In Memory of Mum, June 8, 2014…….one year has gone by…..still missing you!

Mum 1932

Families are a complicated thing. We go through good times, bad times, complicated times and times of stress, joy, and happiness.   Mum was always a big part of our family life. She was so talented, so complicated, intelligent, well versed on just about every subject. When I needed an answer to a problem or question, I knew I could call Mum and she would tell me how to solve it or where to look to find the right answers.   She kept newspaper articles on Dr. Gott and many, many Grit articles on just about any subject. There were few things she could not do, she could knit, sew, crochet, make the best pasta, bread, rolls, delicious fried chicken Sunday dinners from Grandpa’s chickens. Dad would eat everything she made with such gusto. He would use bread to clean his plate, not a crumb was left on his plate. When he would go to Rocher’s store in Kittanning, it would be a wonderful week. Mum would make fresh delicious Italian food.


Juliette Family Pictures 053Would you believe, when I was 19, she gave me my first and last cigarette…..it was quite an interesting evening. I ended up getting sick to my stomach from the smoke and I never looked at another cigarette. She had a good laugh out of it.



The times I enjoyed the most with Mum, were the times spent on the patio, watching the birds and having those long conversations. There were few subjects we didn’t cover. I always felt like I was a little better and a little smarter after those conversations.

Sharing the experience with Mum when she was learning how to drive was such a fun time!!!   She passed her test the first time, she was no dummy. She was 53 years old when she learned how to drive. Thatgoes to show you, Mum never lost her desire to learn new things. We traveled all the dirt roads and back roads those months she was learning how to drive. She loved driving.   I still remember her talking about the night she drove home from church and could not find her way home. She was very sad to have to give up those enjoyable driving days and trips to WalMart she would make by herself early Sunday mornings.

It is hard to believe a year has gone by since Mum passed away. I have missed her and thought about her many many times(every day really) throughout this year She is now resting beside Dad and they can have those long chats. They never seemed to run out of things to talk about……. After supper, in the evening, Mum and Dad would always sit and talk about the day… under the cherry tree at the old house sitting on the swing and then on the patio when we moved to Rural Valley.



Life will never be the same without you Mum but little by slow maybe it will get easier.




Rest peacefully, Mum.



Remembering Dad

dad-at-door-b-w2It’s been a generation, 19 years ago, since Dad passed away; and as this anniversary approaches, I can’t help wondering what Dad’s thoughts would be regarding politics, society, and life in general.  Dad was a pretty opinionated guy, I think we could all agree; so I wonder what he’d have to say about “twerking,” “tweeting,” and “texting” in this modern, technological age.  Dad mellowed with age and seemed to have developed a broader view or a greater understanding of human nature, but just when I thought I’d have him pegged, Dad would surprise me with his thoughts.

Dad, like Mum, was always intellectually curious.  Although he may not have embraced fully the technological aspects of the information age, which was still in its infancy when he died, he read hard copy every day and never missed the evening news. I’m pretty sure he would not only be up-to-date with trending news, he would not mince words about his feelings towards something. Just as I really miss asking Mum her take on current events, I miss the having the opportunity to do with same with Dad–just as I miss the opportunity to ask either of them family history questions. I’m just as sure that Dad wouldn’t have patience with any of the 24/7 “news” networks, recognizing them for what they are:  entertainment. Okay—so maybe that’s MY opinion.
As much as he was curious, Dad was also industrious.  After a hard night’s work in the coal mines and a brief stint in bed, Dad usually found something that had to be done:  working on the car, repairing something to give it added life, or making something for the family to enjoy. In the early years, he repaired our shoes—not with duct tape or staples, but the right way with the right tools.  Dad gave me my first haircut and many thereafter. Fortunately, because he used scissors on my hair, I didn’t suffer the same fate as the boys did.  Dad used clippers on them.  At least I know he used clippers on Chip with less-than-stellar results that made for the cutest school pictures.
He welded a metal frame together and made us a great swing set that we all enjoyed so much.  It was the best place to be on beautiful PA summer or autumn days.  There was a large swing for Mum and Dad or a parent and child or multiple kids.  The single swing provided many hours of enjoyment for any one of us kids. I can remember swinging so high it was impossible not to laugh out loud as the posts came out of the ground.  It was the combination of fear and excitement that was so exhilarating and something I’m sure Dad got a kick out of watching.

