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!

Friday, March 27, 2015


So, yeah. Sewing! March was not a kind month to me in terms of available time and emotional resilience. I'm also very close to finishing the first draft of my WWII book and have been working diligently on getting to the end. This lack of sewing, though, is not good at all! My goal event, the 18th Century Market Day Fair at Ft. Frederick, MD is coming up at the end of April. Aack! This is not enough time unless I sew diligently from now until then. I had even just decided to only sew the kids their costumes, because I'm still waiting for my corset pattern to be drafted. But somehow, I don't even see that happening.

I know, I know. This attitude is useless. I set myself this sewing goal because starting sewing projects is challenging for me, but once I get going then I'm usually fine! So, please forgive me (and I'll have to forgive myself), for not making the deadline this month. I did start my daughter's dress. I really should just finish it! There might be a miracle yet, you never know! haha!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ration Recipes on the Horizon

I've been reading my new cookbook Cooking on a Ration - Food is Still Fun by Marjorie Mills, and I am really excited! There are some fabulous looking recipes in there, many of which are really special and that I haven't seen before in other resources. 

These are the recipes that caught my eye:
Wartime Chop Suey
Society Hash
Asparagus Shortcake
Baked Sweet Potatoes and Apples (sounds pretty straightforward, but the preparation and execution are quite interesting!)
Vegetable Kraut
Scalloped Carrots and Apples
Elm Tree Inn Red Cabbage (with bacon, spices, apples, vinegar, and red currant jelly!)
Beets with Orange Sauce
Country Chicken Loaf (in a ring mold of course!)
Sweet Potato Ham Puffs
Red Flannel Hash
Beef Biscuit Roll (think cinnamon rolls, but with ground beef & green peppers served with a brown sauce!)
Fluffly Codfish Cakes
Deerfoot Chowder (made with salt pork, not deer!)
Pea Soup, Habitant
Scotch Broth (This is one left over from what I wanted to make last year, but never quite got around to it.)

I'm not even halfway through this book and already I feel the urge to get cooking. All of the above recipes are ones that I would make and serve for my family, not even as an experiment, but because they look really good.

There are lots of ration recipes on the horizon, folks, so keep an eye out!

Same Day Update:
Just finished the book. Here are more eye-catching recipes!

Pini Cheese (I think this is a cheese sauce of some kind using blue cheese and cream cheese.)
Cranberry Apple Salad
Melon Mold
Master French Dressing with 6 different variations
Cream Cheese Dressing (It looks a bit like Ranch with the herbs it calls for...)
Peanut Butter Bread
Quick Spice Bread
Gingerbread Waffles
Pineapple Waffles
Sandwich Fillings - dozens of them, many I've never seen!
All-In-One Sandwich (a filled ham & boiled egg sandwich which you then coat in egg & milk and grill!)
Peanut Butter-French Toast Sandwich
Armenian Dessert (shredded wheat biscuits filled with nuts, raisins, and honey!)
Hartwell Farm Pudding
Prune Whip
Fig Bread Pudding
Sweet Potato Pone
Another way to whip light cream‼
Toffee Sauce
Woodrow Wilson Hermits
Lemon Nut Cookies
Shredded Wheat Macaroons
Currant Fizz
Cranberry Juice Cocktail
Grape Juice Cocktail

As you can see, this cookbook has a lot to offer. Look into borrowing the digital copy from to see the original. It looks like I've got a lot of fabulous recipes ahead of me to try. Yay!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Cooking on a Ration or Food is Still Fun

I am so excited! I have had my eye on this 1943 book every since the beginning of last year when I started my WWII ration recipe project. It's called Cooking on a Ration - or Food is Still Fun. haha! I love the title! And the author, Marjorie Mills is so witty and interesting to read. You can just tell that she loves food and thrills at writing about it. Here's a little quote:

"We have taken a sudden nose-dive from happy-go-lucky splashing about with plenty of whipping cream, pounds of butter, sirloin steaks and rib roasts."

haha! I love 'splashing about with whipping cream'! Here's another quote:

"In the troubled universe it's more than ever important to make mealtime loom up as a little island of serenity and contentment. As we've been trying to demonstrate in these chapters, it can be done -- but it takes wit and wisdom. We're urged to grow and eat many more vegetables, but if the same limp and dejected vegetables trail across the dinner table, it will be a sawdust path of duty. (Sorry to scold, but the way some people cook vegetables is scandalous. It's no wonder families rebel.)"

Haha! So delightful! I really can't tell you how much I love her writing. I'd be sharing quote after quote if I didn't stop right here. Marjorie Mills truly embraces the secondary title of her book: Food is Still Fun!

The great news is that you can actually borrow this book for free through an online library-type site! I think you get to check it out for 2 or 3 weeks. I'd really recommend it. Even if you gloss over the recipes (many of which look awesome!), her writing is exceptional and you'll be glad you took the time.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

March Sewing Progress

I thought I'd just check in with you about my March sewing project. I've gotten an early start this time and am trying to work on it in little spurts.

I'm going ahead with my 5 year old daughter's wardrobe and am making her an 18th century girl's gown to go with the shift I just made last month.

So far I've got the bodice pieces (outer fabric, lining, and interfacing) sewn together and the skirt piece cut out. I need to order some boning for the back though.

I did run into a problem with the instructions at step 2 (why is it always step 2 for me??), but I called up Burnley & Trowbridge where the pattern comes from and the lady there was able to clarify the step for me. That was a huge help! :-)

I'm pleased I'm making such good progress. Hopefully I'll have a completed dress to show you soon!

I'm really excited to finally be using my fine green linen. I think it might be a linen/cotton blend, and it has the most lovely feel to it. I really like the color too, and I think it will look very nice on my daughter since she has red hair!

Sewing together the bodice linen and interfacing.
I used cotton drill for interfacing since the only heavy linen I have I'm saving for my son's trousers.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ration Recipe Directory

I've put up a new tab called "Ration Recipe Directory". I thought it was time to organize the recipes from my "Project 52: Rationing" project according to type to make it easier for you to find the one you want. As I make new ration recipes in the future, I'll add them to the list too.

I hope you keep coming back to try a ration recipe or two!

Check out the final post of my project to see which recipes I tried were the top 10 best and top 10 worst recipes if you want to have a good place to start.