Lucky me - I was able to spend today with my little guy instead of working at my day job! Will had a doctor's appointment, and it just seems easier sometimes to take the whole day rather than leave early. Besides, we had a wonderful day together! Will is such a doll, how could it not be wonderful?

But I digress....

Today I was reminded of how two people can look at the exact same thing or place and see it in a vastly different way.

Before taking Wills to his Pediatrician we dropped in at my office (calling it "my office" isn't quite right...my domain is limited to a little cubicle within said office). I take him in periodically because I like to show him off, but also because he enjoys exploring. My hard working peers enjoy it too (I hope) as they can take a few minutes away from the daily grind to enjoy a smiling toddler.

And smile he did! We rode in an elevator with glass walls that overlooked a busy hall. He squealed in delight as the floor sunk below us. I stopped him just short of hitting the emergency button, but otherwise the elevator ride was good. Once on my floor, we went from desk to desk saying hello. My son loves technology and the office is filled to overflowing with monitors, keyboards, printers and fax machines. It's techie-Will heaven! And some of the folks I work with let him sit on their laps and tap on the keys for a bit. He, of course, LOVES this. When he wasn't pretending to "work" he was snacking on some sweet treats that were offered (and happily accepted).

When it was time to go, I had a heart broken little boy. As we walked to the car, he wailed and pointed at the building, clearly wanting to go back in. I had to chuckle a bit, thinking how I was more likely to cry on the way IN.

That's when it hit me. When I think of my workplace, I think of meetings and deadlines and project plans. I think of getting up early, braving the weather, and wishing for Fridays. Don't get me wrong. I actually enjoy my job, but it is just a job after all.

Willie, on the other hand, thinks of my office as a place where joy lurks around the corner of every cubicle, where there are computers enough for everyone, people are always smiling and sharing treats. It's a place with a fun elevator and desk chairs that spin in circles. It's a playground full of wonderful surprises for a curious and friendly little boy.

So on Monday I'm going to try an experiment. I'm going to walk into that office and approach my work day with an open mind. I will try not to forget how magical the typically mundane can be - IF looked at just the right way.


My Son

I just love this photo of my little William playing Cowboy. I found the poem on-line and, though simple...it rang true. :)

My Son
author unknown

Sticky fingers,
dirty face,
Rugs and pillows
out of place,
Cars and tractors
here and there,
Blocks and boats
Gold and silver
have I none,
But worth a million
is my Son.



“Buttercup Yellow” was the name on the little paint chip that I brought home from the store and carefully held up against cabinets and curtains. The paint on the little card was a soft creamy yellow, the color of well…butter. It was a shade that made me feel happy and awake. A perfect color for our kitchen (or so I thought). I began to paint, and right away the yellow seemed much yellower than I’d expected. It was almost brutally yellow. I began to panic a little bit as the dandelion paint covered every wall.... I calmed my nerves by rationalizing that surely the boldness was temporary. Once dry it would definitely match the subtle and cheerful buttercup I’d been promised.

But no. The paint did dry, but that paint chip had clearly lied. No buttercup this bold ever existed in nature.

This yellow was Yellow with a capital Y, followed by an exclamation point! We quickly renamed it “Spongebob Squarepants Yellow” for that seemed far more appropriate than the soft and girly "buttercup".

The first time Dan saw the new wall color, he raised his eyebrows questioningly, but said nothing (probably noting the tears welling in my eyes). This was not at all what I’d envisioned or told my husband to expect. I think that he would have agreed to new paint on the spot, had I asked, but I’m a cheapskate and couldn’t bare to waste that much paint just because of the color. Besides, when I looked on the bright side (of the situation, not the walls) I noted that it did match my 1950’s diner style kitchen table. Also the stark white curtains I’d hung really popped against the French's Mustard colored background.

So I gritted my teeth, and decided that I’d make do. And I have.

Over two years have passed since the paint brushes were put away, and the walls are still yellow.

And you know what? Somewhere along the way, I began to really enjoy our freakishly golden kitchen. I found myself apologizing less and less, even as our visitors' eyes grew larger. I love sitting at my kitchen table, paging through stacks of cookbooks or writing letters to my Grandma. If I'm struggling to get motivated in the morning, a cup of coffee in my little kitchen really perks me up. Well, the caffeine doesn't hurt of course, but the color is a happy one. It's vibrant and it's bold and it's unique.

