Not My Mother’s Beef Stew

(Post by Virginia Allain)

I browned some beef chunks and onions and placed them in the slow cooker with some water. After peeling and chopping the carrots and potatoes, I added those. Then it cooked all day and during the last few hours, I added fresh mushrooms.

This is the version I use to make beef stew these days. It’s not my mother’s beef stew, but it always makes me think of hers. She didn’t follow a specific recipe but used a chuck roast cut into cubes and then added whatever vegetables we had on hand.

potato-Image by congerdesign on Pixabay

Beef Stew from My Childhood

What my mother called beef stew was really a beef vegetable soup. It would have potatoes, carrots, and onions but much more. Mom would send me to the cellar where we stored our home-canned foods. I was to bring back jars of green beans, corn, carrots, and tomatoes.

beans-jar Image by Johan1127 on Pixabay

Those made a colorful addition to the basic ingredients and turned it into a wonderfully savory soup.

I remember now, carefully taking the few stone steps down into the dirt-floored cellar under what must have been the original farmhouse. Merely the outer wooden shell of that house remained, but the cellar continued in use. Around the walls of the dank area, were wooden shelves holding the efforts of Mom’s summer canning.

Gathering the requested jars of vegetables, I’d hurry back up the steps and across the snowy yard to the current farmhouse where we lived for eight years. Mom opened the jars and dumped the contents into the big stew pot. This would simmer on the stove top for hours. It was ready to eat once the potatoes and meat were tender.

Coming in from our evening chores of feeding and watering the chickens and rabbits, the blended smell of beef and vegetables promised a warming meal for us. We placed a plate stacked with white store-bought bread on the table with a container of home-churned butter next to it.

white bread pixabay

White bread – Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I loved dipping that buttered bread into the stew and then scooping my spoon into the hearty broth. It came up with bits of potato, beef, corn, green beans, carrots, and onions. After reheating for another meal, the stew thickened and the flavors blended even more.

Eight of us sat down to the old-fashioned round oak table. It was one that our dad inherited from his parents, Cora and Ren Martin. Dad grew up eating at that table, Grandma fed the harvest crews at that table, and now a new generation of Martins ate hungrily and when replete, we lingered there telling stories of the day’s happenings.

 

Vintage Christmas Candy Figures

Many years ago, maybe as much as 50 years, I remember Christmas figures with candy in them. These plastic figures included a snowman, a Santa on skis, and a red horse with wheels.
vintage plastic snowman

Rosbro plastic snowman from the 1950s. A fun collectible.

They were fun to play with and pretty sturdy. Many are still around today. Often, the pipe breaks off the snowman and the reins of the horse are gone.

I happened to find some at yard sales and flea markets, some twenty years or so ago. They brought back childhood memories of 1950s Christmas times. Now, I use them in my Christmas decorating.

christmas vintage toys

Rosbro Santa on green skis, snowman with a pipe, and red horse on green wheels.

You can find them on eBay at prices of $10 to $40 depending on condition and demand. Having the box adds to the value. My Santa no longer has the lightbulb and cord.

These seasonal figures were made by the Rosbro Plastic Inc. of Providence, Rhode Island. The company also made hard plastic figures for Easter, Halloween, and other holidays.

vintage santa skis

Rosbro Santa with original box. 

(all photos by Virginia Allain)

Other Christmas figures Rosbro made were white reindeer, a Santa on a bicycle, and Santa with reindeer and a wagon. Follow the link if you’d like to read more about collecting Rosbro hard plastic Christmas figures.

Do you remember any of these from long ago?

A Hitch in Her Git-Along

I remember Mom using this funny, old-fashioned saying a number of times. I’ll bet it goes back to Grandma Ruth and even earlier.

Perhaps it originally referred to someone who limped or had difficulty walking. Then over the years, it came to mean someone who’s acquired an impediment to forward action. For example, when someone campaigned for mayor but received some bad publicity, you could say, “that sure put a hitch in her git-along.”

mom sayings

Things Mom would say

Slower than molasses in January – When it was cold, molasses congealed enough to be hard to pour. This phrase was used to prod a kid who was dragging their feet about completing a chore or was slow getting ready for school in the morning.

Hold your horses – Don’t be in such a big hurry. Wait a minute.

Burning a hole in your pocket – Mom said this to a kid who couldn’t wait to spend money. Maybe it was money received as a gift or it was our cash prizes from the county fair.

