Craft Junkie: Thrum Mittens

“Thrum Mittens”


Are you already saying… what are thrums? Well, so did I when I first picked up a pair of squishy mittens in a Vermont knitting store last fall. As I stood there puzzled, the owner walked over and began explaining to me what they were, and told me to put my hand inside. I was hooked immediately! No sooner than I left the store, I googled “thrum mittens” and added them to my bucket lists of items to knit.


Thrum Mittens

Later that day I stopped at Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, and bought a couple hanks of a “Nancy Drew” blue wool… not knowing what I was even going to make with it at the moment, but I didn’t want to leave without buying wool from this awesome little shop. It had quickly become so crowded with woman buying wool for sweaters and such, that I didn’t want to leave empty handed; it seemed to be quite the local popular spot! I’m definitely going back there for more of this “mountain mohair” I purchased and take a tour of their spinnery… and eat at the well-known Curtis’ Barbeque eatery, just across the way. It had closed for the winter when we were there… and I was so disappointed, but gives me another chance to return… for BBQ and more wool!

image 0

Mixed color rove from Etsy shop of The Fiber Queen


Yarn I used for my gloves

Thrum’s are short lengths of waste yarn leftover from weaving looms… small wisps of unspun fleece, often referred to as roving. The thrums are knitted into mittens, socks and slippers to make the insides all squishy and fuzzy, and super warm. This specific way of knitting is most associated with Canada’s Province of Newfoundland and Labrador… specifically very cold areas, where much warmth is needed when venturing outside. This type of knitting process has been around for over two hundred years… and I’m just hearing of it!


First row of thrums peeking out… reminds me of Troll Dolls!

The thrums are knitted along with the wool as a single stitch, leaving the hanging thrums inside the mitten to provide a warmth of insulation. Today, the thrums used are often called roving… unspun sheep’s wool. As you knit, you incorporate small wisps along with your wool, and you’ll soon see your mitten poofing up… filling with thrums inside. The unspun wool roving on the inside will eventually felt against the wool to form a cushioned warmth inside your mitten.

There are several free thrum mitten patterns on the internet, but I purchased my pattern off Ravelry from a girl in my knitting group… a link to her pattern “Thrum Away Mitten”  is HERE. I suggest making a practice square first to get a feel of knitting with the thrums and the correct size of the roving wisps needed. My first mitten came too poofy, so I ended up ripping it out and started over; I so hate frogging something that I spent hours on knitting. But I have to consider that a learning lesson and I think the second pair I was on track with, and had a better feel for making the correct thickness of “wispy” for the thrum. Check YouTube on the making of thrums… I found it helped after watching several videos to wrap my head around the process.

I have a few suggestions in following patterns that are not necessarily written line by line for your size, as this pattern is. I always miss something and then I’m mumbling while frogging. Read through the entire pattern, so you know exactly where you begin knitting the thumb and starting your decreases… I often make notations on my pattern to remind me where to begin or stop for certain changes. If you went through my printed patterns, you’d easily see by my writings as to how many rows I knitted… from all the chicken scratchings on the side. I tried using a finger counter, but found I often lost track of the counts when I took it off… so I’m back to pencil and paper in keeping up with rows… even though it probably does slow me down a bit!


Stitches marked on seperate thread for “afterthought thumb”

This specific pattern uses an “afterthought” thumb, and a trick I used was to place a stitch counter on the first stitch I made using separate yarn and another stitch counter on the last stitch in the thumb area; you’ll thank me later! On my first mitten I used double-pointed needles (dpn), as written in the pattern, but I happened upon a magic loop tutorial by Knitpicks on YouTube for an afterthought thumb… and worked out much easier for me, as I had already knitted my mitten using magic loop from the beginning! I don’t know about you, but I’m always changing up a pattern to better work for me.


I created personal “mini Love thrums” for my granddaughters in Florida…  they definitely don’t need warm mittens! I didn’t want them left out on being able to feel the softness of the squishy roving so I came up with this idea, and hope they’ll think of me every time they feel the softness inside. It’s their personal little love pocket from their GiGi!

As I began thinking of what I’ll knit next when I’m through, or tired of, knitting thrum mittens, I googled and discovered that some also have knitted thrum socks and even slippers… I foresee another visit to the yarn shop in Putney, Vermont! And in not wanting to be left out, I have a garnet crimson red coming my way for my personal pair of Thrum Mittens… bring on the cold… I’ll be ready to stay warm!


A peek inside the mitten… the more you wear, these rovings will felt with the wool and form a super warm interior!

If you’ve knitted thrum mittens or want to give them a try, do drop me a message as I’d love to hear how your mittens came… and if you need help, feel free to contact me.

Happy Knitting!


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© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Stories: Halloween in Connecticut

Halloween in Connecticut

halloween gates

While reading through the blog of Heather Wilkinson Rojo on haunted sites in New Hampshire, it made me think of a few I’ve visited here in Connecticut. Halloween always gives us the want to visit these places and see for yourself if they really are haunted! I’ve written of a few I’ve visited, and a few that have me curious!

