Cooking 1907 style

The century old recipe book I picked up recently demonstrates the challenges my grandmother faced in the kitchen as a young bride. In 1907 the St. Katherine’s Guild of Grace Church in Oak Park, Ill. collated a hard bound church cookbook of “Tested Recipes.” Even with decades of kitchen experience, that cookbook challenged me.

“Popovers for Six People” calls for “One quart of milk, less the cream.” Living in the era of homogenized milk, I wondered exactly how to measure that. Most all the recipes lack sufficient instructions. The Devils Food Cake recipe ends with “after all this is well mixed, stir in chocolate.” 

“Then what?” inquiring minds want to know.

The answer is, “use your judgment….”

Several recipes say, “Flavor to taste.” 

With what flavor? Orange, vanilla, almond extract?

Okay, maybe I could wing the flavoring and flour. But the 1907 ovens had no temperature settings. The church ladies’ simply wrote: “Bake” with no temperature provided. The stoves did not have temperature controls. So recipes say, “Bake in a moderate oven, ” “a quick oven or “a slow oven.”

Explicit instructions are few. Many recipes are reminiscent of the recipes school children submitted for the El Dorado News-Times annual Newspapers in Education contest. They lack instructions and ingredients.

       Some recipes like Suet Pudding never appear in modern cookbooks. Its first ingredient is suet – as in the hard, white fat around animal organs. To this, the cook adds raisins, currants, molasses, or brown sugar before steaming it all for an hour or two. 

The final sentence for cream of corn soup caught my eye: “Serve with freshly popped corn, slightly salted.”

Measurements also seem a bit odd. Dyspeptic’s muffins need a “walnut sized piece of butter.” First of all, is that a walnut with or without the shell? Secondly, what is dyspeptic? The instructions end with “have the oven and muffin pan very hot.” How hot is very hot? And, how long are these muffins to be baked?

If I can’t bake with this recipe book, I can try a nut sandwich: “chop a cupful of English walnut meats, moisten with thick cream and spread between a slice of Boston brown bread and a slice of white bread which have been cut with a biscuit cutter.”  I could also try a Cottage Cheese Sandwich:  “Cut graham bread into thin slices and butter generously. Spread with a paste made of cottage cheese, chopped olives and nuts.” How much cottage cheese? No explanation. Do it “to your taste and preference.”

With sandwiches in hand, reach for a glass of Dandelion Wine. Thanks to “Tested Recipes” I finally know how to make it. A big batch requires 10 quarts of dandelion flowers – the flowers, not the stems or leaves. It would take field of dandelions to pick that many! Like all good wine, it takes time and one of those large stone jars that serves as a quaint decoration in some homes. It also needs 19 lemons, nine pounds of sugar, lots of time and several sessions spent squeezing the flowers and lemons and straining them through cheesecloth. All told, at least a couple months pass before you pour the wine into bottles and loosely cork.

Food for invalids includes egg gruel: “egg yolk and sugar beaten together. Pour one cup boiling water on it, add the egg white which has been beaten to a froth with any seasoning or spice desired. Serve warm.”

Maybe there is a reason why gruel rhymes with cruel.

My grandmother cooked in that sort of kitchen in the first decades of her marriage. In her last years, she warmed up cans of soup to pour over toast and carefully opened packages of Archway cookies for dessert. All of which tasted much better than gruel any day.

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Stretching the vocabulary

Count the 370 words added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary this year. Each entered the dictionary after folks used the word in speech and/or writing. Sus became part of our language as lazy folks cut short the syllables of suspicious or suspect.

I sus that the dumbphone was developed as a cheap way for folks who need a cell phone, but do not want to learn how to use a smartphone with email or an Internet browser.

Obviously those same folks would never consider a video doorbell with a small security camera. While in Indonesia, my son’s wife cued into their video doorbell  to see who came to their Michigan home. 

It probably would not have worked for me. After a few days of traveling, my phone gets laggy as my service provider slows down my Internet access. It takes forever to get a picture to appear on the screen.

If all that is confusing to you, then FWIW (for what it is worth), I am just trying to show you how all these words can fit into even old folks’ vocabulary. 

Some of the words just make sense, even those I had never encountered before the news release. Personally I really like adorkable. This succinct word describes that odd, awkward, quirky yet quite endearing person we all love. It even feels right on my tongue.

