Heart of the Home

Siblings share a special bond.


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A Letter From Kate

Dear Readers,

There's a special bond that siblings share, and it's one that really can't be duplicated with another person. Your siblings are people you've known your whole life. They have shared your parents, your bedroom sometimes, your experiences and many, many other things. 

I have just one sibling, my sister, Mindi. She is about two and a half years younger than I am, and I can honestly say that I can't remember anything about my life before she was in it. Because it was just the two of us, we formed an especially close bond. We're not like other families, where if one does not get along with a particular sibling, there's another one to play with or talk to. In many ways, I think that was a good thing.

I've always felt protective of Mindi. When she came home from the hospital as a newborn, I called her my baby. She developed pneumonia shortly after, and I, at 2 1/2 years old, was distraught. I couldn't go to the hospital to see her, so I didn't understand what had happened to my baby. My mother has told me often how overjoyed I was when Mindi came home, and she had to remind me of it several times during our teenage years, when my sister and I had our disagreements.

When we were little girls, my sister and I played with dolls together and played school and dress-up and all the usual childhood games. When we were teenagers, we shared clothes, rides to school and watched movies together. As adults, we have shared child-rearing advice, confided in each other and, as always, we've made each other laugh whenever we need it.

No one makes me laugh like Mindi does, and I think it's because we've shared so much. I love my sister very much, and I'll always consider her one of my best friends. 

Kate Marchbanks

Together With God

I have a friend, Cheryl, who doesn't keep in touch with her brothers and sisters. She has four brothers and five sisters and knows nothing of their whereabouts or life activities, nor they hers. They have no connection to one another, nothing that they share, other than being born into the same family.

I credit my mother for our family being close. She taught us, and at times insisted, that we stay connected to one another. I have three brothers, Ray, Bob and my twin brother, Steve. They have taken care of me and provided me with opportunities to succeed many times. I pray often for my friend Cheryl, because I fear she is too disconnected from life and will spend the better part of it alone.

Father, thank You for giving us built-in friends in our siblings. Not only do they share our history, but they also often share our hearts. Help those who do not strive for connections with their families to understand how important it is to keep those relationships strong. Amen.

 - D. Susan Rutz

Bonded with cousin after retirement

I am one of five sisters, and I love them all. We all left home at an early age, and though we're widely scattered, we keep in touch with letters and phone calls. But we're not as close as I'd like us to be.

Ten years ago, I retired and moved to a town near where a cousin of mine lives. We had not been close at all, but we started to visit each other for lunch. We soon learned that we never ran out of things to talk about. We have been on many one- to three-day trips all over the state. We think alike on most things, and we both love to read and work puzzles.

My cousin has made my retirement years some of the best in my life. I feel as if I have another sister, and I'm thankful to have her in my life.


Sister keeps family together

Eighty-some years ago, my sister, Louise, tugged at my pant leg to show me the paper doll she had cut from a catalog.

I reluctantly acknowledged her selection of a stylish gown modeled by an aristocratic woman. Louise smiled at my approval of her need for a feminine indulgence in our predominantly male household.

Recently, at my sister's 85th birthday celebration, I smiled to see the gracious, aristocratic woman dressed in her designer gown, as she regally greeted her remaining two brothers, her two children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, her myriad nephews, nieces and hordes of friends.

My sister, Louise, remains the gentle force that keeps our family together.


Brother is friend

I was a 14-year-old only child when my brother was born. I was proud to be a built-in baby sitter. It was almost like having a child, without the responsibilities.

I left home for college three years later. I noticed the changes and growth of my little brother when I came home for summers and weekends. Then I joined the Army, and we were separated for three years. When I returned, I had a son of my own, and he and my brother became good friends.

As years passed, my brother and I weren't close, mostly because of our age difference. In time, our parents grew elderly and passed on. During those years of hospital and nursing home visits, my brother and I grew closer. After our folks were both gone, we realized that my wife and son and my brother's wife and four children made up the entire family.

Although we live 800 miles apart, we visit as much as possible, and we call at least once a week. Now, I not only have a brother, but a best friend.


Has special love for Bubba's little girl

What a special day it was. After nine months, which seemed like nine years, we had an addition to our family: a smiley-faced, 8-pound, 3-ounce, bouncing baby girl.

