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.

Our New Project: ‘Corner Houstories’

‘Corner Houstories’ is our attempt to reach you, The Houstory Nation, on the street and communicate your stories of home. With your help, we can also inspire others to save their stories and remind them why it’s important to do so. Oh—and I think we can also have some fun!

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

Houstory (pronounced “House Story”) was founded with the idea of telling and sharing the stories of home.

antiques roadshow, texas, houstory, heirloom registry

Yours truly at Antiques Roadshow,when the PBS TV program visited Corpus Christie, Texas, in 2012. Man, look how excited I was to be there!

When we say, “the stories of home,” we mean it. What makes a house a home? When was it built? Who has lived in it? What has happened within its walls? What do you know about the precious belongings—the family heirlooms—within its walls?

Unlike single-dimensional, statistical information such as dates of birth and census information, these physical elements—the places we live, the walls we build and the objects we touch—have clear and powerful connections to our past.

In other words, to know grandma was born in Pittsburgh in 1911 is important.

To flip through the kitchen-stained pages of grandma’s favorite cookbook with her handwritten notes is transcendental.

The object, whether it’s a house or a family heirloom, is a connection point.

 

With that in mind, our new project, “Corner Houstories,” is about as simple as it gets: We are going to randomly ask people on the street—maybe even on street corners—about the stories of their homes. Everyone has them, no matter how boring they think their lives may be. You just need to ask the right questions

Q: What is something now in your home that your mother gave you?

Q: In which room do you spend most of your time in your home? Why?

Q: What’s one item you no longer have that you wish you still had?

Q: What three things would you grab from your home in case of a fire?

Q: Do you own a chair in your home that someone famous sat in?

Q: What’s an item you would like to get rid of but can’t or won’t because of guilt?

These questions will spawn more questions and more answers. These are the stories of home.

It never ceases to amaze us how often we hear people say that their stories are either nonexistent or not worth sharing. We beg to differ.

To kick things off, I’m posting a video I took when Antiques Roadshow visited Corpus Christie, Texas. It was 2012 and I was living in Austin at the time. What you’ll see are some of the stories of home that people shared with me about the family heirlooms they brought to the event.

antiques, guns, Texas, corner houstories

We were in Texas, right?

World War II memorabilia, carved monkeys, antique tables, china sets, swords…it was all there. And so were the stories. Stayed tuned for more Corner Houstories.

Let us know what you think. After that, fax your aunt and uncle and tell them how the Houstory Hearth changed your life and helped you lose more than 30 pounds in just six months. Or you can just leave a comment. 

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4 Easy Steps to Prepare for Your Death, Family History Style

Someday—I hate to break it to you—that “loved one” who passes away will be you. Family history prep starts now.

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

I’m guessing there are probably more than four steps that you can take to prepare for your death. In fact, the list is pretty much endless. For example, unless you die naked, who is going to clean the clothes you are wearing? What about the enormous pile of dishes you may have left in the sink? Do you have someone lined up to destroy your gutty attempt at a novel? In reality, none of us can fully prepare to die, right? But what about preparing to die when it comes to passing down family history?

Unique Obit

Luckily, there is some pretty low-hanging fruit out there that you may want to consider if you have a little time on your hands. And by “a little,” I mean a few hours.

I can hear you already: “But Dan, I don’t have time. I mean there is some much going on with the kids and work. Plus I need to take out the trash.”

I hear you. Don’t worry: what I’m proposing will not get you in trouble with Child Protective Services, your boss or the local sanitation department. As you’ll see below, following these steps take less than a sliver of time. The best part is that once you finish these tasks, you’re done for the most part. And trust me, you family will be really, really grateful that they don’t have to go searching for your legacy when you’re no longer around.

As a point of reference, I’m going to throw out this number:

8,760.

That’s the number of hours in a normal year. Each task will take time off this total. So, let’s do this thang. No better way to kick off the new year then to write about death, dying and all that jazz!

(1) Write you own obituary (2 hours)

This is perhaps the lowest hanging fruit of all. Creepy? Maybe. Important for passing on your family history? Definitely! Who better to write your story then… you? Hopefully, if this finds you in good health and you’re not risking your life on the job, this obituary will be very incomplete. In other words, you’ll have a lot left to write and you’ll likely need to update it in many, many moons.With that said, even if you were to take two dinky little hours this year to write down just a few basic details, such as where you had lived and what work you had done during your life, imagine the value that would provide for your loved ones. Not everyone knows your story, and don’t assume they do. Once you are finished, store it with your other estate-planning documents (life insurance, will, advanced directives, etc.). As someone who knows, having to scramble for obituary information about a recently departed loved one in the hours, days and weeks after they die is rough. Someday that “loved one” will be you.

