The Grandma Chronicles: Many Peach Trees Grow in Brooklyn

Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio, Ohio Ce...

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Do you know the story of Johnny Appleseed?  Born in 1774, he was a true American hero who planted apple seeds and then sold the seedling trees for pennies so that early settlers could grow apples.  I guess we could call him one of America’s first nurserymen.

I don’t know all the details about that long-ago gardener, but I do know why there are so many peach trees growing on a particular street in Brooklyn.

As young parents, my grandmother and her husband bought a one-family home on a tree-lined street in Brooklyn.  It was a two story house with a small garden plot in the back.  And I know that the patch of dirt in the backyard of that house was a very special place for my grandmother.  For her, it was an escape when the frustrations of motherhood were overwhelming and a haven when the toils of housework called for a respite.

My grandmother told me that one day she had bought several pounds of peaches at the market.  After preparing them to use as filling for a peach pie, she held the pits in her hand, imaging the peach trees they might become.  Making up her mind, she put them in a paper bag, grabbed a small shovel and went outside to her backyard.   My grandmother proceeded to plant several peach pits in the rich earth.  Hurrying to the small plot of dirt next door, she planted a few pits there.  Her mission for that afternoon: find a home for each peach pit…and  she continued planting pits in every backyard on the street.   

I don’t know how many pits grew into peach trees…I do know that I picked many peaches from the tree behind my grandmother’s house…most of them wormy because she didn’t use any insecticides.  The next-door neighbor and my best friend who lived across the street also had peach trees in their backyards…probably equally as wormy. 🙂

As a child, I spent many blissful hours on my knees in that dirt, helping my grandmother plant and weed…learning much more than just how deep to plant a daisy seed or which weeds to pull up.  I learned to:

  • Care about and respect nature
  • Care about and respect others
  • Care about and respect myself

Another valuable lesson I learned from my grandmother was a love of cooking.  From my parenting book, SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTTEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING, AND COOKING, here’s a lovely child-friendly recipe for a healthy fruit-laden cake that calls for apples, but you could substitute peaches if they are in season.


The wonderful aroma of apples and cinnamon baking in the oven…ahhhhh!

You will need: 2 cups all purpose flour, ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 cup sugar, ¾ cup canola oil, 2 eggs beaten, 2½ cups apples (peeled and sliced thinly), ½ cup applesauce, ½ cup raisins, a large bowl, a 9×13 inch greased baking pan and a spatula.

  •  In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and ¾ cup sugar.
  • Make a well in the center of the flour and add the oil and eggs and mix well
  • Add the apples and raisins and stir until well distributed
  • Spread the batter in the greased pan.  Smooth with a spatula and sprinkle with ¼ cup sugar.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.
  • Insert a toothpick in the center of the cake…the cake is done if it comes out clean.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature. 
  • Serves 12…refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container.

Stop by tomorrow for the last installment of The Grandma Chronicles: The Summer of the Black Cat.

The Grandma Chronicles: Where are the Side-Lanterns on my Car?

1910 Model T Ford, SLC, UT

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Have you ever done something wrong, but were afraid to admit it?  And to cover it up, did you pass the blame off on someone else?

In my grandmother’s day, a husband’s word was law.  I never knew my grandfather, who passed away when I was an infant, but I’ve heard that he was a strict man.  My grandmother told me that at dinnertime, she would pass out books to each of her five children so that there would be quiet at the dinner table.  I don’t know whether my grandmother and her husband conversed…but I know the children ate with their heads buried in their books.  These days, most of us encourage conversation at the dinner table…it’s a wonderful time to relate the day’s events and share interesting moments.  And, although we might be horrified at a father who insisted on silence during dinner, you’ll have to admit that this policy did provide time for the children to read. 🙂

My grandfather had purchased one of the first cars made…a Model T…and I’m sure he was extremely proud of it.  I don’t know if you needed a license to drive a car in those days…but I know my grandmother didn’t have one…nor did she know how to drive.  However, one spring morning she decided that it was time for her to drive the car.  Taking it out on the street, she drove around the neighborhood, quite pleased with herself. 

