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Happy Birthday, Dad! -recipe included!

March 8
My dad would have been 95 this year!  

Last month I made a couple of my dad's banana tea loaves. I made one the way my dad would have made it and then to the other, I added chocolate chips, walnuts and coconut, which changed it up quite a bit.  Both were delicious.  I have half of the one that is my dad's version in the freezer, so I'll take that out and toast a few slices later.  Perhaps I will put a candle in and sing happy birthday.  

I've made a point of wearing my Dad's Grand Rapids Rhino's hoodie all this week.  On Wednesday I went to see Rickie Lee Jones.  She was playing in the neighborhood, and I just walked over, wearing the hoodie, a hat.  a skirt and clunky snow boots, though our snow is long gone. David doesn't really know Rickie Lee Jones, so I just went solo.

It was really a nice concert and I'm glad I went.  It wasn't long but she played a lot of her classic songs, covered David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel: and Van Morrison's "Slim Slow Slider", which she then rolled into one of her own songs.  She was warm and funny and played the guitar and the piano, and her voice is incredible.  I realized that my dad had actually been with me to the Barrymore before.  Both my parents may have been visiting, but it was just my dad who accompanied me (and Kazuya?) to see Liz Phair there.  "Exile in Guyville" (which remains an excellent album) had been out for a while and it was a time when it was thought that women couldn't play guitars.  As Liz Phair came onto the stage, a male fan yelled out "Take it off!" and pretty much the whole show went bad from that point on.  Liz was obviously angry and the set was very short as I think she just wanted to leave.  My dad thought she was horrible and it seemed to bolster the argument of the time that women couldn't play guitar. So, I was disappointed in both my dad and Liz Phair.  It was a different time.  There are so many more women making incredible music, many of them influenced by her.

Then on Thursday, I was tired from work and put on the hoodie again and curled up for a nap with the pups on the couch.

This morning I awoke early and, though it was raining, I pulled the hoodie over my head and then a raincoat and went out and spent a couple hours working on cleaning up the front garden for spring. I did sing my dad happy birthday.  I'm not sure that my dad would have enjoyed gardening in the rain, but I surely did!  So, now my dad's hoodie is very damp and waiting downstairs to be washed free of dirt and wet leaves and pieces of plants.

I've included my dad's recipe for banana tea loaf below, in case anyone wants to try their hand at making it.  My favorite way to eat it is sliced and toasted so it is slightly brown on the edges and then buttered.   

I miss you, dad!

love, kirsten


Sift together into a mixing bowl:
   -flour, 1 3/4 cup, sifted
   -baking soda, 3/4 t
   -cream of tartar, 1 1/4 t
   -salt, 1/2 t
Place in a blender container
   -eggs, 2
   -fat, 1/2 cup, soft (Crisco)
   -ripe bananas, 2, sliced
   -sugar, 3/4 cup

Cover and blend until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Pour blended mixture over dry sifted ingredients; mix gently just to combine.  Pour into greased loaf pan, 8 x 4 inches.  Bake in moderate oven, 350, until golden, about 45 minutes.  Makes one loaf.

Cream of Wheat

July 1, 2023
A few weeks ago I bought an organic version of Cream of Wheat and this week I ended up making it one morning.   My father was the one in charge of hot breakfast cereals in my family. 

Who knew that there was an art to making cream of wheat?  I suspect I was supposed to pour it in slowly and not dump it all in at once.  I did use a whisk for the three minutes of cooking, but there were some definite lumps.  I think I remember that we children complained about lumps.  I hadn't remembered how thick it is either. 

Anyway, I lumped some over a handful of frozen blueberries.  Added cinnamon.  Grated ginger.  poured in some Michigan maple syrup courtesy of my cousin Jessica. added soy milk. sliced strawberries. added a handful of pumpkin seeds/sliced almonds/pecans that had been toasted in the microwave for a minute.  This is rather a recipe. Try it!  I bet my dad (perhaps not as much my mom, as I don't remember her liking cream of wheat so much) would have liked it.  :)  

My Dad's birthday this year

March 12, 2023
I knew that my father's birthday was approaching, but wasn't really thinking of it when I baked two citrus desserts last weekend.  The first was a lime blueberry coffee cake with a pecan streusel topping and the second was a French pound cake which I ended up making my own lemon marmalade to coat the top with.   This week I wore my Dad's Grand Rapids Rhinos hoodie a lot.  Even wore it when I put together some garden fence panels that I have been working on building over the winter.  I am thinking that my dad might not have enjoyed that project so much.  In any case, I did sing my dad happy birthday on his birthday and thought of him a lot, and thought about how fortunate I was to have him as a father.

Día de Muertos in October/November 2022

November 6, 2022
This year a group of my co-workers sent out a wonderful summary of Mexico's Day of the Dead holiday and invited all to contribute photos to an ofrenda that they had created.