Dad and fireplaceThere is also the stone fireplace that stands decades later, a testament to Dad’s ability to craft a monument to our lives in the Yatesboro house.  I remember family picnics with Uncle Nick, Aunt Liv, and all our cousins outside with the fireplace serving as the sentinel charged with marking time to the laughter, story-telling, spats…life…that happened in its presence. It was difficult leaving the swing set and fireplace behind when we moved to Rural Valley.
It was at the Rural Valley house that Dad worked the hardest, or maybe it seemed that way because I was older by then and more aware of what was going on around me.  I remember the stone wall that Dad, Uncle Nick, and even Uncle Sid constructed off the patio.  Then there was a bathroom in the basement so Dad could take a shower after he got home from work or when he put in a full day around the house. There was always something to occupy his time, and most of that time was spent in his shop.

Later, when the house was pretty much in order and Dad was approaching retirement and beyond, Dad used his wood working talent to make beautiful built-in bookcases, sewing tables/desks, bread boxes, covered candy dishes—so many things came out of that shop.  I prize the piece he helped Ken finish.  Ken made the base of a hutch and needed some guidance with putting on the doors, so Dad came to the rescue. Now home to all my cookbooks, it’s over 30 years old.  I’m sure Dad struggled with not being able to use the shop in those last years when the thing he loved to do most, putter in his shop, sapped too much of his energy. But never one to sit idle, Dad would soak in the warmth outside while fashioning peach pits into little baskets.  How many he made, I’ll never know.  Anyone who stopped by to chat for a minute or two got one. His was a life of hard work, as it was for his generation.

Mum and Dad 1935Above all, though, was Dad’s love for Mum.  It seemed he was always trying to make her life better or happier.  He brought her little “treasures” just about every day–just something little to make her smile…a dandelion flower, a beautiful tomato from the garden, a piece of candy.  He’d sneak up behind her, nuzzle her neck, say something in Italian to make her smile, and then present his little gift.  Always, he entered the house and shouted up the stairs: “Lucy, I’m hooome!”
I like to think that when Mum made her way back to him this past summer, there he was…waiting, arms outstretched, a twinkle in his eye: “Lucy, you’re home.”  –Linda


Dove, November 2013

Click on Dove’s photo to Donate

As I write this we’re counting down 17 hours to donate to Dove’s fundraiser! At midnight tonight, it’s all over. Let’s begin the new year right. Let’s send some love Dove’s way and keep her hope alive for the coming year. Let’s keep Dove’s smile on!

We have to take advantage of our matching donor … we’ve added only $100 since he made his pledge. Surely we can do better. Let’s make him dig deep!

Everyone’s busy this time of year: visiting friends and relatives; going to parties; making special foods; or maybe just taking this time to rest and rejuvenate a little. Many of us make resolutions and contemplate doing better in the new year.

Well, here is a great opportunity to put your resolutions to work and help out a beautiful young woman in need.

If you’ve already given, the main thing you can do is to pass along Dove’s fundraiser address to everyone you know. Even if you’ve done it in the past, do it again. Maybe write a little note about why you think they should consider donating. Do you know Dove personally; do you know someone in a similar situation; do you feel strongly about Dove’s needs? Tell them why you’re passing along Dove’s story and encourage them to donate. This is our last chance, the hours are ticking away.

Let’s begin 2014 with a bang! Let’s push this thing over the top!

