Monday, November 30, 2009


"I'd rather have what I want than be surprised," said Mike one year before Christmas, and he went off to buy his own gift. That has become the standard of giving between the two of us. Sometimes we buy a big-ticket item for the home and call it our Christmas gift, and then we'll buy some needful item just to wrap. Mike buys for himself; I buy for myself; and I do the wrapping. Mike rode off to Sears last weekend to buy a tool set for himself for Christmas, and I know he's happy as a clam. And of course, my hobbies are the kind that cost plenty and keep on costing, so I consider the machine embroidery I've been learning to be an ongoing gift. Still, a surprise is nice. We're taught to keep the gift a secret. Ina liked the surprise element, too. You notice in her writings that she relishes her secrets.

Mike and I went to Wal-Mart Black Friday morning – just to get out of the house, just to see what was going on. Plenty of people moved in the aisles, but it was manageable. We bought a gallon of milk, two skeins of yarn, a box of cards, and two bottles of Dr. Pepper. I saw an exceptional deal – $18.00 -- on something I had been considering as a surprise gift for Mike. I had been thinking of ordering it for him at $65.00 plus shipping and handling. And there it was -- $18.00! But he was with me, and I wanted to surprise him.

I could hardly wait for Mike and Nellie to leave Saturday morning so that I could run back to Wal-Mart. Approaching the display in question – there it was, but the price had changed – no longer $18.00 but $29.96. That it was a "Black Friday" special never entered my mind. Whatever happened to "falling prices," "price rollbacks," etc. My heart sank. "Well, I was going to pay much more," I reasoned to myself. "And when you think of it that way, it's still a good deal." I agreed with myself and selected a color I liked.

"Did you find everything you wanted?" asked the cashier. Yes, I said, and told her my tale – protecting the surprise element was costing me $12.00. "Well, that's too bad," she said, "because it costs him $12.00, too." We laughed.

And – that brings us full circle in Mike's philosophy – "I'd rather have what I want than be surprised." And he might add, "I'd rather pay less than be surprised." He doesn't always get it his way. KW

Sunday, November 29, 2009


"Reflections on the Confluence" it was called – the annual pre-Christmas lighted boat parade on the Snake River. It was first organized in 1986 and was held annually until 2000 on the last Saturday before Christmas. At its peak there were 56 boats entered. Most years until the last there were at least 26 entrants, but in 2000 there were only seven. Cold December temperatures, the proximity of the date to Christmas, lackluster promotion, unwillingness of boat owners to get out on the river in the cold – who knows what all contributed to the demise of the event. It didn't help that in 1996 one of the boat owners drowned after the parade. Although the effect of lighted boats on the river was beautiful, a certain sameness seemed to pervade the event. I found myself thinking, "been there, done that." Finally organizers abandoned the effort.

Until this year, that is. Members of the local boat club decided that sponsoring the Christmas boat parade fell under their purview to promote boating and revived the parade. The local paper carried several articles. The parade was now scheduled for the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the hope of warmer weather and in order to entice those in town for Black Friday and pre-Christmas shopping to stay around a little longer. Boats were to line up at 3:00 at Swallows Nest Park and the parade was scheduled to start at 4:30.

So, at 4:30 Saturday evening, I suddenly remembered the boat parade and we decided to go. We quickly reviewed the camera manual for instructions on taking pictures in the dark and then set out from the town house and drove to the river. We could see the boats at Swallows Nest Park and drove on north to Beachview Park in Clarkston proper, where we parked the car and took the steps to the river. Other spectators were there – both on the beach and above in the park. We found a good spot at the river's edge where we sat in dry leaves to wait. And we waited – and waited – and waited, watching upriver for signs of lighted boats, which didn't seem to appear. Well, Mike doesn't wait all that well, and I could think of better things to do than to sit on the riverbank in the cold, so we left. Someone at the top of the steps at Beachview Park asked us for information. "We know there's a parade," we told her, "but so far it's not in sight." She mentioned conflicting information in the Tribune.