Extra creditAnd if you get swept up in the idea of telling your own story, record a video/audio file talking about your life: How do you want people to remember you? Do you have life lessons, advice and stories you would like to pass on to family and friends? Doing this well takes time, so plan it out. Much of the time allotted for this task is pre-planning: decide what you want to say and what order you want to say it in. Keep it clean and simple. Otherwise—like a friend returning from an overseas trip in which they decide to share 1,700 photos of their trip to Turkey with you— this might be painful for people to watch. Make sure you designate where this personal history is stored and who is in charge of presenting it to family members and friends. You can also hire someone, too, like these guys.

(2) Gather your vital records (birth & death certificates; wedding & divorce records) (1 hour)

Just good practice, people. And easy peasy. Store them in a safe place and make sure your loved ones know where they are.

(3) Register 5 family heirlooms (1 hour)

Yes, this is a direct call for you to buy our stuff. But it’s only because we believe in the service and there is no one else out there doing it. There is a reason we’ve been around for nearly a decade. We’re serious. When you mark heirlooms with physical ID numbers, the story and the family heirloom stay together so that anyone can understand the item’s significance and look it up at any time, now or in the future. Don’t you want your kids to appreciate the items in your house as much as you did while you were not dead (i.e. alive)? Hint: It’s not as overwhelming if you start one room at a time. Make it your modest goal to take a walk through your house and pull aside five items that matter to you. 

(4) Make a favorites/dislikes/hobbies/day-in-the-life list (1 hour)

It may seem boring to you, but imagine if you recorded in writing or audio just one day in your life. Sure it may seem dull that you spent the first half of a Saturday in your boxer shorts making breakfast while listening to This American Life on NPR, then went to the grocery store to pick up groceries for the week that cost $53 (including $4.89 for a gallon of milk) and then came home to take a walk around the neighborhood before eating a dinner. But imagine how gold these details will be to your great-great grandkids.

Or, if you don’t like angle, make a Top 10 list of your favorite books, movies or food. For those with darker dispositions, you can do the same thing with dislike lists.

It’s all about hidden insight that people can’t derive from genealogical records alone. Time capsules baby!

Extra credit: Write some Love Letters. Death, I believe, is much, much harder on the living than on the dearly departed. Hopefully, all of your significant others already know how much they mean to you. But that’s not always the case. And certainly, putting those thoughts down in writing now—and tucking them away—would make for a beautiful, comforting and lasting gift right when they need it the most and for years to follow.

That’s it! In just 5 hours (.0006 percent of the year’s total) you’ve now prepared a SUBSTANTIAL gift to the future.

And great news! You still have 8,755 hours remaining that you can waste or use in whatever way you’d like. The nice thing is you can spread it out. There will be plenty of rainy weekends or times when you don’t want to deal with other humans. By going through this list, you’ll have a little fun traveling down memory lane; you’ll make life easier for your family who have to clean up after you (it doesn’t matter how great you think you are, it’s a pain); and you’ll effectively be able to share and save a family history that will live on well after someone has cleaned your last load of laundry.

Now, on to The Herd for this month…

“The Hearth Herd” is a roundup (or “Herd”) of a few stories we’ve seen recently that we feel our fellow Houstorians would be interested in. The Herd’s content will generally focus on three things: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Environmental sustainability. If you see something that you think belongs in The Herd, we’d love to hear from you!

Family History

Author: MyHeritage blog

Title: Create a Family Memory Jar for 2016

Herd-Worthy Because: “What is a family memory jar? It’s a glass jar or any container in which you can store family memories. It can be filled with short messages, everyday moments, photos or just about anything you want to preserve.” What a wonderful idea! Essentially, this is “Houstories” in a jar and an instant family heirloom. The day-to-day things are what makes a house a home.

