Category Archives: REFLECTIONS


Last week, possibly on Friday, I bought some groceries at the supermarket on 30th and Avenue L—a little out of my way, but the nearest Von’s and Albertson’s supermarkets while closer than the Stater Brothers store, were, I thought, a little more expensive—and the boxed wine that I buy—was always several dollars less than that of Von’s or Albertson’s. (I don’t even clip the supermarket weekly special coupons from Von’s anymore because THEIR fine print is also too fine for me).

As I was on my way home, I was baffled because the total was higher than I anticipated. (and the truth is, I rarely double-check cash register receipts, as long as the total is in the ballpark figure of what I think it ought to be). So, after returning home and putting groceries away, I began to check the cash register receipt—and was completely blown away to find that my $7.99 box of Blush wine—had cost me $11.99 – four dollars more! So today, I went back to Stater Brothers, re-checked the price of the blush boxed wine—then went to find the manager to question him about the total. I told him I go out of my way to go to this store because the prices were always better than its competitors—and I was always able to get a box of wine in the $7.99 – $8.99 price range. He returned to the wine racks with me – and then asked if I realized I had to buy FOUR boxes of the wine to get it at the $7.99 price.
“When did that go into effect?” I asked, to which he replied , “About two or three years ago”. And he pointed out the tiny fine print on the price racks.

“Well, I NEVER buy four boxes of wine at the same time,” I said “AND I couldn’t read the fine print even with my glasses on”.

Well to make a long story even longer, the store manager gave me a refund of the $3.99 that I felt I had been overpriced on. And I made up my mind to go the extra distance and go to the Food4less store down on Avenue J and 15th (Which is a branch of the Kroger chain back in Ohio) – but I will check the fine print on THAT store as well, before I buy any. It irks me that buying four of a product to get the lower price means buying a lot more groceries than I want or need. (and nothing like this “buy four to get a lower price” existed when I was raising four sons and trying to get by on as little as possible—we were as poor as church mice until I went back to work full time in 1977.

I KNEW about the requirement to buy four of a given product, such as cake mixes and cereal – but it never occurred to me that the store was requiring me to buy 4 boxes of wine (or any combination thereof) @ 5 liters per box–enough wine to last me the rest of 2014. And, I need to get a new (stronger) pair of glasses—or go supermarket shopping with a big magnifying glass.

As I reflect on this store requirement forcing me to buy four of an item to get the lowest price, and considering that I am retired and on a fixed income—and mind you, this “buy four to get a lower price” appears to be universal in the southern California supermarket regions—I’m at a loss. It wasn’t a major issue when my granddaughter was still going to high school and practically lived here—but now that I am truly living alone….it’s high time I read the fine print. I think I will shop for a strong magnifying glass this afternoon.

–Sandra Lee Smith


When Savannah was born, on October 22, 1994, she was the first born of my grandchildren—and I was thrilled to finally have a little girl in my life.

From my journals, I wrote “October 22, 1994, Saturday – my first grandchild – a GIRL – was born at 11 am this morning. Her name is Savannah Marie…Kelly & Keara went to the hospital last night – but they had so many false alarms – I didn’t try to get to Palmdale til this morning. I got Jim to drive me and we arrive about 5 minutes before the baby was born. (at 11) and I wasn’t allowed in. Sara her sister and Kelly were with her. The baby has been in an incubator since she was born – at first they said she was breathing too fast and they were running tests & implied to Keara that maybe the baby had Down Syndrome or something. The kids have been frightened out of their wits. Linda brought me back to the house (I can’t think anymore). Kelly stayed at the hospital. We’ve gone back and forth so many times.

October 26 1994-Today is Bob’s birthday. Savannah is 4 days old and seems to be doing fine, according to the kids.
From a letter to Bev dated December, 1994 – “…what a year this has been. Most important to us was the recent birth of my first grandchild-a grand DAUGTHER who was born October 22nd. Her name is Savannah Marie Smith; her parents are Kelly & Keara…at one month of age she is up to a little over 8 lbs. We are all smitten, of course, and think she is the greatest thing to come along since sliced bread. Kelly has me amazed; he changes diapers, feeds the baby, does everything for the baby.

Savannah had a hard time getting here and when she was born, had the cord wrapped twice around her neck; they kept her in an incubator the first 24 hours and kept her in the hospital an extra day because she was having some respiratory problems. We all spent some anxious hours while they ran tests and checked her out. She was about 3 weeks early and Keara had a long and hard labor. No doubt she would have had to have a Caesarian if the baby had been full term. The hospital staff said she would have been more like 8½ – 9 lbs. I spent that weekend out at Kelly’s home in Lancaster then went back the following weekend and cooked a small turkey for the kids…”

From a letter to Bev, written in March, 1995, “I am beginning to think it would be more likely that I would move to Lancaster after I retire – to be near my granddaughter. …the baby is smiling and cooing… Keara swears she says “hi”. Well you know doting mothers. She does babble and has a cute smile. Her mother says she isn’t the princess of ALMOST everything, it’s just everything. She sure is going to be daddy’s girl though…Oh, I kept Savannah overnight for the first time a few weeks back. She took a bottle and went to sleep in my bed at 11 pm and slept til 7 am! At 9 am, up pulls Kelly’s truck and they both jump out and dash in. I shushed them at the door – the baby had just gone back to sleep. They were kind of put out, I think, that she slept all night. Said “oh, well, it must be because she was coming down with a cold”. (Don’t they have that backwards?) That baby knew she was in grammy’s bed!..”

So, that was the beginning of my role being Grammy. As time went by, however, I found it next to impossible to get Savannah to warm up to me. Her parents would say “oh, well, it’s because she’s so shy” – but she wasn’t shy with her Nana, Keara’s mother, or a lot of other people. She and I did make cookies together when she was two years old and we bonded best if no one else was around. Still, she remained aloof with me, despite my best efforts, –until her brother was born in 2002.

From my journal dated 2004, I wrote “Christmas Eve day, Kelly & Keara came down early so that they could go visit his dad – Ethan pitched a fit and didn’t want to go—the last time they were down here, Ethan didn’t want to leave and cried most of the way home. so I said …oh, leave him with me & they did. He is grammy’s boy! I think Savannah may be a little put out about it but Keara explained to her that she was always Nana’s girl (Keara’s mother) and didn’t grow close to me until a few years ago. It’s very meaningful to me that at last I have a grandchild who is “all mine”. They left and I put Teletubbies on for Ethan; he patted the couch next to him and said “Sit here with me, grammy” so I did & I burned some of the rice but what the heck.

Savannah was perplexed that Ethan wanted to stay with me instead of going to see his grandpa Jim. She asked her mother why Ethan wanted to stay with me. Keara said “Well, remember how you always wanted to stay with Nana? Now Ethan wants to stay with Grammy” – and quite possibly my granddaughter deduced that maybe she was missing out on something. 

