Looking Back

Photo by Callam Barnes on

As you may or may not know I am interested in my genealogy. I spend hours down the rabbit hole at finding tidbits. My current obsession involves my mother’s great grandmother who came from Perthshire, Scotland. I am planning a trip to visit the place next year so it is kind of cool to read about the farms they owned and rented over the years. A bunch of them were ministers so they worked in different parishes around the area. Mostly I just want to go to soak up the atmosphere and imagine what it was like back in those days.

A very old small photo of my great great grandmother (on the left)

On another note… I found this recently and am pretty amazed by the detail. My great grandfather (this one came from Ireland) was born in Ohio on March 2, 1841. In 1861 he was teaching district school in Monmouth, Illinois. At the breakout of the Civil War he enlisted in Company C, Thirty-sixth Illinois Infantry, and was sent to Missouri. The first battle in which he participated was at Pea Ridge. He helped to save Missouri to the Union. He was transferred to the Army of the Tennessee, and was at the siege of Corinth. In September, 1862, he was transferred to the Army of the Cumberland, and took part in the battle of Perryville and in the campaign of Stone River. The following spring he was in the Tullahoma campaign, then went to Bridgeport and through Georgia, and took part in the battle of Chickamauga, where he was wounded, being shot through the cheek, the ball coming out the back of the neck. He was then sent to the hospital at Nashville, Tennessee, remaining there till the expiration of his term of service, when he was mustered out in September 1864.

My Great-grandfather

After that he taught for six more years, got married, had four children, farmed for a couple of years, and ended up in Iowa in the grocery business. He died at 66.

I actually have his discharge papers from the Army. When he died in 1907, his wife started to collect a pension of twelve dollars a month. In 1916 an Act of Congress approved by the President granted “increase of pension of a widow who was the wife of a soldier, sailor or marine during the period of his service in the Civil War, or who is the widow of a soldier, sailor or marine who served in the Civil War, the War with Mexico, or the War of 1812, and who has reached the age of 70 years”. The pension was increased to $20 per month. And then in 1917, it was again increased to $25 per month. I don’t know what happened after that. She died in 1923.

My Great-grandmother

Anyway I have tons of info. I hope to put it all together at some point. Like I said, I have no shortage of projects.

Memories and Speeches

Lake Lugano

Lake Lugano

When I was sixteen I went off to boarding school in Switzerland. My parents were living in Nigeria. My roommate traveled from Tanzania. My best friend’s parents were living in Tokyo. Walking down the hall in my dorm there were people from Saudi Arabia, Germany and various US cities. In a couple of weeks I will be going back to stay in the new dorms of my old school for a big reunion. I will see several of my old dorm-mates. We will haunt the old stomping grounds reliving old memories and making new ones.

One of my tasks for this reunion is to write a speech. I am having trouble sitting myself down and focusing on this task. Do I draw on the memories of particular events from those days?

Duomo, Florence

Duomo, Florence

The time Kelly saved my life at the Duomo in Florence. I didn’t know I had vertigo but turns out I did and he took my hand and guided me through it. The trip to Dachau and how quiet everybody was on the bus home. Leaning to drink warm beer at the HofBrauHaus in Munich. The other great thing about Munich was we saw our first McDonald’s in Europe and became “American” for a weekend. In Venice we got around on water buses and discovered a small disco. Plus a pigeon landed on my head in St Mark’s Square. Hiking up the side of a mountain just to lie in the grass and stare at the sky. Instigating “all school skip day” that stuck as a tradition.

Traveling through Greece having to hear about every single ruin by the side of the road and never getting to listen to rock and roll music. Taking a cruise through the Greek Islands and being bombarded by wet toilet paper rockets in the hallway outside the girl’s cabin. Listening to boring lectures about the mosaics of Ravenna and Giotto’s Chapel. Wishing there were horses in the square in Siena.

Palio Di Diena

Palio Di Siena


Or do I talk about the overall experience of living with an exceptional group of people, teachers and students alike who influenced the rest of our lives.

We were taught to be independent, curious, adventurous, supportive and respectful. We were only 16 or 17 and we traveled the world on our own without thinking twice about it. We would seek out art and architecture wherever we went. We enjoyed each other’s company, had fun together and sometimes tolerated each other. We became a family.