I'm sure a professional decorator would be able to come up with a hundred reasons to re-paint.

I don't care.

I like that it's different, because truth be told - so am I.


Victory Cookies - a WWII Recipe

As I've mentioned before, I am intrigued by unusual and old recipes. A few years ago, I bought an old cookbook at a flea market. Tucked inside were a hand full of recipes clipped from newspapers. The recipe described below has intrigued me since I first read it. I always knew I'd just have to give it a try someday.

World War II brought many types of food rationing to the American family. For a quick history lesson on how rationing worked, go here. It's hard to imagine (for me anyway) being forced to make do without something so basic as SUGAR, but this recipe is evidence that folks of that time were willing to be creative so that they could still have some sweet treats in a world with little sugar.

From a 1943 newspaper clipping:

"No Need to have an Empty Cookie Jar"
Everybody likes refrigerator cookies. They have a delicious crispness and the dough may be stored in the refrigerator for some time and fresh cookies baked from it as needed.
Victory Refrigerator Cookies require only one-fourth cup of sugar for four dozen cookies - a reduction of 75 percent from the amount of sugar ordinarily required. Yet no lack of sugar is apparent in their flavor because syrup provides the required sweetness.
With this recipe there's no reason for anybody's cookie jar to be empty for the duration - so get down the easy to handle syrup bottle and let's make Victory Cookies.

To make 48 cookies, you'll use:

2 1/2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
1/4 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
1 cup syrup
1 egg (well beaten)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Sift flour, measure and add the baking powder and salt and sift together twice. Cream shortening until soft, then blend in brown sugar. Add syrup gradually, stirring well after each addition.

Stir in the well beaten eggs and vanilla. Add the sifted dry ingredients in several portions, beating well after each. Stir in the nuts. xx
Line a loaf pan with greased waxed paper and pack in the dough. Chill until firm. Then remove from refrigerator, slice and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a moderate oven (375 degrees F) for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

I enjoyed following this recipe. Maybe it's just me, but I always have loved any old excuse to dust off my sifter. Hardly any recipes call for it anymore, but I do enjoy it.

Some notes from my experience:

  • This recipe was pretty fun to make...using the syrup instead of sugar was intriguing
  • The dough was promising - and tasty (yes, I admit I sneak the occasional nibble of cookie dough)
  • I used chopped walnuts, because I like them - you might like others
  • The dough really expands in the oven. Keep the cookies small.
  • Eat them while they are warm. These are not such great cookies on day two
  • Bottom line though....I'm glad I tried these because they were fun, but there are better (much better) cookie recipes out there. Use one of those unless you don't have any sugar.


I Sing in the Car

I sing in the car.... I haven't always done so. In fact, a younger (slightly "hipper" - who am I kidding? I've never been very hip) version of myself would probably cringe at the mere thought of doing something so potentially embarrassing.

I am amazed when I look back at just how much I've changed over the years. I sometimes try to imagine what "17 year old Christy" would have to say to "Current Christy". I'm sure younger, (less wrinkly, less weighty) Christy would be appalled to learn that her older self shops at Goodwill, doesn't spend oodles on hair products, and rarely "goes out" with friends on a whim.

That's 17 year old Christy on the right...

Current (definitely less hip) Christy is embarrassed by some of the silly things that once seemed so vitally important to her. She no longer cares, for example, what the "Cool Kids" think (and yes folks, sadly there ARE "Cool Kids" in the adult world - those who must wear the right shoes and drive the right cars etc). Current Christy enjoys spending time at home with her husband and her baby boy. She adores hanging out with her parents too (this was not always the case). She sews and bakes and she sings in the car.

The car-singing is fairly new.

My blissful maternity leave ended in late 2008, thrusting me (kicking and screaming I assure you) back into the daily grind of my professional life. Hubby and I split the daycare duties: I dropped Baby Wills off at his babysitter each morning on my way to the office & Dan would pick him up at the end of his work day.

If you've ever had drop-off duty, you know that dear Dan got the far more enjoyable end of this particular bargain. It was so very hard that first day! When I handed my tiny guy off to his new sitter, the pain was incredible - my heart broke.

You can see here why I didn't ever want to leave him... what a darling little bit of wonderful he was, all snuggled and cozy in his car seat!

