Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Procrastinator's Thoughts

Okay, okay, so I'm horrible at sewing goals.

I am working on those 18th century breeches. Right now I'm staring down 11 more button holes to finish. *sigh* Not the most fun I've had with a needle. Just so you know, if you ever want to sew a pair of 18th century breeches, there are 14 button holes. And they're not tiny ones, either!! Just so you know what you're getting yourself into...

I like sewing while watching a good movie or TV show, but lately, my hubby and I have been watching some great Korean dramas. It's very difficult to read subtitles and do sewing at the same time though. Believe me, I've tried. So, yeah. No sewing is done during those hours.

I've thought a few times that I might abandon this sewing project, but if I did that, I'm afraid I wouldn't get any sewing done! So, I'll keep plugging away.

When I was finishing up my WWII rationing project, I was thinking ahead to my next project. I had another fun idea for the 1940s, but I really wanted to focus on some 18th century sewing too. Now, I wish I'd just done both! It's not too late to start though. Maybe do it as a half year project? We'll see how busy my summer gets -- or doesn't. My writing has been pretty consuming too. I'm really hoping to have my book all finished by the end of this year. Wouldn't that be dandy?!

In the mean time, I promise I'll get to work on those button holes. I need to get my son's outfit finished before he grows out of it! I still have his shirt and waistcoat to make. Arrg! Stop growing, kid!

Monday, May 11, 2015

2nd Draft

I've mentioned on here a few times that I'm working on an historical fiction novel set in WWII. I've written a few first drafts in my life, but I've never actually worked on a 2nd draft before! So, it's a new experience for me and I'm learning a lot as I go.

So, in case you've been wondering how that 2nd draft is going...

The first 5 chapters about ready to get butchered.

There was only so much working on a laptop could do for me. Sometimes you've just gotta lay it all out.

I had one English professor in college have our class go through this exercise where we had to cut up all the paragraphs of our short story. Then we had to give it to another person and they arranged it in the order they thought made sense. It was quite the revealing exercise! I was kind of going for that with taping it all up, but really, it's just easier to make notes this way when I can see it all at once. :-)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Ration Recipe: Beef Biscuit Roll

Cooking on a Ration by Marjorie Mills came to my rescue yesterday. I've been in a cooking slump lately, and some days are a real struggle. Part of me wants to just dive in and follow a month of the Health-for-Victory's rationing menus. It would be hugely instructive and I wouldn't have to do any planning myself. I don't know if my family would like it though. Some of the recipes, as I've found, are not the most appetizing, but at least they're nutritious.

Anyway, I adore Cooking on a Ration and awhile ago I made a list of all the recipes I was interested in trying. Beef Biscuit Roll was one of these. It's essentially a savory "cinnamon roll" using biscuit dough and ground beef. It doesn't sound that glamorous, but man, it's good!

As you can see - they really do look like cinnamon rolls with ground beef. The filling utilizes ground beef, chopped onions, chopped green peppers, salt and pepper, and I added in minced celery. Any leftover biscuit dough, I rolled up and put in the pan too - just in case my kids didn't like the rolls.

It was a miracle, folks - everyone ate it and liked it! Even my picky 5 year old. I couldn't believe it! Who wouldn't love this stuff - biscuit dough rolled up with that savory filling and a beef gravy with a touch of garlic powder poured over the top. Oh, my! It really was so good!

The only thing I would have done differently would be to put foil on the top near the end of baking to keep the ground beef from becoming too browned since the recipe instructs you to brush oil over the tops.

I used my favorite H-for-V biscuit recipe for the "regulation biscuit dough":

Baking Powder Biscuits 
(1944 H-for-V booklet, Year Round Edition)

2 cups flour (half whole wheat, half unbleached white)
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
4 Tbsp. butter
3/4 c. milk (I had to use coconut milk because we have a milk intolerance in our family.)

Blend dry ingredients, cut in butter. Add milk and combine with a fork just until it comes together. You might need to add a little more milk because the whole wheat flour seems to make it drier. Knead on a floured surface no more than 10-12 strokes. Roll out the dough and proceed with the Beef Biscuit Roll recipe. Don't roll the biscuit dough too thinly - it will tear when you roll it all up.

Here is the recipe for Beef Biscuit Roll! You really have to try this one!

