Cooking With Grandma

Last Thursday Shea had his knee surgery so my mom has been here helping out.

She always comes with a trick up her grandma sleeve and this week, she made her famous taco salad.

A warning for my Mexican friends: Gringa. And very loose use of the word “taco”. Proceed with caution.

She cooks up a pound of ground beef and heats a mixture of refried beans and pinto beans. Then she layers Fritos—FRITOS—beans, meat, lettuce with chunky fresh tomatoes and cheese.

Top that all off with…Catalina dressing. TRUST ME. It’s delicious.

Her last morning, I made a breakfast my grandmother used to make when we were little (but not, my mom pointed out, for her and my uncle when they were little, but there’s the power of grandkids).

Hawaiian Bread French Toast.


It’s an easy substitution—sweet and fluffy Hawaiian bread for regular. Cinnamon, vanilla, butter and syrup, with a dusting of powdered sugar over the top.

There’s not really a recipe. I just whisk eggs, milk, cinnamon and vanilla in a bowl. Then I dip the bread on both sides and cook it up on my pancake griddle until a crispy golden brown.

And—this is God’s truth—I have never looked at the nutritional information on a loaf of King’s Hawaiian Bread so I have no idea what the calorie damage is on this meal. But there’s a part of me that truly believes that if I don’t look, they aren’t real anyway.

Happy Friday!

Living in the Digital Age

These past few weeks have been filled with nostalgia and dust. Lots of dust. At the age of 93, my Grandma Betty has moved into an assisted living home. Her health is touch and go, her eyesight is bad, and sometimes, she just can’t remember to eat. For us grandkids, this is devastating. Grandma Betty has lived in the same house since the 1950s. And it was last redecorated, I think, in 1979. Translate that into this: for my whole life, nearly, that place has not changed. No new carpet. No different sofa. The lamps? Same spot. The kitchen? Can we call it “vintage chic” or perhaps just waaaayyyyy outdated?

Walking into Grandma Betty’s house is a like walking into a time capsule. It looks the same as it has for my entire life. It smells the same. My handprint that we gave to Grandma and Grandpa when I was two months old is still on the original nail from 1975. So leaving it has shaken us to the core.

For my cousins Dawn and Sarah, and me, going to Grandma’s house was like going to a safe-haven. At Grandma’s house, we played ping-pong with Grandpa Art, we dug in the sand box (remember when we would find the toys we had buried the previous summer?), and we had Coke floats, and fires in the fireplace. We would eat breakfast on the patio, wrapped in Grandma’s fluffy pink robe. We would go for bike rides or walks in the evening. We tried on her clip-on earrings and her amazing shoes. Rummy Cube, Rack-O, Clue, Uno.


But no matter what we did, even just sitting together reading books, there was always an abundance of love. We were cherished, treasured, indulged. We were the smartest kids, or the funniest. She would say, “Why I never!” through her giggles. We were the most talented. “Where did you ever learn to do that?” And no matter what we did, it was cataloged in pictures.


The picture albums at Grandma’s house begin in the year 1969. Everywhere she went, her camera went too. There is evidence of our Halloween costumes (in 1980 I was Chewbacca), evidence of our school performances. There are snap shots from evenings spent climbing trees or afternoons painting her white picket fence. And going through these pictures has been a blast. Dawn and I have spend more than a few hours gasping (Do you remember how high my bangs were?), groaning (I can’t believe I wore that!), giggling (We look like a couple of sunburned lobsters!), and remembering (I felt so special when Grams and I went shopping together.).


In her closets, too, I have found some real treasures… more pictures of Grandma’s brother, Marvin who went down over the Pacific in WWII:


Pictures of her sister Mazie, who my older daughter is named after:


Pictures of her first (yes, first) fiancé, Warren:


And a real gem, a picture of her mother’s mother, dated 1871:


Finding all of these treasures has made me reflect on my own record keeping. It’s easier than ever, now, to take pictures. And don’t pretend that you’re not just like me and that you don’t whip out your camera for an especially good latte:


We snap pictures and videos like crazy, but how many of us still get them printed out? I know that I don’t. And right now, I’m a little sad about that.

