Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Happy October!

October is one of my favorite months of the world! Let me tell you why. (Knew I would, didn’t you?)

  • First, Middle Son Matt was born in October. The adorable child grew up to be a very nice, good looking, responsible guy. (A mom can’t ask for more than that.)

It’s party time!

  • The weather’s MUCH better. It’s not hot, anymore. No more three digit temps. No more sweat on my brow the moment I step out of the air conditioning. Lower air conditioner bills. And we get a little rain. (I remember once when it snowed on Halloween!)

Leaves! If the trees have any left, they change to gorgeous colors. Oranges and golds and beautiful reds. And there’s something inside me that wants to observe and enjoy and record all of it.

  • Apples. Yep, apples. I. Love. Them. Love the tart sweetness, the crunchiness and the millions of dishes that can be made with apples. No way I can name them all, but I love them fried for breakfast, baked in Tuela’s Fresh Apple Cake OR an apple pie, carameled (is that a word?) as well as juiced, warmed and mixed with spices.

Pumkins, pumkins, pumpkins! And gourds. Have you noticed how many varieties there are for sale anymore? From tiny to huge, dark orange to white and there are even some I call Monsterkins–kind of misshapen and covered with warts.

And finally (although I could probably come up with hundreds of things I love about October) I love Opals. That’s October’s birthstone, and I think they’re beautiful.

Next time I’m in Austrailia, I’ll see if I can pick up a few. 🙂

  What’s your favorite thing about October? The sports? Halloween? I’d love to know.


Thanksgiving is Eats

I HATE THANKSGIVING! Did I get your attention? Okay, I’m just kidding. I don’t really hate Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. (I probably say that about every holiday. And I’m not lying!)

Here’s why:

  • Families get together without the brain/pocket drain of Christmas.
  • Not a lot of decorating. Just a few turkeys and some fall leaves to set around.
  • Tradition, tradition, tradition.
  • Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, almost like Mama’s still here.
  • Great food. (If I do say so myself.)

Speaking of good food, here’s my favorite Thanksgiving dessert.

Fresh Apple Cake–The recipe is from Edna Underwood (my dad’s secretary for years) who got it from her mom, Tuela Privett–one of history’s best cooks.

The first time I had this cake was for my 19th birthday. I attended Ozark Bible College (now Ozark Christian College) in Joplin, Missouri, and Mom sent this cake up with a friend. Mrs. Privett had baked it and iced it with her caramel icing. (Recipe below.) The caramel icing was so dark and I rich, I thought it was chocolate and that my mother had forgotten I didn’t like chocolate.

After pouting for two or three days, I finally cut it. I cried when I realized that not only had Mom not forgotten my aversion to chocolate, she’d remembered my love of apples.



  • 4 C. fine chopped, peeled apples
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 3 C. flour
  • 2 t. soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 t. vanilla or 1/2 t nutmeg and 1 t cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C. cooking oil
  • 1 C. chopped nuts

Combine sugar and chopped apples. Let stand until juice forms. Sift flour, soda, salt and spices (if spices are used). Mix with apples and sugar, add nuts, eggs and oil. Stir all together. Bake 350 degrees 45 minutes or until done.

I bake this cake in a bundt pan, which I spray really well with baking spray.

Icing is optional. I serve it naked with only a dollop of whipped cream.

Mom served it with a cream cheese/pecan icing:

  • 1 large cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • 2 C pecans

Beat the creamed cheese, add powered sugar and vanilla and beat until incorporated.  Stir in pecans and spread on cooled cake.  

Tuela’s caramel icing: (Mom never succeeded at this–she couldn’t melt the sugar without burning it.  I’ve never gotten past that stage, either. I usually bake apple cake for Thanksgiving, and I don’t have time to persevere.)

  • 3 C. sugar
  • 1 C. sweet milk (whole milk)
  • 3 T. butter
  • now 1/4 t. salt

 Melt 1/2 C. sugar in skillet. Mix the remaining 2-1/2 C. sugar with milk and butter. Place on fire. When hot, add melted sugar and stir constantly until drop stirred on saucer is creamy. Beat and when thick, spread on cake.