P.S. I was a busy cook yesterday - I even made a rhubarb & berry pie (from our own rhubarb for the first time - yay!) using my newest acquisition - The Joy of Cooking 1945 edition. I am so glad I got this book. It fills in all the gaps of every recipe I could want with all my other ration cookbooks. The pie turned out wonderfully, and the best thing is that I think I found the origin of one of my favorite pies we used to get from an old neighbor lady when I was growing up. I was looking in the index at the back under "Pies" and found it - Pineapple Meringue Pie! Hooray! That pie is so tasty. I'll have to make it and post about it. Hardly anyone has heard of this pie and it really is so yummy. You simply must know how to make it! And I'm happy to share. :-)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Nearly Done... & Ft. Frederick Once Again

I know it's already May and my sewing challenge for April is overdue. I am nearly done with  my son's 18th century breeches. I'm working on covering buttons and sewing them on; there are 13 buttons in all! Which means just as many button holes. *sigh*

After that I need to sew on the leg cuffs, sew on the ties, make and stitch the lacing holes in the back, and finish the seams inside with a simple zigzag stitch on the machine or whip stitch depending on if I feel like hand sewing all that. Then I will be done!

This month's goal is to sew my son's 18th century shirt. I purchased a beautiful blue check linen from Burnley & Trowbridge at the 18th Century Market Fair two weekends ago.

Speaking of Ft. Frederick - I found lots of treasures at my two favorite sutlers: Burnley & Trowbridge and Wm. Booth, Draper. Between the two of them I got more bone buttons, some horn buttons, linen and cotton tapes, light wool for a petticoat for my daughter, checked linen, a few more patterns, and some odds and ends to make myself a housewife sewing kit. I was excited to get A Lady's Guide to Plain Sewing I & II. I'd really like to improve my historical sewing knowledge and skills and these books are a great guide.

One of my favorite sutlers:
Burnley & Trowbridge from Williamsburg, VA

Father & son volunteer drummers at the Fort

This woman is going through black powder musket training as a volunteer.
She was demonstrating the musket for us, but had a few misfires.
Another volunteer came over to help. I had no idea those guns were so finicky!

Me from the fort overlook!
No, I'm not in costume. :-( Maybe next year!

Ft. Frederick always had a guard standing out by the gate.
I love how grumpy he looks. haha!

Hooray! A garbage heap! I always LOVE when they go the extra
mile to have one of these.

A woman was demonstrating her weaving on this small loom.
Her work was absolutely beautiful. She was making mostly sashes.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

18th Century Boy's Breeches Progress

I made a ton of progress on  my son's 18th century breeches today. If I had worked exclusively on them from morning to night, I'm pretty sure I could have finished them in one day.

I have to say I am in love with Mill Farm Patterns. The patterns themselves are so simple and straightforward. Sometimes the directions could use a little more detail, but she is really good about walking you through each step. The breeches pattern uses letters to match up all the different places that need matching (there are a LOT), and I really like that system. Dots and double dots or arrows or whatever just don't cut it for me. I also have to sing the praises of the pockets on this pattern. They have been the least painful pockets to sew - ever!! I don't know if they turned out exactly right since I don't have an expertly finished pair of breeches in front of me, but for the first time using this pattern and my only 2nd time putting in pockets, I think they're pretty good!

I'm so excited for my son to wear these breeches. Realistically, I don't think I'll have his shirt made in time for this weekend's event, but he's okay with wearing his Civil War shirt. *sigh* Oh well! I'm glad he's so laid back about it. I shouldn't let myself be tortured by my own expectations. :-)

Here are some pics:
Front of breeches with the fall front up

It's my first fall front, people!! Ain't it exciting?!?!?!

They're so cute!!!
I can't believe they actually look the way they're supposed to!

Right from the beginning, I really felt like I was going into this pattern blind and just had to trust in the directions. She didn't lead me astray, so I'm one happy sewing mama! No, they're not perfect, but heck, they look like PANTS! Woo! I hope to have them done by tomorrow (read: MUST have them done). haha!

I can't wait to go to the event on Saturday! Yay!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Project 12: Sewing - 18th Century Girl's Gown

At last! I finally finished the project for March - an 18th century girl's gown for my 5 year old daughter. The dress itself wasn't too difficult to sew. I just kept getting distractions - namely the novel I'm working on! That's been sucking away a lot of time and it's hard to focus on more than one major project at a time.

I have to say I'm very pleased with how this dress turned out! The fit on her is just right and I'm so glad I nailed the length! Whew! I'd say the hardest part of the dress was that front point. I had to tack the bodice down to the skirt with the pleats put in already. I've done this before when it was a straight line for my 1860s dresses, but never a point! Man, it was tedious! I was paranoid about not getting the bodice to lay down flat - that it would bunch up or something. I went really slow and pinned everything down extra well, even fitting it on her and pinning just to make sure.

