Sunday, August 21, 2016

Historical Sewing Challenge #6: Travel

Housewif all rolled up
I'm excited to have finished another historical sewing challenge! I finished this one in July in time for my best friend Mairi's birthday present. She had embroidered these lovely 18th century pockets for myself, my daughter, and done an adorable initials patch for my son's 18th century shirt as Christmas gifts, so I wanted to make something for her in return! She didn't have a housewif, so it was the perfect gift idea! A housewif is a foldable or rollable traveling sewing kit. It's small, so it's easy to stuff in your pocket, and from what I've learned, many women in those times also used them as coin/money purses.

I had a lot of fun selecting the fabrics for this. I only had two options in my stash that I felt would work, so gosh dang it, I had to go get some more! haha! The one from my stash that I used for the outside of the housewif was one I found at my favorite fabric shop - Needle & Thread in Gettysburg, PA. It's a print taken from the Winterthur Museum collection (a lovely museum in Delaware). I'm not sure what the print dates to, but it's such a gorgeous fabric! Love at first sight! :-)
The beautiful Winterthur Museum collection fabric!
For new fabrics I selected two brown prints that look about 1850s-60s (Mairi loves brown!), and a blue print that's an 1830s reproduction print. The rest of the fabric I used is pretty general and could pass well for historical. While my fabrics aren't tied to a particular decade, I wanted to find historical prints that had meaning behind them.

I decided to hand-sew the whole thing which I thoroughly enjoyed! I've been doing a lot of 1940s sewing which is all on the machine, so it was a nice change to slow the pace to a simple needle and thread - while watching North & South! I have a good idea about how long it took, because I started and finished sewing the housewif with the movie which is 4 hours. Nice!

Here's the break down.

The Challenge: June - Travel

Material: 100% cotton prints, cotton homespun

Pattern: Housewif - hand drafted from studying originals and tutorials

Year: early-mid 19th century

Notions:  cotton quilt batting, cotton thread, cotton tape, mother of pearl button

How historically accurate is it? 90%. A housewif is pretty straightforward, but I didn't bind the edges like all the ones I've seen in my research. I wanted it to look more tidy and I'm horrible at binding. :-p

Hours to complete: approx. 4.5 hours

First worn: Gave it to a friend as a gift for her to use

Total cost: about $10 for fabric. The rest was in my stash.

Enjoy some more photos!

The light blue is the 1830s reproduction print.
Both browns I felt were good 1860s options, as well as the plaid.

I love the blue and gold print and the gold print is one I've had in my stash and used in a quilt.
Here you can see a peek at the beeswax I stuffed in one of the pockets.

The back of the housewif
Rolled up and tidy with button and cotton tape ties
The button doesn't actually button. It's just to cover and anchor the ties, as well as give them something to wrap around if desired.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Historical Recipe: Blueberry Cake

Are you a breakfast person? I know some people aren't. I love breakfast and have a weird fascination with it. I hoard breakfast recipes, and yet what do we usually have for breakfast? Eggs or cereal. *sigh*

I was excited to come across this wonderful 1941 cookbook featuring the famous singer, Kate Smith. This entire cook book is an advertisement for Post brand foods, and Grape Nuts have a starring presence in many of the recipes. I plan on trying a few of them soon! In the book, Ms. Smith talks a lot about the benefits of eating enough fiber as in this example below:

I had some blueberries languishing in the back of my fridge (what is wrong with my family??) and knew I had to use them soon. So, when I saw this recipe for Blueberry Cake, I thought it was the perfect use for my sad blueberries!

It was a simple recipe with easy ingredients, and it went together much like a coffee cake - where you alternately add the flour and milk to the creamed sugar mixture until you have a rich, thick batter. Then you fold the blueberries into that which is really hard! I didn't want to squish any of the blueberries. If you use fresh, your cake will remain white. If you use frozen, like she suggests you can, your cake will be more streaked with purple.
Blueberry Cake, ca. 1941

I didn't wait for it to cool down after I took the cake from the oven. I dug right in, and oh boy! Was it delicious! Nice, rich flavor with the yummy punch of blueberries and a nice texture. I think in these modern times, people would try to "fancy" this up with a crumb topping or ice cream or crazy stuff like that. Just don't do it. The beauty is in the simplicity. It doesn't need a thing!

Blueberry Cake yumminess!

This is one that would definitely be worth trying. But since Kate Smith says this should be for breakfast, don't even think about serving it for a dessert!!

