One of the difficult things about getting older is the number of friends and family that we begin to lose. Last week our dear cousin Marlene died after a brief illness. She was a stunningly beautiful blonde of a certain age (as the French say) who was a talented artist, fabulous cook, devoted wife and so much more. Her genealogy research had expanded to include over a thousand family members and she had recently completed all the documentation necessary to prove that she was descended from John Alden. She had just been accepted as a member of the Mayflower Society.

Marlene and her husband, my cousin, lived in Jackson Michigan but her heart belonged in New England where her ancestors had lived. They made yearly pilgrimages to Massachusetts researching family and enjoying Crane Beach, Rockport, Exeter, New Hampshire and Cape Cod.

Marlene was happiest when entertaining with beautiful china and flower arrangements and sparkling crystal. When we visited even breakfast was served in style. She was known as an excellent cook but it was her pies that made her famous in her part of the world. She thought nothing of baking five or ten pies for a party so that each guest would have their favorite.

Marlene is one of a growing number of friends and family who have gone from our lives in the past few years. It is inevitable but sad and brings up my own feelings about mortality. I’m determined to live each day to the fullest. I think sometimes of my friend of the 1970s, Charlotte Martin, who was in her eighties. She said that she was so grateful for her young friends since all her contemporaries were gone. I’m fortunate that I not only have young friends but also grandchildren.

A couple of Marlene’s recipes:

Marlene’s Chocolate Trifle

1 package of Fudge Brownie Mix (or your own brownie recipe)

¼ cup of praline or coffee liqueur

1 can of chocolate pudding (or your own recipe)

8 Heath Bars

1 cup heavy cream

1. Bake brownies in a 9×13-inch pan. When done prick the top with a fork at one-inch intervals and pour the liqueur over the top. Set aside to cool completely.

2. When the brownies are cool, crumble and put half into a trifle bowl.

3. Spread ½ the chocolate pudding on top.

4. Break the candy bars (pounding them with a rolling pin works well) and put half of them over the pudding.

5. Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Spread ½ over the candy layer.

6. Repeat layers ending with whipped cream.

Chill at least 8 hours. It can also be frozen.

Marlene’s recipe calls for mixes but I always make my own. I add nuts along with the candy bars, she crushes peppermint candy to garnish the top. Any way, it is rich and delicious.

Marlene’s Oriental Salad

½ head Napa cabbage

½ head Bok Choy

Some romaine

2 packages Ramen noodles (Do not use the seasoning packets)

8 ounces slivered almonds

1 ounce sesame seeds

1 stick butter

1 bunch of green onions, chopped fine

1. Lightly brown almonds in a frying pan.

2. Melt butter in another pan and brown crumbled noodles. Remove from heat and add almonds and seeds. Set aside to cool.

Prepare greens and onions. Just before serving, toss all together with the cooled dressing.

Dressing:

¾ cup virgin olive oil

¼ cup vinegar

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

In sauce pan combine all ingredients. Boil one minute then cool.