That’s because her parents, Winston Tibbetts of Jacksonville and the late Inge Linssen Tibbetts of Holland, are from different countries and, more specifically, different cultures.
Inge was a “big city girl from Rotterdam and Winston was a “good ole’ country boy from Jacksonville.”
Inge was Catholic and Winston was Baptist.
“I would have never put them together,” said Ellen. “But I wouldn’t trade a thing. Because of them, I got the best of both worlds. I grew up in two cultures. From my mom I got a love of the arts, plays, fashion and travel, and from my dad I learned to ride horses and fish. I grew up eating my mother’s European food and my MawMaw Tibbetts southern cooking.”
Winston met Inge when he was stationed with the U. S. Army in Germany. They met when he was on TDY in Holland. They later married in Rotterdam. Ellen was born in Germany.
Ellen lost her mother to cancer in 2003 when she was 56.
Ellen has many of her mother’s favorite things, including a still-stylish fushia-colored coat from the late’60s that Ellen often wears. She also has her mother’s delft blue dishes which she has on display in her home and items and photos from both sides of her parents’ families.
“All these things mean a lot to me,” said Ellen. “I’m a very sentimental person.”
Ellen recently moved back to Jacksonville after living in Lincoln 12 years. She bought a house about a mile from where she grew up. Squeeker, her 6-year-old cat, came with her.
“This is where I belong,” she said. “I’m happier here. I’m closer to family and I love it.” She lives near two of her aunts, Kathy Spears and Anita Bilton.
Ellen has worked for the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission for the past 12 years. She is the Alabama CARES coordinator and Alzheimer’s and dementia educator.
The CARES program was developed to help caregivers care for their loved ones at home.
“I have contracts with home health agencies, and what I do is, once they qualify for the program and meet certain requirements, I have these agencies go into their home once a week to give the caregivers a break,” she said. “It’s so strange that I do what I do because I took care of my mom before she died. My mom always said that you have to get through your storms to get to your rainbows. She sits on my shoulders and talks to me sometimes. You find out what you’re made of when you go through your storms.”
Knowing that she’s in a position to help others makes Ellen happy.
“It’s so nice when I get a thank you note in the mail or a phone call telling me how much someone appreciates what I’ve done for them,” she said. “It makes my day.”
Ellen is also an Avon representative.
Her major at Jacksonville State University was in criminal justice. She worked with juvenile delinquents. She went back to JSU to get a master’s degree in public administration and, eventually, circumstances led her to her current job.
Ellen is a member of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Golden Springs. She has traveled quite extensively and has made trips to Holland, Germany, Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, Tangier, Casablanca and St. Lucia and has been to most states in this country.
One of her favorite things is to write “southernisms. People love it. I think it’s hilarious how we say and do things sometimes. One of the things that brings me joy is to make people laugh. When people are happy, I’m happy.”
Ellen likes to cook, especially when she has company.
“I’m so glad I got some recipes from my grandmother Tibbetts,” she said. “She died three months before mom did. She never measured anything. I would go to her house, she would tell me all the ingredients she would need, and I would sit at her kitchen table and make whatever she told me. She wouldn’t do any of it. She’d let me do it all.”
When Ellen cooks, she usually prepares enough to freeze to eat later.
“If you learn how to cook from a southern woman, like I did, you can cook for Pharaoh’s Army.”
Her grandmother Tibbetts had a lot of recipes. One that her family especially enjoyed was Homemade Mac and Cheese. Ellen likes that one, as well as Dutch Red Cabbage, Ellen’s Sausage Breakfast Casserole and Quick Coconut Cake.
Homemade Mac and Cheese
4 cups cooked elbow pasta
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup sour cream
4 T. butter (cut into small pieces)
½ t. salt
1 cup milk
1 cup cheese for top of casserole or bread crumbs (optional)
Place cooked macaroni in a large bowl. While it is still hot, add cheddar cheese. In separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients (minus the butter). Then add to macaroni mixture. Place in a casserole dish and place butter pieces over the top. Put 1 cup cheese or breadcrumbs or both on top. Bake 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees.
Dutch Red Cabbage
1 small purple onion, chopped
1 whole red cabbage, shredded
2 apples, chopped (red, sweet is best)
1 bay leaf
1 T. sugar
Vinegar or red wine to your tasting
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup water
Place butter in deep skillet and saute’ onion. Add cabbage. Fry for about five minutes. Add apples, bay leaf, cloves, sugar and a little vinegar or wine. (Ellen uses about 2 T. of vinegar. Using vinegar in this dish is very Dutch.) Keep stirring and add small amount of water (about ¼ cup). Cover pan and let simmer one hour or an hour an a half. Add water if it becomes too dry.
Best served with potatoes and pork chops with apple sauce. For cabbage, you can leave out apples, bayleaf, cloves and sugar and once cabbage is done, you may add to potatoes that are boiled and very done. Mix them together.
Ellen's Sausage Breakfast Casserole
2 - 1 lb. pkgs. mild sausage (cooked, scrambled and drained)
1 - 8 oz. container Barber’s French onion dip
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped onion (or to your taste)
1 cup sour cream
1 - 30 oz. pkg. frozen hash brown potatoes
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients but has hash browns together. Add hash browns last, a little at a time. It’s difficult to stir. Place mixture in a greased (Ellen uses spray) 9x13 baking pan. Bake one hour until golden brown. (Ellen sometimes adds a little extra cream and French onion dip.)
Quick Coconut Cake
1 white cake mix
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can coconut milk (Ellen uses Lopez brand)
1 tub whipped cream
1 small package coconut flakes
Bake cake mix in 9x13 pan, according to directions. As soon as cake comes out of the oven, get a wooden spoon (using the handle end) and poke holes all over it. Immediately pour sweetened condensed milk all over the cake and into the holes. Then, do the same with the coconut milk. Place cake, covered, in fridge, to cool.
Once cake is cooled ice it with the whipped cream and cover with coconut. (Coconut with butter can be browned in oven and mixed with whipped cream and then ice the cake.)