My entire life has been centered on the kitchen. As a very young child, about eight or nine years old,, my mother turned me loose in the kitchen – this would have been our house on Sutter Street where my parents bought their first home of their own.

I really didn’t appreciate the enormity of this gesture until I was in high school at Mother of Mercy and I discovered that most of my girlfriends had mothers who never allowed them free reign in the kitchen.

The first thing I attempted to make were muffins. I didn’t listen to my mother’s admonition to leave the bowl on the kitchen table. No, I wanted to hold the bowl in the crook of my arm–I think I saw that in a magazine ad–while I mixed the batter. Well, I dropped the yellow Pyrex bowl on the kitchen floor, shattering the bowl and the batter. I think it took me about a year to buy my mother another set of Pyrex bowls (You couldn’t buy just one bowl–you had to buy the entire set at a 5 & 10 cent store which I think might have cost $2.98.

Undaunted, I would go through my mother’s Ida Bailey Allen cookbook–the only cookbook she owned at the time, and I would search through recipes looking for a recipe that happened to contain the same ingredients we had in the pantry. This was in the 1940s and you didn’t go to the grocery store for ingredients–the list of ingredients had to match whatever was in our pantry.

I still have that batter-stained cookbook with some of the pages coming loose from the binding. I’ve since found a nice pristine copy of Ida Bailey Allen’s Service cookbook but it doesn’t evoke the same emotions that I get from my mother’s Service cookbook.

I had two childhood girlfriends, Patty and Carol Sue, but my mother always worked so the three of us used my mother’s kitchen to experiment in. I had two younger brothers who would sit on the back steps and eat up any of our mistakes–burnt cookies, whatever. I got into more than one heated discussion about the merits of cooked frosting versus “raw”–since it was my mother’s kitchen I won most of those arguments–besides, it was my younger brothers who were eating up our mistakes.

I was about the same age when I discovered you could send away for a lot of free recipe booklets. Postcards were a penny each–if you had ten cents you could buy ten penny post cards.

Free recipe booklets were advertised on the backs of boxes and cans, such as Hershey’s cocoa. I began sending away for free recipe booklets and soon had a shoebox full of recipe booklets from Calumet and Quaker Oats



  By the time my first son, Michael, was five and his brother Steve was two, we were living in a rented house in North Hollywood and it was while we were living atthat house on Kittridge street that I began collecting cookbooks—and was really into cookie baking by that time. I had acquired a lot of Wilton decorating tips and began learning how to make little flowers, like violets, with royal frosting, to put on cookies. Just before Christmas in 1965, I embarked on asugar cookie baking marathon. I planned to give cookies to friends as well ascoworkers at Weber Aircraft where both Jim and I were employed.  After hundreds of sugar cookies were baked and cooled, I began frosting them, one night, like an assembly-line, coveringall the table and counter tops with trays of frosted cookies.  When at last the cookies were all decoratedwith butter cream frosting, I left them out to dry overnight. I collapsed in bed around 3 am.

The next day, I got up to discover that Michael had eaten the frosting off of everysingle cookie.  Every – single –cookie.  Needless to say, no one receivedgift tins of cookies from the Smiths that year. To add insult to injury, Michael didn’t even get a tummy ache from all that sugar.  So, even though I may not beable to describe the many different cookies I made for most Christmasses overthe past 50 years, I can certainly tell you the story of the year no one received cookies from us.

In a homemade recipe journal I found in a used book store in the mid-60s, I was impressed with the author’s lists – lists of guests for parties, lists of everything that had been served – and lists of the cookies and confections she cooked and baked to give to friends for the holidays. So, I began keeping lists also. I’ve kept a Christmas notebook for years—it helps me remember who received what so that I don’t give that person the same thing two years in a row.  So for whatever it’s worth- here is a list of my Christmas cookies for 1981:

Chocolate chip

Chocolate cut out

Butter cut out

Mexican wedding cakes


Oatmeal ice box

1 dough 8 ways *bon bons

Peanut blossoms

Rum raisins

Butter pecan

Gingerbread boys

Almond icebox slices

Sun giant raisin

Cinnamon stars


Truffles, 2 kinds

Sugared almonds

Mint walnuts

Candy pecans


Peanut butter balls

Texas fruit cake


What this list tells me is that not much has changed in thirty years. Many of these recipes are the same ones I’m still baking! And the mint walnuts became afavorite when my penpal in Oregon sent me small bottles of mint oil, from their mint crop. (although any kind of mint oil will work). Those are really not a“cookie” but what you might call a confection.

