Fall by the Falls

I’m lucky enough to live in a picturesque little village outside of Cleveland, Ohio called Chagrin Falls. I remember visiting here back in college to see Andy over holiday breaks and was astounded by it’s beauty. It’s like walking into a painting. Growing up in Pittsburgh as a Steelers fan, I was led to believe that everything about Cleveland was a “mistake by the lake.” I recall feeling a little confused and guilty that I found this city and it’s surroundings to be really wonderful. I loved it so much that I even left my pretty awesome advertising job in Chicago to move here in 2002 to be with my boyfriend, now my husband. A lot of people raised some eyebrows about that. We’ve built a life together here and now I’m thrilled to have the privilege of raising my own family here.

I am currently rereading the Chagrin Falls Historical Society’s book. Don’t worry, I won’t try to cram the contents of a 289 page book into this blog post, but Chagrin Falls has a very interesting past. The organized settlement of Chagrin Falls began in 1833 when the topography of the area and the powerful Chagrin River dictated the development of Chagrin Falls as an industrial and commercial center. The first families came from Massachusetts and included craftsmen, mechanics and carpenters whose skills would build a new village. By 1842, Chagrin River power supported nine mills including saw mills, flouring mills, foundries, an axe factory, a paper mill, woolen mills, a woodenware factory and a shoe peg factory.  In 1844, Chagrin Falls was incorporated as a village. Today it is a community bustling (in a suburban kind of way) with families, empty-nesters and young adults who have returned to set down their own roots. The village also draws “tourists” from around the region who come to visit the unique collection of gift shops and boutiques as well as popular independently owned cafes and restaurants while taking in the natural beauty of the falls and the acres of forests and streams surrounding it. Here are some of the photos I’ve captured over the last few weeks that depict a glimpse of fall by the falls.


All photographs are property of Ashley Weingart.

Adventures with My Own Johnny Appleseed

Morning DewLast Friday, September 26th, was Johnny Appleseed Day. Coincidentally, it also happened to be the day we decided to make our first trip of the season to our favorite apple orchard, Eddy Fruit Farm in Chesterland, Ohio. Apples are one fruit that my husband does not bring home to me from his market because he cannot sell a box of apples that has ten missing. I’m quite happy to buy them actually, especially when I get to pick and eat gorgeous ripe fruit straight from the tree, with help from my babies, the apples of my eye.

Eddy Fruit Farm has been run by generations of devoted family members since way back in 1869. That’s not too long after John Chapman, AKA Johnny Appleseed, was making his way through Ohio and the midwest in the late 1790s and early 1800s planting apple trees along the way. The Eddy farm now grows thirty-five different varieties of apples, as well as pears, peaches, plums and grapes. My family was excited to pick apples at the Eddy farm on that idyllic fall morning.

We arrived early and made our way up the gravel road where we were greeted by farmer Tom who asked what we were hoping to find. I told him a crisp, sweet apple for eating and baking. He nodded with a grin as if every other picker says the same thing. “Are you up for an adventure?,” he asked. “Definitely!,” I replied. “It’s a bit of a walk, but if you follow that path there, it will take you to the Macoun apples,” he told us. “They are just starting and they have low fruit that will be easy for the kids to pick. You’ll be the first to pick those trees.” I hadn’t heard of Macoun apples before, but I trusted his expertise. I asked him if he was familiar with my husband’s wholesale produce business as I knew the Eddy family bought some vegetables there to sell in their store. He told me his brother manages all of that while he stays in the fields, doing the hard work. We chuckled and shook hands goodbye.

Eddy Fruit FarmThe kids and I trudged through the tall grass and soon discovered the apples he had mentioned. Indeed, we were the first early birds there picking. The trees were filled with large ripe fruit. Morning dew was still glistening on the apples in the sunlight. We had visited this farm with the girls’ preschool classes in years past when farmer Bart, taught us to twist while pulling the fruit from the tree. The girls knew just what to do and got right to work.

