crazy-patchwork-quiltOver the holidays I enjoyed reading The Runaway Quilt, one in the long series of quilt themed books by Jennifer Chiaverini. It is a story that takes place in two eras – one just before the Civil War and the other in modern time.

One character mentions that “Families often set aside a special quilt to be used only infrequently by guests, but those quilts were typically the finest in the household.”

We had just such a quilt when I was growing up. It lay carefully folded in Mother’s cedar chest. I remember being very sick with chicken pox at about age 10. When I was past throwing up and beginning to feel better, mother laid that beautiful special quilt over me. I knew that I would be well soon! That quilt continued its “getting well” appearances until I left home. Later it came to stay in my own cedar chest.

The quilt had no fancy pattern. It was made of solid color satin squares laid out in rows. The squares were cut from the ribbons that trimmed flower bouquets at my grandfather’s 1927 funeral.


Published in: on January 11, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Year End Review

HPIM0188As we close the year 2015, here are the annual statistics for this blog (which posts every Monday morning):

8,599  Total blog views

In the past few years, views from foreign countries have increased. There were 875 foreign viewers from 69 countries in 2015. The top five countries were:

93     Russia

88     United Kingdom

85     Germany

78     Canada

68     France

The most frequent views continue to come primarily from children. Here are the most popular search topics in 2015. The first one has been in the top three for several years:

2,211     What did the Ute Indians eat?

78     Did Chipeta have children?

58     What was it like to live in a tipi (or tepee)?

Best wishes for the new year!

Memories of Christmases Past

HPIM1024In the last weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal for 2015, Peggy Noonan offered a nostalgic look at Christmases past. She recalls the 1950s “when families had less, when America had less, [and] a single gift could make a lasting impression.” Noonan offers stories of the gifts children who are now grown up remembered most – a wooden Daniel Boone musket; an old doll recovered from a basement and hastily cleaned up and dressed to become a treasured gift for a little girl who would not tell anyone what she wanted until Christmas Eve; a Pink Lady bicycle; a desk fashioned of scrap plywood.

My own memory brings back the bride doll I wanted at age 7 or 8. I remember waking up before sunrise on Christmas morning and tiptoeing into the living room. There beneath the tree was my doll. I believe I squealed, “He came! He really came!” Then,  hugging my doll tightly, I padded into my parents room, crawled in bed with them, and happily went back to sleep.

What is you special memory of Christmas past?

Published in: on December 28, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Christmas Dinner

family-christmas-dinnerNot sure what to serve for Christmas Dinner? Want something different? Here is a Menu for Christmas Dinner from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, published in 1896.

Consommé  ~  Bread Sticks

Olives  ~  Celery  ~  Salted Pecans

Roast Goose  ~  Potato Stuffing  ~  Apple Sauce

Duchess Potatoes  ~  Cream of Lima Beans

Chicken Croquettes with Green Peas

Dressed Lettuce with Cheese Straws

English Plum Pudding with Brandy Sauce

Frozen Pudding  ~  Assorted Cakes  ~  Bonbons

Crackers  ~  Cheese  ~  Café Noir


Have a Happy Holiday!

Published in: on December 21, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Christmas 1961

Here is an excerpt from “Christmas to Me,” a 1961 Harper Lee essay that appeared in McCall’s magazine, as quoted in The Mockingbird Next Door:

“What I really missed was a memory, an old memory of people long since gone, of my grandparents’ house bursting with cousins, smilax*, and holly. I missed the sound of hunting boots, the sudden open-door gusts of chilly air that cut through the aroma of pine needles and oyster dressing. I missed my brother’s night-before-Christmas mask of rectitude and my father’s bumblebee bass humming “Joy to the World.”

What sounds and scents and sensations fill your memories of Christmases past?

*Smilax rotundifolia, known as common greenbrier, is a woody vine native to the eastern and south-central United States and to eastern Canada. Used like holly as a holiday decoration.

Published in: on December 14, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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December 7th Memories

It was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who called December 7 “a date which will live in infamy” in his address to Congress the following day. Congress declared war against Japan and World War II began.

Also on that following day, Alan Lomax, head of the Library of Congress Archive of American Folk Song, asked colleagues across the nation to collect people’s immediate reactions to the bombing. People from all walks of life were interviewed over the next few days. Among the interviewees was a California woman then visiting her family in Dallas, Texas.

