Soup, grandparents and the Great Depression

image

How could soup, my grandmother Mary and The Great Depression be intertwined in my memory bank forever?  Well, let me tell you about the life lessons I learned through soup my grandmother often made.

My grandmother was one of the best soup cooks I have ever known.  Her soup could rival any restaurant soup I have ever eaten.  Her soups were always savory, full of homegrown organic veggies, legumes and herbs.  Her recipes were varied and some of her best and most wonderful soups were hearty types like her navy bean and ham soup or thick, rich split pea or ox-tail with barley.  In all my childhood I never had a soup of hers that I didn’t love enough to eat for breakfast the next day and the next.  Because we lived in a two generation household, one pot could feed all six of us, my brother, parents and grandma and grandpa.  There were always leftovers.  My grandmother’s house often smelled like one of her wonderful soups simmering on her stove.  I could sometimes smell it wafting outside her kitchen window, onto her back patio as I played outside.

image

This is my grandmother’s high school graduation photo in a dress her mother made.  She was born in 1909.  She graduated from high school in Spanaway, WA in 1927.  She attended beauty college after high school and opened her own hair salon.  My grandfather was a client and she caught his eye and the rest is “history”.  The stock market crashed in October of 1929.  Now about the soup and hobo signs.

image

During the Great Depression, many men hopped freight trains, traveling from town to town, looking for work.  Some of these men became known as “hobos”.  Not all men looking for work lived as a hobo, but some did.  The hobos developed signs they would mark to help out other men to find shelter and food.  My grandfather worked for the Union Pacific Railroad as an engineer.  The plight of the hobo and the desperate situation of many hungry men and families were front and center for both of my grandparents.

My grandparents were the kind of Americans that when they saw a need, they found a way to do their part to fill the need.  My grandfather was a returned WW1 marine, earned the Purple Heart in the Battle of Belleau woods.  He was an imposing man of large stature with powerful hands that could brake a steam engine.  The same man had a heart as large as his stature.  I recall their eyes filling with tears as they spoke about The Great Depression, as they chopped vegetables for their many pots of soup.  My grandfather would say, while choking back tears, “I hope and pray that you will never know what it is like to have nothing and be hungry.  I hope you’ll always have enough to eat and have a roof over your head.  You’ll hopefully never know what it is like to really have nothing, God willing you never will know what desperation is really like.”

image

 

Now, back to soup.  My grandmother was faced with owning her little beauty parlor, which she rented out a small corner of a drug store in Spanaway, WA.  After the stock market crash, people could simply not afford hair cuts and hair styling, so she moved her haircutting to her home.  Her morning routine was to wake up and start a pot of hearty soup.  Soup can be made with the broth and left over meat from the bones.  In those times, people didn’t buy canned broth.  Nothing went to waste and you could purchase a ham bone, a beef tail or soup bones from your local butcher.  So my grandmother made a daily pot of soup and offered free haircuts, hot shaves and a hot bowl of soup for hungry men who were out on foot looking for work.   Some women made hand made signs like the one below and hung it out in front of their houses, indicating to hobos that the woman of the house was willing to offer a hot meal for hungry men who were out of work.  The little smiling cat was the hobo symbol for “a kind hearted woman lives here”.

image

Just think about that for a moment.  She opened her own house as a free soup kitchen and her back porch as a free barber shop for strange men.  This was a day and time when a woman could do this and not worry about being a victim of violence to the extent we see today.  I am sure there were crimes against women, but in her small Washington town, she felt called to do whatever she could to fill a need for those who were desperate.  My grandfather’s shift on the railroad would take him away from home for days in a row.  She was never afraid of being alone and boldly offered her free haircuts, shaves and hot soup until the need was over.  Even in her 70s, she would cut the neighbor’s hair because he had 14 children and she knew she could help him in this small way. She frequently bought new shoes for a family we knew who had a large family and little income.  I grew up with home haircuts and learned to cut my own boys hair by carefully and quietly watching her.

