Memories, Memorial Day and Stuff – Including One Very Used Pasta Pot

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder

Dan and I are both in transit this week. Dan is setting up a new home in Portland, Ore., where his wife will begin another temporary assignment as a traveling speech therapist and I’m in Miami where I’m helping my daughter create a new home from scratch after being accepted two weeks ago from a wait list into the physical therapy program of her dreams – with the provision that she be ready to start class five days later. If you look at a map of the U.S. and put one finger on Miami, Fla., and the other on Ferndale, Wash., – well, you’ll see that creates quite the adventure.

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Uncle Tom

But given it’s Memorial Day – and Houstory is a company created to honor and preserve memories and home – I thought I’d share just a few words about the powerful memories created by stuff.

My uncle, Thomas Walsh, is one of those we will be remembering this Memorial Day. He was killed in Vietnam in September 1966 when the plane he was piloting was shot down. He had just arrived in Vietnam a month or so before. He was my mom’s older brother and her only sibling. In addition to my mom and her family, my Uncle Tom left behind four of my cousins and my aunt, who was pregnant with my fifth cousin. My uncle was 27.

I was 2 ½ when died and have no real memory of him. But I’ve heard lots of stories, of course, and seen lots of photos. He loved baseball and golf. He was a great big brother to my mom growing up in Bellingham, Washington.

Stories are important and photos are great, but there is one thing in particular that helps me regularly remember my uncle (and also his mom and dad, my grandparents, who are also now both gone): their pasta pot.

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This is Dan: I don’t know why the picture shows up sideways but you get the point. 🙂

They had a metal pot – which includes a fitted inner strainer – made specifically for cooking pasta. My mom tells me it was in their family kitchen for as far back as she can remember. My grandma used it pretty much every week, my mom says, to prepare dinner for my grandpa, her and her brother. It’s nothing fancy and — if you saw it in garage sale you’d probably feel taken if you didn’t barter the price down to less than a couple bucks. After my grandma quit cooking, I received the pot. I’ve now had it for well over a decade and — like my grandma — I’ve used it almost once a week to create meals for my family. And while I certainly don’t get all mushy every time I pull it out (unlike my pasta sometimes when I get distracted), I love that banged up pot and the memories that it holds.

My grandma filled that pot and my uncle washed and my mom dried that pot — it was pre-dishswasher days — over and over and over. I’m sure they weren’t thinking they were holding a family heirloom at the time, they were just scrubbing a dirty pot. Nevertheless, that’s what it is today. It is an irreplaceable piece of our family’s history that will one day be passed on — and used (because it really works well) — by my daughters. Stories are wonderful and photos are great. But it’s also hard to beat holding that one very used pasta pot.

Happy Memorial Day.

Houstory Herd: Place and Family History

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

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So I belong to a local Toastmasters group in Eugene, Oregon. I joined the club to work on my communication skills (giving speeches, making presentations, producing podcasts, etc.).

The meeting allows members a chance to speak on a variety of topics in an effort to improve, and one subject that was recently presented to me was this biggie: “What is your favorite place in the world.” Well, I could list off a lot of places I love, but the one that came to mind was a location that held an important place in my family history called Granite Creek Campgroundnear Anchorage, Alaska. It was an oasis for me growing up, a campground that brings back memories of catching my first fish and action-packed getaways with my family.

houstory, heirloom registry, home history book, houstories, podcast, family heirloom, house history, family history, Klamath Falls, Oregon,

Dan and Dad in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

To me, I remember Granite Creek felt like home. If you want to know more about me and my life path, you need to know about Granite Creek and its importance in my personal history.

The second episode of our new Houstories podcast examines a similar concept: What places do you connect with family history? For this episode, we travel to Klamath Falls, Oregon., to delve deeper into the topic. That’s where I have a chance find out a little bit more about what makes my dad tick. How? He lived there 60-plus years ago as a little kid, and I recently joined him and his brother (my Uncle John) on a journey to learn a little bit more about their connection to the area.

In this episode, my brother Mike and I also chat about one woman’s unique and humorous approach to preserving her legacy in the face of battling a terminal illness.