Midnight Mary:

Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed 25 October 2018), memorial page for Mary E Hart (16 Dec 1824–15 Oct 1872), Find A Grave Memorial no. 11149432, citing Evergreen Cemetery, New Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut, USA ; Maintained by Jan Franco

One of the closest “haunted” sites to me, that I’ve visited, is Midnight Mary’s (Mary E. Hart) gravesite at Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut. And No, I’ve never been brave enough to go there at midnight… but my daughter is braver and has visited several times at midnight… sure glad I didn’t know!

I braved a visit with hubby one Sunday afternoon, having no clue as to where her gravestone was even located… and while riding on the back east side of the cemetery, near Winthrop Avenue, I spotted the stone; a large pink granite stone which easily stands out.

The inscription on Midnight Mary’s gravestone

The People Shall Be Troubled At Midnight And Pass Away
At High Noon
Just From, And About To Renew
Her Daily Work In Her Full Strength Of
Body And Mind
Having Fallen Prostrate
Remained Unconscious Until She Died At Midnight
October 15 1872

Midnight Mary quite intrigued me afterward, and in all my googling, I never discovered any definite conclusions as to her true sad demise; there are many suggestions as how she died, of which all are very sad and scary to think about as you stand around her grave… especially at midnight!

Union Cemetery:

Image result for union cemetery easton ct


I have never been to Union Cemetery in Easton, CT., but my daughter has. I learned that when I went to see Ed & Loraine Warren speak at Lyman Hall. Loraine asked the audience who had been to Union Cemetery… and I saw a hand slowly next to me go up! I’ve been told if you can’t run fast… from the police, then don’t go as it’s patrolled after dark. So that leaves me out, even though I would enjoy going there… as I love a good ghost story. Union Cemetery is located next to the Easton Baptist Church, at the intersection of Routes 59 and 136.

This cemetery is mostly well known by the presence of the “white lady”. There are several photographs on the internet from those who claim to fame that they’ve seen her… even the famous ghost hunters, Ed and Lorraine Warren. The phantom “white lady” is usually so described as having long dark hair while wearing a nightgown and bonnet to match.

The legend of who she was and why she haunts the cemetery, and also along Route 59, is for several reasons. Some say she was buried in the cemetery after she died giving birth… and her spirit continues to search for her child. Other versions say she met her demise by being a victim of foul play. Whether she was murdered and her body thrown down a sinkhole, which is said to be behind the church, or she died by the hands of her husband in the 1940’s, as some say… many still sneak in the cemetery to try and catch a glimpse of a white lady flowing across the cemetery in the darkness of night.

Dudley Town:

I first heard of Dudley Town from my daughter when she was in college… seems she went there one night with friends… and had quite an eerie experience. While enroute, she had turned the radio down as everyone was sleeping, and just before she parked on a side road nearby, the radio blasted… suddenly waking everyone… while also shaking them up a bit! After getting their nerves in order, they began walking up the road toward the entrance in the woods… not long after they even began walking, ghostly images floated across the road. I don’t think they walked in that night!

Dudley Town is situated in one of Connecticut’s cursed areas… abandoned long after it was first settled in 1747. It is situated in a quiet area known as Cornwall… now only known to be abandoned, cursed, and no more. Now, whatever left of the homes and buildings in that area,  which are no more, has been engulfed by the forest… leaving only the shells of foundations; much harder to even recognize today by those who dare to venture in. I do know people who have walked in, and I’m told that once you reach a certain area and begin seeing the crumbling foundation shells, there is no noise, no birds flying, and very strange… you’re standing there in total dead silence! It’s now often referred to as the Dark Entry Forest! I would dare… but only in the light of day… and maybe only armed!

Gardner Lake, Salem, CT:

A family in 1895, deciding that they wanted to live on the other side of Gardner Lake,  in the dead of winter, packed and had their house moved. Things happened… seems there was an early morning thaw, and the ice broke… and the house sank. While they were able to retrieve many of their lighter items, they weren’t able to salvage the heavier ones, such as the heavy large upright piano. It’s often said now, that in the early hours of the morning, you might hear a tinkling of the ivories echoing across the lake. So who wants to go? Check out the link above, for more information and the tune that’s often heard. If you’re more brave… check out the lake yourself on a quiet early morning.

Photo from: Boston Public Library – Tichnor Brothers collection

I thought that once a lake freezes, they are quite safe, but who thinks to move your house across one? It must have been terribly sad to watch your home go under. It’s said that divers have actually seen this house sitting on the bottom on the lake.

My personal ghost haunting: Lizzie Gooch


The closest I’ve come to ghost contacts was while at my mom’s house in Georgia. It all began when I opened my newly bought book, Dahlonega Haunts, and turned to read the story on Lizzie Gooch. It gave me chills, scared my daughter in law to run into the other room, and left me wondering what Lizzie was trying to tell me. You can check out the story HERE!

Do let me hear your ghost stories…


If you’re up to a little ghost hunting this weekend, just follow this LINK…

Click for more … Family Stories

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved


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Weekend Weathervanes: The Lobster

Weekend Weathervanes

The Lobster

Now I know what to do with those photos – “thanks” to Heather Wilkinson Rojo at Nutfield Genealogy; she blogs Weekly Wednesday Weathervanes  in New Hampshire.  Please check out her page and enjoy the many unusual weathervane photos and often be entertained with a history lesson. It’s amazing at what you can encounter in your travels  – You Just Need To Look Up!