We quickly filled our basket with gorgeous fresh apples. Since farmer Bart always let the kids choose one apple to eat in the orchard, I figured he wouldn’t mind if I let the kids do the same. It didn’t take much convincing. In fact, John hadn’t been waiting for my approval. He had already devoured his first piece of fruit, thrown it to the ground and was reaching for another out of the basket. Looking around at other apples that had fallen from the trees, I figured no harm done. My Johnny Appleseed was really just helping to grow more apple trees. The Macouns were a great recommendation. Crisp and sweet with a touch of tartness. Perfect for both eating or baking. The kids were quiet as we all enjoyed a healthy morning snack, as fresh as they come, straight off the tree.

Our basket was full and so were the kids’ bellies, so we decided to make our way back toward the farm store to pay for our fruit and have a look around. Before heading home, we stopped to make a wish, discover a ladybug and greet a new furry friend along the way.

Books Later on, when I learned that it had been Johnny Appleseed Day, I decided we should find out more about him. My little John and I picked up a few books at our next visit to the library. He was in fact a real person. His name was John Chapman and he was born on September 26, 1774 in a small town in Massachusetts. He was the son of an apple farmer who fought in the American Revolution and had a sister named Elizabeth (as does our John ironically). At the age of 23 he decided to travel west to plant apple seeds in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. He even owned land in those states and established nurseries there. Apples were one of the few crops that could be grown and harvested easily and eaten in one form or another all year round in the wilderness settlements of early America. While he did not establish all of the original apple orchards in America, he did play an important part in bringing apples to the frontier. Johnny Appleseed was a good natured man, filled with kindness and humanity, had an independent spirit and was a generous friend to all, especially animals. Like my John, he apparently mostly walked bare foot. He died in Fort Wayne, Indiana in March 1845, but his story, like the apple seeds he planted, live on. Today as I read to my children about Johnny Appleseed, his good character set a great example of the kind of person we should all strive to be.

With a new appreciation for our beloved apples and the man who helped bring them to us, the kids and I used our fresh fruit from the farm to prepare one of our favorite apple desserts, apple crisp! I’ve created a recipe that is healthier than most traditional apple crisp recipes. It includes honey instead of sugar and I also used applesauce in place of butter, to cut out even more fat and calories. I’m happy to share it with you.

Apple CrispAshley’s Apple Crisp:

Apple Filling

  • 4 apples
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. honey

Crumble Topping

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 3 Tbsp. melted butter or applesauce
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 375. Cut apples into thin slices or bite sized chunks. Mix with lemon juice, cinnamon and honey. Spray six ramekins or one pie plate with non-stick spray. Divide apples into baking dishes. In a separate bowl combine crumble topping ingredients. Divide crumble evenly over apples. Place ramekins on baking sheet. If the tops appear to be browning too quickly, cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool slightly. Top with vanilla ice cream for an extra special treat. Serves 6.

Apple Slices

Crumble topping

Apple Crisp


We are so thankful for delicious, healthy apples. Here is a little blessing you may know as well, in honor of Johnny Appleseed; the original and my own. Oh, the Lord is good to me, and so I thank Him for giving me the things I need. The sun, and the rain, and the apple seed. The Lord is good to me.


Our Annual Visit to The Perennial Post

SunflowerAt least once a year, I take my kids on a short-ish drive to visit our Amish friend Clara at her garden store, The Perennial Post. I prefer to make the trip in the spring to hunt for a special treasure to plant in one of the empty spots I discover when I am hyperactively tending to my garden that time of year. Somehow a visit never made it to the top of my lengthy “summer bucket list” all the long days of this very short season. But, I was determined to squeeze in a trip before summer’s official end. Since the kids had an extra day off of school the Friday before Labor Day, I figured it was the perfect opportunity for a short day trip to Clara’s home in Mesopotamia, Ohio. It sounds like it’s in the middle of nowhere, and according to my kids, it is. I, on the other hand, enjoy everything about making the scenic drive 25 miles east of our suburban village of Chagrin Falls. Driving into the country makes me feel free, lighter. Maybe it’s because I spent the first part of my childhood living in Nebraska frequently driving through cornfield after cornfield on our way to visit my grandparents in Chicago. Perhaps these drives out to Clara’s subconsciously remind me of the five-year-old, carefree version of myself.

