GEMS


GEMS

 by Sharon Stevens

If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought

into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.

George MacDonald

 

William, our son-in-law who is a classically trained executive chef at Blaze Sports Grill in Arlington Texas loaned what was to me a priceless gem… “MOTHER’S RECEIPT BOOK”. He had received this book from one of his colleagues, and immediately thought of me. Imagine, holding in your hand a book from 1906 filled with hundreds of “receipts”, and chapter upon chapters of household hints. Each page helpful advice for the busy wife. Even though this book wasn’t from around this area I could still relate. The year was 1906, after the city of Canyon was founded in 1888, and already a thriving city. The college, which would later become WTAMU was a dream in the minds of the city fathers, and in four short years would become a reality. At this time many of the residents of the city were still living in dugouts.

I wonder how many newlyweds carried these kinds of books over the plains in a covered wagon or on a train, packed in trunks in the baggage car along with the household goods. Can you believe how frightened a young bride was of making a happy home hundreds of miles away from the nearest neighbor. Who could she ask? Who would be there for her? Who would hear her cry? How in the world could she know what foods her husband liked, or what favorites HIS mother made especially for HIM. And what would become a family gem through the years for the family and the children.

I remember reading in Loula Grace Erdman’s book, “The Wind Blows Free” of a young woman coming out to start a life with her husband. As their team pulled up to the dugout she told her husband that the first item she wanted to put inside was the cloth calendar her mother sent with her where everything had been marked as to when to plant or to set the hens. She wrote that this was the one thing that she knew would make the earthen walls pretty in her new home reminding her of the treasures left behind.

My grandmother was a cook at the old Neblett Hospital and every time I saw Dr. Nester he would give his stomach a pat and tell me that his expanding belly was due to my grandmother’s creamed eggs on toast. He loved her cooking and she was the only one who could make them.

As writers we come across these “gems” day in and day out. We can use them as prompts, or as writing exercises or character analysis. With each sentence we can imagine the setting, the rooms, the colors, the mood. We can either celebrate the life contained in the book, or delve deeper into the sentiment expressed within. Imagine the loneliness with only a book to keep you company, or the joy of remembering family as you turn each page. And how in the world did so many woman find time to write when faced with all that they had to do? Phebe Warner and Laura Hamner, founders of Panhandle Professional Writers, were indeed miraculous women!

The “receipt” I found in this book was for “Gems” or otherwise known as muffins and I just had to include it in my blog as well as the instructions below for washing. And I am sharing it simply so that all of us can count our blessings! Thanks Chef Williams for sharing such a “gem”!

Enjoy!

I cannot leave this weeks blog without honoring the memory of George Koumalots and James L. ”Bunk” Brashears. Both veterans, both served in World War II. Koumalots was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne that jumped on D-Day into Normandy. Brashears served in Japan and the Philippines and was on a ship parallel to where the Japanese commander was signing the end of the war. He got to watch it through binoculars. I took creative writing classes from George’s daughter-in-law Jodi Thomas and I was able to write this blog with the gifts she shared with me and her inspiration. May all of the families celebrating the life of these brave men have such sweet peace as they share memories together.

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”Few know how necessary care is in the making and baking of gems, and that often the recipes which they find unreliable would prove very different, if they were rightly used….Make a hotter fire for baking gems than for anything. If the oven is right, the gems will rise until about three times as large as when put into the oven, and but a few minutes will be required for baking them.”

 

BANANA GEMS

1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup water, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon baking powder

Make batter and stir in 2 bananas sliced thin. Fill cups half full and steam an hour.

 Eat with thin cream.

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“To Wash With Kerosene-Soak white clothes over night, or an hour or two in the morning, in hard water. Fill a No.9 boiler two-thirds full of soft water. Slice one and one-half bars of soap into a basin of warm water; let it dissolve and come to a boil. Wring the soaked clothes dry. If the water is boiling in the boiler, and the soap ready, pour a little more than half of the liquid into the boiler, and immediately add three tablespoonfuls of kerosene; one tablespoonful of kerosene to one-quarter of a pound of soap is a fair proportion. Shake out the clothes, and put them into the boiler, leaving the coarse articles for the next boiling. Let the clothes boil ten minutes, stirring them almost all the time. If the water looks milky, greasy, or a little scum rises, pour in enough soap water to remove any such appearances. Take the clothes out from the boiler into the tub. and cover them with plenty of fresh water. Dip out part of the water from the boiler, add more hot water, soap and kerosene, and boil the rest of the clothes. Wring the clothes from the suds into plenty of clear water, rinse well, put them through the bluing water, and hang them smoothly upon the lines. Calicoes may be washed in the suds water, as enough of the soap and kerosene remain there to cleanse them well. Rinse, blue, starch, and hang them to dry. Plenty of soap and water with the kerosene, if these directions are followed, will give clear, white clothes with very little of the hard work necessary in rubbing clothes according to the usual manner of washing.”