Well, what did I expect to find in Maine… other than a Lobster?



Located above the Rockland, Maine firehouse




Want to read more, click…. Weekend Weathervanes:

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Weekend Weathervanes: The Seahorse

Weekend Weathervanes

The Seahorse

Now I know what to do with those photos – “thanks” to Heather Wilkinson Rojo at Nutfield Genealogy; she blogs Weekly Wednesday Weathervanes  in New Hampshire.  Please check out her page and enjoy the many unusual weathervane photos and often be entertained with a history lesson. It’s amazing at what you can encounter in your travels  – You Just Need To Look Up!


Where else should I find a “seahorse” other than Florida?

While on vacation, we stopped at St. Augustine, Florida for the night… and on the way to dinner, my eye spotted this seahorse weathervane. I told hubby that on the way, I’d take a few photos of it, but isn’t it always the case… that you never remember where it was! It took a second ride-by to finally discover it again… on the top of a gazebo in a children’s playground. I was afraid they might call the cops on me, thinking I was trying to photograph their children, but they quickly looked at me and then turned back around… I guess I looked innocent enough!


Located on top of a gazebo at a children’s playground on RT 1A in St. Augustine, Florida


Want to read more, click…. Weekend Weathervanes:

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Stories: Uncle Jimmy and the Maine Potatoes

Family Stories

Uncle Jimmy and the Maine Potatoes CANVA pic

When I married into my husband’s family, I quickly learned that they weren’t all Italian, I had an ally in Uncle Jimmy (Donahue)… his last name clearly told me that he was very Irish! And like all Irish, they can tell a story… with him being no exception. Besides being a storyteller, Uncle Jimmy was a man who enjoyed life, loved to laugh, tell a joke, and always had something in his pockets to entertain any young child in the room… and adults! He was never without a piece of rope in his pocket, which always had a trick attached!

Uncle Jimmy was a master craftsman, turning wood into objects of amazement. Just ask anyone in the family, and they’ll begin pulling out all the many pieces they’ve acquired through the years. I remember the small sleighs he first made, and like a “gremlin“… they grew… almost every family had one! From the small sleigh, grew a work wagon, and later a covered wagon with carved horses and even leather bridles and harnesses that he himself cut from leather.

small sled

While Uncle Jimmy handled the wood part, he wasn’t a man who knew his way around a sewing machine… so I received a phone call one night asking for my help in designing the cloth covering for the covered wagons… which I gladly obliged to help with.

covered wagoncovered wagon front

Many of Jimmy’s creations were fashioned after pieces he remembered… the long wooden wagon on sled-runners he built from memory of wagons they used on the farm. I can only assume these wagons were used during the long winter snowy months when needed to haul timber back to the farm.


The sled was built from memory of the work sleds on the family farm in Maine. He cut and painted the horses, as well as designing and cutting all the leather harness gear.

Uncle Jimmy touched everyone with his creations… both family and friends. If he was a patron in your restaurant… he often brought gifts to his favorite waitresses. I still have a few of the wooden boomerangs he made for the girls at Outback Restaurant. He enjoyed making wooden puzzles of sorts, and always had a new one in his pocket to entertain and amaze you.

Uncle Jimmy’s famous puzzles and boomerang pins

One of Jimmy’s favorite foods was “potatoes“… and probably so because he was born in the potatoe county of Aroostook, Maine. He was born on Oct 21, 1924 in New Limerick, to parents Edward Robert (1896-1958) and Mary (Gover 1896-1962) Donahue. If you’ve ever been to the county of Aroostook, you have reached the tip of Maine… potato country… and almost in Canada. We recently took a trip up to Caribou to visit the area where my husband was once stationed, at Loring AFB… which officially closed in 1994.

Jimmy and Dad

Uncle Jimmy with father, Edward R. Donahue

Uncle Jimmy’s family moved a few times through the county of Aroostook, from Westfield to New Limerick, before settling in Houlton… as noted in the census. As a young boy, one of ten children, Jimmy spent much of his youth, along with his siblings working on the family farm. Besides the daily milking, the father farmed, and everyone grew potatoes, which seemed to be the mainstay of the area in which they lived.

family barn with sisterFix

Uncle Jimmy’s sister, Lenorma… I bet potatoes were in that barn!

When talking about working on the farm, he often told his daughter, Diane, that it was back-breaking work and very dirty. Before automation came into play, it was most definitely back-breaking in the field… as they dug the potatoes out by hand and filled barrel after barrel. I can’t even imagine how many pounds those barrels weighed!

Potatoes grow best in a cool environment and Maine supplied all the necessary ingredients for the tubor! Uncle Jimmy told his daughter how he and his siblings were given 3-week vacations in late September into October just for that reason… to help bring in the potato crops before frost/frozen grounds occurred and the snow began. Once snow arrived, all farming ceased until the spring thaw. Even if you didn’t grow potatoes, you helped your neighbors and all the kids worked on the farms.

My husband was only stationed at Loring, AFB for three months… the three coldest months… January thru March. When he arrived, snow was everywhere… all he saw on the sides of the road was SNOW…. fields and fields of snow! He was told that under all that snow was acres and acres of potato fields, but he saw no evidence of that until late March as he was leaving… he finally began seeing a few fence posts to signify where the fields began and ended, but still no fields!

