My Grandmother’s Kitchen: Homemade Pancakes

I love the title for this month’s blog post. I had different relationships with both of my grandmothers. They each taught me so much in the precious time I had with them. After our family moved from the city, I used to spend a few weeks each summer with my Grandma Milem.

She lived in a cul-de-sac with other homes filled with folks much like herself; elderly, with grown children. There were very few kids my age living, or visiting in that semi-circle of homes; so I ended up spending a lot of time with Grandma and Grandpa. This is the place where I learned to sew, embroider, and watch Grandma cook. A favorite family memory: she loved to whistle while she worked.

There was always fresh produce on Grandma’s table. Tomatoes sliced on a plate, cucumbers bathed in vinegar, or swimming in sour cream with dill, and onion stalks with their greenery spilling out of the top of a glass of water. She taught my mother how to can the benefits from our garden, her bread and butter pickles were the best! We had jars and jars of corn, green beans and tomatoes. Grandma would take zucchini home and come back to visit with loaves of zucchini bread!

I have fond memories of holiday gatherings. Wonderful smells would fill the house. There were no store bought pies here, no sir. Everything was made by hand, and if you went home hungry it was your fault.

By the time I became a teenager, Grandpa had passed away and their home had been sold. Grandma called herself a vagabond; she lived from place to place. Mostly with her grown children in different parts of the country. She would visit us in southern California for a couple of months, she would then divide the rest of the year between Arizona, South Carolina, or Ohio.

In 1999, we were all called to my Uncle’s home in Ohio to say our good-byes. Hospice had advised that Grandma would be leaving us soon. A memory from that time, so precious to me  was when my Uncle’s home lost power, and there was no air conditioning. My cousins and I took newspaper and made fans. Then we went into the bedroom where Grandma rested and fanned her while singing hymns. If you listened real close you could hear her humming along.

When asking my cousins which recipe they remembered most from Grandma’s Kitchen our memories varied.  But we all think of her as a constant reminder of our childhood, and her great cooking abilities. I just found out recently that one of my cousins had  snagged her recipe box! Oh what a treasure! She then proceeded to send me a picture of all of those recipes. So, per her request, I am happily sharing Grandma Milem’s pancake recipe.


Grandma Milem’s Pancakes

1 Egg
1 1/4 cup Buttermilk or sour milk
1/2 cup of Baking soda
1 1/4 Cups of Flour
1 tsp. Sugar
2 Tbs. Soft shortening
1 1/2 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. Salt

Mix the dry ingredients together well. The shortening should be soft like butter at room temperature. Add shortening, and  buttermilk; stir well. Let batter rest for a minute or two before pouring on hot griddle.

Click to Tweet: My Grandma’s Kitchen: Homemade Pancakes #holiday #memories .@InspiredPrompts

From My Grandmother’s Kitchen: Mamaw’s Chocolate Pie

By Jennifer Hallmark

Mamaw’s chocolate pie. Rich, creamy filling in a flaky crust with no meringue or whipped topping. No, sir. Mamaw didn’t like meringue. My dad’s parents spent a lot of their life in Arizona before moving back to Alabama to retire. My brother, Jesse Lee Dison III, and I enjoyed visiting my dad’s parents during our teen-age years, a time to get out of the house.

When Mamaw passed in 2010, my brother, living in Alaska, could not make the trip. But he had a way to honor our grandmother. He wrote a tribute which he had me place in a stand-up photo frame and asked my mom to bake a chocolate pie. We set them in the funeral parlor, a fitting acknowledgement of her love and cooking skills…

Here’s what Jesse wrote:

Since I could not attend I wanted to have something there that meant a lot to me when I think of Mamaw.  Now chocolate pie may seem like an odd thing, but every time we would get together that was one thing that I knew she would have and what I looked forward to.  Without the whipped cream! Whenever I see a chocolate pie, it reminds me of her and I know that they won’t be as good as hers. Just a very special memory to me.

