Sunday, December 16, 2007


Fair warning: This post is pretty emotional.

When the persimmons were ripe last year, I remembered Edith and the cookie parties she used to host for the holidays.

This year I'm remembering another cookie party guest who was claimed by cancer this week. Patti was full of life, always the one to get the laughter going at the party. I first knew her through the Parents Club...our version of the PTA at the local elementary school. Her daughter was a few years younger than my youngest, but we soon got to know each other through various Parents Club projects. Patti was a doer, a very hard worker, but she didn't like the spotlight. She had a huge heart and was the first to come forward to help when a family was in trouble due to a house fire or flooding or a death in the family.

She was an excellent cook and baker and entertainer. As our children moved beyond elementary school we only saw each other at the cookie party. At her funeral yesterday her brother mentioned that she always made family members Almond Roca and other candies for Christmas, so, instead of cookies, or instead of a braided bread as Peabody did, Patti will be remembered through a recipe for that crunchy, almondy, chocolate-rich candy.

Yesterday was also really, really hard for me. I don't usually do guilt and rarely self pity, but after the funeral there was a reception at the fire station since Patti worked there and the fire community is most generous. Eight and a half years ago they were generous and supportive and hosted the post-burial reception for my son. This was a different fire station, but it not only brought back a lot of memories, but a number of the boys that my son had played with were there, too, being supportive to Patti's family. It wasn't easy to see how these boys had grown...they are young men now...and to see how they have moved on with their will be a new father in a week or so. The most difficult part was that I remembered them as youngsters playing with Max. Since he had such a good heart, if he were alive I'm fairly certain that Max would have been there in support, too. The hole in our lives that exists since he has been gone is always there, but in that situation it was front and center and gaping. Overwhelming. Sweetie says that I'm a mother who lost her son and it's OK to still grieve. That's a good thing, because, suddenly, I am in a big way...grieving for the loss and the man he would have been and the friend he would have been to many, for the life he didn't get to experience.

The bottom line?... life can be short...16 years for Max, 50 for Patti...not long enough for either of them. Treasure your days, your family, your friends, your talents, your health, your life. (Notice I didn't include your things?...even though Christmas has become all about things, they really are small potatoes compared to the others listed). Oh, yes...remember to cook, bake, or do something else creative that you can share with others. It is a spirit lifter.

Wishing you a holiday where you take time to enjoy each day (and the beauty that exists in the world), your family and friends, your talents, your health. Hoping that you take time to share your time with those you is the most valuable gift you can give. I wish you, precious readers, long and happy lives and a joyous holiday season. (Thanks for letting me wallow a bit and really helps.)
Almond Roca Candy
Photo above from Simply Recipes

1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 cup finely chopped toasted almonds
1 cup milk or dark chocolate chips

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring.
When the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil, raise the heat and bring the mixture to 290 degrees on a cooking thermometer (soft crack stage.) It will be light brown in color, and syrup will separate into threads that are not brittle when dribbled into cold water.
Quickly stir in 1/2 cup chopped almonds. Immediately pour the mixture onto an ungreased baking sheet.
Wait 2 or 3 minutes for the candy surface to firm, then sprinkle on the chocolate chips. In a few minutes, when the chips have softened, spread the chocolate evenly over the surface. Sprinkle the remaining almonds over the melted chocolate.
When the chocolate hardens, crack the candy into pieces. Store covered.

This recipe from CDKitchen for Almond Roca serves/makes 1.5 lbs


  1. Well you warned me but I am still bawling my eyes out right now.
    We really do need to make the best of our days.

  2. And also, so very sorry for the loss of your friend, I know how that goes.

  3. Anonymous3:09 AM

    Elle, this is not wallowing, it's a timely and poignant reminder to grab hands and pull together and love each other while we can see each other's smiles. Thank you.

  4. Elle, let it all out, sweetie. It does help, I know.
    I'm so sorry for your losses.

  5. Most elegantly expressed. I very much appreciate the reminder. It is so easy to lose our connection with what truly matters. It really is about the people we love.
    My heart goes out to you and that overwhelming hole. Grief is such a process and I doubt ever truly finished. And that is ok, Sweetie is a wise one.