–SandraLee Smith  

UPDATED 12-9-18


Christmas is on the horizon (you may not want to think so, since Thanksgiving leftovers are still in the frig) but our household gears up for Christmas by September—at least it did for decades; I have begun to stock up on dried fruit–and there are so many more to choose from these days; pineapple and mango and cherries and ginger–many ingredients which will make a fantastic fruitcake, even if you think you don’t really like fruitcake.

Cookbookauthor Edna Lewis recalled Christmas in Freetown, writing, “When I was a girl growing up in a small farming community of Freetown, Virginia, preparations for Christmas started in early September, when we children went out to gather black walnuts, hickory nuts, and hazelnuts….Whenever she saw a break of a day or two from the September harvest, Mother would set about making the fruitcake. It wasa family affair that my older sister and I cheerfully participated in….”  I know I get my pecans and walnuts from asupermarket, but in my heart I am gathering black walnuts and hickory nutssomewhere      in the south.

Istock up on sugar and flour, watching for sales, and begin digging through myrecipe files for all the favorite cookie recipes. I have four sons and sixgrandchildren and they all have different favorites. All of my friends beg for their favorites. We bake a lot of cookies starting in October. I also spend time making and decorating cookieswith my grandchildren and my sister’s three children. This is something theyall love to do.

 You can make almost any cookie dough ahead of time and pack it in portions in the freezer–but you can also bakecookies in advance, if you want, and freeze them too.

Since our freezer is usually packed, I find it easier to freeze the cookie dough and then go on a baking binge with whoever wants to help.

We’ve already been canning little jars of jams and jellies, preserves and fruit butters –

Much of which comes from our own trees and vines as well as those on my sister’s fruite trees, and these are earmarked as gifts for various friends and former co-workers. There was a time when I gave everyone in the office where I worked a jar of jelly for Christmas. There wereless than 50 employees in the office at that time. Now there are over 200. Ibegan limiting the gift-giving of jellies to my own department before I finally retired.

It’s almost as much fun going through my recipe collections and all of the Christmascookbooks, looking for different holiday cookie or candy recipes to try.Sometimes they’re winners, sometimes not – but it’s always enjoyable,experimenting and trying something new. The reward is when someone asks for the recipe!  —

Sandra Lee Smith, Updated December 8 , 2018

I have to admit, my techniques for baking and candy-making has changed considerably since I first started making cookies in my own kitchen in 1958. In fact, one of the first pamphlets I obtained that December is a now-tattered 4-page booklet titled “From our Kitchen to Yours  – 66 Wonderful Ways  to capture the warmth and Joy of an old-fashioned Christmas, BETTY CROCKER’S HOLIDAY ALMANAC, 1958, with many of the sweet treats made from products no longer available, such as Betty Crocker’s Meringue Mix to make kisses, or creamy fudge made with Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Frosting Mix. This was long before you could buy so many different ready-made frostings in a tub.  Betty Crocker has changed a great deal in 50 years but so have we.

And I don’t mind confessing that many of my cut-out sugar cookies started out with rolls of refrigerated cookie dough that can be tinkered with to make many different types of cookies.  In fact, you can buy cookbooks totally dedicated to showing you how to make dozens of cut-out, bar, and drop cookies – with refrigerated cookie dough.  I have to say, though – I never use ready-made frostings or icings of any kind; those are all made from scratch. This is just a personal preference and I make a really decadent deep chocolate frosting.

We’ll be ready for Christmas 2018 although as I sit in front of a fan trying to stay cool, it’s hard to imagine Southern California cooling off enough by December!

And no, we won’t be having goose. Prime rib or pork roast, most likely.

Sandra Lee Smith

Updated December 8 , 2018

Hoping someone who knows something will respond to this and give me some assistance.  I was absent for most of  a month and while I was unable to write, “someone” made a lot of changes to my blog. Now I can’t find any of my familiar places on which to post new material. I had 624 blog posts on sandyscookbookchatter.  PLEASE RESTORE MY blog to what it was before someone changed it.  I have never figured out an easy way to contact anyone at wordpress. and prior to THIS blog I had another that was all articles and material about collecting cookbooks.   I paid for an entire year on my blog and it hasn’t been a year yet.  help!!!  Sandra Lee Smith/


hello friends; I have been having problems getting back to my blog. crossing my fingers that this will work. – sls

Sandy's cookbook chatter

One afternoon recently, I began going through some of the bookshelves in the garage library, and realized that some of the very old books I had stored out there were getting – not just dusty – but some kind of dust mites attacking the bindings and covers.

