Wednesday, December 31, 2014

History Challenge for 2015

Do you have plans to enjoy history more in 2015?
Take the 2015 History Challenge to get started!
  • Pick topics of interest to you and start completing the challenge.
  • Choose the activities that work for you.  
  • Keep track of your progress during the year.
  • Share your accomplishments with the Histocrats using the hashtag #enjoyhistory15 on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
We look forward to seeing what challenges you accept and complete.
As we go through 2015, we will also be sharing our activities and will tweet and blog about our favorites.
Be sure to make the challenge even more enjoyable by sharing it with friends and family. 
We know enjoying more history in 2015 will help make it a great year.
Have a great year and we wish you great success in getting more history into your life!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Enjoying Christmas Traditions

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D

I really do like the Holiday season—the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas to the New Year.  It is a time for reflection but also of deep sentimentality of a bygone era.  Many of the traditions in my family are just that—traditions that have been passed on from each generation to the next.  While each family has their own time honored tradition, I wanted to share a few of mine.

Each year, as a family we decorate the house.  Over the years, as new additions are made it seems as though my house is bursting with decorations from the new to the sentimental to the gotta have items.  When it comes to decorating, we have made it into a tradition—we do it as a family.  My husband and girls decorate the tree, which can be an all day event.  While I love the smell of  a real tree, my daughters allergies and asthma have made having one impossible.  So, our tradition is decorating the tree, not picking one out.  While we decorate the house, the holiday music is playing and the girls enjoy opening the boxes that store their ornaments and picking just the right spot on the tree to hang them. We usually finish the day by watching Christmas specials like Charlie Brown and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Another holiday tradition is getting in the car and riding around to look at all the decorated houses and the various light displays.  Growing up there was a house in the neighborhood that would go all out in decorating.  On Christmas Eve they would even hand out candy canes to the cars that drove by.  I always thought how awesome it was and how great the people were who had created such wonderful memories for the community.  Although I have never decorated the outside of my house with anything other than a wreath on the front door, I do enjoy the fact that others decorate.  For us, it is simply great fun driving around as a family talking about the lights and debating which house was the best.

We also love giving a traditional gift.  In another blog, I wrote about some of my most cherished gifts which are not store bought presents but rather those that were hand made.  I have tried to make sure my girls have at least one thoughtful, keep forever gift.  When my oldest daughter was little, we began the tradition of an ornament in her stocking.  It has grown into each of us receiving an ornament in the stocking.  Some have been handmade but most are store bought.  No matter the origin, each reflect the personality of the recipient.  When you look at our tree, it is easy to associate each person with an ornament. Even though we each know that an ornament will be in the stocking, it is still great fun to see what the ornament will be.

Just like many families, food is a great tradition in my family.  We can cook, bake and eat for days.  The Christmas dinner spread alone can send us into a food coma for days.  One item we look forward to making each year is the traditional gingerbread house.  Simply put, we lo  Although they will never win an award for construction or beauty, it is great fun making them.  We also bake a variety of goodies, especially cookies.  Again, they might not look like anything Martha Stewart would serve, but the point is the fun of doing them together.  For years, I would bake so much that I would give it as presents for colleagues and family members.  I always wanted to make sure people had plenty to eat.  Come to our house during the holiday season and you will be greeted by the holiday smells emanating from our kitchen.

So, these are some of my most cherished and sentimental Christmas traditions.  What are yours?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Fruitcake Lovers, Unite!

By Jeff Burns

It’s time to end the hate. I’ve never understood the depths of hatred and vitriol at this time of year directed toward one of the greatest foods known to man:  fruitcake.  Jokes abound in popular culture, and too many people refuse to even give it a try.  Even in the latest Christmas episode of the television series Grimm, writers couldn’t resist.  In the story, the good guys are on the trail of three pubescent boys who turn into Christmas-destroying demons for the 12 days of Christmas.  The only thing that can stop their rampaging is to fill them with fruitcake.  After a fruitcake binge, they awaken in their normal state.  The writers had fun with some jokes about both pubescent boys and fruitcake.

Fruitcakes are practically as old as civilization. Ancient Romans mixed pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins with barley mash. In the Middle Ages, honey, spices, and preserved fruits were added.  The triangular trade of the 17th and 18th centuries made sugar much more available and created an excess of candied fruit, so fruitcakes became even more affordable and widespread.

