Remind Me

After hearing someone criticized because of the actions of an adult child, I went in search of a poem I read many years ago in a book written by Ruth Bell Graham. This poem, “They Felt Good Eyes Upon Them”, expresses some of the anguish felt by parents of prodigal children.

They Felt Good Eyes Upon Them

They felt good eyes upon them
     and shrank within -- undone;
Good parents have good children,
     and they -- a wandering one.

The good folk never meant
     to act smug or condemn,
But having prodigals
     just "wasn't done" with them.

Remind them gently, Lord,
     how You
Have trouble with Your children,

“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 KJV)


One Past Winter

Without snowfall in my area to write about, but needing to contribute my two-cents-worth, I’m sharing about a snowstorm in Monroe, Michigan, during the second winter we lived there.

It was Sunday, December 1, 1974. The predicted snow had not yet begun when we arrived at church. During the worship service, I heard what I thought was thunder. Soon an usher reported to the pastor (my husband) that we were having thundersnow and that the snow was accumulating very quickly. By the time church was dismissed a few minutes later, everyone who did not have a four-wheel drive vehicle had to be pushed from the parking lot to the city street that was already being cleared by snowplows. 

Our little city was pretty much shut down for the rest of that day and all day Monday. Our family spent time clearing the driveway and sidewalks, reading, watching TV, and enjoying time in front of our beautiful wood-burning fireplace.

While we were working to clear our space of snow, more creative citizens were using their artistic skills to snow-sculpt. The Tuesday edition of the Monroe News highlighted one of these creative projects. The picture below shows a cute little snow-model “VW Bug” parked along a snow route. A police car is stopped behind the bug. The caption does not include the fact that the police officer ticketed this VW for being illegally parked on a snow route.

Sometimes snowstorms are fun!

(I am indebted to Marge McBee, Monroe News Librarian, for the photocopy.)


Reading is Fundamental (and Fun)

Long before the organization, Reading is Fundamental, came along, my mother knew that reading would be of central importance to the successful futures of her children. She provided access to books and also read to us from the time we were very young. She continued to make reading a regular family activity during our grade school years.

Recently, my brother sent a very old photograph of Mama reading to us. I was in my pajamas, so I know it was evening and probably close to bedtime. I don’t know if it was true of the evening pictured, but for many of our evenings of reading we had popcorn or homemade fudge as treats.

What is now pictured for today’s children in movies and TV shows was created in our imaginations as we read after wonderful authors of the past: Louisa May Alcott, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Gene Stratton-Porter, Robert McCloskey, Ruth Sawyer, Beatrix Potter, Charles Dickens, Eleanor Porter, and many others.

I will be forever grateful to my mother for her commitment to our education.

Mama reading. I probably should have this special picture professionally restored.


Down Memory Lane

This past week, a friend from Michigan posted a recipe on Facebook that looked very familiar to me. It was called “Apple Stack Cake.” When I looked at the picture and read through the recipe, I knew it was the same cake we called “Christmas Molasses Cookie Cake” while I was growing up.

After several messages back and forth, I discovered that during his childhood my friend lived only 90 miles from the childhood homes of my maternal grandmother and grandfather. As did my relatives, he fished in the Clinch River that flowed through both communities. 

While this cake was a Christmas treat in our home, for my friend’s family it was used for many special occasions. He wrote that people brought layers to wedding receptions and the layers were all stacked together with the apple filling. After setting for the evening, it was served as the wedding cake. 

The only differences between my friend’s family recipe and ours are the use of both molasses and brown sugar in our recipe (his uses only brown sugar), and making the apple butter filling using cooking apples (his uses dried apples). His family always topped the cake with a final layer of apple butter, and our family iced the top layer with caramel frosting before serving.

Below is Mom’s recipe. Underneath this recipe is the family recipe handwritten by Grandma and sent to Mom via USPS.

Christmas Molasses “Cookie Cake”

    3 c flour                                                                              
    1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon                         
    1 1/2 tsp. baking powder                     
    1/2 tsp. baking soda                                   
    1/4 tsp. salt                                             
    1 egg (slightly beaten)                   
    1/2 c sour milk                                                    
    1/2 c brown sugar                                               
    1/2 c light molasses                                       
    1/2 c vegetable shortening (melted) 
    Apple Butter:
    6 pounds cooking apples
    1 c water
    2 1/2 c sugar
    1/2 c brown sugar
    2 tsp. cinnamon
    1 tsp. nutmeg
    2 Tbs. lemon juice
    Frosting: 1/8 c butter; 6 tbs. brown sugar; 1½ tbs. cream; 1 c. confectioners’ sugar
Cake: Mix brown sugar, shortening, egg, & molasses together. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking powder, soda, & salt together. Add sour milk (to sour 1/2 cup milk, add 1 1/3 tbs. vinegar & stir) & dry ingredients alternately to the first mixture. Roll dough out on floured board to 1/4" thickness. Use a small plate to cut out layers. Bake at 375° until lightly browned. Cool. To make cake, spread apple butter on top of first layer & between each additional layer. Let set in closed cake container for at least 24 hours before cutting. Before serving, ice top with Caramel Frosting. If not using caramel frosting, serve with whipped cream. Slice as a cake is cut. 

Apple Butter:  Peel, core & slice apples into eighths. Place apples in a large heavy saucepan and add water. Cover tightly and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir and add more water if mixture appears dry. Uncover and continue cooking until apples are tender, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Mix cooked apples with remaining ingredients in a crock or baking dish.  Bake in oven warmed to 350° for 3 to 4 hours or until mixture is thick and dark, stirring occasionally.  (A spoonful of apple butter, when done should not have a ring of liquid surrounding it.)

Quick Caramel Frosting: Melt butter in saucepan & stir in brown sugar.  Continue cooking over low heat for 2 minutes. Add cream & bring to full boil. Cool to lukewarm without stirring. Add confectioners' sugar & beat until smooth and of spreading consistency.

From Grandma Morrell:

During my research I found recipes for this cake called “Appalachian Stacked Apple Cake” and “Tennessee Mountain Stacked Apple Cake.”

At Magpie Cakes in Knoxville, TN, a 7-layer apple stack cake is available for $45. (November and December)

~ Cake picture from Pinterest