Y is for YAHOO!

We had a wooden board game that I think Dad made for us. It involved moving marbles around a track after you rolled the dice. We called it Yahoo and it provided hours of fun for us. I’m sure Mom preferred that we settle down with a board game on a snowy or rainy day rather than rampaging around the house building forts with blankets and overturned chairs.

yahoo board game ebay

You can buy the boards on eBay. This one is from eBay seller rbmqe.

Since my memory of how it was played was a bit hazy, I looked online for the rules. It turns out that the game has a number of names from Whahoo to Aggravation. Maybe we were the only ones calling it “Yahoo.” There’s a great site with instructions for lots of games and you can read the directions there: Our Pastimes.

Clyde Martin Working on a Project

Clyde Martin working in father-in-law Clarence McGhee's woodworking shop, Madison, KS 1959.

This photo shows Clyde Martin in 1959 in his father-in-law’s (Clarence McGhee) workshop.

I also remember Mom calling us Yahoos sometimes when we were acting up. “Settle down,” she would say, “and quit acting like wild Yahoos.” I never really knew where that phrase came from until I read Gulliver’s Travels in my college English Lit class. The term has come to mean “a crude, brutish or obscenely coarse person” according to the dictionary.


Xanthous sounds like a drug that your doctor might prescribe. Relax, it is just the name for a color. It’s a strong yellow that you would see in an egg yolk. To me, that description isn’t really helpful as egg yolks can be a deep yellow but sometimes more of an orangey-yellow. It depends on what the chicken has been eating.

happy egg pixabay

My folks (Gail and Clyde Martin) usually had oatmeal for breakfast in their later years as a hearty and healthy start for their day. Mom couldn’t resist eggs and bacon on occasion. She got her eggs from someone who bought bread from them rather than from a supermarket. You can’t beat eggs from free-range chickens.

Her preference was to fry the eggs in her black cast iron frying pan, sunny side up. If she didn’t have bacon in the fridge, she usually had some drippings saved in a cup on the back of the stove. Some of that went into the skillet and when it was sizzling, she broke the egg into the grease.

As the white of the egg started to set, she would use her metal spatula to flip some hot bacon oil onto the top of the egg. This left the center of the egg soft but lightly cooked on top. This was served with a slice of toast which was useful for mopping up the egg yolk that ran all over the plate.

They ate their breakfast at the small table in the kitchen.

farmhouse kitchen

Gail and Clyde’s kitchen window – perfect for observing the neighbors.

A Family of Writers: Handing Down a Writing Tradition

A Heritage of Writing

My family has a tradition of writing that goes back many generations. This post celebrates that heritage and gives ideas about starting a writing tradition in your own family. With encouragement, we see the younger generation taking an interest and wanting to write as well.

My mother, Gail Martin, didn’t realize that her own mother, Ruth McGhee, was a writer until she discovered some of her writings after her death. Ruth entered a screenplay writing contest in 1924 and won second place.

Ruth Vining McGhee of Tyro KS

My grandmother, Ruth Vining McGhee, who entered the writing contest in 1924.

It wasn’t until her children were grown that my mother had the time and energy to devote to her own writing. She hadn’t saved her childhood efforts or the stories she wrote in high school study hall.

In posting her essays and poems to the Our Echo website, she encouraged her daughters, and several grand-daughters to contribute their writing as well. Several great-great-grandchildren have entered stories and essays in school contests and the Reading Rainbow competition.

How much is genetic and how much is fostered from one generation to the next, I don’t know. It’s a wonderful tradition to share across the generations.

I’ve included some ideas for encouraging a writing tradition in your own family.

The photo is my aunt CJ Garriott about to open the first shipment of her new book about her life.

C.J. Garriott receiving her first published book

Gail Martin’s sister, C.J. Garriott receives her first batch of books.

Get the Whole Family to Writing

Writing is a wonderful activity to bring the family together. Helping my mom organize her essays into a book for publishing was a great bonding experience for the two of us.

It doesn’t have to be as advanced as creating a book, though. You can write and post that writing online. You can print your writing out from your computer and make little booklets for friends and family. There are many ways to use your writing.

I Should Be Writing

by Virginia Allain

(a poem I wrote for my ever-busy sister on her birthday)

 I wish I could focus on writing,

As I see others do.

I dream of a book cover featuring my name.

Yet I am distracted by all that must be done.

I used to create words in my pretty writing room

But now I organize a writer’s convention,

fill the trailer for a camping weekend,

drive to doctor’s appointments,

take the dog to the vet,

mow the lawn,

organize an evening of cards with old friends,

attend my spouse’s high school reunion,

pick up the clutter in the living room,

babysit the grandkids…

I seem to be filling everyone’s needs,

but I’m really avoiding the blank piece of paper on my desk.