As we drove home along the river at 5:30 we could see the boats lined up – still at Swallows Nest – and it looked like they were moving south toward Asotin instead of north as the Tribune article stated. "Hundreds turn out to watch lighted boats make their way along the Snake River," read the headline in today's paper. Details of the parade route were vague in the article but I found the phrase, "began moving south." I'm thinking many spectators were also disappointed.

Mike took the photo of the moon as he waited for the boat parade, which, somehow we missed. KW

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Over the years I've thought a lot about Christmas giving. Mike and I have always controlled our Christmas spending and as much as it has saddened me from time to time – perhaps when we opted not to get a child an expensive gift or not to buy a showy gift for the family exchange -- we have reaped the benefits of keeping our gift spending under control. I was touched the other day when son Clint commented that he didn't know how we had done it, and he mentioned his Gobots, Transformers, Legos, trendy shoes, clothes, etc. "That stuff is expensive now and it was expensive then," he commented. It took some planning and it did involve some deprivation, but that he doesn't remember it that way warms my heart.

Giving and receiving with grace should hold an important place in our lives. The whole process of thinking of others and putting their wants and needs before one's own (what is called magnanimity) expands heart, mind, and soul. Unselfishness is healthy. Remember the Grinch! So – what's the problem with holiday giving? Some problems that come to me are the money spent, the value involved, keeping gifts equal, providing gifts for family members we don't really know, feeling obligated to do more than we can really afford, the appallingly high cost of shipping. On the other side – receiving – the problem might be getting things we neither want nor need while being properly appreciative to the giver, or perhaps knowing that the giver couldn't afford the gift.

Does a good gift really need to be expensive? Aren't there things we all need and can use without spending beyond our budgets to provide them? Is the sole purpose of a gift to satisfy the recipient's fondest wish? Do we have to tolerate the expectation that a good gift must have a certain monetary value? Can we adopt a simpler idea of giving?

Let's look back to the Depression Days and see how Ina managed her holiday spending. Never mind that you don't know all the people on her list. They're her children and grandchildren. Just note the simplicity of the gift and her justifications. This entry was written in December 1932.

"I'm putting a pound of Climax [chewing tobacco] on [the tree] for Dad. He doesn't know I got an extra pound. It is for fun but I know he'll be glad to see it coming. I got a pair of leather-faced gloves for him, too, and for Shirley a pair of brushed wool gloves which she needs for going out these winter nights. Well, I also got her a box of pretty stationery – also a necessity. Then I've got her going on a surprise which is a pretty print apron. She'll never think of it for it was left over from the stuff I made Pearl's quilt top with.

"We sent Stan a premium fountain pen Dad got last year – think it will do him good service – and a pretty quilt top, all the material on hand. Aunt put in a pair of embroidered pillowcases and Ken's old toy typewriter. I have dried rose petals two summers so had plenty for three rather small cushions one each to Ethel, Myrtle, and Irl and Bernice. We sent Shirley Jean a cute little print apron and hankie in pocket and Shirley put in a little cup and saucer from her old tin things. Shirley Jean has always been crazy over them. Shirley also put in a book cover for Myrtle as she had hinted at wanting another. Irl and Bernice get a jar of fancy strawberry preserves. They failed to get any put up last year and Irl was so disappointed.

"Well, you see, our Xmas has cost next to nothing for what we bought was necessary anyway, but we've had a big time this hard times Xmas. Everything looks different when you look at it from Robinson Crusoe's standpoint, surrounded by a sea of depression, and things show up at a more real value. We appreciate the actual values of things. So we're going to have a very merry Xmas."

[This photo of my grandparents, Ina and Jack Dobson, with grandchildren Shirley Jean and Stanley was taken in 1926. Dick, their dog, makes a rare appearance in this photo. He seems to have a good opinion of his master.] KW

Friday, November 27, 2009


I slept later than I intended Thanksgiving morning, but the turkey was thawed, the bread stuffing was ready, and Clint helped me with the final wrestling – helping me slip the bird into the Reynold's roasting bag. Fortunately, the turkey was done by noon for our immediate departure to my sister's home in a rural setting near Troy, Idaho, where twenty-four of us gathered.

