Sunday, December 21, 2008

Elisabethe's birthday

Elisabethe had her 5th birthday on Sunday, the 21st and that finishes out our birthdays for the year! I decided -remembered?- that she needed a birthday dress on friday and so we went through our meager fabric stash and found this piece. I wanted to do something different so I decided to try my hand at making bretelles.Bretelles are the over-the-shoulder-thingys that you see edged in rick rack. Rick rack isn't exactly period correct, at least not our modern Jo-Ann Fabrics version, but it was what I had. The bretelles have royal blue rick rack while the waistband is edged in black; that wasn't intentional, I thought that I needed another pack of blue when really I needed black. I never noticed until the bretelles were on, so they'll be coming off and be redone. Bretelles are an 1840's thing which is an era we don't reenact, so this is technically just an everyday dress, not one for reenactments or living histories. Therefore, the messed up bretelles shouldn't bug me, but they do! They dress has 3 growth tucks as well, which are hard to see unfortunately.
Elisabethe had told me in August that she wanted a birthday picnic like Rebekah had and I kind of just blew it off in my mind -you don't have picnics in December- but as her birthday drew closer I began to reconsider. So, we had a picnic by the fire complete with subs, potato salad and 2 kinds of jello.

And then, we roasted marshmallows in the woodstove!




And made smores!

The whole thing turned out very well, it was an interesting notion to picnic whilst the snow blew!





Monday, December 15, 2008

A sweet story

I have blogged at various times about our oldest son, Aleks, but I've rarely put up pictures of him. He tends to be un-photogenic, like I am, and nobody likes pictures put up when they don't look good so....... lots of stories, no pictures. This past Sunday, during Church, I snapped several pictures and just had to share them with you anyway. Abby likes to sit with Aleks, she really likes to hold his hand and thinks he's just wonderful. He is very gracious about the whole thing (I just love him for it!) Anyhow, here they are, we're singing in the pictures, by the way.Before we were even done singing she fell asleep, isn't that absolutely precious?
Elisabethe (who is almost 5) has stated often that she's going to marry Aleks. When she's in bed she talks to Katie a lot about what her wedding dress will look like, what dances they'll do (he'll bow and she will curtsey) about the cake.......... and on and on. Katie asked her the other night "what if Aleks wants to marry someone else?" and she got a horrified look on her face and said "why would Aleks want to marry somebody else?" ;-) Now, don't misunderstand, Aleks finds all that talk about marrying his 5 year old sister embarrassing, but he'd never hurt her feelings over it. Sometimes, I'm actually tempted to think I've got this parenting thing down pat. But, then I overhear Rebekah singing "Silver bells, silver bells, it's Christmas time in the privy" and I know that I've got a long way to go!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Various things pertaining to historical living


This is Katie's "transition dress" which she wore to Christmas in ---, it is called a transition dress because she's beginning to cross the divide from girlhood to womanhood. In the 1860's that transition was delayed until the mid to late teens, very unlike today where the littlest of girls are routinely dressed like street walkers. It has features of both children's and adult's dresses and still is not the floor length of an adult gown. For the event she wore her hair in a single braid down the back tied with a silk ribbon, the pinner apron is a wonderfully useful garment for keeping one's dress from becoming mussed up and is handy for carrying and wiping any number of things!









Courtesy of Gramma, the 6 youngest children had presents to open at ---. Tabitha and Rebekah received the penny wooden dolls on the left and Katie made the rolled cloth dolls on the right for Elisabethe and Abigail. We brought along blocks and cloth scraps and the girls made their dolls a house with beds and put a pine branch in an empty wooden spool for a Christmas tree in miniature. Levi and Micah enjoyed entertaining us with the flapjack on the bottom left and quickly learned how to use the top on the bottom right and competed with who could spin it the longest which eventually became "see who can knock the top over as it spins so your brother doesn't win". Pretty much everybody tried their hand (er, mouth) at the Jew's harp in the center. We also got a book about making paper dolls since the girls are forever-and-a-day wanting me to cut dolls for them. All these toys were purchased from the Ragged Soldier, a wonderful on-line store run by the Mescher's, selling all kinds of nifty old-fashioned toys for reenacting children!

