Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gone fishin'


I woke up early one spring morning several years back. My husband, Jerry, woke up early too.

“I had a dream,” I told him. “We were fishing at Vic’s pond and I caught five bass!”

“Let’s go!” he responded.

We hadn’t planned to go fishing that day, but Jerry took my dream as a good omen. So we jumped out of bed, brewed some coffee for the thermos, grabbed our poles and tackle box and drove to Vic’s pond just outside of Hillsboro.

When we got out of the car I started walking toward the pond.

“It was right here… by this tree… in my dream.”

I strung up the purple worm on the end of my line and cast into the water. Not ten minutes had elapsed when the tug on the end of the line pulled the bobber under with decided strength. My adrenaline suddenly raced and defied the patience I was trying to exercise controlling my line. I jerked and snagged and reeled in a two-to-three pound bass!

I was so excited and laughing. Finally calmed down, I cast again. Again, another two or three pounder! It happened five times that morning. Just like that crazy dream!

One of the reasons I like that story so much is that it happened so spur-of-the-moment. As the years have passed, I think I am less apt to toss aside my day’s agenda and trade it for the unplanned, impromptu and seemingly frivolous. But, in fact, that’s probably what I need more than anything. The best emotional, mental and physical support… just some good ole’ fashioned R&R.

Sun coming up on the lake, slight ripples reflecting dawn’s first light, silence… and suddenly the crash of a bass as it jumps through the surface of the water, commanding the attention of anyone who may be watching but only giving a second or two to catch a glimpse. That invigorates me. Stealing away from the noise and busy-ness of my world to a place where the interruption of silence is not manmade. This is the kind of stimulus I need to energize.

Now, I know for many of you, you do not share my fondness for fishing. But we all have something we like to do, some place we like to go that produces the same result of rejuvenation.

There’s a scripture I love in Mark 6 where Jesus is talking to some of his close friends after they had returned from a mission trip. His advice to them was, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place, and rest a while”.  It goes on to say, “They went away in a boat to a solitary place by themselves.”
That’s the voice I sometimes hear in my head - “Come away to a deserted place and rest a while.” Sometimes grabbing a pole and setting out for a quiet place on a pond or lake is one of the best things we can do for ourselves (and the people around us).

It doesn’t have to be fishing that takes you to that quiet place. But what is important is to do something you love that creates that space in your life where you can decompress. If you do go fishing and you are lucky enough to land some, we’ve shared some good recipes in this issue of Salt.
Here’s one of my favorite batters to use on fried fish…

7-Up Fish Batter
1 Egg
1 Cup pancake mix
8 ounces 7-Up

Roll fillets in dry mix first. Mix one slightly beaten egg with the 7-up. Dip each fillet in the batter. Then deep fry at 400 degrees till browned.

Hope you make time to relax as we head into summer. If you’re looking for me and can’t find me, it might just be because I’ve gone fishin’.

In the meantime, please pass the salt!

Front Porch Profile - Roger Rhonemus



What is your favorite movie?
Quigley Down Under or The Longest Yard.

Where is the most interesting place you've traveled?
I have never been to a bad state, never been to a bad place. Probably one of my favorites is Denver, Colorado.

What is your favorite Elvis Presley song?
How Great Thou Art.

What character from a book would you be?
Though non-fiction, I would say Captain McNelly from The Real Book About the Texas Rangers, a book I read as a kid.

Cats or dogs?

What quote best defines how you live your life?
People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Winter, spring, summer or fall?
That's why I love living where we live because I like them all, but I would say spring because I love to plant.

Regular or decaf?
Regular. Definitely.

What is the thing you love most about your community?
I think it's the caring attitude. If someone has a need, there's always someone there to help. It crosses backgrounds. I've been on the receiving and hopefully on the giving end.

What is one of the funniest things a kid has said to you?
There were some third graders at the courthouse recently and I was giving them a tour. I asked them how old I was. One little boy said 25. (I'm 53.) I told him to remind me to give him a quarter when we were done. That little rascal came up at the end and asked for his quarter and I had to give it to him. I'm glad I didn't tell him I'd give him $10.

Salt notes


Whether or not you grew up on a farm, visited local fishing spots with your parents or grandparents, or ever held a pole, baited a hook, or cast a net in your life, just the idea of fishing has permeated everyone’s life.

A newspaper reporter often goes fishing for a story. A police officer often thinks something smells fishy. A negotiator might decide it’s time to fish or cut bait. A politician might tell a whopper of a fish story. A philosopher will point out that if you give a man a fish he will eat for a day, but if you teach him how to fish he will eat for a lifetime.

You get the idea.

Fish and fishing have become infused into our daily conversation and activities in ways most of us don’t even think about. I think fishing has become a metaphor for so many things in our life because whether someone has ever actually fished or not, the concept is so simple and universal that it is relatable to everyone, and applicable to so many aspects of our lives.

The essence of fishing is as follows.

Bait the hook.
Cast the line.
Wait patiently.

Wait patiently some more, but never take your eyes off the float or bobber.

Anyone who has fished has quickly learned that nibbles are not bites, and some days it seems like we get nibbles all day long without actually snagging the prize. Such is life, also, but with enough patience, we eventually are rewarded.

In this issue of Salt, we explore the special place fishing holds in the lives of so many southern Ohioans, along with the other features, recipes and advice to live by you have come to expect and enjoy with each edition. Thank you to our many contributors, and thank you for reading!

A cure for the summertime blues


Blueberry bushes are attractive shrubs with abundant pink-tinged, white blooms in ­­spring, shiny foliage and stunning fall color. If you have a well-drained, full-sun location for foundation shrubs or privacy hedge, consider using blueberry plants. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are even blueberries ideal for planting in containers. As an added bonus, your family can enjoy loads of luscious fruit.

Like any orchard plant, blueberry bushes have challenges, particularly keeping wild creatures from getting all that juicy fruit before you do. The most important step is well-drained soil, best accomplished in raised beds. The reward is an attractive landscape plant that also provides a plentiful food supply.

Here’s a radical approach to successfully growing blueberries and strawberries in your yard: Rather than digging holes and planting them, set the plants on top of the ground and build a raised bed around them. Then fill the bed completely with Pine Magic mulch and keep the mulch moist until the root systems grow out into the mulch. This won’t take long, and you’ll have a bumper crop of blueberries.

This technique is easy to do and it works for two reasons. The first is that blueberries love well-drained acid soil, and the second is that blueberries just hate hard, gooey clay soil. We come from southern New Jersey where there is a huge blueberry industry. South Jersey has well-drained, sandy acid, soil. You can pour a bucket of water on the soil in a Jersey blueberry field and it will immediately soak in and disappear. If your soil doesn’t drain this well, blueberries will sit and sulk.
Raised beds allow excess water to simply drain off by gravity rather than being trapped in a hole around plant roots. Pine Magic is very similar to the potting soil that nurseries use for growing blueberries in containers. It holds just the right moisture and the rest just drains away, allowing roots to breathe. The fluffy texture of the mulch encourages new feeder roots to quickly grow, and the acidity is perfect for blueberries. Adding a few inches of pine mulch every spring prevents weeds, making your bed maintenance free.

We recommend Espoma “Holly Tone” fertilizer for blueberries. “Holly Tone” is the perfect blueberry food, providing additional acid and trace minerals vital to healthy blossoms and fruit.

For excellent quality blueberry plants (“instant results” sizes, not “sticks-in-a-bag”), visit GoodSeed Farm Country Garden Center in Peebles, Ohio ( You’ll find all the essentials for growing blueberries, including Pine Magic, Holly Tone organic fertilizer, Peat moss, bird netting and other home orchard supplies. GoodSeed Farm has a good selection of favorite orchard plants along with more unusual offerings like Gooseberry, Currant, hardy Kiwi, crabapple, rhubarb, asparagus and strawberry plants.

