Murphyola’s and Veda’s Rum Balls

This is one of several recipe cards Mom wrote up to pass along the secret of her famous Rum Balls, which she developed with her best friend, Veda West. .The story of how this recipe was created involved a big church fundraiser, endless taste-testing, taking doors off hinges, and getting plastered. Also the way I heard it, Mom and Veda had to explain to the church pastor why they were so shickered making Christmas cookies in the church kitchen.

My niece Raeanne has the Christmas card they sent back and forth multiple times in later years, with a story about a cheerful bunny making a batch of liquored-up fruit cake, with disastrous (and hilarious) results. This made them laugh like stink each year; Christmas had well and truly begun when the card had been sent back and forth.



Recipe: Rum Balls Serves : Many
Favorite recipe of: Murphyola and Veda

Use 1/2 recipe for less than a mob!

2-1 pound box Vanilla Wafers, crushed evenly
4 cups powdered sugar
5 cups chopped pecans
3 Tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup light Karo syrup
1 1/4 cup rum

Be sure wafers are crushed well, no lumps, and nuts are finely chopped.
Sift powdered sugar and cocoa together. Blend rum and Karo. Add sugar and cocoa to (vanilla wafer) crumbs, then add in the rum and Karo, thorough blending of all.

Can be packed into Tupperware airtight (containers) – to ‘mellow’ – til ready to make into balls 1″ (press and roll firmly). Rolls in powdered sugar – must be kept air tight or they dry out — make out only what is needed – makes a mess. Would use 1/2 recipe.

That’s pretty much the verbatim transcription. Mom seemed to use a dash or emdash for any kind of punctuation. The card is in a little plastic envelope and is a bit messy, with guck on it from being handled with gooey hands. The older versions of this recipe are with my sister Timmy – she says she has several cards, but still had to adjust the recipe a bit for a reasonably-sized batch. My niece Holly Martin, who’s one of the family foodies, commented on Facebook that this didn’t seem to have enough rum! Well, well see, but I seem to recall these things being pretty powerful, so don’t give them to anyone that should not have alcohol, as they are not cooked in any way.

I remember being delegated to crush vanilla wafers in a paper bag with a rolling pin or a meat tenderizer, as Mom never did get around to buying a full-size food processor, although she had a tiny one that was good for chopping maybe a half-cup of nuts at a time. I also remember chopping pecans and repeatedly being told “no, they’re not fine enough, keep chopping!”

David remembers helping Mom to roll out a batch on his first visit to Salt Lake to meet the family, which was in about 1996? Before we were married.

I’ll be attempting to make rum balls this year – I have a smallish food processor so I’ll be making either a quarter batch or a half batch. I bought Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa, I have Captain Morgans’s Spiced Rum, and a 12 oz. box of Vanilla wafers, so will probably add in some crushed butter cookies to make up the difference.

Will have to run out to the store for the additional cookies though, cause I ated the first box this week for teatime snacks.

Giving Thanks

We brought 2 pies to the family Thanksgiving gathering; we mingled, caught up with family members, got a new recipe (actually more of an ingredient list) and listened to all the chatter.

It’s always a good time lying in wait for cousin Randy’s trays of cream cheese and onion stuffed mushrooms. I could eat a whole tray of those things, they’re legendary. However, the ingredient list I snagged was for a tasty grain salad made with farro and unbrined Italian olives. So yummy.

The after-dinner conversational topics covered the usual ground; how lucky we all are, how busy we all are, health stuff, and a good dose of David’s cycling exploit today – he went riding with a friend and had to gear up so as not to become a popcyclist.


Here he is, my shrimp with lobster claws (his description). He reports that he was warm enough today, though he’ll probably never be a true winter cyclist. He had to take some ribbing from cousin David, who lives just blocks from where my David was riding today.

Cousin David is pre-diabetic and so there was some information sharing about diet, exercise, and staying on top of things. Other family members are also diabetic, but were not participating, unfortunately.

