What I’m thankful for: grandparents and cinnamon rolls

Collectively Creative Thankful edition

I’m sure you’ve heard that old quip about how children don’t come with their own instruction manuals. That’s true, but mine came with something better — grandparents.

I cannot tell you how thankful I am to my folks for providing me a parenting road-map of sorts. It’s a complex map, to be sure, folded over and over on itself like a Gordian knot: not only do I remember their parenting tactics and how I as a child felt about the rules, I can now talk to them about their side. About their concerns and worries as parents that I never realized when I was growing up.

Turns out that all along they were giving me some tools that I’ve tucked away in my mothering emergency kit. Things that I reach for when I’m grasping for the right approach or answer. Little constants throughout my childhood that I now think made all the difference. Among them:

1. A little chocolate cures all ills. This is my father’s pro-tip for solving most every issue. Scraped knee? Shattered glasses? Kids making fun of you? Broken heart? My folks would let me talk it out, cry a bit, and calm down, and then Dad would ask if I might like a bit of chocolate ice cream. I always did, and I always felt better. Still do, as a matter of fact. Nothing dries the tears and makes my kids move onto the “healing” phase for a scraped knee or a bruised ego like a little chocolate. Magic, I tell you.

2. The philosophy of chores. When I was a child, I don’t remember a lot of discussion about it. If you were part of the family, you were expected to help. Period. Chores weren’t punishments; they were “reality practice sessions” to ensure we’d know how to do things for ourselves.

As a mom, I hear quite a bit about chores from my kids, particularly about how Friend X never has to put away dishes or that Friend Y’s mom never makes him vacuum. Each time I notice the silent but mutinous undercurrent — so why do we have to?

In these cases, I revert to my parents’ philosophy, which can be summed up as follows:

Clean a kid’s room, it’ll stay clean for a day. Teach a kid to clean his room…and at least he’ll know how.

(Now whether he does it… well. Your mileage may vary.)

3. All rules get thrown out at Grandma’s house, except for Grandma’s rules. I remember being at my grandmother’s house for Christmas Eve dinner. We always had ham and cheese sandwiches and chips and potato salad. Even when my parents glowered at us to finish our dinners or to not take seconds if we weren’t going to finish them, Grandma stuck up for us and deftly moved us from the table to where the presents waited under the tree. It was awesome.

I didn’t realize that my parents were biding their time. Waiting for their own grandkids so that all the rules about bedtimes and cleaning your plate and pretty much anything else you can think of could get thrown out. My children made the connection early on (too early, if you ask me) that although I was their mother, I was Grandma and Grandpa’s kid. They recognized that they had two advocates with higher authority to intercede on their behalf. There are no rules at my parents’ house — except their rules. Like letting the kids eat cinnamon rolls (recipe below) at breakfast, lunch and dinner if they want.

These cinnamon rolls, made in a pan like coffee cake, are the signature dish at Grandma’s house. My kids still bounce up and down in anticipation of all the cinnamon-y goodness waiting for them at the end of the trip (and so does my husband). These rolls remind me of happy weekends and holidays at home. I’ve made them several times, but they’re never quite as good as my mom’s. I think she sneaks in a little extra love as her secret ingredient.

Check out that recipe — see those splatters and smudges? This recipe is LOVED.

Mom’s Cinnamon Rolls

  • 1 package (or 2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups sifted flour, divided
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)

In mixer bowl, combine yeast and 2 1/2 cups of the flour. Heat milk, sugar, shortening and salt until warm; stir until shortening melts. [Note: after melting the shortening, make sure that the mixture isn’t too hot to add to the flour/yeast mix. If it’s too hot, it’ll kill the yeast and the rolls won’t rise. Ask me how I know.]

Add the slightly-warm milk/shortening mixture to the dry ingredients; add egg. Beat at low speed of mixer for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Beat an additional 3 minutes at high speed.

At this point — watch carefully because the dough will go up the beaters and get on your mixer. It works best if you use a hand-held mixer. This is an important step because you do not knead this dough.

Stir in enough of remaining flour to form soft dough. Place in greased bowl; turn once (to grease the top of the dough). Cover, let rise until double (about 1.5 to 2 hours).

Turn out on lightly floured surface; divide dough in half. Roll each half to a 16″x18″ rectangle. Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 4 tablespoons melted butter, 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Spread half cinnamon mixture over each rectangle. Top with 1/4 cup raisins (optional). Roll up (jelly-roll fashion) from the long side. Cut into 1-inch slices. Place cut side down in a greased 13×9″ pan. Cover; let rise 40 minutes.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Do not over bake. They’ll look a little something like this:

pan cinnamon rolls

Drizzle with confectioner’s sugar icing.

Confectioner’s Sugar Icing

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 Tbl milk

Combine and blend until smooth. Make additional as needed. (My mother’s tip:  if you are a grandma, double the icing for the grandkids and blow your daughter’s mind).

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the parenting guide, for these little tricks/tips, and for the cinnamon rolls. Believe me, I’m also taking notes on your sequel — The Grandparents’ Guide: How to Spoil Your Grandkids Rotten — just in case I need it someday.


