I usually begin this letter by mentioning how grateful I am for my family, friends and good health. This year is no exception, however, I have acquired a deeper appreciation for “good health”. In November 2015, at the age of 83, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My goodness, those are two very scary words! So 2016 has seen a challenging battle. Often, at my age, chemotherapy is not considered, but because of my overall good health, it was an option that I took. All my fellow warriors out there have my respect because the “cure” is as much of a battle as is the cancer. At this time my prognosis looks good and I am very grateful (and glad to be done with the chemo!).
Although there were times I felt low, I did my best to keep busy. I continued cooking about three times a month (rather than every week). One of my chemo side effects was that everything tasted too sweet, which resulted in my losing quite a bit of weight. This was the first time a doctor ever encouraged me to consume foods high in calories! But dang it! Sweets just didn’t taste good. I’m sure I will get my sweet tooth back, and I doubt my weight on the scale will last very long. What fun I will have trying to gain weight for a change!
Of course, even when life hands you lemons, there are lemonade days! One day husband Travis called daughter Ramona for help because I had asked him to bring me some of the “green drink” (I could not think of the word “Perrier.”) Travis was especially frustrated because he is color blind. He asked Ramona, “How does she think I can find a green drink?” This color impairment, along with some male selective “blindness,” made waiting on me somewhat like a scavenger hunt. Then there was the day early in my treatment when I did not feel like going to the hairdresser, so Ramona volunteered to cut my hair. This could have been dangerous … when Ramona was growing up every doll she had ended up totally bald. She loved playing hairdresser. While I didn’t worry about going totally bald from haircuts, I was surprised that her long-dormant desire to cut hair bloomed and her own hair became shorter and shorter.
Now for other family news.
Our first “Cookie Taster,” grandson Jedidiah was a huge help this past year. Son Mike hurt his leg when he slipped down a creek bank and tore his Achilles tendon. Jed came in and helped Mike in shipping. It was the easiest year Mike has ever had! Jed will be attending grad school this fall at the University of Kansas where he will pursue his MFA in creative writing with a science fiction focus. Jed looks forward to checking out KU’s renowned science fiction library. He will be missed, especially by Mike who got spoiled having him here!
Granddaughter Madison graduated law school, passed the bar and is now an associate at a law firm in Chicago. Ramona asserts it is no surprise that Madison is being paid to argue and negotiate. Her nickname was “Mad dog Madison” growing up. “I guess all those years of mother/daughter conflict-resolution finally paid off!”. This really makes me laugh, because we used to joke that Ramona was so stubborn she would “argue with a sign post”. Payback is sweet.
So while Ramona’s children are leaving us, my youngest daughter Caroline’s children are here to fill the Cookie Taster positions. Caroline’s oldest, Evva Kate, is 7 and her twins, Norian and Lucy, are 4. Little Norian comes in and goes to work in his office processing “orders” that he demands we send to Madison in Chicago. All three love to practice their “taste tests.” Son Jonathan’s children, Isabella and Fiona, add singing and dancing to their duties. There is never a dull moment around here.
In other news, Travis continued to carve walking sticks in his “Whittler on the roof” workshop, and we both maintained substantial gardens. Travis helped this year by doing some of the planting I normally would have done. It was truly a labor of love to plant all 150 caladium bulbs.
So, healthwise, the year could have been better. But on other fronts, it was also a year of blessings. The love expressed by my family and friends, the kindnesses of friends and strangers, the thoughtful cards, books, and the delicious food have been treasured gifts for which I cannot begin to express my appreciation. My thanks to you all!
In closing, I will include a couple of my favorite recipes. Folks seemed to enjoy the ones I shared last year, so we will make it an annual thing. Here is my favorite recipe for Mint Tea. I serve it at every meal.
Found in my cookbook “Supper’s at Six & We’re Not Waiting!”. Great to make ahead. Keeps well. (Recipe has been halved)
3 cups cold water 10 Mint leaves
5 regular tea bags 1 cup sugar
5 whole cloves 1 large can frozen lemonade
Bring water, tea bags, cloves, and mint leaves to a boil. Take off heat and cover; let stand for 10 minutes. Put 1 cup sugar in separate bowl. Strain tea mixture over sugar. Add can of frozen lemonade and an appropriate measure of water from can instructions. Add 3 more cups of cold water. Makes approximately 1 gallon
And here is Mona’s favorite desert. (I hope it will taste good to me soon!)
Also found in my cookbook “Supper’s at Six & We’re Not Waiting!”
1 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup nuts
1 stick butter
1 large (8 oz) low-fat cream cheese
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large (16 oz) tub Cool Whip
2 (16 oz) cans blueberry pie filling
For crust: Mix flour, brown sugar, and nuts in 10×12 pan; cut 1 stick of butter over this and bake 15 minutes at 325°; cool.
Mix together cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Add 1/2 Cool Whip. Fold together and pour over crust. Let set and pour blueberry, cherry or favorite pie filling over and top with Cool Whip.
Wishing us all a year of joy and good health!
All the Best,