Inside the Hemingway House

A lady sat at a desk in the home’s entrance. She greeted us happily and I told her I needed an adult ticket and a student ticket.

She gave me a knowing smile and explained, “WE call them youth.”

Well, okay. The list of fees I had seen talked about students and ID cards, but I wasn’t going to argue.

She went on to say that we’d have to wait 20 minutes for the next tour and we could go get a cup of coffee if we wanted. Not sure where we would’ve been able to do that in 20 minutes (which neither of us wanted), so we turned around to wait in the small entrance amidst a display of Hemingway’s books and a display of magnets that we could buy to help the upkeep of the home. The magnets said, “Write Drunk.” I didn’t feel the need to buy one.

Then another lady appeared and said that we could just go on the present group , they were only one room into the tour. (This began another interesting conversation which I won’t bother repeating.)

We decided to do that.

Hemingway’s childhood story is convoluted and interesting. His father was a doctor and his mother was a musician, often involved in her music to the extent that housekeepers and cooks took care of the house.. His parents were both well educated. His dad took him camping, his mother took him to the opera. Hemingway often said he hated his mother.

He didn’t like his name because it made him think of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest.

They were upper middle class and spent their summers in a Michigan cabin. The home we visited was Hemingway’s birthplace – later they moved to a much bigger house on Kenilworth (another Oak Park Avenue). That home is owned by private residents who hope to restore it for future visitors. Hemingway lived in Oak Park until he went to war. (Seeing where E.H. lived negates his stories about growing up in poverty which he often told the women in his life.)

Hemingway’s own description of Oak Park was: a place of wide lawns and narrow minds.

Hemingway was a direct descendent of John Hancock. Another relative – either his grandmother or great-grandmother (couldn’t find anything to back this up) was the first female student at Wheaton and graduated with honors.

Anyone who knows even a little bit about the Hemingways, knows that there were a lot of suicides in the family including Ernest himself and two of his five siblings. The family was a strange mixture of achievement and depression.

Here are some pictures of the inside of his house.


This is the kitchen – the family lived in the house for nine years and his mother never, ever cooked a meal.


Upstairs  hallway.


One of the first – if not THE first – bathrooms in town. I just liked the look of the tile and paneled walls.


Ernest as a one-year-old.DSC_0283DSC_0286

His dad was a scientist and a photographer and took Ernest hunting and fishing and taught him to be a naturalist.


I took this picture because I have a chair like this that belonged to my grandmother. The tour guide explained that it was a sewing chair and that’s why the arms were low. I never knew that. Hmmm …

Would I recommend you visit the house? That’s a good question. If you’re interested in literature and the personalities of well-known authors – I would say yes. But it’s not a place to take small children. Or, if you do take kids, there needs to be good conversations about what you heard.


An Afternoon in Oak Park

DSC_0265Recently when Mallory and I have been together, we’ve ended up talking about books and writing. So about three weeks ago, while waiting for our cheese and pepperoni at California Pizza Kitchen, she listed some of the classics she’s been reading lately and in the process mentioned Ernest Hemingway.

“Not a super good role model,” I told her. “He married a lot of women and drank a lot of alcohol.”

“I know, but I’d like to read one of his books. Maybe like The Old Man and the Sea.”

“A story of a Cuban fisherman fighting a marlin,” I told her. “I read it on a flight from Chicago to New York, so it’s not too long.  But wait, how would you like to visit his house and learn more about him? Maybe over spring break?”

So that’s what we did. We arrived at lunchtime, parked the car and then wandered around in the Hemingway Historic District. (A place well known to me because coincidentally it’s where I get my taxes done which has nothing to do with our trip nor anything to do with Hemingway.)

We looked around for a place to eat and found a small cafe, cozy and filled with a group of ladies celebrating “Margaret’s” birthday. We chose the salad bar and talked about the quaintness of the restaurant. Afterwards we wandered up to a bookstore that was quite proud of the fact that it was started by women, owned by a woman and only women worked there. Which didn’t necessarily make me anymore anxious to browse, but I will say the woman behind the counter was friendly, kind and helpful.

I mentioned to her that we were thinking of getting a cupcake at a bakery across the street, but she told us that we shouldn’t because they use “oil.” Instead we should go to the one down the street that used cream and butter. “Down under the tracks,” she told us.

So we walked “down under the tracks” and out the other side – but they didn’t have cupcakes, just cookies and pies. We each got a cookie and then meandered back up the street, enjoying the cityscape.


Interestingly, the town’s couples were transforming the fence under the bridge into a Pont des Arts bridge – with padlocks signed and dated by the couples. Didn’t have quite the same effect as a bridge over the Seine River in Paris, but it’s an attempt. (And the bridge railing in Paris has been removed because the padlocks had reached a weight of 48 tons and there were fears that the whole bridge would topple over and hit a boat below. Look up the pictures on the internet – interesting.)



Last time I was here, you went to the museum first where there were several pictures and exhibits of Hemingway’s books, but that is temporarily closed s they are putting a new museum behind the house so everything is in one place. (Before the two locations were separated by a few blocks.)


The area is filled with sprawling Victorian houses and you can imagine life in the late 1800s and early 1900s and the upper middle class sat on their porches on warm summer nights.


Get it? The Old Man and the Sea … the Young Girl and the Sign.DSC_0267

More about the inside of the house … and what we learned in my next post.

