Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Independence Day!!

We watched "National Treasure" a week ago. I've always loved that movie, and while it is a fictional adventure, I love the feelings that it evokes about the Declaration of Independence. I remember the first time I saw it in person at The National Archives. It was an incredible feeling to be so close to the document that started this country at the great sacrifice of so many people. I love my country! 

To celebrate one of my favorite holidays I thought I'd post another ration recipe. And there's nothing so American, to me at least, as good old fashioned Meatloaf! Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the finished product because we ate it pretty quickly. And to be honest it really looked like every other standard meatloaf out there. 

I followed the recipe closely, but I think I added some garlic powder and dried parsley to the mix, and also spread a thick layer of ketchup over the top before baking. It sure was yummy! I've  made a version of meatloaf using chicken livers to mix in with the ground beef and I thought it was really good. I think you could make that in good wartime spirit since they really pushed for Americans to eat those organ meats! 

Here's the recipe out my cookbook Thrifty Cooking for Wartime. Enjoy!

Friday, July 3, 2015


I'm slightly nervous and quite excited for a class I'm going to be teaching in our homeschool co-op in the fall. It's entitled "Heroes & Heroines of the World Wars". I'm nervous because I've never really studied the war through the life of specific people like wartime heroes, though it would make sense to do so. I usually focus on the general wartime living on the homefront - what life was like. So, I'm excited to expand my knowledge and thought I'd share what I learn here! I've found some interesting stuff so far.

I'll be putting up a new tab, I think, to have links and resources for education; whether you homeschool like us, are a teacher, work with kids in a museum, or just like teaching your own children or learning for your own sake. I've come across a lot of cool history education resources that I'd love to share!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mid-Atlantic Air Museum - WWII Weekend

My family and I were excited to make it out to the WWII weekend up in Reading, PA a couple weeks ago. We made the mistake of leaving around 9 am for the 2 hour drive and got there in the thick of the heat and the crowds. Once we finally made it onto the shuttle from the parking lot to the airfield and got into the event, it was non-stop 1940s awesomeness! I seriously didn't know where to look or go first. (Warning! Lots of pictures ahead! haha!)

Right past the gate, we walked into this little French village set-up. No one was speaking French that I could hear, but there were American soldiers everywhere including in this little restaurant. Inside it was filled with reenactors and I think they were actually dispensing drinks in there!

In the French village there was a soldier's barracks, a auto shop/house that was decked out to the hilt with period household items. I had a little time warp moment because the radio was playing '40s music as well. So awesome. There were quite a few outbuildings that I think are there permanently.

Cafe Napoleon 

Inside the auto shop/house. I love the stack of Coke bottles.
See the radio high up on the shelf? It was awesome that they had
'40s music playing on it!

Besides the French village, they had, a German camp (I'm pretty sure), a Soviet camp (located next to the machine gun shooting range! - another freaky time warp moment hearing the machine guns going off in the background the whole time), and a Japanese outpost.

Japanese outpost.
I love that they stuck bamboo into the ground to add to the "atmosphere".
They had bamboo stuck all over the place, actually. So fun!

There were dozens upon dozens of original, restored airplanes, even a Japanese plane. Because it's an airfield, they had them taking off to fly and land all day long. It was really cool! The highlight was when this airplane took off loaded with WWII reenactor paratroopers and they parachuted out of the plane!
"The Tinkerbell"

You can see the plane at the bottom of the photo.
Look at all those parachutes!

B-29? I can't remember now, but this airplane's engines had the most
incredible sound. I could listen to that plane all day, which is pretty weird for me!

There were so many tents set up in different camps. There were quite a few soldier's shower facilities throughout the camps, i.e. a line of 55 gallon metal drums filled with water and scrub brushes complete with pipes/heaters to heat the water. I don't know if they were just for show or functional use!

hee hee!

Can you read the sign??
Sheesh! :-o

I loved seeing all the reenactors dressed up. Some of the outfits were "typical" 1940s, but there were quite a few women that put a lot of effort into their outfits. I saw quite a few in uniform, a couple dressed in trousers, but most in various styles of dresses, hats, and sunglasses. I even saw one woman dressed as a pin-up girl which was a bit awkward...

