Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Traditions’ Category

Dear Readers,

On my walks through downtown Raleigh, I’ve noticed some black walnut trees growing on state office grounds near the corner of Dawson and Jones Streets.  What alerted me to the trees, were the fallen green balls about the size of a hockey puck, littering the ground and sidewalk.  There were also a few cracked and half-eaten nuts; no doubt the leftovers from a hungry squirrel’s lunch.

Seeing those nuts immediately transported me back to Louisville in the 1950’s and specifically to my second cousin, Urban Heck’s backyard on Vine Street.  My Mom’s bachelor cousin lived just around the corner from us and had a huge black walnut tree.

Every fall my Dad would go to Urban’s yard to gather the walnuts.  Then he hulled and cracked them open using a hammer.  Inside was a hard brown nut about the size of a ping pong ball.  The hammer also cracked this part of the walnut.  Dad was careful to wear gloves to keep his hands from being stained brown.

My Mom, my sisters and I then picked the nut meats from these broken shells, using metal nut pickers that reminded me of small knitting needles.  It was quite a labor-intensive job but we enjoyed sitting around the kitchen table on Sunday afternooons picking the walnuts.  Some times there was more talking and laughing than there was picking!  But we always managed to extract enough nuts in time for Mom’s Christmas baking.

She made “sausage cookies” that contained black walnuts.  They received this name because of the process of shaping the dough like sausages, which were refrigerated for a length of time and finally sliced and baked on a cookie sheet.  Mom baked dozens of these cookies and so did many of my aunts.  I think it was an old German family recipe.

For quite a few years the harvesting and picking of black walnuts was a big part of our preparation for Christmas.  Funny, how the sight of one walnut tree can reawaken such pleasant memories!

Keep smilin’!

Read Full Post »

Dear Readers,

My granddaughter is enrolled in a music appreciation class for toddlers.  I had the privilege of accompanying her to this class.  About 10 toddlers marched and danced to songs like “Old King Cole”, “This Little Light of Mine”, and “Mississippi Cats”.  Their teacher played the folk song “Shenandoah” on the piano as the little ones rested in their mothers’ laps.

This class reminded me what a big part music plays in our lives.  There are lullabies, school songs, wedding music and yes, even funeral music.  These toddlers are just beginning their journey of making musical memories.

Let me tell you of a few musical memories in my life.  I remember being rocked by my Mom as she sang “I’d walk a million miles for one of your smiles”, a line from Al Jolson’s song “Mammy” written in the 1920’s.  My Dad had a great tenor voice and he and I sang “Sentimental Journey” and “Buttons and Bows” for family and friends.

As a first grader, I sang “The teensy weensy spider climbed up the water spout . . .” and learned the accompanying hand gestures showing a spider climbing up.  In the fifth grade, Mrs. Webber, our choir director, taught us traditional Christmas carols to sing for our debut at the  5 A.M. Christmas mass.  As part of our family tradition, Dad led us in singing “Silent Night” at the completion of decorating the Christmas tree.

All the angst and joy of my teen years are relived every time I hear the songs of Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and Little Richard.  I was 18 years old driving my car on a Sunday afternoon in January the first time I heard the Beatles sing “I Want To Hold Your Hand”!  Selected the theme from Romeo and Juliet to be played right before my wedding march down the aisle.

“Amazing Grace” was sung at Mom’s funeral and I’m reminded of her whenever it is played.  Tears still well up in my eyes, when I sing “On Eagles’ Wings” at mass.  My Dad loved that song and sang it with gusto.  For that reason, it was featured at his funeral mass.

My son loved being sung to sleep every night as a toddler.  His songs of choice were 2 lullabies:  “TooRaLooRaLooRal” (an Irish lullaby) and Brahms’ lullaby sung in German.  Found myself singing these same two tunes to his daughter the other night.

I’m glad Emily is learning to enjoy music.  It’s such a big part of our lives.  In happy times, momentous times and sad times, music is a way to give meaning to our feelings.  Emily, you are just beginning your life’s journey and I’m glad you’ll soon learn music can be your faithful companion along the way.

Keep smilin’!

Read Full Post »

Dear Readers,

Tomorrow is my birthday and it’s always a special day.  But there are some birthdays that are more special than others and memories of my 9th birthday are vividly etched on my brain.

I was a fourth-grader in Sister M. Teresita’s class at St. Therese Grade School and the anticipation of my birthday dinner celebration was uppermost in my thoughts that entire day.  School dismissal was at 2:30 P.M. but because I helped the teacher after class every afternoon, my walk home began at 3:30 P.M.

It was a beautiful early autumn afternoon with clear blue sky and just a hint of fall’s coolness in the air.  It  was just about perfect!  Thoughts of my birthday dinner and presents propelled me home swiftly.  That year I had requested a birthstone ring of sapphire.  At nine years old, surely I was old enough for an adult piece of  jewelry.

Mom had prepared a delicious feast.  As a birthday treat, we were allowed to pick the menu and I had chosen fried pork chops, baked macaroni and cheese, green beans and waldorf salad with oodles of red grapes and apples.  Dessert was a homemade, white, two layer cake decorated with white icing and adorned with deep pink roses.  Mom piped “Happy Birthday, Mary” on top.

