Going the Distance: Miles and Milestones

22684576885_55ee5a33e7_z

Buying a house that’s just over 250 miles from your primary home means that you’re going to rack up a lot of miles on the odometer. We were, of course, quite aware of this when we bought our house. And yet it wasn’t until we actually saw the numbers ticking by on the odometer and scheduling more frequent oil changes that it really started to sink in for us.

We bought our 2007 Toyota Prius from friends who were moving to New York. That was in early 2013 and the car had about 60,000 miles on it. We hit 100k really quickly! One of the expenses we hadn’t considered when we bought the house was the contributions to the new car fund.

 

Here’s to you, Pepper Prius! May you be strong and powerful for another 100,000 miles!

Rhubarb Jam: Hello Summer!

Freshly Canned Rhubarb JamMemorial Day weekend was jam packed with activity. Literally! We cut down the rhubarb in the garden to make way for other plants and found that he measly little plant I had plopped in the dirt last year gave us a lot of fruit! Since I had such a big pile of rhubarb and – thanks to the gift of some old canning supplies from a friend – a package of Sure-Jell, I got the sudden inspiration to make rhubarb jam.

I Googled around for a recipe and came across this one from Kraft, makers of Sure Jell. Making the jam is actually quite easy. Canning it is easy, too. It’s just all so damned time consuming! And I swear that at one point we had every pot and pan in the kitchen in use.

It was a lot of work for 8 jars of jam, but it was actually kinda fun. And this jam is going to taste so good this winter when we’re baking bread and fattening ourselves up to stay warm.

And you know what else? It really gave me an appreciation for home canning. It was only 80 years ago that most homes relied on this form of food preservation to survive. We’ve got it so easy, with our store-bought, high fructose corn syruped jams!

 

Betsy Drake: The Last Lioness

Betsy Drake, Actress, Writer

Before we were This American House, we were blogging as Mr. and Mr. Blandings. In fact,
we’re still Mr. and Mr. Blandings on Twitter. Our nickname arose out of our love for the book and classic movie Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House as well as the radio series Mr. and Mrs. Blandings. The co-star and co-writer of that series, the extraordinary Betsy Drake, passed away in London on October 27th at age 92. The following is a personal reflection on this remarkable woman and her lasting achievements.

Betsy Drake was about to eat me alive. As I sat listening in on my dear friend, the painter Bernard Perlin, intrepidly holding his own in a tempestuous phone conversation with her one day in 2013, he suddenly motioned that he was going to soon put me on the line to say hello to her. I’d secretly been hoping for this moment for some time, well aware of Betsy Drake’s remarkable life story and close friendship with Bernard, yet also acutely aware of the highly volatile nature of the longtime relationship between these two very independent minds and spirits. After all, I’d become Bernard’s “ear in need,” enduring – or enjoying, depending on the tone of their conversation – many post-Betsy-call processing sessions with him. They loved each other; they loathed each other. Yet their friendship had endured some 50 years.

Continue reading

Happy 98th Anniversary Delbert Meier!

21492540869_2d956a2be2_k

Today is a very special anniversary for the house. On this day ninety-eight years ago, Delbert Meier, along with his wife Grace, and daughters Esther and Martha, finally took residence in their American System Built Home. They had sold their house on Main Street earlier that year and were living temporarily in the apartment above Delbert’s office in the Monona Bank Building while this house was being built.

I imagine that day ninety-eight years ago was kind of like the one we’re having today. It was sunny but brisk and the trees were stripped of their leaves which were fluttering around in cyclones. Del and Grace might have walked up the sidewalk and paused on the porch before they opened the front door. They had ordered this house from a catalog, seen the supplies arrive (likely by train) and then waited as workmen had pieced it together. Today, standing on the front porch, they were finally about to walk into their very own Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house.

I wonder if Del was more excited than Grace. I know that when it comes to The Mister and me, we don’t always have the same level of enthusiasm about things. Do you think it was that way for Delbert and Grace Meier? Maybe she kind of rolled her eyes as he gave a little speech about how they were going to put Monona on the map with their Frank Lloyd Wright designed house. Delbert was mayor just a few years after moving into the house so he was certainly a civic booster. Maybe he had seen Wright’s designs in Mason City and came back convinced that they needed once of Mr. Wright’s modern homes.

But then again perhaps Delbert and Grace were equally enthusiastic about their new home. Grace could have been just as intrigued by Wright’s pre-fab homes as Delbert. Maybe it was Grace who came back from a trip to Mason City all fired up about the architect’s designs. Looking at the plans maybe she recognized that the corner windows would create bright and airy rooms and the sunporch would be perfect for summer nights and afternoon teas.

Either way, the Meiers went on to occupy this house for 40+ years, the longest they occupied any home in their lives. They finished raising their daughters here. Delbert was a fixture in town, first at the bank and then in his own law practice. Grace, an educated woman, devoted her time to gardening and, I imagine, other home projects.

In fairy tale parlance, they lived happily ever after.

Happy anniversary, Delbert and Grace. Thank you for bringing this house into our lives.

Fountain Grass on Display

DIY Fountain Grass Centerpiece

As I was doing a little yard clean up this weekend, I found myself with a pile of fountain grass. I was about to sweep it up and dump it in the compost pile but then I stopped myself. Instead, I gathered up the grass, tied a string around it and created a simple, autumnal centerpiece on the sun porch. Don’t you just love it when beautiful accidents happen?