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Enjoyed ball game

One of my favorite toys was called Kitty Kat Kupball, which was basically a basketball game.

There were three cups fastened to a backboard that was about 12 inches square. Wooden marbles were placed on a spring-loaded device that could swivel from side to side. One could aim the marbles at any of the baskets and score 25, 35 or 50 points, depending on the cup.

It was a fun game to play alone or with a friend. 

St. Paul, Neb.


Measle Monkey kept her company when sick

When I was 4 years old, I got the measles. I was itchy and miserable. My mom sent my sister, Gerrie, to the dime store downtown and told her to bring back something for me. 

Gerrie came back with a stuffed monkey. It was red and white, holding a banana in one hand. His name became Measle Monkey. He kept me company while I was sick and was a favorite toy for many years after that, especially when I didn't feel well.

I still have my Measle Monkey, but now that children are vaccinated for measles, he has been retired for many years. 

Clarksdale, Mo.

Inventive children made playthings

Store-bought toys were almost nonexistent when I was growing up in the 1930s.

One Christmas, my mom was able to buy me a tiny, cheap toy tractor, a replica of a Farmall. There were no implements to go with it, but I made my own. I took some slightly bent washers my brother had used, strung them on a wire and made a wooden tongue. I still have it.

I also whittled wooden guns from boards. They weren't fancy, but one of my schoolmates, whose family had money, wanted to buy it for 50 cents. It didn't take long for me to accept his money. I went home and made another one.

Another Christmas, my mom raised popcorn, shelled it until her fingers bled and walked around town selling it until she had enough money for a little red wagon for my sisters and me. We literally wore the wheels off the wagon. My older brother found some old wheels to put on it. We wore them out as well.

It didn't take much to make us happy, and we learned to be inventive when we didn't have something.

Walker, Mo.

Good-hearted mail carrier brought best gift

It was a Christmas morning in the country. Many people in my town and nearby were snowed in after a blizzard had blanketed the area on Christmas Eve. There was almost no traffic on the major dirt roads, even though the snowplows had finally rolled through.

I was a Michigan transplant to rural Kansas, and I so loved the snow and the pristine beauty of a cold winter morning. Snug in my little house in the country, I was happy to be snowed in, and I reminisced about blizzards during my Michigan girlhood that made this one look like a summer rain.

There was only one sad note on this postcard-perfect Christmas: a feature article I had worked hard on while employed at a local newspaper had been published late the day before, and I wouldn't be able to see it. Alas, there was no mail on Christmas.

Resignedly, I waded in snowdrifts knee-deep and higher over to a kind neighbor's for a promised turkey plate. When I arrived, I got an even better gift than the delicious turkey and fixin's - a copy of The Girard Press with my article in it, a story about a wonderful Christmas Eve service I sometimes attended at a local country church.

Zelda McColm, our dear mail carrier, had made it up to the post office and delivered part of her route to save time the following day, when she would have to drive the rest of the route backwards because of all the snow.

Good-hearted Zelda took time away from her family on America's biggest holiday to ensure that her customers did not have a gap in their mail delivery at Christmastime.

Even on Christmas Day, after a terrible Kansas blizzard, the mail went through. And like the baby Jesus, there are special gifts in life that come only on Christmas.

Thanks, Zelda. 

McCune, Kan.

First impressions 

Try as we might, sometimes we all make a first impression that's not exactly what we had hoped it would be. Or we meet someone and get a wrong impression of her or him.

Have you ever made a bad first impression? Or perhaps you've had a wrong first impression of someone? How did you correct the situation? Tell us your stories about first impressions.

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

Clabber Girl Baking Powder & McCormick Spice Company

FESTIVE TREATS: Festive Chocolate Chip Gingerbread, Eggnog Delights and Cinnamon-Caramel Swirl Bars are delicious twists on classic holiday desserts.

Tempting treats create the ultimate holiday dessert table

It's hard to imagine the holidays without the flavors and aromas of treasured recipes. The warm scents of gingerbread and cinnamon fill the house and evoke memories of celebrations past.

