Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sisters and Sisters-in-law

My mom (in the white bathing cap) has two sisters, shown together in this photo when they were teenagers living in Seattle in the 1950's. Despite often being annoyed and exasperated with each other, they stay in frequent contact, visiting each other as much as is possible, with one of them living in Eastern Washington and working two jobs, and another spending six months of the year in Southern Baja Mexico.

I don't have a sister, but I do have two daughters, whose relationship I have watched develop over the past 18 years. Despite one now living in Austin, TX and one near Seattle, WA, thanks to modern technology, they can call, text, or facebook each other, and do almost daily. They best way to know how either one of them is doing, is to ask the other one.

This is a picture of my mom and her sisters when they were young. I grew up with two brothers, so a childhood with only girl siblings, like my mom's and my friends', the four sisters of the TakaSissies, is somewhat perplexing to me. Three of the four sisters of the TakaSissies, were instrumental in getting me started, and continually encouraging me along the way, with my early spinning efforts, and they are so incredibly unique and wonderful -each in her own way. Last month, at the Snohomish Knitter's Guild, the program was a presentation of the collective and individual stories of four women, The NitPicks, who are related by marriage, bonded by knitting, and authors of the blog, Girls in Sheep's Clothing. They are poster girls for the value and depth of the relationship possible between sisters-in-law. My own sisters-in-law, to whom I am bonded as much by food as by marriage, are such exceptional women: Sally, Sharon, Shelly, Gretchen, Connie and Angela; two are sisters, two are partners and two, luckily for me, are married to my brothers. They all have given me so much in support and friendship, as well as so many great recipes and fabulous shared food experiences.

Angela loves going to the casinos, and this is us last summer in Las Vegas. Angela also loves fishing and she gets so excited if she catches a fish. I love watching her do the things she loves, because her delight is so infectious and life-positive. Over the year's, she's taught me how to make enchiladas, green chili pork stew, Mexican red rice, and several other authentic Mexican recipes that she learned from her mother. I simply melt from the warmth of listening to the stories Angela lovingly tells of her father and mother, their courtship, and her childhood growing up in Los Angeles. I also can't help but adore her three wonderful children, who share strikingly similar traits with my own kids.

Sally and I, with her daughter, Liz at Liz's place in Ashland two Augusts ago, shamelessly stripping her garden of tomatoes. Liz offered for us to take what we wanted (they had been overly enthusiastic with their tomato planting) so we filled our coolers and boxes, happily canning tomatoes when we returned home. We had all gathered there to simply be together for four days and it was wonderful. Sharon is always looking for a food adventure -she knows the best places in Seattle to get excellent dim sum or great Ethiopian food- and in Ashland she took us to visit the Rogue Creamery and sample their excellent cheeses, including their amazing Smokey Blue Cheese. We had several lovely and relaxed dinners while visiting there. We were together again, for Thanksgiving at Gretchen's this year, with Liz driving her VW bus up from Ashland for the occasion. Several Christmas' ago, after sampling these cookies in a holiday gift tin, my son begged the recipe of Sally. She sent him her Rum Balls recipe, but he was somewhat disappointed with their simplicity, and them not being the exotic concoction he had imagined. He quickly got over his disappointment, and they are now a part of our holiday cookie repertoire. They are incredibly easy to make, improve with age, keep and ship well, and as noted on the recipe, are "Very Rummy!"

Rum Balls

Mix in bowl:
3 c. finely ground vanilla wafers
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. ground pecans
2 T. cocoa powder

Add, mixing until evenly moist:
3 T. light corn syrup
2/3 c. rum

Roll into walnut-sized balls. Put 1 c. powdered sugar in a bowl and roll balls in it to coat. Store in an airtight container. These improve with age.
Variation: Substitute bourbon for rum to make Bourbon Balls, and/or walnuts for pecans if preferred.

Connie may look innocent, but she is an instigator of adventures. Here we are clam digging together, dressed in our sexiest attire, with my brother and youngest daughter. Connie is responsible for us all going white water rafting together in June -an experience we survived, but at the time I was pretty sure we were all going to die! She is very sweet and fun to be with and among other things, she brought to the marriage her recipe for baked beans, the value of which should not be underestimated, in my opinion.

I first met Gretchen, The Soup Queen, when I became her brother's girlfriend. I was sixteen and she was thirteen. We have shared so many experiences, family, farm, food and otherwise. She has given me several of my favorite cookbooks (Rick Bayless' Mexico One Plate At A Time, and The New Glorious American Food are just two), and my enameled Dutch oven that I absolutely love. I gave her this hat last month that I'd knit using the Brooke's Column of Leaves pattern. The same time I started this blog, she started training to run the Portland Marathon, which she finished! I really can't imagine myself actually doing this, and am in complete awe of her accomplishment. We spent this Thanksgiving at her house with her cooking the bulk of the food, despite the fact that she had to work the day before -and the day after.

Shelly, The Dessert Queen, came to the farm with her two daughters a few weeks ago, to crochet, to share chocolate, to eat desserts, and to sample my Country Cosmopolitan Cocktail. She is not called The Dessert Queen for nothing -the dessert recipes that came from, were shared with, or given to my by her, is a very long list of scrumptiousness. Right before they visited, her daughter Sherecie told me she had just made her mom's Pretzel Pie and how nostalgic it was for her to make it. My son, as a wee tot, was quite smitten with this dessert, and begged the recipe of his Aunt. It is quite yummy and a signature Dessert Queen recipe!

Raspberry Pretzel Pie

2 c. crushed pretzels
1/2 c. melted butter
1/2 c. sugar
Combine and form crust in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Bake 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes. Cool completely.

8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. tub Cool Whip
1 c. sugar
Combine and spread over completely cooled crust. Let set for 2 hours in fridge.

1 large raspberry Jell-O
2 c. boiling water
Let set until slightly thick.

1 small can crushed pineapple
10 oz. frozen raspberries (don't thaw)
Gently spread over filling. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or until set.


  1. Aaahhhh Sis!! When I first met you, I was amazed (and still am) at how you could manage a billion kids around you and do EVERYTHING, and make it look soooo easy :) I would call and ask you all sorts of questions from cooking to kids to marriage :) you are so wonderful!! I am so lucky to have you as my SIS!
    Rum balls??? I LOVE you :)

  2. Thanks for sharing such wonderful family memories and photos ~ and that Raspberry Pretzel Pie....I know a few nephews of mine would love to try that!!! Might move me to the top of the 'favorite auntie' list!

  3. I love the great family photos! Is your mother the sister on the far left in the top photo? I can really see a resemblance to your girls there.

  4. Opps, how did I miss the note that your mom was in the white bathing cap! So, I see a resemblance to their great aunt I guess!

  5. Trista, You didn't miss it. After reading your first comment, I realized (Duh!)that those who don't know her wouldn't know, and sneakily added a (note). My bad.