Finally, we ask Allison Dolan of Family Tree Magazine penetrating questions about life outside of genealogy, including the longest she has gone without bathing. (Thank you for being a good sport, Allison!)

Allison Dolan, family tree magazine, houstory

Allison Dolan

Yes, it is mostly fun and games at Houstory. Speaking of games, Allison has graciously offered to give away Denise Levenick’s new book, “How to Archive Family Photos.” If it is anything like her outstanding book, “How to Archive Family Keepsakes,” you will learn much from The Family Curator.

To enter the drawing for a chance to win her book, send us an email at info (at) houstory.com telling us who taught Dan’s dad to play basketball. [Hint 1: The answer is in the podcast!] [Hint 2: It’s between the 12:12 — 15:15 minute mark.] Winner will be randomly selected from among the correct entries. One entry per person, please. Final entries due May 31.

And for those of you who want to start saving your stories of home, send us your obituary. Yes, you heard that correctly.

Give us one paragraph telling us what you liked to do while you were alive (hobbies, interests, etc.). Yes, your living obituary — just like the one I penned for my father-in-law. If we read your words on air during our next podcast, we will send you a pack of Heirloom Registry labels so you can preserve and pass on the stories of your family heirlooms. Send those entries to info (at) houstory (dot) com. (If you just want to inspire others, but would prefer we not use your real name when reading it, let us know.)

Finally, make sure to check out the links we mentioned in the podcast with our Herd stories at the end of this post, as well as photos of Dan’s Klamath Falls trip. And of course listen to the podcast, too.

Now, on to The Herd for this month…

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Junk vs family heirloom: How do you determine?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

This week, I’d like to open up the floor to ask the question: How do you filter the clutter from the keepsakes?

I’ve seen this topic posted many times around online family heirloom communities, most recently in December in Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. (On a VERY related note, check out the Family Curator blog after you read this article. Denise Levenick has lots of great tips related to this).

For me, growing up as an Air Force brat, I moved three times. Compared to the transient nature of my four other brothers -— and particularly my oldest brother (and Houstory founder) Mike — this was nothing. He’s lived in more than a half dozen states.

My list was short: Alabama, Alaska, Washington state, done.

Since then, I’ve made up for lost time, living in a variety of places throughout the country and in Asia. Because of the lifestyle my wife and I have chosen (constant travel, shallow roots), moving has been both an expectation and a challenge.

However, one thing we both have no interest in is accumulating a lot of stuff. Our life plan is to move every few years, dabbling with new experiences and new locales. The last thing we desire is a bunch of items we don’t really need, want or have room for in the moving pod.

clutter, keepsake, family heirloom houstory, heirloom registry

Take a picture of your little “items.” This will save space, but the memories will be intact.

This has been a constant challenge because I’m the sentimental type, and a big fan of nostalgia. Every time we re-visit a town where we have lived, I have to go back and see the “old apartment,” or check out the corner grocery store where we shopped. My wife? Not so much. I’m the same way — to a degree — with my personal possessions. Particularly the ones with stories.

But even I have limits. You can only fill so many shoeboxes with knick-knacks before you have to say “enough is enough.” The main reason I like to preserve items is because they trigger memories (and I have a HORRIBLE memory), which explains why I was one of the founders of The Heirloom Registry. The true value in family heirlooms, in my opinion, are the stories they are associated with and the family history they help to draw forth.

So, what to do? One little trick I’ve turned to is taking pictures of things I don’t really have room for, but still want to remember. This saves space, but also keeps my  sad excuse for a memory from failing.

What do you do to save space? Do you even have this problem? Give others Houstorians who may be drowning in possessions advice!

Holiday houses, holiday heirlooms

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory

A few weeks ago, we asked you to send in photos of your favorite holiday heirlooms, or smartly decorated holiday houses. The following is a sampling of a few submissions. If you want us to add a few more, simply e-mail photos to info (at) houstory.com, or post your image to our Facebook page.

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Share your homes for the holidays

Home and the holidays.

The two concepts just seem to go together effortlessly, don’t they? Kind of like awkward conversation and once-per-year family dinners. But it all adds up to the same thing: family history and tradition.

family heirloom, holidays

This year, we are asking you to share some of your family traditions — specifically your holiday family heirlooms and your beautifully (or at least uniquely) decorated houses. Let the Houstory Nation know what is happening out there.

