Archive | December 2016

The Firecat and the High Chair

Yes, for all you who are personal friends on my Facebook page, Fuego the Firecat is the subject this week of my blog. The story was simply too long to put on a Facebook posting, so welcome if this is your first time here.  For the rest of you, my oldest son, who now volunteers at the fire department in our hometown, literally rescued a kitten one day. He then brought her home.

Needless to say, we never planned on being owned by a cat.

Now, to our tale . . .

Once before a Christmas a long time ago, a woman went to the local Culpepper’s Furniture store in Baytown, Texas, to purchase a child’s table and chair set, as well as a doll’s high chair, for her two year old daughter. Now, Culpepper’s was a “nice” furniture store, and the woman and her husband bought all their furniture there in the early years of their marriage. The table and chair were kid-sized and the high chair was doll-sized, and they were “nice” as well.

Now since this was Christmas time, the woman arranged for the set to be picked up by Santa and for it then to be delivered during Santa’s rounds on Christmas night. Santa did not disappoint.

A year later the woman had another daughter, and the two girls played house, raised their pretend children, and sipped pretend tea and ate their pretend dinners at the child-size table and chair. The high chair was especially important, for the sisters fed their dolls and stuffed animals over and over again while they practiced being good mothers. (This was, of course, the late-60s and early 70s, when little girls were still encouraged to play house and to practice being good mothers.)


The only disappointment the sisters suffered (and the table, chairs, and high chair likely suffered as well) during these years was when the father decided that all the furniture needed to match in the sisters’ room, and he painted the table, chairs, and the high chair yellow, the same color as the twin canopy beds and the shelf and the chest of drawers built by the girls’ grandfather. The older daughter never did like the yellow on the table and chairs, nevertheless she played with the furniture, and she and her sister made more memories around the little table despite the dreaded yellow.


Nearly overnight, the sisters grew up (as children will do). They no longer played house or mothered pretend babies. The table finally wore its hinges and screws loose, and the legs fell off. The chairs were kept for a time until they, too, fell apart. All that was left was the high chair, and it was put in storage. The little girls grew up, married, and put their mothering skills to good use with their own children, and the little high chair was forgotten.

Then one day, the high chair was found when the parents were preparing to move from the house where the girls grew up. The oldest daughter took it home with her, but she had boys who liked fire engines and cars and baseballs and fighting, and she knew they would not wish to play with the high chair. So, she stripped the yellow paint, refinished the family heirloom, and set it around her house as a display for whatever her heart desired.

And each time she looked at it, she remembered her sister and the hours they spent playing house, and the memories warmed her and she was glad she had found the high chair.

One of the woman’s boys, who loved fire trucks so much he grew up to volunteer at the local fire department, brought home a kitten. He dubbed the cat “Fuego” which means fire in  Spanish.


The kitten, however, took one look at the boy’s mother and decided she would be her mother. The woman remembered all the cats she had growing up, and once she got over the shock of having yet another pet in the household (for there were already three dogs and a guinea pig), she embraced the cat as her special little princess.

The kitten, however, had no shame. She chased the dogs. She fished with her paw in the guinea pig cage. She climbed the Christmas tree.

She even kicked baby Jesus out of his stable.

Then, one day, the woman walked into the living room to find the cat sleeping, rather awkwardly, on the doll-size high chair.

“You have no shame, Princess,” she said affectionately. “First my tree, then my manger, and now my high chair.”


The cat’s ears twitched, but otherwise she moved not.

And the woman remembered her sister and the hours they spent playing house. The memories warmed her, and she was glad the cat had found the chair.





Vintage Recipe or Washington Scandal? – Watergate Salad

Apparently, I have been using the term “vintage” wrong. It applies to something that was in popular vogue in the past, went into a period of being “out of date,” but has now resurfaced again as being popular.

I just thought it meant old. Sort of a euphemism for “antique.”

In regards to recipes being “vintage,” I found nothing on the internet. Frankly, I have a hard time calling recipes “antique.” In my mind, antique denotes worn or frayed edges, and/or possible wear and tear from being used. Sometimes it just means old.

I certainly don’t wish to eat “old” food. Just saying.

So in the future, just so my readers know, I will dub these recipes “vintage” and go on with my merry Christmasing and beyond.

And this week I wish to bring to you an oldie but goodie – Watergate Salad.


Picture from

This recipe has graced the tables at our Christmas feasts since I first made it in high school nearly thirty years ago. A quick sidedish, it is great for putting together ahead of time and then, as it chills in the refrigerator, the cook can move to other things. It has a “sweet” look and a sweet taste, and if you take it to pot luck dinners and the like, where no one remembers it, it will get placed with the desserts as a pudding if you are not careful. (By the way, double it for potluck dinners. It goes fast as everyone oohs and aahs not only at the taste but the memories as well.)

