I have always liked the color yellow. It feels like sunshine and joy to me when I see it. Two of my favorite “flowers” are yellow.
The first is the forsythia bush. I like that it blooms in early spring. It tells you that winter almost over and you have survived. My house now has a forsythia bush. It was giant and overgrown when we moved into the house. I let it grow and do it’s thing for a few years, but it was flowering less and less, so I trimmed it hard one year. Told it what I was doing and why and it has been a lovely blessing of yellow each spring. My earliest memories are in pictures of the forsythia that was by my maternal grandparent’s house, my mom’s childhood home. One of the last pictures as a couple of my grandparents are in front of a bush that had been allowed to grow and make a safe place for rabbits and other small creatures. From the series of pictures by this bush, it must have been THE spot for pictures that visit.
Daffodils were my mom’s favorite flowers. I cannot remember a house she lived in that did not have daffodils blooming in the spring for her to enjoy. The last house she lived in had more tulips than daffodils so I planted more bulbs from time to time. Like the forsythia, they bloom so early in the spring, they bring hope for a new season, new start…less cold. The picture below is of me in Alabama. My father told me one time it was one of his favorite pictures of me. Keeping up what I think of as family tradition, I have planted daffodil bulbs in all the houses I have lived in; I like to think the new tenants are getting enjoyment from them now.
Three weeks ago, I was going to tell you how difficult I found the prompt of places you have lived. Apparently, I am not finding the prompt of plants any easier as we have not seen a new posting in weeks. There is still time to get the three for the month in so don’t give up hope if you have been struggling also!
When my father left General Foods, our family moved back to my mom’s hometown and started the S&J Hobby Hut. Long before the days of Michael’s and Hobby Lobby. It was a store downtown in a small river town. They had supplies of all kinds from trains to beads to paints. They held classes on macrame, toile painting, wood carving and more. You would think this would have kept both of them quite busy. But she dreamed of living on the river, and he dreamed of being a gentleman farmer.
A house came on the market and it was what they both dreamed. Less that a half mile from her childhood home and 11 acres (mostly hill side) for his farm. He tried a small garden (spoiler: the deer ate it all). He got two cows, 100 chickens (and a coop) and a dozen rabbits. (All of which, over a period of time, we did end up eating, which is another lengthy post in and of itself).
For Father’s Day one year, my mother got him a goat. George the Goat. It was from my brother and I. (Pretty sure not my idea, pretty sure I will never, ever think giving anyone a goat is a good idea). George and I did not like each other. He would butt you with his head any time you came near him. And I was nine years old (or around there). He was MEAN. When it was my turn to feed him, I would fill my water pistol, shoot him in the face to back him up away from his dish, dump the food in the pail and run.
George was frequently not pleased with his accommodations and felt the need to explore the land on which he lived. This became a new game of getting George back to the barn. I also did not enjoy this game.
There was one time when he went exploring that he found poison ivy and ate it. He ate lots of it. And apparently frolicked in it. Thankfully it was not my turn to bring George back from his exploration, it was my dad’s turn (it was HIS goat anyway). Apparently, the goat was covered in the oils of the plant and also insisted on licking/chewing on my father as he brought the goat back to the barn. This gave my dad a gigantic case of poison ivy; the worst he had his whole life.
The Goat/Poison Ivy story was so well known around town that on the tribute wall when my father died, Sue Page posted: Does anyone remember John and the goat that loved poison ivy? John shared that the goat rubbed his arms and he got a terrible case of poison ivy. He had a really neat sense of humor about that story.
One of my main goals, when we went to Ireland, was to stay in a castle. I did quite a bit of research as we flew into Shannon then drove around the bottom staying at B&Bs and ended up in Dublin. There are quite a few castles on that route. But one, a tad out of the way spoke to me, Blackwater Castle. So, I booked it.
Not going to lie, we got lost finding it. We could see it… just couldn’t get over some creeks and fields to get to it. When we pulled into the driveway not a sole was to be seen. I checked my notes for check in time, yes it was time. We parked and walked around a bit, went to some buildings and a man came out. He introduced himself, reminded us it was a “B&B minus a B” and said we were the only guests tonight. He told us to pick from two bedrooms and bid us goodnight. (It was around 3pm).
“Oh,” he said as an afterthought. “If you be wanting food for the night, you should go to the Spinning Wheel in town.” “Is it the best?” I asked. “It is the only place in town.” And with that he poofed.
