cooking

My Uncle Elmer Johnson was an amazing cook. My cousin, Ellen Bremner, his oldest child recalls the many holiday meals he cooked over the years, and just how wonderful they were. Many people think that cooking is no big deal, but opening a few cans and heating them on the stove, is not cooking, nor is heating up a frozen dinner, which seems to be the norm these days. I suppose that in a busy world, such as we now live in, heating up a previously prepared (usually by some company) meal is the best way to get a meal quickly. Nevertheless, people like my Uncle Elmer…well they knew how to really cook…making a wonderful holiday meal from scratch, with everyone in the family standing there watching and smelling the meal with mouths watering and stomachs growling. The anticipation was almost too much to bear. Ellen tells me that her dad was a more adventurous cook than their mon, my Aunt Dee.

Uncle Elmer loved Christmas, and loved to spoil his four children, Ellen, Elmer, Darla, and Delwin, as well as Aunt Dee. I can imagine him at Christmas…just like a kid in a candy store, getting everything ready for his family, and then sitting there with a twinkle in his eye as they opened their gifts. The day most likely passed far too quickly and all too soon it was over, and life went back to normal.

Normal for my uncle was driving a truck. He worked for Burke Moving and Storage, as well as United Van Lines. He also worked for Dalgarno Transportation, where he and his son, Elmer got to work together. He was also a certified welder working on pipeline, and later in a uranium mine at Shirley Basin. Uncle Elmer was also a capable mechanic. Still, I think that as jobs go, Uncle Elmer was happiest when he was driving a truck. He liked to drive, and that made him a good teacher of driving. Ellen remembers that he was very patient with her when he was teaching her to drive. He encouraged her, even when she made a mistake.

Every summer, Uncle Elmer would take the family fishing in the Tensleep area of Wyoming. Uncle Elmer loved fishing, and he passed that love of the sport down to his kids. I think they all still enjoy fishing to this day. Uncle Elmer was witty and had a great sense of humor. That probably came from the years he and his brothers spent getting into mischief…good clean fun really. Uncle Elmer, and especially his brother, Les pulled many pranks. Their brother Tom was quite a bit younger, and so not as involved in their mischief, but I imagine he managed to contribute his share as he got older too. After all, he had his big brothers to show him the ropes. Unfortunately, Uncle Elmer passed away in 1981. Today would have been his 87th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Elmer. We love and miss you very much.

For a deep thinker, like my grand niece, Anna Masterson, being an introvert is usually par for the course. Introversion can be overcome, but it is not easy, and really takes a concentrated effort. Anna has been working on being more outgoing over the past year. That has not been very easy with Covid-19. She has been faithfully going with her mom, Dustie Masterson, every week to the laundromat. That can be a major accomplishment for an introvert. I know I am much the same. Dustie really appreciates Anna’s help because they get through the work quickly. For Anna the surprise was that she has made a friend there, which was a surprise for Dustie to see, because Anna does not talk to people she doesn’t know. Even more surprising was that it was a boy, an act of bravery on her part. Not surprising that the boy wanted to talk to her, because Anna is a cute girl. Still, she stayed very close to her mom while she talked to him for a while. Nevertheless, pretty soon she was talking to him across the laundromat! Amazingly, it was her mom who had a hard time letting Anna go across the room. It was just such an unusual feeling to have her normally clingy daughter moving so bravely out into the world. Dustie wants Anna to come out of her shell, but watching the process was not easy for a mom who has felt the need to help her shy daughter in the past.

The end of the school year was rough for Anna. Covid-19 really put a damper on those, like Anna, who really love school. She got up on her own every day on time and went to her online classes. She didn’t have to be told, she chose. Still, it’s not the same as going to school, and even for an introvert like Anna, being around people she knew was important, and she missed going. It was very responsible of her to get up on her own, because her parents, Rob and Dustie both work, they are glad she was so good about getting up with an alarm. Anna and her best friend, Julie, both play the violin in orchestra, and that has had to go by the wayside too. I know they both miss it very much. For them, and all the kids I pray Covid-19 ends soon.

Like many people, Anna and her sister, Raelynn are both into Comic-Con, and this year, both girls plan to go, as it will be held outside to allow for good social distancing. The girls are so excited about going. In the meantime, Anna and her siblings, Raelynn and Matt, have been spending a lot of time together, which could have been a problem, but they get along pretty well, so they have tried to keep things light and fun.