And now many many years later, we are still family. We have a unifier that brings us all together. That time in Switzerland made us all different. We experienced something together that other people could never understand. It was our unique world and we came out of it as a unit. So when we meet each other now, even if we didn’t know each other then, we immediately have a connection. We have a common ground to work off of. In some cases it was a jumping off point to forge new relationships. Even now the family continues to grow.

Or do I just tell a story and thank everybody for coming. Of course all memories are subject to change and embellishment. I could probably make something up. But I won’t. I will keep it simple and short. Who wants to listen to a speech when you are sitting eating French food on one of the most beautiful lakes in the world?

008-Vista-Albergo-Posta-Morcote Svizzera-Ticino-Lago-Lugano


On another note, I am going bi-coastal.  My Baltimore Post Examiner blog, Eclectic Global Nomad has been picked up by the Los Angeles Post Examiner so you can find me in both.

70 years together


I am re-posting this from my other blog – Eclectic Global Nomad.

My parents were married at 2:00 in the afternoon.  My father was on medical leave from the US Navy after having his appendix out.  The year was 1943.

My mother remembers driving with her father to the church. They lived in a small town in Iowa.  As they drove through downtown my mother noticed the bank clock said 1:55.  When she and her new husband drove back the same route to her house for a small reception, she again noticed the clock.  It now said 2:15.  The minister had married them under the wrong name.  Nobody mentioned it.

My father’s father ran the family farm so he had petrol coupons.  He filled the car with gas and gave them coupons so they could go to Kansas City for a two day honeymoon before my father returned to his post at Lakehurst, New Jersey.  He was training to fly blimps.  My mother was teaching school and had to finish out the year before joining him.

They were separated again when my father went to fly blimps off the coast of Brazil searching for German submarines.  He remembers Christmas Day, 1944.  He and his buddies drove through the Brazilian countryside on their way to find a beach to play volleyball.  It was the first time he had ever seen that kind of poverty.  He noticed the crops in the fields and decided that very day he could help people by teaching agriculture.

He had planned to be a vocational agriculture instructor when he returned to civilian life but this gave it a whole new dimension.  He wanted to work overseas.  His mother had always told him he could do what ever he wanted if he set his mind to it.

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Food Friday: Lemon Sponge Pudding








This is is another old family favorite.  It melts in your mouth!


Lemon Sponge Pudding








3/4  cup sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel

1 1/2 Tbsp. soft butter

3 Tbsp. flour

2 egg yolks, beaten







Add:     1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cup milk

(Mixture may have curdled appearance, but no matter)








Beat:     2 egg whites until stiff and fold into mixture.


Pour into buttered 1.5 quart casserole.









Place in pan of hot water

Bake at 325°F uncovered 40-45 min or until set (1 hr).










Serve warm or chilled.  I like it warm!

The Family










Flying home from my winter wonderland visit with the family I thought about a conversation my mother had with one of my nieces as they were saying good-bye.

Mother:  We really do have an odd family

Niece:  Should we take offense at that?

Mother:  Well, no, you are all very interesting.

Niece:  Interesting?  Now I know we are being insulted.

Mother:  But interesting is good.  I can’t think of anything worse than a bunch of boring people.

Niece:  Well, we certainly are not boring.

Mother:  No, none of you are boring!


It was all in good fun but it made me think of what makes up my non-boring family.  There were sixteen of us.  We are scattered across 5 states.

The patriarch grew up on a farm in Iowa and ended up spending over forty years as an expat.  He  met many Heads of State and he had been to 90 countries by the time he was 90.  The matriarch, kept up with him all the way also starting out in a small town in Iowa.  My brothers and I are third culture kids who grew up all over the world.

I married Nicholas, a Russian American whose parents were refugees after World War II.  Nicholas’ father never learned to speak English so Nicholas was his translator from a young age.  Nicholas used to tell me that coming home from school every day he felt like he was crossing a border into another country.  Most of his family still live in Russia.  Our son spent the first six years of his life in Russia and has traveled to many places around Europe.

My brother moved to Australia after college and met and married a woman from New Zealand.  She also came from a cross cultural family with roots in England and Australia.  Their children carry dual passports – New Zealand and USA.  They visit their relatives half way around the world whenever they can.

My niece married a first generation American with Indian roots.  She is now immersed in the traditions and culture of an extended Indian family.  One tradition included a rice eating ceremony for their baby daughter.  For this ceremony they needed a baby sari.  Not just any sari but a beautiful, fancy sari.  They found it was difficult to find one the USA and so another sister-in-law of mine and my niece are starting a baby sari business.  They have an Indian woman lined up to make the saris and they are working on a website to market their goods.  You will be hearing more about this as things progress.