I was crying harder than the baby was, and it was all I could do to not call my boss, and quit right then and there! How could I leave my sweet little peanut with a stranger? Would she cuddle him like I did? Would she know when he was hungry? Would she keep him warm and safe? My mind raced back and forth. One minute I was fretting, the next I was reminding myself that we picked this (very competent & experienced) woman to watch our child for a reason, and that unless we wanted to move into my parents' garage (we need two incomes at the moment) I was going back to work.... like it or not.

Over the next few days I began singing during the ten minute drive from our house to daycare. I found that it calmed me, and a calmer Mommy meant a calmer baby... or at least that was my working theory.

So I sang.

I sang with all of my heart. I used my diaphragm the way we learned to do in Jr. High Choir. I did not care who saw me. All that mattered to me was the little guy in the backseat. My fervent hope was that this early morning Mommy-concert would serve as a happy memory that might help get both of us through the day ahead.

I sang all of the songs that I knew the words to (and quickly learned that there weren't very many - good thing it's a short drive).

Here are the songs I started singing to Willie those first days:

Jesus Loves Me
Jesus Loves the Little Children
Mary had a Little Lamb
Love Lifted Me (my favorite church hymn)
Take Me Out to the Ballgame (the Boston Red Sox version, of course)
The Itsy Bitsy Spider
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (and yes, I do know it's a Christmas song)

Months have passed, and daycare isn't the unknown place it once was. We love Judy (our sweetheart of a babysitter) and when we get to her house, I'm lucky to get a kiss and a wave from Willie before I've been replaced with his little friends and Cheerios.

Though we both would be fine if I stopped, I'm still singing those same songs to him during every morning commute. It has become a part of our daily routine. Someday Willie will be far too "cool" to ride around with his singing Mommy, but for now he's my little buddy and singing is something he likes for me to do. I know this because lately, after we first get settled in the car for our morning drive, I've been asking him, "Should we sing?" He grins, and says "JES!" (his version of "Yes"). Then he proceeds to chatter along with me, trying his best to sing along.

You know what? Now that I really think about it, maybe Younger Christy wouldn't be so offended with Current Christy's uncool car singing after all - especially not if she looked close and saw just how much that cute little boy enjoys such a simple, but utterly wonderful time with his Mommy.


New Look

I was unhappy with the header/banner choices I'd come across for my blog... so I dug down deep into my art school background and decided to set up a few still-life arrangements for some pics. My favorite now graces the top of my blog. Runners up are shown below:

I like this one (I have a thing for buttons), but the words were hard to read.

I like the idea behind this one... the buttons, the bolts of bright fabric, my old recipe box, my favorite chicken "Louise"... but it was too "busy".

This one includes a few of my cookbooks and a tiny S&P that I always enjoy, but I felt that this one also just had too much going on.
so in the end I spread out some of the bright fabric (left over from when I reupholstered our kitchen chairs) and topped it with the buttons and Scrabble tiles. I'm sure it won't be my last new header, but its one I'm happy with for now.

Mission Impossible

I am wondering... How do those skinny girls stay so skinny? You know the ones I'm talking about (maybe you are one, God bless ya)... the ones with no appetite and tiny little tushes. How do they avoid eating every wonderful yummy treat that their co-workers bring for food-day? How do they make it home from the market without a box of cookies or a Snickers tucked inside their grocery bag? Why does their metabolism rocket along at warp speed, while mine seems jammed in reverse? Do they even know what "fat jeans" are? **sigh**

As you may have guessed, I'm trying (for the eleventy-millionth time in my life) to "eat right" and get in shape. The exercise part is no problem. We have a Wii Fit and it does wonders to keep me motivated, and I can tell a difference. The problem is I know the difference would be a whole lot bigger if it weren't for my sweet tooth, and my salty tooth, and my Red Robin Bleu Ribbon burger tooth.... You get the idea. I just plain enjoy eating... and for someone who loves to eat yummy fattening food (me!!) it's especially hard.
So forgive me if I'm a little tiny bit grouchy lately. I want to eat lemon meringue pie, and red velvet cake, and double chocolate chip cookies and those little cherry sour candies from the grocery store. I want brownies right out of the oven and Chubby Hubby Ben & Jerry's....