I was especially thrilled to see kids dressed in '40s clothes. I'd love to go next year with our whole family dressed 40's style!
They look like they're having fun.
I'm a bit jealous myself! haha!

I absolutely love that he's got a ukelele.
I'm sure there was some authentic 1940s flirting going on here! haha!

"Female Personnel Only"
I think this was a nurse's tent. When I peeked inside I was so thrilled she was painting her nails!
How apprpriate!

I was saving the best for last. :-) My absolute favorite part of this event was "Main Street" put on by the local Victory Society. They did a fabulous job! In each section of this airplane hanger they had a different set-up. In the first one was an entire house laid out including kitchen, bathroom, living room, dining room, and bedroom!
Part of the kitchen

I didn't get a picture of the whole kitchen, so this is the one taken by the Victory Society. You can check out their facebook page here.
(taken by The Victory Society)

I love the stove! So cute!

Impressive bathroom!

Okay, it's pink, but I love this couch!
We recently bought a couch that looks very similar to this, just with different arms.
Oh, and it's not pink! ;-)

My kids enjoying a marble racing tower.
I really appreciated that they had some 1940s toys out to play with.

Next door was a 1940s "department store" where they were actually selling vintage 1940s clothing, books, magazines, jewelry, etc. (I bought myself a 1942 McCall's magazine. Yippee!)

Next to that they had a whole radio drama stage set up with vintage mikes and everything. They had several performances going on during the day. We walked by as they were performing a Superman show. So fun!

Next door to that was a movie theater. The tickets were free, so we reserved our tickets and came back for the show. They were selling popcorn and drinks to support the society and showed I think 1/2 an hours worth of film shorts including cartoons.

Last on Main Street was the gas station! I was so impressed with this. The reenactor/member of the Victory Society had me sit in the vintage car while she led my son around and explained how 1940s gas stations provided full service. She had him act out wiping down the car, checking the oil, checking the air pressure in the tires, and fill up the car with gas.

They had a replica of a gas ration card & stamps on the seat that I handed to them. She explained how the gas ration stamps worked and that he had to make sure my car registration # matched the one on my ration card so I wasn't trying to steal someone else's gas. They were really strict about that gas rationing - it was no joke! They even calculated out the cost of gas together and I paid them with money that was also on the seat (which was real! haha!). The whole thing was awesome, and I know my son is going to remember that for a long time. Five stars for that wonderful lady taking the time!

Gulf Gas Station. I learned a lot about gas ration stamps, as did my son!

And finally, one of the coolest finds of the day - a woman with a tent, amidst the sea of reenactor's tents, that was teaching people about V-Mail. I had just been doing research about V-Mail for my book, having learned about it recently. So, I was excited she had put this together! She had original V-Mail you could look at along with the forms they would have had to fill out, envelopes the mail would come in, and that super cool poster. I really wanted to chat with her longer, but we had to hurry over to our movie at the theater. Then I couldn't find the tent later. :-( I really wanted to talk to her some more or at least get her contact info. Oh well. 

V-Mail tent

Original V-Mail.
I'll be doing a post about V-Mail soon, I think!
It's really fascinating!

This event was really amazing. I'm sure it was so huge partly because it's the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. I really didn't know what to expect when we headed out there, but I was blown away!

(One thing I did not expect, though I shouldn't have been surprised, was the depictions of scantily clad women (pin-up girls) on so many of the airplanes, hanging in the reenactor's tents, at the vendor's tents, and even in one of the film shorts they showed. I realize it's one of those things about that time, but still it was a shock, especially having our kids with us. So, something to definitely be prepared for if you have the chance to go to an event like this.)

Oh, and bring your own toilet paper! Nearly all the port-a-potties were out. That was terrible, but there really were so many people there. We ended up walking all the way back to our car because the line to the shuttle back to the parking was so, so long. It was quite the hike, but our kids were little troopers! :-)

I definitely look forward to going again, and boy I wish Reading, PA was closer! I would so join up with that Victory Society! :-D

P.S. Note to self for next time: save up your spending money. The vendor tents had amazing stuff. I was totally drooling all over the place. *sigh*! haha!

