Archives for : December1953

My Nash

I could tell that Steve had something special in mind for Christmas this year.  We were financially stable, the kids were healthy and happy, Mother Jones had finally stopped second guessing every decision I made for the children, and Steve was up for another promotion.  Steve was acting suspiciously, coming home late from work on a couple of nights, having quiet conversations on the phone, and asking me questions for which he already knew the answer.  We were watching television one night and he blurted out that he couldn’t remember what my favorite color was.  That was so odd.  I was considering making a doctor’s appointment for him to see if there was some physical reason for him to be acting so weird.

He asked me to have Mags watch the kids one afternoon.  Steve was going to pick me up and take me out for a little while.  It seemed very unusual but I went along without asking too many questions since he refused to give me any details.  He drove me downtown and we stopped at Stu Hansen’s car dealership where he always bought his cars.  I guess the big secret was that he was going to buy himself a new car.  I was thrilled, but I didn’t get the need for the secrecy.  We walked in and Stu greeted us himself.  Steve was a good customer and his family had been buying cars from Stu forever.  We had a few minutes of catching-up small talk and walked over to a beautiful car.  I’m not much of a car nut myself.  When I need the car, I drive Steve to work and use the car for the day and then pick him back up afterwork if he doesn’t get a ride home.  He was probably due for a car and there was no reason for him not to have a new car.  He could have told me about it first, but I’ve never been one of those women who need to know every minute detail of what was going on in a man’s head.  I trusted Steve to make good decisions.

We stopped at a pretty torquiose Nash Rambler custom station wagon.  The front had a beautiful grill, with a shiny fender and two large round headlights.  Stu asked if I wanted to look inside of the car and I politely agreed.  Steve held the door open and I slid inside of the car.  It was beautiful inside too with a radio and small windows that vented to let air in while you drove.  Steve sure knew how to pick a pretty car.  I looked up at him and asked him if he wanted to sit inside.  He told me that he had already tried it out and was very satisfied that this was the right car for me.  For me??!  I didn’t get what he was talking about at first and I’m sure the look on my face was incredulous.  When I realized what he meant, I reached up and pulled him down close to my face and asked him firmly and quietly, “Can we afford this?”  Stu stifled a laugh, and I realized that he could hear every word.  Steve told me that the deal was already done and I was to drive my new car home that very night.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had never had a new car before and this was a beauty.  I could take the kids wherever they needed to go and not have to borrow Steve’s car and leave him stranded at work all day.  I could do my marketing without elaborate planning and be more spontaneous.  Now I knew what that feeling of freedom was that men enjoyed with their cars.  I promised Steve that I would keep it washed and waxed and he was welcome of course to drive it anytime he wanted.  As long as he asked me first.  Stu and Steve laughed a little.  My first new car.  What a world!

A Saucy Card Party

I love hosting the card party during the holiday season!  Everyone gets to see our beautiful Christmas tree with the cranberry and popcorn strung with our best glass ornaments.  I try not to put too much tinsel on the tree, but there seems to always be a larger than correct clump where Junior tossed a frustrated handful.  There were ribboned candy canes hung daintily from the limbs. I wrapped a few empty boxes and stacked them artfully under the boughs of the tree to cover the stand.  It’s not easy to get to the base to water it, but I still get under there every few days so that we don’t end up with piles of needles all through the room.  I hung a beautiful wreath on the front door and taped the Christmas cards in a tree shape on the front entrance mirror.

Judy Anne brought me a surprise when she arrived first.  She had found cards with a Christmas scene on the backs for us to use.  We were having a secret Santa, and Judy Anne placed her gift on the table reserved for the presents.  We had chosen names at the last party and placed a $15 limit on gifts.  The fun part involved not placing your name on the gift and trying to guess who chose your name.  Mags also spent more than the limit so her gifts were easy to guess.  The rebel in her refused to stay under the limit.  Gail always made clucking noises when the gift from Mags was opened.  Our individual personalities were so well drawn that our reactions were predictable and added to the fun of the event.  Each of my closest girlfriends reflected a different side of me.  Mags was my heart and soul, Gail scratched my need to be nosy, Judy Anne brought out the lady in me, and Sarah was the quiet side of me.  I needed and loved them all for different reasons.

We started with punch before the card playing because this annual get-together was more about the party than the cards.  I started off the toasts and thanked all my girls for being there for me throughout the year.  Everyone agreed, clinked glasses, and quickly downed the first drink.  A part of our ritual included each of us taking the time to toast and I knew it was more difficult for Sarah to express her thoughts.  Her words were always deeply moving and I looked forward to what she would say.  Sometimes I think that the more we speak the less it means.   Not to put down the rest of my friends for they all meant a lot to me, but it gave me a lot to think about.  Sarah loved her husband Roger deeply and he protected her in many respects.  She was one of those people who you admired and wondered about because you craved getting closer to her without offending her limits.  The presents were opened and enjoyed, and it didn’t even seem ironic when Gail opened her beautiful gift from Mags (that exceeded the limit).  Everyone had volunteered for their toast except Sarah by the time we stopped to eat.  I had made a beautiful Princess Crab Casserole.  It was creamy and delicious.  I like to express my love in food sometimes, so the message was clear to me even if everyone else didn’t get it.  In a quiet moment after eating, Sarah used the opening to express her thanks for having us as her friends.  Her words were eloquent, touching, and brought a tear to each of us.  We were truly the luckiest girlfriends in the world.  Our lives were fun, our spouses semi-caring at their worst, our families were healthy, and our neighborhood a great place to live.  I hope these card parties never go out of style!