As you may have deduced, the end for this diet may be near. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
I'm really not bitter, just hungry. And yesterday I noticed Girl Scout Cookie time is upon us. How on Earth can I say no to a sweet little Girl Scout who might ask me to buy Thin Mints or Samoas (or whatever they call them now...they'll always be Samoas to me)?xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
I remember being a "Brownie" and selling those cookies. I hated the selling part and my long standing rule is that I'll buy from any little girl selling them, (as long as she asks me in person). But should I break my rule this year for the sake of my questionable waist-line? Should I deprive HER of the glory associated with filling out her multi-colored cookie order form? and maybe winning a prize? or getting a certificate of merit? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Well, of course not. That would be rude, and I try never to be rude. So bring on those order forms! Everything in moderation right? I'll just ration out those cookies and make them last for a long time.
Or at least I'll try to. We'll see. Wait a second! Do you smell Cinnamon Rolls? I'd better check it out. Don't wait around. This might take a bit.

photo: Google images


Best Cornbread EVER!

Best Cornbread Ever!
From "Sylvia's Family Soul Food Cookbook"

You think you've had good cornbread? I bet this one is better... it's sweet and hearty and tastes so good it might make you cry. It comes out tall and cakey, thanks to the eggs. And don't worry about reducing this one. It reheats wonderfully. You won't be sorry!!

2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup vegetable oil
5 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, sift or stir together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a second large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the milk, oil and eggs. Add the cornmeal mixture and stir until just combined. (Batter will be wet and a little lumpy.)

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the corn bread is pulling away at the edges.Cool in the pan, then cut into 15 squares.

Makes 15 AMAZING servings.

Note that this is just ONE of the amazing recipes in Sylvia's cookbook. If you love home-style comfort food like Grandma used to make, I highly recommend that you buy a copy.

Photo: Google Images


A Wise Woman Knows....

General Mills' All About Home Baking is one of my favorite "oldie but goodie" cook books. The copy I have is a 1940 softcover version. My Mom has the '33 hardcover 1st edition which is admittedly nicer, but I can't complain. Mine is a bit worn around the edges, but still has a sturdy binding and is a nice reference for basic biscuit and muffin recipes. It also offers a nice variety of recipes for cookies, cakes and other yummy desserts.

This past weekend, I was on the hunt for a fun new recipe to try. This urge comes and goes, but almost always sends me sinking into my favorite overstuffed chair - cup of tea in hand - surrounded by stacks of books, both old and new. I get lost in the pages of pictures and interesting recipes. It's a task that can sometimes take hours...when I have them to spare, of course.

I've looked through this particular little book time and again over the years, but was struck anew by a segment at the beginning of the slim volume: "It's a Wise Woman Who Knows Her Baking Rules". It's a nice little article that just gushes mid-century Americana. I can easily envision an apron-clad housewife carefully reading the following list.... and checking each item off as she goes along: Be orderly, Use good tools, Choose good ingredients, Measure accurately, Mix carefully, Know your pans and oven, and how to cool your cakes.

I can't help but also think how these items that "A Wise Woman" should know about the kitchen, could also be things she might be well served to know about LIFE...

1. Be orderly.
Who can argue with this? I can say with certainty that my own life would be easier if I could be a bit more organized. Who knows how productive I'd be if I would buckle down and straighten the linen closet or sort my art supplies...

2. Use good tools.
The "tools" that help me the most in life are those that help me manage my time: the Blues Clues calendar hanging on our kitchen wall, the daily organizer in my purse, and this computer which helps me manage my thoughts in blog form...

3. Choose good ingredients.
The "Good Ingredients" in my life are the people I hold dear. Without them, I would be an utter failure. I long to spend more time with my family. I feel that we should carefully choose our friends...pick those who are kind and loyal and thoughtful. These are the ones who will stand by us when we need them the most.

4. Measure accurately.
Everything in moderation. Nothing in excess. Have you ever put too much baking powder in a cake? Too much flour in your gravy? We all know what happens when the measurements are off. Nothing works as planned.

5. Mix carefully.
Life needs balance. We should consider what we are willing to spend our precious time doing, and who we should be doing it with. What's truly important to me? God, Dan, Willie, my Family, Friends, "Me" time...

6. Know your pans and oven, and how to cool your cakes.
or "Know my own limits, and how to calm myself if I get overheated!" Knowing how to "cool ones cakes" when they get too hot... now that is truly something every wise woman (and man and child) should learn to do! I know I sometimes struggle with keeping my cool (when Will used a red crayon on the marble mantle this weekend, for example...)