“A life lived for others, is the only life worth living.” Albert Einstein

Click on Dove’s photo to Donate

Dove, November 2013I have a lovely family living next door to me who needs some help … your help. When you have the time and would like to raise your spirits high, please visit our “Keep Dove Home” website. Theirs is such an amazing story. If you browse through the updates you’ll read their entire story: the heartache and the triumphs, the joy and the gratitude, the everyday ups and downs of raising a child with paralysis from the neck down.This is a truly inspiring Christmas story for all of us.

I hope, after reading Dove’s story, you’ll be inspired to give in what ever way you can: a note of encouragement, a prayer, and/or a monetary donation of any size to help the family through this crisis. Just let them know you care and you’re out there thinking of them.

And one more thing … a very important one … please forward Dove’s story to friends and relatives and help us make it a very blessed Christmas morning for the family. We have only 2 weeks of fundraising to meet our goal of $10,000 and the more people we tell about Dove and her exceptional attitude of joy and gratitude in the worst circumstances a 21-year-old can be in, the better chance we have of reaching that goal.

Henry James, the author, once said,“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” Most things we spend our money on will disappear one day. But when you show kindness to a family in need, the goodwill and joy it produces will live on forever.

Please read Dove’s story, share what you can, and know that your efforts are received with utmost gratitude.

Thanks for listening. A very merry Christmas to you and yours and a New Year filled with all good things.



Nut Roll

Any serious holiday baker included nut roll on her/his holiday baking list, so I thought it only appropriate to give nut roll its own space.  I think there are as many recipes for nut rolls as there are nuts!  When I was organizing recipes for my mother-in-law, I discovered 17 recipes for nut roll, each just a little different from the others. With the holidays approaching, I remember Mum discussing nut roll “this-and-that” in the lead-up to the actual baking…considering at one time to eliminate it from the list because it was so much work (gasp!).  Eventually, though, Mum succumbed to the inevitability of the nut roll’s appearance on a holiday cookie tray.  I mean, what self-respecting baker didn’t make nut roll? The alternating layers of pastry and nuts of a sliced nut roll is so hard to resist.  Eventually Mum stopped making the large rolls and made the mini-sized nut rolls—equally delicious, equally impressive on a cookie tray and the only recipe that I have to include here.

As a not-so-serious holiday baker these days, I think making either the large nut roll or the mini nut rolls is the only confection a person has to make.  Packaged in a cellophane bag tied with a beautiful ribbon and placed in a basket with a bag of good coffee beans; and you have a very nice, thoughtful gift to give a special friend.  Or have nut roll on hand to serve when unexpected Christmas visitors drop in.  You don’t need an entire tray of cookies when you have nut rolls.  When you look at the “Nut Filling” recipe that follows, notice that you can use either vanilla or maple flavoring.  My personal preference is vanilla because I find maple flavoring overpowering.  Also, using purchased apricot filling instead of nuts is an equally good choice.  If you’re really pressed for time but still want to make nut rolls, you could purchase just about any filling for the dough. Almost all grocery stores have various pastry fillings in addition to the nut variety. We have a wonderful Amish store near us that sells all sorts of delicious-looking fillings in clear plastic pastry-type bags that would be perfect for this recipe.  Of course, then they wouldn’t be “nut rolls”, but would a nut roll by any other filling be as sweet?  Absolutely!

Favorite Nut Rolls

Mix and set aside:
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
In a large bowl, mix:
6 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Cut in as for pie crust:
2 cups shortening
Mix then add to flour mixture:
4 eggs
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
yeast mixture
Using a fork, mix together lightly and well.  Refrigerate overnight.  Roll out, 1/4 at a time on breadboard sprinkled with part flour and granulated sugar.  Cut into 3-inch squares; spread with nut filling.  Roll up; place on greased baking sheet.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 12 minutes.
Nut Filling
Combine in a saucepan:  1 pound ground walnuts, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3/4 cup evaporated milk, 2 teaspoons vanilla or maple flavoring.  Heat until mixtures comes to a boil, stirring constantly.  Mixture will be thick; cool (or use purchased apricot filling).