Jimmy often talked about the snow, mentioning how high the snow was piled, even reaching the second story windows. But the snow never kept him and his siblings from school… they made snowshoes and climbed out those second-story windows to walk to school. My husband grew up with snow in CT., but never saw snow piles like in Maine. All the time he was stationed there, he never knew he was actually in the same area as where his uncle had grown up. Maine was the coldest place he’d ever experienced, especially after just coming from a warm base in Georgia. Maine was so extremely cold that the base had underground tunnels, making it easier to for the men to get around. It didn’t take him long to figure out that you never went anywhere without the fur parka issued to you, always take two cars when going out, and bring your car battery in every night. He and his friends quickly learned on the cold snowy night when they didn’t wear their parkas and only took one car… if a farmer hadn’t let them in after banging on his door in the middle of the night, they would have frozen to death. They learned quickly!

On our trip to Maine, we saw those fields and fields of potatoes as we drove from Houlton to Caribou. Trucks and tractors were busy working in the fields and all we saw was the constant cloud of dust as truck after truck rolled off those fields… full of potatoes… headed back to the barns… only to return again for another fill. I was amazed to see the vast fields and when we stopped at one of the barns, the smell of “russetts” greeted me in the air before I even looked in… piled high inside just waiting to be bagged.


I’ve never seen so many potatoes in one place! The barrels are what they used years ago… so much easier today with machinery!

Separating the potatoes from rocks and debris from the fields

We spent the night in Caribou at a B&B (which I’ll write about later) and I asked many questions about the potato industry; when I inquired if I could buy local potatoes I was told to stop at one of the many wooden sheds along Route 1, where bags of potatoes would be, with a can to leave my money in… all sold on the honor system! I had seen those houses and noticed that there was no one there… thinking they weren’t open.

All the potato stands are run on the “honor” system… prices are posted and you leave money! I left my 14.00 in the money slot!

On our return home, we stopped at a farm with a bigger stand, but still no one to take my money; prices were posted and there was a slot for the money. I shoved my $14.00 dollars in for a 50 pound bag while hubby mumbled… as he made room in our already “overcrowded” car. Isn’t there always room for just one more thing… even if it does weigh fifty pounds? I wasn’t leaving Maine without my potatoes!

bag in car

Hubby found room for my 50 pound bag of potatoes!!!

When I first came to Connecticut in 1971 as a new bride, I quickly learned that Uncle Jimmy went to Maine every year and brought everyone back potatoes. I thought that odd at first… well, until I tasted those potatoes. There is nothing better than fresh potatoes, freshly dug from the earth! That was Uncle Jimmy’s favorite thing to do… make his annual trip to visit family, help on his brother’s farm and bring potatoes back to the family in Connecticut. So every October, like clockwork, Jimmy packed up his van for that yearly trip to Maine… taking no one with him… he liked to travel alone! Once in awhile, he relented, taking his daughter when she was older, but he usually made the trip alone!

potato fields

Potato fields of Uncle Jimmy’s brother in Blaine, Maine

pot bags jimmy filled

Uncle Jimmy gave me these photos in 1991… telling me how he bagged the potatoes in the photograph and loaded them in his van… and that van was always packed full! The potatoes were from his brother farm in Blaine, Maine… and they were the best baked potatoes I’ve ever eaten! Uncle Jimmy hand-picked every potato that went in the bags he bagged… ensuring we all had the biggest potatoes!

This year I played “Uncle Jimmy”… bringing Maine potatoes home and sharing with everyone.

…And in the back of my mind… I saw that smile of his!

bags at stand


Want to read more, then click… Family Stories here and over Here.


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Nancy Drew: A Walk Down Memory Lane

Nancy Drew: A Walk Down Memory Lane

As published in  “The Sleuth“… The Nancy Drew Fanzine

NC Vivid Pic book and story

When memories were asked for in the “Nancy Drew Book Fans” Facebook group, I wrote a short story… then forgot about it until I recently opened my latest July/August 2018 Sleuth Fanzine.

As a young girl of age nine, I began reading Nancy Drew and begging my mother for the newest book on every shopping trip to K-Mart. I can still see all the books there in the far corner of the store where their book section was… me standing there for the longest in deciding which book would come home with me… and probably still there until Mama dragged me to the checkout. If only I could have seen into the future, I surely would have snapped photos to one day show myself those very books.

Me as Nancy Drew 1

I coveted my books… lining them up neatly on the bookshelf in my room on Smoak Avenue in Perry, Georgia; never wanting anyone to borrow. I remember being a little jealous of a cousin we visited often, as she always seemed to have more books than I did… and she didn’t like anyone to touch or borrow her books either. When we spent the weekend with the family, my eyes were always scanning the titles and wishing they were mine… wanting to hold and touch them. I’m sure I begged mama for a new book upon leaving as Nancy Drew was always on my mind.

I’ve always been partial to The Secret of the Old Clock… maybe because there were many antiques in our house and I knew that family heirlooms were treasured. When I discovered a copy again, I couldn’t wait to reread it… but on this read, it was the original version, not the revised of which I had only read as a young girl; I never knew there were two versions. Imagine all the just jacket books I could have gathered in the 60’s… I’m sure they were still hiding in attics at that time.