We go inside, take a few pictures and then head into town as we are famished (missed lunch due to our getting lost, ok me getting us lost). We walk into the Spinning Wheel (literally the only place to eat in town) and conversation seems to stop. It is entirely locals and us. After a quick review of us, conversation resumes, and we have a lovely Lupper of Fish/Chips/Pints.
When we got back it was time to explore. After a few loud HELLOs! to see if we were really alone. We set out to look at ever single common area, room and perhaps a few spots we should not have looked. He was not kidding. We had the entire castle to ourselves!
The furniture was a mishmash of pieces. Antiques, lovely chandeliers alongside modern pieces or pieces a tad worn out so a throw was tossed over them. No single bed had the same headboard. Some walls had been plastered and some still had the exposed stone like the outside.
There were tapestries and a huge area with a bar (non working, yes we checked).
And a cool study with a grand piano and books.
As it got darker, I decided a bubble bath was in order. I got out my liquid bubble bath and started the tub. It was a very slow trickle. And chilly. It finally got to be about an inch deep so I sat in it, did a quick scrub in the brisk water and got out. But I can say that I did take a bubble bath in a castle, so there is that.
That night we got in bed and found that the castle is very noisy at night. Granted I am not sure you sleep well anywhere your first night. But the excitement of we are in a castle alone! Became we are in a castle alone?
The next morning, we got up, got dressed and headed out to our new town and next adventure (because you know the second B was not included). Staying at Blackwater Castle was very high on my list of “can you believe that?” for this trip.
I loved this house. It had such personality, class and wisdom. Granted I was in 1st grade when we moved in and it did sit probably less than ¼ of a mile from a busy train track, but to me it was magical.
When you walk in there was a glorious staircase that made a C shape, four steps to your left, up ten more, turn right and up eight to the second floor. It was perfect for gentleman callers to arrive and then see you gracefully come down to great them, if you were not ten. All made of dark wood and fabulous banister, spindle and corner post assembly. I am pretty sure the entire upper floor was wood floors.
To your right was the parlor with pocket doors on both sides and giant magnolia flowers on the wallpaper. Above the double entry doors was an intricate pattern made of wood. Rumor had it that various people over time had been laid out in the room for visitation upon their passing. To me, it was the room with the TV, black and white of course. However, the TV was positioned in such a way, that if you were very, very quiet, you could creep down the stairs and sit and watch Emergency! when you were supposed to be in bed asleep.
Walking through the parlor would put you in the living room, with a non-working fireplace (at one time it worked, now not so much) and a giant picture window, the top with leaded glass and looking out to the back yard and the train tracks. When a train went by, the glass would rattle in its frame.
To the left of this room was the dining room, undescriptive to me except for being the place where birthday parties and family dinners were held. Many a fancy cake (my mom REALLY got into cake decorating at this point in my life) were had here.
The kitchen was noticeable for it’s being boring. It was a basic kitchen with a half bath off of it and an access to a small porch that led to outside. The only real memory I have of this kitchen was my father crushing grapes to make wine and my brother “helping”. They were mushing them by hand for quite a bit when a “bug” landed on my brother’s wrist and he freaked out. Waving his red grape covered hands with great force toward the ceiling to remove said bug. Spoiler: was grape skin and the marks on the ceiling stayed until we moved out.
Upstairs the majestic staircase ended on a hall but with a landing to the right. This was our toy room. I want to say there was a large window there and my adult self would have coveted it as an office. Master bedroom was to the left with a giant bay window that looked out on the road and to the right the magnolia tree. Down the hall to the left was my bedroom.
My bedroom also looked right out on to the giant magnolia tree. I remember two things very clearly about this room. I had a small AM radio that I would listen to at night, especially on Christmas Eve when I would listen to see where Santa was in his travels. I would run out many a 9-volt battery but I never remember my mother complaining, just quietly replacing it from time to time. The other memory is Charlotte’s Web. I had been devouring the book (as honestly I still do) and my mom told me, do not read any more tonight, wait until tomorrow to finish. Yeahokwhatever. I crawled into bed, read and read and finished it and went back downstairs sniffing back tears. And bless her heart, she never said I told you so, just help me as I sobbed out how the book ended and how it broke my heart.
