We are stepping back in time to find ways of doing little things we seem to have forgotten or never knew because we live in a world that is way too fast.....
I had two sets of Grandparents, like everyone, that I visited every Summer. In those days school let out in May and started back in September. My Grandparents lived a little over four city blocks apart by today's measurements.
During the Fall and Winter months, I only visited on the weekends or Holiday breaks. And what fun those visits were. Gathering acorns for squirrels, making and wearing Halloween costumes. cracking pecans for pies, cookies, and candy.
Christmas was the best. Going to the lakeside to cut pine and pick up pine cones, hunting for the perfect tree, making special candies, putting candles in the windows and above all going to church late at night.
Spring was just as much fun. We waited for the hens to start laying heavy so we would have extra eggs for dying and hunting, planting flower beds and picking Strawberries for jam, shortcakes, and pies, celebrating Easter with lamb cakes, baskets, eggs baked in dough birds, and going to church during holy week.
Now, the Summers and weekends are gone and I have grown up. But, those days and years are still with me.
Christmas in Louisiana is a wonderful time for families and most of all children. Because my Grandparents were on my Father's side French and Irish and on my Mother's side Italian I had the best of three worlds. Every other year my parents and I would spend Chrismas with one or the other.
Christmas on the French side meant going to the Mississippi River for a trip up to Baton Rouge. Travelling on a paddle-wheeler we would have supper with jazz music and cajun clowns.
Along the river up high on the levels, we would see wooden structures of all type. Some would be built to look like cabins or lookout towers or a beast from another world.
Once we reached Baton Rouge, Port Allen, to be exact the paddle-wheeler would turn around and head back to New Orleans. But this time all of the wooden structures would be on fire burning high into the sky to welcome Papa Noel and guide him to their homes.
It was quite a sight to see. Before long Papa Noel in his pirogue, no sleigh for him would stop the paddle- wheeler and climb on board to give small gifts to all of the children. Then he would depart to fill the stockings of the children living along the river.
Once we reached New Orleans we would step off the paddle-wheeler to the smell of fresh coffee and sweet beignets, a French doughnut. But, we could not stop to enjoy the treat until we crossed the square and attended Mass at St Louis Cathedral. Once Mass was over we would cross back to have coffee and beignets. Now it was time to go home to see what Papa Noel had left for us. Joyeux Noel
Grandma's Italian Beet Salad
Today, I was looking for something different to add to our supper. I had pulled a number of beets from our garden and they were just sitting on the counter looking at me. Then it came to me, I should make Grandma's Italian Beet Salad.
Grandma would wash the beets, boil them, remove the skins and slice them. She would slice onions and layer beets and onions together. To this, she would add a mixture of Italian herbs from her garden, olive oil, and vinegar. Now, a salad Grandma would put it in her refrigerator to let it rest.
But, today, if you have not grown beets and don't have a herb garden here's a quick and simple way to make this delicious salad.
2 cans sliced Beets
2 med sized yellow or white onions
1 bottle Italien Wish Bome Salad dressing
In a medium size bowl place well-drained beets one layer at a time over sliced onions. One layer beets, one layer onions. Add salad dressing over each layer. Place bowl in your refrigerator for about 6 hours. Can be eaten for 2 days after making the salad.
The Sleeping Hummer
Today, I was thinking about my Grandparents who always had beautiful flowers growing in a garden filled with birds and butterflies. I can't remember ever seeing a feeder, yet there were always birds... like hummingbirds and bright coloured butterflies. In the late evening, I would join my Irish Grandfather to go to the chicken house to gather eggs for the next morning. Now, my Grandfather chewed tobacco and my French Grandmother would not let him in the house until he had 'rid himself of it' . So Grandfather and I sit on the back steps until ' he had rid himself of the sinful tobacco' and that was when we would talk.
My Grandfather worked for a newspaper, so he had lots of stories to tell. And he did... like the night the Maine, the Titanic and the Lusitania sank. He would shout, ' Stop the press', and then in a lower voice tell how they had to wait for news to come in so they could 'start the press'. The stories were told in such detail and the words were so clearly pronounced that I could in my mind's eye see all that was happing. But, back to the garden.
So, on long Summer days, I would draw him back to the garden asking most often why they had so many birds and where did all those butterflies come from. His answer was simple, 'plant the right flowers'. To me flowers were flowers ... they came and they went.