Do you have a favorite leg lamp you break out every December? Perhaps a cookbook or family ornament? Or maybe you’ve spiffed up your house into a frenzy of wintery celebration?

Show us what you have, and we will share them with other Houstorians.

Simply e-mail photos to info@houstory.com by Dec. 15, and we will try to put them up on the Houstory Hearth sometime before Christmas, and share them with our social media audience.

Alright, now that’s out of the way, full disclosure: I’m totally going to steal the following from Cleveland.com, who are doing a similar activity. Why re-invent the wheel, right?

Here are tips they suggest, and we suggest, too, for taking great photos.

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Be sure to include the full names of the people in your photo and the communities where they live. We also need to know who took the picture.

Here are some basic tips that should help make your shots rise to the top!

  1. If you’re outside shooting, it’s always best to have the sun at your back, or maybe off to your side. If it’s behind your subject, the photos won’t look good. If the front of the building faces east you’ll want to shoot early in the day, or morning, if it faces west, then later in the day.
  2. When you’re inside shooting you should have the windows behind you, not behind your subject. If you can see a window behind your subject, you need to move to the other side.
  3. Close ups are good and make very dramatic shots!
  4. If you get a variety of these three things then you’ll have short photo essay that tells the whole story of the event. An overall picture sets the scene, a medium shot , and then a close up tell a powerful story.

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Looking forward to your contributions!

– Mike and Dan

Zillow: Top 10 Haunted Houses in the United States

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

The next time you take a walk down a street in your neighborhood, take a close look at the houses and imagine the stories that have taken place within their walls. For most, it would probably be easy to envision relatively happy tales: newlyweds moving in to their first home, holidays around the table, etc.

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For other homes, especially dilapidated buildings in a state of disrepair and decay, the stories envisioned may be darker by nature. In fact, some may be downright scary.

Today, in honor of Halloween, we will examine the top 10 haunted houses in the United States, as presented by Zillow — “a home and real estate marketplace dedicated to helping homeowners, home buyers, sellers, renters, real estate agents, mortgage professionals, landlords and property managers find and share vital information about homes, real estate, mortgages, and home improvement.” The site boasts a database of more than 110 million U.S. homes.

Last year, they developed a list of the 10 most haunted homes in the U.S.

On a related note, do you own a haunted house? A recent Wall Street Journal article says it may be a tough sell. Let us know your creepy house stories — and have a Happy Halloween!

 

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Road trip to Oregon’s Elvis shrine, historic bridge house

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory

So, a few weeks ago my wife and I hopped in the car and took a drive from our home in Eugene, Ore. to the sandy — and much chillier — Oregon coast. Our destination was a sleepy town called Florence, a seaside community as well as a tourist destination for many in  the area. Situated at the mouth of the  Siuslaw River, Florence was the site of a barbecue competition my brother-in-law Eric was competing in.

 

DESTINATION: FLORENCE, OREGON. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Along the way, my wife Tasi and I were met with several welcome distractions — including a stop at Shake, Rattle & Roll Record Shop in Mapleton, Ore., and a photo op of a bridge house just outside of Florence at a place called Cushman Bridge.

First, Shake, Rattle & Roll: Not that I’ve been actively seeking an extensive collection of Elvis collectibles and memorabilia, but if I were this seems like a pretty good place to start. Darrel Dixon, the shop’s proprietor, was a super nice guy for starters. He said he got most of the collection “7 or 8 years ago” from an Oregon woman. She obviously really dug on The King, because the place is a shrine. Two rooms full of stuff. Personally, I have two  obvious connections to Elvis. First, my I share his birthday (Jan. 8). Second — and this is what drew me to the store — is my niece (and goddaugher) Jessica’s affinity for the man, which started when she was probably three or four years old. In my opinion, Jessica is an “old soul” in a lot of ways, which I completely love. Now at the age of 20, she still maintains a mini Elvis altar herself, so whenever I see a chance for her to add to the collection, I let her know about opportunities.

elvis, memorabilia, collectibles, antiques

Elvis Heaven

 

The second stop along the trip was a picture I snapped of an old swing bridge — unofficially known as Cushman Bridge — crossing the slow-moving Siuslaw River. According to information I could find (but not officially substantiate), it was built in 1914 near the unincorporated community of Cushman. On top of it is a house-like structure, which I thought made for an interesting house history shot — even though it was likely never used as a permanent residence.

house history, oregon, siuslaw, swing bridge

The historic bridge house.

