Sunday, November 08, 2009


When I was little, my grandparents home had a grape arbor

in the back yard, surrounded by honeysuckle.

Talk about wonderful smells!

To this day, a whiff of either fragrance instantly conjures up fond memories

and transports me back in time to their ivy covered home on Alden Avenue.

Grandma O'Neil would make the most delicious grape-walnut jam.


It was my very most favorite thing to have for breakfast on toast or biscuits.

Shortly after Grandma died, I was sent to the basement to fetch a jar of it

from the many shelves of canned goods that

she and my mother had made together.

There was only
ONE jar of the grape-walnut jam left.

I cried!

I thought "I'll never get to see her or have this ever again".

The finality of death really hit me hard at that moment

and I will never forget it.

Many, MANY years 20 something years later,

I relayed that story to my elderly father.

He said "Well, why didn't you ask me?
I know how to make it!"

And so we did.


It tasted
exactly as I had remembered it.

I have made it every autumn since then,

in memory of my Grandmother, my Mother & my Father,

who passed away 5 years ago, on the 24th of this month.

I love & miss you, Dad!

These grapes were picked from his arbor. Thanks, Sis!

They are Concord grapes.

They have such a wonderfully sweet, musky smell....

like no other & certainly not

at all like the table grapes you buy in the grocery store!

I use the basic freezer jam recipe

that is on the fruit pectin package by the Ball company,
which is celebrating its 125th Anniversary this year!

My grandmother used them, my mother used them, I use them

and someday I hope Caroline will too!

Granddaughter Caroline does not care for nuts

so I made up 3 jars of jam for her without the walnuts.

The rest will go to family members at Christmas.

I had to try some for myself first though.



"The word tradition comes from the Latin traditionem, acc. of traditio which means "handing over, passing on",

Beliefs or customs taught by one generation to the next."

I hope you can start a tradition and make some memories with your loved ones today.


  1. such a joy to read your blog and to read of your childhood memories-sure you think of the day when you will be making the jam with Caroline. Amazing to me how scents can evoke past memories and people. I teared up when you father said he knew how to make the jelly-can imagine them smiling in heaven.

  2. This entry made me cry, Rett. I am so VERY GLAD that you were able to make the jam WITH your father. I know how you miss him. I miss mine dad terribly, too. Traditions are so important! Your family is so lucky to have you in their lives! Love, Karen

  3. What a loving and touching post. Memories of our parents and grandparents are some of the sweetest memories in the world. Thanks so much for sharing. God Bless. Hugs, Marty

  4. Rett, your story was wonderful! As you well know, my cookie traditions at Christmas are hard to break...but, after your story, I'm delighted at one. Every year, after Thanksgiving my husband and (now grown) daughter have made Spritz cookies together. Sometimes the dough gets tinted purple, sometimes red or blue, and often, green. It's all in the fun! The joy and surprise at the finished product are a much of a delight as watching those two all these years go through the ritual (and mess for me to clean up.) I'm sure someday, she will cherish her memories as much as you cherish yours.

  5. I loved every word. I'm lucky to still have my parents, but there are smells that remind me of my grandparents. I have my grandmother's recipe box. She was a "from scratch" cook, so much of it is scribbles that I can't really make anything from...but, just seeing her handwriting makes me smile.

    The jam sounds wonderful and those little ones are very cute kids.


  6. My grandma made the same jam with the same walnuts though. How great you were able to make it yourself with your dad and now for your family! Oooh, I bet it is so good. I remember it...but it has been years!

  7. Isn't it amazing how a scent can reach deep into your brain and bring about memories so long hidden. I have had similar experiences and they are burned into my brain. Thanks for reminding me of the scent of my grandmother's 4711 eau de cologne she wore every day.

  8. Wow, what beauty you add to your grandchildren by passing on traditions. We have many in our family too and it bonds us each time we are reminded of them!


  9. What a beautiful and sweet story, Rett. Yes... I'm all teary-eyed now as this makes me think about my mother, sister, sister-in-law, niece and I making Italian fig cookies in November of 2008... near my mother's final Christmas. Very special memory!
    Ladybug Creek

  10. Rett,

    Your posting today is so sweet and slightly tearful... I have very fond memories of times with my Grandpa Friend or as we called him Pop Pop. Many that today will still bring a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. Your jelly looks so yummy. Save me one!...
    Dee Dee

  11. Rett, thanks so much for stopping by and cheering me up. My mother always used to say, "This too shall pass." It's so true. But can we speed it up a bit?!? LOL
    Okay... it's Monday, deep breath, stand up straight... I will "march" ahead!! ;-)
    Ladybug Creek

  12. Oh, I got tears in my eyes when you told about going down to get the last jar of jam. It looks delicious! Can you adopt me as a family member - just for Christmas - so I can receive one of these wonderful jars? laurie

  13. Rett...what a wonderful and bittersweet memory. Your grandmother would be soooo proud to see you carrying on this tradition! Beautiful post! Susan

  14. This is such a beautiful post Rett. I love the idea of handing down traditions and making our own traditions too. Does that make sense?!

    Thanks for sharing these memories and the gorgeous photos.

    Best wishes, Natasha.

  15. Rett Your jam sounds wonderful. Every year when I was little my mother wouls make Picalili and grape jelly and they were stored in the attic. I loved going up there to get a new jar and breaking through the wax.. Yummmm !!!

  16. Rett, what a beautiful story. Traditions and memories from our youth are such wonderful treasures. Thanks for sharing about this one.

  17. This is a dear dear post..FWS had your berries..and I clicked..I thank Jain for leading me here for a warm feeling this am:)

  18. Dear Rett,
    It's always a joy to read your posts. What a loving tribute to your father! And what special memories that you have shared today.

    Your words have made me stop to search within. When moving back "home", we gave up many traditions of our own family to join in those of my extended family. Our boys have asked that we spend Christmas like we used to...before we moved back to FL. I have been conflicted over this...but now I understand. Traditions are so important...

  19. Thank you for pointing me to this post, Rett. Grape Jelly with walnuts does sound delicious. The man of the house doesn't appreciate nuts in things, but I could put some in just a few jars, for me and other discerning tasters!


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