In many countries, fruitcake is eaten in the winter, around the Christmas season, because that’s when nuts and preserved fruits are available, and it has a long shelf life, especially when soaked in alcohol.  Immigrants to America brought their own country’s recipes, like stollen from Germany, panforte from Italy, plum puddings from Britain, and gateau aux fruits from France. In the early 1900s, fruitcakes became a mail order staple, and two towns, Claxton Georgia and Corsicana Texas, became famous for their fruitcake companies. Fruitcakes are still found in gift catalogs and used as fundraisers.  They’re everywhere, and probably millions of pounds of fruitcake are baked each year, and yet fruitcakes seem to be more reviled than broccoli or liver.  I say enough!  I’m proud to say I love homemade fruitcakes.

Just about every year of my childhood saw my mother baking fruitcakes, the same way her mother and grandmother had for many years.  She grew up in the late 1930s in South Georgia, and her family consisted of sharecroppers and hardscrabble subsistence farmers. For her and her brother, Christmas stocking treats were often such exotic gifts as navel oranges and brazil nuts.  However, every year, the women would use whatever nuts and preserved fruits they had to make fruitcakes, usually mixing the ingredients in a large washtub with a paddle.

I don’t have her recipe; she rarely used recipes for anything.  For fruitcakes, it was just a matter of mixing together what she had.  Several years ago, I found a traditional southern recipe published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that looked and tasted like my mother’s, and I used it several times. This weekend I decide it’s time to bake, and I can’t find the recipe anywhere.  So I searched online and found a couple of similar recipes, but neither one was perfect, and I went ahead, combining recipes and improvising along the way.  That’s my style of cooking anyway; I guess it’s in the genes.

First, I combine the nuts and fruit in a dishpan. I used walnuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts and an assortment of candied fruits available this time of year in any supermarket.   (Warning:  last year, I didn’t get into the fruitcake mood until after January 1 and couldn’t find fruit as a result.  Store managers tend to pack up or get rid of leftovers as soon as Christmas is done.)  I like a dense cake, with lots of fruit and nuts in every bite.  Next, I poured in some bourbon and let it all sit for an hour or so.  Then, I mixed in a couple of cups of flour to keep the fruit and nuts from sticking together.  At this point, I can eat the mixed fruit and nuts by the handful, and did.

All that’s left is to mix the batter ingredients together and combine.  Then spoon the mixture into pans and bake for 2 ½ -3 hours at low temperature. Fruitcakes are baked low and slow.  I use different size loaf pans so that some cakes can be given away or wrapped and frozen for use all year.  Fruitcakes mellow and develop an even better taste over time.

Don’t let yourself be a hater! Find a fruitcake recipe and give it a try or find a baker and share their version.  I bet you’ll actually like it.


Fruitcake 101, Smithsonian Magazine
Traditional Southern fruitcake recipe from at least 1921
One of the recipes that inspired my creation.

The other recipe that inspired my creation
1 lb. mixed candied fruit (2 c.)
1 lb. whole dates -- pitted
1/2 lb. whole candied cherries (1 c.)
1/4 lb. chopped citron
1 cup raisins
1 cup pecan halves
1 cup walnut halves
4 cups sifted flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup butter or regular margarine
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. buttermilk

Prepare baking pans by cutting parchment or brown paper liners for bottoms.  Grease each piece of paper with shortening. Place in pans. Top with a layer of waxed paper. Grease top of paper and inside of pans generously with shortening.

Place candied fruit, dates, cherries, citron, raisins, pecan and walnut halves in 6-qt. bowl.  Sift together flour, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg; reserve 1/2 cup. Add reserved dry ingredients to fruit/nut mixture; mix to coat.  Cream together butter and sugar in bowl until light and fluffy at medium speed of electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add baking soda to dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition. Add batter to fruit/nut mixture, mixing well. Turn into prepared 10-inch tube pan or three 8x4x2 inch loaf pans. To decorate, place fruits and walnuts on top of batter to form a design.  Bake in 300ºF. oven 2 hours 30 minutes for 10-inch tube pan and 1 hour 30 minutes for loaf pans. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool on racks. Wrap In waxed paper; then in aluminum foil. Store in covered container in cool place. Let mellow 2 weeks.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Give History as a Gift this Holiday Season!

