Ringin’ in the Appalachian New Year


My older daughter and I went to a really great event on Sunday called Ringin’ in the Appalachian New Year.  It was held in the large cafeteria of Holy Family school in Price Hill (a suburb of Cincinnati).  As you can see by the poster, there was something for everyone with continuous music from 1 PM to 5 PM….

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One portion of the program included hoe-down style square dancing and I was so glad to see my daughter on the floor enjoying herself after two years of medical problems …

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Admission was something for the potluck dinner, although no one was turned away who wanted to eat.  I brought my Swiss Chicken and Orzo Casserole which I baked and then put in a hot pot to keep warm.  There was a wonderful spread of food including chicken, ham, three kinds of bean casseroles, cornbread, salad, bread and lovely desserts – all delicious.  There was a contest for the best “corny” dish and a pie contest.  I haven’t entered a pie contest in over 30 years but brought along my favorite Concord Grape Streusel  pie and won first prize.


The Memory Quilt mentioned in the poster is a collection of memories of Appalachian and country life that attendees have written over the years and collected in binders – a quilt made by writing rather than sewing.

We don’t usually have anything special that we look forward to after New Year’s in January, but from now on, this event will be highlighted on our calendar.

Norton’s Rum Cake

After my father was gone in the 1970s, my sister (a die-hard round dancer) persuaded my mother to get out more and to take up round and square dancing.  Mother fought the idea for awhile, but finally got up the nerve to venture out on her own and met the most wonderful man who became her dance partner and a friend of the family for many years to come.  Norton was always the perfect gentleman, soft-spoken with a dry wit, a great dancer, and a good cook.

The dances were always the occasion for good food contributed by the club members and Norton’s favorite item to bring was his famous rum cake.  Although alcohol was strictly forbidden at dances, everyone looked the other way when Norton walked in with his cake.  Erma Bombeck wrote about the joy of being at a PTA meeting and having someone bring in anything with alcohol in it.  It was the same way at these teetotaler dances – everybody rushed to the table when Norton’s Rum Cake was there.

I don’t use cake mix very often, but it works so well with this cake that I’ve never tried anything else.  It’s delicious and easy to make.


To make the cake:

  • 18.25-18.5 oz. box of yellow cake mix (I use Betty Crocker Super Moist)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup dark rum (Bacardi)
  • 1/2 cup oil (canola)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 315 degrees F
Grease and flour a 10-cup tube or Bundt cake pan

Place all ingredients in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes.  Pour into greased and floured 10-cup tube or Bundt pan and bake @ 315 degrees F for approximately one hour until a tester inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean.

With cake still in pan, allow to cool on a rack for 5 minutes.

Run a knife around the edges and tube portion to loosen.  Invert cake onto rack.

While cake is cooling, make the Rum Glaze:


  • 8 Tblsp. (1/4 lb.) butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark rum (Bacardi)

In a small saucepan, melt the butter.  Then stir in the water and sugar.  Bring to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the rum.

While cake is warm, poke holes in the cake with a skewer and pour the sauce over the cake.  It will take several minutes for the cake to absorb the glaze – just wait a few seconds and ladle on some more sauce until it is all used.

Let cake cool completely before cutting and serving.

I would love to have one more chance to sit alongside my mother in her beautiful square dance dress with matching shoes and earrings, watching Norton as he smiles and accepts the compliments of all the dancers on his wonderful cake.

A Patchwork Memory Jacket

This is the first quilted jacket I made.  About 7 years ago, I was very new at quilting and was looking for anything I could find around the house to use as practice projects.

About 25 years ago, my oldest daughter had embellished my black square dance skirt with her gorgeous hand-painted and embroidered work.  When the skirt was no longer wearable, I cut out all of the hand-worked panels, not knowing what I would do with them.  When they surfaced again while I was looking for things to quilt, I had my answer.

I made the jacket first out of patchwork squares with colors that coordinated with the embroidered panels…

…then appliqued the panels onto the jacket.  At that time, I didn’t have the skill to piece the panels into the patchwork design.