A neat historical note: I love that she mentions Bird's Eye frozen blueberries. I wrote my History capstone course paper on the advent of the frozen food industry in 1939 starring Bird's Eye Foods. In 1941, the brand was only 2 years old! Frozen, or "frosted foods" as they were referred to, revolutionized the American menu and challenged the idea of only being able to eat things seasonally. It's a very cool piece of history! :-D

Saturday, July 23, 2016


It's been a little quiet around here - not because I don't have anything to write about. I get ideas for my blog all the time and in the most inconvenient places like while driving the car or in the shower or in the middle of our homeschooling time.

This summer has been a little busy. We've been keeping up on doing some half-time school of studying the 50 states. (We've been so laid back about it, we might need to finish the other half of the states next summer!) But the biggest reason for my little unintended hiatus is because I'm expecting a baby late this winter (hooray for surprise babies!), and I've just been flat out exhausted! Morning sickness has been manageable, but it still takes a bit out of me. I'm getting a lot less done than I'd hoped with all my extra time with half-time school, but that's just the way it is.

I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things on here. As soon as my nose and stomach aren't sending me on a roller coaster, I can get back to ration cooking and posting about sewing projects and museums!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Historical Recipe: French Pan Cakes

French Pan Cakes

I wanted pancakes the other night for dinner, so I turned to my historical cookbooks. I have had a dickens of a time finding a pancake recipe that doesn't fall flat. (Seriously, it doesn't matter if the recipe says they're the "fluffiest ever!", they just aren't for me. Arg.)

So, instead of trying a ration recipe, I decided to try something from my 1937 Mirro Cook Book. I found a recipe for French Pan Cakes! These looked very similar to the batter recipe for the good waffles using the egg whites whipped separately. Have you ever tried waffles made that way? My friend Loris introduced the recipe to me for a waffle night our families had together. We made them using our vintage waffle irons. It was fun! And they were amazingly fluffy and incredible tasting. Mmm!

Anyway, this recipe required the yolks to be added to the batter and the egg whites beat separately, then folded in to make extra fluffy cakes. I was surprised it called for three eggs. It made the batter extra yellow, especially considering our chickens' eggs are almost orange in color. Surprisingly, it didn't make them taste eggy like German pancakes.

I tried a pan cake fresh off the grill (of course!), and it was awesome! I like my pancakes on the salty side, and these were perfect. The recipe instructs for you to spread them with jam or butter and sugar, then roll them up like a jelly roll and serve them as a luncheon dessert. Never mind serving pancakes as a dessert, but serving dessert at lunch! Ha!

I wasn't sure about the whole rolling up the cake thing. It didn't stay rolled very well, and I wonder if I needed to make them bigger and spread out the batter more on the griddle? I don't know. I just intended to make them like pancakes and serve them like pancakes with syrup, so I just made a couple like they suggested and used butter with cinnamon sugar. It was yummy! Really, it's hard to go wrong with pancakes. :-)

In the end, I served the French Pan Cakes with some mixed berries I cooked down, some Grade B maple syrup, and some sausages. It made for a very nice dinner!

If you're looking for a great pancake recipe, this is definitely one to try. The egg whites is an extra step, but it's totally worth it!

You can see how fluffy the batter is from the egg whites!

They looked nice and fat on the griddle!

Lovely golden pan cakes!
(They make me think of Rama and the Tigers. Have you ever read that children's story?)
I doubled the recipe, but I don't think I needed to.
The recipe makes a lot!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

My Thoughts on Sewing

Sewing Fisherman's Wife, 1890
by Anna Ancher

I may have mentioned here before that sewing is difficult for me. Not the actual sewing itself, per se, but the act of sewing. There are so many little things that add up to SEWING, that many times I find it overwhelming: the sewing machine to set up, a space to be cleared in my tiny sewing nook, patterns to lay and cut, fabric to mark, instructions to be deciphered, and then the sewing. And then, of course, there's the time. And the energy. So many things work against me in my endeavor to sew something that many times I am conquered.

And yet I don't give up. Things may languish for some time before I work myself up to sewing again, but they wait patiently. The ones I sew for don't wait, for they grow like crazy - and that is part of the challenge!

I've often wondered why I sew in the first place. I think in some ways it was one of those things that I thought, "I could do that," and so I did it. That's the way it was with making quilts. I am not a quilter, and yet I've made a few quilts. (I even have one partially made, still in a box from when my husband and I were engaged over 10 years ago!)

It is when I finally make the time, brush away any excuses or other things begging for my attention, and start to sew, that I remember. Sewing soothes me. I find I can think more clearly, more slowly, more honestly. It is an age-old act of creation. Machine sewing is a wonderful modern marvel, but hand sewing is what really grounds me.

In a world that is so fast-paced, always reaching and yearning for the new, taking part in an old, slower craft, puts modernity in its place. It has nothing on the generations of a craft that has provided so much for so many. It has no claim on the centuries of drudgery, of necessity, but also of the artistry and the beauty that we still marvel at today.