We learn life lessons through many ways.  My most important lessons were through stories shared through teary eyes who had seen first hand what desperation looks like.   Lessons were learned by listening to the stories about hobos, soup and haircuts.   This morning I woke and started a pot of chicken noodle soup.  I always make a lot more than we need so that we always have some to share.  If I ever deliver a mason jar of homemade soup to your doorstep, remember this story and the spirit of my always generous grandparents, who helped me to understand how to fill a need when I see a need.  All of my grandmother’s soup recipes I have memorized by heart.  There I was,  year after year, sitting at her kitchen bar, quietly watching her making her savory pots of love to share.

image

 

A quiet spring and Daisy progress…

image

I’ve been enjoying a quiet, rather introverted spring and it has been heavenly and peaceful.   Every morning, I wake early, take a hot bath, make a cup of coffee, turn on my 1943 zenith radio.  I cuddle into my favorite chair and listen to old time radio stories while I make slow and steady progress on my happy and lovely Daisy blanket.

image

The names of the DK weight yarns are all soft names like “satin”, “soft baby steps”, “soft touch” and “simply soft”.  My spring color choices have names like daffodil, sage, lilac, leaf, blue sky, robin’s egg, shell pink, soft fern, grape, buttercup, lapis, mint- all bring the garden colors into this one scrummy, yummy, soft and cheery blanket.  I take the word scrummy from one of my favorite British bloggers, Lucy from Attic 24.  You should check out her colorful little world of scrummy, yummy yarn creations at http://www.attic24.typepad.com – I love her sunny outlook on life and how she celebrates motherhood and creativity.   I love her words, photos and kindness.  Below is a photo montage of Lucy’s world.  You might enjoy peeking into her world.

image

 

I’m spending the season of lent, praying for friends and family.  A lot can happen in 40 days. My prayer list is long and much like my Daisy blanket, I’m making slow and steady progress on my prayer list.   I have a couple of good friends who have had moms pass away recently.  My niece welcomed into her home twin three year old girls as foster daughters.  Parker’s well loved biology teacher fell and seriously injured his leg and is laid up with a full leg cast.  My boys will celebrate birthdays – 10 and 15 on the 10th and 15th.  I pray they continue to grow into fine, kind, gentle and honest men.  I pray for my boys daily.  Parker’s friend Cydnee had surgery on her thyroid.  I keep praying she will be back at full health soon.  I pray for friends who are struggling with health issues and anyone who feels lonely or unloved. I pray for a friend who lost a parent as a child and grew up missing one of the most important people in their life.  I imagine the annual anniversary of the death of a loved one surfaces a lot of difficult emotions.  I pray daily for a grieving mama and father who bravely face each day, missing two precious daughters beyond my understanding.  I continue to pray that their quiet times will bring peace and comfort and Jesus will continue to fill the void in their hearts with purpose for Him.  During this 40 days of lent, I pray that Jesus will come to all those who call on Him.  Spring has been peaceful, colorful, quiet, gentle, prayerful, thankful. Spring = Renewal.  Love one another.  Time = Love.  Spend some quiet time if that brings you peace.  Spend time with loved ones.  Say special prayers for those in need.  Happy spring friends.

image

An heirloom flower show…

image

About this time every year I begin to work in my garden.  When we bought this house about 20 years ago, there was not a single plant.  There was only grass to the foundation.  Our house provided a blank canvass for me to paint with heirloom flowers.  Last spring the above heirloom rose, named “Lady Jane Grey”, unfurled in the shape of a heart.  Painting with heirloom flowers has been a passion of mine and I am endlessly pleased and I marvel at the annual flower show my beauties perform.  Here are a few early sneak peaks of what is to come from season’s past.

image

May will reveal lilac blossoms.  This is a french lilac with a picotee trim of crisp white.

image

This beautiful lilac was a gift from my friends Bill and Pam Anderson.  It was a start from a very old lilac in the front yard of their farmhouse in Patton Valley.  It has an intoxicatingly sweet frangrance.  Such a lovely gift.

image

Early June will provide clematis blossoms, which emerge from rather homely looking dried up brown vines.  I have about 6 varieties on a couple of trellises.  They put on quite the show every year.

image

My hollyhocks are appearing as small mounds with round leaves.  They will grow to about 6 feet tall and the blooms last about three weeks.  I buy heirloom starts.

image

I really love hydrangeas.  The French grandmother of the children I cared for in Boston introduced me to the French lace cap hydrangeas.  They had a gorgeous hedge at their beach house on Cape Cod.  I planted two lace cap hydrangeas in her honor and I think about her when they blossom.  She was a lovely lady and has now passed on.  She is missed.

image

This hydrangea is one of my newest varieties I planted in my back yard.  It is a pink and pistachio green colored blossom.  It is unusual I think.