The design that had been on the center front of my skirt was a beautiful rendering of swans and I used those as a panel on the back where there was plenty of room.

When I was making the jacket, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, so I just used a sweatshirt as the lining.  It has become a piece that I keep back for special occasions and if I were making it now, I would put much more thought into a lining that would complement the jacket.

The colors don’t come through too well but this is really an exciting, beautiful jacket and one that is filled with memories.  My husband passed away six years ago, but we had so much fun going to square dances and whenever I wore the skirt, I spent quite a bit of time standing still so the other women could circle around me, admiring each beautiful panel with my daughter’s handiwork.

A Tree Skirt from a Square Dance Skirt


Thirty years ago (in 1978), I was very much involved in square and round dancing.  For my Christmas gift that year, I asked my oldest daughter to work her magic with needle and thread on a skirt I could wear to all the Christmas dances.  She helped me choose a heavy cotton fabric in Christmas green and I made a 12-panel full-circle skirt.  She decorated each of the panels with a different design in embroidery and fabric paint.

My favorite designs were the little folk girl and the angel, although each image was unique and charming.



I wore the skirt for many years at dances and various Christmas parties.  Each time, I would have to stand still while other women made a circle around me, picking up the panels and admiring my daughter’s handiwork.  After my husband became too ill to dance and after the waistband became a little too snug, I hated to think of storing the skirt away and never seeing it again at Christmas time.  That’s when I decided to just cut it apart up the back and use it as a tree skirt.  It’s wonderful and makes an appearance every year encircling my Christmas tree.


I’m so glad to be able to sit and look at the skirt each year, remembering all of the happy dances and parties from so many years ago.


Fluffy Pineapple Dessert


My oldest daughter was here on Sunday and we wanted something for supper that was satisfying, yet relatively healthy and not as heavy and rich as the food we’ve been eating for the past two weeks.

I got some leftover Thanksgiving turkey breast from the freezer and heated it on the stovetop with some broth and seasonings.

For our vegetables, I tried Sweet Rosie’s method of roasting vegetables – wonderful – be sure to include the whole cloves of garlic.

For dessert I went back to an old family favorite from the 1970s – Fluffy Pineapple Dessert.  This is really delicious and it makes a lot, way too much for two people.  But by the time I sent some home with this daughter, saved some for the youngest daughter and kept some for myself, it was just about right.



  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (I used the non-fat kind)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple (in pineapple juice), drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 16 oz. container of whipped topping (I used Cool Whip Lite)

In a large bowl, combine milk and lemon juice; stir until thick.  Add crushed pineapple and nuts; mix well.  Fold in whipped topping.  Pour into 9×13 pan and refrigerate for several hours.

This dish was very popular at square dance potluck dinners. 


Christmas Village


As soon as the leftover turkey is in the refrigerator and the big graniteware roaster is washed and stored away for another year, I begin setting up my Christmas village.   The village is the most time-consuming decorating I do (except maybe for the tree which my two youngest grandchildren always set up for me).  My first illuminated house, an early Department 56 model, was a gift from my oldest daughter and youngest son.


It has been joined over the years by a church (handpainted by my oldest daughter), and school.



Three Department 56 pieces commemorate visits to Germany, Austria and England.



There’s a “Wonderful Life” train station and a “Christmas Story” Higbee’s Department Store.



There’s a barndance barn with musicians and dancers to honor all the years my husband and I enjoyed square dancing plus a farm barn with all kinds of animals to remember the years we lived in the country.



There’s a miller’s house, a windmill and a lighthouse…..




There’s a 30s style movie theatre and garage….


an antique store, a bank, a large house, a toy store, a JoAnn’s shop, and a gift store.






And, of course, there are countless small figures of people, animals, telegraph poles, clocks, etc., and all the lighting to put in place.   This all started out just taking up the top of the piano but now it’s spread out over five different surfaces and I love it when everything is set up and all the lights are turned on.  Now, it’s really time for the Christmas season to start.