Casserole Queen

Casserole Queen

Not everything retro needs to return and the highly processed casserole or hot dish is one that needs to remain in the past.  My mom was the casserole queen of Main Street (we really did live on Main Street) in Anytown, USA in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Give mom a pantry stocked with Campbell’s Soup, a freezer full of Birds Eye vegetables and a protein and she had a hearty meal on the table in 30 minutes or less.  Oh, yeah, don’t forget the carb (rice, noodles, or biscuit).

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Queen of the Casserole

Casserole was her nightly “go-to” for this busy working mom due to its versatility, as well as the time-saving aspect of literally throwing everything in the ingredient pool at once. But most importantly how economical these oven-baked creations were for her raising a family of four kids, three of the growing boy, eating machine variety.  Casseroles were everywhere back then.  In school lunches, at potluck dinners and always at church suppers. Taste was never the point, it was how quickly and cheaply, it could get to the table.  These dishes were so full of salt and other highly addictive, unnatural, preservatives that we soon grew to love, crave, the comforting taste of the goo.

Recipes from Attendees at my Wedding Shower

I still love the stuff. Green bean casserole anyone?  But I no longer use canned soup (RM still tries to slip celery and mushroom soup into the pantry), use more fresh vegetables and limit the fat, sugar and salt content in our dishes. I still make some of the old dishes especially the ones from my hand-written or typed recipe collection but I have found ways to lighten them up and get rid of all the preservatives.

The first dish I learned to make in my youth was a goulash casserole.  Mom’s recipe went like this:

Brown two pounds of ground beef.  Add one can of tomato paste, one can of mushroom soup, one can of corn, 1 /2 lb. of Velveeta, liberal dash of salt, pepper, paprika (it’s why we called it goulash) and cooked egg noodles.  Place in your Corningware French White casserole dish (still have one) and bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.  What’s not love?  It’s a heart stopper!

Other favorites from her recipe box included tuna casserole with canned peas, tuna, celery soup and generous amounts of Miracle Whip with those same egg noodles and bake it until heated through. Or my personal favorite — hotdog casserole made with cut up hot dogs, chopped bacon, canned baked beans, dollops of catsup, mustard and Worcestershire (say that three times fast) sauce, and topped with slices of American cheese. Bake until processed cheese is melted and browned. Takes less than 30 minutes. Good gracious those hot dishes were good. Good eating!  Easy fixing! As the ad below reinforced. And so bad.

To my mother’s credit, she learned that cooking like this was harmful to our health and she changed our diets considerably in the late 70’s with weekly, scratch made bread, Czech-style noodles and yogurt, seeking out local, farm raised eggs and chickens, and lots of dark greens from her garden including tons of fresh herbs.  So like her, let’s leave these greasy gratins and other overly processed colon clogging combinations behind us, where they must stay, for the sake of our hearts, and only in our memories.

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What would Mom say?

What would Mom say?

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Mom worked full-time while raising four children and she wanted it to be easier for me than it was for her. When I was in high school, she bought me a t-shirt that said, “A Woman’s Place is in the House and the Senate” and I recall both positive and negative remarks from teachers and classmates when I proudly wore it to school. Mom was a proud feminist, subscribed to Ms. magazine, and referred to herself as a member of the “women’s libber movement“.

I remember conversations with my Mom about discriminatory work practices that were so common in her generation and still in mine.  I was sexually harassed when I was younger.  I was french kissed by one boss while still in high school and in another, whistled at and catcalled every time I walked out on a factory floor. Female co-workers would warn me about certain male bosses not to accept lunch invitations from.  When I had a joint banking account with my husband at a local credit union in the 80’s, I wasn’t allowed to conduct certain financial transactions because he was listed as the “primary” on the account.

Mom shared a ridiculous story about when she smoked in her early twenties, which was in the 1950’s, that she had to do so in the basement of her own home because good wives of teachers didn’t smoke in public or were even seen smoking through their own home windows.

Mom was my role model.  She showed me how to  juggle career and family on a daily basis, how to get organized, how to manage my time, how to carve out small moments for self-care, how to stand up for myself and how to ask for help and get it. She helped many women and children in her career in social services trying to reduce barriers, provide support, and improve the human condition.

I know Mom would be surprised by today’s attacks on human rights and would support a renewed wave of support for all to include policies to:

  • pay the same as men do for the same job
  • recognize and value doing so much of the hard work required or expected of raising children
  • become much better at supporting working women, and mothers
  • support choices
  • control our own destiny in this world, without regard to our gender, race and physical appearance

Mom died a long time ago when I was in my 30’s. What would Mom say if she was alive today?