So if you ever get a chance, check out "All About Home Baking". It's a fun read filled with simple articles and recipes.... though not exactly the one I'm looking for at the moment. Hmmm what will it be?

I'm thinking PIE...


A Tale of Two Winters

These past few weeks of snow and ice and winds have inspired me to re-read an old childhood favorite. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder is a great book to read (or re-read) when the snow in thigh deep and the temperatures are sub zero.

It's a good little book to pick up for several reasons. First of all, it is simply lovely (as are all of the books in the "Little House" series). It gives us an eye-opening glimpse into what Pioneer life was like, and most importantly, it helps us to understand just how good we have it these days in a world full of modern convenience!

Humor me while I compare....

From Our Current Winter...
It is early in the morning. The smell of freshly brewed coffee and blueberry muffins swell through the little kitchen. Christy reaches for her small weather radio and turns the silver knob to hear the robotic weather report for the day. "High today of 0 degrees," says the robot. "A wind chill advisory warning is in effect until 9pm." Christy frowns as she realizes there will be no errand running today. Going out alone in the freezing cold is one thing, but there's no way she'll risk taking the baby out unless its absolutely necessary. "Oh well," she grumbles. "Maybe I can get out of this house tomorrow." And with that, she returns to her hubby, who is reading the morning paper, and her giggling boy. They finish breakfast and start the day warm and snug (even if a little stir-crazy).

The Long Winter:
"Her mittened hand was so numb that it hardly felt Carrie's hand. She was shaking all over and deep inside her there was a shaking that she could not stop. Only in her very middle there was a solid knot that ached, and her shaking pulled this knot tighter so that the ache grew worse."xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

From Our Current Winter...
The refrigerator door is standing wide open. "We're about out of milk," Christy calls from behind the open door. "Would you mind running to the store to get another gallon? Might as well pick up a loaf of bread too." Dan says he will, bundles up and heads out to brave the chill for a quick grocery store run. Little Willie stands at the window and watches his Daddy drive away. Big tears streak down his chubby cheeks, "Daa Daa?" he asks sadly. "He'll be right back Sweetie, the store is just five minutes away."
From The Long Winter:
"Laura tried to think of the good brown smell and taste of the beef for dinner tomorrow, but she could not forget that now the houses and the town would be all alone till spring. There was half a bushel of wheat that they could grind to make flour, and there were the few potatoes, but nothing more to eat until the train came. The wheat and the potatoes were not enough."
From Our Current Winter...
When she gets home from work one day, Dan greets Christy at the door, hands her a cheerful red-cheeked baby and says, "There's something wrong with the furnace. Watch him and I'll check it out." Christy takes the squirming tot to his room where she layers on an extra sweater and some thick socks. They go to her room where she puts on her slippers and an extra sweatshirt. She takes him to the hall and they look at the thermostat. "Yikes... it's only 59 degrees in here!" They go to the family room and play with blocks so that they won't think about the crisp air. Within the hour, Dan has fixed the furnace and the heat begins, once again, to fill the little house with its cozy warmth.

The Long Winter:
"In the morning Laura got out of bed into the cold. She dressed downstairs by the fire that Pa had kindled before he went to the stable. They ate their course brown bread. Then all day long she and Ma and Mary ground wheat and twisted hay as fast as they could. The fire must not go out; it was very cold. They ate some course brown bread. Then Laura crawled into the cold bed and shivered until she grew warm enough to sleep."

And so it goes... there is nothing I could even think to complain about that would come close to what those brave pioneers went through that terrible winter when SEVEN months worth of blizzards pounded the prairie. I am reminded how very thankful that I am for heat and insulation and warm clothes and modern medicine and plentiful food.

I finished re-reading The Long Winter just last night, and I think I'm going to make it an annual requirement for myself. It never hurts to be reminded of one's blessings, and this book certainly does that well!



When my baby Wills looks at me with those big beautiful eyes, smiles his cutie-pie smile and says "Mama", there is just nothing I won't do for him.

I've been a Mom for almost a year and a half, but sometimes I take one look at him and it's like it is all brand new again.

Who knew a heart could feel so full? All the other Moms in the world, I imagine.