The next afternoon my Grandfather with a full mouth of tobacco said, 'Look around what do you see'? Flowers? No, you see Madevilla, Impatiens, Pinks, Day Lillies, Phlox and by the kitchen window Columbine. 'I planted those there so your Grandmother would see hummingbirds when she washed dishes,' he said.
Way out past the chicken house stood an old red barn that was in sore need of some paint. 'What about the tall growing flowers by the barn', I asked. 'Oh, those are for the other birds that like seeds.... they are the Hollyhocks, BroomCorn, and Sunflowers'.
Near the kitchen door in large white pots were planted purple Petunias. They were full of blooms and some hung over the sides of the pots. 'Purple Petunias are very important if you want hummingbirds... those birds love purple Petunias', he said, adding, he had seen one sleeping in a flower early one morning.
'Are you sure', I asked? 'Sure as you are sitting here', he said. In my heart, I knew if I had ever found one sleeping in a flower I would have fallen over dead.
'Look, Honey, gardens are what you grow not just to look pretty, but to do some good.... like feeding the birds and helping the butterflies....everything in the earth benefits when you plant a garden
Now, some 65++ years later a friend has sent me a photo of a hummingbird that one early morning was, you guessed it, sleeping in a purple petunia flower. As you can see for yourself..... it sure looks like a hummer to me! I guess Grandfather wasn't just telling a tall Irish tail.
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Ty and the Sunflowers
Our beautiful sweet Ty loves sunflowers and loves going into a sunflower field. When no one is looking she likes to pick one or two. Folks all over the world love these great big beautiful beauties. So, too, do the birds.
Right now is the time to gather your sunflowers before the bird's feast on them. The key is to know when they are ready:
1) Are the flowers starting to drop?
2) Are the fuzzy florets easy to rub off?
3) Are the birds around all the time?
If you answered yes to 2 of the 3 questions - it's time to cut the sunflowers.
Now, the question is what do you want to do Save seeds for the birds or roast them to snack on during the long Winter. Well, let's do both.
Harvesting and drying sunflowers:
1) Cut sunflowers off close to the stem and dry off. You can put them in a paper bag in a warm spot in your home and let them dry on their own. However, I prefer to dry my seeds in the oven. If you want to do that here's how:
1) Rub off florets.
2) Push off seeds. Thumbs work well.
3) Put seeds on a cookie sheet and bake in a 70-degree oven for 2 hours. Leave in the oven for 6 hours or overnight to cool.
Your seeds should be dry, if not repeat. Seeds can be stored in an airtight container and are perfect for your bird feeder.
But, if you want to roast some for eating - here's how.
1) In a good size, pot add 1/4 cup of salt to 1-quart of water. You will need to repeat the amount until you have enough to cover all of your seeds.
2) Soak overnight. Use a plate to hold the seeds down.
3) Rinse, drain off, and pat dry with a dishcloth.
4) Place seeds on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.
5) Cool and enjoy.
The end of Summer can be a wonderful fun time if you have sunflowers!
Great, Great Grandmother's Pickled Beets
Everyone always loved her beets my Grandmother said, as I stood in her kitchen trying to open a quart size jar of pickled beets. Who, I asked? Just about anyone who ever ate one, she said.
For years, I had seen my Grandmother pull beets from her garden. Cook them long enough in boiling water to make the skin easy to rub off. Set the beets aside to cool and mix sugar and vinegar in a large pot.
As the story goes Grandmother was taught how to pickle beets by her Grandmother who was taught by her Grandmother. So, that takes us back to about 1877. If the Bible records are right.
Today, I pickle beets for our store, Yesteryear Country Store. We never have enough so we take orders year round. I use Grandmother's recipe and here it is:
Use canned whole beets unless you have grown some. Have sugar and vinegar on hand, plus clean quart jars that have been in boiling water for 10 minutes or more. Now, for our store, we process our beets for 29 minutes in a steam canner. But, you can make your pickled beets whenever you want them or make three or four jars at a time storing them in your refrigerator unopened for three or four weeks.
To make you will need:
5 cans of beets to make 2-quart jars of pickled beets.
3 cups white sugar.
3 cups white vinegar.
Dran beets and set aside. Mix sugar and vinegar in a glass or stainless steel pot. Bring mixture to a slow boil. Stir the mixture until you feel a slight thicken resistance to the spoon. Put beets into the jars and pour the mixture over them. Add lids. Let cool and refrigerator over-night before serving.
