Sept 28 – Long Ago Birthday

Cindy was the fourth child of Gail and Clyde Martin. Her birthday falls near the end of September. Here she is for her birthday party, dressed in her best dress and with a curly haircut. I tried to count the candles on the cake, but couldn’t decide which birthday this is.


Mom has gone all out with a festive lace tablecloth, crepe paper streamers, a cake, and presents. This was before the day when children went to Chuck E Cheese for their birthday or had 50 of their closest friends over for an elaborate, expensive party.

The border of the photo says March 1959, so it took 5 months to use up the film and take it to be developed. That shows how sparingly one used the camera in the days before digital and before cell phones. Or maybe it just shows how busy a mother of five children was.

Usually, the grandparents and the immediate family would enjoy the cake with the birthday girl. Sometimes there would be ice cream too. I see three presents waiting to be opened.

Happy Birthday, dear sister, and best wishes for the coming year.

Vintage Houses from My Mother’s Childhood

teter lease house Clarence_and_Gail_McGhee__Phillips_66 edited

Gail with her father, Clarence McGhee, standing by the simple house provided by Phillips Petroleum for the workers.

My mother, born in 1924, moved a number of times during her childhood. The photo above shows a rather flimsy house provided by the Phillips Oil Company for its employees in the Kansas Flint Hills.

The man in the photo is my grandfather, Clarence McGhee, and that’s my mother by his side at age 3. I’m thinking it would be called a shotgun style house. The exterior looks like board and batten.

The drawing my mother made (below) shows the interior of this 3-room house. It had an eat-in kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom which was shared by the parents and their young children.

Drawing of House

Floor plan of a house from Gail Martin’s childhood.

Photos and sketch from my mom, Gail Lee Martin’s, family archives.

The second house that she sketched above is labeled Green Camp House. It is larger with two bedrooms, an indoor bathroom, and 3 other rooms plus a porch. They would have lived in the Green Camp House in the early part of the Great Depression.


The Green Lease house (Clarence McGhee and daughters, Melba and Gail, on the sled)

Do you have pictures of homes from your childhood? Could you draw a floor plan after all these years? I suggest that you do. It makes a great memory jogger.

Remembering Pies from the Good Old Days

My sister and I both commented when a friend posted a recipe for raisin pie. She called it a funeral pie.
Here’s what Karen had to say, “First, I’ve never heard the expression “funeral pie”! Raisin Pie was probably my least favorite as a kid, but it’s a favorite now (with vanilla ice cream). I like to try out old-fashioned pie recipes–so I’ve tried vinegar pie (my Dad supervised–said his Mom used to make it when he was a kid), chess pie, buttermilk pie, and something called Osgood pie, which is sort of a buttermilk pie with nuts and raisins. I think it’s a Texas recipe.”
More recently, Karen wrote about transparent pie on her Kentucky Day Trips blog. That’s an old-fashioned pie for sure and a good “make-do” kind of recipe.

blueberry pie

My comment was, “You never could tell how my mom’s baking would turn out. With six kids underfoot, she was a distracted cook. We ate the results, good or bad. My favorite part was the leftover pie crust. She would cut it into strips, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, bake them, and we got to eat those while the pie cooked.” We already shared here how to make cinnamon pie crust strips.

The pie above reminds me of Mom’s. She would flute the edges like that. The few times that I made my own pie crusts, I made my edges that way too. You just put 2 fingers on the edge to hold the crust in place. Then with your other hand, use 1 finger to indent the edge between the 2 fingers. Continue on around the whole pie.

Mom used Crisco to make her pie crusts. Further back, our grandmother’s used lard, I’m sure, to get the flaky crusts that tasted so good.

Hulling Black Walnuts

It’s just a few days to Clyde Martin’s birthday. He was born in 1924. In the fall, he collected walnuts and pecans which he laboriously processed to sell to people for holiday snacks or baking. Gail Martin recorded his process for hulling black walnuts and posted it on the eHow site. Here it is for you to use his know-how.

