Retro Recipe and Reminiscence

On a random Thursday night this past December, I wondered if we could possibly experience a touch of Christmas morning joy–the kind you feel as a child. Mother had an impromptu pre-Christmas dinner. Only five of us could make it–my sister Jennifer, my niece Libby, Mother and her husband Gene, and me.

We had oyster stew and chocolate fudge. Mother makes the best fudge. She’s been making it since we were little.

After we ate, we played beauty parlor, and Mother braided Libby’s hair. Libby looks so much like my sister, I pretended it was 40 years ago .


And then Mother said, “I got y’all a little something to open. Don’t get too excited. It’s not much.”

Beautiful socks!

We gathered in a tight knot, shoulders touching, and took pictures of our hands. I have no idea why. Sometimes mothers and daughters and sisters do the silliest things. 🙂

I’ll never forget what happened next. It’s as if the Lord Himself tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Pay attention.”

This is the second picture of our hands. When Mother saw the first one she said, “My hands look terrible, like chicken claws.” She hid her swollen thumb joints. She has rheumatoid arthritis.

But I hadn’t noticed her joints.

Instead, I saw the circle of our lives and love.

I thought about time passing–went back to my childhood.

To Mother’s creativity–her hands. How her fingers flew over her typewriter. Back then, she painted. I could see her doodling on sketch pads and setting the supper table pretty each night. I remembered how fast she could fold a stack of towels, change a baby’s diapers, and make a pitcher of tea.

All grown up now, I hadn’t expected that under-the-Christmas-tree feeling to find me.

What brought it?

I know it began with gratitude.

Could I reproduce it?

The meal was simple. Mother’s fudge recipe hadn’t changed in 50 years.

Maybe joy-moments can’t be orchestrated, but that doesn’t mean we don’t watch for them.

Anticipate them.

Welcome them.

They’re unexpected gifts from God.

Mother’s Fudge–Gluten-free if you use GF vanilla

This recipe is easier is more predictable with a candy thermometer, but Mother doesn’t use one.

3 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups milk

2/3 cup cocoa

dash of salt

1/2 stick butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 heaping cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Butter an 8 or 9 inch square pan.

Using a heavy 6-quart pot and a wooden spoon, stir everything except butter, vanilla, and nuts on medium heat. Keep stirring until it comes to a full boil.

Then stop stirring but let the mixture continue boiling until it comes to 234 degrees on a candy thermometer, which is a “soft ball” stage.

(If you aren’t using a thermometer, begin doing the “soft ball” test after about 10 minutes of boiling. To perform soft ball test: put a few drops of the mixture into a cup of cold water. When fudge is finished cooking, it will form a soft ball in the water. If you touch the fudge in the water, it will feel formed. It won’t fall apart in the water. Your test ball will flatten when you remove it from the water.)

At the “soft ball” stage, remove fudge from heat.

Add butter and vanilla but don’t stir.

Let fudge sit and cool until it reaches 110 degrees, lukewarm. (If you aren’t using a candy thermometer, this can take about 2 – 1/2 hours.)

Beat fudge until it starts to looks less glossy and gets thicker–usually about 7 minutes.

Then quickly add nuts and pour into buttered pan. Let it cool before cutting.

Slice into small pieces. The fudge can be frozen and makes wonderful Christmas gifts.





  1. anna haney says:

    I am bawling. Perhaps it is a hormonal response. Maybe the stressful workday ahead is the trigger. Or your momma’s gnarled hands, like my mother’s were 30 years ago. But I know that it is the love of Jesus that is bringing this on. Knowing how much He loves us all and how His gift has made us all sisters. Thank you, blessed Julie, for this much needed start to Wednesday

    • You tears are so precious to Him, Anna. I just know they are. Mother always tells me about that Scripture where He saves our tears in a jar.

      Hugging you from Georgia.