 

Family Heirlooms

Author: Ancestry.com, The Family Curator

Title: Plan Ahead: Protect Your Genealogy from Disaster

Herd-Worthy Because: Our good friend Denise Levenick wrote this last spring, but it’s still pertinent. Also, we appreciate her mentioning a certain service that we happen to be big fans of. “Digital images of photographs, family letters, and treasured heirlooms will never fully replace a lost keepsake, but pictures and stories can preserve the memories of a special piece of furniture, a quilt, or a framed photograph… After you’ve assembled your heirloom history, share it widely with family, friends, and other researchers. Consider uploading images and stories to genealogy sites such as Ancestry.com or to the online heirloom history site The Heirloom Registry.”

Let us know what you think. If not us, then let that guy next to you in bus know what you think. After that, call your mom and tell her how great the Houstory Hearth is. Or you can just leave a comment. 

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Natural disasters: Are your family heirlooms and family keepsakes ready?

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

Dan

I live in the Pacific Northwest, and earlier this year there was an article in the New Yorker that created quite a stir (you probably saw it). It was about the impending Cascadia earthquake that is likely to kill thousands and decimate regional infrastructure. The sub-headline of the article provided this chilling message: “An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.”

That’s always fun to hear, right? Especially in your own backyard.

In response, I’ve since prepared emergency supplies for my wife and I while creating a disaster preparedness plan for my immediate family living in the area. This first-level preparedness has provided me with piece of mind when it comes to survival and basic needs. Water, food, shelter. Check, check and check. Undoubtedly, these are the most important considerations when disaster strikes.

But now that I’m prepared on that surface level, let’s dig a little deeper. What is the second level of preparedness? Much like end-of-life issues, getting your house in order ranks highly. This includes compiling and organizing medical and financial issues in such a way that physical destruction doesn’t mean they disappear forever. Just because your house has been burnt, flooded or destroyed doesn’t mean your life ends.

This whole process got me thinking about what people are doing when it comes to family history and specifically family heirlooms.

If you look back at 2015, the list of natural disasters that have occurred around the world is astounding both in frequency and in severity. If you live in the American South and Midwest right now, you know all too well what I’m talking about with the historic-level flooding that is occurring. In other words, things are getting wacky, kids.

Might I suggest you to make 2016 the year you prepare yourselves for what may come? No matter where you live, being prepared can provide peace of mind. After your have addressed your basic needsfinancial and medical issues, move on to sorting and organizing your family heirlooms. Obviously, we can help with this process: use The Heirloom Registry to ID your family heirlooms offline and save their stories online in about 10 minutes. Done. Whatever system you use, start the process. You’ll be thankful you did even if you don’t ever face mother nature head on.

 

Keep track of heirlooms no matter where they end up: Give them traceable IDs!

Keep track of heirlooms no matter where they end up: Give them traceable IDs!

 

#NoMoreStuff 2015 campaign wrap-up

Another year, another #NoMoreStuff campaign.

Our fourth “No More Stuff” campaign—which officially kicked off with “White Friday,” an alternative to Black Friday—ended today. We thank everyone who supported our efforts to save their family heirloom and family keepsake stories and avoid the urge to needlessly consume! Below are a few of the tweets from campaign supporters. We’ll be back next year to continue the effort. Until then, consider the importance of honoring the items you currently own instead of reflexively buying the latest junk you probably don’t really need or truly want.
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Now, on to The Herd for this month…

“The Hearth Herd” is a roundup (or “Herd”) of a few stories we’ve seen recently that we feel our fellow Houstorians would be interested in. The Herd’s content will generally focus on three things: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Environmental sustainability. If you see something that you think belongs in The Herd, we’d love to hear from you!

 

Family History

Author: Geoffrey Fowler, Wall Street Journal

Title: It’s Time to Record Our Grandparents’ History

Herd-Worthy Because: “A smartphone app from StoryCorps can bridge generations by turning anyone into a documentarian.” Man, this is getting too easy. The technology is there. It’s up to you to take a few minutes and do it.

 

Author: Vaughn Davis Bornet, History News Network

Title: This 98-Year-Old Historian’s Got Advice for You

Herd-Worthy Because: “History is largely comprised of anecdotal material. What difference does it make that you then wrote on cheap paper with an ordinary fountain pen or even a borrowed pencil.” In other words, just do it!

 

Author: Jennifer Sheehy Everett, BayStateParent

Title: 4 Ways to Discover and Preserve Your Family History

Herd-Worthy Because: “Knowledge of family history has been shown to reap surprising rewards for children. A 2001 study on the subject by Drs. Marshall P. Duke and Robyn Fivush of Emory University suggests that children who know more about their family narrative have higher self-esteem, a stronger sense of control over their lives, less anxiety, and fewer behavioral problems.” As an added bonus: researching family history is also lactose free and has that delicious taste all dogs love.