Years ago, when tradition ruled our holidays, my dad roasted the turkey. I don't believe I had ever roasted a turkey prior to his passing in 1987, but I bravely took it on when no one else wanted to. Dressing has been difficult for me to make because I feel there's a certain expectation. My dad made dressing that people loved, but when he left us, he took his recipe with him. I know just one thing – he started with a pan-ful of butter, and when I took over the project of roasting the turkey for our extended family gatherings, I decided to cut back on that troublesome ingredient, a.k.a. fat. To compensate, I added extra celery and onion. One of my nieces let me know that this was not Grandpa's dressing. So, I've always been self-conscious about my dressing and when this year someone else offered to bring it, I was glad enough to be relieved. And – I felt free to do my own thing: I made mine with apple and raisins and then I left what wasn't in the turkey here at the house. I couldn't help but be amused as the dinner-table conversation turned to the dressing. "The recipe called for two cups of butter, and I just couldn't do it," said the one who brought it. "So I used far less and added more vegetables, apples, and dried cranberries." It was very good and everyone said so. No one said it wasn't like Grandpa's – but it wasn't.

I was responsible to provide only the turkey – and the Dr. Pepper Salad. Now there's a recipe that's a little on the strange side. I think Mike's mother developed it based on a Coca Cola salad recipe. The ingredients are Black Cherry Jell-O, crushed pineapple, maraschino cherries, pecans, cream cheese, and, of course, Dr. Pepper. If I follow the recipe proportions, there's hardly enough liquid to dissolve the Jell-O. The method isn't clear, so every year I do it a little differently. You know what I've said about recipes: sometimes the originator just isn't clear or writes something down incorrectly.

And despite the large gathering, plenty of sliced turkey remained to be shared for turkey sandwiches. We also served ham.

"You never need more than two dozen rolls, no matter what size the group," advised my sister Harriet. "If you get more rolls, they will just be left over. Not everyone takes a roll. Why fill up on bread when you have so much delicious food available."

It was the usual carbohydrate feast, including pumpkin pie, apple pie, and coffee ice cream pie (one of my personal favorites) for dessert. My philosophy is to eat a bite of everything and not to over-eat.

My two sisters feel the stress of holiday gatherings in their homes. My town house is too small and the country home too far out for winter gatherings. Younger family members are not stepping up to the challenge, pointing to busy schedules. "Why not look into a restaurant for next year?" I suggested. "And let someone else provide the ambiance and wait on us." We'll see.

So – how did your feast go? KW

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


[There are comments on this post. I don't know why it says "0 comments." KW]

Hallie wants some gingersnaps to make "Pumpkin Ice Cream Dessert" for the Thanksgiving feast she plans to prepare. Last night she reported that the store was out of gingersnaps. This morning she explained that actually Nick had gone to the store and that he came back to report that the gingersnaps were "picked over." I'm afraid she's at the threshold of the bewildering experiences that occur between husband and wife (or just man and woman) when she sends him to the store. My assessment of the matter at hand: Hallie will have to go to the store and look for herself.

My mother complained of the same dilemma. My dad, a piano teacher, gave lessons in his home studio and often did the grocery shopping just to get out of the house. But my mother complained that he had no intuition with regard to her lists. For example if she wrote "mm," Daddy would come back with a package of M&Ms instead of marshmallows. "Now if I send Charles [her son] with my list," she said, "he comes back with marshmallows. If Charles can understand, why can't your dad?"

Then came the day many years later when she lived in the retirement home and Charles ran into the store for her to get a gallon of milk. Now, Mother became obsessed with checking the date on the milk carton. I guess it made sense. She didn't drink it very fast and would seek out a carton with an expiration date as far in the future as she could find. As Chuck left the car, she said to him, "Remember to check the date." He came back with the gallon of milk – and a package of dates.

One day I was shopping the baking aisle when a gentleman approached me with his wife's list. He was holding a package of lemon Jell-O. "What do you think she wants?" he asked me, showing me the list. It was clear to me she was making a lemon pie and wanted lemon pudding, which I showed him. "Don't take her that Jell-O," I advised him; "she won't be happy." He grinned, probably thinking of previous shopping "faux pas."

