Thoughts on life from Pat Oaks
While baking our Christmas dinner this year I broke the handle off two of the measuring cups
I had bought when we moved to Knoxville. I had a set at our place in Elizabethton, but left them there. I will definitely be getting them the next time we are there!
The measuring cups I left behind, were my Mother's. I wonder how many meals were prepared with those measuring cups? After she died, I got those cups, plus her measuring spoons. I have the spoons in Knoxville already. I don't know why I left the cups behind!
It seems strange to me that the brand new cups are already broken. The cups she used all those years are over 80 years old! She probably had them before I was born though, so it may be closer to 90!
I have always been drawn to things that were around in the early 1900's. There is a reason! The things we buy today don't even last one year, much less 80!
Hello you wonderful people! This is Prisha's son, Jason Amos. I post my mother's stories for her and just love doing that! It's like opening a box of Cracker Jacks and getting that secret toy surprise! This is January 9, 2022 but you'll notice she has another Christmas post.
Sometimes I'll go visit my family in the heat of summer and in the middle of their playlist that is most always playing in the background) a Christmas song will pop up. It's pretty much Christmas all year long at my parents house. It definitely always has that cozy, welcoming, "I'm home now" feel to it - with or without the decorations.
I've always been jealous of Catholics because, in my opinion, they celebrate Christmas a bit better than Protestants do. They actually celebrate the famous song, "12 Days of Christmas" and dwell on the birth until January 6 (Three Kings Day). Then they come back to it on February 2 (The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord). I know the commercialism can be overbearing, but I just can't get enough of the season and do my best to acknowledge these post-Christmas Day events.
That was a ridiculously long setup for today's post. I tend to do that. It was simply to say that it's okay if she keeps posting Christmas stories on here! The season never ends at the Oaks household!
Today presents another guest blogger! Prisha's cousin had her own thoughts and experience with the famed Christmas Pudding that was featured a few posts back. Here is Judy's story:
I was reading your Blog and I just had to send you this:
Your Mom’s Christmas Pudding……
I have a little story to tell you about your Mom’s Christmas pudding. (I don’t think I have told you this before).
Several years ago, you told me about this cocoanut pudding that you make every Christmas. I always admired your mom’s cooking, so I couldn’t wait to try her recipe. Bill and I were visiting Barb and Joe in Kingsport after Christmas and I decided to make this for dessert. One little problem with the recipe, however, was that the copy you gave me did not mention that you used already prepared, shredded coconut. Remembering that your mom always used the freshest ingredients, I purchased a whole cocoanut at the grocery along with other ingredients and began preparing the cocoanut for the pudding. I used a hammer to crack it open and drain the coconut milk and tried unsuccessfully to use a kitchen knife to pry the coconut meat from the inside of the shell. I resorted to using a screwdriver to finally release the cocoanut from the shell. Then I, very carefully, used the knife to trim away the hard dark lining that came off with the meat. Next, I shredded the cocoanut by hand. About three hours later, I began to assemble the pudding, and the cooking and assembly required about another hour. Finally, late in the afternoon the pudding was ready to serve for supper dessert. Everyone admired the beautiful creation and began to eat. Tactfully, no one mentioned that it was a bit difficult to chew. However, everyone diplomatically ate their share since I had worked most of the day on its preparation.
I would like to mention, however, a couple of cautionary suggestions, or maybe these would be useful comments in some circumstances. First, if you are having digestive issues after all the heavy eating of the holiday, you will not need to purchase Dulcolax or Exlax for some time, and second, I do not recommend that you leave the house for a day or so after eating. Other than that, it was delicious!
(Disclaimer – the exact times mentioned in this message may not be precisely accurate.)
Unfortunately, the last couple of blogs have not been a paid sponsorship!
Dear friend of the Oaks family, "Awesome Audrey", sent her own Vanilla Wafer story to Patricia this past week. We thought we'd share it today! Perhaps you have a Vanilla Wafer story of your own? (p.s. Happy New Year!!)
I hope you are doing well. I read your blog today and thought I would share my vanilla wafer story with you. When I was a little girl, I spent nearly every weekend at my Nanny and Pawpaw’s house. My Nanny and I were very close- I even took her with me to have my senior pictures taken (the advertisement said you could bring your best friend, so I brought my Nanny).
