Mortuary Museum, Miniatures, Mothman, and Exquisite Cuisine on American Countess Adventure

A special post from guest blogger and cruise specialist Kathy Witt takes us aboard for a most unique cruise experience.

An embalmer’s technical reference handbook—and the machine that accompanies it. The exquisitely sculpted ballerina from “Black Swan” standing en pointe. And a mythical harbinger of doom that evolved into the centerpiece of an annual festival attended by 20,000 people from around the world.

One of the biggest draws of a river excursion with American Queen Voyages (besides the luxury-level experience, genuinely friendly crew and outstanding cuisine) are all the unexpected surprises on the itinerary. As the vessel calls at one charming river town after another, a mix of highlights—museums, bustling markets, scenic parks, historic homes, Main Street shopping—offer variety and allure. The specific attractions of a given destination are detailed during a daily port review, and all are included as part of the line’s guided hop-on hop-off tours.

Especially intriguing are discoveries aboard the American Countess’ Ohio River voyage between Louisville, KY, and Pittsburg, PA, that include a taboo topic, a creature from the paranormal realm and one of the world’s finest collections of miniatures.


No matter your age, your inner child will be hooked upon seeing the world-class fine art collection, numbering more than 15,000 pieces and in 1/12-scale, in Maysville, KY, a picture-postcard river town whose downtown is lined with yesteryear architecture punctuated by church steeples. The Kathleen Savage Browning Miniatures Collection at the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center is an extraordinary sight to behold.

Wander through the Palladian-style gallery filled with miniature houses, room boxes and vignettes—each showcasing exquisite and historically accurate re-creations right down to the tiny accessories, like a pair of vintage roller skates and a key to tighten them; building materials such as bricks on the Russell Theater’s exterior; and authentic carpets made on real looms.

In the “Lincoln Herndon Law Office,” the artisan room box replicates the office Abraham Lincoln shared with his partner, right down to the miniscule handwritten documents scattered across the desktop. The necklaces, bracelets and baubles in the “Savage & Sons Jewelers” room box are made with authentic gold, gems and crystals. Tiny copper pots and pans hang from the wall in the kitchen of “Le Plaisir De Venice” and itty-bitty puppets dance at the end of strings held by the toymaker in “McTavish Toys & Fairy Garden.”

The collection’s pièce de résistance is the re-creation of Spencer House, the magnificent eighteenth-century aristocratic palace and ancestral home of Princess Diana. Three floors showcase the fine furnishings and decorative arts objects that are true to the mid-1700s era and the exterior replicates the home’s neo-classical architecture.


“What stands six feet tall, has wings, two big red eyes six inches apart and glides along behind an auto at 100 miles an hour?” asked reporter Mary Hyre in a November 1966 newspaper article. Hyre was covering the spectral sighting of a creature that became known as the Mothman, first seen hovering over an abandoned government WWII ammunition manufacturing facility—dubbed the TNT area—north of Point Pleasant, WVA, and later dubbed a harbinger of doom.

Coverage of Mothman sightings held the nation in its grip for more than a year. Every time the winged creature was spotted, tragedy seemed to follow in its wake, including the Silver Bridge collapse 10 days before Christmas in 1967, which resulted in the deaths of 46 people. The sightings spawned dozens of newspaper articles; a New York Times bestselling book, The Mothman Prophecies, written by journalist and UFOlogist John A. Keel; the 2002 movie of the same name, starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney; and a 2017 documentary, “The Mothman of Point Pleasant.

The legend of the Mothman is recounted at the world’s only Mothman Museum. Memorabilia includes a recreation of Harris Steakhouse—considered a time capsule of 1960s Point Pleasant—which would eventually become known as the Mothman Diner. The museum’s small theater runs the documentary on a loop.

Outside, a 12-foot-tall, polished steel sculpture of Mothman standing atop a landscaped pedestal shows off his claws and glowing red eyes. And every third week in September, 20,000-plus visitors from around the world converge on Point Pleasant for the Mothman Festival (


A little gallows humor framed and hanging on the wall of the garage greets those arriving at the Peoples Mortuary Museum. Tucked in a residential neighborhood in Marietta, Ohio, it was one of the most unexpected stops on American Countess’ itinerary—and a real eye-opener for those who braved a visit.

