Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Important Update to Nana's White Fruitcake

Originally Posted at Little Merry Sunshine on December 5, 2009.

Last weekend I sat down to make Nana's White Fruit Cake. Immediately, I noticed there were a few important tips missing and learned my own lessons, so I have updated Nana's recipe below to make it better reflect her actual fruit cake and because I want you to have a successful fruit cake! I'm sure that Nana forgot to include these tips because baking her fruit cake was like breathing to her. She never had to think about it.

Follow the revised recipe and your fruit cake will be perfect!

Originally posted on Remembering Frances.

Nana was famous for her fruit cake. I know fruit cake gets a bad rap, but you haven't tried Nana's. It is light and airy and quite simply heaven in a bread pan. I knew I was grown up the first time Nana sent me my very own fruit cake, in December 1993, the first Christmas I was in Washington, D.C. But 6 years later, in December 1999, Nana trusted me with her fruit cake recipe was the year I knew I was an adult.

Nana baked her last fruit cake in January 2006. David and I spent a week in Florida and after church on Sunday, Mom, Nana and I made Nana's fruit cake. I savored the fruit cakes we made that January, each year having just a little, so that the first Christmas Nana wasn't with us anymore, she'd still be with us. I still have part of one fruitcake that I guess we'll finish this Christmas.

I'll be making Nana's White Fruit Cake this Christmas on my own, for the first time, and sharing it with my friends and loved ones. I'll stick to her recipe exactly, except that my cakes will probably also include a few tears. They'll be tears of both joy and sadness. Joy because of all the wonderful memories I have around Nana's Fruit Cake and Christmas and sadness because it's the first Christmas without Nana.

I don't know the origin of Nana's fruit cake recipe. I've always just thought of it as Nana's White Fruit Cake, so that's how I titled it.

Today, I'm happy to share Nana's recipe with you. I thought about keeping it a secret, but that isn't Nana's way. She'd want to know you enjoyed it too.

NOTE: This is Nana's typed out recipe. All of the notes and verbiage are hers. I didn't change a thing. I think using the recipe the way she thought of it and in her sweet words makes it better.

Nana's White Fruit Cake

1 lb pecans
1 lb candied cherries (red and green mix)
1 lb candied pineapple
6 egg whites
3/4 lb butter (3 sticks)
2 cups sugar
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup whiskey (I use Jim Beam Bourbon)
4 cups plain flour (sifted) - does not need sifting these days as flour is very fine and soft.
2 tsp baking powder

Day before you bake I cut my pineapple and cherries in halves. I think this makes slicing easier and prettier. Then chop pecans. Can use scissors to cut in half. DO NOT USE THE PRE-MIXED CUT FRUIT THAT YOU CAN BUY BECAUSE IT'S NOT CHERRIES, IT'S A BUNCH OF ORANGE RINDS AND OTHER STUFF. (JLG Note: I learned this lesson the hard way.)

You will need a mixing bowl, one glass bowl to beat egg whites and a big bowl to put pecans and fruit in. You will save about a cup of flour to pour over fruit and pecans so they will not go to bottom of pan when cooking, this is called dredging with flour.

1. In the largest bowl, pour 1 cup of flour over the fruit and pecans and stir. It's easiest to do this with your hands. Set aside.
2. In a glass bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Set aside.
3. In a third bowl, mix remaining 6 ingredients in order (butter, sugar, egg yolks, bourbon, flour, & baking powder) one at a time and cream each time.
4. Pour batter over the fruit and pecans and use hands to mix then pour egg whites in and fold into this using hands.

Grease pans and flour sides and bottom, but shake to get all flour out. Then I cut from a brown bag the size of bottom of pan and place in bottom to keep from sticking. This will make 2 regular-size loaf pans and 1 small loaf pan. (JLG NOTE: Parchment paper works too.)

All done, ready to pour into loaf pans and bake. Fill each pan only about 3/4 full.

Place a round cake pan with about 1/2 inch of water on the bottom shelf of the oven. This helps keep the fruitcakes moist while baking for such a long time. You may need to add more water during baking.

START IN A COLD OVEN. Bake about 2 hours or 2 1/4 hours at 240. I just look and feel to see if brown and if cake feels solid. You should use a toothpick to check doneness. (JLG Note: I cooked for 2 hours and wish I'd only baked these for 1 3/4 hours. They're a little more done than I'd like, but still look very good. That may be due to oven variations.)

Remove cakes from loaf pans immediately (no need to let cool) and pat each cake with bourbon (about 1/4 cup for all cakes, not per cake) then wrap air tight in wax paper and then aluminum foil after cakes have cooled. Can open in a couple of weeks and can pour little more liquor if needed. (JLG Note: My mom recommends patting down the fruitcakes with bourbon using your fingers, but I used a pastry brush.)

All ready for Christmas. I just leave in pantry in a plastic sack.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

The House That Built My Mom

Originally published on Little Merry Sunshine, August 17, 2010.

Right after Christmas, my Aunt Dixie died. She was Nana's last living sister. It wasn't entirely unexpected; she'd been doing poorly last July at Nana's funeral and pretty much went straight downhill from there.

I'll be honest, Aunt Dixie's death was bittersweet to me. On the one hand, she was the last of Nana's sisters and the last of the Greatest Generation in our family. It would not be an understatement to say she was the matriarch (or maybe more accurate to say she thought she was). Her home in Batesville, Mississippi was the gathering spot for family celebrations, tragedies, and everything in between. On the other hand, she had publicly blamed me for my parents divorce when I was 12 and I'd spent the past 25 years or so staying out of her way. As sad as her passing was, there was part of me that felt relieved and even glad.

Mom and I debated whether or not to make the 10 hour drive to Batesville, Mississippi for Aunt Dixie's funeral, but ultimately decided that we wanted to be there and as a bonus, we'd get to "celebrate" with Christmas with Nana by visiting her grave. I packed a little bite of Nana's fruitcake and one of the Christmas ornaments I'd made for my Nana-themed Christmas tree to leave at Nana's grave and off we went.


Mom was born in Oxford, Mississippi and lived in Batesville until she was 8. Nana, of course, was born and raised in Batesville, as was my grandfather Jesse, who died 10 years before I was born. Nana's sisters Johnnie and Dixie also lived most of their lives in Batesville and their children raised their kids either in Batesville or in a neighboring town. With the exception of my mom's brother Michael and his family, Dave and I were the only ones not raised at least part-time in Batesville.

Until Nana's funeral, it had been 15 years since either Mom or I had been to Batesville and we both knew this would probably be our last trip. For me, this trip was about saying goodbye to Nana in a way I hadn't had time or the emotional ability to do in July. For mom, this trip was about to be about her ability to reconcile her childhood with her present and future.


The day of Aunt Dixie's funeral, Mom and I were up and dressed early with about an hour and a half to spare before we were expected anywhere. Mom wanted to drive around and see some old "landmarks."

First, we drove to the house Nana was raised in. At least four generations of my family have lived in this house. From Big Mama (Nana's mom) to Nana and her sisters Johnnie, Dixie, and Mazie, to all four sisters and their families separately and together, to Johnnie's grandson Robert, many members of our family can count this house as "home" at one point or another. It was part of the family farm, which at some point after Aunt Johnnie's death was sold.

I remember sitting in Aunt Johnnie's kitchen when I was about 6 or 7 and feeling the house shake and hearing the dishes rattle. I turned to my mom and said, "they sure do have low flying airplanes around here," even though we were no where near an airport. As a kid growing up 15 minutes from O'Hare, it was simply the only thing I could imagine would make such a racket. Aunt Johnnie turned to me and in no uncertain terms informed me that it was a freight train and the railroad tracks were 100 yards outside her front door. She then asked my mom what kind of a child she was raising that didn't know the difference between an airplane and a freight train. The thing about Aunt Johnnie was that if you didn't know where you stood with her you were either deaf or you weren't listening.
The house that built Nana. They added on the bathroom located in the left of the picture behind the bush. Before that, they had an outhouse. The railroad tracks are 100 yards to the right of the house as you're looking at it.

Mom wanted me to see her elementary school, Batesville Elementary School, which had also been Nana's elementary school. It's been Batesville's elementary school since 1897 and occupies one entire city block.

