uninvited odours

My grandma on my dad’s side was a great cook and known throughout the family for her dislike of garlic. I think she was convinced that it would “come out of the pores”, that you could smell it on her if she ate it. We all thought this was preposterous. WELL. Now suddenly I’m noticing it… I think her garlic affliction has caught up with me. Was she trying to warn us about a simple fact of life for some 30+ year olds? Were we all wrong? Not enthused.

Mom’s dry-transfer lettering sheets

Sheet of white dry-transfer type in 36pt Futura Bold

How to use instant lettering

  1. Remove blue backing paper and position sheet on working surface. Shade lightly over the letter with a ballpoint pen.
  2. Gently peel away sheet – the letter is now transferred. Repeat until your lettering is complete.
  3. Re-burnish through backing paper over copy for firmer adhesion.

Finally sat down to take pics of Mom’s old dry-transfer lettering.

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Nan-nan’s cupcakes

Looking through Nan-nan’s recipe books, the first thing that caught my eye was a recipe for cupcakes from her sister June, see below. I’ve preserved her notes and phrasing as much as possible but have adjusted certain elements to be more usable.

I’m an OK baker but more of a pies-and-cookies person. Every cake I’ve ever made seems a little meh. These were not meh, 10/10.


Cup Cakes

From June, Merle’s favorite. Good with baked icing or white fudge icing. Makes 12.

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).

In a large bowl, cream together ½ c (113 g) softened unsalted butter, 1 c (200 g) sugar, ½ t salt, and 1 t vanilla extract until very fluffy and light. Next, beat in 4 egg yolks until thick and light in color. In another bowl, sift together 2 c (230 g) all purpose flour and 2 t baking powder. In small, alternating amounts, add the flour mixture and ⅔ c (158 ml) milk to the butter mixture. Beat after each addition, until smooth.

Pour the batter in to a lined cupcake tin, filling each cup ⅔ of the way. Bake in a moderate oven, about 350F (175C), 25 to 30 minutes. Turn the tin once halfway through if you find one side is browning more than the other.

Additional notes

Note that the cupcake recipe originally calls for Spry, a vegetable shortening. I’ve substituted butter here since that’s what I’ve got.

The original recipe also specified 2 c of sifted flour, with an additional note that specified Gold Medal or Swans Down flour. Gold Medal is usually plain / all purpose flour, and Swans Down only produces cake flour AFAIK. This made determining the metric measurement kind of ambiguous, 2 c sifted all purpose flour is significantly different than cake flour. The measurement below worked well ultimately, but I’d like to try cake flour eventually so will need to keep this in mind.

She originally said it makes 18, but I found that it is much closer to 12 in a 12-cup cupcake tin with cups that measured 2″ (4.25 cm) in diameter across the base. The flour debacle might have caused the difference.

The cupcakes supposedly go well with “baked icing”, something I had never come across before. I tried it with baked frosting and failed *spectacularly*. I can see that it could be great though, kind of like a molasses-y meringue on top, so I’ll try again and note here if successful.

Nan-nan’s recipe books

Handwritten recipes by my paternal grandmother

My cousin kindly let me borrow my paternal grandmother’s cookbooks for the next few months until we meet again in August. One is a comb-bound cookbook assembled by the community of Worthington, OH. The other is more of a diary where she recorded her favourite recipes. I had NO idea that these books existed. I had always been told she didn’t keep track of her recipes, so this is pretty exciting.

It’s going to take a while to go through the cookbooks, so I took some rough photos of all of the spreads in case I don’t get through it all by the time I return them. It’s classic late 20th-century Midwestern fare. Most of the pages are dedicated to sweets of all sorts, and there are a fair few recipes that call for Velveeta cheese, Jello, or Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. I’ll probably steer clear of the gelatine “salads” and sadly have to avoid the cheesiest of things, but I’m up for everything else!

I’ll share some of Nan-nan’s recipes in future notes as I try them.

“How high were the bunks?” “Oh, probably about the length of your forearm.”

Grandpa showed me the album of his WWII photos and postcards when I got to see him at Christmas. I didn’t know it existed.

Grandpa couldn’t bring his camera with him when he was deployed, it would have been confiscated during inspection. Luckily his friend Renee Neuman brought his box camera when he came back from leave, so Grandpa got to borrow that sometimes. They developed the photos in soup bowls. He said that Neuman unfortunately passed about 5 years after returning from the war. I asked about the cause, but he said he wasn’t sure.

The photos here are all positioned in order on a single page captioned “Diving for movie film in 40 ft of water”. Grandpa laughed when describing it.

Their LST ran aground in Pearl Harbor, so they had to stay there for repairs. While there, another ship came along and they exchanged 35mm films. Unfortunately the film from the other ship fell in to the harbour. It wasn’t financially valuable, but very valuable in terms of morale so they asked tower to send a diver to recover the movie. The diver wasn’t happy, he had been at a party, but he did recover the film.

Most of the photos in the album are of Grandpa and the others from his ship doing jobs here and there or “just horsing around” as he said. There was a lot of down time. There are a few landscapes of Hawaii, Guam, the Kwajalein Atoll, and the Enewetak Atoll. Some are in the aftermath of a tsunami. There were also some intense images towards the end of the album, hard to tell if they were photos or postcards. Some would be pretty gruesome for postcards, others were of the signing of the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri. At any rate, Grandpa said he hadn’t taken those final album images. He developed a bunch of negatives for other people, so if these weren’t postcards then they may have been copies of others’ photographs.

There were two photos of a large cemetery in Guam with many small Christian grave markers. Grandpa had gone to school with one of the men buried there, he and Grandma had gone to senior prom with this boy and his date. After graduation, he went in to the Marines and was killed. Grandpa took photos of the grave for the man’s family.

Grandpa carried a pocket-sized spiral bound photo album with him throughout WWII filled with photos of family and friends, but mostly of Grandma. It’s very worn apart now. The sleeve with the photo of Grandma and him in his uniform also includes a pressed four leaf clover and a Japanese stamp.

In the back of the main album, there was originally a college photo of Grandma with a gardenia behind her ear. That’s on the wall of his apartment now, with other family photos.

Effie Bradley’s memoranda

Over the holidays, Grandpa showed me Effie Bradley’s daily memoranda. Effie was his grandma on his mother’s side, so my great-great grandmother. I asked if Effie was short for anything, he wasn’t sure. It may have been Euphemia, but maybe Effie wasn’t a nickname.

The relative that typed up the memoranda was June Bradley Piper, Grandpa’s double cousin. Double cousins are related via both parents (two brothers partnering with two sisters). I’d never heard of that before. I think June was named after Grandpa’s paternal grandfather June Piper. I didn’t know June was used as a male name. Via Wikipedia: “As a boy’s name, June reached a peak in 1922 at 697th, but then also declined and left the top 1000 list in 1939.”

Read Effie Bradley’s January 1902 memoranda

a little tired, but up and up

I’ve been behind. The past two months haven’t been great. But things are looking better, and the holidays couldn’t have come at a better time. We were in the US this time around, got to see more friends and family than I could have hoped. Here are some of the things we got up to.

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Thanksgiving 2018 notes

Grandma’s holiday open house notes

After a rotten week health-wise, it was really nice to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving yesterday with a few friends. The image here is one of Grandma Piper’s very many post-party notes, a sort of debrief she wrote to herself about what she made and what she might change next time. This particular page seems to be her neighbourhood holiday open house plan from early December 1971 for around 110 guests (guest list is on reverse). I expect she found these notes super useful, particularly since she seemed to keep every single one of them.

Here’s what I made this year, documented for a similar purpose.

Read Thanksgiving 2018 notes