By Nina Kendall

During the holiday season our thoughts turn to family, friends, and the things we love. It is a great time to connect with people and share what we treasure like history. While anytime is a great time for a history book, this holiday you can make someone’s day with a history book supported by the Georgia Humanities Council. As part of the mission of to ensure that culture and humanities remain a part of the life of all Georgians, the Georgia Humanities Council contributes to book projects throughout the year with the University of Georgia Press.  These projects highlight the experiences of Georgians from the Revolutionary War to modern times. From guide books inspired by the Works Progress Administration to modern nonfiction, there is a selection for every reader to enjoy.  Check out the book partnerships below and add one to your holiday gift list.

Are you interested in history? Look at these options!

African American Life in the Georgia Low Country
Explore the history of the Atlantic world via the story of African Americans along the Georgia coast for more than 200 years.   African American Life in the Georgia Low country is a broad look at the complexity of life in this region.  This work includes essays on the double-edged freedom that the American Revolution made possible to black women, the Low Country as site of the largest gathering of African Muslims in early North America, and the coexisting worlds of Christianity and Conjuring in coastal Georgia and the links to African practices.

Crossroads of Conflict
Crossroads of Conflict is based on a comprehensive survey of sites identified by the Georgia Civil War Commission in 2000. It features covers 350 historic sites in detail, bringing the experience of the war to life.  This geographically organized guide includes color photographs and period images that document the sites of the Civil War in Georgia. From battlefields to cemeteries, the war experiences of all Georgians, are included in this updated text.

Democracy Restored
Democracy Restored: A History of the Georgia State Capitol explores the history of the State Capitol and highlights some of the many important events and decisions that have taken place there.  It also examines the symbolism of the building, including its architecture and monuments. Democracy Restored, is a beautifully-illustrated volume co-written by Dr. Timothy Crimmins and Mrs. Anne Farrisee and featuring the work of award-winning photographer, Ms. Diane Kirkland.

Georgia Odyssey
Georgia Odyssey is a lively survey of the state’s history, from its beginnings as a European colony to its current standing as an international business mecca, from the self-imposed isolation of its Jim Crow era to its role as host of the centennial Olympic Games and beyond, from its long reign as the linchpin state of the Democratic Solid South to its current dominance by the Republican Party.

Oglethorpe's Dream
Oglethorpe's Dream combines the powerful writing of Georgia's Poet Laureate, David Bottoms, with the stunning photography of Diane Kirkland. From the mountain forests to the sea islands, from the architecture of the cities to lunchtime gatherings in small towns, Kirkland gives us a gallery of spectacular images, showcasing the state in its breadth, beauty, and diversity. Marrying landscape to history, Bottoms gives voice to a people filled with courage, pain, conviction, and above all, hope. Together they capture the natural beauty of the diverse landscape, the richness of the state's storied past, and the essence of its spirited people.

The Civil War in Georgia: A New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion
The Civil War in Georgia reflects the most current scholarship in terms of how the Civil War has come to be studied, documented, and analyzed.  It provides a comprehensive introduction to many aspects of the war.  This edited volume of articles from the New Georgia Encyclopedia explores the Civil War and its impact on Georgia. The book also explores home-front conditions in depth, with an emphasis on emancipation, dissent, Unionism, and the experience and activity of African Americans and women.

Interested in Literature? These books are for you.

After O'Connor
After O'Connor: Stories from Contemporary Georgia is an anthology that showcases Georgia's thriving literary scene of the past fifteen years. Edited by noted literary scholar Hugh Ruppersberg, the volume includes thirty works of short fiction by authors who were born in Georgia or who spent a significant part of their lives and careers in the state. Embracing the social, cultural, and ethnic variety in today's Georgia, After O'Connor both advances and helps redefine the great southern storytelling tradition.

New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Literature
The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature, is the first of the New Georgia Encyclopedia to be presented in print. The volume contains biographical discussions and analysis on Georgia's writers from nineteenth century to the present. It also explores authors' works, their contributions to Georgia 's history and culture, and their connections to our regional and
national story. The Companion covers the state's important books like Jean Toomer's Cane, Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind and Lillian Smith's Strange Fruit. Georgia's literary journals, literary prizes and some of Georgia's literary organizations are also covered in the volume.

