Category Archives: Blog Posts-Personal Histories

Reflections on cooking while quarantined

happy birthday girl

A happy birthday, regardless of a pandemic. And yes, liver and onions really are my favorite.

In the midst of the pandemic that is Covid-19 we like many others, I suspect, have been working to reduce the number of times we go out, especially for food shopping. While we have not altered our meals radically, we have focused on different ways of extending meals, and using what we have, rather than making one more list and heading back out yet again, as we often have in the past. I do more of the cleanup than the cooking duties, so these suggestions are mostly my husband’s. And yes, we have managed to have some special treats along the way, even a celebratory birthday dinner for me last month, as we remained apart from our loved ones in other households.

The following is a list, not comprehensive, of ways we cook that might offer some ideas to others. Will we continue with these habits when life has opened back up? That remains to be seen. Wishing the best to all and praying for safekeeping as we muddle our way through. Continue reading

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Bringing liberal arts study and life together

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Sharing stories between generations is magic, no matter the form those stories take

I was invited to comment on the benefits of obtaining a liberal arts education. Perhaps you are asking yourself this question right now. Below is my response, with the link to the article, which offers numerous other amazing responses to the same question. Enjoy!

I received my BA in History many years ago, and for quite a while wondered if I would ever put my studies to use. It was only ten years ago, when I came across the world of Personal Historians, that I realized my studies, my passions and my work were finally all coming together. Continue reading

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The Pink Princess

Julia in pink princess dress

The Pink Princess

We rarely get a choice of who we share a neighborhood with. Little did I know when I moved to Bellingham, to the little neighborhood at the top of the hill overlooking Silver Lake, that I would someday hit the jackpot of neighbors, just when I needed them most.

I was reminded of this last week when I was invited to partake in a virtual gathering of women passionate about books and reading, a sort of “Book club” if you will, initiated by Julia, who had grown up next door to me when my children were growing up. As each person introduced ourselves to the group, we explained how we knew Julia. I explained that I had known her since before she was born, the much anticipated daughter her mother had longed for. Somehow the Pink Princess story came up, and I told the group a very little about Julia becoming a pink princess, and some of my role in making this happen. Continue reading

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A Passover and Easter like no other

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Raised garden beds, ready for planting.

Early last week we shared a family Passover service on Zoom. Typically the service happens in family dining rooms, and the focus of the service is around the dinner table. The traditional foods help to tell the story of the first Passover, and offer symbols of remembrance, of trials and deliverance. Part of the classic liturgy of the service asks four questions, and one question brought laughter as we gathered in front of our computers and were connected in a virtual envornment, “Why is this night unlike all other nights?” Why, indeed?  It was for sure a night unlike any other we had experienced up till then. Continue reading

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Sewing Memories

sewing machine, masks

Tools of the trade, and some finished face masks

Along with many others, I have pulled out my sewing machine, gathered my stashed sewing supplies, and found multiple videos and directions for making cloth face masks for ourselves and others who are in need of them during this health crisis we find ourselves in. I am not a sewing expert, nor an exacting sort of seamstress. Sadly, my sewing meets the standard of “getting the job done,” but then again, cloth face masks in the middle of a pandemic are not exactly fashion statements. Continue reading

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Courtship, Marriage…and Murder: piecing together a lost portion of our family’s story

Don, Em leaving Church

My parents leaving the church after their wedding

As I worked with my dad to create a memoir for him to share with our family, we came to the year he spent courting my mother in 1949. Dad was more than happy to share the events of how he and Mom met, a story I had grown up hearing. But a significant event that occurred during that year before they married had been left out of Dad’s narrative.
Shortly before Dad’s memoir was to be published, my sister handed me a box that included letters my father wrote to Mom during that courtship year. In a few letters from my dad to Mom, Dad wrote some cryptic notes, including a comment that left me puzzled. Continue reading

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Happy Anniversary, Bellingham Library Writing Group

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Cake with sprinkles!

“We should have cake,” I suggested. Carol, one of our long-time members, said, “Sure,” while Amy, my co-leader said to Carol, “What about your Depression era cake?” And so a party was organized, just like that, in celebration of our writer’s group meeting together for the past two years.  Continue reading

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Passing on traditions–Baking together

Checking out my mother’s well-used, well-loved copy of Joy of Cooking

In years past my granddaughter and I have spent time making salads, baking bread, and making cookies. But we had never made banana bread together. She and I had a free afternoon and I had bananas in the freezer just waiting to be transformed into bread that is great for breakfast (and other times as well!)

