Monday, May 4, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

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What can a grown woman buy her Mom for Mother's Day? Flowers? Perfume? Candy? Well if you thought of any of those, you don't know Jo very well. Jo, as I affectionately call my Mom, just isn't the average mom.

Married at 19, she and my Dad have been together 57 years. I am the youngest of 5 kids that are all pretty well adjusted and happily married. Proud grandparents of 11 grandchildren she never misses an occasion to email them, drop them a note or a message on Facebook, yep, she's on. She was an early entrepreneur, and owned a "figure salon" back in the 70's. It was the first generation health club, only women, with belts and rollers and she would lead an exercise class to an album she had. She has always been a volunteer and writer and at the age of 70 she graduated from college with her BA in Creative Writing. These days you are likely to find her volunteering at the Salvador Dali museum in Florida. So how about a tribute blog for Mother's Day? After all, she must be part of the reason I am a devoted writer, a good cook and a good mom. Here's to you Jo.

I was a lucky kid growing up in a small Iowa town. My mom was no June Cleaver, but she did do it all. She sewed beautifully and had the most adorable sewing room. It was a small round room in our old English Tudor house. She made clothes for herself, for us kids and for Barbie!

Baking in my memory was my mom handing my older sisters and I the Betty Crocker Cooky Book, Copyright 1963, and I still have it. It is taped together, but the stained pages are filled with notes on the recipes we made as a kid. Chocolate Drop Cookies: good, Brown Sugar Drops: good, Pumpkin Cookies: 9/24/76 Excellent, couldn't go skating. I remember that day like yesterday. She told me to clean my room so I could go to the skating party with my class. I crammed everything in my closet, and she found it! I was sooo mad I couldn't go roller skating, it was the one opportunity to hold hands with a boy! So she suggested I make cookies, and I did. Amazingly I soon forgot about the party I missed, and I will never forget that night.
It very well may have launched my passion for baking, but it certainly started my journaling. I have never been a devoted journalist. I have tried, especially after the kids were born, to keep a journal. My method is from that night in 1976. Every cookbook I own has handwritten entries when I make the recipes. It could be as simple as the date and my substitutions, or a note about the events of the day. Our Sloppy Joe recipe that my family loves was first made when Nic broke his leg. I have a chicken and apple dish I made for our last dinner party in Michigan before we moved. And of course the many cake recipes I've made for birthdays over the years.

My Mom's cookbooks were also filled with letters, photos, notes and invitations. There was no rhyme or reason for where she tucked these, but they were forever encapsulated in her cookbooks. You'll find the same things in mine. In Betty's Cooky Book is a note that declares "if Susie dies before Lori (she's my sister), Lori gets this book". Nice, right? But other books are filled with notes from my kids, hand drawn pictures, postcards, wedding invites, small bits of my life that get tucked in only to be found one day when I am looking for a recipe.

My Mom also always put her name in her books. It didn't matter if it was a cookbook, a paperback or a hard bound novel, her distinct signature is on page one. One year she gave me The New Basics Cookbook and wrote me a note on the inside cover. "Grand Rapids, March 18, 1990. To Susie, a great cook, from your teacher. Love, Mom" That book is falling apart at the binding, spilling out hand made cards, Hallmarks, handwritten menus and novenas. I have a brand new copy on hand, but have never used it, there is too much history in that well used book. Christmas Eve Dinner 1995 is found on page 498, Waffles from Easter 1992 on page 452, and in Jan. 1997 we had a snow day in Memphis, it was a Friday and we baked Olive Bread, page 616.

In 1992 my Mom must have gotten tired of handwriting the family recipes every time one of us misplaced one. For Christmas that year she gave us all a cookbook called The Kitchen on Market Street. The kitchen in the big old house on the corner of 10th and Market is the setting for this book. This is where my Mom grew up and how she paid tribute to her Mom, but unfortunately Grandma was no longer with us. The book is filled with recipes and stories from her childhood and even from motherhood. So I have decided to honor my Mom, my Grandma and my heritage. I bounced the idea off my sisters, and they are in. Guess what Jo? We are writing our own cookbook as a tribute to you, as a way to document these memories and pass them on to our kids someday. Perhaps it will be ready for Christmas, or Mother's Day 2010. Either way, it will be signed by me (and Lori and Patti) with an inscription for my Mom, dated of course. And I know that eventually my Mom's little notes, cards and letters will find their way into the pages of this book as well. Happy Mother's Day!


  1. I loved reading this! It was a wonderful tribute to your mom for Mother's Day 2009! My mom writes her name in all her books, too! Something I also do and have started doing for my kids.

  2. First off, I'm freaking out..the story about the skating rink party is the EXACT thing that happened to me as a child!! EXACTLY - want to go to skate with boy in class, kiss, whatever, parents freak over the way I crammed my clothes into the closet instead of cleaning like they asked. They don't let me go..I cry etc etc. My story turned out that my best friend ending upskating with and kissing the boy I to this day, I jokingly hold that against Everything is the same! So neat! lol

    On another note, what a lovely tribute to your mom. It was a beautiful read :)

    Finally, I made the exact homemade ricotta that you made, and blogged about it also. Kismet, I tell ya! :)

  3. What a marvelous gift for your mom! If only we can make the memories for our children...I often wonder if we are making memories or just a mess with our hustle/bustle lifestyle. Only time will tell, as it has for your mom. Happy Mothers Day!

  4. I can't wait to work with you and Patti on this cookbook. Our mom rocks, and if you're reading this, I bet you mom does too and Susie's blog resonated with you. So, ditch the flowers and the perfume - break some bread with Mother. Happy Mothers Day!