We went today to try on the coat that I ordered for Aleks. A pair of Amish sisters sew coats for a living so I'm having wool coats made for the three boys. Aleks' coat fit great and the woman did an excellent job, which is a relief to me. I have several people who have helped me with sewing at various times and some are certainly more skilled than others. The shirt to the right is one of nine shirts that my friend Anna made for the boys. It is a "squares and rectangles" shirt, excellently sewn complete with beautiful handmade buttonholes. Truly, a well made shirt is a thing of beauty!

The picture below is called "Watchers in the Night", I used to have a very small version of it hanging up when we lived in North Carolina, but it apparently got mislaid in the many moves since then. I absolutely love the angel depicted in it, so manly and protective! Did you know that every Biblical angel whose gender is known is male? I think it's just another example of every good thing being corrupted into something different than the Lord intended, I can't think of too many pictures I've ever seen with manly angels. Either they are completely effeminate (which is an abomination) or they're female (which I suppose would also be an abomination since God didn't create them thus). Every child has an angel who always beholds the face of the Father, I take comfort in that. But, supper is almost ready, we're having ham steaks, mashed potatoes with cream and cream cheese, and peas! Good night.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Snowy day

Yesterday and today we had our first snowfall of the year. We don't get much accumulation here but we make the most of what we do get! Micah and Levi wanted Aleks to help them build ships and then take them down to the creek. They set them a-sail and then fired at them with the BB gun trying to sink them. Levi made the argument that it wasn't fair to use the sight because cannons weren't equipped with them and it gave an unfair advantage. He maintained this policy until the battle got too fierce and then he broke down and aimed with the sight. ;-)



Elisabethe and Abigail got out of the bath and after they were freshly braided they decided to have "Church". They got down their song books and proceeded to go through their repetoire which consists of: Jesus Loves Me, God's Love Is Like A Circle, Come And Dine, and snippets of other tunes. It's so sweet to hear their singing!


Since we are homechurching again we've compiled our own "songbook" in a three ring binder. We thought it would be best to begin with the old songs that don't require the women to sing one thing and the men something different (what is that called anyway?) So far we have "Oh For A Heart To Praise My God" 1742, "All People That On Earth Do Dwell" 1500's, and "Praise To God, Immortal Praise" 1772. I want to add some of the old carols this week as well. These songs are meant to be sung slowly and I'm pretty sure that we sing them slower than most people would, but we find it helpful to meditate on the words rather than just race through the songs. That seems to defeat the intended purpose, doesn't it?
Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner we've brought out our meager Thanksgiving/Pilgrims/Early Settlers/Native American books out. We also have a set of Indians and canoes and horses that they haven't played with since last year when we read aloud The Sign Of The Beaver, they really enjoyed that story. The Story of Sarah Whitcher is another wonderful, true story that we like! On the food front, we have two turkeys that are going to be butchered early next week, they are an old heritage breed from Rhode Island called Narragansett. They aren't broad breasted like a Butterball but they are so flavorful, I can't wait!

I love Thanksgiving, it is good to reflect on all of our mercies and give thanks afresh!