We enjoyed seeing everyone, but for a few years now, I’ve been taking some time to remember those who are NOT there to gather around the table. Of course I miss my mom and my own family, and I miss my mom-in-law Leah. But there’s still much to be thankful for. But I also wish some other family members had chosen to be there, instead of making it clear they don’t want to be.


The Souper Bowl Of Caring Is Full Of Tears


You may have heard about the Utah elementary school that took lunch trays away from kids whose lunch accounts had negative balances, after a Salt Lake “nutrition manager” came in to investigate why so many accounts were in arrears.

This bean counter is now on leave, and the cafeteria manager and workers are being blamed for handling the directive badly. Yes, they let the kids build up the negative balances, so they could EAT THE SAME LUNCH as the other kids. And then they scrambled to apply what is reportedly district policy, because in Utah authority is generally not questioned, no matter how wrong-headed it may be. Apparently the system can’t identify account deficits until the tray of food is at the register, which is stupid.

That’s Uintah, my old grade school, in the news. I went there in the old building, which was condemned and rebuilt long ago because it had asbestos everywhere. Now it’s being condemned for the actions of asshats in authority.

Meanwhile, the Salt Lake Unified School District has some damage control to do, as this screenshot of their Facebook page has their upbeat “Souper Bowl of Caring” post immediately before their response to the Uintah “Cheese Sammich and Banana of Shame” incident.

Or was it the “No Souper Bowl of Uncaring For You, Hungry Child” incident?

Carrot Cake Recipe : Alton Brown : Srsly Good Eats

Carrot Cake : Alton Brown

So this was the recipe that I started with to take to Mitch and Gloria’s on New Year’s Day. I originally thought I’d bake it as a bundt cake, but didn’t have a pan. However, I did have a springform pan, and I jazzed it up with some chopped pecans and a little orange juice/butter/rum sauce that I reduced down by half. I didn’t really have a recipe for the sauce, just started with about half and half rum and orange juice, with a couple of tablespoons (or more) of butter, with just a little orange zest. I reduced the sauce as long as I could stand it (it tasted really, really good but I didn’t want it to go too long and get bitter).

The cake was a dream to put together, because it all got done in the big food processor. First the carrots got grated in it and set aside, then the wet and dry stuff got mixed and then combined in a big bowl. It called for a 9 inch cake pan and the springform was a little more than 10 inches across, so it was shorter in the pan when it was baked, but it came out of the pan like a dream. I loaded it up with about a quarter of the sauce and wrapped it up in plastic for transport the next day (I put it together New Year’s Eve).

It has yogurt in it instead of sour cream, so it had a nice tartness and a rich mouthfeel. I had dressed it up with the chopped pecans around the top edge and down the sides, and then when we were ready for it, served it with a dab of the sauce down the side. Mmmm, yummy.

Happy Snowy New Year

A cold white blanket of snow covers Burbclavia; we managed to get to the gathering place to celebrate the new year with family and eat yummy chili with all the extras, and the obligatory lox ‘n bagels.

My nephew Josh is in town and brought his girlfriend Ashley; FIL Shel and Linda made the trek and so did my BIL Dan and his girlfriend Tammy. Mitch and Gloria put on a really nice buffet and of course Rosie the pooch princess provided entertainment.

Things got raucous (or at least very loud) when Josh showed us this crazy trivia game called Face Off, where you hold a smartphone up on your forehead that shows trivia; the point is for each player to correctly guess what’s on the screen that everyone else can see. The song category was a flop because those of use who CAN sing or at least carry a tune didn’t know any Justin Bieber songs. Seriously. Justin Bieber? In a few years he’ll be Vanilla Ice with a bad combover.

The carrot cake with the orange/rum/butter sauce was pretty good! It wasn’t pretty, but it tasted amazing.

It’s been snowing all day and the front walk looks like David didn’t run the snowblower twice already. This weekend will be snowy and cold, and Monday the HIGH will be -8F, and it’ll get down to -15F if the forecast holds true.

Wish we’d ordered the fireplace insert when we first looked at it.

Damn. It’s even snowing on my iPhone, in a twee animation Apple has on the current version.