Most of my memories of her would range from her being mean, not letting me answer the phone when my girlfriend was calling (had to climb through a window to grab the phone), to her relationship with Papaw.  I truly believe that strong family trees start at the roots and you learn from what you watch while growing up.  Mamaw and Papaw had that relationship where you know they loved each other and it was passed on although not out loud, but through watching and being around them.

Being in Alaska has been hard since it is so far away.  Holidays are hard because I miss being there with all the family.  When Mamaw would yell “Jesse” and Papaw, my dad and I would holler “yes” at the same time. She would get so mad.  I know when I would call to talk to her and hear everyone in the background it would bring back good memories.  To know that all her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren have and are raising close strong families in today’s society is a testament to how great Mamaw and Papaw were.

I am saddened by Mamaw’s passing but I know she is where she wants to be now, with my dad and Papaw.  And someday we will all be together.

And I know we will. Here’s her pie recipe. You can always add meringue or whipped topping, of course. 🙂

Click to tweet: Just in time for the holidays. Mamaw’s Chocolate Pie. #InspiredPrompt #food

Mamaw’s Chocolate Pie

3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Blend together sugar, flour, cocoa, and salt in a boiler. Add milk. Cook over low heat. Stir constantly util the mixture has thickened. Add a small amount of hot mixture to beaten egg yolks, stirring well. Add to mixture. Cook until it is a thick consistency. Add vanilla and butter or margarine. Pour into baked pie shell. Let cool…

Christmas Around the World: My Russian Legacy

Christmas around the world is our topic for December. Many people rejoice over the birth of Christ and with different countries come various celebrations. Food, church services, gift-giving, decorations, and lights are some of the ways people show their love for the Babe born in Bethlehem. Join us for our trip around the world, starting with Russia…

By Jennifer Hallmark


Uncle Paul, Grandma, Grandpa, Mom

Christmas Eve and day were spent with my dad’s family and my husband’s family, sharing traditions familiar to them. Southern food, presents galore, and catching up on the past year were an important part of their holidays. The New Year would come and go. Russian Christmas would finally arrive.

My family would drive to my parent’s house on January 6, which was the eve of the day Christmas was celebrated on the old “Julian” calendar. The excitement would build as our children, Mandy and Jonathan, looked forward to the small, decorated tree, presents and a special supper to commemorate this second Christmas of the year.


wikipedia image

On Russian Christmas Eve, Mother would set up and decorate a small tabletop tree. We would prepare a special seven-dish Russian meal, which included salmon, stuffed potato pies, borscht or beet soup, stuffed cabbage, polish sausage, boiled cabbage, and special rolls filled with raisins and prunes. We ate by candlelight and recelebrated the birth of Jesus, then exchanged small presents as we shared stories of culture, heritage and family.


My stuffed cabbage and peppers

I’m glad to remember and share my heritage with my family. Today we celebrate different traditions tied to my heritage and home in the Deep South. We rejoice with love, fellowship, food, and gifts.

One Christmas at a time.


Writing Prompt: Share your favorite Christmas tradition.


Trending Now – Beware of the Pop in Pop Culture

by Allie Owens Crockett

If there is one thing my dad taught me about the world in my early years, it was to beware of fads. According to Urban Dictionary a fad is a thing that becomes very popular in a short amount of time, and then is forgotten at about the same speed. In other words, a craze or a trend. They come to pass.

Don’t get me wrong not all fads mean trouble. For instance, I like lots of “green” fads. These are movements having to do with caring for the environment, clean eating, and cleaning with safer products in our homes and around our children. Here’s the catch–the quicker we are to associate ourselves as “we”, the quicker we are to fall under the category of “bandwagon-ers.” This is what I believe my father wished to stress.

Let’s talk sports. Most of us have a favorite team. We paint our faces, we parade to work, our flag’s great colors flitting in the wind. We assemble for the sake of consuming large amounts of food and drink – yelling and jumping in front of a screen.

SONY DSCEspecially here–in the great state of Kentucky–where Basketball was born (just a joke!). But really, Cats and Cards fans make quite a crowd. With this being said, I recently discovered my best friend of 15+ years, and rival Cardinal snob is a complete and total fanatic fraud! On a trip to the gym, she confessed her fan-hood had been passed down. Her family roots for UofL. Why shouldn’t she?