That was really when Savannah began warming up to me and by this time there were several other grandchildren and we began doing a Christmas cookie & craft project (as well as Easter cookie craft, Valentine’s Day cookie & craft and Halloween cookie & craft). Even so, I don’t think Savannah and I grew really close until Bob and I moved to the Antelope Valley in 2008. I drove her and a couple girlfriends to and from school several days a week; we began baking cupcakes and cookies—and when she was eight I began teaching her how to play Scrabble. By the time she was 18, she could beat almost anyone at Scrabble – except, maybe, Uncle Steve. After Grandpa Bob passed away in 2011, Savannah spent more and more time at my house. We took our first vacation together in 2007, flying to South Dakota to see Uncle Steve & Aunt Lori; in 2012, we returned to Sioux Falls to spend another week with my son and daughter-in-law but also so Savannah could resume her friendship with a neighbor girl, Elizabeth, with whom Savannah became acquainted in 2007. (Before planning the 2012 vacation, I gave her an option—the trip was to be a graduation present – did she want to go to South Dakota—or would she rather go to Hawaii? She chose South Dakota.

By this time my granddaughter had grown into a beautiful young lady, smart and pretty, warm and friendly; she had a host of boy and girl friends throughout the 4 years of high school. Sometimes we went clothes shopping and sometimes we went to the Barnes & Noble bookstore. These past two years, she’s had her driver’s license so she began chauffeuring me to and from some of my doctor or other medical related appointments.

As I type these words, she is with her father and mother, brother, and Auntie Sara, who are accompanying her to Sacramento, where she has an apartment waiting along with a new roommate-they left here this morning, a caravan – Savannah and her mother in Savannah’s car, her father and brother in her father’s pickup truck (loaded with a washer and dryer for the two girls) and her aunt driving her SUV. I doubt that I will see her until April, on spring break.
She came by this morning to say goodbye and tell me she loved me. I waited until she left to shed the tears I have been holding back for the past few days. Three months seems so far away – just as the three months leading up to this very day seemed a long way off.


Isn’t it amazing how fast by the years have flown,
From infancy to woman, just look how much you’ve grown;
From a little girl in pigtails who was learning how to read,
From toddler to teenager, we’ve watched you take the lead.
You were always Grandpa’s favorite, and he called you “Littlebit”
Because he knew you’d be outstanding in whatever life that fit –
I know he’d be proud of you, in whatever curves life throws you,
And would say it’s been a pleasure just for him to know and love you;
And I feel the very same way, as we watched your life unfold—
If you’d been a gymnast, you would always take the gold,
But where ever life may lead you, whether here or far away,
Remember that I love you, far more than I can ever say.
My girl is going to college—life won’t ever be the same–
Watch out world, she’s coming and Savannah is her name.

–Sandra Lee Smith (AKA GRAMMY), January 3, 2014


Five years ago, Bob and I went from roughly 3000 square feet of living space, most taken up with bookcases filled with books—part of this from a guest house Bob had converted into a library/office. Before we moved to the Antelope Valley, I gave away hundreds of books to the Burbank main branch library, filling my daughter in law’s SUV with boxes of books—not once but twice—and another time filling my sister’s SUV to overflowing. I gave away more than I can even remember—enough to donate a lot to my nephew’s Boy Scout rummage sale. We had acquired a lot in 19 years of living in the Arleta house.

After we moved and I began unpacking books, I donated another dozen boxes full to the Lancaster library for their biannual sales. I also gave bowls, dishes, cutlery and a collection of extra pots and pans to nieces and nephews as they branched out on their own with their first apartments.

I am telling this to you because I find myself again needing to downsize. When we moved five years ago, I made no attempt to give away or donate any of our Christmas trees, ornaments or other holiday decorations. In Arleta, we had Christmas trees up in every room of the house (except maybe the bathrooms) – we had two big trees on either side of the fireplace in the living room, a big tree on the front porch; smaller trees with a kitchen-y theme in the kitchen. It took about 3 weeks to get it all up and about a week to take it all down. And that was when Bob was alive and I had someone to put up and take down the trees and lights.

The first Christmas without him was 2011 and I really didn’t feel like doing any decorating. Did I make cookies? I don’t remember. But Kelly persisted and put one of the trees up in the living room, near the front door, and Ethan, on his own decided to get the Snow Village up and running in his grandpa’s memory. I think I was inspired enough to put up the small lighthouse tree that gets decorated with all lighthouse ornaments.

This year I began to feel the need to cut corners, do more downsizing. Now, I can’t imagine just throwing out or giving away many of the Christmas ornaments and decorations that fill – I kid you not – 24 large plastic bins from Walmart. But last year, after a penpal in Florida lost her home to a fire that took everything she owned including a collection of angels – I began searching through the ornaments and decorations for angels to send to her. I filled 3 boxes with angels and mailed them to my friend, who was thrilled to have new angels to replace what she lost. And then I began searching for bear ornaments to give to my penpal in Michigan – and sent a box or two of bears to her. It really hasn’t made much of a dent in the entire collection.

We put up just a 3 foot tree this year; Kelly strung some lights on it. Ethan put up the snow village. I brought in one of the plastic bins from Walmart and from it selected a couple dozen ornaments to go on that tree. I will be able to take down everything in less than an hour. It used to take us days. The downsizing is making me sad, in another way, opening the boxes and finding the ornaments that I have collected for fifty years. It was often like a treasure hunt, finding old but treasured ornaments that bring back memories….ornaments Becky and I found at a Christmas store in Carmel, California, for instance. I was paying for a felt boy kangaroo at that shop when the owner said “Oh, this one is nice but the girl kangaroo is much cuter—but it’s sold out”. I asked if she was getting more in and she said yes. I said can I order one in advance? Oh yes she said, and took my address. No, I didn’t need to pay for it until I got it. Sometime later, the girl kangaroo arrived in the mail with a note that I owed her $9.00.

Once when I asked a Christmas-themed store owner (possibly the one in San Francisco) if they accepted checks, she said “oh,sure”. I said some places won’t, when it’s out of town or out of state. She replied (and this has always stayed with me) “Not a problem. Christmas people don’t cheat.”

I have an ornament from Hawaii, a little glass ornament with water and sand from Hawaii inside. It reminds me of Faye, Bob and I going to Hawaii together and the fun we had. I have some ornaments from the Atlanta Georgia underground where there are shops – including a Christmas one – as well as ornaments from downtown Cincinnati which had a Christmas store at one time. I don’t know if its still there or not. Here’s the problem – who else on earth would evoke the same memories I have of when and where and how these small objects came into my possession?

Downsizing can be difficult. I have been trying to restore Bob’s secret garden which is filled with leaves and had to be propped up with two by fours by Kelly, to keep it from listing too much to one side. I finally put all the garden statuary of Bob’s into boxes until I can get the secret garden back in shape. And the more I think about it, much of the Christmas collection was more Bob’s doing than mine. He accepted whatever I loved and cared about and ran with it. (my ex never did). So, I find myself missing Bob more as I attempt to downsize.