I remember how quickly I learned the art of mixing formula, then setting the bottle in a pan of water on the stove, careful not to overheat it, and testing the temperature on my wrist. Holding her just right, as she exuberantly sucked the milk from the bottle, was one of the times that I could relax, stare down at her with a smile on my face and truly feel the bonding that was taking place.

Bathing was a lot of fun. She soon learned, sitting in our kitchen sink, that by slapping her little hands in the water, I soon looked as if someone had turned a hose on me. I didn't mind too much because I really enjoyed hearing her laugh. Those memories will live forever in my heart.

I should mention the fact that the baby girl was my half sister. We shared the same mother, and we were the only children in the family. Our home was quite dysfunctional, and our parents left the two of us at home alone much of the time. I learned at an early age how to survive alone, or I never would have learned how to succeed in life.

It became my responsibility to raise this little girl. Her name is Pam, and from the time she learned to talk, she has called me Bubba. Pam and I endured many troubled times together, which only strengthened our relationship despite the 15-year difference in our ages.

I was often amazed at how Pam patterned her life after me. We now live 1,500 miles apart, but we continue to remain in touch. I can think of nothing that would ever break the bonds of our relationship and the love we hold for one another.


Family reunions

Summer is a popular time for family reunions, and many people enjoy traveling to their reunions as part of a vacation. 

Will your family be having a reunion this summer? Do you have a particular theme or activity that makes your reunion special? Or do you recall a certain reunion that you especially enjoyed? Tell us about your memorable family reunions.

Send your letters to Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.

Add more calcium to recipes with
one simple ingredient

If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it's good to know that a convenient pantry product can help fight osteoporosis - by the spoonful. One easy and delicious way to automatically increase your family's calcium intake is to sprinkle nonfat dry milk into your recipes. With no fat and only 15 calories per tablespoon, nonfat dry milk not only adds bone-building nutrients, it also contributes other good things.

Since low lifetime calcium intake is one of the risk factors for osteoporosis, it makes sense to start building stronger bones in childhood and continue through life. Fortified with vitamins A and D, with D aiding calcium absorption, nonfat dry milk can also enrich smoothies, egg dishes, dips, puddings, mashed potatoes, soups and sauces.

A mixture of vegetables adds color and crunch to potato salad.

Zesty Potato Salad

1/4 cup instant nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds (about 6 large) red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes, cooked, drained and cooled
2 cups green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces, blanched
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup sliced green onions
Lettuce leaves, optional

In a small bowl, combine dry milk, water, mustard, salt and pepper until well-mixed.

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, green beans, bell pepper and onions; add milk mixture; toss well to coat. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Serve over lettuce leaves. Yields 8 servings.

This luscious smoothie is a quick, nutritious treat you can enjoy any time.

Creamy Fruit Smoothie

3 cups fresh, frozen, unsweetened OR canned fruit, drained
1 1/3 cups (3.2 oz. envelope) nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup ice cubes
2 tablespoons sugar, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place fruit, dry milk, water, ice, sugar and vanilla in a blender; cover. Blend until smooth. Yields 4 servings.

Editor's note: For a tropical drink, try a mixture of mango, papaya and pineapple to make up 3 cups fruit. Follow directions above.

Here's a healthier version of traditional banana bread.

Banana Nut Bread

4 cups flour
1 1/3 cups (3.2 oz envelope) nonfat dry milk
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 large eggs
3 1/2 cups (about 7 medium) mashed, very ripe bananas
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, dry milk, baking powder and cinnamon.

In a large mixer bowl, beat eggs, bananas, sugar and vegetable oil on medium speed until well-blended. Gradually beat in flour mixture; stir in nuts. Spoon into prepared pans.

Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Yields 2 loaves.

Packed with calcium, this delicious frittata is good for you.

Confetti Frittata

2 cartons (8 oz. each) egg substitute
1 1/3 cups (3.2 oz. envelope) nonfat dry milk
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 6 oz.) sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 medium green onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400°F. Spray a 10-inch ovenproof skillet with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine egg substitute and dry milk; mix thoroughly. Stir in cheese, mushrooms, bell pepper, green onions, salt and pepper. Pour mixture into prepared skillet.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until set in the center. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve. Yields 4 servings.

This tasty dip will be a hit at any gathering.

Creamy Garlic Dip

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 cup instant nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons sliced green onion
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients; stir until smooth. Serve with assorted cut-up vegetables. Yields 10 (2 tablespoons each) servings.