I giggled to myself, because I believe as a young child I chose to (be) a Kentucky Wildcat and was largely associated with liking the color blue better than red. Of course, I made no mention of this to her. I offer this as a funny example of how easy it is to get roped-in with something we would otherwise have no organic pull toward or preference about. I think fads work this way.

When I consider our media-driven society and the sway it has on this generation, I am reminded of my days as Pre-K teacher. It is my belief that children are just as amazingly unique, as they are remarkably alike. In a more positive light, what’s popular or common among this age group can be ideal for prepping them for the years ahead.

file6301307532195When I was in school, the term peer pressure had some unfavorable implications. But I have found that this kind of peer pressure can be a very useful tool in the context of a classroom. Most people send their children to preschool for the socialization, but also to acquire new skills as well as learn what is acceptable behavior in a classroom setting.  It is “popular” for children this age to be grump-a-lumps when they first arrive to school, and to cry for their parents. It is “popular” for children this age to be easily redirected to a new activity once they realize all is well and their classmates are having fun. The more time little people spend in this new environment, the easier it becomes for them to sit quietly, follow simple instructions, and feel quite confident with the security that structure provides.

Even as adults, we are all only children at heart. I believe knowing when to lead and when to follow are two essential elements to living a purposeful life.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens….A time to be silent and a time to speak. Ecclesiastes 3:1,7

And as flashy and high-tech as things become, there really is nothing new under the sun.

Until next time,


Did you know–every time you leave a comment on one of our posts, you are automatically entered in our quarterly drawings for a gift certificate? –Plus–Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments…

Writing Prompt: Let this photo prompt a story! Write a sentence or two or three. Who is she? Why is she here? What is she thinking?

Girl in a park

After Christmas Traditions…interrupted

With family together around the holidays, after Christmas traditions are often as meaningful as Christmas traditions, but sometimes life gets in the way in a dramatic way.

Ten years ago, on Christmas Day eve, the words of the 2004 tsunami came to us like headlines through the phone line from my brother-in-law.

“Thousands feared dead. Seaside villages wiped out.”

My husband, a native of India, put his hand over the receiver. “It’s Decruz. Turn on the news. Something terrible has happened back home.”

Our “after Christmas traditions” were set aside. My husband, Bishop Leo Michael, immediately spearheaded a very successful national fundraising event. He promised to take 100% of the contributions to the most affected tsunami victims in the most decimated areas around Nagapattinam, South India.

A pastor and native of South India, he had worked around the affected coastal region for more than twenty years. He understood the living conditions of the fisherfolk and could well imagine the horrible aftermath of the monster wave that took the lives of tens of thousands.

Our family and church flew into fundraising mode. Then, ten days after the tsunami, my husband and I flew to India.

Being a former journalist, and current freelance magazine writer on assignment, I geared up to trek into impassable villages with my husband where the dead still washed up on the shoreline and massive cremation fires still burned. Villages were destroyed.



SI ExifAlmost ten years later, we returned to the same villages and met the orphans we’d helped. We encountered surprising changes and gleaned a deeper insight into the lives of the fisherfolk and tsunami survivors.IMG_0580


My husband talking to the orphans, now grown-ups

My husband, Bishop Leo Michael, talking to the orphans, now grown-ups

Traditions are a wonderful way to keep a family united, but sometimes life gets in the way and a family has to make adjustments. I was proud of my teenage for understanding and supporting us in those days following the 2004 tsunami. As adults now, I hope they realize the importance of traditions, but have also learned to be flexible and set aside plans when necessary.

In your writing, consider how the unexpected can wreak havoc with holiday traditions. Does a greater good come out of accepting an unplanned challenge?

And if you’d like to follow our journey in my THEN and NOW nonfiction book, TSUNAMI 2004 – Still Wading Through Waves of Hope, it was published today on the tsunami anniversary, December 26, 2014 on Amazon and is only $2.99. A percentage of the proceeds go towards our relief fund to help educate the orphans of the tsunami.

Beautiful beach and sea