The museum began as a place for William Peoples, current owner of and a funeral director at Cawley & Peoples Funeral Home, to store his antique car collection. Peoples had a particular interest in hearses and several of them are parked in the museum among the caskets, funeral equipment and clothing, mourning jewelry and other artifacts.

The collection dates back to the late 1800s, when funerals were typically held in private homes and the collection’s ice box coffin would have been the casket of choice. (Embalming wasn’t yet the customary practice.) An infant’s coffin illustrates the design—narrow at the feet and wider at the shoulders—that got it dubbed the “toe pincher.” It is fitted with a small removable cover for viewing and fancy hardware, including ornamental screws and handles, to allow a more personal touch to the coffin.

Also in the collection are a Sayers & Scovill Horse-Drawn Hearse from 1895, a 1934 Studebaker Presidential Hearse and a 1927 Henney Hearse called “Miss Henney” that has appeared in several Hollywood movies, including Woody Allen’s “Radio Days,” Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “Get Low,” a 2009 movie with Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray.


American Queen Voyages’ 245-passenger American Countess is a paddlewheel boat with contemporary design. Photo: Karan Kiser

Book an American Queen Voyage (AQV) to find the unexpected in America’s river towns. Besides including unlimited guided tours/shore excursions, AQV cruise fares include unlimited beverages, including wine, spirits, local craft beers and specialty coffees; open bars and lounges, including a morning juice bar; locally sourced and regionally inspired cuisine; and live, daily onboard entertainment—which is among the very best on any body of water anywhere—plus enrichment programming

AQV also now includes pre-paid gratuities and port taxes and fees in its fares. Additionally, a one-night pre-cruise hotel stay with free transfers between hotel and vessel is part of the cruise package.

Voyages are on authentic paddlewheel riverboats, boutique exploration vessels and expedition ships on America’s inland waterways and Great Lakes and shores from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to the Yucatán Peninsula and Alaska. 


Award-winning writer Kathy Witt is a monthly cruise, travel columnist and the author of several books, including Cincinnati Scavenger: The Ultimate Guide to Cincinnati’s Hidden Treasures and Secret Cincinnati: Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure.

Grub Street: 2022 James Beard Award Winners: The Full List

Grub Street: 2022 James Beard Award Winners: The Full List.

Local glassblower brings the first Glass Pumpkin Patch to Hocking Hills

Creating a pumpkin for Jack Pine’s Glass Pumpkin Patch
Photo courtesy of

Natural social distancing and gorgeous fall scenery awaits visitors

LOGAN, OH – As the best time to experience the vibrant fall foliage gets into full swing, Explore Hocking Hills announced that Jack Pine Studios will host Jack Pine’s Glass Pumpkin Patch 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Oct. 22-25. After 25 years of being featured at the Circleville Pumpkin Show, Pine is hosting created glass pumpkin show, as a way of helping guests, artists and vendors displaced by the festival cancellation. The new highly collectible Pumpkin of The Year, crafted from gleaming black glass with hints of shimmery silver, represents the silver lining of hope within the darkness of 2020.

Jack Pine Studio Glass Pumpkins.

As part of community-wide efforts to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and to ensure the safety of visitors, artists and staff, only 75 people will be admitted for each two-hour time slot. Tickets are $5 and go toward any purchase made at the glass shop. With several acres of land serving as Jack Pine’s outdoor studio, along with a vibrant indoor gallery and demonstration studio, there is plenty of space for people to browse and watch as glass is being blown. Open time slots can be booked at Complete travel information for the Hocking Hills can be found at

“We wanted to create something new and fun and artistic,” said Artist Jack Pine. “Hundreds and hundreds of unique hand-blown glass pumpkins of every color and size will be spread across the field in front of our studio as a way celebrate the changing colors in the great outdoors. It will be a sight to see!”

Blowing glass at Jack Pine Studio.

