Late Bloomer

Grandpa's Christmas Gift

Jauneta StoutThank you, Grandpa, for the wonderful gift you gave me the year I was eight. Christmas was always happy, even though times were “hard”.

Let me give you a little background: The old-timers called it the Depression. I was fortunate because we (my mother, dad, and little brother, Buddy) lived next door to my grandparents and their general store. On the south side of the state highway was a cornfield, a farmhouse, barn, and animals. On the north side was a series of about 20 houses with a grocer halfway between them. You see, in the olden days, the farmers had day laborers. Small houses were built in a cluster within walking distance of the farms and the general store. Most of the day laborers didn’t have cars. The men could walk to work, so they could get along pretty well without them.

The general store had a telephone in case of emergency and the store kept “book.” That meant customers could buy supplies and charge them, the transactions were kept in their book, and they paid the store when they got paid.

Since the farmers and the storekeeper were honest, everyone survived. At least, that was my child’s vision.

Now for the good part. Christmas Eve was a time of celebration at E.T. McDonald’s General Store. That’s what Grandpa had printed on the calendars that he passed out on that special night. The “hired hands” got paid, so they came to the store to pay their book; if they were lucky, there was some leftover money to buy supplies for the next week.

Grandpa and Grandma were generous, and this was their time for sharing. Weeks ahead they had put in orders for candy and tangerines. The task then was to fill brown paper bags with “treats” — candy topped with a citrus. A bag for everyone who came to the store that night.

Grandmother made a red suit; cousin Bill dressed up as Santa, and at 8:00 he came ho-ho-ho-ing in with a sack across his back. It was a fun time; the children were to say a ‘piece’ or sing a song, but they hardly ever did.

Everyone went home happy. Grandma and Grandpa were already home; they lived in the back of the store. A doorway with a curtain separated the two parts. Customers became friends and often overflowed into the kitchen for card playing at the big table, but there was no card playing Christmas Eve. The store was crowded; everyone was glad to get some free candy, and the calendar had a pretty picture that decorated the kitchen wall for a whole year.

There was always snow at Christmas, lots of snow, and it was so cold that the snow crunched beneath our boots as Buddy and I ran home from the store. The moonlight brought sparkles to the snow.

But to get back to my present ...

The gift I received that year was the gift of giving. Grandpa prepared the “treats,” and he asked me to help. The dining room table was covered with boxes of candy and paper bags waiting to be filled. Chocolate creams, gumdrops, peanut brittle, hardtack, peanut clusters, and chewy coconut clusters. It was heaven. The fruit went on last, and the bag was tied with string. There must have been 100 bags of candy waiting to be shared by Santa.

I still remember those good times some 80 years later. In fact, I’m preparing bags of treats. My dining room table is covered with sacks of goodies. Some will have apples on the top and some will have the biggest Navel oranges I can find. Even the grandchildren are fruit conscious!

What fun it is getting these treats ready! All thanks to Grandpa.

Assorted candy
Photo by Fotolia/jrwasserman

Food for Thanksgiving!

Jauneta StoutI’ve never seen the days go so fast. What happened to October? November means Thanksgiving; Thanksgiving means food.

I love to try new recipes, but my advice is only one new recipe per holiday — all the rest should be old favorites. If your family is a mashed-potato bunch, make mashed potatoes. They can be done early and stay beautifully in a crock pot on low. Do as much as possible beforehand.

You will also need something to keep you going, so prepare caramel corn and cider punch ahead of time; borrow another crock pot if you have to!

Caramel Corn

• 6 quarts of popped corn
• dash salt
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
• 1/2 cup light corn syrup

1. Combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt and cook, stirring until it comes to a boil.

2. Stop stirring and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Stir in baking soda and vanilla.

4. Popcorn should be in greased, large, flat, pan. Pour mixture over popcorn, mix well.

5. Bake at 250 degrees F for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

6. Cool and break apart.

These drink recipes are both good.