Next, we drove by Aunt Dixie's house on Highway 6. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but on the inside, the rooms are elaborately decorated in the Federalist style, or as I affectionately refer to it, Early American Whorehouse. Honestly, I affectionately refer to it that way. In fact, there are some pieces of Nana's furniture that have been in Aunt Dixie's house for years that I'm hoping I can get because I love them. Aunt Dixie also has a huge basement that her late husband, Uncle Happy, built. We used to have the most fun family parties down there. In fact, it was in Aunt Dixie's basement, that Aunt Mazie flashed the entire family one Christmas. But I digress.

When Mom lived in Batesville, her house was located just left of Aunt Dixie's house. After Mom's family moved to Crystal Beach, Florida, they sold the house and it was moved to make way for a strip mall.

As I said, Mom's house was moved about a mile or so from its original location after it was sold. Over the year, Mom has mentioned many times that she has always wanted to go back into the house and see how it looks now. When they moved to Florida in 1956, it was a very sudden move and I don't even think Mom knew they were moving. I've always understood that they went for vacation to visit Mom's godmother and decided to stay. In fact, they left most of their furniture in Batesville because they believed they'd be back, but they never returned.

Because there were cars in the driveway, I pulled into the drive and told Mom to go knock on the door. I can't remember the last time I saw Mom move so fast as she did racing up to that door. A middle-aged woman answered and it only took a second for her to invite Mom inside, while I waited in the car. There was a part of me that wanted to see the house my grandfather built and see where my mom came from, but I knew this was really Mom's journey and worried a stranger wouldn't let two women she didn't know just roam around her house.

Mom returned about 20 minutes later with tales of how nice the woman was and how much of the house was still the same. The bookshelves my grandfather built in Mom's room were still there. The kitchen and the pantry were still the same. The owner, who it turned out was the daughter of the family that purchased the house from Nana and my grandfather, bragged to my mom about how well my grandfather built everything so only minimal work had had to be done over the years.

Getting back in the car, I could see a glow on Mom's face I hadn't seen for years. She was so happy to have been given this gift of visiting her childhood home and the only house she felt like they were a happy family in.

Having been at Mom's house in Batesville, I now have a better appreciation for the old 8mm family movies I found last summer and had converted into DVD. I can better picture these movies being filmed inside Mom's house in Batesville. This is the only video I have of my grandfather. (Get Little Merry Sunshine via email? Click here and go watch the video on Little Merry Sunshine.)

Jessica Gardner from Orange Guest on Vimeo.

Being back in Batesville was not easy. It was an emotional trip, but it was well worth the 20 hours we spent in the car. I don't know if we'll ever go back, so I'm a happy I gave Mom the time with her cousins and the opportunity to step back in time in her old home.


A few months later, I first heard the Miranda Lambert song, The House That Built Me, and it brought tears to my eyes as it took me back to that day in Batesville with Mom.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nana Died Today - 1 Year Later

Originally posted on Little Merry Sunshine on July 12, 2010.

Today is the one year anniversary of Nana's death.

I'm honestly at a loss as to how to put into words just how much I still miss her. So often I want to pick up the phone and call her to tell her some funny story or just hear her voice and it's not until I get half done dialing her number that I remember I can't. I miss holding her small hands, hearing her call me her "dear Jessica" and reminding me that I'm her favorite granddaughter (I'm her only granddaughter, but that never mattered). I miss her southern drawl and the weekly letters that were often nothing more than newspaper clippings with Post-It Notes she thought I'd find interesting. And God knows I miss her fruitcake.

At some point in the last year, the daily tears stopped and my desire to get out of bed in the morning came back.

In the past year, I've found myself doing many things that remind me of her. For example, I wash dishes by hand far more than I used to. Nana never owned a dish washer and even when she'd come to visit, she would insist on hand washing the dishes rather than load the dishwasher. I have no idea what kind of dishwashing soap she used, but something about the lavender scented Palmolive makes it seem as though she's standing right next to me at the sink.

Yes, I miss her immensely, but she lived a great life and I'm grateful to have had my Nana for just a few days short of 93 years (well, I guess I only had her for just over 38 years, but you know what I'm saying). I'm not exactly sure how I'll honor her today, but rest assured, I'll find a few moments of silence to have a chat with her and let her know what I've been up to. And I'll probably shed a tear or two.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Even Now Nana Continues to Surprise Me

Originally published on Little Merry Sunshine on May 12, 2010.

I've never really been certain that Nana was proud of me, even though she always said she was. Growing up, all she wanted was for me to be a teacher. Although she'd been awarded a full college scholarship, Nana didn't go to college because she felt it was more important to go to work and help her family survive during the Depression. My mom's generation was the first in her family to go to college and all the women studied to become teachers, including my mom. Being was a teacher was the acceptable profession for a woman and most of my female cousins in my generation became teachers.

There's nothing wrong with being a teacher. In fact, I think it's one of the most noble and important professions in the world, but it wasn't what I wanted to do. My lifelong dream was to be a lawyer.

My dream of becoming a lawyer was the subject of many debates and tense conversations as I moved through high school and college. It intensified when I graduated without a job (it was 1993 and almost no one had a job upon graduation). Even after I was securely settled in Washington, DC and was studying for the LSAT, she would still encourage me to become a teacher.

Not only didn't I become a teacher, but I changed my mind and didn't become a lawyer either. Plus, she never saw me get married and give her great-grandchildren. I truly believed I'd failed in her eyes . . . until today.

As I was going through her things this afternoon, I came across two items that brought tears to my eyes. I found a clear plastic page protector filled with memorabilia - ticket stubs, Congressional passes, the playbill from "The Christmas Carol" at Ford's Theatre, brochures from Monticello, Mt. Vernon, and the White House, and the program from Christmas Eve services at the National Cathedral - from her visit to DC over Christmas 1995. That trip was one of my happiest memories of Nana. I had planned the whole trip to the minute and then had a wrench thrown in my plans when the Government shut down during a budget crisis, but we still had a great time, even without the highly anticipated trip to watch Congress in action. A few minutes later, I found an envelope from me with the Hogan & Hartson logo and address on it. Inside was a whole bunch of return address labels she'd cut off of letters I sent her from Hogan. My eyes welled up with tears and I was speechless.

It turns out I was wrong. Finding these items that aren't worth anything monetarily meant the world to me. I now know definitively that she was proud of me. Better late than never.

A Lifetime of Dreams

Originally published on Little Merry Sunshine on May 11, 2010.

As I go through the process of cleaning out Nana's house, I look around at all the stuff that's accumulated during her almost 93 years and I think about the meaning of it all. On one level, it's all stuff. Some of it has some financial worth, but most of it can only be valued in sentiment. But on another level, all the stuff she's collected represents her lifetime of dreams. Dreams not only for herself, but also for her children and grandchildren.

I've looked through old photo albums and scrapbooks and seen her pride in my mom's and uncle's accomplishments. I've read through the letters she sent to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson after my grandfather died in 1961 attempting to get a mistake about my grandfather's VA benefits (and subsequent benefits for Nana) corrected. I've read letters she wrote to my mom and uncle later in life telling them of her unconditional love and letters she wrote to Dave and me telling us how proud she was of our accomplishments and her hopes for us. I've flipped through the well-worn pages of her Bible knowing that she turned to it nightly for comfort, inspiration, and life's answers. I've found boxes of my baby clothes (many of which she made)she carefully preserved in hopes my daughter would wear them someday. I found the blanket that kept me warm in my crib when I first came home from the hospital (and initially tossed it in the charity box, but then got sentimental and saved it). I've walked through her childhood in Mississippi with her sisters through pictures and diaries. The house itself is the culmination of a lifelong dream. She built it in 1969 from her life savings. The stories I've heard say she would come over after work once the frame was built and hang sheets where she wanted the internal walls to be located. There probably weren't too many other women who were designing and building their own homes. I've held the dress she wore to my parents' wedding in 1970 in awe of just how exquisite it was. She was so proud to walk her daughter down the aisle. I found a silk sari a friend had custom made for Nana in Fiji. Mom didn't even know of its existence. I also found half a dozen quilts Nana hand sewed and felt the care, hope and love she sewed into each stitch.

