Family · Holidays

Mother’s Day 2013…Daughter, Mother, Grandmother, Friend

Mother’s Day 2013 will be a weekend of celebration starting with my annual Mother’s Day Coffee/Tea on Saturday.  There will be much laughter, hugging, catching up and, of course, delicious treats.  This year our friend Barbara has designed T-shirts to celebrate our annual event.


Sunday, our family will share a meal celebrating daughter Sarah as a Mother and now adding Grandma to my title.   We are blessed.

As I reflect on Mother’s Day, I think about my Mother who passed away in 2001.  I miss her every day.  How many times have I wished that I could pick up the phone and talk to her!

Our journey as Daughters and then Mothers (and now Grandmothers) takes many twists and turns.  I recently read this poem which reminds me of my Mother being there to support me and my own journey as a Mother.  And the journey continues with my daughters.

Love you, Mom.  Love you girls!

Baby Evan with Grandma, Mommie and Aunt Megan

A Mother…

When you’re a child she walks before you,
To set an example.
When you’re a teenager she walks behind you
To be there should you need her.
When you’re an adult she walks beside you
So that as two friends you can enjoy life together..
Author Unknown
New Favorite

Pear Cake…seasonal delight!

Pear Cake made with seasonal pears is a true treat.  This recipe, from was a great find and delicious as a morning coffee treat or as a seasonal dessert.


10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 pears, peeled, cored and wedged
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease a round baking pan with 2 tablespoons of butter.  Sprinkle with brown sugar.
  • Brush the pear wedges with lemon juice and arrange in the bottom of the baking pan.
  • Combine flour with baking powder, salt and cinnamon, Set aside.
  • Using a mixer, beat the remaining butter with sugar until fluffy.  Stir in eggs and vanilla.
  • Add flour mixture and milk alternating the ingredients slowly.  Continue to beat on low-speed after each addition.
  • Spoon batter evenly over pears in pan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes OR until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  (My oven required a longer baking time.)
  • Cool before inverting onto serving platter.  Decorate with walnuts or serve with whipped cream as coffee cake or dessert.

Recipe adapted from; Starkrimson Pear Cinnamon Cake

Family Favorites · My Roots

Norwegian Christmas Bread (Julekake)

Norwegian Christmas Bread (Julekake) brings back fond memories of our elderly Iowa friends, the Butlers.  Growing up, Anna would bake Julekake, Kringla, and Lefse to share with friends.  She would brew a strong cup of coffee for adults and children to enjoy with the seasonal treats.  A cup of hot coffee with a toasted slice of Julekake and butter, at Anna’s oak table was the best.  Today, I sit at the same oak table in my dining area thinking of the wonderful stories and memories created in that small farm-house so many years ago.

Kringla is an annual tradition with Julekake only every few years.  Kneading bread dough is hard for me so I’ve included, along with the traditional recipe, my version for the bread machine.  This year I borrowed daughter Sarah’s Kitchen Aid mixer to make the traditional recipe, which I split into two parts to accommodate the smaller size of the mixer.


This is the original Christmas bread recipe from Norwegian family friend, Anna Butler

2 packages dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup chopped citron or candied pineapple
3 cups scalded milk
1/2 cup butter
2 cups raisins
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped candied cherries
2 beaten eggs
1/2 teaspoon crushed cardamom
10 to 11 cups flour

  • Dissolve yeast in warm water.
  • Scald milk and then add butter, salt and sugar. Cool to lukewarm. Add to yeast mixture and add 1/2 flour and eggs. Beat well.
  • Add fruit and cardamom and remaining flour to make light dough. Knead and place in a greased bowl. Let rise until light.
  • Knead and let it rise again.
  • Shape into 5 loaves and place in greased bread pans. Let rise 1 hour or until light. Brush tops with egg yolk mixture of beaten egg yolk and water.

  • Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. After removing from oven, brush top with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar


This is a conversion of the original Christmas bread recipe from Anna Butler
1/6 cup lukewarm water
1 cup scalded milk (cooled to lukewarm)
1/3 stick melted margarine
1 small beaten egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/6 teaspoon cardamom
3 to 3.3 cups flour
1 package yeast
2/3 cup raisins
1/6 cup citron

  • Place ingredients in bread machine in the order given but put raisins and citron aside.
  • Start bread dough in knead mode and add raisins/citron when your bread machine prompts for add-ins.

FEV Coffee Experience…my cup of Joe will never be the same

Finca Esperanza Verde (FEV) produces organic certified, shade-grown coffee. Various trees, including productive fruit trees (bananas and papaya) provide vital nitrogen while the oak and ‘barazan’ are planted for reforestation.

Coffee Plants

Coffee plant with ripening beans

Coffee plants take 2-3 years to produce their first fruit, blooming 2-3 times per year, but producing fruit one time per year. Each plant is productive for 8-10 years before replanting must occur. FEV utilizes the husks, leaves etc. to produce their own worm compost for their organic coffee farm.

Red, ripe coffee beans

Picking Coffee Beans
There are many coffee farms in Nicaragua, but unlike American farms, coffee workers walk long distances to get to the fields where they will pick anywhere from 8-10, 5-gallon bags per person, per day. Larger farms can harvest up to 15-20, 5-gallon bags per person, per day. In most cases, the coffee workers and their family members then carry the bags of coffee beans to the farm or market for sale.  At the time of our visit, the average pay per bag was $2, or anywhere from $16 to $40 per person, per day.