“My first thought was what a great pity that… another nation should be added to those aggressors who strove to limit our freedom. I find myself at the age of eighty, an old woman, hanging on to the tail of the world, trying to keep up. I do not want the driver’s seat. But the eternal verities–there are certain things that I wish to express: one thing that I am very sure of is that hatred is death, but love is light. I want to contribute to the civilization of the world but…when I look at the holocaust that is going on in the world today, I’m almost ready to let go…” Lena Jamison, “What A Great Pity,” December 9, 1941.

To read more of these “Man-on-the-Street interviews, go to http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/afcphhtml/afcphhome.html


Published in: on December 7, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Holiday Reading

Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini (Dutton 2015) offers parallel narratives of two people struggling with life’s challenges as the Christmas season approaches. Their stories are told in alternating chapters.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow suffers family tragedy and fear of more to come in 1863. But he manages to write a poem titled “Christmas Bells”.

The modern day character, Sophia, learns she will lose her teaching position. She worries not only for herself but for the underprivileged children in the church choir she directs. Longfellow’s poem, set to music, becomes the connecting link between two lives lived in different centuries.

Chiaverini’s previous works – Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival, The Spymistress, and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker – also bring to life real and fictional characters in interesting circumstances.


Thanksgiving Dinner circa 1903

thanksgiving-turkeyFor the table I prefer a white cloth with fancy border and napkins to match. A dash of color livens up the table in the bleak November when flowers cannot be had in profusion. Casters in the center, of course, flanked by tall celery glasses. At each end, glass fruit dishes filled with apples and nuts. A bottle of pepper sauce near the casters, a mold of jelly by the platter of turkey, and small side dishes of chopped cabbage garnished with rings of cold boiled eggs. The purple cabbage makes the handsomest-looking dishes.

Serve the soup from tureens into soup dishes, handing around to the guests. After this comes the piece-de-resistance, “Thanksgiving turkey.” A piece of dark meat with a spoonful of gravy, and one of white with a bit of jelly and a baked potato (I should prefer a spoonful of mashed) should be served on each plate, leaving the other vegetables to be passed afterward with the roast pig. After this the salad, and then the plates should be taken away and the dessert served. Then come the apples and nuts, the tea and coffee, well seasoned with grandpa’s old-time stories, grandma’s quaint sayings, and kind words and merry repartees from all.

from Dr. Chase’s Third Last and Complete Receipt Book and Household Physician, 1903


Published in: on November 23, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Visiting Maps

Cache CrkIn an April 2010 article for Colorado Country Life, Gayle Gresham wrote: “My love for maps began the first day of 4th grade at Cherry Valley Elementary School in Douglas County. Mr. O’Quinn, teacher in the “Big Room” (4th – 6th grades), walked to the front of the classroom, pulled a shiny new Colorado map down from its roller and announced a map drill. Before I knew it, I was hearing the names of towns I’d never heard before–Wild Horse, Rifle and Grover–and finding them on the…map.

“Years later, I renewed my love affair with Colorado maps when I started researching my family history. Maps became more personal as I searched for the mining camp of “Cash Creek” [later spelled Cache Creek] where my great-great grandparents first settled in Colorado in 1861…I visited Cash Creek and walked the land where my ancestors had walked; I even panned for gold in Cash Creek!” Gayle says one of the favorite map tools is Google Earth because she can “sit at home and soar over the mountains…zoom in on Cache Creek.”

Have you tried traveling to far away places with computer tools? As Dr. Seuss said, “Oh, the places you will go!”

WWII Letter From A Buddy

To all veterans, thank you for your service.

WWII FranceExcerpts from a soldier’s letter written from France to a stateside Army buddy (my Dad), 3 March 1945.

          We had a beer ration the other day, our first since we’ve been over here, and it was good, what there was of it. We got two bottles each.

          The “chicken” is worse over here than Ninth Headquarters ever was. The chow varies, sometimes we fare pretty well, and on all our moves, which is mighty frequent, we resort to those delicious “K” rations. Doesn’t that just make your mouth water?

         As for the girl situation on my part, it is kinda fifty-fifty as usual. I hear from Ada pretty often, but I think Aileen is pretty sore at me right now. I met a mighty swell gal in England. I hear from her quite often now. If I can get a furlough to England, I’ll sure rush back there. George got himself a gal back there too. We were never stationed in the states at a town better than the English town we were in. It was really swell.

           I did see my brother over here. He is in Maastricht, Holland. I hadn’t seen him for five years.

                                          Sincerely, Larry