To make sure this season's sweets inspire new memories, take a few moments to put your pantry in order. Key items such as flour, sugar, chocolate, baking powder, nuts and spices should be checked for freshness to ensure that baked goods rise to the occasion and taste their best. With the freshest ingredients and some creative twists, it's easy to reinvent family favorites and impress guests of all ages.

Festive Chocolate Chip Gingerbread

Chocolate chips and cocoa add richness to traditional gingerbread.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder, ginger, baking soda and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and molasses. Mix in egg. Add flour mixture alternately with water, stirring just until blended. Stir in chips. Pour into a 10-cup fluted tube pan that has been sprayed with nonstick baking spray and sprinkled with flour.

Bake at 350°F. for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Invert cake onto a wire rack. Cool completely. Yields 16 servings.

Vanilla Butter Glaze:

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients until well-blended and smooth. Let stand for 5 minutes. Spoon over completely cooled cake. Let stand until set.

Cinnamon-Caramel Swirl Bars

These decadent bars feature a layer of creamy caramel.

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a foil-lined, 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In a large bowl, mix sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and pecans until well-blended. Add flour mixture; mix well. Reserve 1 cup batter for later use. Spread remaining batter into prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until firm.

Microwave caramels and milk in a microwavable bowl on high for 2 to 3 minutes, or until caramels are completely melted, stirring every minute. Pour over baked layer in pan, spreading to within 1/2 inch of edges. Drop reserved batter by spoonfuls over caramel layer. Cut through batter with knife several times to marbleize.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until center is set. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Lift from pan; remove foil. Cut into bars to serve. Yields 24 bars.

Eggnog Delights

These cookies are an unexpected addition to the season's cookie repertoire.

In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds, or until smooth. Add sugar, eggs and vanilla extract; beat until well-blended. Gradually beat in flour, baking powder and nutmeg, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Stir in nuts. If needed, refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until dough is easy to handle.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on baking sheets. (Refrigerate remainder of dough while baking each batch of cookies.)

Bake at 375°F. for 10 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from baking sheets. Cool completely on wire racks. Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

Eggnog Frosting:

In a small bowl, beat butter until softened. Gradually add powdered sugar; beat until fluffy. Beat in milk and imitation rum extract until well-blended. Frost center of each cookie with about 1 teaspoon frosting. Sprinkle with additional nutmeg, if desired.

For best flavor, use freshest ingredients

The shelf life of baking ingredients varies, so you should write the date you purchased the ingredient on the can or box.

Baking powder: Unopened, use by date printed on bottom of can; opened, 6 months

Chocolate: 1 year except unsweetened cocoa powder, which lasts indefinitely

Flour: 6 months

Extracts: 4 years except pure vanilla, which lasts indefinitely

Nuts, shelled: 18 months

Spices, ground: 2 to 3 years

Spices, whole: 3 to 4 years

Sugar, brown: 4 months

Sugar, powdered: 18 months

Sugar, granulated: 2 years

Help all of your pantry ingredients stay fresh by storing them tightly closed in a cool, dark and dry place.

For more great holiday recipes, visit www.clabbergirl.com or www.mccormick.com.

Betty Crocker Cookie Pouches & Gold Medal Flour

SWEETS FOR SHARING: Spread some holiday cheer with Snickerdoodles, Raspberry Jam Strips, Gingerbread People, Decorated Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies and Luscious Layer Bars.

Holiday cookie exchange promises a sweet deal for all

'Tis the season for holiday baking - delicious baked goods, that is! Spread some good cheer as part of a cookie exchange by finding a favorite bar or cookie recipe and baking a batch or two to trade. Call on close friends or family to join in the fun and do the same; then swap sweets - and recipes - along with good conversation.

You'll leave with plenty of home-baked goodies to serve throughout the season, and fine memories of the event.


A cold glass of milk tastes wonderful with these favorite cookies.

Heat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, flour and eggs until a soft dough forms.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Mix sugar and cinnamon. Roll balls in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, or until set. Cool for 1 minute. Remove from cookie sheets. If desired, roll warm cookies in additional sugar-cinnamon mixture. Yields about 6 dozen cookies.

Decorated Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies

These soft, chewy cookies can be festively decorated.