A man in stitches


His fingers flew with ease across the cream-colored square of mesh linen.

A needle between his index finger and thumb, he carefully weaved the colored thread through and back the tiny openings in the cloth. Through and back, through and back - over and over.

“And that is how it is done,” said Jim Oughterson. “Cross stitching is nothing more than ‘Xs’ - this is not difficult, not rocket science.”

But a look around Jim’s and his wife Kay’s Washington Court House home reveals that his cross stitch talents might just be closer to rocket science than he thinks. It certainly doesn’t look easy.
Throughout the Oughterson home are framed examples of intricate, detailed cross stitch work that Jim has done over the past 23 years. Each one looking more like an oil painting than a cross stitch of cloth and colored thread.

Jim appears an unlikely person to master such a delicate skill.

Back in 1989, he and his two young daughters were renting an apartment while he served as superintendent at the Caldwell Exempted School District in Noble County.

Jim said that when his work day was done, “I was just coming home and falling asleep. I didn’t like that.” Jim said he needed something to do, something to stimulate his mind and concentration.

“I saw my daughter, who was nine at the time, doing cross stitch and I thought, ‘I can do that.’” So he did. After serving 10 years as superintendent, he retired in 2003 and return to Washington Court House, where he and Kay call home. He had previously been assistant superintendent at Miami Trace, where Kay retired after teaching 32 years.

Looking back to that time when he first did cross stitch, Jim said, “I thought I was doing something productive with my life. It also teaches you patience.”

He said his first cross stitchings were “just caricatures of little girls” and he gave these to his daughters, who he gives a lot of credit for getting him started.

The Cross Stitch Passion
From that day in 1989 when he did his first simple cross stitch pattern, Jim has done between 75 and 100 cross stitchings. And while his first ones might have taken just a few hours, his more elaborate examples - and there are many of these - can take months and 200 hours of work.

And of all those cross stitchings, he has sold only three.

He sold one to local art dealer George Stove for his gallery; one went to Dr. Doug Martin; and a third was done on commission by an Ohio woman who had heard of his “famous cross stitch work.”

“She asked how much I would charge, and I told her, ‘How about $1.50 an hour?’ and she agreed. It took about 200 hours to do.”

Most of his cross stitchings he displays in his home or gives away for charity auctions. His Christmas holiday cross stitchings are highly prized at events such as the annual Washington Kiwanis Club Christmas Auction. Jim, who is a Kiwanian, usually stitches and donates four to five such works of art each year for the auction, all beautifully framed. They often fetch several hundred dollars each for charity.

“The Santa one (a popular cross stitching subject) took about 150 hours to do,” he said.

But which of his many cross stitch works took the most time and effort? The purple iris, his favorite. “That one had DMC and Anchor brand floss (thread). It took about four and a half months to do and more than 300 hours.”

How Does He Do This?
Sitting on a couch in his family room with the afternoon light shinning in from large picture windows on each side of a fireplace, Jim said, “I usually sit like this, with the TV on,” demonstrating his cross stitch style.

“Cross stitch is nothing more than a series of Xs. There are different ways of doing it, but this is how I do it. I am a ‘back-stitcher.’ That is a fancy way of saying ‘outlining.’”

He said this back stitching gives the picture its shape and form and texture.

The backing material, the ‘canvas’ for the cross stitch, is usually cotton, a blend, or linen. Linen is the most expensive.

All - or at least almost all - cross stitching results from a pattern. The pattern, which can be bought either in stores or online, gives a roadmap for what colors are used for each stitch on the sheet. He said using a pattern is part of the “experience” of cross stitching.

“I start in the center of the pattern. To find where that is on the material, you just fold it into four sections, and when you open it, the point in the middle is the center,” he said.

“I work from the center and then move down. I am right-handed, but I stitch like I am a left-handed person,” he pointed out.

An avid, and frequent golfer, Jim says he still tries to cross stitch every day. “But I don’t cross stitch at night much. I do it more in the morning and afternoons, because of the light,” he said.

The Beauty is in the Details
So how does he get his cross stitchings to look so much like paintings?

“The material goes from 11 count to 18 count, and in linen, it goes to a 36-count,” he said. An “18-count” for example means there are 18 holes in the material per linear inch. The more the holes to thread through, the greater the density. “The higher the count, the more it gives the look of a painting.”

And one more thing: He points out that you don’t call it “thread” - it is technically called “floss” when you are cross stitching.

He said the more complicated patterns can take more than 150 hours of work. And he never repeats a pattern more than once.

Once he has finished the cross stitch, he then hand washes it - in cold water, using Ivory dishwashing detergent. He adds white vinegar to help “set’ the colors.

He then irons it.

Jim is quick to admit that he does not do the framing himself. He works with someone else to professionally frame the cross stitch, which he says in many ways is the most important part of all.
“It is all about the presentation. The matte color and frame are always a personal preference, but I have seen some great cross stitchings that have had terrible framing,” he said. “People have to know what they are doing when framing.”

Surprisingly, he has taken his cross stitch art to the Ohio State Fair competition only once. He won third place. “I was thrilled,” he said. At the Fayette County Fair, he is more successful. He wins something almost every year, and has won Best in Show seven or eight times.

Now Let’s Give it a Try
What advice does Jim have for those wanting to give cross stitch a try?

“I would start out by going to a store that carries a lot of cross stitch material. The people who work there can be very helpful,” he said. He also recommended starting out simple.

“Start with a simple pattern, one that isn’t too complicated or has too many colors,” he suggested.
He also said, “Don’t be intimidated by it.”

Does cross stitch require any certain skills?

“I would say the only skill you really need is patience.” When asked how he would rank his own cross stitch skills, he thought a second, “Average.”

And he also urged people to not fret or worry too much. Nodding toward his many framed cross stitchings on his walls, he said, “And there isn’t a picture here that doesn’t have a mistake in it.”
Jim said that as time goes on, there are fewer and fewer people cross stitching.

“It seems that it is getting harder and harder to get new patterns, and there are fewer and fewer craft stores in business where you can get the floss,” he said.

Kay Has Her Favorites
And what does Kay think about his cross stitching hobby?

“I think it is very therapeutic for him. When he gets stressed out, he can pick up his cross stitch and it releases the stress,” she said. “I think that is why he started it in the first place.”

She and Jim have been married 21 years. When asked if at any time the hours he spends on cross stitch bothers her, she was quick to say, “Not really. Jim has always had the right priorities and knows that when other things need to be done, he does them. He has always been very considerate about that.”

Kay said she knew going into their marriage that he has this hobby. “I was really just curious about it. The one thing that surprised me was how much time it takes to do them.”

Kay is very proud of her husband’s cross stitch pieces, and the reputation he has gained for his works, especially the holiday ones that she says are her favorites. But has she ever considered taking up Jim’s cross stitch passion?

“Well, I would like to, but I don’t think I have the patience,” she admitted. “I am pretty high-strung. My mind is always racing ahead on things to do.” She says she may not have the patience, but she does have a deep appreciation for the skill needed to create what she calls works of art. ”They look like paintings.”

Her husband believes that her favorite of his cross stitchings is “Nantucket Rose,” and she agrees that is one of her favorites. But she says she has a number of “favorites” including the Christmas pieces and one showing a girl reading under a tree.

What Kay hates about his hobby is simple - parting with the cross stitch pieces. “I hate seeing him give them away. I want to keep them all.

But our home just can’t accommodate them all.”

