Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

August 8, 2010

A few weeks ago, my mother called in the middle of the day. This is an unusual phenomenon; we speak most days at 4pm sharp (keep the anal-retentive remarks to yourselves, thank you very much). When Mama calls during the day it means one of two things: good gossip or bad news.

“Who’s dead?” I ask.

She laughs. “Bingo. Henry Vermillion.”

“Get out. I thought that coot would outlive us all.”

“He damn near did. He was pushing 100.”

“Are they burying him with a box of Uncle Sam cereal?” I ask.

“Oh, you’re rotten,” she says…but she’s chuckling.

Author’s note: I realize that this conversation makes us sound sort of like assholes, but bear with me. There’s some backstory here.


“Gramma Rhetta’s getting married,” my mother says, scanning a letter.

“Again?” I look up from the pages of Silas Marner (aside: boring-ass high school reading; if you haven’t read it, you aren’t missing anything). “Isn’t this like, #4 or something?”

“I think technically it’s three,” Mama says. “She married Bill twice.”

“Oh yeah.  Bill the Boozer.”

Mama shoots me a look. “Husband #1 was a boozer, too.”  Husband #1, John, was her father.

“Maybe this one won’t be a drinker.” I toss the book aside for good. “How’d she meet this one, anyways? Gramma’s almost eighty. What’s she doing?  Trolling for boyfriends at bingo?”

“Another old beau,” Mama says, smiling.

“Holy crap! What kinda firecracker was she in college? All these old boyfriends keep tracking her down, like, 50 years later.” I shake my head. “Gramma’s sex life is way more rockin’ than mine.”  This earns me a scowl from Mama.

I roll my eyes. “I’m not having sex. I can’t even get kissed.”


“It’s not good, it sucks…Hey, did this one think Gramma was dead, too?”

**Backstory to Backstory:**

While married to husband #1, Gramma Rhetta, tiring of the constant letters in the mail from her alma matter (begging for contributions), took the latest correspondence, scrawled “Deceased” over her name in red pen, and returned to sender. She never got hassled for money again; however, many years later, when Bill the Boozer contacted the college, searching for his lost love, he was told that she’d passed away. Bill was so upset by this news that he chose denial and continued to search for her. I’m not sure what this says about Bill the Boozer, but it’s a testament to tenacity, I’ll give him that.

**Back to just the original Backstory**

A few weeks later, Gramma Rhetta announces that she’s bringing her betrothed to the Rocky Mountains to meet us.

“Man, she moves fast,” I say. “Then again, if you’re pushing eighty, you don’t really have time to dawdle, do you?”

This earns me the stern eyebrows.

Gramma says that they’ll be arriving early in the morning, and Mama, ever the hostess, asks what Henry likes for breakfast.

“Oh,” Gramma trills giddily into the phone, “Henry is easy. He eats everything.”

Mama and I proceed to bake three kinds of muffins, assemble a fruit plate and grind fresh coffee beans (again, cut it with the anal-retentive remarks, yo).

When the blue Oldsmobile stops in front of the house, Mama and I stand together, united in trepidation.

Gramma Rhetta whirls out of the driver’s seat, clad in a pink skirt and eyelet blouse, her lipstick a crimson slash of joy across her face.

“What the Hell is she wearing?” I hiss under my breath. “Makeup? Pink?  And ruffles!” I stand aghast. “She’s never worn a ruffle in her life.”

“Well, maybe once or twice at a wedding,” Mama says, equally baffled. This is the woman who defiantly wore trousers every day, far before Katharine Hepburn made them fashionable.

“Mother, what are you doing driving that thing?” Mama calls out, rushing to the car to assist Gramma, who is wrestling two heavy suitcases out of the trunk. Henry is still sitting in the car.

“Oh, Henry doesn’t care for driving,” she says airily. “He says he’d rather occupy his mind with greater tasks.” She closes the trunk and opens Henry’s door for him with a flourish.

“And this,” Gramma says, gesturing grandly, “is Henry Vermillion.”

With all of that pomp and circumstance, I’m expecting Rhett Butler, clad in a white suit, to exit the Oldsmobile.

What emerges is a short, stout, bespectacled old fart. “That woman drives like she’s got lead in her foot,” he says, neglecting Mama’s outstretched hand. He also neglects to help carry in the suitcases.

“Poor Henry is so tired from the drive,” Gramma clucks, patting his hand. “He’ll feel so much better after a little food.”