While the things I sew may not be all that wonderful, they never existed before I created them, and that is an accomplishment! It is easy to compare and wish our talents were that of so-and-so, but I wish we wouldn't do that. I wish that I didn't do that! With each step of the process, I am learning and my talent is progressing, however slowly. And that is how I have to sew. In painstaking steps. Many times I have to break them up over days or even weeks. Pattern cutting one day, marking another, sewing the next, and finishing yet another.

And so, I partake in the act of sewing. It's hard, and challenging, and frustrating, but wonderful and satisfying. I hope to sew my entire life. I hope to teach my children the honor and usefulness and the heritage of sewing. For it is one that is gratefully alive and strong, even in these modern times. It is one positive thing humans will never be able to do without, and that is my favorite historical heritage of all.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

WWII Event - Graeme Park, PA

The last weekend in April my family and I attended our first WWII event as reenactors at Graeme Park, PA. It was a nice, small event and super close to some friends of ours, so it was a really enjoyable first event with the bonus of hanging out with friends. I wish I had had more time to learn about the site. There's a lovely historical home, garden, and other outbuildings along with a small museum. We'll have to go back another time to enjoy it separately.

To get ready for the event, I wanted to get the kids involved, so they painted "Scrap for Victory" signs to hang from our old wagon. They had a lot of fun doing that.

I put together a display about wartime rationing, but I realize now that there's a lot to read and not much to interact with for the public, so it's something that I'm working on. It's a good start though!

And here's our whole set-up along with the wagon! (Oh, did I mention that it was cold?? It was cold.)

Here I am in my new 1930s blouse and 1940s skirt! (which I altered later and changed the buttons...) My husband was dressed as a 1940s Scoutmaster...

... while our kids were dressed as a 1940s Brownie Girl Scout and 1940s Cub Scout!

There was a small collection of antique cars. This one was pretty!

Our next door neighbors had an impressive display about the history of Kilroy. We had some nice chats with them.

My friend Cassie and her mother-in-law Eileen had a great American Red Cross set-up at the event. I'm hoping to be able to join them at some events in the future wearing the royal blue ARC canteen uniform so I can talk about rationing and nutrition during the war!

Another neighbor down the way was the British Women's Land Army run by Laurel and her sister. Their camp was so charming, I instantly fell in love. I have good memories of researching British women's roles in the war, so I was thrilled to join up with their group and am working on doing research on Land Girls and Lumber Jills and getting together an outfit! 
One of the ladies in the WLA happened to be the mother of Rochelle who blogs over at Lucky Lucille!

Isn't their camp just wonderful? It's so cozy! And I love that they have a photo of King George hanging in their tent! They were very friendly and welcoming and invited me to snoop around their tent and take photos. They even offered me some Jammie Dodgers, so they're my new best friends now. haha!

During the day there were two separate battles. It was the first time I've watched a WWII mock battle and it was interesting! I've watched so many Civil War reenactment battles. There were some similarities, but of course the weapons and vehicles were different. They did a great job, though. And I wasn't surprised to hear some spectator make a ridiculous statement about how they weren't using the real thing, so it couldn't possibly be that realistic. Well, of course not! Some people really make me wonder...

Overall, it was a really nice event and one I'm pretty sure we'll be returning to in the future. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ration Recipe - Woodrow Wilson Hermits

wikipedia commons
These cookies have been on my Cooking on a Ration recipe to-make list for some time. They just sounded fun! And since when do you get to think about our 28th president, Woodrow Wilson, while making cookies? Like, never. So, here's to you, Woodrow! These cookies were pretty dang good!

I couldn't find very much on why these particular cookies are attributed to Mr. Wilson, but I did find this interesting article about his wife!
Here are two websites that talks about U.S. Presidential recipes:
A Taste of the Past: White House Kitchens, Menus, & Recipes
Food Timeline - U.S. Presidents

Now about making the recipe -
The batter was suspiciously like brownie batter, and I didn't even put in all the liquid it called for. Then it says to shape the cookies using a knife wet with milk. I was wary of this method too. Luckily, the recipe gave me a little out - it said I could make them as bars, which was a relief! So, that's what I did.

And surprise! They turned out like cake. What???

But that was okay, because they were really good. It reminded me a lot of a gingerbread cake, but with raisins in it. (I used zante raisins, otherwise known as "currants". They're not true currants, but that's okay. I love them because they're tiny raisins and people don't mind them as much as the big, regular-sized raisins.)

My kids love these hermits. It makes a great snack, or a great breakfast. Just pretty much any time.

Give them a try! Let me know if you make them as actual cookies. I'm really curious now!