Anna surprised her mom in another way this year. Before this year, Anna was not really interested in cooking, but she has decided that she likes to cook and be creative in the kitchen. This has been a wonderful mother/daughter time for both of them, and Dustie has really enjoyed teaching her daughter all about cooking. It has brought them even closer. Today is Anna’s 13th birthday. Happy birthday Anna!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

It’s that time of year again, and Thanksgiving Day has arrived. The day will begin with much cooking, table setting, and other preparation. All too often we get so caught up in the preparation for the main meal of the day, and prepare for the gathering together of family and friends, that we forget the real purpose of the day…giving thanks for all we have been given.

Over the past year, some health issues have presented themselves, not only in our family, with my husband, Bob; but with my son-in-law, Kevin’s mother, Becky Skelton too. Both of them had heart issues, and now both of them are well again. You can’t emphasize too much, the importance of good health. Never is that importance made more clear, than when things happen that threaten that good health. The concerns we have all felt, each of us watching as another of our loved ones has worried over their mom or dad, husband or wife, brother or sister, were almost overwhelming. Now, that all the tests, the surgery, the procedure, and the recovery are behind us, we feel only thankfulness.

Our daughter, Corrie has been working hard in nursing school, and doing very well. She has been so blessed with great grades, and a wonderful nursing school experience. I have watched her blossom throughout this process, and it warms my heart to see such an amazing transformation in her. She and Kevin have also been blessed with a granddaughter, who is their son, Chris and fiancée, Karen’s daughter. Their son Josh is very busy with two jobs, while waiting for the next college class that he needs to become an EMT. Eventually he will be going into firefighting.

Bob and I have been thankful to have been able to travel to visit our daughter Amy Royce and her family, and spend two weeks with them, including Independence Day, which was a new thing for us, since we have spent Independence Day in the Black Hills for many years. Spending quality time with Amy; Travis; Shai and her boyfriend, Jordan; and Caalab, and his girlfriend, Chloe, was a special time. Any amount of time spent with family is something to be thankful for. As our children, grandchildren, and now great granddaughter grow and become more busy, time is something that is often in short supply, and definitely a blessing.

Everyone has different reasons to be thankful all year long, but at this time of year, we tend to reflect on the many blessings we have been given all year…some are extra special, and others bring deep emotion, because we know what we might have lost. This Thanksgiving Day, I realize just how much I have to be thankful for, and for all of it, I thank God, the Father of Lights, from whom all good gifts come. I hope everyone has as much to be thankful for as I have this year. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

My niece, Michelle Stevens sees things that most of us would miss. Of course, when I say that, I am talking about seeing art in things most of us couldn’t even imagine. Not all of these things were her ideas, but she could make them work, because she is very talented. Her artwork is truly prize winning. Michelle has studied every form of art in her pursuit of her art education degree, and I think she could do any of them and will no doubt create some in the future.

Michelle has taken up crocheting. I did that once, but I don’t think I was nearly as talented as Michelle. She made a beautiful blanket for her little niece, Elliott Michelle Stevens. It is beautiful in gray, pink, and white. Little did Michelle know at the time she was making the blanket, but her sister-in-law, Kayla was decorating Elliott’s room in pink and gray. The blanket fit in perfectly. Of course, becoming an aunt to Elliott has been the biggest change in Michelle’s life for this year. She doesn’t get to see as much of little Elliott as she would like, because she and her parents live in Sheridan, and Michelle lives in Casper, but she is still Aunty Michelle, and that is very cool. Michelle has also taken up sewing with a sewing machine her mom, Alena Stevens gave her. She wants to make quilts and things. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few little baby outfits make their way to Elliott for her Aunty Michelle either. Michelle sees many different things as art, and she is very good at all of them. She makes wreaths, pottery, and is planning to take up mosaic glass art. Even Michelle’s fur babies, dogs Obie and Leia got gifts. She made them stockings, because she loves those puppies like babies and I hear they are spoiled rotten. Michelle is an artist in every sense of the word. Oh…to have such talent!! Unfortunately it is not in my sphere.

