It’s County Fair Time in my July Kitchen.

County fairs were the major source of summer entertainment throughout my childhood in the 1930-40s era and we went to as many fairs as we could manage on my father’s salary and his gas ration points during World War II.  My favorite part of the fair was sitting around the barn before and after the afternoon’s races, listening to all of the “horse talk” going on around me and just sniffing – a horse barn is still my favorite scent in the world.  Of course, a barn is always full of flies.  My mother used to say that my little sister, who was so anxious to get to the midway and rides, would sit on a folding chair in the barn area and constantly wriggle, scratch, complain, and whine, while every fly in the county landed on her.  Meanwhile, I sat very quietly, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells with not one fly near me.

In my childhood, the horses made up 90% of my interest in the fair, so all through my life, I’ve collected anything with a harness horse on it.  I have quite a few items in my kitchen:

Although I always loved the horses the most, I was also anxious to see the baking and canning displays, the animals, and the quilts.

My kitchen shelf has a large silver tray on top that was won by my father for a race in 1969, and there are two silver bowls plus a brass tray that I won in pie contests in the 1980s.

All of the family competed and won awards in our county fairs and the Ohio State Fair.

It’s fair time again and although we don’t compete any more, I have a small county fair to enjoy right here in my own kitchen.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

100th Birthday Mini-Quilts

Yesterday, I posted a tribute to my father on what would have been his 100th birthday.  To commemorate the occasion, I also made three mini-quilts to fit on a tri-stand that I got for Mother’s Day.

The pictures represent his childhood, his family and his beloved horses.

I had the perfect backing using scraps from a previous quilt for my horse-loving grandson.

My daughter bought the stand at the April Cincinnati quilt show and it is the 4×9 Scroll Tri-Stand available through www.ackfeldwire.com.

Pause and Remember – 12/2/2011

On Friday, I pause and remember a single, wordless moment from the past week – inspired by The Warden’s Log.

I wasn’t going to buy another building to add to my crowded village, but who could resist a barn with horses looking out?

Labor Day in the 1930s-40s

All the years when I was growing up, Labor Day meant a two-hour trip in the back seat of a rumbling old car (or what we called a “machine”) to the outskirts of Dayton, Ohio.  When we passed a little road sign that said “VANDALIA” and saw a big billboard, we knew the next right hand turn on a country road led back to Grandma’s house.  There were just a few other houses on the road and lovely country scenery on both sides – something foreign to us, coming from Cincinnati’s inner city.  Finally, we got back to the little cottage with the screened-in porch, the big flagpole with the stars and stripes patriotically flying, and the dirt area that served as a driveway.


Sleeping arrangements were creative – people slept on couches or big chairs or sometimes on an ironing board between two kitchen chairs.  We always seemed to sleep well, listening to the crickets chirping and feeling a breeze blowing in the open windows.

We would be awakened in the morning by Grandma starting a fire in the kitchen stove so breakfast could be prepared.  There would be a trip down to the outhouse – along a path and far from the house.  The chickens were chased out and we used the smelly hole-in-the-board toilet before walking up through the chickens and wild flowers to have our breakfast.  We all took turns pouring very small amounts of cold water into an enamelware basin and washing up the best we could.

Breakfasts were hearty – bacon, ham, eggs, toast and real creamery butter, plus Grandma’s delicious blackberry preserves.  There was a glass bottle of milk – not the evaporated variety in a can which we usually had at home – rich milk with a layer of cream at the top.  In those days, the bottle was shaken vigorously before using to distribute the cream, but since I was undeniably the favorite granddaughter (mainly because I was named after Grandma), she would pour me a little glass of pure cream right out of the top, leaving milk for the rest of the group that was more like 1%.

Grandma Lillian

After breakfast it was time to get spruced up for the big Labor Day Montgomery County Fair.  The fair was an important event back then – we wore our best dresses and had our hair curled to perfection before starting out, crowded into the car with Grandma and any assorted relatives who were there at the time.

My parents – ready for the fair

We drove to the fairgrounds and each time it was a thrill to see the ferris wheel loom in front of us as we approached the gate and drove into the huge centerfield in front of the grandstand.  In that 1930s-40s era, Dayton, Ohio, was very prosperous and the fair was considered one of the best in the area.  Everything seemed large and modern and clean.

One year it poured down rain not long after we arrived and we had to huddle in the car for what seemed like hours.  My father had gone to the horse barns to wait out the storm, but Mother, Grandma, my little sister, my cousin and I were stuck in the car, dressed in our finery, waiting to go out and see the sights.  We were told to sit quietly and not get dirty which my cousin and I did, but my sister, Shirley, got down on the floor and got herself all tousled and grimy (at least in Mother’s eyes) so that when the rain finally stopped she wasn’t allowed to go on the grounds and had to stay in the car with Mother.

Grandma set out with my cousin, Dixie, and me and we looked around the exhibits and walked gingerly through the water-soaked midway.  Grandma had bought all three of us identical yellow silk dresses with brown bows and accordion pleated skirts.  She stopped at a a dime photo booth to have pictures made of Dixie and me and later Mother got Shirley straightened up, went out on the grounds and had her picture taken, too.


Lillian

Dixie

Shirley

I liked walking around the fairgrounds and  looking at the canned goods, baked items and various needlework exhibits.   I didn’t care for the rides at all.  My sister lived for the rides and I can remember her sitting in one of the little cars going around in circles and calling out to Mother, “Look, Mommy – I can let go and scratch!”.