Preserving the harvest


Years ago, my relatives gardened and harvested seasonal vegetables and fruit to survive. It supplemented the meat and dairy from their farms while fresh in the spring and summer; and much of that harvest was canned or “put up” to continue to feed their families during the long winter months. I have spent many a summer snapping beans by the bushel with my mom. She grew up on the canned beans, vegetables, fruit butters and preserves that her grandmother made. Snapping and canning beans for her was just an extension of that heritage. And most of us can agree, our mother’s or grandmother’s home-canned green beans are one of the best things to come out a garden, right up there with heirloom tomatoes, homemade pickles and summer sweet corn. I can’t remember a summer breakfast at my Grandpa Charlie’s house where his wife, Delores, didn’t add fresh tomatoes and fruit preserves to her usual menu of homemade coffee, biscuits, gravy, sausage and eggs.

My mother canned from our garden throughout my childhood, too, although more out of a need to keep our bountiful harvest from going to waste or to reminisce and recreate the bread and butter pickles of her childhood, than to survive like her parents and grandparents did. Even as a child, I can remember our little strawberry patch off the patio and the large garden full of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers out in the yard. We’d pick strawberries, sprinkle them with a little sugar, pour on some milk and we had a real treat! She always made preserves, too. Strawberry, peach and, one time, ­­­­­grape jam with grapes from our neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Burton. And I loved it.

In the early summer, blackberries are coveted in our family like no other harvest – even more so than our heirloom tomatoes. I’m even planting a few blackberry bushes this year in hopes of a big harvest next summer for cobbler, pies and preserves. We also have a garden with mostly tomatoes and peppers, although we expand that each year, too. This year, we added cucumbers because last summer my mom and I had so much fun making bread and butter pickles. And they were good, very good, if I do say so myself! And easy. That’s the thing. Canning is really easy. And sharing the things you’ve canned with your family and friends not only blesses their heart, but yours as well.

As a working mom with two busy kiddos, I don’t have nearly as much time to can as I’d like. The one thing I do get done every year, though, is to make strawberry preserves. One of my most favorite things to do is to pick strawberries with James and our kids – we usually pick a 5 gallon bucket, or two, full! I make about half of those berries into preserves following the basic recipe in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. It’s the best and most helpful tool a beginning, or even a well-seasoned home-canner can have.

Once I am done with the preserves and a fresh strawberry pie (or two!), I take the remaining berries, wash them gently, remove the stems and leaves and freeze them whole, spread out individually on cookie sheets. Then I transfer the berries to gallon or quart freezer bags for use later. This method prevents them from freezing in a giant clump, that way, if I just need a few, I can get just what I need.  These berries are for smoothies, strawberry pancake syrup, strawberry bread and frozen strawberry merlot (a divine, not-too-sweet, adult summer beverage my father came up with last year after picking berries that was an instant hit!)

On the next page are a few of my favorite early summer canning recipes for strawberry, raspberry, blackberry jam and preserves, with a few other early harvest recipes, too. I hope you enjoy them. Here’s to a delicious and blessed summer, from my kitchen to ­­­­yours.

Strawberry Preserves
2 quarts strawberries, cleaned, stems removed and crushed
6 ¾ cups sugar
½ teaspoon butter
1 pouch powdered fruit pectin

Wash jars and bands thoroughly in hot water. Pour boiling water over lids and set aside.
Stem and clean strawberries. Pulse in food processor until strawberries are broken down and small pieces remain. Measure 4 cups strawberry puree into a pot and place over high heat. Add sugar and butter, stirring constantly. Bring to a rolling boil. Stir in pectin and return to full rolling boil and cook at rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam from mixture.
Pour or ladle into prepared jars to within ¼ inch from top. Clean rims of jars with damp cloth and top with lid. Screw on bands tightly and place on jars on rack in canner filled with boiling water. Lower rack into canner making sure at least 2” of water covers tops of jars. Bring back to a soft boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on a towel or wire rack to cool. When cool, check to make sure each jar sealed by pressing middle of the lid with your finger. If lid pops back, it did not seal and any jam remaining unsealed should be stored in the refrigerator. Sealed jam can be stored in pantry. Enjoy.

Berry Butter
Delicious with homemade biscuits or bread, hot from the oven!
½ cup butter, softened to room temperature
2-3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons preserves or jam

In a bowl or food processor, combine above ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate to firm. Serve with rolls, biscuits or bread.

Blackberry or Raspberry Jam
4 cups blackberry puree
6 ¾ cups sugar
½ teaspoon butter
1 pouch powdered fruit pectin

Wash jars and bands thoroughly in hot water. Pour boiling water over lids and set aside.
Stem and clean strawberries. Crush blackberries by hand or pulse in food processor until smooth. Pour through a wire strainer to remove all seeds. Measure 4 cups of the seedless puree into a pot and place over high heat. Add sugar and butter, stirring constantly. Bring to a rolling boil. Stir in pectin and return to full rolling boil and cook at rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam from mixture.
Pour or ladle into prepared jars to within ¼ inch from top. Clean rims of jars with damp cloth and top with lid. Screw on bands tightly and place on jars on rack in canner filled with boiling water. Lower rack into canner making sure at least 2” of water covers tops of jars. Bring back to a soft boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on a towel or wire rack to cool. When cool, check to make sure each jar sealed by pressing middle of the lid with your finger. If lid pops back, it did not seal and any jam remaining unsealed should be stored in the refrigerator. Sealed jam can be stored in pantry. Enjoy.

Frozen Strawberry Merlot
2 cups fresh strawberries
4-6 oz Merlot
Sugar or sweetener, to taste
Ice (2-3 cups)

Place strawberries, Merlot and 1 cup ice into blender. Blend until smooth. Add ice ½ cup at a time until desired thickness. Sweeten as desired with sugar or sweetener.
Blackberry Crisp
4 - 4 ½ cups fresh blackberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup oats
¾  cup brown sugar, packed
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ cups butter (not margarine)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine berries and white sugar in a baking dish. In a separate bowl, c­ombine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in butter until you have coarse crumbs. Sprinkle crumbs over fruit in baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool slightly. Serve warm with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Strawberry Banana Smoothie
1 cup strawberries, frozen
8 oz plain or vanilla yogurt
1 banana
2-3 tablespoons milk

Combine strawberries, yogurt and banana in blender. Add milk a tablespoon at a time until desired thickness. Serves two.

Strawberry Bread
1 (10oz) package frozen strawberries, thawed and crushed
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 ½  cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½  cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine eggs, sugar and oil until smooth and creamy. Stir in strawberries. In a separate bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients. Add strawberry mixture to dry ingredients until just combined. Pour into a well-greased and floured loaf pan. Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 8-10 minutes, then turn loaf out on wire rack. When cool, wrap tightly in plastic.

The joy of fishing


The love of fishing is usually a tradition passed down from one generation to another. One reason it continues is the warm, wonderful memories of time spent with friends or family members. The older generation wants the children to have precious memories, too. Fishing also creates a hobby to be enjoyed for a lifetime.

“I went fishing with my dad,” remembered George Mollette of Franklin as he very patiently supervised his five-year-old grandson, Adrian, on a fishing outing at Cowan Lake. “I take his six-year-old brother fishing, too, but not both of them at the same time. The two of them together are a handful. I go fishing with one of my sons, but two other sons don’t even like to fish. I have a 17-year-old grandson that I taught to fish, too. He lives a distance away. I pick him up a couple of times a year to go fishing. He’s more into video games now. I just retired and I want to do more fishing with the grandchildren.”