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Author: Amy Chavez, @JapanLite

Title: Taking a longer view in defense of clutter

Herd-Worthy Because: “When I walk into houses that are clean and tidy — those of people who have simplified, organized and decluttered — I see a house cleansed of memories and heritage.” Amen, Amy. Amen.

 

Let us know what you think. Do you like the Houstory Herd? Do you have a problem with something we said? Do you think we are full of beans? Do you like monkeys? Talk to us!

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Houstory Herd: A Magic Treehouse

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory President

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“All treehouses are sort of magic, don’t you think?”

I’m having pizza with Karen LaVerne, sitting in her treehouse, outside Bellingham, Wash., and I have to admit, lit up with candles on this beautiful fall night, a bit of a mist settling into the woods outside, this place feels very, very magical indeed.

“This place has that feeling for me,” Karen continues. “Pretty much everything in here has a story, has some meaning.”

And though I’d just come to have dinner and catch up with my friend, I knew it was time to put on my home historian hat and get out my notebook. Because, like all homes, it occurred to me that every tree house also has a story. And this one sounded like it would be a good one.

Karen tells me that she and her husband Peter moved into their main home in 1992. That home — which has its own impressive history — sits on about 5 acres, most of which is heavily wooded. There are only a few paths disturbing the natural setting, which includes soaring old growth maple and cedar trees.

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Peter, she said, loved these woods. He was a horticulturist for the county park department for several decades. Part of his legacy, I learn, is being the primary force in creating a popular fragrance garden in my hometown of Ferndale, Wash., which has always been one of my favorite spots

Peter, Karen tells me, had promised their grandson Dane that he’d build him a treehouse amongst the trees and plants he loved so much. In fact, he’d just started putting the plans together when he was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. He died about four months later in January 2011.

Time passed as Karen and her family adjusted to their new life. After several months, she said, talk about the treehouse came up again.

Dane, she said, assumed the treehouse plans had come to end with Peter’s death.

“I heard that,” Karen said, “and asked myself ‘What’s a grandma to do?’”

Still working through the sudden loss of her husband, she said something told her she needed to move forward and finish Peter’s vision.

And so she told her grandson the treehouse plans were a go and hired a carpenter.

“I gave him pretty much free reign. He was creative and having fun. But it was pretty rudimentary, like most treehouses.”

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The front porch view. The porch railings were repurposed from a teepee Peter had built on the property.

That would soon change.

The first thing was that I wanted some doors and paint, she said. And then Dane came up and asked for rugs and curtains.

“He’s a city boy,” she laughed.

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When it became clear this was going to be something more than a kid’s tree fort, she hired a second carpenter and friend, Rebecca Meloy – who was also an artist – to take on the project and add the features she and Dane were looking for.

Rebecca, she said, saw the treehouse’s potential from the beginning.

“She loved this place. She loved the setting and the idea. I gave her creative license and she ran with it, adding flourishes here and there, and really turning this into the magical place that it is.”

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Part of Rebecca’s vision was incorporating Peter’s presence.

“This is definitely Peter’s treehouse,” Karen said. “He was a packrat.”

Karen said her husband would pick up odd pieces here and there and set them aside, storing much of it in their basement.

“It (the basement) was a mess,” Karen said. “But on some level he knew what he was doing, because pretty much everything in the treehouse came out of that basement – and fit perfect.”

In addition to incorporating many of Peter’s finds into the treehouse, Rebecca added one big thing.

“Rebecca told me one day, I’m going to make you a bedroom.”

“And that was it!” Karen said.

Adding a small separate sleeping area, she said, made this more than just a playhouse to spend a few hours — it made it a magic home in the woods, a real place to entertain occasional guests and to live with the trees and plants and animals in the forest.

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The sleeping area

 

Karen frequently spends the night in the house during the summer listening to the wind and the birds, sometimes the rain.

The back of the treehouse incorporates some old mirrors that Peter had collected to create a floating effect.

The back of the treehouse incorporates some old mirrors that Peter had collected create a floating effect

She says she’s never alone. And not just because she is usually accompanied by her beloved dogs, who are still learning to navigate the open stairs leading up to the treehouse.

