Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Conneaut Lake Park - 120 Years

Conneaut Lake park is 120 years old this year. The Park has quite a following of loyal fans. Back in the day, when the Lake was a thriving summer destination, I imagine it was beautiful. Unfortunately, she hasn't aged well.

Winters are tough in Northwest Pennsylvania. The summer vacation season at the Lake is short. And, even with that short tourist season, Conneaut Lake Park is only open three days of the week. In short, there's just not the money to maintain it as it needs to be. Some years, the Park just hasn't opened up at all.

The empty space below is where the Dreamland Ballroom once stood. Perry Como used to sing there! During the day he was a barber at the Hotel Conneaut, and at night, he sang at the Dreamland Ballroom. A few years ago, it burned down in the middle of the night. 

Not surprisingly, scenes of The Road were filmed here. In case you're not familiar with the book or the movie, The Road is a post-apocalptic story. As much as I'd love to see Conneaut Lake Park on the big screen, the book haunted me so much that I can't see the movie. I heard that an indie film maker shot a horror film at the Park this past winter.

There are a few unusual things about the Park, at least by what I'm used to in California. You don't have to pay to go into the Park. You only pay if you're going on the rides. It's also open to walk or drive through any time of day. I took these pictures when we walked around the deserted park one evening. The strangest thing about the park is that people live in it! There are cottages inside the park! During our walk, the park was completely abandoned, except for a few people sitting out on their porches.

The two pictures below were taken on the Park's Midway. Once, I'm sure, lively with games and food vendors, most of these stalls are now empty. And, like the rest of Conneaut Lake Park, it's much in need of repair.

I'm not sure what it is with the burned out buildings in the Park, but this one sits right in the middle of Kiddie Land. If I remember correctly, it used to be a bathroom.

I wish I could post pictures of Conneaut Lake Park looking beautiful on her 120th Birthday. Unfortunately, this is the reality of the state of the park. A lot of people work really hard to make repairs and to keep the Park open. It's a large and costly job, though. I'm still hopeful that somehow Conneaut Lake Park will be restored to the beauty she once was.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fun Finds - Vintage Fishing Reels

I love, love, love all of the fun vintage and antique finds we've discovered in Conneaut Lake. This is the best type of find, because it was free.
My aunt bought a cottage and has spent the summer fixing it up. Among the goodies she found in her attic were these fabulous vintage fishing reels. I love how she's displayed them on an old tray.


Friday, August 10, 2012

5 Fact Friday - The RV Adventure

Here we go again...another 5 Fact Friday blogger 'party'!

5 Facts about our crazy RV adventure this past week...

1) We had never been in an RV before. We'd never even been camping before!

2) The RV trip was an adventure!

3) The 'Good' parts of the adventure far outweighed the bad. The kids, especially our 10 year old loved it...Everything tastes great when cooked on a hibachi or campfire...We snuck away from the RV for a fabulous dinner out and some time at a wonderful Napa winery pool...RV people are very nice.

4) The 'Bad' parts are really yucky. RV parks are strange...Our Cruise America rental was really yucky...made-my-skin-crawl-yucky...The sewage hook-ups - ugh!..Our RV broke down...3 times...On the highway...In the end, it couldn't be fixed and we drove home a day early (thankfully I'd followed along in our car).

5) Surprisingly, I'd do it again! We learned a lot, so I'd change some things. First, I need a nice trailer. I've been eyeing cute vintage trailers on the internet. Look at my Pinterest board. You'll want one, too!

Have you been on RV (or trailer) trip? Do you have an RV? Would I be crazy to get a cute little trailer?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Conneaut Lake Park's Famous Blue Streak

Conneaut Lake Park is 120 years old this year. 120 years! The park is across the lake from our cottage. Not quite as old as the park, but still a classic, is the park's wooden roller coaster - The Blue Streak. Built in 1937 by famed roller coaster designer Ed Vettel, the Blue Streak continues to operate today.
I have to admit, I won't ride The Blue Streak. I won't let my kids ride The Blue Streak. It just seems so... rickety. That, and safety just doesn't seem to be the same in Conneaut Lake as it is back in California and in most of the country. Walking through the park, I can't help by wonder if rides have even been inspected.
The coaster's cars are below. They've seen better days. Unfortunately, the entire park has seen better days.
This is what I mean about safety being a little lax. The fence surrounding The Blue Streak doesn't surround the entire coaster. For some reason, there's a large gap in the fence. 

Despite the shortcomings, I love having The Blue Streak in the park. It's a piece of history. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

5 Fact Friday

Each Friday this month I'll be participating in a blogger 'link-up', where each participating blogger writes about the same prompt. Today is 5 Fact Friday, where I'll share five facts about...me.

1) I write about Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania, where I spend summers. I adore Conneaut Lake! Most of the year, though, I live in California, in the heart of Silicon Valley. The two worlds are like night and day. Maybe that's why I appreciate summers at the lake so much.