I can't even begin to tell you how honored and pleased both of my parents would have been to know that they were included in this ofrenda.  Soon after finishing college (and before meeting my father), my mom spent a summer staying with a host family in Mexico City and studying Spanish at the National University.  My father was always so impressed with my mom, her ability to converse in Spanish, her sense of adventure, her energy, and shared with her that same love of travel.

Throughout her life my mom cherished her memories of living in Mexico City and stayed in touch with her host family. My parents visited Mexico and other countries in Central and South America and my mom's Spanish made it possible for them to converse openly with people and brought them a lot of joy.  I think my father would have beamed to see this photo of my mom and himself on this ofrenda.
April 12, 2022
Kirsten, I LOVE being reminded every year of your dad--AND your mom!  They were such a dynamic duo!  We all can learn from their interest in everything around them!
And I am imagining the lemon cake!
Much love!  Sue and Gene

miss you, dad!

April 11, 2022
and today marks five years since my dad's passing.   I made a lemon cake last Thursday that my dad would have loved.   Thankful to have shared other lemon (and lime!) cakes with him, but sure wish I could have shared this one too.  

Happy Birthday Dad

March 7, 2022
I am not at all sure how winter goes in Manistee this year, but I imagine it is about time for the big ships to start making their way up the river again.  My parents were always excited when the first one appeared after the long winter.  Last night we got about four inches of snow here, but it is warm out and much of it has melted.  It doesn't seem like we had much of a winter with mainly just some rain and sleet and only a few days of snow.  But, still my Dad's birthday fell at this time of the year when the seasons are changing. I've been wearing my dad's old Grand Rapids Rhinos hoodie a lot over the past eight months.  It is comfortable and reminds me of him. tonight I'm listening to a BNY's album "Everything" and the Kumo and Koi are curled up on a dog bed together and Ren is up on the couch with me.  I think my dad would have liked Ren and thought he was funny.  He is strong but very elastic.  He can jump over the other dogs in a single bound.  Like a super hero dog.  or something.  I found a cookbook at the library full of elaborate pies.  Sometime this month I hope to make a pecan pie which is covered on the top by a mosaic swirl of pecans and pumpkin seeds.  I am betting my dad would have liked it.  With a dollop of vanilla ice cream on the top.  A cup of decaf coffee.   I miss you, Dad. Happy Birthday.   

love, kirsten


July 4, 2021
Father's Day came and then was over and brought memories of sometimes making the trip to Manistee to spend a long weekend with my dad.  Memories of Manistee and my wonderful dad.  About this time I would be making plans to come visit.  Miss you so very much.

Happy Birthday Dad!

March 8, 2021
Another year has passed and my dad would have been 92 this year.   I sang happy birthday to him as i logged into my computer for work this morning.  That made me miss him even more. March 8 seems like a generally good day for a birthday as last year's March 8 was beautiful and today the sun was shining and the temps were up in the fifties and everything is melting and I think all the snow has now vanished from my front yard.  It was warm enough that I sat on the back porch with the dogs and ate my lunch there in the sun.  A true celebration of my dad's birthday would have best been marked with a nice piece of lemon cake or pie.  Maybe next year I will make that happen. This year the pups and I had some organic mint chocolate chip ice cream, and I don't remember this being one of his favorite flavors.   Another inspirational goal for next year to celebrate my dad (and mom's too!) birthday with appropriate flavors of cake and ice cream!  Next year, I will do better.  I love you dad!

Happy Birthday Dad!

March 8, 2020
It is supposed to be over 60 degrees today in Madison.  It seems a little early to have winter over, but we'll see if it really is.  All the bulbs are starting to burst forth from the ground.  If my parents were still alive I could imagine them telling me about a ship making it's way up the Manistee River for the first time in 2020.  Perhaps I would have journeyed to Manistee with a lemon filled cake to celebrate the day with my dad.  I feel very lucky to have been the daughter of Loren Henry Houtman.

Marie, Phil and David Huizenga (Marie is my father's cousin) sent me a container of Koeze cashews for the holidays.  The company was founded in 1910, and was surely a well-established business in Grand Rapids by the time my father was born in 1929.   The city was growing and had a population of close to 170,000.  So, I envision my father, sitting on a stoop with his older sister Marilyn, each dipping their hands into their own wax-paper bag of warm, freshly-roasted Koeze cashews.  Happy Birthday, Dad!  I love you!

remembering my dad

April 11, 2019

Today marks two years without my father in my life.  We've had a few days of cold with snow and rain and now thunderstorms as I write this.  And, before that were a few days of warmth and this last weekend I removed the pine needles from around the small fruit trees in the backyard and I could see buds on most of the trees.  There are thirteen total currently.