Princess Crab Casserole

3 cups uncooked spiral pasta

1 3/4 cups sliced fresh white mushrooms

5 tablespoons butter, cubed

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups milk

24 ounces lump crabmeat, drained and picked

1 can (10 3/4 ounces condensed cream of mushroom soup

1/4 cup crushed Ritz crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to box directions.  In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and saute mushrooms for five minutes.  Stir in flour, pepper and salt.  Slowly add milk and bring to a boil.  Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.  Stir in crab and soup until blended.

Drain pasta and transfer to large bowl.  Add crab mixture and toss to coat.  Grease a 13″x9″ baking dish.  Place crab and pasta mixture into baking dish and sprinkle with cracker crumbs.  Bake, uncovered for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Sidewalk Skating

There were lacy outlines on the edges of the windows and I knew that meant that it was mighty cold outside.  A storm with a slushy, cold mix of snow and finally ice had powered through overnight.  It was a beautiful blue sky morning outside and the snow and ice created a reflection that almost required sunglasses.  I peeked out the front windows and saw a sheen of ice on everything, including the sidewalks, and formed a fun plan.

After a bowl of steaming cream of wheat, I told Daisy and Stevie Junior to dress warmly and meet me back in the kitchen.  I pulled out the snowsuits, mittens and mufflers and grabbed the ice skates from the downstairs closet.  Junior asked me if we were driving over to the lake to skate.  He had a wide grin on his face.  Skating is one of his favorite pastimes.  I told him that we didn’t need to go that far to skate today.  I bundled them up and tightly wound their mufflers around their heads to cover their mouths.  I sat them down on the bottom step by the side door and laced the skates on their feet.  I helped Stevie out the door, and he glided down the driveway.  Daisy and I followed while I held her hand.  We circled around and headed to the sidewalk.  What a treat!  Daisy held my hand as we followed Junior skating up our own little street.  A few minutes later, Daisy let go of my hand and ventured out on her own.  I carefully walked behind them on the crunchy snow next to the sidewalk.  In just a few minutes, more children on skates and moms had ventured out their doors and were cheerfully laughing while skating on our private sidewalk rink.  The older boys zoomed back and forth.  Some of the others tried more graceful maneuvers, but even the shaky ones had smiles.

When we returned home to warm up, I made my famous Dark Hot Chocolate for the three of us.  We had some unexpected fun on a cold day.  I hope Daisy and Junior grab unexpected fun in the future when it comes along.  You are never too old for a surprising delight.

Dark Hot Chocolate

4 cups whole milk

2 cup heavy cream

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Warm milk and cream over medium low heat in saucepan. Add chocolate and whisk until incorporated.  Add sugar and whisk until incorporated.  Continue to stir for five minutes and whisk in nutmeg.  Enjoy with whipped cream on top!

Chocolate Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups milk

2 large eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup and 1/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl.  Combine milk and melted butter.  Add oil to milk and butter and whisk in eggs and vanilla extract.

Thoroughly grease and flour a muffin pan.

Add liquid ingredients to dry and mix lightly.  With a spatula, gently fold in 1 cup of chips.  Do not overmix.  Spoon mixture into muffin pan.  Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup of chips onto tops of muffins.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into muffin comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Remove from pan gently and let cool on a wire rack.



Voc Tech Genius

Every neighborhood has a family like the Livingstons.  Lots of kids, not enough house, and at least one black sheep.  Larry Livingston was the scourge of the block.  Lana Livingston couldn’t control her overgrown bully of a son and didn’t have the time to deal with him.  I saw Larry walking the neighborhood when he should have been in school and although I had never had a conversation with him, I  adopted the belief that he was dangerous.  Larry was enrolled in voc tech as a last resort to school.  I saw him shortly after that driving a beater of a car.  He gained a reputation as a bit of an engine savant and was seen with his head deep into engines on our block trying to repair them.

Our paths crossed on a chilly wet afternoon in the A&P.  I was shopping at the store due to a big sale on chops and I was planning on preparing Apple Onion Smothered Chops for dinner.  I liked the S&H Green Stamps and was close to filling another book, so I bought enough for the meal and some extras to save in the deep freeze.  Larry was at the customer service window buying cigarettes when he turned his head and we made eye contact.  I smiled politely and finished buying my food.

The downpour increased as a I left, so I tossed my bags into the trunk, and jumped into my car.  The car would not start and I turned the key needlessly over and over again.  There was plenty of gas so I had reached the limit of my engine knowledge.  Steve takes the lead on car servicing and oil changes.  Smitty pumps our gas at the local station and keeps a sharp eye on my oil and water levels.

The rapping on my window startled me and I saw a dripping Larry looking directly at me.  I froze for a second then regrouped and rolled the window open a little.  I heard him ask if he could help.  Larry told me that I had probably flooded the engine and the dumb look on my face forced him to explain that my constant attempts at starting the engine might be keeping it from turning over successfully.  He asked if he could take a look and I shrugged and nodded yes at the same time.

Larry gently popped the hood and I could see his hands checking different sections of the engine.  He shouted out for me to try and start it, and the engine sputtered a little and started. He dropped the hood back into place, smiled, and waved good-bye.  I rolled the window down and yelled a thanks to his dripping wet back as he returned to wherever he had come from. I felt mortified by my past beliefs about Larry and a little ashamed that I had believed them so easily.  I wrapped up a basket of Chocolate Muffins, inserted a thank you note, and left them on the front stoop of the Livingston’s house in the morning.

Larry and I smile at each other when we pass these days.  In fact, last week I saw him under a car on the lift at Smitty’s.  Good kid, working his way through school.