Adrian is well-trained for one so young. He could bait his own hook with a minnow or wax worm. His grandfather kept reminding him to lift the bail on the reel so the line would cast. Adrian focused and made some good casts. Adrian is on his way.

“Adrian caught several fish the other day,” added his grandfather proudly.

Ray and Doris King of Golf Manor in Cincinnati are part of a four-generation family fishing tradition.
“I learned fishing from my uncles and father,” said 71-year-old Ray on a cool, misty morning as he cast his fishing line into Cowan Lake. “They threw me in the water and said I couldn’t fish until I learned how to swim. I learned how to swim.”

“Ray taught me how to fish,” added his wife, Doris. “Then we taught our sons how to fish and they taught their children. And they will probably teach their grandchildren and great-grandchildren to fish, too.”

The love of fishing often connects children and families to other outdoor activities. Time spent outdoors in nature picnicking, camping, walking and spending time at parks, lakes, rivers, ponds or even the backyard are part of those cherished memories.

“That’s what brings us together as a family,” said Karla Velazquez of Wilmington, who has three girls. “My husband and I take the girls fishing all the time. We bring out a couple of poles and just having that engagement together makes it totally special. The girls bait their own hooks and take the fish off the hooks. That’s how I grew up, camping and fishing. It was my mom’s getaway and I’m trying to pass that on to my girls.”

Karla, along with her husband, Adam, is a volunteer coach for the Wilmington Parks and Recreation Department.

“We’ve volunteered at the ‘Rec’ for two years and I just love it,” said Karla. “It brings our whole family together. The girls play soccer, kickball and softball. The fishing, sports and outdoor activities get our family away from television, the Internet and phone. It gets them away from that exposure. We also use the parks and facilities as much as possible. The girls might complain at the beginning, but once they get into fishing or the sports, they stop complaining. My youngest is 10 and we’re trying to get all this in before they grow up.”

Tackle this


Along Highway 380 in Wilmington sits a tiny bait and tackle shop: Tackle Town.  It’s been operating for more than 30 years.  Paul and Betty Long are owners who pour their hearts and souls into handmade items and lasting memories. 

Paul says he still enjoys making fishing supplies.  He went to Florida in 1965, couldn’t find what he wanted for fishing, made his own tackle and the rest is history. He found what he loves, and he is completely self-taught. He says life is good: When he is hungry he eats; when he is tired, he sleeps; when he is done with his work, he goes home.

Paul and Betty have run a family business in every sense.  When their five children were young, they sat around TV trays and worked on counting lures.  The children learned to count to 10 fast, since Betty needed to gather 10 groups of 10 items for a package of 100.  Over the years, sales have grown from the tri-state area to the entire United States, reaching Paul’s many fisherman friends.

Paul says that his work is unique.  That would be an understatement.  Plastics, lures, and rods are each handmade, hand-poured and hand-painted.    Colors are specially made, and when a someone can’t find jigs, he will make them. Go by and ask how his rods are different. He hand wraps, weaves and even crochets everything – nothing stamped or produced mechanically. 

On a dare, Paul made a boomerang, soft-bodied crankbait, of which he’s very proud. His gifts can’t be compared to other fishing supplies. One rod bears the name “Ed.” Another rod says, “Happy Father’s Day.” The rods must be very special - Paul has made 49 custom rods since last December.

Customers also stop by the shop for live bait. The customers are the best, Betty says. One day she had just lifted a bucket of live minnows from the tank.  Her “legs gave out” and she fell backwards, with minnows “flapping” all over her. A 90-year-old man looked over the counter and said, “Missy, want me to help you up?” 

Customers learn about the shop by word of mouth. “After watching a customer look at lures for about 10 minutes, I asked him if he shops at Tackle Town often.”

“Every chance I get,” he said. “I’m Danny Smith. I’ve been coming here since I was six.”

When you stop by, ask Paul about a special line of products that benefits the U.S. troops. He did not make the money and hat clips made from shells actually used in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he is proud to offer them. He might even show you his “stations” where he and Betty complete orders - a table for painting, a self-made contraption for hanging lures and jigs, a table for tying flies and the backroom for pouring plastic. He uses a different pot for melting and pouring  each color.  Apparently the pots last forever. For black, he uses the pot he bought for 49 cents at S.S. Kresge.

Paul and Betty might have time to talk when you visit the shop, but their work keeps them busy. Their three Yorkie Terriers also require much of their time.  One dog is named Tess, for Della Reese on “Touched by an Angel.” The others are Annie, the “prettiest Italian woman” Paul ever met and Kayla, one of Betty’s favorite names.

They also have time to present information to civic and interest groups, can all the vegetables and fruit from their garden (Betty’s area of expertise), and on one day this spring spent considerable time talking with a neighborhood boy who was interested in making fishing supplies.

You will find creativity and the joy of life. You may also find a unique  gift.  If you don’t see what you want, Paul and Betty will most likely offer to make it!

More than bait


A fisherman’s review on the Internet said, “Have been going there for years to get bait.  They are always friendly, give information if asked—the owners are great.” As complete as this review might seem, there is actually so much more to be found within the walls of the Fishing Pole Bait Shop in Clinton County.

Just inside the front door, a coffee pot greets customers each morning.  Every morning.  The smell of coffee does mix a bit with the smell of bait, however. This shop is open all year - yes, even in winter. Coffee and fish are not the only greeters. Twelve-year-old Gus, the store dog, quickly arrives at the door. He will want a pat on the head before you ask the first question.

Karen and Jeff Andrews have owned the shop for almost 13 years. They bought it from the Blacks, who owned it for 33 years after buying it from a parent. Get the picture? It’s been around since the 1950s.

Most people around Clarksville still depend on stopping by for groceries, personal hygiene products, beer, cigarettes, pet supplies, ice and gas. The pumps seem outdated - perhaps inoperable - but actually work very well. Car after truck after car stopped to fill tanks on a recent morning. 

Actually, this shop would save so much time – it’s much faster than the usual trip to a big grocery store for food and gas. 

Fishermen rely on this bait shop for equipment and bait, but the occasional fisherman with a grandchild will also find what he needs. A small child’s attention won’t wander since Lake Cowan is only a mile away.

The shop sells fishing and hunting licenses, pay-lake tickets and fishing equipment. The inventory lining the walls is impressive. Karen says, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”

Recently, a man found out exactly how much the Andrews harbor in their shop. He needed to work on his car and was very surprised to learn that he could find gasket sealer within the automotive supplies. His work was done in half the time without a trip to a major auto supply dealer.

The Fishing Pole Bait Shop may be lovingly cared for by its next owners soon. The shop is for sale. New owners would enjoy the residence and store in the main building. The shop sits on seven beautiful acres, complete with two ponds, a 24-40 feet workshop and a 40-60 pole barn that has electricity, concrete and 14-feet sidewalls.

A small piece of paradise sits at 5071 State Route 350 in Clarksville, and neighbors will probably depend on it for another 50 years.

Facebook universe shares favorite fishing memories


Tara Wright – Wilmington, Ohio
Fishing with clover flowers and slaying 'em. The boys got mad because they were using worms and couldn't catch a thing.

Michelle Moye – Georgetown
My favorite fishing memory takes me back to when I was very young. My dad has always enjoyed fishing and wanted to see if my sister and I would be interested in taking up the hobby ourselves.

I believe I was about six when my dad took us fishing for the first time, and, to our discovery, we learned that after you are taught how to put the worm on the hook, you had to do it yourself - with supervision, of course. I will never forget the look on my sister's face when our dad told us we had to touch the slimy worms and put them on the hook. My reaction was the same as hers.

However, after that first fishing experience, we asked time after time to go again, baiting our own hooks and having a lot of fun. We visited many fishing holes in Brown County, so thanks, Dad, for teaching us and showing us a great time.

