Pennsylvania beginnings…

My tulips, irises under the blooming redbud tree, Cercis canadensis
82 Cottage St, Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania
White wisteria hanging from the pergola

Just to bring you into my world, I was born in the state capitol of Pennsylvania and lived there for five years, then moved to West Point Island, New Jersey and  moved back to Pennsylvania where I spent the majority of my life.  Now follow me on my personal travels…

There were things in my life that I loved… the out of doors, boats and living near the water, color, science, medicine, travel, learning new things, etc.  I had a lot of curiosity and loved exploring. I always thought that I was doing well in the way I lived my life. I chose to participate in school, college, marriages, work, moves across the country and meeting new friends and so forth. Just to clue you in, I am 77 having been born in 1942, I thought “It was a very good year” as the song says.

But now down to the nitty gritty… My parents worried about me frequently. I was sick with colds, sore throats, fevers and in school came down with most everything that was going around. At six years old, a strep throat put me in the hospital with antibiotics around the clock, my derrière was black and blue with all the penicillin shots. As a child, my energy was low and I took lots of long naps. Mom did too. Every Christmas my sister and I seemed to be sick. We’d decorate beautiful sugar cookies in the shape of angels. Birthdays always included a 1,2,3,4 recipe birthday cake made with lots of eggs, sugar and white flour by Mom with icing any color we wanted. I chose blue 10x sugar frosting. Ice cream or a fruit pie were favorite desserts after a dinner of meat, a green veggie and a starch (potato, Pennsylvania Dutch wide noodles or rice). My father brought ice cream, donuts from the bakery, chocolate TastyCakes, a local Philadelphia favorite. We were never at a loss for something sweet, tasty and delicious to eat.

In the late 1940s and 50s we lived on a barrier island in New Jersey. Looking west over Barnegat Bay, we saw sunsets, blimps and heat lightning from oncoming thunderstorms in the distance. We used to drive into Toms River and through the Pine Barrens for school, doctors appointment and shopping. Mom always knew where to get the best produce, tomatoes, blueberries, corn, etc. from the local farm stands. I still love blueberries and all the fresh fruits and vegetables. We would go crabbing in the bay for blue claw crabs and often drove up to Point Pleasant to buy fish at the Point Pleasant fish market on the docks. Mom asked me what kind of fish I’d like. I’d always say bluefish. Remember “blue” was my favorite color! She laughed when I told her that after eating years of bluefish, not her favorite. In the evening, my father and I often set an eel trap in the channel baited with squashed crabs that I had caught while wading in the shallow water to catch eels. In the evening we’d take the filled trap out to the channel and tied it to  a channel marker. The next morning we’d row out to pull up the line and find our trap filled with eels.  Eighteen was the most we caught. Once we caught a diamond back terrapin which we released.  Rowing back we then we threw the eels into our big sand box so they’d be easier to grab and then worked on gutting and skinning them.  Mom cut them in short pieces and put them in a paper bag with flour, salt and pepper. Sautéing them in butter and serving them for dinner made a delicious dinner for us. Other days, we waded in the bay in front of our house. We could take a crab net and scoop up a “softie,” a soft shelled crab, which Mom then sautéed in butter and enjoyed immensely. Ten years at the Jersey shore covered my most impressionable years of five to fifteen.

I was a skinny child and recall being the last one to leave the school lunch room because I was a slow eater. I did look forward to the hot turkey or roast beef sandwiches on white bread served with gravy and sometimes hotdogs with mustard at the school lunches. 

At fifteen years of age after learning to swim and sail in and on Barnegat Bay, a move was made back to Pennsylvania.  As I grew up, I went to visit friends for celebrations, my palate was expanding to cocktails, exotic cheeses, salami and spanakopita. My travels took me to other countries with strange foods which were unique and worth tasing and savoring. At home, my mother tried to keep us healthy by telling us to clean our plates, not drink Coke, try new foods like the chick peas, spinach that I never really liked. I like it now. My Grandmother grew rhubarb and potatoes, canned peaches and tomatoes at her home in Reading, Pennsylvania. I gathered a love of gardening and cooking from my grandmother and mother. 

At twenty one, I weighed 110 pounds and was 5’9″ and continued to be a light weight (about 125 to 135 pounds) until I was in my fifties when menopause caught up with my metabolism. 

I believed that the food I ate such as chicken, beef, pork, other meats, dairy, yogurt, cheese, milk, ice cream were good for me and wouldn’t cause any problems. I followed the common beliefs  that we needed protein (meat) strong muscles, and calcium (milk) for bone density. Probably, just like you thought. I grew up in the 40s,  50s and 60s when so much was changing. Processed food was on the horizon. Spaghetti O’s, frozen pizza, hot dogs, fish sticks, Carnation Instant Breakfast, Jello, instant pudding randomly found their way into the rest of my diet. I often had a hard time concentrating and napped often and sometimes just felt low on energy. My sister and I frequently were sick around the holidays when we made our special desserts like sour cream pound cakes with candied cherries and a decadent sour cream chocolate sauce called “chocolate goop” that we put on  ice cream.

As a young adult, I loved being out of doors, lived on a cruising sailboat and often rode a bike, swam at the YMCA pool and practiced yoga. Exercise to balance out my indoor, sedentary artwork was something I always enjoyed, thank goodness. 

All that was how I began my life. Because of my curiosity, I continued learning about health, so never fear, I made some very major moves as I came across valuable information. I only wish that I had learned all that I know now. Going in with a good bit of curiosity, skepticism and thought, I found a more healthful path that I’d like to share with you.

Until the next sketch…peace, Heather