My Family Tree is an Apple Tree

My Family Tree is an Apple Tree

I wish I knew more about my ancestry — I couldn’t tell you when the first generation of my family came to America. I have general knowledge of the history of my name and I have it on good authority (my Grandma Minder) that on my mom’s side, I’m related to Mark Twain. (If that is not true, I don’t want to know.) For what I lack in information, I make up in passion. I have vivid cherished memories associated with several of my aunts, cousins, & grandparents — some still living, some deceased.

Great Grandma and Grandpa Shutz’s House

My great grandparents, the parents of my paternal grandmother, Iris Chew, were named Herbert Shutz and Alberta (Alford) Shutz. My daughter, Morgan, might be glad she wasn’t given one of these family names, but I think they are beautiful and strong.

I loved going to my great grandpa and grandma Shutz’s house in Milton, Indiana when I was a child. It was a typical grandparent home. I distinctly remember the beautiful aluminum storm door ornamented with delicate curlicues that proudly graced the front of their house. Inside, their furniture was old, but having been impeccably cared for, was still like new. I remember a lot of lace — doilies, curtains, and tablecloths. The few toys they had were what they kept while raising their own children. Ironically, the agednesss of the toys made them novel my brother and me.

a-boy-named-charlie-brownI remember reading a first edition, “A Boy Named Charlie Brown,” by Charles Shultz and in haste, seeing it as Charlies Shutz and assuming this book must have been written by a relative. I loved that book and looked forward to turning those pages every time we visited.

harold-and-the-purple-crayonThey also had a first-edition copy of, “Harold and The Purple Crayon,” published in 1955, a book that sparked my imagination. What I wouldn’t give to have those books now, but I have no idea where they ended up. I would like to fantasize that one of my relatives would read this post and think, “Hey, I have Grandma and Grandpa Shutz’s books in a box in the basement. Stacy should have those!” (If that is you, CONTACT ME! I will gladly accept!)

I’m not holding my breath though. Grandma and Grandpa Shutz valued their faith and people much more than possessions. These precious pearls were probably sold at a “rummage sale” or discarded as childish trinkets. I may not have the books, but I’ll always treasure the memories.

We ate several meals at Great Grandpa and Grandpa Shutz’s house when I was quite young. I remember while eating one such meal in their beautifully-decorated dining room, Great Grandma asked, “Do you kids like rabbit?”

“No, grandma,” my brother and answered in unison.

“That’s funny,” she replied, “you seem to be enjoying it!”

Eventually, grandma was moved to a nursing home and my family visited her often (though not as often as we should have) and grandpa continued visiting her even after she had no idea who any of us were. They both gone on to their eternal home in glory and I look forward to some day, visiting their home in heaven. Maybe we’ll enjoy some rabbit stew.

But I know we will enjoy some of Great Grandpa’s apple butter. After all, it is heaven, isn’t it?

Great Grandpa’s Apple Butter

One of the best memories I have of my great grandparents is the amazing apple butter that great grandpa made from scratch and preserved in jars which were gifted to those fortuitous enough to receive some. This wasn’t just apple butter, it was the best apple butter anyone ever tasted. Much as little children dream of being part of a championship wining sports team, I imagine Winesap Apples (as were called for in his recipe) dreamed that some day, they might be slow cooked in a bath of cider and spices as a batch of Great Grandpa’s apple butter — the highest calling an apple could achieve.

I am not sure who opened that last jar of Great Grandpa’s. I don’t know if they knew the profound significance of enjoying the last of the divine goodness. I don’t know if it was spread on an English muffin, a piece of rye toast, a flaky biscuit, or enjoyed straight from the jar with a spoon, but like the dinosaurs and Windows 95, Great Grandpa’s apple butter is now gone forever.

Resurrecting a Legend

A few years ago at a Shutz family reunion, the subject of Great Grandpa’s apple butter came up. Somehow, it was revealed that my Aunt Kathy had a copy of the original recipe. I was shocked that a copy of the formula existed in a drawer in a rural home when it so obviously belonged in a climate controlled, hermetically sealed environment protected by armed guard.

Apparently, it isn’t as well-kept a secret as I had imagined because Aunt Kathy willingly shared it with my cousin, Clay, who passed it on to me. Yesterday, I made my first batch of Great Grandpa Shutz’s apple butter and sealed 5 pint-sized jars of awesome sauce. My plan is to carry on the traditions Grandpa started — not only making and sealing the apple butter, but also gifting the jars to people I love. It will be a Merry Christmas this year, indeed!

Of course, I had to do some quality control and make sure that my own version of Great Grandpa’s apple butter was worthy to be associated with his name. After all, I only had his recipe (lacking many specifics that were just second nature to him). My favorite part of the recipe reads, “Cook as though you were making applesauce.” Yeah, that would probably make perfect sense if I had ever made applesauce. Which I have not.

