A Long Ago Christmas

a-long-ago-christmas-bubblewsI’m the keeper of the family photos now since my mother died. I need to add the stories to them before it is time to pass them along to the next generation.

Three of the people in this 1971 photo are already gone. Remaining are my sister, brother and me. We are all in our sixties now. Some forty years have passed since we were standing here for this Christmas picture. We were just in our twenties then and our parents were in their forties.

Little did we dream that Shannon would die before my parents. She is so young in this picture, the baby of the family.

My brother, so handsome and vital in this photo is now in a nursing home. He had a stroke and must use a wheelchair. Just thinking of how restricted his life has become due to health issues makes me sad.

My sister, in the blue sweater, has moved to another state. She’s made a new life there and enjoying exploring new territory. In this photo, she was still in college and so was I. I’m the one in navy blue. Yes, back then I had red hair.

Two of our sisters aren’t in this photo. I’m sure they were there for the family gathering.

Little did we know the paths that our lives would take. Maybe it is best that we don’t know.

(post originally published on Bubblews – by Virginia Allain)

Old Dead Bird

My dad always made some remark at Thanksgiving or Christmas about the “old dead bird.” Well, our turkey fits that status now. He’s been stuffed and roasted and sliced and served.

Dad is carving the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Lil Cat looks on hopefully.

Dad is carving the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Lil Cat looks on hopefully.

After the feast, it gets totally dismembered. When it reappears tomorrow, it will be as turkey soup.

We don’t eat our holiday dinner until around 5 pm, so at noon I start chopping the onions, celery, and apples to mix into the dressing. Hubby cooks some sage sausage on the stove top to add. I throw in a few other things like raisins and dried cranberries. Combined with a package of seasoned stuffing mix (I apologize to any Australians reading this), and many cups of chicken broth, it goes inside the turkey.

By the time the 15-pound turkey is in the oven, I face a massive clean-up project. The whole kitchen reeks of Lysol when I’m done. I make sure that the faucet, the sinks, the counters, and even the kitchen cabinet knobs have been sanitized.

All that work is worth it, as we’ll have turkey re-run alternating with turkey soup for the next seven days. It’s amazingly cheap meat as stores sell it at a loss to get shoppers hooked into their store. Besides that, it’s a lower-fat meat. It’s quite versatile, easily transformed into turkey salad sandwiches, stir fries, all sorts of casseroles. Tastes good too.

My husband makes the turkey soup on the day after Thanksgiving. (photo by Virginia Allain)

My husband makes the turkey soup on the day after Thanksgiving. (photo by Virginia Allain)

We should eat it more often, but skip the umpteen side dishes that make the holiday meal so fattening.

(originally published on Bubblews by Virginia Allain)

Make Clothespin Reindeer Ornaments

This easy craft can involve the whole family. The reindeer made from clothespins look great on your tree and make wonderful gifts for friends and neighbors. Here’s how to make them.

A clothespin reindeer made by Gail Lee Martin.

A clothespin reindeer made by Gail Lee Martin.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:

  • 3 wooden clothespins (flat peg type)
  • colored markers
  • felt (green, white,red)
  • tiny red pom-pom or bead
  • googly eyes
  • glue
  • strong thread or light yarn
Step 1

I leave the clothespins natural, but some people like to paint them brown. Glue two clothespins together to form the legs of the reindeer.

Step 2

Glue another clothespin to the legs, but it goes upward to form the reindeer’s head and antlers. Note the proportions in the picture.

Side view of the clothespin reindeer

Side view of the clothespin reindeer

Step 3

Drill a hole in the reindeer to thread through the hanger. An adult will need to do this part. The thread for hanging could also be glued between the head and body (then no hole is needed).

Step 4

Glue on the googly eyes. Glue on the red pom-pom nose (or the red bead). Cut out and glue on the felt for a holly leaf accent above the eyes.

The eyes, nose, and holly on the reindeer's face.

The eyes, nose, and holly on the reindeer’s face.

Step 5

Glue on some white felt for his tail.

The reindeer's tail and the red yarn for hanging it on the tree.

The reindeer’s tail and the red yarn for hanging it on the tree.

Tips & Warnings

  • Googly eyes and felt are available at discount stores or craft stores.
  • I’ve used red yarn for hanging the reindeer and at other times gold heavy thread. Thin wire would work also.

4th of July Memories

The boom of fireworks drew me outside. In the distance, through the trees, I glimpsed a burst of light in the sky. Two days before the 4th of July and apparently, people have money to burn.

Long ago, we celebrated the holiday in a modest way on the farm in Kansas. At the fireworks stand, we selected pinwheels, snakes, sparklers, bottle rockets, and ladyfingers. These were considered fairly safe for school-age children. They carried more lethal and more expensive fireworks like cherry bombs, but we never bought those.

