I was born into a creative family. My maternal grandmother, who was born in 1870, was known for her handmade quilts, embroidered tablecloths with crocheted inserts, dresser scarves and other items that adorned her house.
Her daughters remember the crochet and embroidered work on their blouses and underclothing. Even Grandmother's vegetable garden was decorated with a border of flowers.
Her mother, who immigrated to the United States in 1845, brought a rosebush with her to have a bit of her old home in her new yard. Roots of this rosebush have been passed down, and the roses are still blooming for many members of our family.
Grandma's creativity was passed on to my mother, who crocheted hundreds of doilies during her lifetime.
Although my dresses may have been made from feed sacks when I was a child, they were always prettier than the dresses the other girls wore. Each one was made with a coordinating fabric forming the sleeves, bodice or an insert in the skirt. One pattern could make a dozen dresses, each one looking different.
Each dress had something special about it. The one I remember most is the one Mother made when she had no other fabric to add to it. She made a secret pocket in the bodice. I loved that dress. I always carried a penny in the pocket. It made me feel special because no one else knew it was there.
In our family, handmade gifts were expected. At Christmastime, we made presents for our parents, brothers and sisters.
One year, I received a pajama bag that looked like a lion, and one of my sisters got a curler bag that someone had made for her.
After I got married, I crocheted vests and sweaters for my children, made afghans for weddings and baby sweaters for baby showers. I also made dolls, teddy bears and angels.
It got to the point where I didn't have anyone left to give things to, so I began designing, making and selling crafts at craft shows. I did this for almost 20 years.
Now arthritis keeps my fingers still, but my granddaughter loves to come over and look in the craft room to see what she can find to use for her own creations.
Art class led to fulfilling hobby
I'd never had much interest in creative arts, but when a community education program offered classes in oil painting, I signed up.
Over the years, I've taken lessons from local teachers and some well-known artists in our area. I was a frustrated artist, but my teachers were patient with me.
In the beginning, I became so attached to my creations that I didn't want to part with them. I don't have a problem with that now.
One day, I went out into a pasture to do some painting, and a donkey followed me. It watched me paint, and soon nudged me to move so it could get a closer look. It even sniffed at the flowers on the canvas.
My husband likes to brag on my work, and when others see my paintings of houses and barns, they often ask me to paint theirs.
I later worked in acrylics, watercolor and did drawings. I became so engrossed in my hobby that I would sometimes forget to eat.
When I paint, my cares are swept away. Art has filled a void in my life.
Certain world events - whether good or bad - are so memorable we never forget them. Many of us remember exactly what we were doing when we heard the news of a particular event.
For instance, where were you and what were you doing when you found out that President Kennedy had been shot? Who were you with? What did you do upon hearing the devastating news?
What other events stand out in your mind as unforgettable? What major events do you think your children and grandchildren consider unforgettable?
Tell us your memories of the assassination of JFK - or another unforgettable national or world event. Send your letters by Sept. 10 to CAPPER'S, Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.
Festive salads make great summertime fare
Summer means barbecues, block parties, picnics and fun with family and friends. It's easy to liven up summer menus with fresh and flavorful salads, and salsa is the secret ingredient that can make any salad saucy and delicious.
Salsas can be used for any part of your summer party menu - appetizers, salads, as a dressing for salads, or as part of main dishes.
Salsa is also a perfect marinade that can take your grilling from good to gourmet. It's a quick and easy way to add flavor and to tenderize meats.
Salads are easy to make, even at the last minute, and they're a great way to bring refreshing flavor to the table without weighing you down.
For more creative summer recipes and serving suggestions using picante sauce and salsas, visit www.PaceFoods.com.
Salsa Verde Grilled Steak Salad
1 jar (16 oz.) salsa verde, divided
1 pound beef skirt steak
8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
¼ cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
¼ cup sliced, pitted ripe olives, optional
¼ cup sour cream, optional
Pour 1 cup salsa into a shallow, nonmetallic dish or resealable plastic bag. Add steak and turn to coat. Cover or seal, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Lightly oil the grill rack and heat grill to medium. Grill steak for 10 minutes, or until desired doneness, turning halfway through cooking and basting often with marinade. Discard remaining marinade.