We lead them into the dining room, where baskets of muffins and fruit and coffee sit on the table.

“We made blueberry, lemon-poppyseed, and chocolate chip muffins,” Mama says, smiling. “We didn’t know what kind Henry would like, so we stacked the deck.”

“They look wonderful!” Gramma says. “I’m absolutely ravenous.”

“That woman is always hungry,” Henry says. “Well, either that or sleepy.” He scans the spread on the table. “I’ll be back,” he says abruptly, and leaves the room.

Mama and Gramma and I remain standing for a minute, unsure what to do. “Isn’t he wonderful?” Gramma gushes. She winks at me. “Henry was my very first love.”

We sit and wait for Henry’s return. I pass baskets of muffins around. “I like your outfit.”

Gramma blushes a little. “Henry likes women in feminine things.”

Henry returns clutching a large box of Uncle Sam bran cereal, formerly stashed in the backseat of the Olds. “I’ll need a bowl,” he says.  Gramma leaps to her feet.

We eat our breakfast in relative silence, except when Henry asks my mother if she has any prunes–because, he says, staring at the large fruit platter as if there’s a turd on it– “I can’t eat any of this.”

Future visits with Henry proved to be  more of the same.


“Henry,” Mama calls out, while preparing the evening meal, “what kind of vegetable would you like with dinner: green beans, salad or broccoli?”

“Well, I guess I’ll take the green beans…as long as you don’t cook them the same way you did last time.”


“Henry, would you like turkey on your sandwich or ham?”

Henry walks in with a bowl of 6 oranges. “I’d rather eat these. Your sandwiches give me gas.”


“Dear, can I talk to you?” Gramma asks, taking my mother aside.

“Of course,” Mama says, glancing at the clock. “We have a half an hour before our dinner reservation.”

“Oh, this won’t take long dear,” Gramma says. “It’s just that, well…do you mind changing before we go out? Henry doesn’t like that dress you’re wearing.”


The silver lining to the story is that we only had to endure Henry Vermillion for a few brief years. The sad chapter to that, of course, is that Gramma Rhetta died first.  Still, her final years with that self-important goat were happy ones; she considered herself lucky to snag him. That was our Henrietta for you–excellent judge of horseflesh, terrible judge of gentlemen.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

makes one dozen

1 cup boiling water

2/3 cup oatmeal (not instant)

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes

1 1/2 cups flour

2 tablespoons plain or vanilla yogurt

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup chocolate chips

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin tin. In a small bowl, mix boiling water, oats and butter.  Set aside and let stand for 20 minutes. In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon. Add chocolate chips. Beat eggs, vanilla and yogurt into oatmeal. Stir into flour mixture until just moistened. Bake 20 minutes.

approximately 135 calories per muffin

PS: If you’re wondering how BlogHer went, I encourage you to check out many of the lovely ladies in my blogroll. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about it via email, but I don’t think I’ll be blogging my experience. You know those old Looney Tunes cartoons where a giant anvil falls out of the sky and crushes Wile E. Coyote? Yeah. I’m sorta feeling like that. Glad I went. Glad to be back to my quiet life. Thanks for reading; I’ve missed you.

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Phoo-d August 8, 2010 at 5:02 am

Wow, this guy sounds like a real character! Anyone who would pass up homemade muffins for a bowl of bran cereal and prunes is slightly crazy in my mind! Thank you again for all the fun times in NY!


Bryan August 8, 2010 at 6:16 am

Very funny! actually he sounds like my grandfather. Maybe they were buds back in the day. Muffins sound great.


Bryan August 8, 2010 at 6:18 am

Oh and about that pesky anvil, Wile E Coyote always recovered fast ;~)


elizabeth August 8, 2010 at 6:41 am

I am DYING from this story–especially the “DECEASED” bit. And Phoo-d is right–this guy seemed like a real character, but at least he made your grandma’s last few years happy ones.

It was so lovely to meet you yesterday! Glad you made it home in one piece, Acme anvils and all. :-)


girlichef August 8, 2010 at 7:34 am

Ahhhh…I love your stories!! You never fail to put a tear in my eyes…whether it’s from laughing or crying… I hear ya on the “trip”…although I always have fun going out and traveling and meeting friends…there’s nothing like coming home. :)


Amy R August 8, 2010 at 8:03 am

Dear God, Bryan! He does sound like Chester!


