Thursday, April 09, 2015

Family, A Cookbook, Tears + A Project for You to Do

How's your week going? Mine is zipping by. It is still very cold and there is barely a touch of green. The ground is covered with ice and it looks white. The yearlings are continuing to lamb and we have about 40 lambs in the pasture in front of our Farmhouse.

How do you like the new blog header? It is a photo by Rikki Snyder taken during the shoot for my new book Crafting a Colorful Home. I wrote about the Seller's Cabinet which I painted bright orange on this post. I love this photo - it includes a photo of my Grandmother Frieda and the Family Cookbook we wrote together in the early 1980's. I was the editor and she was the author. Guess this book thing goes way back with me - self-publishing before most people did it. 

Over the Easter weekend, we were lucky to see some of my extended family. Only 4 of Julia's cousins made the day. They are growing up and scattering far and wide and finding their way. Ohhhh, I wish them all the luck in the world. I hope they know how much I love them all. I can't wait to see what they do with themselves. 

My niece Olivia is graduating university this year. Olivia has been majoring in Art and she had to build a website for her portfolio. You can see it here. Julia, my Mom, and I are planning a visit to Philadelphia in a few weeks to visit her over spring break.

A few weeks ago, Olivia asked me about her Great Grandmother Frieda Roessler Nicholas who I wrote the Family Cookbook with. She was beginning work on a big project and had some thoughts and questions for me. I told her I had an audio tape of Gram and that she might like to listen to it. I had to find it - that took a few hours! And then I had to figure out how to digitally tape it (I used Garageband but don't ask me how I got it to work!). I didn't know what Olivia would do with the tape or how she would use it in her project. When my sister Laurie sent me the link to Livvie's website, I found this animated video. 

Olivia used a photo of Gram as a young girl from the cookbook (it is low quality - it was xeroxed!). She did stop motion embroidery and added other little bits of embroidery and drawing. She added audio of Gram beating her Christmas Stollen. At the end, there is audio of me and Gram talking. Fantastic job Olivia. Do you notice the embroidered flames? 

As I was digitally taping the audio of me and Gram talking from the squeaky tape on an old tape recorder, it brought me back to the day I was with Gram. I wanted to have an oral history of her life. We started out the day with her making her Christmas Stollen so that I would have a clue of how to make it. Then, while the dough was rising, I asked her questions about her life. 

I remember this day as if it were yesterday (it was 35 years ago). We sat on her sunporch at her house at 13 Conger Street on her Lloyd loom wicker furniture which she had paid me to recover the 13 cushions as a way to earn some money. Gram recounted her life in Germany, coming to America when she was ten years old, her courtship with her husband Archie (who I never knew because he died before my Mom and Dad ever met), and her life in Dover, NJ. It was a cold November day with gray skies. I remember this because the Family Cookbook was a Christmas Gift for my Gram's Grandchildren. I wanted to include current photos of Gram. I took two rolls of black and white film as Gram talked and baked. For the life of me now I cannot find them. They are here somewhere, I hope. 

Friend Roessler Nicholas + Her Christmas Stollen
This past Easter weekend, my sisters, Mom, and my nieces were talking about the Cookbook Project. I was unemployed, looking for work after graduating with my Masters Degree in Textiles from Colorado State University. I was back living with my parents, not knowing what I would do with my life. It was an awkward time in my life - when I was trying to find my way. The economy was totally awful and there was no work for an unexperienced, over-educated young woman. It was that time when I was a young adult but didn't have anything of my own - no job, no career, no home - my life was in limbo. 

I needed something to do with my time. Gram was 81, still living in her own home, still cooking, baking, sewing, quilting, and gardening. Gram had always been such a huge part of our lives and was a huge influence on me personally. She was in the process of crocheting her 8 grandchildren each a Single Crochet Ripple Afghan in 100% wool yarn. Can you imagine crocheting 8 of them when you are 80? That is the kind of woman she was - taking a task and carrying through on it. Besides the Single Crochet Ripple Afghans, she also made things to sell at the Church Fair - jelly, dried flower arrangements, and handmade things. 

I cannot believe my good fortune to have had a role model like Gram in my life. As I listened to her speak on the old cassette tape as Garageband was recording, I couldn't help but tear up - with happiness that I had this slice of her still with me - the memories, the example of a life well lived -- it is totally precious and an inspiration for any age I am.