Don’t spend it all in the same place – This was said when someone gave you money. The intent was to stretch it. It could also be a joke, particularly when it was a very small amount of money.

A lick and a promise – This meant to do a chore in a slapdash way or to tidy up quickly. The promise part was to do a better job later.

You ain’t just a woofing – I always thought this meant “you’re serious, you aren’t just bragging or making something up.” Guess the modern phrase would be “You’re not just blowing smoke.”

Tell me about some colorful sayings that your family used. Are the ones above familiar to you?

Vintage Soda Ads

Sodas, Colas, Pop…  (memories by Gail Martin’s daughter, Virginia)

I remember sipping orange pop at the corner gas station as a kid. We could choose from grape or strawberry or chocolate pop from the big red cooler filled with icy water while Dad had the Pontiac’s gas tank filled. Ah, so cool and refreshing on a hot Kansas day.

There was a bottle opener on the side of the red cooler to pry off the metal cap. Then you took a big swig of flavored soda. The strawberry would make red streaks down your chin and on your shirt if you weren’t careful drinking it.

Vintage soda machine - Coca Cola

Old time soda cooler like you would see in a gas station. Photo by Virginia Allain

If you share my memories of vintage sodas, then you’ll enjoy these retro ads that I’ve found and photographed. You’ll see these old tin signs on the walls of restaurants along with other antique and nostalgia items.

We didn’t have pop at home, even for picnics or special occasions. We drank Koolaid or lemonade back in the 1950s and 1960s. Soda was too expensive.

kayo soda tin sign

KayO chocolate soda tin advertising sign.

Whether you call it pop or soda or cola depends on the region you grew up in, but the exact wording doesn’t matter. Some of these old advertisements have been reproduced on tin signs which people like to use to decorate their family room.

Enjoy this trip down memory lane.

hot dog tin sign

Hot dog and a Coca Cola for 15 cents – the good old days.

Photos by Virginia Allain

In the comment section, tell me your memories of drinking sodas as a kid (or did you call them pop)?

 

Make a Stick Horse with a Child

The guest blogger today is Gail and Clyde Martin’s daughter, Cynthia Ross. This article first appeared on eHow in 2010.

How to Make a Stick Horse with a Child

This may sound old-fashioned, but making and playing with a stick horse can provide hours of fun for a young child. It’s a simple project, so involve the child in making the horse. Then send them out in the yard to gallop around with the stick horse. They’ll get lots of exercise and fresh air. As you can see in the photo on my book cover, my first stick horse was a 2 X 4 piece of wood with a rope reins. I’ve made several of the sock stick horses for my own children.

Cover for Ride a Stick Horse

Cynthia Ross – The cover for her first book of poetry.

Things You’ll Need:

  • a stick
  • a sock
  • string or light rope
  • something to stuff inside the sock
  • 2 buttons
  • odds and ends to decorate the horse’s head
  1. Choose a stick. A suitable stick horse can be a cut-down broomstick or another piece of wood. It needs to be long enough for the child to straddle it with one end on the ground and the other end about chest-high.
  2. Find an orphan sock and some string, rope or yarn. The sock could be white, black, gray, tan, or brown depending on the look you want for the horse.
  3. Rags make an adequate stuffing for the horse’s head or use some old pillow stuffing. Fill the sock with whatever you have on hand.
  4. Place the sock over the end of the stick. Wiggle the stick up into the stuffing. Add more stuffing if needed.
  5. Use the string, lightweight rope, or yarn to tightly tie the sock’s ankle part to the stick. Even a long shoestring would work. Help the child with this part, as it is hard for them to tie the rope tightly enough that the head won’t fall off.
  6. Tie the rope or string around the horse’s nose (the toe of the sock) and make reins for the rider of the stick horse. You can make a full bridle for the sock horse head if you want.
  7. Decorate the sock horse head any way you want. Glue or sew on buttons for eyes or just add them with a felt-tipped marker. If you want to get more elaborate, give the horse a mane. You can put a line of glue down the neck of the horse and stick pieces of yarn to it. An alternate way is to cut a fringe in a square of fabric, then glue the uncut side to the horse’s neck.
  8. Have the child choose a name for the horse. Now turn your little cowboy loose in the yard with the stick horse. It’s more fun with several children all riding their stick horses around. They can have races or play at rounding up cattle.
Tips & Warnings
  • Be sure the stick doesn’t have any splinters on it and is lightweight.
Resources
stick horse pixabay

Here’s a variation on the stick horse. This one has a wooden head with painted features, nailed-on ears, and straps for reins.