So we are a cross cultural conglomeration.  And we all get along beautifully.




Mothers’ Congress Cook Book 1922











I inherited a cookbook from my grandmother.  The cover is gone so I don’t know what it looked like but the date is 1922.   The Preface states:

“Organized into a working body, the Mother’s Congress of Mount Ayr, presents Mothers who are studying and working for the betterment of Child Welfare.

In its interests financially, this little book is published and sent out by them.”

Followed by: 

“We may live without poetry, music and art.

We may live without conscience and live without heart;

We may live without friends, we may live without books;

But civilized man cannot live without cooks.   —-  Merideth.”

It starts out with 12 points on how to set a table.  Numbers 11 and 12:

11.  Place carving set in front of host, or put carving knife and gravy ladle at his right, and fork at his left.

12.  Place coffee cups and coffee pot at right of hostess.














The recipes don’t mention oven temperature other than “moderate oven” or “quick oven” and many of them don’t mention how long anything should cook.  Here are a few samples.

Norwegian Stew. – Brown in a large kettle 1 c. lard and butter mixed, 25-cent round steak cut in small pieces, flour thoroughly and stir into the browned lard, continue stirring until meat is brown.  Then add 1 c. flour stirring constantly, set on back of stove and add 2 qts. Boiling water, salt and pepper and let simmer 2 hrs, ½ hr. before serving add enough potatoes of medium size for the meal, stir occasionally as it will stick to kettle.  —  J.A.W.

Molasses Cake.  1 cup molasses, ½ c. sugar, ½ c. butter or lard, ½ tsp each cloves, ginger, cinnamon; 1 tsp. soda in 1 c. boiling water, 2 eggs, well beaten; last, flour to stiffen.  –Mrs. Holman.

And my grandmother’s contribution:

Green Tomato Relish.  – 5 lbs. green tomatoes, 6 large onions, 3 c. brown sugar, 3 c. red peppers, 3 green peppers, 1 tbsp. each of powdered cloves, all spice, celery seed, dry mustard, ½ c. salt, 8 c. vinegar.  Peel and slice tomatoes and onions very thin.  Remove seeds from peppers and chop very fine.  To these add the other ingredients and cook over a moderate fire ½ hr., stirring frequently.  Cover with paraffin. – Mrs. Liggett.


Household hints:

Rub the feet every night and morning with bay rum and witch hazel, equal parts, for frost bits.

Turpentine and lard rubbed on throat and chest will often relieve pain from cold.

To carry a mattress without breaking your fingernails (also back) use a broom underneath as a saddle and see how much easier it is.

Use a tbsp. of kerosene to wash windows.  It not only cuts the dirt but is distrastful to flies 

I’m not sure what “distrastful” is.  Maybe a typo.  But you get the idea.

The book ends with a poem.

Receipt for a Happy Day

Take a little dash of cold water,

A little leaven of prayer,

A little bit of sunshine gold,

Dissolved in the morning air.

Add to your meal some merriment,

Add thought for kith and kin,

And the, as a prime ingredient

A plenty of work thrown in.

Flavor it all with essence of love,

And a dash of play.

Let the dear old book and a glance above,

Complete the well spent day.

–Mrs. Smith 

Whatever your recipe is, I hope you have a happy day!! 



Life Can Change In An Instant












When I was four years old my family was assigned to a post in Burma. We drove to Iowa to see relatives before embarking on our trip.  Our route was to fly from Omaha, Nebraska to Los Angeles, California, with a stop in Denver, Colorado.  We were going to spend a few days in Los Angeles with relatives and then travel on to Manila and Rangoon.  In the 1960’s, air travel was nothing like it is today.  The planes were relatively small and jet engines were a new development.

We boarded the plane in Omaha for Los Angeles, and as our United Airlines DC-8 approached Denver, the pilot, Captain John Grosso, came over the loud speaker to say we were having some problems and our landing might be a little rough.  I was sitting by the window with my father next to me.  My mother was across the aisle and my brothers, nearby.  My father took out his briefcase from under the seat, removed his glasses and put them in his pocket.  I thought that was a little strange and I wondered what was going on.