 

The final leg on the trip was the barbecue competition. My brother-in-law is a genius when it comes to all things smoked, and his ever-expanding barbecue competition trophy case is a testament to that. This time, he placed first in the rib competition.  And yes, they were tasty. To visit his barbecue world, check out his Facebook page. But don’t blame me if you get slobber on your keyboard.

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Yes, I got free barbecue. It pays to be a relative.

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Eric (right) with my father-in-law Jim, showing off his first-place trophy.

Good things — and houses — do come in ‘Tiny’ packages

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

What do you get when you combine a love of cabins with an adoration of small spaces? Tiny House Blog, of course! If you have any kind of curiosity regarding unique living spaces, you’ve probably already heard of  this popular blog. However, in case you are interested and you haven’t, you’re welcome. Be warned, though: time will pass and you may neglect your family for hours on end.

tiny house blog, houses, unique houses, house history

Image from Tiny House Blog

The site was started by small space/cabin lover Kent Griswold in 2007. According to the Web site, “The goal of the tiny house blog is to discover the different options available for a person looking to down size into a tiny house or cabin. I will be looking at different type of construction, from logs, to yurts to modern and the unusual. I will also do book reviews, look at alternate energy for heat and electricity. I also want to hear your story so please contact me with your pictures and your own experiences in living simply and small.”

If this universe sounds interesting to you, and you enjoy hearing about people living the “tiny house” dream (in addition to seeing a ton of cool photos), check it out.

As the co-creator of The Home History Book  archival journal and a self-proclaimed house history nut, it may seem ironic that what draws me to the Tiny House blog is my belief that many people have too much space, and too much stuff. Admittedly, a lot of the houses that I have grown to admire are huge, and much bigger than I would ever prefer to own. However, I don’t hold it against anyone with a 6,000 square foot home — that’s their business.

With that said, I do think we would be well-served, as a culture, to live simply in terms of resource conservation, environmental protection and our day-to-day mindset. There is a lot to be learned from this ‘tiny’ sub-culture.

What do you think? Did you know about the Tiny House blog? Do you think people can — and should — live with less? Do you own a tiny house? So many questions, and you’ve got answers. Let’s hear em!

Rowhouse Tour: ‘Four Homes for the Holidays’

This week, The Houstory Hearth welcomes a holiday-themed guest post from DIY Del Ray.

Houstory, DIY Del Ray, holiday, homes, holiday homes, houses, holiday houses

Photo courtesy of DIY Del Ray

According to their Web site: “DIY Del Ray, a blog founded by Leslie, Katie and Sara, celebrates the art of small-space living and the creative spirit. We talk about interior design, unique storage solutions, living with kids, home improvement and craft projects, entertaining, and all the charming features of Del Ray, a neighborhood in Alexandria, VA.”

We first came across the blog a few weeks ago, when we found this great story they penned on using family heirlooms to tell your family’s story.

This week, DIY Del Ray takes a peak inside four, holiday-decorated rowhouses in the Del Ray community, and we wanted you all to come along. It’s title: “Four Homes for the Holidays.

“Living on a street of typical 1950s identical rowhouses, it’s always interesting to see how people decorate the inside of their homes — their paint choices, furniture arrangements and at this time of year, how they decorate for the holidays,” they write. “There isn’t much wiggle room in these houses – every last inch serves a purpose for something – but that hasn’t quelled the festiveness or desire to create a warm and cozy haven at home.”

To take the tour, read on. Thank you to DIY Del Ray for sharing your story with Houstory. Speaking of Houstory, Mike and Dan wish all of our readers a happy and safe holiday!

 

Do you use any holiday heirlooms to decorate your home? Do you decorate your home in a unique way? Share your photos at our Facebook page — we’d love to see them!