Tonight Dan and went to a hockey game with an old college buddy. While he was away, Willie and I had the house to ourselves. We colored. We danced. We built towers out of blocks. I gave him maybe a million kisses, and he humored me by tolerating them.

At bedtime, he drifted off to sleep easily, like the little angel he is. I watch him snoring softly in his cozy crib, and I have to fight the urge to wake him up so we can play some more.

What a perfect evening... just a boy and his Mama!

I can hardly wait for tomorrow when we can start it all over again.


Because the Spring....

This winter, the cold seems to have an angry bite to it. Its winds snarl at us as we leave our cozy little house. We walk quickly and carefully over slippery terrain. The freezing rain stings our cheeks as we scrape snow and ice from our windshields. We drive with white-knuckled alertness. The cold sticks to us and seeps into our bones. Our coats don't seem thick enough. Our boots feel flimsy. When we get back home, the fierce wind pounds on our eaves and rattles our chimney. Whispers of the cold seep in through tiny cracks we didn't know were there.xxxxx
We snuggle under blankets and put on extra socks.

We sip cocoa and eat hot & hearty soup.

We wear layers. We do jumping jacks. We think warm thoughts.

We dread the next time we have to leave the comforting warmth of our home.

Winter is not new to us. We are native Midwesterners. This winter though, and the ferocious cold it brings... seems bigger, harsher, wilder, more dangerous.

Luckily we know that Winter (not even this one) can last forever and that Spring (oh lovely Spring) is really not that far away. And we suffer through the harsh chill of Winter BECAUSE the Spring is coming. I think if there wasn't that "light at the end of the tunnel", many of us would pack our bags, load our mini-vans, and head for warmer climates. But one of the many benefits to living in a locale that has four distinct seasons, is that we HAVE four distinct seasons. And those of us who survive a nasty Winter, are surely more appreciative of those first few blades of fresh grass, the tiny buds on trees & the smell of blooming flowers. We savor a breeze with no wind chill, and are easily excited when we can stop wearing sweaters.
But for now, we yearn for whatever warmth we can get in the mean-time... knowing it might be a while before Spring arrives.

"Oh wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?" ~Percy Bysshe Shelley


From the Kitchen of....the White House

I love recipes. I love reading them. I love using them. I adore cookbooks and cooking magazines, and those little cards you can get for free at the meat counter, and even printing off recipes from the internet.

My love of recipes started when I was moving into my first apartment, and my Mom gave me a recipe box (my first). It's shiny metal surface was adorned with little painted strawberries. A humble little box to be sure, but oh what wonder it held inside. It was stuffed with dog-eared copies of old family favorites, neatly folded magazine clippings, and pre-printed state fair recipe handouts. My favorites were those that were hand-written by any of the ladies in my family. My Grandmother H's cards were a bit brittle with age, but her careful printed recipes are still easy enough to read .... Other cards sported the old-fashioned cursive of my Great Aunt Mary, my Grandma B or Great Aunt Ree. My Mom's contributions were newer (and more familiar - she'd included all of my childhood favorites). They were each written on bright neon cards. Those recipes on neon became some of the first I attempted as I dealt with a bit of homesickness, and a youthful hunger for anything home-made.

The cook book collection began not long after I received that first recipe box. In the beginning I looked for cookbooks that were like the ones that sit on Mom's kitchen shelf. Many were classics: Betty Crocker, Better Homes & Gardens, Joy of Cooking, and Pillsbury. There were some older beauties that turned out to be a bit harder to find, but with each one.... my obsession grew. I discovered the Betty Crocker "Cooky Book" thanks to my Mother in Law, and when I found out that particular book was one in a series.... I started looking for all of those. Then I got distracted by Church compilation books, most filled with recipes from ladies I've never met, but that are each clearly worth giving a try... there were the pamphlets from the Depression Era that boasted war time recipes and ways to save money. For a while I was side-tracked by cake decorating and found several books on that subject. And then there was Sylvia's Soul Food cookbook, the Fannie Farmer Baking, Watkins, and Hershey. Eventually, I started finding earlier editions of my favorites (I now have several "Joy of Cooking" books) and so on.... It's become an addiction, but one which I have no desire to pursue therapy for.