It is blustery, cold and rainy out and David and I went out for pizza tonight.  We went to Greenbush, which is in an old neighborhood in Madison, which has a history of being a home for many immigrants.  My parents would have loved this place and it would have reminded them of the places that they went for pizza when they were dating-and which they took us too as young children.  David and I sat at the bar and shared 3/4 of an artichoke heart, banana pepper, goat cheese, kalamata olive pizza and a rootbeer.  My parents probably would have ordered their own pizza with pepperoni, anchovies, mushrooms and black olives had they been along.  I miss you dad.  

A filling in of photos and of a life

February 24, 2019

My Dad's birthday is next month and because an agreement has been reached to sell the condo I am finding myself missing both my parents especially much today.  My mother died on June 12th of 2018, only about 14 months after my father died.  She missed him so much.  Hard to imagine the loneliness after one's partner of sixty plus years is gone.   Today the wind is blowing in Wisconsin and it is cold and we'll spiral into another prolonged cold period this week.   Last month I drove to Indiana and Michigan to add another family member to our pack.  It seems fitting that Kumo and I ended up adopting a dog from Muskegon, MI.  Fittingly spaced between Benton Harbor/St Joe, Grand Rapids/Lansing and Manistee.  She is probably only about 18 months old but is doing well, though at times she has gotten into things and chewed things apart that I would prefer that she hadn't (the corner of a box, a blanket, a pile of correspondence related to my parents, a box of dog biscuits on the kitchen table.) But, she is joyful, smart and fun to have around and I am sure my parents would have both liked her well, though I do remember that Ban-cha once got in a lot of trouble for chewing up a flag pole holder that she found on the floor.   The new dog is named Koi, which means both "carp"and "love" in Japanese.  I now have more fruit trees planted outside in honor of my father and David's company helped take down my mulberry tree last year so there is more light for everything and the main tree remaining in the yard is a huge white pine that is currently being blown around by gusts of wind that remind me of those that often come off of Lake Michigan and I always loved how warm and secure it was in the condo.   Just a cycle of life I understand, but nonetheless, I miss my parents.   My plan for the day unexpectedly detoured into adding more photos here to this site.  My mom had a lot more pictures from her childhood and when she died, I also spent even more time going through photos, so there are both photos from her site that should have also been on my father's site that I have added, but there are also new ones of my dad's earlier years.  I have included some additional ones of his sister Marilyn, who I often think would have probably had a huge impact on my life had she not died when I was 10 years old. I fondly remember a couple of weeks where we met Marilyn Minich at the Machine Shed outside of Chicago and had lunch before parting ways with my parents.  I remember the joy of riding in Marilyn's light blue Cadillac as she would toss her coins in the toll boxes and blow through the lights before they turned green, making a siren sound off.  Then there would be a week of staying with her and her husband Bill and their two dogs, Sukie and Sheba in Mequon, WI.  She was an artist and would make clothes for my dolls.  She was strict but kind and she obviously loved my father very much, just as I did.   I think I have succeeded in providing a somewhat fuller version of my father's life with the addition of more photos.    

From Manistee ...

January 22, 2019

Go GREEN, Loren!!  I'll always remember the smiles of Loren and Lyn.  Always bright and sincere.  Such an inspiring couple.  

On the anniversary of my dad's birthday...

March 10, 2018
This past Thursday would have been my dad's 89th birthday.  I talked with my mom on the phone and suggested that we go ahead and sing happy birthday to him.  It was actually rather fun, and I think he would have appreciated it, but it also made my mom sadder for a little bit I think.  That wasn't what I had intended.  Still, my mom and I had had a conversation earlier in the week and I said something and it occurred to me that my dad would have laughed outloud at the comment I had made.  When I pointed it out to my mom, she agreed and laughed as well.  My dad liked citrus, particularly lime and lemon.  He would usually have a white cake with lemon or lime filling.  If anyone has a dessert with lemon or lime in it in the next few weeks, maybe you can think of my dad and remember that they were favorites of his. 

Here in Wisconsin things are starting to thaw a bit.  It probably won't hold, but I am looking forward to seeing how the new fruit trees planted in memory of my dad, weathered their first winter.  Happy birthday in memory of my father. 

August 2017

August 27, 2017

I went to visit my mom earlier this month and stayed in the cottage.  The pears there were not quite ripe but before I left I placed about 100 of them into brown paper bags, shared some with my mother and brought the rest back to Madison with me.  

My father loved the pears from this tree.  They are wonderful and sweet  and juicy. This weekend I used them to make a pear and ginger crumble.  It is delicious and I am sure that my father would have enjoyed it.   It is doubly meaningul to think that my father was alive when these pears started growing.  

During the week before I used the ripe bananas my mother sent me home with to make my father's infamous banana tealoaf.  I added walnuts to his recipe.  

