Friday, June 10, 2011


My sister (whose name is Annette, but for obvious reasons I will call her “The Other Annette”) and her family are visiting this week from Louisiana, so I am using the vacation theme to do a non-writing post. 

On Wednesday, I announced on Facebook that, in honor of The Other Annette’s arrival, I baked my fabulous chocolate cake using my secret metal cake cover trick. Requests were made to share the recipe, so I will pony up and do that after I ramble about a few other things.

The metal cake cover in question belonged to my grandmother. It is red, and I match it (or mis-match it if you are picky) with a gold metal plate, also from my grandmother. On the back of the gold plate is a piece of masking tape with “Mrs. John DeFelice” written in blue ink. This plate had a long and happy life attending weddings, baby showers, church socials and ladies’ groups meeting with my grandmother (whose given name was Euphraisie, but she went by “Mrs. John” to her neighbors, “Ma-Ma” to her grandchildren and “Frazie” to her friends). Now the cake plate is in service with me.

A lot of my possessions have signed pieces of masking tape on the back. The ones that don’t are signed in my memory. My collection of tablecloths, for instance, began with a couple of tea table covers I inherited from my other grandmother (whose given name was Clemence, but she was “Grom” to her family, “Mrs. Paris” to her husband’s friends, and “Miss Tit” to everyone else in town, most of whom were French and understood that “tit” means little, not the thing it means if you are English.) 

I like old stuff. I don’t need to pretty it up and call things classic or vintage. Old is fine. When we have dinner, it’s on old jade colored Fire King dinnerware that came from my husband’s grandmother, (whose given name was Sara Keith, and everyone called her that.)  Despite her lack of nicknames, Sara Keith was a gifted artist. When her husband (whose given name was Leven, after Loch Leven in Scotland) returned from World War II, Sara Keith took the greatcoat he’d been issued by the Marines and created a rug from it. She designed a floral pattern, cut the wool into strips, had the strips dyed into the appropriate colors and hand wove it. That rug now hangs on my dining room wall, which is the proper way to display a work of art.

On the wall across from the art rug is a large and colorful turkey platter. The platter has no family connection, but it is valuable to me because I found it in an antique shop in Bedford, Pennsylvania, while on a weekend getaway with the Indiana Women’s Writing Circle. It’s also important because I bought it with the tiny paycheck I received for an article on children’s mysteries in TWINS magazine. 

I can look around my house and see possessions that have meaning and history. Not much of it is valuable in monetary terms, but to use a cliché, in terms of sentiment, it’s all priceless. From time to time, like now and earlier this week when another tablecloth piece was published online by Dew on the Kudzu, I mine my possessions to write about them.

So I guess this is a writing post after all. Hmm. Funny how that happened, isn’t it?

What do you own that is priceless? And why does it hold meaning for you?

And here’s the recipe!

1 boxed chocolate cake mix. (Devil’s Food, Dark Chocolate, Duncan, Betty, whatever is your favorite.)
1 box chocolate pudding (NOT instant.)
1 cup regular sour cream (NOT low or no fat.)
Powdered sugar
1 metal cake cover
Instructions: Mix the dry cake mix with the dry pudding mix and whisk together. Prepare the cake mix as directed on the box. When it’s mixed, gently fold in the cup of sour cream. Bake the cake as directed in a Bundt pan. When the cake is cooked, let it cool for about 2 minutes. Turn it out onto a cake plate and then immediately cover with the metal cake cover. Let stand for 1 hour—no peeking! The heat from the cake cover with infuse moisture into the cake and it will be rich and fudgy. After an hour, remove cake cover, which is will be covered in condensation. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cake. No icing is necessary. Eat at a table covered with your favorite tablecloth.


Martha Reed said...

Hi, Ramona. I, too, love old things. When we sold the family cottage in Muskoka, we were allowed to take whatever we wanted as keepsakes. Some folks went for the plates and furniture; I only took two things: the generations old mixing bowl (the true soul of the kitchen) and the ratty poster that hung over my bed every summer of my life. I had the poster reframed (I will not mention how much that cost me!) and when I did, the framer called and asked me if I wanted a new version of that print since the one I had was weatherspotted. No way! I wanted that exact print, just the way it was because that's where my 53 year old memory was stored.

Great post! Makes me feel quite sentimental. Thanks for the great start to my day.

Annette said...

I love old family stuff, too, Ramona. My house is filled with things that I rescued from my grandparents' farm before it was sold. The old mantle clock, several crocks, a pitcher and bowl set including the chamber pot, jelly jar glasses, cow creamer and sugar bowl... I could go on and on. We even have a pair of mill stones that weigh a gazillion pounds each as our sidewalk. They originally were part of a mill that sat on the farm (I'd be able to see it from my kitchen window if it still existed), but I remember them from the front yard of the farmhouse. When my cousins and I played tag, we were "safe" if we stood on one of the millstones.

