Grandma's Recipe Box: Yellow Squash Casserole


Here is a side  dish from my Grandmother's recipe box.  It is a quick recipe that is cheesier than the traditional Baked Squash Casserole.   If you have a lot of squash from your garden and want a big crowd pleaser that travels well, you might want to check out our Squash Dressing recipe.  

Yellow Squash Casserole


7 large or 4 medium yellow squash, sliced
1/2 stick of butter or margarine 
1 teaspoon season salt 
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
Dash of red pepper
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely crushed potato chips


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Saute' squash in butter until tender, stirring frequently - about 5 minutes 
  3. Place squash i shallow baking dish
  4. Combine seasoning and herbs.  Sprinkle over squash.
  5. Mix together cheese and chips,  Sprinkle over top.
  6. Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes - until cheese is melted.

Planting and Dividing Bearded Iris Corms

There are multiple varieties of iris, some are water plants (aka flags) and others are garden plants that are fairly drought tolerant.  The most well-known variety in the USA is the bearded iris.  It is called that because it has a furry-looking part and petal that hangs down like a beard. Bearded iris grows from corms, which are long tuber rather than round or flat bulbs.  Irises are easy-to-grow and do not require much effort once they are planted.  

Most of the irises in my garden are from divisions taken from my grandmother's garden or from transplants she gave to my mother.  My grandmother gave me these directions for planting corm-type iris.  The back of the iris is called tail feathers, the iris will grow outward from the tail, and new "chicks" will grow from the sides of the corm or belly.  So plant the iris with the corm facing in the direction where you want it to grow towards building a clump.  Plant them in full to part-shade - more sun means more flowers!  Dig new holes for corms only slightly deeper than the corm height.  Bearded iris prefer to be close to the top of the ground with just enough dirt covering them to prevent drying out from sunshine hitting it.  

To dig up bearded iris to move or divide, use a shovel or pitchfork pushed 1-2 inches below ground at an angle to move beneath the plants.  Push down of the tool as a lever until you hear the iris pop out of the ground.  If you have not divided in over 3 years, you may need to move to an opposite side of iris clump to dig a large corm with lots of chicks.  When digging and dividing iris, the chicks with roots can be broken off the mother corm and planted separately to get even more plants.  If you do not plan to plant the new iris corms quickly, cut the tail down to a 3-inch fan to help conserve the moisture for the stored corms.  

Did you know iris can climb trees?  My mom had a large oval flower bed that she made an iris fencei ended  around by planing the tail outside and letting the plants grow into the center of the bed around a large flowing bush.  I thought that was a cool idea, so I decided to try the same thing around a tree.  A few years later, I saw this weird thing growing on the base of my tree.  When I got closer, it was a long bar iris corm!  Its roots were  growing into the tree bark and would not come easily off.  I had to carefully dig around the tree roots to loosen corms in the dirt, which was not easy as some tree roots had grown over some of the corms.   I had to cut some corms into 2-4 pieces to get them out from under roots and the ones growing in the bark broke too as I tried to pry them off.  The process took hours!  Needless to day, I do not recommend planting bearded iris around trees.  

Dividing and Planting Daylilies

Plants that like to be divided are crinums, irises, and daylilies.   Iris and daylily are easily divided as they grow very near the surface.  For this reason, you can have them in multiple places in the garden or share the plants with others.  Daylilies have multiple varieties in a myriad of colors.  Varieties can look like other types of lilies, be star-shaped, or have ruffled petals.  Some have flowers that a just above their leaves and others shoot up on a stem more than a foot above their leaves.  

Daylilies can be divided at any time in Spring or Summer, after they sprout up from the ground.  The easiest way to dig them up is to take a long-handle shovel or pitchfork and dig at an angle about five to eight inches from the base of the plant to make sure you do not cut through too much root.  Wiggling the tool will at each section of digging will help loosen the soil around roots.  Keep working around the clump of all sides in this way until it comes out of the ground.  Knock all the soil off the clump so you can see the base and roots of every plant in clump.  Starting from the outside working inwards, individually grab the base of each plant and pull it so its roots become loose from the clump.  Quickly plant new divisions or if you are sharing divisions cut off some of the foliage to make them easier to transport without wilting. They will quickly grow new leaves one they are in the ground.

