Category Archives: Artifacts – Heirlooms

Family Heirloom: Gift Book for Christmas

This post is dedicated to those of us who are tempted to give an Amazon gift card for a present. Here is a hint on how to make a gift book into a family heirloom.

My Gift Book

Our family frequently gave gift books for Christmas presents.  My mother and father almost always wrote inscriptions in the front of the book and dated and signed them.  I treasure those gifts, particularly this one which probably accounted in large part for my life long fascination with Greece and the culture of the Golden age.  I read that book so much that the hard cover is long gone.  Here is the title page, and the very treasured inscription written by my father, Christmas 1947 when I was eight years and nine months old.

Grandma Vera’s Gift Book

What a nice surprise it was to discover that this tradition went back two generations before me. I found books that my great-grandmother, Harriet Morgan Stout gave to my grandmother and to my great-uncle–writing an inscription in each.  Even more fun, my Grandmother, Vera Stout (Anderson) did what many young people do–she “wrote” on the pages. The inscription indicates that she would have been six years old when she received this book, but the book seems a bit young for a six-year-old, and she surely would have known better than to draw in a book by that age!

The book is beautifully illustrated and teaches us much about how children dressed and what they played with. Some things have not changed–skipping rope and blowing bubbles. Some toys have disappeared–whipping tops and hoops.

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Great-Uncle Will’s Gift Book

Vera’s older brother William Morgan Stout (Willy or Will), received a very different book for Christmas 1886 when he was 13.  The inscription is in the handwriting of my great-grandmother, but my mother added the “age 13”.

Review of Davy and the Goblin in American Magazine advertising section January 1888.

Review of Willy's Book

Review of Davy and the Goblin in January 1888 issue of The American Magazine.

This is a very odd book. The author, Charles Carryl, was known as the Lewis Carroll of America–writing humorous fantasy, perhaps as an escape from his day job as a stock broker.

This book published in 1894, obviously aims to cash in on the popularity of Alice In Wonderland which was first published in 1865, and continued to be a best seller.  Carryl tells some original stories, like Davy’s confrontation with the giant Badorful, but he also riffs on familiar tales like Sinbad the Sailor, Jack and the Bean Stalk, and Robinson Crusoe.

The illustrations are black and white, but surely would appeal to an adventure-minded young man.  Thirteen year olds today might find this a bit young for them, but I can imagine my great-uncle “Willy” eating it up.

Willy's gift book.

Willy Stout’s gift book, Davy and the Goblin meet Giant Badorful, 1887

I post this in the hope that it will influence you not only to give books to family members, but always, ALWAYS, write the date, their name, an inscription and your name. It will enhance the value of the book in the century or two to come.  Amazon gift certificates may disappear in the cloud, but books will stick around for a long, long time.

A Slice of My Life: A Very Special Christmas Gift

Christmas Scarf

Knit Scarf heirloom Christmas gift.

Really? 1986?  I got this keepsake Christmas gift thirty years ago??

Yes, it is true.  I have not had occasion to wear it in southern Arizona, I seldom have to swaddle in a woolen scarf. And on those rare occasions when I did wear a warm scarf, I chose one in colors that I like better than green.

But of course this is green–it is a Christmas gift.  And a very special one at that.

Christmas Scarf

Both ends of Christmas scarf from president Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan , 1986

Nancy Reagan sent it to me as a reminder of our meeeting at the White House.  Me and several thousand other people.  The party I attended was just one of a dozen or so Christmas parties given by the President and his wife each year.

In 1986, I was working for Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona.  When he got his invitation to the White House Christmas party that year, his wife, Sarah Dinham, was unable to fly from Tucson to Washington D.C. to attend, so he needed “a date.”  I was the lucky choice of staff members.  I flew into Washington from Tucson where I headed up the District Office, and spent a few days on Congressional office business with some excursions for Christmas shopping at the Smithsonian Museum gift shops.

However, the highlight of the week was getting all dressed up and going to the White House.  Several weeks before, we had to submit my name, address and social security number to the White House so that the Secret Service could be sure I was not a menace.  We arrived that evening and passed through a metal detector and a cordon of watchful men in suits and uniformed marines.

We made our way up the grand staircase to the main level.  At the top of the stairs, president Ronald Reagan and Mrs. Regan stood shaking hands with every guest that came into the hallway.  The President was as friendly as his familiar smile and his warmth took away some of the nervous feeling of actually being a guest at the White House.

It was an interesting moment when Jim Kolbe introduced me to the President.  He used my nickname, Bunny, which all my life I thought I would shed when I became a real adult. After that evening, my fate was sealed. I had been introduced to the President of the United States by that silly child’s name.  I knew I was fated to be known by some people as Bunny for the rest of my life.

