In this section, we will explore the impact that forming and keeping Traditions can have on the family unit.

(Excerpted from I Smell a Memory, by Joanne S. Bishop 2003)

What is your earliest memory of the mouth-watering smell of something good? For me, it came on a cold winter’s day, several weeks after my uncle and his new wife came to live with us.  They were married in October of 1939 and times were hard on newlyweds then, just before the USA went into WWII, so they settled into one of our bedrooms and shared the kitchen until they could find and afford a place of their own.  Though I was just under four years old, I can remember most of the first-hand observations I made of some of the different ethnic practices of the first non-Italian member of our family – Uncle Mike’s wife, Lee, who was of German descent.

On this particularly frosty day, some time in November, I had crawled up on our living room sofa to look out of the window and watch big flakes of snow fall through the beam of the street lights that had just flickered on against the gloom of the late afternoon, when I was drawn by a magnetic aroma that wafted from the kitchen where Aunt Lee was preparing their dinner.  Jumping down from the couch, I scooted from the living room, maneuvered around our big dining room table and on sturdy three-year old legs, followed the mysterious (potatoy/oniony) smell – different from anything I had ever caught scent of cooking in our home before.

In the kitchen, I watched has as she pulled a casserole from the oven to test the potatoes that, nestled in a creamy, white sauce, were beginning to turn golden brown on top.  That, alone, was enough to stop me in my tracks.  Cook with milk?? Never, in my short years of experience in that Italian family; they would talk about it for months to come.  Uncle Mike would surely starve!  She gave me some, though, when it was all tender and golden, and I was hooked for life.

Bolstered by the fact that Uncle Mike had not yet starved to death (or been poisoned), the rest of the group finally worked up the courage to try her casserole at one of our picnics.  They mobbed her for the recipe!

 Aunt Lee’s Scalloped Potatoes

(Serves 4 to 6)

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees; Bake casserole on a foil-lined cookie sheet to catch any boil spill-over.  Generously butter bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.

4 Large Russett Potatoes – peel, slice thinly and place into a bowl of cold water  1 Large onion – peel and slice thinly

Mix together 1/2 cup Flour, 1 Tablespoon salt and 1 Teaspoon pepper

Add 4 Tablespoonfuls of melted Butter to 2 cups whole milk (substitutions for even creamier potatoes:  2 cans Evaporated Milk or 1 Quart of Cream)

Drain the potatoes well, overlap a layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Place some onions on top of the potatoes.  Sprinkle the flour/seasoning mixture over the potato/onion layer.  Repeat:  potato layer, onion layer, seasoned flour layer – until all are used.

Pour the milk/butter mixture over all to cover (you may need to add more milk or cream to bring the volume up to cover all layers).

Tightly seal with foil or lid.  Bake 1 hour at 375.  Lower heat to 325 and remove cover to allow the top to brown and all is tender (approx. 45 more minutes).

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 Caribbean Lentils

from our Carpenteria, CA family vacation, August 2011

First, make a fragrant broth with the following ingredients:

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 large carrot (peeled and grated)

1/2 large sweet onion, chopped

5 whole sprigs (stems and leaves) cilantro

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 cups chicken broth

juice of 1/2 small lime

1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, salt and black pepper (if you like it spicey, you can also add 1/4 tsp of (optional) cayenne pepper)

1/8 teaspoon of Sumac (optional)  (you can substitute Curry Powder)

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer about 30-60 minutes (until vegetables are soft).  Remove the cilantro stems (if leaves fell off, that’s OK, you can leave them).  Mash all the vegetables until fine and incorporated evenly throughout the broth.  Add more chicken broth to bring total volume to 2 cups.

When the broth/veggie mixture is finished – THEN add 1 cup dried lentils (I prefer the orange colored ones). Cook at low temperature until liquid is absorbed and lentils are soft (add more chicken broth, if needed, to allow enough liquid to be absorbed – do not let the lentils dry out and burn on the bottom).  The final consistency will be like a thick oatmeal.  Can be served plain as a main or side dish ( you can also add a dollop of sour cream or greek yogurt just before serving).