Not adorkable but definitely necessary this year is the side hustle. (A supplementary job for income.) A lot of that goes around with all the shrinkflation in the face of major inflation.We needed the word shrinkflation decades ago when my cousin asked, “Have you noticed how they make the candy bars smaller while keeping them at the same price?” 

Last year shrinkflation hit cake mixes as they lost a couple ounces and yet the box price remained the same.

Yeet! Is all I could say when I saw the larger boxes being sold at deep discount prices in order to make room for the smaller boxes at the original prices. Oh and ICYMI (in case you missed it) yeet is an expression of surprise, approval or enthusiasm. I understand the Razorback fans do a lot of yeets when their Hogs make a touchdown. As a verb it means to throw with force without regard for whatever it is you are tossing.

Just don’t yeet any old wheel or tire in the lake because it causes pollution. It will entertain a person who likes to go magnet fishing. That type of scavenging uses a magnet on a string to find metal hidden in water. Now there’s a hobby for those who claim to be environmentally friendly. Of course some of the environmentally friendly stuff is a bunch of greenwash. Yep, you got it, greenwash is a lot of hogwash from folks who make up policies or practices that appear to be more environmentally friendly than they really are. There is a lot of greenwash going around these days in the name of energy saving. Stay home, use a scrub bucket and hang your clothes out on the line to dry. Now that really saves energy.

I could go on, but I will finish with one appropriate for this time of year: Pumpkin Spice. If I have to define it, you are laggy in uploading even the most obvious new words to your vocabulary. Just add a touch of pumpkin spice to your plant-based meal (no meat meal) and wash it down with oat milk (fluid made of mashed oats, water, minerals and vitamins) to enjoy the seasonal flavor and some new words from the most recent Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 

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How far will you go because you love

For my parents, driving the 2,500 miles between Arizona and our hometown in Steuben County, New York took quite a while. With five children in the family, flying never was an option, nor was staying in Arizona. So we drove. We ate sandwiches in the car or had picnics along the way. Sometimes we traveled with a tent camper. Other times we stayed in hotels or slept in the car. We took that route more times than I remember because we really wanted to see cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends.

Once we arrived, we clambered out of the car and immersed ourselves in catching up with folks. Because we had no Facebook, no emails or pictures on Instagram, we took lots of pictures, wrote many letters and hoped we would receive mail in return. Of course we wanted to see everyone.

But it was difficult to visit everyone across the county. Finally my mother said, “I have driven 2,000 miles across the country to see you, surely, you can drive 30 miles across the county to see us so we don’t have to spend all our visit driving from one house to another.”

She said it. She meant it. She went anyway – for a while.

I thought about that when I saw a Facebook conversation where the mother sighed, “I do miss my family. They live so far away.”

“Oh. Where do they live?”

“On the other side of the county,” the mother wrote. In other words, a 20 or 30 minute drive was too far for her.

Which leaves the question: How far is too far to travel?

I understand that traveling halfway around the world to visit loved ones can be a challenge and costly. The time spent on planes can be mind-numbing and uncomfortable. So I “get it” when the family does not go visit because it is too far. But how far is too far when loved ones fly back most of the way round the world and lands stateside again. Is a day of driving too much when long distance, loved ones cannot come any closer? Is a half a day or a couple hours of driving too far?

At what point do loved ones begin to say, “It is too far, too uncomfortable to be in the vehicle that long.” 

How do I love thee?  Not more than my hobby, according to some. “Can’t go see family, that is just too physically wearing,” others  insist. I understand that. I spent one entire return trip with a backache that left me hobbling. No matter how I traveled home, I could not lay down and rest until I arrived home.

My empathy with their discomfort, however, disappeared when each talked about traveling as far, and further, in pursuit of their hobby.

Through the years that my parents lived out west while their siblings lived back East, I watched my mother reconsider fading friendships. The first big step came the year she trimmed her lengthy Christmas card list. Postage and greeting cards for a couple hundred people took a big bite out of the holiday budget. She went through her list of contacts and began deleting anyone who had not sent us a card.

She slowly found less time to cram in as many visits as she could with everyone when “back home.” We then had more time to enjoy the ones who made time to see and contact us.