Most of my reading was done in the summer… school was out and what else was there to do in the summer than to lay on a quilt under the hot afternoon sun; just lying outside on grandmama’s quilt while reading and watching the clouds roll back by! If you’ve never laid out in the summer and watched the clouds… well you have surely missed out on a fun afternoon! But it’s never too late to give it a try!

As I fell back in love with Nancy again… now in retirement, I began wondering when and how did I outgrow Nancy… and where did all my books disappear to? I can only surmise that I let go of Nancy when we moved from Smoak Ave. to Hillcrest Ave. and music flowed into my life; Nancy quickly took a backseat to Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, Paul Revere and the Raiders and The Beatles. As I don’t remember packing my things to move, I can only surmise that since I wasn’t reading anymore, that “someone” made that decision as to what was coming… and what was going,… sniff, sniff; I can only hope they found a good home!

I’m sure my love of Nancy came from hearing my mother talk of how she had often read her… she was a big Nancy Drew reader in the late 1930’s. Mama grew up with Nancy, literally… as she was born in April of 1930… the very month and year Nancy Drew made her debut into the literary world!

My grandfather either couldn’t or wouldn’t buy her Nancy Drew books, but she had a friend in town who’s grandmother always bought her granddaughter the newest book… and her friend June never refused in letting her borrow them. My grandfather was a hard-working farmer and probably didn’t see those books as worthy when the money could be better spent on food. When I asked mama about the dust jackets, she said… “Oh I always took the jackets off when I borrowed, I didn’t want to damage them.” (She had no memories of paying any attention to the artwork on the dust jackets, she only wanted to read the stories inside.) Mama often read “Nancy” way into the night until finishing… the stories pull her into the teen’s detective life, keeping her intrigued until finishing; often returning it the next day for another one.

The school libraries, mama remembered,  weren’t carrying Nancy Drew in their libraries at that time, so unless you were lucky enough to be able to buy them, or have a generous friend like June, you only dreamed about the teen detective! Reading Nancy Drew gave my mother hopes and dreams of what she could be and do… and she wanted to be a detective just like Nancy! She and her best friend, Willie Mae, often talked about becoming detectives who could follow cheating husbands… not sure why or how that was thought of at a young age… maybe she’d read too many glamour detective magazines.

Often times today, I’ll call mama “Nancy Drew” because of all the stories she’s told me of her life on the farm and her daredevil events… and sometimes just because of being too nosey. She was quite the vivacious young girl, never backing down from anyone and inquisitive about anything and everything that came her way. She has been my source for many stories I’ve written on her life and I’ve written all about our conversations HERE.

I tried to encourage my daughter to read Nancy… but I fought a lost cause! Whenever I found the yellow spine books at tag sales, the ones I so loved and remembered… I’d quickly scoop them up, but the stories never grabbed her! I think she read one, The Secret of the Old Clock, as I found her name written inside. She told me later, that she just couldn’t get interested in the stories… but I don’t think she was a reader either… she was a Barbie girl! She eventually packed her books up and for years I often wondered what happened to them… hoping they were still somewhere in the basement. This past year, my husband came upstairs one afternoon with a box marked “Melissa’s books“… my heart skipped a beat and I quickly opened that box to discover them. I was so excited that you’d have thought I just won the lottery! They definitely were a prize to me, and I quickly added them to my collection.


Granddaughter Ella’s bookcase

Last year I began buying Nancy Drew’s for my oldest granddaughter Ella (age 7), who was just beginning to read… me so wanting her to grow up with Nancy Drew! In my searches, I found both the “yellow spines” and the newer “flashlights”… which were new to me, as I hadn’t known about them. I soon decided that the newer flashlight editions were better suited for her, as I was quickly falling back in love with my yellow spines and the art covers I so remembered… and didn’t want to part with them… again!

I quickly began re-building my collection back and adding more volumes than I even remembered; also now adding the artsy dust jacket early editions that I never even knew of… I am now so addicted to the early art covers! Being a blogger, I’ve blogged several posts on Nancy Drew as well as in April (2018) when I blogged daily on an A to Z blog challenge… “All About Nancy Drew.” I’ve also had such fun in joining the many Facebook groups on Nancy Drew (who knew), meeting up with other book fans, just like me, and learning more than I ever knew about our beloved sleuth!

Recently my daughter asked for a collection of Nancy Drew’s for her bookshelves, so I passed all her books to her, and adding in more, except for that very first one with her name written inside; I’ll just hold onto that one for now! She has two daughters, McKinley, and Grace whom I constantly talk to about Nancy Drew… hoping to spark an interest in them reading one day.

I love how they now have books like Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew and Nancy Crew “Clue Book” with a young Nancy solving mysteries at age eight… now engaging the girls to read about Nancy at their age.


In looking at my granddaughter Ella’s book library in her room, Nancy battles with so many authors for book space! At present, she’s interested in magic, and Harry Potter is being talked about… I’ll be sending her my copies. Whether she reads Nancy Drew or not, I know she enjoys the vintage “artsy” covers and maybe one day… she’ll read them and remember me, her crazy grandmother (GiGi) who still reads Nancy Drew!

