. My reason for stopping is the four lonely graves cleaaaaar down the hill there. The ones with nothing on them. Decorations, I mean. The person's name, date of birth and date of death are listed only. These are the people who died in our nursing home with no family to bury them so mom did. She bought the plots at Kennebec, the coffins they lie in and the headstones that mark their final resting place. I imagine the State gave her a couple hundred bucks to pay towards the funerals and Russ Pearson might even have given her a break on the coffins, but mom had the heart to give them a "proper" burial. I remember each and every one. So, I stop and pay my respects.

Belvidere Cemetery, May 2006

Bettina says that in Germany (her homeland) the graves themselves are planted with flowers. She says its like a park with trees and shrubs and flowers - but no grass. Kind of like this I imagine. This was taken at Belvidere Cemetery near Turin, where I grew up. Apparently the custodian is (or was) more lax in allowing families to plant near or on the graves. Nowadays they don't like you to plant flowers because it is harder for the custodian to mow. In my family plot there are beautiful peonies planted by the grave stones. Unfortunately, they were not blooming when I went to decorate yesterday. (Maybe a road trip is in order later so that I can photograph them?)

But, isn't this beautiful? I love seeing the flowers in bloom at the cemeteries. Belvidere is a pretty little cemetery on the top of (another) hill. Even though I don't have anyone buried there, I still like to drive through it and look at the decorations. Since Turin is in Belvidere Township I know many of the names etched on the grave stones. Unfortunately, I can picture the face with many of those names.

Memorial Day, 2006

Jordan Cemetery, Memorial Day 2006

I think Memorial Day is my favorite holiday. At least it was when I was young. Memorial Day was always like a mini family reunion. It was when aunts and uncles and cousins that you rarely got to see came over from Nebraska to decorate the graves of their families. We spent the whole day at Jordan Cemetery. We children playing hide and seek amongst the tombstones or in the hills; the men visiting or playing horseshoes; the women sitting in the adjoining church gossiping and catching up with family news. The Church's Ladies Aid Society would fix coffee and lemonade and serve pies and sweets in the basement where it was dark and cool.
Now the church is gone - torn down many years ago when the congregation dwindled along with the population. The ones who came to decorate and visit are lying here or in a cemetery elsewhere. Just us children remain to decorate and remember - and there not many of us left either. Busy lives full of families, jobs and obligations keep them from making the journey "home" to Jordan to remember. To remember the days full of family and food and laughter. But I remember.... I'll always remember.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What's Blooming, 5/24/06

This is a Dwarf Korean Lilac bush that is about 6 years old. It is just now blooming, after the regular lilacs have spent their blooms. The fragrance is so overpowering that I can smell it through the house as I sit here at my computer. It's pure heaven!

The lilies of the Valley are also blooming right now. See? There. In among the lush ferns? I love their smell. I only wish they bloomed longer. This garden is just so beautiful right now, but by July it will be struggling as the sun is only partially blocked by the house. I've thought about taking them out and rocking the whole place as this is where my watering hose is located. But I just can't stand the thought of not being able to dip my hands in the flowers and ferns and feel their cool, feathery touch if only for a month. I've tried to transplant some ferns and lilies of the Valley to the north side of the house, but they don't seem to like it as well. I'll just have to be content with their beauty right here.

Along with my fern leaf peony I have a regular peony (that isn't blooming at the moment) and some old-fashioned Iris. The plain-jane purple variety that smells like grapes. At least, that's what it reminds me of. As I was trying to take its picture, the wind was blowing the stalk about and the fragrance of the flower filled my senses.

Peonies and Irises always remind me of Memorial Day. Mason jars filled with the blooms of just-picked flowers. Plastic graveside flowers were simply unheard of back then. The decorations all came from our gardens. The women would walk from grave to grave admiring the beauty and unusual characteristics of the flowers in their plain glass jars. It was a source of pride for all. The cemetery always smelled of peonies and irises. Even today the old-fashioned irises grow along the banks of the cemetery where the cut flowers were thrown when they were spent and the women came back to claim their canning jars.