On top of all her artwork, Michelle is a great cook. When we had our family Christmas party last weekend, Michelle made crab stuffed mushrooms. They were amazing. Michelle loves to cook, and like everything else in her world, she considers it a form of art too. The more creative she can get with it the more she likes it. Oh…to have such talent!! Today is Michelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When the pioneers headed west, they were leaving the comforts of home behind. They would be traveling in covered wagons, with bushes for restrooms and rivers for bathtubs. Water was often scarce, so daily bathing was out of the question. You bathed when you came upon a creek or river, and drinking water was far too valuable to waste on such frivolous things as bathing. That said, anyone who has ever camped out where there was not a readily available water source, can tell you that people can get pretty stinky before they finally get to a place where they can bathe. I suppose that is why many of the women…if they were financially able, had things like lemon verbena to cover the inevitable odors. While things like toileting and bathing were inconveniences, they were things people learned to live with as they traveled west in search of a homestead, and they weren’t usually life threatening, other than transferring of germs from less than clean hands to food that was to be eaten.

One of the most important things to know, of course, was what to do in the event of an emergency. An injury that is not take care of can quickly turn septic. And an illness that is treated in the wrong way, can bring death. That was one of the more difficult problems the pioneers faced. There were no doctors in nearby towns, and often there were no nearby rows either. They had to fend for themselves. And if they didn’t know what to do, people died. These days many people rely on a doctor or nurse for most illnesses, but the did not have that luxury. They had to be their own doctors and nurses.

The pioneers also had to know how to build their own homes, even if they had never really built a house before. Just because someone has lived in, or seen a house built, dies not mean that you automatically know how to build one. They had to know how to fix a broken wagon or wagon wheel, and how to shoe a horse. These were not normally skills that just everyone knew. And they certainly aren’t the life skills that any of the students of today would be taught in a life skills class, but I suppose that life skills is a class that has to be suited to the times. These days, life skills classes might include cooking and sewing, budgeting, and child care. I suppose it was taken for granted that people knew those things before they headed west in the days of the pioneers. These days it seems that fewer and fewer have those skills. I used to think life skills was rather a wasted class, but I suppose that depending on what is taught, maybe it isn’t.

World War II saw many changes in how women were viewed in the normally male-dominated world. With so many men off fighting the war, the women stepped up to do the jobs of riveters in the shipyards, and they stepped up in many other occupations too. If there are no men to do the jobs, someone had to keep the country running, and the United States found out that women were up for the task. I don’t suppose that everyone thought that women could do it, but they simply had no choice. World War II was the largest and most violent armed conflict in the history of mankind. This war taught us, not only about the profession of arms, but also about military preparedness, global strategy, and combined operations in the coalition war against fascism.

Prior 1942, the only way for women to be involved in the service was as an Army Nurse, in the Army Nurse Corps, but early in 1941 Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts met with General George C. Marshall, the Army’s Chief of Staff, and told him that she intended to introduce a bill to establish an Army women’s corps, separate and distinct from the existing Army Nurse Corps. Congress approved that bill on May 14, 1942, and the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was born. The WAAC bill became law on May 15, 1942. Congressional opposition to the bill centered around southern congressmen. With women in the armed services, one representative asked, “Who will then do the cooking, the washing, the mending, the humble homey tasks to which every woman has devoted herself; who will nurture the children?” These days he would have been run out of Congress for having backward ideas but it was a different time, and one that some women of today truly miss…especially young mothers.

After a long and bitter debate which filled ninety-eight columns in the Congressional Record, the bill finally passed the House 249 to 86. The Senate approved the bill 38 to 27 on May 14. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill into law the next day, he set a recruitment goal of 25,000 for the first year. WAAC recruitment topped that goal by November of 1942, at which point Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson authorized WAAC enrollment at 150,000, the original ceiling set by Congress. The day the bill became law, Stimson appointed Oveta Culp Hobby as Director of the WAAC. As chief of the Women’s Interest Section in the Public Relations Bureau at the War Department, Hobby had helped shepherd the WAAC bill through Congress. She had impressed both the media and the public when she testified in favor of the WAAC bill in January. In the words of the Washington Times Herald, “Mrs. Hobby has proved that a competent, efficient woman who works longer days than the sun does not need to look like the popular idea of a competent, efficient woman.” Women would go on to not only become competent and efficient, but requested…sometimes above the men!!

So, what led to the Army’s decision to enlist women during World War II? The answer is simple. The “unfathomable” became reality, as the Army struggled to fulfill wartime quotas from an ever-shrinking pool of candidates. By mid-1943, the Army was simply running out of eligible white men to enlist. The Army could scarcely spare those men already in the service for non-combatant duties. General Dwight D. Eisenhower remarked: “The simple headquarters of a Grant or Lee were gone forever. An Army of filing clerks, stenographers, office managers, telephone operators, and chauffeurs had become essential, and it was scarcely less than criminal to recruit these from needed manpower when great numbers of highly qualified women were available.” While women played a vital role in the success of World War II, their admission into combat roles would not come for many years, and many weren’t sure it was a good idea when it did. The WAC, as a branch of the service, was disbanded in 1978 and all female units were integrated with male units.