I reached for my mother’s “Joy of Cooking” recipe book, published probably in the 1940’s, and given to her, I suspect, as a wedding gift. Many recipe books have directions for how to make banana bread, but I really like how this one’s ingredients turn out. It must be the buttermilk. 

So many banana bread ingredients have fallen onto this page in the past!

As I opened to the page for banana bread, Nicole stared at the page and commented, “It looks like a lot of the ingredients fell onto the page!” We laughed, and I agreed that Florida Granny (her name for my parents were Florida Granny and Grampy) used this book many times. In fact, most of my memories were of baking banana bread with my dad. I suspect he had something to do with the “decorations” on the page too!

Egg cracking skills are getting some practice in Grandma’s kitchen

We got started and were soon assembling the ingredients, helping Nicole measure flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and butter. We paid extra attention to the teaspoon measures and practiced using fractions as we worked. Soon most of the needed items were collected. She cracked an egg into a separate bowl, I extracted a few stray egg shells, and on we went.

Chopping nuts!
Fun practicing using fractions using measuring spoons

With each step, Nicole had questions. What joy to share simple kitchen knowledge with my growing grandgirl, now nine and soon approaching my own height. She wanted a turn with the nut chopper and took great delight in whacking away at the nuts to pulverize them before dumping them into bowl with everything else.

Some mixed feelings handling frozen, then thawed bananas!

But the bananas were another issue entirely. She was willing, but not quite sure what to expect since the frozen, now thawed bananas were squishy, almost slimy in texture. But she soldiered on and got all the bananas into the bowl too.

Finished banana bread

Once everything was mixed and into the oven, she continued with questions. One question stopped me. “What will you do with this book when you don’t need it any more, Grandma?”

Ah, she is getting old enough to grasp that none of us lives forever, even if that’s not what she said. I admitted I hadn’t really thought about it. “Would you like it someday?” She nodded, and hugged me.

Passing on family stories happens in so many forms. Sometimes baking together and letting the conversation flow as our hands are busy is the most natural place to start. Making room for the next generation in our kitchens is a real gift–for the younger generation as well as those of us who have been around for awhile.

For those interested, here’s the recipe!

Banana Bread—older Joy of Cooking recipe

2 cups white or wheat flour

½ t. baking powder

½ t. baking soda

¼ t. salt

Cream together ¼ cup sugar

¼ cup butter, then add

1 egg

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, then

add 2/3 cup mashed bananas

add 3 T. buttermilk (I use powered buttermilk and add the powder with three T of water)

Add ½ cup chopped walnuts, place in breadpan, bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.

Marjorie

beech cliffs 2018

Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed three guides to Easy Walking trails in Massachusetts, “Easy Walks in Massachusetts 2nd edition,”  “More Easy Walks in Massachusetts,”  and edited “Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed.” A native Floridian, she came north for college and snow! Marjorie is a Certified Legacy Planner with LegacyStories.org, and is the producer of numerous veterans interviews for the Bellingham/Mendon Veteran’s History Project. http://www.marjorieturner.com

https://www.amazon.com/Easy-Walks-Massachusetts-2nd-Northbridge/dp/0989204340

More Easy Walks in Massachusetts

Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed

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Effective Partnerships and Strategic Volunteering for Businesses

Video interview with Jan Miele of Benchmark Advisory Group. We talked about strategic partnerships, effective volunteering, and Easy Walks. Thanks to Jan and the Benchmark Advisory Group for inviting me back to chat again. https://vimeo.com/295144942

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Testing Out the Waters–The Power of Prayer

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Testing out the waters

The other day, a dear friend at church, Barbara, approached me.”I get to pray for you!” she said. Sometimes, when people say, “I’ll pray for you,” it’s a somewhat smug way of telling the offender that they have messed up, but rather than say that, and be accused of being judgmental, they simply promise, “I will pray for you.” I guess it’s all in the tone of voice, but also in the intent. Barbara’s intent communicated her delight in being asked to pray for me. She assured me that the others who were helping with Vacation Bible School the following week would also be bolstered by their own personal “prayer warriors” — spiritual “secret Santas.” Continue reading

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