Houstory, DIY Del Ray, holiday, homes, holiday homes, houses, holiday houses

Photo courtesy of DIY Del Ray

How do you know you’re ‘Home?’

“On the path of awakening or the journey to Self, finding home and living there is the goal, for once we are home, we are in Truth and in love. When we are home, everything feels different, but in essence nothing has changed, for we are simply remembering who we really are.”

—  Sara-Jane Grace

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

“So where’s home?”

Simple question, right? Not for me, a military brat, who “lived everywhere and nowhere” and whom researchers have identified as part of a distinct, 200 year-old American subculture, with millions of members. And not for an increasing number of people in today’s highly mobile society.

I just counted — as I can never remember — and I moved 9 times, attended 9 different schools and had 11 different “homes” while growing up as an Air Force brat. At 18 I headed out on my own and, since then, added another 7 cities and probably another dozen “homes” to the list (though calling some of my living situations in college “home” would, admittedly, be a stretch.)

alaska, anchorage, high school, prom, childhood memories

Bartlett High School (Anchorage, Alaska) Senior Prom 1982. The author (the one with his eyes closed) and his ever-lovely date, Kelli, who helped the author create the The Home History Book™ archival journal.

So when that question “where’s home” comes up, I have to pause and think. If they mean “home” as in hometown, where I grew up, I usually end up just saying Alaska. That is where I was fortunate to string together four very important years in a row and attend and graduate from the same high school. And because of that, I do feel a stronger tie there than to the other places I lived.

On the other hand, if they mean “home” now, that’s easier. I’ve lived with my family in Northwest Washington state, in a home we built, for about nine years. So it’s definitely where our home — the nice building that contains our stuff — is located. But I’ll be honest, as beautiful as it is around here (and it’s breathtakingly beautiful), as many good friends as we’ve made and as comfortable as we are, I’m not sure it’s completely felt like home for some reason.

And, in fact, my wife and I frequently talk about where — if anyplace — we might like to move when our youngest daughter graduates from high school in a few years.

We moved here from Washington, D.C., where we lived for about a decade, to be closer to family. As a military kid, I never lived here permanently, but my parents were raised in the Pacific Northwest, my grandparents lived here and a couple of my brothers have now settled nearby. So if home is where most of your family is — a sentiment that resonates strongly with my wife — I guess this is home.

But, for us, the grey weather can be downright depressing for half the year, sapping energy and making for a long slug. Natives, on the other hand, actually feel “off” if an odd patch of sunny days sticks around more than a few days.

Culturally, we also feel a bit out of it sometimes, having moved to a more rural area. In that way we felt much more at home in D.C. than here. And while we can get a major city-culture fix with a 90-minute drive to either Seattle or Vancouver, BC, or  a nice taste with a 15-minute drive to the “City of Subdued Excitement,” Bellingham, Wash.,  those places – for now – aren’t home.

So all that begs the question: How do you know you’re Home?

Is there a place that has all the things you’re looking for. Or is the goal finding a place that has all the things you’re willing to accept? And can home be permanent? Or does it need to change as you change?

Home for me always suggested permanence, a place of one’s roots, a place where as Sarah Jane Grace notes above, you live in “Truth and love…(and) everything feels different.”

“There’s no place like home,” Dorothy says in the Wizard of Oz.

But maybe home is not a place at all but a state of mind.

It’s a question that continues to befuddle me. Which, of course, often makes me wonder why I — a person whose ties to “home” are confused at best —came up with the idea for the Home History Book, a product intended to permanently record a home’s unfolding story and share it with everyone who lives there.

The concept of home is clearly an important one. In fact, some people, seem to just know when they’re home. Either they grew up someplace and never left, which, of course, generally bypasses any confusion when asked “Where’s home?” Or circumstances (a vacation, a job, a significant other) brought them to a place that they immediately recognized or felt as “home” and so never left.

Let us know!

How do you know you’re Home? Is it a place? Is it a feeling? Is it a sense of community? Is it genetic? Is it permanent or changing? I think it’s an important question. It’s one that many have looked into and one I plan to examine further. If you are “home” and would be willing to share a few ideas about how you know that or “tips” for those who may still be searching, we’d love to hear from you.