Ladies Calling Cards

Post by Gail’s daughter, Virginia Allain.

The image below is a calling card from the 1880s. It came to me with a batch of antique valentines for my collection. At one time, someone saved this many years ago and pasted it into their scrapbook.

Back in those days, ladies made formal visits to their friends. A card like this would be left on a fancy tray to show they had been to call. It’s sort of a lady’s version of business cards. Probably women saved them since they were so pretty.

calling card

Ladies calling card from the collection of Virginia Allain

Notice how lavish the design is with roses and lily of the valley flowers, and along the edge violets. There are lace and lavender ribbon with a gold edge. The words in the center say “Peace Forever.

I like that thought. I wish we would have peace forever. Peace in our families. Peace in our communities. Peace in the world.

You can see a sampling of my ephemera collection on the Hubpages site. It’s called “My Tips for Collecting and Displaying Vintage Valentines.

When I shared this photo with my friends, here are their thoughts:

Chula – I’ve collected old paper since I was little. I love the calling cards. Even the plain ones with just names printed on them are fun to see. This one is very beautiful.

Karen – We used “calling cards” in the expat community in India when I lived there, probably a carryover from British colonial days. Most of them included a map on the reverse side giving directions to your residence. Addresses were long and complex and streets/roads often weren’t marked–you just had to “know” it was such-and-such street, hence the map.

Kathy – Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did have peace forever. I thought that was a curious thing for this calling card to say, by the way. It is lovely.

Marsha – I love the older cards like that. My mom has so many of them, including Valentines.

Pammie  – Wow that is cool, I had never seen such a card before.

Rachel – What a great old custom that was, dating back to a simpler time when manners still mattered.

Marilyn – I love it. It’s so pretty. I have scrapbooks of cards my mother collected. I will have to look and see if she had calling cards in her collections.

calling cards in a tray

Calling cards on a tray in a vintage house museum in Kentucky

Let’s Write More Letters

When was the last time you wrote a personal letter on real stationery, added a stamp and put it in the mailbox? I’m trying to do this more often since my brother had his stroke and lives in a nursing home. Using email isn’t an option for him and he has told me that the arrival of the mail is the high point of his day.

IMG_2511_edited

Our lives are busy and that’s the excuse most of us give for not writing real letters anymore. It seems we have plenty of time to putter around admiring cute kitten pictures on Facebook or watching the latest reality show on television. I remind myself, that writing a letter is not a huge commitment of time. Sometimes I opt for sending a postcard when I don’t have much to say or am short on time. It lets him know that I’m thinking of him.

Using attractive cards or pretty stationery makes letter writing a pleasant experience. I even have my favorite pen that moves smoothly over the paper and doesn’t leave blots. Since my brother likes street rods, I found some cards on Zazzle with vintage hot rods on them. I figure he can enjoy the graphic as a bonus and it shows I took the trouble to select cards with him in mind.

For my sisters, I usually email them but now and then get inspired to write a real letter. People seldom bother to save emails or go back to read them later. An actual letter or card often gets stashed in a box or a drawer and later is pulled out to savor once more.

Sometimes I use my own photos to create cards on Zazzle. I like sending these to show off my photography and I know the site does a good job with the printing and quality of the card stock. It just seems to add an extra dimension to the letter to have a photo I’ve taken on the card. You could print out your own photos with your printer and leave some white space to add your letter.

Here’s an example of my own photo on a Zazzle card:

White Daisy Postcard 
White Daisy Postcard by virginia allain

This post was originally posted on Daily Two Cents with the following bio added. “Virginia Allain is a retired librarian passionate about sharing information on the Internet. Areas that interest me are genealogy, photography, self-publishing, gardening, golf, and enjoying life.”

Comments on Letter Writing

Nancy  – I like the thought here.  “An actual letter or card often gets stashed in a box or a drawer and later is pulled out to savor once more.” I’ve done that myself so many times. emails are wonderful, but I can’t see them taking the place of a piece of paper we hold in our hands, knowing that loving hands held it before we did as they thought of us.

Danielle – I used to LOVE writing letters! My friends and I used to write these long letters to each other all the time. Now I have no one to write to on paper that would actually write back!

Candy – I have several friends who are in their 80’s and 90’s and live 2,000 miles away. They don’t have email. We communicate by writing letters and I always look forward to seeing one of their handwritten envelopes in my mailbox.