How to Hull Black Walnuts

My husband is quite ingenious and came up with this method for removing the hulls from black walnuts. It’s a lot of work, anyway that you do it, but the techniques below are the most efficient and least messy way.

Things You’ll Need:

  • silage fork
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • large plastic trash bin
  • rubber gloves
  • a wooden block
  • a cement mixer
  • a rack and tub
  • burlap bags
  • a fan


The black walnuts are falling in our part of Kansas. My husband, Clyde Martin has his own system of gathering and handling this great treasure from Mother Nature. First, we watch for walnuts that have fallen in someone’s yard. Then we stop and introduce ourselves and ask if they would like for us to clean the nuts up for them.

A black walnut in its hull

Inside this hull is a delicious balck walnut


The round nuts can be dangerous to walk upon in your yard; they will roll and could make you fall. They especially make a yard unsafe if there are small children in the home that like to play outside. The black stuff from the hulls can also ruin a good pair of shoes. Or if you are mowing falling leaves, the walnuts can shoot out from under the mower like they were shot from a cannon. Most people are glad to be rid of the unsightly mess in their yard and driveways. Many people don’t have the time or the knowledge to do anything with the nuts but rake them up and haul them to the dump. It is easier to buy the nutmeats from a store.


Clyde scoops the nuts up and dumps them into a five-gallon bucket, using an old silage fork like he used as a kid on his folk’s farm. The wide fork allows the leaves and other debris fall through but the nuts stay on.
When he has a bucket full he dumps them in old zinc tubs he carries in the bed of his pickup. When he has the area cleaned up, he heads for home.
old-fashioned laundry tubs - photo from pixabay

Tubs like Clyde Martin used when gathering black walnuts.


At home, he puts on heavy rubber gloves to protect his hands from the stain of the black interiors and the acidity in the hulls.


Then he goes to work hulling the nuts using a 2-foot long piece of rough cut 4X4 inch wooden block to push each nut length-wise to break the hull that he twists the rest off.
The hull goes into the tall, plastic collapsible tub to be hauled off to the city’s yard waste area. The nut is tossed into the five-gallon bucket.


When the bucket is full, Clyde dumps them into a cement mixer full of water. This is a noisy process but cleans the nuts of all the black debris that is stuck in the cracks and crevices of the nut’s shell. Usually, fifteen to twenty minutes will clean the nuts but some nuts take longer.
Clyde Martin's walnut husking machine, a cement mixer

Clyde’s walnut husking machine, a cement mixer


Clyde dumps the mixer of nuts into a round rack stationed over another tub to drain the water.


The nuts are then spread out on the garage floor to dry. A fan can be used to hurry up the drying process. When the nuts are dried Clyde scoops the nuts into burlap bags and hang them from the rafters where the drying can continue and the squirrels that come to our pecan trees can’t help their selves to our hard earned black walnuts.

I keep track of the donors of the nuts and we return with a thank you gift of fancy nutmeats arranged in a metal tin with lids. We make spiced nutmeats and also chocolate or vanilla coated clusters separated in the tin with the silver or gold foil cupcake baking cups. This usually assures us of a call the next year when the black walnuts come tumbling down.
Tips & Warnings
  •  Use care as the walnuts hull contains a powerful stain.

Daily Rituals for a More Grateful Life

Often the news on TV seems relentlessly filled with only bad news. We hear about wars, natural disasters, and missing children. Our minds start to focus on the negative things that happen and the problems we encounter each day. We’ve fallen into negative thinking.

It might be time for an attitude adjustment. No one wants to be around someone who is always negative. Here’s how to shift into a mode of more positive thinking.

You have probably seen the suggestion to keep a gratitude journal. The idea involves recording in it the little and big things that you appreciate. It sounds like a wonderful way to shift focus away from the negative things that drag down your spirits. Instead of thinking about all the problems that threaten to overwhelm you, take a few minutes each day to think of good things.

It’s easy to get started. Just buy a nice looking blank book or bound diary. You may even have a notebook already that would suit the purpose. Put the gratitude journal someplace where you will see it every day. Now all you need to do is use it every day. Just sit down with the blank page in front of you and start thinking.

