Sunday, December 24, 2023

Bridle Path - Chapter 4 - The Christmas Surprise

 Merry Christmas Everyone!

Well, it's that time again, another diary entry from my packhorse librarian, Lexie.  The months slip by so quickly, especially this month with all of the Christmas preparations, entertaining, and parties. 

My friend Sharon made a Christmas Ribbons quilt pattern this year.  I love the large polka dot fabric and large stripe! Sharon will be enjoying her quilt on display for many years to come.

Now it is time to travel back to Christmas in Cobble Hill, Kentucky in 1935 to spend a few minutes reading about Lexie, my fictional packhorse librarian. The packhorse librarian program was started as part of the WPA program by Elenor Rosevelt. This is Lexie's fourth diary entry to her daughter Grace. Enjoy. To find chapters 1-3, in the search box on the blog, type in Packhorse librarian story.

Chapter #4 Month #4

December 1935

Dear Grace,

It is frigid and icy on these early December mornings when I get up around 4:30. I must wake you from a deep slumber and get you ready to stay with Grandma Millie. Before we leave the cabin, I try to bank the fire well enough to keep the chill off until we return. By the time we get home, there are just a few embers remaining, just enough to get a small fire going for warmth and light.

We cuddle up by the glow of the fire, and I read you a story from a picture book.  This is one of my favorite times of the day and it keeps me going just knowing I’m coming home to you after my rounds. I’m so thankful that Grandma Millie always has a pot of stew on the stove and a biscuit ready for me no matter what time I get to her cabin to pick you up. Even though I’m totally tuckered out, I devour the bowl of stew and biscuit that I’ve completely covered with elderberry jam.

Since your daddy passed, it is now up to me to haul the firewood to the cabin from the cords of wood your daddy so neatly stacked to get us through the winter. I look at the woodpile and know I’m going to have to spend a lot of time during good weather to replenish it.  The thought of sawing trees down and splitting the wood sounds exhausting, but it will need to be done on the days when I’m not working.  I never appreciated a single log of wood until now, and I thank your daddy every day for keeping us warm. It’s as though he’s giving us a comforting, warm hug and wrapping us in his love.

I’m so thankful for Daniel who works at Leonardo’s Mill.  He brings over a wagon full of mill ends for Grandma Millie and me. The mill ends are a perfect size to use as kindling and use in our wood burning stoves for cooking. You love to sit on the floor and stack up a pile of mill ends and squeal with delight when you knock them over. Your pile looks like the leaning tower of Pisa before it topples to the ground.

I put you to bed and devote a few minutes sitting by the fire, mesmerized by the flames licking the inside of the fireplace. This is my time to think about my day, the people I met, my path through the mountains, and the good the packhorse librarians are doing by bringing literacy and companionship to the people in the hollers.  I’m filled with gratitude for the opportunity to help my own family with the dollar a day that I’m earning, but the cost of my new job means less time for you, Grace.

There have been nights when I’m so hypnotized by the flames, that I fall asleep by the fire and wake up in the rocking chair with a stiff neck in the early morning hours and must start a new day. I thought that dawn was a dream, but then reality set in, and it was time to start my route all over again. This is the new route of my life for which I am very thankful.

My mama tells me the only way to work through my grief at the loss of your daddy is to help others in need.  I’m determined to blaze a trail through the mountains and through my grief at the same time.  So, I pack up my memories in the pillowcase filled with books and head out into the hollows to bring a spark of light to those in need.

Those McKevitt boys are at the forefront of my mind, and they tug at my heartstrings. I stopped by last week to pick up the Primers and Sears & Roebuck catalog I left with Mrs. McKevitt and the boys, Harley, and Donny.  There was an extra glimmer of excitement in their faces when they told me what they thought they were getting for Christmas… erector set.  They said their daddy told them they could make anything in the world they wanted with the gift they were going to receive. They were sure it was an erector set, and in my heart, I knew their dream would not be fulfilled.

After my visit to see the boys the week before and I heard about their desire to get an erector set, I headed over the see Mrs. Jerome Reginald Steiniger, the pearl-sucking prude, and asked if there was anyway, she could find the funds from the Ladies Aid Society to purchase an erector set for the boys.  A look of concern washed across her face and was quickly replaced with a frown. Her frown was swapped with a look of sympathy as she gently told me there was too much poverty and need in the area to spend money on something as frivolous as an erector set to make two little boys happy.