As for the history of Watergate Salad, most folks think it has something to do with the Watergate Scandal which burst forth during the Nixon Administration in the mid-70s. The real origin of the name, however, is a bit more obscure and sketchy.

The dish was created by Kraft Corporate Affairs in 1975, the same year that pistachio pudding arrived on store shelves. Not even the Kraft company can substantiate the origin of the name “Watergate Salad.” The original name of the dish, as dubbed by Kraft, was “Pistachio Pineapple Delight.” According to Kraft, when the recipe for  “Pistachio Pineapple Delight” was sent out, an unnamed food editor in Chicago renamed the dish “Watergate Salad” to promote interest  in her column. Imagine Kraft’s surprise, shortly thereafter, when customers requesting the recipe referred to it as “Watergate Salad.”

Since then various rumors, none substantiated, have surfaced about the recipe and the name. The Denver Post in 1976 cited a rumor that the dish was created by the assistant chef at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D. C. Served at brunch and on weekends, the dish took off in popularity during and after the Watergate scandal of President Richard Nixon’s Administration.


The Watergate Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Interestingly, at the time a number of other dishes surfaced as part of a trend toward satirically-named recipes. Others included Nixon’s Perfectly Clear Consomme and Liddy’s Clam-Up Chowder.

Yea, it’s alright. Go ahead and laugh.  (I guess since Saturday Night Live was in its infancy (1975), and social media had not been invented, people took to their kitchens to express their displeasure with the political system.)

The funniest explanation for the name, however, comes from Anne Adams and Nan Nash-Cumming, syndicated household advice columnists. They reported in their “Anne & Nan” column of 9 October 1997 that the name came from “Watergate Cake” which shares many of the same ingredients. The cake, like the pudding, was created during the Watergate scandal, and the cake, at least, has a “cover-up” icing and is full of “nuts.”

Yea, you are entitled to more laughter (especially after the fractious election we just all lived through).

Just don’t choke on the politicians, er . . . nuts in your salad.


Recipe for Watergate Salad

1 20 oz can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 3.4 oz Jello Pistachio Pudding and Pie Filling
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 8 oz frozen whipped topping, thawed

Mix all the ingredients together and chill for an hour or two before serving.





The Joy of . . Soap?

I really should get out more. I should probably shop more. (But I probably won’t.)

I know this to b20161203_191656e true since the most exciting thing that happened this past week (except for the cat dangling by one foot from high in the Christmas tree) was finding out that The Vitamin Shoppe not only carries Dr. Brommer’s Castile Soap, but that Dr. Brommer himself (is there such a person?) has rose scented liquid soap.


My heart nearly left my chest. I can not tell you how thrilled I was! This was even more exciting than finding the aisle with the soap only to realize that they had more than the overly large size which was the only size HEB carried. So, when I found the rose soap, I was already riding  a high since I was not going to be forced to shell out $10 for a bottle of soap that lasted me months.

Of course, by now I am certain you are thinking, between me and my nutty animals at the house, that I have lost my last marble.

Or, my last bar of soap.20161204_173950

Actually, the answer is simpler and more mundane than that. You see, my paternal grandmother, Eleanora Ressler Hechler, always had the smell of rose soap in her bathroom. Although, I must admit that I was not aware of the scent until several years ago. I was somewhere doing something (maybe a rare shopping trip?) and I smelled soap (or something) that smelled just like her bathroom.

Since then, I have been on a small quest of sorts sniffing soaps and other smelly things for the smell of a rose scent. ‘Tis not been easy. For some reason, this is not a scent that is used much these days.

I do love having small reminders of my family around me – my antique hutch that belonged to my great-grandmother Lily Corinne Gray Griswold, my antique traveling trunk that belonged to a Whitehead or McQueen and probably came from Tennessee or Louisiana (or further parts unknown), the dresser that belonged to my great-grandmother Anna Lee Whitehead McQueen, as well as dishes, butter molds, and on and on.

But smells? Well, those are different, and they are very powerful for pulling forth memories and feelings of past events.And yes, for some reason when I smell the scent of rose soap, I am taken back, albeit briefly, to not only my grandmother’s bathroom, but to a simpler time when I was a child with few cares and my grandparents were still around.

In the case of rose scented soap, I am reminded for just a minute, no matter how brief, of not only my grandmother’s bathroom, but the glass knobs on her doors, the laroses-1566792_960_720ce curtains that lifted and waved inside the living room as the wind caressed the house, her large rooms with wooden floors that my feet pounded on as I ran through the house. And of course, there was her voice yelling at me not to run, and then as I headed for the door her admonishment to grab a scarf to keep my ears out of the wind.

Yea, I am strange. Who could get that much from the smell of rose scented soap?

Maybe my animals are not the only nutty ones around here.

Maybe it’s a good thing I’m a writer, so I can put that over active imagination, er memories, to good use.