Slice steak diagonally into thin slices. Divide lettuce among 4 bowls. Top each with ¼ of the steak, 2 tablespoons salsa, 1 tablespoon cheese, 1 tablespoon olives and 1 tablespoon sour cream. Yields 4 servings.
Pico De Gallo Shrimp & Avocado Salad
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 jar (16 oz.) pico de gallo salsa, divided
8 cups bite-size pieces mixed salad greens
1 medium ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced
Ranch salad dressing
Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and cook until cooked through, stirring often. Pour off any excess oil. Add 1 cup salsa and toss to coat.
Divide salad greens among 4 bowls. Spoon shrimp mixture over salad greens and top with avocado slices. Serve with dressing and remaining salsa. Yields 4 servings.
1 cup lime salsa
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Mixed salad greens
Beat salsa, oil, vinegar and pepper in a medium bowl with a whisk or a fork. Serve over salad greens.
To make Lime Shrimp: Toss ½ pound hot cooked shrimp and ¼ cup Lime Vinaigrette in a medium bowl. Serve over hot cooked rice. Yields 2 servings.
To make Lime Shrimp Salad: Toss ½ pound cold cooked shrimp, ¼ cup Lime Vinaigrette and 4 cups mixed salad greens in a large bowl. Serve immediately. Yields 2 servings.
Grilled Chicken Salad
1 cup picante sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 tablespoon lime juice
¼ teaspoon garlic powder or 2 cloves garlic, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ teaspoon chili powder
6 cups bite-size pieces mixed salad greens
1 can (16 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium oranges, peeled and sliced
2 green onions, sliced
Mix picante sauce, 2 tablespoons oil, lime juice and garlic powder; set aside.
Sprinkle chicken with chili powder. Brush with remaining oil and grill for 15 minutes, or until done, turning once. Slice chicken into strips.
Place salad greens on 4 plates. Top with chicken, beans and orange slices. Sprinkle with onions and top with picante sauce mixture. Yields 4 servings.
A Letter from Kate:
Being a writer, I naturally consider myself a creative person.
Ever since I can remember, writing has been a passion of mine. English was one of my favorite subjects in school, and I loved it when I was given a writing assignment.
When I was in fourth grade, I would save the last tissue and cardboard from the travel pack I kept in my desk. I took the tissue and made a character out of it. Then I folded the cardboard like a book and wrote a story about the character. In those days, tissues came in different colors, so I made a character from each color.
Writing has always been the best way for me to express myself. It allows me to think about what I want to say before I say it. I prefer writing a letter or sending an e-mail to making a phone call.
My mom used to be quite a letter writer, so I imagine I got my desire for writing from her.
My creativity also allows me to enjoy making my own greeting cards, decorating the house for the different seasons, and cooking. If a recipe calls for ingredients I don't like or don't have on hand, my creative spirit kicks in, and I modify the recipe to suit my taste.
I have an interest in scrapbooking, too, but I haven't had time to really indulge myself in that hobby yet, although I did make photo albums for my nieces and nephews when they turned 21.
I look forward to the day when I can retire. I have a long list of creative projects waiting for me.
Together with God:
Hopefully, we are learning that there is plenty for us to do in our lives. It seems that our activities go in stages, depending on our stage in life.
When we're in our 30s and 40s, we're working hard at careers, raising families and finding our way in the world. By the time we're retired, we're playing bingo, doing ceramics, or are enrolled in local painting, woodworking or computer classes.
Being creative is not limited to our abilities, or to our availability. Creativity is available to all of us, and it may be used more than we realize.
When you open the refrigerator door, wondering what you will feed the family for dinner, put your creativity to work and come up with a new way to use leftovers.
So often we tend to think that only writers, artists and singers are creative. However, that's not true. We are all creative in some way.
Creativity is born from a need to achieve a particular goal, such as fixing something for dinner or finding a schedule that allows you to pick up one child from soccer while taking another child to dance lessons.
We create solutions every day in whatever we are striving toward. We teach creativity to our children when we show them how to rationally solve a problem and find a different route to the same conclusion. We can't help it. We are creative beings.
Father, thank You for the details of our lives and for giving us the ability to create solutions, as well as new and different paths for our journey through life. Help us to enjoy the beauty You created. May we always find a way to make our lives work well and still remain in Your grace. Amen.
- D. Susan Rutz