The stories this table could tell.

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How many of us actually have meals at a table anymore? It seems to be a lost tradition. It’s not just a meal that is had at a table; it’s conversation, it’s listening, it’s sharing, it’s knowing, it’s loving.

I spent many years pulling up a bench to a farm table. When I was a little girl, my great grandmother Mimi hosted family meals every Sunday afternoon. I don’t know how she did it. She prepared a meal for at least a dozen people weekly, including dessert. I recall many days sitting on the ice cream maker. And then there was her fried chicken. Mimi was a wonderful cook.

Meals at a table have always been meaningful to me. I chose to purchase a farm style table about eight years ago, with the purpose of sharing food around it with people I love. Many have blessed me by their company over the years. I used to have my Granny and Mom over every month to test new recipes. Holidays are especially meaningful around this table. I cherish the conversations that have been shared around this table and all the laughs I’ve had.

Because of this table, I have entertained some of my best friends, hosting an annual Christmas brunch. I’ve tried my hand at some daunting recipes that I thought I’d never master, yet succeeded. Best of all, I’ve shared special times and grown relationships because of this table. From daily coffees and my quiet time with God, first dinners, a birthday party, and a stake holders fundraiser; to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Good Friday meals, and last suppers, this table is where it all happened. 

It still happens. While my mom no longer lives close enough to be at the table, I’m making a commitment to start inviting friends over monthly; to get to know each other, share stories, to know and to love.

My table.

My table.

 

Food memories take me back.

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We all have food memories, some good and some not so good. The taste, smell, and texture of food can bring back memories not just of eating food itself but also of place and setting. Recently I made a 3-layer strawberry cake. It’s perfect for summer time. The taste of it brought back memories of the first time I had the pink delight.

I was a young girl and we had just learned of my Uncle Wesley’s untimely death at 18. I remember being full of questions. I didn’t understand. I grieved silently. My Uncle Wesley was suddenly gone. He was like a big brother to me. We always had fun together, life with him was adventurous. At his memorial reception, there was a smorgasbord of foods. One item in particular took my taste buds and took my heart, a strawberry cake. Over the course of a couple of days, I made multiple trips to the kitchen, sneaking a piece whenever I felt the need. It was comforting. It was sweet. Satisfying to my soul.

As I iced this masterpiece, it brought back sweet memories of my Uncle Wesley. He could be counted on to watch me from time to time. He made me laugh and he was always up for another round of board games (Monopoly, Sorry, Yahtzee). I hope you’ll try this Strawberry Cake this summer and make new memories that you’ll cherish forever. Don’t worry about making it multi-layered, make a sheet cake!

Tracy & Wesley

Tracy & Wesley

tracy w lunchbox uncle

Strawberry Cake

Strawberry Cake

Strawberry Cake

Cake Ingredients:
1 Box (18.25 Ounces) White Cake Mix
1- 3 Ounce Box Strawberry Jello
4 large eggs
1/2 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup flour
1/2 Cup fresh strawberries, finely chopped
1 Cup vegetable oil
1/2 Cup milk
Strawberry Buttercream Frosting:
1 Cup unsalted butter, softened
2 (16 Ounce) Packages powdered sugar
1 Cup fresh strawberries, finely chopped

Instructions
1.Make the Cake: Preheat the Oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 3- 9 inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray.  Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix all cake ingredients with an electric mixer on low until just combined.  Scrape the side of the bowl, and increase mixer to medium and beat for 3 minutes.
3. Pour cake batter into prepared pans and bake until a tooth pick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 23 minutes.
4. Cool cake in pans on rack for about 10 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool completely. If using the following recipe for Strawberry Buttercream refrigerate cakes until completely chilled.

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
In a large bowl, beat the butter at medium until it’s pale yellow and fluffy.  Add powdered sugar and strawberries and beat at low until well combined and creamy.  Set in the fridge fo about 5-10 minutes to firm it up slightly.

Spread one of the layers of cake with frosting then refrigerate.  Frost the second layer and refrigerate until the frosting on both layers has firmed up a bit.  Assemble all the layers and frost the top and sides. Decorate the top with sliced strawberries. Refrigerate!

Sweet Memories & Snickerdoodles

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Have you seen Still Alice? As you know it’s the story of a woman facing early onset Alzheimer’s. As I watched the movie recently, I was struck by the realization the human memory and the memories that we make throughout our lifetime are incredible gifts. The mind is a remarkable thing.

Our mind processes 34 gigabytes of content and 100,000 words of information in one day. You might compare this to Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” which is only 460,000 words long. This means 100,000 words cross our eyes and ears in a single 24-hour period through TV, radio, the Web, text messages, video games and other stuff. Incredible wouldn’t you say?

Out of all of this information we take in and process, just think about the memories you make, those that really make a mark on us. In the movie, Alice lost her sweet memories; of precious family, a successful career, and life adventures. She fought the disease that was stealing who she was, the life she had created.

As I reflect on some of my most precious memories. I think of my sweet Mimi, my great grandmother, a retired school teacher who I thought was Julia Child incarnate. After school my grandmother Pat would pick me up and we would be off to Mimi’s house for an after school snack and conversation. Many times she’d serve freshly picked pecans that I would lick, then dip into the sugar bowl and pop into my mouth. Boy were those the best! I guess Mimi didn’t mind that I double dipped into her sugar bowl, as she never mentioned it.

Many times after school, Mimi and I would play ‘school’. She was my student and I would teach her school lessons. Mimi played right along and she never tired of my teaching. She was attentive. She was present. Always engaged. Just she and I. I never doubted that Mimi loved me. Some days I’d walk into Mimi’s house after school and smell cinnamon wafting down the hall, drawing me to the kitchen. Mimi was making her melt-in-your-mouth Snickerdoodle cookies. I still have the recipe card that I transcribed that day from Mimi.

“The best portion of our lives will be the small, nameless moments we spend smiling with someone who matters to us.”–Someone who is much more articulate than me said this.

Mimi’s recipe. A sweet bake.

Mix:

1c soft shortening 

1 1/2c sugar

2 eggs

Sift & Stir In:

2 2/3 c sifted flour

2tsp cream of tartar

1tsp soda

1tsp salt

1tsp vanilla

Chill & roll in small balls. Coat in 2tsp cinnamon & 2 tsp sugar. Bake at 400.

snicker