A Pleasant Good Night

The weird warm weather continues. I’m getting the idea that it might be better to plan for a cool weather biking and walking vacation in late January than count on a cross-country ski vacation. We’re thinking of going someplace in Michigan, but plans are vague yet. After a lazy Sunday afternoon (David did go for a bike ride) we went to his dad’s so David could sign the mat for a photo he’s having framed for Shel. It’s another in a series of landscape photos – kind of high end “my kid’s art on the fridge,” if you will. It’ll look very nice. Afterwards we went to dinner at one of Shel’s favorite places with another family friend. It’s one of Shel’s favorites because they have GREAT coupons.

It’s Donut Day Somewhere, And I’m Having A Moms’ Day Here


According to the Facebooks, my sister Timmy is enjoying the first major snowfall of the season up in her pretty Idaho Panhandle valley, and my sister Tudy reports a bunch of heavy, wet snow in Salt Lake.

Today must be Donut Day, as we say in the fambly: the day Mom would make homemade donuts to celebrate the first snow of the season. Going to Krispy Kreme would not cut it; Mom used to make a fairly dense deep-fried donut that was a solid dunker, not one of those greasy loops of yeasty puff that Krispy Kreme makes.

I remember as a kid the phone would start ringing when the first flakes appeared; people would call from all over and ask if it was “Donut Day” or not. Mom would not pull out the deep fryer until the forecast was pretty certain for snow, and then she’d wait for that first magical day when it “stuck” and covered the lawn AND the sidewalks. My niece Raeanne and I would both bring schoolfriends home when it happened on a schoolday; “My mom is making donuts today!” or “Grandma’s makin’ the donuts!” and my sisters and cousins and aunt would drop by… there would be a pot of coffee and a fire in the fireplace, and people would just show up, nab a couple of donuts or donut holes and a cup of coffee, and hang out for a while.

She’d make plain, cinnamon sugared, and powdered sugared – that’s it, no fancy stuff.  The batter she made resulted in crusty, wrinkly donuts that had a “snap” when you bit into them; not soft or tender cake, it was a more substantial bite held on to the sugar coating, but tasted good plain, too. Any kids that showed up early were put to work rolling donut holes in jelly sheets and plates full of sugar, and there was lots of laughing and “Hey! No eating until everybody gets here!” jokes.

That rule was frequently broken.

The thing is, I had a major “moms’ moment” earlier while reading my sister Timmy’s Facebook update about the “first snow of the season” and how it was Donut Day in northern Idaho. I started to type out a comment about missing the taste of Mom’s donuts, and Facebook helpfully supplied a link to my “other Mom,” Leah. I had to… just stop for a second and feel the absence of my two moms all over again, while David snoozed by my side.

I should explain that Saturday mornings are generally spent sleeping in, listening to the radio (WBEZ’s Saturday lineup includes Morning Edition, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and now This American Life). I generally have my iPad handy, reading the Internets news and the Twitter and the Feeddler (a blog and news aggregator that I can share stuff with). So I was catching up with Facebook friends and family (Hey! My niece Holly is playing golf in Africa! With zebras!) and sharing silly Finnish videos) when I ran across my sister’s snow post (and my other sister Tudy’s “it’s snowing in Salt Lake too” post) and commented.

I cried a little, very quietly but intensely. David slept peacefully while I looked at Leah’s little pop-up link and thought how much I missed her (she passed in May this year) and my own mom (she passed in June 2006). It seemed like a thing to be blogged; I started to set up the post and all the techy things that go with that, like grabbing a screencap image and hunting down a wireless Bluetooth keyboard to make it easier to type on the iPad. I didn’t want to drag out the laptop, since I still had to at least start the post this way in order to get the image. Blah, blah, techy bullshit blah.

So while writing this up my niece Raeanne (who lives just below my sister Timmy in their little valley) called to say, yes, “It’s Donut Day! I’m makin’ the donuts!” while I was still in the middle of my “moms’ moment” that inspired this post. This makes me have a happeh and a sad, because of course I’m not there to help roll out donut holes in sugar (and sneak some of the “ugly” ones) and laugh and talk with family.