McGhee family writers

Ruth McGhee (Gail’s mother) and her daughters, granddaughters, great-granddaughters who write. This isn’t even all of the writers in the family.

V is for Vintage Library

Every Saturday, I check the Sepia Saturday blog challenge. It inspires me to look for a photo in my family album that is a good match for their photo. This time, they featured a lovely old library. Below my photo, you’ll see the Sepia Saturday one.

wakefield library - writing class in black and white

Wakefield Public Library – NH

sepia saturday apr 25

Some years ago, I took a week-long writing class in the New Hampshire village of Wakefield. Some of the sessions were held in the wonderfully old library there.  It was a magical place with a balcony, a domed ceiling, a fireplace, and shelves filled with century-old books.

Here are my photos in a slide show.

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I regret that I never got to show it to my mother, Gail Lee Martin. She would have loved exploring it and all the old books in the collection.

Unique Gardening

Gail Martin liked to make use of found things and not have anything go to waste. I saved up some clips of unique garden containers that I think would have appealed to her. I’ll share them here and maybe they will inspire you to rummage out something different for a planter this spring.

screenshot fairy garden containers unique

Going one step further, these tubs, boxes and converted items aren’t just planted with miscellaneous flowers, they are planted with miniature scenes. They call these fairy gardens. I’m sure that Gail would have loved the concept and would have started her grandchildren on such a project.

I’ve tried it a little but mine are not as elaborate as the scenes I found on Pinterest. I made my fairy garden from two discarded lamp shades. They were heavy plastic so I hated to just toss them but the lamp died.

This was my first attempt. Tell me about some unique planters you’ve created or think that you might try. 2016-08-15 007

T is for Too Many Books?

By Virginia Allain

When someone moves, they often try to downsize and avoid carrying excess STUFF to the new home. Good idea. One thing that’s hard to let go of is books. Many of us get emotionally attached to our books.

Reading a book is such a personal experience. Each reader brings their own frame of reference to the book. Who you are, your values, your past experiences, your current emotional state, all come into play as you read the words the author put on the page.

Martin bookshelves

Mom and Dad always had more books than would fit on the bookshelves. Here is my own overflowing bookshelves.

Even books we haven’t read are hard to dump. That books holds the promise of new characters or information to discover. How can we release it unread? Rationally you can know that you aren’t ever going to read that book, but it still occupies your shelf.

It’s easier to give up a book if you think of it as a gift. Any book donated to a library or given to another reader has another chance to be read again. Even books given to charity thrift shops are a boon to someone. A future reader finds the book on the bargain shelf and cradles it in their arm as they head home to read it.

book-rose pixabay

By releasing your books, you are putting them back into circulation for future readers. Keep that in mind and it becomes easier to downsize your book collection.

Shelling Peas & Snapping Beans

peas pixabay

Perfect for a recipe of new peas and baby potatoes

Little things trigger your memories. Someone passed around a meme titled “Snapchat – the Old-Fashioned Way.” The meme’s picture showed a grandmother on a porch swing with a lap full of string beans. She was snapping the beans into the right size for cooking.

Next to her on the swing sat a grandchild who was also snapping beans. Several more children sat on the nearby steps as they listened to their grandmother tell a story. Their hands were busily snipping the ends off the beans and breaking the green beans into short pieces.

My aunt Cj Garriott commented, “Oh, this brings back great memories! Mother and I also hulled peas, sitting on the back steps. Occasionally, one or more would pop out on the sidewalk. Our dog Tippy would snap them up! Then one day mother caught him getting some off the vine. Daddy had to put a fence around the peas.”

string beans-pixabay

We didn’t need a knife if the bean were fresh and crisp. We also didn’t make the pieces this short.

Putting all hands to work was necessary if the family grew a large garden. Preparing enough beans for canning was quite a bit of hand labor. Over the winter months, we were glad to have Mason jars filled with vegetables for the eight hungry people around our big oak table.

R is RECIPE for Fudge

Mama taught us to make fudge, but I don’t remember making it very often. I found this vintage recipe in her stash of miscellaneous papers. I don’t recognize the handwriting so I don’t know where she got this recipe. I’ll transcribe it here to make it easier to read.

