Beautiful Ride

The somewhat self-indulgent rantings about the beautiful ride that is my life!

Grandma Hessert’s Blueberry Cake July 23, 2010

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Holidays — beautifulride @ 6:58 am
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Earlier this week, I delivered a foil-wrapped baked good to the desk of a friend and co-worker, who’s husband had been hospitalized recently. Soon enough, someone walked by and tried to peek inside, enticed by the sweet, fruity smell. At that moment, I happened to walk down the hallway, just in time to hear her being told, “that’s Grandma Hessert’s blueberry cake!”  I can’t tell you how that tickled me–that was my Grandma Hessert’s Blueberry Cake–and it was being recognized as if it was as famous as Mrs. Field’s Chocolate Chip Cookies!

My Grandma Hessert’s Blueberry Cake is a funny, delicious thing.  It has been a Christmas morning tradition for as long as I can remember…my own kids believe that Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without blueberry coffee cake. It is the baked good of  choice when friends and family are recovering from illness, welcoming new babies, celebrating an accomplishment, or grieving for a loved one. I make it for Sunday morning gatherings and deliver at least a dozen as Christmas gifts, making Grandma Hessert’s blueberry cake someone else’s Christmas morning tradition…one home at a time.

The funny thing is…my Grandma Hessert didn’t really like to cook…or bake…and she really wasn’t very good at it! I was talking to my Dad recently about his Mom…and her cooking.  Mostly, I would say, “…but didn’t you like it when she made (insert German/Pennsylvania Dutch “specialty” here…spaetzle, scrapple, springerles) and his response was the same over and over…”nope, that came from over on the Hill.”  The “Hill” was a certain area of South Williamsport, PA, on a hill, where many German immigrants settled, including my Grandpa Hessert’s family. My Grandparents lived close to the Hill, but not quite on it. Basically, if Dad wanted traditional dishes, he would wait until he visited an Aunt or Uncle, or wait for one of them to visit him. My Pop-Pop (Henry), a house painter, would make most of the meals during the week, although Dad said that Grandma Hessert made a mean Sunday dinner…that, and peanut brittle and creamed hamburger, were her specialties. And her biggest cooking secret?  Sugar. At least a teaspoon of it in EVERYTHING, whether or not it was indicated in the recipe!

My Grandma Hessert (Esther) was a wonderful woman. She was pretty, with a smile that made her eyes light up, but she didn’t put up with any bull. A mother of all boys, born over the course of 10 years (just like me, although she had 3 to my 4), makes me feel connected. She was a short, robust woman, who always wore an apron in the kitchen (though she rarely cooked) and until she was in her late 70, she wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing pants…only dresses…and under those dresses, she was smooth as could be, girdle and stockings every day, like a proper woman. She worked at several local department stores when my father was growing up, selling hats and scarves and jewelry. Oh, the jewelry. She had a whole drawer, neatly organized, in her bedroom dresser, with the best costume jewelry I’ve ever seen. And she loved it when her granddaughters would doll themselves up with her jewels. I spent so much time sitting on her bedroom floor making myself beautiful!

I don’t remember ever having blueberry coffee cake at her house. My Dad doesn’t remember having blueberry coffee cake at her house. Like me, he only remembers my Mom making it. But my Mom gave me the recipe, and she swears that it came from my Grandma Hessert, given to her as a mother to a daughter (they loved each other that much), and my mother passed it along to me. I don’t think my sisters make it, or my sister-in-law either, but my Mom and I use it like a secret weapon. It’s comforting. It makes people smile. It makes people feel loved and special. And I feel connected to my past when I make it, or give it, or sit down with a delicious piece of it myself. Maybe one day I will pass it down to my own daughters-in-law, when my sons find their special someones.

I remember visiting my Grandma Hessert in the hospital, not long before she passed away. I sat by her bedside, knitting a scarf while she drifted in and out of consciousness. She was a knitter, and was happy when I showed her that I had learned to knit while away at college. I remember concentrating on my knit one, purl two, thinking she was asleep, during our last afternoon visit. Suddenly I heard a quiet voice say, “I know you are here, Elise, because I can hear your needles clicking. I know you’re here.” I’ve always remembered those words, it was so comforting to me that she knew I was there. That was the last time I sat with my Grandma. Not long after, while I was away at school, she passed away. When I came home for the funeral, I’m sure we had blueberry cake.


Peace…and Giddyup! July 9, 2010

I remember back when I was in my early teens, my sisters and I had a plan…a dream. One day we would open a little shop, full of craft items and assorted treasures that had meaning to us at the time. Our little store would be in a great little house, converted to retail space, like you would occasionally see in our little town.  Maybe it would be downtown, maybe close to Lycoming College, or maybe even in the Historic Millionaire’s Row District.  We dreamed that we would send our future husbands off to work, gather up our children, and meet every day in our cozy little home away from home, where our babies would play together while we collectively peddled our wares. We had a great name too….We would name our store E.S.P. (not only for our initials–Elise, Sharon, Pam–but also for the paranormal phenomenon that we were always a little fascinated with!). By the way, E.S.P. was also going to be the name of our musical sister-act, which was going to bring us fame and wealth beyond our imaginations! Ah, youth!

We never opened our store…or went on a concert tour…instead, we grew up, got married, moved away, and settled into the responsibilities of jobs and families.  But the dream of a little store was always in the back of my mind. A little something that I could grow and nurture and make my own…something that I could put my heart and soul into, something that could reflect my style, and something for when my children leave our home and move on to lives of their own.

And now, after a year of planning and months of hard work…really hard work…I have a little announcement to make. I have a store!  I am a business owner… a fully licensed, tax-paying, hard-working business owner! And tomorrow, at Maplewoodstock, I will be launching Cowgirl in the Sanda unique little shop featuring a variety of fun and funky items for the whole family, offering an entertaining mix of apparel, jewelry, bath and beauty products, music/concert-related merchandise, and gifts and accessories … all brimming with western flavor and hippie flair. 

Right now, the focus is on street fairs, music and arts festivals, and an online store. I still dream of an actual brick and mortar store someday…in Maplewood Village…but I’m not there yet. I still have a family to raise and a day job that deserves my full attention…and I am completely committed to both. But I’m also thrilled to be stepping out of my comfort zone and reaching for (actually more like jumping into…to the deep end…without a life-preserver…) a dream that’s been with me for so long.

And to my dream team…my sisters, who shared my spark all those years ago, and who support me still; my brother, who had the courage to start his own business and has been guiding my steps through the whole process; my Mom and Dad, who support all my dreams, all the time; and my sons, who think I’m crazy woman, but are already planning to be the first customers in line tomorrow,  and who have brought humor and help to the whole process….thank you, thank you, thank you…I love you all.

Most importantly, thank you to my husband. Rick, this would have never happened without you. You say “yes, you can” when I say “no, I can’t.” You remind me to pace myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed. You encourage me, push me, temper me, and love me. You give me courage and wings, and when you tell me that you are proud of me, I feel strong and confident and free. I’ve said before that you came on a white horse for me, what I didn’t say was that you never asked me to sit behind you on your white horse…instead you brought one for me too, so that we could experience life’s ride side by side. And what a beautiful ride it is!

Want to know more about Cowgirl in the Sand? Go to to get all the answers…why Cowgirl…why launch at Maplewoodstock…why western spirit and hippie funk. The merchandise/shopping page is still in the works, but we are launching anyway…in time for tomorrow’s festival.  Hope you’ll stop by and say “Hello Cowgirl in the Sand.”

Peace…and Giddyup!