The next recipe, Walnut Horn Cookies, is a variation of nut rolls that moves away from the traditional yeast dough in favor of a butter-cream cheese dough.  What could be better than that!  Again, if you’re pressed for time, you could make the dough but purchase the filling to make it easier and less time-consuming.

Walnut Horn Cookies
1 pound butter (no substitutes), softened
2 packages (one 8 oz., one 3 oz. [I think Mum means 4 oz. here]) cream cheese, softened
4 egg yolks
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups ground walnuts (about 1 pound)
5 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
In a mixing bowl combine butter, cream cheese, egg yolks, and flour; beat until smooth.  Shape into 1-inch balls; place in container with waxed paper separating each layer.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  To make the filling combine ground walnuts, 3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar (the mixture will be dry).  In a small mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form; fold into nut mixture.  Add extracts and a few drops of water if necessary until filling reaches a spreading consistency.  Place remaining sugar in a bowl; roll cream cheese balls in sugar until completely covered.  Place a few balls at a time between two sheets of waxed paper.  Roll balls into 2 1/2-inch circles.  Gently spread about 2 teaspoons filling over each.  Roll up; place seam-side down on ungreased baking sheets.  Curve the ends slightly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool on wire racks.  Yield: about 8 dozen.

Your house should be filling with heavenly scents if you’re baking along!  –Linda

Even without the advantage of the Internet or the Food channel, Mum found recipes everywhere—through family and friends; cookbooks; flour or sugar sacks; labels on the packaging of nuts, bakers chocolate, etc.; print newspapers and magazines.  For as long as I can remember, Mum had subscriptions to one magazine or another.  I would wait for McCalls magazine with as much anticipation as Mum did.  Mum poured over the entire magazine while I waited impatiently for her to extract all the cooking, needlework, household, and life wisdom for that particular issue and then hand it off to me.  I would then cut out Betsy McCall, a beautiful one-dimensional paper doll, complete with her new monthly wardrobe. I can still remember being so excited that I wiggled and sang and talked to myself while carefully guiding the scissors so I wouldn’t accidentally cut off one of the precious tabs that kept Betsy’s clothing attached to her body.  I’m pretty sure that was where my love of “women’s” magazines began.

Whatever sources she used, shortly after the Thanksgiving dust settled, Mum began drafting the list of cookies she would make that year.  Once the list was made, she’d gather in the supplies.  I have to admit that I really didn’t pay much attention to what was bought but only that the flour and sugar came in huge sacks.  I remember discussions about the twenty-five pounds of flour (venticinque).  Important discussions that involved numbers or money or our transgressions were always conducted in Italian, which was Greek to me. Buying extra food was not taken lightly in our household, especially on the heels of a food-centric holiday such as Thanksgiving.  And some of the ingredients could be expensive as well as exotic…like dates…to me something very exotic but oh so delicious.

While these date cookies are a little labor-intensive, they are well worth the effort:

Date Cream Cheese Roll-Ups

1 cup butter
1/2 pound cream cheese (8 ounces)
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pitted dates

Cream butter and cream cheese together.  Blend in flour and salt.  Chill for several hours until firm enough to roll.  Roll into 1/8-inch thickness on a board sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.  Cut in 1 x 3-inch strips.  Put a date in each strip and roll up.  Put seam-side-down on cookie sheet.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Makes 8 dozen

As a sheltered kid growing up in the fifties and early sixties, nothing could be more exotic than alcohol as an ingredient in a cookie.  During cookie-baking season, I can remember the very distinctive bottle of Sicilian Gold being lifted from a nondescript brown paper bag as the choirs sang—“Gloriaaaaaaaaaaa….” (not to be confused with the a very popular Van Morrison hit of the sixties: G-L-O-R-I-A or perhaps, maybe)  The Wine Wreath cookies are delicious!  I loved the kick from the heat of the cinnamon candies used for decoration.  Mum included a note on this recipe that it was Rhonda’s favorite, but I’m afraid I’d have to arm-wrestle Rhonda for any last one of these on the tray.  I think I could take her!