Sure, it's just stuff, but it all represents a life well lived. She may not have been rich in a financial sense, but she lived life on her terms with love and a never-ending faith in everyone and achieved most, if not all, of her dreams. That makes her wealthy in my book. I hope that when I pass away, whomever is charged with dividing up my personal belongings can say that about me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I Think Nana Visited Me Last Night

Originally published on Little Merry Sunshine, March 19, 2010.

As I type this, my fingers are trembling.

About 10:15 this morning, I opened my front door to check out the snow. Yes, snow. It was almost 70 the last few days and this morning it's snowing. And Mother Nature is messing with my head with a migraine today. Damn, her. But I digress.

Anyway, I opened my front door. The grass is covered with snow. The driveway and walkway to the front door are soaking wet. Snow is flying around. The tree branches are snow covered. I'd say it was pretty, but it's the first day of SPRING. Snow in the Spring is not pretty.

Sitting on the wet ground at my front door was a picture. A picture of Mom, Nana, and me. In fact, it was this picture:
One of my absolute favorite pictures of us. I love the smile on Nana's face. I love how genuinely happy she looks. I love how healthy she looks. She was in the hospital for knee replacement surgery and this must have been a few days after the surgery when she was finally feeling like herself again. Notice the lipstick she's wearing. It was her belief that no matter what else was going on in the world, as long as she was wearing lipstick, everything was okay. And people wonder where I get this belief from.

The picture sitting on the ground had been on my Christmas tree, as evidenced from the hole punched in the corner, but the ribbon was missing. Not torn out, just missing. My 2009 Christmas tree was a memorial to Nana and featured about 3 dozen pictures of Nana along with snowflakes she'd crocheted, but it was a fake tree, so I'm not sure how the picture ended up outside when I put the tree away. There were no water stains on the picture from months outside and the picture was completely dry, which was odd since it was laying on the very wet ground and it was snowing. Aside from a little dirt, the picture was in perfect condition.

I'm not sure where this picture came from, but I dreamt about Nana last night. Although I don't remember the details, I do remember she was visiting me here in my dream. And she was the way I remember her. Smiling. No gray hair (seriously, when she died at age 93, she had almost no gray hair and I hope that bodes well for me). Wearing lipstick.

When I woke this morning, I had a tough few moments deciding if my dream was real or a dream. I wanted it to be real because I miss her so much. I often think about if I just had 5 more minutes with Nana how I would spend it. I'd have so many questions I'd want answers to. So many things I would love to tell her.

Maybe my dream wasn't really a dream, but was reality. Maybe she actually visited me and left the picture, so I'd know it was real and not a dream. Maybe the reason I overslept and have a migraine was so I wouldn't rush out of the house through the garage early this morning and miss the gift she left me. Maybe.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Customer Service Then and Now

Originally posted on Little Merry Sunshine, January 6, 2010.

Anyone who deals with the public is in customer service. I don't care if the position is janitor. If someone deals with the public, then they are in customer service. And even if their position doesn't explicitly deal with the public, but they happen to run into a customer of their company, they are now in customer service.

Nana worked in customer service for 40 years for what is now Bank of America (it started as Ellis National bank, then it became NCNB, then NationsBank and now it's Bank of America). She started out as a teller and through hard work over the years, she was promoted to Vice President of the Tarpon Springs, FL branch. Every step of the way, she dealt with the public. And every single day, she loved helping her customers. Whether it was helping a customer buy a $50 savings bond, open a checking account, or helping them with bigger issues, she loved helping people. She believed it was an honor to be able to serve people and knowing her the way I did, I can say with absolute certainty that she never once uttered the words "it's not my job."

One time, an elderly woman Nana had known for many years came into the bank with a man wanting to empty out her account in cash. Nana was with another customer, but overheard the woman telling another employee of her desire. Not recognizing the man and knowing the woman's family well , Nana called the other employee over and told her to stall the woman until Nana was finished with her customer. When Nana finished helping the first customer, she called the son of the elderly woman to make sure this was legitimate. It turned out the woman was being scammed by someone with less than scrupulous desires and because of Nana's intervention this was prevented.

I remember another incident a few months after she retired. The phone rang one day and it was her former boss. It seemed that he had a rather prominent (read: wealthy) customer in front of him who was upset with something the bank had done and was prepared to withdraw all his funds from the bank. The bank manager apologized for the error and tried in vain to talk the customer down. Finally, he asked the customer if there was anything he could do to keep his business. The customer responded that the only person who could convince him that this wouldn't happen again was Frances Paulk, even though she had nothing to do with the problem he was experiencing with the bank. Nana was only asked to speak to the customer on the phone, but she had known him for years and so she got in the car and drove to the bank to meet with him and reassure him that the issue would be resolved in his favor and would never happen again. Nana kept this man's accounts with the bank.

Her outstanding customer service was rewarded many times over; she won many awards from the bank for her superior service and even won the "Courtesy Award" given by the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce. Customers waited in line to be helped by Nana even when other bank employees were available and could assist them. She had customers who were loyal to her for all of those 40 years. On her last day at NationsBank, customers showered her with flowers and gifts to thank her for all that she had done for them over the years. They came in person to thank her for her service and to tell her how much she had helped them. If they couldn't come in person, they sent letters and cards. In fact, there are two drawers full of letters from customers (or their family members) written over 40 years thanking her for her service to them and the way she especially helped to protect her elderly customers.

At her visitation and funeral in July, I can't begin to count the people who came up to me with stories of how Nana had helped them and shown them how to balance their checkbook or explained the benefits of CDs over a passbook savings account to give them the best interest rate. Her service was based on a selfless desire to help others be their best. Of course, she also worked during a time when her paycheck wasn't based on how many CDs she sold or how much she "up sold" people, so they always knew that whatever she told them was in their best interest and had nothing to do with her own best interest.

Contrast that to the customer service of today.

Mom and I had to visit a large national bank today. While we were waiting for assistance, a woman who appeared to be in her late-60s or so asked the bank manager if this bank had passbook savings accounts. He said no. She then volunteered that a local community bank did. He again replied that they didn't have them. She said she understood, but that she wanted a passbook savings account (you remember the "old fashioned" kind where you had a book like a checkbook register and the bank would imprint your activity in it every time you came to the bank) and would be switching to their smaller competitor for this service. The manager's only response was okay. He did not attempt to help the woman who was clearly a customer with services the bank offered or even ask her questions about her perceived benefits of a passbook savings account. He simply said okay and let the woman and her business walk out the door.

I wish we could get back to a time when companies cared about their customers and not just about the money they could bring in. When a verbal commitment meant action would be taken or that a promise was sealed. When businesses valued their customers and would not be so willing to just let them walk out the door unhappy.

What I know for sure is that when Nana first went to work in the banking industry, her bank was a small community bank because that's all that existed in 1954. Up until the late-1990s, her bank had that community feel, even though they were nationwide. Or maybe it was just my perception because I could pick up the phone and call any branch, say I was her granddaughter and have the red carpet rolled out for me.

I think that the solution for this problem is simple: Patronize only locally-owned, small businesses whenever possible. Reward businesses that provide superior customer service with more business. Say thank you for outstanding service. Go up the chain of command and not only thank the employee, but praise that person to his or her manager.

As for myself, as a business owner, I am committing myself to upping my own customer service and loyalty to my customers in 2010.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Count Your Blessings Every Day (My Eulogy for Nana)

Originally posted on Little Merry Sunshine on July 18, 2009.

Today was Nana's Celebration of Life Service at Crystal Beach Community Church, in Crystal Beach, Florida. She loved this church and was proud to be one of its founding members in 1957. My mom and I both spoke at Nana's service and these were my comments. I'm proud to say I only cried three times and wondered if I could finish my talk just once.


For those of you who don't know me, I'm Jessica Gardner, Frances' granddaughter. I'm the oldest of her four grandchildren, the only granddaughter, and Virginia's daughter.

My memories of Nana span almost four decades and I could stand here all day sharing stories with you, but rather than do that, I want to focus on what I believe made Nana the woman she was . . . counting her blessings every day.