How far is too far? How much do I love thee? Through the years, I have realized that answers depend on the intensity of individuals’ desire to sit and visit with a loved one. 

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Xenophobia

 During Cousin Camp, when our youngest grandchildren visited us for a week, I encountered examples of xenophobia in news stories, a biography of Rogers Williams and an educational trip we took. Xenophobia – the fear of strangers (or even people who practice unfamiliar lifestyles) is everywhere.

For many weeks, my breakfast time has included reading a couple pages of “Roger Williams and The Creation of the American Soul.” Williams, born in 1603 matured during England’s religious turmoil. Between monarchies the country switched back and forth between Protestant and Catholic. Under King James the split came over the form of worship in the English churches. The Puritans, Pilgrims, and others, like Williams, sailed away to America and New England to escape those in authority who arrested people for not worshiping as they did. Williams arrived in The New World only to be outcast by the church and community authorities for his non-conforming viewpoints. In time, Williams established the Rhode Island colony that allowed individual choices in worship. His viewpoint on church and state heavily influenced the first amendment to the United States Constitution.

Persecution for thinking or believing differently from the powers-that-be still exists. In Nigeria, last week, groups such as Boko Haram, militant Fulani, Islamic State and bandits joined together to destroy Christian churches, villages and believers with minimal response from the government. Similar actions continue in Afghanistan as the Taliban attacks individuals who choose to dress or live differently from the Taliban. Their fear of religious and wardrobd differences compel them to destroy anything or anyone not like them.

I silently read of these events as the children swirled around me last week. We all began talking about it Thursday when we visited to the World War II Japanese American Internment museum in McGehee and memorial park in Rohwer. From 1942 to 1945, in 10 camps in isolated spots of America, about 16,000 Americans whose ancestors immigrated from Japan lived in compounds surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into war against Germany, Italy and Japan. Within weeks, seeking to remove spies, executive orders mandated internment camps for citizens from the three countries and at times their descendants. Camps quickly rose up in isolated regions of the States. At some point during the war, 120,000 with Japanese ancestry, 11,500 with German ancestry and 3,000 with Italian ancestry lived in these armed camps. Around 16,000 Japanese Americans (many with American citizenship) arrived by train to live in the raw, barrack-type camps in Rohwer and Jerome. The 1940 census had included a question about national ancestry which made it easy to identify those sent to the camps.

Nothing remains of the camps except the hospital’s smokestack, the cemetery plots in Rohwer and a stone memorial in Jerome. Farm crops now cover former camp sites. My grandchildren explored the small cemetery and monuments in Rohwer. The children commented on the ages of the young and old buried there. They studied the monuments to the Japanese American soldiers who died in the European war theater for the country that exiled them.

The children debated the difference between the concentration camps set up by the Germans in Europe and the internment camps in America. Both countries began with xenophobia: these people look, think or act differently, so let’s not have them around. However, German camps did not provide the quality of food, medical care and education received in American camps. No one left German camps to work or join the military as they did in America. Most incarcerated in German camps did not live to tell their story or file legal suits against the government as the Japanese did in America.

Still the memory of the camps tarnishes our nation’s history. The six cousins may not recall the details. I hope a seed of thought takes root for them to consider the next time xenophobia raises its ugly head in their thoughts.

 

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Cousin camp 2022

 Laughing, giggling, teasing children and teenagers swept through the house once my daughter’s four children joined their trio of cousins.

“I knew it would be loud,” I said to my daughter.

“It is.”

Supper waited while the cousins joined forces to check out the house and each other. We live too far away for any of the seven to come often. A couple years ago, with the Covid-19 quarantine closing church camp, I held our first Cousin Camp.

We learned verses, played games and explored foods. They talked, laughed and made memories. The next year they visited in sets of two or three. This year, the seven youngest grandchildren had one night and day together. Six stayed longer. With children from six to almost sixteen years old, for that day, our sedate home for the elderly became a loud playground of kids.

It was the first time most had seen my revised hallway lined with their mugshots from school and family events. “Oh my word! Look at my picture. I look so goofy!”

“Grandma! Why did you put that picture of me up there?”

“Who is this with Oreos?” another asked looking at old picture.

“That’s Uncle Mert. He won a trip to Dallas for stacking Oreos the fastest.”

