Today is my grandma's 79th birthday! Happy Birthday, grandma!!
There are many memories and stories I could share about my grandma, many of which I have share over the years on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #thingsgrandmasays. In fact, I am pretty sure I am the one that started that hashtag on Twitter about seven years ago. Be sure to check out some of my tweets using that hashtag by clicking the link in the hashtag above - you'll have a good laugh at some of them.
The story I am going to tell today is how much she is an amazing cook. Even as a young child I remember going to grandma's house for Thanksgiving or just Sunday dinner and always eating great tasting food. Years ago she worked for a catering company, so I am sure that is where she learned many of her tips and tricks while cooking.
Each time I have had dinner at my grandma's house over the last 20 years I have always looked forward to her homemade rolls. Everyone in the family has loved her fresh rolls. They are always the most fluffy, warm and golden-colored. I could just eat her rolls and get filled. There have been many times over the years she has made these rolls for various dinner parties and people always rave over how good her homemade rolls are.
About six years ago I was at grandma and grandpa's house one Saturday morning/early afternoon. I was going to stay for dinner so grandma started getting dinner ready. All of a sudden she pulled out a bag of frozen dough purchased at the store. In a very disappointed tone I said, "Grandma, aren't you going to make your homemade rolls? They are so good." She replied, "Of course I am." I was so confused. I began telling her that some bag of frozen dough will never be as good as her fresh, hand-made rolls from scratch. She just giggled and gave me a look. I was even more confused.
At that same time my grandpa walked into the kitchen and I told him that grandma was going to make her homemade rolls, but they weren't going to be homemade because she was using frozen, store bought, dough! I was really starting to worry. Grandpa looked at grandma, looked back at me and did the same kind of chuckle/giggle my grandma did. Was this some kind of sick game they were playing with me? Why was she not making her homemade rolls? Since when did she start using store bought frozen dough? Grandpa looked back at me and said, "She is making her homemade rolls..." and then he walked away.
At that point I realized what was going on. I said, "Grandma - how long have you used this frozen dough to make your "homemade" rolls?" She laughed and said she hasn't made rolls from scratch in YEARS. She has always used the same frozen dough. My mind was blown! How could this be? Everyone has always said they were homemade. Even she said they were homemade. I realized I had been lied to my whole life! As I am writing this I am laughing hysterically because of how funny I find it now, but at the time I was traumatized!
After getting over my shock I continued to help and watch her prepare dinner. After the dough thawed she began to "make" the rolls. As she was preparing them, she said, "Oh yeah, don't tell Jared they aren't homemade. He'll never forgive me." Jared is my brother. I agreed, although hesitantly. It was about six months later Jared found out they were not homemade and he was traumatized just as much if not more than me.
Later that year, after I had forgiven my grandma for deceiving me for so many years, I suggested to her that she needs to write down her recipes. Every time she cooks she never uses a cookbook or any kind of reference. It is all in her mind. I told her that if she didn't record the recipes that one day no one would know how to make them. Do you notice a trend with one of my previous posts about recording your memories? In the end, grandma and I decided my make a cookbook for all the family for Christmas that year. It was mid summer, so we had a good four months to collect family members' favorite meals and then compile the recipes.
This cookbook was not your traditional cookbook. Just about every page had some sort of family story behind it or it was someone's favorite recipe. We wanted to make the cookbook personal towards our family. So if you were to read through some of the recipes, and the stories and photos behind them, they wouldn't mean much to you - but to us, we laugh each time we look at the cookbook because we know the people and stories behind them. This was such a fun project. I am grateful I had the opportunity to work on such an amazing project with my grandma. Her and I have our own memories of making the book - memories I just realized I have never written down, so I need to do that!
Although you may not understand all the stories, inside jokes and photos, many non-family members who have seen the cookbook thoroughly enjoy it and find it such a great idea. Take a look at the book below. And be sure to look at page 23 for her "Impress and B.S. Homemade Rolls." I have said since I found out that her "homemade" rolls were not homemade that she has impressed and BS'd people for many years - and today makes 79! Happy birthday grandma. I love ya!
At the beginning of January I went to Dublin and England for about three weeks. Although it would have been amazing to spend the entire time traveling to ancestral hometowns and sight-seeing, most of the trip was for work. I did make and effort to take a couple of days for myself and see a few town some of my ancestors lived.
Denby, Derbyshire, England
My Hunt and Bardill/Bardel families were from a tiny little village called Denby. The village is only a few minutes north-east of Derby, Derbyshire, England. I have put together a little map of some of the places I visited while I was there as well as the location of where my Hunt ancestors lived.
My great great-grandmother, Mercie Hunt, was born 3 April 1863 in Denby. She was the daughter of Hannah Hunt, who was the daughter of John Hunt and Sarah Bardell. In 1864 Mercie, Hannah and Sarah made their way to the United States and arrived in New York City on 23 June 1864. Mercie was just over a year old.
John Hunt was a coal miner during part of his life. In both the 1851 and 1861 UK census he was living at the Smithy Houses with his wife and children. When I visited Denby, there was one of the original Smith Houses still standing, and someone even lives in it. I am not sure how many houses there originally were - there may have even just been the one that was there when I visited. When I searched online to find out more about the Smithy Houses, I found several websites proving more information about the houses, but nothing I found said how many houses there originally were. Below are some photos of the Smithy Houses as well as the local church where my ancestors were married, baptized and buried. I will write more about Denby in future posts.
Crewkerne, Somerset, England
The second place I had the opportunity to visit while I was in England was a small town called Crewkerne. Crewkerne is located in Somerset, almost on the border of Dorset.
My Rowsell family came from this little town. Douglas Rowsell and his wife, Ann Cleal, were married 29 June 1828 in Crewkerne. Together they had at least six children, including my 3rd great-grandfather, William Douglas Rowsell, who was born 1 November 1843 in Crewkerne.
Below are some photos of Crewkerne, including the home Douglas Rowsell and his family lived in 1851 when the census was conducted. I will post more in the future of the Rowsell family and Crewkerne.
A.C. Ivory is a professional genealogist, blogger, computer geek, and traveler.