It turned out we had lost all of our landing-gear fluid so the plane came down smack! – hard on the tarmac, no bouncing involved.  The pilot immediately lost control of the plane and we skidded into a truck, killing the driver instantly.  We then swerved haphazardly down the runway, finally careening off onto the grass where the engines burst into flames.

There were no overhead compartments, just open shelves.  Hats, bags, and books sailed through the plane crashing down on people and seats.  As soon as the plane stopped, my father scooped me up and headed for the exit. My immediate concern was for my favorite doll abandoned under the seat and being left behind.  My mother was ahead of us and my brothers Tom (13) and Tim (15) were behind us.

We reached the emergency exit and stepped out onto the wing.  My mother jumped to the tarmac below us, breaking her ankle in her high-heeled shoes. We could see her leaning on another passenger and limping away from the plane.  My father and I stood on one side of the wing feeling the intense heat bursting from the engines on the other side. We turned to make sure my brothers were behind us and my father froze; they were not there.  Several other people came out, but we didn’t budge as my father nervously craned his neck searching for Tom and Tim.  Finally, they emerged and we immediately hit the ground and ran to the other side of the runway to join my mother.

My father went into severe shock. He was holding me so tightly that the shock passed to me and I began screaming in terror.  He would not let me go even though my mother pleaded with him to put me down.

I remember looking over towards the buildings and seeing several fire trucks waiting patiently as the plane continued to burn.  There was some construction impasse and the fire trucks could not enter the runway.  Necessary ramps were missing.  After what seemed to be hours, we were herded into a large hanger where we were sorted out.  Each passenger had to tell the airline authorities who they were and what luggage they had. We were then sent off to a hotel in town.  My parents told us that the airline would replace everything that was lost and I had to ask if that included my toothbrush.  I was particularly sad to lose my babydoll, Meredith Ann Diane, because she really could never be replaced which I knew, even at four years old.

Seventeen people died in the crash and many more were severely burned.  My father and brothers had minor burns and my mother had a broken ankle and we were all traumatized.  One of the reasons airlines now have the long safety speech at the beginning of flights is because of that day in Denver in 1961.  The crew was not properly trained and people did not know what to do in case of an emergency. Travel in those days was unpredictable, and could be fatal. In an instant I lost my favorite doll and learned a valuable lesson.  Life could be terrifying but we were lucky people.

Weekly Writing Challenge: In An Instagram

You can read more about my story here:  Expat Alien



Pilgrimage to the Past

Betsy Stroup

Joseph Reid Gamble was born in Ohio on August 8, 1818, and as a youngster moved to Missouri, about 40 miles south to St Louis, near Hillsboro and DeSoto.  He married Elizabeth (Betsy) Stroup, who was the American-born daughter of Dutch immigrants.

Betsy Stroup’s people came to America from Holland because of religious persecution.  When she was 4 years old, in 1825, both her parents died in an epidemic that was sweeping the country.  She was then bound out to a family until she was 18, where she worked for her room and board and did not go to school.  Instead she drove the cows from the pasture, milked them, set the milk in crocks in a cave, skimmed the cream and churned the butter.  In the evenings she worked on spinning wool or knitting socks.

When Betsy was 15 or 16 she ran away and married Joe Gamble.

Thirteen years later, Joe left his wife and five children to join the gold rush in California.  He and his two brothers and a cousin made it to Colorado where Joe became ill with the measles.  They left Joe in Colorado and went on without him.  Both brothers died in California.  Once Joe recovered, he found that he had lost the sight in one eye.  He sold his outfit, bought a spotted Indian pony and rode home.

Back in Missouri, a neighbor of theirs had purchased a young Negro girl at a farm sale nearby and led her with a cord around her waist alongside his horse.  The neighbor stopped at Joe’s farm on his way home from the sale to have a slice of watermelon.  Joe cut a huge slice of melon and told his son, Greene, to take it to the Negro girl tied to the colt.   Joe was a staunch abolitionist and was bitterly opposed to slavery.  He was suspected of being one of the promoters of the “Underground Railroad”, a term used to designate a system which provided Negroes wishing to escape from slavery into a free territory with guidance, shelter and protection.  The probabilities are that Joe helped a number of slaves to secure their freedom.  As the slave issue became more intense, he realized that it would be best for him and his family to locate elsewhere.

