Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Women in Focus St. Louis Opening Reception

Friday was the opening reception for our photography show at Grafica Contemporary Fine Art. The owners of the gallery provided wine, cheese, crackers and assorted sweets to the attendees. There was such a nice turnout! Jim and I arrived right at 6:00 for the opening as we had tickets to the Fox Theatre at 8:00. It never fails that we will go weeks with nothing to do, and then all of a sudden end up with multiple activities on the same night. Several of my friends showed up, and I really appreciate their support.

It was amazing to see the 47 photos from 17 of our members displayed. What a wide variety of subject matters, processes, and perspectives. We definitely want to go back and look at all of them at our leisure without so many people and distractions in the way. The photos will be on display until the closing reception on April 24th, so we have plenty of time to see them. I have to say it was pretty cool to see my photos hanging alongside all the others, and quite a few people talked to me about my "Deer at Dusk" shot, which was taken in Jefferson Barracks Cemetery last fall.

Here is a little recap of the night, shot by my husband with his iPhone. We didn't want to drag a camera along since we were heading to the play.

Kim Wolterman & Linda Austin

Kim Wolterman with her photos

Tiffany Weigel & Kim Wolterman

Friday, March 27, 2015

Finding the Family in My Family Tree

Family History Library
Last week I spent six days in Salt Lake City, home to the Family History Library. As the largest genealogical library in the world, the Family History Library is a dream vacation for genealogists. While many of their microfilms can be loaned to local Family History Centers, the vast array of books held by the library do not circulate. While I traveled by myself, I met up with a small group put together by Family Tree Tours, the same company I traveled with to Germany and Switzerland in the fall of 2013. This was the first time that Kathy Wurth put together this type of a trip, so our group was small - only seven of us altogether, including one couple that I had met on the Germany trip. It was fun to see them again, and reminisce about our past travels. The other three ladies in Salt Lake City were very nice, and I enjoyed eating breakfast and/or dinner with them.

Jim had a meeting in Salt Lake City many years ago, and I accompanied him. While he was in his sessions, I spent several days in the library, so this was actually my second trip there. With advancements in technology, things had changed quite a bit. Many of the films have been scanned for the computers, or at least indexed. I believe all of their compact discs can now be reviewed on computers in the library. That certainly helps expedite the research. While some of their books have been digitized, the vast majority have not. So I spent much of my time looking through their book collections. As an example, I found one of Jim's families in a genealogy book on the Rauch family. The Rauch name does not in the tree that I have put together so far, but apparently one of the Rauch daughters married into the Woerdehoff family, and so a few pages in this book were dedicated to Conrad Woerdehoff. A couple of Woerdehoff sisters married two Wolterman brothers, so I am eager to read more about Conrad. The reference in this book is something I just would not be able to find online anywhere.

My main goal on this trip was to find a definite connection between Thompson Hightower, my three times great-grandfather, and the man I believe to be his father. Online family trees state that his father was George Hightower, Junior, but they give no documentation to support that contention. They all seem to rely on a posting at findagrave.com, where the information for George Hightower, Junior lists his children, including Thompson. The woman made the posting has disabled her email address, so I cannot contact her to see where she came up with her data. There are no birth or death certificates available in Kentucky for the time period when Thompson was born and died. However, on a small success note, I did find Thompson's burial date and location in a book of cemeteries in Kenton county. I knew that he had died prior to 1870 as I could not find him in the census record for that year or later. So at least I now know that he died in August of 1866. His marriage information does not include the names of his parents. His reported father died in Ursa, Illinois and left no will or probate records, so that was a dead-end (pardon the pun) as well. If I can find a positive connection, which is looking slim at this point, the rest of the Hightower family from George, Junior on back is very well documented as they were early pioneers in Virginia in the 1600s. Back at the library, however, it was time to move on.

I next tried to find the ship passenger list for my Kubler family, who emigrated from Switzerland around 1854. I know the approximate year because I saw the paperwork in Switzerland where Josef Kubler paid taxes to the Swiss government in 1854 because he was going to leave the country with his family. He would have left with his family that year or the next year at the latest. His death notice stated that he entered the country through the port of New Orleans. As he died fairly young and his wife would have been the one reporting the information for the death notice, I am fairly confident that New Orleans is correct. Having said that, I looked through all of the New Orleans passengers lists for those years using every possible way of spelling Kubler that I could imagine. I even looked through the "C"s and "Q"s as wild cards. I did not find this family of five. I then moved on to Michael Crusham, my mom's grandfather. On his application for naturalization, he stated that he arrived from Ireland in 1879 at the age of 21. I could not find any information on him either. Strike 3.

