Family, Friends and Feasting
More Than Food Around the Quilt
Once again I cluttered the Quilt Tables with fall colors... and some goofy stuff.
Each year, I learn something new about these utensils, when I share them. "Anyone know what this big wooden paddle is for?" I asked all 4 of my groups.
I got some funny answers, but in my last group I was assured, "Oh! That's what you use to scrape the butter from the edges of the butter churn." Later in the evening I watched a TV show involving a scene with pilgrims. One character held the same tool and called it a butter paddle. I finally know, after all these years.
Reaching for Favorites
At all tables, lots of hands reached for the kitchen tools that brought back memories. The mini iron skillet had a few remembering the iron pots and pans, they grew up with. Margie was the one who reminded us of the kitchen rule with pans on the stove. She placed the small skillet on the even smaller iron stove and demonstrated how a pan handle should be turned inward to avoid accidents.
The Egg Beater
Everyone seemed to have fun with this one. One sweet gentleman seemed to very serious as he cranked the handle. When I asked, "What is that old thing?" He smiled and very slowly answered, "Egg... beater."
He and we, didn't worry that his speech difficulties made sharing more difficult. He took his time, but wanted us to know his mother used an egg beater to beat eggs AND potatoes!
The Thanksgiving Table
A few just had fun "playing" with these old toys. But the table itself prompted a discussion about table decorations and even table manners. Dorothy talked about pressing colorful leaves between waxed paper and adding them to the table display.
And candles! "I loved getting to snuff out the candles after the meal!" Eva said, setting the table was the easy chore. "All the kids hoped to get that job instead of clean up duty. " Martha said, "Oh you didn't fuss at the table. There were 7 of us kids and we knew we weren't going to misbehave at the table!" It was surprising to hear how many large families there were and how most created one table, instead of dining at separate ones.
Different Kinds of Feasts
This little couple hardly looks like they are sharing a Thanksgiving meal, but some decided a Thanksgiving picnic would actually be fun. We talked about how different our family foods and traditions can be. Carmen remembered making tortillas.
She laughed about how hard she worked as a young girl to make them round. Billie Jean said her daddy made the best pickeld pigs feet. "Oooh. There were never any leftovers. He was so good about getting all the toenails off." Dorothy's description of creamed onions and Dot's sweet potato pie talk, sounded a little yummier to me.
Not too many could relate to a kitchen as primitive as this one, carved out of wood. But we had fun talking about kitchens of the past and many had grown up with wood burning stoves and iron kettles. The tiny kettle in the scene reminded Dot of the big pots used for cooking sugar cane syrup on her Pappa's farm.
More Kitchen Talk
Everyone liked this photo of the "modern kitchen" from an old magazine, but none of us ever had a kitchen like it. We talked about all the time spent in the kitchen before and after the Thanksgiving meal. There were some funny cooking stories shared. Mary accidentally used salt in the pumpkin pie instead of sugar.
Doris said the worst part of cooking was burning the food. Billie Jean pointed to the wooden spoon on our table and said they had 12 of those in her kitchen because there were so many people helping. "There were 5 girls and 4 boys in my house and cousins too. We all helped with the cooking. And everyone helped clean up."
Talk of Chores
We laughed and complained about the chores. Potato mashing can be hard work with when serving a big group! But the biggest complaining was about those who didn't pitch in.
That lead to discussions about TVs being on and football games!
Laughing Around the Table...
The odd props lead to fun stories, which had us chuckling around the table. Then of course we had to remember what else people do around the table besides laugh and talk and eat.
Sing Around the Table?
Well, we tried. Last year when I brought this little ukulele we made up a pretty cute song about what we were thankful for. This year, my uke skills had not improved at all, so that meant we did more laughing than serious singing.
But we did come up with a "Just Hurry... I'm Hungry" version of the "Don't Worry. Be Happy" song. Not sure it's a keeper, but it was fun.
Thanks Around the Table
This is a subject all my groups really like to talk about. Many had memories of sharing thanks around the table and all wanted to share with our group.
Pass the Pumpkin
We passed the pumpkin in my first group to help with turns... since everyone wanted to talk at once. A few struggled to share in English and I begged them to speak in Spanish so they could share comfortably. I always have some who can interpret.
I couldn't understand the words of one dear friend, but recognized the emotion when she began to tear up. "She's thankful, yet worried that she will soon be having a serious operation." Her friend explained. The group reacted quickly, surrounding her with words of support and hugs. Such sweet words... "You'll be fine, it will be okay!" "We have the best hospitals here!" And then a good bit of advice was shared, "And just remember, you'll be less scared if you face the surgery with a good sense of humor!"
My Last Group
My final group at the hospital, also shared positive words of thanks. Luckily there were no tears, but there was a moment that put a slight lump in my throat. "I'm just thankful every morning when I wake up... that I'm here another day!" The dear woman who spoke insisted she meant that. Then she smiled as if remembering. and began to sing the words of a hymn.
Suddenly her voice was signing a hymn that I didn't recognize. But the words about thanking God...waking up to a new day... were familiar to a few others who joined in. Sweet moment. Sweet memory.
Hats on the Quilt... and on the Head
Hats and More Hats!
I've never done a hat theme and I'm not sure why.