Every so often I look through all the pots and pans and bowls and dishes and potato mashers and spatulas, wooden spoons and turkey basters, and ask myself How on earth did I ever end up with so much stuff?—and then the answer comes to me – when my girlfriend Mandy’s father passed away, no one wanted his “stuff” – I took as much as I could handle, loathe to let those things end up in a thrift shop. Then when Mandy died – it was the same thing—I took back all the cookbooks we bought together so that now I have two of a bunch of books—as well as some other things she treasured but her brother didn’t want. So, whenever I pick up a kitchen utensil that came from a friend’s kitchen, some trace of memory accompanies the object. They are not gone, not forgotten. Recently, I was able to buy Chef Szathmary’s two quart mixing bowl. I have to think about the Chef and his long illustrious career, any time I handle something that was his.

In October of 2000, my sister Barbara, four years older than I, was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2002, she began sending some of her collections of milk glass, blue and red glass and other things to various friends and family; I think she wanted to make sure that the things she treasured would be given good care in the hands of sons, grandchildren, sisters and friends.

No one said it would be easy, this business of downsizing. Some of my friends who are close in age to me are experiencing many of the same things; some have had serious health issues to contend with. (me, too, but I don’t want to think about that now) – in a poignant letter my Canadian penpal, Doreen, sent to me, she wrote in part, “I think the real issue about growing older is wanting to turn back the clock to when things ran smoother. No health issues and no family issues. Well, that is not likely, is it!”

She continues, “Living is all about moving forward, not putting moments of happiness under glass. I read the other day that life demands nothing from us except we give up everything we have ever loved. I think of my two beloved houses, my young children (who grew up) and the wonderful jobs I worked and the people I knew. Moving into a condo downsized 2/3 of my possessions; some more loved than others, and forced our lifestyle into a new way of living. Not a bad way. Just not what we once loved, a yard and flower garden and a tree house in the backyard for the grandchildren…”

She also wrote “All my entire world is changing and I am changing to live in the new world. I wish I could say the changes are for the better but I am not certain that they are…”

And I have to agree; I wish I could believe that the changes are for the better but I have a jaundiced opinion of the changes being forced upon me, upon all of us…so what does that have to do with downsizing? Is less better?

And even though I have wonderful memories of my four sons when they were little boys, I also know I am remembering those times through rose colored glasses—we often had little or no money and I had adopted the Mormon creed of keeping a year’s supply of food staples and bottled water on hand. My youngest son says now that the reason he hates spaghetti now is because we had it so often when he was a child. It was not until I returned to work full time in 1977 that we could afford better meals and the ability to do more as a family.

In about a week my oldest grandchild will be going off to college in Sacramento. She has been such an intricate part of my life ever since I moved to the Antelope Valley.

I am going to try to adopt Doreen’s last sentence in her letter, “Let’s stay strong and positive for whatever we meet day by day in 2014 and if we can’t adjust the situation we can always change our attitudes…” Less can be better. I’m working on it.

–Sandra Lee Smith, December 26, 2013


Let me share with you a few thoughts on old friends and old books.

Years ago—when I was young and cute and the mother of only two little boys instead of four (1965, actually), I was working at Weber Aircraft when I found myself in need of a new babysitter. A friend suggested her neighbor, a woman named Connie, who herself was the mother of three young children, the youngest a boy the same age as my son, Michael.

Those two five year olds could get into more mischief than half a dozen other children their age. Once I came home to find Connie attempting to put together half a dozen bicycles and tricycles. Michael and his buddy Sean had taken apart all the bikes and trikes—to see how they worked, I think—but they were careful to keep all the parts in one pile. What one five year old didn’t think of doing, the other one came up with. Another time I came home to hear they had painted circles on the fences and whatever else they came in contact with.

Connie became my babysitter and more importantly, a close friend. She was godmother to my youngest son, Kelly, when he was born. Connie and I shared so many interests that it’s impossible to say which one was the most important—and we shared a love of books. One of our interests focused on the White House and anything Presidential; one time we bought a “lot” of used White House/Presidential books, sight unseen, from a woman somewhere in the Midwest. I think the books cost us about $50.00 each and when they arrived, we sat on the floor divvying them up.

We shared a love of cookbooks and began collecting them at the same time, in 1965, although Connie was a vegetarian and leaned more towards cookbooks of that genre. She was also “Southern” and shared with me a love of “anything” Southern. We shared a love of diary/journal type books and books about the Mormons, books about the White House, Southern cookbooks and religious groups that formed in the United States in the 1800s. These were just a few of our mutual interests.

It was because of Connie that I started working for the Health Plan where I was employed for 27 years, until I retired in December of 2002.—I only went to work “part time for six weeks IN 1977 to help out”, and there I was all those years later, casting an eye towards retirement and pleased that I had a pension. My job literally saved my sanity when I went through a divorce in 1985.

Our sons started kindergarten together, and Connie’s oldest daughter lived with me for about six months, as a mother’s helper, when she was in high school.

More than a decade ago, on June 29, 1998, Connie died of lung cancer. It seemed incongruous that someone so devoted to eating healthy should die of such a terrible disease. In 1971, Connie and I quit smoking together, at the same time. I never went back to smoking but a year later, Connie began smoking again. It was hard to understand—why would you take up something again that had been so hard to give up in the first place? (I don’t have the answer to this).

One night, Connie’s oldest daughter brought three boxes of books to the house, explaining that it has taken a long time to go through her mother’s collections—many of her books were divided up amongst her children and other friends, but there were some that Dawn thought I would especially like.

After she left, I opened the boxes and began laying books all over the coffee table and chairs. Books about the White House – some I had never heard of before! I wish I could have had them when I was writing “WHAT’S COOKING IN THE WHITE HOUSE KITCHEN”. Intriguing titles such as “DINNER AT THE WHITE HOUSE” by Louis Adamic, memoirs of the Roosevelt years, published in 1946, and “DEAR MR. PRESIDENT; THE STORY OF FIFTY YEARS IN THE WHITE HOUSE MAIL ROOM” by Ira Smith with Joe Alex Morris, published in 1949.

There was a Congressional Cook Book – #2 – and a very nice copy of “MANY HAPPY RETURNS or How to Cook a G.O.P. Goose”, the Democrats’ Cook Book. There were several books about soups that I had never seen before another subject I have written about previously, first for the Cookbook Collectors Exchange, and again on my blog. One was “THE New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook”, another “The ALL NATURAL SOUP COOKBOOK”.

More books about Southern cooking – a few duplicates but others I was unfamiliar with, “RECIPES FROM THE OLD SOUTH” by Martha Meade, a copy of the “GONE WITH THE WIND COOKBOOK” – actually, a booklet – which was given away free with the purchase of Pebeco Toothpaste which is long gone from the drug store scene while “Gone with the Wind” is as famous as ever. (The first time I saw “Gone with the Wind” was with Connie.

