The Lemon Tree and the Dog

**WARNING: dessert talk ahead**

My mom and I used to be best friends. And then we weren’t. And if you used to watch Oprah, and you believe what the experts on that show said, its not healthy for mother and daughter to be best friends. I remember hearing that, and understanding what the expert meant.

Over many years, my mom and I have worked on repairing (restoring?) our relationship. Its been trial and error. Help has come from unexpected places. One of the few things my mom and I have in common is our love of plants. So that is always a safe bet for birthday/mother’s day presents. A couple of years ago, I got her a little Meyer lemon tree. I wanted one myself, but it freezes in the winter up here, and since she lives in the bay area, I knew she would have good luck with it. Sure enough, her very first year, she had a nice little crop of Meyer lemons in January. She harvested them and then gave them to me. I told her I would make her some lemon goodies. This turned out to be such a fun thing for both of us. It gave me the rare opportunity to do some traditional baking, and try new recipes, and she got the benefit of some very delicious homemade lemon treats. This year she had an even bigger crop. There were enough to make three lemon desserts. I googled “Meyer lemon recipes,” and chose a Meyer lemon cake, a Meyer lemon pie, and these wonderful, Lemon Creme Crumb bars.ย 


Cooking the lemons for the cake.

The cake is so interesting, because it has an almond meal base, and you actually cook the lemons and then process them whole (except the seeds) into a paste that you use in the cake batter. It was a delicious, dense and moist cake. Very sweet, but to me it did have a bit of a sour taste. I think it would depend on how sensitive you are to “sour.”


The pie is one of the simplest recipes I’ve ever seen. Most of the time you have to cook the lemon custard or curd, and then put it in the pre-baked pie crust. This one you just combineย the four ingredients (lemon juice, sugar, butter, and eggs) in a blender, and pour into the unbaked pie crust. I used my large muffin tin to make six small “pies.” Yumm.

The Crumb bars is a repeat–a recipe I made with last year’s harvest of lemons. So ridiculously decadent. I had so much fun baking. And especially that each recipe came out very successfully. I save one or two pieces of each for myself, and box the rest up to take down to my mom. The whole thing feels like a project for the two of us to work on together.


About a year ago, I started worrying about what my mom would do when her old cat died. She doesn’t actually deal very well with death and grief. So one day, at our local shelter, I saw that they had a little Pug/Chihuahua cross. I had actually met a couple of little dogs of this cross, and they had delightful personalities. So I asked my mom if she would consider adopting her. I guaranteed her that if it didn’t work out, I would take the dog myself (all the while hoping against hope that it WOULD work out!)


My favorite picture–a mutual admiration society!

Well, not only has that little dog changed her life for the better (they walk a couple of times a day, and my reclusive mom has made so many friends in the park that she lives in, its almost unbelievable!,) but it has also been another thing for us to connect about. I get to hear almost daily about how this is the best dog in the whole wide world, and about her antics, and about how much she loves my mom, and how much my mom loves her. I don’t mind. If she doesn’t write for a day or two, I write and ask for a “Boopsie report.” It has really given us common ground for communication.


The picture my mom approves–a little more dignified.


25 thoughts on “The Lemon Tree and the Dog

    • Can you buy them? Here in California, they are in the stores year round, and are not too expensive. Not Meyer lemons, though, which are a little sweeter and very juicy.

  1. What a heart warming entry today. Love that you and Mom are working things out. And I love that you introduced her to the wonderful love of a dog. I believe dogs are at the top of God’s best creations. Now those lemon goodies sure look good… mouth watered at the sight of the lemon cake using almond meal. How many WW points would that be…I mean for the whole cake as I am sure I would eat it up……ha ha

    We’re expecting 2 feet of snow here on Friday, so will be sewing up a storm. thanks for sharing. mm

    • Yay for snow and sewing time! Yes, the cake would be a lot of WW points. I was surprised that there was no “fat” in it, but then realized that the almond meal and the egg yolks supplied that. If you cut the cake into 10 pieces, it would be about 7 WW points for each piece. I guess you could eat the whole cake in two days, and nothing else, and not be too out of whack with your points? ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I find this a beautiful post! The adoration between your Mom and her dog is so obvious and sweet.

    And the baking: yum!

    I have never been best friends with my Mom and honestly: I also believe a mother and daughter shouldn’t be best friends. Yes the relationship has to be good and they should do things together. But a mother always stays a parent in my opinion. And a friend can’t be a parent.
    My Mom is my Mom and I love hanging out with her but she’s not my best friend.

    • Yes, listening to that Oprah show all those years ago really impressed me. Usually there is a component of unhealthy co-dependence between mother and daughter “best friends.” That was easy to identify in my relationship with my mom.