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Karen and her Corgi companions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I love this place. And Peter loves this place.”

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Now, on to The Herd for this month…

What is “The Hearth Herd.” It’s simply a roundup (or “Herd”) of a few stories we’ve seen recently that we feel our fellow Houstorians would be interested in. The Herd’s content will generally focus on three things: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Environmental sustainability. If you see something that you think belongs in The Herd, we’d love to hear from you!

 

Family History

Author: WBUR, Boston Public Radio

Title: “This Thanksgiving, Listen To (And Interview) Your Elders”

Herd-Worthy Because: Yes! Yes! Yes! We’ve been urging folks for a couple years now to use Thanksgiving (or any family gathering — but we love Thanksgiving!) to walk around the house with older family members and have them tell you the stories of a couple important things to ensure their stories aren’t lost. (In fact, we’ve created a simple form you can download that helps you do just that and makes it easy to later enter that information into The Heirloom Registry if you are so inclined.) The folks at NPR’s Story Corp would have you do much the same thing — they’re just asking that you take a recording device with you. A great idea, if we do say so ourselves!

 

Family Heirlooms

Author: Kara Baskin, Boston Globe

TitleCan Heirlooms Really Fit Into Your Decor?”

Herd-Worthy Because: Heirlooms are special — different from a piece of furniture you just picked up from Ikea — because they have a history. But that “specialness,” this article notes, can often bring with it interesting, sometimes difficult, emotional and practical issues as one tries to incorporate heirlooms with a past into a present-day life.

 

house history

Author: Keri Sanders, HGTV.com

Title: “Restored! Nicole’s Best Historic Home Saves

Herd-Worthy Because: No surprise, but we’re big fans of HGTV’s Nicole Curtis, host of the TV show “Rehab Addict.” Nicole is passionate about honoring a home’s past and telling its stories as she brings properties back to life. It is simply part of her DNA. Here’s a fun before/after photo slideshow showing some of her favorite projects.

 

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Houstory Herd: Our Podcast Schedule

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

So we’ve been getting a few questions regarding our podcast. Specifically, how often episodes will be produced and when they will be released.

We are planning on coming out with new episodes about once every three months (quarterly). The next episode is scheduled for early-mid September 2015. On a related note, we are happy that we’ve gotten good reviews so far, and really do appreciate the kind words! If you like what you hear and you have a spare moment, would you mind giving us a good review on iTunes

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And please, let us know if you have a family heirloom or house with a story. Or maybe you know someone else with these types of stories? We’d love to chat with you (or them) on our podcast. Your words may inspire others to save the stories that are so important to family history.

P.S.: Good news! There is still time to enter our multiple contests (if you are reading this before June 1, 2015). For more details on how to win, visit last month’s Herd.

 

 

archive family photos, family curator, houstory, family tree magazine

Now, on to The Herd for this month…

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Houstory Herd: We Want HouStories

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

Do you own a family heirloom with an interesting story? Do you live in a house that has a compelling history? Would you like to share these tales and other related HouStories with others?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, we need to talk.

We’d appreciate the opportunity to connect with you about the possibility of making your story a part of our new podcast. In case you didn’t hear, episode 1 of the podcast was unveiled a few weeks ago, and No. 2 is on the way shortly. In the meantime, we want to line up some good stories for future episodes.

Why should you do this? Your story can help inspire other Houstorians to preserve and share their own houstories. I can’t tell you how many times I hear our customers and supporters say: “Boy, that is a great idea. I should document and share the stories behind my house and family heirlooms.”

And then they put it off, forget about it and wish they had done so later. Your words may help others to take a few precious moments to save those stories.

Drop us a line to talk about that old Craftsman home that your mom and dad bought during the Depression, or chat about Uncle Theo’s rocking chair or Grandma Patty’s quilt. Shoot us an e-mail at info (at) houstory (dot) com, or hit us up at our Facebook, Google+ (Home History Book & Heirloom Registry) or Twitter accounts. We hope to hear from some of you.

Now, on to The Herd for this month…

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Houstory Herd: Cabin Fever Edition

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

It’s hard not to feel bad for our U.S. eastern seaboard readers, who are currently buried under piles of snow, enduring frigid temperatures and likely experiencing cranky moods — and perhaps at touch of cabin fever. I grew up in Alaska, so I can relate.

