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Let’s Cook: The Given Gift

By Staff | Jan 1, 2016

Pictured are the Mexican wedding cookies along with the original toy horse on the right and a replica on the left.

Just about every adult can recall a Christmas gift that has been given to them by a parent. 93 years ago on the Christensen homestead north of Mercer, North Dakota, Fred and Lydia were preparing for Christmas their oldest daughter, Marian, was two years old. Like many homesteaders, there was no slipping into town to purchase a gift. First of all stores were limited as well as money. So they leveraged their talents and came up with this idea. Lydia had a gift for drawing especially horses so she sketched a horse which was six and half inches wide and stood six inches tall. Fred traced the pattern onto wood and cut it out in true folk art fashion, nothing complicated and edges that retained a bit of roughness. Next he brushed a coat of black enamel paint on the figurine and painted the details of the mouth, eye and bridle on with white paint. Once it was completed it galloped forth and into a bit of tissue paper and was gifted to my mother.

This wooden horse had a lively gait that was enjoyed not only by my mother but several siblings. It trotted about the wash board, rested in a window sill, took a peak at cook stove and even made a few trips to the barn during milking. Over the years chips some of them deep blemished the surface however place in the hands of a little child it still could harness joy, entertain and even inspire. As many of you know my mother took an interest in items such as these and in time it was placed in her treasure box.

In our home it rested not on straw but in mom’s dresser drawer right next to an accumulation of hankies some with tulips, lily of valley, poinsettia and several with crocheted edging. It seldom left its soft stable where net sachets could also be found unless mom was explaining it pedigree.

This unique toy was displayed was at mom’s funeral in November on a table containing items that she treasured. It was our niece Kewaunee that took a real interest in this object. Her delight invited me to take a closer look at this heirloom and through thoughtful reflection came the idea of recreating one of these for each son and daughter-in-law, grandchild, and great grandchild.

I admit I am no woodworker but I do have a scroll saw, drill, sandpaper and before long I was on a full gallop to complete these for Christmas.

36 times around the muzzle, forehead, crest, and barrel of these horse was causing my temperament to changewhy had I decided to do this? That is when I came to realize why mom had treasured this toy horse. Once all the horses were painted they then took rest in a gift box covered in brown grocery paper, trimmed with vintage Christmas cards sent by grandma and grandpa. Jan created a circle game for the gathered Repnow family and once the passing stop we not only had a choral of horses but of family heritage as well.

My mother practiced gratitude, after all she had five pregnancies and had hope for a daughter and ended up with five sons. She often told us ” my only wish was that you were a healthy baby” She reflected upon her childhood in the same manner with gratitude for what her parents had given her and their other 10 children.

Yes, this was her wooden toy but I know realize it meant so much more to her. Her parents had given her a gift that didn’t need shiny giftwrap. For they had given her patience, loving time for reading, dreaming, work but also friendly moments with the farm chores. They took time to listen to her questions and to let her help with the farm books.

Her viewing of this toy horse as an adult brought to mind the special blessing that her parents were. They lent the patient ear, taught her to love, laugh and believe. They instilled in her doing things together can create rich moments that forever mark our understanding of family and friends. Seeing and recreating this toy horse for Christmas has brought to my mind that things that money cannot buy are the nicest gifts we give and we should give them all year long.

It is a simple fact of life and faith. Practicing gratitude will bring upon you a flood of good things. It also makes us more aware of the beauty that surround us like the recent full moon on Christmas Eve. When gratitude is given daily you become a blessing to those around you and this is a wonderful gift.

It was meant to be that I spent several hours working on these horses and it once again has open my eyes to the world in a new and refreshing way. The wooden horse from the Mercer homestead is a reminder to count our blessings.

We are enjoying the 12 days of Christmas. So with that thought in mind Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all of you.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

-1 cup of butter

-6 to 8 tablespoons of powder sugar

-1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

-1 cup finely chopped walnuts

-2 teaspoons vanilla

-Extra powdered sugar in which to roll cookies

Bring butter to room temperature and beat with mixer until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat well again. Spoon flour in a little at a time until well blended and then mix in vanilla and walnuts.

Bake at 350 degrees until they bounce back when touched. Removed from oven and let cool slightly before removing from baking sheet. Finish them by rolling them in powder sugar while hot and again when cool.

I cannot recall a Christmas that my mother did not make Mexican wedding cookies. She had two recipes for these cookies and this is the first one she had learned while working in the Twin Cities.

Getting married certainly has proved for some good kitchen tips. This recipe calls for walnuts and Jan like them to be smallvery small. She shared with me a quick tip on crushing walnuts that she learned from Mrs. Irene Erickson, former Ray Home Economics teacher extraordinaire. Simply place the walnuts into a plastic bags and roll over them well with a rolling pin. In no time at all you have very finely crushed walnuts! These cookies bake best if you let them setup in the refrigerator for an hour before baking.

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