If you want to add whole onions to your beets - use small or about the same size onions.
Peel and add the onions to the mixture just before the mixture starts to thicken. Repeat the above steps. You will, however, need more jars.
If you are not adding onions to your jars and use only beets you can save the jar juice to make pickled eggs. Just, add boiled eggs to the juice and let them sit in the refrigerator. It will take about 3 days for the eggs to pickle.
An Irish tale with a very sweet ending......
On the second weekend in October, I sat on the back steps with my Grandfather and talked about the coming of Winter. There was a chill in the air and I button up my sweater. 'You cold, honey?' Grandfather asked. 'A little,' I admitted. 'Well, that's the work of Jack Frost,' he said. 'Who?'
'With long icy fingers, he touches the branches of every tree turning their leaves to colours of gold and orange and then Jack calls the wind to change into a chill,' Grandfather added. He does?
As a child, I could just see Jack Frost... a small man dressed in dark green with a pointed nose and long icy finger. In my mind's eye, I could see he had ice dripping from his green jacket and wore a pointed crooked black hat.
'Have you ever seen him?' I asked. 'No,' Grandfather said. 'He works at night.' Dismissing my question Grandfather added, 'There will be frost on the pumpkins in the morning and if you want pumpkin pancakes for your breakfast we need to get going.' So out to the field, we went to pick a sugar pumpkin.
Now, back in the kitchen, my Grandmother waited for us to bring the pumpkin in. 'What have you two been doing.' she asked? Then looking at my Grandfather she added, ' telling tall Irish tales?' 'Oh, no, we were talking about Jack Frost,' I answered and a smile crossed her face.
Taking the pumpkin Grandmother cut it in half cleaning out the pumpkin halves. Then placing them half side down on a cookie sheet to bake to make pumpkin puree. In the morning she would make pumpkin pancakes. Oh, so good with spiced honey.
Today, I still make pumpkin pancakes always on the second weekend in October, but I do it the easy way. Let me tell you how:
Cut one sugar pumpkin in half. Remove stem and clean out pulp and seeds.
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Cover pumpkin halves with foil. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until tender.
Scrape out pumpkin meat and put in a blender and blend until smooth.
Extra puree may be put in jars and frozen for later use.
I like to use Bisquick Pancake and Baking Mix.
1 large egg beaten.
1 1/4 cup milk.
2 cups baking mix.
1/2 cup puree.
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice.
Mix well by hand. The batter will be thick.
Use butter, oil of your choice or cooking spray on frying pan or griddle. Heat frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Use 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. The batter will make about 14 pancakes or 8 very large pancakes. Serve with butter and spiced honey.
Add 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice to 1 cup of honey. Use on pancakes, toast, ice cream or on just about anything you want to add a taste of goodness.
Make some this weekend and celebrate the start of Fall - a beautiful time of the year!
Moma's Pecan Pumpkin Cookies
Every Fall when the pecan tree began to drop its nuts, I knew it would not be long before Momma would be making her pecan pumpkin cookies. Right after school we would grab a bucket ( big one for Moma and a small one for me) and search the ground for newly fallen nuts. The wind would be blowing and the nuts would be falling. It was a fun time. To me, a seven-year-old, it seemed the leaves were dancing and I was caught up in a whirlwind. Moma and I would laugh and talk and she would hug me. Those were wonderful afternoons.
Once the pecans were gathered we would take them into the house to be shelled and chopped. 'Now,' Moma would say, 'let's make some cookies.' And I would shout 'yes'.
As the years passed when my sons would go to see Moma in the Fall, she would take them out (with a bucket in each hand) to the pecan tree to gather nuts and later make cookies. This is her recipe:
Pecan Pumpkin Cookies ( 1948)
2 eggs beaten
1/2 butter (or margarine)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (or can pumpkin)
2 1/2 cups flour (Gold Medal all-purpose)
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon soda powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 cup pecan pieces
If you do not want to use pecans, you can use raisins or a 1/2 cup of each.
Preheat oven 375 degrees
Spray or grease 2 cookie sheets
Mix butter, sugar, and beaten eggs together until smooth
Add remaining ingredients and blend well
Fold in pecans or raisins or both depending on what you want
Drop dough by tablespoons about 2 inches apart
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until set
Moma baked one cookie sheet at a time and when they were cool, if not eaten, the remaining cookies were stored in her favourite cookie jar, a fat little pig!