Oh, sure - the hi-breds are quite the show stoppers, with their frilly petals and their strange, almost garish colors. All flash and no heart. No fragrance. I'll take my plain-Jane purple, grape-smelling, old-fashioned iris any day.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


It's bread! And it's good! Sweet and moist with a nice crunchy crust. It has a nice crumb and subtle cinnamon flavor.

Would you like the recipe? Ok -

To the remaining batter in the bowl (and, like I said, I had about 2 cups worth), add:

3 eggs
1 cup oil or 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce (I used all oil)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1 large box instant vanilla pudding

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease two large loaf pans. Pour the batter evenly into the two pans. (If desired, you can sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon and sugar over the tops. I didn't bother.) Bake one hour or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto wire rack and cool completely. Keep uneaten bread in the refrigerator tightly wrapped.

This is just a starting point. You could try lemon pudding with poppy seeds; add nuts, fruit or even chocolate chips (with chocolate pudding, of course); orange zest with orange pudding - you get the idea.

I'm really glad I tried this recipe now. Let me know if you need some starter. I've got a couple of bags in my freezer.

Amish Friendship Bread Starter

From Ginger at All Recipes:

1 (.25 oz.) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3 cups white sugar, divided
3 cups milk

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes. In a 2 quart NON-METAL bowl, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or flour will lump when milk is added. Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixter. Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly (or pour it into a gallon freezer bag). Consider this Day 1 of the 10 day cycle. Leave at room temperature.

2. On Days 2 through 5 mush the bag (or stir the starter). Day 5, stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Days 6 through 9 mush the bag (or stir) only.

3. On Day 10, stir in 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Remove 1 cup to make your first bread and give your friends 1 cup of starter in one gallon freezer bags along with this recipe and your favorite Amish Bread recipe. Store the remaining 1 cup (divided) starter in a container in the refrigerator (or freezer) or begin the 10 day process over again (beginning with step 2).

I think that's fairly clear and not too complicated. So, of course, I screwed it up. I followed the recipe I got with my starter which said to do this:

"On Day 10, pour the entire contents of the bag into a non-metal bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 1/2 cups milk. Then measure out 4 separate batters of 1 cup each into 4 separate 1 gallon zip lock bags. Give them to 4 friends with a copy of this recipe."

Which is what I did. I ended up with 6 freezer bags and about 2 cups of the batter to make my breads with. I'm so confused!

Amish Friendship Bread (or - How To Piss Off Your Friends)

My friend Kathy recently gave me a bag of this starter along with a much-copied mimeograph sheet of directions. I'd never heard of Amish Friendship Bread before, but several of the other women at our table had. Although they called it "Herman" and said they remembered it from their mothers. Since I didn't know anything about this bread I immediately headed to All Recipes to find see what I could find out. Not only did I find the starter recipe, I also found five recipes for using it. I also did a search for Herman and found the starter recipe for that as well as several recipes using it. It's different from this bread in that it's basically a sourdough bread with less sugar used in it. If you're interested just head on over there and type in "Herman" in the search bar.

Kathy gave me my starter on basically Day 6 so I (like the un-baker that I am) fed it according to directions and baked it right then. Don't do that. Please. They turned out - ummm- "dense". I'm not certain (Joe - enlighten me please) whether I could have just let it age the full 10 days and then baked it with good results. By feeding it on Day 6 you, uh, make it grow...and grow...and grow. At the end of the 10 days you have this monster that you have to do something with. That's where the "pissing off your friends" part comes in. You're supposed to take out 4 cups, put each in its own gallon freezer bag, label them and give them to your friends keeping the last cup or so for you to bake your bread with.

I don't know about you, but I don't know too many women who don't work. They have families, activities, volunteer and just generally don't have much time to mess with something for 10 days then screw around with it for another half a day just to get a couple of loaves of bread! So, thank you, Kathy.

