Family · Family Favorites · Home · My Roots

Halloween Memories

Halloween on the farm was a far different experience than my current city experience. Childhood costumes were simple, always with a hot plastic or rubber mask. Note our fancy trick or treat bags! We couldn’t run from house to house but instead our parents drove us to our neighbors farms.  We collected wonderful home-made goodies while our parents visited for a while.  At the end of the night, we visited 6 to 8 houses but came home with luscious home-made popcorn balls, cookies, caramel apples, and full size candy bars.

Halloween on the Farm about 1959

My children never experienced the wonders of home-made goodies, ruined by the scare of Halloween candy tampering.  None-the-less, they had a wonderful time running from house to house in our suburban neighborhood yelling ‘trick or treat’ and collecting their Halloween bounty. Masks were not a favorite (thank goodness) but costumes were pretty traditional and fun. Our AT&T office hosted a family Halloween party letting the kids gather treats at each office and cubicle. Good times!

Sarah Mom Megan Halloween 1990

Fast forward to 2015 and grandson, Evan’s, Halloween experience.  His favorite character today is from the movie FROZEN and we were fortunate enough to find the darling OLAF costume on Amazon.com.

Evan as Olaf

Evan has been to his first corn maze and is in awe of the amazing (and sometimes scary) Halloween decorations. He’ll be out gathering treats in the neighborhood and celebrating with his little friends.  As his little 3 year old girlfriend says, they’ll be out ‘Candy Tricking’.  Love this age!

Next Halloween we’ll have a baby girl in our family joining the Halloween fun. We’ll anxiously await the arrival of ‘lil pumpkin in November.

Wishing you all a safe and wonderful Halloween!

Family · Family Favorites · Holidays · Home · Kitchen

Kitchen Memories

Kitchen Memories started to flood back to me as I looked at my kitchen for the last time before the cabinets were removed.  So many conversations took place in my kitchen with our girls from babyhood to teenage years to adult years.  Meals were prepared for many loved ones, some of which are now gone.

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Kitchen 2015 after the cabinets over the island were removed.

When we first moved into our Smurf blue house in 1988, the kitchen had brown, patterned kitchen carpet, one of the worst ideas on the planet. The Cherry Cabinets were quite nice and the Columbine (Colorado’s State Flower) tile was fitting of the ‘country’ craze at the time.

This kitchen became the heart of our home. Weekday mornings were frantic as Karl and I prepared for work so the girls would often gather on the floor of the kitchen as I prepared breakfast and our lunches.

As I look at the kitchen for the last time, a stream of memorable movies play in my head, including:

  • Homework, Science experiments, crafting
  • Holiday meal preparations
  • Meal preparation while the kids often sat on the counter to chat and share
  • My mother, when visiting, making homemade egg noodles on my kitchen counter to freeze for later use
  • Making our Christmas favorite Kringla for the holidays
  • Birthday Celebrations
  • Christmas parties & Mother’s Day Coffee
  • Dying Easter Eggs

Sarah and Megan dye Easter Eggs 1991

  • Teaching the girls to bake

Megan and Sarah bake a cake 1991

  • Rescuing animals or playing with our own pets

Daddy has a bird

  • Running Circle through the house (Gamma Stout and Sarah)

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  • Preparing flowers for the Megan (top) and Sarah’s (second) weddings

megan and cathy do flowers 1580

  • Evan’s 2nd birthday, the last event in the old kitchen.

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So here we go…out with the old and in with the new! I’m soooo ready…

Family · Holidays · Home

Generations of Mother’s Day Sentiments

Mother’s Day holds a special place in our hearts that grows each and every year. This Mother’s Day I ventured down Memory Lane reading sentiments shared through the generations and, again, realized the love we hold for Mother’s is so very dear. How I miss my Mother and wish I could hug her and talk with her one more time.

My Mother often expressed her feelings in poetry and I found a poem she wrote in 1956 about her sweet Mother, Susie:

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HOW WELL I DO REMEMBER

By Betty Gaunt Smaha

How well I do remember
My Mother sweet and fair,
Who was the first to hold me
And utter a thanks in prayer.

She taught me first to sit up straight
Then baby words to talk,
She gently led me around the room
Until I learned to walk.

She sat me down upon her knee
And taught me how to say,
‘Now I lay me down to sleep’
So I’d know how to pray.

She also taught me how to love
My sisters and my brothers,
To share my toys and not complain
Twas a trying time for Mother.

She proudly sent me off to school
With a smile upon her face,
And assured us all twas well
As off to school we’d race.

She could look at me and always smile
With a twinkle in her eyes,
She loved me in a clean starched dress
Or knee deep in mud pies.

As years passed by and I left home
Mother silently shed some tears,
For she wanted just my happiness
For the many coming years.

But now I am a Mother
With children of my own,
But ‘Mother’s Day’ is special
For that dear sweet Mom back home.
—————————
Most of my childhood drawings and cards are long gone, but one card survived.  I only wish I had inherited my Mother’s poetry gene.