I know she would be shocked at current events especially the hate talk, backtracking on human rights and loss of decorum in our government leaders.  She would say – you can do and be better.

Colored Pencils

Colored Pencils

When I was a little girl, left in the care of my father, he would often take me along with him to work on week-ends and during the summer months.  His job at the time was principal of small rural high school. About the size of Brock for those readers from Texas.

I tagged along behind him trying to keep up with the strides of a 6’4″ rather imposing figure as we entered the empty halls of the deserted school building.  Dad’s job entailed it all — from distributing the mail, to scheduling the basic repairs and maintenance for the building during down time, to hiring all the staff, and to communicating with parents about future school plans and concerns. He would point me in the direction of an empty desk in the office, give me a box of colored pencils and some white copy paper to keep me quiet while he completed his tasks at hand, often leaving me alone in the office while he was in other parts of the building or chatting with the custodial staff or coaches.

My dad, before his job as a principal, was a biology teacher.  He loved to explain to me why my eyes were blue, just like his,while mom’s were green.  While he was not an especially artistic person, he did show me how to draw amoebas which I did with great attention to detail using many different shades of color and combinations.  I didn’t know at the time what all these amoeba parts were called or their function but I imagined chocolate chip cookies, suns and planets inside a lake.  My dad encouraged my creativity and gave me the gift of time and an important parenting technique that I call,  benign neglect.  I spent quite a few hours drawing amoebas of varying sizes and shapes, often stopping to sharpen my pencil on the wall-mounted sharpener next to my desk.amoeba-coloring1

Practicing benign neglect as a parent is not about abdicating responsibility, ignoring limits, or letting go of all boundaries. On the contrary. It is about creating clear limits and boundaries, which all children need (I knew not to leave the office except to go down the hall to the bathroom) allowing for enough freedom within those limits for true learning to occur. It is about watching and waiting and being intentional in the ways we intervene. It’s about allowing our children to feel some discomfort, letting them struggle, and helping them work through it. It is about loving them enough to let them experience the world in a way that lets them grow and learn, even when, with every fiber of our being, we want to shield and protect them from the bumps and bruises they will get along the way.

So in 2017, give a kid a little benign neglect (the only love I know): a packet of colored pencils, blank paper, a quiet corner and see what they create.

Happy Birthday, Michael

Happy Birthday, Michael

It’s your birthday!  Hope your day is grand and sorry I won’t be there to celebrate with you, in Alabama,  but wanted to tell you how much I love you.  You may not know this but I always compared the boys I dated … to you.  Were they kind?  Were they thoughtful? Did they look like Mark Spitz like you do?

Seriously, though, your virtues are ones to admire.  You are patient, you are thoughtful, you grow great vegetables, you are wise, you take care of family business like a champ, and you like to drink peppermint tea and wear a Henley-style cotton night-shirt to bed every night. How sweet is that?  You love your wife and children and put them first in all you do.

We are family.  You understand why we I can’t tolerate wearing turtlenecks because you can’t either, you like tuna melts, and remember dinners of pink bunny or chipped dried beef (do they make that crap, anymore?) over toast. Good god, no wonder in our later years we have to watch our cholesterol intake.  Hard to believe you are a grandpa and living the life of a retired, gentlemen farmer along the Tennessee River now.  Thank you for being my big brother, so much older than I, and Happy Birthday and many more.  Can’t wait to age gracefully, and healthfully, together with you.

Go Cubs Go!

Go Cubs Go!

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Curse of the Billy Goat

My long departed grandfather Hauck and my dad, H.H., are definitely in our family’s thoughts, memories and hopes as we are glued to our screens and devices (no longer tubes), spread out across this great nation, cheering on the Cubbies, each and every game, of the 2016 World Series between the beloved Cubs and the Cleveland Indians.  Game 5 in Wrigley Field was a nail biter played on a bitter cold night but last night, with much balmier conditions for baseball in Cleveland, the Cubs came out swinging and hitting the ball out of the park, for the first time in the series. The Cleveland Indian pitchers have dominated to this point but Bryant, Rizzo and Russell came out sizzling last night like young boys just released from school for a summer of sandlot baseball on the near North Side.   Who knows, who cares, why they came unleashed last night to score nine runs, just that they are finally hitting the ball and getting on base to make wins happen for their loyal fans and for once and for all, to dispel the Curse of the Billy Goat.

My dad loved the tell us the story of the curse.  It goes like this:  Due to the wartime travel restrictions, the first three games of the 1945 World Series were played in Detroit, where the Cubs won two games.  The final four were played at Wrigley. In game four of the series, the curse was allegedly laid upon the Cubs when Wrigley ejected Billy Sianis, who had come to game four with two box seat tickets, one for him and one for his goat. They paraded around for a few innings, but Wrigley demanded the goat leave the park due to its unpleasant odor. Upon his ejection, Sianis uttered, “The Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” The Cubs lost game four, lost the series, and did not return until this year’s series.

