Susan Marie Molloy

Life in the Oasis


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Today is So Long Ago

Last night became a time to think about time.

While straightening up the house and closing the shutters for the night, I passed by our Christmas tree. This glass ornament caught my eye:I received it from one of my 6th grade students, and it was so long ago, I had to whip out my abacus and figure out how old he must be by now.

Twenty-eight. Twenty-eight years old.

That really took me aback. And if you look in the picture, you might see a red candle ornament (yes, right there to the right of the snowman) my Ma made about thirty-three years ago. So long ago.

It was only a couple of years ago I was learning to play piano, and got this music book:

The day after Thanksgiving, my parents put this cheesy Santa Claus and his reindeer on the knickknack shelf in the kitchen:


Last week, every lady had glittery plastic corsages on her coat:


On December 6th, each one of us kids put one of these plastic managers on our dressers:
Yesterday, my grandparents put their tulle tree on their coffee table:


Today will someday become “so long ago—

©Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.

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Date Night: The Baker House

This is a nice time of year to tour old and historical houses. My beau and I like to visit such places, and looking back on my journals, it seems that many of these places we visited were around the Holidays.

Last Saturday night, we did it again.

After a little early supper, and the evening clear with the temperature around 65*F, we drove down the two-lane road apiece (I’m feeling so pastoral as I write this).  We passed ancient oaks heavily laden with brown Spanish moss, glimpsed a few spindly palms, and a flock of black birds scattered as we navigated a curve. Several miles later, The Baker House appeared in the twilight:

As we walk up to the house, watch your step; the sandy path and grass are a little uneven.  Here’s a little background in the meantime—

David Hume Baker was born in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky on October 7, 1841. He served in the Civil War in the 12th Kentucky Calvary (Union). He served as a State Senator in Kentucky. His wife was Mary Hannah Matthis.

Baker and his family moved to Sumter County, Florida, where he built this two-story house in the late 1880s on 1,200 acres, grew oranges, and served as a Florida State Senator.   David H. and Mary Baker are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The house still has its original wood floors, original window sashes, original decorative door hinges, original plaster walls in the library and parlor, and a veranda and balcony that wrap around the building:

Baker House Balcony

The kitchen is in a separate building next to the main house. In those days, kitchens were typically built as a separate unit in case of fires, which threatened the main houses. Here, the kitchen has a dining room, three pantries, a bath, and two upstairs bedrooms. The family lived in this building until the main house was completed, and at one time there was a covered walkway between the two buildings.  Here we see the kitchen on the left in this photograph:

As we walk into the house, the foyer welcomes us:

The Baker House has on its main floor, the foyer, a parlor, living room, and library. Folding glass doors separate the rooms:

The single fireplace in the living room is the only source of heat, even to this day:

To help move heat to the other rooms, small ducts carried the heat throughout the house. In the months when the fireplace isn’t used, these ducts are covered with the original decorative caps:

Walking upstairs on narrow risers and holding onto a thick, hand carved railing, we saw the stained glass window on the landing. Although most of the glass is original, some needed to be replaced over the years. The stained glass colors represent the four seasons: green for spring, amber for summer, red for autumn, and violet for winter. The clear and blue glass are the replacement glass, since some of the original colors were no longer available at restoration:

Once upstairs, we found four bedrooms, and a bath that was added in 1926, and updated in the 1950s with paneling. As part of the renovation, the bath will be restored to its original 1920s style.

There is an open attic, not available for tours. (All the more I want to see it!) At one time there was a ladder in the attic that took you up to the cupola, which at some point was removed.

The windows were installed with the idea of cross breezes and air movement to help keep the house cool.  As the house is being restored, workers and volunteers are discovering some things that were hidden for years, such as the red painted window sashes. What you see now is the original red; red paint was inexpensive, and now I think it’s quite fashionable:

Some of the articles on display are original to the house, some are donations from kind-hearted people who want to help preserve history.  This brown and black dress was donated by a lady who wanted it kept and preserved, and not tossed in the Goodwill box because none of her relatives wanted it. Despite its age, this dress is in pristine condition:

A little girl’s white ruffled dress is displayed on a bedroom door:

A wedding dress hangs in a bedroom closet:I didn’t see any men’s period clothing on display.

The master bedroom has a huge closet.  See how the plaster needs a lot of work:

We were able to see a closet in one of the other bedrooms. That closet was about five feet wide and maybe 18 inches deep. There were only hooks on the back wall. I forgot to take a photograph.

There is a lot of plaster work still to be done:

We were lucky to meet a couple of Baker descendants that night: Mrs. Carolyn Baker Moore, a great-granddaughter of David H. Baker, and her daughter, Barbara. Carolyn was born upstairs in one of the bedrooms:

We spoke at length with Barbara and learned a few family stories about her grandmother and her cane – it was how she keep the kids in line. Those types of stories, we believe, are plentiful and worth writing down to keep the soul and historical feel with the house.

Six generations of the Baker family lived in this house. In 2012, the family donated the house and land to the Wildwood Area Historical Association, which is working on the restoration of the house.

During the year, there are events you can attend and participate in. Money is needed to help restore the house and preserve it.

Currently, there are tours during this 2017 Christmas Holiday season:

Baker House
6106 Co Rd 44A
Wildwood, FL 34785

December 3 — 6:00 p.m.
December 9, 10, 16, & 17 — 10:00 a.m.
December 19 — 6:00 p.m.
December 29 — 6:00 p.m.
December 30 — 10:00 a.m.

Tickets are $10.00 per person, no reservations are needed, and proceeds benefit The Baker House’s restoration. They also could use some volunteer help.

More information can be found at:  The Baker House Project

There is so much more to this story, and needs to be written.  I’m thinking— 

©Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.