I pulled out Hamburger Helper for supper. Not a typical meal from our geriatric kitchen, but a quick, easy meal for the cousins.

Since I only cook “Take It or Leave It,” I served a sample to each child. All but one came back for seconds to eat with hearty slices of buttered French bread. Great quantities of food disappeared as the room echoed with young voices laughing and talking.

I sat silently watching and listening. No way I could keep up with the teen lingo and constant teasing.

It may be Cousin Camp, but they live by “Grandma’s rules” especially at the table. “No slouching over the food, hold your fork the right way, and no bathroom talk.”

“Remember when Grandma made me go outside and say the alphabet backwards because I …?” my now cool teenager laughed.

The first night half of them ended up in a five minute exile for breaking the last rule. With all the chatter emanating from their exile, I doubt they learned a thing.

The newest Grandma’s Rule caught all of them, “No electronics. No phones. You are here to visit with each other.”

The youngest, the one without any phone, came tattling, “They are on their phones. They are not supposed to have them.”

We rounded up a stack of phones. I put mine on silent, “If you want to read your phone, check the bookshelves.” I constantly buy books for kids.

My daughter stayed the first night. She came with dyes, t-shirts and the energy to direct making tie-dye t-shirts for Cousin Camp 2022. ”I can’t help all of you at once so the first here gets to do it first,” she yelled. They leaped up from their conversations and came a thundering like a herd for the table – now cleared of supper.

Afterwards, they settled into quieter conversations and activities.

“I have to take notes on how to take notes for history class,” the oldest from Little Rock complained.

“I had to write an email about writing an email,” the next oldest from St. Louis said.

The youngest of all found a beginner reading book and read to me until the clarion call of cousin fun pulled her away.

Long distant or next door, noisy or quiet, we commit to carving out time with family and accept that it will loud, messy, energetic and a lot of fun.

 

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The barn that Grandpa built

Shortly before World War II, when my dad and his twin brother were not yet 10 years old, their dad (Grandpa Hibbard) announced, “We need to build a bigger barn with more stanchions for the milk cows. If we build near that spring it will flow into a cooler with the milk cans. We will build a hay loft big enough to hold hay to feed the cows through the winter.”

My dad helped where he could and as he was told. To make sure folks remembered he was there, he signed his name to the building, writing “Merton” on one of the new boards.

Through the war and after, the growing twins spent summers hauling hay to the barn and building muscles for fall football.

Both brothers and their little sister married young. My dad went off to college. Uncle Bert stayed on the farm with his bride. Grandpa asked him, “Do you want to buy the farm?”

“Yep.”

They moved into the big house. Grandpa built a smaller ranch house down the road. He continued to show up at the barn to help milk cows, plant crops and put up hay. In the 1950s, grandchildren toddled alongside their dads (who were brothers) and their Grandpa to the barn to see the animals. By school age they had chores. Even cousins who did not live on the farm hauled bales to the hay wagon and off-loaded them onto the hay elevator inside the barn. In the safety of the hay fields, most learned to drive.

In the 1960s, Uncle Bert made his last payment on the farm. The extra cash paid for a gutter cleaner in the barn. He did not use the device very long. He found a job at a nearby plant, sold the milk cows and kept feed stock. Family still needed to help haul hay bales to the barn every summer for the cattle to eat in the winter. My dad moved us across the country, but his roots said his sons needed farm work, so during the summers my brothers went back to the farm to help.

None of Uncle Bert’s children nor their cousins wanted to be farmers. He sold off the live stock. All but two of the 11 grandchildren moved away. The two left in upstate New York bought acreage that included the barn. Nearby farmers bought the rest of the land. Four generations of Hibbards worked and played in the barn. The spring still flows in the milk house, but it does not cool any milk in cans. For many years, folks still went to the hay loft but only to store equipment or to play.

In time, rain and snow took their toll on the roof, and the timbers sagged. My cousin who owned the barn said, “You need to get your stuff before the roof falls.” She warned parents, “now you watch them if they go to the barn.” Eventually she had the hay loft torn down.

An area farmer asked about the gutter cleaner. “It wasn’t used much or for a long time,” she said. They worked out a deal.

During our recent family reunion, she mentioned my dad’s signature on the barn beam. “If you want that, you better get it. The rest of the barn needs to be torn down,” she said.

