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Driving the neighborhood today I couldn’t miss what has become a rare sight – sheets drying in the breeze. What a heartwarming sight those pristine white sheets and pillowcases were! This clear, blue April morning was a perfect day to pin laundry to a line stretched between two poles.

My senses immediately recalled the wonderful fresh smell of air-dried linens. I used to say if I were rich and had household help that every night I would sleep under fresh, lined-dried sheets. How long has it been since I’ve indulged in that feeling? And, why? I have a clothesline in the back yard. The effort of carrying the sheets upstairs from the laundry room isn’t more than I can manage. How easy it’s been to fall into the use of “modern” conveniences.

I remember when our family was moving to a new house in 1955. A built-in automatic washer was supposed to be a selling point. At the time my Mother used a Maytag wringer washer and two wash tubs for our family of four. Instead of being excited about the new machine she feared that she’d, “Miss having my hands in the water.” She loved the hands-on process of wash day.

I’m not trading my washer for a wringer but I may just carry the next laundered sheets to the backyard to flap in the breeze. I’ll dream of falling asleep to the embracing scent of freshness and comfort.

Healthy to Decadent

Every September Bob needs to take a dessert to a guild meeting. The apple cake recipe from his Mother has become a favorite with the group. Grandma Mary frequently made the easy recipe filled with chopped apples and plump raisins. She dusted the finished product with powdered sugar; so, the treat was reasonably healthy. Moist and tasty without being too sweet.

For years I duplicated her efforts. Then, experiencing a sweet attack, one day I decided to top the cake with a thick brown sugar icing. A new Yackel tradition was born. Now everyone expects the rich, decadent frosting. Surely, once a year we’re allowed to indulge.

Apple Cake

From: Grandma Mary Yackel

½ cup raisins – cook first in ¼ cup water

2 cups chopped apples

½ cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 cup flour + 2 tablespoons

2 eggs

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

Bring raisins and water to a boil, remove from heat, let cool and absorb the water while preparing apples and cake. If any liquid remains, drain before adding to batter.

Cream shortening and sugar; add flour, eggs, soda, cinnamon and vanilla. When blended stir in apples and raisins. Spread in greased baking dish (8×10). Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes. Makes a moist cake that keeps well. Good just dusted with powdered sugar. Excellent with brown sugar icing.

Brown Sugar Frosting

½ cup butter

1 cup brown sugar – firmly packed

¼ cup light cream

1 ¾ – 2 cups powdered sugar – sifted

½ teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in brown sugar, boil over low heat 2 minuets, stirring constantly. Stir in cream, continue stirring constantly and bring to a gentle boil. Remove from heat; cool to lukewarm. Gradually stir in sifted powdered sugar. Beat until thick and smooth, add vanilla.

Nancy’s Notes: The frosting thickens quickly – spread it fast or while the cake is still slightly warm.

Christmases Past

Favorite Christmas Memories

The holidays always stir memories. After more than six decades a few Christmases stand out for a variety of reasons.