I expect Nick is really a pretty savvy grocery shopper. Probably knows how to find and select a good cut of meat, how to select good spices, what he wants when it comes to wine, where the cinnamon candy is. But he might be out of his element in store-bought cookies.

There's at least one very funny skit on this subject. If I can find it, I'll send it to Hallie. KW

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


My ability to effectively use my new embroidery module has been clouded by computer issues. First I had to convince the shop I had the wrong software, then it was working to solve computer issues. I thought I had it worked out. In fact, the machine worked great at the embroidery club meeting I attended in Moscow last Thursday. But again yesterday I expected a pleasurable embroidery experience but lost the time to internet searches regarding compatibility issues between Windows Vista and EC on PC, that part of the embroidery program that writes the design to my sewing machine. I ran two or three patches – and I always wonder how that will affect other computer applications. But it seems I just have no choice but to follow these leadings in the hope of being able to use my computer for machine embroidery. In the end, the fine print at the bottom of one support site said – "If you are still experiencing issues with getting your designs sent to your Bernina 430 machine, delete 'Microsoft .NET Framework' . . ." I had already deleted one version of that file; now I deleted the 3.5 version. With that the program came up and worked beautifully. Is it fixed or did it just happen?

"Look at it run," observed Mike, "doing 20 hours of handwork in five minutes."

"And doing it beautifully," I rejoined.

Meanwhile, I still don't know if the problem is "fixed" or if it will act up when I least expect it. Perhaps it will happen at the next embroidery club meeting or at some class and I will be really inconvenienced by its lack of cooperation. Mike assures me that it's nothing personal – that computers treat everyone this way.

Hallie has suggested maybe we should install Windows XP on my laptop. I'm about ready to agree. Often I read on these sites, "This issue does not exist with Windows XP." KW

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I bought the turkey for our extended family Thanksgiving dinner – 21.3 pounds at $.27 per pound at Albertson's with additional $25.00 purchase. It's not hard to spend the additional $25.00 these days. I brought the turkey home and managed to fit it into the freezer by removing the box containing Hallie and Nick's cake tier. It's now in the refrigerator freezer.

I thought the turkey would be big enough for a gathering of 22 people – almost a pound per person. Of course when you discard all the juice that bakes out, you no longer have a pound per person. But an article I read last night said to plan a pound and a half per person, which would allow for leftovers. Whoever heard of a 33-pound turkey? And who would want one? And I'M NOT roasting two turkeys. In point of fact, I'm only responsible for providing turkey for the dinner at which 22 will be present. Our hostess will also provide a nice ham.

Our extended family dinners aren't so much potlucks as cooperative affairs to which participating families agree to bring assigned food. Our blogger on "Retro Modern Housewife" points out that if you step outside your assigned area to provide additional food, it upsets the balance. She related an incident wherein she was assigned the pumpkin pie and she made two. Someone else decided to bring pie also, just because she wanted to. In the end there was too much pie, and our writer carried home her untouched pumpkin pies, which don't keep. I had never thought of the provision of additional food in that light.

But – it's evidently an age-old problem. Here's what Ina wrote about a cooperative Christmas dinner in 1934: "Aunt [Bertha, Ina's sister] helped me out by dressing a fat young rooster and bringing it ready for the roaster. She also insisted on making pies since I had my hands full – mince and pumpkin. One of each would be plenty, I said, but no – here came two each and ginger cookies frosted. She'd tried a new recipe. So we had mince and pumpkin pie with whipped cream on it, ginger cookies, fruit cake and do-nuts, and fruit and whipped cream for that, coffee, oranges, nuts and candy besides the after dinner mints. Well, we just parceled out the leftovers amongst the guests. I got thru it just fine. It was a good day."

At first I thought that fat young rooster was surely not enough for a gathering of 12 adults. It looked as if they would have very little meat per person, especially in consideration of all the dessert on hand. In re-reading that letter, I found Ina had also prepared roast beef. It was a feast in a lean year. To me it proves one thing. The tradition of holiday feasting, at least in my family, goes way back and is not just a modern-day development. KW

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


"Oh--here's something for the blog," wrote Hallie. "Will you post the recipe for pumpkin ice cream bars? I think I'm going to make that for our Thanksgiving dessert. I'll get a little turkey and we'll have mashed taters (instant) and gravy. Nick is going to make himself some stuffing but doesn't want to put it INSIDE the turkey. We'll have rolls and peas. A feast!!!"

