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Category Archives: Flashback Fridays

Grandma’s Pie Crust Cookies

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Lacey, Mom, Me, Dad, and Grandma Davis, 1997

We all had a special someone or someone’s on our minds and hearts on Memorial Day and for me, that was my Grandma Davis, my paternal Grandmother.

Grandma and Grandpa Davis with their eight children. My Dad (front middle) was the surprise, born when Grandma was 45 and most of the other children were grown.

As a kid, I remember being annoyed when she telephoned because she would talk our ears off and at that age, I didn’t have the patience for it.  I remember listening to stories from her childhood while visiting her, often wishing I was outdoors playing instead.  I now wish I could do those years over and spend the time with her that she craved and that I long for now that it is too late.

Grandma (left) and a friend in 1961

I want to ask her what life was like during her childhood, during the Depression, and how she felt the first time she rode in a car.  (She was born in 1904.)  I want to hear more about the years when they had a farm and ranch in Nebraska and she cooked for all the ranch hands.  I vaguely recall a story she told me about stuffing mattresses with human hair, and now I burn with curiosity about it.  Was it hair from concentration camp victims during World War II?  Why was she stuffing mattresses with it?  I think I remember her saying that the government was letting poor people do it for free so they had something to sleep on.  Could this really be true?  At the time, all that really made an impression was the way she pronounced mattresses.  How sad, when obviously there was quite a compelling story there if I’d just had the interest to ask.

In Grandma Davis's arms the week of my birth, with Grandma Millner on my left and cousin Tammy on my right.

There were a few stories she told that did pique my interest, and they were usually the ones in which she was being ornery or rebellious.  I guess I held her up as a hero for these instances, like when she set her mother’s kitchen on fire as a child because she didn’t like the new curtains.  I thought that was brilliant, because I would have loved to take revenge on my mother for all manner of wrongs (mostly imagined) that she committed against me.  I also loved the story of how she punched her future husband when he tried to be a gentleman and pick her up and carry her over a puddle.  She was indignant because she was a self-sufficient woman that could walk over the puddle on her own two feet and didn’t need a man to show off for her in such a silly manner.  That really tickled me!  Or the story about when she punched him years later when she thought he was asleep, (apparently she had waited for this moment to punch him because he had made her mad!) and he bit her thumb when the punch landed.  Or the time when she found him gambling with his friends and started throwing rocks at them in a fury.

Meeting my Great-Grandma Gailey. Looks like we don't quite know what to make of each other! Grandma Davis, her daughter, is behind her and my Mom is holding me.

I guess my Grandma was a feisty lady!  But she also was incredibly loving.  She cried every time it was time for me and my sisters to go home and she loved having us stay with her.  Although I had no patience for her stories, I loved staying with her too because she let us watch all the TV we wanted, she always had tins of cookies and peanut butter crackers that I liked to sneak into, and I loved her cooking!  She made us things like pigs in blankets, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and let us have angel food cake with whipped cream for dessert.  This was AMAZING food to a child that frequently dined on baked fish, plain salads (dressing was a no-no), lentils, and tofu sandwiches on Ezekiel 7-grain bread.

Grandma's yard in the 80s. Can you find the wind catcher she made out of a 7-up bottle?

Here it is, as clear as I can get it. She used to make a lot of these.

One of the things Grandma Davis taught me was not to waste anything, and that almost everything can be put to use.  She made rugs out of empty plastic bread sacks.  She made quilts out of old jeans.  She took empty 2-liter pop bottles and turned them into hanging ornaments that caught the wind and turned on her front porch. She also taught me to make little cinnamon roll cookies with leftover pie dough, rather than throwing it away.

Photograph courtesy of Upscale Downhome. This is exactly how my grandma’s bread sack rugs looked!

Grandma made this blanket for us with old jeans. As for the identity of the naked child, I plead the fifth.

RE: Plastic Soda Bottle Wind Chimes

Photo source. My Grandma’s wind spinners were always made with 7-Up bottles and looked very similar to this, though she made smooth cuts instead of wavy.

I’m thankful for every story that I can still remember, and for this lesson in waste that she passed on.  Sure, it can get me into trouble, because I tend to hoard things (for starters, I have a sack full of clean, empty food jars in my basement, waiting for an opportunity to be useful), but when it comes to these cookies, I feel the lesson is a blessing!

These cookies are delicious and so simple to make.  Flaky, buttery pie pastry layered with cinnamon, sugar, raisins, and nuts makes for something nearly akin to a kicked up cinnamon roll, and I like to go ahead and drizzle a simple glaze over the top of mine since I keep the sugar on the inside pretty low.  It makes them even more like a cinnamon roll in appearance, which I like.

I think many Grandmas taught their grandchildren to make these cookies, though my Grandma’s way seems to be a little different from the other recipes I’ve seen online.  Those call for cinnamon and sugar only, but that’s not the way Grandma Davis rolled (if you’ll pardon the pun).  She sprinkled on the raisins and nuts too!  Maybe it’s only because it’s the way my Grandma made them, but it’s the way I like them best.

Cinnamon Roll Pie Crust Cookies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Leftover pie pastry (I recommend this recipe–it stays tender and flaky, even after gathering up the scraps, pressing together and re-rolling)
Sugar
Cinnamon
Raisins
Nuts
Powdered sugar & milk for optional glaze

Gather up your pie dough scraps and press together to form a new ball and flatten into a disc.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until ready to use. If you aren’t making the cookies for a day or two, you’ll want to remove the pie dough from the refrigerator and leave at room temperature for half an hour to an hour so that it is soft enough to roll out.

