I’m Shirl and I’m part of the Tillie Moon trio. The other two partners are my sister, Judy (13 years my senior), and her daughter, Jen (10 years my junior). Together we make up one terrific team. Each of us has our own singular talents and skills and what one of us may lack, the other two more than make up for.

There are many things that I enjoy and a few things about which I am passionate. One of my passions is food and cooking and my other great passion is reading. If I can read about food or cook something I’ve read about, I call that heaven! Photography, gardening, crafting, and travel round out my other main passions.

Fortunately, my husband of more than 31 years, Simon, shares most of these passions with me. Although not so much the crafting part!! In our 30 plus years together, we have traveled the world and on each and every trip food and the eating of food has been a great pleasure. Simon, having spent almost 30 years in the fire service before his recent retirement is also a wonderful and adventurous cook. I can always count on his taste buds to help tweak and season anything that I make.

My sister and I live way too far apart. Over the years we have made an effort to have at least one sister’s trip a year. We’ve missed a couple of years and some years we get to see each other more often. If we’re really lucky, we get to meet together with my niece, Jen, and her family. Those are the best of times and much laughter ensues!

Our visits always include food. We are either cooking food, shopping for food, browsing food magazines and cookbooks, exploring food shops, or trying new food in restaurants. When Judy and Jen decided they wanted to try their hand at writing a cookbook, I was very excited for them but didn’t feel as if I had enough spare time to be truly helpful. I wished them luck and said call me if you need anything and meant it.

I’ve been reading and cooking since I was a young child. My mom taught me to sign my name in cursive when I was about four years old because I wanted to have my very own library card. You couldn’t have one unless you could sign your name; in cursive! I still have that amazing and powerful little orange library card with my unsteady, curly cursive signature around here somewhere…since I can never throw anything away. With that influential and oh-so-grown-up card I could go to the book mobile when it came to our neighborhood and pick out my very own books.

The cooking part started when I was fairly young as well. I always wanted to help my mom in the kitchen, especially when it was holiday time and all of the cookies, cakes, and other delicacies were being created. I remember helping Mom mix and measure, pour and stir, always waiting for the treat of licking the spoon, bowl, or beaters from the mixer when all was done.

My sister, Judy, has been an enormous influence in my life, not just for the cooking skills she taught me but in helping and encouraging me to become the woman I am today. She attended boarding school in a town about two hours away or was in college in another state for the majority of my childhood. It was always a very fun and especially exciting event when she came home during school breaks. I felt like such a big girl when I was allowed to help her and Mom in the kitchen while they cooked the best tacos and enchiladas. My favorite task was to grate the sharp cheddar cheese. Mom and Judy always wanted me to use the fine grater and I wanted to use the grater with the bigger holes. I simply liked how the cheese looked when it curled off the grater in wide strips instead of skinny little curls and was absolutely convinced that it tasted different.

I graduated from licking the spoon and grating the cheese to learning how to cook and bake on my own with my mom’s and my sister’s help. I remember when I was a teenager, making my very first apple pies all by myself!!! Of course, I had made many, many pies without assistance, but up until this point, all of the pies followed my Mom’s or someone else’s recipes. This time I wanted to create my own recipe and make the pies just a bit differently than anyone else’s.

I made one double crust pie and one crumb topping pie. I used Mom’s recipe for the crusts, but everything else included variations that I chose that were quite different to the recipes that I grew up making. One of those changes was adding cinnamon to the crust. I figured that cinnamon went into the pie, why not the crust, too? That was to be the beginning of a lifelong hunger for taking a recipe and tweaking it to my own tastes, likes and dislikes.

Now I look at recipes, eat something in a restaurant, or see something on a menu or in a magazine and imagine what it would taste like or look like if only you added this spice or changed that technique. Many times, I go home and do just that; find a way to make something into my version of deliciousness. Sometimes things go horribly wrong and end up in the trash, but more times than not, they turn out great.

It turns out that this is how I could help Judy and Jen. I could help them tweak some of the recipes or I could help when something wasn’t quite right. Try a little bit of this; add some of that; strain it before you serve it; use this for a garnish; that dish won’t photograph well; lower the temperature; test it, test it, test it. And you know what? It was very satisfying and way more fun than I could ever imagine.

This time when my sister and niece asked me to join them in their next project, this blog, I said count me in! I’m so excited to be a part of something with two of the most incredible women I know. We may stumble at first but we have each other’s backs and I know that it’s going to be one heck of a ride. I can’t wait to see where we might end up.

Things My Mother Taught Me

I have so many wonderful memories of my Mom because she was an extraordinary woman. She was born in 1919 and lived through the depression, through WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. She watched a man land on the moon, the launch of the space shuttle, and astronauts manning the...

Surprise Birthday Bash at Osteria Mozza Los Angeles

If you must know anything about me, know this: I love food and I love to eat. I also love cookbooks and spending time with my family. When I get to combine all of the things that I love, I am in heaven. (Check our Judy and Jen’s cookbook, “Memoirs of a Delicious...

Hubby’s Potato Salad

My husband and I enjoy a good barbeque. You know, the kind where you throw some sort of beast on the grill and then add some side dishes and good friends. The food is tasty, the drinks flow, and the friendships deepen. My kind of a good time. The side dishes often...

Fall Comfort Food – Roasted Tomato Soup

My brother-in-law is visiting us from England. His name is Colin and he is uber cool. Since my husband hasn’t retired yet, Colin and I get to spend a lot of time together. Colin’s wife, Jayne, did not join him on this trip. Jayne makes the most delicious soups. I have...

A Day of Thanks

I am sitting here today pondering all the things for which I am thankful just as many of us do at this time of year. My list this year is quite long but I will share a few things with you. I am thankful that I was able to retire from a job that was very fulfilling and...

Cotham’s Mercantile – An Arkansas Adventure

While on my recent “Retirement Grand Tour” with my sister, Judy, we were so very fortunate to be able to visit with my niece (Judy’s daughter), Jen, and her family in Little Rock, Arkansas. Among the many activities we were able to share was checking out various local...
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