So Happygrandpa spencer041_editedMy niece, Andrea Beach has always looked so much like her mom, my sister, Caryl Reed. It was a definite mini me situation. It always strikes me as odd how a set of parents can manage to so closely reproduce themselves in their children. My own daughter, Amy looks a lot like me, but not to the extent that Andrea looks like Caryl. As she has grown, of course, Andrea has taken on more of her own characteristics, and probably looks the least like Caryl that she has at any time in her life. And I guess that is simply the way it goes. We grow up to become our own person, and that applies to our looks as well. I think that even our life experiences can affect our looks, and I don’t mean with gray hair or wrinkles, although I suppose that is possible too. Nevertheless, things like being outdoors a lot, or hairstyle can make us look different than the parent we once look so much like.

Andrea has always loved to cook, and thought about going to culinary school at one point, but that changed when she became the mom of her son, Topher. Now, that is not a bad thing either, because Topher is a great kid, and truly the most important person in Andrea’s life. As our life changes, our priorities change, and for Andrea, there is no greater priority than Topher. They love to goof off together, and especially like taking selfies of all their antics. Of course, you can’t spend your whole life taking selfies, so they also take the time to do homework and play a good game of Tic-Tac-Toe once in a while.

Having Topher has not decreased Andrea’s love of cooking, however. She may not have gone to culinary school, but her skills have not gone unnoticed at her current job at Diamond Lil’s, which is the restaurant at the Day’s Inn in Rawlins, where Andrea lives and works. She has been there just over a year now, and became the Game TimeFunny Facelead cook six months ago. Her cooking is famous in the Rawlins area, and people all over town rave about it. Sometimes, you can’t follow your dream in the way you originally planned to do so, but if you don’t give up, you will find that where there is a will, there is a way. I am often amazed that while our plans didn’t materialize in exactly the same way that we had planned, they can still materialize for us if we keep on keeping on. Today is Andrea’s birthday. I think I need to come to Rawlins to try the food at Diamond Lil’s and Andrea, their fabulous lead cook. Happy birthday Andrea!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Aunt Ruth  for bookmarksMany little girls want nothing more than to be just like their mommy, and my cousin Shirley was no different. In her eyes, her mom was the most beautiful, sophisticated, elegant, and yet strong woman in the world. Her mom, my Aunt Ruth Wolfe was her hero. She was everything Shirley ever wanted to be. Aunt Ruth was so good at so many things. It’s strange to me, that while we saw Aunt Ruth a lot when I was a kid, somehow I didn’t know about all the things she was capable of doing. I knew about some things of course, like her gardening and cooking, but that is something lots of people are good at, so it didn’t seem unusual. While those things didn’t seem unusual to me, finding out years after her passing, that she was an artist and a musician as well, was surprising to me. Aunt Ruth was one of those people who could pick any instrument and play it like she had been taking lessons for years, and yet she hadn’t. Hers was just a natural talent. Shirley remembers the old horn she found. She took it to her mom, and within two days, Aunt Ruth could play it. Shirley is pretty sure it was a Trumpet.

Shirley tells me that Aunt Ruth had the voice of an angel, but because of her shyness, very few people ever got to hear her sing. Sadly, I don’t recall ever being privileged enough to hear her sing. She could yodel too, but only her husband, my Uncle Jim got to hear her do that. I just never realized that she was so shy. How could I have not known that? I guess she just wasn’t shy around me and the rest of our family. Shy was something Aunt Ruth never was with us. Our families loved to get together, and when they lived here in Casper, we saw a Shirley, Uncle Jim, Aunt Ruth, and Larrylot of them. There were picnics and camping trips to the Big Horns and Casper Mountain. Another thing I never knew about Aunt Ruth is that she was claustrophobic. When camping, she had to sleep with her head outside the tent. Where Aunt Ruth went, of course, Uncle Jim went too, so when she slept with her head outside the tent, so did he. That gave their kids something to tease them about. They were dubbed the star gazers. On one trip to South Dakota, the family went to the Rushmore Caverns. They were worried about how Aunt Ruth would do there. She made it further than expected, even going through Fat Man’s Misery, but just couldn’t make it the whole way. I’m sure my sister, Allyn Hadlock could totally agree with Aunt Ruth when it came to claustrophobia.