Late last week, as we were preparing for Nana's passing, I spoke with Denise McCloud, here at the Church. She shared with me how she and Pastor Susie went to visit Nana recently. Nana was sleeping with the most peaceful expression on her face and her hands were folded neatly across her chest, as though in prayer. I remember smiling through my tears, as I heard this story and then shared with Denise that for as long as I've known Nana, she always slept that way - on her back with her fingers interlaced across her chest as though in prayer. I've never seen anyone sleep as peacefully as Nana did.

As we spoke, I continued to share that it was my belief that the reason Nana slept so peacefully every night, never suffering from insomnia or other disruptions to her sleep, was because she always spoke kindly, found the best in others, focused on her blessings rather than what she didn't have or trying to keep up with the Jones's, treated people with respect and the way she wanted to be treated, lived her life with humility, and turned her struggles over to God every night. I never heard Nana gossip, speak ugly about anyone, curse, complain, or hold a grudge, even at times when no one would have faulted her for it. One of her favorite proverbs was Proverbs 15:1, "A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger." It was one of her most fundamental beliefs.

She was a devout Christian, but you didn't know it because she was constantly telling you about it. You knew it through her deeds and the way she lived her life. Whether she was finding a low-cost, good home for a family in financial distress, bringing a table to a newlywed without any furniture, or dealing with her customers at the bank, Nana was selfless in her actions. She thought of others before she thought of herself and, in my mind, was the originator of the question "What would Jesus do?" I know she asked herself this question many times every day.

Every night, she ended her day the same way. She dropped to her knees, thanked God for the many gifts he had given her (even if sometimes those gifts took the form of "opportunities" or "challenges") and asked for His blessings for all of her loved ones - naming each of them individually. Nana's prayers were never pre-scripted. Each one was unique. She never asked God for material things; rather she thanked him for giving her strength, courage, patience, humility, and providing for her and her family. She knew he had a plan for her and she never questioned it.

For Nana, family always came first. Even when she was working, if any of us would call her, she would always take the call. She may not have been able to speak at that moment other than to say, "Jessica, dear, I'm with a customer now. Can I call you back?" in her sweet Southern drawl, but she never asked anyone to take a message from her family.

I remember that Nana used to always tell me that I was her favorite granddaughter. Now, the fact is that I am her ONLY granddaughter. At first, I didn't like it when she said this to me, but I came to understand that this was her way of telling me what a special blessing having a granddaughter was and I began to look forward to the compliment. When she retired from NationsBank, now Bank of America, a customer presented her with a gift of drugstore chocolates. I remember standing there as she accepted the gift, held the box like it was a rare jewel, looked at the man, and sincerely said, "Oh, that's JUST what I have wanted! A box of really fine chocolates! Thank you so much!" When my parents divorced, she reached out to my dad to let him know that she still loved him and that he was always welcome in her home. Twenty-five years later, he still remembers those words and the impact they had on him, as he related the story to me for the first time, just the other night. He wasn't her ex-son-in-law. He was and has always remained the man who married her daughter and gave her two beautiful grandchildren. Paying you a sincere compliment was one way she counted her blessings every day. She filled herself up by sincerely lifting you up with heart-felt, soft words.

Nana wasn't rich in material goods, but she was rich in all the things that mattered: love, gratitude, compassion, friends, and family. She loved to tell us that we must always count our blessings every day and that included the things we might not think were blessings. She taught me to always find the bright side of life. I might have to search for it, but it was always there. I think my own optimism in life came from her.

One of my favorite things about Nana is how she loved to write letters. I would receive letters from her weekly, no matter what. Sometimes, those letters would be personal letters written just to me. Sometimes they would be copies of letters she had sent to someone else, but thought I'd be interested in. Sometimes, they'd simply be newspaper clippings that she thought might be relevent to my life. I've kept the letters that touched me most and found one recently that I'd been saving just for today.

She wrote this letter seven years ago, in April 2002, as she was recovering from a stroke and just before she went blind. What I love about this letter, is how rather than focusing on her aches, pains, and new limitations, she chose to count her blessings and share them. I think she sent this letter only to me, although it reads like a letter she copied and sent to multiple family members. Maybe she somehow knew this was the perfect way to remember her today. It was simply titled "Happy Days I Recall."

Of course, a happy day was when Daddy (Jesse Paulk) and I married on September 30, 1938.

The happiest day was when I knew Jesus was my Lord and Savior - my strength and my redeemer.

I do not remember being baptized, but when I was a little girl about 6 or 7, Momma had a new dress for me and Momma and Daddy took me to Sunday School. We sat in little chairs in front of churt - about 7 or 8 children and their parents talked to us. I am sure that was the day I was baptized. I have always loved the Lord, but as I grow older, I realize each day - He is my strength and redeemer. He will never leave me or forsake me, if only I believe and I do.

Another great and happy day was when the nure handed me a darling baby girl - Virginia - September 12, 1948. Daddy and I thought we owned the world with Virginia, so sweet and precious.

Another day to remember was when a bouncing baby boy was handed to me, February 22, 1951 - Michael. Daddy thought the whole world was handed to him with that special baby boy. Virginia and Michael have both given us great pleasures then Daddy was taken away on September 12, 1961.

With dear thoughts of Daddy and God's help, they grew up and were a real pleasure, dear children. Never any trouble. I had many smiles each day.

Then came along another darling baby girl in Tampa on June 16, 1971, Jessica. (My first grandchild.) She was so cute and sweet. I remember driving over to Tampa to see the precious new arrival. Such a pleasure you have been. Then came another bouncing baby boy in Ft. Myers, Florida on October 5, 1974, David Gardner. All these dear little babies have made life worth living.

A few years ago, Jessica invited me to Washington, DC for Christmas. As the plane reached DC, I stood by the window and looked at the Capitol, never expecting to see it with my own eyes. I stood there in awe thinking about all the goverment under that dome. It was a sight I shall never forget. That Christmas she got many wonderful passes for us to see all of DC. David, bless his heart, got a wheel chair and pushed me all over Washington. Sights I had only studied in school - never expecting to see with my own eyes. Potomac River was real. All of the beautiful sights of DC and thanks to Jessica and David for all these wonderful sights. Even Christmas Eve services in the beautiful National Cathedral and then a drive to Roanoke, Virginia. I slept in the back seat all the way, but the next day, going back through all those mountains. Had I known I sure would not have slept. Anyway, was a wonderful Christmas - being with Virginia, Jessica, and David. Will always be a wonderful memory.

Then I think of Jesse and Ryan, (my grandsons from my son Michael). I only saw darling pictures of Jesse for a few months with Michael holding him in his arms. Such a precious picture. Then I few to Colorado when he was baptized at home. The preacher came to the house and Maureen (Michael's wife) and Michael had a few friends in. Jesse arrived November 30, 1981 and was named for his grandfather, Jesse Edward Paulk, and someone in Maureen's family was named Michael, so was a nice name - Jesse Michael Paulk - from both sides of the family.

Ryan arrived in a Dunedin, Florida on May 1, 1985 and named Ryan Thomas Paulk. I remember driving to the hospital when he was only a few hours old. He was so dear and sweet.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I Remember Mother - Eulogy by Virginia Paulk Gardner

This is the eulogy my mom, Virginia Paulk Gardner, gave at Nana's Celebration of Life service in Crystal Beach, Florida and her funeral in Batesville, Mississippi.

Mother Dear,
"A soft answer turneth away wrath" – Words Mama lived her life by. Not to say Mama did not sometimes raise her voice in frustration or sometimes I would have just stepped on her last nerve & she would have to holler out the back door for me.

Physical attributes I will always remember Mama’s soft sweet Southern drawl. Mama’s HANDS – always busy . . . sewing beautiful clothes for me & herself that she had designed; cooking supper or baking or cutting up strawberries to freeze; tenderly caressing the leaves of a plant with one hand while she carefully poured water into their soil with the other; reaching out to me to touch my face or hold my hand; Mother’s hands beautiful always busy doing for others & full of love. Mother’s beautiful blue eyes . . . always with a sparkle like sunlight reflected off the water. Mother’s smile . . . always tender, filled with love & pride whenever she looked at or spoke about me or my brother, Michael, now an Emergency Room Doctor using his soft voice to calm the sick & injured, his steady hands to repair & heal.

Mother’s ways – the real Southern Lady, dressed in dresses she had made & high heels, white gloves & a pretty hat if we were going to church or on the train, the City of New Orleans, up to Memphis for a day of shopping in the city & lunch at Morrison’s Cafeteria, underneath their giant, glittering chandelier.

