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Category Archives: Remember When

Anniversaries

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Every time I look at my phone today, the date jumps out. It was 72 years ago today that my parents got married.

It looked like a lovely May day. Not rainy and cold, the way it is today.

My parents were married 52 years, before we lost my dad. I remember their 50th vividly. I went with them to Alaska, the last state to visit by my dad. They didn’t want to go alone so a friend of mine and me booked a cabin on their ship and went with them. Our better halves were in the midst of major work projects so were OK with staying home.

I love this picture.

My dad and I in Ketchikan.

They really enjoyed this trip, and my biggest regret was canceling the trip for us to get to Hawaii the next year. 9/11 got in the way. My dad had been in Hawaii during WWII, but it was the only state left for my mom to visit.

We rescheduled the trip for 2003 but my dad passed away before we got to go there.

These things make me remember. Life is precious. Don’t procrastinate. Do those wild crazy things before you run out of time.

Bundookies

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Lithuanian Meatballs.

Why am I writing about Lithuanian meatballs? Because a deli in my husband’s hometown had them in their freezer. Along with kielbasa.

We took a trip to “Shen-do”, Shenandoah PA, where my husband was born and grew up. It’s been at least 4 years since we took that three hour drive and all because of kielbasa.

According to my husband Kowalonek’s makes the best kielbo. The absolute best. Fresh kielbasa, heavy with garlic and coarsely ground. I have bought kielbasa many places in MD and southern PA but they don’t measure up to his favorite.

This is a local staple, and one that draws people from out of state to buy their fresh and their smoked versions. Lots of non-PA license tags in the parking lot. Take a number. We were #21 and they were serving #11 when we visited two weeks ago. People were spending quite a bit to stock up. Like over $100 of mostly $5.99/lb rings of kielbasa. Coolers in their truck bed. This is serious Polish sausage love.

We also saw they have a competitor. A Lithuanian deli just down the road off Main St. That’s where we found bundookies, and brought them home. Along with fresh and smoked kielbasa from both places.

Kowalonek’s has the best fresh kielbasa and Lucky’s has the best smoked version.

We did a smoked kielbasa throw down one night, and declared the really smoky, dense Lucky’s kielbasa the winner. Those rings of kielbasa turned into five dinners

Lucky’s is owned by a Lithuanian family. My mother-in-law was Lithuanian and we know she made us bundookies but just called them pork meatballs. They are an interesting blend, using saltines as the binder. You mix them all up, sear them in a pan and finish them in the oven.

I got the recipe from a “coal cracker” website. Doctored it a little, as I didn’t have evaporated milk. The recipe calls for allspice, which most definitely gives it a different profile than our Italian inspired versions of meatballs, The amazing coal cracker blog from Lori has the full recipe.

I will be making these often. Defrosting some ground pork to make them again this weekend.

Memories in a pan.

Christmas Past

It’s been a very quiet Christmas. We changed plans of visiting friends this afternoon, and we weren’t going to travel anywhere for a while. So, the Packers and Browns have to entertain us.

I have been digging around in the old photo albums and decided to digitize many of them. Today is a perfect chance to share a few of those. And to remember.

I have also been spending time rummaging around on Ancestry and adding pictures from our boxes in the attic.

I think this one below was from my second Christmas.

At my mom’s parents. We lived with them while my granddad was ill but this picture was a year before that. I was the first grandchild.

I am still cataloging the boxes with my husband’s early pictures but found one of him and his younger sister.

I can tell you some of those train garden houses under their tree are in my attic 60 years later.

We spent most Christmases in PA with my mother in law, but still had family get togethers at my parents when we returned home to exchange presents. I remember years of the tree being in the basement rec room. And us swapping gifts with everyone down there.

My mom loved to get us lots of little things to open. Christmas really was a big deal for her, and we reaped the rewards of her shopping for us. We moved it all up into the living room as they got older and our families grew.

My kitchen has many items she bought us. She brought things home from trips and outlet visits for most of the year and had them wrapped months in advance.

I miss my mom. Christmas just isn’t the same.

And I miss my dad. I found this picture from Christmas sometime in the 1980’s when they still had Jake, their husky.

This was typical Jake pouting and pretending that he wasn’t being talked to. He was the sweetest, gentlest dog who let us live with him in his kingdom for 14 years. But he could be so stubborn and would let us know his feelings with his distinctive husky vocalizing.

Yeah, the holidays are tougher when you get older and lose family and friends. I feel for those going through this as their first Christmas after losing a loved one.

We all just need to hang in there and hope for a better 2022. So that our Christmas futures can all be brighter.