I still remember the sun coming up around 10 a.m, and sinking below the frozen horizon just a short five to six hours later during the dead of winter in Anchorage. And of course we had snow. In fact, this state of affairs — which started in late October and continued well into April, sometimes later — literally made people want to kill themselves.

Hopefully, you’re not quite at that point yet. Rather, I hope you’re taking advantage of your cabin fever to work on family history projects. Here’s an idea: Take some time to document your family heirlooms. And do you have kids? Then take time to properly designate who gets what when you are no longer around.

You might as well be productive with all that extra energy, don’t you think? If it makes you feel any better, I had to wear a light jacket because it was only 61 degrees today in Oregon at the beach. Brrrr!!!

What is “The Hearth Herd.” It’s simply a roundup (hence the name “Herd”) of a few stories we’ve seen recently that we feel our fellow Houstorians would be interested in. The Herd’s content will be confined to three main categories: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Natural Resource Conservation. Basically, the things you’ve come to expect when you visit our blog.

This is where you come in: If you see stories you think would make our monthly collection, please shoot me an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet

Author: Nicole Anzia, Special to The Washington Post & DelawareOnline.com

TitleHow seniors and families can cut the clutter

Herd-Worthy Because: “We have all picked up an old black-and-white photo at some point and been unable to identify the people staring back at us. We’re left wishing we had asked someone who knew when we had the chance. The same goes for that piece of artwork, jewelry or furniture. Learning the history of items makes it easier to decide whether to keep or discard them.” Yep. And keep those stories attached to the heirlooms by labeling them and registering them online.

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Author:

TitleL.B. Antiques sells quality pieces with interesting back stories

Herd-Worthy Because: “Many times the back story adds more value because people love hearing about the how and when the antique was used throughout history.” If you live in Minnesota, give them a visit. I know we will. Right after we visit Matt’s Bar for a “Juicy Lucy.” Ever had one? Genius baby! Genius!

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Author: Curbed, by Jenny Xie

TitleStudents Scraped Together a Small, Functional House for $489

Herd-Worthy Because: “Everything we used was on its way to the landfill…” Inspiring on multiple levels. Whether it’s re-purposing your unused family heirlooms or unused lumber in the garage, I challenge you to look around your own house, and imagine how these items can be utilized in a creative and useful way.

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Until we “Herd” again…

Introducing ‘Houstories’ Podcast

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

When was the last time you poured yourself a nice beverage, settled into a comfortable chair, turned off all the lights, closed your eyes … and turned on the radio? There is something truly powerful and wonderful about this oft overlooked medium of yesteryear.

houstories, podcast, house history, family heirloom

Mike (top) and Dan: The Houstory Brothers. Family heirlooms, historic houses, family history and structured goofyness.

In many ways, radio broadcasts free us of the boundaries that television and more visual mediums inherently create. Much like reading books devoid of pictures and art, radio allows us to use our imagination. When you listen to a ballgame, you can imagine what the player looks like when they slide into second base. Or when you tune into a radio mystery, it’s your choice whether the murderer has a mustache or not, or is dark-haired or bald.

Imagination is truly freedom to create entire worlds.

Today, Houstory is proud to introduce the first episode of “Houstories: The Stories of Home” podcast (SEE BELOW TO PLAY FROM ON-PAGE PLAYER). For those of you who don’t know what a podcast is, I think the easiest explanation is this: radio played over your computer (as opposed to, well, your radio). Have a topic you are interested in? There is most likely a podcast about it — including ours.

A description of our podcast: “Ever noticed a house and wondered what it would say if its walls could talk? Been in an antique store and tried to imagine where the object had been previously? This podcast is for you and the voices in your head. Brothers Mike and Dan, founders of Houstory and maker of The Heirloom Registry and The Home History Book, are your hosts. Family heirlooms, historic houses, family history and structured goofyness.”

You can listen below.

For a quick tutorial on what podcasts are and how to access them, check out this video (done by Ira Glass for the incredibly popular “Serial” podcast) for a little more information. It’s kind of awesome.

We are very proud of this effort. However, like any new endeavor, it may take a few episodes to get out the kinks and find our “voice.” Rest assured, we will. I hope you take a few minutes to give it a shot, and then to let us know what you think.

Keep in mind we can only improve with your feedback.

PODCAST CHAPTERS

1:41 – 13:06: Dan interviews Mike about the origins of The Heirloom Registry and The Home History Book archival journal, as well as the podcast format.