My brother’s room was across the hall from mine. He was giddy as he could be as he was 6ish and loved trains. He also, as many kids do, had a problem with the T sound. So they were frequently Frains on Fracks. Thank goodness he was not fond of trucks.
Down the hall was a smaller, guest room.
And at the end of the hall was the bathroom, complete with claw foot tub. (if one wished to shower you could go to the basement; needless to say I never wished to shower). To the left of the bathroom was a staircase to the kitchen. As I child, I was convinced that this was some secret staircase (Nancy Drew anyone?); grown up me puts it together with the small bedroom and less than flashy kitchen and realizes it might have been servants’ quarters. Work adult me wants to find city directories and plat maps and see who lived there and how old it was.
Outside there was a garage, tire sandbox, tire swing and a warp around screened porch. There were houses nearby and actual neighbors.
An aside; this was my last house of my youth that had sidewalks and neighbors. With the value of hindsight, I think that is one of the reason the river house was so hard.
A popular craft idea at this time as to put masking tape on a used glass jar (mayonnaise, etc.) in very tiny overlapping pieces, then coat the whole thing with brown liquid shoe polish (I see I have just lost some of you), let it dry and it makes a lovely vase. I was going to make on for a neighbor, and she was elderly and did not get out much. But I was ten and I kept putting it off. One day, my mom told me I didn’t need to make X the vase as she had died. I felt so, so bad. I, to this day, feel bad. And I really do not procrastinate for very long on anything these days.
As you guessed, we moved from this house to the River House. It was then torn down, made into a giant steel shed (ok building but I am being dramatic) that was a BBQ joint and now a plumbing shop. That house was magical, and not just because I was able to watch Emergency! at age ten.
I hope you enjoyed food. I did. I like how thinking about one specific thing can unwrap a whole idea, event or more depth to a person. Let’s move on to place you have lived, be that locations or domiciles or whatever. Let’s try for three this month!
When we first move to Indiana, we lived in this amazing house. A topic for another day. My mother had dreams of living on the river, like she had as a child. My father had dreams of being a gentleman farmer, for reasons I really have no idea. Lucky for them, the perfect property appeared. An old farmhouse with 11.5 acres. Granted most of it was straight up the hill side, the driveway was a gravel goat path, and the “grass” in the yards around it was 85% thistle and taller than I was… they were not to be deterred, this was place they had dreamed of (and maybe one of the last things they agreed upon). So, we moved.
I have now sat here for three minutes trying to think of something positive to say about the house.
Ok, two and a half things. One: it had very interesting built-in China cabinets in the dining room, two: the phone cord was long enough you could stretch it to go into the bathroom and sit on the clothes hamper for those important private high school calls and three, we could roam the property as much as we wanted, no need to check in. This only gets a half a point as I have major allergies to grass, trees and all warm-blooded animals. Adventuring in fields and woods normally meant a major allergy meltdown.
My mother loved growing up on the river. She would talk so happily about wandering in the woods or picking through the drift piles for treasure. (The Ohio River frequently floods in the spring; the water levels rise and then drift and stuff gets stuck in the fields when the water goes back down. She would go (and she took us a few times) to tromp through the drift left over and see if we could find toys etc. that had floated from upriver). When I reflect on her memories of living on the river, there was no work. It was adventures, explorations, and tea parties with dolls with hollyhocks as teacups.
My memories of living on the river were so different. To me it was work, constant work. Something always needed to be fixed. Wood needed to be hauled for heat. Animals (cows, chickens, rabbits and one evil to the core, goat) needed to be fed. Things needed to be fixed; drainpipes, shingles, siding. And then there were the WTF moments. Some nights rats ran over the keyboard of the piano. Rat traps needed to be emptied to be reused. Blacksnake in the bathtub (I just decided not to shower and was hopeful it would return to its home). Blacksnake skin in the closet (is that worse that the bathtub? I am still not sure). Wolf spiders as big as the palm of your hand and being told to relax they were not poisonous. Mowing the grass with a push mower, constantly it seemed. And pulling up thistles with the snake tongue hand tool. At one point early on, I remember my dad paying us a penny a thistle.
That house, with its bright orange living room walls (“it is my house now and I will paint things any color I want!” My mother told me when my father left), quirky heating and nonexistent cooling, constantly trying to fall down around my ears, formed me in ways I am still unpeeling (like a dysfunctional onion).