No, I didn’t have his knowledge, experience, or the vintage equipment he probably used too peal and core his apples.

But I had “the formula.”

So this weekend, we drove to Anderson Orchard in Mooresville, Indiana, the only orchard that was open on Sunday and offered Winesap apples. (It’s early in the Winesap season.)

The Verdict?

One bite of the apple butter took me back almost 40 years. Is my apple butter as good as Great Grandpa Shutz’s? I doubt it, but nostalgia is a powerful flavor enhancer and the apple butter I made was absolutely delectable. Yesterday’s batch yielded 5 pints — would have been 6 but I put some in a plastic container to enjoy in the next few days.

My goal is to do 100 pints this year and gift a jar to everyone in the family who shares my fond memories of Great Grandma and Grandpa Shutz.

The Formula

This is just as I received it. Below, I will share the approximate measurements I used for my 6-quart slow cooker. 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 peck of Winesap Apples, cut and peeled
  • 3 quarts of apple cider
  • 3 lbs of sugar (2 cups = 1 lb)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 to 1 cup Red Hots (try 1/2 cup and add only to suit taste)

Instructions

  • When cooking apples in the beginning, just add part of the called for apple cider. Start baking at 400 degrees and when the apples have begun cooking, reduce heat to 350 degrees. Cook as though you were making applesauce and do not run through sieve.
  • Be careful to not let the apples stick, add cider as needed and desired.
  • Cook until water does not run out of sauce.

Notes from whoever provided the recipe to my Aunt Kathy:

  • Grandpa Shutz always liked to use Winesap apples, but you can use other varieties. To follow tradition, I usually go to the apple orchard to purchase the apples and cider.
  • I usually cut up enough apples to fill my large turkey roaster and then adjust the recipe accordingly. At least the above gives you some guidelines to follow.
  • I fill the jars, add the lids and rings, and then set them close together with covering so that they all seal themselves.

Notes from my cousin, Clay:

  • Winesap apples really did work great – sweet and soft apples
  • We cooked the recipe in a regular-sized crock pot – started on high for about one hour, then low for another 8 – 9 hours. One-half of the total recipe FILLED our crock pot.
  • My wife did run a hand mixer through the apples at the end of the cooking time to smooth out the recipe and we did drain liquid out before we canned the apple butter (I would guess about 2 – 3 cups of liquid from each crock pot).
  • The Red Hots give the apple butter THE distinctive flavor I remember so vividly from Grandpa’s recipe. My wife only used 1/2 cup – but she doesn’t like things “too spicy”. I would probably use more if I was making it just for me.

My notes:

  • Great Grandpa baked his apples in the over — I called on my trusty slow cooker. I was able to get about 3/4 of a peck of apples in a 6-quart slow cooker (or half of Grandpa’s recipe). I kept it on high because I was really hoping to get it done and canned in one day. It took about 6 hours. I would imagine if you started it on high, then turned it to low, you could let it cook all night while you sleep. The longer it cooked, the thicker it got, but even so, I had to skim off about 3 cups of cider or it just would have been too runny. Next time, I will not add as much cider at the beginning. I wanted the apples to be covered, but they give off a lot of moisture, too!
  • 3/4 peck apples (or approximately 1/2 of recipe) yielded 6 pints of apple butter (plus some to taste — you know, for quality control).
  • I also waited a bit to add the sugar — I was afraid on high in the slow cooker, it would burn if I added the sugar too early. The crock was so full I couldn’t stir it much and I wanted to avoid taking off the lid as much as possible.
  • I cut a little of the sugar — because with diabetics in the family, our sweet tooth has been re-calibrated a bit.
  • I added a little more cinnamon — because cinnamon.
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Macho Men Play with Dollhouses

Macho Men Play with Dollhouses

When it comes to men, what is handsome? I guess it depends on who you ask. Scan the magazine aisle at the store (if you dare) and you would see how society has come to define masculine sex appeal — ripped abs, perfectly-tailored designer suits, and the perfect amount of face stubble.

I would say “handsome” is something I can’t exactly define, but I know it when I see it, and I see it in my husband, David often. (more…)

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My Love Tank is Full

My Love Tank is Full

I’ve never read a Harlequin novel or any book with Fabio on the cover.

I’ve never seen The Notebook. Ladies, I’ll wait until you calm down.

I threw up in my mouth a little when Jerry Maquire said, “You complete me.”

And I absolutely tossed my cookies when she replied, “You had me at, ‘hello.'”

Am I unromantic? I don’t think so. Maybe I just have a different idea of what romance is all about. I love to get flowers as much as the next girl, but when you have a joint checking account and see what they cost, it puts a damper on a it a little. They die. Soon.