image

I always look forward to my day Lillie’s flowers.  Each blossom only lasts a day, but new ones appear each day.  Their green spikes foliage adds interest in the garden, even when they are not blooming.

image

I call these my “sis” flowers.  My friend’s mother “sis” insisted that I take some of her Leopard’s Bane starts.  They were among her favorite spring flowers.  I always think of her when they bloom in May.  I often leave a bouquet of them on her grave on Memorial Day.   My Sis flowers remind me of my friend who gave me a baby shower for Parker just after he was born 15 years ago.  These happy yellow flowers make me smile.

image

Who couldn’t fall in love with ranunculus?  If I were a fairy, I’d sleep inside one of these fluffy blooms.  They are dreamy and magical in every way possible.  They are showy, lovely, looking like they found the perfect shade of blush and lipstick.  The photo below is another knock out purple variety of ranunculus.  Lavender petals with dark purple eyes say, “Come hither bees!”.  Stunning purple perfection.

image

Gardening is one of my favorite creative outlets that I truly adore!  I can spend all day in the dirt and my small yard has at least 100 varieties of flowers for cutting all spring and summer. I find gardening an endless source of learning new things. I will admit that one of the best things about having bunnies is their pelleted manure that flowers LOVE.   It doesn’t really take much to have a nice garden, but good dirt, compost or in my case bunny manure, water and a knowledge of planting, pruning and weeding, lots of weeding.  It also provides quiet time to think and to connect to the earth, even if it is just a small plot like ours.  I get lost in my garden and adore the beautiful flowers it provides in exchange for my time.

image

If you want to catch up with me, you’ll probably find me in my yard.  If you’d like to share your garden with me, I’d be forever interested in seeing what you are growing.   If you want to garden and don ‘t know where to start, start simple, like grow a big row of giant sunflowers.   Plant one thing that you love and add one more plant each year.  Research your soil, sun exposure and choose something that likes what you have to provide.  If you don’t know what kind of soil you have, dig up a spade full and take it in a container to a good nursery like Blooming Junction on Zion Church Road and they can tell you all about your soil.  Or bring it to me, I can tell you what to plant or how to amend. Again, my 4H and FFA education continues to pay off in my adult life.

I hope you enjoyed my heirloom flower show from my little yard of heirloom varieties of flowers.  Won’t you share what’s blooming too?  Happy spring friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exquisite old lace….

image

I have had time during spring vacation to indulge in one of my favorite activities, which is perusing antique shops.  I am always on the look out for handmade laces and needlework.  I adore it and I have a good eye for it and a deep knowledge in it.  I have spent most of my adult life learning about antique textiles and fine needlework.  Making lace is a dying art.  So many types of lace making and needlework is simply not being taught to a younger generation and soon it will be made no more.

The above photo is of an absolutely exquisite example of a table cloth I found today.  It was thrown casually over the half opened door of an old cupboard and priced at $35.  Why is this very fancy, very perfect and rather large piece of bobbin lace special you might wonder.  Look below.

image

image

Here are 2″ pieces of lace being woven and just look at all the bobbins of thread, all the hundreds of individual pins that hold each juncture secure while the next section is carefully and methodically being woven in an exact pattern.  My table cloth above could have easily taken someone a year or two to complete.  It is painstakingly slow and so much concentration is needed to create such an elaborate pattern.  This handmade lace is so special that the NY Metropolitan museum of art has a display of hand made lace and this small swatch of bobbin lace is on display at the NY Met.

image

Imagine for a moment the amount of time invested into making this amazing bobbin lace baby bonnet…

image

 

I also collect Norweigan needlework called Hardanger, originating from region in Norway that is also known for Hardanger fiddles.  Hardanger is done on linen or with fine thread in a pattern of klosterbloks with needle weaving and cut work.  I rescue, repair and carefully remove old stains from Hardanger.  I have learned all the old fashioned tips to carefully clean and restore fine linens like Hardanger.  This type of Norweigan needlework is also a dying art and I absolutely adore and admire it for the countless hours poured into each work of art.

image

There is simply so many beautiful types of lace and needlework from almost all over the world that I love.  Finely woven flax linen from Ireland is amazing.  Once you feel it in your hands, you’ll simply never forget it.  Real silk embroidery on linen in roses, garlands of flowers or bouquets are just stunning.