The only weird thing I might need to fix is the back. I only had velvet ribbons to tie the back, so some linen tape is on my list of things to buy at the Market Fair. I'll need to add another tie to the very bottom so the big gap in the back doesn't show.

Now all she needs is a cap and a petticoat and she'll be set! :-)

My little girl loves her dress and that's always a relief! I really loved this linen the first time I found it. It has a beautiful color - like a natural green dyed linen, and the feel is lovely and finer than most linens you can find at JoAnn Fabrics. I had been saving it for a dress for me, and I might have enough left, but I think it worked very well for my daughter's dress. The color is so good with her red hair too. And that makes me happy! Sometimes it's hard finding the right colors for red-heads (trust me - I have 3 red-heads to buy clothes for!).

For April's project I need to make my 8 year old son's shirt and fall front breeches. I've got all the fabric. I just need to bust out the patterns and get to work. I only have a week left!! My only sadness is that I don't think I have a waistcoat pattern for him yet, so strictly speaking he'll be running around undressed! Aack! :-)

Here are some more pictures of the dress modeled by my cutie pie!
Back with ladder bows.
The pattern suggested this as a closure - just so you know I didn't make it up! 
I never would have thought to do it this way, but I like it!
I think it will look better with a green or dark brown linen tape, though.

Close up of the front of the dress. You can see her shift showing, which is good.
She'll need the sun protection!
Haha! I love her expression!

Side view

An appropriately serious expression for an
18th century girl posing for her portrait!
I love her little shoe peeking out. :-)

March's Project
Clothing: 18th century girl's gown
Pattern: Mill Farm Patterns (purchased from Burnley & Trowbridge)
Fabric: 100% linen, cotton thread, velvet ribbons (soon to be replaced with linen tape)

P.S. It's my dream to dye my own fabrics, ribbons, and tapes. Even to get a tape loom and weave my own tape! It just sounds like so much fun! For me, it's kind of like the 18th century version of that rubber band magic loom trend that's waning right now. Haha!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Joy of Cooking - 1946 & a Recipe

My cute little WWII ration cookbook collection!

I've had another recent, fun addition to my rationing cookbook collection! I was browsing at my favorite used book shop, WonderBook, when I came across this The Joy of Cooking edition, published, I believe, in 1946. While it is one year after the end of WWII, it had the most interesting preface from their 1943 edition! (I wish I could find that edition too!) I'm not sure why it's included in this copy in this way, and it's not very clear what the 'emergency chapters' refer to, but it's still interesting.

In this preface it states, "When the revision of this book was begun a year ago we had no intimation that international obligations would lead our land of plenty to ration cards. It now goes to print with a number of emergency chapters added, written to make the difficulties that beset the present-day cook.
"It has been a pleasure to compile this record of our American way of life. Tradition speaks to us in its pages, a tradition of plenty which should always be ours, and which will be, with the intelligent use of our mighty weapon, the cooking spoon."


 From what I can see the 'emergency chapters' they refer to that aid the wartime home cook might be "Invalid and Convalescent Cookery", "Recipes and Suggestions for Left-Over Foods", "Suggestions for Streamlined Menu-Making", "Streamlined Menus", "Health Chart", "Vitamin Chart", "Calorie Chart", "Menus". It's just not really clear. The real way to tell would be to find the earlier edition, before 1943 and compare. Sounds like a fun, sleuthing job!

On another note, as I need to bake or cook different things, I've been trying to turn to my ration recipes first. For example, a few weeks ago I got a bunch of strawberries on sale and wanted to make Strawberry Shortcake. I usually use my '90s edition of Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, but this time I found a recipe in my 1944 H-for-V booklet. It turned out quite delicious and some of the best shortcake I've ever made!

Basic Special Shortcake
1944 Year 'Round Edition
Westinghouse Health for Victory Cookbook

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Happy 155th Anniversary Pony Express!

Today is the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express.

American Western history was never really my thing, but one aspect that always captured my fascination was the Pony Express. It's so incredible how the mail, newspapers, and packages could be transported so quickly (in as little as 10 days) across such a vast distance from Missouri to California using pony riders. It was a short-lived service, lasting only 18 months, but what I love most is that the Pony Express was on the cusp of drastic changes and availability of technology like the Transcontinental Railroad completed in 1869 and the widened use of the telegraph. It filled a need for the expanding country, serving as stop gap before available technology caught up.

For all of those far out lonely western settlements, having a service like that was important. And while the short-lived Pony Express may not have had a big impact like the railroad, it's still good to think about and remember the incredible risk those riders took so the western settlements, cities, and states could feel connected to the rest of the country.

