This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 1 Dec 2013.
This past Thanksgiving was bittersweet. The house has been sold, leaving an unexpected hole in our hearts. We were taken by surprise with the feelings of renewed loss that we experienced with the thought that we will never be able to enter the home again. I guess we were feeling a sense of being close to Butch and Marie every time we walked into the house, even though it had been sitting empty for 5 1/2 years. As we began the preparation for this year’s Thanksgiving “Feast,” Gary asked that I not only prepare our traditional wild rice stuffing but to add his mother’s famous recipe to our dinner list.
But what was the recipe? I, the collector of all things family!! had never asked Marie for a copy, nor asked her how she made it. This was just a dish that magically appeared each time we gathered for Thanksgiving in our home, the perfect complement to the wild rice stuffing that I was making. She was always going to be there to add another delicious element to the table, right? Wrong. With that being said, we realized that it had probably been over eight years since we had last tasted Marie’s recipe.
Our daughter Kate has a version written in paragraph style that she had received from one sister-in-law a year or so ago, and I also asked our other sister-in-law if she had a copy, which she then sent to me.
So I set about combining the two, looking for similarities, looking for the differences, and picking Gary’s brain as to what he remembered from helping his mother make stuffing for so many Thanksgivings. One big difference that we discovered is that the use of commercial breadcrumbs was more often used by our sisters-in-law than drying bread for the stuffing. Another was that one recipe included eggs, and the other did not. We dried, we studied, we tasted – and we baked small dishes of stuffing after making adjustments. While I am not ready to post my findings, I will say that the dish was deemed pretty close in flavor to what it should be. Once the feeling of being stuffed by Thanksgiving has passed, I will mix up another batch to use throughout the year to stuff pork chops, serve with chicken, etc. and we will take another look at how close I have come to Marie’s Famous Stuffing.
This archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” was first published 13 Sep 2013.
I heard on the news the other day that women drivers now outnumber male drivers. This got me to thinking “How long have I been driving?” and so the mental math began, 50 minus 15… 35 years! I can easily document the years, but wouldn’t it be interesting to be able to document the miles? Miles driven in cars from my early stick shift days with no air conditioning and AM radio, to my now 10-year-old Mountaineer with lots of bells and whistles.
This news was also the push I needed to write this blog post that I have had noodling around in my mind for a while. A blog post about a car. A 2000 Mercury Sable. A blog post about its first owner, Marie Fassbender.
It starts in the year 1947. When Marie was in the hospital, having just given birth to her first child, she received her first driver’s license. And I do mean that; she received her license. It was at that point that her husband, Butch, decided that she needed to drive. So he headed to the town hall to get her one. Stating his intent to the city clerk, the response was: “Well, she’s a Fassbender so she must know how to drive.” And he handed over the license.
Jump forward to November 2000. Butch had been in the home for almost two years when the decision was made that it was time to get rid of the problematic New Yorker that Marie had been driving to and from, first the hospital, and then the nursing home. Her son, Gary, had been looking at cars for himself and noticed the Sable on the car lot. It had all of the luxuries that his mother had always loved about driving Butch’s Lincoln Town Cars, but without the size. One added feature that we felt was important for this 5’2″ (-ish) petite woman, was the adjustable foot pedals. She would no longer need to sit so close to the steering wheel but could sit at a comfortable distance and bring the brake and accelerator to her.
One bright day, I picked up the car, collected Butch and Marie from the nursing home, and we went for a “test drive.” Butch sat in the back seat and gave his full approval of our choice of the new car.
Marie proudly drove this car until she went to live in a nursing home in June 2008. Later that summer as her granddaughter prepared to start her sophomore year at Edgewood in Madison, Gary made the arrangements for Kate to have the car and use it to go back and forth to school. Kate drove the car for the next three years, two of them heading back and forth on sometimes treacherous winter roads. The car never failed her, and is now being driven back and forth to college by yet another Fassbender granddaughter. Butch would certainly approve of the lifespan of his last car purchase.
This archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” was first published 18 Aug 2013.
At the time that we built our home in 1993, White Clover Dairy was in the middle of an expansion, and because of this, trees that had been on the property for many years needed to be removed. We took advantage of this and moved a large crab apple tree and a maple to our property. The trees were moved in November 1993, the maple straining the size limits of the largest tree spade that the tree moving company owned. We placed the crab to the right of our driveway, positioning the “flat side,” the side that had been growing against the building, away from the street. This tree has rewarded us for the last 19 years with the most glorious blossoms each spring.
The maple was planted in the backyard with the idea that it would provide a nice dapple-shaded area for the swing set and patio. While it took a while for it to settle into its new home, we soon had a large and beautiful tree – with a history!