She loved to sew pretty clothes she had designed & cook good hot meals or wonderful picnic lunches we would take to the Clearwater Beach. Her picnic basket always included: Mama’s Southern Fried Chicken, Hard Boiled Eggs, homemade Potato Salad, Pimento Cheese on Celery Sticks or Bread and Delicious Oatmeal Cookies.

Deep & True & Total Faith in God's Everlasting Love & Care. Her trust with never any doubt and undying true love of God . . .

Jesus was her Rock & Salvation; God was the ever-caring, always loving & protecting God the Father Almighty.

"Trust in the Lord with all thine Heart. Do not lean on thine own understanding, have faith in God & God will guide thee in all thy paths." Proverbs 3:5

More words from the BIBLE that Mother LOVED, had ABSOLUTE FAITH IN, & LIVED BY.

Mother prayed for GOD’s GUIDANCE & BLESSING.

The sound of Mother & Daddy talking softly late at night as I drifted off to sleep to the loving sound of their gentle voices, never to a TV blaring, gave comfort to me & was a sound I missed after my father died on September 12, 1961.

The sound of Mother & Daddy’s laughter mingled together. I loved supper time when we all gathered together at the end of the day for nourishment from one of Mama’s good Southern meals:

  • Fried Mullet, Fish Roe & Hushpuppies with homemade French Fries & Cole Slaw; Warm Banana Pudding for Dessert.
  • Hamhocks & Beans that had simmered for hours on the stove with hot cornbread fresh from the oven.
  • Southern Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes & Butter Beans.
  • Mama’s meatloaf or pot roast with fresh carrots & potatoes & turnip greens & black-eyed peas w/ chopped onion.
  • Baked Beans & Hotdogs & Macarroni & Cheese.
  • Fried Liver. Mama could make everything taste delicious!
  • Mama’s Southern Fried Chicken & Gravy, Rice or Mashed Potatoes, Fresh Green Beans & Corn, tomatoes & salad with some sweet treat to end the meal.

Homemade desserts: Chocolate Cake; Banana Bread; Red Velvet Cake; Lemon Cake; Homemade Ice Cream made with FRESH PEACHES or STRAWBERRIES, or homemade SHERBERT, organge or, my favorite, pineapple.

Precious Lord, Take Me Home . . . Brenda Lacy & Virginia.

My mother graduated from Batesville High School in 1934 with straight A’s, was Class Valedictoria & gave the Graduation Speech. Received a full 4-year scholarship to Belle Haven College in Belle Haven, MS.

I followed in her foot-steps [though not with straight A’s] in 1966, my brother Micheal also was Valedictorian & gave the graduation speech for the Tarpon High School Class of 1969. My daughter Jessica followed her grandmother’s lead. I do not remember the year, I only remember her clear, strong voice, her smile, & her sparkling eyes.

My son, David though not Valedictorian also excelled in school in Mathematics, Science & Writing. In college, he earned an extra scholarship for 6-months in Florence, Italy to study sculpting.

Today all her children & grandchildren remember her well with abiding LOVE & FOND MEMORIES; were all LEAD to GOD through her GUIDANCE & live their LIVES INSPIRED by her strenght of character, honesty, & kindness for others, always striving to & usually achieving EXCELLENCY in ALL that they DO.

Mother Dear, we all love you dearly. We thank you for all your LOVE & CARE, ENCOURGAGEMENT & GUIDANCE.

We thank you also for leading us to GOD;

for your instruction in GOD’s WORD;

for helping us to memorize countless BIBLE VERSES.



YOUR LOVE will always mean the world to us & give us COMFORT.

We will love you forever, remember you fondly, & always strive to live up to all that YOU & DADDY taught us, which we have passed on to our children.

We take JOY knowing that you are now at HOME in GLORY with GOD & our LORD JESUS CHRIST.

Good Night, God Bless YOU, We LOVE you. Sweet Dreams. We’ll see you in our memories & our dreams. And we will meet you on the other side.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nana Was Always #1 in Customer Service

For the 40 years Nana worked at Ellis National Bank, which later became NCNB, and finally NationsBank, she was always recognized for her outstanding customer service abilities. The day of her retirement in 1996 (on her 80th birthday!), customers came in to say good-bye who had been her customers for 40 years. Even after her retirement, those customers would call her at home and ask her questions because they knew that she would always tell them what was best for them and not just what was best for the bank. She treated everyone the same, whether they had $50 or $5,000,000. Wealth didn't matter to Nana. What mattered was that every customer she served felt important and valued. Nana also knew how to keep matters confidential. Her customers knew that when they told her their personal financial information, she was going to hold that information in the strictest confidence.

Needless to say, anyone in type of sales or customer service position could learn a thing or two from the way she treated her customers. And NCNB knew it, which is why when they created training videos, they always featured Nana.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Power of Nana's Fruitcake

I originally published Christmas Memories on Little Merry Sunshine on December 25, 2007. It was the last Christmas I spent with Nana and also the last time I saw her. Nana was with us for Christmas 2008, but I didn't go to Florida. I wish I had.

Christmas Memories

I used to think that for it to be Christmas, it had to resemble a Norman Rockwell painting or Hallmark Holiday Commercial. And in a way, maybe I still do. I honestly miss those big, lavish Christmases when my whole family - aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and all - would gather round. Sure, not everyone got along all the time, but we were still family and it was Christmas, so we were together.

The past few years have not resembled anything like what I remember growing up. I've spent Christmas entirely alone or I've spent Christmas with Dave. He's not much into Christmas, so we pretty much go to the movies and I make stew. And sometimes I made it to church on Christmas Eve. And truthfully, I've grown accustomed to our almost non-existent celebrations. He's family and we're together.

This year, we couldn't get together and I had planned to spend the day with a friend, which I was looking forward to. But then a couple of weeks ago, Mom called me from the nursing home with Nana and Nana said to me "I just wish I could see you. I miss you so much." I had an airline ticket within 24 hours for Christmas in Florida with Mom and Nana. I even made plans to see an old college friend while I'm in town.

My trip has not been without its ups and downs. The airline lost my luggage, which might not have been so bad had I not slept a wink the night before and hadn't eaten all day. I was overwhelmed about seeing Nana and was at my wits end. As silly as it sounds, the reason I cared about my luggage had nothing to do with my clothes or any other material items in it, but with the fact that the last couple of slices of Nana's Fruitcake were in it and I brought it to share with Nana on Christmas. It seemed like everything went wrong on Christmas Eve.

But then today was wonderful. Santa delivered my luggage in the middle of the night. I woke up in Nana's house that she built with most of her life savings. The weather was beautiful (how could it not be, it's FLORIDA!!!!!). And in keeping with our new Christmas tradition, Mom and I saw Charlie Wilson's War, which I highly recommend, had lunch at Waffle House, and then had dinner with Nana. After that, we saw the most amazing display of Christmas lights all throughout one Palm Harbor neighborhood.

Today was a good day for Nana. She knew me and knew it was Christmas. She even had moments of humor. I read her The Christmas Story from Luke 2:1-14 and Santa Mouse, both of which she enjoyed. Then Mom mashed up a couple bites of fruitcake, but didn't tell Nana, and then asked her if she could tell what Mom was feeding her. Immediately, she said "It's my fruitcake" as her face lit up.

Giving Nana that moment of joy was the best Christmas gift I could ever receive and reminded me about the true meaning of Christmas. She probably won't be here next year, but I'll always have the memories of how she loved her fruitcake right up until the end and be grateful that I chose to spend Christmas with family this year. And that's better than any Norman Rockwell painting or Hallmark adaptation.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nana's Date Loaf Candy

In addition to Nana's White Fruit Cake, Christmas in my house wasn't complete with Nana's Date Loaf Candy.

I'll be honest, I don't love Date Loaf Candy as much as I love Fruit Cake. In fact, I probably haven't had any in close to 20 years and at my request, Nana never sent me any.

That said, everyone else in my family loves Date Loaf Candy and I will be making it this Christmas. Shhhh! Don't tell them.

Just like with Nana's White Fruit Cake, I don't know where this recipe originated, but it came as part of the recipe collection I was given in 1999. The words are Nana's because I think it taste better made the way she thought about it.