I love chocolate, but I also spend about 6 to 8 hours a week at the gym and have based a ministry on wellness, so even chocolate has lost a bit of its luster. And jewelry? Well, it’s pretty, but I’m just so darn practical. I don’t own jewelry of any substantial monetary value — my favorite pieces are sentimentally priceless though.

But I find my husband to be one of the most romantic people on the face of the earth. There are so many little things he does for me that demonstrate that I’m on his mind, like picking up some Crystal Lite lemonade — my daily addiction — from the store when he notices we’re getting low. During the winter months, he always turns on the mattress warmer on my side of the bed about an hour before we turn in because he knows I’m always cold and can’t fall asleep between cold sheets. (Now if that doesn’t put heat in a relationship, what will?)

This morning, I was getting ready for work and in the back of my head, I thought, “I’m going to have to stop and put gas in my car, either on the way to the office or on the way home.”

As usual, I was running a little behind after hitting “snooze” one more time, so stopping on the way wasn’t looking very promising. Oh, the thought of stopping on the way home was horrifying. Traffic, even on my short commute, is congested and trying to get in and out of a gas station when I really just want to get home is not fun. But, cars will not run without gasoline (a theory tested and proven by yours truly in college — twice) so too bad.

I finished getting ready, kissed David goodbye, and ran to the car. As I pulled out and headed to work, I noticed the gas tank indicator, FULL. Guess who had taken my car earlier this morning when he took our daughter to school? And guess who noticed my nearly empty tank? And guess who stopped and filled it up? My sweetie, David.

And a wave of romantic giddiness swept over me, as if I had received a dozen roses in front of everyone in the office.

Love is Kind

David is kind. And he is thoughtful and considerate and romantic in the most meaningful ways.

Young ladies, if you are dating, you might hung up on grand romantic gestures and highly-produced marriage proposal videos that go viral on Youtube. But I encourage you to pay attention to the little things he does for you because it is in those things that he demonstrates his true nature, his character, and his love for you.

And to those of you who have maybe been married a while, you might get frustrated as you see the posts on your friends’ Facebook pages about romantic cruises and gifts of fancy jewelry, but I encourage you to count your blessings.

Love Keeps No Record of Wrong

I’m guilty of “storing up” perceived wrongs and harboring anger for things are really of little consequence, but I’m working on it. Try to let the minor annoyances go — put them out of your mind. Keep no record or wrongs, BUT, I encourage you to absolutely keep a record of the rights.

Seriously, make a list of all the little things your beloved has done for you or does regularly. Make a list of things that you appreciate about him.  Sometimes, when I start to nag him about something that has annoyed me (usually something minor and petty), I stop and mentally review this list. Most of the time, I very quickly come up with about 30 things. That’s enough for me to realize, “This little thing? It probably isn’t worth mentioning. I’ll shut up now.”

Here’s a short list I could make about David, but believe me, I could write volumes.

  • David always speaks gently and kindly, even when I’m being difficult. (He could not say the same thing about me as I struggle with my temper and speak more harshly than I should.)
  • David does little things for me, like filling my gas tank, turning the channel to Jeopardy at 7:30 p.m. and buying Crystal Lite.
  • David loves my extended family and they love him.
  • David is a wonderful father to our daughter (and takes her to school every morning because he knows that parking lot drives me crazy.)
  • When they forget and put a pickle on my plate at the deli (I HATE PICKLES), David grabs it before the juice has time to contaminate the rest of my food.
  • If I so desired, I would probably never have to touch an ice scraper or snow shovel again, so long as David has anything to say about it.
  • David doesn’t put my bras in the dryer, but carefully shapes them and hangs them to dry. (That alone qualifies him for sainthood.)
  • David always puts the seat down (and that never even bothered me!)

I could go on and on, and that’s not even getting into some of the “special” things he does. But by noticing all the little ways he shows love to me, I also love him more.

That is the kind of romance that lasts longer than flowers and is more valuable than diamonds.

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What’s it Worth to You?

What’s it Worth to You?

This morning I visited an inmate I met at the weekly Bible study I do in our county jail. Through the chaplain, she requested a visit and through the chaplaincy program, I am able to come and visit her by means of video communications. While I waited for her to be brought to the designated room — her end of the two-way video conference — I watched the instructional video on the kiosk in the jail lobby. The video provides directions for those who wish to schedule video visitations with inmates. A company called Telmate administers the program. They allow inmates to connect with friends and loved ones via email messages, phone calls, photo sharing, and video visits — for a cost. Regardless of your opinion about whether inmates should have such rights, it got me thinking. What if I had to interact with my friends and loved ones in this manner? (more…)

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