In 1851 or 1852, he saddled a horse and rode to northern Illinois.  He shoveled the snow away and dug a hole so he could smell, feel and taste the soil, and before he left, he purchased an unimproved 160 acres.  He sold his Missouri farm for 800 dollars, all in gold and silver coins.  In the spring, he loaded his family of seven children, and all his belongings in ox wagons and started the journey to Carroll County, Illinois.  He took nine horses, forty head of cattle, and about forty sheep, along with the yokes of oxen to pull the wagons.  Two of his neighbors, who wanted to see the new place, went with him and helped with the stock.   Joe’s uncle, William, and his son also went along.  It took most of the summer to travel the 320 miles, but they arrived in time to dig a well, build a small house and shelter for the stock and put up hay for the winter.  Blue-stem prairie grass was nearly waist high.

Shortly after arriving in Illinois, the nine horses decided to return to Missouri.  The horses left in the night so they had a head start.  When they reached the toll bridge across the Illinois River, the toll keeper would not let them through the tollgate and onto the bridge, so they swam the river and kept right on going.  Joe had to borrow a horse the next morning when he found his horses were gone, and he rode 90 miles in pursuit of them before he overtook them.

The new farm was all prairie land and had to be broken with a breaking plow pulled by three yoke of oxen.  Joe built a good house and other buildings improving the place.

In June of 1858 he started to take a load of wheat drawn by two yoke of oxen to their market in Polo, IL.  The hired hand did not get the gate open in time.  Joe tried to stop the animals before they crashed the gate, but they swerved, knocked him down and he was run over by the load of wheat.  His injuries proved fatal and he died after three days of suffering.  This was just before Joe’s 40th birthday.  He and Betsy had nine children.

The two oldest girls, Nancy and Caroline, were already married.  Silas Greene became the new head of the household at age 14.  My great grandfather, John Perry, was 12.

Fast forward to 2012, 154 years later….

It was a sunny summer day.  Not too hot, with a cool breeze. My father was on a pilgrimage to see where Joe Gamble lived and died.  Joe was my father’s grandfather’s father.  Three generations back.  As we drove over back roads through small towns in northern Illinois, it was obvious why Joe moved there.  It was fertile land.  All the crops were thriving and healthy.

We were three generations in the car.  I was driving and my son was manning the GPS.  Our final approach to Union Cemetery was on a gravel road surrounded by cornfields.  The cemetery was small, no sign, no fence.  Just a cleared area with lovely big trees and cornfields all around.  At least half the headstones were so old we could not identify them.  We did find a couple we recognized and we knew where our plot was so even though we couldn’t read the headstone, we knew we were in the right place.  The cemetery was well kept and neat.  My father was pleased.

The cemetery was in Wysox Township and the Township Clerk had an office in Milledgeville, population 1,032.  We headed over to see her in case she had any other information.  It turns out our family purchased three plots right next to each other.  They don’t know who or how many people are buried there but we have records showing there were probably at least eight relatives.

It was getting to be lunchtime and the clerk recommended a good restaurant in Lanark, a neighboring town, population 1,400.  We had a good meal and wandered around the cemetery in Lanark for a bit.  It was much bigger and we had no idea what, if anything we would find so we enjoyed the shady veteran’s memorial and headed home.

All in all a lovely day.

(My cousin Bud is responsible for gathering much of this family history.  Thank you!)

Indian Cake

One of my cousins put together a family cookbook.   It is full of people reminiscing about Grandmother’s cooking, and great recipes down through the generations.  My aunts were awesome cooks as well.  The funny thing about this cookbook is that there is not one but FOUR recipes for Indian Cake.  And I don’t even remember anybody ever serving it to me.

My father summarizes best what everybody else says about my grandmother and her baking:

“All of our family remembers how Mary could tell when the temperature was right in the oven to bake a cake, pie or bread.  This was long before gas or electric stoves were known on the farm and our kitchen stove was either wood or coal fired and the oven didn’t have a temperature gauge.

She would get the fire going and after a while she would open the oven door and put her hand in the oven.  After a few “hand” tests she would say it was ready, and put in her goods to be baked. They always came out perfectly.”

This is my grandmother’s version of the cake.

Indian Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup cold coffee
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup hot water

Blend sugar and shortening.  Add ingredients in order given, adding hot water last.   Pour into a greased 9”X 9” pan.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 hour.  Check it at 45 mins – these recipes always say “bake until done”.  So the first time, you need to keep an eye out.

Bon appetite!