Over the years, she learned many things about medicine, which is another thing she and I have in common. She could care for cuts, even deep ones, without scarring and without benefit of a doctor. From setting broken noses, to cuts deep enough to almost run from heel to ankle, she could do it all. I suppose that is also what made living on the mountain top in Washington state feel safe and cozy to her. While she didn’t really like the snow and cold, she did love her mountain, and being so close to her family. While Aunt Ruth loved spending time with our family too, she was nevertheless, a Gypsy of sorts, and liked to go and see new places. The Uncle Jim and Aunt Ruthgypsy in her would eventually take the family to Nevada, California, and finally to Washington state. Shirley tells me that she was the happiest when she was traveling. After they retired, Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim traveled to Oklahoma, and wintered in Arizona and several other places where it was warm.

She gardened, canned, cooked, baked amazing cakes and then decorated them too, and she sewed their clothing. She was the kind of woman the Bible calls a blessing to her husband and family, and so she was. Today would have been Aunt Ruth’s 89th birthday. Shirley says and I agree, that her laughter is what she misses the most. It lit up her world. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Ruth!! We love and miss you very much!!

Threshing MachineFarm work in years gone by, was a much harder job than it is these days, but with the invention of machinery, things got easier. Still, most people couldn’t afford to own those machines in the early years, so they either did the work by hand, or hired the threshers to come and do it. Soon, most farmers were hiring the threshers to come. It was a lucrative business for someone who had enough money to buy a machine…or better yet, several. I know that those members of my family, who were farmers, did hire the threshers, or else, they had enough money to buy their own machines, but I have to think that most people in those early years did not think the machine was a good value, if a man was going to just use it on their own farm, so the work was mostly hired out.

When the threshers were scheduled to come to your farm, it was a big day. The women would get up early and start cooking for the men, who would be very hungry by lunch time. ThreshersThis was heavy work, even with the help of the machinery. Nevertheless, everyone was excited when the threshers came…from the adults to the little kids. I’m sure that being able to watch the big machines working was a novel thing in those early years, and nobody wanted to miss out. Not only that, but everyone wanted to get their picture taken with the workers too, so that they could say they had been there when they were working. It was almost like having a celebrity visit your house, I suppose. It is a day like no other in the year. Everyone wants to be in on all the excitement, and it’s hard to keep the little kids out of the way. Nevertheless, they had to stay out of the way, because the huge machines  were also dangerous and could easily  kill a small child.

With the excitement, however, comes hard work. When the threshers are done. The grain had to be bagged for storage or sale, and the straw stacked for use in the barns. Nevertheless, it took a lot less workers to harvest the crops, and many farm laborers were not happy about that, because they faced the loss of their jobs. I suppose that with every bit of progress Threshers 2designed to make our lives easier, comes the possibility of job loss. Every time a machine takes over the hard labor, a worker becomes unnecessary. People have to adapt and change, educating themselves to run the equipment so they can move into a job that takes more skill, and thus creates job security. I know that for the farmer, the machines were the best thing to come along. The wages they didn’t have to pay out to the laborers added up to pure profit for them, even with the cost of the threshers. It was a new era, and things would never be the same again.

This time of year seems to be filled with family traditions. Family dinners, shopping, and decorating all play a part. For our family, the day after Thanksgiving, being Black Friday is shopping day, and the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is decorate the Christmas tree day. Since my girls are grown and married, it is the grandkids and me doing the decorating each year. We always have such a good time. The kids are getting older now, all teenagers, so there is a fair bit of goofing off and yet, they are much more help now too. The boys can handle the lights and garland, where before they always had to wait until I got the lights and garland on before they helped with just the ornaments.

This is a tradition I really enjoy, because it gives me time to be with my grandchildren doing something that is lots of fun and that we all enjoy. I think the kids look forward to it too. If one of them has to work, they are really disappointed, so we try to make sure that doesn’t happen. That can mean doing the decorating at different times each year, but that is ok, as long as there is a way to do it together.

We usually try to add Christmas carols to the mix, to put everyuone into the Christmas spirit. I don’t so much like it when the stores start playing Christmas music before Halloween, but once Thanksgiving is over, it’s just the right time.  By then I’m ready…or as much as I ever will be…to start thinking about all that shopping, decorating, cooking, cleaning, and…fun!!! Here comes Christmas everyone!! Are you ready!!

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