We take so many things for granted and get into the habit of being critical and complaining. At first, it might be hard to think of something in a grateful way. Maybe there are bills to pay, too many meetings to attend and a difficult person to handle. Sometimes our thinking gets stuck in a negative mode and it all seems a bit overwhelming. Don’t worry as it can be changed. Shift your thinking for just a moment. I could be glad that I’m able to hold down a job so I can pay my bills. I could appreciate that my opinions count for something and that groups want me at their meetings. I could be thankful that over the years I’ve learned to respond calmly to upset people. These are the same situations, but different thinking.

Filling in the pages of the gratitude journal would force us to start thinking beyond the big things in our lives. We would get beyond the obvious things, such as being grateful for a comfortable home or a caring spouse. Finding some things to note down every day would expand our view. It would force us to really look around at the smaller things that make up our lives. Let’s try it out, by looking around right this minute at all that surrounds us.

Here are some examples from my own experience. I’m grateful for: Living in a climate where I can be active outside in winter. Having more books to read than I’ll ever have time for. Getting good enough at golf that I’m no longer embarrassed to play. Having a computer literate family so we can keep in touch by email.

This starts to get addictive. After you write down a couple, your mind brings up more and more. That’s the beauty of keeping a gratitude journal. Making the effort to think in a grateful mode and to record those thoughts is a great habit to develop.

Keep in mind that it takes 21 days to create a habit. Set a goal for yourself to write faithfully in the gratitude journal for the next 21 days. It’s a habit that will shift you into positive thinking and away from negativity. Probably one should get a good-sized notebook before starting to write a gratitude list. Once the mind shifts into gratitude mode, it might be hard to stop.

Graphics from Pixabay

Article originally published on eHow by Virginia Allain

Making Flint Hills Cheese Soup

flint hills cheese soup pixabay meme gail
This recipe was shared by Gail Lee Martin on the eHow website some years ago.
This cheese soup is a great way to use lots of garden vegetables. Get some at the farmer’s market, if you don’t grow your own. It’s really a lovely soup with the cheese in it. Serve the soup with warm, home-baked bread.

Flint Hills Cheese Soup

* 1 stick of butter
* 1 quart of milk
* 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
* 2 tablespoons of butter
* 6 tablespoons of flour
* 1 teaspoon of salt
* 2 cups cubed cheese
* 1/2 cup chopped onions
* 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
* 1/2 cup chopped celery
* 1/2 cup chopped carrots
* 2 cups chicken broth
Cut the cheese into cubes. I use an American cheese like Velveeta, but you might prefer another kind.
Wash and chop the vegetables.
Make a rich cream sauce by melting 1 stick of butter in a 4-quart saucepan stirring constantly. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 cups of cheese and the 6 tablespoons of flour.
Gradually add 1 quart of milk, stirring constantly. Set aside (off the burner) when thick.
Sauté the chopped vegetables in the 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the chicken broth and cook very little. The vegetables are best a little crunchy. Combine this with the cream sauce.
Flint Hills Cheese Soup Recipe Postcard
Flint Hills Cheese Soup Recipe Postcard
Here’s the recipe on a postcard that you can order and send to your friends.


Gail Would Be 93 Today

The reminders come up on Facebook and on a genealogy site that I belong to. September 13th is Gail Lee Martin’s birthday. She would have been 93 today. How I wish I could call her up and say, “Happy Birthday, Mom!”

Mom always liked to say she was born on Friday the 13th, but I fact-checked her claim on a calendar for 1924. It was a Saturday, but it makes a good story.

People get those Facebook reminders and don’t always stop to think or else don’t know the person well, “Happy Birthday,” they say, “and I wish you many more.” Sadly, there will be no more special cake on Gail’s birthday and she won’t blow out the candles.

We miss you.

Do You Like Old-Fashioned Recipes?