And always when in a dilemma… think WWNDD!

…And if you don’t know what that stands for…  just google it!

magnificator ThanksForReadingClick for more … Nancy Drew stories or to read my A to Z: 2018 – All About Nancy Drew

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Stories: Gather Those Stories

Family Stories: Gather Those Stories…. plus more

I don’t live near my mother, so for many, many years I’ve called her daily… listening to her daily activities and in between, often hearing bits and pieces of stories. My mom is always full of stories, from her young years, way into her teenage years and beyond! I journaled many of those stories on a blog titled “Down on the Farm“… which is a work still in progress, as I catch up adding them online. Those phone calls led me to begin journaling our phone conversations, which I titled… Conversations with Mom, A few years ago, I began sharing them on my blog.


In talking to mama, almost daily or nightly, I often learned little tidbits that I had never heard before… and new blog posts came to light like “Just When I Thought I Knew it All.” While she only had a few details to share with me… I went in search of more information to piece the story together… of how it all happened. Even reconstructing a family recipe, which had never been recorded, led me to a story on Sweet Potato Cobbler.

When I first began researching the family history, my father and grandparents were no longer around to ask information of, or hear their stories… and I still have so many questions for them that have gone unanswered… like, how did both sets of grandparents meet? Often back then in rural communities, they met at church or local dances or even through family members. They didn’t travel far, so usually within 10 to 15 miles, they met their spouse. My grandparents grew up in the days of horse and buggy but soon moved into the early A and T models. Mama said for many years his old buggy sat in the barn, as well as the A and T model cars… but one day he finally sold them; she remembers him getting $15 dollars for one of the cars. Yikes! She and her brother used them as their playscape for years as the cars sat under the car shed! Unfortunately, I never had the chance to see them, but I did play under that car shed… the sandy floor was perfect for doodle-bugging!

In 2014 I joined a challenge to write 52 Ancestor Stories in 52 Weeks, began by Amy Johnson Crow … and currently still running. I only did it the first year, and while I’d love to again… it was a whirlwind year of every week, researching, writing, editing, editing again and finally publishing at weeks end. I think I lost that entire year of my life, but I ended up with 52 fabulous family stories which resulted in a continual blogging lifestyle. I do believe, that having a blog has tremendously helped me to continue my research and blog, and I have met some awesome bloggers, of which I’ve learned and grown from. If you’re interested in writing your family stories, I can’t encourage you enough to check out Amy’s site and jump in on this year’s challenge. It’s never too late to begin!

I had so many questions for my father after discovering that he had actually been at the bomb blasts at Bikini Atoll. While I’d heard from my mother that he jumped in radioactive water while in the Navy, which resulted in him losing his teeth at an early age… that’s all I’d heard, never enough to make me inquire. Hearing that never interested me enough as a young girl to inquire as to why was the water radioactive! Once I began researching Bikini Atoll, I was quickly pulled in… it was fascinating to know that my father was onboard the USS Blueridge while all three blasts took place. I can only imagine what he saw! If only he had told me!

If you are new to researching, I “strongly” suggest that you reach out to your grandparents and parents. If they aren’t available, are their siblings living? That’s who I turned to for much of my early information… my granddaddy Bryan’s siblings were all still living, so I called and wrote letters to them asking question after question. It was my great aunt who gave me the largest amount of info, maybe because after her mother died, she took over the running of the family household. Besides the information they offered, I also acquired new photographs, that might have been lost forever if I hadn’t begun my early searching. I’ll never forget the day when a letter arrived from Uncle Gordon Bryan (great-uncle), inside was a small photograph and a note… you should have this photograph. It was my grandfather with his brother and they were standing at a table chopping BBQ. If you knew my grandaddy, Paul Bryan, you knew how well known he was in the community and family for cooking BBQ. I had always wished for a photograph of him with something to do with BBQ… now I was doing the happy dance, as I finally had one.

paulbryan3blackwhite chopping bbq

Grandaddy Bryan with brother Clyde… doing what they loved best… chopping BBQ!

Many of the early names places were given to me incorrectly spelled, so that took much research in deciphering them, but they gave me the first places to start. In my case, I was pointed to the mountain town of Dahlonega, Georgia. Little did I know that… that this small gold mining community of Dahlonega was where my ancestors finally settled to live for hundreds of years, and many are still scattered all over Lumpkin County in the Blueridge Mountains.

As I had never heard of this town before, much less been there… but let me backtrack a bit. I had been there, as a young girl of probably 5 for a Bryan reunion! When I mentioned the town to my mother… she was like… “we all went up there once for a Bryan family reunion, even my parents (McKinley) came. I can still hear my father saying as we drove, “where are the cemeteries up here, I haven’t seen one yet.” And that was the first thing he asked when we finally arrived and was quickly told, “we don’t have a need for them.