image

Most, if not all of my treasured antique linens were simply thrown into a box and marked next to nothing.  It always pains me to see such beautiful creations made with countless hours of careful attention to what is now a dying art to have found their way from some young bride’s trousseau to a box marked $5 each on the floor in some thrift shop.  I find them and display them with pride.  I try to imagine how many hours it took to make and how happy someone would be knowing their beautiful creation is now once again appreciated and displayed.

image

 

My new bobbin lace find will look lovely right here in my dining room for spring.

image

So please forgive me if  you come to my house and IF you ask about my lace, I may give you an informational lecture on hand made lace and needlework.  You’ve been warned now as to why it is truly so special and will be no more very soon.  It IS that special and it is a work of art.  I was once given this quilt as a gift for teaching someone’s struggling child to read.  A handmade gift says so much more than the material item.  I adore it.

Time = love

image

 

 

 

 

The Great Cake caper with Martha Washington

image

I’m baking Martha Washington’s “Great Cake” tomorrow.  How could I not bake such a cake?  I stumbled upon this mammoth recipe, which calls for 40 eggs and 4 pounds of butter, 5 pounds of flour, 2 pounds of sugar and a pint of brandy.  It must have been enough cake to feed 50 people.  It was intended to be made on the 12th night or epiphany, but I think it would make a dandy Easter cake.  So, I stumbled upon this recipe while researching recipes in the National Archives from Thomas Jefferson.  This cake, granted scaled way back in size, sounds amazing.  Let me elaborate.

image

Well, the photo does help to explain why I must make this cake.  It calls for dried cherries, almonds slivered, fresh sliced pears, apples, citrus zest.  It is iced in orange or rose essence frosting and is drizzled with brandy or wine.  Just take a minute to let those flavors get cozy in your mind.  Orange, cheeries, pears, almond, butter, brandy.  Drooling seriously.

image

The recipe can be found on http://www.revolutionarypie.com

You might also enjoy following their blog.  You not only get interesting culinary challenges, you get a history lesson with every recipe.

My lavender obsession…

image

I’ve become obsessed with lavender jelly and the lovely, fresh purple flowers.

image

Queen ElizabethI (pictured above circa 1530-1603)  loved lavender jelly on scones with earl gray tea.

image

It became a true Victorian era high tea tradition, which has been somewhat lost over the century. (Queen Victoria is featured in the beautiful portrait above.)  She carried on the love of lavender jelly, other floral jellies like lilac and fresh lemon curds.  Floral jellies have been a royal preference going back centuries.

Other similarly “out of fashion” antique jellies that are related are quince jelly and mint jelly, often eaten over lamb.  I am on a quest to make the perfect lavender jelly recipe.   Lavender is a cultivar in the mint family and the flavor is fresh, minty and floral. Lavender added to a vanilla milkshake is such a lovely minty flowery experience.  Lavender is edible and the jelly can be made as an addition to an apple jelly, a blueberry jelly, a lemon citrus jelly or can be made as a solo flavor jelly.   It is lovely drizzled over Brie cheese or on lemon iced scones.   I’ve had this quest in the far reaches of my mind since last summer and I feel motivated to get a couple cups of organic dried lavender blossoms and give it a go.  I love a culinary challenge.

image

So why the sudden obsession?  After having a lovely St. Patrick’s Day dinner at my friend Amy’s house tonight, she reminded me that we are going to have a booth at the lavender festival in Yamhill.  She sells lovely wreaths.  I’ll have my jelly ready and some luxury hot process lavender soap there too .  My favorite shampoos, soaps, bubble baths, bath salts, lotions and scrubs are all this fresh fragrance. To me, lavender smells pure and clean and I love making soap with it! My quest has been kicked into a full blown obsession.  I’ll have some free time over spring vacation to play with sugar, flowers and jelly jars.

image

So the second weekend in July, I’ll spend time with a good friend, selling some lovely handmade lavender goods.  That sounds like my idea of a great time!

image

So, I remain obsessed and I’ll be dreaming of summer as I enjoy the first blossoms of spring.  I have plans for more lavender in the garden and as soon as I can gather up some new plants, they’ll be gracing my garden.  I’ll also be in the kitchen, making up some jelly, experimenting to get the recipe just right.

image

Everything’s coming up….daisies

image

Channeling my very best Ethyl Merman here……

Everything’s comin’ up daisies and lolipops.  I know, I know, the song says roses, but after 40, I think every woman has earned the right to sing this tune with any words that work.  Progress is speedy with these happy spring daisies.  Now, only about 43 more squares to go.  Ha!!