To plant daylilies, choose a sunny location in garden or landscape bed.  Then dig a shallow but wide hole where the new plant divisions will go.  The space needs to be wide enough to splay out the plant's roots in it and deep enough that the roots can be cover with half-inch to full inch of soil.  If you want the look of a clump to start, make the hole wide enough to put three plants in with the tips of their roots touching.  It is important to spread the roots out as new plants will grow out of thick areas or tubers that form on the roots or the mother plant.  Eventually, the baby daylily will become a separate plant with its roots intertwining with others.  If planting several daylilies, leave nine inches to a foot between the planting holes to allow for spreading outward.  Most daylilies will double in size each year.  Water new plants every other day for four weeks to start.  Then regular weekly watering is fine.  Many daylilies are drought tolerant, but wilted blooms indicate they are not getting enough moisture - make sure they are not being watered during the hottest time of the day.

Sharing and Planting Milk and Wine Crinum Lilies

There are lots of varieties of crinum lilies, which are the largest plants in the amaryllis family.  The Milk and Wine variety grows very well in Texas and Oklahoma gardens from bulbs where they can get full to part-shade.  Although I have relatives in California who have grown them in pots with the leaves overflowing the sides.  Healthy plants will have lots of long leaves and a fully grown plant can get up to shoulder high.  The plants often bloom directly after a summer or autumn rain, which is why some people nickname them rain lily.

Mine are heritage plants as divisions passed down through family generations.  It originated from my father-in-law's mother yard and he gave one to his wife's mother.  It was from the second Grandma that gave our original bul to my husband after we moved into our house.  His Grandma also gave one to my Grandma (they were best friends) many years before we met.  My Grandma planted it next to her front porch.  my husband planted ours in the front corner of our house, where it spent many years until we had to have our house re-leveled.  I have shared out many bulb divisions to friends, siblings, and now nieces.

If you have Milk and Wine (or other types) crinum lilies, you can divide them to share with others.  When you see more than 5 stems, you may divide bulbs to get more plants or you can wait until the group is about a foot in diameter.  When you divide the bulbs, you may find baby bulbs (nicknamed pups) around the main bulb that can be anywhere from ping-pong ball size to the size of a softball.  If you are mailing bulbs to others, I suggest you send ping ball size nested in shredded newspaper to save mailing costs.   You can divide them in early spring after you see green shoots.  The bulbs you give away or replant should be put in the ground within a week or tow.  Most of the other bulbs I give away are softball or baseball size.  I tend to put the bigger bulb back in the hole where I dug out the division.  

Do not let them go too long before dividing, when we moved our plant from the front of the house to the backyard, it took hours and very deep digging to get it all out.  The mother bulb had grown to the size of a basketball!  The bulbs grow out and down.  Unlike houseplant amaryllis, which like to have 1/3 to 1/2 of the bulb above soil-level, crinums need the entire bulb underground with only the stem sticking out.  Nor does it like to be planted too deep like most bulbs, which are supposed to be planted 2 to 3 times as deep as the bulb is tall.  

Plant Milk and Wine crinum lilies in full sun to get the most blooms. Be sure the hole is deep enough to completely cover the ball portion of bulb with dirt and where stem sticks up out of the soil - plant no deeper than size of the ball part of bulb. If planting more than one bulb, plant them at least two feet apart to allow for spreading as the plant grows. Water tham slightly each day for first two weeks to help them settle in.  After that, the plants should be fine with normal watering or rain. Do not overwater as too much can cause the bulbs to rot.  Replants may not bloom until the following year.  Multiple blooms come at top of plant (in summer thru autumn) after plant is over  a foot high.  

Besides the care listed above, know that the long leaves will die over winter but do not remove the dead leaves until new green growth can be seen coming out from the soil in early spring. The old dead leaves serve as winter cover for the bulb. When cleaning off dead leaves, you may notice that the original single stem has become many as the plant grows.  Toss the dead foliage in the compost heap, if you have one,

Although getting theses bulbs as a share from family, friends, or neighbors is the best way to know they will grow in your garden; you can buy bulbs to try in garden or pots.  Softball-size Milk and Wine bulbs sell for up to $25 each on ebay!  Other crinums can be bought for as little as $8 on ebay but "vintage varieties" sometimes can be found in southern nurseries as special "vintage" or "heritage" local offerings for less.

Outer Space Rocks as Gemstones in Jewelry!

Whether you believe in extraterrestrial beings or not, you probably are aware of stones falling from the sky to earth.  These stones have attracted interest of both rock collectors and jewelry makers. Most rocks from outer space are parts of asteroids. comets, or meteorites that fell to earth.  Higher quality gemstones often are created through the process of these objects passing through the earth's atmosphere or created by impact with earth. Sometimes the stones used in jewelry are kept natural for one-of-a-kind Boho-style. While other jewelry designers may choose to shape, facet, and polish the stones to create more traditional jewelry pieces.