Monday, November 10, 2008

Nostalgia

Nostalgia, it has been said, is a great American disease. Yet an appraisal of the past need not be nostalgia. True nostalgia is “homesickness,” and even the most ardent antiquarian would not so yearn for the past as to want to return completely. In this speeding world, the faster we travel, the farther back we leave our past. We soon find ourselves using all our powers to “keep up with things,” and looking backward at all has become a lost art. Even beholding and evaluating the present becomes difficult.
We have actually come to believe today that we must either progress or retrogress. Each season of existence should be an entirely new one, according to twentieth-century thinking, and there is no such thing as intelligently remaining stationary. Next year’s things, we assume, must necessarily be improvement on this year’s, and to want anything but the newest, brands us as quaint.
Contentment too is considered a bogey in this century. Eugene O’Neill voices this modern opinion, saying, ”One should be either sad or joyful. Contentment is a warm sty for eaters and sleepers.” How different was America two centuries ago when Benjamin Franklin declared that “Contentment is the philosopher’s stone that turns all it touches into gold!”
We often observe that great-grandfather had a knack of enjoying himself that we seem to have lost. It might be that his “seasons for fun” were more independent from his “seasons for work” than ours are today. It might be, too, that he devoted himself more completely to the moment.
That great American privilege and aim, the “pursuit of happiness,” originally involved a now almost obsolete use of the word “happiness.” Then, it meant “blessedness,” or “a state of satisfaction or contentment,” but now it suggests fun. The "pursuit of happiness” which we accept as an American heritage is, it seems too often mistaken for a pursuit of fun. I am alarmed as I agree with Carl Sanburg that “Never was a generation.... told by a more elaborate system of the printed word, billboards, newspapers, magazines, radio, television—to eat more, play more, have more fun.” This, we are led to believe, is an American way, and a recipe for contentment. Yet the time for fun and the time for contentment were two very different seasons in great-grandfather’s mind; and he fared fabulously well with both.
I am indeed grateful for the good things of this age, yet I feel there were certain things of the past which were good and unimprovable, many of which have become lost. It is both my lot and pleasure to look backward, to search the yesterdays for such carelessly discarded wealth. I am forever thankful for living at this time when many of the marks of early America still exist, before that fast-approaching time when they will all have disappeared into a far different landscape.
America, the richest nation in the work, has managed to be the most wasteful. We will be the first to admit this, and there is even pride in our voice. We spend our way into prosperity and out of recessions so that thrift is regarded a way of the past. Across our nation at present is written a record of land wastefulness never equaled in the history of the world. Land is “improved” by destroying it and building over the waste. We always forgive ourselves with the ready excuse that we can afford wastefulness. But there is always a reckoning, and even now we begin to wonder. We might wonder what other wasteful ways of everyday life have also become Americanisms.
The lost seasons of early America may sound like vanished trifles, but in a confused age when the most patriotic American must sometimes grope for words to explain his heritage, or to define “ Americana,” any material which contributes to a better understanding of our past is invaluable, and it is often the apparently small detail which contributes most.
The American heritage, as I see it, is grounded in the freedom and expression of the individual, and individual freedom, I maintain, was a fresher spirit a century or two ago. Individual expression was likewise richer. I believe that freedom becomes stale and expression becomes poor without constant appraisal.
In this age of “arms races” and “ space conquest” the simple, basic philosophy of our past is too often ignored; and when the study of the past is mistaken for nostalgia, beware!

Eric Sloane
Weather Hill
New Milford
1958





This is from the Author's note in The Seasons of America Past by Eric Sloane, an excellent book as is everything I've read from this author so far. I've had this ready to go in a post for quite a while, but decided to put it in today after a conversation with Tasha Tudor's granddaughter-in-law, Amy Tudor. I'm writing a piece about self sufficiency for Farming magazine and interviewed her about her famous relative. I have a regular column there called The Backyard Herbalist and the editor asked me to write the other self sufficiency piece for the Winter issue. I still have to select the photo to put with the article, but I wanted to write this post up first.








On the sewing front, I completed Abigail's quilted petticoat today. It is brick red on the outside and mustard on the inside. I machine quilted it, which was a first for me, to see if it was feasible to do one for me on the machine. I don't have a walking foot so I don't think I'll do mine that way. My sewing list is shrinking slowly but surely! I want to speak with a certain reader about a fan front gown she made recently, I have some linen that would look well made up thus. ;-)



Monday, November 3, 2008

Our Anniversary

Today, November 3, 2008, is the eighteenth anniversary of our wedding day. We were married in the local Presbyterian church on a Saturday evening.


We had our reception at Delhurst restaurant where Mr. G worked at the time. My brother did the photography, my brother-in-law DJ'ed and my sister Dawn sewed the five junior bridesmaid's dresses. These were all gifts to us.



Mr. G's supervisor provided the catering and her mother made the cake!