I was reading just the other day that there's some evidence that we shouldn't stuff the turkey -- something about bacteria. That's probably advice I'll ignore. I've been eating stuffing for years. And, the year I didn't stuff the turkey, we thought it wasn't as tasty as it is when we do. Of course, my brother-in-law Bill, an old farm boy, doesn't eat poultry meat at all. He says anyone who has observed chickens, turkeys, etc., in the barnyard would not eat them. As a family, we pretty much ignore his advice but always have ham or roast beef on hand for him.

Here's the recipe Hallie requested. I've alluded to it before but I didn't post it -- I checked.

Beatrice's Pumpkin Ice Cream
Blend: 1 cup pumpkin, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp salt.
Heat until sugar dissolves -- then chill.
Mix pumpkin mixture, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, and one quart ice cream (soften it first).
Spread gingersnap crumbs in a flat pan. (I'd say about a cup.) Then spread ice cream mixture over the crumbs. Garnish with a sprinkling of gingersnap crumbs.
Freeze several hours before serving.

This is a recipe that my mother picked up at the ladies' sewing circle to which she belonged. It was shared by circle member Beatrice Smolinski, who happened to live across the street from Mother. KW

Saturday, November 14, 2009


My niece, Mary, called last week to invite us to a surprise party for my half-sister, Joni. "This is Mom's 75th birthday," said Mary, "and it's time to have a party in her honor. I want everyone to gather at the restaurant by 4:30, and I'll arrange for Mom to come in at 4:45. You all will be the surprise."

Joni's birthday was actually November 10. "Joni is really down," said my other sister, Harriet. "She thinks her children are basically ignoring her birthday. She told Pat [Joni's husband] that he's lucky he has a spring birthday." We've had several parties in Pat's honor. It was a little hard to watch Joni suffer. On the other hand, we had to chuckle knowing that such a nice surprise was waiting for her.

So, this afternoon Mike and I set out for Moscow to attend the surprise party. We stopped at Safeway to pick up the beautiful bouquet I had ordered for Joni on behalf of Harriet and myself. There are times when flowers are just the right touch. Moscow is only 30 miles from Lewiston and in recent years the road has been upgraded to four lanes much of the way. It was a pleasant trip on a beautiful but cold afternoon. We arrived early so that we could get groceries at Winco, which has the lowest prices around. We even had a few minutes to shop Michael's where we found cork board for the pantry walls. Moscow, being the home of the University of Idaho, does have some good shopping.

Speaking of the university, as we tried to approach the milk aisle in Winco, an employee was there with a wet mop. He looked like a janitor and I really didn't expect a moment of levity. "You can't come through this way," he told us – and then with a twinkle in his eye, he added, "but several highly-educated professorial types have tried." We all laughed.

As we pulled into the parking lot at the Best Western, we saw Joni and Pat entering the building. "What are they doing here?!" exclaimed Mike. "They aren't supposed to be here yet."

And it was true. Instead of party guests all gathered and waiting, Joni was surprised instead to see family she hadn't expected more or less converging on her from all directions in the lobby. We all entered the dining room together and took our seats. "I'm still being surprised," said Joni with tears in her eyes. "My cup runneth over."

"What did you think was going on?" I asked Joni. She said she expected to have dinner with Mary and her family, a birthday tradition. Pat had suggested they set off from home about 4:10 and that put them at the restaurant a little earlier than they were supposed to be there.

Joni's daughter, Monica, and her family were there from Seattle. They had made it over the pass. Here's a picture of Monica and her son, Keegan. The skirt she is wearing belonged to a great-great aunt, i.e. very old – heavy tucked satin made in New York City – probably around the turn of the century, as we used to say before we turned the page to another century. The skirt fit slender Monica perfectly.

Mike and Laurie came from the Boise area. Joni said she and Mike had a long phone conversation last night.