Nana's Date Loaf Candy

3 cups sugar
3 Tbs White Karo Syrup
1 cup milk
3 Tbs Oleo (JLG Note: "oleo" is butter or margarine, I'll use butter)
8 oz pitted Dates (chopped)
1 cup Pecans (chopped)

1. Combine first 3 ingredients in sauce pan and cook until makes a soft ball in cold water. Cook about 12-15 minutes. Will turn dark while cooking. You can sample little in cold water several times and will feel kinda hard.

2. Add Oleo and stir in dates. I chop into pieces so will dissolve easier. Continue to stir.

3. Add pecans and with spoon take a big helping and roll into a sausage-type roll. I put butter on my hands to roll easier and stuff will be hot.

4. Place on a damp cloth then roll into a roll about 2 inches across.

5. I put on bottom refrigerator shelf and leave for 20-30 minutes. Then you can take out and cut into about 4 pieces and roll in wax paper or Saran Wrap and put in Ziploc bag and leave until ready to eat.

6. Slice into 1/2 inch slices. Enjoy!


JLG UPDATE 10/19/2009: I posed some questions to my mom today who informs me that Nana's recipe makes about 2 12 inch logs. The number of pieces of candy it will make depends on how thick you choose to cut each piece from the log and whether you cut the round pieces into 4 bite-sized pieces or not (Nana never did). If you are planning to keep your Date Loaf Candy for any length of time, then it should be stored in the refrigerator.

While searching for recipes of Nana's, I perused the Batesville (MS) Presbyterian Church Cookbook from 1993 and found the Date Loaf Candy Recipe submitted by Nana's sister, Dixie Gladney. They are similar, but with a few slight differences.

Louise L. Smith's Date Loaf Candy submitted by Dixie (Scruggs) Gladney

2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla

Cook sugar, milk and butter to soft ball stage. Add dates and boil 5 minutes. Take from heat and beat until thick. Add nuts then beat again until real stiff. Wet a cloth kitchen towel. Spread candy with spoon into long roll on wet cloth, then roll 1 ply cloth around candy to make roll. Unwrap and let set. Will be sticky at first. Slice into 1/2-inch slices.

(JLG Note: Yes, I know, there's no explanation of what to do with the vanilla. I'd suggest adding it to the sugar, milk and butter, but I haven't made this recipe.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nana's White Fruit Cake

Nana was famous for her fruit cake. I know fruit cake gets a bad rap, but you haven't tried Nana's. It is light and airy and quite simply heaven in a bread pan. I knew I was grown up the first time Nana sent me my very own fruit cake, in December 1993, the first Christmas I was in Washington, D.C. But 6 years later, in December 1999, Nana trusted me with her fruit cake recipe was the year I knew I was an adult.

Nana baked her last fruit cake in January 2006.
David and I spent a week in Florida and after church on Sunday, Mom, Nana and I made Nana's fruit cake. I savored the fruit cakes we made that January, each year having just a little, so that the first Christmas Nana wasn't with us anymore, she'd still be with us. I still have part of one fruitcake that I guess we'll finish this Christmas.

I'll be making Nana's White Fruit Cake this Christmas on my own, for the first time, and sharing it with my friends and loved ones. I'll stick to her recipe exactly, except that my cakes will probably also include a few tears. They'll be tears of both joy and sadness. Joy because of all the wonderful memories I have around Nana's Fruit Cake and Christmas and sadness because it's the first Christmas without Nana.

I don't know the origin of Nana's fruit cake recipe. I've always just thought of it as Nana's White Fruit Cake, so that's how I titled it.

Today, I'm happy to share Nana's recipe with you. I thought about keeping it a secret, but that isn't Nana's way. She'd want to know you enjoyed it too.

NOTE: This is Nana's typed out recipe. All of the notes and verbiage are hers. I didn't change a thing. I think using the recipe the way she thought of it and in her sweet words makes it better.

Nana's White Fruit Cake

3/4 lb butter (3 sticks)
2 cups sugar
6 egg whites
1/2 cup whiskey
4 cups plain flour (sifted) - does not need sifting these days as flour is very fine and soft.
2 tsp baking powder
1 lb pecans
1 lb candied cherries (red and green mix)
1 lb candied pineapple

Day before you bake I cut my pineapple and cherries in halves. I think this makes slicing easier and prettier. Then chop pecans. Can use scissors to cut in half.

You will need mixer, one glass bowl to beat egg whites and a big bowl to put pecans and fruit in. You will save a little flour to pour over fruit and pecans so they will not go to bottom of pan when cooking, this is called dredging with flour. About 1/4 cup.

1. Mix first 6 ingredients in order one at a time and cream each time.
2. Pour little (about 1/4 cup) flour over the fruit and pecans and stir. I use my hands.
3. Beat egg whites until stiff.
4. Pour batter over the fruit and pecans and use hands to mix then pour egg whites in and fold into this using hands.

All done, ready to pour into loaf pans and bake.

Grease pans and flour sides and bottom, but shake to get all flour out. Then I cut from a brown bag the size of bottom of pan and place in bottom to keep from sticking. (JLG NOTE: I think parchment paper would work, but I'll always use a brown paper sack.)

Start in cold oven. Bake about 2 hours or 2 1/4 hours. I just look and feel to see if brown and if cake feels solid.

Let set about 15 minutes, then run knife around sides and turn out on board or wax paper. I let cool then dredge with whiskey (about 1/4 cup) then wrap air tight. Can open in a couple of weeks and can pour little more liquor if needed.

All ready for Christmas. I just leave in pantry in a plastic sack. Cake is first wrapped in wax paper or Saran wrap real tight.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mrs. Bredemeier Goes to Europe

Reverend and his sister Imgard at her home in Minden, Germany.

In 1971, Nana got remarried to Rev. CWA Bredemeier (see p. 4 of link). He was German, having emigrated to the United States during the 1920s. Reverend, as everyone including Nana called him, liked to return to Germany to visit his siblings, Imgard, Anna, Christy, and Ditmar and other family members who had remained in Germany. To my knowledge, Nana accompanied him twice. She very much enjoyed these trips and kept a diary of her adventures.

This post was originally written by Nana during her second trip to Europe in 1981. I discovered it during my trip to Florida in September and was surprised to learn of a side of Nana I'd never known. I have not altered Nana's diary in any way other than to correct misspellings.

My Second Trip to Europe, October 5 - 25, 1981
by Frances Paulk Bredemeier

Monday, October 5, 1981
My anticipation of the second trip to Reverend's homeland ran high. We were ready to leave for the airport when the phone rang and the voice told us our flight was delayed for three hours, would leave at 10:15 not 7:15. To keep us off to a good start we let the house as planned. Our good friends, Ruth Weyer and Carol Vassell, drove us to the airport but we stopped by our famous "McDonald's" for a nice hamburger and cup of tea. This made our departure perfect. Reverend failed to take his topcoat but this was not a concern as we knew there would be an extra coat on that lovely coat rack in the foyer of his German home. Bidding our friends a farewell, we boarded Pan Am flight for Frankfurt. After all passengers were comfortable we were served a delicious roast beef dinner with all the trimmings. We rested, read and relaxed knowing we had eight hours of flying time ahead. Lights were turned low and we stretched across the vacant seats for a few hours of sleep. Woke to a beautiful sunrise as we were flying over the United Kingdom. Time was announced U.S. 6:25am, German time 11:25am. A regular continental breakfast was served, temperature announced 16C, 61F.

Tuesday, October 6, 1981
Landed at the Frankfurt-Main Airport right on time, U.S. 7:25am, German 12:25pm. Looking out the plane window we could see plans from all parts of the world. We had the pleasure of waiting three hours for our flight to Hanover. We had dinner in the lovely dining room at the airport, was interesting watching people from all parts of the globe, many in their native wear. Had German sausage and potato salad for the meal. We could hear flights called to Palestine, Cairo, Tokyo, Peking, Saudi Arabia, Somali, even heard a Miami flight called, flights to Moscow, I had to think how small the world must be.

