The farmhouse in which I grew up was built in the 19th century. In it were things not of monetary value, but precious to us nonetheless. Family things with history. The somewhat crudely wrought table, made by a man who lived at the “county home” where my great-grandfather was superintendent, as a wedding gift to my parents; my Mother’s beautiful sewing cabinet with the little stenciled drawers that swing out like arms, a gift from my Father in the early years of their marriage; the round oak pedestal table my parents bought when they set up housekeeping, and the beautiful rocking chair belonging to great-grandma Louisa Merkel von Ohlen. “It came from Leland,” we were told about many items from my Father’s boyhood home, the farm where his father and grandfather had been born. Everything “belonged.”

I loved that house and the things in it. I loved being able to open a door in my sister Sue’s room and enter the attic, with it’s pressed tin walls and slanted ceiling, wide plank floors and a tiny window overlooking the farm’s outbuildings. Years later, when my parents had to move, that window would hold a chute down which many of the memories would slide, into a truck to sadly be carried away.

Growing up in a world of cared for things, old books, hand-made clothes (Mother was a wonderful seamstress who made everything from our snowsuits to our prom formals) and the occasional treasure box of hand-me-down clothes from the Chicago relatives of our Danish neighbor Agnes, led to a lifelong love of “things old.”

I still prefer old to new, a choice that led to a small antiques business I ran for years. When I stopped vending every other weekend years ago, my inventory came to live with us here.
Most of my collected things are vintage textiles. I’ll have many in my booth at the upcoming Charlotte Quilters’ Guild Show, appropriately named Down Memory Lane, March 10 and 11. Location details under “See My Work Here” and in the previous post.

Thrifting Mondays

The worst photograph ever of a very warm, but  improperly lit  black coat.

The background won’t win any prizes either!

Around Christmas it turned dastardly cold here.  Heavy snow was in the forecast and we were going out of town.  Driving on a two-lane road through the Uwharrie National Forest, in fact.  I haven’t owned a real winter coat since I moved to Charlotte in 1970.  After all – I grew up in northern IL and once lived in Chicago, where the wind off the lake is brutal and frigid temperatures  the winter norm.  A coat in the south?  Oh please.

DH insisted I get “a decent, warm coat!” so off to my favorite thrift store I went.  My first purchase was a black 100% wool number – rather vintage and a bit dressy  but with a good fit and a high collar.  “Is that waterproof?” asked mister mister when I brought it home.  “Uh…….wool has a lot of lanolin in it.”  “No – you need something for snow and ice – something sensible.”  So I was forced, forced I tell you,  to return to my favorite haunt in search of another coat.  I again chose black, but this one was a hoodie!  With big pockets!  I was set.

“Boots… you have boots or do you plan to wear Birkenstocks?” was the next question.  “Of course I have boots.  I found an old pair when we cleaned out the hall closet last fall.”    “Scarf?  Gloves?  Hat?”  Who am I, Ralphie from The Christmas Story?

Four days and 7″ of snow later, I found my old boots were now a couple of sizes too small.  Yes, I was in Birkenstocks, but little suede gnome ones with open backs.  And my leather gloves weren’t doing much to keep my fingers warm.

Driving from our DIL’s father’s home in Sanford to Greensboro became our plan Christmas night.  The kids didn’t think we should take off through the national forest, and we weren’t too keen on it either.  So we followed them on the interstate to their home where we could easily grab 85 to Charlotte the next day.  “Why is he swerving?” I asked my DH as our son suddenly pulled into the left lane.  “Look out – there’s a deer in the road,” I shouted quickly.  Drivers of two cars were just emerging from their vehicles, as we realized how close we had come to hitting the animal ourselves.

As we neared Greensboro, it began to snow hard and heavy.  Thirty minutes later we had difficulty driving, even with 4-wheel drive.   The kids’ street was a winter wonderland – just gorgeous.  We quickly unloaded the necessities – a huge chore in the dark in a blizzard.  PJs, medicines, food.

I was reminded of how wet and messy everything gets when it snows.   When I was little, there were no Thinsulate or Goretek gloves.  We’d play in the snow all day, building snow forts, making snow angels  and having snowball fights with the boys from the farm down the road.  Mother, who hand knit all our woolen mittens,  pinned them to  wire coat hangers before hanging them in front of a big furnace  vent to dry – the same furnace vent which would warm newborn lambs the following March.  Fingers, red and icy cold, were warmed in the cast iron sink of the one bathroom we had.  Oh, the wonderful memories of growing up on a midwestern farm.  There’s no harder life, but no better one either.

Thrifting Mondays

Posted December 13th, 2010 by Ellen and filed in Recipes, Uncategorized

Toasted banana bread with cream cheese.  Yum!

Ovenex pans ensure a crisp, well-browned crust.


An Ovenex pan just like Mother’s.  I found two with the classic waffle design recently.

“They just don’t make things like they used to.”  Wish I had a nickle for each time I’ve heard or thought that!  It is SO true.

Growing up, there was always something baking at our house.  My three sisters and I were all in 4-H, so spent lots of time testing foods to enter in the Sandwich Fair (IL).  Back in the day, neighbors would just drop by.  My Mother would have been mortified if she’d been caught without a dessert to offer with coffee to  guests.

Mother loved to bake, especially bar cookies (like frosted creams, similar to gingerbread but with icing), apple crisp and pies.   And nothing made a better pie crust than home rendered LARD! It came in lidded tin buckets which were scrubbed and saved when empty.**

I was thrilled, thrilled I tell you  (yes, I do need to get out more) when I found two Ovenex loaf pans at the thrift store.  I recognized the classic waffle design at 50 paces.  The pans are much heavier than those available today, and have hospital corner-like folds of the tin on the ends.   I baked a double batch of banana bread in them over the weekend.  Like my Mother, I like to have something to serve should friends stop by.  Banana bread freezes well, and is much better the next day anyway.

We like the bread toasted and spread with cream cheese.  (You won’t feel as guilty if you use fat free.)  Add a cup of tea and voila!  Dessert in a flash.

** We girls were huge Flash Gordon fans.  The show was a tv series about the intergalactic adventures of hero Flash, his girlfriend Dale Arden, and scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov on the alien planet Mongo.   Each episode was designed to end just at the brink of disaster,  luring viewers to “be sure to tune in next week.”  We actually wore the lard buckets upside down on our heads (horrors!),  pretending to be Defenders of the Universe against the evil Ming the Merciless.  Simple times.  Those were the days!

Banana-Nut Bread

from Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 1*

1/2 C. cooking oil

1 C. sugar

2 eggs, beaten

3 ripe bananas, mashed

2 C. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3 T. milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 C. chopped nuts

Beat oil and sugar together.  Add eggs and banana pulp and beat well.  Add sifted dry ingredients, milk and vanilla.  Mix well and stir in nuts.  Pour into greased and floured loaf pan.  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for about 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool well and store overnight before cutting.  Makes 1 loaf.  Good with cream cheese for tea sandwiches.

*This book is dated 1966 and was available at the grocery store, 1 volume each week.  I have the entire set and have yet to find a “dead” recipe.