Nancy Reagan left quite a different impression than president Reagan. Many people comment about how tiny she was–particularly standing next to the robust “cowboy” figure of Ronald Reagan.  But despite being beautiful and tiny as a doll, Mrs. Reagan, while formally correct, did not radiate the warmth that her husband did. In fact, as she limply shook my hand, she was quite obviously looking over my shoulder to see if there wasn’t somebody more important coming.

There were quite literally hundreds of people packing the Blue room, the Red room, the Green Room, the Grand Foyer, the enormous East room and every hallway in between. After all there are 535 members of Congress and each attendee brought a guest.  Even the most jaded old- timers could not pass up the opportunity to be able to chat with old friends and frenemies at the White House.  Some probably even had plans for lobbying the President on some pending piece of legislation.

Since my Congressional “date” was an old hand at visiting the White House, he graciously asked me what I wanted to do.  Without hesitation, I told him that I wanted to be able to meet George Bush, then the vice president.  We wove our way through the crowd, Jim stopping to chat with Congressional friends, and then I spotted George Bush.  He towered above the crowd–people don’t always realize how tall he really is.

When we got there, the two men–Kolbe and Bush are two of the most gracious men I ever met–had a semi-awkward moment.  Jim, trying to make sure that Bush would not be embarrassed by assuming that I was Jim’s wife, stumbled over an introduction in which he wanted to say “Mr. Vice President, this is Bunny Badertscher, my chief of staff, not my wife, who had business in Tucson.”  Instead, he only got out, “This is not my wife….” when the vice president enveloped me in a hug and said, “Oh, that’s all right!”

Our conversation was brief because a mob formed around the vice president, but I was satisfied that I had been able to say hello to the man I admired.

Reagan Christmas Tree

The Reagans in front of the Christmas Tree in the Blue Room in 1986

I am sorry to say I do not remember a lot of the details. There were tables of refreshments in the East room where the Marine band was playing and we even managed to dance briefly. The towering official Christmas tree was decorated with vintage children’s toys that year, I believe. [Click on the photo to see the real story–I was close–it was Mother Goose characters.]Gorgeous decorations filled every room, but is all a blur–a blur of faces and bodies filling every foot of floor space.

And I got a keepsake Christmas gift to prove that it was not just a dream, but a real Cinderella experience.

———-

Details of a 2016 White House Christmas party for the volunteers who did the decorating.

Mrs. Beeton’ s Rice Cakes

 

Rice flour cookies

Gluten Free Rice cakes or biscuits or cookies.

When I offered a plate of these little cookies to a friend and assured her that Mrs. Beeton’s rice cakes are gluten free, she asked in surprise, “Mrs. Beeton had gluten-free recipes?”

Well, yes and no.  The recipe was certainly not labeled as gluten free, so it is almost an accident that it fits with one of the dietary concerns that people have in the 21st century. Do they look like sugar cookies? They also taste pretty much like sugar cookies, but that term was not in use yet, so they were called “cakes.” Or if you’re British and persist in calling cookies biscuits–that’s possible, too.

Isabella Beeton

Isabella Beeton (1836-65). Hand-tinted albumen print, Scanned from Colin Ford’s Julia Margaret Cameron: 19th Century Photographer of Genius, ISBN 1855145065. Originally from: National Portrait Gallery. Public Domain

The British wife of a publisher wrote Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. When the book packed with helpful hints and recipes was first published in 1861, it quickly achieved block-buster success. Isabel Mayton Beeton’s book sold two million copies in its first seven years in print.

Do you remember Hints From Heloise, newspaper column from the 50s and 60s?  Mrs. Beeton’s book combines practical hints worthy of Heloise, or a Family Circle magazine along with detailed recipes and small essays on food worth of today’s staple of the kitchen, Joy of Cooking. Like Heloise, Isabella Beeton’s book was first published as monthly installments in a magazine, and later compiled in a book.

The book was not necesssarily written with you in mind.  The full title is:

The Book of Household Management Comprising information for the Mistress,Housekeeper, Cook, Kitchen-Maid, Butler,Footman, Coachman, Valet, Upper and Under House-Maids, Lady’s-Maid, Maid-of-all-Work,Laundry-Maid, Nurse and Nurse-Maid, Monthly Wet and Sick Nurses, etc. etc.—also Sanitary, Medical, & Legal Memoranda: with a History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all Things Connected with Home Life and Comfort.

