are these the best cookies i’ve ever eaten?!

This picture is intended to be a tease…

Watch for the full-blown pictures-that-make-you-drool post…

For my entire life my Gramma Helen has been baking these sugar cookies… and for my entire life they have been my favorite cookie (except for the time there was a mishap in a kitchen somewhere in Ramona and they “accidentally” produced some AMAZING snickerdoodles … which just MIGHT have trumped Gramma’s cookies for the best cookies in the world!)…

Well, I was finally brave enough to bake these in my own kitchen… why oh why did I wait so long?!

The next question is… how am I going to keep from eating each and every last one of them?!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…


My Grandmother’s handwriting…

I was going through some storage boxes several weeks ago…

And stumbled across this letter from my Grandmother Ruth. It was written in 1994…

Upon seeing her handwriting, my sorting stopped. I sat there and looked at the writing… not reading it, just looking at the curves of her “L”… the slant of her “H”… the loop under the “G”… and I started crying.

I desperately miss my Gramma Ruth. One Thanksgiving week she lost her battle to cancer. Now every Thanksgiving, several times throughout the day, we’ll talk about Gramma. How funny she was. How her house smelled. How she made a new dessert every night with dinner. How she loved her Franciscan Apple dinnerware.

When she was dying I was in “a bad place” of my life… and I didn’t visit her very much. I couldn’t deal with losing her. And so I acted as if she’d already passed. Oh how I regret that now…

This picture was taken at their 50th anniversary celebration. We were at Anthony’s Fish Market in Chula Vista. We enjoyed time together… in true Marshek tradition, over food. But we knew her days were numbered…

Gramma was only with us a few more months after that picture was taken. And we sure appreciated the time together.

She took care of her family the best she knew how. She loved many children… hers and those that God alowed to pass through their lives (through the foster system). But most of all… she loved my Grampa. And for that I’m grateful. My Grandparents are leaving quite the legacy for the family to carry on…

Life is good…

His 84th birthday…

October 1st… His birthday.

We were in a “family” dining room at his assisted living facility.  13 of us were crammed around a table built for 8.  We ate yummy Labella’s meatballs, torpedoes, anti pasta and garlic bread!

Oh yum!

His only Sister was in town.  When asked if he knew who she was, he responded in german “meine schwester”, my sister.  But he didn’t attempt to converse with her.  It’s almost as if he was seeing her in a photograph…. not sitting next to him at the table.  It became apparent that his perception of reality is altered.

He ate most of his dinner without much help.  He liked his birthday cake – but didn’t eat much of it.
He opened presents from his step-daughter… with some help.  One of them was a farm animal puzzle, for ages 3+.  The rest of it was packages of junk food.  He thoroughly enjoyed the unwrapping part.
What does an 84-year-old man with Alzheimer’s want for his birthday?

Sadly, the answer is “nothing tangible”.  It’s more about what he needs.  And what he needs is to be loved, cared for, kept clean, fed and protected.
When we sang him Happy Birthday he didn’t look up.  Then I wondered if this will be his last birthday?  Will we get to sing him “Happy Birthday” again next year?  If so, will he realize we were singing to him?

The projects continue…

My Dad was in town for a couple days.

I first greeted him with a hug.

Then I broke it to him that I had some projects waiting…

Dad – thanks for taking the time to remove the old light covers, trim the new ones and install them! It sure makes my kitchen a lot brighter!

But I have one problem… after replacing them I can see how dirty my kitchen is…

Life is good…

Welcome Fall!!!

How I love this time of year… orange tones and yellow hues… ahhh!!!

In this picture you’ll see an herb bowl (thyme, oregano and italian flat-leaf parsley), a yellow gerber daisy, my new gardenia bush and my angelonia. I love that little plant… with little white blossoms…

It was time to spruce up around the house because with Mom and Dad coming in for a visit … well, I just had to welcome them with some good ol’ downhome hospitality.

I even placed a bouquet of some of her favorite flowers in the guest room, aka “The Beach House”, so she could wake up to some pretty stuff.

Too bad they weren’t here long enough to actually relax and enjoy their time. Maybe next time… this trip was simply too brief.

nevertheless, Life Is Good…

My lil brother… Captain Haraldsen

My little brother came back home for a short visit… and we drove south to visit Grampa.

They talked about airplanes, Wisconsin, Loren’s daughter/Grampa’s great-grandaughter, etc… the men talked.

I enjoyed watching them talk… it was just nice to have my brother in the same room. It’s been too long since we laughed together…

Then I dropped him off at the airport … and took a minute to look at the view of San Diego. What a beautiful city I live in!

Can someone reminde me WHY Loren moved away from here?! He was C-R-A-Z-Y!!! (Crazy in love, that is… with a woman and his job. You know… the trivial things in life.)

Life is good…

A visit with 2 of the grandkids

Yesterday… my brother came into town to visit Grampa. This is what the day looked like…
But first, a little more about my brother. He is a pilot. He had a few days off in-between schedules. So he came “home” for a very brief trip. (Well, this isn’t my brother’s “home” anymore – but it is still Grampa’s home.) I don’t get to see my brother very often so I more than enjoyed our time together. Every meal we ate consisted of some sort of mexican food!
We drove south to where Grampa lives. And on the way there I shared details with my brother on the different “modes” I’ve seen Grampa in. It’s been 6 weeks since Grampa moved into his new home and I’ve noticed the following frames of mind that he’s in: work mode, chit-chat mode or shut-down mode. Today he was in chit-chat mode.
Throughout the several hour visit it didn’t appear Grampa recognized either of us. He was speaking ABOUT us… but he didn’t recognize us. Several times he looked at me and called me by the name of my mother. I reminded him that I was her daughter… not his daughter. Which just confused him more. But we’ve learned that it does help his brain to tell him who we are. He pauses for a few seconds, looks at us again (blinking his eyes, literally)… he then looks back and forth from face to face and continues with the conversation.