Woodrow Wilson Hermits
Cooking on a Ration, ca. 1942
P.S. My friend Katherine found this other recipe and a history of hermits at the Joy of Baking website. Apparently they're called "hermits" because of how long they can store. And it's true - ours have held up really well and still taste great! Of course, I wish mine looked like the ones on the Joy of Baking website. I'll definitely have to try them again.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Ration Recipe: Upside-Down Meat Loaves

It was time to try another recipe! I put this recipe on my June menu (I'm trying to be good about menu planning...), but I decided to try it today. I didn't have all the exact ingredients, but I made it work, which I think is the point about cooking while on rations.

I took this recipe for Upside-Down Meat Loaves from Meta Given's The Modern Family Cook Book published in 1942. I really love this cookbook, but I'll save my waxing poetical for a special post about it. 

This is actually just your standard meatloaf recipe, except you bake it in a muffin tin and there are apricots involved. Mixing fruit with meat isn't uncommon, but this was an interesting pairing, because in my experience, apricots can be kind of tart.

The recipe has you soak 10 dried apricots, but I didn't have any, so I just reconstituted some freeze-dried apricots I had. I think some fresh, dried apricots would have worked better, because you use them whole and they tend to be sweeter/sweetened. Just like Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, you put the apricot on the bottom and the meatloaf mixture on top. Then you bake it, invert the pan, and there you have it!

I really should have greased the muffin cups, because they didn't come out very easily, but oh well!

The meatloaf itself was nice, the apricots were a weird, tart counterpoint which I thought the fat in the meat would mellow, but it didn't. In the end, it just tasted odd. Nothing a little ketchup and mustard couldn't solve! haha!

I'm going to have to try it again using the single dried apricot on the top of each mini-meatloaf. Also, I'd like to try the meatloaf the recipe mentions ("Meatloaf No. 1") which uses a meat mixture of pork, beef, and veal. Interesting! I used the recipe for "Meatloaf No. 2" which is much more standard - ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, milk, salt, & pepper.

Upside-Down Meat Loaf!
 This is still worth a try and an interesting concept! I'm sure you could come up with your own tweaks!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Ration Recipe - Rhubarb Banana Pudding

 This was a recipe I saw in one of my more recent ration cookbook acquisitions: The Wartime Cook Book. It definitely caught my eye! I mean, rhubarb and bananas?? Who does that? I was telling my friend and fellow WWII-era fan, Loris, about it and she told me that banana recipes were all the rage in the 1920s and 30s. I had no idea! After learning that it made sense. They had to try all the banana combinations out there, didn't they? haha! And you know what? This turned out to be a really interesting dessert.

The only improvement I'd make is to double the bread cubes. There wasn't nearly enough bread to soak up all the moisture, even though it doesn't seem like much liquid is added. A lot of juice comes out of the bananas and the rhubarb too, which I didn't really consider. I ended up adding more bread cubes after baking and that made it a lot more like a bread pudding. Next time I'll double the bread cubes.

I'll be honest. The color is nothing to get excited about. It's this weird green/tan color. But if you cover that in whipped cream, you're good to go. The flavor is so interesting! It's mildly sweet, but tart. Kind of like apple, but without the apple flavor. The banana is a very subtle flavor in the grand scheme of the pudding. But the bread cubes browned in butter add the perfect note of salty fat that the pudding needs. I think it's pretty good! My family isn't a fan, so I'm slowly eating it by myself. Good thing I have plenty of whipped cream! :-D

Here's a fun picture from the cook book.

This phrase is at the bottom of every page!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Historical Sewing Challenge #11 - Red

For March I sewed a 1930s blouse, but because of a few set-backs I didn't finish it until the beginning of April. (I'm really late posting about it too. Sorry!) I'm really happy with it! And it turns out, that doing a mock-up can be a good thing. Usually, I don't bother, but I didn't want to ruin my nice, more expensive material. This is a bonus, because now I have 2 blouses to wear. Yay!

And I love, love, love this material! It's a super 1930s-style print, fun, and colorful, and it really makes me happy to look at it. I even bought special vintage buttons to go with it! 
So here's the breakdown:

The Challenge: November - Red

Material: 100% cotton print

Pattern: Wearing History 1930s Smooth Sailing Blouse

Year: 1930s

Notions: cotton thread, 1940s casein buttons

How historically accurate is it? 99% The pattern is a modern one, but based off originals.

Hours to complete: approx. 8-10 hours

First worn: Saving it for a WWII event this weekend at Graeme Park, PA

Total cost: about $45 for fabric and original buttons

This is a weird picture of me, but I don't have many photos of me wearing it yet.
I'll take a bunch at the event!