Diamonds are believed be prevalent in space and some resulting from asteroids may be found in Russia, Brazii, and Africa.  Diamonds in space there are mostly black (aka Carbonado Diamonds or Enigma Diamonds), which are not typically found in natural diamond mines on earth.  

Impactites (aka Libyan Desert Glass or Moldavite) is melted sand particles burned by the impact of a meteorite.  Libyan Desert Glass are pale yellow-colored stones, which are soft or brittle - therefore it is used sparingly in earrings or pendants.  Gemstone quality desert glass is rare for use in faceting or cabochons, so most jewelry will be wire-wrapped or hole-drilled if the shape and size of stone is appropriate. Moldavite is a unique dark green gemstone that has been placed in jewelry for about 100 years.  However, it is not readily accessible everywhere.  Check TV shopping networks and seller websites where many new designers sell their wares to get a Moldavite piece to mix into wearing with your other green gemstones.

Meteorites of iron of other metallic substances have become very popular for jewelry.  People are fascinated by owning these mostly in their natural form.  However, the do make interesting cut cabochons and beads too.

Pallasite (aka Palladot or Space Peridot) is a meteorite containing another green stone called Olivine.  Olivine is the mineral family that the August birthstone Peridot comes from, but is not the same quality as that well-known gemstone.  Although some Peridot -quality may come from outer space and be cut out of the meteorite part, most of the Olivine is not removed from it's meteorite host. Typically it is used as an interesting combination of colors. sold as Pallasite to collectors and occasionally fake versions are wire-wrapped or drilled for an extremely rare version of jewelry. (Learn about Olivine from volcanoes too.)

Tektites are usually black stones formed when an asteroid or comet hits the earth.  Since it is drop-shaped and glass-like, it is used in the same types of jewelry as Impactites.

The above gemstones are linked more to the science of space and the uniiverse, also known as astronomy.  There may be other gemstones in space that have not yet made it to earth.  However, if instead of space science you are more interested in astrology, which is a using stars and planets to try to explain life, then check out zodiac gemstones from earth.  

Six Ideas to Make the Laundry Chores Easier

Laundry must get done, but it takes time to do it right.  Who wants to spend their time doing laundry?  Below are six ideas that can make doing laundry easier and more organized.  If it is easier, then the task is less likely to be dreaded as a major chore.  If it is organized, then it will be time well spent instead of feeling like it was hours wasted.

6 Ideas for Laundry Chores

1. Organize your laundry room!  Have all necessary supplies and equipment are there and in easy reach.  Open shelves are easier to work from than closed cabinets.  This also makes it easier to recognize when you are almost out of something.  You can add it to your shopping list instead of having to make an extra run just to get detergent.

2. Share the laundry chores with others.   Get everyone in the family to gather their own dirty clothes and bring them to the laundry room for sorting appropriately.  Older children should be taught how to help out with sorting and doing all types of laundry.  Start them washing with something easy like towels and after they have the hang of that, then show them how to do clothing.

3. Mobilize the process.  Instead of one "dirty clothes" hamper, make several available to be sure clothes get into the hamper instead of into a pile on the closet or bedroom floor.  If you have multiple larger bathrooms, then this is the logical space for hampers.  If bathrooms are small, then a hamper or laundry basket in each bedroom makes more sense for getting everyone to get together their laundry.  Baskets can be used to carry dirty laundry to the washing machine ares.  Then after washing, drying, and folding laundry, it can be returned to each basket to be carried into the correct bedroom.  When the basket is picked up by the clothing owner, clothes on hangers can be placed over the top of basket to go back to the closet into that bedroom in one trip as well.

4. Timing is everything!  If your washer and dryer do not have load buzzers to let you know a load needs to be moved to prevent moldiness or wrinkles, then consider using a timer.  The time can be a portable kitchen timer or an app on your phone.  Set it for about half an hour depending on your normal wash or dry cycles.  Carry it with you into other rooms where you are multi-tasking to save time by cleaning, exercising, or playing games with the kids.  When it goes off, check your load and reset timer if appropriate.

5. Do not like ironing?  You can prevent the need to iron clothes, if you get them out of the dryer quickly and then hang or fold them immediately.   Since immediate may not be possible if you did a large load, as you pull clothes out of the dryer, flatten stack things like t-shirts and shorts on top of the dryer so you can quickly hang up trousers and collared shirts first.  If you find you still have some wrinkles before wearing and hate to iron, consider tossing the item back in the dryer with a wet washcloth for 10-15 minutes to remove most wrinkles.

