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Friday, August 5, 2016

Hit Your Knees!

Ritual has been a part of daily life since the beginning of time and our grandparents were no different. We may believe that their lives reflected a series of  habits, but in actuality, they were daily rituals that gave meaning to their existence.

Take a look at the average American farmer in the early 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. The simple act of rising each morning, and sharing a cup of coffee or breakfast before work was ritual.

The common act of where my great-grandfather, Arthur, hung his overalls, or taking a thermos to the tractor each day was ritual. It brought a sense of comfort and ease; it was a knowing habit.

The word "ritual" is most often associated with religion or spiritual practice, but my great-grandparents were not religious people. You would have never found a photo representing Christianity, or any other faith, in their home. And though my great-grandmother was a generous, loving woman, I do recall the day she said, "We don't believe in God."

My grandmother, who lived with them, found great comfort and amusement in entertaining the works of Edgar Cayce, the magic of nature, and other forms of divination. And the only time I ever saw her in a church was the day she buried her son, my father. It was she who passed on her belief system to me.

Yet, no matter our background, our personal philosophies, or spiritual beliefs, there comes a time when ritual is a necessary part of support. We reach out to those traditions that gave meaning to our lives from childhood. We may even choose a motion, a stance, or a group of words to bring new focus into the midst of our challenges.

In an act of telling the Divine that one does not always know the answers, that starting over is required, or help is needed with new possibilities, even my grandmother knelt to the Universe when she thought no one was watching. But I did.

And I use it myself. This morning, I shall enter that place I deem Sacred Space in the woods, and plunge my knees in the dirt, looking for divine inspiration. Trust me. I've never been disappointed, even in my impatience.

So if you're looking for a place to start over, a motivational nudge, or to relay the words, "Where Now?", find a place where Heaven meets Earth in your soul, and hit your knees. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ancestral Scents - What Were Yours?

How many of you remember the specific scents that told you, this is Grandma's house?

And they were the same ones all the time - did you notice that?

Just for the fun of it today, write below at least one scent that you will always remember. What fragrance from Grandma's house could always make you smile? And have you ever thought of recreating that scent in your own home when times are challenging? 

For me, it was the smell of lye soap curing. She always made lye soap every year and used it washing clothes, bathing, for doing the dishes - everything! And she did not use essential oils to change the fragrance. It smelled like ordinary lye soap. 

There was a distinct smell of cooking and I think it had to have been something like celery salt and chicken bouillon - a lot of it. She used them in everything and we use them in nothing - perhaps that is why I recognized them.

And holidays or family gatherings? The overpowering smell of Turkey. It could knock a person out of the door - not to mention the heat of the old fashioned kitchen. Was it 200 or 300 degrees in that kitchen?

Simple memories. Write them down. Tell your children. It will give them a glimpse into the lives and personalities of their ancestors. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Women In Flour Sacks - Bringing Color To Their Lives

My parents were born in 1923, and though my father was an only child, my mother was one of eight.

Heading into the Great Depression, she was never going to have the opportunities that my father had and my grandmother had to be overly creative just to put food on the table once or twice a day.

It was an incredible hardship, but then there was the additional challenge of keeping everyone clothed, particularly active children. In my mother's family, everything was used until it was deemed "thread bare." 

With little funds from my grandfather's carpentry, flour was purchased in bags of cloth. This fabric was heavy, durable, and built to last, as it first had to protect the food stuffs it carried. 

To prove this point, my mother made towels for drying dishes out of white flour sacks during the early 40s. I was still using those same towels in the 70s after years of washing and bleaching. 

As a child growing up in the 50s and 60s, I never wore a dress made of flour sacks. The stigma of having endured the Depression weighed heavily on most people who lived during that era. No child of theirs was going to live the same way.

In the Old Photo Archive at the link below, please enjoy the short history and photos regarding flour sack usage. This generation became the ultimate modern day recyclers, and flour sacks were just one way to bring color into a time of challenge.

(image above - I recall this pattern
as my mother made a tablecloth
from it.)

