Homemade Ice Cream + Grandma = Love

There were three things I was taught to love fiercely growing up: God, family, and homemade ice cream. About everything else I could form my own opinion; but there was this unwritten, unsaid expectation that I would hold these three particular things in unconditional favor.

I assume the reasons for the first two are understandable to most people. And anyone who needs me to explain why the third is held in such high esteem has obviously never tasted our family recipe for homemade ice cream, handed down through generations. The mere promise of it puts my father into survivalist mode as he begins hatching plans for how he can end up with the largest portion. (He usually succeeds by way of “volunteering” to dish out the ice cream. And wouldn’t you know it? By the time he has served everyone else, all the sweet little silver ice cream dishes have been handed out, so he has no other choice than to use a giant cereal bowl. Shocker.)

But here’s the thing…one can not have such a deep love for homemade ice cream without also loving she who makes it: my Grandma Monica. Now, knowing my Grandma, she would argue that she isn’t doing anything more than simply following the recipe passed down from her mother. She would argue that it is so much easier to whip up a batch for her family with the aid of a microwave and electric ice cream maker, than it was for her mother to churn the treat by hand every Sunday after killing, cleaning and cooking up a hearty chicken dinner. She would argue that the homemade ice cream stands on its own. But I disagree.

When I think of homemade ice cream, the first thing that comes to mind is NOT how good it tastes.

I think about sitting around the dining room table on Dutch Mill, my stomach full with another perfect meal, while we all laugh at childhood stories about how my dad used to beat up on Uncle Don, or Uncle Alan getting sick in the car…or on a ride…or on a plane…or sitting still.

…Of the adults telling my cousin Greg he needs to take three more bites of peas before he can leave the table, while my cousins Steve and Tim bet on whether my brother can eat his own dinner AND the rest of theirs.

…Of feeling special with my sister because we get to sit at the “big table,” with a glass for milk AND a glass for water (even though Grandma always makes sure the “kid table” gets the same fine dining treatment).

…Of being forever drawn to the laundry chute in the hallway, and how it never stayed closed all the way, always popping back out when you pushed it in…and being slightly not sure about the drawing of Abraham Lincoln in the corner bedroom, which looked just enough like Bizzaro World Abe to make you keep your eye on it while falling asleep.

…Of the most perfectly made beds I have ever seen…every hotel I have ever stayed at included.

…Of treasure hunting in Grandma’s jewelry box, and being thankful that she never got her ears pierced so that I could try on all her earrings.

…Of grabbing peppermints out of the pantry before going on after-dinner walks around the neighborhood.

…Of how good 2% milk tastes when it comes from Grandma’s refrigerator.

…Of the intoxicating smells that waft from her double ovens.

…Of lemonade out of a tan Tupperware pitcher and Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast.

…Of Grandma eating the smallest portions of food I think a human could eat, and doing it with more grace than the Queen of England.

…Of playing Michigan Rummy and hearing Grandma laugh at my impressions of a classmate’s father, which really weren’t that funny at all.

…Of listening to her claim she doesn’t really know how to sew, seeing as how she is self-taught, as she flawlessly reupholsters one of my chairs.

…Of being happy that after raising three boys, Grandma kept their green army men, and toy grenades, and Jarts, and that giant accordion, because no one ever gets little girls like me things like that, even though I secretly love playing with them.

…Of never being at a loss for conversation with Grandma, because “those Dolan women sure can talk.”

…Of realizing I have the hippest Grandma ever when she shows up to my pj-themed bridal shower wearing a pair of jammies with giant lips all over them.jammies

…Of birthday shopping trips with Grandma, searching for a pair of socks that cost $3.46 because we’ve only spent $46.55 on the rest of my gift, and it’s only fair that she spends EXACTLY $50 on every grandkid for his or her special day.

…Of hot, humid nights watching Peter Pan or South Pacific at The Muny.

…Of listening to Grandma read from Mother Goose in her soft, resonant voice, that always lingered a little longer on the “o” sounds…“how does your garden grooow”…just the way a grandma should sound.

…THEN I think of how good it tastes.

Those are all the reasons I love homemade ice cream. Because homemade ice cream means Grandma Monica. And how could I not love that woman?

A few days ago, we celebrated my Grandma’s 90th birthday. And as important family gatherings dictate, we feasted on the infamous homemade ice cream. I, along with my husband and my children, had the privilege of helping her and Grandpa make this particular batch, the batch she declared would be the last she would make. She could make more, because, let’s face it: if anyone can figure out how to live forever, it’s Grandma. But when I consider the sheer number of batches she has made for her loved ones over the years, I think she deserves to finally have someone else make it for her. And while I have helped her make the ice cream many times before, this last time I was careful to pay close attention. To soak in the sight of my children playing their parts, learning the secrets to carry into new generations of ice cream lovers, making their own memories of Grandma that will flood back whenever they dive into a cold bowl of Heaven…if my dad will let them have any, that is. On this last day of making ice cream, I made sure I not only got a few taste tests, but also my own copy of the recipe.

