Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The House That Built Me

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It is my favorite song. Sung beautifully by Miranda Lambert. It is about a 20 something (she must be young) who is trying to find herself and goes to her childhood home. Well I'm not 20 anything, I found myself a long time ago, but for some reason as I plan my next move to our 8th residence in a 24 year marriage, I get a little nostalgic. This is the house my kids will most remember. But it is the house that "built" me I lovingly remember.
I spent my preschool and elementary years in Clinton, Iowa. By the time we moved I was entering high school and was the only child at home. So the house in Clinton that was full of family is the one I pine for. It is a gorgeous English Tudor sitting on a large hill with views of the Mississippi River. It was once a retreat for an order of monks which explains the cross mowed into the lawn. It sat on an acre of property, most of it woods, and had a beautiful stone patio, an enormous screened in porch and a balcony from my parents room. The wood was heavy and dark, and every room had built in closets, dressers and shelves. The windows are were all leaded glass and there were 2 huge picture windows. In the spring there were dozens of lilac trees and bushes of peonies. In the summer we would have thousands of monarch butterflies and in the fall we would collect hedge apples and pine cones.

Christmas was magical. My dad would string the big Charlie Brown bulbs all over the hedges and when the snow would fall they would glow in bursts of color. Our huge tree would proudly stand at the living room picture window. We would have cut it down ourselves and decorated with the dozens of family ornaments and tossed tinsel all over it. I never thought to look for the Christmas presents hidden on the screened in porch, but many years later I learned that was my mom's favorite place to hide them.

Of course the house had a basement, and a pit in the garage that my brothers used to learn to work on their cars. And my favorite spot was the breakfast room with its octagonal shape and all the leaded windows. No one could come in either driveway without being seen. My last bedroom (I had to wait until the older sisters went to college), had a wall of windows that looked out over the river. It was such a magical place. I have the photographs and the memories, and this time of year makes me think of a particular cooking memory. In the Betty Crocker cooky cookbook that is falling apart, are the many recipes we made. I blogged about it before and decided that it was the perfect time to make Pumpkin Cookies. These are the cookies I made on September 24, 1976. The note next to the recipe says "couldn't go skating". It was a sad day. Every fall we had a roller skating party and it was the one night a year a 7th grade girl (in 1976) could hold hands to a Shawn Cassidy song and roller skate a memory. But alas, I didn't clean my room, and the meanest mom in the entire world made me stay home. She probably launched my love of baking and journaling through recipes. I remember the night clearly. It is, after these many years, a very happy memory. Needless to say I couldn't make the recipe as it is written, so here it is with my changes.

1½ cups brown sugar
½ shortening (I'm using butter)
2 eggs
1¾ canned pumpkin (this is one, 15oz. can)
2¾ cups flour
1 T baking soda
1 tea cinnamon
½ tea nutmeg
½ tea salt
¼ tea ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla (this is my addition)
1 cup raisins (yuck!) (I'm using 1 ½ cups mini chocolate chips)
1 cup chopped pecans (I am using walnuts)

Okay, my changes. Shortening does make a really soft cookie, but butter just tastes better. And I think raisins are yucky in a cookie, so chocolate chips, perfect replacement. The recipe says the cookies can be iced with a thin butter icing. Would you ice a chocolate chip cookie? I mean, the recipes are very similar. I say enjoy the pumpkin! This recipe makes about 6 dozen and they do not spread, so you can really cram them on the baking sheets.

So, what are ya waiting for? Get in there and bake!


  1. These sound absolutely yummy...I'm sending the recipe to Connie to see if she'll make them for me, if not I might just have to try them myself!
    I love your article on your home in Clinton...I only live a few blocks away now. I too have great memories of your house .. and scary ones from sleeping in the stuffed animal room!

  2. Oh, I love hearing about your childhood. Thank you for sharing. Congrats to Christina. I got Scott's message today. I love that girl and she deserves all the success for her hard work.

  3. Thanks all..this was a special and delicious one!