Great memories. And great post!

PatRemick said...

I need to know what a cake cover is -- is that the top part of a cake plate? Sorry, I'm fairly literal BUT I WANT TO MAKE THAT RECIPE!! And hopefully with my mother's cake plate from the 1950s that is now in my kitchen...

NancyM said...

As a mamber of the Indiana Women's Writing Circle---YAY! I remember that trip! I bought a wonderful red corner cupboard, but I was too embarrassed to ask for a lower price, so one of our other friends did the negotiating. She was ruthless, and I'm so glad. It barely fit into the floor of yet another friend's VW minvan, and two members of the circle had to sit with their feet in/on the top shelf of the cupboard. What a great trip!

Gina said...

My house is filled with old family cast offs, including my mother's paintings, afghans made by my mother and grandmother, doilies made by my grandmother and aunts, some of my mother's clothes and jewelry, my mother's and aunt's books, and some of my mother's and grandmother's furniture. The prize piece, however, is my grandmother's piano.

Here's the story as I heard it: As a young wife and mother, my grandmother wanted a piano. Her father bought one for her and began making payments. He died. A Gypsy neighbor told my grandmother about a man she had seen coming to her door - when she described him, my grandmother realized that it was her father's ghost! At my grandmother's request, the neighbor asked him what he wanted. "Tell my daughter to go down to the railroad office. I have something for her." He had been a railroad employee and, when my grandmother checked, she found he had a pay coming. He apparently intended her to use the money to pay on the piano, but her sisters insisted that she give the money to their mother. My grandmother paid off the piano by taking in laundry - secretly, because her husband would not have approved.

Joyce Tremel said...

Wow, what great stories! I wish I had more old stuff. I do have a small round table that belonged to my grandmother. It's in my 1940s guest room. And I have an old sewing machine that I rescued from someone's trash. I was driving past on garbage day and there it was. My favorite activity is going to antique stores.

Ramona, you have some awesome names in your family.

Ramona said...

Martha, isn't it funny that we love the imperfections, too? I'm glad you are sentimental today--that's a good emotion

Annette, those millstones sound very precious. I think that "safe" thing needs to go into a story.

Pat, a cake cover is the rounded top of a cake plate set. A glass one might work, but metal is better. The heat would probably warp a Tupperware one.

Nancy, wasn't that a great trip? It's always nice to have a personal negotiator.

Ramona said...

Gina, that's a great story about your grandfather's ghost message. And with a gypsy involved, no less! That's a paranormal two-fer. Have you written about this? It sounds like a story starter for sure.

Joyce, my family has more weird names than you can shake a stick at.

Karen in Ohio said...

Love the family names, too. Our family is so boring, in comparison, with so many of the same names: Barbara/Bobbie, Jim, Bill, Ron, Matt, Michael, Christy. I'm the only Karen, though.

I feel really lucky to have old stuff, including some items that have no value whatsoever to anyone else, like an ebony carving of an African mask that my aunt brought back from Dakar in the early 60's. Her husband was a CIA station chief there during the uprising, and my aunt, who left the convent for my uncle, was experiencing early married life there. Can you imagine?

When we were first married family members' castoffs were the major portion of our furniture. We've since replaced some of the upholstered pieces with new, but I still love the leather-topped cocktail and end tables, and my sweet little Mission desk, handed down to us by my husband's ancient aunt. You can see a photo on this blog, way down, about the fifth or sixth from the bottom:

It's where I am right now!

Patg said...

Great post, Ramona. I have a bag full of doilies my mother made while I was a child. That turkey platter from PA, I have a huge one that has 8 large, matching plates. It was found in an antique store in Caldwell NJ by friends of mine. T-day isn't my big holiday (cooking wise) but I always provided it along with the canned cranberry sauce for my husband's family get together. (What did a Yankee know about cookin?)
I also have a rolling pin that my daughter laughs at every time she make pie crust for me. So small, made of wood, but it works fine!

Ramona said...

Karen, your aunt left the convent for a CIA agent? And went with him to Dakur? Please tell me someone wrote about this!

Pat, I love love love doilies! I have dozens, and that's just not nearly enough. I once wrote a (very bad) short mystery where someone killed someone with a doily. Sadly, it's a drawer story, which is where it belongs.

Karen in Ohio said...

Yep. And not yet. :-)

Joyce Tremel said...

Ramona, I have a lot of doilies. An endtable just doesn't look right without one.