Sunday, April 25, 2021

Playing on the Old Sidewalk

I looked for an old photo of the sidewalk I used to play on before we moved to the country but I couldn't find one. The above photo is a stock photo from the internet. That is not me. But it could have been me many years ago when playing on the crooked, bumpy sidewalk running by our home situated alongside a lane. Being able to play on the sidewalk once spring came was as exciting as seeing robins or seeing grass or seeing daffodils and tulips or hearing the geese flying over. 

Sidewalks were a playground all to themselves. Part of the sidewalk I played on was going up a slight incline. There were cracks in it. There was even a bump that you had to plan for when going down the incline full speed on your bike. It was best to ride over on an edge of the bump than take your chances riding over the middle of it. The bump would send you flying. If that happened it might have been fun soaring through the air or disastrous. I had both experiences. 

Part of the sidewalk was older than the rest of it. The concrete was different. So  there was lots going on that had to be considered when riding a bike or roller skating or playing hopscotch or jumping rope. Playing with marbles or playing Jacks of Pick-Up Stixs was tricky but still so much fun. Somehow being a kid made playing with all the idiosyncrasies of that beloved sidewalk much easier.

Some days I'd bring my doll beds outside under a tree that sat next to the sidewalk. I loved my doll beds. My mother bought them at work-at an annual Holiday event held at Hepburn Hospital. Of course I had to bring out the dolls and their blankets and outfits. I had to have lunch with them under the tree. After I'd put them to sleep I'd go for a ride on my bike or play hopscotch or jump rope. If it rained I traded the tree in for the back porch. 

But it wasn't as much fun playing on the back porch. I had to leave the sidewalk where it was-with old concrete and cracks and a bump that sent you soaring, if you were lucky.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Funny Bunny and Peter Rabbit on Page 133

 Welcome to Page 133 of Betty Crocker's New Boys and Girls Cook Book printed in the 1960s. Way back when I was in Junior High/High School this page would be spread out on the kitchen counter in our house in the country right about now. After making the Funny Bunny Biscuits and Peter Rabbit Cake a few years in a row I really didn't need to refer to page 133 in that cookbook. By then I knew it all by heart. But going into the kitchen drawer and pulling the cookbook out had become just as much a tradition as making the biscuits and cake. So that's what I would do.

The fun part of doing that was one thing lead to another. I'd sometimes make up my own recipes. I'd sometimes give the bunnies a body by using another biscuit and then add a small biscuit tail. I'd use the suggested raisins for the eyes and candied cherry for the nose and slivered almonds for the whiskers if my father had picked up some almonds when at the grocery store. Or instead of making a Peter Rabbit cake I'd make Peter Rabbit cupcakes.

Now when I go through the pages of that simply illustrated cookbook I am reminded of how much things have changed since that cookbook was published what with the cooking channels and TV chefs and Celebrity Chefs and Bakers online and fancy pans and fancy recipes.

But while things have changed, I dare say the excitement of turning to page 133 in that Betty Crocker New Boys and Girls Cook Book and making Funny Bunny Biscuits, some with just a head and ears and some with a head, ears, body and tail or a Peter Rabbit Cake or Peter Rabbit Cupcakes is as exciting and rewarding as anything a TV chef or Celebrity chef or Baker experiences. Maybe even more!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Gone Fishing Down at the Creek

This is the only old photo I have that shows any inkling of where the creek that ran behind my grandparents' farmhouse was located. If you look beyond my older brother, the toddler in the photo, and my grandfather passing by on his tractor, a hint of  that creek can be seen beyond that overgrown field. 

When my cousins and I were growing up that creek, known as Sucker Creek for a reason, turned into a marvelous place to play no matter the season. We'd build hideaways along its banks out of the brush growing wild. We'd skate on it in the wintertime, even in the evenings. One of our uncles built us rafts out of telephone poles so using steel poles as steering devices, we'd travel about that creek on one adventure after another. And in the summertime before the creek dried up, we'd go fishing although looking back, I can't ever remember seeing a single fish swimming in that murky water.