6. Scheduling is also important.  Some people like to do all their laundry on the same day so they have evenings free.  Others prefer a free weekend and plan 2-3 specific nights to do various types of laundry loads.  Do what makes the most sense for you and your family.  Having a schedule for laundry duties helps you manage your time better.  If you have older children, who will be helping with some of the laundry chores, a written schedule will keep them on track too.  

Grandma's Recipe Box: Dr Pepper Cake

As you may notice on recipe card, my Grandma credits this moist chocolate cake to Mrs. Kennedy.  She also notes the cake tastes great without frosting, but you can top with the chocolate frosting she lists at bottom of card.  Different recipe ideas are at end of post.

Dr. Pepper Cake


2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine (softened)
3 eggs (beaten)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup Dr. Pepper
1 cup chopped nuts 


  1. Prepare greased & floured tube pan or oblong (9x13) glass dish. Preheat oven 350 degrees. 
  2. Cream together brown sugar and margarine (in large bowl.) 
  3. Add eggs, chocolate, and vanilla to above.
  4. (In another bowl,) sift together flour and baking powder.
  5. Add dry ingredients into creamed sugar mixture alternately with Dr. Pepper. Add nuts.
  6. Bake in tube pan for about an hour or glass dish until done.
  7. Allow to cool before serving or frosting.

Chocolate Frosting


1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 stick margarine 
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar


  1. Boil ingredients until a small count dropped into cold water remains solid.
  2. (Optional) Add 1/2 cup chopped nuts.
  3. Spread onto top of cake, and sides if tube cake.

There are multiple versions of this chocolate cake using a the popular bottled soda on the internet, including some from cake mix, as a brownie-type sheet cake, a layer cake, and using a whole can of soda.  There are also easy versions with cherries added instead of nuts, which include dump and poke versions.

Gemstones from Volcanoes Can Rock in Jewelry

Did you know that some gemstones made into jewelry were formed by volcanic ash or during the lava flow?  Many of the volcano rocks turn into tourist souvenirs, but some are so beautiful they end up in jewelry.  Others in jewelry may be man-made stones created using ash left by the volcano eruption.  Below is a guide to some of the names for volcanic gemstones you may see in the marketplace.

First, let us begin with Lava Stone, which is not really gemstone quality material.  However, the rocky-looking stone is becoming quite popular for the natural or BoHo look in jewelry, whether made into beads or just drilled as is.  It makes lightweight jewelry, can be dyed, and mixes nicely with other natural stones.  It also appears in aromatherapy jewelry since its porous nature makes it hold onto fragrances for a short time.  

You may or may not have heard of Helenite (aka obsidianite), which is typically a green gemstone formed as a result of Mount St. Helens in Skamania County, Washington eruption in 1980.  Although it mostly comes in emerald green color, it has been treated to other colors like ruby read and ceylon sapphire blue for use in jewelry.

ObsidianQuartz "diamonds," and Xenolith discovered from eruption that happened over a thousand  years ago of the now dormant Mount Konocti in Lake County, California.  Hikers and self-proclaimed miners may find their own stones around the mountain or nearby lake.  Collectables rocks and hand-made jewelry are most likely sold in local stores and tourist areas too.

Non-jewelry quality Olivine may be found in Hawaii from Mount Kilauea eruption in 2018.  You can not collect it yourself but may be able to buy some small stones from shops there.  However, the Olivine found there was not the jewelry quality known as Peridot.   

You may not have heard of Vesuvianite (aka vasonite or idocrase), which was discovered in 1795 around in Italy's Mount Vesuvius within the lava rock formations.  The main color associated with the volcano is the light yellow-green and sometimes brown-green. Other colors are more rare, as are the jewelry quality stones for faceting or cabochons.

This may not be all the gemtones created by volcanoes.  It certainly is not all the volcanic rocks out there.  It you have favorites not listed, please share the name of the stone and its volcano in the comments for this blog post.  

Get Organized for Laundry Time with Sorting Tips and Helpful Hints

You probably heard the nightmare stories of people who did not separate their whites from their colors and ended up with a favorite white item turning to pink, grey, or blotchy - thus being rendered unwearable.  So how do you separate your laundry so you do not end up with unintentioned tie-dye effects from color bleeding?  Sort first by what temperature of water, then by colors.  If you want to conserve water or do laundry less frequently, then sort colors mainly into dark and light load options.