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Soup: Good for Memories

It’s that time of year again: Jackets, sweaters, long pants, and soup.

During the cold months, soup is one of the seasonal foods I make. Sure, occasionally I’ll make cold gazpacho or cucumber soup in the summer, but soup-making is a fall and winter kitchen pursuit for me. Give me czarnina (a Polish duck soup) or Dad’s oxtail soup on a chilly November day!

I grew up on the northwest side of Chicago in a time where, if Mom and Dad weren’t from the Old Country, at least Grandma and Grandpa were. It was from these generations that I learned how to cook and bake, and today I cherish the originals and copies of old family recipes.

Then there’s Pope’s cookbook from Antoinette Pope’s Cooking School in Chicago. Generally, it was the cooking bible in my family for anything outside of our Polish cuisine heritage. I wrote about it last year in “The Cook Book.”

Enough of the reminiscing; let’s get back to now.

Last weekend, I bought a large bone-in ham. I sliced and froze enough of the meat for sandwiches and ham salad. What was left were the bone and portions that aren’t good for much of anything but split pea soup. It turned out good, except I didn’t add enough split peas to make the soup a rich green. I misjudged. Nonetheless, it tasted good.

One of the best things I like on days I make soup, or bake cookies or bread from scratch (is there any other way?), is the way the house smells with all the sweet and savory aromas and herb fragrances that bring my thoughts back to childhood, when my parents made all those wonderful foods we kids grew up on.

Good times. Good food. Fabulous memories.

“From Pot to Bowl”

To make this soup:

Ingredients
Ham bone, with some meat left on
1 bay leaf
1 cup ham, cut into small cubes
1/2 bag split peas, rinsed and soaked overnight in warm water
2 carrots, washed and cut into cubes
6 peppercorns
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
Flour, about 1 or 2 Tablespoons
3 Tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In large pot, place ham bone, add bay leaf, and cover with cold water. Simmer 1-1/2 hours. Skim off any scum that forms on top.
2. Remove from heat and place in refrigerator overnight.
3. The next day — Skim off fat that formed on soup’s surface and remove ham bone. Strain broth to remove any pieces of fat, unwanted bone, and bay leaf. Return broth to washed, clean pot.
4. Place on stove over low flame. Add split peas, carrots, peppercorns; simmer 1 hour, or until peas are soft and carrots are cooked.
5. Make roux:
In separate saucepan, melt butter. Add onions; sauté until clear and tender. Turn off flame. Add flour to make roux, adding a little of the soup broth to make a smooth paste. Add to soup.
6. Add ham cubes; heat through.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.


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Remembering and Honoring

Every year on November 11, in grade school, I remember that class would stop at 11:11 o’clock.  Sister Myra, our school principal, announced on the public speakers that it was Armistice Day (later on announced as Veterans Day), and Taps would play. We sat in our seats with our hands folded in prayer, and when Taps was finished, we sat still and quiet for about another minute, then we all got up and said an Our Father, three Hail Marys, and a Glory Be. Class resumed for a little while, Teacher would remind us what the day meant, then it was lunchtime, and the day continued—

Today being Veterans Day, was once known as Armistice Day, has been commemorated every year on November 11 since 1918. The day originally marked the armistice between the allies of World War I and Germany, which became effective at eleven o’clock on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.

Today we honor all our military veterans, whether alive, missing, or gone.©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.


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Pushing It

I am just old enough to remember when Christmas decorations in the stores went up the day after Thanksgiving, which was the same day Christmas carols started playing on the radio, and families in the old neighborhood put up their outside decorations, come mild or bitter cold breezes off Lake Michigan. In fact, it was a treat to go Downtown to see what Marshall Field’s window themes were for any given year, but you couldn’t do that until after Thanksgiving.

Slowly, decorations and the not-so-subtle hinting at great store bargains began creeping up before Thanksgiving, and so much so that well, nowadays you can stick your head into any one of several ginormous arts-crafts-sewing stores, and yes, The Decorations are up and serenaded by Eartha Kitt belting out “Santa Baby.” In July. Or – gasp! – June.

My Ma told me that when she was growing up, nobody put up decorations – including at home – until Christmas Eve. If you watch old movies (like I do), you might see the same craziness in any given Holiday-themed movie. I could be mistaken, but Barbara Stanwyck didn’t put up her tree until Christmas Eve in the 1945 movie, “Christmas in Connecticut.” And if I remember my history right, it was Franklin Delano Roosevelt who got the ol’ ball rolling with asking stores to start their Christmas season right after Thanksgiving. It was to get the draggy Great Depression economy rolling again, you know.

I’m not blaming anyone for the whole moving-Christmas-up-and-up-and-up. It’s just that it would be so nice to have that spirit, that goodwill feeling, that feeling of brotherhood and love all year ‘round, or at least during the six months’ time those decorations are up and Der Bingle starts dreaming of his ”White Christmas.”  People have become so numb and zombie-like with every holiday, in fact.

I read a tract somewhere wherein a priest wrote that in the anticipation of a baby’s birth, the joy of it coming didn’t end on the day it was born. In fact, the greater joy came on its birth day, and continued well past that day, throughout the years. Conversely, with Christmas, people have all this joy and merry-making for Jesus’ birth (if that’s how they observe the holy day), but it fizzles out the day after Christmas. I found that interesting, and it makes sense.  But it doesn’t.   What has Christmas become? You and I know that answer.

Still, I’d like that total societal feeling of consideration, love, and cordialness year ‘round, but maybe that’s too “Pollyanna,” and I’ve become jaded.

But it is worth a try. Isn’t it?

What I saw this past week:

“From the newspaper and around town.”

©2017 Susan Marie Molloy and all works within.