My best friend and I drifted apart some years ago, after a difference of opinion –we remained friends but were not as inseparable as we once had been. She made new friends and so did I. But it was she who urged me to return to work in 1977, for which I remain forever grateful.

But I am deeply touched that some of her treasured books have come into my possession. Running my hands across the covers, I imagine that Connie had done the same thing, many times, dusting them, touching them. For in one aspect, if no other, we were kindred souls. We loved books. I still do.

Old books and old friends have a lot in common. As I have grown older, some of my dearest friends have passed away—but their books, now mine, remain treasures in my collection of books.

–Sandra Lee Smith


As closely as I can remember, the December issue of Redbook magazine once featured a cookie exchange, festive with photographs and—if I am not mistaken—this particular cookie exchange took place in Ohio in the 1970s. I have collected the December issues of many women’s magazines for about fifty years and most are packed in boxes in the garage—I hate to part with any of them.

What I do remember best is that a group of us—coworkers in the office where I worked—held a few cookie exchanges. I hosted one in my home. A friend named Lyn also hosted one. Another year we had the cookie exchange at work . The first cookie exchange was really a flop. We spread the cookies out on platters and let everyone just help themselves to whatever they wanted. As hostess I ended up with all the burnt, crumbling cookies no one else wanted. First lesson learned: Everybody brings 5 or 6 dozen of ONE cookie. It must be a Christmas cookie and it can’t be store bought. Yes, people brought store bought cookies and made no attempt to conceal it. Then each guest receives two or three of each cookie, depending on how many people are there.

Last year I bought a Good Housekeeping cookbook titled THE GREAT CHRISTMAS COOKIE SWAP COOKBOOK.  Theoretically, cookie exchanges should work out to everybody’s satisfaction.  The problem is getting six or more women to put some real effort into making six dozen of one Christmas cookie and putting some thought and consideration into the project.  At one of the cookie exchanges my younger sister hosted, she compiled all the recipes into booklets for each of the guests. And no matter how much the hostess emphasizes that the cookies shouldn’t be ordinary run-of-the-mill cookies—they should be Christmas cookies.  Despite our emphasis on this rule, several people will still bring an ordinary chocolate chip or oatmeal cookie.  Inevitably, they will say they really don’t know how to bake Christmas cookies or they didn’t have time. there are more excuses than there are cookies.

One Christmas, my granddaughter and I made large Christmas tree cookies, frosted and decorated to look like a Christmas tree.  I baked; she decorated.  It baffles me that, years later – so many people don’t understand the concept of a cookie exchange.

I read on Google that cookie exchanges go back seventy years or more. I never heard of them at all until people I worked with started talking about cookie exchanges.

So, what to do if you are invited to attend a cookie exchange?  Put some thought into one cookie that would look festive and yummy. It doesn’t need to be very elaborate or expensive. If your resources are limited, buy a couple bags of a cookie mix; beg or borrow a few Christmas cookie cutters from a friend or neighbor. You will need two nice cookie sheets; if you line them with parchment paper, you can reuse the paper many times. If you make little star cookies, a small star will yield a lot of cookies.  You can make dozens of little stars in a very short time. Cool them on a rack and when the stars are cool, glaze them with a thin white frosting, If you have a young helper in the kitchen let your sous chef helper drizzle some colored sprinkles on the glaze before it has time to set.    Before you can sing all the verses to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, your cookies will be baked, decorated, and ready to pack in little plastic baggies. And stores like Michaels and JoAnn’s have loads of different kinds of bags in which to pack your cookies. Or spread them out on a large Christmassy platter.

Take a copy of your recipe along to give to the hostess or if you are ambitious enough. make enough copies so that each guest (and the hostess) receives a copy.

Guests are sometimes asked to bring a few extra cookies for sampling; the hostess may offer coffee or tea to go with the cookie tasting.

It isn’t rocket science, girlfriends – a cookie exchange is easy.

–Sandra Lee Smith




“The Rules of the Cookie Exchange”
by Robin Olson ©1997

  1. All cookies should be homemade, baked and main ingredient must be flour.
  2. No plain chocolate chip cookies, cookie mixes, no-bakes, meringues or bars.
  3. Please bring 6 dozen total cookies.
  4. The theme is “Christmas Cookies” (You can make any theme you like.)
  5. Arrange cookies in a basket or platter and be creative! Bring a large container to carry away your cookie, (or the hostess can provide a take away container.)
  6. Email a copy of your recipe before the party (or bring recipe to the party)
  7. Christmas (or party theme) attire is encouraged!
  8. RSVP as soon as you can and let me know what type of cookies you are planning on baking – no duplicate recipes are allowed.
  9. There’s a prize for the best Christmas outfit. (Give prizes!)
  10. If you don’t have time to bake, or have burnt your cookies, but still want to attend, you must go to a real bakery and buy 6 dozen yummy cookies.

Go here for a simple text version of the rules to copy and paste. Modify to suit your needs and include on a separate sheet, with your invitation.

(aka Cookie Exchange Rules, Cookie Swap Rules)

Robin L. Olson, Copyright 1997

Copyrights notice: “The “Rules of the Cookie Exchange” are for your personal *offline* use, feel free to change items to suit your needs and no acknowledgments are needed.

If you’re a writer, journalist, blogger or posting to message boards (ie; anything online or in print publication) using the CE rules, (in part or whole) please give credit where credit is due, and create an active link on the bottom of the same page that says:
“Some content courtesy of Robin Olson,”



Christmas was the most magical holiday of my childhood; in retrospect many years later, I realize that my mother went to great lengths to make Christmas special, even though there was very little money.

I remember my dolls disappearing around in November and would reappear on Christmas Eve with new dresses that my mother made for them.

We celebrated the Feast of St Nicholas on December 6th, hanging my father’s long white socks (because they were the longest) on nails on the pantry cupboard door.  It was the only time I remember having a tangerine, and there would be hard candies in your stocking too. The Feast of St Nicholas meant that Christmas would soon be here.

My mother waited until Christmas Eve day to buy a tree, because by then whatever was left on the lot was marked down to something like fifty cents. The Christmas trees I remember were beautiful but as I look at an old photograph taken one Christmas when I was about five years old, I see that our Christmas  trees were really spindly and sparse. Bare spaces were filled in with a lot of tinsel.

We didn’t have great expectations, in the 40s and 50s—intuitively knowing that anything expensive would be out of the question.  We would go through the Sears catalog oohing and ahhing over all of the toys—for me it was all the baby dolls. Many of our gifts would be underwear and socks, articles of clothing always needed. I remember one year receiving Days of the Week panties in different colors.

We celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve and my mother managed to get all of us out of the house for the day.  Some of those Christmas Eves, I took my younger brothers downtown to do our own Christmas shopping. We probably never had more than a dollar each saved up but somehow we managed to find presents for our parents, grandparents and siblings, at the 5 & 10 cent stores. My brothers and I loved going downtown in Cincinnati, especially during the holidays. We visited all of the major department stores (Shillitoes, Pogues, Mabley & Carew) so we could go see all of the Santa Clauses and get a free peppermint stick. (We knew they weren’t the real Santa Claus – these were just helpers – but my brothers climbed on each  Santa’s knee and told him what they wanted (a Gene Autry cap gun and holster and a authentic cowboy hat for Bill—but I can’t remember what Biff asked for).

How we ever managed to buy gifts for everyone in the family with our meager savings is a mystery. My girlfriend Carol Sue sometimes accompanied us downtown and years later confessed to being jealous of us. Jealous? I was incredulous – how could anyone be jealous of children who might have only a dollar to spend on all of their family members, never mind needing a nickel for the streetcar ride to and from downtown?  Carol said it baffled her that we managed to find gifts for everyone. AND if we had enough money left over, we shared a grilled cheese sandwich from the luncheon counter at Woolworths. I can only liken it to Jesus and the loaves and fishes. Somehow there was always enough. We would tote our treasures home and then wrap them in old gift wrap that we ironed to make it as good as new.

Christmas Eve generally found us children at my grandmother’s waiting for a telephone call. Then my father came to pick us all up in the family car. When the Chevie pulled up in front of our house on Sutter Street, we could see the decorated tree glowing from a living room window. My mother met us at the porch, exclaiming “You just missed him! He just left!” and we’d dash through the house hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus—not worrying too much about missing him when the living room was filled with PRESENTS.

I especially remember the year when the first thing I spotted in the living room was a desk. I had SO wanted a desk of my own. “My desk! My desk!” I cried.

“How do you know it’s for you?” my mother asked.

“Oh, I know!” I exclaimed, running my hands across the top of the desk.  I was about ten at the time and already had my career as a writer planned.

I may have been about the same age when my mother gave me a copy of Little Women for Christmas. It was the very first book of my own (not counting books I had found in my mother’s bookcase and commandeered them for my own). Another Christmas, a  few years later, my brother, Jim, gave me five brand new Nancy Drew mysteries – by then I was off and running. It wasn’t  enough to read the books; I wanted to own them too.

I don’t remember my mother ever doing a lot of holiday baking; my grandmother did, however. What I remember most vividly were butter cut out cookies all cut into diamond shapes; she would dip each cookie into egg white and then into a mixture of granulated sugar and chopped walnuts, before baking them. My sister, however, remembered Grandma making many different  Christmas cookies which were packed into a dress box. I have a lot of cookie cutters today, perhaps three hundred of them – but you know what I treasure the most? Yes, of course – grandma’s diamond shaped cookie cutter and another that is heart shaped.

I became a Christmas maniac  once I got married and began having children of my own—I would shop for bargains throughout the year and hide them in a closet so that my sons would have a lot of great presents to unwrap on Christmas morning. I began collecting Christmas ornaments and started baking cookies and freezing them in September.  I began collecting recipes for fruitcake and trying many different recipes.  You can’t have too many ornaments or too many Christmas cookie cutters; you can’t have too many angels –or, in our case, you can’t have too many trees. Before we moved into a much smaller house in the high desert, we were putting up eight Christmas trees!

This is what I remember about Christmas – not the presents so much as the unity between my younger brothers and myself, those trips downtown, our surreptitious trips upstairs to my bedroom where we wrapped everything, while my mother’s small Crosley radio (on top of the frig) played Christmas music .

If you ask my brothers, I think they will tell you the same thing.

Remembered by Sandra Lee Smith


November 24, 1963 – “…And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” – JFK

There is an old saying that when someone dies, the clock stop.

Certainly time has seemed to come to a standstill since Friday afternoon when our president, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated.  The man arrested for the murder, Lee Oswald, was killed today, shot by a man called Jack Rubenstein. Oswald was being transferred to the county jail at Dallas when the shooting occurred. The scene was televised and we saw the man, heard the shot, and saw him clutch his stomach and fall.

Needless to say, the terrible and tragic death of our beloved president has left the nation shocked and speechless. We are horrified that this could happen, distressed that a man loved so much is gone, angry that anyone could do this terrible thing and shamefully aware of the awful loss of Jacqueline Kennedy and her two small children, both of whom have birthdays next week.  The President will be buried on John Jr.’s third birthday. Caroline will be six two days later. Our loss is great, but theirs is so much greater. We have lost our great leader, but they have lost a father and a husband.

There are so many loose ends in the entire affair that leave one confused and apprehensive. Many feel that somehow, someway, Russia is behind all this.

It has been proven that the murder was premeditated. Oswald spent several years in Russia and was married to a Russian. Jack Rubenstein, who daringly and openly fired upon Oswald is not exactly a savory character. They know that Oswald had previously been in Rubie’s nightclub. WHO is really behind it all? Russia? Cuba? Segregationalists? China? Will we ever know? Oswald knew – but now he’s dead and not telling.

Time has stood still since early afternoon two days ago. Stores, businesses, of all kinds, have closed their doors. All regular television and radio programming has been cancelled until further notice and we have watched with seriousness and soberness, the news films from Friday, when the President was killed, to the filming of the funeral march in Washington to the on-the-spot shooting of Oswald, the assassinator.

Tomorrow the mass and burial will be televised. All types of business, city, state, governmental and individual will be closed. The similarities between John F. Kennedy & nearly 100 years ago, Abraham Lincoln, are on everyone’s mind. That history does in fact repeat itself is quite evident.

The similarities seem too numerous to be simply coincidental. A more ardent researcher might uncover more but so far I have noted these:

1)    Both presidents were fighting for civil rights.

2)    Both were advised against attending the function which led to disaster.

3)    Both were shot in the head.

4)    In both instances, usual security measures were apparently lax.

5)    Both were assassinated on a Friday.

6)    Both lost a son during office. President Lincoln lost his son Tad and only last August the Kennedy’s newborn infant son died.

7)    BOTH were succeeded by their vice president, both of whom bear the name of Johnson.

There’s a time difference of almost 100 years. Both were unquestionably great leaders and history has indeed, repeated itself.

November 25 1963 – the 35th President of the United States was buried today I a beautiful yet classically simple and altogether impressive ceremony. I could not do it justice in telling, but I know that Jacqueline handled most of the planning. Every country except China had sent a dignitary representative and Jackie was hailed by most nations for her tremendous courage.

I was particularly impressed by several incidents – when Mike Mansfield read his speech [eulogy] in which he capitalized on Jackie’s taking off her ring and placing it in John’s hand “And she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hand” in one sentence he said “There was a husband who asked much    and gave much and out of the giving and asking wove with a woman what could not be broken inn life and in a moment, it was no more…”

I would like to obtain a copy of the entire speech. After the mass was over, Cardinal Cushing, who married the Kennedys, stopped by Caroline, bent over and kissed her tenderly.