Pine added that an artist’s market on the sprawling studio grounds will feature 10 fine craftsmen and women from around Ohio and the nation. Everything from beautiful birdhouses to stoneware, pottery, metal sculpture, stained glass lanterns and miniature glass pieces will be on display and for sale. Pumpkin ice cream, donuts and rolls will be complete the sensory experience, along with food vendors serving bourbon chicken, Texas tenderloin sandwiches, Amish noodles, funnel cakes and more.

As a graduate of the esteemed Columbus College of Art & Design, Jack Pine forged his signature glass-blowing technique working in world-renowned glass houses in Seattle before returning home to southern Ohio where he continues to perfect his craft. He is well-known for his extraordinary hand-blown radiant glass pieces inspired by the beauty of nature’s organic forms.

Airplane Rock

Located 40 miles southeast of Columbus, Ohio’s Hocking Hills offers affordable lodging, from camping, cabins and cottages to hotels and inns. Miles of hiking trails, parks and forests; ziplines and guide services; and many more once-in-a-lifetime experiences join unique gift and antique shops, canoeing, horseback riding, golf, spas and more add to the allure of the Hocking Hills as the perfect place to unplug. 

Complete traveler information is available or 1-800-Hocking (800-462-5464).


The Golden Lamb: Turning Abraham Lincoln’s holiday into a 150 years old tradition

The Golden Lamb had been open for three decades or so when Lincoln visited Lebanon, Ohio. Though no records exist that he dined or stayed at what was then a busy stagecoach stop, it seems more than likely he’d at least sup in the dining room with its wide fireplaces used for cooking as well as to heat the rooms.

Let’s hope if he did, the scene was somewhat quieter than past meals such as the one described on the Golden Lamb’s website, recounting how “superb dinners were prepared by Jonas Seaman, Henry Share and others and served on the public square.

“These affairs frequently ended in brawls, and on July 4th, 1804, one of the guests attacked Jonas Seaman with his sword. Seaman brought charges against the man, Francis Lucas, who was a guest at his hotel. The charges read that “the guest Francis Lucas, with sword, staves and knives, force and arms, assaulted the said Jonas Seaman and did great damage against the peace of the State of Ohio.

We’re not quite sure when the Golden Lamb first began serving Thanksgiving dinners (Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday of November a national holiday in 1863) but it was a standard most likely from the very beginning.

John Zimkus, historian for the Golden Lamb, a glorious four-story building located in Lebanon’s historic downtown, discovered an article that ran in the Dec 6, 1888, edition of The Western Star. The reporter boasts about how great the Thanksgiving meal was, comparing it more than favorably to anything served in Cincinnati. Menu items included oysters, consommé oysters and turkey stuffed with oysters, along with whitefish, roast beef, chicken croquettes, wild duck, broiled quail, celery and lettuce (plain or with mayonnaise), plum pudding, mince pie, pineapple with “De Brie cheese” and Charlotte Russe.

I couldn’t find a description of the “De Brie cheese” or even why it was in quotations, but it must have been very popular as there were plenty of advertisements for it in the late 1800s and early 1900s. As for Charlotte Russe, it’s a dessert of sweet cream and sponge cake, popular during the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Oysters, which were cheap back then, no longer grace most Thanksgiving tables except maybe in the stuffing and nobody I know serves chicken croquettes, wild duck, whitefish or broiled quail for the holiday. So if you have a hankering for boil quail, look elsewhere. But several traditional items remain from that 1888 meal–cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, turkey, sweet potatoes and the restaurant’s famous rolls. All can be enjoyed in the central dining room original to the inn which opened in 1804.

The following recipes are courtesy of the Golden Lamb.

Apple Sage Stuffing

1 teaspoon butter

2 Granny Smith apples, in half-inch dice

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Pinch of cinnamon

1 stick butter

½ cup diced onion

1 stalk of celery

1 leek, quartered, rinsed thoroughly, diced

2-3 cups turkey or chicken stock

1 teaspoon rubbed (dry) sage

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

¾ teaspoon Kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

3 quarts cubed bread, stale or dried in oven (about 1 ½ pounds)

¼ cup fresh sage, chopped

Melt the teaspoon of butter in a large skillet. Add apples and sugar and sauté lightly until sugar is melted and apples are softened but still have a bite. Remove to a bowl.

