I love life!

Hi, I am Jo and this is my blog about my life. Here you will find entries on cooking, gardening, food safety and the interesting things happening in my search for an inexpensive and healthy way of living. My home is located in North Florida and I am relearning how to take care of myself at almost 50. This is the deep South so my garden and season may be a bit different than yours. I look forward to seeing what you have to say as time passes. Read on and have a beautiful day!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Maggie and Stella

Today I was honored to pick up my grand daughter Maddy from daycare and spend the afternoon playing with "Monkey" and "Ducky." We had snacks and juice and played "Itsy Bitsy Spider". Then we had dinner and played with Papa when he came home from work. Almost nothing was accomplished during the afternoon and early evening while Madelyn graced us with her beautiful presence. Not that we expected it to. Papa Rob is now in the garage working on the mower and I am trying to catch up on blogging. That "Pantry" entry is still hanging out there waiting to be completed. And so it waits.

So while bathing Maddy I remembered baths given to me by my grandmothers Maggie and Stella. My mothers mom "Margaret" - "Maggie" and my dad's mom "Stella." Two amazing women who did all they could to help make their families lives better and I am sure bathed a lot of grandchildren through the years. Stella had a shower in her bathroom with large pink roses on the walls and small rose soaps that we didn't use but that smelled amazing. Maggie had a slightly more utilitarian bathroom but she also had the same large rose wallpaper as well as a drawer of makeup left from my Aunt Lisa.  In her bathtub one could fine Caress soap or Ivory shampoo. I wonder if  Maddy will remember the smell of  lavender soap and the feel of air dried towels against her skin?

Maggie and Stella both were avid gardeners and I recall spending hours watching them a.k.a. "helping" them garden and preserve what they grew. Stella had a large garden at my uncle's farm and Maggie had an equally large plot at my aunt's house.  Both of them made the worlds best pickles. Maggie made sweet baby pickles and Stella made mouthwatering bread and butter pickles with slices of onions and lots of mustard seeds. Yum.

From them I unknowingly inherited a love of both home canning and gardening.  I remember steam billowing out of the conservo on grandmas stove and grandma (Stella) telling grandpa (Leonard) to wipe the rims with a damp towel before topping with the canning flats. There were days of the house smelling like cooked chicken as countless poults were sacrificed, cooked, then canned to be enjoyed on a cold winter day. Beef was done the same until someone found a place where it could be cooked and canned in metal cans for the family instead of spending hours canning in a hot humid kitchen. It all made the best chicken and noodles or beef and noodles you could ever taste! So much family working together- aunts and uncles in and out of the house while it was all going on. As a child I found it all mesmerizing. I loved sitting at the octagonal table in the dining area watching it all not realizing the necessity as well as the amount of effort it took to get it all done.

Maggie's kitchen was smaller and her work space was the kitchen table. She would soak her small cucumbers in salt water rinsing them and changing the salt water every few days. She used a round white enamel dish pan that hung year round in the laundry room by the back porch. After several soakings over a matter of days they were cooked in a sweet and savory liquid then magically canned when no little fingers were around to get in the way. The pickles were enjoyed over holidays and at family gatherings.. if Grandpa Leo did not get them first.

Today when I can jelly or pickles I am usually alone as my family is scattered. My husbands boys are near as are the grandkids. I wonder sometimes who will carry on some of the traditions and foods that we grew up with or if anyone will even bother? I do know when that when I am up to my elbows in dirt planting my little garden or have steam billowing into my kitchen while pickles are being canned that Stella and Maggie are near and nodding in approval. And sometimes I even talk to them telling them how much they are missed and how much they taught the little girl that followed them around watching all they did to keep everyone fed.                            

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