It will be. Maybe not this year, but in time, the once-proud accomplishment of my grandfather and his sons will disappear. The spring will continue to flow over the stone foundation. All that will remain will be the board with a name, pictures, stories of hot summer days hauling hay to its loft and memories of cool winter mornings spent pitching hay down to cows.

 

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No time to be sick

“No sickness is allowed,” I told the family. Usually everyone obeys. Exceptions do occur. I anticipated pain and misery the week my octogenarian husband had a couple teeth pulled.

On surgery day, we left early to compensate for road repairs and school buses. We encountered neither. We arrived almost an hour early. The staff processed and called him back early. I went to the van to tip back, read, do needlework and enjoy a snack. I barely finished my snacks and the second chapter, when the doctor called, “Time to pick him up at the back door. I ordered pain medication. He just needs to take it easy. He will sleep a lot.”

Hubby stood like a puppet on loose strings. The nurse slid him into the passenger’s seat. He melted into place, leaned back and closed his eyes. With a mouthful of gauze he resorted to hand signals to direct us home.

A bit later, as we neared a thrift store I had not visited in a while, I looked at him, “Will you be okay if I pop in to see if they have any Bibles or Christian literature?”

He mumbled something, waved his hand and closed his eyes. I rolled down the windows and left.

With the sale price of 20 books for a dollar, I filled the buggy with New Testaments, Bibles, commentaries and children’s books. I quietly loaded them into the car where he still slept. I decided since he slept, I had time to explore household items.

Twenty minutes later I emerged with an armful of fabric and a dirty but working sewing machine. I said nothing as I tucked them beside the boxes of books. I may collect Christian literature for Love Packages in Illinois, but fabric and sewing machines take longer to catch and release.

The patient slept while I went to get his pain medication. When I returned, he wanted to go to a Bible Study.

“Do you need a pain pill before you go?” I asked.

“No. I’m fine.”  Afterwards someone commented, ‘He didn’t talk very much.”

“Well, he had his mouth filled with gauze,” I explained.

            The bag of medication remained closed. The next day, he rested in his chair and ate yogurt before going to the prayer lunch of food he could not eat.

He might not be able to chew food, but he could still help. I handed him a scorched iron that evening, “Can you clean up the gunk on the bottom? It is leaving spots on the fabric. Oh, and by the way, how do you feel?”

“I’m okay,” he said as gathered bottles of cleaners and began scrubbing. Nothing worked except a razor blade and fine sand paper. I thought the iron looked great. He said, “I have some super fine sanding cloth used after painting cars. I can use it.” When the iron looked brand new, he kicked back and rested without any pain medication.

On the third day, he added Jell-O to his diet and worked on papers at the table. That evening I put the fabric away and took the machine out from behind his chair. Time to clean it and see how it worked.

The bobbin and case stubbornly refused to separate. I took out the whole mechanism and handed it to my still recuperating handyman. He pried them apart.

“The bobbin is too large,” he said. I found a 1/64th of an inch smaller bobbin in my extras. I cleaned out a wad of lint from the machine, tested the decorative stitches and reverse button. All worked except a few stitches seemed off.

“This part is worn,” he pointed at the exposed gears.

He loosened the wheel for me and asked, “where did you get this machine?”

“At that thrift store,” I said mentally adding, “while you were asleep.”

He removed some rust from the wheel and studied the machine, “The bobbin winder and top thread guides look like it was dropped. They are bent. I can fix that.” He reached for pliers and adjusted everything. He may still be eating soft food, but he’s not doing too badly for a guy I thought would sit in the lounge chair moaning in pain for days. However, he has always been the fixer and never the one to break anything, not even the house rule against sickness.

 

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Take this stick and shove it … test

                The ominous brain-tickling COVID-19 test swab finally caught me. The first time it threatened my nasal cavities came on a holiday weekend when Hubby could not get warm. I tried to get him a quick COVID-19 test. “We can’t test you until after the holiday.”

He felt sick. I slept a bit more the next two days before he tested positive.

“I don’t feel sick. I am already quarantined. Do I need a test?” I asked.

“No, not if you are already quarantined.”

I welcomed long days at home to finally tackle making a king-sized quilt. I cheerfully added another week to avoid having my brain tickled. Meanwhile I began and completed a complicated quilt; I even quilted it.