GoodEnoughWoman August 8, 2010 at 9:53 am

Don’t I remember a sexy photo of your grandmother from a while back? She sounds like QUITE the lady. But I don’t get the attraction to Henry. Maybe he was a firecracker in the sack. ;)

The muffins look awesome.


Paula August 8, 2010 at 11:30 am

Hilarious! You are the BEST writer. Muffins sound good too.


Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon August 8, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Girl, your Gramma was a spitfire. Glad she found happiness late in life. Sorry he sounds like such an asshat though.


Allison @ Alli 'n Son August 8, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Yum, yum, and yum. I posted a recipe similar to this a few months. Two of my fave things, oatmeal and chocolate.

Actually, I’m posting another granola bar recipe tomorrow that combines these two things. Stop by if you have a chance.


jc August 8, 2010 at 2:35 pm

I missed you too Witch. I’ll give NYC some *stern eyebrows* for you. It’s not a giant anvil, it’s a BIG APPLE.


Erica@PinesLakeRedhead August 8, 2010 at 3:51 pm

I missed you too. I was so proud of myself for cooking Swiss Chard for the first time today and I thought of you. Now I’m in the mood for a muffin. Mmmm.


Foodiewife August 8, 2010 at 4:24 pm

That story was GREAT! Why do I picture the old couple as the characters in the Griswold’s Christmas? If the muffins tasted as good as this story, I’ll take a dozen of them. At once.


Jennifer August 8, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Your mother must be very nice and appropriate because I would have let that rude, old fart have it.

I hope that was an anvil full of fun.


Mary Lee August 8, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Alas, writing DECEASED across an envelope doesn’t slow down the requests these days.
That Forward Address Requested is an evil thing!

Henry sounds like a weenie.


Naptimewriting August 8, 2010 at 5:18 pm

(In a loud, asthmatic voice)
Is that all you got? Oatmeal Chocolate Chip? I prefer to keep my chocolate in dessert and my oatmeal in a bowl. What else is there? Do you have any bean and bacon soup?


Heather August 8, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Missed ya Kitch! Glad you’re back – and I’m with Bryan… you’ll recover in no time. Just watch out for those crazy birds flying around your head;) When I read this I was taken back to my Granny’s front porch and my Great-Granny rocking in her chair telling the latest gossip. Ahhh, the fond memories of childhood. Perhaps Henry was the captain of the football team or something in his prime!! RIP Henry:)


bonnie August 8, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Oh please save me, and all the women I know, from a Henry!!

Um, I have some catching up to do on your blog. I thought you hadn’t posted anything in a really long time (since those peppers) and just now realized that the RSS feed (?) wasn’t taking me to you unless I clicked–duh!



Stacia August 8, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Poor Henry. Sandwiches give me gas, too. Sending you a stiff drink to dull your headache!


Privilege of Parenting August 8, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Love this story—classic; I love your voice, American original. Also appreciate your reference to Wile E. Coyote—one of my very favorite intrepid tricksters. Maybe Roadrunner is a little bit like Henry Vermillion (a dubious prize).


Alexandra August 8, 2010 at 11:16 pm

LOVED this!! self important old goat. That is gold.

Your description of blogger. Sounds apt.

That line of thinking keeps me home. Know I couldn’t take it.

Thanks for posting so quickly…we missed you. a


grace August 9, 2010 at 12:53 am

i’ve missed you too, and this post is precisely why. what a great read paired with a dang fine recipe. :)


Stephane August 9, 2010 at 1:39 am

So Henrietta has got her Henry back again . . . Henrietta sounds like she c/should have been the real-life inspiration for Grandma Mazur. Do you know, did she pack heat? ; )


Tiffany August 9, 2010 at 5:25 am

You have the best stories! Glad you’re back safe and sound.


SuziCate August 9, 2010 at 6:56 am

That is a great story. I can NOT believe she asked your mom to change her dress because Henry didn’t like it!


Gale August 9, 2010 at 7:27 am

Can I use “quick” oats? Or do they need to be regular slow cooking rolled oats?

Also, terrific story. Now you can say things like, “Henry Vermillion – God rest his soul – used to ………” I find that adding “God rest his soul” clears the slate for you to say whatever snotty things you’d like to. :)


Tracey - JustAnotherMommyBlog August 9, 2010 at 7:34 am

Great. I now have to mark your blog in my reader. Like I have time for that?!? But
after reading THAT post, how could I not want to follow you? I’m warning you, though: this is a great responsibility I am laying upon your shoulders.