Mother’s Day card to my Mother about 1958 (age 5)

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There is nothing more precious that the hand-made cards from the girls through the years. I’ve saved many of their cards and drawings and want to share two of my favorites.

Mother’s Day card from my daughter, Sarah

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Mother’s Day Poem from Daughter, Megan

Mothers Day Poem from Megan 1995

To Mother’s everywhere, have a wonderful Mother’s Day this weekend!

Holidays · Home · Humor

Valentine’s Day…through the years

Valentine’s Day is a day we cherished as children, exchanging Valentines with our classmates, carefully choosing cards for each person. We would spend what seemed like hours on our Valentines for our parents.

Our Mothers would bake cookies to bring to class and we would have a big ‘sugar high’ before our sweet teachers would  watch us leave the classroom for one crazy ride home on the bus. Cathys Valentine 1969

As I got older, Valentine’s Day became more about romance, setting expectations of what we should give and receive of this day full of cupid, hearts and roses.  More often than not, this day was a let-down. This week on CBS Sunday morning I saw one of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, share his thoughts on Valentine’s Day. He captures it well!

With children, Valentine’s Day would bring me back to my childhood, helping the girls pick out their favorite cartoon-themed Valentine’s, baking heart-shaped cookies, and often receiving the precious Valentines from their sweet little hands.

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Today, Valentine’s Day is a day to show love by sharing a gift of food with family and friends, calling a lonely friend, and being thankful and full of love for this precious gift of life….today!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

Book Club · New Favorite

Poisonwood Bible and African Themed Potluck

Poisonwood Bible (1998) was our recent Book Club read. I remember trying to read this great book in the late ’90s but work, teenagers and life interrupted  my reading experience.  I was delighted when our Book Club added the book to our 2014 list. While the book is long, the time flew by as I read this marvelous book by Barbara Kingsolver.

The book was originally suggested to me by my sister-in-law, Betty, when they were living in Malawi, Africa on a medical and education mission. During their time in Africa, Betty wrote many emails to family and friends capturing the many wonderful and tragic moments there.  Poinsonwood Bible brought back a flood of memories from her stories.

Our book club always begins the evening with a potluck dinner with a theme from the book, so African recipes it is! Betty was kind enough to mail me her cookbook, The Malawi Cookbook:

Malawi Cookbook
Malawi Cookbook

The cookbook was originally published in 1972 by the Malawi Ministry of Health to raise money for children’s vaccinations and the Save the Children fund.  Malnutrition is one of the leading causes of morbidity in young children in developing countries.

The recipes are fascinating and I will keep a few for my future cooking experiences, although I doubt I will ever serve Bee Larvae, Flying Ants, Grasshoppers, Crickets and Locusts.  Instead, I decided to use the eggplant recipe that Betty shared directly with me. I love eggplant, made any which way, so this was a perfect choice. As Betty shared, Mashed Eggplant is served everywhere during harvest season.

Other wonderful dishes shared at our dinner were Ingera (sponge bread), Chicken and Peanut Stew (recipe to appear in Friday’s post), Fried Plantains, and an array of Ethiopian dishes from a local restaurant.

I took several wonderful pictures of the Eggplant and Peanut Spread, to later discover I didn’t have my memory card in my camera. My apologies but let me assure you the dish was a big hit, even for those that confess to not liking Eggplant. Serve this spread with wedges of pita bread or, for those eating gluten-free, a gluten free cracker.

The only change I would make the next time I make it, would be to roast the eggplant in the oven to decrease the amount of fat in the dish.

Eggplant

MASHED EGGPLANT & PEANUT SPREAD

2 pounds eggplant, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter (in Malawi, they would use local made groundnut butter)
salt and red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Prepare the eggplant in the usual way of slicing, salting, weighing down the eggplant during the two hours you are extracting the liquid and bitterness.  
  • Pat dry, then fry eggplant slices for about five minutes in the olive oil, turning once.  
  • Mix and pour remaining ingredients over the fried slices, mash with fork, then serve with pita wedges.  (I admit to having used a food processor which made the finished product a bit smoother).

 

 

 

Family · Family Favorites

Chicken Divine…a family fav!

Chicken Divine is a recipe I discovered in the ’90s.  I wish I could recall where the recipe originated but it had the elements that my young children liked: chicken, rice, broccoli and, of course, CHEESE!  I made, they liked, repeat.

To this day, it is still a favorite and the aroma of the baking chicken with rosemary is wonderful. I sincerely hope your family enjoys as much as ours does!

CHICKEN DIVINE

3 whole chicken breasts
rosemary to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 sliced onion
1 pound fresh or frozen broccoli
3/4 cup raw rice, cooked

CHEESE SAUCE:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup grated, sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Sprinkle chicken with rosemary, salt and pepper. Bake chicken at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cool. Skin, bone and slice.
  • Prepare the rice.
  • Cook broccoli in water with salt and onion. Drain.
  • Layer chicken, then broccoli, then rice in buttered casserole.
  • Prepare the cheese sauce:   Melt butter, add flour and stir until smooth. Cook 2 minutes. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly until thickened. Add cheeses and seasonings. (I have often made 1 1/2 recipes of the sauce to put on top to make it even more moist.)
  • Pour cheese sauce over entire dish. Add more grated Parmesan on top if desired.
  • Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

 

 

 

Family

Six-Oh! Where did six decades go?