 Wine Wreaths

Cream until light:
1 cup oleo (butter is better)

2/3 cup sugar

Add and beat well:
2 egg yolks

Sift and add:
3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
Alternating with:
1/4 cup Sicilian Gold (or Galiano) [maybe a heaping fourth cup]

Force through star-shaped pastry tube to form into small rings; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of a sugar/cinnamon mixture or brush with egg white after baking then sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture.  Decorate with red cinnamon candies like a wreath.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 6 to 10 minutes on ungreased sheets.

If you bake only the cookies from yesterday’s and today’s blog, you would have an impressive and pretty plate of cookies to share with anyone stopping by for some Christmas cheer.  Linda

With only twelve days left until Christmas, I thought I would share twelve cookie recipes from Mum’s vast repertoire of cookie confections.  No…I’m not going to post all twelve at one time, nor am I going to post cookie recipes for the next twelve days.  What I plan to do is to include however many recipes suit my fancy at the time I’m writing.  Already I can see your eyes rolling back into your heads.  Bear with me; maybe you’ll be inspired to go out to the kitchen and whip up a batch of deliciousness!  I know there are those of you who might have even more cookie recipes from Mum than I do, or maybe you’ve developed lists of you own from a combination of sources.  These recipes will be some of my favorite cookie  recipes and standards that I remember Mum baking.

One cookie I love for its short, buttery melt-in-your-mouth goodness is the “spritz” or cookie press cookie.  I could eat the almond-flavored dough right out of the bowl, it’s so good!  Spritz cookies not only taste and smell good, but their tiny size and shape add charm…flair, if you will…to any cookie tray.  Mum would use red and green food coloring at Christmastime to give her spritz cookies a festive touch. When she passed the dough through the press, she would use the discs that she felt represented Christmas flowers or designs.  She passed her cookie press along to me many years ago, still in the original packaging.  I can tell you that that press works better than any of the new and improved “cookie shooters” that are on the market today.  I’ve tried a couple and always go back to that original cookie press handed down to me.

You’ll notice that in this recipe, Butter-Rich Spritz, Mum used oleo. I use butter. The choice is yours, of course; but if it’s named “butter-rich” why not splurge on the fat and calories?  Frankly, I feel a Christmas cookie without butter is like Santa without the “Ho-Ho!” if you get what I mean. I think Mum may have used butter more often than not despite keeping “oleo” in her written recipes.

Butter-Rich Spritz


1 cup oleo (butter)

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Blend in:

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla

Add gradually:

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix well.  Press dough through cookie press onto ungreased cookie sheets using any shape.  Bake in 375‑degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes.  Do not brown.

Another cookie that adds a touch of panache to a cookie tray is the Coconut Pom-Poms.  I inherited Mum’s love of coconut.  Cakes, cookies, tea breads—all taste better with the simple addition of coconut in my opinion.  I’m aware not everyone shares this enthusiasm for coconut. Ken, for one, will grudgingly eat something with coconut only if there’s no other choice, but a coconut-laced or coconut-topped cookie would definitely rate number one with me.  Mum used coconut not only within her baked goodies; she used it to garnish any frosted treat.  She made a delicious frosted chocolate cookie topped with coconut!  I don’t ever remember her putting peanut butter in the center of these cookies; but since it appears in the recipe, she must have at some point. Candied cherries are a nice Christmas touch.

Coconut Pom-Poms


1 cup oleo (butter)

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla


2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Shape dough into 1-inch balls, shaping around candied cherries, dates, mints, or peanut butter.  Roll in coconut and place on ungreased sheets.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.

You’ll notice that Mum didn’t concern herself with how many cookies a recipe would yield.  I think that might be because she would make one batch of about twenty different kinds of cookies.  Each tray of cookies would have two to three cookies of each kind, more than enough cookies to savor with morning or afternoon cup of coffee or tea.  Check again soon for a couple more Christmas cookie recipes.  Linda