Preheat oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, a silpat mat, or spray with cooking oil.

Roll out the leftover pie pastry on a floured surface.

Sprinkle sugar over the top.  This amount won’t make the cookies very sweet, but that’s OK if you plan on using a glaze.  If you’re skipping the glaze, you’ll probably want more sugar.

Sprinkle on the cinnamon!

You could stop there, but I like to add some raisins and nuts, because Grandma said so.  And Grandma knows best.

Roll into a tight log, like so:

I didn’t get any pictures of this because my hands were busy doing this step, but use a piece of waxed floss to cut 1/2″ cookies from the log. To do this, run the floss under the log, then cross the ends of the string over the top, and pull the ends in opposite directions until the string passes through and makes a cut. This will be messy and you’ll have nuts and raisins popping out which you can then pop back in before placing on prepared baking sheet. Some of the cookies will have to be rewrapped completely, especially those on the end that are smaller. Place all the cut cookies on the baking sheet.  I like to use parchment paper, but would like to get a silpat mat soon since it’s reusable.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. Cool on a wire rack. I just slid the entire sheet of parchment paper off the cookie sheet and onto a cooling rack.  Handy dandy.

Once cool, you can make a glaze by mixing powdered sugar with a little milk until it is a drizzling consistency. I think I used like 1/2 a cup of powdered sugar and a teaspoon or two of milk. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the top.

If you aren’t serving these right away, let them sit out until the glaze hardens, then you can store them in an airtight container or Ziploc bag. Will keep for at least a week but they won’t last that long!

In loving memory of Alta Davis.  1904-2001

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Flashback Friday: when skinny dipping goes wrong

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My sisters and I the year this story takes place, 1996.  Left to right: Danielle (14), Franciska (we call her Lacey) (10), and me (16).

During my high school years, it became a family tradition to go camping at El Dorado Lake every summer.  And from that tradition sprung another one amongst my sisters and myself: skinny dipping in the lake after dark.  (Note to parents: if your young daughters ever ask to go swimming after dark, be on the alert!  Our own parents were never aware of our shenanigans.)

No, we weren’t so bold as to strip nude at the beach at noon with everyone gawking, and we weren’t even so bold as to fling off our swimsuits on the beach even after it got dark.  Rather, once it was pitch black, save for the moonlight and starlight, and the swimming area was completely deserted,  we would enter the water with suits on, then pull them off once we were safely submerged in the murky depths.  We managed to convince ourselves we were brave, bold, and ridiculously rebellious to dare to be naked in a public place, despite the fact that we never gave anyone even a glimpse of our nude bodies.

The last time we went “skinny dipping,” I offered to hold onto everyone’s suits so that they could swim more freely, and my sisters foolishly handed theirs over once we were in the water.  We swam around a bit, and as you can imagine, it’s not easy holding onto three bathing suits while swimming or paddling water.  Suddenly Danielle jerked, and her eyes got really wide.

“Something just slithered past my ankle!” she cried in alarm.

We all freaked out and swam like crazy to get away from the slimy underwater creature that was surely coming at us with teeth bared, ready to bite us in all manner of unprotected places.  Then Danielle’s eyes got even wider as she came to a different conclusion.

“Do you still have all the swimsuits?” she asked.

My eyes mirroring hers, I raised them up out of the water, and we all quickly did a visual count.

Oh.

No.

One pair of bikini bottoms was definitely missing.  Danielle’s bikini bottoms.  The underwater creature had just been identified, which caused a new kind of horror amongst us.

We walked all around the area where they had last slithered, feeling around the bottom, to no avail.  We finally had to face the facts.  Danielle was going to have to walk back to camp.  With no bikini bottoms.  Without even a towel to shield her poor, glistening, white butt.

When we could put it off no longer, Lacey and I got dressed and Danielle pulled her bikini top back on, looking rather pathetic.  We situated her between us to hide her the best we could while we walked what seemed like five miles back to camp.  We were as quiet as we could be and had a few close calls, but if anyone saw us in the moonlight, they were polite enough not to give a cat call or outright laugh.  We managed to even evade our parents, and keep the secret of what happened between us so they wouldn’t know what we had been up to.

The following day, Lacey and I were swimming (poor Danielle was back at camp, now unable to swim…thus proving I’m a horrible sister because I should have been the one not swimming while she wore my suit), and a woman suddenly thrust a pair of blue bikini bottoms in the air and shouted at her friends to, “look what I found!”

I screamed loud enough to raise the dead and started running as fast as anyone can run under water, screaming the whole way.  “Oh, thank you!  I’ve been looking for those everywhere!  Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!”

I snatched the blue bottoms out of her hands and left her bewildered in my wake, as I ran out of the water and beat a victorious trail back to camp as fast as my legs could carry me.  I wish I would have looked back to see the reaction I left behind while the entire beach tried to figure out why those bottoms had been in the water in the first place. Their conclusions were probably not as innocent as we were, I’m sure!

And now you know why that was the last time we went “skinny dipping.”  Young people, you see, can learn from their mistakes, if the consequences are drastic or embarrassing enough. :)

The only swimming photo I have of us is when Danielle and I swam ghetto-style in the street when it flooded in 1988:

The closest photo I have is the right time of year (although two years prior to the missing bottoms incident), the right location (El Dorado Lake’s swimming area) but the wrong girls! This is me (far right) with two friends whose names I’ll keep private to protect their reputations. :)

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