“If time and strength are to be saved, be careful to shake out the clothes well, and see that sheets, pillowcases, towels, etc., hang smoothly from the line. When perfectly dry take down the sheets, fold and roll them into a smooth, tight roll, and pin down the hems. They will be without a wrinkle on the beds, though they may lack the gloss the iron gives. If there is time to iron pillowcases, treat them in the same way. Take the towels, snap them, fold them in the usual manner, and crease them with an iron. They will take less room on the shelf or in the drawer. Roll the nightgowns like the sheets. It is better to iron tablecloths, napkins and handkerchiefs, but they look fairly well if rolled like the sheets. Turn, shake, stretch, in shape stockings and flannels, and fold them ready for use. The starched clothes alone remain to be ironed. Let busy women try this plan of ironing.”

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SUBWAY


SUBWAY

Sharon Stevens

I found a receipt from Subway in my purse today.

This was nothing new, of course. I am always finding bits and pieces of flotsam that I have saved for some reason or the other. Most times there are scribbled notes on the front and back as to what I was feeling at that exact moment, but there was nothing to signify why this scrap of paper was saved.

Our home and work is filled, AND I DO MEAN FILLED, with billions of notes .  As a writer I never know when I might come across that one perfect notation that will lead to the greatest story. Even better is when I come across something that reminds me of rainbows or sweetness, or pain and ugliness. Oftentimes a scribble takes me right back to that moment in time and enriches the story I am trying to write.

Funny there are so many things I remember that connect. Take for example the kid who usually waits on us at Subway’s, he also happens to come in to buy textbooks at our bookstore. I know his mom and grandmother, his aunt used to care for our daughters at day care. He is a good kid and works hard.  But I don’t think that’s it.

My receipt reminds me that I purchased our sandwiches at the beginning of April during lunchtime so it had to be for the lunch break at our store. Why does this matter?  I have no idea, as I didn’t write anything to signify the rhyme or reason.  This is killing me! Surely there was some special occasion that caused me to tuck the receipt in my purse. You would think so wouldn’t you?

Loula Grace Erdman writes in “A Time To Write” that she always instructed her creative writing students to mark down their inspiration. She had one gentleman that had an epiphany. He went to his knees to thank God for this stroke of insight. By the time he arose from his grateful prayer he had already forgotten what it was he was rejoicing in. Erdman says to always write it first and then thank the Almighty.

Oh well, I have spent way too much time trying to figure out why I saved this one piece of paper. Maybe I wasn’t meant to covet it in the first place. Maybe I just put it in my purse along with the change that went with it. Maybe the story was in the ten dollars and five cents I received back. Maybe one of those bills was a “Where’s George”. Who knows, and better yet, who cares. If I can’t turn away from this one single bit of recyclable issue then I have more problems than that to worry about.

I am looking back over my receipt one last time to try to make some sense and find the clue of why I saved it. Nope, nothing there, nada, zip. It’s no use, no Divine intervention, no Heavenly voice intercedes.

It’s only trash!

But then again, this did help me write my blog for this week. I guess there was something written there after all.

SWORDDRILL


SWORDDRILL

Sharon Stevens

I was so sorry to have missed the last Panhandle Professional Writers meeting due to a family emergency. Jan Epton Seale spoke several years ago at a conference at WTAMU, and it was such a joy to hear her stories. I purchased one of her books and stuck it in my bag. The next day my husband, mom and aunt would be making our yearly trek to the family homestead in East Texas for a reunion, and then for the Sunday service at the little country church. This book would be something to take along for the trip.