Crabby

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It’s been decades since we last steamed blue crabs. Last weekend we finally had the opportunity to put half a bushel in the pot and have our own personal crab feast.

I grew up looking forward to those rare celebrations of the “beautiful swimmers” as our Bay blue crabs are called. Simply prepared. Steamed in either vinegar or beer. Covered in Old Bay Seasoning.

Put the newspaper on the table, grab a mallet and a knife and get down to business. We have been enjoying the eastern shore crab houses the past few years. Not making the mess in the kitchen steaming them ourselves.

Now we have a neighbor who crabs every week and sells what he catches. We bought half a bushel of mixed size “sooks”, which are mature female crabs.

Cost us less than a pound of lump crabmeat costs these days. We ate a few dozen right from the pot, and then started picking crab meat to make soup and crab cakes,

The crab cakes were worth the time to pick all that backfin.

I made these in my cast iron skillet using browned butter to get them nice, crispy and dark.

We have until the end of the month to get more if we want to do this again. It’s been far too long and besides the little mess in the kitchen, they aren’t that hard to do.

Makes me remember growing up in crab country.

Dad’s Day

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It has been 18 years since I lost my dad. Every Father’s Day for me is hard because he was a very special person. He believed in me and encouraged me.

I was digging through old photographs today while cleaning up my “Peter Rabbit Room”. It’s what a friend calls that spare room full of stuff. I found one of our Alaska pictures. Probably the last time I had my picture taken with my dad, in Ketchikan.

My dad had been to every state but Alaska. It was my parents’ 50th anniversary and my friend and I went with them to help them navigate their first cruise, and a trip to celebrate that milestone.

It was special for me to watch their joy at seeing glaciers and whales.

I was the first grandchild on both sides of my family. I don’t think there was a person who didn’t hold me for pictures. But this one, of my dad with me for my first Easter shows all that happiness.

The first and the last. This was my first Easter in 1953 when I was just over 3 months old.

The Alaska trip pictures were my last ones with my dad, who passed away 2 1/2 years later.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. Miss you.

Gingerbread

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Do you sometimes crave those simple desserts from your childhood? Like real gingerbread. Not the cookies, but the cakey moist flavorful version, made from scratch.

For me, a few minutes spent sifting through my old recipe cards yielded this oldy but goody.

From the McCalls Recipe Box, which was my husband’s. I had the Betty Crocker box. I was cleaning out some stuff in the bookcase back in the bonus room over our garage I was trying to decide whether it was time to let go of the recipe cards. But they were how I learned, and so did my husband, to cook.

I was looking for comfort food, and gingerbread certainly fits the bill. I made a few adjustments. I went a little heavy on the spices. I used Grandma’s molasses, which I believe is dark molasses. I used the last of the self rising flour from one of my curbside pickups, where it was a substitute when flour was scarce. That meant no baking soda. I used a 10 by 15 pan so my gingerbread wasn’t the same height as the recipe showed.

Still, it is a wonderful trip back to the days of homemade goodies baked by my mom.

I really enjoyed doing this. I will have to dig through the cards and find something else to evoke those memories. Baking from scratch. Nothing from a box even comes close.

Milestones

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It’s been fifteen years. Since we packed up the boxes and started moving from the city to the country.

So much has happened. Natural disasters. Family crises. Medical setbacks. Still, I have to say. Leaving Columbia for a kinder gentler life was definitely worth it.

We came here so my husband could have towers for his radio hobby. So I could have a garden.  Things we couldn’t do when constrained by HOA’s.

I really can’t believe we have been here so long.

Some highlights.  Putting up that tower.

It used to be hidden from sight before the trees were toppled by the tornado. Now, it is visible from my kitchen and from the highway behind our neighbors.

The landscape has changed. We are adapting. I am planning a new garden since my yard is clear of tall conifers. I don’t want to give up my community plot because I love it, particularly the deer fence and the large stand of asparagus. Can I maintain two gardens? Time will tell.

I want to put in a large area of onions and I want to plant the most tomatoes I have ever attempted. They will go in the community plot.

Here, where it is most convenient, I want cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, herbs, and flowers.

Hopefully, there will be a couple of the tromboncino vines running through the dirt and producing those large unique squash which make perfect fritters.

I want to fill the freezer again with jars of sauce and roasted tomatoes. With caramelized onions. Zucchini fritters. Roasted peppers. This winter I am missing all those delicacies. That pesky tornado which ruined our summer and appropriated all my time meant I didn’t have my winter reserves.  I miss it.  Not much preserved at all in 2019.