So, because of this blog and because of my friends (on-line and otherwise), I've made the ultimate sacrifice and messed with this stuff for 10 whole days. The loaves are in the oven now and the other SIX one cup gallon freezer bags are in the freezer. Waiting for me to throw them out when I'm desperate for freezer space. Lets hope these loaves turn out better than the last ones did.

May Duties

No, I'm not dead (yet). It's MAY people - give me a break! What with planting (and RE-planting after the rabbits ate my cucumbers), weeding, watering, mowing, pruning and, oh yes, my J.O.B., I just haven't had the energy to post.

Today I'm going to make my Amish Friendship Bread and I promise I will post that recipe (with pictures, of course).

Hang in there!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Happy Mother's Day

Opal (Moss) Bennett

August 30, 1906 - January 21, 1997

Happy Mother's Day mom. I miss you still.



Thursday, May 11, 2006

Fern Leaf Peony - May 10, 2006

I've been told this is a "fern leaf peony" by the previous owners of the house. Their mother had planted it back in the '50s and, when she moved they tried to dig it up and take it to one of the kids' house. When we moved in in 1989 it was just a sprig. I could tell it was a peony and so I left it alone and let it grow. And grow it did! It is the first to bloom every spring and it's quite the show-stopper.

I have tried looking up "fern leaf peony" in the books I have, but can find no reference for it. However, a quick Google search on the name brought up a lot of information. According to most of what I read, this is probably not a true tenuifolia because the leaves are not completely "feathery".

From La Pivoinerie D'Aoust website:

"18. What is the "fern leaf" peony? Paeonia tenuifolia and its varieties.
The term "fern leaf" peony is often used to describe a specific species of herbaceous peony namely Paeonia tenuifolia. This species has very distinct soft almost needle like foliage with single red flowers. The most popular "fern leaf" peony however is the double flowered variety P. tenuifolia 'Rubra Plena'.
P. tenuifolia flowers very early in the peony season and is a good choice for the rock garden or the front of the border because of its diminutive stature - 40 cm (16 in) or less.
A disadvantage of these peonies is that the foliage tends to go dormant and die back earlier in the season than the more well-known lactiflora peonies."

Whatever the name, I'm certainly glad this beauty did not die.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sesqui Cookbooks - Reminder

This is just a reminder - if you want to order a Sesqui Cookbook you should probably do it soon. We are going to reorder (just once) but of the original 1200 we have less than 400 left. This book is filled with over 800 family-tested recipes and I'm sure you'll be pleased with what you find inside.

To give you an example of the type of recipes you'll find under Old Time Favorites, here is a recipe for boiled ice cream submitted by Virginia Zimmerman:

Boiled Ice Cream

3/4 to 1 qt. cream
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, separated and beaten
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 qt. whole milk
2 tablespoons vanilla

1 1/2 GALLONS:
1 qt. cream
3 cups sugar
5 eggs, separated & beaten
3 tablespoons flour (more, if needed)
2 1/2 qt. whole milk
3 tablespoons vanilla

Ice & salt to freeze the mixture in the freezer

Heat the milk. Mix flour and sugar together; add to milk and boil slowly for 20 minutes. Take from heat; stir in beaten egg yolks and cool. Add cream and beaten egg whites and vanilla. Pour into freezer container; add more milk if needed, to fill container 3 to 4 inches from the top. Freeze with crank freezer. When firm, remove dasher and let set in can in freezer, packed with ice and salt.
NOTE: Mixture scorches easily, cook slowly.
"My mother...made this in winter when ice had frozen over in a tank. Dad would break the ice up and we other children turned the hand crank freezer. This ice cream should be eaten slowly or a severe headache will develop."

I love some of the recipe names: Strawberry Stirrum, Bake Day Spice Cake, Grandma Twait's Lefsa (that almost sounds dirty!).

So, if you want to order (they're $12.00 each plus $5.95 s/h) you can either let me know or go to West Bend's website - there's an order form there. I know you cookbook lovers won't be disappointed!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Madsen Greenhouse

Saturday and Sunday were absolutely gorgeous! I woke up Sunday morning and decided to run out to Millie's to get my flowers for the planter I take care of out to the West Bend Golf and Country Club.

