“Which Grandpa is it?” This would seem to be a simple enough question. Through the process of renaming picture files with the names of family members rather than numbers, in hopes of capturing identities lest I forget names, I ran across a picture of a great-great grandfather on my dad’s side of the family. Although fairly certain it was one of my Grandma Lillian’s grandfathers, most likely my great-great grandpa Olsen, her maternal grandfather, I began to second guess myself. I remembered looking at the exact same picture on my Grandma Lillian’s mantel, my grandma commenting on the resemblance my dad had to her Grandpa. Strong brow, straight nose, and even though the picture was in black and white you could tell his light colored eyes were blue. So, I was pretty sure the picture I was looking at was Great-great Grandpa Olsen, not Great-great Grandpa Markussen, her paternal grandfather. To confirm I emailed my dad with the photo attached. “I wish I knew my heritage better and I don’t want to hazard a guess who it is,” was his reply. Dad emailed his sister, Marilynn and we waited for her response.

Great great grandpa Olsen

Several days passed before hearing from Aunt Marilynn. It was in fact my Great-great Grandpa Olsen. My dad’s great-grandparents had all died before he was born, so it was no surprise that he did’t know which great-grandfather was in the picture. But this did cause me to wonder, as morose as it may sound, how close to forgotten are any of us?

As I looked around my house, I saw my dad in almost every room through beautifully crafted furniture, artfully designed bowls, a rocking horse, a doll’s cradle… My mom is known for her beautiful pottery, sculpture, jewelry, and paintings. All of these are tangible, remnants, a connection. I have a few pieces of my grandma Lillian and grandma Dorothy’s jewelry. But even as lovely as each of these things are, it isn’t the things that connect. It is the moments. Collections of moments that span the bridge over time and places, woven–weft and warp–threads that connect, patterns fashioned over the years. A tapestry to be revisited and shared, fingertips retracing the weave. And for me this most often occurs in the kitchen.

The kitchen is the place where stories are shared, where recipes are followed, and in another place and time, some of these very same recipes were once followed by a great-grandmother I never knew, who had travelled across an ocean from Norway as a young bride, another by a great-grandmother in the wilds of Montana. I imagine their hands measuring, mixing, kneading….creating meals and delights for their families with the same love and care that I have for my own. Connected.


Grandma Dorothy’s Oatmeal Cookies

Not your typical crisp or chewy oatmeal cookie, these instead are cake-like in texture, studded with enough dates and raisins to convince yourself they are super healthy! The original recipe called for bacon fat instead of butter. I’ve increased the cinnamon and vanilla by two. Note: this recipe makes 6 + dozen cookies. Once baked, these freeze well–or you can easily half the recipe. We think this recipe originally belonged to my great-grandma Rasmussen. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cream the following in stand mixer until light & fluffy, 3-5 minutes:
1 c sugar
1 c dark brown sugar
1 1/2 c butter

Add one @ a time, scraping down bowl between additions:
4 eggs

2 t vanilla

Mix the following in a medium-sized bowl:

4 c flour
2 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt


1 c buttermilk
Starting and ending w/ the buttermilk, add buttermilk and flour mixture to butter & sugar mixture in three additions.

In medium sized bowl mix:
4 c old fashioned oats
1 c chopped medjool dates
1 c raisins

Add oat mixture gradually to the cookie dough.

Using a 2 T cookie scoop, place dough 2” apart on greased cookie sheet. These do not spread much. Bake @ 375 for 12-15 minutes, until edges are golden brown and tops are no longer moist. Do not over cook.

These cookies become more moist and flavorful the day after baking. Great with a cold glass of milk–these are fantastic dunking cookies!

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