Beth Ballein – Hillsboro, Ohio
With my dad in Ohio Brush Creek. My little sister and I had to pull him in the canoe through the low-water areas because he didn't like getting his feet wet. Those were the days.

Mike Eason – Wilmington, Ohio
Has to be watching my daughters bait their hooks and all the faces they made hooking the worms. And then squealing as they caught the fish, “Dad, get it off the hook!” at our own pond in Wilmington.

Taressa Conrad – Hillsboro, Ohio
Watching my daughter catch a bass. As she was reeling it in, when she saw the size of it, she threw her pole down and ran crying because she said it was too big. She loves to catch blue gill, so it scared her to death.

Jill Link Holl – Columbus, Ohio (Formerly of Wilmington)
Making dough balls from Wheaties and baiting a trotline at Indian Lake in the 1940s and 50s.

My grandmother would add just enough water and I got to make the dough. She'd use a table knife and scrape the extra from my hands. We'd roll up balls and my grandfather would bait the line and throw it at night. In the morning, we'd pull the line and would have ridded Indian Lake of its over-population of carp.

Pamela Volkman – Yakima, Wash. (Formerly of Georgetown)
We used to go fishing on the weekends as a family. We would to go Limings Lake and make a family event out of it, always going with other relatives.

As children, we would have our cane poles (I don't know that people even use those anymore as my children and grandchildren ask me what those were). We were always excited about just catching a sun fish. My brother caught the prize fish one time on his cane pole.

As a child, I accumulated many good memories centered around our fishing trips.

Louana Bryan – Wilmington, Ohio
I live in Wilmington, but my favorite memory is going each summer to St. Marys lake in Celina with with my parents and grandparents, fishing late at night and watching my grandpa fish early in the morning.

Amber Cockerill – Washington Court House, Ohio
With my dad. I was still new to fishing and I tried to throw out my line and nothing. I looked back at my dad who was hooked with my hook. He was trying not to laugh. That was at the Fish and Game Lodge.

Second story is he had a bass boat and fished a lot. Well, our mom was with us at Deer Creek State Park and I was so excited I got a fish. I got too excited and yanked the line. The fish came out of the water and hit my mom. She about died of shock. We all were cracking up laughing afterwards.

Darryl Weldy - Hillsboro, Ohio
I have so many it is hard to choose. I have spent many nights on the Ohio river fishing for catfish.

There was one night, a friend and I got there early in the evening. We were prepared for an overnight stay in the boat. We had our grill, coffee pot and were prepared for everything. The day before, I had gone to Wal Mart and bought a yoga mat so I could comfortably doze off on the back deck of my friend's bass boat.

We got out there, settled in and cooked our dinner. After about an hour or hour-and-a-half, I started getting sleepy, so I rolled my mat out on the back deck and was trying to figure out what to do if I got a bite. I didn't want to lose my poles if I fell asleep and didn't notice.

I found an old piece of string about six inches in length. I then had the idea to cut the string into three pieces, tie each piece to a finger, then tie the other end to my line so it would pull on my finger if I got a bite.

All the time my friend is laughing like crazy in the front of the boat. I am not sure exactly how much time elapsed, but it had been a while. I was fast asleep and I was awakened by a sharp pain; it felt like a tractor pull and my finger was the sled.

I manged to get the string cut from that finger, however, I had forgotten about the others when I grabbed the rod to set the hook and my other poles were flying everywhere and getting entangled. I then cut the other strings and got the rods out of the way.

I ended up landing the fish. It turned out to be a blue-cat right at about 40 pounds. It was like something out of a comedy skit, but I didn't lose my rods or my fish.

Angela Roberts – Goshen, Ohio
Catching the biggest fish of the week (of course with the help of my husband) at Cozy-Dale Pay Lake and winning the jackpot!

Scott Alspaugh – Washington Court House, Ohio
Fishing with a top water frog and catching a 10-pound bass.

Michelle Gerard Joyce – Charlotte, N.C. (Formerly of Wilmington)
While deep-sea fishing with my dad in the Gulf of Mexico, a giant sea turtle came up for a breath right next to our boat. This happened more than 20 years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday

Kristi Jo Carson Slavens – Washington Court House, Ohio
When I was a little girl, my dad and grandma took me fishing. Like a lot of little girls (and some adults), I kept getting my line tangled in the weeds along the pond.

While I was waiting on Dad to help free my line, my grandma started yelling at me saying I had something. The pole was bending and I was reeling. Then, all of a sudden, a snapping turtle showed its head and began hissing at me. I shouted to the heavens and threw the pole straight up in the air. Dad went in after his pole, Grandma was laughing, and I was still jumping around screaming.

Dad did get his pole back, but the turtle snapped the line before he could get it in a bucket for Grandma – because I certainly didn't want anything to do with it.

Kindra Kempke Landon – Wilmington, Ohio
I have two. One is when I was 12-years-old, my family went on vacation to North Carolina and we went on a fish boat tour. Everyone put money in a pot and I ended up catching the biggest fish by a half inch. The man I beat was not very happy.

The second is when I was 8-months-pregnant, my dad came and took me to Caesar Creek to fish and we ended up catching a huge fish. It was interesting trying to walk around on the rocky bank and trying not to fall being pregnant.

Tom Little – Sabina, Ohio
My favorite fishing memory was fishing with my grandfather when I was about 7-years-old. We fished together at the Washington Court House city park. I remember him teaching me how to tie on a hook and the smile on his face. I wish he was still around to see me fish in my bass tournaments. He taught me how to be patient in fishing, and patient in life.

Walls that wow


Items in your arrangement should hang close together. Too much space between pictures disrupts the graphic effect. For large pieces of art, do not leave more than four inches of space between the frames; for 8x10 pieces, do not leave more than two inches.  If there is too much space, your eye will be drawn to the “blank space” between the art, rather than the art itself. Hang frames in reasonably close proximity to furniture under it as well. I will usually hang a piece of art no more than eight inches above the back of the sofa.

From a distance, permanent accessories such as lamps become part of your composition, so include them in your plan.

Remember not only size, but color and texture also affect the balance of your grouping. Keep the visual weight of your composition well distributed.

How high or how low?  This is the most common question I am asked. Remember everyone’s eye level is different when standing. Entries and halls should have art hung at standing eye level for an average person. I usually aim for about five feet six inches high.  Living rooms and other areas which are designed to sit down in furniture should have art hung to be viewed from a sitting eye level, not standing. Hang pictures six to eight inches from the top of the furniture over which it is being placed.

DIY Tip: Measure out the entire amount of wall space you have to work within. Figure out the arrangements on the floor by using the actual pieces, or trace each picture on paper, making a template of the actual pieces. Once you have each piece arranged on the floor, tape ea­­­ch template to the wall to see if you are happy with the arrangement.

Trends in Affordable Art
Favorite images are now being printed on demand to your size request. You are no longer tied into framing images that only come in one or two sizes.  Various substrates are taking over the art world – have an image printed on the substance of you­­­r choice: Acrylic, Paper, Glass or Bamboo.

More Windows
Windows take away wall space where framed art may otherwise have been displayed. Look for other places and ways to display art. Your “wall” may be the side of a built-in bookcase or even a closet door. Also, use conservation grade glass to protect your art from the light that comes inside through all that glass.

High Ceilings
In rooms with high ceilings, there are several ways you can relate framing to your space. You can start with vertical pieces of art, or, if you have pairs or sets, hang them up the wall instead of across it. If the art is something you can mat, your mat borders can be bottom-weighted or elongated to fill more vertical space.