Amy’s Cider Punch

• 1 gallon cider
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 stick cinnamon
• a few cloves
• bit of allspice

1. Combine, let simmer in crock pot, enjoy!

Susie’s Wassail

• 3 quart orange juice
• 1 quart cranberry juice
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup water
• 3 sticks cinnamon
• 12 whole cloves

1. Simmer water and spices on stovetop for 15 minutes. Add juices, simmer for another hour.

2. Cool and reheat as needed.

This is the favorite cranberry dish for my family. It makes any turkey taste better. And leftovers are wonderful.

Cranberry Salad

• 1 pound cranberries
• 2 cups sugar
• 1-1/2 cups boiling water
• 1 6-oz. box cherry Jello
• 1 cup finely diced celery
• 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
• 1 cup chopped nuts

1. Bring water and sugar to boil. Dissolve Jello in sugar water.

2. Grind cranberries, ideally in a food processor.

3. Add cranberries and other ingredients to Jello, pour into a long, flat serving dish, and refrigerate.

Now for the pumpkin pie. This is so easy, my grandson likes to do it.

Pumpkin Pie

• 2 unbaked pie shells
• 1 29-oz. can pumpkin
• Add enough milk to 1 can of evaporated milk to make 2 cups
• 1-1/2 cup white sugar
• 4 eggs
• 2 tablespoons melted butter
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3 teaspoon pumpkin pie spices.

1. Combine eggs and sugar, then add other ingredients. Pour into 2 pie shells.

2. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for additional 35 minutes.

If you have never done a pumpkin roll, they are so good, easy, and can be frozen weeks ahead of time!

Pumpkin Cake Roll

For the dough:

• 3 eggs 1 cup white sugar
• 2/3 cup prepared pumpkin
• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• 3/4 cup flour
• 2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ginger
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup chopped pecans 1 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling:

• 1 cup powdered sugar
• 2 (3 oz) packages Philadelphia cream cheese
• 4 tablespoons melted butter
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes. Gradually add sugar.

2. Stir in pumpkin and lemon juice.

3. Sift together flour, salt, and spices. Gradually add to egg mixture. Mix well.

4. Prepare cookie sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper. Grease, and pour mixture into pan. Top with nuts.

5. Bake at 375 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes.

6. Dust a teat towel with powdered sugar. Loosen cake from edges of pan, and turn out onto towel. Remove parchment paper.

7. While cake is hot, roll cake and towel together. Cool. Unroll cake, remove towel.

8. Spread filling evenly, then roll cake again.

9. Cake may be frozen at this point. When thawed, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

Sweet potatoes — there must be sweet potatoes. Prepare this the day before, then bake the day of.

Sweet Potato Casserole

For the sweet potatoes:

• 3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
• 2 eggs beaten
• 1/2 cup potato juice
• 1/2 cup melted butter
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• cinnamon and salt to taste

For the topping:

• 1/3 cup flour 1/3 cup melted butter
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1 cup chopped pecans

1. Combine eggs and sugar, then add sweet potatoes, liquids, spices, and melted butter. Pour into greased casserole dish.

2. Combine topping ingredients, and top sweet potato dish.

3. Bake at 375 degrees F for 35 minutes. If it has been refrigerated, it may take a bit longer.

Don’t forget to be thankful for your many blessing, including food!

Thanksgiving meal
Photo by Fotolia/evgenyb

Boggstown Cabaret

Jauneta StoutWhat is greater: anticipation of an event, the event, or the memory of the experience?

If we are talking about my recent visit to Boggstown Cabaret, they were equally remarkable. I have enjoyed their entertainment and food many times over the years, so just thinking of the fun we would have was exciting.

Boggstown Cabaret is in an 1800s building that was originally built for a Redman’s Lodge. The village is southeast of Indianapolis.

Location may be everything in real estate, but not in entertainment. Despite being in the “Boonies,” this venue is booked for months ahead. The performers also appear in theatre in Nashville, Indiana.

Fun at the Cabaret

The event lived up to its promise, though things have changed. Years ago they had banjo players, twin pianos, and Ragtime music.

Today, Dan Tuttle, pianist — par excellence — still plays Ragtime, but the current venue includes all kinds of music. Besides the pianist, the cast includes a drummer, a female singer, and then there is Russell Moss. This professional has a storied background in Hollywood, television, night clubs, and the stage. He sings, acts, does comedy, but his best performance involves audience participation. He is a master.