Because as sure as I love God and family, someone will always need to make the homemade ice cream. Grandma’s love, right there in a bowl.

(And Dad, stop mooching my Grandma love. There’s plenty for everyone.)

Happy 90th Birthday, Grandma!

"The Last Batch"
“The Last Batch”



remember the time blog hop

I have decided to link this post up with the July “Remember the Time Blog Hop.” Remember when I used to do that? It has been awhile since I have taken part in the Hop due to a recent change in focus, but Rob from Growing Up On Prytania has kindly kept the memories churning for me and Emily of The Waiting, who has had her own recent change of focus (give it up for paid employment! Woot Woot!). And I thought this post fit nicely with this month’s theme of remembering a more carefree time. What is more carefree than ice cream? If you are interested in joining the hop as well, check out Rob’s instructions HERE. And be sure to check out other RTT Blog Hop posts at the link below!


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33 thoughts on “Homemade Ice Cream + Grandma = Love

  1. I loved hearing you read this at Mom’s party and reading it again brings back all those memories and joys of seeing you grow up and the wonderful times we shared as a family. It is those little things that make each family unique in their love and how they show it. You have captured all of that so brilliantly. Thank you so much!


  2. I think home made ice cream is a wonderful family tradition. We had the same tradition in my family. My mom was the ice cream maker and even though she’s gone now I still think of her when I make ice cream.


  3. Homemade ice cream for me = taking a turn at the hand crank out on the back force of my Uncle Fritz and Aunt Frankie’s house. A couple who had raised their own large family but then stepped up to raise two infant grandchildren who had survived a terrible auto accident when their parents, (Fritz/Frankie oldest daughter), did not. I am a stupid sympathetic….thinking about the ice cream and the wonderful ice cream headaches has me tearing……nice post and nice to see your joining in!



    1. I remember the hand crank. That is how I first learned how to make it. You Aunt and Uncle sounds like wonderful people, and glad this stirred up some good memories for you as well.

      Feels good to be back on the RTT horse. 🙂


  4. What a beautiful tribute to your grandma. This blog post is probably the best birthday present she received! 🙂


  5. A beautiful, funny, sweet story of family that anyone would want to be a part of. Happy 90th Birthday to your Grandma. I hope someone takes over the making of the ice cream. Nothing tastes better…


  6. I have never made ice cream and I am not sure that will become my thing but the process and the feelings you describe evoke similar memories of my grandmother who would be 77 if she was still alive today. Her thing was evening tea flavoured with mint served with either cake or fresh baked baguette with real butter. Mmmmm….


  7. Just read this friend…first one I’ve read in a very long while ( I know, you’re so surprised). And of course, I chose an extra good one! (They are all good I’m sure! Fabulous actually!).

    But how touching and beautifully written. I had a very special grandma too, and it was bittersweet to read this, as she passed away 10 years ago before ever having the joy of meeting my kids, so I have to say, you are one very lucky and blessed chick to still have her around (and she looks so healthy!!! ) and to share that joy of her with your own kiddos! What a gift!

    Keep up the good writing! Love ya, J

    Sent from my iPad



    1. I am so blessed that my kids have been able to know most of my and Kurt’s grandparents. It means a lot to me that they have their own relationships and memories of them, considering how special they are to me. Thanks so much for the sweet comment and for all your support…whether you’re reading or not 🙂


  8. My mother in law used to make home made ice cream and somehow my husband always wound up with the largest bowl, and in all honesty I think my mil was totally unaware that she had given her own baby the most! What wonderful memories and traditions for your gang. The Last Batch – it’s bittersweet.


    1. Very bittersweet. One of those little nagging reminders that one day she won’t be around. But so thankful of everything she has given us that will remain.

      Maybe my dad and your husband should talk “ninja ice cream mooching” skills 🙂


      1. But my husband didm’;t even have to try to get the most… his mama not only made the ice cream, she also served it! Now that my husband and I are about to be grandparents, I wonder what new traditions we will institute?


  9. Every time we make old fashioned homemade ice cream my husband calls his 95yo grandma to let her know we’re thinking of her, since we use her prize-winning recipe from back in the day. It delights her to no end that we still use her recipe. Whenever we bring the ice cream maker and put it together for the rest of the Drainer family at Easter, new memories are made and old ones are shared. Food is certainly a trigger and what better food than homemade ice cream 🙂 Great post 🙂


    1. Holly, I LOVE that. How cute that your husband calls his grandma, and how wonderful that you are keeping the tradition alive. And you’re right, food really does hold memories.


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