Frieda Roessler Nicholas - My Paternal Grandmother
This past Easter weekend, I encouraged my nieces to do a similar thing with their surviving Grandparents. To tape a conversation, to take photos, to spend a good long day with their Grandparents - doing nothing in particular but recording and photographing. I could do this same thing with my mom but I really think that a grandparent/grandchild relationship is so different. I think that Gram shared things with me that she would never have shared with her son, my Dad. I don't know if the girls will get their acts together to do such a thing but I will keep encouraging them.

I write this here on my blog so that perhaps you too might do a special project with an older or younger person you treasure. Perhaps stitch a quilt, embroider a pillowcase (or set of pillowcases), teach a grandchild or child to knit or embroider, write a cookbook together, tape a conversation about their/your life. None of these things cost much to do - mostly it is finding the time to do it, organizing the project, and getting a willing participant. There are lifelong lessons and opportunities that can disappear in a flash when a special person is no longer around. 

Seize the summer months that are upcoming. Take time now to plan your special project of making and creating if you have the opportunity. You will be happy you did. And I hope you will tell me about the project if you do it!

I am still taking orders for my new book Crafting a Colorful Home. You can purchase signed copies on my website for $27.95. I am still offering FREE Freight and a set of Kristin Postcards. Check it out here


Val said...

This is such a lovely post, a real pleasure to read. Your Gram looks such a lovely person. I'm so glad you have recordings and photographs that allow her to live on such a nice way.

I am very grateful that I recorded conversations with my Mother (My children have now no living Grandparents ...each generation had children late and the gaps between generations too wide...but at least my children met my Mother,their Grandma) and we can all listen to her memories.
It's a nice thing you are encouraging your family to do even if they don't realise it's value yet.

Susan B. Anderson said...

Lovely post, Kristin.

I love your blog so much.

susan b. anderson

bookagent said...

What a lovely post Kristen. I think I am going to ask to sit down with my last surviving Aunt who just turned 88 and record a conversation. One day I could gift it to her grandchildren.

Lines of Beauty said...

I love your story about your wonderful grandmother Kristen. Thank you for sharing it. Clearly the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree :-)

Anonymous said...

This is such good advice, Kristin. Toward the end of my mother's life, we went back to her hometown and walked around together, and I filmed her talking about her memories of the place. I am so glad I did that, and I wish I had done much more.

Brenda said...

My dad's aunt was born in 1900, and I wish I had done something like that with her. (I was too young when she passed away.) I would give anything to ask her about getting the vote.

Esther said...

Your recounting of your time with your Gram is so touching. I love your blog and thank you for sharing so much of yourself.

Goldie said...

That was lovely. Thank you.

Val said...

The BBC book of the week reading this week is The Shepherd's Life
By James Rebanks. Read by Bryan Dick.

I'm posting the link in case it should appeal to you :o)

Val said...

article that compliments radio programme

gale (she shoots sheep shots) said...

Such a wonderful post,and such great advice. I adore what your niece did with the video! A few years ago I made a recording of my mom and her sister talking--I had actually hoped to record some family history about my grandmother, who had a legendary dry goods store in the south bronx and taught knitting on the sidewalk.(She passed away when I was 12) . It turned out I could not get them to stay on subject at all, my aunt went off on tangents, my mother laughing and correcting her as sisters do...I thought it was a waste of time until my aunt passed away not too long after that. Now it is so treasured !

Kristin Nicholas said...

Hey Val - Thank you for that link - I have listened to that entire series. Now I will need to get the book. I can't believe the # of followers he has on TWitter!

I will share w/ all my readers too. I think the insight the author gives it pretty enlightening to those who don't live on a farm.

Thanks again

Unknown said...

My grandma is gone, but this reminds me of talks we had (wish I'd recorded them) and most of all, a granny square afghan we kindof made together. It was when I was in 7th grade, it was a cold winter and I needed an afghan. My mom, grandma and I made squares, ladies from our church gave little bits of yarn they had saved. My grandma crocheted it together for me. She also loaned me her "G" hook, which had the color worn off the aluminum, and it slid through the yarn. I still have it, she stopped being able to chrochet shortly after that, due to Parkinson's. I'm working on something with that hook, it is almost 40 years that I've had it, and it is so dear to me, because I think of her when I use it.

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