Prairie Pride!

We made a trip this week to Conner Prairie and took an incredible adventure back in time.

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Lulu and her lamb Lili, both dressed in period clothing, prepare to travel back in time.

Affiliated with the Smithsonian, this museum-park leads you through a meandering journey of pioneer life in Indiana before and around the time it became a state in 1816.

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Lulu and I practiced tomahawk throwing with a real descendant from the Lenape, or Delaware, Indians who lived in this area before and during the fur-trading days of the early 1800s.

Cause every girl needs tomahawk lessons!
Cause every girl needs tomahawk lessons!

Down the lane, real-life historians, artisans and craftspeople recreate a pioneer village from  1836.   They never break character as they demonstrate their handiwork and weave delightful stories about the goings-on in the town.

Pioneer Wheel of Fortune
Pioneer Wheel of Fortune

Before entering "Prairietown, Lulu spun a wheel which determined she would be a local artist in the village. As such, she had certain tasks to perform and answers she needed to discover by asking questions of the other villagers.

We had to ask those questions in present tense and never let on that we were really visitors from the future.  (I asked “Mrs. Zimmerman” at the Golden Eagle Inn, for example, if I could take her picture with my “brand new camera contraption” and she pulled out a large wooden box with a lens on the front and a mirror inside that projected a reflected image on a piece of paper that could then be copied in pencil as the newest camera she had recently received from her brother in Europe. )

Lulu smiled with her from behind the Inn’s bar.

Would you like some Elderberry wine?
Would you like some Elderberry wine?

Lulu was given the chore to wash  some vegetables at the Inn.

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She also patiently learned how to hand-dip a beeswax candle.

Each beeswax candle takes dozens of dips in the hot wax to reach the right size.
Each beeswax candle takes dozens of dips in the hot wax to reach the right size.

She sang folk tunes with “Mrs. Campbell” and her “Sister Laura who is visiting from the big city of Lexington and doesn’t like this little town at all.”

Lulu sang songs with these lovely ladies
Lulu sang songs with these lovely ladies

She rolled dough and cut out noodles with the spinster lady (at the ripe old age of 27!) who lived at a cabin with a dozen or so real young turkeys wandering in the backyard.

This is a bit different than when Lulu helps Daddy make tortelli!
This is a bit different than when Lulu helps Daddy make tortelli!

And Lulu spent about 15 full minutes creating her own custom stencil designs.  I didn’t mind.  The magic wheel had designated her an Artist after all.

Artist at work. I think the pink boots add inspiration to her work.
Artist at work. I think the pink boots add inspiration to her work.

Although we lived for the past three years in Italy, that inspiring land of the Renaissance where history reaches out to you from every street in art and architecture, our experience exploring Conner Prairie was an exhilarating hands-on event.

Village carpenter Mr. McClure, Lulu and Lili.
Village carpenter Mr. McClure, Lulu and Lili.

The idea of role-playing with the pioneers obviously resonated with Lulu who didn’t want to leave the “land of the olden times.”

Grammie and Lulu at the Golden Eagle Inn.
Grammie and Lulu at the Golden Eagle Inn.

And for me, it was an important opportunity to be reminded how proud I am of something I never earned.  It was simply bestowed upon me the day I was born.  Something that could too easily be taken for granted while I was encompassed by the grand history of Italy.  Something that my forefathers worked hard to create and died to protect:  My Hoosier and American heritage.

Thank you, Mom, for taking Lulu and me to Conner Prairie.

Gina

P.S. What's your heritage? What makes you proud? What makes you appreciate other cultures?


You CAN go back home. But you won’t have enough time to do everything you want….

I can’t believe it.  After living in Italy for three years, my first visit to the United States is drawing to a close.  This trip back home again to Indiana: the state where I was born, grew up and where my mom and step-dad still live has just one full day left.

My parents' Indiana lakeside home
My parents' Indiana lakeside home

I landed on American soil on July 18.  With more than a month ahead, in addition to feting with my family, I thought I had plenty of time to reconnect with everyone.   I had so many plans!

Scotty, Lulu and I drove up to northwest Indiana to visit my college-buddy-like-a-brother Sam Wakim and his family for a combined dentist and friendly visit.