Writing the South through the Self: Explorations in Southern Autobiography
What does it mean to be Southern? For over twenty years Dr. John Inscoe of the University of Georgia has been teaching a class on southern history through autobiography. In Writing the South through the Self, Inscoe draws on the reflections of Maya Angelou, Rick Bragg, Jimmy Carter, Bessie and Sadie Delany, Lillian Smith, and more to illustrate the complexities of life in the South. The power of place, strength and struggles of family, and questions and conflict concerning race, class, and ethnic identity are all explored. 

Book descriptions from

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Shaking the Family Tree

By Jeff Burns

Searching for Family History
I’ve dabbled in genealogy off and on; it’s a real interest, but it takes time and devotion, and I too often find other things getting in the way.  Fortunately, I have a couple of cousins who have done quite a lot of work and who have fleshed out one family line pretty well, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

A couple of months ago, thinking about genealogy sparked an idea for hosting an event at my school, which is a major part of the community.   The idea was to hold an introductory workshop for anyone interested in beginning or continuing family history research. My principal and members of my department were all enthusiastic when I shared the idea, and I started planning.   I called on contacts made through my participation in Teaching American History Grants and as a Histocrat: 

Ms. Sharon Lukiri, a history teacher met at a workshop over the summer who is genealogist and member of the Georgia Genealogical Society and the Afro American Genealogical Society,

Mr. Gene  Morris, the Henry County historian,

Ms. Sara Jane Overstreet, a retired educator and member of the Genealogical Society of Henry and Clayton Counties and the Daughters of the American Revolution who has led numerous genealogy classes,

Mr. Joel Walker, education specialist at the National Archives-Atlanta, located in Morrow, Georgia.

They were all quick to volunteer and graciously offered to give up an evening for the event. The other Histocrats were also quick to offer their assistance.

My plan was to introduce each speaker to make a few opening remarks and then have them available in different areas of the school media center, so that attendees could move around and talk to the experts one on one or in small groups.  When the night arrived, there were about 20 attendees – smaller than I had hoped, but for a first effort, really not too bad a turnout.  Mr. Morris opened the evening by talking about the founding of Henry County (in the 1820s) and the first settlements and families in our particular area.  Then, Ms. Overstreet and Ms. Lukiri each spoke about getting started and gave helpful advice about not getting overwhelmed.  Finally, Mr. Walker, who admitted from the start that he was not an expert on genealogy, gave a great introduction to resources that are available in the  archives location and online through the archives website. 

Attendees then spoke to each experts and got assistance and ideas as they went from area to area.  The evening turned out to be a great success. Attendees got lots of great resource ideas and tips, and several said they were motivated to get home and get underway on their own family trees. The presenters created a lot of interest in their organizations and may have attracted society members.  It was a great night of community involvement, and I’m thinking about future programs.  I would like to give special thanks to the presenters and to the Histocrats and the administration of Ola High School for their support.

Organization Resources:

Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc. (AAHGS), Atlanta

Georgia Genealogical Society

National Archives-Information for Genealogists

Andrew McBride Chapter Daughters of the AmericanRevolution, McDonough GA    

Genealogical Society of Henry & Clayton Counties, McDonough GA    

Other Resources:
Genealogy Worldwide

Genealogy in Georgia

Genealogy in US

Genealogy of Special Populations

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Georgia Humanities Council: Helping Share Part of Everyone's Family Story

By Nina Kendall

As Thanksgiving approaches, we start to think about spending time with family and reminisce about the past.  As we celebrate and give thanks, family and friendships are popular topics. I have yet to attend a holiday or family function that some time was devoted to swapping stories. An important part of being a family is maintaining the stories and traditions that are our individual history.

As history enthusiasts and teachers, we know that not everyone or every family experiences an event the same way.  Our stories are different. Unique and important each one helps to define our community and state. Remembering all the stories becomes the job of not just family members but the community as well. It is a herculean task.

The Georgia Humanities Council helps the people of Georgia connect to all of our stories.   The Georgia Humanities Council is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Each state has its own affiliate. Here are a few of the stories they will share with citizens of Georgia this year as the end of 2014 approaches.

Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War initiative hosted by the Georgia Humanities Council in conjunction with the Veterans for Community Services to discuss war literature and issues faced by soldiers, past and present.
Dates: November 5, 12, 19; December 3, 10, 17
Location: 116 Holiday Ave. NE, Atlanta, 30307

Exploring Muslim Journeys Book discussion will be hosted by The Georgia Humanities Council, One Region Atlanta, and the DeKalb Public Library. This discussion will focus in the books that were part of the Bridging Cultures program supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Date: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm, November 18
Location: Scott-Candler Library, 1917 Candler Road, Decatur GA 30032

The Bandits & Heroes, Poets & Saints Art Exhibition will be coming to AUC Woodruff Library. This exhibit from Con/Vida-Popular Arts of the Americas will showcase art from Brazil that reflects the intermingling of the Atlantic World over 500 years.                                       
Date: Opens December 1  
Location: AUC Woodruff Library, 111 James P. Brawley Dr. SW, Atlanta, 30314

Over Here and There: Georgia and Georgians in World War II, the exhibit, is on display at the University of West Georgia/Ingram Library, will focus on WWII and the home front.
Date: Closes December 7
Location: University of West Georgia/Ingram Library, 1601 Maple St., Carrollton 30118

Inspired Georgia is the traveling exhibition of 28 works from the state art collection that is currently at its final stop.
Date: Closes December 11, 2014
Location: Historic Train Depot, Kingsland

Have you enjoyed an event hosted by the Georgia Humanities Council?  We would love to hear about it. Not close enough to enjoy one of these events? Check out your local state affiliate and enjoy a story this holiday.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Chalk It Up: Collectable Carnival Chalkware

By  Jeff Burns

I’ve always been a collector.  To the best of my memory, it’s been coins and paper money, comic books, postcards, stamps, sea shells, rocks, trading cards, Hot Wheels, books, model kits, Star Trek ship models, Looney Toon character pins, calendars, Aggie Zed sculptures, and kachina dolls, just to name a few.  Lately, I was reminded of another collection that I might just develop:  carnival chalkware figurines.

According to Wikipedia, chalkware refers to figures made of gypsum or plaster of paris, and there were two great periods of production, the 1800s and the carnival phase during the Great Depression and 1940s.  Early pieces tended to be hollow and more artistic, while the carnival pieces were often solid but garish, brightly colored, whimsical or humorous characters, even sometimes a little risqué, from comics, cartoons, movies and radio.  Kewpie dolls are a famous example. They were cheap enough that they could be given away by prizes in the various games of chance on the carnival midway.

I first became aware of chalkware as a child.  When we went to my great grandmother’s house, I was fascinate by a cowboy figure she kept in the kitchen, usually in the pantry.  I had to see it every trip, although I don’t remember being allowed to handle it often, if it all.  I usually just admired it on the shelf.  The family story was that it was the Lone Ranger, and that my great aunt (or maybe her beau) had won it at a carnival during the depression when she was a teenager.  However, when I finally saw reruns of the Lone Ranger TV show, I was confused.  The two Lone Rangers had little in common.  So I asked questions and found out that it pre-dated the TV series by several years, so the iconic image hadn’t been set.  The chalkware Lone Ranger was of the radio version, which started in 1933.  My great aunt won the figure in the late 1930s.  (Unfortunately, I don’t know what game it was.)

When my great grandmother died, and the family divided her possessions, I of course chose the Lone Ranger, and it sits in my living room today.  That’s it on the left.  Thanks to Ebay, I found another version many years later, on the right.  The two figurines display on of the interesting facts about chalkware:  even though figures might be made from the same mold, they were painted by different people in different places, and there is a wide variation among the figures.  Something recently renewed my interest in chalkware, and I did some internet research.  I found numerous interesting chalkware figurines on Ebay.  Some figures stand alone, and some are meant to be hung.  There’s a huge variety, and they’re reasonably priced.  Watch out, I might be catching the collecting bug again.


How to Identify Chalkware

19th century chalkware



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fall Fun in the Pumpkin Patch

By Margaret Duncan, Ed.D.

Welcome to Fall! The calendar hits October and leaves begin to change, temperatures get cooler, and everything becomes Pumpkin related.  Just walk into any grocery store or Starbucks and the pumpkin flavored food is staggering.  Not sure when the pumpkin fascination began, but it is indeed overwhelming at this time of year. Unlike the Pumpkin Spice Frappe, one thing pumpkin related that has been around for decades, is the Pumpkin Patch.     

