An Ode to Grandma

Welll…. this has been a post long in the making.  Now stick with me. I know it’s long… I know it’s a little deep and sad but I promise, we’re going to come out of this tunnel and you’re going to be glad you read through to the end. I’m taking a dramatically different turn from weddings and writing about something that I’ve had on my mind and heart for a while now.

As many of the people close to me know, one of the most important women in my life passed away August of last year.  It wasn’t that my family didn’t know it was coming, as she had been diagnosed with a fairly aggressive form of breast cancer.  Being a Pizor (who are known for their mule like stubbornness), she exceeded the doctors expectations ten fold and shared her laughter, love, and encouragement with us triple the time that had been given to her.  Grams is the one who gave me a love of cooking, much of my artistic talent, along with an appreciation for family and friends above all else.

Grandpa and Grandma shortly after they got married and grandma’s high school portrait.

The last few years as a photographer, I’ve tried to document the time I’ve had with her as much as I could.  From every day things, when we visited, to our last holidays and birthdays together, I’ve been snapping away, hoping to have some visual memories to hold near and dear to my heart.  My husband and I moved up our wedding day so she could see one of her grandkids marry.  Even though at that point, she was near the end of her life, grams champed through, beaming the whole time.  

Our last family Christmas at Grandma’s House. 

The last family trip to Washington, DC.  Grandma’s pick to share her love of America and patriotism with all of us and all the ladies at my bachelorette party. 

All the fun Pizor Yoder Christmas traditions.  The last time the whole family is together. 

Our wedding with the grandparents and me with grandma taken by the fantastic Heather over at Dreaming Tree Studios

Honestly, if she knew I was writing this… and giving her all this credit, she’d wave it off with a smile and a hug.  Grams was never one who liked being in the spotlight regardless of her many achievements, the lives she touched, and the countless people’s days she made.  Whether you were getting a ‘Dodi Pizor’ dinner delivered when you were sick, reading a handwritten card in the mail, or helping her run a Special Olympics event, she truly touched so many people’s lives.  

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Gram’s at David’s surprise party with my Uncle David and my sister Kate.

One that many people don’t know about would be Penn State’s THON.  My grams, who was a huge advocate for people with special needs (because of my uncle, David, who I have written about before), helped implement what is known as THON today.  Gram’s family and childhood friend, Dr. Lear, asked how he could help with David and the many special needs things grandma was running.  Soon after friends, family, and students (including my mom and uncle) piled in some buses and vans and headed down to dance and raise money all night. Thus creating what is known as THON today.  No joke, she was a pretty amazing, awe-inspiring hell of human being and the world is a sadder place without her in it.

Gram’s teaching all her techniques on the whole Yoder clan’s last Thanksgiving together. 

Now… onwards to some more happy thoughts!  From the first memories I have of grams, she was cooking.  I would sit up on the countertop and just watch in wonder as she’d whip up dish after dish.  She’d always include all of her grandkids, teaching them the art of ‘a little bit of this.. and a little bit of that’ cooking.  Not only was love in every recipe, but half the time… there wasn’t any recipe at all!  “You just keep adding until it tastes good,” she’d say.

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One of gram’s last birthday’s with her favorite cake mom made. 

Much of my childhood was spent helping mix cookie dough, chop ingredients, and figuring out her cooking style.  On most occasions, she’d pull out her mother’s handwritten cookbook or one of the mountains of recipe cards she stockpiled from her many friends. “They were a good base,” as she’d put it, “you can always add ingredients later.” 

This all helped transform me to where I am today.  If you didn’t know, when I’m not photographing weddings, families, or babies… I’m photographing and styling food for Ahold USA.  It’s my normal 8-5, Monday through Friday gig.  I’m a creative corporate warrior (yes, I know the irony there) and truthfully I don’t think I’d even be close to where I am today if it wasn’t for this incredible lady.

One of my favorite photos ever of grandma when she was posing for my portraiture class and her smiling for the camera at Thanksgiving.

Upon her passing, grams had asked that I get her mother’s cookbook, one of the cookbooks she had helped author, along with a few binders and boxes full of recipe cards. It’s like a treasure trove of everything grandma loved to cook, bake, or had enjoyed eating. All of these have little ‘grandma notes‘ in the seams or quantities scratched out and replaced with something she’d found more favorable. Various recipes she’d collected over the years… a party hors d’oeuvres she’d had on New Years or a cake recipe from an Aunt’s dinner.. why not?

So I’ve decided to honor grams and all these recipes.  Share them… share them with your family… share them with the world, if you will.  Whether it’s something grams cooked for me growing up, or a recipe from the 50s, I’m going to make it, photograph it, and publish it on this blog.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t help but share these.  Gram’s fed anyone and everyone she ever met.  Sharing food, conversation, and laughter was kind of her thing.  By cooking these recipes, photographing them, and sharing them with you, I feel that it’s the best way for me to honor her.  I can only hope that all of you can enjoy some of grams favorite recipes, spend time cooking them with your families, and begin to add your own notes and scribbles to the sidebars.  She’d smile at that.  So without further ado, a little of my family to yours.  This one’s for you grandma.

With the Super Bowl in mind, here’s a quick and easy recipe for all those ‘unannounced guests.’ In grandma fashion, she could whip up anything and everything for anyone who stopped by.  You never left gram’s hungry.

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Quick Cheese Ball for Crackers (or veggies): 

  • 2 large pkgs Philadelphia Cream Cheese
  • 1 teaspoon of horseradish (or more if you like some zing)
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • Onion and garlic salt to taste (I used onion powder and garlic salt)
  • Optional: About 4 T of chopped green onions – in typical gram’s fashion I added these and tweaked the recipe instead of putting them on the outside.
  • 1/2 cup of pecans

Mix together all the ingredients well, except the pecans. Put chopped pecans in a bowl and set next to cheese mixture. Coat hands in a little oil (to avoid sticking) and create a ball.  Roll ball in bowl of nuts and VOILA.  Quick and easy cheese ball.  Serve with veggies, crackers or chips and enjoy!

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Now, I’m going to try and post at least one recipe a week.  So stay tuned for more!  I’m actually pretty excited about this project.  It’ll be good to have a little grandma cooking reminder every week.  Until then!  – Alysha

*Special thanks to Heather at Dreaming Tree Studios for the awesome wedding photos! 

 Alysha Yoder Photography (b) www.alyshayoderphotoblog.com

(w) www.alyshayoderphoto.com (e) alyshayoderphoto@yahoo.com (p) 610.762.7810

 

 

 

8 Comments on “An Ode to Grandma

  1. A beautiful tribute to your grandmother, Alysha! I know she is so very proud of you! I, truly, am looking forward to the recipes being shared with all of us who tasted many of her specialties over the years. Thank you for sharing in this way, dear Alysha.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow well done your Uncle Mike is proud of you and grandma was very special dear lady. Great honor in memory and know she would also be proud of you! So great full watch you in lady you have become thanks for sharing sending my love to you from Rockies !

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alysha, what a beautiful tribute to your grandmother. I look forward to seeing your posts from her recipe collection, she certainly had tons!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I really enjoyed your comments about such a special lady. We were neighbors and I knew her over 40 years but had never heard of her involvement in Penn State’s Thon. My daughter, who is an alumni, will be surprised.

    Liked by 1 person

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