I only have about 100 hats, that mostly sit around collecting dust
We could have spent the whole 90 minutes just identifying hats and what kinds of people might wear them. But my first group was determined to do more than look at hats!
I hadn't planned a hat stacking contest. But with my new group at the hospital, I asked how many hats they thought I could balance on my head at once. They agreed on 7.
Then they chose hats, one by one until I had 14 hats on my head! Donna recommended I use a flat beret or two, since they stack well. "I used to have a whole drawer of those old tams!" She recalled.
I also cheated a little, by holding onto my stack.
We talked about hat boxes and quite a few of the ladies had one or more, tucked on closet shelves.
I remember my mother's hat boxes, but they always seemed to be storing other things, besides hats. I tricked all my groups by putting a miniature salesman's sample box and fedora into the mystery bag. "Guess what's inside? It has to do with hats." The small box that fits on the palm of my hand, was too hard for anyone to guess.
Hats Make People Happy
Hats really do make people playful. We laughed at each other and how funny we felt. Maybe that's why there is a tradition of cardboard hats at birthday and New Year's parties. Hats help break the ice, so we can hurry up and have a good time.
We laughed about how buying a hat was such a treat, back in the day. Lucy and Ethel often insisted they deserved the treat of buying a new hat, when they were frustrated with Ricky and Fred.
Sometimes it's more fun just trying on hats than buying them.
Brainstorming Book Characters with Hats
The Cat in the Hat was the most obvious, but many remembered others. Caps For Sale, is the book that inspired my hat stacking. Unlike the book character, I didn't try to sell the hats off my head.
Gretchen mentioned the Mad Hatter and even knew some of the history behind the term Mad Hatter. There was evidently a little something toxic used in the making of hats, back in the day.
If I'd packed only doll hats, my load would have been a lot easier to carry. These doll hats weren't as much fun to wear, but there were some inspiring ones.
The tiny bonnet with flowers got us discussing (and singing) "In Your Easter Bonnet" from the movie Easter Parade. A few folks had memories of seeing that historic parade in NYC, with women in their fancy hats strutting down 5th Avenue on Easter.
If only I'd had some newspaper handy, we could have folded ourselves some old-fashioned paper hats. Many remembered making them. I didn't have a cone-shaped party hat, but I had some other paper hats to share.
Most recognized the "boat-shaped" ones that you might see behind the counter of a soda fountain. Nobody had seen one quite like my paper top hat. That one was made for my son's graduation celebration. It featured about 50 photos of Scott over the years... wearing hats.
No one had real connections with top hats, except to remember Lincoln or a magician. But many of the women talked about the day, "A lady just didn't leave the house without a hat on... and it had to match your outfit!" Clara laughed about wearing a hat on the bus to work each day.
"The windows would be down, blasting hot wind throughout the bus and I'd have to hold that hat on my head the whole way!"
That thought brought up the discussion of hat pins! Ken reminded us all about how women used those pins as protection! I thought he was joking and I was reminded by many, that the pins were used for much more than pinning a hat to the head!
When I told the groups to "Pick a hat, any hat!" it was fun to see the kinds of hats everyone reached towards. Lottie and Carrie both talked fondly about their dads and cowboy hats. "My daddy always had a cowboy hat. He was very picky about it and never handled it by the top. Oh no, you didn't want to mess with that shape."
Dorothy pointed to the fedora and smiled. "My father always had a hat like that." Dot also pointed to the fedora. "My papa never left home without his hat."
Making and Finishing Hats
I showed pictures of The Man's Hat Shop in Albuquerque.
My husband and I stumbled upon this 59 year old store last fall and spent 90 minutes learning about hat making and hat history. Quite a few in the groups knew about the process of fitting and blocking hats.
Kids and Hats
We all remembered dressing up in hats as children, especially on Easter.
But some kids didn't like wearing anything on their heads. Ramona hated hats as a child. Her father made her wear a bonnet when she worked in the fields. I asked if that was because the sun was so hot.
"Oh no. My father didn't want us looking at the boys." She laughed.
Margaret and I both remembered forgetting our hats for Sunday mass. Sometimes we had to wear our father's handkerchief on our head. Lorrette
remembered putting handkerchiefs on the heads of her 7 children when they went to the beach.
She smiled remembering how cute they looked with the corners knotted to secure them from flying off. I so wish she could have shared a photo of that image.
Hats From Far Away
We talked about some of the most unusual hat styles, worn around the world today.
We wondered about the tradition of Peruvian woman wearing men's hats. We wondered about the woman pictured, with the note tucked into her hatband. That got one group pondering all the things that made hats useful... from hiding money... hiding your face... feeding your dog water...to juggling tricks!
Pictures of Hats
In all my photos and books, I didn't have one picture of a nurse's cap. But Dot described the one she wore for many years in great detail. "I still have my cap, on display in a glass case.
It was white with a black stripe. I kept it so clean and never pinned it to my head until I got to the hospital." That made me remember the cap that came with my toy nurse kit. It made us all kind of miss the days when nurses wore caps... and white stockings.
What Did I Learn?
Hats are fun... and funny. There's a serious side to hats if you discuss uniforms and usefulness. But for the most part hats make us feel good and they can make us laugh... at each other and ourselves!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.