  3. What a beautiful post! Isn’t is amazing how complex family relationships can be? I guess we all change and it seems stranger when you have issues with a family member rather than a friend because it is expected with friendship and okay if those dissolve, but you are supposed to try to keep a family together. Not sure if that makes sense or not.

    Anyway – make lemon curd next time! That reminds me to buy some lemons this weekend and make some.

    • Yes, it does make sense.

      Well, that’s an idea about the lemon curd. I don’t like it that much–I actually like the “baked goods” aspect of the lemon treats better than the “lemon.” But I bet my mom would like some to spread on her morning toast.

  4. Yum, I think I can smell it. At least I can imagine how delightful your kitchen must have smelled.

    Those photos are great. It’s really great that you’ve found some things to connect over – and I love the circle of her receiving goodies from your baking from her tree from your gift.

    • It did smell good. But you know what makes my kitchen smell the very best? Pumpkin custard! Sometimes I make a batch just to enjoy the smell!

  5. I love that you and your mom have some common ground and things that you can be interested in together. I’m sure it’s taken some work to get where you are, but I think you’ve made it to a place where you both feel companionable.

    I freaking love lemon. I never used to like it, but since I hit my 40s I’ve been all about the lemon. I wonder if I could grow a lemon tree here? Probably not, but I can buy lemons at the store anytime. All those desserts sound AHMAZING. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • You could only grow a lemon tree if you were willing to put it inside or somehow protect it when it gets below freezing. I bet they don’t like the heat either. Probably best to do like me and just get them at the store!

  6. You are such a good daughter, Debby – and so wise, too. I love how you made connections with your mom surreptitiously…the plants, the food, and the dog. So sweet – loved those pictures. Your mom looks really content. Boopsie was the right thing to do for her.

    And now I want some lemon cake. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Its funny, most people are commenting on the lemon cake. My favorite was definitely the crumb bars.

      I don’t know about being a good daughter. But I’m trying. And to say that my mom looks content–well, you are right, but you don’t know what an amazing thing that is. Its the Boopsie factor ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. What a lovely, lovely post. Honestly it read just like a short story.

    Speaking from the perspective of being a mother and having a (living) mother, I believe mothers and adult daughters warily circle each other and finally figure out just where their relationship should end up. I’m sure, at times, it’s not where one or the other would choose, but speaking for myself, I’ll take what I can get my daughter and I give what I can to my mother.

    You know, I have a delightful recipe for a lemon cake that I got from a missionary in Zambia. I will send that to you – maybe for you to try next year!

    • Thank you Helen. Wisdom–your perspective on being and having a mother. That is actually one of my frustrations–that I can’t ever seem to give what my mother would want. But like you said, I give what I can. Its nice to hear that other daughters have the same issues.

      Yes, please! I’d love the recipe!

  8. What a sweet beautiful post. The pictures of your Mother are just darling and that little dog….she is adorable! Sounds like it was a perfect fit!

    I love anything lemon, but rarely bake anything that isn’t chocolate. Hubby only likes chocolate. Boo!

    • Yes, the Boops is a special little dog. Not quite as special as my mother thinks–“the world’s best dog” “the world’s smartest dog” etc ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. What a wonderful way to connect – with both gardening and dogs! I’ve always been close to my Mom, but she’s not overly affectionate, which I think is just how she was brought up. Me? I smothered Hannah from the get go (and still do even though she’s going to be 24 soon!). My MIL sent me lemons from her tree in Florida – delish!

  10. My mom and I were very close until I met my fiance and we got serious. We’ve had some pretty major arguments recently and I think it’s been very hard for her to adjust to the fact that we aren’t “best friends” anymore. Our relationship has changed so much that we rarely speak much anymore. It’s nice to hear that there is hope for the future!

    I used to hate anything lemon but the older I get the more I have come to love the taste, especially in deserts!

    • Yes, when I finally decided to move out, that was when things got very rocky. It took a very very long time for things to get better.

  11. I have been looking for blogs that I could relate too. I am so happy to find you! As we grow older our moral responsibilities grow as well. My Mum and I have sorted out our relationship. It was a bumpy ride and we are good so far. By the way, my Mum is allergic to lemons!

    • Well, I’m glad you found me, and can relate! Seems the mother/daughter is a universal issue. I tend to think I am alone in this problem, and its nice to hear others with some of the same relationship problems.

  12. I haven’t had a relationship with my mom for over thirty years… I thought i could right all the wrongs in the relationship with my daughter but we still have a rocky relationship….. Better than my mom and i but still rocky… But we keep trying…. and i think thats the important thing……

    Never had a lemon tree but i did have a small lime tree that LOVED my front porch in TX and i would bring it inside every winter where it just limped along and barely made it thru the season but every spring i would put it back outside and it would come back to life! Hugs! deb

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