2) I got my first DSLR this past year. Up until that point, other than a high school photography class, I'd been using a point and shoot. I've been working like mad to master my new baby. I've taken a few classes, including a fun workshop from Kristina at Moms who Click.

3) It's really hard for me to write, or talk, about myself.

4) I love to read. Some of my recent favorite books - Wild by Cheryl Strayed and The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. I always have one book I'm reading and one book I'm listening to on tape. If my 'on tape' book is captivating (like Wild was), I find myself taking extra walks or driving the long way home just so I can listen a little bit longer.

5) My family is going on our first RV trip tomorrow. Wish us luck! We're not going far, which is good since my husband is terrified of driving the monster. He's also not much of a camper. The kids, though are thrilled. Any tips? I'm kind of stuck, and overwhelmed, on what to pack.

If you want to participate in the 5 Fact Friday, details can be found here. Join the fun - I'd love to hear about you!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Amish Benefit Dinner in Andover

I'm fascinated by the Amish and will do anything to get a peek into their lives. When I see them in the grocery store, I get in line behind them. I'll often drive the long way home just to go by Amish farms. And, when I see that there's an Amish Benefit Dinner or Auction, I make sure to go.
These pictures are from a dinner held to benefit an Amish school just across the Ohio border, in a little town called Andover. Dinner was typical Amish fare - meatloaf, ham, noodles, peas, 'smashed' potatoes, gravy, salad, pies, and homemade ice cream (you can see the men making ice cream in two of the pictures). The Amish like their starches! They also served an amazing date pudding, which was really more of a date cake with a carmel sauce and whipped cream. 
Each Amish sect has its own set of rules. These Amish, for instance, dressed slightly differently from what we see near Conneaut Lake. Mens' hats were a different shape and buggies (see above) were white instead of the black we're accustomed to. 
In the top left picture you can see a father taking care of a baby. This was very common at the dinner because the women were all busy, busy, busy running the show. In the bottom right picture you can see a woman running from the house (home to the kitchen and 'washroom' for the evening) to the dinner. They cooked, served, and cleaned all evening.
I'm still craving that date pudding. I found several recipes online. Has anyone ever made it? 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Walking Tacos

Have you ever had a Walking Taco? They're delicious! My aunt and cousin had the whole crew over to their new cottage for Walking Tacos earlier this summer.
They're incredibly simple to make. You'll need:
Small individual sized bags of Fritos (cut the side open)
Grated cheese
Any other toppings you want (onions, guacamole, etc.)
Top the Fritos with chili and cheese and serve with a spoon! 
Look at the fun presentation.

 My cousin being a wonderful hostess, below.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Grandpa Visits

We are so incredibly lucky that our kids know all four of their grandparents. When we're in Conneaut Lake they get to see three of their grandparents daily and the fourth when he visits the lake. Here are a few pictures of Grandpa's last visit.

With his granddaughters.
And with his grandsons.

We're going to miss the lake and all the goes with it. It's time, though, that we move on to other summer adventures. I still have a lot of pictures and adventures to share from the summer, so I'll continue to blog a few times a week. I won't have a daily post as I have during out time at the lake, but I'll get something up every few days, so please check back.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Midway Civic Club Dinner

We love going to the Midway Civic Club Dinner on the beach each summer. A bargain at $4 each, the catered dinner is surprisingly tasty. And hey, who doesn't like to have dinner plans every now and then.

On the menu - burgers and pulled pork, green salad, pasta salad, baked beans, cookie, and brownies.
How cute is my nephew?! He can barely see over the table.

Bob and I at the dinner.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The White Elephant and the Scavenger Hunt

Each summer, when all of the cousins are visiting, the kids go on a Scavenger Hunt. They're divided into two teams, boys vs. girls. Among the items on this year's list were a Hank's flavor schedule, a packet of Sweet 'n Low, and a small American flag. After receiving the list of nearly 20 items, the girls head in one direction and the boys in the other. At a set time, they meet up at the cottage and we see who found the most items. One item on this list surprised us all...think White Elephant!

The girls look over the list before heading out.
 After returning, we read each item on the list and the kids hold up the item if they've found it.

One item on this year's list read, "An unusual item smaller than a breadbox...think white elephant".  Well, when we got to that point in the list, the boys beamed as they pull a white elephant out of the bag. The girls, meanwhile, said, "Oh, we couldn't fine a white elephant!" None of them had any idea what we meant by 'white elephant'!  Who would have thought that someone would have a real white elephant to give the kids.

Do you know what we meant by white elephant? I thought it was a common term.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

River Ridge Farm in Franklin - Inside the House

A few days ago, I promised to post some interior shots from our visit to River Ridge Farm. Bob's grandfather grew up in one of the workers' houses on the property of this vast estate. Often referred to as a castle, the grand house is absolutely impressive. It is not, however, a historical site and has not been preserved as such.
Above are the three original walk-in refrigerators. The tops of the doors are on the bottom of the shot. The small doors at the top held ice that cooled the 'refrigerators' below. Each refrigerator was the size of a large closet. They're used for storage today.