A couple months later, vaccinations began for the elderly. My husband immediately qualified.  Having had the disease, he discussed pros and cons, especially after his unvaccinated, older, brother died from the disease.

I studied the options, shrugged, got the vaccination and felt fine. The family persuaded hubby to be vaccinated. Nationally, COVID-19 numbers went down and up and down, etc.

“You can get a free test by contacting this number,” a friend advised. I thought about ordering a test but saw no need for one until the day I told my daughter, “I feel puny.”

She had recently had an exhausting case of COVID-19. “You might have it. You should get tested,” she said.

“Oh. Really?” I visited the clinic. The COVID-19 consulant asked a few questions and concluded, “You don’t need a covid test.”

No stick in my nose? That works for me! I went home happy if not healthy.

Another time, I called the clinic to see if COVID-19 had caught me.

“We can’t give a test until Monday.”

I felt much better on Monday.

Last month, my son, Nate, brought Sam to visit. The next day Nate called, “Hey, I felt a bit sick before a meeting so I took a test. I have COVID-19.”

“I better order those free test kits,” I said.

“You should have it in a couple days,” my son – and the clerk on the phone – said.

The next day my husband felt awful and Sam slept a lot. The tests never came.

I went in town and asked a pharmacist for a covid test. The clerk stepped back, pulled a test and tossed it across the counter at me for no cost. At home, I opened the little capsule of testing fluid, squeezed 6 drops into the tiny hole and opened the envelope holding a long cotton tipped stick. However, things had changed: No brain tickling. I only had to swirl about half an inch into his nose. Hubby squinched his eyes, gasped and choked, anyway.

I slid the stick into the tester, covered it and watched fluid rush to declare, “positive.”

Sam’s mom Joy asked that I test him. He tested positive as did everyone in his family that week. To go to camp the next week, he needed a negative test.

Back to the pharmacy for another double test kit. This clerk said, “It costs $26.”

I blinked at the difference.

“Your insurance will pay for it.”

“Oh.” I handed her my card.

She handed me eight COVID-19 tests.

Sam’s one line declared him “negative,” and safe for camp.

I decided I should test my summer cold.  No brain tickling, just wipe inside the nose. Yep, I saw the two lines confirming that I was COVID-19 positive. I stayed home, took over-the-counter cold medications and assembled two, simple quilts. My quarantine ended in time to take Sam home. We tossed the extra tests into the suitcase. After all, you never know when someone might want a cotton-tipped piece of wood pushed up their nose.

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Ohio castle in Loveland

America has no royalty, but it does have dozens of castles, big, little, old and new. I discovered one via Facebook and suggested we include it on our summer trip. We left the Interstate for Loveland, Ohio, following the GPS which took us to a sharp turn at the top of a steep road.

“Do I really want to see it?” I wondered when my husband aimed the van down the sharply winding road with trees covering the road ahead at each turn. After a few breathtaking moments on the road designed by the castle’s builder, Harry Delois Andres, we landed in the gravel parking area. The sign said, “Entrance fee: $5.”

“Do you have a senior discount,” my husband smiled asking the obvious.

“No, but you are welcome to work,” the gatekeeper said. Volunteers maintain the grounds and continue to build on the castle.

We paid the fees and walked over to the small French Normandy styled castle. The volunteers appeared to all be men. One briefly pointed out features, including the attached, one-horse stable where videos introduce Andres. The ‘stable’ barely seated half a dozen people. Videos document Andres’ life, including his time as a nurse in World War I when he ‘died’ of meningitis. His body went to the morgue. His autopsy ended when he bled after the first cut. An experimental shot of adrenaline revived him. Intriguing information about Andres, the castle-builder, but we came to see the stone building.

“It’s a one-man castle,” I said after seeing the compact kitchen, small bathroom and snug bedroom. Even the ballroom on the second floor was a fifth the size of most ballrooms. Still the completed castle reflected Andres’ vision. As a WWI nurse, he had seen European castles. He designed his with the 10th century tapered windows to keep out flaming arrows and steep, tight winding stairwells to discourage sword fighters from ascending. He found and displayed original suits of armor.