Gary received a 1972 Cougar XR7 as a high school graduation gift. It was blue with a white vinyl top and a blue leather interior. He loved that car. But it soon became a favorite of Marie’s, and as she did not at that time have a car of her own when she needed a vehicle and Gary’s was available she would choose the Cougar. As it happens this particular model of Cougar had a flaw, while idling in park, it would unexpectedly pop out of park and throw itself into reverse. One summer day Marie packed her eldest grandson into the car and made a quick stop at the factory to let them know she was heading to town. While she was inside letting Butch know where she was going, the car popped out of park, spun around, and rammed into the maple that had been recently been planted on the neighbor’s property near the factory office. Luckily Rich was not harmed, the car was intact, but the tree bore a scar from the impact for years. The neighbor had great concern that his tree might not survive the brutal Cougar attack, so in typical Butch fashion, he paid the man an agreed-upon value for the tree. The tree survived but the money was not returned.
Jumping forward 40 years, late Tuesday night, August 6th, six tornadoes ripped through the Fox Valley. The storm woke us up just long enough for us to close windows, comment on the strobe light lightning and the wind that was pushing harder at the side of the house than an other time in memory. Then we went back to bed. No sirens went off that night, so many of us slept safely through the storm. Looking at the damage the next day, it is amazing that no one was killed by the tornadoes. We do count ourselves one of the lucky ones, we only lost a tree.
Meatballs – From Ken’s Mary
3 lbs ground beef – I, Susan, like a mix of 90% lean and 80-84% lean
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup saltine crackers, crumbled
24 oz. chili sauce – 2-12 oz bottles
24 oz. Water – fill the chili sauce bottles
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp white vinegar
Combine the first 6 ingredients, and roll into balls, bake in a 350° oven till brown. Approximately 10 minutes, turning at 5 minutes.
You can freeze the meatballs at this point.
Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil, and then simmer the browned meatballs in the sauce for 3 or more hours.
NOTE: We discovered that if you still have sauce remaining when the meatballs have disappeared, you can freeze the sauce for a later time and just add meatballs.
This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” first published 13 Aug 2013.
As we clean and prepare the house for sale, the rooms are slowly emptying as family members remove the items that they treasure. These rooms that for over 50 years rang with conversations, with laughter, and with tears, and prayer. While looking for a photo of the large maple that was damaged in the storm last week, I sorted through a stack of photos that were taken by my children. In amongst the usual “up the nose” shots was a candid photo of Butch and Marie in their respective wing chairs in the living room. I believe that children are able to capture the most natural “real” shots. These little people are able to stand there armed with a camera almost unnoticed. While the images may be a bit blurry, they capture honest moments in time. So there they were, captured just as I remember them, relaxing on a Sunday afternoon in that sweet spot between lunch and preparing dinner. Marie sharing a moment of conversation with her niece Kady.
The memories of Butch and Marie in these chairs span the decades. From the many family gatherings to Christmas Eve naps before Midnight Mass. Marie quietly “poofing” the minutes away, and when the timer goes off stating she “hadn’t slept a wink!”
My daughter recently shared this memory through a Faith Journey biography she had to write as part of a retreat. “I was about 5 years old or so, and spending the weekend at my grandparents. One night, I could not sleep, so I went downstairs to find my grandparents saying the rosary in the living room, as they did every night. Grandpa sat me on his lap, and they taught me the Our Father. After some time passed I went back upstairs and went to sleep.” Prayer was a large part of who Butch and Marie were. And the quiet of the living room was the perfect place for them to either pray alone, or most often together.
On May 19, 2012 we gathered as a family for a final farewell to the house, and to share memories. While pictures of Christmas trees, numerous attempts to get the perfect Christmas card photo, gatherings of friends and family could, and will, fill volumes, it was ending the evening in this room that just felt right.
Gary and Dan sitting in their parents wing chairs, the rest of us spread out throughout the rest of the room quietly remembering. Sharing the memory of a lifetime.
I have moved the wings into the bay window, giving the room a new look as the house is prepared for the estate sale. The sale of these treasured items that the family does not have room for in their homes. After the estate sale, the house will be ready for its new life, a new family to love and take care of it.
This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 21 Jul 2013.
This past weekend we were in Suamico, and with a bit of time to waste Gary thought it would be fun to try to find the cottage the family used to rent back in the early 60s, unfortunately we came close, but could not positively identify the cottage – well it HAS been 50 years!
While it was always difficult to get Butch on the road (there was always one last thing that needed to be done at the factory), once on the road he was ready to relax and enjoy a week at the cottage. For a week in August the family would rent a cottage located in Little Suamico, on the bay of Green Bay. The family had learned about the cottage from Butch’s sister Hank, as she and her family had been renting the cottage for a few years. A week at a cottage meant visitors, so the family made a point of visiting each year. It really was the best of all worlds for the kids, as they got to spend “their” week at the cottage, but enjoy other family members weeks via day trips.