The Cubs this season are in good company with other teams in the playoffs that have suffered droughts nd share curses.  The Indians have a legend of the curse of Chief Wahoo which they too are trying to live down.   While the Cubs have not won the series since 1908, Cleveland’s last world series win was in 1948, the year my dad graduated from high school. So whatever the outcome of the series, the winner will no longer carry a curse and their long-suffering fans will celebrate in the streets of their home town.  Let it be Chicago, this time around. Grandpa and Dad will be watching and cheering them on.

“Go Cubs Go” Lyrics

Baseball season’s underway

Well you better get ready for a brand new day

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today.

They’re singing …

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today.

They got the power, they got the speed

To be the best in the National League

Well this is the year and the Cubs are real

So come on down to Wrigley Field.

We’re singing now …

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today.

Baseball time is here again

You can catch it all on WGN

So stamp your feet and clap your hands

Chicago Cubs got the greatest fans.

You’re singing now …

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today

Go, Cubs, go

Go, Cubs, go

Hey, Chicago, what do you say

The Cubs are gonna win today.

Halloween Memories

Halloween Memories

My mother often made popcorn balls from scratch the night of Halloween to coax me to stay in and not roam the neighborhood with my brothers and friends.  I think she worried they did more tricking than treating and she didn’t want the daughter of the high school principal to get into too much mischief.  Of course, I was nearly four years younger than my closest sibling and neighborhood friends so maybe she just feared for my life.

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C2 in a a clown outfit

In small towns, tricking residents and businesses was epic back in my childhood.  Helions soaped front windows with spooky and sometimes naughty words, kids stole rotting veggies from local gardens to hurl at one another and often the local school (or home of a school administrator) was a target for the most grievous offenses.  When I was in high school, some kids (still not naming the culprits) stole nearly all of the pumpkins in town and lined them up on the roof just above the entry to the gymnasium.  Too bad we didn’t have cell phones to capture that impressive field of orange when we entered the school-house doors the next morning.  Or capture on video the act in the making.  All we have are our memories and every time I get back with my high school friends, the story gets richer and the number of pumpkins pulled up on the roof gets bigger.

My dad, a school official, was not a fan of these tricks since they bordered on (ok, maybe they crossed over) breaking a local ordinance.  And he had the responsibility of upholding law and order.  That part of his job stunk for us Hauck kids.  But we still managed to pull a few tricks of our own. I think, unfortunately, that today Halloween is so much less about our youth and so much more of an adult party. Although, I understand why many of us still enjoy the fun of dressing up for Halloween (see evidence below). But what happened to crafting your own costume and repurposing it for multiple children?  Growing up, we had a box of costumes and leftover accessories that Mom brought out a few days before Halloween and then expected her children to design something suitable to wear out for trick-or-treating from these disparate parts.   Unfortunately, the sum of the parts didn’t make for the whole, so we often resembled a homeless person or a zombie but hey, it was our own.

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Never too old to dress up?

This year on Ashland, we are focusing on the little ones on our block and hoping to make this year, trick-or-treating, door-to-door the nexus of the Halloween experience. And we will have a hand-carved pumpkin lit and waiting for the little ones.  RM and I always make the kids tell us about their costume before they get their candy.  We think we are teaching them the art of communication and a little bit of practice at delayed satisfaction.  They think it is torture.

We have a few tricks up or sleeve this year and I will be making popcorn balls.  Can you say, “BOO”!

Popcorn Balls 

  • 1/4 cup Peanut Oil
  • 6 Tablespoons Popcorn Kernels
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 6 ounces, weight Mini Marshmallows (about Half A Package)
  • 1 cup Shelled Unsalted Peanuts or Pistachios
  • Cooking Spray

INSTRUCTIONS

Add the oil to a medium saucepan (one that has a tight-fitting lid) over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn and shake the pan gently to make sure the kernels are coated. When the oil starts to sizzle, but before the corn starts popping, add the sugar to the pan. Shake the pan again, and when the first couple of kernels pop, place the lid on the pan and shake the pan gently with the other hand while you hold the lid in place. Keep doing this as the popcorn pops, until the popping slows down.

When almost all the kernels have popped, pour the popcorn onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, separating the kernels slightly with a spatula or spoon. Let the popcorn cool slightly.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a separate pot over low heat. Add the marshmallows, stirring as they melt. Stir it to combine.