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As promised, here is the script for our 2011 Family Play:

REDEMPTION ISLAND  (click on link to open)

Also, some photos for your (laughable) enjoyment.  We all made our own treasure chest and made most of our own costumes and props.  It was a fun time!

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As promised, here is the first of many more to come delicious recipes from our Mom’s cookbook, “I Smell a Memory”.  The recipes below are VERY EASY and would be fun to make with small children (not as an ingredient…as a helper).  These recipes aspire to the KISS principle and may even get you a real kiss in the meantime from someone that you love. 
Bologna Spread Triangles (makes
about 1 quart of spread)

Run everything but the mayo through a fine food grinder twice -or- process in food processor until fine but not liquid. Cut Whole Bologna into pieces before use.Put the fine mixture into a mixing bowl and add the mayo. Mix with a wooden spoon until all is a smooth, moist, spreading consistency.

Trim crusts from fresh bread (wheat and white are nice). Spread one slice of bread thickly with mix, top with another slice, and cut corner to corner into four small triangles. Cover and refrigerate up to three hours. You can use 2 slices white or wheat, or one slice of each per sandwich. A variety is pretty.


Peanut and Jelly Fingers
2 C Creamy or Crunchy
Peanut Butter at room temperature ( or 1 cup of each)
½ C Grape Jelly — ½ C Mint Jelly

Mix Grape Jelly into one cup of the Peanut Butter, and the Mint Jelly into the other cup, blending well.

Trim crusts from fresh bread (wheat and white are nice). Spread once slice of bread thickly with mix, top with another slice, and cut into three equal ‘fingers’.

You can use 2 slices white or wheat, or one slice of each per sandwich. A variety is pretty. Cover and refrigerate up to two hours.


Creamy Banana Nut Bread Circles
1 loaf of your own Banana Nut Bread (or 1 Cylinder can of commercial brand)

8 oz Whipped Cream Cheese

4 oz. Crushed Pineapple, drain well, reserve juice

2 T Mayonnaise — 2 T Reserved Juice

4 drops Yellow Food Coloring

Cream together the Mayo, Pineapple Juice, and softened Cream Cheese, until well blended and creamy.  Mix in the drained Crushed Pineapple. Add food coloring 1 drop at a time, until desired color. Mixture must be room temperature to be soft enough to spread easily on banana nut bread.

If using your own nut bread, cut thin slices and then use a whiskey glass or other small cutter to cut round circles (small, shaped cookie cutters would also work well).

When using cylindar can of bread, just remove the roll of bread from the can and slice thinly.

Spread one circle thickly with filling, top with another circle. Continue until all is used up. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.


Royal Gelatin Salad
This can be any gelatin salad or dessert that you prefer. It got its name from using Royal Gelatin. I believe it was a simple CHERRY GELATIN with SLICED BANANAS, PINEAPPLE CHUNKS and cut-up MARSHMALLOWS in it. (No mini marshmallows in those days.)

You need to drain the pineapple very well before adding it to the gelatin, but the juice can be measured to replace half of the cold water in the original box recipe, and ginger ale or lemon soda for the rest of the cold water in original recipe. If you have a pretty jello-mold use it, if not a cake dish will do. Cool Whip makes a pretty topping for each serving.

Princess Party Punch
Several Large Envelopes of Cherry or Grape Kool-Aid

2 Quarts of Ginger Ale

1 Orange Sliced — I Lemon Sliced

Ice Cubes — Punch Bowl

Prepare the Kool-Aid according to instructions—Chill overnight.

Chill the unopened Ginger Ale overnight.

To Serve: Put the Chilled Kool-Aid into a punch bowl. Stir in the Chilled Ginger Ale. Add the Ice Cubes. Float the fruit slices on the top.