I wish I could say "Hug a Pony Express Rider (or a pony) Today!", but we're a bit too late for that. At least raise a glass of something to the Pony Express - the most thrilling and dangerous postal run in U.S. History!

Monday, April 13, 2015

First Draft is Done! Woo!

Well, I finally finished the first draft of my WWII historical fiction novel! I was like a crazy person by the end, because I was so close and I kept getting all these interruptions and I just had to finish already!!! Man, that last stretch is brutal sometimes.

I started my book in August of 2014, and considering I'm a homeschooling mom with church duties, book group, writer's group, and other stuff - it's amazing that I got it done in 9 months! I feel incredibly grateful and humbled, because I know it came at the sacrifice of other things in my life. My family is so wonderful and supportive! And my awesome cheerleader and fellow writer besty, Mairi, really helped see me through with all her enthusiasm, encouragement, and feedback.

I wish I could say more about the book itself, but I feel it's truly a unique story and want to wait until I have it published to talk about it. What I can say is that it's set in a fictional town in Indiana, my beautiful home state. I've always wanted to set a book in Indiana, so this makes me really happy! Indiana had a great role in WWII! One of the most fascinating things I discovered in my research is that recently some Nazi airplanes were discovered buried at Freeman Airfield near Seymour, IN. What an amazing find, and it makes you wonder what Nazi planes were doing all the way out in Indiana! You can read the article about it here.

There is still a lot of research to continue doing as I smooth out this first draft before sending it to my awesome beta readers. And then I can launch into the 2nd draft. Hopefully, I'll only need to have a 2nd draft and not a 3rd or 4th! :-p

Wish me luck!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

National Building Museum

The stunning National Building Museum!
Back in February, a friend of mine and her kids along with my kids and me went down to the National Building Museum in D.C. for a homeschool field trip. I had never heard of this museum, but they had some cool-sounding homeschool workshops which is why we went. Boy, what a treat! The museum is housed in this old, incredibly spacious building that is the perfect fit for what this museum is about - a museum about building in America.

The building itself is worth going to see, but some of the exhibits were definitely highlights too - like "Designing for Disaster" and "The Architectural Image, 1920 - 1950". They were both very interesting! The kids had fun in their different workshops and I thought I'd share some of the things that stood out to me in one of their exhibits - "Designing for Disaster".

As you might already know, I'm always on the look-out for interesting ways of executing museum exhibits and the use of technology in museums. This exhibit had my interest piqued from the start for a few reasons - I love learning about earth science and natural disasters, their use of space was well thought out, and they had sweet educational technology.

The treatment of the walls for the earthquake portion of the exhibit was clever and interesting to look at. It had a great impact for the subject matter.

 For the tornado section, their use of the tall ceilings was fantastic! They wired things to the ceiling like a bicycle wheel, a garbage can, scraps of metal, and a stop sign among other things. It gave a great sense that you were caught, frozen in time, in some high winds. Very cool idea!

The room is a life-sized tornado-safe room with a cut away which is also a great idea. 

The most popular part of the exhibit was the technology that I felt was one of the best I've ever seen.
This table is a mini wind-turbine testing station. The kids put together the heavy wooden houses with separate roofs. They arrange the houses at whatever angle they think is best, set the wind speed, and then push a button. The wind turbines speed up, a wind speed gauge tells the person how fast the wind is blowing and then you can see if the houses can withstand the wind at the angles they were set at. It was so fantastic!

The kids were so serious about it, collaborating, arguing, and debating about which was the best way to set up the houses for the different wind speeds. The technology was so simple, very durable, and the kids were able to work as a team to figure things out. Hands down the best technology at a museum I've seen ever!

You can see that safety was definitely taken into consideration as well with the net at the end and the metal grate where the air intake is. The only thing underneath was a plug.

There was a plaque with an explanation of what you were to do along with a diagram of the wind scale used to measure tornadoes. Only buttons were used to get things going. 
 Even though I didn't read many signs, I still felt I was able to get a lot out of the exhibit.

Lastly, I saw on the 2nd story this neat little display of different old bricks from various local brick makers. I like how they highlighted the maker's marks with white paint. All the designs were so interesting! We've found a few bricks like these around our property. It's cool to know there are so many different kinds.

If you're ever in Washington D.C., you might want to consider visiting the National Building Museum. It's not part of the Smithsonian, so there is an entrance fee, but I think it's worth it. There are a lot of great things at the museum I didn't even touch on, so check out the website!