And so we lived happily ever after!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Beautiful yet functional

I have long had an admiration for Fraktur and especially for the Distelfink birds. Fraktur is Pennsylvania German folk art that saw its heyday from 1740 to 1860 and was used to decorate everything from baptismal records to dower chests. They were colorful and folksy renditions of birds, flower, hearts and even people. So when I decided that I needed some Shaker-type boxes to hold my china buttons and silk ribbons, I knew that I'd like to try my hand at doing a Fraktur motif. The box below is finished except for the coat of shellac that will mute the colors quite a bit.




The inspiration for this particular box was this 1785 document on the right.
Distelfink birds are technically goldfinches, but I wanted mine to be a little different so mine are a deep teal blue. I thought that I had a lot of china and glass buttons but as you can see, there is room for many, many more! I acquired most of my antique buttons from Ebay but I recently was given a few hundred mother-of-pearl buttons that were in my Aunt's collection.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A new dress and a clothing inventory

I finished Elisabethe Mercy's new dress today, she needed some new winter dresses and I wanted to complete them before the snow flies. This is the second time I've made coat sleeves in a dress and the second time they've come out too short! I even lengthened the pattern to avoid this, so I really don't understand what went wrong; it's not as though we have chimp arms in this family or something!
I put a waistband in though I prefer to construct little girl's dresses without one because they go together so much faster!

I gave her three growth tucks so hopefully she won't outgrow it before spring. The birthday dress that Rebekah got in the beginning of August is already on the short side. :-(
We have Amish friends whom I admire for many reasons, one of which is how diligent they are in taking care of their possessions. I don't consider our children careless but they certainly don't *cherish* every single thing that they own either. I made a clothing inventory for the girls so that every Saturday night they can make sure that they are able to account for their homemade clothing, otherwise things are liable to disappear. Mrs. R asked that I share it, so here it is albeit not in the beautiful font that I originally wrote it in.
Clothes Inventory for Little Grahams

~Tabitha’s yoked red print dress with sleeve caps
~Tabitha’s short sleeve light green print dress
~Tabitha’s blue pinafore
~Tabitha’s maroon pinafore
~Tabitha’s underpinnings
~Rebekah’s green print fan front dress
~Rebekah’s light green dotted print summer dress
~Rebekah’s red homespun dress
~Rebekah’s short sleeve blue print dress with shirred sleeves and soutache braid
~Rebekah’s tan pinafore
~Rebekah’s underpinnings
~Elisabethe’s brown print yoked dress
~Elisabethe’s blue homespun dress
~Elisabethe’s maroon print dress
~Elisabethe’s red pinafore
~Elisabethe’s underpinnings
~Abigail’s brown print dress
~Abigail’s yoked mint green print dress
~Abigail’s double pink fleur-de-lis dress
~Abigail’s blue pinafore
~Abigail’s underpinnings

We had Tabitha's birthday supper this evening and here is her dessert. I have saved this recipe for months in anticipation of this day!

The recipe is:
Pecan Pies in Pumpkin Shells

Hollow out 8 mini pumpkins and divide roughly 1 1/2 cup of pecans among them. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a cookie sheet. On the stove combine: 1/4 cup butter, 1 cup maple syrup, 4 large eggs, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon vanilla or rum. When combined pour over pecans in shells about 2/3 full. Bake for 45 minutes or until filling is set. Bake the tops too. Very good!

A while ago Mrs. R did a "I've come to realize" post and I wanted to post mine.

1. I've come to realize that my family (husband and children) and I...... are best friends!

2. I've come to realize that I talk..... a lot

3. I've come to realize that I love...... my life!

4. I've come to realize that I have..... a lot to be thankful for

5. I've come to realize that I've lost..... my desire to go with the flow

6. I've come to realize that I hate..... being ashamed of myself

7. I've come to realize that marriage is...... hard work

8. I've come to realize that somewhere, someone is thinking..... I wish I could be happy

9. I've come to realize that I'll always have.....a reward for the services I do, nothing is unseen

10. I've come to realize that I don't...... have time to be in a funk!

11. I've come to realize that when I wake up in the morning..... I'm pretty cold ;-)

12. I've come to realize that before I go to sleep at night.....I need to pray for my family

13. I've come to realize that babies..... keep you young!

14. I've come to realize that today..... can never be retrieved

15. I've come to realize that I really want...... Mr. G to get a better job

16. I've come to realize that my true friends.....are very few but much loved

17. I've come to realize that my husband.....has been the perfect one to help me be more Christlike

18. I've come to realize that I need.......to get Mr G's trowsers cut out!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tabitha's 10th birthday