So, I am in the process of re-packing some of these books and as I went along, I couldn’t resist looking inside some of these cookbooks. One thing that enchants me is the lengthy titles some of these books have. The cover of THE EVERY DAY COOKBOOK/Illustrated is proclaimed on the inside EVERY-DAY COOK-BOOK and ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PRACTICAL RECIPES by Miss E. Neil and in smaller print below the author is the following “Economical, Reliable and Excellent” and below THAT Chicago, Ill REGAN PRINTING HOUSE, 1892.

The collection of recipes are mostly short and to the point. I am bemused by one for Rich…

View original post 850 more words





Christmas was a great deal simpler, in my childhood;

There were not many presents and most

were much needed clothing

Like socks and underwear.

I remember being thrilled one year

With days-of-the-week panties in

Different colors.

I was beyond ecstatic the year

My brother Jim gave me

Five – count them FIVE – brand new

Nancy Drew mysteries.

We children went downtown by ourselves

And bought gifts for our parents,

Grandparents, and siblings.

How we accomplished this feat

Remains a mystery to me, when you consider

we received no allowances and what money

we could save was generally

obtained from cashing in pop bottles (2 cents

each) Or running errands for neighbors.

You also needed bus fare to go to and from

Downtown Cincinnati –

And we would find little handkerchiefs

For our mother

Or a man’s handkerchief

For our father,

Hairnets or bobby pins

Were the least expensive gifts

We could find at the 5&10 cent stores.

My mother saved all old gift wrap

So we ironed it, and the ribbons as well,

To reuse.

It remains a mystery

How we manage to shop for everyone;

It was something like the loaves and fishes

Out of the bible.

We eagerly anticipated Christmas

And being old enough to attend

Midnight mass;

Church services were an everyday part of

our lives and going to Catholic schools meant

attending mass Every day.

In the 8th grade, I missed singing at mass on

one  Saturday due to illness – and it cost me

being the one to crown the statue of Mary

At the May procession in the Virgin’s honor.

In school, in the lower grades,

I remember sometimes making presents

For our parents; I remember

A tie-rack made from the cardboard tube

From a roll of paper towels, to give to my


We made ornaments out of walnut shells

and uncooked macaroni.

We listened to Santa Claus on the radio

Coming all the way to you from the North

Pole  and we could hardly wait for the first

snowfall despite it meaning we would be

trudging Through the snow, to and from


In my family, Christmas was celebrated

On Christmas Eve and back in the early days

My grandmothers and often, my godmother

(who was my father’s favorite cousin)

would also be there.

Christmas morning was a time to go to

church and sit up close to the front

Where you could admire the nativity,

large statues of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.

I loved Christmas morning mass

Where all the hymns sung were in

celebration  of the birth of the Christ child.

We might have dinner that day at my

grandmother’s (if not there, then at our

house) – where, afterwards, my Uncle Al

herded together all the children

and dropped us off at the local movie theatre

giving us each a quarter

for admission, popcorn or candy.

We thought Uncle Al was rich.

At grandma’s or at our house,

The adults would clear the table

And begin to play cards.

They loved a game called Skit Skat

And another called Michigan Poker.

We didn’t care to be a part of it.

Left to sit in a movie theatre,

We could easily sit and watch

Everything twice.

That is what Christmas was like

Back then.




Children today have only to ask for

And receive

Everything their little hearts’ desire

And parents stand in long lines

To find the most popular toy or


But now it’s all electronics;

Newer and fancier cell phones

That take photographs and

Send text-messages,

Every child has some electronic game,

Expensive electronic devices that

Require expensive games to play

Where every child can play

Entirely alone and by themselves

Even when sitting in a room with

Siblings or the children of friends.

There is no need to interact

As you would with Monopoly

Or the game of Sorry.

Children have so many toys and games

That there is no place to keep them

And their rooms remain in shambles;

I remember telling my granddaughter how

much simpler it was to keep my own room

clean as there were only 4 or 5 games and

they were stored in a small cupboard above

my clothes closet.

We didn’t have a lot of clothing –

A good dress, a pair of good shoes to be worn

Only on Sundays and holidays.

Children today live in a surplus of ‘things’

And no one seems happy or satisfied.