My brother told Grampa about recent trips he had flown into areas of Wisconsin. My brother spoke of flights into many WI cities Grampa lived in, camped in and his children were born in. True to our family roots, we sat around and told stories.

As noted above, today Grampa was in his “chit chat mode”. When I first sat down in front of him he scooted forward in his chair, looked me right in the eyes, grabbed my hand and said “I’ve wanted to tell you. I got in trouble and was in jail.” I couldn’t tell if he was speaking in metaphor (being in a large room with other people, with locked doors at both ends of the wing) or if was really trying to tell me a story from his past.
(I was later told by mom that he WAS in jail … when he was in the army. Something about being AWOL. But I’ve been told the rest of those details are highly confidential and I am prohibited from sharing them in this format. Wink, wink…)
On several occasions, throughout yesterday’s visit, he asked about his Mom. He wanted to know if she was around. He wanted to know if she “lived here too”. I told him that she was in Heaven. Again, seeing his brain turn back “on” he paused for a few seconds. He looked into my eyes and then at my brother. And then he changed the subject.

I think on some level he knows he’s forgetting things… but he probably cannot figure out why. Instead of shaming him … we divert him down the right path and keep him at peace. We move along w/ the conversation and see if he “catches up” to us.

Whether he does or doesn’t… we still love him. He’s our “Big Man”, our Grampa!

RECIPE: Mom’s Banana Bread

Feeling homesick today. I woke up with a migraine, which makes me want to cry. (But it seems to be waning as the day goes on.) But I still want to cry. I miss my Gramma M. I miss my Gramma H. I miss my Mom and Dad. And my lil’ bro…. ‘nuf said.

(Where’s the tissue…)

And the over-ripe bananas were telling me to make some bread, before it’s too late.

My lil’ bro comes into town in a few days and he likes this banana bread too! So maybe I can make him homesick too…

This is where I start… I sifted the dry ingredients. (Just like mom learned to do in her 7th grade Home Ec class.)

Move on to the bananas, mashed.

Next, cream together the wet ingredients.

And as Mom taught me, add in the dry ingredients in small batches. Otherwise all of the dry ingredients go flying all over the kitchen when you turn on the beaters. (I once tested fate… it wasn’t pretty.)

Add another batch of the dry ingredients…

… until all is combined. Then you can pour it into a well-greased loaf pan, smooth out the top (so it cooks evenly) and slide it into the pre-heated oven.

About 45 – 50 minutes later… you have a beautifully golden crust on top. And the house starts to smell like Mom is here.

Allow it to cool completely on a rack for at least 30 minutes… but keep some butter and a knife close by. You’ll want some of this very soon…

So here is Mom’s Banana Bread recipe… thanks Mom. Good memories rush through my kitchen while this is baking.

Mom’s Banana Bread
Recipe courtesy Janie Haraldsen, 7th grade Home Ec class

2 cups flour, sifted
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 egg
¼ cup shortening
2 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Combine flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder; set aside. In a large mixing bowl cream together shortening, sugar and egg. Stir in mashed bananas. Add dry ingredients, ¾ cup at a time until batter is mixed well.

Add batter to a well greased loaf pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Remove to cooling rack. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before removing loaf from pan to continue to cool.

OK – I’m serious. Where’s the tissue?!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

A Caged life for Grampa

Another day at the hospital… and a caged life for Grampa. He couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t let him out of bed to walk around. All he wanted to do was walk. We would pull the sheet back to reveal the large bandage around his knee. And he would look at it completely perplexed as to what happened…

He would sigh and sit back in bed.

Today’s flashback took us back to only 45 years ago. He is talking to the men who worked for him…. 45 years ago. But they were no longer in the room.

He keeps looking at his watch and saying “We’re running out of time. We need to work fast.” He would ask how “Lehman” was doing and if I’d seen “Jones”. Then he started speaking about “Tubbman”, another one of his men. But now he was talking in past tense – as if he were speaking up at his funeral.

And he stopped himself and looked at me… with a look that told me he was confused again.

In just a moment’s notice… his brain would turn back on.

Countdown to Alzheimer’s

He came out of surgery in a haze. A deep haze. He didn’t know why he was in the hospital. All he needed was a knee replacement.

Now he couldn’t remember why he was here. At first he didn’t remember my name. He couldn’t remember the name of his second wife… he called her my Grandmother’s name instead. But even as he spoke Grandmother’s name I could tell he knew that wasn’t right. He had the look in his eye… “Why am I confused?”

Day after day I sat with him in the hospital. He would sleep. He would wake up. Sometimes he would remember my name. Sometimes he wouldn’t. Sometimes he remembered my cousins’ names… and not mine. Sometimes he called me “Jim”. (I’m his oldest granddaughter and do not resemble a “Jim” of any sort.)

And then he would have a few moments of flashback. It was presumedly 65 years ago, in his world.

I sat with him as he assembled hats. (This was his job 65 years ago.) Assembling hats for the other men in his troop. He folded imaginary fabric in his lap. Layer after layer. Hat after hat. He folded, and folded … and folded.

And then, as if he snapped back into reality, he looked right at me and asked “Did you kill anyone in the war?”

Just a glimpse of his state of mind.