Category Archives: family

Handicrafts edition

I’ve inherited numerous boxes, folders, bags, and piles of well, assorted stuff, from family members over the years. It’s a busy life, though, so sometimes they sit around unopened and mysterious for years while I parse things that have more urgency, or are simply closer to the top of the pile. I unwrapped a box from a long-closed department store in Hartford last night, and found two lovely sewing bags. Here are some photos, before they are wrapped away in acid-free tissue paper, pending their final destination.

antique sewing bags

 

Below is a detail of the “H” on the black bag, done in gold thread in a wheat-ear stitch with French knots.

fancy-bags-H-detail

 

And another detail, of the interior of the figured bag with sewing pad (the soft white wool is a little moth-eaten) and ivory needle.

fancy-bags-work-detail

 

heaps of quince

And now, back to 1939

New Year’s is a good excuse to clean up and out, and I was down cellar drinking coffee and looking through boxes for most of my day off. (We did take a walk through deep snow and bright sunshine down at Seawall in the early winter afternoon. The sun was already going down at 3:00 pm.) I found this photo between the pages of a 1965 era copy of the Hartford Courant, with a key on the back in my mother’s handwriting. A note on the back of the photo reads: Smith Family Reunion at Montague, Sept. 1, 1939. (Click to enlarge.)

Smith Family ReunionFrom various other records I believe this is Montague New York, not New Jersey, but please feel free to confirm or correct in the comments. Montague, NY had a population of 78 in the 2010 census.

My favorite couple in the photo are Dave and Mabel Turner, below. Mabel was my great-great Grandfather Robert Wiley’s sister. The clothing, their expressions, the furniture dragged out on to the lawn, it’s all wonderful.

smith-turnersThis is my grandfather, Frank Watson (Wat) Burnham, Jr. In 1939 he was 36, with red hair and blue eyes, married to Geraldine (Wiley) Burnham, below.

smith-watson In this detail are my grandmother, Geraldine (Gerry), and her mother, Bessie (Smith) Wiley. Bessie is Robert’s widow,

Geraldine and Bessie WileyGerrie was five years younger than Wat. I only remember her as a much older woman of course, but I loved her dresses, generally a dark cloth with a lighter pattern and fastened with a brooch at the neck. I also love Bessie’s smile.

A Grandma and her Cat

I have so far stayed far away from sharing cat pictures on the ‘net, but  Misao to Fukumaru (Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat), the story of an elderly woman and her beloved “odd-eyed” cat living in the Japanese country side is irresistible. Find a slide show of photos from the book at nippon.com titled “Enjoying Life One Day at a Time: A Grandma and Her Cat”.

The giant white tubers in these photos are Daikon radishes. I can grow them here in Maine but it will be many years before I have this depth of soil. How many years do you suppose the Bōsō Peninsula has been home to farmers? As to the photo of bathtub filled with orange gourds, I really wish I knew what was going on there, I do.

The book by photographer and grandaugher Ihara Miyoko is available from various sellers on Amazon.

 

Harriet 1948

Happy Birthday, Harriet Louise.

In honor of my mother’s birthday, here are a few of my favorite photos. You can imagine her with auburn hair, brown eyes, and I believe the checkered dress was green and white. She’s standing by the east porch of her parent’s house on Jerome Ave. during the summer of ’48.Harriet 1948Harriet and her fiancee, Dwight, in the “front parlor” in 1951.

Harriet and Dwight 1951Harriet, Dwight, and Amy at the lake, 1955.

Harriet Dwight Amy 1955Happy Birthday, mom!

 

 

Poppyseed Cake

Ziar breadseed poppyseeds

This year I planted Ziar Breadseed poppies. They were easy to grow, made a beautiful display, and now we get to eat them! Collecting enough seeds for this recipe was far easier than I thought it would be – each seed head contained several teaspoonsful and this variety is bred to eliminate the vents that would normally drop the seed all over as you picked it.

Aunt Beatrice’s Lemon Poppyseed Cake

2/3 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 to 3/4 cup poppy seeds

Glaze

2 C confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 half and half, 1 Tbs lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325°F Butter and flour an 8-inch fluted Bundt pan* (I use baking spray).  Butter the dull side of a 10-inch piece of foil.

Beat the sugar and eggs together in a large bowl. You can go the whole route with a stand mixer and beat for 8 minutes until bright yellow and fluffy, but I never have the time and the cake (while possibly a little bit more dense) is just fine. And delicious. Beat in the lemon zest. Dump the flour and cornstarch over the egg mixture and fold in along with the  salt, then mix  in the butter and the poppy seeds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and cover tightly with the buttered foil. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan and a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the foil and let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. When fully cool mix glaze ingredients together and drizzle over cake.

lemon poppyseed cake

*You can also make this into a loaf or layer cake, but it doesn’t make good muffins. I think that’s because it really needs that top layer of foil, and that’s hard to manage with a muffin tin.

For all the fathers

I’m late with this, I know, but it’s been a long, beautiful day in the garden followed by pizza and chocolate cake with friends.  And there has been a steady stream of news from the Greek elections which will arguably have an effect one way or another on every part of the global economy so yes, late to the party with a post on Father’s Day.

So for my small part of the festivities from the Giant Shoebox of Old Photos comes 1957, when Father’s day looked like this:

Candid Dad

And in 1928 my great grandfather holds his eldest daughter Harriet (my mother) at five weeks old.

RHB with HBB

To all the generations of fathers down the line, Happy Day.