When I dropped you off with Grandma Millie, I could see that she had been busy making ornaments out of clothes pins for our Christmas Tree. There were two of the new clothes pin ornaments on the table. She carefully paints each face on the top of the clothespin, and paints black shoes on the bottom. She fashions little dresses and adds bows and bits of ribbon leftover from items she keeps in her wicker sewing basket. She sold some of the ornaments for a penny at the Christmas bazaar at the church. With her earnings, she bought a few oranges for Christmas and some lemons for pie.

I kissed you goodbye then headed over to the packhorse librarian room at the back of the library to fill my pillowcases with books and catalogs. I like to think I’m filling the pillowcases with knowledge.  I will be so pleased when I have enough money to purchase a set of saddlebags, because I’m afraid my pillowcases are going to deteriorate sooner rather than later. It also concerns me that my Starkey is getting poked by the corners of the books.

Some new items were available for me to choose from for the folks on my route. When I spied a Popular Mechanics magazine, I knew Harley and Donny would love it as they were so intent on learning how things work. Their poverty never put a damper on their thirst for learning.

I found out that I have a new stop along my route, Mr. and Mrs. Stoltz and their son Georgie. Everyone in Cobble Hill (us locals call it Cob Hill because cobble sounds too much like gobble) have always called Georgie ‘Little Georgie Stoltz’ even though he is now forty-two. Little Georgie thinks there is an Indian behind every tree and carries around a toy bow with a suction cup arrow. The family lives fairly close to town, so they are the first stop on my route today. 

Apparently, Georgie’s birth was a tough one, and Old Doc Wood needed to use forceps to assist in the delivery of a very reluctant and large baby.  Little Georgie was never right in the head, but he was very dear to his parents and everyone in town. The townspeople would pretend to be injured and feign terrific pain when Little Georgie shot a suction cup arrow at them. Little Georgie would collapse into gales of laughter which was a welcome sound around town. When he was talking to you, he was always pointing out the Indians behind the trees. We all played along with it and Little Georgie would dart off in search of the elusive Indians.

I found a copy of Robinson Crusoe while I was loading up my pillowcase and wondered if Little Georgie would enjoy it if I read a chapter or two aloud. I am not sure he could sit still long enough, but I think his parents would like to have the distraction of their minds being carried off to a different world filled with adventure.

Starkey, my dog Blue, and I headed off along the fence line up to those on my route. The first part of the route is easy traveling, but fairly soon the fence line ends, and the game trails begin, and up, up, up we travel. I enjoyed listening to the birds sing, an avian chorus as my mama calls it. The squirrels dart about storing nuts in anticipation of the harsh Winter. How do they remember where they store them?

Today is the Winter Solstice, which changes the rhythm of life in the mountains. Livestock was slaughtered so they did not have to be fed during the hard months of Winter. The meager gardens will stop producing and fresh vegetables will not be on the table. Only canned vegetables will be available for those who were able to put some away in root cellars.

Soon I arrived at Little Georgie Stoltz’s cabin. The rock foundation supporting the front porch is in need of repair, as is the rest of the foundation.  Georgie met me on the front porch with bow and arrow in hand. I raised both of my hands in the air in complete surrender and asked him not to shoot as I didn’t want Starkey to get spooked. I felt that I only had time to read one chapter of Robinson Crusoe, which they all enjoyed. Little Georgie was able to keep still long enough before he ran off in search of Indians. I told them I’d be back the week after Christmas and I’d try to make time to read some more to them.

When I arrived at the McKevitt’s I was surprised that the boys didn’t meet me outside. When Mrs. McKevitt opened the door, I saw the boys over in the corner engaged in activity with their one hand-carved truck made by their father. Mrs. McKevitt shared with me the news that her husband had recovered from his injury at the mine and was able to return to work, which was a godsend.

The boys were rather sullen until I took out the Popular Mechanics magazine out of my pillowcase for them.  They quickly abandoned their truck and laid right down on their stomachs in front of the fireplace on the cold cabin floor so they could both look at the magazine at the same time. They were very curious about an article on plumbing and asked me to read it to them. I had to explain to them what plumbing was, and they were amazed that people actually had an indoor outhouse!  Harley asked me if there was a half-moon on the door to let in the light. I didn’t have to worry that the pages of the magazine would end up in their outhouse! 