We talked for an hour, catching up. Her daughter Paige ordered her not to make donuts yesterday, when it also snowed, because it hadn’t snowed in Kellogg where Paige was, so it didn’t count. She had to wait for today, and Paige would make the donuts herself.

Now THAT’s tradition.

Ranny has to get ready for a houseful and get all the stuff set out, but we still gabbled on about family stuff and all the little things that you miss out on when you’re not hanging out in the same room, drinking coffee and eating donuts with a bunch of friends and family.

I sure don’t need the donuts (working from home has been a very sedentary experience) but I expect a care package soon, dammit!

Love you all. It’s Donut Day!

I Have Become The Mean Neighbor Lady I Hated As A Child #fb


Once upon a time in my childhood, my year revolved around the “kid holidays;” the beginning of “school’s out” for summer, Halloween, and Christmas.

In my candy-addled mind at the time, Halloween loomed pretty large – not quite as big a deal as Christmas, but one in which kids were kind of autonomous. We had to work for the biggest candy haul possible, whether we or our parents made our own costumes or had store bought ones. The year I was old enough to go out trick-or-treating on my own was probably when I was… 7 or 8, although I stuck with the other neighbor kids in an area bounded by about 1 or two blocks on either side of our street, but not across the busy street west of us. A block east of us, there was a gully, so that served as an irregular border on that side.

As I got into my 9th, 10th, and 11th years, I had a bigger range: my costumes were never pretty princesses, they were generally tomboyish ones like pirates and gypsies and hobos. Once I think I was some kind of space alien with googly eyes Mom found on a crazy craft-glue yarn base built on a balloon – although that may have originally been my niece Ranny’s costume. Anyway, my costumes had to be practical and allow freedom of movement, because I had a lot of blocks to cover. Toward the end of my career as a trick-or-treater, I went several blocks on either side of our house, almost as far as my school 6 long Salt Lake blocks north, and I went east along all the streets that hung on the edge of the gully until the curve brought me uncomfortably close to the range of a childhood enemy, into whose turf I didn’t care to stray. Mostly, I was out on my own then, until 9 o’clock at night. I’d return with my plastic pumpkin full of goodies – and yes, my last year I took a pillowcase, like the “big mean guys” who still went around in their teens (pathetic, really, but I had to admit the pillowcase got me some negative comments that last year).

I had a strategy: any house that was lit was fair game. Any house that was highly decorated or appeared to have an extra fun feature like a “spook alley” out the back or in their garage was a big draw, and sure to have lots of candy. I mostly remember ringing a lot of doorbells and hollering “TRICK OR TREAT!” and glimpsing the inside of a lot of Salt Lake bungalows. I stayed out as late as I dared but when the streets started to feel empty and the only other ones out were the big kids with pillowcases (who were not above taking a smaller, weaker kid’s candy) it was time to head home and survey the haul.

Any house with no lights showing or an unlit porchlight was to be avoided, however, because they were OLD MEANIES who DIDN’T HAVE CANDY.

I quickly learned which of the elderly and middle-aged people with no kids living on our street were useless for Halloween candy-gathering purposes; they were nice enough the rest of the year, but mean at Halloween. Oh, they might give an actual neighborhood kid something home-made, but there was a protocol. Home-made stuff was okay only if we knew them and greeted them by name. Strangers, not so much. Even then I remember the warnings about needles and razors in apples and popcorn balls, and so reluctantly I threw those out (the popcorn balls, anyway). People living on other streets with their lights off and not showing any decorations were just mean and not to be bothered with.

Well, last night I officially became the mean lady that doesn’t give out candy at Halloween. I have become the kind of adult I loathed as a trick-or-treater.


Yes, I barricaded the front walk to prevent kids from getting to the front door. And then I blocked the front door with a lawn chair, and placed a large pushbroom over the doorbell so the li’l dollinks couldn’t ring the damn thing.

In this woefully fallen modern era, kids no longer go around in full darkness; most of the activity ends after the light fades. The littlest kids, toddlers really, are still taken around by their parents, but now they’re loaded into the family car and driven to the neighborhoods of friends and family (or simply driven to richer candy hunting grounds, sadly). The evening hour sees a few older kids going around, and then it’s over. But there’s no way for the early ones to see if the porch light is on; they come to the door in packs and ring and knock.