When a gentleman from a neighboring table trotted up to the stage with his cane to dance with “Andy,” the female vocalist, I thought it was a set up. But no, this was a senior citizen having fun, willing to be laughed at. And laugh we did. That was just the first of the encounters. The audience — all over 50 years of age, except for two teenagers — loved it. Moss knows how to play to the audience, and play he does. The Elvis-Presley set with Moss in heavy black wig couldn’t be topped.

Days after our trip, I still laugh out loud just remembering the fun. Strains of “King of the Road” and “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” run through my head. Vegas and Branson are probably wonderful, however I’m thankful for Boggstown.

Find some music and comedy in your neighborhood!



Indiana's Bicentennial Torch Relay

Jauneta StoutLuke Haas was one of over 2000 people who carried the torch for Indiana’s Bicentennial Celebration. He represented Union County High School, celebrating the 200th birthday of Indiana.

He remarked, “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The community interest and publicity were amazing.

“Family and friends cheered me as I sprinted the .8 of a mile. I was proud and happy to do it. The torch was light for its size considering it held cameras and fuel.”

Luke, a high school junior, is a busy young man. He participates in basketball, track, science club, 4-H, and the academic honors program.

Running across Indiana

The torch relay began September 9th at Corydon, the state’s first capital, and will end on October 15th on the Statehouse Grounds in Indianapolis. It will travel in each of the state’s 92 counties. Participants will use all modes of travel that might have been used in the 200-year period: horses and wagons, walking, antique automobiles, race cars, tractors, and others.

Let’s bake a cake for the Hoosier State at the crossroads of America!

Indianas 200th year celebration

The Joys of Autumn

Jauneta StoutI was smitten with the love of dried flower bouquets many years ago when we visited historic Williamsburg, VA. Huge floral arrangements served as centerpieces in the beautiful old houses. How did they do it? I bought one of their books on the subject, and from there it was all uphill.

I learned about silica gel, wiring flower stems, and all the varieties needed for such bouquets. I've never come close to those magnificent bouquets, but what fun I’ve had along the way.

After just a few sessions with silica gel, I knew air-drying was a better method for me. Raising the flowers was the first step. At first, I raised my own plants through trial and error. My staples were cockscomb, statice, gomphrena, and strawflower. I started out slow, and through the years I advanced to buying plants wholesale. Buying wholesale means you have more than you want, but you get the best plants and the colors you want. Some Septembers there were bushel baskets of globe amaranth to be stripped, bundled, and hung for drying. Rubber bands and paper clips are the best method, and hanging in an attic or closet is good. When we visited a wholesaler in Ohio, we noted he had ropes hanging in the barn. Each rope was covered with flowers, drying in the warm air. I tried the garage, but the window let in too much light. The potting shed didn’t work too well, either. The walk-in attic was just right, though, and all the closets were soon full.

The question becomes, what do you do with all of those flowers? For a few years I sold buckets of fresh flowers to a restaurant. I attended craft shows; I did well in some and not so well in others. I made wreaths and arrangements, however it became obvious at the apple festival that buyers were happier with just a bunch of flowers for three dollars. The big heads of cockscombs were favorites.

After a foot injury, my flower hobby took a nosedive. It went from the mountain to the plateau. But at this stage of life I like the plateau and enjoy bringing flowers in all summer and hanging the bundles on hooks in the utility room. Within a few days, they can be moved to a dry basement so that more bunches can be dried. Autumn is the time for the pleasant task of putting things together, for myself or for gifts. (No more craft shows, thank goodness.)

When blue statice fails, I can rely on feverfew. No cockscomb this year, sadly, but the variegated grass dries beautifully and adds a soft, green look. The annual poppy seed head is lovely, as is the green (before it turns to silver) money plant. Timing is important. Artemesia must be cut just when the seed heads develop.

Baby’s breath is great fresh, but dried it shrivels up to nothing. Pearly everlasting takes its place as a small, white flower. Lavender is perfect in a fresh bouquet, but lacks something when dried. However, blue larkspur dries beautifully, and is a good substitute.