The house is full of details that would make any historian cringe. Different owners over the years have adapted it to fit their needs. Acoustic tiles cover ceilings, rooms have been subdivided, wallpaper borders decorate walls, etc. Amidst all of these added bits, however, are many original details. Below is an intercom system that must have been state of the art when the house was built.

I love, love, love this original cabinetry in the butler's pantry. I wonder what the original countertop was made of.

This was the most remarkable thing to me. They still use this coal furnace today! All winter long, they shovel coal into the furnace to heat the house. I didn't even know you could still buy coal.
The view from a bedroom window, below, shows the Allegheny River on the left and the town of Franklin on the right.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pittsburgh Dad

Have you seen the Pittsburgh Dad series on YouTube? If not, you must! The creator has nailed the entire essence of being a Pittsburgh Dad. Chris Wooten grew up in Pittsburgh and is now an actor in Los Angeles. He and a childhood friend created the Pittsburgh Dad character based on one of their fathers. Each 'episode' is only a few minutes long. The Mister Rogers-like intro is a nod to Mister Rogers being filmed in Pittsburgh. I'm telling you, Pittsburgh Dad is hysterical even if you've never been to this neck of the woods. If you're familiar with the Pittsburgh area at all, however, it's even funnier. This really is how people in Pittsburgh (and Conneaut Lake) talk.
One recent episode was particularly funny. In it, Pittsburgh Dad is tricked into seeing Magic Mike, the movie.  There are always local references, like the Pizza Joe's shirt in the Magic Mike episode. As an aside, my own parents and my aunt were 'tricked' into seeing Magic Mike last week. I had asked them if they'd like to join the kids and I and go see the Katy Perry movie. They scoffed at that idea, and chose a different movie at the same time. Once they got in the theater, my dad saw he was the only man and knew he was in trouble. Let's just say, they wish they'd seen the Katy Perry movie instead.
Watch it, you won't be sorry!

Friday, July 20, 2012

They're Back - Chimney Swifts

Last summer we had a strange chimney swift incident at the cottage. In short, a pair of chimney swifts had built a nest in our chimney, as chimney swifts are known to do. Unable to perch, these birds spend their days flying through the air, eating pesky bugs as they go. They only rest when they cling to vertical surfaces, such as chimneys. Chimney swift nests are made of twigs glued with spit to the edge of the bricks. Last summer, a nest fell the entire length of our chimney to the very base of our fireplace, with only a thin wooden fireplace guard separating the babies from actually being in our cottage.
Fortunately, the dutiful parents tended to their babes the entire summer. Round the clock, they noisily swooped down the chimney, fed the birds and then exited again.
A few weeks ago, I smugly posted that the chimney swifts must have built a stronger nest this year. We could hear them, but only faintly since they were way up in the chimney.
I spoke too soon. A few mornings ago we heard a familiar sound and peeked into the fireplace to confirm our suspicions. Three eensy little chimney swift babies. Here's one little guy in part of the fallen nest.
I'm hopeful that mama and papa are as attentive this year as they were last. But, what do I do in the future? Should I put a guard on the top of my chimney so they can't build a nest again? I hesitate  because these birds eat so many mosquitoes and gnats and have few places left to nest. What would you do?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

River Ridge Farm in Franklin

This past winter, we discovered a great deal of family history that had, for whatever reason, been kept secret. Among the details was the fact that Bob's grandfather grew up on River Ridge Farm in Franklin, which is about an hour from Conneaut Lake. Bob's grandfather's father (Bob's great-grandfather) was a night watchman at the farm. This farm, you see, wasn't just any farm. It was the 'experimental farm' and castle-like home to the wealthy Joseph Sibley. Joseph Sibley made his fortune in the booming oil business, went on to become a congressman, and even conducted a failed run at the Presidency.
River Ridge is now privately owned by a religious group. We contacted them and they kindly spent an afternoon showing us around the impressive main house. The main house, of course, wasn't where Bob's grandfather grew up. He lived with his family in a small stone house on the property.

This, picture doesn't do the house justice. My lens wasn't nearly wide enough to capture the entire house. This website has fabulous pictures and a complete history of River Ridge.
The entire house was built in just nine months by hundreds of Italian stone masons. It is remarkably solid even today.

Joseph Sibley was an incredibly generous man, and the farm, by all accounts, was a wonderful place to group up. Many families lived and worked on the farm. Each Christmas, Sibley gave each child living on the farm a gift. During the Great Depression, he offered workers' families steep discounts on food and allowed them to grow their own plots of vegetables, thus softening the blow of the Depression to these families.
I'll save the interior shots for another post.