And at Arlington National Cemetery, at one point 50 jet planes flew by, in twos and threes, all except for the last one, which flew alone to signify the missing leader.  It was altogether beautiful, and one could not help the tears – our loss is great and I only hope the nation has learned a lesson from it all.

Jan 15, 1964 – the following is the speech made by Mike Mansfield, at the time of the death of President Kennedy. Its eloquence and pure simplicity seem to convey the feelings of so many of us: [Actually, this is the eulogy Mansfield delivered on November 24, 1963. At the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol].

“There was a sound of laughter; in a moment, it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.

There was a wit in a man, neither young nor old, but a wit full of an old man’s wisdom and of a child’s wisdom, and then in a moment, it was not more.

There was a man marked with the scars of his love of country, a body active with the surge of a life far, far from spent and, in a moment, it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.

There was a father with a little boy, a little girl and a joy of each in the other. In a moment it was no more, and so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.

There was a husband who asked much and gave much, and out of the giving and the asking wove with a woman what could not be broken in life, and in a moment it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands, and kissed him and closed the lid of a coffin.

A piece of each of us died at that moment. Yet, in death he gave of himself to us. He gave us of a good heart from which the laughter came. He gave us of a profound wit, from which a great leadership emerged. He gave us of a kindness and a strength fused into a human courage to seek peace without fear.

He gave us of his love that we, too, in turn, might give. He gave that we might give of ourselves, that we might give to one another until there would be no room, no room at all, for the bigotry, the hatred, prejudice, and the arrogance which converged in that moment of horror to strike him down.

In leaving us — these gifts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States, leaves with us. Will we take them, Mr. President? Will we have, now, the sense and the responsibility and the courage to take them?”

As one person put it, it’s a shame that all the good that has been said about this was not said when he was alive.  Memorials, libraries, streets, buildings, places all across the country have been or are being renamed after this man.  Idlywild Airport has become The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Airport.

Ben Franklin’s image will no longer adorn the fifty cent pieces. The late President’s image will.  Personally, I applaud each tribute – what tribute can ever be enough? The man is gone.

I think often of his wife and children. Much has been written about the strength and courage Jacqueline displayed throughout the entire ordeal. This week’s Life Magazine said it most succinctly: “Valiant is the word for Jacqueline Kennedy.”

They say over 800,000 letters & telegrams have been received by the Kennedy family and in a newscast, the first Mrs. Kennedy made since the assassination, it was said that she intends to try to answer as many as possible! The messages, they said, would be kept at the Kennedy Memorial (I wrote a small note & sent it to her. I felt I just had to).

November 23, 2013 – hard to believe that I wrote those lines fifty years ago,  when I was 23 years old.  Those of us who  remember find ourselves wondering what more JFK might have accomplished if he had the opportunity to live out his life. – sls



We had returned to Cincinnati in March, 1963. Michael, who was two at the time, and I flew back to Ohio and Jim followed by car a month later. I was pregnant with Steve and immediately returned to my old job downtown. I worked until two weeks before Steve’s birth on August 21st.  And so it happened that I was coming upstairs in my mother-in-law’s house with a basket of diapers to fold—when I caught the news coming in on the television. President Kennedy had been shot!

The next three days are a blur of everything running together; I cried for three days, unable to stop watching the TV coverage. The election in which JFK was elected president was the first time I followed all the election results on television. I watched the debates between JFK and Richard Nixon, during which Kennedy won the debates, hands down. JFK had such enormous charisma—I couldn’t understand how or why anyone wouldn’t be captivated by his charm. I wrote several letters to Jackie – the first one when their newborn infant, Patrick, died—I think the baby died right about the same time that my son Steve was born. I wrote to her again when JFK was assassinated—and amongst my treasures are the cards that Jackie sent out to everyone, acknowledging our sympathy. I remember she received an avalanche of letters and sympathy cards (I read somewhere that over 800,000 cards and letters were received). My heart ached for Jackie and her children. It was not until years later that I realized how young she was to direct and order everything for the funeral with such eloquence and an eye on the historical significance of everything she ordered being done.

In December, we returned to California for financial reasons; this time with a toddler and a 4 month old baby.  We drove across ice and snow until we reached the middle of Texas—it was a risky trip—looking back I would never risk the lives of two little boys like we did that December, anxious to get back to California before the weather got any worse. We rented an apartment in Toluca Lake and for a short while I was a stay-at-home mother.  Jim went to work for Weber Aircraft in January, and soon I was hired by Weber Aircraft too, to work in their offices.

I bought and saved all the newspapers and magazines about JFK; there were a lot of memorial booklets. Now, fifty years later, there are 50th anniversary memorial booklets. I do remember 1963, far more clearly than I remember other years of my life.

MY LONG-TIME OREGON PENPAL BEV WROTE: “IF you are old enough – oh, ya….. Yes, I certainly can remember.  I was relieving on the switchboard at the paper mill when my bosses’ wife called in.  Before she asked for Ted, she told me what had just happened.  The reaction, of course, was disbelief.  I can still see the switchboard as it was in front of me at that very moment.  It was one of those old things with the cords that you connected from the outside line coming in, to whomever they wanted.  It was lots of fun to operate, and we rotated out taking over on breaks and lunch for Doty, the gal who worked as the receptionist for nearly 30 years.  Beautiful gal, still is.  She was 2 years ahead of me in school, the yell queen, married the handsome guy a couple years older.  I digress……..but then, when don’t I?

Leroy (Bev’s husband)  said he was in the car just ready to get out to go inside the Lloyd Center Mall in Portland where he worked at Leeds Shoes.  America probably would have been in a much better position now if that shot had never been fired.  Makes you wonder…   In that day and time, he [JFK] would not have been brought down for his hanky-panky.”

Richard is an email penpal who is from Cincinnati, and now lives in New Jersey: RICHARD WROTE THE FOLLOWING TO SUBMIT TO A NEWSPAPER:


Like most people my age, I remember precisely where I was on the day JFK was assassinated. But I also remember where I was two days later: up a tree – literally.

On Saturday morning, the day after the assassination, three of my college classmates and I decided to pool our meager funds and drive overnight from Cincinnati to attend JFK’s funeral. We drove all night to Washington, D.C., arriving at about 10 am Sunday morning.

The crowds were already 8-10 people deep on the sidewalks, and at first I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to see anything. But then I spied a tree devoid of leaves, and I climbed up and claimed a spot that would provide me with a good vantage point from which to watch the procession.

Not only did I have a good view of the funeral route, but I also could see all along Pennsylvania Avenue, up towards the White House and down to the Capitol. Throngs of people lined both sides of the avenue. Estimates were that 300,000 people had come out that day to pay their respects. I had never been part of such a large gathering in my life. Nor would I ever again.