Heat oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl, stir cookie mix, water, oil and eggs until dough forms.

Shape dough into 72 (1-inch) balls; roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until light golden-brown. Immediately press 1 chocolate in center of each cookie. Remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely. Decorate as desired using remaining ingredients. Yields about 6 dozen cookies.

Luscious Layer Bars

Family and friends will enjoy these scrumptious bars.

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, stir together cookie mix, butter and egg. Press cookie mixture in the bottom of prepared pan using floured fingers.

Bake for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chips, coconut and walnuts. Drizzle evenly with sweetened condensed milk. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until light golden-brown; cool. For bars, cut into 9 rows by 4 rows. Yields 36 bars.

Raspberry Jam Strips

These pretty, homemade cookies are simple to make and impressive to share.

In a large bowl, stir together butter, sugars, egg and vanilla. Stir in flour and baking powder. (If dough is soft, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.)

Heat oven to 350°F. Divide dough into 8 equal parts. On an ungreased cookie sheet, roll each part into an 8-inch rope; press down until 1 1/2-inches wide. Make an indentation down the center of each with the handle of a wooden spoon. Fill with 1 measuring tablespoon jam.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges are light-brown; cool for 2 minutes. Yields about 5 dozen cookies.

Vanilla Glaze:

In a medium bowl, stir together ingredients until smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over strips. Cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces.

Gingerbread People

This made-from-scratch recipe delivers added decorating fun.

In a large bowl, stir together brown sugar, shortening, molasses and cold water. Stir in remaining ingredients, except frosting. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

On a floured surface, roll 1/4 of dough 1/8 inch thick. Cut with a floured gingerbread cutter or another favorite shaped cutter. Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until no indentation remains when touched. (For softer, chewier cookies, bake 8 to 10 minutes.) Remove from cookie sheet to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Yields about 9 dozen 3-inch cookies.

Easy Creamy Frosting:

In a large bowl, stir together ingredients until smooth and spreadable. Decorate cookies with frosting.

Together With God

While thinking about my favorite toys, I remembered a Christmas memory that was buried under years of other memories.

On Christmas afternoons, while Dad took a nap and Mom worked on dinner, my brothers and I built forts in the living room by draping our blankets over chairs. Inside our forts, we could play with our presents and enjoy quiet time, unwinding from the morning excitement.

I was fortunate to have a mother who allowed living-room forts to promote our imaginations. Inside those draped walls of flannel, I developed an appreciation for believing in myself. That has to be the best toy I ever received because with it, I could be anything I chose to be.

Father, thank You for all You have given us and the celebration of Your greatest gift, Your son. May we always nurture our children's imaginations as You have nurtured ours. Bless this holiday season with peace and strong hope for a better future. Help us keep the New Year filled with love for our friends, families and neighbors in need. Amen.

- D. Susan Rutz

A Letter From Kate

Dear Readers,

One Christmas, when I was 10 or 11 years old, I wasn't expecting much under the tree from Santa. I hadn't asked for much because I was at an awkward age; I had outgrown dolls, and I hadn't really developed any adolescent interests yet.

When I walked into the living room on Christmas morning, I was surprised to see a miniature dollhouse waiting for me. It was about 2 feet high, and it had two floors, an attic, wallpaper and carpet in all the rooms, and the whole house was painted white with a black roof. The rooms were modestly furnished, and the house was occupied by a lovely clothespin doll. I had never seen a miniature dollhouse, and I was enchanted by it.

I learned that my father had secretly made the dollhouse in our basement. I don't know how we never noticed the work in progress. My sister and I used the outside door in the basement at least twice a day, and we often roller-skated in the basement after school.

I loved the dollhouse, and from then on, I spent a lot of time playing with it and looking for things to put in it. For Christmas the next year, I pulled a small sprig from our Christmas tree and put it in the parlor of the dollhouse. I found small, colorful beads to string on the needles, and I wrapped tiny packages to put under the 'tree.' I thought it was beautiful.

I still have the dollhouse, and every time I look at it, it reminds me of my father's love. I still am touched by the time and effort it must have taken him to create this miniature masterpiece just for me.

I hope that you all have a magical holiday season. Merry Christmas!