I stepped aboard my first foreign plane, Lufthansa B-737 for Hanover. Only took about 45 minutes for this flight, and stepping off plane we saw two smiling faces on other side of glass waiting for us, Siegfried and Ditmar. We were soon on our way to Minden, weather was cool and misty, a little rain. We were walking into their home with arms waiting for us, such a welcome with Imgard and Christy waiting. Once again being welcomed into their lovely home, with flowers in bloom in their yard, the flowers in every window. Red roses in bedroom to greet me. In Germany, you purchase roses in numbers of three, five, seven, or nine.

After relaxing and unpacking we went to dining room with a beautiful table waiting for us, and of course, a continental supper which we always enjoy, and a cup of tea with that special taste. We soon retired to our room and those cozy beds with the down comforters waiting for us.

Wednesday, October 7, 1981
Breakfast at eight, much pleasure to eat and talk with Imgard and Siegfried. Such a pleasure to look out at the German soil, so rich, with such blankets of flowers. Had to go into the vegetable garden, they had saved raspberries on the vine for me to pick. Much had been gathered and stored for winter use, but in the garden were also beautiful flowers, rose of colored dalhias. One would never tire of visiting just Minden. This city is in the heart of Westphalia on the Weser River. We enjoyed being home the first part of our visit and be with the family. A different world just to be in Germany and really live among the people.

Imgard had prepared a tasty dinner of meat loaf, rice and tomato and squash casserole, strawberries grown in their garden for dessert. Imgard has her own art for freezing them and also thawing, one could not tell they were not freshly picked. By now we were realizing the time difference so a nap was welcomed. We heard the East German bells calling us downstairs for coffee and dessert, strictly at four in the afternoon. The bells were in East Germany, Siegfried's home land.

Ditmar and Christy joined us. We spent the afternoon with the family, always a continental supper which we enjoy. Enjoyed German TV, the news and the end of another perfect day.

Thursday, October 8, 1981
Another interesting day, after breakfast, starting the day with a walk to the park. Weather was brisk. People of all ages, men and women, passing us riding their bicycles. Sidewalks are much wides than in the States, they were built for bicycles many years ago. Each person will carry a shopping bag as no sacks are given with purchases. Check-out clerks in grocery stores sit on a comfortable stool. Imgard served us friend chicken breast, potatoes, peas and pears for dessert. Christy and Ditmar again joined us for coffee and cake at four then for a ride to Hahlen and Hartum, small villages not too far from Minden where the family lived as children. Farmers live in the villages but their land is outside the village for farming. This is the day we seem to be over our jetlag.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 9, 10, and 11, 1981
Friday was the day we went to Bielefeld for Anna. Lovely drive over the mountain range, back by the Autobahn. Bielefeld is a beautiful city. Bethel, where Anna has lived and worked since a young girl, has enlarged even houses the city hospital now.

Saturday morning we watched [Anwar El] Sadat's funeral per German TV. This was interesting. I did get a glimpse of Nixon, but other ex-Presidents were not seen. Siegfried made yeast cake which we would enjoy int he afternoons. All stores close at 1pm on Saturday. Rudy and wife, Christine, daughter, Marguerti, and husband and baby Hanas from Bethel visited us Saturday afternoon. Was a pleasure to have Anna with us for the weekend. She brought gifts we will always treasure.

Sunday was the day August [Reverend] had looked forward to. Church in Hartum with Anna, Christy and Ditmar. This was the church they attended as children, pretty stained glass windows and lovely organ. Had not changed too much since his childhood, only the attendance. When they were young the pews were all filled. Today, many are empty, a Gideon speaker brought the message this Sunday.

We stopped by the old home place where a cousin now lives. Anna and August remembered many instances from childhood, passed by the old bake house. We then drove back to Minden where we knew Imgard and Siegfried would be waiting. Walked into dining room to find a beautiful table waiting for us filled with pork roast, carroli (turnips) potatoes. I still think they are the best potatoes I have ever tasted. At four, Imgard and Siegfried served us that delicious yeast cake with our coffee. I can see Ann's smile across the table now. She does not talk too much, but a real pleasure to have her with us. Sunday night we had supper with Christy and Ditmar in their attractive home. Anna rode over but the rest of us walked, was kinda raining and cold but was a wonderful walk, several blocks, we had to use umbrellas. Christy is very artistic so her table was most attractive. Ditmar's father joined us as his mother was still in hospital. She served platter of smoked pork chops, all kinds of cheeses, rice and spaghetti salad. Beautiful fruit bowl with real whipped cream for dessert. We then returned to living room where Ditmar showed slides of Crystal Beach and other points of Florida then slides of their trip by San Francisco, Grand Canyon and on to Lakewood, Colorado.

Monday, October 12, 1981
Waked to a beautiful misty rainy day. Lovely breakfast, as lovely as a queen has, and the fellowship with Anna, Imgard and Siegfried. We went downtown Minden by bus. So many sights to see in Minden, old churches, city halls and just watching the busy people. Lovely clothes in show windows, fur coats up to 10,000 Marks [approx. $4400]. We had lunch in a little street stand eating German sausage on a bun. Some of the foundations for the churches were laid 800 AD. Were home by four then watched Stalingrad picture on TV.

Tuesday, October 13, 1981
Lovely morning as usual then to Hameln, Lemgo and Bad Pyrmont in afternoon. Drove across the mountain range where the leaves were beginning to change color. Lemgo is an interesting old town with square in center, cobblestone streets, no cars allowed in square, a real tourist attraction, buildings very old.

Bad Pyrmont is a very exclusive and expensive spa. We visited a couple whose mother lived in Tarpon Springs many years. Her son manages the hotel at this spa. There are many, many hotels at spa. They served us coffee and cake in the main dining room and wanted us to stay several days and nights, but time would not permit. They will be in USA in January 1982 and will visit with us. After the interesting drive back to Minden and supper we all watched "Dallas" on TV, I had never seen this program in the States, but is a favorite in Germany.

Wednesday, October 14, 1981
Spent the morning shopping, had fun trying on clothes but did not purchase. Their sizes are so different from ours, I found that I wore a size 40 blouse, I believe that would be about size 10 or 12 here. Material was all so nice, well made. After four o'clock we took Anna back to Bethel. Was so nice that she could be home for the few days. After bidding a farewell to Anna in Bethel, we strolled through the town of Bielefeld, very interesting town. I believe I did not mention the first few days we arrived in Minden, we visited the cemetery where Mr. and Mrs. Bredemeier are buried, took flowers and found the cemetery well kept with beautiful flowers everywhere. They do have much respect for their deceased loved ones and keep the graves with beautiful plants on them.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 15, 16, & 17, 1981
These days were spent with the family with anticipation of our trip through Switzerland the next week. We did enjoy just being in Minden with the family. Ditmar showed his slides of their trip to Norway. we got a real education on Norway, pictures were interesting and comments on each were great. One afternoon Siegfried walked with us to the store and went through the big nursery department. There are so many pretty flowers in Germany, one wants to buy each, they grow so easily there, with some work and loving care. Late in afternoon we drove up to Kaiser Wilhelm's monument, could see "Little Switzerland" from the view. On way home we saw a shepherd with his sheep and his dog. We also visited with Alma and Tante Wilhelmine and fmily. Ulrich and Biggert arrived on their way to Denmark for their week's vacation. We called Peter Thoren in Hamburg, his aunt lives in Tarpon Springs.

Sunday, October 18, 1981
First two weeks we stayed close to Minden and the family. Now we are off for five days of touring by car. We will see more in these five days than most tourists see by a tour bus in three weeks. After breakfast this Sunday morning Ditmar, driving his lovely Mercedes, Christy, August and I were off to Southern Germany, first over the mountain range then through about 100 miles of flat land, then on to the Black Forest. We had our first sight of U.S. Army, they were on maneuvers this week. In this section farmers live out on their land. Leaves are turning a golden color, a picture any artist would prize to see and apture on canvas. Church steeples are noticeable in all the villages. We listened to Lutheran Church service while driving. All stores are closed on Sunday. Driving south toward Kassel [and here], bombed heavily during the war, scenery was especially pretty, little villages nestled between the mountains. Houses are white with red and the black roofs are beginning to be seen. The mountains are beginning to have many forest trees. There were very few transport trucks on the highway on Sunday, very few are allowed on Sunday.