Anyway, while I was watching The Brady Bunch or Scooby-Doo, she would make me a snack of vanilla wafers with peanut butter and a glass of her infamous sweetened sun tea. I always associate peanut butter and vanilla wafers with sweet memories of my Nanny and your blog flooded my brain with thoughts of her.
I hope you are well and that your week is going great.
I have a treat for you the next time I see you.
When we were young, my Mother would stand at her old Hoosier Cabinet on Sunday night and put peanut butter onto vanilla wafers for us to eat before we went to youth group. I can still see her standing there.
Every year when I was growing up, my Mother made Christmas Pudding at Christmas. Since Tommy and I got married (55 years ago Dec. 22) I have made that same pudding every year....at Christmas.
One year in July, Tommy decided he wanted Christmas pudding. I said NO..Christmas Pudding is only for Christmas! It isn't good at any other time of year.
He insisted though, so I finally gave in. I was right. It just wasn't the same. So, other than that one July, I have only made it at Christmas.
As I was making it this past week, I told the guys that when Mother made it, I always asked her to save me a few of the vanilla wafers with which she made the crust.
It's funny how something like a vanilla wafer can bring back all kinds of memories! Buy a box today, and make a Christmas pudding! Today is Christmas after all! Remember to save a few out of the box to munch on! MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Recipe for Coconut Christmas Pudding:
1 Tablespoon gelatin
4 Tablespoons cold water
1 and a half Tablespoons corn starch
1 half teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 half cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 half pint whipping cream
bag of unsweetened coconut
box of vanilla wafers;
Soak gelatin in cold water. Set aside. Scald milk. combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Beat egg yolks and add to sugar mixture. Then add milk slowly to egg mixture, stirring well after each addition. (If you do it too fast the milk will cook the eggs!)
Cook this mixture until it thickens. Add gelatin as you take it from the stove.. Mix well and let cool.
Beat 4 egg whites with half cup of sugar and and 1 fourth teaspoon cream of tarter. Fold this mixture into cooled pudding mixture. Add 1 half teaspoon vanilla. Pour this mixture onto vanilla wafers, crushed and in the bottom of long baking dish.
Then, whip the whipping cream until thickened, and pour over pudding. Last add the coconut, colored green. (just drop drops of green food coloring onto coconut and stir until it is the shade you want.) There will be four layers in all.
When Tommy and I got married, we had very little as far as money goes, but it never bothered us. We just adjusted. Because money was scarce I made most of our clothes. I made all of my dresses (yes I wore those things back in the day!) I also made clothes for Tommy and the boys. I could get a remnant off the remnant table at the material store for 50 cents and make one of the boys a pair of pajamas. I even made a suit for Tommy once and I made him several ties.
My sisters always wanted me to make clothes for them as well, so I did. One time my sister Millie, wanted me to make her a winter coat! It wasn't easy, but it turned out beautifully!
Not too long after I made that coat, Millie went to be with the Lord. Mother said I should keep the coat, so I did. The first time I put it on, I put my hand down inside the pocket and found one of those tiny little rubber bands that people use on their teeth when they have braces. Not too long before Millie died, she had had braces put on her teeth. She had always wanted them and was finally able to get them!
As I stood there looking at that tiny little rubber band, a great sadness came over me. Not only for me, but for all of the people that my sister's death touched including her new babies, Tony and Anlyn. (They were 4 and 9 months when Millie died.)
Even something as small as a rubber band...and not even a large rubber band...can bring back memories. I never wore that coat again. I gave it away.
Yesterday, John boy walked through where I was sitting and said, "Mom, have you seen my belt?" I said no. Then I said, "have you looked on the bed in the first bedroom?" A few minutes later he called..."found it!" Then, I said, "you see John thomas...even when I don't know, I know." Then John boy said..."one should always trust their Mom's intuition!"
We do a lot of work with the Knoxville Dream Center. They called us the other day and asked if we would like to go into some of the schools here in Knox County and read The Polar Express to the kids. Of course we would!
So, this past week, that is exactly what we have been doing. We will do it next week as well. We take the Book Mobile with us, and the inside is decorated like the inside of a train car. We have little red chairs lined up for the kids to sit in. All of us are dressed very "Christmasy" and we also have a conductor and two engineers to power the train!
