Heart of the Home

Simple pleasures discovered during Depression


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My childhood entertainment would probably seem dull to others, but to me, it was bliss. I'm now 83, and the best memories I have are when I was a small child. There were five of us - my four brothers and me - born between 1923 and 1934. We felt loved, and we loved our lives.

In winter, when school and playtime were over, we'd gather around the fireplace. We kept a fire going all day and into the night. The fireplace and kitchen were our only sources of heat.

Mother would tell us if it snowed we would need plenty of wood. That sent us scurrying to the woodpile. We filled the wood box near the fireplace to overflowing.

We only got snow once every few years, but we watched for it constantly.

We didn't have a radio at the time, but we did have a few board games. Daddy wouldn't allow cards in the house, except Old Maid. I loved seeing my brothers get embarrassed when they were left holding the Old Maidcard.

We were fortunate to have a daily newspaper delivered to us, which provided much entertainment. We not only enjoyed the comics, but we also liked having Mother read the news and sports to us. We'd choose a favorite team, especially for baseball, and then we could hardly wait for the next day's paper to find out who had won.

Often we just sat around the fire and listened to tales of the old days. We learned to bake sweet potatoes in the hot ashes, and we enjoyed a second dessert.

Bedtime came early, and as we began to nod off, our outer clothing was removed. The boys slept in their long underwear, and I had a flannel nightgown. Mother warmed a small blanket and wrapped it around my feet when I got into my cold bed.

We learned the prayer, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, as soon as we could talk.

As spring neared, we begged to leave off our long underwear and go barefoot. We were healthy, so Mother granted our wish early on.

Summer brought a different location for our entertainment. We played outside until we were exhausted. After supper, the whole family gathered on the front porch to watch night fall. Darkness out in the country in those days was really dark. We watched the stars come out, and each of us tried to be the one to spot the first star so we could make a wish. When there was a full moon, we would locate the man in the moon, which we decided was really a lady.

Whippoorwills were abundant in our area, and we listened for the first call. We argued over what the bird said, but most of us agreed that it said, 'Whip-poor-will.'

I enjoyed sitting on the porch swing, holding the newest baby. We all loved this family time - talking and laughing. We felt secure and happy.

As we began to get sleepy, my brother Charles and I took our brothers Von, Bill and Roy to wash their feet. We didn't get a complete bath every day, but those bare feet had to be washed in the foot tub.

Summer days were spent roaming through the pastures and woods. We didn't understand the meaning of the Great Depression, which was in full swing, because we felt rich and loved, and we had a fabulous childhood.

Magee, Miss.

Kids found fun in family barn

One of the fondest memories I have of my childhood is the fun my siblings and I created while playing in our barn. There were always bales of hay to play on, litters of newborn kittens to discover and farm animals to play with.

Our old faithful horse would follow us into the barn to claim her share of attention. We would spend hours currying her and braiding her mane and tail.

We had an old lawn mower and a cookstove stored in the barn. With those two items, we mowed imaginary lawns and turned out delicious pastries for our imaginary guests.

Another favorite game of ours was hide-and-seek. At times, it was a bit of a challenge to hide, because our dogs always gave us away.

The main highlight of our day was suppertime, when we would recall all the events of the day. Sometimes supper would last more than an hour, and although our parents were busy, our time at the supper table seemed to stand still until everyone had discussed their day's events.

Arcola, Ill.

Independence Day Celebrations

How did your family celebrate Independence Day when you were a child? Did you gather at a friend's or neighbor's house, or was it a small family event? What did you do for fun? Did you have a picnic or potluck dinner? Was there a dance or family games? Did you decorate?

How do the celebrations of your childhood differ from the way you celebrate Independence Day now?

Tell us about your Independence Day celebrations. Send your letters by May 7 to CAPPER'S, Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.

Appetizing recipes boost nutrition as well as vitality

Have you ever tried eating smart? It's not just about making savvy nutrition choices like opting for whole grain over white, steamed over fried, or baked over sautéed. It's about boosting your eating knowledge to reap rewards that go beyond losing weight or reducing health risks. Think of the really big picture - a better overall quality of life and a higher level of vitality.

The good news is that eating right doesn't have to be hard. More and more food companies are creating healthier products with reduced levels of trans fats, saturated fats, sodium and added sugars.

Opting for more nutritious products and preparing simple yet delicious recipes with a focus on proper nutrition will help boost your food intellect - and your vitality.