Colorful Walls
Neutral mat colors are the best choice to provide the flexibility to look good on all sorts of colorful walls.

Large Scale Furniture
Over the past few decades, furniture size has become increasing larger to keep it in proportion to larger rooms. When you have something custom framed, be aware that the proportions of the frame and mat can help balance it, too. A single piece of art can be framed larger or smaller to fit the space. Make sure you use a large enough size piece for your wall space - especially over your sofa or your bed.

Eclectic Design
Design today is often less pure than in the past. A traditional home may have contemporary features or a Victorian chair may get an updated new look with modern upholstery. Likewise, with custom framing, you can mix and match art and framing styles to get the right look for your home.

Built-In Bookcases
Built-ins take away wall space where framed art might otherwise hang. Rather than giving up on displaying your favorite treasures, there are several ways to utilize this space. Remove a shelf to create a larger open space where you can hang a framed piece on the wall at the back of the bookcase. Prop smaller pieces on easels. If the shelves are loaded with books, hang a small piece in front of the books, from the shelf itself.

Hardwood Floors
Because a wood floor is a large surface in the room, either choose a wood frame that matches the floor, or consider a contrasting metallic finish.

Leaning/Overlapping Framed Art
Rather than always hanging framed art on the wall, you can set pieces on a mantel, shelves or other pieces of furniture. You can combine multiple pieces, with one overlapping in front of another.

Open Floor Plans
An open floor plan means fewer walls separating spaces. Since walls are the usual spot to display framed pieces, you may need to look for other alternatives such as the upper wall space. Try displaying a painting on a floor easel in the corner, setting smaller frames in bookcases. Open floor plans allow you to see farther from room to room. In order to maximize viewing pleasure, consider selecting somewhat more dramatic art to frame when it can be seen­­­­­­­­­­­­­ from a longer distance.

Stephanie Hardwick Stokes is an officer of the executive board of the Dayton Society of Interior Designers. Her work has been featured in the Dayton Daily News, the Cincinnati Enquirer and in various Designer Show houses. She resides in Clinton County, and works throughout southwest Ohio. She may be contacted by phone at Hardwick Designs  at 937-383-4832 or by email at

Where the well never runs dry


There’s nothing more comforting than a home-cooked meal and to that end, one organization in Fayette County has been providing community meals three times a week — each Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday mornings at about 11:15 a.m.

Since its inception in September 2009, the Well at Sunnyside, 721 S. Fayette St., Washington C.H., has provided food, clothing, and kindness to countless families in Fayette County.

The community meal program began about three years ago, according to kitchen coordinator Cindy Silveous, with eight people coming to the first Tuesday night meal.

Meals were cooked at home by volunteers and brought over to the former Sunnyside Elementary School in roasters and served.

Soon the program increased to dinner served two nights a week- Tuesdays and Thursdays— beginning at 5:30 p.m.— and now serves between 70 to 100 people per night, Silveous said. The number of meals served per night often increased toward the end of the month.

The organization now has a professional kitchen to cook and serve meals.

“All types” of people come in for meals, Silveous said. Folks who are unemployed or on Social Security, widows, widowers, or people who just want a little human contact.

“We try to help people with their problems, too,” Silveous said. “People ask us to pray with them, or keep an eye open for a job, or housing.”

Volunteers serve meals restaurant style to clients.

On this particular afternoon, Silveous was working on that evening’s meal, which would be marzetti, salad, garlic bread and butter and pie for dessert.

Another favorite is chicken casserole, made with celery, onion, noodles, chicken and cream of chicken soup.

“Some folks call it gourmet, I just call it every day home cooking,” she said.

Meals have been everything from tomato soup to BLT sandwiches to tacos. Silveous keeps the menus and the number of meals served in a record book and tries to plan meals a month in advance.
Grants and personal donations pay for the grocery bill, as well as donations of produce from Mid-Ohio Food Bank. The Well has a budget of approximately $1,200 per month for meals, but has kept the cost under that amount, she said.

On Saturday morning, the Bread of Life Ministry provides breakfast and lunch.

The idea of The Well is a unique one.

“People said we would never get all these churches working together, and they were right - we couldn’t. But God could, and did,” said The Well at Sunnyside board member Dale Lynch.

The concept for The Well came from a casual conversation Lynch had with a friend over lunch during the winter of 2009.

“Many churches and organizations in our community had programs to help those in need, but we thought it would be a neat idea to make a ‘one-stop-shop’ type of place for people in need. We wanted a place where all the churches could pool their resources. I was reading a book about how some area churches turned a church that was closing into a community center, and it really struck a chord with me,” Lynch said. “So my friend and I started contacting people at area churches to call a meeting and see what we could come up with.”

From there, the concept took off and came to fruition far faster than even Lynch had imagined.
“An (anonymous) couple came to me and said they had sold a partnership in Indiana, and were going to use the money to buy a summer home somewhere, but they decided they wanted to help the needy instead,” Lynch said. “They decided to the buy theSunnyside school when it went up for sale, and within a matter of months we opened the doors. It was unreal.”

For Fayette County, the timing couldn’t have been better.

“We opened right at a time when the economy was really going south,” said Lynch. “More and more people were losing their jobs or their homes. People who thought they would never need help were coming to us.”

The Well at Sunnyside also provides a ‘free store’ with clothing, meals, a laundry ministry and a toy ministry among other things. Lynch estimates in January over 1200 people benefited from The Well’s services.

Along with the obvious need of food and clothing, Lynch said members of The Well noticed other needs of those in the community.

“Somebody came to us and said that needy children were going to school with dirty clothes because their parents either didn’t have a washer and dryer, or couldn’t afford the laundromat. So we started our Loads of Love program at Sunshine Laundry,” Lynch said. “We also started getting donations of toys from different people, so we started a toy ministry. Toys might not seem like necessities, but they definitely bring joy into children’s lives.”

Though The Well offers a program for a variety of needs, Lynch believes the most important need they serve is the need of companionship.

“I think the most important thing that has developed is the community within The Well,” Lynch said. “It is a welcoming, non-judgmental atmosphere. We have found that many people come in just to be with other people. They want to talk to somebody, or get some prayer, or just have somebody listen to what is going on in their lives.

“Every time we have a meeting, we can’t believe this is happening. We have been able to get all the churches to work together. The fact everyone is working towards a singular goal… just proves this is a God thing,” Lynch said. “All churches believe you should help the needy. We just want people to know that God loves them, and we want to help take care of them.”

Frog days of summer


On a hot, muggy day in the middle of the summer of 1982 my oldest son, David, could almost always be found around the small lake that was situated outside the back door of our home in Union, Ky.
As a family, we had been fishing in lakes and farm ponds from Canada to southern Kentucky and at 12-years-old, David was a pretty fair fisherman.

A fishing trip in 1977 to Rice Lake in Canada had given all four of us "fishing fever." It was like fishing in a barrel when we took the small Jon boat out on the lake. The fish were biting as fast as we could bait a hook and get it in the water. Our evenings were spent cleaning the fish, eating them and preparing them for a trip home. We brought a large cooler of fish back to Ohio when our vacation was over and we were "hooked."

We took up camping as a family hobby and always had our canoe and fishing poles ready for action. I dubbed us the "adventure people." We caught bass, cat fish, blue gill, walleyes, crappie and even an occasional carp. We fished in state parks, large lakes and small farm ponds. If there was a body of water that smelled like fish, we gave it a try.

If we ran out of bait, no problem, the kids learned how to find bait along the banks of lakes and ponds by turning over rocks and catching bugs. Japanese beetles make good bait in a pinch.