Sam and the fams!
Sam and the fams!

I zipped over to La Porte, the town where I was born, and toured Pine Lake where I spent  happy summers with family, and peeked at the house Grandpa and Grannie Raven had built and lived in forever.

Pine Lake in La Porte, Indiana
Pine Lake in La Porte, Indiana
If you look closely, you can see "Gina Andrea Brad" written in this bit of sidewalk that is still at my old grandparents' house - commemorating the births of me, my sister and my brother!
If you look closely, you can see "Gina Andrea Brad" written in this bit of sidewalk that is still at my old grandparents' house - commemorating the births of me, my sister and my brother!

I had dinner with my fire-chief cousin and his family.

Cousins! Cousins!

I met again with Eric Schneller, the first friend I ever made at Indiana University when I first sat next to him in my freshman biology class.  I had dinner with ADPi sorority sisters Beth, Dottie and Elizabeth.  We moved beyond the shallow ties of youthful sisterhood to wiser bonds forged through surviving the unexpected twists and painful turns real life often deals. We are still hanging in there, but I am not kidding when I say we laughed and we cried.

Sorority Sisters then and real-life sisters now.
Sorority Sisters then and real-life sisters now.

I had dinner with a couple of close youth group friends, Anita and Curt, who got married shortly after high school.  They openly shared the incredible ups and downs that tried and ultimately strengthened their enduring union.

Curt, Anita and me
Curt, Anita and me

And speaking of my school days, I had dearly hoped to travel to Randolph County to the tiny town of Farmland to visit with the friends who were instrumental in creating the many colorful memories I have of my childhood.  We’ve kept up virtually on Facebook, and I wanted to reunite with them in person.

But the weeks flew by and I didn’t make it happen.

I also didn’t get a chance to reconnect with my cousin Debbie and some other people I had envisioned seeing.

But I did get to hug a lot of my immediate family including Mom, Jerry, Andrea, Tony, Sophia, Brad, Jayson, Patience, Helena, Sam, Celeste and my ninety-nine-and-a-half-year-young Aunt Anita aka “Neatie.”

Many of the awesome members of my family!
Many of the awesome members of my family!

We have had boat trips on the lake.

Boat trips, yey!
Boat trips, yey!
C'mon in- the (green lake) water's fine!
C'mon in- the (green lake) water's fine!

 

We have had bonfires.  We have had dinner parties. We have had cake, cookies and Mom’s famous chocolate chip coffeecake.  Have I mentioned the mountains of ice cream?

Lulu LOOOVES ice cream.
Lulu LOOOVES ice cream.

Did I mention that even though Lulu has already eaten her weight in delectable Italian gelato, one of her new favorite places in the world is Dairy Queen?  Okay, we have had too much eating, I must say.

But we simply have not had enough time to do everything I hoped.

To everyone I saw, I love you and am so glad we were able to see each other again.   To everyone I didn’t get a chance to see.  I am sorry I missed you.  I do miss you.   Please come to see us in Ireland.

Tonight, as Lulu and I looked out across my parents’ backyard on Morse Lake, the setting sun was shimmering on the water.

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“It looks like diamonds. Real ones,” Lulu said.

“Yes, Lulu,” I replied,  reflecting on the memories of the past four weeks.  Although I didn’t get to see and do every single thing I had hoped to when I first arrived, the glow of my time back here in Indiana has been shiny and priceless just the same. Like diamonds. Real ones.

Morse Lake and the things that memories are made of.
Morse Lake and the things that memories are made of.

Love to you, no matter where you are!

Gina

P.S.  How was your summer?  Did you spend it with family? Friends? What's in store for September?  Let me know!

 

 

 

 


A Day to Celebrate!

Have you ever tried a red velvet deep fried Oreo cookie?  Neither have I.  But I could have!

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That’s because we traveled to the heart of the heartland.  The apex of all-you-can-eat hearty-heart-attack fantastic funnel cakes, elephant ears, corn dogs and cotton candy:  The Indiana State Fair!

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At first I happily thought I had found the Wine barn.  Then I realized an important letter was obscured by a tree.