James Duffy & Catherine Gorman
Late in the week I switched gears and began looking for someone in my mother-in-law's family. She has often wondered where her Duffy family came from in Ireland. With a name like James Duffy, you might as well be looking for John Smith in the U.S. However, I knew that James Duffy had married Catherine Gorman on April 14, 1856 in Quebec. The library had a book of marriages from St. Paul's Church where they had gotten married. And lo and behold, the book listed not only where James and Catherine were from (Tipperary, Ireland), but the names of both of their parents as well. So I took her back one more generation in her tree. I am not going to lie, I got a little tear in my eye at the discovery!

Overall, it was a good week with some fun people, and I am glad I went on the trip. The weather was absolutely beautiful, with spring a full three weeks or so ahead of St. Louis. There was no rain and temperatures were in the 60s or 70s the entire time I was there.

The Temple & spring flowers
The temple & flowering trees

I wish I had done some things differently before heading to Salt Lake City, and I will be writing a separate post of my suggestions for preparing for and using the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Women in Focus St. Louis

A friend had invited me to the second meeting of a new organization in town, Women in Focus St. Louis. The purpose of the group is to network with other female photographers, and to support and promote photographic arts. Women in Focus began in Atlanta. When one of their members, Tiffany Weigel, relocated to Chicago in 2014, she started a group there. As she now lives in St. Louis, she wanted to bring the idea here as well.

At first I was hesitant to attend a meeting, thinking that it was only for women who take photographs for a living. But then I thought, what the heck, they can always tell me not to come back if it isn't a good fit. Around 16 women attended the second meeting, which was in February, and the group is about half and half in terms of professionals versus serious enthusiasts. So it is a nice mixture of backgrounds.

Tiffany want us to go on field trips together as well as participate in "photo shows." Our first field trip was to the International Photography Hall of Fame in Grand Center. Who knew? I didn't realize St. Louis has such a museum. It relocated here from Oklahoma City nearly two years ago. While the Hall of Fame is rather small, the current exhibit of photos of St. Louis architecture was very interesting.

Our first show is taking place at Grafica Fine Art Gallery beginning with an opening reception on March 27th. We could each enter up to three photos, so I selected a nature shot of deer at Jefferson Barracks Cemetery, the band stand by the Muny in Forest Park, and a grittier photo of the graffiti wall downtown to display. I had shot the wall while taking senior pictures of my great-niece last summer. I didn't realize until I looked at the picture on my big monitor that the word "FU*K" was spray painted on the wall (minus the * but with the C.) I decided it would be safest to email the picture to the gallery owner to make sure she was okay with it. I mean, it is a graffiti wall after all, but I don't know how many children come through the gallery. Or other people who might be offended. She reviewed it, and said she is fine with it as is. I have the pictures printed but am waiting for the frames to arrive.

The qualification for having the show at this gallery is that we all must have the photos available for sale. This is a tough call as I have no clue what to put on the price tag. The gallery takes a 50% commission (standard practice), so obviously I have to keep that in mind in the price so I don't lose money on the printing and framing. Of course, I would like to make a little something as well. I don't have the final cost on framing yet, so I'll have to wait until I get that number. However it goes, I am thrilled to be part of the exhibit, and this group of talented women. I anticipate that I will learn a lot from them!

Speaking of photography, the March of Dimes asked if I would be willing to be one of the photographers for their March for Babies walk again this year. I volunteered for the first time last year, and I had so much fun taking pictures. I also talked to a lot of people and realized how challenging life has been for so many of the families. And yet progress has been made, and there was such a sense of hope in the crowd. So of course I said yes. I will pray for a day as beautiful as last year so that they will have a good turnout and raise lots of money.

