Most families have at least one person like her — the warm one, the one with all the culinary skills, the one who is most likely to watch cartoons with the kids, or play games. The one who’s motherly without necessarily being your mom. In my family, her name is Opal. And she’s always been there for me.

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My mama bella is a go-getter, and she’s been a career woman her whole life. She’s inspired me to strive, to achieve, and to never stop trying. While my mom worked, her youngest sister Opal was there to see the kids come home from work, to make us the delicious treats we craved, to watch Sesame Street and as I got older, MTV. One of my most vivid pre-teen memories is of watching Headbanger’s Ball with my auntie, and trying to explain to her who Joan Jett was. And now today, my auntie helps to take care of my nieces Dominique and Isabella. It delights me to think that the tradition continues – except today, my nieces are watching The Backyardigans and Dora the Explorer with Auntie instead.

Auntie Opal is in many ways, the heart and soul of our family. When I think of her, I think of companionship, floral housedresses, and her infamous Chelsea Buns. This is the recipe, for the teatime treat that fills our house with the aroma of deliciousness.

Auntie Opal’s Chelsea Buns

1/2 oz fresh yeast
1 tsp sugar
7 fl oz warm milk
12 ounces plain or all purpose flour
pinch salt
3 oz melted butter
1 1/2 oz sugar
1 1/2 oz raisins (optional. I’m not a fan of raisins!)

for glaze: 1 tbs sugar, 2 tbs milk

Cream yeast with 1 tsp sugar, warm milk & sprinkling of flour & set aside until frothy.

Put flour and salt into a warm bowl and add 2 oz of butter and the yeast liquid. Mix well and knead thoroughly.

Cover & leave for about 45 mins until the dough has doubled in size. Re-knead into a rectangle and brush with remaining melted butter, sprinkle with sugar & raisins and roll firmly like a Swiss roll.

Cut into 1 1/2 inch thick slices. Put these on a greased baking tray, fairly close together but leaving room to swell. Cover & leave in a warm place for 10 mins. Brush with a little beaten egg & bake in a hot oven 230 degrees C (or 450 degrees F) for 15 mins.

Melt the sugar in the milk and brush this glaze over buns as soon as they come out oven. Then sprinkle lightly with castor sugar.

I see Auntie Opal on my too-infrequent trips to Trinidad, and whenever the family is gathered, we talk on the phone. I can’t wait till the next time I go home, to get a warm hug and catch up with her. Hopefully over a cup of tea and a plate of Chelsea buns!

(here I am with my two aunties, Gemma on my left, and Opal on my right!)

I love you, Auntie!! Thank you so much for everything you’ve done to help raise me right. Happy birthday!!!!!!!

Do you have an Auntie Opal in your family? Tell me about her! And if you do, don’t hesitate to let her know how much you love and appreciate her (even if it isn’t her birthday!)


dee says:
March 18, 2010, 12:41 pm
12 strong plain flour<-----Bella what does that mean?
bella says:
March 18, 2010, 12:43 pm
whoops! Calling my family to explain that ASAP!
b. says:
March 18, 2010, 1:04 pm
Love these reminiscing posts! I have LOTS of aunts and many of them are cool. The one that stands out most is my aunt Jackie. It's to the point where when I mention "my aunt" to my husband, he knows I'm speaking of her. She is my mom's youngest sister and has never married. Instead, she remained with my grandparents (RIP) and took care of any and everyone who ended up at the house, including me. She's so very cool and now I must call her when I leave work. Her red velvet cake and her chocolate chip cookies are AMAZING! She'd pile the cookies onto the plate before they cooled, so when you wanted some you just break a hunk from the mound of cookie goodness on the plate. She (and my mom and grandmother) taught me to shop and how to be a lady of substance and beauty (and let's not forget God-fearing!) She's one if my most favorite people in the world!
Jen says:
March 18, 2010, 1:13 pm
This was so sweet :)
bella says:
March 18, 2010, 2:13 pm
recipe rectified! And I'm gonna make these sometime really soon!
Christine says:
March 18, 2010, 2:30 pm
Happy Birthday Auntie Opal! In my family she was my great aunt, rather than my aunt, but she had raised my mother while my grandmother worked to support the family and because of this was like a second grandmother to us. She passed away a number of years ago, in Italy and I was saddened not to be there. Zia Teresa you're missed!
paradisebird says:
March 18, 2010, 3:44 pm
Bella, you make me smile! There is an Auntie Opal in my life. In my case it wasn`t a relative, but our neighbor. While my mom was working she took care of my younger brother and me (her own children were mostly grown up. He name is Josefa, Sefa for short and the german word for Auntie is "Tante" so it was "Tante Sefa". She re-did my hait after school (which was very necessary) and she was waay better in this than my mum. She always did those neat braids. She was calm and made me feel secure and at home. So, this is for you, Tante Sefa. Thanks for your presence in my life!
dee says:
March 18, 2010, 4:07 pm
Thanks Bella. Do y'all normally call ounces strong?
Phyrra says:
March 18, 2010, 7:25 pm
That sounds like a yummy recipe! I had a great Aunt Opal. Happy Birthday to yours :)
Under the Radar says:
March 18, 2010, 10:15 pm
My Aunt Sarah. I miss her all the time and though she often visits me in dreams, it's not the same. She was the best.
nolagirl says:
March 19, 2010, 9:06 am
I hope your aunt had a wonderful birthday. This post reminded me of my Nanny.She made the best bread pudding, but I can't post a recipe because she could look and see if you had enough of everything!
1969 says:
March 19, 2010, 9:50 am
I am blessed to have four aunties just like this! Happy Birthday to Auntie Opal.
pets says:
March 19, 2010, 1:07 pm
Lovely post on Aunty Opal! She had a great time at her family dinner last night and enjoyed overseas birthday calls from you and from Clint. When Clint and I were youncger she biked and roller skated, did jigsaw puzzles and taught us to place basic card games and treated us to lovely home made snacks. With Patrick & Dominic she did skate boarding. She was always the most athletic of the sisters and the best play mate ever.
ceecee says:
March 19, 2010, 4:12 pm
This is sooo sweet! Happy Birthday to Aunt Opal! The Aunt Opal in my life is my Auntie Monica. I love her soooooo much!
goldenstar says:
March 20, 2010, 12:25 pm
Your aunties are beautiful! And a very Happy Birthday to your Auntie Opal!
pets says:
March 20, 2010, 8:58 pm
Thank you for all the kind wishes. Deeply appreciated. I hope to hear from your readers that they tried my Chelsea Buns. Lots of love Aunty Opal
Aisha says:
March 20, 2010, 10:42 pm
I am the Auntie Opal to my sister's children!
Carys says:
March 22, 2010, 4:47 pm
Patrice! I think this is the loveliest article I've ever read by you! Absolutely loved it. I think you may know who my Auntie Opal is...
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