What about when Mazie and Violet’s children are packing up my house?   Will they sit in front of a computer and look at my iCloud? Will it even exist any more? Will they find their mamas’ baby pictures? See them in funny outfits?


Will they find pictures of me and my dad, and see his nose or his smile in their own faces? And one more question… Does it really matter?  Do these events, unimportant to everyone but us, have a place in our lives?

My answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Yes, they matter. Maybe not to the world. Maybe not to anyone but me. But they still matter. They provide a sense of belonging. In the pictures I can still feel the emotion of the moment, and I realized that Grandma and Grandpa were there, sharing them with me.  Here’s the literal moment that I caught the final out for a CIF softball title:


Here’s where I laid my head on my dad’s shoulder on a Saturday:


Or when I signed my national letter of intent to go to University of Virginia, at 10:55pm, in Austin, Texas, she has written:


In the older pictures, pictures of my mother as a teenager, I see the hope and sparkle in her eyes and I realize that she was a girl before she was my mom:



I see Nana, Betty’s mother, standing with pride on the porch of her home that had just been painted, a home that she purchased, maintained, and lived in all on her own until she was 103:


This is where I am from. This is the very fiber of my being. These are the moments, big and small, that made up my life. And I am grateful to have seen them again.

Reblog: The Big 9-3 ~ Dana

Good Morning!

Last year I posted a blog about my sweet Grandma Betty, on her 92nd birthday.  Today is her 93rd!  Her story is worth retelling.  Today, my mom, Uncle Gary (of Rescue Task Force), the girls and I will take lunch to her at her home, have some cake, and celebrate her 93 years.  Here, again, is a tribute to this amazing lady whom I am so blessed to have in my life as my grandmother, cheerleader, and friend.

When I was growing up, I always thought that Grandma Betty and Grandpa Art were just the coolest people on Earth. And really, looking back, it’s pretty much true. Whenever they picked me up from school, I knew there would be awesome snacks and lots of playing in my afternoon. And by awesome snacks, I mean root beer floats, and by playing I mean ping-pong, smashball, or badminton in the back yard. One year they took me up to Calico Ghost Town over Memorial Day Weekend. When I was about twelve, they bought the grandkids bikes to keep at the house, so when I came over we could go for rides to the market or around the neighborhood. And we made countless trips in their motor home to Palm Springs, to Carson City, Nevada, to visit family, and to Newport Beach. They made 60 the new 40. Actually, they made 60 the new 30, since I’m almost 40 and can’t imagine doing all the things that they did!


Betty grew up on a farm in Iowa, but relocated to California following her fiancé, who was stationed here during World War II. He was deployed before she arrived, but she stayed in Long Beach, working an overnight shift at McDonald Douglas Aircraft throughout the war. After the war, she married my grandfather, had two kids, and moved out to San Bernardino, California, where she has lived ever since.


When her kids were little, she was a single mother, and sacrificed like you can’t believe just so her children would have food to eat. What has always stayed with her is her positive, spunky attitude, as my mom has often said that Grandma Betty made her childhood so good, she and her brother didn’t even realize that they were poor.

Today, this sweet little woman turns 93. And I am so grateful to have her in my life. I am so grateful that she has gotten to meet my girls. I love that they play in the same backyard that I did, with the same toys that I did, and they sit on the same patio, laughing and giggling with the same Grandma.

photo 1 photo 2

Grandma Betty’s mother, my Nana, lived to be 105 before she died in 1997. So on Mother’s Day last year, I told Grandma Betty that she still has 13 years to go… to which she replied “Oh no! Not that! I’m ready now! Jesus take me home!” And that truly is the defining characteristic of Grandma Betty: her unfailing faith in and love for her Savior, Jesus Christ. She tells anyone who will listen how Jesus has blessed her and blesses her still. She prays without ceasing, and I know it is those prayers that have sustained me during some difficult times in my life. But it is truly us, her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren who are blessed beyond measure to have this wonderful woman’s love in our lives.

Happy Birthday, Grandma Betty. We love you forever!


