Monday 11 October 2010

Pigs and Ink . . . or Ink and Pigs . . .

When I was growing up, we didn’t get things given to us simply because we wanted them. Well . . . not unless you counted the gifts we got at Christmas and on our Birthdays, but then again, those were a completely different kettle of fish. Even then, we didn't get everything we wanted . . . but we surely appreciated what we did get given.

Most things we wanted, we had to earn and save up the money for. This was far better in many ways, but the most important thing it did for us, was that it taught us the value of hard work and money. It also meant that we had time to think about the things we wanted, and to decide if we really did want them after all, not to mention, in the end , whatever we had saved for became a real treasure to us, because we had worked really hard to have it, it’s worth magnified by the many hours of toil and patience spent before we could hold the item in our grateful little hands.

When I was ten years old, on one of our bi-weekly forays into town, I saw something at the Rexall Drug store in downtown Gimli, Manitoba, that I wanted more than anything in the world. A simple ordinary fountain pen. Bright orange in colour, it beckoned to me from the big glass window in front of the store, just as if it were a siren of the sea luring a captain and his ship into the sea’s watery depths. I stood in front of that window for what seemed like hours, dreaming of all the prose and words I could put down on paper with that beautiful pen . . . Imagining somehow that just owning that pen would cause my words to flow with greater speed and intelligence, and that they would somehow come out looking more beautiful on the paper than they normally did.

I can’t even remember now how much it cost . . . but I am quite sure it was only a few dollars. It would have probably been really easy for my parents to just buy me the pen in the first place, but lessons needed to be learned.

I had an old black piggy bank in my room that had seen better years. Formed of hard black moulded plastic, and decorated with red paint it was cracked and broken in several places, it’s cracks and crevices had been taped together with narrow pieces of masking tape. It had a big slot in the top of it, right in the middle of the pig's back, whereby you could insert the coins you were saving ... and a round opening in the bottom that you could take the money out of, closed by a black rubber plug. Every week, for weeks it seemed, I would put all of my allowance into that piggy bank, sacrificing other things I might have wanted . . . like liquorice whips or jaw breakers, and Saturday afternoon matinees at the local cinema. I think at that time I was only getting about twenty five cents a week for my allowance, which to my ten year old mind seemed to be a veritable fortune.

At first the reassuring shakes after I had inserted my money only made a little noise, a hollow empty sound, but as the weeks passed, it began to sound like I had a large treasure in there, as the coins jingled and jangled against each other and against the hard plastic. I cannot remember how long exactly it took me to save up for this pen, but I can remember the day when I finally had enough money saved to buy it, shaking the coins out onto the nubbly coverlette on my bed and running my fingers through their silver and coppery wealth, counting them up one by one.

I can remember the moment that beautiful fountain pen finally became mine for good. I actually had enough money leftover to buy a glass bottle of aquamarine coloured ink to fill it with and a plastic standing American Indian piggy bank to replace my sorry pig that was falling apart. I’m not sure now which gave me more thrills or excitement . . . the pen or the brightly coloured Indian. The Indian stood proud and tall and had the word Rexall stamped into the moulded plastic just above the money slot cut into his magnificent coloured plastic back. He had a real feather stuck onto the back of his black painted hard plastic head. Oh, but the ink and the pen . . . what glorious prose would be soon flowing from the sharp tip of it’s shiny nib . . .

I carefully brought it home and unscrewed the orange plastic ink holder from the end of the pen, investigating every crevice and contour. Inside was a plastic bladder. You held the tip of the nib into the ink and squeezed the bladder gently, and it sucked up ink into the pen and filled it. the trick was not to overfill it. It took me a few tries to get it just right. Oh . . . the beautiful swirls and lines I drew on my paper that night, all in a glowing aquamarine colour. You can imagine my disappointment the next day when my teacher at school informed me that I was not allowed to use it at school. The colour was too bright and the ink too messy, and the whole thing altogether too distracting to the other students . . . not to worry though, as I got loads of hours of fun and enjoyment out of that pen at home when I was writing one of my many stories and letters, as well as the proud little Indian boy that held my treasures and wealth in his plastic heart for many years to come.

Oh the magic of childhood, the innocence . . . and the ability to get so much pleasure from such small things . . . it's too bad we have to grow up!!

I painted another little Christmas Angel yesterday afternoon. You can see her in all her glory over at The Artful Heart.

My Todd loves Sausage Rolls, although I’m not quite sure that they are that good for him to eat very often. Sometimes though, I treat him to these and he loves them too. They’re delicious and not quite as bad for his cholesterol, as I use baking mix instead of puff pastry.

*Pigs in Blankets*
Makes 6
Printable Recipe

These are quick to make and fun to eat. I have used a packaged baking mix here but you can replace it with any scone dough or American biscuit dough recipe you have. I often do, but used the baking mix the other day for ease and convenience. They taste really good either way!

