Saturday, October 30, 2010

Great Grandma Flora and the Green Monster

This post is a response to the Ancestors Ball Blog Party.

We're approaching the holiday season, beginning now with our modernized holiday of Halloween. It's roots are much different, being the time of rememberence of our ancestors and the loved ones we've lost. In the very olden days, this was a special, spirit filled time when the veil between our world and the spirit grew thin and we could feel each other's presences more clearly.

I've been spending almost all my free time recently working with my sister on our family trees. Ancestry has been important in our families and we're lucky because both sets of grandparents had research that we've been able to work with. Unfortunately, enough of it has been discovered to be inaccurate that now it's left to us, my sister and I, with the advantages the Internet provides researchers, to straighten things out.

No matter many names and dates I find, I still wonder what their daily lives were like. Especially the women. We think women today shoulder most of the burden of homemaking and childrearing. I shudder to imagine my great,great grandmothers' lives. I wonder a lot about the meals they prepared. I have this fantasy that one day a handwritten recipe book belonging to one of my great grandmothers or aunts will appear on Ebay and I'll win it.

This is my great grandmother, Flora. She taught school before she married. She may have been a bit unusual in her day, not because she was a teacher but because she did not marry until she was 28 years old. I met her when I was five. Photos preserved the day, but I wish I could remember it. The black and white photo is her on that day, aged 85.

A few recipes and family traditions have survived through my mother's family. One of them most of us wish would have never begun, yet in reality it is very likely the most important of them all because it ties generations together across time.
Jello has been popular since its introduction in the early 1900's. But it wasn't until 1930 and the introduction of the lime flavor that this ghastly tradition began. Although I don't really know when Flora began making this "treat", our family history, as passed to us by my mother, is that the dreaded green jello salad was made as a special treat for visiting family. What made it special....prepare yourselves.... marachino cherries ...ok, not so bad..... American cheese bits.....getting worse...and OLIVES!

Mom would make this "treat" every Thanksgiving and Christmas, lovingly bringing it to the table each holiday with the story of her grandma making it and loving it as a child. (I think they had not yet discovered real food at that time.) As you can imagine, children in the late 1960's weren't nearly as enamored of lime jello "salad" as a child in the 1940's obviously was!

I grew up thinking this was a distinctly Flora Tollman creation. Recently, I have discovered how completely wrong I was. It seems as though someone in the corporate Jello kitchens decided that through the war years, lime would be the perfect vehicle to enable homemakers to use up bits and pieces of their non-rationed foods to perk up their meals. How ingenious.

Jello concoctions became almost patriotic, in their own way, and certainly allowed Mom to give the family a little treat. I also think they musth have had lower expectations back then about what qualified as a treat.

So that explains the beginning of the very strange combination of ingredients. But it doesn't explain why Jello kept at it through the 50's and 60's!

So now I know truthfully, my great-grandmother wasn't just being frugal, she probably was considered downright fashionable to be serving a weirdly colored jiggling mass of suspended bits of artificially colored food. Cool.

What I also know now is something more profound. My mother, who is in her late 70's, continues to make this, even though she is the only one who eats it. Really, she only has a couple of bites and is done with it. But that's not why she makes it. She makes it and brings it to the table in order to suddenly become transformed into a six year old little girl, thrilled to be having dinner at her elegant grandmother's formal table. When my mother sees the glistening greenness, I believe she sees the shining eyes of her grandmother and for an instant, feels the sense of belonging, security and love that you only get when a heartstring is tied.

And I leave you now, Wendelynn, daughter of Jolene, who is the daughter of Clara, who is the daughter of Flora who is the daughter of Fredericka. In this season of remembering our ancestors, I hope you'll find something that ties your heartstrings too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spooky Things

Spooky things are beginning to appear in my home. It's been quite a while since I did anything crafty but this idea was just not to be ignored!

Of course, not having gotten my fingers messy with glue and paint for quite a while required a trip to Michaels to buy absolutely everything I needed. It must be against some cosmic law to not have any craft supplies, but sadly, that was the case. So the moment of inspiration was put on hold and off I went to Michaels.

I hate shopping. Really, I do. But if I have to shop, Micheals is the place to go. I had not been in one for about 4 years and I have to admit, it was overwhelming at first. And then just a little dissapointing as I discovered that although there must be hundreds of thousands of items in the store, there was not as much true variety as I would have liked. I guess the days of smaller individual companies are long gone. All Hail Martha Stewart. Apparently, It's A Good Thing. Honestly, I'm not bashing Martha. I'm a fan, especially of her Halloween ideas. But I like diversity more.

Craft supplies are more expensive now than I remember. Basically all I needed was paint, glue, brushes, Mod Podge, ribbon and embellishments. I didn't expect to spend as much as I might have for dinner out. Oh, I needed blocks too.

Boy, did I need blocks. The tallest of the set are 4 inches. The shortest are 2 1/2 inches. Kudos to Lowes for not charging me a cut fee for each of the individual cuts it took to turn a 10 foot 2x4 into three sets of multisized blocks. I think the guy at the saw was happy to see me leave the store.

These little cuties are simply clay, peralized paint and microglitter. They're more goofy than spooky, but they'll do. I rather like their goofy eyes.

These Jack-O-Latern lights are from Target this year. They remind me of vintage paper lanterns. They're made of some type of silky papery polyester I think, but they look great. They weren't so great to put together. The globe shape is held open with a wire armiture that you install on your own. It's tricky at best. I broke two of them while carefully trying to insert the frame into the shade without tearing it.
Love how they look!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What I Have Learned This Year About Myself

Having spent several thousand dollars this year on medical care, I have learned:
I have asthma, not blood clots.
My heart is in good shape even with a murmur and irregular heartbeat.
My lungs are great.
My highly acidic stomach can be tamed with the right meds.
My blood pressure even pre-surgery is normal. ( They want to know how I do that!)
I'm good till my next 100,000 mile checkup.
If you have anxiety and insomnia, get a new boss.

And most importantly, if you are a coffee drinker, my local hospital very nicely puts a caffeine shot in your IV.