But then, it wasn't the normal kind of fishing and we were just kids having fun. We'd get bamboo poles that belonged to a relative and kept in their garage. We never had lures or bait. No worms. No hooks. Nothing. We'd attach safety pins to the end of our lines which was string tied to the end of the bamboo poles. Then we'd go down to the creek and stand or sit on the rickety old plank bridge and go fishing, our version of fishing. More than once our hook would get stuck in some creek grass or an old log or the plank bridge or some leaves hanging from trees. Most times we'd have to walk into the creek to rescue our safety pins. We never thought about the blood suckers. We never had too many safety pins so they were quite valuable to us. It was thrilling to cast our strings into the water and wait to see if we had a nibble. 

I can't ever remember any nibbles. 

I can remember lots of laughs and secrets told and lazy summer afternoons spent on a rickety old plank bridge fishing with my cousins.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Helping Out Mother Nature

 When it got to be that time of the year, when winter was thinking of fading into spring, my cousins and I gave Mother Nature a hand in the process as it seemed pretty slow to us. Because we spent lots of time outside anytime of the year-lots of time in the fields and pastures, whether attempting to feed my older brother's black angus as pictured above or running through hayfields or running to our clubhouse or down to the creek, when the thought of spring was in the air, we pitched in to help that happen even faster than Mother Nature had planned on making it happen.

Sometimes we'd start in the driveways. We'd go into my aunt's garage and bring out whatever we could find to chop through the ice and shovel the remaining snow away. Guess we thought we'd then be able to ride our bikes. Whatever we thought we'd be out there working hard with shovels and hoes. Part of the fun was etching little streams out in the melting snow, leading that water to a bigger pool of water and then, jump in it. That got rid of many a puddle. Sometimes we'd chop away at a clump of ice so hard that our faces would turn red. It became quite warm out there. Lots of laughs. Lots of fun but we never succeeded in bringing our bikes out until Mother Nature stepped in and did her thing. She was always equipped to take us from one season to the next without using hoes or rakes or shovels or pitch forks. Her tool chest, including the winds and rains and snowfalls and sunshine, always worked better than our tools. 

But we so enjoyed helping her out, especially when we'd play along a stream that ran alongside my grandparents' farmhouse. It came from a field across the road, ran through a tunnel under the road, alongside the farmhouse and down to the creek. The water would get so high in the spring that we could race little twigs down it to the flat rock getting soaking wet in the process. That is until Mother Nature either made it snow and brought the temperature down making that stream freeze or turning the temperature up high making it all dry up. 

Either way, Mother Nature always ruled the show.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

For The Love of Cookie Cutters

There's something both relaxing and exciting about cutting out cookies. It might be the anticipation after making and then refrigerating the cookie dough. Then waiting for it to be ready. 

I use the same recipe when cutting out cookies. I found it years ago in the December, 1982 issue of Ladies' Home Journal with Drew Barrymore when she was a little girl on the cover. The recipe was included in a section highlighting favorite Cookie Recipes from 'Superstars.' The recipe I use is Dolly Parton's Christmas Sugar Cookies. I still have my copy of that issue. I go to the cupboard and bring the magazine out every time I make those cookies. The page the recipe is on is smeared with flour as well as grease stains from butter and remains of the dough itself. It's also sprinkled with love as that page has bought joy and fun and precious memories over the years. I really don't need to get the magazine out and turn to page 95 because I know the recipe by heart. I get the magazine out because it has become part of my process when making Dolly Parton's sugar cookies. 

So after the dough is rolled out, the fun of cutting out the cookies begins. And that means choosing the cookie cutters I keep in Ball glass mason jars. If I am the only one making the cookies, I usually use the old tin heart cookie cutter. It was my grandmother's. By using such a small cookie cutter, the end result is more cookies. 

