Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gypsies, tramps and thieves........

My grandmother, Maggie Hart, was terrified of gypsies. My sister Judy remembers when she was little that Grandma would worry herself sick if one of us was playing outside unsupervised, because the "gypsies" might steal us.

We lived out in the country in a time when gypsies really did travel from house to house peddling their homemade pots and pans. I've always thought of gypsies as being Romanian, but, in fact, there were several nationalies represented. Each of them specialized in different things. The Rom arrived in the United States from Serbia, Austria and Austria-Hungary in the late 1880s in the huge wave of immigration from Eastern Europe. They were coppersmiths, and in addition to home cookware, they also made equipment for bakeries, laundries, confectionries and other businesses. The Rom have also been credited with introducing the art of fortune-telling. I assume that this group was the one that my grandmother knew about.

The many different groups of gypsies, or travelers, included Black Dutch, Hungarian, Romnichels, Scottish and Irish travelers, and Ludar. You can read about them at The Gypsy Lore Society

In honor of the gypsies that my grandmother feared, I'm posting the recipe for this wonderful soup. I have no idea if it has roots in Hungary, but I do know it is delicious and we love it, especially with a good crusty bread.


3/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
12 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms
2 teaspoons dried dillweed
2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3-14-ounce cans beef broth (5 /14 cups)
1 1/3 cups half-and-half (or whipping cream, if you dare)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce

1. In a 4-quart Dutch oven, cook onion in hot butter over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms, dillweed, paprika, garlic and pepper. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until mushrooms are just tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in beef broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the half-and-half or whipping cream, flour, sour cream, lemon juice and soy sauce until smooth. Gradually whisk in about 1/2 cup of the hot mushroom mixture. Add all of the cream mixture to the remaining mushroom mixture in Dutch oven. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook 1 minute more.

Note: This came from Midwest Living Magazine which got it from Sibley Station, a restaurant in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Random thoughts from my childhood

We were pretty poor when I was a child. My dad was 63 when I was born in 1953 and had a sixth-grade education. He wasn't able to find much work at his age and hauled coal to supplement what my mother could make by cleaning houses and taking in laundry. We didn't have an indoor bathroom, although we did have running cold water in the house. Water had to be heated on the stove. The house was the one that my great-grandfather built in 1887 and has always been and still remains in our family. My brother has owned it since 1961.

Mom had a wringer washer and a big rinse tub. And, of course, all the clothes were hung outside to dry, summer or winter. I can remember her starching all those white shirts and nurses uniforms and caps in that blue liquid starch. It was my job to stir it up. I had the easy part. Oh, and she would let me iron the handkerchiefs. The men's were boring white, but I loved the ladies' hankies. No two were the same, and I thought we must be rich, because Mom had hankies just like those rich ladies. They weren't really rich, just a little better off than we were, but it seemed as if they were to me. I still iron shirts in the same order that Mom taught me.
1. Right sleeve, cuff first and spread out.
2. Left sleeve.
3. Yoke.
4. Back.
5. Collar.
6. Left front.
7. Right front.

We had beans every day for supper, except for Sunday when we would have fried or baked chicken. Mom put up vegetables in the summer. She made lots of sauerkraut, pickles, pickled beans and corn. We were of German ancestry, after all. There were also jellies. My favorite was the wild plum. I've always liked jelly and jam that is a little tart.

We had our own milk when the cow was fresh and Mom made her own butter, cottage cheese and buttermilk. I always begged to churn the butter, but she would say, No, you're too little. I couldn't get the rhythm just right. You sang a little rhyme...Come, butter, come. I can't remember the rest. Then she would gather the butter out of the liquid and form it into a ball, making sure to get as much of the whey out as possible. The best part of butter-making day was slathering a fresh slice of bread with the freshly made butter and eating it very slowly to savor each mouthful.

Every Spring, my dad would go to the post office and come home with a box full of baby chicks. Usually a couple hundred. They had to stay in the kitchen by the coal stove to keep warm. So exciting for a little girl!

The brooder house wasn't heated, but when they got too big, Dad would move them all out there and sleep with them on cold nights so they wouldn't freeze to death. All he had to keep the brooder warm was a dim light bulb and his body heat. Can you imagine doing that now? Of course, most of the chicks were destined at eight weeks of age to become meat for the deep freeze. On butchering day, my Aunt Ruth would come over and help with the scalding and plucking after Daddy chopped off their heads. Then she and Mom would dress them. I have no idea what they put them in after that, because there sure were no Ziploc bags back then. She always gave Aunt Ruth some dressed chickens to take home as pay for helping out. The rest became our Sunday dinners for the rest of the year.

