Archive for May, 2013

The Sewing Area

Cleaning out a sewing drawer, closet or room is always a special project. I find fabric scraps and come up with new ideas of what to make. I always find a few unfinished projects, disappointed that I never finished them, I come away with a new resolve to finish them. And hope they are done by the next cleaning.


May 1984

To clean out sewing drawers is to review the last twenty years of one’s life. Here are all the bits and pieces left over from the small everyday jobs and the big mind- boggling projects. Each has a special significance.

As I open the bottom drawer I see a jumble of blue denim material torn from the back of overall legs. They’ve been saved to patch worn out overall knees. How hard it used to be to keep ahead of the fine assortment of holes three active boys and one farmer could generate without even blinking an eye.

Here is some pretty pink wool from a suit one of the girls made in home ec sewing class under Mrs. Bender.

Along with most other sewing drawers in Sedgwick, a red pleated pep club skirt is quietly awaiting the sounding of the last trumpet.

This heavy white cotton lace dress was worn and loved for years. Maybe it can be recycled into another life as a pillow top.

At the bottom of the drawer is an apron made by an eight- year- old daughter in her first year of 4-H. Here is the plaid wool material from Melinda’s last try to win the county 4-H style show. As was her annual fate, she ended a finalist but not the winner. This pink quilted polyester material is left over from a bathrobe Joy made me for Christmas. Ten years later I’m still wearing it even though a new ready- made one hangs untouched in the closet.

In the next drawer is a plastic bag full of scraps from the bridesmaids’ dresses at Beth’s wedding sixteen years ago. I still am compelled to save them. They would make such good doll clothes. Now, if only the supply of small granddaughters holds out until there is time to make them.

Here at the back is a pink, double knit shift with white braid that was never hemmed. The style went out of fashion before I got in gear.

In the top drawer holding smaller items I counted: 7 thimbles, 4 tracing wheels, 33 cards of buttons, 43 spools of thread and a broken seam ripper, my most valued tool in its prime.

There is a pile of old patterns, a boxful of zippers, and a Mountain Mist roll of quilt batting.

I carefully sorted through all this plus 10 times more, items I won’t enumerate. For two days I worked, ironed all the material and sorted it into neat stacks, separated the straight pins from the safety pins and sorted out the laces and rufflings.

I felt very smug and organized and resolved to keep the sewing supplies neat for the rest of my life even if I had to give up sewing to do it.

Then Melinda stopped by on her way home from work.

“Mom, I need a one- inch white button and some seam binding to finish the shirt I’m making,” she said as she hurriedly headed for the now immaculate sewing drawers.

“Stop! I shouted, “Don’t touch a thing in those drawers. It’s all organized and neat and I don’t want anything messed up. Let me get what you want.”

As I opened the drawer I brazenly hinted for a compliment. “Doesn’t it look just wonderful,” I inquired and waited expectantly for my well earned praise.

“Oh, I like the drawers best when they were nice and messy,” Melinda replied. “Then I knew if I rummaged around long enough I could find almost anything I wanted.”

TYPESETTERS NOTE: Leftover scraps provide a good reason for family and group gatherings! With “all hands” working together on that “special” quilt or pillow, it can be a real fun time. And the end product made from pieces once worn by members of the family makes a never to be forgotten keepsake.


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Class Reunions

Reunions are a time for reconnecting and reminiscing. This article from May 1988 has some interesting stories reflecting the difficulties of going to school during the Great Depression.


Reunions Gives us Pause for Reflection


In the months of May and June school reunions blossom everywhere as thick as dandelions in a bluegrass lawn. Everyone you meet has just got back from a reunion or is preparing to go to one.

Planning to attend a school reunion is a big part of the fun. Months ahead of time weight- loss diets are reactivated. (Who wants to look as if they had spent the years since graduation in a rate-of-gain contest?) Stylish clothes are purchased. A new car is bought or the old one polished up. As the time to leave grows near, an appointment is made for a complete rejuvenation at a beauty shop. No effort is too great to achieve the successful alumni look. Everyone tries to put his best foot forward for the big event.