L.J. came with his folks, Harriet and Bill. Harriet said she had driven from Lewiston to Moscow. L.J. would drive them back.

Loris came, representing Nina's children, and her son, Micah put in an appearance. He works at a Moscow restaurant as a waiter, and since this was Dad's weekend at nearby Washington State University, he was anxious to get back to work, anticipating good business and good tips. "Enjoy your meal," he called to us as he left. Spoken like a true waiter.

Of course, Joni's daughter, Mary, our party organizer, lives in the area with her husband and two sons. And with them was her mother-in-law. So, there were 20 of us, and basically the same group will gather again at Joni's on Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I remember Mother and my sister, Nina, discussing sweet potato balls. I'm going to say I was no more than 10 at the time. I couldn't see that there was anything wrong with Mother's candied sweet potatoes, but Nina was talking about making sweet potato balls. I even remembered that they were looking at Mother's copy of Irma Rombauer's "The Joy of Cooking" (1946). In fact, when I checked that cookbook for the recipe, I found Mother's marker still on the page.

Sweet Potato Balls

Prepare by the preceding rule: Mashed sweet potatoes (I assume you can figure out how to mash your sweet potatoes.)
You may add: Grated orange rind or juice
Form potato balls around: Marshmallows (may be omitted)
Dilute: 1 egg
With: 2 tablespoons water
Dip the balls in the egg, then in: crushed cornflakes (I remember that Nina pressed half a red candied cherry into the center of each ball.)
Place the balls in a greased pan and bake until crisp in a moderate oven (350). Turn them to brown evenly. If desired the balls may be topped before being baked with a dab of butter and a little brown sugar.

Candied Sweet Potatoes (Mother made them this way.)
Slice 6 pared cooked sweet potatoes. Place in greased casserole. Add a syrup made of 1 cup brown sugar, ¼ cup water, ¼ cup butter, 1/3 cup butter, ½ tsp. salt. Bake at 350 (moderate oven) 45 minutes, basting occasionally. Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, 1950 edition

Now, I'm not one to fuss much over the food, so when it fell to me to fix the sweet potatoes, I used the recipe below. If I made it today, I would use fat free sour cream and egg substitute and never know the difference.

Sweet Potato Mallow -- A classic recipe, Marshmallows form a snow-capped topping on the colorful casserole. It's a natural teammate for ham or the Thanksgiving turkey.
1 pound sweet potatoes or yams (about 3 medium)
½ cup dairy sour cream
1 egg yolk
½ tsp. salt
1/3 tsp. mace
¼ cup miniature marshmallows or cup-up large marshmallows
If using fresh sweet potatoes, prepare and cook.
Heat oven to 350. In small mixer bowl, combine sweet potatoes, sour cream, egg yolk, salt and mace, beat on medium speed until smooth. Pour sweet potato mixture into buttered 1-quart casserole, top with marshmallows. Bake 30 minutes or until marshmallows are puffed and golden brown. 4 servings. Betty Crocker's Cookbook, 1969

Richard writes about Thanksgiving, Southern style:"Mike's right about the dressing. We gave up mashed potatoes years ago but continue to have sweet potatoes (different recipes for different years). My favorite is to boil them, peel them, slice them about a 1/4 inch thick, put a little butter and brown sugar on them and caramelize them in a black iron skillet. So what if it's not low cal? It's Thanksgiving."

It's quite chilly here at the farm today and raining off and on. We're rather confined to the house, so I made a good start on deep cleaning the kitchen. And I rewarded myself for my efforts by putting my Pfaltzgraff Christmas Heritage dinner plates in the plate rack. KW

Sunday, November 8, 2009


"We are to have a community dinner at the Gilbert schoolhouse Thanksgiving. I got 2 quarts of Cranberries Saturday. If it is bad weather I'll have Julian's here. We have had 2 weeks or more of fine weather, just a shower now and then and some frost and in October it got to 24 above and froze the pumpkins some." Great-Aunt Bertha Dobson, 11-26-33, Gilbert (near Orofino), Idaho