I could smell dinner cooking as soon as I walked through the door.  My Great Aunt Alma was an invited guest.  We enjoyed the festive meal in our small kitchen and then Dad turned off the light as Mom lit the nine candles.  Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and I happily blew out the candles.  After eating cake, it was time to open the presents.  My great aunt gave me a card with two dollars tucked inside.  Then my parents brought out the small ring box.  I carefully unwrapped it and inside was the most beautiful sapphire ring in the world!  The stone was a square cut and it was a little loose on my finger.  Mom carefully attached a roll of adhesive tape to the back of the ring to make it fit snugly.

I wore that ring everyday for many years; in fact, I still have it.  It’s a great reminder of a very memorable birthday.

Keep smilin’!

Read Full Post »

Dear Readers,


Mimi wants to squeeze in one more recipe before Christmas.  Found this recipe as a child on a leaflet at the corner neighborhood grocery store.  The Diamond Walnut Co. printed it and I talked my Mom into trying it.  She loved the cookies and continued baking them for many Christmases.

It’s so easy and you don’t even need a mixer!

Walnut Surprise Cookies

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup English walnuts, chopped

Stir together sugar, egg, vanilla.  Add flour, salt, soda and walnuts.  Spread batter in a greased 9 inch square pan.  Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Leave in pan, cut into squares while warm.  Then cool and break the bars apart.

These cookies also freeze very well.  Take care not to overbake or they will become dry.

 

Keep smilin’!

 

Read Full Post »

Dear Readers,

December 6 is the feast day of St. Nicholas.  When my sisters and I were growing up, we celebrated this feast day in a special way.  We hung up one of our Dad’s longest socks on the mantel behind the coal stove on the evening of December 5.

We had school the next day, so we arose extra early to see what treasures the sock held.  Sure enough, there were wonderful delights awaiting us.  There was always an apple or an orange in the toe of the sock to make it stretch.  A nickel or two was also resting in the toe.  Then the remainder of the stocking was filled with candy bars such “Zero” bars and “Clark” bars.  (Mimi is really giving away her age by mentioning these candy bars – they’re not even made any more!)  There were also lots of penny candies, including tootsie rolls and maryjanes.

We loved having this small celebration before the big one on Christmas.  But we didn’t hang up stockings on Christmas Eve, because we didn’t want to appear greedy!  Our Mom told us that naughty kids got pieces of coal in their stockings.  That would be awful!

Those were great days and they will always be a big part of my Christmas memories!

Keep smilin’!

Read Full Post »

Pa and the Ketchup Smiley Face

Dear Readers,  

My daughter recently reminded me of a cute story about her grandfather, Pa.


When my kids were little, my parents used to visit us twice a year in April and September.  We always made a semi-annual shopping trip to the Reading, PA outlets and had lunch at the local Friendly Ice Cream Restaurant.  Pa’s favorite menu item was New England clam chowder.  To the great amusement of my 5 year old daughter and 2 year old son, he would draw a smiley face on his chowder with a squirt bottle ofketchup.  My kids thought it was so funny that it became a tradition.  Pa would order chowder and get to work on his masterpiece.

 

Any artist can use watercolor or oil, but how many can craft a work of art with a squirt bottle of ketchup?

 

Keep smilin’!

 

   

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Dear Readers,
Since Halloween is fast approaching, I thought you might like to hear about “trick or treating” in the 1950’s.  Halloween was a lot different then.  Only rich kids had fancy costumes like the kids do now.  Our costumes were something that we could throw together from items around our home and once you concocted a good costume, you would keep it from year to year.  My two standard costumes for my trick or treating experience were first a hobo and then a beatnik.  Being a hobo was easy:  jeans, my Dad’s red plaid flannel shirt, an old fedora of his and a yardstick with a stuffed red farmer’s handkerchief attached to the end of the stick.  This represented the way a hobo carried his world possessions.  By the way, hobo refers to a man who rode the rails from city to city and lived on handouts.  Many people did this during the depression.  Beatnik refers to anyone in the early 50’s who wrote depressing poetry and who spent a lot of time thinking about questions like “Who are we and what meaning does our life have”.  That costume was also simple to wear:  black pants, long black turtleneck sweater and black beret and maybe a long cigarette holder, if your Mom would let you use one.
 
We trick or treated in groups and from experience knew just what houses on the route gave good candy and which ones to skip.  One time an older woman came to the door and dropped into our bags what looked like an exotic type of apple.  Boy were we surprised when we got home and saw that it was just an old dried-up potato!!!  My Aunt Roberta, who lived down the street, made her great popcorn balls but only gave them out to people she knew and gave regular candy to others.  When we rang her doorbell, we always sang out “Trick or treat, Aunt Roberta!”  assuring us of a prized heavenly ball of popcorn only Aunt Roberta could make!
 
Halloween was a lot different then;  no worries of unsafe candy or unsafe people.  But one thing is still the same – a kid’s sheer joy of receiving free candy in copious amounts.  And for one day no worries of too much sugar  and future dental bills.  And that’s what I wish for you on Halloween –  the unbridled happiness of a child receiving bags of free candy!!!!!
 
Keep smilin’.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts