14 Things I learned from my Grandmother–Leenna

I was lucky to have known both of my grandmothers, even as an adult. They taught me in vastly different ways, vastly different things.

The Stare

My paternal Gran reminded me of Granny Weatherwax, except my Gran had lots of children, and didn’t live on her own in a ‘picturesque’ little cottage. But, she did have the stare. After her passing away in 2008, I wrote 14 Things I learnt From My Grandmother. It really helped me, and I hope it’s helped others.

So I thought it best to do the same for my Gran who passed away recently. She might have grumbled, but would have been pleased.


The same grin, but not the pipe.

My maternal grandmother reminded me of Nanny Ogg, except she was way more lady-like, never drank alcohol or smoked, and would never sing. But she might have tried to make apple scubble–not to drink it, but to see if she could get the recipe right. She was a great experimental baker and an excellent cook. That’s where her magical abilities lay.
To be fair, I’ve never heard my Gran say ‘Mercy buckets’, but given her unique expressions, I knew it wasn’t very far off. She’s always talked about ‘The Three Mosquitoes‘ (Musketeers, to the rest of the world), and though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t her criticism of Dumas, I can’t ever be really sure.

But I digress, here are a fourteen things I’ve learned from my gran, including a little recipe 😀


m_flowers gran1Even a small piece of your heart keeps lots of other hearts happy.

My Gran’s heart was very brave. Physically, towards the end of her life, only a small fraction of her heart was functioning. It kept her with us for a couple more years than expected, giving all the people who depended on her being ‘here’ more time with her, and few more happy memories.
As a widow for most of her life, she had to bring up five children, deal with setbacks that would make others despair, and defy her often frail constitution in every way.
But she still found time to help out others going through their own trials. She was immensely empathetic, and had a special place in her heart for little children.

Small kindnesses are often returned.

My gran was always urging me to ‘go help’ this person or that person–someone who was ill, old or in need. She was ‘paying it forward’ her whole life. And the universe has often reciprocated with absolute kindness from family, friends and total strangers.

You’ll get it right eventually.

My gran was a great baker, but even she had her flops. My gran would persist in perfecting a recipe, and if we all loved the cake/dish, it would make it into her specialties list. If we didn’t, my gran lost interest and moved onto more interesting and challenging recipes.
This learned persistence serves me well in my writing and creative endeavors.

You’ll need your own space and independence–even if it’s little.

My gran was fiercely independent. She was never truly happy staying in someone else’s house, or following someone else’s routine. Even when she was ill, she always looked forward to getting back to her place and having her things around her–and calling her own tune. It may not have been much, her little bedsit, but meant the world to her.

m_flowers gran4


You don’t need expensive beauty products.

Know your body and take care of it.

Know when to plant seeds and replant.

Be prepared and organized. It makes life easier for everyone.



Always keep a slice of bread close
when eating fish.

My gran always maintained that if a fish bone got stuck in your throat, all you had to do was roll a small bit of bread and swallow it. This still works for me!

m_flowers gran3Not every story has a happy ending. There’s not much you can do about it except move on and write your own.

Move with the times, but only in ways that make your life more comfortable.

Some places are bad for you. Move away as fast as you can.

Travel when you can, even if it’s not too far away.

We are many things to many people.

Many people loved my gran for her good humor and great cooking, her empathy and her kindness.
Many people also disliked for her grumpiness, her inability to often understand someone’s view if it didn’t suit her own, and her insistence that certain things be done ‘the right way’–her way.
To some she was a stubborn old lady.
To others she was an entertaining, endearing comic.
So, I’ve learned that not everyone will like us for who we are. But that’s fine because just as many love us for the very same reason.

m_flowers gran2


My gran loved feeding her visitors, and making a recipe her own, so I just had to share one of the last recipes we worked on together. I hope you enjoy it as much as she did. This colorful savory rice doesn’t need much dressing up and looks very cheerful.

Peas and Cranberry Rice.

You’ll need: a large frying with a lid or a flat pot with a lid. A wok will also do.
2 cups pre-cooked rice
some butter or margarine
1 onion sliced
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
a quarter tsp tumeric powder
½ – ¾ cup peas (if frozen, soak peas in boiling water first)
½- ¾ cup shaved carrot
salt to taste
coriander seeds or powder
some basil or mint
boiled water as needed
a hand-full of cranberries (my gran’s special touch)

Saute onions in the margarine until they begin to turn translucent. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, coriander seeds, and tumeric.

Toss with the onions and allow the spices to fry. Once the onions are beginning to caramelize, add the peas and carrots. Add some salt. Give it a good stir. Allow to fry for a few seconds as you get the kettle.

Add a little water to keep the peas and carrots moist. Add basil or mint and coriander powder if you haven’t used the coriander seeds, and stir.

Close the pan or pot with a lid and allow the vegetables to steam for about three to five minutes, stirring once or twice, until peas are soft.

Add the rice. If the rice is unsalted, add more salt. Stir thoroughly. Add a little more water and allow the pan to steam with a closed lid for about three to four minutes. Add cranberries, stir thoroughly and allow to steam with a closed lid for three to four minutes on very low heat.

Now it’s ready to serve. Enjoy!

m_flowers gran5



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