Sorting leads to rediscoveries

Life at our house is starting to get back to normal. We finally have carpeting on the floors and furniture to sit on, and the kids once again have real beds to sleep in instead of just a pair of mattresses on the floor.

Now we can get started on finishing the basement, where we will put in a new bedroom and bathroom for our son, Alex, and a large family room with a walk-out patio.

And when this is all complete, maybe we can get the guinea pigs out of the bathtub.

They’re in a cage. In the bathtub. The place where their cage usually sits has been under construction. Since there is little heat downstairs in the basement presently, the guinea pigs had to find a new home. They needed a place that would be warm and draft free, so they ended up in the bathtub.

They don’t seem to mind. The birds are in the bathroom, too. In a cage. In the corner of the room. Not in the tub.

One of these days, the animals will find a new location. But until then, they’ll have to make do in the bathroom.

In the meantime, I’m trying my best to keep things flowing toward meeting our goal of getting the house completed by May.

One task our entire family has taken on has been to sort through every drawer and closet, every bag and box that occupies space in our home and to find an orderly place for anything that is precious enough to keep.

So, with that in mind, I set about going through my secretary’s writing desk, a place that has become a catchall for all manner of stuff: memos from school, coupons clipped from the Sunday paper, return addresses ripped from the corners of letters, articles torn from magazines, and hastily written notes to remind me of something or other that I saw or heard about are stashed in each and every cubby and drawer.

Notes taken from an episode of our favorite Japanese cooking show, “The Iron Chef,” remind me how to test for the degree of doneness for a steak.

“For rare beef, the meat should feel like the lobe of an ear. For medium-rare, the side of the cheek. A steak cooked medium-well should have the same feel as the nostril of the nose and when the meat has the firmness of the tip of the nose, it will be well done.”

Another scrap of paper reminds that the Iron Chefs recommend eating corn on the cob vertically, instead of in the horizontal position that I would assume most of America uses when eating an ear of corn. Eating corn vertically ensures a better bite on the corn and allows the sweetest part of the kernel, that being closest to the cob, to be enjoyed.

There’s an article that Ellynne Wiebe gave me about a guy who covered his entire house in cheese. I think I should save that one. That’s real column material.

Speaking of column material, since New Year’s, I’ve heard from many of my Robinson relatives after writing a piece about my great grandmother. I should probably publicly correct an error that was printed in that column.

My great grandmother gave birth to 13 children, not 12, as I had reported earlier. For some reason, probably because of the lateness of the hour when I wrote that column, I didn’t count my own grandmother, Lucy Wilcox, when adding up my great aunts and uncles.

Thirteen biological children: Lucy, Richard, Taylor, Sam, Alfred, Nellie, Harry, Bess, Elsie, Sidney, Charlotte, Whitney and Janet, whom I’ve always known as Aunt Babe, and one stepson, Jack. (See, I really do know them all.) Fourteen kids at the Robinson’s house…yikes.

Can you imagine getting everybody up and out for school in the morning? Or the meals? Or the laundry?

Back to my desk. Last Tuesday, Kansas Day, my daughter, Meghan, and two of her friends, Suzy Lindsay and Jandi Nikkel, had the privilege of serving as pages in the Kansas Legislature in Topeka. Now Meg’s honorary certificate and the picture of the girls meeting with Gov. Graves and their sponsor, Representative Garry Boston of Newton, lays on my desk waiting for my attention.

Jandi’s mom, Jessie, had arranged for the girls to go to Topeka and had no idea that years ago, Garry Boston had been my family’s insurance agent. And also a friend to my father.

When Meg left for her trip, I told her to “tell Rep. Boston who you are.” Being 12, she was reluctant, but she said she would if the right opportunity arose.

As it turned out, Garry took the girls out to lunch and in the course of conversation, Meg summoned up the courage to say that her mom remembered him from her days of living in Newton.

“What’s your mom’s maiden name?” Meg reported Rep. Boston as asking.


“You don’t mean you’re Harold Wilcox’s granddaughter!”

Meghan was thrilled by the anecdotes that Garry told her about her Grandpa Harold. She was only a baby when he died and has only heard about him from relatives, but now because of a busy legislator’s interest in a kid’s life, she has a fuller picture of who her grandfather really was.

“I respected him.”

That’s what Meg remembers Garry Boston saying about her grandfather, my dad.

“I respected him.” What a gift.

Looking at the certificate and the picture, I know immediately what to do with it. I think Mary Lancaster at Mary’s Mats and More will do a fine job of framing something that has come to symbolize more than just a day of fun in Topeka.

* * *

On one of the days last week we stayed home from school because of the snow, the kids and I baked cookies. It was so nice not to have to get out in the icy weather and instead just sit in the warm kitchen eating cookies hot from the oven. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Apple Cobbler Cookies

3 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 sticks butter, softened

2 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup apple juice

1/2 cup apple butter

1 cup tart apples, peeled and chopped

1 cup raisins

1 cup finely chopped pecans

Crumb coating

11/4 cups brown sugar

11/2 cups quick oats

11/4 tsp. cinnamon

9 tbs. butter, melted

Combine sugars and butter and mix until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, blend and then add apple juice and apple butter. Add dry ingredients and then add the apples, raisins and nuts. Blend until just mixed, do not overmix.

Roll dough into one-inch diameter balls and roll each ball in the crumb mixture until well coated. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 300 for 24 minutes or until cookie is firm to the touch and crumb coating begins to brown.

To prepare crumb coating: Combine sugar, oats and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well with a whisk. Add melted butter and whisk until dry ingredients are well moistened.

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