Melt the stick of butter in a large deep skillet, add onion, celery and leeks and cook slowly until onions become transparent. Add 2 cups of turkey stock, the rubbed sage, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Add the bread cubes and stir. The cubes should be evenly moist, but not soggy. Add more stock if necessary.

Stir in apple mixture.

Spread in a shallow pan in a layer no thicker than 2 inches. Bake for about half an hour, until top layer is brown and crusty.

 Brussels Sprout Salad with Dried Cranberries and Sliced Almonds  

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted

½ cup lemon poppyseed dressing

1 teaspoon poppyseeds

Salt and pepper

In a salad or serving bowl, toss all the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste, and more dressing if necessary. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Lemon Poppyseed dressing

¼ cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped shallot (about half a shallot)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup salad oil

1 teaspoon poppy seeds 

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

Blend lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, garlic, shallot and sugar together in a blender. Slowly drizzle salad oil in while running blender, until emulsified. (Or whisk with a fork while adding oil or put in a jar and shake).  Add salt and pepper and poppyseeds, taste and adjust seasonings.

Cranberry sauce

There’s an easy way and a difficult way to make a spice sachet. If you’re totally in on authenticity, cut a square out of cheesecloth and place all the spices listed below in it. Then gather the edges the square and tie tightly with twine or string.

Rather not?

Substitute a coffee filter for the cheesecloth, just make sure to tie the ends tightly together.

1 teaspoon whole cardamom

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 oranges

1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries (or frozen)

1 cup sugar

⅓ cup orange juice

1 ½ cups cranberry juice

Put the cardamom, cinnamon, coriander and nutmeg in a spice sachet. Peel the oranges, being sure to remove white pith. Cut in half, then slice. Place cranberries, oranges, sugar, orange juice and cranberry juice in a pot. Add the sachet. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until the cranberries have popped, the liquid has thickened and has reduced somewhat. Let cool, then chill.

A Golden Lamb Thanksgiving: A Treat Since 1870

            I’ve spent a lot of time lately traversing Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio following, so to speak, in Abraham Lincoln’s footsteps . And while it’s not recorded that Lincoln stayed at the Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio, it’s certainly possible ashe traveled throughout the area. The connection seems apt because the GoldenLamb has been in continuous operation since it first opened in 1803 when Jonas Seaman spent four dollars on a license to open a log-cabin tavern under the sign of a golden lamb (because literacy wasn’t common, signs with images were used instead).

Sister Lizzie’s Shaker Sugar Pie
Photo courtesy of the Golden Lamb

            A host of other famous people have stayed there including, according to General Manager Bill Kilimnik, 12 presidents, Mark Twain and Charles Dickins. Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and an avid abolitionist was also a guest and I slept in the room she occupied and no (to the people who have asked) it’s not haunted though another room is said to be and there’s also a ghost cat that some have seen. But that’s a different holiday and the tie-in with Lincoln is that in 1870, he proclaimed the fourth Thursday of November a national holiday and the inn’s restaurant has served Thanksgiving dinner since then–which has got to be some type of record. 

            The restaurant is famed for many of their menu items including fried chicken, sauerkraut balls,Sister Lizzie’s Sugar Shaker Pie (White Water Shaker Village was once a large settlement of Shakers about three miles from Lebanon)–named by USA Today as the Best Pie in Ohio–and their yeast rolls made from a recipe first used by Robert and Virginia Jones in the early 1930s whose family still owns the inn. Their turkey dinners at Thanksgiving are very popular but if you can’t make it this coming Thursday,roast turkey is on the menu year round.

            According to several newspaper articles, back in the 1800s, the inn’s Thanksgiving menu included several oyster dishes including just plain oysters, consommé oysters as well as turkey stuffed with oysters. Other dishes were  whitefish, roast beef, chicken croquettes, wild duck, broiled quail, celery and lettuce—you could order it plain or with mayonnaise), plum pudding, mince pie, pineapple with “De Brie cheese”  and Charlotte Russe. I couldn’t find a description of the cheese, but plenty of advertisements for it in the late 1800s and early 1900s so my guess is it’s a type of creamy brie. Charlotte Russe a dessert of sweet cream and sponge cake popular during both the Victorian and Edwardian eras. 