Remove the pot from the heat and add the popcorn to the pot, stirring immediately to coat it as quickly as possible. Right after stirring, add the peanuts and stir until nuts are totally worked in.

Spray your hands lightly with cooking spray and form the popcorn mixture into individual balls 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Set them aside and let them cool and set completely! Serve at room temperature.

Happy Halloween Y’all!  

Santa Fe All the Way

Santa Fe All the Way

Today, I am featuring a guest blogger, my long departed paternal grandfather, Lawrence E. Hauck,  who passed away in 1979.  He wrote this article, most likely in the 1960’s, for the Santa Fe Magazine, published date unknown.   I would like to think that Grandpa would have taken naturally to blogging and social media as is evident of his interest, through hamming, to connect his thoughts, reflections and experiences with his “new friends” hundreds of miles from his rather isolated home in Newton, Kansas.

Glimpses Into Amateur Radio Stations, Owned and Operated by Our Employees, Who Nightly Explore the Lower Wave Lengths in Search of New Friends and New Adventures

by Lawrence E. Hauck who owned Station W9CYV

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Granpa’s Station squeezed into a second floor bedroom. The transmitter and power supply are built in the large rack at the right.  At the left can be seen the four-tube screen grid receiver and loud speaker.  This is a ten-watt station, power supplied by a step-up transformer from the city current.

Many of our employees, tired from the day’s work, go home, drop into an easy chair and snap on the radio, little dreaming that far below the range of scheduled programs there is a new world, inhabited by thousands of amateur operators, a vast army of friendly “hams” (as they prefer to be called) who nightly split the ether with the vibrant scream of their code signals, chatting with friends miles away, whom they have never seen, handling messages of a noncommercial nature, or swapping information about the weather, the girl friend, or the intensity of the ever-prevailing static.

The radio amateurs of the United States, sixteen thousand of them, enjoy perhaps the most fascinating and yet the least known of hobbies.  The public is privileged to gaze upon the efforts of the golfer or the stamp collector, but the radio amateur enjoys his hobby in an isolated upstairs room or basement nook, surrounded by a maze of wires and a barricade of equipment, where he can “pound brass” (operate) to his heart’s content.

The neighbors may view his squirrel cage aerial swinging from the mast, high above his house, and comment wonderingly on the necessity for such a contraption to bring the radio programs, and the postman may stare bewildered at the flood of postcards with strange call-letters on them which are delivered daily to the “ham’s” residence but generally speaking the public is scarcely aware of his hobby.

To tell about the growth and development of amateur radio would require more space than is available; sufficient to say, however, that no sooner had Marconi announced the first successful transmission of wireless signals, than a group of interested experimenters became bent on duplicating the feat, improving on his apparatus and extending its possibilities, not for monetary gain, but purely for the sake of the experiment.  Their number has grown to thousands.

The United States government, immediately after the World War, began granting licenses to all who could pass the required examination, free of charge, and this practice is continued today.  In order to operate an amateur radio station it is only necessary to have a working knowledge of the apparatus you wish to use, ability to send and receive Continental Morse code at ten words a minute, and a thorough knowledge of the international laws governing radio communication, such as preference to SOS calls and other rules too numerous to mention here.  Once the applicant passed the examination and secured his operator’s license and his station license and call letters, he can design and build his own transmitter an “get on the air.”

The government has allocated six different wave bands for amateur use:  160, 80, 40, 20, 10 and 5 meters, respectively and of this group the 40-meter band (7,000 kilocycles) is the most popular.  On this wave length static moderate even in the hot summer months, and radio signals carry like wildfire with a minimum amount of power.  On this band only code signals are allowed.  In other words, the operator is allowed to connect up a microphone and transmit speech, although the voice may be used on some of the other allotted wave lengths.

It might be well to clear up a point here:  in this connection many people think of code signals as “wireless” and programs or speech as “radio”.  This is a false interpretation, your radio set, placed in the parlor and used for receiving programs, is just as much a wireless set as is radio set used to receive code signals.  Radio and wireless are one and the same thing, but there are different kinds of signals, code and phonetic,  The majority of amateurs prefer to use code because of the greater distance that can be covered with a small amount of power.

During the past eight or ten years I have talked to hundreds of other amateurs throughout the United States, and it was a natural curiosity that led me to inquire as to the vocations of these “hams” when they were not tinkering with their radio equipment during their leisure hours.  Being a Santa Fe employee, naturally I was interested in communicating with other Santa Fe men who were located in other cities along the line, and to my surprise I discovered that many of these stations are operated by our employees, who enjoy amateur radio as a hobby.

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Ham operator, Lawrence Hauck, transmitting code to fellow Santa Fe employees and friends