Some different ways to enjoy a Pumpkin Patch:

Pick Your Own Pumpkin Straight From the Patch
Going to a pumpkin patch allows you to actually walk the field where the pumpkins actually grow.  My daughters have always enjoyed running around the field looking for their very own special pumpkin. We always get different types of pumpkins, some will be carved, some will get painted. However, the downside can be dirt or mud, especially if it just rained.  One suggestion, if you want to pick your pumpkin from the field, you will need to do it early in the season.   

Picking Pumpkins Already Harvested
Unlike my children, I like picking pumpkins already harvested.  Many pumpkins for sale are not at a true pumpkin patch but on a church lawn or local business parking lot.  While this may not be as much fun as running around the pumpkin field, the end result is the same—picking out the perfect pumpkin! For many communities, this is the most common form of pumpkin patch, and for many organizations it is a seasonal fundraiser.  Simply put, pumpkins just don't grow everywhere and need to be brought in.   

Beyond Pumpkins, many local pumpkin patches offer a lot more to do while finding that perfect pumpkin.  My local Pumpkin patch offers hay rides, a petting zoo, horse rides, and the chance to pick your own sunflower out of the sunflower garden.  Hayrides come in several forms: tractor-pulled, horse-drawn and wagons.  Thanks to allergies, the hayride is not my favorite activity, but it is great fun riding all through the farm.

What to do with your Pumpkin

Carve it!
This is a favorite tradition.  While our pumpkin carving skills are not great, it is the fun doing it that matters.  While we carve, we like to reiterate the story of the Jack O'Lantern.  The legend comes from Irish folklore and is often told on the hayride around the Pumpkin Patch. The story goes:

Jack was a crafty farmer who tricked the Devil into climbing a tall tree. When the Devil reached the highest branch, Jack carved a large cross in the trunk, making it impossible for the Devil to climb down. In exchange for help getting out of the tree, the Devil promised never to tempt Jack with evil again. When Jack died, he was turned away from Heaven for his sins and turned away from Hell because of his trickery. Condemned to wander the earth without rest, Jack carved out one of his turnips, took an ember from the devil, and used it for a lantern to light his way. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern."

For more info on the Jack O'Lantern Legend.

Roast the Pumpkin Seeds
1.  Rinse pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings.  This is easiest just after you've removed the seeds from the pumpkin, before the pulp has dried.
2.  Place the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet, stirring to coat. If you prefer, omit the oil and coat with non-stick cooking spray.
3.  Sprinkle with salt and bake at 325 degrees F until toasted, about 25 minutes, checking and stirring after 10 minutes. You can also add any other spices to the seeds—salty or sweet to create additional flavors.
4.   Let cool and store in an air tight container.

Bake my Grammy’s Pumpkin Pie
1 crust pie
3 eggs
1egg yolk
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups pumpkin puree

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, egg yolk, white sugar and brown sugar. Add salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Gradually stir in milk and cream. Stir in pumpkin. Pour filling into pie shell.
3. Bake for ten minutes in preheated oven. Reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake for an additional 40 to 45 minutes, or until filling is set.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Patchwork Revival

By Jeff Burns

My wife Veronica’s hobby is sewing, specifically quilting.  She’s looking forward to her fast approaching retirement from teaching, so she can spend her days quilting.  She loves the creativity and the process, but she’s equally passionate about the history behind it. 

Chances are, if you are reading this, you have great quilted memories.  Maybe your mother or grandmother, or even beyond that, quilted.  It seems that almost everyone has a story that begins, “When my grandmother died, we found unfinished quilt tops or squares, and we had them finished ,” or “We divided them up,” or “My most precious possession is a quilt my grandmother made.”  Quilting has been a part of civilization for millennia, with the earliest examples traced back to Ancient Egypt.  Before metal armor, warriors were protected by quilted accessories.  From the founding of the American colonies, the practice of quilting not only provided warm and functional bedding passed down from generation to generation; it provided a form of artistic expression that women may not have had otherwise.  Quilting bees, social gatherings where neighbors worked on projects together, were powerful forums of discussion and community bonding.