A Cold and a Book

For the past two weeks I have had a strange cold. The first day I had chills, the second and third day I had a sore throat and my symptoms moved on from there. But they never left my throat which remained crazily messed up – causing me hours of crazy coughing (and anyone who knows me well, knows once I start crazily coughing, I cough forever). And because of the coughing, I lost my voice … and my energy. (No runny noses in this weird disease.)

So for days, I lethargically wandered around, wishing I had my usual pep. I wrote, finishing a few assignments, but that’s about it. I lost my appetite – mainly because my throat was so coated with cough drops and cough syrup I no longer had taste buds.

You would think me being me, I would’ve curled up in a chair and read one of the dozens of books I have around the house – but no, that didn’t happen either. I would read two or three pages and decide I wasn’t interested in the story.

OnHitler.jpge day, in desperation, I got in the car and headed for Barnes and Noble, determined to find a book that would hold my interest more than 10 seconds.

Alas, I had only been at the bookstore five minutes when one of my coughing spells hit me and I knew I’d have to leave. I grabbed the first book I saw that looked somewhat interesting, quickly purchased it and left.

The book was On Hitler’s Mountain by Irmgard A. Hunt.

An absolutely fascinating book. Irmgard tells the true story of being a young girl growing up in Bavaria on Hitler’s Mountain, right below the Eagle’s Nest/Obersalzberg. Her family were Nazis and totally bought into Hitler’s promises that Germany would be the greatest nation. They were naively unaware of his real purpose and had no idea that Jews were being killed.

When she was three, her family hiked up the mountain one day because they heard Hitler would come out to greet his admirers. That was the day he put her on his lap – a moment of glory for her parents.

But things began to happen. Her grandfather never did like what as going on. Her father joined Hitler’s army and lost his life and instead of the country getting better, slowly things got worse.

Irmgard, a good writer, takes you right there into her unique childhood where she attended school with the children of Hitler’s right hand men. She talks of Hitler’s policies slowly changing what they were learning in the classroom, of people starving, of being allowed to go up to the homes on the mountain (after the war was over) and take what they wanted. She also talks about the difficulties after the war.

Through it all, “beneath the bravado, I remained a committed Lutheran.” She goes on to say how her faith brought her solace and hope.”

I’ve read many books about World War II – stories of Jewish families who escaped, stories of Germans who helped the Jews, stories of people who were part of underground rescue missions. This was different. This was the story of a girl who was just there because that’s where her family lived.

Ms. Hunt now lives in the US and works on environmental issues.

The book was good and I am better.

New Food – a Bunch of Snacks

New foods are exciting – especially when you’re not real sure exactly what that new food is … like when all the packing is in Japanese.  Thanks to my daughter-in-law, Cindy, for providing us with this intriguing treat.

Mallory quickly looked up a Japanese translator site and set to figuring out what we were eating. (And if anyone reading this knows Japanese, feel free to correct our translation.) From our calculations, the label said something about seas and the little guys at the bottom are pirates.

The first thing we tried was a piece of marshmallow candy which tasted like artificial marshmallow candy – in contrast to REAL marshmallow candy.  (Don’t even think about it.)  Mallory gave it a 4. I gave it a 2.DSC_0253Another package had a single piece of hard candy. The wrapping said lemon cola, so I tasted it and it tasted like …  lemon cola – so I said 5.


Packet #4 was a myriad of little crystal-type candy, sort of hardened sugar – but we gave it a 5.


Then there was the gum – which we didn’t taste. Mal decided to give that to her siblings.


But then things got a little strange. We thought we were eating a bag of candy, but obviously we weren’t . Next was a little packet of crouton-type things that tasted like rice cakes. They came with a container of jam. We kind of liked these. Mallory gave them  seven out of 10.


Our last packages had bread sticks which were kind of spicy. They were crispy and reminded is of cheetos, but not as good.


Even though Mallory was translating this all – she wanted me to say that it was a loose translation.

And this was the gift that kept on giving … we kept all the wrappings and Mallory took them to school.

New Food – Pickled Quail’s Eggs

So in the past week two random people asked me when I was going to get back to my food blogging – the part where I eat some strange, some mediocre and some actually good food that I’ve never eaten before (or at least not eaten in the featured recipe).

(Actually, I’m thinking about doing some different things with my blogging – but more about that later.)

Anyhow, when the first person mentioned it and then a day later another person mentioned it, I figured I’d do it – especially since three other people have given me food to try and then write about.

Mallory was hanging out with me and she was game to experiment so our first adventure was eating a pickled quail’s egg.

The jar of Oma’s Choice quail eggs showed up on my desk shortly before I quit my job – a gift given to me by Carol Berry. (Thanks, Carol.) She is also interested in trying different things so when she saw the pickled eggs, she thought of me.


I have had quail eggs before (blogged about them last year, but those were fresh quail eggs). When we opened the jar of pickled eggs, it smelled vinegary (which was to be expected).


I’ve had pickled chicken eggs before – and when I first bit into the quail egg, I thought it had a similar taste, but then the hot spiciness kicked in … and I mean HOT. I felt like I had ordered the hot sauce at a Mexican restaurant which is something I would never do. And then my entire mouth started burning with the heat. Whoa!

Mallory’s take: She didn’t like the consistency, but she doesn’t like the consistency of regular eggs either, so you can’t blame that on the quail. She gave it a 4 out of a 10.

I’m not a big fan of overly spicy food, so I gave it a 2 out of a 10.

However, we did decide that if you cut it up into small slices, you could add them to a taco salad and they would be good. (Quails eggs look like miniature chicken eggs.)

So, thanks Carol! We enjoyed being adventurous.