I told them I would be back right after Christmas to see them, which brought smiles to all of their faces.  I think baby Stanley even smiled.

Our Christmas Eve dinner was wonderful. We were so grateful when Old Doc Wood stopped by and gave us a rabbit and a few potatoes the day before. His patients often paid him with food, and he had more than he could use. Grandma Millie supplemented the fried rabbitt with cooked turnips and carrots from the root cellar. We also had a delightful and heavenly lemon meringue pie. What a treat and feast!

After dinner there was a knock at our door. We both assumed it was a neighbor stopping by to swap howdies and wish us a Merry Christmas. Much to my surprise, I saw Mrs. Jerome Reginald Steiniger’s ample bosom staring at me in the face. She handed me a round container of Tinker Toys and told me this was a more appropriate gift for boys their age, and I best get over to the McKevitt boys first thing in the morning. I never had such happy tears spring so quickly from my eyes. I wanted to hug her, but her bosom and the container of Tinker Toys got in the way, and I didn’t think she would accept a hug. This Christmas Eve is when I stopped calling Mrs. Jerome Reginal Steiniger the pearl sucking prude.

I dressed quickly first thing Christmas morning and rode over to the McKevitt’s with the Tinker Toys safely packed in my pillowcase, The Tinker Toys were wrapped in brown paper with a sprig of greenery on the top. I also had two oranges for the family.

The boys were on the floor of the cabin playing. They came running over to me and told me they didn’t get an erector set for Christmas, but instead they got a box of chalk.  They told me they could make anything with a box of chalk just like their daddy told them! They were drawing all over the cabin floor and complained to little baby Stanley when he crawled across their pictures.

As the miners went down into the mine, using a piece of chalk they put an ‘X’ by their name indicating they were in the mine. At the end of the day, they erased the ‘X’.  Mr. McKevitt asked the paymaster if he could have the small bits of chalk leftover at the end of the day. By the end of the week, the paymaster gave Mr. McKevitt a handful of small bits and pieces of chalk.

I did not want to diminish the importance of the gift from their parents, so I took them aside and told them what I had for the boys. Mr. McKevitt said the boys could use the chalk to draw roads on the floor for the cars they could make with the Tinker Toys.

The look of amazement on their faces was priceless when I opened the pillowcase and gave the boys their present. I told them Santa had delivered the present to the wrong cabin. I was just the delivery person without a sleigh and reindeer…..but I did have Starkey to lead the way. The oranges weren’t a huge hit with the boys, but they were for their parents.

I rode away from their cabin with a full heart and thinking 1936 is going to be filled with promise.

Merry Christmas everyone!




Saturday, December 23, 2023

Merry day before Christmas Eve

 Hello Everyone,

I know all of us are so busy this time of year as the BIG day will be here soon.  The presents are wrapped, the cards are mailed and now it's time to sit back and enjoy the season.

I forgot to put my Homemade Holiday table runner out on the Hoosier until the other day!  Maybe I have too many ornaments and table runners and forget what I have.

I started baking today.  If I start too early, we eat everything before Christmas!  I'm sharing my Orange Coffee Cake recipe with you.  We can't eat this before Christmas morning because someone may notice a missing piece or two.  I love sitting by the tree Christmas morning well before the house awakens.  I have a cup of coffee in hand and a piece of this coffee cake.....yum!

This is what it looks like just before it goes in the oven.

Orange Coffee Cake

¾ cup sugar                                                                            

½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

2 (11 ounce) cans refrigerated buttermilk biscuits

1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese

½ cup melted butter

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

©      Combine sugar, nuts and orange rind in a small bowl.  Separate each biscuit; place a cream cheese square in center of one half, and top with remaining half, pinching sides together.

©      Dip in butter, and dredge in sugar mixture.  Stand each biscuit on edge in a lightly greased 12-cup Bundt pan.  Drizzle with remaining butter, and sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture.

©      Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until golden brown.  Immediately invert on a plate.

©      Combine powdered sugar and orange juice and spoon over warm coffee cake.