And then she came to a very narrow street. 

With cars parked on both sides. 

And both side-lanterns were ripped off. 

As the last rays of the setting sun glinted off the shiny black surface of the car, my grandfather returned home from work.  I can imagine his horrified stare as he realized that the side-lanterns of his precious car were missing.  His roar of rage could probably be heard half-way down the street…certainly my grandmother heard it in the kitchen where she was preparing dinner.

“What happened to the car?  Did YOU drive it?” he shouted, angrily.  My grandmother paused for only a moment and then replied softly, “Walter drove it and I don’t know where he is.”

Walter was their oldest son…probably about 15 years old at the time.  As soon as she had returned home with the damaged car, my grandmother had told him the story and had pleaded with him to take the blame, but that she would hide him in the cellar for a few days until my grandfather had cooled off.  After all, the family could continue along for a few days without Walter, but what would the other children do if something happened to her.

I guess my grandfather did cool off, because years later, when I knew my uncle Walter, he was a successful musician, and he did NOT live in the cellar.  🙂

This story made a very deep and lasting impression on me when my grandmother told it to me many years ago.  The lesson I learned was that if you want a child (or anyone) to tell you the truth, you have to:

  • Try to listen without judgment or condemnation. 
  • Try to be patient. 
  • Try not to scream or scold or lose your temper.
  • Deal out fair and reasonable punishments or consequences for misbehavior.

Positive parenting takes time and effort…laying that foundation of trust and respect when children are young reaps wonderful benefits as they get older and helps create a life-long parent-child bond. 

Please stop by tomorrow for the last installment of The Grandma Chronicles: Many Peach Trees Grow in Brooklyn.

The Grandma Chronicles: Curtains for Dinner

17th century lace fragment from Italy, Honolul...

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I only knew her as GRANDMA.

But she had a life before I ever met her…as an obedient daughter, loving sister, impressionable girl, new bride and mother of five. 

She was a woman of character and strength.  She was ahead of her time in many ways and I thought she was an angel with super-powers.  But “Curtains for Dinner” shows that she was a normal human being, just like any of us…and sometimes she made questionable choices.

As a young woman, my grandmother lived in an era where most wives stayed home and the husband went to work and controlled the family finances.  Every week, she would be given a certain amount of money for the household expenses…whatever her husband determined would be enough…if she was a frugal homemaker.   And, just like today, it was hard to make the money stretch to buy the staples she needed.  One day, on her way to the butcher shop to buy meat for dinner, my grandmother passed a fabric store.  Hanging in the store window was the most beautiful piece of lace material and my grandmother knew she had to have it for her kitchen window…to help make her house a more beautiful home.  Opening the door, she entered a world of colors and textures…but her eyes were only on the lace in the window.  A small scrap of paper pinned to the fabric displayed the cost…25 cents.  Reaching her hand into the neckline of her dress, she unpinned the folded handkerchief that held her precious household money.  Carefully she opened the scrap of fabric and looked at its contents…only 50 cents, the amount needed to purchase enough meat for dinner that night.  What should she do?  How could she pass up that beautiful piece of lace?  But what would she do about dinner?

Making her decision, she took one of the quarters, approached the store clerk and indicated her choice.  Emerging from the fabric store, the parcel of lace clutched tightly in her hands, my grandmother continued down the street to the butcher’s shop.  Now she only had enough money for half as much meat.  Purchasing the meat, she watched as the butcher wrapped it…what a tiny package it made! 

Sitting down to dinner in the kitchen with the new lace curtains fluttering in the breeze, her husband noticed that there was only one place set.  “Aren’t you eating, my dear.” he asked.   “Oh no,” my grandmother replied.  “I was so hungry, I ate my portion earlier.”

My grandmother might have gone to bed with her stomach a little empty…but her desire to beautify her home was well-satisfied.

Did she make the right choice?  What would you have done?

Stop by tomorrow for the last installment of The Grandma Chronicles: Where Are the Side-Mirrors on the New Car?  I’ll also share a recipe, from my new parenting book. for apple cake just like the one I used to make with her those long-ago Sunday mornings.