The castle idea began during the years Andres taught a boys’ Sunday School class and a Scout troop. He dubbed them the “Knights of the Golden Trail,” or KOGT. Andres wanted the dozens of boys he taught to embrace and live by the 10 commandments and the Golden Rule. Pictures of KOGT boys line the walls of the foyer – now gift shop. The KOGT inherited what is now a non-profit facility.

Originally, his classes camped in the area. One day he looked at his knights and declared, “Knights need a castle. If you will pick up rocks from the river bed, I will build you a castle.”

In 1929, the boys began toting rocks and Andres began terracing the steep hill for the castle, picnic area and gardens. Ultimately, Andres did more than 95 percent of the work to build the castle. One of the videos shows him as an old man choosing stones from the nearby Little Miami River.

“Every spring the river washes down more rocks,” he says tossing rocks toward his big white plastic bucket.

In 1955, Andres began living in the castle.He continued to add to it until his death in 1981. Volunteers have carried on his vision. Still after all this time, with its stone walls and floors the castle feels more spartan than royal.

Volunteers maintain the grounds and have added the chapel room he always envisioned. Andres, a lifelong bachelor, once studied architecture. He also served as a teacher and newspaper editor. Neither his life nor his castle reflect the richness associated with royal castles.

Within a couple hours of taking that first detour, we had seen everything and returned to our vehicle. I closed my eyes at the thought of meeting another car on the narrow, winding return path. My husband expertly focused and steered around the blind corners. We encountered no one before we reached the top. There we quickly returned to the ease of the Interstate in search of another adventure, even one with a hit of hint of illusive royalty in America.

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cleaning the attics with Sam

                “How in the world did we end up with four queen sized air mattresses?” I asked after we emptied the crawl space over the garage. I stared at the mound of camping equipment on the garage floor where we usually parked the minivan.

             “I guess we bought one every time we needed one. The double thick one for the family reunion. The last one for the anniversary company and the rest for camping in the Smokey Mountains,” hubby ventured.

             So many memories tucked away in the attic. We rediscovered the tent he used in North Dakota where he worked with Habitat for Humanity. We haven’t used it since nor the dining canopy from our family visit to the Smokey Mountains. Such great memories with no sentiment. We sold all of it, including the blow-up boats he used for one family trip down the Elkhart River decades ago.  The dried and cracked inner tubes went in the trash. I think we used them three times. Memories came out of storage. Selling most of it added cash for an upcoming vacation when we will not be camping.

             We saved the camping equipment and boats to use later and never did. We never read the National Geographics then or now. Grandkids never played with either the plastic toys or the wooden train set we saved.  I thought we tossed that covered basket long ago.

That’s the thing about attics: they store treasures and trash. Leave some “just in case” items long enough and they become trash. Others become collectibles as I discovered at an estate sale where a family member said, “If it went into the attic, it never came out.” That statement explained the vintage Boy Scout uniform, the unassembled 1960s car kit and collection of vacuum tubes from a time when kids built radio sets.

             In the shop attic, we found the ghosts of projects past, present and future. As I pulled out buckets of wooden sticks, old computer air fans and solid cutting boards, he said, “I used lots of those in … I am making … and I want to keep those to build …”

             I sighed, rolled my eyes and suggested, “surely some of this is just scrap wood for a weiner roast while Sam (our grandson) is here.” He reluctantly agreed. We carried out thin sticks, stubs of 2 by 4s and broken slabs of particle boards. Yes, they might be useful for some future project if my husband lives another 100 years. However, I doubt he lives that long. Nor do I think we need the scraps as much as I need the space to walk through his shop without tripping and breaking another bone.

             This project began after we cleared out a late friend’s estate. Ever since then I have been on a mission to clear out, reduce, eliminate, and diminish the clutter in my life. Long before I invaded my husband’s workshop, I piled up baskets of scraps in my sewing room and tossed out old, cheap plastic sewing machines that needed expensive repairs. I looked again at the doll I had kept since childhood. Its rubber bands that once held limbs and head in place had disintegrated. I realized I didn’t care about the doll anymore. So I sold it on Ebay for parts.

             Memories linger in our attics. We found a few treasures from our past. We also found books that had simply deteriorated from dry rot, brittle inner tubes and rusty cans with a dab of dried paint. Most importantly, beneath it all we found space to think and start storing stuff again.

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