Of course, they always kept hens for eggs and we had them every morning for breakfast along with biscuits. They were always fried soft and I would beg Mom to mash them up for me. Sometimes she liked to soft-boil her eggs and I still eat them that way occasionally. Mom made biscuits every day of her life with Dad. When he passed away at 73, she hardly ever made biscuits again. I wonder if she was just tired of making them or they reminded her too much of Dad.

An addendum: I found this churning song from Eastern Kentucky. It isn't the one my mother sang, but I like it.

Churning Song
(as collected in Eastern Kentucky)

Sing to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell”

Churn churn churn, this is churning day,
Til the golden butter comes the dasher must not stay.
Pat pat pat, make it smooth and round,
Now the golden butter’s done won’t you buy a pound.

This hand-painted Delft ornament was brought to me by my dear husband from Amsterdam when he was there on business.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

She's still hanging in there


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Sparrow is out there with all the rest of the hens scratching and pecking. She has also been sleeping with the flock and they don't seem to be picking on her anymore than usual. I'm not so sure about the wound and how it's healing. It looks just awful and I don't see how she can be going about business as usual with it open like that. I would take a picture, but..... 1. She won't let me. 2. She won't let me. 3. You would be grossed out by it.

The ice storm came and went and now it's just wet, gray and windy with temps close to fifty. Gee, I love Winter in central Ohio! At least it isn't pouring the freezing rain and we escaped any damage. I was a little worried about my Kousa dogwood this morning as it was bent to the ground with the weight of the ice. It bounced right back as soon as it thawed. Now if I could just get it to bloom someday.

This beer stein ornament is solid pewter. I bought it at a German christmas market that was in Columbus a few years ago.

This one is clear glass, but the inside is covered with broken mirror and colored glass.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas portraits, an injured bird and an old angel in a fake tree

It was a busy Sunday. Getting the house cleaned and ready for the official 2008 family Christmas portraits, cooking dinner for the hungry hordes, and wrapping all the Christmas gifts so the nosy little ones wouldn't see them lurking in the closets and various hiding places. I was so busy that I didn't take the time to go outside and investigate when I heard a god-awful commotion in the backyard sometime in mid-afternoon. I wrote it off as hens challenging each other over the last remaining specks of green in the yard.

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When I went to the chicken coop on Monday morning, I discovered the result of all the commotion. Little Sparrow, one of my two Speckled Sussex hens, had most likely been attacked by a hawk. I saw that her feathers were unnaturally ruffled up around her neck and checked her out. She had a 1/2-inch deep by 1 1/2-inch wide open wound on the back of her neck. Then I noticed the dried blood on the roost and she was missing a lot feathers around the wound. Obviously, the other hens had been pecking at it. As all you other chicken keepers know, they would eventually kill her if she wasn't removed.

I took her into the house and washed the wound as well as I could and then squeezed some Neosporin into it. I kept her separated in a small dog cage inside the coop under the heat lamp the rest of the day. But when it came time for the hens to go to roost, she became so agitated trying to get to the roost that I was afraid she would do herself more harm. I brought her into the enclosed porch and covered the cage with an old quilt that I had used for the brooder.

She seems to be holding her own and even laid an egg sometime during the night or early morning hours. She is drinking, but didn't eat the oatmeal that I made for her this morning. I treated her again and it looked a little better, but not closing up like I had hoped it would. I really hope I don't lose her. I'm going to try letting her out with the other birds today and watch her carefully. I'll keep her separated at night when the others are most likely to pick on her.

With all the drama going on, I almost forgot to say that Sunday was my first dozen-egg day! Yay for the girls!

On a lighter note, the Christmas portrait session went as usual. Anyone who has ever tried taking group pictures of small children knows how much fun that can be. Out of 168 snapshots, I managed to get 27 that were actually usable. This is the one group shot of all five that made the cut.

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Fannie, over at This Isn't What I Ordered, had to retire her angel of twenty years and that inspired me to show you my tired little angel who I got from Avon at least twenty-five years ago. I keep thinking I will get one of those snazzy, fancy-schmancy angels that you see everywhere with the ornate wings and flowing dresses, but I just can't seem to get rid of my simple little girl angel. She seems right for our tree.

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A woman in Bellefontaine, Ohio made this curly wool sheep ornament.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gorilla-size is the new large

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So I went to Burger King drive-thru today for a quickie lunch. Ordered a #1 combo as I was thinking I should be getting a kiddie meal instead. But I was really hungry. I drove around to the window and paid my $6.03 (boy, the prices have gone up since I was last there). The guy hands me my vat cup of Diet Coke. Good lord! I wasn't sure it would even fit in the cup holder! Apparently I said that out loud, because he cheerfully said the King size is the new large. Thank goodness it was diet! If I had drunk that amount with real sugar (the high fructose variety), I would have been in a diabetic coma! I came home and measured the amount and it was a full 40 ounces. Forty ounces! And not only was the drink gorilla-sized, but also the fries would have fed a family of four. I ate about half the food and brought the rest home to the dog and chickens. The drink lasted me the rest of the day. I don't think I'll be going back to BK anytime soon.

On a nicer note, here is another of my favorite ornaments and I've also added a few to the sidebar. Hope you enjoy!

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A few of my favorite things

Ruth said she would like to see some of the ornaments I've collected over the years. Today's special one is an etched and painted gourd that I found in a fair-trade market booth at a craft mall in the Hocking Hills. I wish I were as talented a photographer as Ruth.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

The snowman in the yard is frozen hard.......

......he's a sorry sight to see.
If he had a brain, he'd complain.
Bet he wishes he were me.

Oh, the weather outside is frightful. It really is. It has been snowing lightly all day and we had finally accumulated about half an inch by dark. I haven't been outside since then, but I'm hoping it stops soon. I'm not ready for a lot of snow and as you can see below, I already have plenty of snowmen.

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This little guy is my favorite. I can't decide if he's trying to keep his carrot nose warm or adjusting it because it's about to fall off.


I like the tall one because he's wearing a long wool plaid coat and a floppy hat instead of a top hat.


The guy in the middle is just too cool for school with those Ray-Bans! In case you hadn't noticed, I save some of the snowman Christmas cards I receive and work them into the mix.

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The shiny-glazed family on the left was a gift from my best bud, Cindy.


The newest addition to my collection is a snowman nativity, which Aimee says is a little sacreligious. Really? What could be sacreligious about a snowman baby Jesus? Well, anyway, while I was arranging it into the perfect creche, Joseph met with an unfortunate accident which led to his untimely death. Plaster of paris meets brick hearth. The result is not pretty.


Nevertheless, Mary seems to be holding up well under the strain of that long journey, giving birth and immediately becoming a single mother. I don't know, but I think the guy holding the frankincense is standing a lit-tle too close.


Friday, December 5, 2008

European porcelain

I stopped by at a neighbor's Open House this morning to see what kind of Christmas goodies might await me there. I found a cute three-foot snowman skier tree to put on my hearth and add to my snowman collection. I'll put that in a later post after I have the mantel decorated.

The real prizes I found were these three pieces of porcelain.

The first is from Germany--a hexagon-shaped cream pitcher. I love the lilies-of-the-valley which is my birth-month flower. It has an iridescent glaze that you can see on the spout and near the handle.


This one is from France and is square with dogwood blooms that wrap around two of the corners.



The diamond shape of this little vase(?) intrigued me. It's from Vienna, and it's only three inches high handles and all.

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Now I just dare anyone to say that I'm not good to myself at Christmas!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Breath of Heaven

I love this version of 'Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)'.

I keep listening to it over and over again. The singer really captures Mary's plight. Amy Grant wrote the song and I love her version, too. I heard her sing it in a Christmas tour with her husband, Vince Gill. It sends cold chills.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hey, Mom! We could use another log on there!

These are pretty much the only moves they made all day.



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Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Thanksgiving extravaganza is over.......

.....and that's a good thing. As much as I love the family, it's good to have my house back to myself. I had to get everyone out so I could scrape the goo off the kitchen floor! Ten adults, five kids seven and under, four dogs, three cats, one baby boy and a partridge in a pear tree (just kidding about the partridge) makes for a very messy floor. And the noise! Did I forget to mention that the decibel level was that of an airplane! Well, it seemed that way at times.

There are barely any leftovers, thank goodness. We ate our second turkey dinner yesterday at noon and I sent what was left home with David's mom and dad. I even gave her the turkey carcass for making soup. I don't want to see another turkey for a while!

I'm taking Fannie's challenge to "wage a battle against embitterment and take part in 365 days of grace in small things" There is certainly a lot to be thankful for in my life, but sometimes I have to fight the negative side of me. I hope this will make me more thoughtful.

1. I'm thankful that my house is still big enough to hold our loved ones for holidays.

2. I'm glad that I can sit at my computer and look out at my chickens in the backyard at the same time.

3. I'm happy the sun is shining today.

I was visiting Laurie and she had a great post about TOMS shoes and the good work they are doing to help Ethiopian children prevent a terrible disease called podoconiosis. Please watch this YouTube video to find out more about how you can help.

And, finally, some adorable little people whom I just happen to call my grandchildren, plus one....Xan, their cousin.

Matthew is getting his first bite of cereal from Mommy.
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Girls trying on their first (plastic)heels.
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Got milk?

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Matthew and Great-Grandma Phyllis
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