Through my research, I soon discovered, that they seemed to have lived very long lives up there in those Blue Ridge Mountains. My 3rd great grandfather, Berrian Clark Bryan, lived there until the age of 99 years old… dying just a few months short of turning 100. I recently had a cousin, Ila Stargel Sewell Jones, born in Dahlonega, Georgia who passed away at the age of 114 years young! She also held the record of being the oldest living person in the state of Georgia and the 2nd oldest living person in the entire United States… only being the second by a few days. I had the honor of meeting Ila in the 1990’s and she was instrumental in helping me discover where my 3rd great grandfather’s log cabin stood; it is now long gone, we did find the area where it once stood, near Cane Creek… and also later discovered a few ghosts in Cane Creek Church.

ghostly insides 2

One of my ghostly images which was featured in the local Dahlonega Nugget newspaper!

It was through a letter written to Ila’s sister, as to how we met; discovery was through the family stories we both had submitted for the Lumpkin County, Georgia history book. Actually, Ila wrote me back, instead of her sister… and being the spunky woman she was, she said, “I’m writing you back as I know the most information on the Bryan’s.” You can read all about what she told me through the links highlighted above on her name. I treasured Ila’s letters as she told me all about the Civil War grandfather we both shared… her grandfather and my 3rd great-grandfather. I have preserved Ila’s letters in print and shared her actual hand-written letters back to her granddaughter.

Never overlook writing a letter to someone or even a letter to a local newspaper asking for information. A letter to the editor in Greensboro, Georgia gave me much general information about an area of which I was searching. A local woman wrote me much of her family history as well as the area, which helped me greatly to add to more stories.

If you aren’t a writer, pick up the phone and call… just be prepared with a list of questions and have paper and pencil nearby. Never call “cold turkey”… you need to be prepared to lead them with questions. Don’t call and lead with, “hey, tell me everything you know about the family.” That won’t result in very much information, as most often they are going to tell you, “I don’t really remember anything.” They really do remember, you just need to get them talking, then slowly ask questions about specific areas or people… and don’t try and do it all in one conversation… people often become bored with talking, but they will enjoy repeated phone calls on another day. If you aren’t good at scribbling notes and being able to later decipher those scribbles, then maybe record the conversation; always ask if they are ok with you recording them. If they are local, even better as you can visit in person… often they talk more easily one on one.

Through the years, I think I have written my mother’s entire life of stories, but every once in a while, she’ll surprise me with a new tidbit of info, and I’m like, “you’ve never told me that before”… and my brain quickly begins gathering enough info to create a story. If I hadn’t begun writing our conversations through the years I would have forgotten so many of the great pieces of her life and even mine. It’s also not just the stories I have now… I have insights into her daily activities, pattern changes, and just talk. It’s always fun to talk to mom, and it’s a way for me to know that she’s ok every night, and home safe in her house.

So gather your pencil and paper, write those letters, call those grandparents, or better still visit with them. Ask to see their photo albums… ask who’s in those pictures and pencil the names on the back, as often they might be the only ones who remember those faces. Ask if they have old family letters saved… and they might just be willing to share them. My mother broke my heart when she told me how her parents had saved all their correspondence for years in the family trunk…. but she later threw them all out after I begged for the stamps. Being a new stamp collector, I was only interested in the stamps! I still have all those stamps, but I missed the boat in the real value… those letters held all the family gossip! Mama saved a few letters and the V-Mail letters written from her brother Leroy McKinley, which I blogged on.

People wrote letters back then, back before the telephone became a feature in every home. Earlier on my grandfather’s farm, the only way to call the neighbors was the use of the farm bell. When someone rang that cast-iron bell, that stood on every farm… it signaled an emergency and the neighbors came. I am very lucky to have my granddaddy Edgar T. McKinley’s farm bell, which had been given to him by his father, Edgar Lawson McKinley. And the story was told that he had been given it by his father, Hugh Lawson McKinley…. and it had been brought to Georgia from their land in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Now if only that bell could talk!

Granddaddy McKinley’s farm bell in my yard!

After you’ve gathered as much information through the family… you are now ready to begin searching online, visiting courthouses, the old family home and the land, family cemeteries… so much fun visiting the older cemeteries. Even my husband doesn’t mind coming, he likes to compare the dates to see how long people lived. The most awesome cemetery I ever visited, which held no family relatives of mine was the St. Bernard Cemetery in New Haven, CT. I had gone to photograph a Civil War Monument and graves for The Honor Roll project I participate in yearly. I quickly began to ooh and aah at the gravestones when I saw that these Irish gravestones also included the town names of from where they were born in Ireland. I was like WOW… I wish I had relatives here, I’d so be doing the Happy Dance!

Hope I’ve interested you to get busy, write those letters, call your relatives and begin your search to learn “your” family stories and history! Feel free to ask me any questions and do come back and let me know what you’ve discovered!

Now, go write that letter and make that call!


Want to read more, then click… Family Stories here and over Here.

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Weekend Weathervanes: The Dollar Sign

Weekend Weathervanes

It’s a Dollar Sign!

Now I know what to do with those photos – “thanks” to Heather Wilkinson Rojo at Nutfield Genealogy; she blogs Weekly Wednesday Weathervanes  in New Hampshire.  Please check out her page and enjoy the many unusual weathervane photos and often be entertained with a history lesson. It’s amazing at what you can encounter in your travels  – You Just Need To Look Up!


The Dollar Sign Weathervane

Two in a week, first the Dime, now the Dollar… Surely I’m closing in on the Quarter, Nickle and Penny Banks!


