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The art of homemaking


Berlin Township woman named '2008 Homemaker of Year'


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Ursula Grimes of Berlin Township arranges colorful display of preserved and prepared food that helped her earn the 2008 Homemaker of the Year award at the Armada Fair. photo by Catherine Minolli.

September 10, 2008
Finding joy in everyday household tasks isn't always easy. When those tasks become a venue for creativity, a true artist is born.

The art of homemaking doesn't come naturally to many women—and even those who have mastered it will readily say it takes a mix of hard work and imagination.

If anyone would know, it's Ursula Grimes. The 69-year-old Berlin Township resident earned the 2008 'Homemaker of the Year' award at the Armada Fair.

The distinction is quite an accomplishment for any woman—and one that Ursula says is a reflection of her philosophy in life.

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"A homemaker doesn't have to be a stay at home mom who's around all the time," Ursula says. "A homemaker is anyone who cares for her children and her family; someone who takes time and does some of the lovely things you can do to make home life and the surroundings more wonderful.

"You can have a house, but the woman needs to create a home," she concludes.

And Ursula's done just that at the historic Holmes Road farmhouse she's shared for the past 22 years with her husband, Sam. Their children, Michael, 50, Gary, 46, and Stephanie, 37 are off on their own now, leading successful lives.

Using her skills to make their home a special place is a joyful experience for Ursula, who managed to do so even during the 17 years she ran her own business. Recently retired, Ursula says she knows it isn't always easy to keep up with everyday life. That's why she's so thrilled to have earned the 'Homemaker of the Year' distinction.

"It's important for people to appreciate what a mom does," she says. "This is so in my household and maybe I found more joy because my kids and my husband always appreciated it."

They had much to appreciate. In order to even qualify for the Homemaker of the Year award Ursula had to enter a total of 22 projects in seven categories. There were five requirements each in food preparation and food preservation, two floriculture arrangements, five 'domestic arts' projects and five arts, crafts and occupational crafts entries required.

Points are then assigned by judges, and the entrant with the highest number earns the award.

Ursula reached to her roots for many of her prize-winning entries. A native of Germany, she learned to knit in an air raid shelter when she was four years old.

"I remember it all very well," she says. "I knit a little scarf."

She also relied on her German background in the food preparation and preservation department.

"I have to tell you that I made all the German stuff that I like," she says. "A wonderful apple cake and cookies, canned red cabbage and plum jelly."

The cincher in the food department, though, may have been her 'Rumtopf.' The German holiday favorite consists of a layered fruit, sugar and, of course, rum perserved in an airtight jar.

"You let it sit until the holidays and then stir it up and enjoy it," she says.

Another winning project was Ursula's kitchen herb rack—which hangs on the wall of her bright country kitchen.

She converted a utensil rack that was commonly used in Germany until the late 1950s. From there, she hangs a variety of culinary herbs. Ursula filled the utensil basin with potting soil and planted some hens and chicks, which may be used on salads.

For the other winning projects, Ursula reached out to artists in the community to help hone her skills.

She brushed up on basketweaving with Ruthanne Morningstar of Dryden, and learned to paint with Almont artist Val Hanselman, who gave her pointers and loaned her some equipment, too.

"I never painted really and I can't believe I got a first place," Ursula says. Ditto for her basket.

"Through Ruthanne's guidance I took a top honor in that one, too," she grins.

Ursula also entered knit and crocheted items in the domestic arts category, as well as a crewel work wallhanging.

Perhaps the most surprising project Ursula entered was a doll impeccably dressed up, which also earned a first place.

Entering projects at fairs isn't new for Ursula, who's had open class entries in the Eastern Michigan Fair in Imlay City last year and years prior.

She decided to try for the Homemaker of the Year award because it presented a challenge. During last year's visit to the Armada Fair, Ursula was in the grandstands when they announced the winner.

"I saw her get recognized and saw what she entered and said 'I can do that, too,' and my competitive juices got flowing," Ursula says. She also thinks it's an important acknowledgment, so she's committed to passing along what she knows to future generations.

"We need to teach our young people that there is a joy in being a homemaker," she says. "It's a creative outlet and it's what makes a house a home."

Next year, Ursula will be a candidate for statewide recognition among the other regional Homemaker of the Year award winners at the Michgan State Fair.

Along with her commitment to homemaking and family, Ursula is active in the United Methodist Church in Allenton, and spearheaded a project to collect and ship clothing to people in need.

She's also a 'recruiter' of sorts to young people, making sure as many as she can round up take part in Almont's Memorial Day activities.

"I haul them out there from church," Ursula grins, "I think it's important that children go and understand what it means."

Just as it's important to pass on the meaning of the joy of and commitment to homemaking.

"There are things you can do to make your home life more wonderful, and to me that brings joy," Ursula says.

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