Other years here in the neighborhood, I’ve actually dressed up to give out candy, but always had a lot left over which inevitably got eaten by yours truly (David never was big on chocolate candy, and now he’s eating much too healthily). The last couple of years we haven’t bothered to get candy, and it got to be pretty irritating listening to the doorbell ring during the “early shift” of very young toddlers whose parents couldn’t tell the porch light was off. So we started putting chairs and things on the walkway, but they’d just push them out of the way or come around on the side where there’s a bare spot in the flowerbed.

So yesterday, after about the 4th or 5th doorbell rang AFTER placing lawn chairs on the walkway, between two big lilac bushes leading up to the door, I did the Mean Neighbor Lady thing.

I opened the door with a crash, stuck my head out (there were about 5 or 6 little kids running across the lawn, with an adult or two out on the sidewalk) and hollered,


I heard a male voice calling to them “You guys have to pay attention – you have to look to see if the porch light is on.”

I sighed and retreated to the hall, and after they left, rebuilt my barricades more thoroughly. That’s when I propped the second chair up against the door (which is not that great an idea if the house burst into flames set by aggravated trick-or-treat toddlers bent on candy-deprived revenge). And I also grabbed a big push-broom from the garage and propped it up over the doorbell. A broken mop stuck through the sides of the other chair into the lilac bushes on either side completed my anti-toddler defenses, but of course like the Maginot line there was a big gap on the side where we took out a juniper tree that was too close to the house.

Yes, my childhood self hates what I have become. Maybe I’d better buy some candy while it’s still in the stores but on markdown.

Grouse Mountain Lodge

They open the doors for you when you arrive, and the warm welcome sets a nice tone.

We had a double queen wheelchair accessible room; probably could change it now that the weekend is almost over, but won’t bother. The amenities, besides the golf course on-site, include a small conference center, a small but nicely arranged indoor pool, two jacuzzi tubs on the deck, and dining in a big lodge room with a 3-story river cobble fireplace. There’s screened deck seating and a deck bar when the weather is fine (and it has been). The food is very good although the service is a bit slow (which was partly due to a large tour group in-house the first morning).

My sister Timmy and her hubby Frank would like this place, it’s a nice drive from their home in Kellogg, especially after turning off of I-90. Attention, Frank: fly fishing galore on the way, and also on the way up to West Glacier. And there’s a spa and gift shop here, too. The van picks up in town until 2am (at least on the weekends) so dinner and entertainment are no problem.

We will definitely stay here on a future trip, maybe break it up with a stay on the east side of the park as its a haul to get over there for some of the activities.

The scenery is amazing – not visible from down in town, but a dramatic reveal as you drive up from the entrance (once past the ugly sprawl in the area of Columbia Falls, between Whitefish and West Glacier).

We’ll return the car to Whitefish airport Wednesday, which was cheaper than dropping it in West Glacier, and the hotel van will follow us and bring us back. Then they’ll take us to the train station in Whitefish the last morning. It’s worked out pretty well, staying here, and I give it at least 4 stars.

The only drawback; the wheelchair accessible room looks a bit unfinished compared to the other rooms I’ve glimpsed. The shelves need a bit of trim and the shower needs a curtain of some kind (it’s a nice roomy roll-in). The bedding is really nice, the towels are wonderfully fluffy, and there’s wifi.

Nice property, nice people; Grouse Mountain Lodge is a great value and a good home base for touring the Glacier Park area… And I might need a massage later, so that’s covered, too.

Grouse Mountain Lodge is ideally located in beautiful Whitefish, Montana, minutes from Whitefish Mountain Resort, as well as Glacier National Park.With 143 beautifully appointed guest rooms, extensive meeting & event space, an on-site activity planning company, sumptuous dining, and a substantial list of services & amenities, Grouse Mountain Lodge truly is the premier choice in Montana resorts.

via Grouse Mountain Lodge