13:06-30:47: Gamwell House Feature

30:55-37:18: 5 Questions with Thomas MacEntee

In case you have a fever and the only prescription is more Gamwell House information, scroll to the bottom of the page for 20 more minutes of bonus audio on this beautiful historic home.

Finally, a favor or three:

1) If you like our podcast, please share the link of this Web page with your friends and sign up to subscribe to Houstories by simply adding your e-mail address next to the podcast feed logo (see below for what it looks like) on the sidebar of this blog. 

podcast, houstories

2) Leave us a comment. We need to hear from you if we are going to continue this effort, so speak up Houstory Nation!

3) If you like what you hear, give us a good review on iTunes

Thanks, and hope you enjoy!

Gamwell House, house history, Bellingham, Washington

Gamwell House front door

BONUS: Gamwell House Audio. 

 

Houstory Herd: Death and Tea Edition

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

dan hiestand, houstory, heirloom registry, home history book

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

Have you ever sat down with a small group of people — strangers, actually — over a warm cup of tea and a slice of delicious cake, and talked about death?

Well, after last week, I can check this off my (kick the) bucket list. I attended my first “Death Cafe,” a worldwide “social franchise” movement that started several years ago. The group I participated in included about 30 people who were there to talk about anything and everything that had to do with death and dying. As someone representing The Heirloom Registry, one topic included family inheritance — an important part of the death process.

dementia, houstory

Source: The New York Times

A future blog post will be dedicated to this important movement, which is very much in line with what Houstory stands for: planning for the future and protecting your family by preparing for the inevitable now.

During my Cafe experience, I was part of a smaller, four-person breakout group that talked about death for more than an hour — specifically on advanced directives and end-of-life medical decisions. We actually had to pause the roundtable just as we were getting started, but it initiated a very healthy conversation.

In fact, earlier today, one participant of the group (a stranger no more) e-mailed me this recent New York Times story that discussed the complexities of having dementia and facing end of life decisions. The common theme to all of this: plan for your “finish line” scenario now. After all, death is always toughest on those who are left behind.

Check out the Death Cafe Web site to find out about groups near you.

Now, on to The Herd….

What is “The Hearth Herd.” It’s simply a roundup (hence the name “Herd”) of a few stories we’ve seen recently that we feel our fellow Houstorians would be interested in. The Herd’s content will be confined to three main categories: 1) House and property history; 2) Family heirlooms; 3) Natural Resource Conservation. Basically, the things you’ve come to expect when you visit our blog.

This is where you come in: If you see stories you think would make our monthly collection, please shoot me an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet

Author: Marla Jo Fisher, Orange County Register

TitleGrandpa’s old radio leads to intriguing questions about family history

Herd-Worthy BecauseAfter my grandparents passed away, my other relatives went through their tiny clapboard house like a pack of ravening wolves, taking everything of value. But they ignored the radio, probably sensing it was nearly worthless.”

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Author: Matt Gurney, National Post

TitleMatt Gurney: A solution to the hard cull of family heirlooms

Herd-Worthy Because: “(The solution) struck me as a thoroughly 21st century solution to the problem; effectively, you outsource the emotional impact to someone who won’t feel it the same way that you would.

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Author: Catherine E. Shoichet, MarketWatch

Title1795 time capsule opened, centuries after Revere and Adams buried it

Herd-Worthy BecauseMore than 200 years after Samuel Adams and Paul Revere first buried it in Boston, it took an hour to remove all the objects crammed inside a tiny time capsule.

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Author: Anna Rumer, Times Recorder

TitlePair preserving history one memory at a time

Herd-Worthy Because: “Sometimes, however, because of their size or location, smaller pieces of history can be overlooked. But people such as Nancy Ranck and Mary Flanagan are refusing to let those things pass them by…”

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House History

Author: Megan Turchey, Times Recorder

Title3D Laser Technology Recreates Historic Homes

Herd-Worthy BecauseThe Paul Revere House in the North End has already used their 3D model to do renovations on the house, keeping it as authentic as possible.

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Author: Justine Hofherr, Boston.com

TitleStaff Book Picks: What Makes a House a Home?

Herd-Worthy Because: “Some of our choices are practical – about construction or decoration. Others are non-fiction narratives about building or creating a home. And we threw in a few fiction stories in which characters struggle with their own ideas of home.”

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Until we “Herd” again…