What I loved was going to the grandstands and sitting by my father watching the harness races.  Just the sight of the horses and sulkies with the drivers in bright-colored caps and coats was exciting.

We started back home late in the evening,  riding along in the dark, looking forward  to passing through Lebanon because I knew that was the halfway point.  I just prayed I wouldn’t get carsick on the way home because my father was in a hurry and in no mood to stop.  He had to go to work the next day and it was our first day of school.

The fair on Labor Day was a glorious ending to summer and a new beginning to the school year.

Quilted Shopping Bags

fullhorse

I made this shopping bag-size tote several years ago for the Warren County (Lebanon, Ohio) Fair.  It won a blue ribbon and I enjoyed doing the harness horse design.  I used a coloring book sketch transferred to white fabric, then embroidered the design with black floss.   I used crayons to color the picture and heat set it by placing a piece of white paper over the coloring and pressing it with a hot iron.

horsecuI used the same patchwork blocks to make the back of the bag, machine quilted it with low loft batting and made a lining and handle.

backhorseI found the large size of the bag to be extremely useful.  My oldest daughter recently mentioned that she would like to have one the same size and I started looking through my orphan blocks and scraps to see what I could put together.

sewingfullThe center block is a Morning Star block  I posted last year and the center with vintage-type fabric was appropriate for my daughter because she is interested and talented in any type of hand sewing.  I looked for scraps with shades of yellow and blue and cut 2-1/2 inch blocks to accentuate the focus block.

sewingcuOn the back, I put together 2-1/2 inch blocks with 2-1/2 inch strips to continue the color theme.  The front and back were machine quilted using low loft batting.  The sides  were left unquilted to cut down on bulk.  I made another bag of plain fabric for a lining and made the handle extra-long so my daughter can swing the bag over her shoulder if she wants.

The bag is large – 22 inches wide x 25 inches long and should accommodate a lot of stuff when my daughter comes for her weekend visits.

Depression Vegetable Soup

vegsoupbwl2

My parents married as teenagers during the Great Depression.  For the first three years they lived with family but after my father got a job with the WPA, he moved his wife and two young daughters to a one-room apartment on Elm Street in downtown Cincinnati.  My mother had never cooked for a family before and knew nothing about it.  My father drew on his experiences of traveling around with his father and younger brother from one fairground and racetrack to another where they did horseshoeing, grooming of horses and my father picked up drives in harness horse races.  They did their cooking in barns and tack stalls on a small electric hot plate and my father knew all about making dishes like pancakes with fried eggs, chili, and a hearty vegetable soup – on the cheap and as quickly as possible.

Our first apartment was about three blocks from the large Cincinnati Sixth Street Market where every conceivable kind of food was sold.  Each morning my father would hand my mother the correct amount of money to cover the ingredients for the day’s supper.  We didn’t have an ice box in that first flat so the three-block-long walk had to be made every day with my mother carrying my year-old sister and with me at three years old walking alongside, hanging onto the shopping bag.  My father gave my mother instructions on how to cook what she bought and he made it clear that supper was to be ready on time – no excuses of a crying baby or obstinate toddler.

jandm1933

This soup was a weekly menu item during the 1930s and beyond.  When I was married in the 1950s and on a strict budget, it became a regular meal for my family.  Like everything my mother cooked, it was frugal, filling and only contained items that my father liked (so, no carrots or green beans or barley or noodles, etc., etc.)  It’s still my favorite soup, thick and hearty – even better the next day.

depressionsoup-002

DEPRESSION VEGETABLE SOUP

  • 1/2 lb. of stewing beef, cubed*
  • 2 cups of diced potatoes
  • 1 cup of diced onion
  • One 14 oz. can of tomato puree
  • 3 cups water
  • One 14 oz. can of peas
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Place all ingredients except peas and seasonings in a large pot.  Cover with 3 cups of water.  Let cook for about an hour and a half on medium heat, stirring occasionally and adding a small amount of water if the mixture is getting too thick.   Add the can of peas, including liquid, and allow to cook for 10 minutes or so longer until peas are heated through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with saltine crackers.  Yield:  4 servings

vegsoupbwl1

*My mother would have used the cheapest cut of beef available but I like to use chuck or round steak with all of the fat removed and then cubed.

County Fair Decorations

It’s county fair time again and that means getting out my handcrafted items.  The quilted silhouette hanging is on the front door to commemorate one of my favorite summertime activities.  My family has been involved in county and state fairs for generations, partly due to our interest in harness horses.  My father was a harness horse driver/trainer and many happy hours were spent at the fairgrounds, so  harness horses are a strong element in my county fair designs.

In the kitchen, I have a quilted wall hanging that won a blue ribbon at the Lebanon, Ohio, Warren County Fair. 

In the living room there is a quilted/appliqued pillow that was one of my first efforts.  It also took a blue ribbon at the Warren County Fair.

The real treasure among the handcrafted items, though, is an old battered suitcase that my father took with him on the fair and racing circuit.  My oldest daughter decoupaged countless bits of cloth, ephemera, photos, buttons, etc., to transform the tired old suitcase into a work of art and memory.

There are tags attached with photos and the exhibit history of each member of the family.

I use the suitcase to store old premium lists and memorabilia from our hometown Carthage/Hamilton County Fair (Cincinnati).

I enjoy displaying these reminders of all the years our family has participated in the fun of a county fair.