A very sunburnt me chilling inside the super awesome old car.
I totally wanted to drive that thing.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

John Brown Museum - Harper's Ferry, WV

We went on a homeschool field trip with some friends of ours last Friday to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. I've been wanting to go for some time - it's only an hour away! Our friends are studying the Civil War, so we just tagged along.

Harper's Ferry is a small river town tucked into the Appalachian Mountains. It's so beautiful! The town used to have a United States military ammunition storage (which is why John Brown raided the town), but now it's a sleepy little tourist town capped by the beautiful Catholic church at the top of the hill. Lewis & Clark also, incidentally, used Harper's Ferry as a place to stock up on supplies before heading west to explore.

Beautiful Harper's Ferry!
There were a lot of gnats though. Ugh!

A view of the river from the train bridge which you cross on foot to
get to the town. The bridge also serves as part of the Appalachian Trail.

One of the places we visited was the John Brown Museum. It was quite interesting. I learned a lot about John Brown that I didn't know, which is a lot considering I knew very little! I'm not really going to go into what I learned about him, but I was taken with a few elements of the museum that I thought I'd talk about.
John Brown Museum

The first exhibit that struck me was how they treated these photographs. I liked how they put them in frames - almost like a mini gallery or a portrait wall. It helped them to stand out.

Map! I love huge maps, and I loved that I could walk right up to this map and get real close to it to study. There was a plaque off to the side that had more details behind the meaning of the map. Cool.

I almost moaned when I saw these gigantic computers. The dreaded technology! At first I thought they didn't work, but my son and his friend figured out how to turn on the monitors. While they are large, they were touch screen which were responsive and you could choose various people that participated in the raid or secretly supported John Brown and read a brief bio about them. I did like that, though after a time the monitors would go to sleep and it was difficult to turn them back on. That was annoying, but in the end I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

The part of the museum that impressed me the most was the moving of visitors through the museum via the video presentation. It came in three parts - one video in each room. So, after the first 5-6 minute video, you moved into the next room where the next video started in 4 minutes and the same on into the third room. The photo below is of the 2nd room.

During the video, it showed on three different monitors behind that large, black glass. You might be able to see these strange lines... well, overlaid on the glass are 2 different maps of Harper's Ferry. Little green and red dots glowed and blinked during the video to indicate where in town things were happening. I thought that was very helpful and pretty cool.

Also, as John Brown's daughter was talked about, a light shone on the girl at the stove to the right, and the same for the stash of guns at center, and the two men on the left. The part I was unsure about is that on the audio there were frequent gunshots and these bright white lights overhead would flash in time with the gunshots, simulating the muzzle flash. That was a bit startling and could be scary for little kids.

Overall, I was super impressed with the video presentation. I liked how it catered to people who wanted to browse and read with time in between the videos, as well as for those who were more visual/auditory with the video presentation. It definitely kept things interesting and not static at all!

2nd exhibit room of the John Brown Museum

After the John Brown Museum we went into the tiny, but nicely done Lewis & Clark Museum.

Lewis & Clark Museum

Landmark Sign

I really liked this window exhibit. It does keep everything at a distance from the visitor, which can be bad in some ways, but there's nothing like peeking through a door in a window! So, this worked. There's an intimacy there that's different than a regular exhibit, almost like you're spying. I also liked that they had a sign with a numbered key and a photo of the tiny room identifying everything inside and its importance to Lewis & Clark as their supplies.

That is one of the most important things - having things labeled and giving them relevance, otherwise it becomes pointless without meaning.

Visitors are able to get up close and personal with a replica cross-section of one a collapsible boat Lewis & Clark experimented with. It leaked, so they weren't able to bring it with them and they ended up burying it.

I loved seeing this "shadow house" on the side of this building on the way to the gift shop. I wonder if something had been there?... This building also contained a tiny museum about the industry of Harper's Ferry. A large part of the room contained full-sized static machinery used in the the manufacture of rifles in the town with a video explaining the process. It was quite interesting!