No matter how many I have (and after 15 plus years of collecting, let's just say I have more than a few), I always enjoy a new addition to my collection. We went antiquing this past weekend in a nearby college town. Dan spotted it first... a 1920 version of "The White House Cookbook". It's pages were fragile and yellowed, but it was in fairly good condition for its age, and priced reasonably. I looked up at Dan, and didn't even need to say anything. One look at my face and he knew. "I think we'll take it," he said.
Later that night, when the baby was sleeping sweetly and Dan was watching a football game on TV, I opened up my new treasure to review its contents more thoroughly. The photographs & paintings of former First Ladies were sharp and clear. Recipes for Squirrel soup and Pigeon pie caught my attention, as did "American Toast" and Gruel. Admittedly, most of these aren't ones I'll try, but I do love learning about the cooking and eating habits of earlier generations. Most of the recipes (nearly all) call for lard, or "a lump of butter about the size of an egg". Instead of temperatures in degrees, they instruct the reader to use an oven that is "quick" or "hot". There is a section dedicated to home remedies, and another to the proper way to butcher livestock. Tucked into the front cover is a neatly written recipe for "Stock Fish" along with a second supporting note from "Dad" which says he remembers this recipe which he knew as "Lute fish" and admits it was not one of his favorites. I can guarantee I'll never prepare this recipe, but I love that it exists... and that someone cared enough to write about it. Those pieces of paper will stay right there for as long as this book is in my possession. It is after all, where they belong.
As an added bonus, stuffed between many of the yellowed pages were old newspaper clippings with titles like "Pumpkin Pie Filling"... "Calvin Coolidge loves Custard!"... "Daffodil Cake" & "Date Bait". That last one was an article about how wonderful dates (the fruit) are and it included several recipes to use them in. Additionally, there were more hand written recipes for "Spice Cake" and "Pickled Herring". These little scraps of paper are almost more fun for me than the book itself. I always consider myself lucky when I come across a book filled with fun little bits like this. I imagine some of the recipes are tried and true, while others might have merely caught the fancy of the former owner. I think of each of these add-ins as gifts from a kindred spirit... a glance into what recipes intrigued THEM.

This "new" book will be a favorite I think. I won't cook directly from it, for fear of damaging it's fragile pages, but I will copy down any recipes that I decide to try.
Of course I'll then probably have to call my Grandmother to see if she knows what temp a "quick" oven is... and then I'll have to track down some lard, and maybe Dan can rustle up some squirrels etc. (Note: Dan is refusing to go squirrel hunting, so I guess that recipe is out.)
Regardless, it will be a fun journey which I will enjoy heartily, and which hopefully will help me to produce some lovely treats for my fellas.


Resolutions and such

I haven't made any resolutions for years, but I have decided to give it a try again this year.....

1. I resolve to relax. I will try (with every bone in my body) to not go crazy when Willie runs about the house swinging one of my bras over his head like a lasso.... or when he throws his grape juice filled sippy cut onto the floor for the hundredth time in one meal.... or when he gives me a very sinister stink eye if I say "no" to well, anything.... I vow to take a deep breath, and remember that these little things won't matter in the long run. I will try not to "sweat the small stuff".

2. I resolve to slow down. I tend to forge ahead with an idea full-tilt before thinking any of it through. Dan on the other hand makes decisions carefully after deliberating all possible outcomes. I vow to be more like him. I'll try to think before I act (at least occasionally - who am I kidding? this will be a big change), and take a deep breath. I promise to take some time for myself that doesn't include multi-tasking a million little things at once.

3. I resolve to live in the moment and not worry about what might come around the corner. I want to savor every moment with Dan and Willie, with my parents and my brother, with the rest of my family and with my friends. Time slips by so fast. I want to make every minute count.
4. I resolve to stay healthy. Working out with the Wii, counting calories, avoiding that second helping of anything and everything.... whatever it takes to feel good and get fit. I'm not getting any younger, and I want more than anything to be able to enjoy spending time with my family without getting worn out or feeling exhausted.

5. I resolve to learn something new. I'm leaving this one wide open. Not sure what opportunities the year will bring, but I promise to attempt at least one totally new task this year.

6. Finally, I resolve to stop procrastinating. I've wanted to write a children's book for years and years. I always make excuses for why it's not happening. Those excuses need to stop. I vow this year I'll actually get something accomplished (even if it leads nowhere and never becomes available to the public). At least I'll know I can mark it off my life's long term"To Do" list.


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