My harvest coffee bean harvest

During our ecotour excursion, about 20 novices picked 3/4 of a gallon of coffee beans in 1.5 hours. I am in awe at the skill and efficiency of  the Nicaraguan coffee worker.

It’s a manual job.  There are no John Deere Combines that do this job in the steep, rainforest conditions.   Each coffee bean must be carefully picked to assure that the stem will produce another fruit next year. And the processing has yet to begin.

Coffee Processing
The coffee beans are put in water, to sort the floating inferior beans.  The beans are then hulled to remove the red, outer husk. The coffee beans inside the husk are typically beige in color and are covered in a slightly sweet, sticky gel.  At this stage they taste nothing like the dark, sometimes bitter coffee we drink each morning.

bags of coffee ready to be hulled and processed

The beans are wet processed, removing the skin of the coffee bean, then followed by a fermentation bath that eats away the pulp, leaving the bean. The beans are dried in the sun, with any remaining residue removed by the coffee workers.  The beans are then sorted by grade.

Sorting the coffee beans by grade, drying the beans
Different grades of coffee beans

Coffee Roasting & Grinding
The FEV cooking staff spent an afternoon showing us how the locals roast the dried coffee beans over a wood stove, until the beans reach the desired richness.  As the beans roasted over the fire, another paper-like shell was released and blown away from the roasting beans.

Roasting coffee beans over wood stove
Roasted Coffee Beans

At this point, the beans are ready for the grinder.  At home, I would throw them in my electric coffee grinder and be done in a few seconds. The locals use a heavy duty hand grinder that builds muscle, and a little character.  In rural Nicaragua, you have to work hard to have your morning cup a Joe.

grinding coffee beans

Coffee Cupping
Coffee cupping is another term for coffee tasting, experiencing the flavors of different brewed coffees. The grounds are often left in the coffee. The coffee, after being sniffed, is then slurped into the mouth allowing the back of tongue to experience the full tasting detecting body, acidity and sweetness. Experienced coffee cuppers can distinguish the coffee origin in this tasting experience.

We had the unique experience of visiting another local coffee farmer and his family for a cupping experience. Can’t say I’m a big fan…couldn’t get over the coffee grounds but appreciate the process!

Coffee Cupping in Nicaragua

Cathy’s Coffee Comments:
For years I have purchased coffee at the local grocery store without a thought as to how it was grown, harvested and prepared. It was just…coffee…my morning ‘pick me up’. Coffee growing and processing is, in so many ways, primitive to our way of thinking.  Farm life in the USA is hard work but we have so many tools in our toolbox. The coffee farmers and workers have 1) their feet, 2) their hands and their backs. They make it work.

I’ll think of that every morning the rest of my life as I sip on my morning coffee. Thank you coffee workers.  Where would we be without you?

Related Links:

New Favorite

Blueberry Coffee Cake for your morning coffee!

Fresh blueberries are coming into season and a wonderful time for a warm, Blueberry Coffee Cake.  I served this yummy cake for my annual Mother’s Day Coffee.

It’s easy to make and I LOVE the crumb topping.  Great with a hot cup of coffee or tea with family and friends.

I typically double this recipe for a larger coffee cake.


3/4 cup sugar
1/4 butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 1/4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup soft butter

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse and drain the blueberries.
  • Combine 3/4 cup sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a bowl and mix well. Add 1/4 cup soft butter, egg and mix. Add 1/2 cups milk and mix well. Stir in 2 cups of flour. The batter will resemble thick pancake batter. You may have to finish mixing by hand. Add the blueberries and gently mix in.
Blueberry Cake Batter
  • Grease and flour pans (9″ square pan or two loaf pans). Pour batter into pans, about 1/2 full.
  • Mix topping. Crumble evenly on top of batter.
Blueberry Coffee Cake ready for the oven
  • Bake for 45 minutes. If not brown on the top, bake a bit longer, checking every 3 to 4 minutes. Set the coffee cake on a rack to cool and enjoy.
Yummy baked Blueberry Coffee Cake
New Traditions

Mother’s Day Coffee…a new tradition

Two years ago I hosted a morning coffee for the wonderful Mothers and friends that shared many of the same life experiences.  Mothers everywhere are hustling and bustling 24×7, seldom taking time for themselves.  This annual coffee is now tradition, honoring these wonderful women, our friendships, and…our love of good food!

The past two years, the coffee has been held on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. Somehow, this year, I ASSUMED that would be the first Saturday in May.  You know what happens when you ASSUME!  This year it’s a week early but what the heck!

My friend, Barbara, is the official photographer for all of my gal pal gatherings, commonly referred to as ‘hot flash___’ (just fill in the blank for the actual event of book club, cards, yoga, etc.).  She did a wonderful collage last year capturing the great food we all shared that wonderful morning.

Mother’s Day Coffee 2011

The past year has brought many joys for myself and friends and many sorrows.  We support each other through thick and thin.  I have a sign in my house that sums it up best:

good friends will laugh with you in the sun
great friends will be with you in the shade