We lighted a punk, and used that to set off the small firecrackers called ladyfingers. We were cautioned not to light them while holding the tiny cracker in our fingers. So we placed it on the ground and lit the short fuse with our smoldering punk, then we leaped backwards to wait for the explosion. Later, we gathered the scraps of paper left from the ladyfingers. We marveled at the Chinese characters printed on the small bits remaining.

The snake required a match to start it. The small charcoal-colored button extruded a long dark, curving ash as it burned. That was the “snake.”

Pinwheels required nailing to a post or tree. Once the fuse was lit, it whirled in a circular pattern, spitting fire. It was done in just seconds.

I gathered my memories into a poem.

Kansas 4th of July

Hand-cranked ice cream — taking forever to be ready.

Lemonade, corn on the cob, and hot, hot days.

The sputter of small firecrackers and swish of pinwheels.

Setting the dry grass on fire in our backyard.

Creating fiery circles in the dusk with a sparkler in my hand.

Dad shooting Roman candles across an open field.

I remember long ago July fourths,

The sparkler is as bright as ever.

sparkler

Sparkler for the 4th of July (poem and photo by Virginia Allain)

Grown-Up Halloween 1950s

I used to think of Halloween as just for kids though lately more and more adults are dressing in costumes for the holiday. Among my mother’s photos, I found one showing her in costume as an adult. Apparently back in the fifties, there were grown-up costume parties in Kansas.

Here she is, Gail Lee Martin as a young married woman, wearing a Mexican outfit.

Here she is, Gail Lee Martin as a young married woman, wearing a Mexican outfit.

The photo seems to be at her parent’s home near Madison. I’ve never heard the story about this outfit but know her parents took a trip to Mexico at one time. They brought back a pair of bird pictures made of feathers. Perhaps the sombrero and the serape are souvenirs from the McGhee’s trip as well.

The light-colored, long-sleeved blouse looks silky in texture. She’s wearing slacks with it. Up until she had her 5th child, she only weighed 90 pounds.

I must ask my aunt if this photo of her came from that same occasion?

Here's Carol Jean McGhee and her friend, Lois Vosler. Is that the same tree behind them that we saw in the photo of Gail?

Here’s Carol Jean McGhee and her friend. Is that the same tree behind them that we saw in the photo of Gail?

Update: My aunt had several more photos from this occasion. She remembers that it was a party, but not who held it or how they celebrated.

Carol Jean hams it up with her friend.

Carol Jean hams it up with her friend.

Daniel Boone is in a tree now. Not sure if that is a toy rifle or a BB gun.

Daniel Boone is in a tree now. Not sure if that is a toy rifle or a BB gun.

Are you dressing up for this Halloween? Tell me about your costume.

Make a Halloween Pumpkin Decoration

Back in 2008, my mother sent me this craft project in an email. I posted it to the eHow website for her. People loved it.

Here's Gail Lee Martin's fall pumpkin made from a dryer hose sprayed orange.

Here’s Gail Lee Martin’s fall pumpkin made from a dryer hose sprayed orange.

Things you need:

  • An 8 inch across by 23 inch long piece of clothes-dryer vent hose
  • A can of orange spray paint or a small can of orange paint and a paint brush
  • A thick stick from your yard (about an inch across and 8 inches long)
  • Colorful fall leaves either real or fake
  • Hot glue gun
  • Imagination

Take the hose outside where you can spray paint it without getting paint on
other things, I use a clear plastic bag. After the hose has dried, check if you
need a second coat of paint.

Curl the painted plastic hose into a circle and hot glue the ends together.

Thrust the stubby stick down through the center of the curled hose. Leave
about an inch sticking out of the top to look like the pumpkin stem. Hot
glue the stick at the top and the bottom for stability.

Hot glue the colorful fall leaves around the stem.

This make a vibrant centerpiece for a luncheon or an attractive window
decoration.

If you need a source for dryer vent hose, you can get it for a reasonable price on Amazon (5 ft Vent Duct Hose) or check some local stores.

E is for Easter Memories

I remember when we bought our Easter shoes, the shoe store would give each child a pastel-colored chick. They were dyed pink, blue and green. I imagine very few of them survived the clutches of their too-young owners, but ours did fine. We took them home and added them to our chicken flock. Once their feathers grew out, they were normal chicken colors.

We dressed in our finest outfits, often made by Mom especially for the holiday. That became our Sunday dress for the rest of the year.

Here I am standing next to my brother, Owen. My two younger sisters have on matching dresses. My older sister holds our sister, Shannon. Ah, memories of Easter fifty years ago.

Gail and Clyde Martin's children in 1959. It was Easter Sunday.

Gail and Clyde Martin’s children in 1959. It was Easter Sunday.

We dyed eggs and had an Easter egg hunt. My mother tells about her 1930s Easter memories on the Our Echo site. There’s an audio recording of her memories so you can hear it in her own voice.

I’m not sure of the date for this Easter Sunday photo of Mom and Grandma. I’m guessing it is the 1950s also.

Gail Martin and her mother, Ruth (Vining) McGhee

Gail Martin and her mother, Ruth (Vining) McGhee