Chocolate Fudge

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 level tablespoons cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons syrup
  • Butter size of walnut
  • Vanilla to taste

Mix sugar and cocoa together. Add milk and syrup and cook to soft ball stage. Cool until you can hold your hand on the bottom of the pan without burning it. Add butter and vanilla and nuts if desired. Beat until creamy. Pour on buttered plate. 

fudge recipe vintage

I do love the lovely old handwriting of this recipe. It was pasted onto a crumbling black background like the pages you see in old photo albums.

The directions are pretty straight forward. The wording on the one sentence really struck me, “Cool until you can hold your hand on the bottom of the pan without burning it.” Probably now, they would say use a candy thermometer to a certain temperature.

I had to double-check the “soft ball stage.” That’s when you drop a small amount of the hot fudge into a cup of icy water and it forms into a ball instead of flattening out or spreading.

So, if anyone has the ingredients and wants to make this recipe, please report back with your critique (and pictures would be nice too)!

Quest for Food

Back in normal times, the farmer’s markets would be opening in the spring. Even though it is too early for tomatoes, some would be selling homemade jams, seedling plants, and baked goods. My dad, Clyde Martin, would have his homemade loaves of bread and their friend Tonda would sell her marvelous pies.

jelly at the farmer's market

Gail and Clyde Martin with their jams and jellies at the farmer’s market.

But these are not normal times. The quest to get food while staying safe is complicated during this time of the pandemic. The farmer’s market in my Florida community has been closed for over a month. Today, they reopened but in a new format.

They sent an email out to everyone in the community with instructions. You emailed your list of fruits and vegetables that you wanted and paid the invoice with a credit card online.

Today was market day, so they parked their truck in a parking lot. Each worker wore a mask and gloves. A line of cars wended its way back and forth down the aisles of the otherwise empty lot. When you reached the truck filled with produce, they asked for your invoice number. 

I held my number up for them to see through the rolled-up window. I popped open my trunk, using the button inside the car. A worker brought over bags containing the tomatoes, corn on the cob, a melon, potatoes, and other produce that I’d ordered. She placed them in my trunk and closed the lid. I hollered a thank you to her but did not roll down my window. I hoped she could hear it.

farmer's market line

Line to pick up fruit and vegetables from the farmer’s market during the pandemic.

Back home, I prepared a dishpan of soapy warm water. I brought the bags in from the trunk of my car, placing them all in one spot. Each green pepper was dunked and hand-rubbed in the soapy water then rinsed under a stream of water from the faucet. The banana skins were washed, the blueberries were washed, and the sweet potatoes too.

Finally, $49 worth of fruits and vegetables dripped itself dry on towels. The price had shocked me, but these are unusual times. I’ll be more careful to select readily available items and avoid the pricier ones next time. The apples were $1.50 each.

$49 fruit and vegetables

Restocked with produce during the time of Covid-19.

I discarded the plastic bags that normally I’d save to reuse. They could be contaminated with Covid-19. My kitchen reeked of Lysol from the thorough spraying of the counters and sinks. I remembered to spray the door handles too.

It felt good to be stocked up for several weeks on fresh fruits and vegetables. It felt good to know I helped support this small family-run business during these hard times. I appreciated the work and risks they took to bring the food to our community. This isn’t a home-grown type of farmer’s market. They get their produce from a wholesale jobber, I’m fairly sure. Although they didn’t personally grow all these foods, they enabled me to get what I needed to survive for now. I appreciate that.




P is for Potatoes And Chocolate?

Here’s another of those vintage recipes from my mother’s stash. It’s a cake made with potatoes as an ingredient. Nope, I’m not talking about potato cakes or potato patties. This is actually for a chocolate cake you can serve as a dessert.

chocolate potato cake, not gail's

I’ve added in a few clarifications on the soda and chocolate. I’ve also added some details in the notes from similar recipes, but think of yourself as a pioneer on this one. Follow your instincts.

Chocolate Potato Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup sweet milk
  • 4 eggs (beat separately)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (baking) soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cloves (presumably ground cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 cups chocolate (unsweetened baking cocoa)
  • 2 cups flour

Dissolve the soda in just a little water. Just before adding soda, add a teaspoon of vinegar to it. This will prevent the soda from smelling in the cake. Pour in the soda and vinegar while foaming.

NOTES: These are my “best guess” on the way to make this cake since it doesn’t give us the step-by-step directions that we are used to in modern recipes.

Before starting, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans. I presume that all the dry ingredients, except the soda, get mixed together first. Then the beaten eggs, milk, and mashed potatoes are stirred into the dry ingredients. At the end, put in the foaming soda and vinegar.  

Pour it into 2 cake pans. Bake at maybe 350 temperature for 25 to 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it as the temperature and time are guesstimates.