But if the scenario changes and I'm cutting out cookies with two excited grandchildren, more often than not all the cookie cutters come out of the jars. And that includes cookie cutters that belonged to my mother, some of them bought at the local Woolworths or Newberry's. That also includes cookie cutters shaped like elephants and horses and cats and gingerbread men and Santas and stars and snowflakes and snowmen. 

When those grandchildren really get into it, they don't use the cookie cutters. They use their imaginations which has produced a cookie dough house for a cookie dough kitten as well as a cookie dough island surrounded by both cookie dough fish and fish cut out of paper attached to toothpicks turned fishing poles. Cookie dough puppies have been created as well as a cookie dough family of puppies and a house for all the puppies. Of course when all of these cookie dough creations went into the oven, they turned to blobs. But that didn't stop the laughter. It only created more. And all of those original creations were still quite delicious.

Taking the time to make the dough, refrigerate the dough and then choosing cookie cutters to cut out the dough is a creative endeavor, baking up wonderful memories and making more flour and butter stains on page 95 of the December, 1982 issue of the Ladies' Home Journal.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Those Small Milk Cartons With Straws

I can't remember what elementary grade I was in when taking a morning break to enjoy a small, sometimes cold and sometimes not so cold small container of whole milk with my classmates. The Milk Break was part of the daily schedule. I do remember how good it tasted. The milk didn't come in flavors. Not even chocolate. There was no fat free or calcium enriched or soybean milk. Just whole milk in individual cartons. 

The cartons were either opened by the teacher and then the student put a straw into the milk or there was a sealed hole in the carton and either the student or teacher pushed a straw through the hole. Straws were not fancy or colored. They did not have brand names or licensed characters on them. They did not have loops, making it possible to watch the milk go around the loops as a student sucked on the straw. They did not come wrapped in cellophane attached to the carton. 

Instead, the teacher would walk around each table full of students, stopping beside each student so the student could reach into a cardboard box and pick out a straw. Straws were wrapped and sealed in paper so the routine was hygienically safe for all concerned, especially when a student wasn't able to make up his or her mind, dropping one straw wrapped in paper and choosing another and maybe repeating the process.

Those fifteen or twenty minute milk breaks were so much fun. Sometimes when the teacher wasn't looking, a few students would blow through their straws that were in the milk and bubbles would come rolling out on to the table That caused laughter. Giggles. And the teacher coming around to see what was going on. Many times the kids who blew the bubbles were the kids chosen to do the pick-up. That meant they went from one table to the next holding the waste paper basket, waiting for each student to dump their empty milk cartons, straws and napkins in the trash.

From what I remember none of the students taking the waste paper basket around the room minded the task. I guess blowing bubbles in the milk was worth it.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Rice Croquettes in the Wintertime

 Growing up when the snow started falling and the wind howled it became time for mittens and boots; skates, sleds, and toboggans as well as homemade soups and breads, casseroles and a favorite my grandmother used to make-Rice Croquettes. 

I'm sure any of us grandchildren who sat around her kitchen table enjoying those rice croquettes never understood what a croquette was but it didn't matter. We were going by the taste, the warmth and the fun we had sitting around that table in the wintertime. Sometimes after skating down at the creek, we'd stop at our grandmother's and if she was baking cookies or making rice croquettes she'd sit us down to enjoy whatever it was she was making. Her molasses cookies were so delicious. One was a handful.

I never realized until years later that rice croquettes are quite simple to make. There are only four ingredients. After mixing the ingredients together, you roll out the croquettes in flour and cook them in deep fat until browned. The crowning glory was topping those croquettes off with hot tomato sauce or hot tomato soup. Tomato soup was usually my grandmother's choice. I remember anxiously waiting for her to cover my croquette with her hot tomato soup. 

Who knew such a soup could be so exciting-exciting as whipped cream on a chocolate pie. Icing on a cake. Meringue on a lemon pie. But it was and it had everything to do with my grandmother who turned rice croquettes into sought after delicacies served with love in the wintertime.