2014 March for Babies

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Spring Forward

We may have finally turned the weather corner in St. Louis. Last week we were wearing snow boots, and today I saw a man in shorts and flip-flops. That is St. Louis for you. My husband and I try to go the the Orchid Show at the Missouri Botanical Garden each year. It is held the month of March, and it always seems to make you feel as though spring cannot be too far off. The show is always fabulous, but this year it seemed even more so. We went this morning, and there were no crowds, which was great. It is hard to believe in looking at the flowers that they all come from the same species. Maybe they are more like humans than I ever realized. We possess some of the same basic make-up, yet no two of us are exactly alike. (Identical twins, etc. being the exception.)

After we went through the exhibit we took a nice walk through the garden. There is not too much budding yet, but you could feel the promise of spring in the air. We are so blessed in St. Louis to have the Missouri Botanical Garden at our doorstep. I can't think of a better way to spend a lovely morning than walking in the garden with the man who has spent so many springs with me.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Let There be Cake(s)

I finished up the Family History Writing Challenge on Saturday. If you are interested, you can find my blog posts over at Write Formation. It was definitely a challenge this year, but for the first time in the several year history of my participation, I actually wrote every single day. My final word count was 16,125 - not too bad! I think the accountability of posting my daily writing on a blog made the difference for me this time. I have to say that it felt good, but I am glad that the month is over. It was very time-consuming, but it forced me to take all my years of research on John Murdoch and bring it together in what I hope is an interesting and informative story. Now I can get back to the graduation quilt that someone has commissioned me to do.

My husband's birthday is today, (Happy birthday, Jim!) but we celebrated on Friday because the weekend was crazy busy and he is off to Joplin today. We tried a new Mexican restaurant in our town, and it was good but not great. He wanted an angel food cake for dessert, so I had made one earlier in the day. I found an interesting recipe on the Internet to change the plain cake into something a little more interesting. You simply add a can of crushed pineapple to the cake mix instead of the water that is normally used, and bake it in a 9" x 13" pan instead of an angel food cake pan. That was fine by me, as it always seems to be a little tricky to get a cake out of the angel food pan, and it is no picnic to clean either. You can serve the cake as is, or frost with a container of Cool Whip. I followed the suggestion of a reviewer, who added a little yellow food coloring and a small can of crushed pineapple to the Cool Whip.

Pineapple Angel Food Cake

Our review of the cake is that we liked the taste and texture of the cake, and in fact it was better the second day. We would not do this frosting again next time. Instead, I would either dust it with powdered sugar or use a small amount of traditional vanilla frosting. If you are interested in trying the cake for yourself, you can find the recipe here. This is one of my favorite sites for finding new recipes.

On Saturday I had lunch with my niece and great-niece at Pantera's Pizza in Edwardsville, Illinois. I don't get to see them often enough, and it was nice to just have some girl time. Unfortunately the snow started before I left her home in Cahokia, so it was pretty treacherous driving home. I find that the older I get, the less I like being out on the roads in inclement weather. Jim was supposed to go to an overnight poker party at his partner's lake house, but they canceled that due to the road conditions. Good thing I brought leftover pizza home with me. Instant dinner!

Yesterday some friends had us over for dinner. They made an amazing southern-style meal of pulled pork, cole slaw, corn bread and collard greens (those were a first for me, and likely a last.) We brought a sparkling wine (a Prosecco, which we had never tried before - yum!) and dessert. In keeping with my angel food theme, and the fact that our host is a diabetic, I made another angel food cake. This time I substituted a can of pumpkin for the water and added pumpkin pie spice to it. I lightly dusted the cake with powdered sugar and a little cinnamon instead of making the frosting in the recipe. I have to say, I liked this cake better than the one with pineapple. It was good on a cold, snowy night with the hot tea our hostess provided. The recipe for this variation is here. Even though it calls for using a 9" x 13" pan, I used an 8" x 8" pan since we were taking it to our friend's house. I put the remaining batter in a small bread pan and baked the two together. This recipe did not rise like the one with pineapple, so I think I could have put all the batter in the 8" x 8" pan and been okay.

Pumpkin Pie Angel Food Cake

Funny story about making the second cake - As I was getting ready to pour the teaspoon of what I thought was pumpkin pie spice into the bowl containing the angel food cake mix, I noticed the color seemed a little bit off. I had grabbed the poultry seasoning instead of the pumpkin pie spice! Oh my gosh, I can only imagine what the cake would have tasted like. There was an old saying my mom used when teaching me to sew - measure twice, cut once. Apparently I need one for cooking as well. Read the label twice, pour once?