The childhood of my children were

much simpler, also, as we had so little to

spend- But I’d buy them many small gifts

throughout the year, and we’d bake cookies

and make fudge.  Something has been lost

along the way; Soon those in power will

completely eliminate Christ from Christmas

And then, will it all become just

A day to shower your children

With expensive electronic devices?

Sandra Lee Smith

Originally written December 2009

Updated November, 2018












–Sandra Lee Smith



Here we are, well into November, anticipating Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then before you can even get the Christmas decorations put away as well as any  New Year’s decorations if you have any (I think the only New Year’s decoration we have is a battery operated little mouse that does some kind of singing or dancing – the batteries have been dead, for years, and never replaced.

My parents often had a New Year’s eve party that I was never there to  celebrate–as a teenager, it was a good night for babysitting although I was frequently  underpaid.  At my parents home, at midnight everyone had sauer kraut, mashed potatoes and peas and usually some kind of pork cooked with the sauer kraut–Pork and sauer kraut was considered good luck to have on New Year’s eve in my German heritage.

I’ve been thinking – what have I discovered about life this year?  I have discovered that regular squirrels do not inhabit the desert (at least I haven’t seen any in the ten years I’ve been living in the desert).  Those that tormented our dog, Jackie, down in the San Fernando valley are not around up here.  Here, there are some kind of ground squirrels or moles–little creatures that dig up your lawn and eat up the roots of all  your flowers and plants.  Our cat Calvin liked to stake out a spot in the back yard and wait for one of those creatures to show itself.  The critters learned to avoid Calvin at all cost.

I have also learned that life in a town (township?) like Quartz Hill is more easier going than city life–the last time I drove down to the San Fernando Valley was in April–I was making  a trip to Ohio on Southwest Airlines–when I reached the area where the 14 freeway ends, and you have to get over to the left and merge with traffic on the I-5, I was immediately  terrified by the traffic – in the Antelope Valley we have one freeway, the 14, which crosses the Antelope Valley, usually with traffic at a reasonable speed. (well, I do try to plan my  trips in or out of the Antelope Valley when traffic is light).

Getting back to life in Quartz Hill, I never thought about living in a small town but have learned to appreciate it.  I like the friendly familiar faces of shopkeepers

at the dry cleaners,

the automotive shop on 50th (Jiffy Lube)

Our little Post Office on 50th

My Veterinary office, also on 50th

the LANCASTER Library,

the European Deli

My manicurist at Nail Pro; she’s on avenue L and 20th

the pharmacist inside Von’s supermarket

the nursery that only sells plants and trees that will grow in the desert

and many, many others.

Until earlier this year, I bowled with a group of women at the Lancaster bowling lanes which unfortunately, reduced their leagues and hours of operation, so that my  girlfriend Iona and her son and I have recently joined a league that meets on Monday nights in Palmdale.

I’m not sure when it happened….but somewhere along the way, in the past ten  years that I have been living here, despite losing Bob to cancer of the esophagus in 2011, I never thought it would happen….but it did…..I have adapted to Quartz Hill, adapted to desert climate and living, adapted to the wild flowers including the prolific poppies in the spring, adapted to an easier way of living–its a rare occasion when  you hear an airplane and if there’s more than one, you go outside and look around. I lived for many years in the flight path of air traffic heading for Burbank’s Bob Hope airport. Southwest Airlines in Burbank is my #1 choice of traveling–I think I am in their records because the last time I traveled, in April, they had wheelchair  assistance waiting for me everywhere I went.

What I have discovered this year (my ten year anniversary Thanksgiving weekend) is that life may not be a bowl of cherries but I can certainly offer you a bowl of strawberries or maybe a little bowl of pomegranate seeds from my  own pomegranate tree (or strawberry jam or pomegranate jelly.)

I think I saw a quote some years ago–not sure who originally wrote it–but the quote is “grow where you are planted”  I’m working on it.

Sandra Lee Smith

November, 11, 2018


What I won’t try again

It’s too late to change,

we said so long,

months, then years,

Have come and gone,

I’ve resigned my life,

to this, my fate,

I know for us

it’s far too late.

For those of us,

like you and I,

who let our chances

pass us by;

I won’t search

for you again;

I’m letting go

and hoping, then,

I’ll find some peace;

Not love, perhaps,

but time to let

what we had lapse.

the winds of change

are in the air;

I’m letting go–

It’s only fair;

It’s not that I

will swear off men,

but love is what

I won’t try again.

–Sandra Lee Smith

Posting 11/11/218

Previously posted December 26, 2009