July 4, 1968

While I was growing up my family had a set routine for celebrating the “Patriot” holidays. Washington’s Birthday was spent at Aunt Margaret’s house. Her husband, Bert, and my grandfather and the other white males in town spent the night at the Mason’s Hall in sacred rites and a fair amount of liquor. The women and children had dinner back at the house followed by charades and story-telling, possibly some entertainment at the piano. On Memorial Day we went to my grandmother’s house which was conveniently situated on a hill above the parade route and watched the veterans of the foreign wars and the fire company go up Jerome Ave. and down Tunxis from our picnic on the lawn. July 4 was spent at the middle sister Mildred’s house. Uncle Raymond stored the watermelons in the dairy cooler and we rode our bicycles at break-neck speeds around the old barn foundation. There were bruises later, and road-rash, and fireworks in the field at night. Here we’ve been dragged away from our fun and lined up for a mugshot.

1958

Folks will have to help me out with identifying everyone – there are no names on the back of the photo. I’m on the far right in the blond pigtails and woe-is-me expression. Is that Stevie W. in the checkered shirt to my right? Are the twins in the middle John and Russell C.? Who is that in the overalls, and the one in back with the helmet? I bet somebody out there might recognize themselves. . . think back, folks, and let me know?

Hardy Ancestors: Oliver and Louis

I cleaned out some of my mother’s storage locker today. I hauled out two table tops sans legs, a bag of curtains, four plastic boxes of truly miscellaneous kitchen gear (Salad Shooter!) and a box of playing cards so far gone with black mold they looked like dead leaves. I rewarded myself by taking home a shoebox marked “old photos” and now, after a lovely long day in the garden, I’m picking through the black and white and sepia prints of Barnards and Wileys, picnics and formal portraits, some with names and dates on the back of the photo and some who will be anonymous forever, now that everyone who knew them has passed on.

kitten brothers

This one is labeled “Carleton’s sons Oliver and Louis Barnard, 1931, at L. H. Barnard’s house, back steps”. The kittens are cute, but their names are lost to history.Also – great hat, Oliver!

How to mail a birthday cake.

The Boy turns 21 next week and we won’t be there to help celebrate – what to do? One of us (I can’t remember who to blame) said, “We should mail him his birthday cake!”. This isn’t just any old cake – in our family you get a checkerboard cake with your choice of any three colors or dealer’s (mother’s) choice if you can’t make up your mind. We did really UPS the cake to Providence this afternoon, so I dug out a 15 year-old photo from birthday #6 to show the finished effect.

Colorful, no?

This year’s version is YELLOW/red/blue and yes, I did mean to put that in all caps. Wow, the yellow.  I’ve adapted the recipe from the back of the Chicago Metallic Cake Pan Set because really, Einstein himself couldn’t divide this batter into thirds precisely enough to make the original work out to three even layers. The original proportions are in parenthesis if you feel up to the challenge.

Checkerboard Cake

Preheat oven to 340 (325) degrees and grease and flour the three 9″ pans. The instructions imply that the pans are nonstick but um, no. I use cooking spray, and I also spray the divider.

Mix 5 (4) C flour, 4 (3) tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt in a bowl and set aside.

In a small pan or the microwave melt 1 1/4 C butter which is 2.5 sticks  (1 C or 2 sticks) and cool.

In a VERY large bowl, cream the butter with 2 1/2 (2) C sugar. Add 5 (4) eggs, one at at time, beating after each addition. Add 1 Tbs vanilla.

Add 2 C milk (1 1/2) at room temperature alternately with the flour mixture, beat until batter is smooth. (I use the lazy baker’s method: add half the flour and beat in, add ALL the milk and beat until smooth, add the remaining flour and beat 30 seconds. There! All done while still obeying the ancient law passed down by mothers everywhere to “Start with dry and end with dry”.)

Divide the batter in thirds and add food coloring. If you want to make one ring chocolate you might add 3 oz of melted semi-sweet chocolate to one bowl.  Work fast, because the batter sets up fairly quickly and doesn’t “flow” as nicely after a while in a warm kitchen.

wow, yellow

Put the divider in the pan and press down to snap in place. Fill each ring about half-way up with each color, alternating the color choices in each pan. There are very good directions on the box for this step although they say to wash and dry the divider between pans and yikes, that’s a lot of work. I lift it carefully and vertically out of the batter and go on to the next pan  because I’m a bad person but really, the cake will be fine.

Insanity cake

The box emphatically tells you DO NOT PUT DIVIDER IN THE OVEN, so don’t do that.

The directions say to bake for 25 minutes but with the slightly thicker layers I check at 30 minutes. If you can, rotate the pans halfway through to keep the layers even. Remove when cake springs back to the touch or a tester comes out clean. The colors will probably darken on the surface but they will still be hallucination-bright when you cut a slice. Cool on racks for about 10 minutes, remove from pans. Happy crazy clean-up!

Too pretty to clean

I use a chocolate ganache frosting spread very thinly between the layers to allow the checkerboard to really show off, and then much spread it much thicker on the  top and sides to hide the colors until the cake is cut. We’ll have to wait for The Boy to send pics to see that.

I put the unfrosted layers on cardboard cake discs, sealed each one in a gallon Ziplock bag and stacked them in a 12″ x 12″ x 8″ box with a box of birthday candles and assorted decorations, 2 sealed and bagged plastic containers of frosting, a card, and a lot of air-pillow-packing. The nice ladies at the UPS Store slapped fragile stickers all over it (thanks Victoria!) and sent it off with loving care. Happy Birthday, Boy!