Many quilters, like Veronica, are very conscious of the history and heritage of quilting.  Veronica’s passion is finding unfinished quilt – tops and “orphan “ (unused ) squares and re-purposing them to make table accessories like runners, pads, and toppers, as well as pillows, bags, stuffed animals, along with traditional quilts.  She’s actively engaged in “patchwork revival,” recycling and repurposing old fabrics and quilts for new uses and new generations to enjoy.  Many fabric stores produce reproduction patterns from past times that are fun to use in projects, but we also find original fabric, sometimes going back to the 1920s and 1930s, in thrift stores, estate sales, and on Ebay. 
Are you interested in finding out more about quilting?  Maybe you’d like to find someone to make a quilt or finish a quilt for you?  No problem.  Many communities have a quilting or hobby store that can provide all the materials and info you need, including classes for the beginner and the experienced.  You can also find quilting clubs or guilds in many communities.  They often hold shows open to the public and their members are young and old, male and female.  Ask around at your work or at church or in your neighborhood.  Chances are, somebody knows a quilter.  The internet is full of helpful sites, and you can learn almost any technique through Youtube videos.  PBS has a couple of shows devoted to sewing and quilting, and there are numerous magazines.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Taste the Tradition: Peanuts!

By Jeff Burns

There’s no escaping it in the South, especially in Georgia;  summer means it’s boiled peanuts season.   While it is now possible to purchase canned or bagged peanuts ready to heat and eat , nothing beats the good old fashioned peanut boil that has been a southern tradition since the 19th century.  Boiled peanut stands pop up along roads and boiled peanuts are a staple at fall gatherings, festivals, and  high school football games.

Boiled peanuts have become major symbols of southern cooking, along with okra, black-eyed peas, and fried chicken.  The practice was probably brought to the South by African slaves who had traditionally grown peanuts or goobers in West Africa.  Before the late 1800s and George Washington Carver’s promotion of the crop, peanuts were primarily grown for animal feed.  In July and August, unsold peanuts were boiled for social gatherings.

The practice spread throughout the South and peanut boils became popular activities for families and friends to share, like fish frys and barbecues.  When I was a boy, they were a common practice.  I vividly remember either going to a farm and pulling a truckload of peanut plants from the ground, spending the afternoon picking the peanuts off, and boiling them if a propane tank fish fryer set up with neighbors and relatives into the night.

In rural Georgia and elsewhere, peanut boils were a teen hangout of choice.  Marilyn Johnson fondly remembers:
 I used to love hanging out with my cousin, Wanda, when my family visited my grandmother in Georgia (Lyons). Wanda was five years older than me, and it made me feel so grown up and special when she took me places with her. I remember one visit in particular. I was 11 years old, she was 16 (driving), and she said she wanted to take me to a "peanut boiling" in Uvalda. Well, I had no idea what that was, so she explained that it was a party and lots of her friends would be there. I was thrilled about being invited to that. So, we dressed up (all the girls wore dresses), and spent some time on the highway before pulling up in front of a farm house in the middle of the woods. It was after sundown when we got there, and I remember seeing peanuts boiling in big tubs (foot tubs is what my grandmother called them) over open fires outside....can't say how many there were, but there were several. There were a couple of tubs full and ready to eat on the front porch, and one big tub full inside in the middle of the living room. Everybody there was in high school, and I honestly don't recall any adults being present. The place was wall-to-wall teenager! I had such a good time, and I ate peanuts until I thought I'd be sick. After we got home late that night, everyone asked about the party, wanting to know who was there and such. I think our parents were just probing, trying to find out if anything inappropriate went on, but nothing out of the way happened at all. My mother told me afterwards that peanut boilings were common among the farmer's kids in that part of Georgia, and that was the type of party teenagers used to have when and where she grew up. It truly was a unique experience for this city girl from Jacksonville, and it is one of my fondest memories of time spent with my cousin.
Boiled peanuts were often an introduction to free enterprise for children as well.  Before they were even old enough to mow lawns for spending money, my older brother and our cousin boiled peanuts, put them in small brown paper bags, loaded them up in a little red wagon, and wheeled them around the neighborhood, selling them for a quarter a bag.

All you need to boil peanuts is raw or “green” peanuts, salt, water (or beer), and a heat source.  You can boil peanuts on an open fire, over a propane flame , on a stovetop, or even in a crockpot (my favorite method now; just put them in the crockpot overnight) You can also add your favorite seasoning like Cajun spices, or Old Bay seasoning , just to name a couple.  Find a recipe you like and go with it.

Share your peanut memories with us!
Boiled peanuts. (2014, February 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:28, July 12, 2014, from