After the kids are seated, we pass out hot chocolate with marshmallows. Then, after closing the door and the conductor yelling "All Aboard", we are off! We read a shortened version of The Polar Express while showing pictures from the book. When we are finished, the kids file out, get a candy cane and a bell, as we all wave good bye to them. Another successful run to the North Pole!
One little boy told his teacher yesterday that this was "the best day of my life!" That may be true, but for me it was just as true. We went to the school where I did my first two years of teaching, so I was a tad teary eyed as the first graders filed onto the "train car." My favorite class was First Grade when I taught at this school. I was the music teacher so I taught all eight grades. (No junior high back then.)
Last night, Tommy, John boy and I decided to watch The Polar Express. We did it complete with our p.j's., (the kids and teachers wore their p.j's. to the reading) hot chocolate , (the real thing..none of this package stuff!) and each of us had our own bell to ring at appropriate times.
Sound crazy for people who are all over the age of 50? I don't think so. Especially to those of us who truly believe.
Have you ever wondered why some of the bizarre things happen in your life? I have a story in my new book (Love of the Little) about a "born again" dog and cockatoo. This should have been beside that story in my book! I just thought of it today and decided I should write about it. We went out to Watt Road to meet Eddie, Babe and Dalton and give them some CD's of Babe playing the piano and Dalton singing. You really need to get that CD. You won't believe Dalton! It may be my favorite recording of Victory in Jesus!
BUT...I am taking you off the path. Back to the woman, the parrot and the little girl. I thought about that story as we were driving back from Watt Road..WAY out west (West Knoxville) as we are so fond of saying. When we reached a certain stretch in the road, I remembered coming down that stretch one night late on the way back from Georgia. It was probably about 10 o'clock at night. All of a sudden we saw someone walking in front of us...on the interstate, no less!
As we got closer we saw that it was a woman with a parrot sitting on her shoulder, holding the hand of a little girl who looked to be about 3 years old! This stretch of road has a lot of huge 18 wheelers barreling down at all hours, but they are most dangerous at 10 o'clock at night. I told Tommy to pull over. Our car was already full, so I moved to the back and sat on the edge of the seat in back. We stopped and asked the woman where she was going. She replied that she was headed for Knoxville and hoped that her daughter would pick her up there. Her daughter lived in Lexington. Her car had broken down a few exits back. She said she was running from an abusive husband and that the little girl was her granddaughter.
We drove on into Knoxville and took her to a motel that is just off the Lexington exit. We got her a room (yes, they took parrots!) and against what I really wanted to do...we left. The reason I did not want to leave was that this 3 year old girl, who had just met us, cried to go with us! What in the world does a person do in a situation like that?
We went by the next morning to check on her and she was gone.
One thing I remember about that night is the smell of that woman's breath wafting over the seat into my face...(alcohol...a lot of it!) and the smell of that parrot! I also wondered how in the world that thing stayed on her shoulder as she walked down the inter state!
Some things you can't make up!
When I was growing up in Fountain City, my family became charter members of a new congregation in town...The Christian Church of Fountain City. For awhile we met in an old restaurant building on Broadway. The building is still there. In fact, that is the building where I walked forward one Sunday to declare that I wanted Jesus to be my Lord and Savior and I have never regretted it.
My Mother's best friend was Evelyn Knable. She was also the pianist for the church and she was a great one! I never heard my Mother call Mrs. Knable, Evelyn. I also never heard Mrs. Knable call my Mother Lila. It was always, Mrs. Knable and Mrs. Combs. Things were different back then. I imagine that when they talked privately they might have used each others first names, but I don't know for sure.
For awhile Mrs. Knable was our youth leader as well. My best friend was Polly. You never just said Pat, and you never just said Polly. It was always Pat and Polly. We were best friends all through grade school and high school. Polly usually spent the weekend with me and went to church with me. Daddy took her home after church on Sunday night.
We, for some reason, thought it was our job to entertain the troops at Sunday night youth meetings. Evidently Mrs. Knable wasn't as amused as the rest of the group.
One night, we showed up for youth group, as always...ready with our clever quips and giggling. As we all settled in and Pat and Polly started their usual disruptions, all of a sudden Pat, (me) turned around. Sitting in the back with her arms folded and with only the look she could give, sat none other than, Mrs Combs....my Mother.
Pat and Polly never acted up in youth group again.