Sixty years ago yesterday, August 19, my Mother gave birth to me, the youngest of the family and definitely the OOPS!  My sister is 14 years older and my brother 9 years older.  I was the annoying little sister that was very observant of the fun things my older sister had or did and taking notes on all of the rules my then teenage brother was breaking. I was the pest!

My sister had to endure countless strangers asking here ‘Is that your baby?’ at 14 years of age.  Mortifying, I’m sure!  My brother was just annoyed.  It’s bad enough having two sisters but being squeezed in the middle of an observant older sister and a ‘tattle-tale’ little sister, couldn’t have been easy.

Betty and baby Cathy 1953
Betty and baby Cathy 1953

Little did I know then that my siblings, who really seemed like second parents, would grow up to be my closest friends and supporters.

Smaha Family Portrait around 1956 to 1957
The Smaha Family about 1958
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Cathy, Bill and Carolyn 2011

Their children were like the younger siblings I didn’t have, since I was an Aunt at age 7.  My niece and nephews (they were my pests–see the culprits below) had children closer to my children’s ages also giving our children a special bond and relationship.

Christmas 1968 Duane Sherri Jeff

I lived in Colorado and my siblings lived in Iowa most of our adult lives, but we always made time to visit, keeping the family ties solid.  I’ve tried to teach my children that family is so critically important.  They are there for you…always.

I am blessed. Thanking God for 60 wonderful years of life and looking forward to the future, seeing my children and grandchildren continue to grow and develop into loving, happy adults!

Happy Six-Oh to me!

Family

Joy of a New Grandmother!

I’m in love, again, with a beautiful baby boy…Evan Michael.  For years I have heard about the tremendous love a grandparent feels for their grandchildren and now I get to experience that joy!

As our children grow up it is hard to imagine that they, too, will once be parents.  Not only is there joy in meeting your grandbaby but joy in seeing the eternal love that the new Momma and Papa have for their sweet baby boy.

Daughter, Sarah and her husband, Kyle, had their precious baby on April 24. Mother, Father, and baby are doing well.  I am so happy for them and wish them good health, much love, and happiness for their family.

baby evan 1 sarah hands and evan feet

We Love You, Little One

We loved you from the very start,
You stole our breath, embraced our heart.

Our life together has just begun,
You’re part of us our little one.

From the day we first knew,
Our mind was filled with thoughts of you.

We’d daydream of the things we’d share,
Like bedtime stories and teddy bears.

Like first steps and skinned knees,
Like nursery rhymes and ABC’s.

We thought of things you’d want to know,
Like how birds fly and flowers grow.

We thought of lessons we’d need to share,
Like standing tall and playing fair.

Each naptime we lay you down to sleep,
We gently kiss your head and cheek.

We count your little fingers and toes,
We memorize your eyes and nose.

We linger at your nursery door,
Awed each day we love you more.

Through misty eyes, we dim the light,
We whisper “We Love You” every night.

We loved you from the very start,
You stole our breath, embraced our heart.

As grandparents and grandchild our journey’s begun,
Our hearts are yours, forever, little one.

~~ Author Unknown ~~

Nicaragua

Good-Bye FEV…on our way to San Ramon, Nicaragua

Saying good-bye to our new friends at Finca Esperanza Verde (FEV) was sad.  The staff made our stay so memorable and wonderful.  After a delightful breakfast of fresh banana bread and jam with a slice of French toast, the staff gathered to say good-bye to our group.

Last Breakfast at FEV

FEV Staff says good-bye

Next we gathered our things and were off to visit a rural, primary school on our way to San Ramon.  The truck was parked and we hiked up a steep dirt path to the top of the hill to the school.  It was muddy, full of ruts and the path the children take each and every day to their school.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the community leader, the teacher, as well as several students and their families.  Again, it was their summer break, but they took time out of their day to greet us.

Visiting Rural Primary School in Nicaragua

The children were so sweet and well-behaved.  The classroom, while barren in comparison to U.S. classrooms, had many of the same characteristics of classrooms around the world.

Classroom in Nicaraguan Rural Primary School

I noticed immediately that they weren’t enough desks for all of the children and many of the desks were broken, with the seat intact but the writing desk was long gone.  I asked about help for this school, specifically, and my donation was guided to the Sister Communities of San Ramon, website www.san-ramon.org which has helped build 6 rural primary schools in San Ramon, as well as supporting healthcare, water projects, environment preservation, etc.

After a delightful morning, we were ready for the hike down, grabbing a fresh orange for nourishment.  Back in the trucks, we’re off for San Ramon to meet our guest host families and become acquainted in the community.