Memories of my Mother

My 21st birthday with my mother in San Francisco.

For those of you who don’t know, my mother died on September 21, 2016, after a hard fought and lengthy battle with COPD, which led to a host of other health issues. She was 89 years old, and led a good, long life, but not an easy one. She was a young girl in war-torn Germany, and spent many a night in the basement of her apartment building, which acted as a bomb shelter. She refused to spend any time in basement “family rooms” as an adult. To her, basements were a place where you went to hide.

My mom immigrated to Nottingham, England, shortly after the war, where she learned English, worked in a factory, and met my father at a dance. She eventually followed him to Toronto, Canada, where I was born three years later. She never did get used to the winters — or the hot, humid summers. But she continued to hone her English skills by reading to me every night. I remember that Heidi was a favorite, and later, Trixie Belden. By the time I’d advanced to Nancy Drew, she’d discovered her own passion for books…and she passed that passion on to me.

When my father died at the age of 42 (stomach cancer, dead 12 weeks from date of diagnosis), my mom  was ill-prepared to deal with grief and a hormonal, defiant 14-year-old teenager. To say that there were plenty of rocky roads ahead for the two of us would be an understatement, but at the end of the day, we both did our best.

One of my favorite memories is my 21st birthday. My mom didn’t have a dime to spare — she’d managed to go from stay-at-home mom/part-time sales clerk at Zeller’s Dept. Store to a fulltime job at the Bank of Montreal (where she earned many promotions until she eventually retired at age 62) but back in the 70s, women weren’t paid a lot, and my father had died without life insurance.

Anyone want to sing a few bars of “Marshmallow World?”

The lack of funds didn’t stop my mom. We were going to do 21 right. And we did. We went to San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and finally Las Vegas. It was the best trip I’ve ever had. We laughed. A lot. We walked (especially in San Fransisco, my mother’s favorite city). We gambled. We even saw Dean Martin in Vegas (my mom had a crush on him forever, and I still know the words to most, if not all, of his songs).

My mom was also my biggest fan, and my most enthusiastic supporter. Who else but your mother would hand out bookmarks to the nurses and doctors in her hospital room? Or force everyone in her condo to buy a signed copy of my latest novel? It gives me comfort to know that Skeletons in the Attic was the last book she ever read. I hope she liked it. I never had a chance to talk to her about it. I do know she’d read The Hanged Man’s Noose so many times, it was almost in tatters.

This is my first Christmas without my mom, and to be honest with you, it’s hitting me a lot harder than I thought it would. In her memory, I’m sharing her shortbread cookie recipe. She was never much of a cook (a trait I’ve sadly inherited), but until she got sick, she’d make these every December. I’ve included the recipe below, but if you’d like a PDF copy to print, click here.

RIP mom, and Merry Christmas to you and dad, together again after all these years.

Anneliese’s Almond Crescents

Makes 45 cookies




1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the real deal, not the artificial kind)

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 1⁄3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup ground almonds (bulk food stores are a good place to find these)

1 cup powdered sugar (put in a sifter for best results)


Preheat oven to 350°

Grease cookie sheets (enough for 45 cookies)

Mix together butter with sugar and beat with a mixed until light and fluffy

Add vanilla extract and almond extract and continue to beat until incorporated

Stir in the flour and almonds

Work flour mixture into a firm dough

Working with 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, shape into logs. The log should be slightly thicker in the middle than at both ends. Bend into a crescent shape.

Place on greased cookie sheets.

Bake 12-15 minutes or until light brown.

While the cookies are still warm sift crescents with powdered sugar.

Cool on racks.

Eat, enjoy, and create your own happy holiday memories…

For more recipes, click here.

22 responses to “Memories of my Mother

  1. Judy Penz Sheluk

    thanks Debra. Merry Christmas to you and your family, and all the best in 2017.

  2. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thank you Ellen. She did love to get mentioned 🙂 Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  3. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thank you Christine. All the best to you in 2017. I hope our Tea and Sympathy group meets again!

  4. A beautiful tribute to your Mom, Judy. I love that she handed out the bookmarks and successfully marketed your latest novel to the condo residents! Wonderful anecdotes and what a strength of character she had through so many life challenges. The photo capturing your 21st birthday says it all. Thanks for sharing these memories and the recipe. All the best in 2017!

  5. Beautiful post, Judy. Your mother would be proud.

  6. I’m sorry to hear about your mom, Judy. I didn’t know this had happened to you, but it sounds like you have many fond memories and trust me, that matters. I lost my grandmother on Christmas Day over thirty years ago. I still think of her, especially on that day, but mostly, I think of all the positive memories.

  7. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Charlotte. Merry Christmas to you and Larry!

  8. Judy Penz Sheluk

    It’s true. I think…that must be my mom calling (and it’s some guy trying to sell duct cleaning). Or I have to tell my mom this…Merry Christmas Sheri to you and your family.

  9. eightpawswriting

    Hi Judy,
    So happy to read about your life with your mom. I loved those cookies!
    I know this is a hard time. When something happens that’s special, I still automatically think “I need to call my mom.”
    Hugs- keep your memories close!

  10. Judy, this is a lovely tribute to your mother. The first Christmas after a loss is always the hardest. Best wishes to you and Mike for a happy holiday.

  11. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Micki. And a Marshmallow World Christmas to you as well 🙂

  12. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thank you Beth. I love the beer in the wine glass story 🙂 I’m hoping to go to Malice but the Canadian dollar is so low (and expected to go lower). I did the conversation today for just the conference, and $295 is $400. The hotel at $200 US/night…flight…meals. I just don’t know if I can swing it. Maybe I’ll get lucky and win the $1,000 for the Dorothy Cannell scholarship.

  13. My mother had a Dec. birthday and she loved Christmas. We siblings remembered her every Christmas with lunch after shopping at the mall. We always ordered one beer and shared a toast in 3 wine glasses (Mom’ s fav glass, no frosted mugs for her). You have great memories, so please smile when you think of Anneliese! Merry Christmas from Annapolis, MD. Hope to see you at Malice!

  14. What wonderful memories. I’m so glad your mother had a chance to enjoy your writing. May you, and all those you hold dear, have a warm and safe holiday. Merry Christmas.

  15. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thank you Debra. Wishing you a “Marshmallow World!”

  16. Judy,
    A beautifully written tribute. My mom died two years ago and it still feels like yesterday. Little things…family events…all trigger the desire to share things with her. i’m glad you have the cookies, the trip, a picture or the voice of Dean Martin, and most of all her pride in your writing to remember and to comfort you. dhg

  17. Judy Penz Sheluk

    What a wonderful way to remember your mom Jamie. Merry Christmas!

  18. Thank you for sharing your story about your mom. It brought tears to my eyes and memories of my own mom who passed away 9 years ago. We put up two Little Free Libraries in our yard this year (we bought my childhood home from my folks 25 years ago) in memory of my mom.

  19. Judy Penz Sheluk

    Thanks Joanne. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  20. Hi Judy, I’m tearing up reading this lovely post. I lost my mother three years ago and I still think about her each day. That first Christmas was the hardest. Stay strong!

  21. Judy Penz Sheluk

    I will light a candle too. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  22. What a lovely tribute. I have a plate of cookies in the dining room that looks exactly like those–also my mom’s recipes. The holidays bring those childhood memories so close, don’t they? Christmas will always be bittersweet for our family too. Today we light a candle in memory of my dear mother-in-law who died 12/23/2010.

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