(The Fascinating History of Flour Sack Dresses, Old Photo Archive,, July 22, 2016)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cooking For A Depression

I was fortunate enough to have a grandmother and great-grandmother living in the same house - not my house, but they lived together. I got the best of two generations in one.

Looking back, I know my grandmother probably hated the fact that I loved her Depression era cooking. I never saw her eat it; she only fixed it for me. I'm sure she'd had her fill of it - sort of like me and beef stew. (God have mercy. I hate beef stew).

However, the concept of cooking during the Great Depression should be something we tuck away and use if the situation arises.

Below is a link to Clara's YouTube Channel on Cooking through the Great Depression. Clare has now left us, but what a fantastic gift she left behind!

And for those who would love to jump right into a recipe of Twice Baked Potatoes (Clare says, "They're Not Fancy"), here you go!

Are You Ready For Rationing?

For those of you who are too young to have had a mother or grandmother live through a World War, you may not have heard of "Rationing." You will also may not have heard it spoken with such incredible disdain. 

Throughout every war in the United States, rationing has been documented. Doing without items we deem as common purchases was suddenly a privilege to buy. And why? Because everything of value went to the war effort first. 

My mother could tell you how she carefully sewed up runners in her nylons because she was only allowed to purchase one pair every so many months.

Sugar, dairy, flour, meat, clothing, gasoline, and other simple items were rationed by stamps in a booklet. If you didn't have any more stamps, guess what? You did without until your next booklet.

How did they stretch the food stuffs they did get to purchase? By creating recipes that could handle the scarcity. These are people who went through the Great Depression so they already had a sense of survival. And they didn't eat all day as we have grown to accept. A size 8-10 dress was common.

In the link below, you will discover a fantastic blog entitled, "The 1940's Experiment - Cooking Up Wartime Recipes to Save Money." There, you will find 150 recipes for stretching your family dollar and food budget.

Walk through the pages for nostalgia or perhaps take a lesson from the past. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Oatmeal - Still A Great Survival Food!

If you had a grandmother like mine, you know that oatmeal played a huge part of survival food. It was inexpensive, healthy, and the smile of the Quaker Oats man greeted every one of us from the pantry shelves. 

However, there are those who have taken it up a notch and turned it into another type of "survival" food, agreeable to everyone's budget, easy to carry in a backpack, and guaranteed to give you a healthy meal.

Take a look at the The Yummy Life's Blog Page by Monica Matheny. It's aimed to please with a variety of recipes for freezing or bag storage. You certainly can't go wrong with ingredients you can attain at your local grocery store.

Healthy Instant Oatmeal Packets

Saturday, April 9, 2016

It's Not My Responsibility

As I sit in a park in Indiana, I watch my elderly neighbor struggle with the cold and ice. It’s sunny today, but at 1:00pm, we are not above freezing as of yet. His 20+ year old grandchildren have come and gone, yet, his laundry is still stacked to the ceiling, and like the rest of us, there still is no water to be stored. Could they not have brought him any?

His children popped in last night. They didn’t bring any either. I helped him collect some Thursday evening. It doesn’t make me a hero – it makes me a neighbor.

I recall the days my father or mother would receive a phone call and the next thing they would say was, “Put your shoes on. We’re going to (fill in the blank) house.”  There was something that needed addressed and they needed help.

In the early 60s, there was a man named Ray Lewis. I’m sure he’s long gone, but Mr. Lewis had heart surgery.  Back then, that was almost a death sentence.  He and his family also had a commercial chicken farm. For two weeks after work, my father gathered us up and collected eggs, graded them, did something else to them, and we’d then go home. At first, there were several people sharing the responsibility from the church, but finally it continued to dwindle until it was just Dad and someone else. They stuck it out until Mr. Lewis could take on the responsibility again.  We were not related to the Lewis family. We were just neighbors. 

I’m not saying that this behavior hasn’t been around since the dawn of time, but it certainly multiplies in leaps and bounds with each coming year.

What does it cost us to individually think outside the box for two minutes and assist another person? What would it have cost those children to throw a couple of water jugs in the truck for grandpa?

People do not have to know someone, be related to someone, or even know their name to lend a hand for two minutes. Where have we let that gift go? And why do we believe that it’s now acceptable?