Thursday, December 14, 2023

Heritage in Hearthstone

 Hello Everyone,

I, like you, have been busy getting ready for the holidays, so I haven't been posting very often. I did run across this file on my computer where I re-colored my Heritage pattern using my Hearthstone fabric line.  I love the introduction of a bit of the plaid.

I really like it in this colorway and now I just need the time to make it!  Let me know if you would like the fabric requirements.

The house is all decorated and the presents are wrapped except for a few stragglers.  We've been going to Christmas parties and now it's time for us to host one tonight for some friends and neighbors.  If I don't get too preoccupied, I will post pictures of our dinner menu. If the recipes turn out, I'll post them too. The dessert I'm making is a Frozen Baileys Mochaccino, Mr. Joe's favorite.   He will be in the kitchen slicing and dicing with me today and he will be making a loaf of his sourdough bread. He's perfected his sourdough baking after several attempts which resembled hockey pucks. Now his loaves are company worthy.

Mr. Joe had quite the surprise which elevated his heart rate to a dangerous level.  He walked out the sliding glass door and came face to face with a bear on our deck railing.  He immediately backed up into the house while the bear leisurely walked down the steps to the lower patio.  I grabbed my phone and took these pictures.  Mazey, our bear early warning system, totally spaced out on this encroachment into her territory.  She never uttered a peep.

It appears that the mama has left the cubs on their own.  How does she leave them without them following her?  The cubs have been spotted around the neighborhood on their own and they've been getting into cars.  We are guilty of leaving our car doors open while unloading groceries and hauling them into the cabin.  We are going to have to be much more careful.

There's a lot on my plate for the coming year.  It's all good, it's all exciting, it's all very intimidating.  2024 is going to kick off with a big bang!



Friday, December 8, 2023

Month #4 Bridle Path Tutorial

 Hello Everyone,

I've been doing a bit of fighting with Google Docs and I think I finally made this document accessible on that platform, so you can easily print out this tutorial.  Click HERE to access the tutorial.

First of all, on Page 10 of your pattern, change the size of the plaid Piece B to 7-1/2" x 7-1/2".  The 6-1/4" x 6-1/4" will work, but you will not be able to line up your plaids as well.

Now, begin cutting your parts and pieces out for the interior of the blocks on page 11.  The pieces are shown below.  Using an Omnigrid or Fons and Porter 1/4" ruler, mark the stitching line on each of the lighter fabrics. You will be making HST with these pieces.

Stitch directly on the line, or just inside the line toward the center if your components tend to run too small.

You will now have (4) HST which look like this.  Press toward the dark fabric. No need to trim just yet.

Place a light/black HST on top of a blue/black HST.  The seams will butt up to each other.

I like to use a 1/4" and mark on each side of the ruler using a fine point Frixion pen.  Stitch directly on the lines.

Twirl the seams to reduce bulk.

Trim the required measurement at the top of page 32.  

The back of the block will look like this after you stitch the rows together.

I'm finding that I'm pressing more and more of my seams OPEN to reduce the bulk.  

The unfinished block measurement is on page 32.

Now I'm going to talk about cutting and adding the plaid triangles around the block.

The 6-1/4" x 6-1/4" will work as stated on Page 10 of your directions.  But your block will look more like the picture below.  Some quilters don't care if the plaids aren't matching, and that's fine.

If you want your plaids to match, cut a plaid square 7-1/2" x 7-1/2".  Follow my directions below, and the block will like more like this picture.

Working with a 7-1/2" x 7-1/2" plaid square, align the 45 degree line on your ruler to a line in the middle of the fabric square.

Now you are going to have to do some trimming around the square to get it to the 6-1/4" x 6-1/4".  Your ruler will be a little wonky on top of the square because the plaid wasn't printed at an exact 45 degree angle.  This is why I cut each of my squares one at a time.

Trim the square to 6-14/" x 6-1/4".  

Cut in like this and place them around the complete block as shown on page 11 of your pattern.

Stitch two opposite sides on, press toward the plaid.  Then sew on the other two sides.

Trim to the measurement on page 11 of your pattern.

For the red, follow the directions on page 10 of your pattern.  Cut the red square diagonally only ONCE.

I'm sure you will find that these blocks are a lot easier than the star blocks.  Be creative with the colors you use in the inside of the block.  If you don't like a combination that I suggested, then create your own.

If you ever have any questions, I'm just an email away.