Share the RoadWe set out mid-morning for a cruise down the two lane country road and before long we were gazing at fields of corn and sunflowers. With the mini-van windows open, the heavy summer air blew through our hair. As we approached the quiet town of Burton, home of the Maple Sugar Festival, the Geauga County Fair and the Gunrunner, the kids shouted with excitement at the sight of the first Amish buggy road signs. “We’re almost there! Look out for buggies.”, they said. A few miles more and we passed through Middlefield, a mile or so of strip malls, big box stores and fast food restaurants, where I am always struck by the contrast between our two worlds. Loud, impatient motorcycles and dump trucks whizzed past the clippety-clop of horse-drawn carriages. We know little about their way of life. I am eager to learn much more. And I can’t help but wonder if they look at the way we live with envy and awe or with laughter and criticism. As I snapped photos, I was suddenly aware that perhaps my pursuit of an interesting picture is an unpleasant reminder to them that they are different. Was I making them feel like they are a tourist attraction? I’ve since learned that their religious beliefs actually forbid them to pose for face-on photos. I’m sure they are used to tourists like me taking pictures of them frequently as there are entire websites dedicated to dining, lodging and attractions in “Amish Country.” But, I put my camera away, reminding myself to be respectful of their feelings and cognizant of their privacy. So I attempted to capture photos that wouldn’t put them in an uncomfortable position or that would compromise their religious views.


As we finished the drive to the Perennial Post, we noticed an Amish man cutting his grass with a manual mower, black and white and blue Amish clothing strung on clothes lines from the roof of an Amish porch to the top of their barn and three barefoot Amish children playing a game in their yard. Their sweat-drenched clothing and their sunburned skin, proof of their hard work and humility were a good lesson for all of us. The photojournalist in me was yearning to pull the car over to capture these unique sights on film. Yet, I kept on driving.

IMG_1207We arrived at Clara’s store to find a calf running through her front yard who got out of the barn next door. Clara chased to capture him, but still waved hello. The kids and I strolled through her garden/store which is also her very own yard, smelling and touching our way from the Echinacea to the Lamb’s Ear. We admired her compost pile, her Hibiscus, her huge collection of day lilies, her hosta, ferns and so much more. My hunt ended, when I discovered some European Wild Ginger, an aromatic, low maintenance, vigorously spreading ground-cover with heart-shaped, glossy evergreen leaves. I had admired this plant many times in my mother-in-law’s garden. While she’s offered to give me some of hers, I hated to leave her with a hole in her own yard. Plus I’d feel bad leaving Clara’s empty handed. I had in mind a few shady spots in my front yard where the wild ginger would be a perfect place to spread out under the shade of the bushy hemlocks. I also asked Clara to give me a couple clumps of Lamium, an interesting perennial ground cover that spreads with patches of small silver evergreen leaves with narrow green edges. Clusters of periwinkle flowers appear in spring, then continue off and on until fall. I’d brought home some Lamium from Clara last spring and I wanted to fill in a couple of naked spots under a tall maple tree in front of some Lily of the Valley. She and her assistant, Ester, dug up the plants and placed them in plastic grocery bags, as the kids climbed the stone stairs and chased around the yard. We talked for a bit and then said our good-byes, after they suggested some nice spots for our picnic lunch.

The kids and I headed back toward the “village” of Mesopotamia (a few buildings and a four-way stop) where we ate our picnic in the park and watched the local traffic; horse-drawn carts and manual bicycles. We stopped in the general store where the kids each picked out a piece of candy and then we began the trek back home .

I was eager to plant my new treasures as soon as we got home. Since John fell asleep in the car, he was recharged and ready to participate. He and Elizabeth helped dig the holes and plant our finds from the day. John helped me water too. Caroline ran off to play with her dolls. I was happy to put my European Ginger and Lamium in their new home and even more pleased that my children (at least a couple of them) were interested in helping me complete the task.

I love bringing a piece of Clara’s world back here to ours. In twenty years, I’d much rather look at my yard and remember our trips to Mesopotamia for a plant dug up out of a kind woman’s backyard than a trip to The Home Depot to buy a plant off a shelf. I hope one day we’ll look at these plants and reminisce about our adventures to see Clara; the sights we took in and even the lollipops we enjoyed from the General Store. I like to think these outings are also teaching my children a little something about hard work, humility, respect and appreciation for what makes each of us different and unique.