After we got on the road I pulled out the book, explaining the story. Jan’s father was a Baptist preacher and her book contained poetry and snippets of family and community life in a small town. I was encouraged to read out loud. Could be it was to keep me from talking. Either way the miles began to pass as I started turned the pages. One of the chapters had to do with Sword Drills. We were Methodists except for my husband, and he instantly remembered this Baptist tradition. The kids in Sunday school would line up holding their closed Bibles in front of their chest waiting for the signal. The teacher called out a Bible verse, and the child who was first in finding chapter and verse won the drill.

This led each of us to reminisce about memories growing up. We shared about Church picnics, (fun whatever the faith), Baptism (sprinkling versus dunking), fire and brimstone (the Methodist church doesn’t have too many pulpit pounding services.)

When we arrived at the church my great aunt was sitting in her pew with several friends clustered around her. I took Jan’s book and began circulating among those gathered at the church. Each one signed the inside after I told them I would be giving it to my aunt after the service as a gift and record of the memories of our time together.

My aunt was over ninety years old and she sent me a letter telling me how much she enjoyed reading and rereading the stories and remembering each person at the church that day. I was assured by her family that she cherished this until her death years later.

As writers we may not know the journey our stories will take when they are published. Who can fathom how far they may travel? Just think, Jan Seale wrote her book from a Baptist standpoint of her childhood memories, but it was shared several years later to those with a common faith. I so wanted to tell her at the Panhandle Professional Writers meeting how much this book meant to me, and how I shared it with others. I know that to a writer there is no greater accolade.

Recently I saw a facebook post encouraging people to write fan letters to five favorite authors. There are so many in my life that I need to write to. Loula Grace Erdman, Jodi Thomas, Natalie Bright, DeWanna Pace, and now Jan Epton Seale, are just a few out of thousands on my “bucket list” that deserve to be honored. I know that it will take a lifetime to list them all, and then another to put words to paper. How can I ever find the write words? So little time and so many thoughts.

But, when I do finally sit down to focus on the task at hand, in the back of my mind, with each note written, I will always remember Jan, and the sword drill.

SWORDDRILL


SWORDDRILL

Sharon Stevens

I was so sorry to have missed the last Panhandle Professional Writers meeting due to a family emergency. Jan Epton Seale spoke several years ago at a conference at WTAMU, and it was such a joy to hear her stories. I purchased one of her books and stuck it in my bag. The next day my husband, mom and aunt would be making our yearly trek to the family homestead in East Texas for a reunion, and then for the Sunday service at the little country church. This book would be something to take along for the trip.

After we got on the road I pulled out the book, explaining the story. Jan’s father was a Baptist preacher and her book contained poetry and snippets of family and community life in a small town. I was encouraged to read out loud. Could be it was to keep me from talking. Either way the miles began to pass as I started turned the pages. One of the chapters had to do with Sword Drills. We were Methodists except for my husband, and he instantly remembered this Baptist tradition. The kids in Sunday school would line up holding their closed Bibles in front of their chest waiting for the signal. The teacher called out a Bible verse, and the child who was first in finding chapter and verse won the drill.

This led each of us to reminisce about memories growing up. We shared about Church picnics, (fun whatever the faith), Baptism (sprinkling versus dunking), fire and brimstone (the Methodist church doesn’t have too many pulpit pounding services.)

When we arrived at the church my great aunt was sitting in her pew with several friends clustered around her. I took Jan’s book and began circulating among those gathered at the church. Each one signed the inside after I told them I would be giving it to my aunt after the service as a gift and record of the memories of our time together.

My aunt was over ninety years old and she sent me a letter telling me how much she enjoyed reading and rereading the stories and remembering each person at the church that day. I was assured by her family that she cherished this until her death years later.

As writers we may not know the journey our stories will take when they are published. Who can fathom how far they may travel? Just think, Jan Seale wrote her book from a Baptist standpoint of her childhood memories, but it was shared several years later to those with a common faith. I so wanted to tell her at the Panhandle Professional Writers meeting how much this book meant to me, and how I shared it with others. I know that to a writer there is no greater accolade.

Recently I saw a facebook post encouraging people to write fan letters to five favorite authors. There are so many in my life that I need to write to. Loula Grace Erdman, Jodi Thomas, Natalie Bright, DeWanna Pace, and now Jan Epton Seale, are just a few out of thousands on my “bucket list” that deserve to be honored. I know that it will take a lifetime to list them all, and then another to put words to paper. How can I ever find the write words? So little time and so many thoughts.

But, when I do finally sit down to focus on the task at hand, in the back of my mind, with each note written, I will always remember Jan, and the sword drill.