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. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

5 Questions About Me

I'm 'playing along' with a blogger 5 Question get-to-know you. I have no problem writing anything and everything about Conneaut Lake, but writing about myself is a little more difficult. Here it goes...
1. What makes you happy?
Being in Conneaut Lake with my family (of course)!
2. Which talent would you most like to have? 
Singing and dancing. I have zero talent in either.
3. Which words or phrases do you overuse most?
'Let it go'. Said to my husband or kids when they fret over something not worth fretting about.
4. What is your favorite movie, book or both?
I love A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (the book). The story is so timeless.
5. If you could go anywhere in the world for a creative retreat where might it be? 
Hum, I have to say, life's pretty good here at the lake.  But, if I had to choose, I'd like to go to the Adirondacks or the Catskills. I've never been to either, but both sound wonderful The Catskills make me think of Dirty Dancing, which has to be one of my favorite movies.

And now, a rare picture of me! I'm usually the one behind the camera. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The 50/50 Raffle and Conneaut Lake

I went over half my life without ever knowing of the 50/50 Raffle. And then, I started visiting Western Pennsylvania. It's some sort of requirement for organized events. The hosting group or organization sells raffle tickets, which guests buy in order to enter the raffle. If $100 is collected, the organizer gets $50 and the winner gets $50. If $200 is collect, the organization gets $100 and the winner gets $100. You get the idea.

Tickets are never much, and we always enter. The Midway Civic Club hosted their annual dinner on the beach last weekend. There was, of course, a 50/50 raffle. Guess who won? My aunt! You can see the excitement on her face.

As if that weren't enough, they had a little bonus drawing and I won a bottle of wine. That's my husband holding the wine. I'd like to think my hands aren't quite so masculine.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Old Picture of Cottage

I love old pictures. Our cottage is on the right. It looks almost the same today, but the trees and hedges are much larger.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

10 Things I Love about Summers in Conneaut Lake

I adore summers in Conneaut Lake. In no particular order, here my ten favorite things.
1) Midway Beach - Accessibly only to cottage owners and renters in the Midway Beach area, this small beach is reminiscent of the 1950's. We've spent many hours here over the years. Little has changed from the postcard in my blog header.
2) Family - It's all about family here. In the picture below my son is teaching his little cousin to blow up water balloons. I love this daily interaction between cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

3) My Cottage
4) Tradition - So much of our time at the lake is built on tradition. Traditions that we've started as well as traditions that have continued for years and generations.
5) Warm Nights, Fireflies, and Thunderstorms
6) Sunsets - Each one is more spectacular than the next

7) The Spillway at Pymatuning - You really have to see it to believe it.
8) Hanks - The best Frozen Custard ever!
9) Antiquing - I've found the best treasures around here.
10) Amish - I love seeing them shopping in the grocery store, selling baked goods in roadside stands and hanging their clothes out to dry.

If you also spend summers in Conneaut Lake, what do you love most about the lake? If you spend summers elsewhere, where do you go, and what do you love about your special summer spot?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Simple Things

Oh, the simple things in life. The other morning the Midway Civic Club handed out donuts and coffee on the beach. For free. You'd think they were passing tickets to Disneyland the way my family was acting. 

Even the early hour didn't deter my kids. They were up and ready to go ahead of the 8:00 time. All for  a donut. I have to admit, it was worth it.  I'd never known about Golden Dawn (a small local grocery store) donuts before. They're made fresh daily...and they are delicious

Friday, July 13, 2012

Where is Conneaut Lake?

Where in the world is this unknown lake anyway? Conneaut (pronounced Connie-ought) Lake is in Northwest Pennsylvania, or 500 Miles to Chicago and 500 Miles to New York as the sign on a local building points out.

If you're more of a map person, you might like this from an old Midway Hotel brochure. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blue Streak Sand Sculpture on Midway Beach

When Will insisted that I go to Midway Beach a few nights ago to "see something amazing", I wasn't sure what I'd find. This could mean many things to a 10 year old. What I found was a truly amazing, built to scale, sand sculpture of Conneaut Lake Park's historic Blue Streak roller coaster. 

Below is a picture of the actual roller coaster from a few years ago. The 1937 wooden coaster was designed by Ed Vettel, a big name in the roller coaster world.

A family (a large, extended family) makes a sand sculpture on Midway Beach each summer. The design is top secret until plans are revealed to the family. Each child has a job to do. It took two days of hard work to create this giant sculpture.

To give you an idea of the size, Kate is kneeling in one corner of the sculpture.

I love the detail of the wooden trusses.

Then, as if seeing this wasn't enough, we witnessed something equally as entertaining the following morning. We happened to be on Midway Beach at 8:00 a.m., only because of free donuts that morning - not much else will get my kids up that early. It also happened to be the planned destruction time of the sand roller coaster. Below, the creators lined up and enacted a ride on the famed Blue Streak, complete with up hill, down hill, and hand motions.

After the dry run of the ride next to the sand sculpture, they all boarded the roller coaster, buckled in, and proceeded to ride' the entire coaster, destroying it as they went.