Grandmother’s Legacy – A Collection of Butler County Recipes From the 1920’s and 30’s

If you like recipes from your grandmother’s day, then this is just the book for you. Many cooks throughout Butler County, Kansas, contributed their old family recipes for this compilation. It was published in 2001 but it’s hard to get your hands on a copy these days.

cookbooks grandmother's legacy

Cookbooks from Gail Lee Martin’s collection

It includes several of my own grandmothers’ recipes (Ruth McGhee and Cora Martin) and some of my mother’s (Gail Lee Martin).

Look for hearty fare like dumplings, old-time bread starter, and some recipes from the Great Depression era like mock chicken pie. There are sweets to try such as bread pudding with lemon sauce or make a vinegar pie. I’m certainly tempted to make the coconut orange delight cake sometime for a special occasion.

(review by Virginia Allain – originally posted on Amazon)

Cooking as a Stress Reliever

I remember my mom, Gail Lee Martin, reaching for the big stew pot when a heavy snowfall was predicted in Kansas. She didn’t have to worry about running out of food since our freezer was filled with a side of beef and our own chicken and rabbit meat. The cellar contained jar after jar of home canned vegetables like green beans, corn, and carrots.

Making a big pot of beef stew loaded with all kinds of vegetables was a practical response to adverse weather. I found myself doing the same when snow was predicted in Maryland where I lived for 15 years. Now, I’m retired and live in Central Florida so a big pot of beef stew doesn’t seem to be the appropriate response to a hurricane bearing down on your home.

Instead, I dredged out the family recipe for no bake cookies. Not having the right ingredients on hand, I improvised. The results were interesting and satisfied my need to reduce stress by keeping busy in the kitchen.

No Bake Cookies Discovering Mom

The resulting cookies were more blonde than the usual chocolate ones. I may not have cooked the sugar, milk, and butter the right amount of time, as they turned out a little sticky. Still, I’ve ended up with some snacks and for a short time distracted myself from Hurricane Irma.

You can see the usual no-bake cookie recipe in an earlier post.

Here’s how mine looked when they were done.


Cappuccino Date No Bake Cookies 


Remembering Paper Dolls

Guest blogger is C.J. Garriott (Gail Lee Martin’s little sister).

1930s & 1940s Memories from Gail’s Little Sis

christmas 1947

Carol Jean McGhee, December 1947

Cj Garriott – “Playing paper dolls was a winter day activity on the Kansas prairie in the 1930s and 1940s. I cut pictures from a clothing catalog, finding first the “dolls” I liked, usually making a family (mother, father, myself and sisters) then adding a couple of playmates. Aunt, uncles, and cousins often got represented also. Usually, I could find a dog and a cat or two in a magazine to cut out and add to my imaginary world.

I would then look for outfits that would fit over my dolls. Sometimes the doll I liked had clothing that needed to be trimmed down, in order for other outfits to fit over satisfactorily. Mother showed me how to make tabs on the shoulders of clothing so they would stay on the doll.

I kept them in pages of books (which we always had a lot of), keeping them unwrinkled. Daddy would round up heavy paper envelopes that had come in the mail on which we would paste my dolls.”

“After I was married, I saved the Betsy McCall paper doll pages for nieces.”

Betsy McCall goes to the country paper doll magazine page 1954Betsy McCall goes to the country paper doll magazine page 1954View DetailsBetsy McCall's flower garden paper doll magazine page 1954Betsy McCall’s flower garden paper doll magazine page 1954View DetailsBetsy McCall rolls Easter eggs paper doll magazine page 1954Betsy McCall rolls Easter eggs paper doll magazine page 1954View DetailsBetsy McCall, Print advertisement. 60's Color IllustrationBetsy McCall, Print advertisement. 60’s Color IllustrationView DetailsBetsy McCall cutout's, 50s Color Illustration, print artBetsy McCall cut outs, 50s Color Illustration, print artView DetailsBetsy McCall Patterns, 50's Print Ad. Full page Color Illustration (Betsy McCall finds a surprise) Original Vintage 1953Betsy McCall Patterns, 50’s Print Ad. Full page Color Illustration (Betsy McCall finds a surprise) Original Vintage 1953View Details

Originally published on Hubpages in Nostalgia for Paper Dolls.