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 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.