When my parents got married, they did not have much in the way of belongings. He worked for General Foods and their first location was in Memphis Tennessee. They had a small one-bedroom apartment and a card table with lawn chairs for a kitchen table. I have seen pictures. It was home to them and soon after he was transferred to Mobile Alabama, where they bought their first house and I showed up to make things more exciting.
When they were in the south (not sure in Alabama or Tennessee) the newlyweds went to the grocery store to buy food and were going to get ice cream. I remember her telling me that the did the whole “what flavor do you want?” “No, you pick, what flavor do you want?” I guess this went on for a bit until they landed on vanilla. Now I know my mother’s favorite flavor was Butter Pecan and while I am not sure my father’s favorite flavor, pretty sure it was not vanilla. He always struck me as a man who needed more going on with his ice cream, unless it was on a fruit cobbler, then vanilla was just fine.
The story goes they get home and open it up only to find all these tiny black specks in it. Maybe a manufacturing issue or shipping problem. They decided not to eat the ice cream. It stayed in the freezer (sort of like time capsule the one insurance commercial speaks of) until it was thrown out.
It was many years later that my mother discovered the difference between vanilla ice cream and vanilla BEAN ice cream. There are scones I get from Trader Joe’s that are vanilla bean and I smile every time I see the black specks and eat the scones.
When I was young, we would all go to Ron and Pat’s house for Thanksgiving. They lived the next town over (a more affluent area) and had a basement with a pool table. For contrast, our basement had a dirt floor, spiders, walls made of random rock, a scary oil tank that you had to go down with a flashlight to see what the level was and on occasion, black snakes. My 10 year old brain thought there must be a zillion people there. With reflection, it was probably more around 20-30. Card tables were set up to eat upon and later sported puzzles the women and kids gathered around to put together (after cleaning up the kitchen), while the men folk went downstairs where football, pool and drink were to be had. I remember being so intrigued with their magical basement, yet knew my place was upstairs.
Time went on as time will do. Less people came to their Thanksgiving. Some had passed away; others had their own growing children and desire to go to their house for thanksgiving. Ron and Pat stopped hosting. And their kids moved to the West Coast so they frequently went there.
My brother, Donald, was three years younger than I and I think to him those Thanksgivings represented a special time pre-parents-divorce (not to mention he frequently snuck downstairs with the men folk). As he grew older, he started to host Thanksgiving at his house, maybe in an attempt to recreate that feeling. He cooked a great deal of food (he enjoyed cooking) and about 10-15 people showed up along with others just popping in for an hour or two for dessert and a to-go-plate. I went to these dinners for a while but then 1) I wanted to start my own traditions with the holiday and 2) I always got stuck washing all the dishes and the man had no dishwasher.
One year he called me in late September and told me I HAD to come to Thanksgiving this year as he was serving Turducken. I had learned at a young age not to admit ignorance to Donald as it resulted in a longwinded, more than slightly condescending soliloquy on the topic. I said, sounds fun. I will let you know and promptly looked it up.
A turducken is a chicken in a duck in a turkey, and stuffing might also be included. What in the world? Ok, I had to go even if it meant washing all the dishes. I went and it was … interesting. It tasted fine and I am ok with all three fowl, but it just seemed busy and dry to me (and to no ones surprise there were a ton of dishes) I enjoyed the chocolate chess pie more I have to say. So, I will leave you with that recipe:
One of my apartments in Salem Massachusetts was right downtown. Parking was a pain (as was grocery shopping and carrying all the things home) but it was nice to walk downstairs and a block away was a CVS for those last-minute needs. There were at least three bookstores that I remember and quite a few tourist traps that leaned toward the witch history of the town.
The best however was Red’s Sandwich shop. It was down the stairs make right and one door down. It was your ultimate local deli spot. For breakfast I would get a cheese omelet. Growing up, we did not go out to eat much and certainly not for breakfast. My mother did excel in the area of breakfast but eating breakfast out was foreign to me. Therefore, I did not really have a yardstick to measure the differences in East Coast vs. Midwest style food. The omelet at Red’s was flat, like open a napkin put in cheese flip it over and done. In contrast, here in Indiana the one breakfast place we frequent (ok both of them) has giant omelets, at least two inches high and so large we always just split one.