What is behind this current infatuation with reunions? For one thing, reunions serve as markers or milestones in our lives. They also bring back memories of what used to be. They let us reach out again and touch once more those who were a vital part of our lives in long- gone school days.

Looking at reunions from a practical viewpoint, modern transportation has made it easier for more people to return to their old stomping grounds. The more out-of-town alumni that get back, the more fun is had in sharing memories.

The act of remembering the past together has a therapeutic effect. Memory casts a haze over the bad times of our school years.

We fondly recall the teachers who inspired us to go out and meet the world head on and forget the ones who bored us stiff with their long lectures and corny jokes.

We remember the school musicals and plays, the athletic victories, the happy times with our friends.

We forget the long hours spent trying to understand geometry, the agony of not having the right clothes to wear, the anguish of not being invited to a special party,

At reunions we greet old classmates we haven’t seen since graduation with so much warmth and affection we surprise ourselves at the depth of our feelings. We forgive old enemies and can’t even remember what caused our hostility in the first place. We feel a deep comradeship with all who shared our youth.

We cherish each moment and wish the euphoria of the day would last forever. Joy is in the air, waiting to be inhaled and savored to the last breath. The halcyon days of youth are recalled, the long ago events that, in retrospect, seem to have happened yesterday.

Reunions also give us a chance to take inventory of our own lives and secretly compare our accomplishments with those of our classmates. Reunions provide us with an opportunity to brag about our children and grandchildren. Modesty requires us to play down our own career achievements and not to ever, ever, mention the size of our bank account. But we are free to talk about the younger members of our families and list their achievements with quiet pride.

Two weeks ago I went to the reunion of the College of Emporia and Emporia State University students who had graduated before 1943. At a small luncheon on the last day, the alumni present were asked to tell what we had done in the years since we had stood in line, hearts beating fast under our long black robes, to receive our degree.

The men almost always began the summary of their lives with a remembrance of an athletic event or a dormitory prank, progressed on to tell of their careers in the business and professional world (not a failure among them) and finally mentioned their wives and children. The women told first of our children and husbands and then got around to our careers.

Since everyone there had lived through the Great Depression, the talk kept returning to the many economies we had practiced while getting our education.

“In my senior year I walked three miles every afternoon regardless of the weather,” one classmate recalled, “to do my practice teaching at Lowther Junior High School away down on 6th Street. A city bus ran right by the college to downtown, but the fare was a nickel and I didn’t have one to spare on such frivolity. In those days nickels were as scarce as a million dollar winning number in a lottery is today.”

We topped each other in telling stories of hard times and low wages. The winner was the man who told this story.

“When I graduated from high school,” he said, “the college offered me a working scholarship and the opportunity to play football. I did campus maintenance work (an euphemism for mowing lawns and shoveling snow) and got 25 cents an hour. Good wages for the times. Only the college kept 20 cents to apply on my tuition bill and paid me five cents an hour. On the football field I played my heart out for the dear old college. Then after I graduated the authorities refused to release my transcript until I paid the $200 they said I still owed them. I took a job on a railroad gang and labored through all the long hot summer to get the $200. I had the satisfaction of walking into the treasurer’s office and paying off the debt in one- dollar bills and walking out again with the transcript in my hand.”

Yes, school and class reunions are a time for renewal of old friendships, for recollections of past moments of glory and defeat, for sober reflections on the fleetingness of all things in life, and for staunch resolutions to make the most of the time left to us on this old planet, Earth. Long may they flourish.

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Too Much Learning

Interesting thoughts from May 16, 1985.  I have similar feelings about many things.


Things I wish I’d never learned:

  1. How to peel asparagus to make the bottom part of the stalk edible. Thanks to Julia Child in the Sunday magazine I now feel guilty when I throw away the tough part of the stalk and feel even worse when I stand at the sink peeling away to gain two more inches of usable asparagus.
  2. How to paint a ceiling.
  3. How to mend sox. If I’d never started Pa wouldn’t be so upset by the sock mending moratorium I’ve declared.

