A Tribute to “Aunt Ada” + Her Caramel Recipe

 19. Make family recipes.
Aunt Ada’s Caramels


Ada Fisher  April 3, 1926 – December 31, 2013

She was my Great Aunt, my mother’s father’s sister. Regardless of whether they were related or not, everyone knew her as ‘Aunt Ada’. She was married to a man named Abb. They never had any children of their own, but it seemed they took their parenting instincts and focused them on everyone in their lives.

She was one of those souls that cared for everyone. When you talked to her you knew she was listening. She stayed sweet, sensitive, independent, funny, and fun-loving as long as I knew her. Children loved her.

Fun loving she was. Never failing to make us laugh. One winter my mom’s family (grandparents, aunt and uncle, and cousins) were on vacation in Sarasota, Florida. Aunt Ada, along with my grandparents and a few cousins were at my grandparents vacation rental playing a game of UNO. The rest of us where away, at the beach or getting ice cream. Grandpa had bought a key lime pie and their group was devouring it. By the time we arrived back at the cottage there was only a piece or two left over. Realizing that they would have to share it with us if we saw it they quickly searched for a way to hide it just as we were walking in the door. Aunt Ada grabbed it off of the table and set it under the table on her lap, planning to hide it until we weren’t looking. Obviously she overlooked the fact that the table top was glass and we could see right through the table to the pie resting on her legs. We scolded them for their selfishness, had a good laugh, then ate all the pie.

Life was not always easy for Aunt Ada. She was childless (in Amish culture this is perhaps a bigger deal than in mainstream American culture), a widow for nearly 30 years, and she struggled with depression. I’m told she wasn’t always so happy but that is not the Aunt Ada I knew. The legacy that she left for me was one of caring for people, aging gracefully, and embracing life.

And caramels. A very important part of her legacy.

She was famous for her caramels. If she came for a visit and didn’t bring caramels everyone was disappointed, but she rarely forgot. Whenever I eat a soft, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth caramel it brings with it so many memories of her beautiful life.

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Aunt Ada’s Caramels

1 lb. light brown sugar
1/2 lb. butter
1 C. Karo
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 tsp. cream of tarter
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter in kettle. (Aunt Ada uses a non-stick pampered chef kettle.) Add brown sugar, karo, salt, and cream of tarter. Stir well. Add sweetened condensed milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. Continue to boil and stir until candy thermometer reaches 250* F. Immediately remove from heat. Add vanilla and stir well. Pour into greased bar pan. Set aside to cool. When cool, cut into bite sized pieces with a knife or scissors. Wrap in 4″x 4″ waxed paper squares. (after wrapping Aunt Ada refrigerated her’s to keep them from being too sticky.) If you do not bring the temperature high enough you will have a very sticky, hard to handle candy. If you cook it too long it will get hard.

Visit the MET (kind of, not really)

2. Visit the MET.
For someone who’s so interested in art it’s kind of shocking that I’ve never been to an art museum. I’d love to visit the MET but if NYC isn’t an option any art museum would do.

With only 60 more days to complete my list and no trips to NYC in my near future I decided to take advantage of the clause and visit a more local art museum instead. I had plans to be in Rochester over the weekend with some free time in the morning and early afternoon. I debated between going to the Memorial Art Gallery and the George Eastman House. I settled on the MAG figuring that I should get that crossed off my list while I can. Plus I got 50% off admission thanks to @explorerochester.

I started my morning with a breakfast sandwich from Hart’s which involved a surprise concert from the Eastman School of music in celebration of Bach’s 330th birthday. Thousands of musicians were taking to the streets and subways to fill the air with Bach’s sounds in a worldwide event. Afterwords I headed out of downtown towards the MAG.


It was a rainy, blustery March day. Not so great for exploring downtown but perfect for a morning by yourself exploring an art gallery. The gallery was even more amazing than I had imagined. I loved taking in so much creativity in one place. By the time I got the the Baroque wing I could hardly consume anymore and decided to leave before getting inspiration overload though I did make a special stop in the next room to view the works of Monet (a personal favorite of mine.)

The MAG has a very well rounded collection with the realistic paintings of the 17th century, the free spirited works of the impressionist, quirky modern art, a sections devoted to Rochester, and even ancient Egyptian and Greek art. I will definitely go back on some more rainy Saturdays in the future and am even thinking about taking one of their many art classes. But first I need to visit the George Eastman House.

A few of the pieces that made me pause
1. This is in Rochester but could fool you into thinking it’s Europe.

2. A gritty view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

3. This scene of Harlem in the summer is so full of life. It’s not necessarily my style but I appreciate it.

4. Of course, here’s a Monet. I could have listed them all!

5. A portrait.

 6. This one is jarring and unsettling.

7. Winslow Homer. Need I say more?

8. This haunting piece was created by using photosynthesis to print photos of victims of the Khmer Rouge onto leaves. The photo on the site doesn’t do it justice, you need to see it in person.

What is your favorite museum, art or otherwise?

“Start Blog Idea”

4. Start blog idea.
An idea that I have been thinking about. I won’t tell you any more:)

This item on my list was vague, very vague. I didn’t go into much detail with it for a couple of reasons, the first being that I still hadn’t fully planned how to do it and the second being because,


it scared me.


Ever since I discovered blogs and blogging when I was in middle school I’ve wanted to start one. I don’t know what exactly it is about a blog that draws so many people to try it. Maybe it’s because of the attention it could give you. We all like a few ‘likes’, right? Or maybe it’s because it’s a form of journaling. I like to have documentation of my life but I am bad at journaling. Whatever it was I was always starting new blogs and after a week of daily posting it would die off, slowly or drastically until it had been so long since I posted that I no longer remembered my log in info. There are several unfortunate blogs of mine still floating out there somewhere.

I started to get serious about starting a blog around the time I started my 20 Before 21 list.  I thought about it for a while, trying to come up with some sort of topic for a blog. I thought maybe a food blog, but I don’t create my own recipes very often. Then I thought I could do a travel blog, but that would only get updated every 6 months. Possibly a fashion blog? One look at my limited, thrifted wardrobe and that idea was nixed.

There was one idea that I couldn’t get out of my mind.

Documenting memories.

I’ve always taken an interest in documenting life’s moments. I was taught the concept by my mom who sold scrapbooking products and created at least 5 scrapbooks for all 5 of her kids. She took it seriously. I like photography, and journaling because of the way they “keep memories” that would have otherwise escaped you. Lately I had not kept up to date with scrapbooking and journaling. I couldn’t find a style and workflow that I liked and because of that my pictures,videos, and writings are on my computer, unedited and unpublished. I wanted to find a solution to this problem. To find a way to publish this stuff in a way that fits into my life, schedule, and style.

If that was a problem I was facing I thought maybe other’s have the same problem, too. It seemed like the perfect “blog idea” for me! I thought about it, conceptualized, and even set up a wordpress.com site. But when it came down to it I never started the idea. Because I was scared. Scared of failure. Scared of the excitement of it dying off. Scared of the fact that there are a million and one other more qualified people on the world wide web who would blow my content out of the water.

So I never started.

Maybe someday I’ll start my blog idea. Or maybe I’ll slowly integrate it into this blog. But for now, I’m switching number 4 on my 20 Before 21 list to “Set up blog on a self hosted site and find theme and layout that I like.” This is done. I’ve make a lot of changes to this blog over the past winter and it’s actually getting me excited about blogging again.

Who knows, maybe it’s rekindling my inspiration for my “blog idea”

Q: Would you be interested if I posted more content about scrapbooking, journaling, photography, videography, memory keeping, and inspiration on how to fit it into your own life?