"Say! Why didn't you tell [in your last letter] what you had for Thanksgiving dinner? I am always interested in hearing it. . . . . We all went to the old Gilbert schoolhouse. You should have seen all the cakes, chicken, pies, and lovely salads. 44 [people] there. In the P.M. we went to the other schoolhouse and had songs and Mrs. Weeks gave that reading "Sally Ann" where she turned all the deacons and even the preacher a going over; it was fine and we all had such a good time. Ida and Ella went to Ella's at Ahsahka; 21 in all there for dinner. August Grimms had 21, too, and had a 22-pound turkey for them." Bertha, 12-17-33

"You folks sure had a feast on Thanksgiving but your Xmas dinners were good enough for any one and healthier, too, I suppose. I know that squash must have made a nice vase. I've read about such things." Bertha, 2-13-34

"What a time you all had Thanksgiving and what a big dinner. Mine didn't come up to it only we had pork cake and squash pie, too." Bertha, 12-18-35

Bertha also tells the relatives in Drain, Oregon, that she had never had turkey for Thanksgiving. They had pork roast instead. Of course, they didn't raise turkeys and living on the farm they wouldn't have bought meat. In the letters I have, Grandma Ina does not mention Thanksgiving, but she does describe several New Year's dinners at Bertha's (another post).

Over on the Modern Retro Housewife blog, we've been wondering if Thanksgiving was a less lavish meal, perhaps a healthier meal, in years gone by. Thanksgiving menus in recipe books seem to suggest this, but frankly, I can't remember that Thanksgiving dinner was ever anything but a lavish feast in my family. Our extended family gathered for turkey, dressing (stuffing), giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes in some form, a few side dishes, dinner rolls, and then at least three varieties of pie. Of course, the meal was a shared responsibility with each family bringing side dishes or desserts as agreed in advance. In addition, Mother would set out a plate of whatever holiday goodies she had ready, such as fruitcake and divinity. It was rich food – and my parents weren't ignorant on the subject of diet and nutrition. The menu was planned along traditional lines with no particular thought as to whether the meal was healthy. It was meant to be a feast and we looked forward to it as such.

Mike, born in 1941, says he also remembers Thanksgiving as a feast at his family home in Arkansas and then Mississippi. He says the menu was the same as my family's with the exception of potatoes. You don't need potatoes, he says, when you have stuffing. Well, this year he gets his way, because my sister says she doesn't want to deal with mashed potatoes and gravy.

In 1972 and 1973, I was living in Boston, and I had Thanksgiving dinner at the beautiful apartment of a friend in Cambridge. We were a diverse group, coming from Idaho, Colorado, California, and Missouri. We all had the same expectation of the feast. The meal was much the same as I'd had at home. I remember thinking, "There is no relief on this plate!" Everything was so very rich. I began to think about the self-imposed agony of over-indulgence and to realize that I simply didn't have to over eat. The food is not going away in a flash. There will be leftovers to enjoy.

So – how do you remember Thanksgiving? Do you think the feast was simpler in "simpler" times? Are you interested in simplifying your celebration of this holiday?

[The photos are of Thanksgiving celebrations at my Mother's taken in the early '70s. I probably wasn't there. You can see that we are dressed casually -- a concession to making a more relaxed day.] KW

[Daughter Hallie comments that she can't confidently identify any of the people. These photos are probably 10 years before her time. I decided to identify them here on the original post so that those for whom identification is meaningful can do so more easily.

Photo 1: lst table -- Mike N. (back to camera), David (redhead to Mike's right), Shann Profitt (to Mike's left), Mark Nunan in 4th position. Big table: Grandma Dobson (my mother) in white with back to camera; Mary to Grandma's left; Rachel; Becky; Harriet; L.J.; Pat in red sweater; probably Cheryl tucked between Pat and her dad, Chuck; Bill to Grandma's right.

Photo 2: Joni in gold; moving clockwise -- Grandma; Becky; Monica; I'm guessing the next is Rachel and the next we can't see; then Harriet just over Joni's chair; Pat; Mike; L.J.; Mary; and Mark. Hard to believe 35 years have passed. Seems like yesterday.]