The Savings Institute in East Hampton, CT. sports the Dollar Sign Weathervane


$ for Savings!


Want to read more, click…. Weekend Weathervanes:

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Weekend Weathervanes: It’s a Dime

Weekend Weathervanes

It’s a Dime!

Now I know what to do with those photos – “thanks” to Heather Wilkinson Rojo at Nutfield Genealogy; she blogs Weekly Wednesday Weathervanes  in New Hampshire.  Please check out her page and enjoy the many unusual weathervane photos and often be entertained with a history lesson. It’s amazing at what you can encounter in your travels  – You Just Need To Look Up!

DSC_0183 fix

It’s a Dime… now I need the rest of the change!

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As many times as I’ve been in Taftville, CT., across from the Ponemah Mill (seen behind bank) I never noticed this weathervane… but again, I can’t even remember if this bank was there. But I noticed it on this trip! How appropriate the weathervane to the bank, now to find the Nickle, Quarter and Penny Banks!

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If you find my missing “change” banks… do drop me a line!


Want to read more, click…. Weekend Weathervanes:

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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Family Recipes & Memories: Fried Squash Patties

Family Recipes & Memories

Fried Squash Patties

There were many foods I never ate in growing up… and these were never served on our family table. Probably… because my grandparents didn’t grow them! Both of my grandparents had farms, so whenever we visited we came home with bags of fresh vegetables. I have no memory of my mother ever buying veggies at the supermarket! I see many “Southern” recipes now for squash, so why didn’t my mama cook it? She loves squash casserole now, but as she doesn’t cook anymore… I need not ask! She’ll just tell me, “well, help yourself to my kitchen!


Aunt Linda’s Squash Patties

When I married into an Italian family, I was introduced to many varieties of foods and dishes that I had never even heard of. Often, in the beginning, I turned up my nose to them as they sounded like something that might have been cooked on Mars… but I’ve slowly, after 47 years, to have come around to them!

This recipe was not one in my recipe box… as I soon discovered when cousin Joe called me looking for the recipe… he had misplaced his! I turned my house upside down in trying to locate this recipe and couldn’t understand why I never had written it in one of the two family cookbooks, Cooking Family Memories or Italian Famiglia Recipes I had written. I was truly perplexed!

I created these two family cookbooks to document family recipes and memories

Cousin Joe (Burgarella) later called to tell me that it actually wasn’t me who had given him the recipe… Whew! Big relief off my shoulders… now I could stop searching! But then I thought… so why did I never have this recipe… maybe because I usually made either squash flower patties or the squash/pepperoni quiche. Ok, now I feel a little better! This recipe had been given to him by Aunt Linda Cambino… note to self, call Linda asap in the morning!

I quickly called Aunt Linda for the recipe, and while we chatted, she told me that after I posted hubby’s photos of the squash/pepperoni quiche last week, that she made it just this morning. Everyone has suddenly gotten in the squash cooking mood! My mother-in-law, Celia used to make the squash quiche all summer long… at least until it ran out from dad’s garden. It was almost a weekly feature in the house, along with dad’s favorite of squash and eggs for a summer evening meal! While she was known throughout the family as making it the best… it’s her son (my hubby) who makes it the best now. He’s so precise in cutting up the squash and pepperoni to perfect uniform pieces… you could probably measure each one and they’d all be the same size!

Back to the recipe…

Aunt Linda’s Squash Patties

  • 1 medium squash diced small (mine was about 2 cups)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup Bisquick (if the batter is too loose, add a little more, but not too thick)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • salt & pepper to your liking 
  • garlic powder – a few sprinkles and then maybe another sprinkle
  • 1/2 cup grating cheese… and then a bit more for good measure
  • Parsley – I sprinkled a few shakes in the batter (optional)

Beat eggs in bowl, then stir in Bisquick, baking powder, and rest of ingredients; I stirred squash in last. While you don’t want the batter overly stiff, you also don’t want it too loose… so find your happy medium. I did add about 1/4 cup more Bisquick in the beginning, but remember I did have 2 cups diced squash… so judge by that.


Heat your pan… naturally, I used my cast iron pan. Linda told me that she only used enough oil as if you were frying an egg, as she makes hers like an omelet… folding one side over. I chose to make mine the size of dollar pancakes and not flip over like an egg omelet. I kept just the bottom of the pan covered lightly in oil… but it’s your choice! As I got down to the bottom of my batter, I added a tablespoon more of Bisquick as the bottom batter had become more liquidy… even though I had kept stirring. Drain well on paper towels. (If making a larger batch, Aunt Linda suggests using your electric pan, so you sit at the table while you fry.) Believe it or not… but I actually have a cast-iron electric fry pan, but I’d only use it outside… as it is so… so heavy to pick up!


I know you’re wanting one right now… well, they’re still warm on my counter!

I chose to sprinkle mine with grating cheese before eating… Oh so yummy! That’s a trick my father-in-law taught me when he cooked fried eggplant. It definitely made it taste so much better… Yes, dad, I was thinking of you when I made these and how you’d be wanting the first one!

This is a dish that always reminds me it’s summer… finally! Oh, and the heat has been reminding me also!


Click for more … Family Recipes and Memories

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

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