The cottage was an unassuming building that contained a large fieldstone fireplace, and windows that had a legacy. The owner of the cottage had a brother who was a contractor in Chicago. One of the brother’s regular accounts was Marshall Fields. When Fields changed out the State Street store windows, he was able to “dispose” of them as he wished, so he brought them up to Little Suamico and installed them on the Bay side of his brother’s cottage, creating a wall of glass. What is not visible in this photo is a large wicker swing. The family would gather on the porch in the evening to talk, swing, and look at the Bay, listening to the calming sounds of the water. If they were lucky it would also be a full moon.
Each year on the way to the cottage the would stop for Florida citrus and corn at the Florida Fruit Market. This stop added to Marie’s already groaning list of foods that had been packed to not only feed the family for a week, but the many friends and relatives who would stop in for a day or an evening. The Florida Fruit Market was a fascinating place for young boys to explore, as not only was it full of citrus, but also all the souvenirs of a Florida vacation were there for purchase. Gary remembers shells, and beach jewelry and all sorts of cheap but interesting items.
Once at the cottage the family would settle in for a fun week on the Bay. Some years Cub would bring his 16′ fiberglass runabout boat up for the family to enjoy during the week. This boat was perfect for waterskiing and fishing. Fishing was a daily activity, and one evening the whole family was out on the water. Well, the whole family minus one. The family’s Boxer Fawn had been left behind, but on this particular evening she too wanted to go fishing. Taking matters into her own paws, she swam out to join the family in the boat. The boys were thrilled that she had done so, but I can imagine Marie, not so much.
Another water activity were the water boats. I love the contrast between these three pictures. In the one photo you have Dick giving a fully dressed Dan a ride. In the other, you have 38-year-old Marie wearing her first and only swim suit, topped off by a life preserver. I do love the pure look of happiness that I see on her face as she gets off the bike.
The best that I can date these photos is August 1960, as they were included in an album with other photos from that year. Each photo had been cropped to fit into the sleeve and unfortunately the date stamp was on the bottom of this developed batch. We can also assume that these were taken the families week at the cottage as the group photos include Fawn. If it had been a day trip to visit during other family members week, Fawn would not have been included.
Gary has this vivid memory from 1960. Hank and Syd and their family had secured the cottage for the week of July 9-16th, which happened to coincide with the Democratic National Convention being held in Los Angeles, California. The boys must have been there for an overnight as Gary remembers playing inside in the living room portion of the cottage. Unlike during their week in August, this was a cool July evening and the black and white TV glowed in the evening light as he watched the convention. As they played, Hank came in and asked them if they would like some ice cream. Kennedy would secure the nomination on Wednesday, July 13, 1960, the third day of the convention.
While Marie looks happy in the photos, you just wonder how “relaxing” these weeks in Little Saumico really were for her. She couldn’t get away from her usual task of cooking and cleaning for large groups of family and visitors. Hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, the occasional beef roast, and of course the fish that was caught each day by the boys. But each evening sitting on the swing listening to the sound of the water as the sun slowly set over the bay was certainly a welcome change of scenery.
This is an archived post from “The Aroma of Bread,” and was first published 14 Jul 2013
This morning I woke up to a beautiful summer day. A perfect summer breeze, low humidity, and robins in the fountain. Nothing says summer to our family as much as Rhubarb Sauce and I was pretty sure the rhubarb was ready.
I used the recipe that was included in Kate’s rhubarb post from last summer. I am not very good with directions that are cryptic such as: “Place in saucepan with just enough water to keep from burning…” Ummm how much? I think I added too much water – but I don’t think it turned out too badly for a first go. Thank goodness there is more rhubarb to pull so I can get lots of practice. (Thanks Frank for the great plants, they are thriving in my garden.)
Recipes, time spent with family and great memories are all part of what makes our lives rich and full. How many times is a great memory sparked by a smell, or the taste of a favorite food? A recent conversation on Facebook sparked such a memory for a cousin of Gary’s. She shared with me her memory of sitting at Marie’s kitchen table copying recipes in long hand out of Marie’s collection. I can imagine her mother next to her at the table, Marie at the stove, and comfortable smells accompanied by soft conversation filling the kitchen with love.
Lynn shared one of the recipes she copied that day, and it appropriately fits the rhubarb theme.
Marie’s Rhubarb Dream Dessert
1 cup flour
5 Tbs. confectioners sugar
1/2 cup butter
Blend together well. Press into an ungreased 7 1/2 X 11 X 1 1/2 inch pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. (Watch it.)
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp. salt
Beat eggs and then add ingredients together slowly. Add 2 cups or more of chopped rhubarb. Spoon into crust and bake 35 minutes, or less if rhubarb is done. Serve warm with topping or plain cream.
NOTE: 29 Mar 2015, I found the recipe. It was “(very good)”