Then about 11:45 in the morning, while I was trying to keep warm up in the tree, someone just below me who had a transistor radio, began to yell out,

“Oswald’s been shot! Oswald’s been shot!” Like the effect you get when you throw a stone into a lake, the news rippled out in waves all along the route for as far as I could see. Many cheered and applauded upon hearing the news, as if some just retribution had taken place. But I must confess that certain sadness overwhelmed me then, for all I could think about in my perch above it all was, “Now we’ll never know. Now we’ll never know.”

An hour or so later the funeral passed by: the muffled drums, the caisson bearing JFK’s remains, the rider-less horse, and the Kennedy family. The crowd was respectfully quiet, although many openly shed tears.  White handkerchiefs dotted the sea of people. The mourning was so intense I could feel it rising from the street. It was clear that people genuinely loved this man, and I felt that I was witnessing a defining moment in 20th Century American history.

After the funeral passed I dropped to the ground and joined my friends and hundreds of others following the procession on foot to the Capitol.  Once in the crowd, I turned to find myself walking and arm’s length away from Charles de Gaulle and Halie Selassie, and I was astonished to see that they and the scores of other foreign dignitaries had no security around them. Such openness, I feared, would soon come to an end.

The lines were so long outside the Capitol rotunda where JFK’s body lay in state that we decided we couldn’t afford to wait many long hours to pay our respects. Instead we turned around and drove home for twelve hours, each of us quiet for long periods of time, silently lost in our personal mourning.  As we drove into the night, I thought about the country’s loss, and how, for one brief moment, JFK brought us a fresh spirit of change and hope for a better tomorrow.

But now Camelot had ended. Hope was gone. And I realized that America would never be the same after that day I spent up a tree in Washington, D.C., on November 24, 1963.”

BARB, A CLASSMATE FROM MY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, ST. LEO’S, WROTE THE FOLLOWING: “I think all of us can remember what we were doing on November 22…..what a terrible day that was. I was watching TV where they had TV Bingo. I was covering numbers when they interrupted with the news. The announcers were crying…..everyone was crying. My son was about 18 months old and I was glad he kept me busy. My husband was upset too as was most of the USA. It was hard not watching the TV, we just wanted to know everything we could. We all just felt so helpless and sad. I don’t know if I would feel that sad if it was today’s president. No……I know I wouldn’t!”  (me, either, Barb—sls)

PENPAL AND PRAYER PAL GIRLFRIEND WROTE: “I was living in Ne and my son Ted who will turn 52 Nov 24 was so little and I remember the news about Kennedy coming on TV and what a shock. I called his grandma who lived around the corner from us and we were so sad with this news.”

GIRLFRIEND AND FORMER COWORKER LORRAINE WROTE: “Sandy- I was 5 years old and am not sure what I was doing that day- probably playing- but I do remember the day – the shock and tears of my grandparents, mother and Aunt.  Watching the events unfold on tv and realizing even at that young age that our country had just lost a very special man.  It is one of my earliest memories of realizing there was a whole big world out there and not just my little 5 year old one.”

GOOD FRIENDS RAY & SYLVIA WROTE: “We were living in Dallas on that day. Ray’s office was actually on the parade route & many of them went down & watched the president go by, then back upstairs where a few minutes later Mr. Kennedy was shot & killed. It was a numbing time in Dallas, just pure shock whether you were a Kennedy supporter or not. For months after that we got dirty looks from people when we drove out of state with our Texas tags.”

FROM MY LONG-TIME GIRLFRIEND FAYE: “Sandy, I cannot believe that 50 years later I find out that we were both in Cincinnati on Nov. 22, 1963, but me and Marvin were living outside of Cincinnati and I had just taken Kathy to school and was listening to the news when Walter Cronkite came on with the news.  I also cried all day and was really sad, but Marvin worked for a Republican that hated Kennedy and naturally he said the same thing that his boss said and it was ‘I’m glad he is dead, as far as I am concerned it took them too long to get rid of him’.

But what floors me is that we were both back there and I did not know it. Marvin’s unfeeling remarks are not news to me but I was shocked that anyone would say that about our beloved President…”

PENPAL MARGE N. WROTE: “ Yes, I remember that day.  I heard word of it while sitting in a dentist office in Boonville, NY, with my two young sons.  We didn’t have a TV at home, so after I got home I listened to the radio – the one station that we were able to receive way out in nowhere!  It also happened on what would have been my father’s 56th birthday – he had passed away when he was 47…”

DONNA, WHO IS ONE OF MY GROUP EMAIL PALS WROTE: This is what I sent to my local newspaper

“I was a High School Senior in my World Problems class in Tacoma, WA. We were not allowed to go home, but no work was done. We maintained the regular schedule, but just sat around and mourned. First we heard the President had been shot, it was some time later we heard that he had died. Because he was such a young President, we all liked him very much. Actually, it had just been about a month earlier that he had come to Tacoma and we got out of  school to go see him at the Cheney Baseball Stadium. The place was packed
with people; of course with a lot of security, including gunmen on the roof of the bleachers. Our group ended up out in center field. Kennedy was at a Podium placed at the Pitcher’s Mound. We really could not see a thing. I remember jumping up in the air to see and even my quick glimpse of the President was exciting – as he had plenty of charisma.

I finally got home on that fateful day and found the house empty. My Mom sold Avon at the time and was out seeing one of her customers. I think she felt the need to talk to someone. I quickly turned on the TV. Shortly, I heard a funny noise in the nearby fireplace. I heard it several times and wondered if I was “losing” it.

It wasn’t too long before my Mom got home and I told her about the noise in the fireplace. She had heard it earlier and thought a fairly large bird had gotten caught in the chimney. She had called the Humane Society, but with the sudden turn of events no one came.  The next day the bird was still caught in the chimney. We called the Humane Society again. My Dad and I had gone to the store and so we missed being there when the HS officer came to the house. My Mom said it was a red bird (fairly large), called a Towhee and that it was very pretty. They were not common to our area.

Our family was glued to the TV all weekend, like everyone else. I was the  only member of the family watching the live broadcast when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby.

When we went back to school, maybe the next Tuesday – the student teacher in our World Problems class (where we had first heard the news) surprised us with a Pop Quiz on World Issues. Nothing to do with the National Tragedy. I  didn’t think that was fair, but I guess it was his way of telling us to get  on with our life…”

CHRIS, ANOTHER MEMBER OF ONE OF MY EMAIL PENPAL GROUPS, WROTE:  “Wow 50 years!  Nothing out of the ordinary as far as memories go…..just that I was in high school.  I can still remember the room and the looks on everybody’s faces when the loud speaker cracked, came to life and the principal made the announcement.  I’m sure the first thing we did was pray.  Then a TV was brought in so we could watch.”