PicMonkey Collage

Today was Pork Day.

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And so naturally I had to have a Bar-B-Que Pulled Pork Sandwich.

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Thank you Dwayne, the kind representative from the pork stand.

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And thank you, Carla Comer Peacock, an honest-to-God girlfriend of mine from Monroe Central High School I ran into (we’re friends on Facebook so we recognized each other!!) who helped me get the pink pork-chop T-shirt Lulu is sporting (and the AWESOME pink Indiana Pork hat she isn’t wearing).

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Yes, we went to the livestock barns.   I pet a giant turkey.

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Lulu and her cousin Sophia were a cute little chick and bunny.

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We awed at World’s Largest Hog.

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And hammed it up at the “Make Your Own Post-card Booth” at the Soybean Barn.

state fair fun!

Since state fairs revolve around agriculture and celebrate the livelihood of farming,  indeed, there was a soybean barn… and a corn barn… and a completely recreated pioneer-era working farm.  It was a great fun and learning experience.   For example, the tractor-driven trailers that transported the too-tired-to-walk are fueled by those ubiquitous Hoosier soy legumes.   Cool-beans!

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The Department of Natural Resources sponsored a Catch-and-Release pond and a Butterfly Pavilion.

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We had no takers at our kissing booth.

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But Lulu and Sophia were both very much “Wanted!”

wanted

In the afternoon, as we were ready to go, I saw my friend Carla again. She asked my husband whether we enjoyed Indiana – since we have lived in Europe for so long.    Of course we enjoyed ourselves.  We’re constant tourists.

We revel in all things terrific.

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Who wouldn’t enjoy a lemonade made from inside a giant plastic lemon!

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With love from the Indiana State Fair!

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Baci, Gina! 

Copyright 2014 Gina London.  All Rights Reserved.

 


The I’s have it!  Italy, Indiana and Ireland 

Yesterday, the family gathered at my parents’ house here in Arcadia, Indiana.

My parents' home in Arcadia, Indiana!
My parents' home in Arcadia, Indiana!

I chose a simple red dress and came upstairs to greet everyone.  My sister Andrea, her husband Tony and their daughter Sophia were to drive over from near Cincinnati, Ohio.  My brother Brad was flying in from Florida and coming here with his girlfriend Leah and her daughter Kyra.  Friends-like-Family, Eric, Linda and their kids Maddie and Max were driving from over a nearby Hoosier town. My niece Patience and her mom Celeste were driving over from near Cleveland.  Even my 99-and-a-half-year-old Aunt Anita, aka Neatie, was here.  Party!

Lulu made the colored water
Lulu added the food coloring for the little centerpieces

My mom was already up in the kitchen wearing a bright lime green shirt and mixing up some home-made potato soup.   I said, “Potato soup! That’s perfect since we’ll be leaving later this month for Ireland.”  She just looked up at me and smiled.

It was right about then that my sister, in a green sparkly shirt, remarked that she and I were like Christmas since I was in red.

Right about then, Brad and Leah arrived, wearing bright green wigs and sunglasses.

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Brad and Leah!
Brad and Leah!

It finally dawned on me.  EVERYONE was wearing green.

The green gang!
The green gang!

And then I saw the cake in Brad and Leah’s hands.

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The potato soup was on purpose. This was not just a simple family gathering at my parent’s lake house on a sunny summer day.

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This was an Irish celebration for Scotty, Lulu and me as we prepare for our next adventure in Ireland.

Here's we are! (and yes, I have changed into something green!)
Here's we are! (and yes, I have changed into something green!)

Here in  Arcadia, Indiana named after the Greek philosophy of living in harmony with nature and family - it's certainly something I am drawn to no matter where I travel.

Andrea and Jerry unfurl the flag!
Andrea and Jerry unfurl the flag!

Warm hearts and loving families. In Indiana.  In Italy where we lived for three years.  In Nigeria where I spent the past month.  And yes,  I do so look forward to experiencing it in the verdant rolling hills of Ireland.

Thank you, family, for throwing us such a heart-warming party this weekend.

The ladies and the cake!
The ladies and the cake!

I cherish these moments.

Baci! Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.