The Nostalgia of Lilacs ~ Dana

This last weekend, Jen and her family went camping and on our Instagram account, Grace In the Details, she posted a lovely picture of a lilac bush in full bloom. Her caption read, “Can’t you just smell the lilacs?” And my answer was a resounding, “Yes!”


When I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s, my great-grandmother, Nana, lived in a small house in San Bernardino, just two doors down from where my Grandma Betty still lives today. In Nana’s back yard was a big, gorgeous, super-fragrant lilac bush. Every time we came to visit her, we left with something: homemade banana date bread, a lunch sack filled with walnuts from her walnut tree, or when the lilacs were blooming, a bouquet of the delicate violet flowers with a wet paper towel wrapped around the stems, keeping them moist until we could get home and put them in water.

Sometimes I would get to keep Nana’s lilacs in my room and I can still remember falling asleep with their sweet fragrance ready to fill my dreams.

Fast-forward to 1997 and I found myself living in the beautiful city of Innsbruck, Austria. My first year there, we had a harsh winter with record amounts of snow. So when spring finally made its appearance, it was none too soon for this California girl. I had made good friends with Harry and Renate, an older couple who lived and worked near where I lived, in Ambras, a little village on the outskirts of town. One day, Renate brought me a huge bunch of lilacs from her garden and I thanked her profusely in my broken German.

That night, back in the room that I rented from Frau Päer, I was overwhelmed with emotion and wrote the following:

The bunch of lilacs that sit in a vase on top of my refrigerator fill my room with their nostalgic scent. As the sweet perfume encompasses my senses, my mind reels back 20 years. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and remember the feeling of the sand from the sandbox between my toes. I feel the chill of the cold water from the garden hose. I can hear the women’s voices from the kitchen, Nana finally calling me in for lunch. A kiss and a glass of red Kool-Aid greet me. I take three big gulps and I can feel the cold, sweet liquid flow all the way to my tummy. In the folds of her skirt, I find her hand and she leads me into the house. The kitchen is hot but the dining room windows are open and a gentle breeze blows over us. Mom and Grandma are already sitting down as I climb into my chair, taking my place as the fourth generation. In front of me on a deep green glass plate is my lunch of cottage cheese, peaches, jell-o with fruit in it with multi-colored mini marshmallows on top.

We finish everything and move into the living room, where the air conditioner blows in. I could turn on the TV. I could play in the bedroom. I could go back outside. But instead I lie in the middle of the floor and listen to the lady-talk. I move from woman to woman, letting each run her fingers through my hair, rub my back, or fan my face. We passed hours this way, and to me, time stood still. Now 20 years later, a continent away, what I wouldn’t give for one more hour.

I didn’t know we had lilacs in Austria. I didn’t know one tiny violet blossom meant so much.

As my older self, now a mother, re-reads these lines, I think, “I want this childhood for my girls.” Because folks, it was magical. And I remember that it was the little things that touched my heart the most: reading books with Nana, watching the fire in the fireplace reflect in Grandpa Art’s glasses, wrapping up in Grandma Betty’s robe on a chilly morning after I had spent the night, listening to the Beach Boys in Mom’s Trans Am, building bookshelves with Dad.

No tutu photo shoots. No themed birthday parties (although my 9th birthday party at Mc Donald’s was pretty freaking rad). Not that there is anything wrong with those things. Trust me, my girls have had some pretty awesome photo shoots. But I’m going to be honest. Those things are for me. I want to see them in tutus around a little table with a vintage tablecloth and silver spoons and cupcakes!

But what my oldest really wants to do is, “go to Grammie’s house and play on the bed.” Childhood is magical, not because of the big moments that we create for our children, but because of the everyday love that they feel. I want them to remember picking up tacos at Baker’s and taking them to Grandma Betty. I want them to remember swimming at Grandma and Grandpa Light’s. I want them to, someday when they’re off at college, smell orange blossoms and remember picking oranges with Grammie and Zha-Zha. I want them to remember dance parties in the kitchen with Mommy, and planting veggies on the “Fulwider Farm”, because those are the moments that I will always hold dear in my heart.

And maybe the tutu tea parties.