  6. What a beautiful post. I feel for you in this time of sorrow, but you seem to have found the true meaning of Christmas, and of life in general. The older I get, the more I cherish the people around me and realize the commercial part of Christmas is not what it is about. I wish you a holiday season filled with joy!

  7. Elle, my thoughts are with you, your family and your friend's family. It is never easy losing one we love and it seems even harder during the holiday season when everyone is suppose to be joyous and all you want to do is cry.

    Thanks for a wonderfully sweet tribute to your friend and the reminder for us all to cherish our time with loved ones.

  8. I read this with tears streaming down my face, remembering the sweet, funny boy Max was and the sweet, funny young man he was becoming. He definitely would have been there. Love and big hugs to you (and your Sweetie).

  9. I am moved by this post, Elle and will take to heart your advice.

    Sending you love and best wishes for the holidays and always.

  10. Oh, what a heartbreaking post. You are so right that we need to treasure every moment with the ones we love.

  11. Sorry to hear about your friend. It's neat, though, to hear how much she meant to you. I guess my mourning baking for my grandmother was a little delayed...this Thanksgiving, I made the pecan pie, which she usually made.

  12. Peabody, I know you know and your post helped me out, too. Thanks!

    T, Right you are...wishing you lots of smiles this holiday.

    Patricia, Thank you for does help.

    Tanna, Hugs to you, too. Your kind words mean a lot.

    Deborah, Wishing you, too, the joys of the season. Just had a nice long conversation with my daughter and we laughed a lot. True treasure.

    Dear Beth, Yes, he was sweet and funny & would have been there. Today he is with me in my heart...and not having him here in person is OK today...guess it is day by day sometimes. Hugs to you, too, and to Ron.

    Cynthia, Somehow your posts and comments embody the spirit of is clearly not just a word to you. I wish you love and light this holiday, too.

    Mrs. W., Wishing you a warm holiday with the ones you love.

    Claire, Indeed remembering someone through cooking or baking a favorite thing is so comforting. I'll bet it was a great pecan pie!

    Thank you all for a virtual hug. It helps so much. Joy to each of you this holiday season.

  13. Your son was handsome, and he certainly had a kind face. I remember your husband sharing the photo, and I sensed something tragic but didn't want to ask. My brother was taken too early too and my mother shared the same kind of thoughts you have about what would have been the rest of her life. I'm so sorry for your loss - both of them. I'll certainly cherish the moments I have with loved ones more this Christmas.

  14. A very nice tribute post, and a good reminder for us all to count our blessings and remember what's important. Sorry to hear that you (and other families) are grieving right now, but grief can also be a tribute to those who left us and how much they meant to us. So glad you have Sweetie there to support you and say the right things.

  15. So sorry for the loss of your friend. I can imagine how hard it is to lose a child having seen my dad lose two, and the pain never goes away, it just becomes quiet at times. I am really wishing I could give you a hug or take you for a cup of tea right now.We have decided to give homemade goodies this year, no mall, no stores. If people can't figure out the meaning behind it,that's too bad!
    Have a safe and happy holiday season!

  16. You have my deepest sympathies on the loss of your friend. Life is really short, isn't it?

    Your roca is a beautiful tribute to what sounded like a beautiful lady.

  17. Anonymous3:26 PM

    Oh I am so sad for you at reading your post and offer you my sympathies..
    I am a nana of a 6 months old.
    I cannot imagine my life w/ out him.
    I lost my parents quite young..19..and have missed their presence throughout the years..every year..for different reasons.
    My mom herself..lost a daughter .. at age 5..

    Elle,I am grateful that you made me sit back.. be calm.. and think again..that the only things ..not things.... that bring me true joy ..that lasts....are the people that I love..and care about.

  18. You have me in tears...simply because you are living proof of how each moment we get with our loved ones should be treasured. Sometimes that is hard to remember in the thick of life. Thanks for the reminder.

    I am so sorry for loss...of your son and your friend. I can only imagine how your heart must ache. Bless you!