Golden Lamb’s Mushroom Cobbler
Photo courtesy of the Golden Lamb

            The Golden Lamb may be one of the few long-time restaurants that doesn’t have a cookbook and their recipes are hard to come by, but Paige Drees who works at the inn shared their Mushroom Cobbler which she said (and I agree) would make a great Thanksgiving side dish. I also found an original handwritten recipe for Sister Lizzie’s Sugar Shaker Pie on the website of the Vintage Recipe Project, an online site founded in order to document and preserve historic recipes from the past. I’m not sure if it’s the same as what the inn serves but I tried the recipe and it seems very similar to what I had at the restaurant.  

Yeast Rolls
Photo courtesy of the Golden Lamb

Golden Lamb’s Mushroom Cobbler

1 cup Shitake mushrooms sliced

1 cup button mushrooms quartered

1 cups oyster mushrooms sliced

1 cups cremini mushrooms sliced

2 each shallot sliced

1 packet fresh poultry blend herbs

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces goat cheese

2 ounces dry sherry

4 cooked crumbled biscuits

1 packet fresh poultry blend herbs, cleaned and chopped reserve ½ for Biscuit topping

1 cup heavy cream

 8 ounces goat cheese reserve ½ for Biscuit topping

2 ounces dry sherry

Heat a medium sized skillet add one tablespoon of vegetable oil and sauté your shallots until tender, add all mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper. once the mushrooms are fork tender add sherry to deglaze pan. add your cream and reduce by half, fold in your goat cheese and fresh herbs, turn off and set aside.

One of the private dining rooms at the Golden Lamb

Biscuit topping

4 cooked crumbled biscuits

2 tablespoons melted butter

Remaining goat cheese

Remaining fresh herbs

Place all ingredients into medium sized bowl mix until it resembles a crumb topping.

1 bunch chopped asparagus

2 ounces sliced sun-dried tomatoes

2 ounces pearl onions

½ cup baby spinach

Prepared mushroom mix

In a medium skillet sauté your pearl onion until caramelized, add your asparagus and sundried tomatoes and sauté for two minutes add the mushroom mix from earlier. add spinach, check seasoning and put mix into casserole dish sprinkle on biscuit topping and bake at 350 for eight minutes until bubbly and golden brown

Golden Lamb Yeast Dinner Rolls

1 ½ cup milk

4 teaspoons dry yeast

4 cups bread flour

2 teaspoons salt

½ cup sugar

5 tablespoons vegetable shortening

1 egg

Heat milk until warm, 100 degrees. Put yeast in a small bowl, add about ½ teaspoon sugar, then stir in milk. Let sit until foamy. Combine flour, salt, sugar and shortening in a mixer bowl, and mix to combine. Add the milk mixture and egg. Mix on mixer until combined, then beat for about 13 minutes.  Or, by hand, mix until combined, then turn out onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

Oil the dough ball lightly, cover the bowl with a towel and let rise for an hour, when it should be doubled in size. Punch down. Divide the dough into about 24 balls of dough. One way to do this is to divide the dough into two, then all each half of the dough into a long rope on a flour-covered counter. Cut each rope into 12 equal portions, and roll each into a ball.

Place on a flat baking sheet and cover with a towel, Preheat oven to 350. After the rolls have risen about half an hour,  bake them  until golden brown and fragrant, about 10-15 minutes. Check frequently. Serve as soon as possible after they come out of the oven. 

Yields 8-10 servings.

Sister Lizzie’s Sugar Shaker Pie

     1/4  pound butter

    1 cup brown sugar

    1 3/4  cups light cream

    1/3  cup flour

    1/2 teaspoon vanilla

    Grated nutmeg

    1  9-inch pie shell, unbaked

Thoroughly mix the flour and brown sugar and spread evenly in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell.  Pour the cream and vanilla over this.  Slice the butter into 12-16 pieces and add.  Sprinkle with nutmeg.  Bake in a 350°F oven for 40-45 minutes or until firm.

For more information, 513-932-5065;