  • 1949 - The first Christmas I have any specific memories of – I received a toy ironing board and iron. This created some kind of strange attachment. I still iron more than anyone I know.
  • 1953 – Brother Bill was engaged to his college sweetheart, Liz. I remember Liz sneaking two packages under our Christmas tree. It was hard to wait to unwrap the unexpected presents. Mine was a record of Here Comes Suzy Snowflake (Within my family I’ve always been Susie). Sister Judy received I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas. We still have those much played 78 rpm records – and sing along with enthusiasm whenever we hear either song.
  • I don’t remember the exact year but I was in elementary school, my first watch was wrapped and under the tree. Each afternoon I was home by myself after school. I would unwrap the watch, wear it around the house until just before my parents got home from work, then re-wrap it. Shame on me!
  • 1959- The first year our family spent Christmas in Colorado. Bill and Liz moved to Boulder the previous summer and were living in a small rental house. Grandpa Cutright came with us so we had four generations together. I still appreciate how much effort Liz put into making Christmas special that year. She made room for all of us, created a fake fireplace, made homemade cookies, candies and spiced nuts. Everything seemed so very special. I remember the Christmas Eve assembly of  “Old Joe” – the bouncy horse Santa left for nephew Billy. I received my first cookbook, The Good Housekeeping Cookbook.
  • 1960 - Another Colorado Christmas. Bill and Liz had moved into a home on Kalmia and nephew Jerry joined the family in May. Liz made everyone red Christmas stockings bound in white bias tape. Santa stuffed everyone’s stockings. Until this year only the young children received stocking goodies. Our family continues the tradition with the philosophy that you’re never too old for a visit from Santa.
  • 1961 – On Christmas Eve Liz appear with gowns and pajamas she’d made for everyone. The guys had red pants and red trimmed white flannel tops. Family females were dressed for bed in white flannel piped with red. I kept that gown long after I’d outgrown it, it yellowed with age but never faded in importance.
  • 1966- This was the last Christmas we would all be together for five years. The next summer Bill and Liz moved to Freeport, Bahamas. Our oldest son, Steven, was 7 weeks old. Unknown to all, Liz arranged for Santa to drop by for a visit before bedtime. The adults enjoyed the surprise as much as the children.
  • 1968 – The first Christmas I didn’t spend with my parents. Aunt Vera was sick, at the last minute their trip was delayed until after Christmas.
  • 1972 – Bill, Liz and family were back from the Bahamas. Judy and Russ had moved to Colorado. We were all together except for our parents who now lived in south Florida. Niece Janis was a bouncy ten-year-old always with a big smile. Our son Michael was a pudgy and happy 4-month-old.
  • 1982- The Christmas Eve Blizzard. A storm moved in on the 23rd and effectively shut down the city. By Christmas Eve Littleton had 29 inches of snow. Fifty  mph winds created drifts that were with us for two months. Christmas day was scheduled for our house that year. I remember the effort everyone made to spend the day together. Bob drove the International Scout to Aurora to pick up Billy and Lori. Bill and Liz made it to the bottom of our street. There was much trudging up the hill with presents. The time together proved worth the effort.
  • 1999- Granddaughter Jasmine’s first Christmas. At six months she wasn’t sure what it was all about. For the first time in forty years I didn’t spend the holidays in Colorado. We flew to Portland on Christmas Eve. Bob and I spent the week before New Years in Yachets – our favorite Oregon coast town. It was back to Portland for the beginning of the new millennium – after dire predictions of worldwide system collapses this was the non-event of the century.
  • 2000 - Our boys were now adults and living in different cities. It had been seven years since our family were all together for the holidays. Steve and Tammy lived in Portland, Oregon with 18-month-old Jasmine. We flew in a week before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Santa hats and jingle bells were donned when we all went to the airport to meet Michael and Eric. The major gift was the time together.
  • Christmases yet to come.

Potato Soup

Mother’s Cookbook

After a week of being sick I longed for a bowl of my mother’s potato soup and started looking through recipe books. Nothing fit my memories of how she made the creamy soup with cubes of potatoes. Recipes were either too involved or made with a white sauce which I knew was wrong. I’m sure mother never followed a recipe, it was something she learned from her mother working together in a farmhouse kitchen. I have the one cookbook found in our home as I was growing up, the Household Searchlight Recipe Book published in 1938. I don’t remember Mother using the book very often, basically she was a Midwest cook with good instincts.

My search didn’t find a soup recipe I wanted to use but I did find family history and a look into homemaking 70 years ago. The cookbook had a thick section on preserving foods. The meats section was amazingly thin – this was the depression era. Ingredients are basic pantry items, no mixes or Hamburger Helpers. Best of all were the newspaper clippings and scraps of paper with a recipe quickly jotted down – a couple were in my own youthful handwriting. It’s amazing how many variations there are to jello salad. Among the clippings was one on the “best exercises for spreading hips.” There’s something I need!

I used my own instincts to make the pot of potato soup. It was a pretty close facsimile, only lacking the floating pool of butter Mother would have added – spreading hips you know.

 

 

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