The week before Halloween was always exciting. There were pumpkins to be carved and costumes to be found. As Halloween drew near my Dad would get the pumpkins and start his carving and my Mom would look for things to put together for a costume.
Somehow, every year I became a witch and my best friend, Gilbert, became a ghost. Mom would dress me in one of her old skirts that would go to the floor on me, add an old shawl that Grandmother no longer used and put a witch hat on my head. As for Gilbert, his Mom would cut a hole in the centre of a white worn out tablecloth and a pillowcase with cut out holes for his eyes and mouth on his head That was it, we were ready. People in those days did not buy costumes.
Every year it was the job of one of the parents to hold a party at their house at the end of Trick or Treating. That year it was to be at my house.
The gang, as my Dad called us, would start out just as the Sun set. Pumpkins glowed from every house and soon it would be very dark. Standing on each corner was a parent. Their job was to make sure we were all together. At the end of the night, we would go to my house for cake, punch and candied apples.
My Mom made her own caramel by using 2 cups of white sugar. 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter and 1 cup of heavy cream. She heated it slowly in a heavy pot until it browned and became thick.
But, years later when my sons would bring home their gang, I would make candied apples the easy way.
Caramel Candied Apples (1972)
Use Granny Smith, Macintosh or any firm apple you like. Wash apples in warm water to remove wax. Put apples in your refrigerator for 8 hours. Buy a 14 oz bag of Caramels and some pop sickle sticks. Put wax paper on a cookie sheet and you are ready to candy your apples.
Remove wrappers from caramels (give this job to your children)
Put a stick in the top centre of each apple.
Put caramels in an 8 cup microwavable bowl and heat for 3 minutes - checking after 1 and a half minutes to see if it is stirrable, but not hot. Just real, real warm.
Dip each apple in caramel and place on the cookie sheet.
Add sprinkles or salt to the top of the apples, if desired.
Halloween is a very scary good time and candied apples make it even better!
Always around the second week of December, it would arrive. Mama never showed much interest, but I did and I knew it was time for the Package to arrive. Always wrapped in brown paper the kind that came from grocery bags and tied with rows and rows of string.
Once the Mailman dropped it off it would sit on the dining room table and my Dad would act like it didn't exist. We never used that table unless it was a holiday or if we had company. Most of the time we ate supper at the long kitchen table, but even from there I could see the Package.
I must have been about 4 years old when I first discovered the Package and learned what was in it. From that year on I looked for it to come. About five days before Christmas Mana would bring the Package to the kitchen and take off the strings replacing them with a bright ribbon. Tying the ribbon into a bow she would add some small pine cones or a bell and some greens make the Package look pretty. Afterwards, she would put it under the tree and tell me it was for my Dad adding that once it was opened she was sure he would share some with me and her.
On Christmas morning the Package would be the last one opened. And Daddy would say that after dinner we would have some, just one at a time
In the Package now a gift box was the most delicious Pralines made by my Dad's God Mother and who I knew as Aunt Florence. My Dad's family was Louisianna French and Pralines are a famous New Orleans candy made only at special times of the year by skilled candy makers. The candy is a blend of roasted pecans, light brown sugar and sweet whipped cream which makes the Praline melt in your mouth.
When I was old enough I talked Aunt Florance into teaching me the art of making Pralines. She used a marble slab that she cooled in the refrigerator to drop her candy on as she made it. And she would say it is important to make the candy only on very dry days. Today I have her marble slab and her recipe, but I use wax paper. Below is her recipe and you still have time to make a dozen Pralines before Christmas.
You will need:
Just something I am thinking about.....
When I was a little girl I always wanted a waggon. And I was always told, ' waggons are for little boys.' So when I grew up I started collecting waggons. All are old except for one.
I kept them the way they were.... no new paint...just the way I found them. I stood the waggons up against trees in my yard and loved just looking out at them. I even had a cat have kittens under one. Of course, I kept the cat and the kittens and used the waggon as a feeding station.
Not long after that, I started using the waggons for moving garden supplies around the yard and planting in some. The one new waggon I use for bringing up vegetables from the garden to the house.
more to come...
Yesteryear Country Store
Flea Land, Bowling Green, Ky
Store 54 - 55
1100 Three Springs Road
Bowling Green, KY 42104
Open: Sat & Sun 9 to 5
Phone: 270 791-1241
Stop in our store for your Cheistmas decorating needs..