But you are here for the bagels. The bagels were pure East Cost bagels. They were boiled, which gave them the crispy on the outside, dense and chewy on the inside. At Red’s they would take the bagel slather it with butter and put it face down on the grill. Once golden brown, it was tossed onto a plate (the grill area was open behind the counter with individual stools so you could watch all this magic and there was a lot of tossing of foods), a chunk of cream cheese was cut off and slapped on top and the whole thing served to you to devour. I fell deeply in love with bagels.
When I returned to the Midwest, my love of bagels waned. I could not pinpoint it, but they just didn’t taste the same. They were not crunch on the outside and dense on the inside. They just seemed like bread in a different shape.
I have a friend who we frequently have coffee and catch up at her house. She is an amazing cook and originally from New York. On our last get together, she told me to come with an appetite as she had made bagels. They were amazing and she made them! As she walked me through the process (let’s be honest, I am never going to have the patience to do this, I barely have the patience to let them thaw from the freeze before I toast them!), I realized what was missing in the bagels here. Boiling them. I still cannot fathom the idea of boiling dough but it works, wow does it work! Now I just need a giant flat top grill and a huge chunk of cream cheese.
My husband and I have had talks about vegetable soup. His memories are a bit fonder. His father did most of the cooking growing up. As his mom was a nurse, the two of them could work their schedules so that one parent was home with the kids most of the time. This was one of the reasons my father-in-law did a lot of the cooking and became quite good at it. Also, his Navy time where he worked in the kitchen. He would sit and chop vegetables for what seemed like forever. Each piece very precise and similar in shape and size. If I were to guess, this was from his Navy days, small pieces cook faster not to mention the military is known for uniformity. If there was meat in the vegetable soup, it would be hamburger but more often than not, it was meat free.
Now in my house, when this pot came out from behind all the day to day use pots, I knew two things 1) we had company coming or there was little to no food until payday and 2) I was going to be hungry.
Can I just say how discouraging it was to try and find a picture of this pot, and it is not exact? I swear ours had actual handles but the coloring with the fad red to brown is spot on. I finally ended up entering vintage red stock pot. Vintage bah!
I regress, if no company was coming I knew it was a long time until payday and we would be seeing soup the next few days. This vegetable soup had any vegetable that could be found in the crisper, regardless of age and bags of cheap frozen vegetables, rarely was there meat, even hamburger in this soup. The one served for company always had hamburger. When I reflect back, I am not sure I ever remember anything getting chopped to put in the soup; more an opening of cans and frozen bags of vegetables. Maybe a fresh onion or two.
I find it interesting how the same food can trigger so very different memories in people. Apparently, my paternal grandmother made vegetable soup as my cousin excitedly texted on of the cold winter days that she was making our grandmother’s recipe. My text bubble said, great! Enjoy!! My thought bubble said, Damn glad we are 3 hours apart!
If you had asked me 15 years ago my dream vacation location, I would have said Ireland. If you asked today, I would say Ireland. Unless it is the middle of winter and I just finished shoveling snow and then I would say any warm island. When I returned from my trip those many years ago, I told my mom that I now knew what Green smelled like.
While there, I insisted we stop for tea and scones on our last leg of the trip when we were in Dublin. Yes, it was very touristy but this was something I had dreamed of. I must say when the first brought the tea and that tiny thing on the side of the cup! I was NOT impressed.
Turned out that was not the scone. Silly Tourist.
I am pretty sure that we had tea and scones when we arrived at the first bed and breakfast after we got to Ireland, but I was so darn tired, she could have fed me stale white bread and I would have smiled.
My other scone adventure was in London on the recommendation of a friend. It was a plate for tea. And when we got to pick our “one last thing” on the final day, mine was go back for the Plate for Tea.
I do not make very yummy scones. I try. But I am always a tad (or more than a tad) disappointed. I did find some decent scones at a bakery once and took them to my mom. I was eager for her to enjoy this amazing treat only to have her say to me, tastes like a glorified biscuit to me. I ate the rest for her. Maybe I should have served it with tea.
Now in her defense, my entire life she made biscuits from scratch. Cut the Crisco into the flour, add the other dry ingredients, milk, roll them out, cut into circles and baked. They were amazing. My idiot brother, when we were in middle school, complained one time about “how we can’t have them from a can like the rich kids”.
To me, scones and tea make me feel fancy and relaxed. I will keep trying to perfect mine and when I do, I will be sure to share the recipe.