Fettuccine with Turkey Bolognese Sauce

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 to 1½ pounds ground turkey
¼ cup chicken broth
1 jar (26 oz.) pasta sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper, optional
1 box (16 oz.) fettuccine, cooked and drained

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onion and celery; cook for 5 minutes, or until tender, stirring frequently. Add turkey and cook thoroughly, breaking it up with a spoon. Stir in chicken broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to low heat and simmer, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Stir in pasta sauce and parsley; simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve sauce over hot fettuccine. Yields 6 servings.

Mandarin Chicken Salad

½ cup ranch dressing
¼ cup orange marmalade
1¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and sliced
¼ small red onion, thinly sliced
1 package (10 to 12 oz.) mixed salad greens
1 can (11 oz.) mandarin oranges, drained
½ cup seasoned croutons

In a large bowl, blend dressing and marmalade. Add chicken, red onion and salad greens; toss to coat.
Gently fold in oranges and croutons. Yields 4 servings.

Oven-Baked Harvest Apples

4 large apples, cored
3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 tablespoon finely chopped pecans
4 teaspoons buttery spread
2/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Peel top third of apples; arrange them, peeled-side up, in an 8-inch baking dish. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, cranberries and pecans; spoon evenly into center of apples. Top each with 1 teaspoon buttery spread. Pour water around apples. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour, or until apples are tender, basting occasionally.

Microwave Directions: Peel apples as directed above. Arrange apples in a microwave-safe pie plate. Cover with waxed paper and microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, cranberries and pecans; spoon evenly into apples. Top each with 1 teaspoon buttery spread. Cover with waxed paper and microwave for an additional 2 minutes, or until apples are tender. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Gremolata-Crusted Tilapia

1 slice whole grain bread
¼ cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
Pinch of ground black pepper
¼ cup mayonnaise
6 tilapia fillets (about 1½ pounds)
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a food processor, process bread until small crumbs form; remove and set aside. Place parsley, garlic, lemon peel and pepper in processor and process until blended. Add mayonnaise and process just until blended.

Arrange fillets on baking sheets or a broiler pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice, then top evenly with mayonnaise mixture and bread crumbs.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until fish flakes with a fork. Yields 6 servings.

Together with God:

Family night is a wonderful opportunity to share in the joy of being together. We teach our children how to win and lose graciously, and they teach us to be young again. Playing board games achieves far more than learning to take a turn; the event itself builds individual character, as well as providing a family bond of memories.

Structured gatherings are important tools parents can use to guide their children through social growth. But family entertainment is completely different.

Family entertainment is the dog running through the sprinkler to catch a squirrel that is feasting on newly planted bulbs, catching his collar on the freshly washed sheets hanging on the clothesline, ripping them off and dragging them across the lawn. Now that's entertainment.

To keep the family growing strong, a night with the children playing games, watching movies, bowling, or even visiting a theme park is needed, but when those moments include sheer joy, then we are refreshing our souls with love and memories that will give us joy each time we think of them.

Father, thank You for the time we have to spend with our children, and for the growth of our families into strong units of love. May we have many moments of joy and memories that will bring us happiness throughout the years. Remind us to be children again and to enjoy the pleasures of youth. Amen.

- D. Susan Rutz

A Letter from Kate:

My family and I had a lot of fun together. At times, we even created our own fun.

My mom and sister played the piano, my brother played guitar, and we all loved to sing and listen to music.

We took summer vacations, went on picnics and Sunday drives, went to the movies and watched TV. Some of our favorite shows included The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bonanza, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Red Skelton Show, Leave it to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show and Make Room for Daddy.

In the days before video and computer games, my siblings and I played Clue, The Game of Life, Chinese checkers, Monopoly, Twister, Fascination and Careful. I later enjoyed playing Risk with my sister and brother-in-law whenever I'd go visit them.

Outdoor games included croquet, badminton, lawn darts, hopscotch, tag and jumping rope. My sister and I had pogo sticks and hula hoops, too. We, along with my brother, also rode our bikes frequently, and the three of us had a lot of fun tossing the Frisbee around.

I would still like to do some of these things, but life has gotten so busy, I don't seem to have the time anymore.

I do at least get to watch a little TV with my mother and occasionally go out to dinner or a movie with friends.

Playing games, taking vacations and going on picnics was a big part of what made my childhood fun. What was even more fun was that I was enjoying these things with my family.

Kate Marchbanks