Things I wish others would learn:

  1. I wish Luke, our watch dog, would learn to leave skunks strictly alone. Or if he insists on being friendly with them he would soothe his injured feelings somewhere else than in the garage right by the kitchen door.

Things I wish I’d learn:

  1. How much work a vegetable garden a half block square is.
  2. How to expand time.
  3. That grandchildren have more energy than I do.
  4. To walk right past a bargain and keep going. Recently I spotted the most wonderful bargain ever – 1984 garden seed marked down to two cents a package. Most of the seed was mustard greens, but what the heck! I grew up in the depression and can eat anything, though I’d never tried mustard greens.

On the nutrition charts they show an enormous amount of vitamin A and hardly any calories so I bought three packets.

That seed may have been old, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t fertile. Everyone of those microscopic black little fellows sprouted and fell in love with our sandy loam and took off growing. Oh, they were beautiful plants – a soft pale green with an adorable ruffled edge.

In almost no time at all I cut some and cooked up a mess of greens. After dousing them with vinegar I tasted them. Without a doubt those mustard greens were the bitterest thing ever grown. Out they went to the compost pile.

Since that, a friend told me that I should have drained the greens and put them in a skillet and them again with some bacon. I’m going to try her method, but just in case you are a mustard green lover, give me a call. The second and third planting will soon be ready.

Here are a few rhubarb recipes this week:


Rhubarb Bread
1 egg 1 ½ cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons margarine, melted 1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons milk 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cup white flour 1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda ¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups diced raw rhubarb
Beat sugar and egg. Add margarine, sour cream, milk and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients. Beat into first mixture. Fold in rhubarb.Pour batter into a greased and floured 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees or 1 hour or until done. Cool. Yield: 10 slices
Rhubarb Sauce
Wash, cut off leaves and stem end of rhubarb. Cut into ½ inch pieces. Use half as much sugar as fruit. Add small amount water and cook until soft. If desired, flavor with grated and rind of orange.Another method is to boil 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water, add 4 cups rhubarb and simmer until rhubarb is tender.Hint: Pour boiling water over rhubarb. Let stand 5 minutes, drain, and use less sugar.
Baked Rhubarb
Place 2 cups sugar and 4 cups sliced rhubarb in baking dish. Cover. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Rhubarb with Berries
Use equal parts of cut rhubarb and any fresh berry. Add sugar to taste. Let stand 1 or more hours. Heat slowly until sugar is dissolved. Cook until rhubarb is tender. Cool and serve.Raspberries, strawberries or mulberries may be used.
Rhubarb with Pineapple
Use equal parts of diced rhubarb and fresh diced pineapple. Add 1 ½ cups sugar to 4 cups fruit. Let stand 1 or more hours. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Cook until tender. Cool and serve.

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Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

Since Mother’s Day is this Sunday I thought I would share these thoughts my Grandma had about the day from May 10, 1984.

Mother’s Day is almost here and all the little and not so little children are trying to find just the right gift to give Mother.

I remember the years when a plaster hand print or a crayoned picture or a crumpled bunch of violets were my gifts. I remember the year the whole bunch of kids pooled their money and bought a rose- colored, footed dish of Fenton glass. After buying the dish there was a bit of money left so they bought one bunch of purple grapes and draped it rakishly down the side.

The grapes are gone, but the rose colored dish reflects the afternoon sun from the shelf where it sits; reminding me of the thoughtfulness of little children, long grown but still dear as ever.

From a 6 or 7 year old kid’s point of view the best of all gifts is to serve Mom breakfast in bed.

For a Mom to stay in bed during the preparation of this Mother’s Day breakfast is the supreme test of motherhood.

The house may be disintegrating around you, the odor of burning bacon rising up the stairway, and the sound of pottery crashing to the floor, but you must stay in bed, steel yourself to the voices of children squabbling.