Tabitha's 10th birthday is technically tomorrow but Mr. G got called for a job interview tomorrow so she got to open her presents today. She has wanted a red dress for quite a while so I decided to sew her one and she also got a flannel petticoat and a pinafore. She is a voracious reader so I bought her Probable Sons (a big thank you to Cassandra for steering us toward Lamplighter books) and Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John. She wanted a diary so I found her a sweet one with a kitten on it and she also got a crafty-thing to make pillows with and, of course, underwear! With her own $20 from Gramma she got a lot of Sculpey clay and a mold to make Sculpey people.
This was my first ever attempt at making sleeve jockies, they are piped with brown piping, the sleeves themselves are bishop sleeves and the cuffs are trimmed in a matching brown stripe. It has a yoked bodice and instead of gathering the lower bodice portion I directionally pleated it in both the front and back. She has 3 growth tucks in the skirt. The whole thing has plenty of room so hopefully she can wear it for 2 winters.

We will have her birthday dinner and cake on the 22nd, so more pictures to come!









Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cider pressing!!!

We went today and got our apples pressed. This process started by going to the orchard earlier this week and picking up apples. The orchard owner lets us pick up all the windfalls that we want for free. Because this isn't an organic orchard, we bring the apples home and wash them individually in soap and water. It is time consuming, but I feel better about the cider if I know we've removed as much pesticide as possible.



Here are our apples dumped in the hopper and ready to be ground up. Abby "helping".


The ground up apples get dumped in layers on slatted trays which are covered in cloth. The cloth gets folded over the apples before the next tray is added.



The last picture would be on the right hand side of the picture below. After all of our apples are ground then the stacked up trays are pushed into the middle. Can you see the slatted trays? Then, the whole tray area goes up and gets pressed which is what makes the cider. It goes into a holding tank and we put it in jugs ourself.



We dropped one jug off to friends on the way home so this is what we came home with. Total cost: 25 gallons of cider at a quarter a gallon= $6.25 plus $.39 for each jug= $9.75. Grand total $16.00

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Steps toward self sufficiency

Mr. G is on an e-mail ring for self sufficient minded folks and one fellow remarked that his family had gone to kerosene lamps in an effort to reduce their electric bill and he was pleased to report that they'd reduced their bill by $200 a month! Now, I know ours won't drop that much (our whole bill is nowhere near $200) and I've already reduced it a lot by washing our clothes in cold and not using a clothes drier. Anyhow, we're going to give the kerosene lamps a try and we'll see how it goes. Kerosene was $4.20 a gallon and that's a little bit discouraging, to say the least! Here are our 2 beauties. The one on the right hangs above the kitchen sink and then after the supper dishes are washed it hangs in the livingroom. The one on the left is hand blown and it's heavy!








Then, on the wood cutting front......... Aleks has wanted a crosscut saw for a long time, we've made do with what we had up until now. Today Mr. G went to the flea market and found a great 1 man crosscut saw for $20! It can have a second handle put on thus converting it to a 2 man if need be. As soon as Aleks saw it he pulled it out of the trunk, got out his file and began sharpening it. While he was doing that we checked the bees; the "A" hive is doing fine but the "C" hive will need to be fed this winter to survive. I'm not thrilled about feeding them, but the choice is either that or they'll starve to death.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Laundry joys and toys

As you may know, I'm an avid clothesline fan. I *love* to see the rows of shirts, dresses, petticoats and underbodies flapping in the breeze. I've hardly missed having a dryer at all except for two Sundays ago when I forgot to wash the girls' good white socks for church and, since it rained for a few days together, we missed church due to cold sockless toes. ;-) So, this weekend, Mr. G is going to rig up a contraption by the woodstove. I want two chains hung from the ceiling two feet apart and then I can put dowels through the links to dry apples on. Can you visualize that? I can also hang socks and undies on the dowels and they'll dry quickly by the stove. I could also hang dresses and shirts on hangers and hang them in the chainlinks. It won't be very pretty but it certainly will be handy!