Madsen Greenhouse is like a small paradise in the middle of nowhere. I was lucky enough to have been able to work there as an intern to finish my Master Gardener certification several years ago. I then worked for two more years with Millie and her mother until my duties as Grandma got more of my time. I would have worked for nothing just to be able to walk into the greenhouse in March and early April when the north winds blow the last of the snow around, or the cold early rains are lashing at the roof. To walk inside her greenhouse, bundled up against the elements, and be able to feast your senses on this beauty - well, it's almost indescribable.

Millie wasn't there on Sunday or I would have taken her picture. She was probably out planting some public garden. She, too, has a huge planter at the Country Club that she plants every year. As well as several gardens and planters at the Grotto of the Redemption. Both of these projects are community service on her part as she doesn't get paid to do them, except for reimbursement for the cost of the plants. (Pictures of these gardens will follow.)

This is the original greenhouse that Frank built Doris early in their married life. With seven children (correct me if I'm wrong, Millie) (I have been informed - there were TWELVE children!) gardening was a little bit more than a hobby. Doris would recount the early days to me while our fingers were deep in soil, pulling the tiny seedlings apart and sticking them into six-packs. She started planting her tomatoes, corn, peppers and so forth in flats stuck everywhere around the house. When it got to be too crowded, what with children, household duties and farming, Frank built her a small homemade greenhouse where she could start her seeds. She grew so many of everything that she started giving the extras away to the neighbors. Soon, word of her sturdy, healthy plants reached further and people began driving out from town to purchase her extras. "It just grew from there" she said.

When Millie took over she expanded the flower and plant lines, trying new and different varieties of each. People drive from miles around to buy their plants from Madsen Greenhouse because of its reputation for healthy, quality plants. In addition to her community based gardens, Millie prepares wonderful hanging baskets and Memorial Day planters. Several years ago, she introduced Million Bells petunias to her line of annuals. These small petunias are literally covered in bloom all season long with no dead-heading required. I quite literally fell in love with these gems. I think I know the perfect place for this beauty. Go Wolverines!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Springtime Blooms

I love this time of year when winter's grip finally loosens, the days get milder and everything just seems to jump from the ground in joy. It rained for four days straight and the grass grew so high we weren't sure if we would be able to mow it or just have Little Jerry bail it. But by Wednesday it was dry enough to mow and plant the gardens. During a break in the rain on Sunday we ran out to Millie's and got our tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and herbs even though I knew I couldn't get them in the ground right away. This time of year always puts me in a tizzy. There's so much to do and so little time to get it done. I'm actually ahead of schedule this year. I usually don't get my garden planted until Mother's Day. And in this part of the world, that's not too far off. We all have memories of blizzards in April and May and the nights still get cold. But I took a chance and grabbed the opportunity to plant between rains.

Maybe I'm inspired by all the garden blogs I've been reading lately, like In My Kitchen Garden. I wish I knew how she gets all those beautiful, close-up shots of her flowers and vegetables. I thought the above photo would be closer in. I'm going to have to work on my outside shots so I can publish pictures of my gardens here. If anyone has any pointers, I sure would appreciate them.

And, speaking of new blogs, I've discovered two more food-related ones that I want to point you to. First, The Old Foodie has an extraordinary blog from down under. Her "hobby" is recipes and menus from historical events and ancient cookbooks. It's just amazing. If you like history and food, check her out.

Next is Joe Pastry. He's a quasi-chemist, historian pastry guy who chooses a weekly "project" to make and tells you about it, in detail, a LOT of detail. But very entertaining detail. This week he's making ciabatta bread and pecan pie. He's nuts about the bread, but I'm not sure how far the pie making has come. He's too busy writing about sugars! You'll see.

Oh, and if anyone's interested, after three days and HOURS on the phone with tech guys, I finally got TimeSlips up and running and actually have managed to get a few bills out. I hate the way they look, but I'll work on that part later.

Have a great day!