MY CANADIAN PENPAL, SHARON, WROTE: “Sandy, I remember so well what I was doing, even though I’m Canadian. I was in my Grade 11 Science class when the announcement came over the PA system. The principal told us that school was dismissed and I remember how quiet it was as we left our classrooms and our school and headed home.

We watched as events unfolded in the days that followed, glued to the TV and I can remember the funeral broadcast as well…”

MY OTHER CANADIAN EMAIL PENPAL, DOREEN, WROTE THE FOLLOWING—AND IT IS SO WELL-WRITTEN, I will use this to bring my blog post to a finish on this topic. DOREEN WROTE:

“Okay, I was at work in the steno pool for Sears Catalogue in 1962 when Kennedy was shot.  We stopped work and listened together to a small plastic radio in the manager’s office.  It shook me up plenty.  Jack Kennedy was the voice of political change.  All the leaders were old men in the US and Canada with military leadership styles and along came Jack.  The Black movement had started in the South and on our television screens we saw the US as we had never considered it before.  There stood Kennedy saying things needed to change and people had rights.  Change was all over in the 60’s and we all were coming out from under autocratic rule in our homes, schools, and workplaces.  We were all finding we had voices and Jack Kennedy represented hope.  The looming wall of Soviet Russia was over our heads but here in North America we were changing and when President Kennedy was shot it was like the iron hand of Soviet rule was falling over our heads and squashing change.  However; there was still Bobby and we expected he would continue to make it right.  The door had been left ajar and we were young and nothing could stop it from flying open as we all stormed out.

No one could understand (children and grandchildren) the rule of law we grew up under.  Parents were absolute, children were seen and not heard, from daylight to nightfall someone adult was ordering us around to pick up a share of the work that surrounded us all.  Children could not decide when to talk about something or choose whom to speak to.  Everything was tight, money, freedom, hope, and our futures were something looming but not to be spoken of.  It was like we were supposed to grow up and poof like an inflated balloon be gone from our parents home with no thought to how the process would take place.  Jack Kennedy was planning and Martin Luther King was planning.  Kids of the 60’s were making plans for themselves.  “It was the best of times and the worst of times,” as Charles Dickens wrote.”   ***

I wrote the following poem a few years after the assassination and submitted it to the Valley (San Fernando Valley) News, where it was published.



Sandra Lee Smith


November Twenty Second

Nineteen Hundred Sixty-Three

Is remembered and recorded

On a page in history.

Scores of generations, yes,

And even those unborn

Will remember–and remembering–

They too shall sadly mourn.

The sun was shining brightly

As crowds gathered to behold

Their leader — and would witness

All the drama to unfold;

They came to see a motorcade

And watch their chief go by –

Unknowing that their buoyant cheers

Would swiftly, mid-air, die.

Sharp shots rang out–a nation bowed

Its head in wordless shame–

Joined together, briefly now,

A land without a name.

His head was clasped upon the lap

Of his beloved wife,

A motorcade raced desperately

To save his ebbing life.

To what avail? Their efforts failed!

What matters that they tried?

Shepardless, this nation watched,

As he, their leader, died.

A nurse said “Caroline, my dear,

Your darling daddy’s dead..”

And on November twenty-fifth,

A little boy was three,

He stood and watched a cortege pass

And asked “Where can he be?”

Horses, six-gray-white drew near–

The small boy breathed a sigh,

Saluted, without knowing that

His father had passed by.

–Sandra Lee Smith


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 at that 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 a sugar cookie baking marathon. I planned to give cookies to friends as well as coworkers 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, covering all the table and counter tops with trays of frosted cookies.  When at last the cookies were all decorated with 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 every single cookie.  Every – single – cookie.  Needless to say, no one received gift 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 be able to describe the many different cookies I made for most Christmases over the 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 a favorite 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.

There was one other year – possibly the early 70s – when the price of sugar skyrocketed—a 5 lb bag of sugar soared to over $5.00. I may have baked some cookies but am inclined to think I focused on recipes that had molasses or natural sweeteners such as dried fruit.  Fortunately, the price of sugar dropped (maybe no one baked cookies that year) – and even now with sugar sold in 4 lb bags instead of 5 lbs, the price roughly $2.50 a bag, give or take depending on who has on sale—but there are ways to getting around the price of sugar – such as using cake mixes (bought when on sale) to make cookies with just the addition of eggs and maybe one or two other ingredients—but no added sugar. Sometimes you just have to be resourceful.

–Sandra Lee Smith




When did this all begin?  Good question! I don’t remember my mother baking Christmas cookies and my grandmother’s cookies, I recall, were always diamond shaped butter cutout cookies, onto which she brushed egg white and then dusted them with blended sugar and finely chopped walnuts. My sister Becky corrected me and insisted that Grandma made many different kinds of cookies such as Lebkuchen and Spritz, Holiday Fruit cookies, Pfefferneusse (pepper nuts) or Springerle (which requires a special rolling pin or a board with designs imprinted on it). Becky said each family received a dress box full of Grandma’s cookies. Why don’t I remember this?

Grandma was from Germany, Grandpa from Hungary, so her baking was generally European—we grew up on a lot of strudel, often made with apples from her back yard. She also made doughnuts (especially for the Feast of the Three Kings, when we would find a coin in our doughnut)—but for the life of me I can’t remember anything except those diamond shaped cookies. I have her cookie cutter today—that and a small heart shaped cutter.

I got married December 6th in 1958 and don’t have any memory of making cookies that first Christmas, although I did begin to search for recipes. I clipped some holiday baking ideas out of December women’s magazines and searched through a Betty Crocker Picture cookbook that was a wedding present.  I think it highly unlikely that I would have attempted any cut-out cookies that first Christmas as a newlywed (did I even having a rolling pin?) but I might have made drop cookies, such as chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin, cookies I was already familiar with.  In addition to the Becky Crocker Picture Cookbook, I had a Meta Given cookbook that had been my mother’s.  As I think back on that first Christmas, I don’t know if I even had baking equipment – cookie sheets or baking pans. It had been a very small wedding.

My first child was born in September, 1960 and I probably began baking cookies when he was a toddler.  What stands out most in my memory is that we had a wonderful big yellow stove that was popular in the 1920s. What wouldn’t I give to have that old stove today! (it was left behind when we moved to California in 1961).

What I do remember, quite well, is the Christmas of 1963. By this time my son Steve had been born and we drove across country to California a few weeks before Christmas, to avoid a heavy storm heading for the Midwest. We rented an apartment in Toluca Lake and friends came over on Christmas Eve to celebrate with homemade cookies and coffee. We didn’t have any furniture yet so everyone sat on the floor. Guests went home with bags of cookies – so sometime between 1958 and 1963 I did learn something about baking. We bought a small tree and some small toys for our two little boys. You don’t need much to celebrate Christmas. Cookies help!

–Sandra Lee Smith