Know what else I’m thankful for? Being a part of Collectively Creative with these other bloggers (be sure to check out their posts — lots of delicious recipes and fun ideas to do):

Our Family’s Thankful Journal (Cobwebs, Cupcakes & Crayons)

Mrs. Hetherington’s Thanksgiving Pageant (Pillows A-La-Mode)

Creating a Thankfulness Photo Album (Organizing Living Essentials)

T.H.A.N.K.F.U.L. for my Kiddos! (Neaten Your Nest)

DIY ‘Thankful’ Dry-Erase Board (Inspire & Indulge)

Healthy Chicken Sausage and Apple Stuffing (My Healthy ‘Ohana)

Roasted Squash and Garlic Apple Potage (Cul De Sac)

Vegan Creamed Corn Cornbread (The Pancake Princess)

Holiday Entertaining: Gifts for Your Guests (Green Door Hospitality)

Thanksgiving Requests (Ponytail Kind of Day)

Rustic DIY Thank You Cards (NorthStory)

Hope you all have a wonderful start to the holiday season!

About thethingaboutjoan

Mom of three who knits a little, bakes a lot, crafts a bit and blogs about it all.
This entry was posted in Baking, Family and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to What I’m thankful for: grandparents and cinnamon rolls

  1. What a lovely post! And those cinnamon rolls . . . mmmmmmmmm! 🙂

  2. Oh those cinnamon rolls looks so good!! And what a wonderful post 🙂

    • Thanks so much! Those cinnamon rolls are really out-of-this-world good and a standard at my mom’s house. I always tell her that she doesn’t have to make them, but she always does and the crowd is always appreciative!

  3. I really love your writing, Joan. Your posts always make me smile and get a little teary. There are so many things that my parents did for me that I never TRULY appreciated until I became a mom. They have now moved on to the spoiling-their-granddaughter-phase, where they are excelling. Thanks so much for sharing…and for being a part of The Thankful Edition.

    • Aw… thanks, Kelly, for your sweet words about my writing. Now that made ME teary!

      I should also say that I’m very very thankful that my parents are here to still help me by giving advice or lending an ear for me to vent. They are a gift for my kids and for me and my husband.

      I love, love, love being part of the Collectively Creative series! It’s so much fun — thank you for coordinating it so we can all enjoy the fun!

  4. Leah says:

    Great post Joan! I’m sure you made your parents really proud if/when they read this! Everything you wrote sounds spot on. 🙂

  5. Wise parents! I am all for ice cream curing everything (especially mint chocolate chip). I’ve always liked the tongue in cheek expression “Grandchildren are a parents’ reward for not killing their teenagers.” Though this one is more applicable at my house: ‎”Cleaning the house while the children are home is like shoveling while its still snowing.” – Erma Bombeck. I’m working on it!

    • Alex — are you an Erma fan too? I love her! A little fun fact that I just found out is that when my mom was a new mother, her friend dragged her out to go see Erma Bombeck give a little talk. My mom loved her and we had all her books around the house. And didn’t she hit the nail on the head with that housecleaning quote! At some point I’ll feel like I can get a handle on this… right?

  6. erika says:

    What a beautiful post! I really like your writing and those are some great life lessons to store in your emergency pack (especially the chocolate one :)) And oh. my goodness. Those cinnamon rolls look positively HEAVENLY. (Have you ever tried making them with butter instead of shortening? Would that be blasphemous?)

    • Why, thank you! The advice about chocolate has definitely stood the test of time. Even a few measly chocolate chips do the trick!

      As for the cinnamon rolls– I’ve never tried them with butter instead of shortening, but I can’t imagine they’d be bad! Everything else is better with it. I use the other to try to replicate my Mom’s. If you do try them with or without butter, would you let me know how it goes?

      Thanks for dropping by!

  7. Your comment about your parents biding their time until you had your own kids made me laugh. At our parents houses, the kids rule the roost! My rules have absolutely no pull when we’re there!

  8. Haha, I’m totally with you on the “there are no rules when it comes to grandparents”. We live next door to my parents, and my daughter has already figured out where she can be queen of the castle and asks to go over there ALL the time! Since we live so close, we’ve had to make some ground rules, but not too many 😉 In some ways, I can’t wait to be a grandparent! Those cinnamon rolls look SO yummy!

    • Yeah — I think finding out that your grandparents are your mom’s (or dad’s) parents is like a big ol’ gift that keeps on giving. I still remember my son C’s face as he made the connection when he was in preschool: you could see the recognition dawning on him and all the great implications of having his own personal Appeals Court. I still crack up when I think of it.

  9. A Ponytail Kind of Day says:

    I love this recipe, what a nice thing to wake up to on Thanksgiving morning 🙂 I cansmell it now

  10. Cul de Sac says:

    Oooh cinnamon rolls… How I would love to rob you of one 🙂 pinning this for later!

  11. Brilliant and beautifully written! Thank you! ~Thea

  12. Susan Bahr says:

    I can smell them cooking from here – love the homey-ness of your posts.

  13. Reblogged this on the thing about joan… and commented:

    To everyone in the States, hope you are enjoying a lovely Thanksgiving. I thought that I’d share a post I wrote last year about what I’m thankful for, if for no other reason than I am even more thankful for my parents as the years pass. Enjoy!

  14. Happy 2013 Thanksgiving to you and yours Joan 🙂

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