  2. Oh! I ♥ the picture of you all under that beautiful Christmas tree!
    Unfortunately, we haven’t done a pic like that in years! This year I did have a chance to be with my folks & my brother a couple times; but with a sis & her family in Vegas, and my other sister 13 time zones apart… kinda hard to get together. 🙁
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful story, Julie. Have a heart-warming week! (’cause I know you guys are still a little chilly…)

    • Hey Melody, you wouldn’t be our weather! This morning at the porch party, we were at 32, and it really felt nice.

      Thank you so much for letting me know you’re reading. So sorry you haven’t been able to see your sisters lately….:(

      All my love.

  3. Patricia Martin says:

    Julie, How wonderful to have three generations of love all together! Those socks remind me of a family- warm and secure with lots of color, love, and security. My grandma who lives with us suffers from arthritis and every time I see her hands they remind of all years she has been there for our family.(; Your mom’s fudge looks so tasty I almost licked my screen! Please keep my parents and our family in your prayers as my Dad lost his Mom on Jan. 5. Please pray for wisdom and peace for both my parents. Blessings to you and your loved ones.

    • Hey Patricia,

      You MUST try her fudge recipe. My sis makes it too, but mine never turns out. 🙁

      Okay, I’m praying for your family. So sorry about your grandmother.

  4. oh my…all of a sudden big tears welled. Beutiful.

    • Thank you for letting me know, Farmer’s Wife. So nice to “meet” you. I knew right away, I wanted to follow you on Twitter. Love what you do!! xoxo

  5. Beautiful.

  6. I know hands like your mom’s. My hands have big, worm-looking veins that criss-cross across the top of them. They are the exact hands of my dad. And so I treasure them because when I look at my own hands, I see my dad. May your mom see beyond, like you did, the gnarled thumbs or joints that are swollen. I, too, know those hands well because they are my mother’s. She had rheumatoid arthritis and had all of her finger joints replaced when she was in her late 30’s. Her hands curled up anyway, and were like claws. It was her horror to show her hands in pictures, but what I remember the most was the love that came through those hands as she cupped them around my face and kissed me on the cheek. Her hands didn’t matter. Not then, not now in memory. And like many others who have commented, this has brought on tears. Hands are like trees. They show age the most, but that’s what makes them the most treasured of all to me.

    • Tearing up, B.J. This is exquisite. Absolutely beautiful.

      I always notice people’s hands. I’ve only felt love when I see my mother’s.

      I ADORE “Hands are like trees. They show age the most, but that’s what makes them the most treasured of all to me.”

      Just beautiful, my friend. Like you.

  7. Kathy Richardson says:

    Hi Julie, oh what a fun time you must have had with your mom, sister, and niece! Sure wish my mom was still here. Keeping close family contact is the best. I read your mom too in Daily Guideposts. Bless all of you and Happy New Year!

    • Hey Kathy,

      We did have fun! And we didn’t talk about anything all that important. Just laughed and acted silly, rolled around in the floor like puppies.
      Hugs to you and yours this cold day in GA!

  8. My mama’s hands had arthritis too, her fingers swollen at the knuckles and twisted. I miss those hands so much. Mama’s love language was acts of service, so she loved me through the many loaves of bread she baked, the clothes she laundered and droned, the dresses she sewed, the wonderful meals she cooked.

    • Elizabeth, that’s EXACTLY what I’m talking about. It was like God said, “You won’t always have her hands. Pay attention to this moment.”

      Ohhhh, service for a love language. Isn’t that wonderful? I bet you can smell a loaf of bread baking and go back in your mind….She sewed?! We don’t sew. I grew up wanting to type as fast as my mother. She’s also a writer.

      XOXOXO Coffee soon? 🙂 🙂

  9. Sandra Walker says:

    Such a beautiful post in so many ways! So precious the picture of the hands. Can’t express all I’m feeling and thinking about this post.


  1. […] me with homemade fudge. She and my sister Jennifer made The Best Fudge. (Here’s their recipe. It’s […]

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