After all our museum hunting, we had some ice cream, hiked to the top of the hill to see the Catholic church, the view, and Jefferson's Rock. It was a wonderful day and a nice little field trip not too far from home. If you're ever in the area, I'd recommend a visit.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Things Were So Cheap Back Then!... or were they?

If ever there was a myth about history it would be this: Things were dirt cheap back then.

Were they really? 

And this is where I rub my hands together and cackle with geeky glee. Just like we shouldn't judge our ancestors solely based on current standards and social norms, we shouldn't judge prices of yesteryear by today's dollar value.

I'll give you some examples.

(And don't worry. I'm not going to get super technical or get all crazy on the math, because Math is not my strongest subject. I'll fully admit I got my math-savvy husband to help me remember the equations I learned from my college economics class.)

I was looking in one of my Health-for-Victory meal planning guide from 1943. They stated that if you followed their meal plan, you could expect to spend between $14 - $16 a week on groceries. You're probably thinking, WOW! I'd love to pay $14/week for groceries! But what's the value of 1943's $14 in our current year of 2015?

Here's how you figure it out: Take the dollar amount in 1943, multiply by the average rate of inflation (that would be 3.22%), to the power of the difference in years (2015-1943) and you get your answer of the true cost in today's dollars. This is what the equation looks like:

$14 x 1.0322^(2015-1943) = $137.13

In other words, $14/week for groceries in 1943 in today's dollars is $137!
For the other end of their claim, let's do the equation again using $16.

$16 x 1.0322^(2015-1943) = $156.72

So, if we were to follow the Health-for-Victory meal plan today, we could expect to pay on average $137 - $157 a week. I think that's a pretty average price for today. (I'm judging by here in Maryland, which is a bit pricier than other states). So, not really that much cheaper.

Of course this doesn't take into consideration the cost of food itself and how it's changed over the years (especially meat!), but it gives us a good idea of how much they were spending a week on groceries based on the 2015 dollar value. If you want to figure out the true cost of 1943 food in today's money, just apply the price of the food with that same equation!

This is about as fancy as I get with math, folks, but math like this is fun when you can apply it in such a cool way to history!

Another example is gasoline. Oooooh! Let's try it!

We went to a huge WWII event this weekend which I'll post about soon. They had this neat little gas station set up. The lady working there said in 1944, gas cost 15 cents per gallon. Amazing! Only 15 cents??? Well, let's figure it out in terms of 2015 money.

Bust out the equation... (Notice how I change the year to 1944)
$0.15 x 1.0322^(2015-1944) = $1.423/ gallon!

They had a better deal on gas back then, that's for sure!
Speaking of which, gas was rationed, but not because they didn't have enough of it to go around! It's because rubber imports were controlled by Japan and were cut off. Without rubber for tires meant they needed to discourage people from driving by rationing their gas!

So, now we know that even though things appear to be dirt cheap "back in the day", we can't take those prices at face value. Do a little math and we can find out a more accurate picture in today's terms. I call that a pretty awesome application of history!

(You can do this calculation with wages as well. In case you want to go have some fun...) :-)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Upcoming WWII Events

I've never been to any WWII events, ever. Considering my passion and love for the time period, that doesn't really make sense, does it?? I decided to do a search to find out if there were any events coming up, and there's one this weekend in Reading, PA! I really hope we get to go, because what fun!
There was quite a bit of info for other events that I found:

Mid-Atlantic Air Museum's 25th Annual WWII Weekend (Reading, PA)

Williamsport, MD WWII Weekend (not sure of the date yet)

WWII Weekend at the Eisenhower National Historic Site, PA

Military Vehicle Preservation Association events - this site has events listed all around the country! One event looks cool - a military convoy from Washington D.C. to San Diego, CA!

WWII Weekend in Frederick, MD

National Electronics Museum, MD is co-hosting Warfront to Homefront: World War II in Maryland. It is a coalition of 70 museums and civic organizations commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in August 2015. This looks like some pretty exciting stuff! You can check our their Facebook page here.

It looks like there are lots of fun events coming up! I'd forgotten that the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII is coming up in August. Check your local museums for WWII events happening in your neighborhood!

(And don't forget all the other fun historical anniversaries going on or coming up soon! Check out my previous post about them here!)

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.