My New Year’s resolution? Get back to those things that made me happy. Gardening. Canning. Birding. Cooking. Baking. Simple pleasures.

my garden haul one day in 2014

I will get there. There are many more milestones I want to make. Here’s to years more in my happy place. The oasis on the edge of the cities but far enough away to still be peaceful and quiet.

This is 2020.

Stove Top Suppers

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I was standing at the stove cooking Friday night. Using three of the four burners. Sipping a glass of wine, and chatting with my husband. For whatever reason, it brought back memories of growing up. My parents making a meal, sometimes mom, sometimes dad. We would be doing homework at the table under their eyes, while the day wound down.

Suppers were in the kitchen.  Dinners, on Sundays, and special occasions, were in the dining room.

I don’t know when things changed and we stopped cooking from scratch. When did prepared foods take over our lives? Throw in microwave, hit button, and eat when hot.

Back then, there were simple suppers. Burgers. Hot dogs. Fish Sticks. Mac and cheese. Liver and onions. Scrapple and scrambled eggs. Yes, back then we did “brinner”, breakfast for dinner. And, yes, we actually loved liver and onions, with gravy.

What have we lost, by not cooking as a family? Back then, we learned to cook, by watching our parents. We could scramble eggs. Make burgers. Make meat loaf (yes, I know, not stove top).

To me, now, it is interesting that I have reverted to cooking from scratch. Dirtying pots and pans. Frying. Not fancy stuff, and not preservative  laced, sodium laden meals.

Friday night is date night around here. Dinner and a movie. Or, catching up on our favorite shows. For a fraction of the cost of going out. Dinner cost less than $20. The expensive part of the meal. The Wegmans marinated sirloins for $10. Pan fried.

Served with butter beans from Harris Teeter. I still buy simple flash frozen vegetables to use in soups and stews, and these beans were leftovers. About a buck worth of beans, heated and served with butter. Lovely pappardelle that I picked up at Boarman’s. Half the $6 bag. Homemade pesto, from the scraps of our CSA. Carrot tops, radish greens, celery leaves. A handful of blanched almonds. Handful of parmesan. Olive oil. The almonds were probably the most expensive part of the pesto.

I had a pan frying steak. A pot boiling pasta. A small pot heating beans in a pat of butter on low. Yeah, some clean up required, but the dinner was wonderful.

Stove top cooking. Taking it easy and enjoying the results. Remembering the days of our youth watching our parents cook for us. Not a bad idea to just make it simple and savor a meal.

Fifty is Nifty

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If you are a city, that is. Even though people think that 50 years is a long time, it certainly isn’t when it comes to cities. The place I lived the longest, Columbia MD, turns 50 this summer. The celebration started last weekend.

The storytelling event this Friday night at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center will feature many long time residents. Who may remember the tiny little town of the 1960s and 70s. When there were just two lane roads, and not all that many traffic signals.

It was an interesting place to live, but it certainly isn’t old, even now. Heck, I might have a pair of boots or two older than Columbia.

I grew up in Baltimore, in a house built in 1920. I considered it really old when it was only 50 years. Back when I started college. I couldn’t wait to graduate and move to the New Town. The one with the cool people tree.

And the even cooler downtown, that included a lake, instead of high rises and congestion.

I remember ice skating on that lake. Spreading blankets on the grass before the fireworks. Making reservations at The Tomato Palace, to have dinner and watch the fireworks (in the years after I made enough money to do that).

Still, it isn’t really old. Sitting out here with a next door neighbor in a renovated farmhouse that was built in 1894, I have a different perspective.

No matter what. It’s been my home county for 42 years. Columbia was the town I lived in for 30 years, so there are lots of memories.

You bet I will be enjoying the storytelling events. And many of the other events celebrating the occasion.

I think I’ve even gotten used to this no longer being the Rouse Building.

Telling Tales

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Storytellers. A couple of dozen of them. A dozen at each of two very special evenings here in Howard County.

Did you know Columbia MD turns 50 years old this year? And, many of its long time residents are telling tales, so to speak, at the first of two events sponsored by the Howard County Conservancy, the Howard County Recreation and Parks Department, and the Columbia 50th Birthday Celebration Inc.

You can register at the Conservancy website, for tickets to one or both of the storytelling events. And, for those wanting to learn how to better their skills at telling tales, either spoken or written, you can sign up for a day long workshop, too.

Last year was the second time the Conservancy sponsored a storytelling event. The first time for a workshop. The event was an overwhelming success. Standing room only. So, for those of us who love to hear all about the past from our friends and neighbors, signing up early is the way to get a seat.