Tips for Sorting by Temperature with questions:

  1. Can it be washed in hot or warm?  Check the tags in clothing, most will say cold water.  What about towels and washcloths?  YES they can handle the heat for removing germs and fungus!  Undies and T-shirts - Hmm, maybe?  If it is pre-shrunk or previously-washed white undershirts, then yes.  If it is a colored T then NO!  Delicate fabric undies should be washed in cold (by hand or on delicate cycle), but most cottons and cotton blends can take hot. What about the socks?  Most can take hot so throw them in with the towels to remove odors and germs.
  2. Is it denim?   Then let the jeans, shirts, and washable denim jackets pile up until you have 3 or more items to wash from this category.  This way those can be in their own small-to-large load to wash on COLD.  Denim is typically the most heavy-weight and color-bleed clothing, so let it bleed together to keep color darker longer and not damage lighter clothing  However, if it is an older softer pant/shirt and not likely to bleed anymore - plus you do not want to wait until you have a full denim load, feel free to toss it in with ta dark load of other cold items.
  3. Should it be washed in cold?  Then separate into light and dark piles per below.  Why? To prevent the dark colors bleeding onto lighter colors of course.  
Tips for Sorting by Color when washing in cold:

  • Whites - Separating is only necessary if you wear a lot of white and creams.  This will keep them whiter and brighter longer.  However, if you do not have a full load of whites, just toss those you want to wear soon or often into the lighter color pile.  
  • LIGHTS - These should be your pastels and citrus-tone brights (lemon, lime, tangerine). If you do not have a full load of whites, just toss those into the lighter color pile.  
  • Medium or Mixed - You have to make your own judgement by the most dominant color or the delicacy of the fabric as to whether it goes into the light or darker pile.  I find most non-black delicates seem to  fit more into the light pile.  
  • DARKS - These are usually anything that does not fit into the above sorting categories. 
  • Reds - These can be included with darks.  However if you love red and have lots of shades of this color, you may want to let dark pinks and various red shades pile up to make their own category.  This way the reds do not discolor others or become dingy by your navy or blacks.
  • Blacks - Seen this as a recommendation similar to my denim above.  It is up to you if you want to just put them in separately, or add them to the denim pile for first washing, or just throw them into the dark pile after their original washing has removed excess dye.

Helpful Laundry Hints: 

  • Washing denim inside out will help keep new color longer.  This will also protect the washer and dryer from scratches by the metal on most jeans.  
  • Be sure to turn screen-printed items (such as message and image  t-shirts) inside out before washing to keep it looking new longer.  Why?  If you plan to machine dry because the design will stick to sides of hot dryer and slowly disappear with each new washing.
  • Using a mesh laundry bag for delicates will allow you to machine wash more of them and reduce your need to hand-wash.  Also the same-type of bags can be used to protect items that snag or catch on other clothing easily - such as hosiery, crochet or loose knit tops, leggings, and anything with open-lace trim. Most items that you would put into a laundry bag would require line drying, so do not use the bags in your dryer. (NOTE: do not go the cheap dollar bag route, they may not last more than a couple of washings.)  
  • Do not use fabric softener or only use it sparingly, same for dryer sheets.   People like to buy soft towels, but that fabric softener actually makes the towel less absorbent and therefore less effective.  Softener also leaves a residue on other fabrics that eventually make the clothing seem dingy instead of clean.  There are also health issues related to the use of the liquids.  To reduce static cling, consider using dryer balls or hang dry instead of using the sheets.  
If you have additional laundry tips, please share them in the comments for this blog post.  If you are looking for time saving laundry saving tips, check out ideas for laundry chores.  Happy laundry day everyone! 

Grandma's Recipe Box: Vennie's Chicken Casserole

Got chicken and looking for an easy recipe?  Below is a main dish from my Grandmother's recipe box.  It is very simple to put together.  I'm sure my Grandma just used the "gravy" that the recipe makes as a topping on mashed potatoes or for Grandpa to do his favorite method to "sop-up" using her homemade biscuits or buns. My Grandma had another Creamy Baked Chicken recipe with macaroni.

I have seen similar recipes that include 2 cups of rice cooked under the chicken with either a cup or a can of chicken broth mixed into the soups before pouring over the chicken.  You could try that or make the rice (or noodles) separate and top it with the casserole.  If you want another rice and chicken options, try my spouse's Chicken Rice Casserole with bacon too. If you do not have rice, but you do have tortillas or chips, try my mother's Chicken Tortilla Casserole or the quick Chicken Chalupa Casserole.  

Vennie's Chicken Casserole


Chicken (boned, skinned, and cut up)
Salt and Pepper
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1 can Cream of Celery
1 can Golden Mushroom Soup 


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly butter oven-proof dish.
  3. Place chicken pieces in dish.  
  4. Salt and pepper as desired.
  5. Pour cans of soup over the chicken.
  6. Bake in oven for 1 and 1/2 hours.