I have also been using my own soap to do laundry with, so far so good. I like washing the littlest girls' things by hand, it is such a pleasant chore. I also wash the church socks by hand with my glass washboard. To stand at the sink and rub the clothes, smell the pleasant homemade soap smell, to think of each child as I do the work I've been blessed to have been given....... It makes me thankful.



Below is a picture of our entire toy collection. Almost. We do have some Schleich animals that are made in CHINA! But we no longer buy anything made in China and we don't buy plastic toys either. The children don't seem to tire of this meager selection, but then again they don't spend much time in the house these days either. They use the blocks to make houses and barns for the animals to live in, use the wooden fruits and vegetables as tables and chairs in addition to their intended use, play "hide-the-button" with them, make a store and sell their merchandise, cut out paper dolls to live in the houses, sew toys for each other and the list goes on! I actually think that having too much stuff is the worst thing you can do to encourage creativity and thankfulness. None of the children have very many wants; they don't see the advertising that encourages consumerism, so they are grateful for every plaything that they get. We instituted the rule when our oldest was young that when we are out, "if you ask for it then you don't get it", this very effectively stops nagging and whining in public. They are, of course, encouraged to tell us what they would like to have, but not in stores! This picture doesn't include the outside toys like the wagon (best purchase we ever made!), picnic table and a mini teeter totter. For a while the teeter totter was strung up in a tree and the children used it as a bull to ride! They like to put up swings and climb trees, go berry picking and leaf hunting..... all the things that children will be drawn to if they are allowed to be children.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

She Looketh Well To The Ways Of Her Household

September is almost over and you can feel the difference in the weather as Winter prepares to make its debut. The mornings are chilly and we've had a fire a few times already to dispel the cold. The days warm up nicely, and it feels good to be outdoors soaking up the sunshine and, of course, cider pressing is one of the delights of the season!


As always, when Winter is near, I feel the overwhelming urge to "prepare". I'm not sure if that's an outworking of being agriculturally oriented or what, but I'm very in tune with the seasonal changes. My friend, Mrs. R, calls this Autumnal feeling "nesting" and I suppose that is as good a term as any. It's the desire (urge?) to make sure you have enough food put by for the Winter but it also entails the need to sew and spin and knit.

It's a very real need to know that you have adequately prepared your children for the upcoming season. I'm not sure if you'd have this feeling if you primarily bought your food and clothes. Is it only for those who have taken the tasks upon themselves? I don't know.
So, I'm busily stitching garments to keep the children's elbows and knees covered and I'm yearning to sit down at the spinning wheel and listen to its rhythm and feel the sensations of wool becoming yarn as it slides through my fingers.

I have a long list of garments still to be sewn including wool coats for the girls and some warm dresses. I'd like to do wool flannel petticoats but I'm not sure if that will come to fruition this year or perhaps it will wait until next year. Mr. G and the boys are cutting additional firewood now to add to what we already had so when the snow flies, we will be ready.









Monday, September 22, 2008

Apples!

We go pick up apples at a local orchard every year and dry them or press them into cider. The owner lets you take for free all that you want of the windfalls. Today was the first time we went this year and this is what we came home with. The orchard owner told me the varieties but I've forgotten; there are 4 different kinds anyway. We will go again on Wednesday to get some Grimes and more Yellow Delicious and maybe press some, although I was going to wait a few weeks. Those apples will give about 10-15 gallons of cider and we *love* cider so the temptation
is great to get these pressed, but later apples make better cider. We'll see.

I really love the Autumn. How it smells and how it looks. It makes me happy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Unexpected "blessing"

Upon coming home from Church the boys discovered where one of the missing banties has been, she went broody in the barn roof overhang and hatched out 6 babies. The children are happy, Mama is not. Chicks in September mean potentially freezing to death in the winter, plus, we were trying to thin down the flock so there won't be so many to feed. Anyway, they're here and that settles it. The children have spent the afternoon holding them and could only eat lunch in shifts so that somebody could "babysit" at all times.






Two happy girls. They didn't even change their dresses before racing for their turn to hold the new arrivals.