There are techniques to be learned for making wreaths, and there are all kinds. A few good books, some supplies, and you are ready to create. I never cared much for a glue gun, but it has its place. When I have wired my little bunches of flowers on the wreath form and the last bunch with its stems seems awkward, I reach for the glue gun.

Then there is the glycerin process. I have had some success with glycerin. One year when visiting in Florida, I admired the large magnolia leaves. All the Christmas magazines displayed magnolia leaves as part of holiday decor. Northern magnolia leaves are smaller — at least, that was my experience. But they work. Magnolia leaves turn a lovely shade of brown when processed, but are so pliable and supple. Then I discovered floral dye, just a little bit of green dye, plus a surfactant produced beauties. (Nobody said this was a cheap hobby.) The beech tree limbs from my back yard were also good in glycerin. I could process branches with leaves in a few days. The method varies. I used 1 part glycerin, 2 parts hot water, combine, then cool. The leaves will go fast; branches take longer.

From an old ledger, I noted that autumn’s bright leaves may be preserved also. The writer's method was to press the leaves with a warm iron, then soak them in a bath of 1 part glycerin to 9 parts water. When soaked, dry between blotters, and they will remain flexible indefinitely.

I enjoy a vase of fresh flowers on my kitchen table, but when summer is over then a glass of dried blue statice and white strawflowers lasts for weeks before I tire of it.

Also, I look forward to decorating with my glycerined material!

Drying flower bouquet
Photo by Fotolia/laurha

People Who Love People

Jauneta StoutWhen does a stone sculpture become just a pile of rocks? The answer is when the weeder woman makes the dahlia bed into a rock garden. Sigh, there is a lesson to be learned here.

In case you are stuck in the recipe mode, blackberries are at their peak. My long-ago planted, thorn-less berries are still producing. Here is my favorite, easy, berry cobbler recipe. It is also wonderful made with peaches.

Blackberry Cobbler

For the filling:

• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup water or fruit juice
• 2 tablespoon butter
• 3 to 4 cups of blackberries
• 1 tablespoons cornstarch
• Nutmeg or cinnamon

For the topping:

• 1 cup flour
• 1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 3 tablespoons Crisco
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 cup milk

1. Cook all filling ingredients in a heavy skillet until thick (my blackberries are very juicy and so don’t need extra juice.)

2. Pour in a casserole dish.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the topping ingredients, and spoon onto top of berries.

4. Sprinkle with sugar.

5. Bake at 400 degrees F until lightly brown.

Never mind solarization, recipes, and gardens. It is the people in life that make it worthwhile. (Well, solarization has its place. By the way, my solarization blog missed an important step. After smoothing the soil, you need to water to a depth of 12 inches before you cover with plastic.)

Recently I attended a baby shower, and I was captivated by the people. Especially the little people. The little tyke with bobbed haircut, straight from the 30’s. The darling little boy who helped unwrap the packages: diapers, plush elephants, and rabbits. The eight-week-old baby with her hair band in place. The hungry child crying for her bottle. The child who lived at the home, sharing her playroom.

Three mommas-to-be, stomachs bulging. The young mothers with children in tow. Lots of them.

The great grandmother, attractive with short, stylish, grey hair. I’ll bet she had stories to tell.

The honoree, beautiful and full of life, ah-hum.

Life is good.

Until next time.

kids on jungle gym
Photo by Fotolia/Shmel

Some Like It Hot

Jauneta StoutExtra high temperatures this summer have made watering the potted flowers a chore. However, the sun is necessary for our well being, the growth of all our plants, and all life. Then I read about one more asset: solarization.

A garden without weeds, disease or insects? No way.

This is what they claim for solarization. Here are the necessary steps:

1. Get rid of all growth in the spot you choose, large or small.
2. Work the ground.
3. Smooth and level surface of the soil.
4. Cover with black plastic sheeting or clear, not a blue tarp.
5. Fasten down edges of plastic so it is taunt against soil
6. Must have at least 6 hours of hot sun daily for 6-8 weeks.

Theoretically you should have sterilized soil ready for planting. What a boon that would be for raised beds.

Now if I can get out there and clear a spot while the sun is hot ...

Sunlit soil
Photo by Fotolia/lily