There's a lot more to fishing than just dropping a line in the water and waiting for the fish to bite. It's a process and it often requires teamwork. For my husband, it required lots of patience as he untangled lines caught in limbs overhead or unsnagged hooks caught in the moss underwater. Retying hooks, readjusting sinkers and fixing reels that "somehow" got tangled really put his love for his sons to the test. Tempers flared occasionally, but fishing, for the most part, was an enjoyable and relaxing family hobby.

The weather is always a factor in fishing.

My husband, Don, and youngest son, Aaron, took the canoe out on Cowan Lake on a beautiful spring morning. I had opted to wait on the shore during this excursion. About an hour after they paddled out of sight, the clouds started rolling in and the temperature dropped. A snow squall blew in from the northwest and dumped blowing snow everywhere. As I saw the canoe coming toward me, I had to laugh because both of them were literally half covered with snow (their bodies facing the west were white). I don't think the fish were biting that day.

When we had an opportunity to build a house on a small lake in Union, Ky., we jumped at the chance. Having a fishing lake just a few steps away is every fisherman's dream. It just doesn't get any better than that.

David had been catching some good-sized fish out of the lake, but his focus was different this year. He had discovered some large frogs around the banks of the lake and was determined to catch as many of them as possible. He baited his pole and dangled the bait along the edge of the pond tempting the frogs to jump and grab the big, fat, juicy worm.

It took lots of patience and a quick, accurate snap of the wrist to snag a frog and he became an expert. As he caught frogs big enough to keep, he and his dad skinned them and prepared them for the freezer. It took quite a few frogs to get enough to fry so we stockpiled them.

By the end of the summer of 1982, he'd kept a running log on the number of frogs he caught and announced that he had snagged 60 frogs. The fish in the lake got a reprieve that year, but it was considerably quieter around the lake on a summer evening.

We eventually moved from the house on the lake, but family memories of fishing, camping and canoeing still keep resurfacing. The canoe was sold, but it has been replaced with a Jon boat. The poles and tackle box aren't used as often as before, but now our grandchildren are on their way to becoming "hooked". It has become a generational hobby.

God bless the fishermen


The notion of fishing for sport sort of eludes me. First of all, I tend to shy away from anything that involves worms. The couple of times that I’ve gone fishing, I did so on the condition that someone else would bait the hook for me. Then - 14 hours later when I’d get a bite - I would toss the pole to someone else to reel in. I would then whine until somebody removed the fish from the hook. So, my contribution to the process is basically to sit there and take up boat space. (Come to think of it, I haven’t been invited to go fishing in years.) I’m not big on the cleaning/batter-dipping/frying part of it either. But, man, do I enjoy eating fresh fish and I’m very grateful to those who are willing to go out and catch them.

I don’t think that fish are at the top of the intellectual food chain. They are amazingly easy to fool. No matter how hungry I got, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t fall for the old trick of eating food that was suspended from a hook, attached to a string. If I were walking down the street and happened upon a sandwich hanging from a string, I would not take a big bite out of it. Of course, if I were really hungry (or the sandwich looked especially tasty), anything’s possible. I guess what I’m saying is that if there were a game show called, “Are You Smarter than a Fish?” I might qualify as a contestant. Not saying I’d win, but…

Fish as pets are sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of the animal world; they get no respect. Especially in death. Sure, people might say a little prayer, but their final resting place is likely to be wherever the commode takes them upon flushing. One would never do this to their pet iguana, although this could be more out of concern for the plumbing issues that would likely ensue.

People seldom rally to the defense of fish like they do other animals. True, there is the concern for well-being of dolphins* and tuna, but not for your plain old rank-and-file fish. I’m guessing you could wear a coat with fish dangling all over it and walk through the middle of an animal rights convention and the only reaction you would get is that people would hold their noses and keep a wide berth from you. Come to think of it, wearing a Coat of Many Cods might be a good way to keep people from sitting near you in movie theatres. (Note to self: apply for Cod Coat patent immediately.) I knew my million-dollar idea would come along eventually.

*(I know, I know; dolphins aren’t “fish,” they’re mammals. That’s one of those laws of science I never really “got.” To me, if it looks like a fish and quacks like a fish…)

I have to admit that when I eat fish, I really don’t want it to look like a fish. No head or tail or eyeballs looking at me. But, I thoroughly expect that a fish will taste like a fish. I’m always a bit amused when I hear someone complain that their fish tastes “fishy.” You never hear anyone complain that their pork chop tastes “piggy” or their hamburger is a little on the “beefy” side.

I’ve even come to enjoy sushi. Most of the fish in sushi is raw. It is then wrapped in rice, seaweed and probably a couple of other unidentifiable items. Sushi is especially good when dipped in that hot mustard sauce that doubles as a sinus cleanser. Sushi is one of those foods that taste much better than it sounds like it would when you describe it.

So, as we enter fishing season, I want to extend a hearty “good luck!” to all of the fishermen out there. And, God bless ‘em, because they sure make good eatin’ (the fish, not the fishermen). And, if you find yourself swimming in fish (after they’ve been cleaned/batter-dipped/fried), give me a call. I promise: “no whining while dining.” I’ll even help with the dishes.

Accidentally on purpose


We’ve all been there. Despite our best, most carefully plotted efforts, whether in the kitchen or elsewhere, something doesn’t go quite as planned. Sometimes, it’s just a disaster; too great of a mishap for the dish or project to be saved. Sometimes, it works itself out to be okay - but just that, okay. But sometimes, the dreaded misfortune turns into something delightful. Sometimes, through a mistake or missing ingredient (or two), you find something even better than what you set out for in the first place.

As was the case this past weekend. We were thoroughly enjoying a lazy weekend morning at home when we decided it would be fun to wander around the local flea market. Caesar’s Creek Flea Market here in Wilmington is still recovering from the devastating fire not too long ago, but many vendors have taken their booths outdoors and the weather was cool but clear. I’ve been itching to start a home improvement project for weeks and am looking for something different to serve as a new headboard for our bed… an old, weathered door or set of shutters, perhaps. I’ll know it when I find it. And since there aren’t many garage sales yet to speak of and I really didn’t want to travel too far - after all, it was supposed to be a lazy, relaxing day I thought that maybe I’d find something there.

Before we got ready to head out, I decided to pop dinner into the CrockPot (the Orange Sesame Pork Loin from the last issue, although I used chicken) and bake a Bundt cake for dessert while I got ready to surprise James and the kiddos later. Just before we left, I turned out the Apple Caramel Cake onto a plate, picked it up to wrap it in plastic wrap and CRASH! The whole cake slid right off the plate and onto the baking sheet on the stove. All that work, destroyed. I scooped up the pieces, put them back on the plate and thought, what now? Cake pops? A trifle? Oh, a Caramel Apple Trifle, that could still work!

Later that evening, with no luck at the flea market, other than a pair of purple, movie-star, rhinestone-studded sunglasses for my Madie, we stopped at the grocery store on the way home and I picked up some Cool-Whip and caramel sauce. You could use homemade whipped cream or caramel sauce and it would be delicious, I didn’t because the cake was rich enough already and again, it was supposed to be a lazy day, remember? Once home, I got a pretty crystal bowl, spread in some Cool-Whip, topped it with half the crumbled cake, drizzled on a little caramel sauce, topped it with more Cool-Whip, cake, caramel sauce and finished it with more Cool-Whip and a pretty drizzle of caramel sauce. So simple and it looked delicious.

And you know what? It was delicious. Better, in fact, that the original Apple Caramel Bundt Cake I had intended to make. Best of all, James and the kiddos were thrilled. Conner couldn’t wait for leftovers the next night. The Bundt cake-turned-trifle was a hit! And, of course, as any good mama would say when asked, I meant to do it that way all along - wink!