Thursday, November 5, 2009


"Machine embroidery is an expensive hobby," I read, "but those who try it are quickly addicted." Just getting the opportunity to be addicted – just getting my system up and going – has been problematic.

"Perhaps this machine – running off a laptop – isn't the best way to go," I observed. But experienced individuals said that it should work and work well. Others have done it.

"The problem is," I told the woman next to me in the machine embroidery class, "that I have stepped into an arena on my own. I've always had a lot of support with computer issues, but now I'll have to be my own computer tech." How intuitive this proved to be.

The embroidery program I installed on my laptop has something called "EC on PC" whereby the computer transfers the embroidery info to my sewing machine. It slowly began to dawn on me that the problems I was having with my embroidery system related to "EC on PC" and probably had to do with Windows Vista. I knew I would have to solve it myself. I refused to be frustrated as again and again I moved through all the steps I could think of.

Finally, after reading the hardware manual and the software manual and even trying the online manual, I decided to do a Google search for "EC on PC," which took me to a Bernina troubleshooting site. "If you have Windows Vista and are having difficulties with EC on PC in a version 5 program, you MAY HAVE TO DELETE SUCH AND SUCH A FILE," I read. Instructions followed.

"Should I?" I asked Mike. "Go ahead," he said.

And this is how "at sea" I am with my computer's operating system: Mike had to come and help me find the file. But there it was! I uninstalled it, then rebooted my laptop, and with the very next try, "EC on PC" activated and I was embroidering my first solo design. "You can hit the easy button," said Mike.

Addicted? You bet! And only limited by the lack of thread in my stash. KW

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


This is the most difficult week of the year for me. The shift to standard time screws up my inner clock. I can't go to bed at 9:00 – that's too early – but going to bed at 10:00 is really 11:00 by the inner clock. For some reason I feel especially tired, so now I sleep until 7:00, and that's really 8:00 – so I've slept in. I'm due at a class at 9:00 but it seems like I'm waiting until 10:00. I want lunch at 11:00. But the worst of it is the evening hours. Darkness was already encroaching upon my schedule, but then we set the clocks back and suddenly it's really dark at 5:00 p.m. We normally eat supper at 6:30, but to facilitate adjustment to the time, we push it closer to 6:00. Then there's that long evening again – waiting for bedtime to come. When my children were little, it was even harder because they truly couldn't understand the shift. But I will adjust. I'll get over the tendency to compare time today with time last week. [The photo to the left shows the evening sky to the northeast just as we were leaving the farm Sunday. Note the moon.]

While we were at the farm over the weekend, I couldn't help but think how difficult the short days were before electric lights. As evening approached, Ina probably glanced out the kitchen window and noticed the shadow of the pine trees lengthened out against the field, and she would work faster to do what chores needed to be done before nightfall. No wonder supper was a simple meal in winter. Then she and Jack would spend a companionable evening reading by the light of the kerosene lantern or maybe listening to the old radio. They were undoubtedly in bed early so as to be up before daylight, ready to perform the day's chores by the light of the sun.

Oh! I almost forgot to tell you – the spinach I planted two months ago in the raised bed came up after all! I suppose it responded to the cooler temps. I imagine it will just sit there now until spring, then begin to grow. At least – that's what happened here in town last year. I really didn't expect it to come up. Well, you know how it is: I rejoice in every positive thing that happens, hoping that it will continue to develop. I put a layer of maple leaves over the top of the little seedlings.

This week it's my schedule that brought us back to town. I participated in a machine embroidery class on Monday. Tuesday I had a meeting which involved a silent auction fundraiser. I worked hard to get ready for it. Tomorrow is the annual bake sale at Rosauer's, a regionally-based grocery store. (Their "everyday" prices aren't the greatest, but we need Rosauer's because of the variety of goods and some specialty items we just don't find at other stores here.) I'm going to the sale with my study group friends. Friday morning I'll attend a presentation at the Bernina Shop and Saturday I'll go back to the Bernina Shop for an all-day "tips 'n tricks" embroidery workshop. Mike has been hunting every other day and performing various other chores around the house to round out his schedule. Oh – and watching football – both college and pro games – a lot of football. (Even Nellie thinks it's rather a lot of football.)