I guess I take after both my parents in that I like desserts.  So, I raise a piece of banana tealoaf, toasted and with butter melted on top, as well as a piece of pear ginger crumble with vanilla whipped cream on it to the memory of my father and also in appreciation of my mother.  And send them both love.

Remembering my father on Memorial Day

May 29, 2017

It has been a beautiful day in Madison today.  We had a few thunderstorms late, but the day has mostly been full of blue skies, white fluffy clouds and a cool breeze.  My dad would have enjoyed today.

When I was young, and we lived in Berea, Ohio, my father used to cut my hair.  He'd bring out a square white-covered low stool and I'd sit on the stool and he'd cover me up with a towel and cut my hair.  Always the same kind of cut.  Straight bangs cut short on my forhead and the rest of my hair cut short.  White blonde hair all over the grass.

I was my father's companion for getting the perfect Christmas tree.  This lasted for a long time, through college and beyond.   We'd drive out to a farm and together, my dad and I would choose a tree, cut it down and bring it home.  My dad's official job would end once the tree was up in its stand.  Then my mom and often, I, would decorate it.

Once, when I was a teen, my dad picked me up at the house to go somewhere. Soon after I got into the car, he wrinkled up his nose and asked "What is that AWFUL smell?"  Being a typical teenager, I shugged my shoulders and ignored the question,  so he asked it again, and I squirmed a little, and then said, with some uncertainty, "Gee Your Hair Smells Teriffic?"  My dad let out a loud laugh and said "What?"  And I hesitated and said, with a bit more conviction, "Gee, Your Hair Smells Teriffic...It is my new shampoo".  He looked at me incredulously and replied, with some humor, "Well, it smells terrible..."  

Memorial Day and spring has really arrived in Wisconisin and all of the fruit trees are now branched out.  pear pear apple apricot.  ppaa.

May update

May 21, 2017

It has been a cold and rainy spring in Wisconsin.  This weekend it finally looks as if all of the trees in the orchard I planted in memory of my dad are going to make it. The apricot and the seckle pear are doing the best and have large green leafs out on mulitple branches.  The bartlet also has a couple of branches with a few leaves and the apple is finally starting to have buds coming out of its trunk which will I imagine form branches.  

Father's Day is coming up and it is disconcerting that I no longer have a father to celebrate this holiday with.  However, what I do have is a lot of wonderful memories of a most excellent father who I was lucky to have in my life for so long. 

the day after my father died

May 9, 2017

I had been reading a book about growing small fruit trees prior to my father's death.  The day after my father died I went with someone very dear to me and picked up four bare root fruit trees to plant in the backyard.  I chose an apple.  an apricot.  a bartlett pear.  a seckle pear.  In order to keep the trees very small, in order to have room for them in my small back yard, I bought dwarf trees and prior to planting I cut off their tops in a dramatic exercise of brave pruning.  My father loved apricots.  And we always had apples at the house when I was young because bushels of apples came with us always when we visited Rocky Gap Road in fall.  And, my father loved the pear tree that is at the Manistee cottage and always spoke about how the pears from it were the most delicious he had ever tasted.  So, I am hopeful that in the backyard as a memorial to my father, I will have a small orchard to remember my father by. 

some thoughts on my dad

April 18, 2017

It has been a week now since my father died.  I had intentions to write a long piece describing some of my memories, but I have struggled with it, just as I find myself struggling with his death.  I find myself exhausted at the end of each day.  So, I'll just start adding some of my memories as they come to me.
The day after my father died last week, I made steel-cut oats with cranberries on the stove.  I added blueberries and bananas I had fried up in butter and brown sugar and I toasted nuts for the top and I stirred in maple syrup, some milk and some cream and I remembered how my father was the one who would make hot breakfast cereals in our childhood home.  The Quaker oatmeal in the cylindrical cardboard container with the cardboard lid.  The Cream-of-Wheat in a box.  My father also made omlettes.  Waffles.  Banana tealoaf.  When I came to visit he would make scrambled eggs as he knew they were my favorite.  He would get up early and have everything ready to go by the time everyone was up.  A favorite breakfast then of mine would be scrambled eggs and banana tealoaf with my father.  On the day after my father's death I thought of him as I ate my bowl of oatmeal and missed him.

April 17, 2017

Since I am 15 years younger than Loren, I only remember him as one of my "big cousins".  We did not see him often as he was in the Navy and then working away from Grand Rapids.  But we were all so proud of him!  And we loved Lyn!

It was delightful to reconnect with both Loren and Lyn when they moved up to Manistee and we had several wonderful visits with them, again talking memories as well as philosophy!  Gene and Loren shared their loyalty to the ideas of John Dewey and could talk for hours on the subject.

So our thoughts are with you all--Lyn, Jeff, Kirsten, Gordon, Oryza, and little Marylin--as you continue to remember all that he meant to you!

Hugs from Gene and Sue   

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