Posted by GrannyJo at 8:04 PM

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In this section, we will explore the impact that forming and keeping Traditions can have on the family unit.  Traditions don’t have to be elaborate, they can be easy and simple.  But the key to Traditions is that they have to be dependable and consistent.  The family will come to embrace Traditions only when they feel connected to something reliable and meaningful. This usually takes a facilitator, of sorts, to take the bull by the horn and begin the process.  Different Traditions will have various family facilitators.

For many, holiday traditions are the easiest to recognize, but the hardest to execute during the flurry of activity of the season.  But – it is possible to have a few special holiday Traditions that stand the test of time and bring the family together. Throughout the year, I will share some of our holiday Traditions and hope to hear about some of yours.

In our family, food has a place of honor and is the basis for many Traditional dishes and the stories that accompany them.  Many a family dinner occurs where we prepare special dishes that remind us of persons and events that have long passed, but still remain in our hearts.  Comfort food brings us all to a common table which is an important (and, sadly, vanishing in our society) Tradition of sorts and I will share some of our recipes and family stories that our Mother passed on to us.

So, WELCOME TO THE TRADITIONS PAGE! I hope that you will visit it many, many more times to get inspiration and ideas that are some of the key building-blocks of Family Connections.


More info coming…As the Holidays roll around, come on back to this section to see (and share) some special memory making traditions.


Excerpts from our Mom’s Cookbook and Blogstream: “I Smell a Memory”. Each of us has our own copy of this collection of family stories and associated recipes. As this blog progresses, I will share some of them with you.  A joy for the palate and the mind…

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To me, the opportunity to create some unique Traditions outside of the obvious is one of the keys to keeping the family connected throughout the years.  One of our Traditions is to have a small family play every year. I preface this with the fact that we are all Adults now (at least chronologically), so getting everybody to “buy in” is sometimes a challenge – and that is where the facilitator (ME, in this case) has to step in to keep the Tradition going.  I assure you, though, once the festivities have started everybody has a good time and we have created a special memory.  This Tradition started out during a family vacation in Santa Barbara with one of those Mystery Dinner Themed box games that my daughter gave us for Christmas.  We all sat around a table with our scripts and clues in hand and the CD queued up for directions and music background.  Eyes were rolling and wandering, looking for an escape route I suspect, and body-language was straight-backed, arms-folded, teeth-clenched kind of resistance.  Wow, this was going to be FUN!  Undaunted, I started the CD and after the first scene, we had gotten the hang of it and really began to act!  My Dad’s character was a Russian Spy and all of a sudden, this thick Russian accent came out of his mouth and we all (LOAO).  That truly broke the ice and then all of us tried to out-do the other with accents and improvisations.  At the end, we were laughing and wishing it hadn’t ended so fast.

The next year, I searched for a theme-related box kit and could not find one to my liking (or budget) and thought, “How hard could it be to write a play?”  So, I did one with a Western theme and integrated some activities to stretch the time out and included COSTUMES and props. I highly recommend the costumes, as they bring up the enjoyment and hilarity factor exponentially and also make great photo ops and, trust me, you will want to remember these (some of ours are shown here: remurdermysterymugshots).  The costumes can be home-made (think Halloween, on the cheap), as can the props (everyday household items, or things you buy at the 99-cent store).  In writing the parts, I tried to imbed personality traits that resembled that family member to make that part more personal and identifiable. I have included that script as an attachment to this blog – feel free to use it and revise it to fit your group (note, it has some adult-like language and activities – but you can revise it accordingly if you have young ones).  I also have attached another one from our trip to Big Bear Lake, CA that has an Indian Lore theme – as a keepsake from this one, we each created a glass jar with the nature items that we collected in preparation for the play.  Once this year’s Pirate Theme play has been performed, I will post that file as well (but I don’t want to give away the secrets before the family performs them).  Feel free to use any or all – but even more fun…create your own!

The Legend of Big Bear

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