Cake pops


Where do you think “cake pops” came from? I think that a very smart cook came up with the idea of mixing the icing with the baked cake rather than trying to impress her guests with a fancy iced cake. Half the time it flops and ends in a disaster, so she just came up with her own invention… it worked and “cake pops” were born.  Not only are cake pops a unique idea, but they are easy to eat and can be made in a variety of flavors.  And because they are made with pre-packaged cake mixes, they are also very easy to make.

There are products on the market that form and bake the cake pops for you, but those are a different type of pop.  They are more like “cake” on a stick and don’t have the texture that creating your own cake pops have.  The most popular types are made with chocolate or yellow cake added to a variety of canned icing, but any variety of cake mixes work.  I also like to make and use cookies sandwiched with icing or melted candy coatings to form another idea for placing a treat on a stick.

The key to making all of these pops is chilling the dough and using “candy coating” as not only a final coating, but also as an adhesive to hold the pop on the stick. Next, I will be giving you the basic instructions for making cake pops that will work with almost all recipes.  By adding your favorite ingredients, you can create a wide variety of cake and cookie pops.

If you plan on making cake or cookie pops often, then it is best to invest in an oblong block of white Styrofoam which will allow you to insert the sucker stick in for an upright chilling of the final candy coating; giving you a more professional finish.

Preparation For Basic Cake Pop
1. Prepare your desired cake mix per instructions on package. Bake in single layer pan; usually 9”x13”.
2. Cool completely. Best if you can cover and let set overnight.
3. With a fork, mash and crumble to fine crumbs or place in food processor and process to fine crumbs.
4. Mix with icing or cream cheese mixture (which ever the recipe calls for).  Refrigerate about 1 hour or longer if possible.
5. Roll into 1” balls.  Place on foil-lined cookie sheet and place in freezer for 10-15 minutes.
6. Melt candy coating such as Wilton brand or White or Chocolate Bark (found in craft stores in large chunks) in double boiler.  Leave over water to allow chocolate to stay warm and melted.
7. Remove balls and dip round sucker sticks in candy coating and then into cake pop.
Place in stand-up position on cookie sheet and return to freezer for 15 minutes.
8. Remove from freezer, coat each ball with melted coating.  Carefully shake or spin off excess and stand cake pop upright with stick pressed into Styrofoam block.
9. Refrigerate or freeze 10-15 minutes to set coating.
10. Store cake pops in refrigerator.

To Make Cookie Pops
1. Using your favorite recipe or refrigerated cookie dough, form 1” balls and mash gently with the back of a fork one time.  (You want your finished cookie to be approximately 1 ½” in diameter).
2. Bake as per directions, usually about 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool completely.
3. Melt candy coatings in milk or dark chocolate flavor.
4. Spread one cookie (bottom side) with a thin layer of vanilla canned icing and the other cookie bottom with a layer of chocolate coating.
5. Dip flat, popsicle-style wooden stick in candy coating and place between two cookies. Squeeze gently and place on parchment paper and place in freezer for 15 minutes.
6. Either serve as is or dip cookie pops in melted chocolate or candy coating to cover. Cool in refrigerator to set coating.

Now here are a few recipes for cake pops and cookie pops to get you started.  After a few tries, you can invent your own, too!

Angel Food Cake Pops
1 angel food cake mix, prepared as per package directions, or 6 cups store bought angel food cake cut into cubes
½ cup light cream cheese (room temperature)
¼ cup powdered sugar
20 paper lollipop sticks
1 – 1 ½ cups milk chocolate candy coating discs

Prepare and bake cake as per directions and cool completely.  With fingers, tear cake into large cube pieces. If using a store-bought cake, cut into cubes to make approximately 6 cups of cubes. Place cake cubes in food processor and process until it forms fine crumbs.  Transfer to large bowl and set aside.
In small bowl, combine cream cheese and powdered sugar and beat until creamy and smooth.  Place cheese mixture in large bowl with crumbs and blend until a dough forms.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  Shape into 1” balls, place on aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet.  Place in freezer for 15 minutes.
Melt chocolate in double boiler, leaving over simmering water to keep warm and melted.  Dip lollipop stick in chocolate and insert in chilled cake balls.  Replace back on cookie sheet and place back in freezer for 15 more minutes.
Roll cake pops in chocolate, shaking off excess, and place stick in Styrofoam or set the pop upright on a baking sheet and return to the freezer or refrigerate until chocolate is completely set.
Store in refrigerator.

Lemon Cake Pops
1 box lemon cake mix
1 can creamy lemon icing
1 package vanilla candy coating or vanilla bark
Candy sprinkles

Bake cake as directed on box.  Cool completely (cover and leave overnight is best).  Place cake in large bowl and with a fork, crumble it until it forms fine crumbs. Using hands or mixer, mix cake crumbs with 2/3 to whole can of icing.  Chill for 1 hour.  Remove from freezer and roll into 1” balls and place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  Place in freezer for 15 minutes or until dough is firm.
Melt vanilla coating in double boiler.  Dip stick in coating and then stick into chilled balls.  Return to freezer to allow coating to set up (about 15 minutes).
Roll balls in bark/coating and
shake off excess.  Then sprinkle
with colored sprinkles and place
in Styrofoam by stick or place on bottom of pop back on a covered cookie sheet. Return to the freezer
or refrigerate until coating is completely set.
Store in refrigerator.

Sugar Cookie Pops
1 package refrigerator sugar cookie dough
½ can creamy vanilla canned icing
1 package chocolate (milk or dark) candy coating
6 oz. mini chocolate chips
Flat popsicle sticks

Cut sugar cookie dough into ¾” slices and then each slice into 4 pieces.  Place on waxed paper and let set for about 10 minutes to soften.  Roll into balls and, with fork or cake spatula, gently press down slightly.  Bake as per directions, being careful to not over-bake.  Cool completely.  Place on waxed paper in freezer for 15 minutes.
Melt chocolate coating in double boiler.  Remove cookies from freezer and spread icing on flat (bottom) side of half of the cookies.  Spread the remaining cookies with a layer of melted chocolate.  Return cookie sheet to the freezer for 15 minutes or until icing and chocolate are firm.  Remove and dip popsicle sticks (up to 1”) in chocolate and place between one of each cookie to form a sandwich.   Place on cookie sheet and place in freezer for 15 minutes.  Remove and dip top 1” in melted chocolate and then sprinkle with mini chips.  Return to freezer until top chocolate is set up.  Store in closed container in refrigerator.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cake Pops
1 large box chocolate/devil’s food cake mix
1 can cream cheese frosting
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
3 regular-sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (melted)
2 packages chocolate (melts) candy coating
24 cake pop (lollipop) sticks

Prepare cake as per directions and let cool in pan several hours or cover and leave overnight.
Melt peanut butter cups in the microwave in 30-second increments stirring often, until completely melted.  COOL.
Crumble cake with a fork or in a food processor until small crumbs form.
Mix cooled peanut butter cups with ¾ cup (up to1 cup if needed) of the cream cheese frosting. Stir in cake crumbs with food processor or mixer until completely incorporated. Chill in freezer for 1 hour.
Roll mixture into 1” balls and place on wax paper-covered cookie sheet. (Should make approximately 20-24 balls.) Place in freezer for 15 minutes.
Melt chocolate candy coating.  Dip lollipop stick in coating about ¾ inch.  Insert into chilled balls.  Replace in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Remove and dip into melted chocolate and shake off excess.  Place upside down on waxed paper on a cookie sheet or in a square of Styrofoam, placed on a cookie sheet and return to freezer for 15 minutes or until chocolate coating is set up.
Store in refrigerator.