I have yet to absorb the caffeine from my coffee and I think I should stop typing before I REALLY embarrass myself…


Contemporary Troubadour August 9, 2010 at 8:49 am

Okay, Kitch. With all the lead-up about Gramma’s sex life, my mind went straight to the gutter here: “‘Oh,’ Gramma trills giddily into the phone, ‘Henry is easy. He eats everything.'”

Still laughing.


Emily August 9, 2010 at 9:12 am

I tried cupcakes for the first time recently, maybe now it is time to try out some muffins, as well! These sound great!


Leslie August 9, 2010 at 9:35 am

I read cookbooks – I mean really read them. But if I had a cookbook with recipes prefaced with stories like these, that statement – that whole habit – would take on new meaning.


Camille Bright-Smith August 9, 2010 at 9:48 am

I miss reading you so much. Its really, really hard being a single parent and having a full time job and blogging. What was I thinking? Oh yeah, happiness. I am happier. But I miss keeping up with you via your witchy musings. This one is especially yummy and good! THANKS for sharing your juicy memories


Cathy August 9, 2010 at 9:48 am

Love the story! Sad to hear that you won’t be posting about BlogHer. Surely it couldn’t be that bad. And, even if it was, I’m also sure that you could find the humor in it.


TKW August 9, 2010 at 10:03 am

Gale: I think quick oats would work just fine?

Troubador: you almost made me spit out my Diet Coke, you naughty thing!

Tracey: Welcome! Hope to see you back soon!


soccermom August 9, 2010 at 11:02 am

Now your talking, I LOVE oatmeal. Really l o v e oatmeal peanut butter.


theUngourmet August 9, 2010 at 11:45 am

He sounds a lot like my first husband! ;D It sounds like BlogHer was busy, wild and crazy! I would have felt like a fish out of water. I enjoy my quiet life as well. Welcome home!


Jane August 9, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Wow. Can you tell a story! I was mesmerized. My son (yelling Mom! Mom! Mom!) in the background and I couldn’t move, hand on the mouse, scrolling down, eating up every word. When’s the book coming out, woman?!?


Belinda Munoz + The Halfway Point August 9, 2010 at 1:51 pm

OH NO!!! Henry wouldn’t last a day in my town.

I’m somewhat relieved to hear your description of Blogger. I thought about going but suspected I would feel a bit pummelled and bulldozed.


faemom August 9, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Those sound lovely. Your step-grandpa doesn’t.


Nicki August 9, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Love the story of Henry! Love the recipe also as I always like new cookie recipes. Wish I had gone to see/meet you. :)


~Laura August 9, 2010 at 6:06 pm

So glad you are back! This story is just great. I love how your memories are so strong so many years later. And I love any story that shows us a glimpse of the special relationship you have with your mother. I’m hoping to achieve that with my daughters. My kids happen to love chocolate chip muffins. So, we’ll be trying these out soon!


Maria August 9, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Geez Louise! What a character! I missed you and your drink through the nose stories…As messed up as my family is, don’t think we had a old goat like that!

Glad you are at home, back to your quiet life…Hope BlogHer was informational, at least!


Evan @swEEts August 10, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Great story.. love these muffins too! Oatmeal makes it completely legit to eat chocolate in the morning :)


velva August 10, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I know I say it all the time but, God I love your stories. The muffins were just icing on top.


M @ Betty Crapper August 10, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Oh Henry, you would have driven me crazy.


subWOW August 10, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I have no idea what happened at blogher and I don’t really want to know either since I may have some hot flashed desire to murder on your behalf. M’lady, your writing? First class. Your character? First class. Your humor? First class. Your mastery of understatement? First class.


Kelly August 10, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Henry Vermillion is a great name for a character in a murder mystery novel. Right?


Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday August 11, 2010 at 6:52 am

Haha, Henry was quite the Grandpa Grumps eh? I think grumpy, picky old people are funny when you don’t have to deal with them directly.


Justine August 11, 2010 at 9:28 am

Kitch! How did I miss this one?! I absolutely LOVED the back story. And the back story to the back story. You’re quite a spinner of tales. You, your mom and Gramma sound like women who belong in a movie. Like Fried Green Tomatoes or Steel Magnolias. But snarkier. And a whole heckuva lot funnier.


Lyndsey August 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm

You crack me up with your story telling! What best is that you grab them form real people and family members! I was so into the story I almost forgot about the muffin recipe! :)


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