1 cup bisquick baking mix (available in the baking section of the grocery store)
¼ cup of milk
3 TBS grainy mustard
6 fat good quality Pork Sausages (I used the Bramley apple ones)
1 TBS melted butter

Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Separate the sausages and place on a lightly greased baking tray. Bang them into the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until they are just starting to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a bit.

Combine the bisquick and milk in bowl, adding more milk as needed to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a slightly floured surface and knead until smooth.

Roll the dough into a rectangle about 9 inches by 13 inches, and cut into 6 equal pieces, rectangular in shape. Spread each piece with some of the mustard and place a sausage in the centre of each. Roll up in the dough to cover the sausages, leaving the ends of the sausages peeking out at either end. Seal the edge together.

Place, sealed edge down, on another lightly greased baking tray, brush the tops with some of the melted butter and bake in the heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until the “Blankets” turn golden brown and the sausages are done. Serve hot with more mustard or ketchup for dipping.

It's breakfast time in The English Kitchen today. Who's up for a delicious Autumnal Apple Pancake?


  1. Marie you have bright a huge smile to my face. I love my fountain pens. Beth brought me one home from Switzerland. It is one of life's treasures. My grandmother gave me a burnt orange Lamy pen. I loved it too and was so upset when someone thought they needed my pencil case and contents more than I did.

    But the big smile is the piggy bank. There have been some sweet ones for sale but oh so expensive. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to buy one at a church sale. It's belly is being stuffed with my left over silver each day and a few notes as well. I am taking my youngest on a cruise next year and this will be our spending money.

    Thanks for sending a few smiles this way

  2. Oh, this was a sweet post, Marie! I had dream of a fountain pen when I was younger too... I received on when I finished school--and that was a lovely moment. I still have the pen. But not always able to get the ink cartridges for it. But I love it. I've always had a love of pens, pencils & things, paper... I wish I still had my old piggy bank--it was pretty. LOVE your illustration! And hope very much you will feel better soon--be taking good care! LOVE YOU LOTS, dear friend :o) ((BIG HUGS))

  3. You always write such heartwarming stories or should I say essays. I think many of us still need to abide by the piggy bank savings philosophy instead of the buy now and worry about payment later scheme. The recipes is making my stomach growl as it is getting close to lunch time here. Hmm, I have some smoked turkey sausages in the freezer...

  4. Great post Marie, brought back memories of my childhood.

    I remember birthdays and Christmas being the only time you received gifts. Never getting everything you wished for, that was part of the pleasure, you never knew what you were going to get. Unlike today when children tell their parents what they want for Christmas and know by this time of the year that they are going to get it. I find it sad that there are no surprises anymore and children tend to be so materialistic, encouraged by todays society.

    Only difference being me and fountain pens don't get on:( Being left handed always caused me problems at school and when we had to use fountain pens my work was awful. My writng is not the best even now, I have been to calligraphy classes but again my lefthandedness was a burden and the teacher could not help me. So I have a life long envy of beautiful handwriting especially written with a fountain pen.

    The object I wanted and saved for was a book, but I think that might be a post for me seeing as you got me thinking again.



  5. You have a way with words and apparently pens. My Mom gave me a set for Christmas one year but I was never able to get the hang of that beautiful writing I envisioned. Instead of beautiful writing I bake up goodies! Bisquick just came out with a gluten free version I just may be able to duplicate your recipe a la gluten free.

  6. What great memories you brought to mind here with you post today. I loved fountain pens and also had the aquamarine ink. It was my favorite color. I also have a piggy bank that is black but not plastic. It has set on my dresser for years now full of pennies. I never empty it out anymore. It's my rainy day savings. HaHa! The sausage rolls look so good and easy to do too. I'll have to try some out soon!

  7. I got the pen of my dreams when I went to grammar school at the age of 11. It was by Platignum and was dark green and soooo grown-up looking. You had to fill it from an ink bottle by dipping the nib in and pulling down a tiny lever on the side of the pen, which squeezed the bladder inside to fill it up. We had to use blue-black ink for school and ballpoint pen wouldn't do. I remember a little gang of boys who persistently used turquoise ink and were forever in trouble for it. After about 6 weeks it became so pale that you could hardly tell anything had been written!

    But I used to love the sight of shiny letters from the not-yet-dry ink. Even my handwriting looked good!

  8. what a wonderful story. it makes me actually think of how kids these days just have too much. my kids have so many toys and junk they don't even know what to do with it. i really hate it and every couple of months we get have to get rid of big bag of stuff. and i blame their grandparents! :) kids today don't have the same gratitude for things that kids used to. i'm trying hard to teach it despite the fact that its hard in this day and age, but gratitude is so important. and learning the value of work as well. so glad you were able to save up to get that pen! how exciting that must've been and what a lesson learned.


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