Started noticing car license plates, CH for Switzerland, D for Germany, PL for Poland. Very few Polish cars, but the few we saw seemed to be refugees as cars were packed with belongings probably everything they owned.

Had lunch at a highway restaurant, outside under shelter with rain falling, Bockwurst and orange juice, then on to Frankfurt passing the U.S. Air Force base. Frankfurt was badly bombed, so most of the buildings are new and like new ones in America. Passed Castle Zwingenberg, then on to Darmouth, only a hello to Heildelberg as we passed, we had previously seen the castle and palace and places of interest. We are now entering the Black Forest near Baden-Baden, famous resort. All the rich sheiks from Saudi Arabia enjoy coming here, very expensive. Beautiful gambling casino here, most famous in all of Germany.

We approached Freudenstadt near evening, spent night at Hotel Lanhaus high up in the mountains in the little town of Lauterbad, just a few miles from Freudenstadt. Ditmar always found the right place to eat and spend the night. Had delicious pot roast, potatoes, cauliflower, wine and dessert in a lovely dining room, the hotel was in the square. All rooms have no closets, there is a big wardrobe for hanging clothes, big square pillows for beds and feather comforts for each mattress. All beds are king size with two separate mattresses. After our supper we walked around the square under the arcade which surrounds the city, this is the largest arcade in the world. The street lights were beautiful candelabras.

Monday, October 19, 1981
Walked down the marble stairs to the dining room, continental breakfast waiting for all the guests, red rose on each table. This is in the heart of the Black Forest. We were soon on our way to Triberg, home of the famous Coo Coo clock. We found the shop we wanted to see, owned and operated by Mr. Dohl, August had spoken to him by phone from the States. He had a big sign "UHREN Coo Coo Clocks," so this was the place we stopped. He had many, many clocks, he sold retail and wholesale. A merchant in Dunedin had been over and purchased many clocks to sell in his store in Dunedin, Florida. He had 55 employees, 33 were wood carvers. We watched some of the carving. The merchant from Dunedin had purchased two clocks in particular, price in Germany was 1480 Marks [approx. $655] and 2300 Marks [approx. $1018]. Many flowers in all the windows. People live on second and third floor of these buildings and shops on street floor. We had dinner in a quaint restaurant we found on the highway, served meat loaf, potatoes and salad, but such an interesting place. We left the Black Forest at Waldkirch and now on to Basel and enter Switerland near Nurenberg. Weather was clear and sun was perfect, such a day and new experience as I drove across the border and into Switzerland, a land I had only known from story books. We were now near the French border, no coats needed. Many vineyards in this section, the Black Forest protects the vineyards in winter and south winds brings good season for the grapes. We entered Switzerland at 2:30pm, custom officers were most friendly, sun was bright as I put my feet on Swiss ground, another thrill for me, with the Swiss Alps facing us. Switzerland has three languages, near Geneva, French is spoken, southern part, Italian and northern section, German. Their flag, a white cross with red surrounding the cross to the edge of the flag, these were flying in many places. We cross the Rhein River here, we are now about 800K (500 miles) from Minden. We left the vineyards to find apples and pears on mountain sides. Many tunnels through the maintains. Land has been turned over for winter planting or winter cover crop is up, will stay green all winter. Different forest on the Alps than the Black Forest. On to Bern. Many Swiss Army trucks on highway. Saw the big clock on the city hall in Bern as I remember in my geography book I studied in grammar school, never knowing some day I would view the clock with my own eyes. Swiss banks do not require a signature card, they only use numbers that are given to each customer. We drove along beautiful Lake Thun looking at the blue waters and little villages along the lake and on to Interlaken, nestled between the Swiss Alps. Out hotel in Interlaken was on a river, very cold glacier water and very blue. We had our stroll on the streets, passing the beautiful Hotel Victoria. We saw the horse drawn carriages leave hotel taking tourists for a tour of the city.

Many side walk cafes, heated from the ceiling, open all winter. Kursaal, which means "meeting place" was here. On the casino grounds was a clock with face made completely from flowers, big wooden hands even second hands. This clock has been here for many years, each year planting new flowers as needed. The stores were all filled with Omega and Rolex gold watches, and much fine jewelry. As we walked, we could see lights high up on the mountain side, dotting villages high in the mountains and villages we would see next day.

Tuesday, October 20, 1981
Woke to a beautiful sunshine day, looking out motel window to see the beautiful snow capped Alps and Mt. Matterhorn nestled between peaks part of the Jungfrau Region. When we first looked out window, day was clear could see the mountain very clearly but within fifteen minutes, one could no longer see mountains, mist come in so fast. After our continental breakfast we started our drive by winding roads and hairpin curves up the Swiss Alps. We drove to Grindelwold by car then took the electric train for the remaining part of the trip Scheidegg. To our desired expectations which many tourists fail to see, the sky was beautiful, not a cloud in sight, making visible the Eiger, Jungfrau and the Monch. No words can express this sight. Jungfrau unveiled her beauty and the Eiger stood in all his glory. We baked in the sun as if we were on the sandy shores of Florida. After taking in the beauty of these sights, we took the electric train back to Grindelwold for lunch. We met many Japanese ladies (teachers of tea) touring the Alps then on to Paris and London and back to Japan. Each wore their beautiful native silk kimonos. Back by Interlaken then up to Gimmelwald where we met an old man and family from Israel, many sheep on mountainsides. Then making all the curves up to Beatenberg where Reverend had relaxed a week in 1948. A small child was bringing the cows down from high meadows, the lead cow wearing the larger bell, the other cows with smaller bells, was a symphony of cow bells drifting throughout the open spaces of the mountains. The hotel was the same as in 1948. Went inside the church which was started in 1536 and restored in 1934 [ed. note: I think she's referring to the Protestant Church of Beatenberg]. Lady was working in the small cemetery on slope near church. The day closed with beautiful echoes of the cow bells and thinking, "they are led by a child, passed the church and up the town street to their proper place for the night." As the day comes to an end - my thoughts drift back to the great Alps standing before me - still wondering the strength behind those great mountains. "When I look down from the lofty mountains grandeur and tall water falls and feel the gentle breeze, I think dear God, how great Thou art. The world behind me - the cross before me - no turning back, I will follow Jesus." Another wonderful day had come to an end. I understand the dear [ed. note: I couldn't make out this word - it was handwritten] melody as I looked at the Alps.

Wednesday, October 21, 1981
On leaving Interlaken we had to stop in the middle of the town to wait on a man taking his cows to the mountains to graze, first cow wearing the larger Swiss bell, about a 2 gallon size, smaller bells on the cows. Saw a Swiss mailman wearing the traditional cape pulling a small cart. We drove along the north side of beautiful Lake Brienz to Luzern. Snowed in the mountains during the night, we could see the snow capped mountains along the drive, lovely chateaus all through the mountains, always flowers in gardens and windows. Saw much wood cut and stacked for winter use. All through this part of Switzerland the church steeples have clocks, then rooster for Reformed church and a cross for the Lutheran. Saw a mountain goat standing way up on a cliff. As we entered Luzern we heard on radio that the Hearst family from California had purchased a castle in Luzern and was going to move it stone by stone and relocate it near Miami, Florida. We saw many black ducks and sailboats on Lake Brienz. By now the lake was Lake Vierwaldstatter [ed. note: aka Lake Lucerne]. We drove through Stans built on the mountain side overlooking the lake. Buildings were old and very pretty in Luzern, covered walks, domes and much decorations on all buildings. Saw big American Express off here, many tour buses. Leaving beautiful Luzern on way to Zurich. Countryside beautiful, lake on one side, mountains on other side. Zurich is place where William Tell struggled for Swiss Independence, no traces of war destruction, economy is strong. On to Liechtenstein, country smaller than Clearwater or Minden, independent, has holding companies, no airports, no natural resources, everything must be imported.


The journal ends there. Although Nana's trip lasted another four days, there were no journal entries. Maybe they were lost. Reading and transcribing Nana's travel journal, I discovered a woman I'd never known. To me, Nana was always the woman who worked in the bank, who loved her children and grandchildren, who grew up on a farm, who loved her church and lived a very simple life. In this journal, I met Nana the world traveler. The woman who drank wine, socialized with and loved meeting people from all cultures, watched Dallas (even if only once), and called her husband August, not Reverend as I always heard her.