So while the Mistress of the house was included, it appears that Mrs. Beeton had in mind a book that would help the mistress (Upstairs) in the instruction of her many servants (Downstairs). It is ironic that this class-concious book was embraced by the do-it-yourself ground breaking women of America as well as the British aristocracy.

I hold Isabella Beeton in high regard. A person setting out to write a book this comprehensive today would have a staff of a dozen. And she incorporated so many innovations.  Just think what she might have accomplished, had she not died in 1865, when she was only twenty-eight years old. But her book goes on and on.

Although Mary Morgan would not have had the book in her kitchen in the 40’s and 50’s, it is appropriate because Mrs. Beeton would have been writing about tried and true techniques that had been around for a while. Cooking equipment had not changed much by the 1860s.

Mrs. Beeton’s Recipe

Her recipe for Rice Biscuits or Cakes is a typical example of the detail she goes into, even in a very simple recipe.  Each recipe is numbered, and they are arranged by category. This one comes in Chapter 35, Breads, Biscuits and Cakes, under the heading Baking: Recipes. (As opposed to Baking: General.)

Mrs. Beeton pioneered the now-familiar technique of separating the list of ingredients and the method of preparation.  She goes a step further and tells you how long it will take, what it will cost and how much it makes.  Thank goodness Bob’s Red Mill makes rice flour for me, so I don’t need to make my own. But if I did–Mrs. Beeton to the rescue.  She even is aware of her International audience–British and American. What a woman!

1746. INGREDIENTS – To every 1/2 lb. of rice-flour allow 1/4 lb. of pounded lump sugar, 1/4 lb. of butter, 2 eggs.

Mode.—Beat the butter to a cream, stir in the rice-flour and pounded sugar, and moisten the whole with the eggs, which should be previously well beaten. Roll out the paste, shape it with a round paste-cutter into small cakes, and bake them from 12 to 18 minutes in a very slow oven.

Time.—12 to 18 minutes. Average cost, 9d.

Sufficient to make about 18 cakes. Seasonable at any time.

GROUND RICE, or rice-flour, is used for making several kinds of cakes, also for thickening soups, and for mixing with wheaten flour in producing Manna Kroup. The Americans make rice-bread, and prepare the flour for it in the following manner:—When the rice is thoroughly cleansed, the water is drawn off, and the rice, while damp, bruised in a mortar: it is then dried, and passed through a hair sieve.

My Modern Adaptation

Although the cookies melt in your mouth and are satisfyingly sugary, I found them to be quite bland, and am looking forward to trying them again with a little more flavor–like lemon rind, cocoa or even cardamon.

But nothing could be simpler than these little cookies. Just four ingredients, stir, cut, bake, and eat.

Mrs. Beeton’s Rice Cakes

Serves 12
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 40 minutes
Allergy Egg
Dietary Gluten Free
Meal type Dessert, Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable
From book Mrs. Beeton's Household Management
Only four ingredients in this mid-19th century recipe for cookies made with rice flour. Yes, they are gluten free.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rice flour (white or brown rice flour)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4lb butter (salted)
  • 2 eggs (medium--not jumbo)

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees
2. Beat butter until creamy.
3. Stir in 1 1/2 C rice flour and the sugar.
4. Beat eggs, and mix enough into flour mixture to make a soft, moist dough. Add more rice flour, a Tablespoon at a time, if necessary.
5. Chill dough briefly
6. Roll or pat out dough on floured (with rice flour) surface. Cut with round cookie cutter or glass.
7. Move cookies with spatula to lightly greased bakig pan. Sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar if desired.
8. Bake 12-18 minutes at 350 degrees.

Note

If you use unsalted butter in the rice cakes, be sure to add a pinch of salt.

The dough for the rice cakes will be easier to handle if you chill it before patting or rolling. My dough was far too sticky to roll, so I just patted it out.

This dough is very delicate, so I do not recommend using fancy shapes--just round rice cakes.

This makes a rather small bunch of cookies.

If you wish, sprinkle sugar or cinnamon sugar on top before the cookies go in the oven.

Since the rice cakes are a little bland,you can experiment with other flavors, such as a little lemon rind, a few drops of peppermint extract or some cocoa powder, but don't tell Mrs. Beeton. That lady did not even use any vanilla for flavoring in these "cakes."

HEIRLOOM

The cookies are pictured on a delicate hand-crocheted doiley that I love.   Unfortunately, I do not know who made this doiley.  Best candidates are two aunts on my father’s side of the family--Irene Bucklew or Blanche Kaser.  Aren’t those pansies adorable? Every time I see this, I have a pang of regret that doileys have fallen out of favor in our no-nonsense age.