“Careful, Jimmy, you’re stepping in the egg I dropped on the floor.”

“Gee, this coffee looks funny.”

“I get to carry the tray.”

“Oh, no, you don’t, you got to carry it last year.”

Mothers, clutch the headboard and hang on. You must not, I repeat, must not rush to the kitchen threatening mayhem. It is essential to stay in bed- to pass the test that entitles you to be called a Mother’s Day Veteran.

Stay right there among your bitten- off fingernails and smile lovingly when the burnt offering appears at your bedside.

The kids will stand with beaming smiles as you look at the tray with its dandelion centerpiece.

“Mommie, try some of the scrambled eggs. I broke the eggs myself and only let a few pieces of shell get in.”

“How do you like the orange juice? I made it all by myself?”

“Did you have a good sleep while we fixed your breakfast? Oh, Mommy, we love you so much.”

Forget about the pains in your fingers from gripping the headboard to keep from leaping out of the bed in panic at the commotion in the kitchen.

Forget about the two hours you’ll have to spend cleaning up the horrible mess the kids made on the stove and floor. Savor the moment.

You have just been given the greatest gift in the world. Pure, unadulterated, shining love masquerading in the guise of burned bacon and scrambled eggs.

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Cooking on the fire

It’s that time again. Time to take out the grill and enjoy the nice weather.

May 1981

Whenever the gusty Kansas wind subsides to a gentle breeze it is a good time to plan a family cookout. As a change from hot dogs and hamburgers, try wrapping the food in foil and cooking it over the fire. When the meal is done, just open the package and eat directly out of the foil. No dishes to wash.

Heavy duty foil is best for outdoor cooking. Cut foil to allow for a five inch overlap on each side of food. Place food in center. Bring opposite sides together at the top of the food and press down in several small consecutive folds. Flatten the two remaining sides of foil and roll in small folds toward the food. This I call the drugstore wrap. This wrap will seal in juices and will work well when cooking on a grill over coals.

Be careful to always have some food with a high moisture content on the top and bottom of the foil package. For instance, place onions, potatoes and carrots on both sides of a hamburger pattie.

If you want to cook directly on coals, wrap food in drugstore wrap. Then wrap again in foil and set package directly on coals.

Another method to cook directly on coals is to place food on foil, wrap foil with drugstore wrap before wrapping the package in layers of wet newspapers. This is good for fish and other short term cooking. Remove before paper catches on fire. Packages should be turned over at least once during cooking by any of these methods.

New- Idea Hamburgers
2 pound hamburger ¼ pound sliced cheese
2 large onions Salt and pepper
Season meat. Make 12 large, thin patties. Use 11×18” heavy duty foil (6). On each piece of foil put one slice onion and one beef pattie. In center place cheese. Put on another pattie.

Pinch edges of patties together. Put on another slice of onion. Seal, using drugstore wrap.

Cook on grill 15 minutes per side or insulate and cook on coals 12 minutes per side or until meat is done.

French Fries in Foil
4 medium potatoes 3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped parsley ½ cup sour cream
Cut potatoes in narrow strips. Cut 18” length of heavy-duty foil. Place potatoes in the center of the foil. Dot with the butter. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Wrap, using drugstore wrap. Place on wire grill 2 or 3 inches above hot coals or insulate package and cook directly on coals for 20 minutes on each side.

Open foil. Cover with the sour cream, sprinkle with parsley and serve hot.

Serves 4.
Kraut Hot Dog Dinner
1 16 oz. can sauerkraut ½ lb. Swiss or cheddar cheese
8 hot dogs
Cut four pieces of heavy-duty foil, each 12×18 inches. Divide kraut into four portions on the foil. Split hot dogs and place strips of cheese between the halves. Put two hot dogs on each foil. Seal foil, using drugstore wrap.

Cook on a wire rack two inches above the coals or insulate and lay on coals. Cook ten minutes on each side.

Serves four.


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