Monday, June 30, 2008

"I Remember Laura" - Heirlooms

The afternoon light made plain the gilded titles of the books on the whatnot's lower shelf, and glittered in the three glass boxes on the shelf above, each with tiny flowers painted on it. Above them, on the next shelf, the gilt flowers shone on the glass face of the clock and its brass pendulum glinted, swinging to and fro. Higher still, on the very top shelf, was Laura's white china jewel box with the wee gold cup and saucer on its lid, and beside it, watching over it, sat Carrie's brown and white china dog.

On the wall between the doors of the new bedrooms, Ma hung the wooden bracket that Pa had carved for her Christmas present, long ago in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. Every little flower and leaf, the small vine on the edge of the little shelf, and the larger vines climbing to the large star at the top, were still as perfect as when he had carved them with his jack-knife. Older still, older than Laura could remember, Ma's china shepherdess stood pink and white and smiling on the shelf.

--Little Town on the Prairie

This is the last week of the June "I Remember Laura" blog-a-thon and the theme for this week is Family Heirlooms. I have been blessed with an incredible Christian heritage, which I treasure more than any material heirloom on earth. My family is large (and ever growing), so I don't actually own very many things that have been passed down from generation to generation. As I thought about what I could share this week, I remembered an antique devotional book that I inherited from Granddaddy. How I came to have it was actually just a matter of being in the right place at the right time!

I was at Granddaddy and Grandmother's house a few years ago when Granddaddy was going through some old books. He picked this one up and show it to me. "This belonged to Granddad Luker, and then it was my mother's," he said.

He took a pen and inscribed in it, "G.W. Luker to Kate Luker to Gordon Easley..."

As I watched him write I teasingly told him, "Just go right ahead and write, ' Karla Cook' right below that!" And to my surprise, he actually did.
It's a neat book with a pretty cover. It was published in 1897, and I love old books so I would enjoy having it, no matter where it came from. But I especially treasure it because Granddaddy meant for me to have it.
Years later, when it finally came into my possession, I discovered another treasure tucked inside! Three old family letters.
Forget the family jewels and brick-a-brack! Nothing excites me more than original documentation from previous generations.

Just the envelopes are fun to look at. In 1925 it cost 2 cents to mail a letter. By 1939 postage had gone up to 3 cents. And it was still 3 cents in 1942. The letters contain long forgotten family news and farm business... nothing of real importance all these decades later, but still a tangible connection to those who came before.

Up in the attic,
Down on my knees.
Lifetimes of boxes,
Timeless to me.
Letters and photographs,
Yellowed with years,
Some bringing laughter,
Some bringing tears.

Time never changes,
The memories, the faces
Of loved ones, who bring to me,
All that I come from,
And all that I live for,
And all that I'm going to be.
My precious family
Is more than an heirloom to me.
--Amy Grant

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - Edition #28 - "P"

Continuing with my alphabet theme, here are 13 things in my life that start with P:
  1. Pallie Sue. My mother. She was named after a distant cousin. We have never heard of anyone else named "Pallie". Have you?
  2. Pansy. One of my favorite flowers.
  3. PaPa. What my dad's grandkids call him (and what I called my dad's dad). My great-grandfather on my mother's side, who died when I was 13, was also called PaPa.
  4. Paperback Swap. A great website for trading books you no longer want for those you do. I've been a member for about 3 years and I've swapped dozens of books.
  5. Piano. "My" instrument. I don't play as well as I would like... but that would be because I don't take the time to practice.
  6. Pine trees. I love the crisp fragrance on the air in the early morning.
  7. Popcorn. My favorite snack. It's a family tradition!
  8. Porches. I love houses with big porches. Ours is more of a deck, but I still enjoy it.
  9. Porch Swing. Every porch needs one! It's kinda like a "flirting bench" but more comfortable.
  10. Porter. Gene Stratton Porter (who wrote Freckles and Girl of the Limberlost) and Eleanor Porter (who wrote Pollyanna and Just David) are two of my favorite vintage authors. As far as I know, they are not related.
  11. Print Shop. Where my husband works. I've always enjoyed being married to a printer. With as much as I like to write and create, it has turned out to be quite handy!
  12. Promises. I respect and admire people who keep their promises.
  13. Publish. I publish a public-domain set of readers from the 1960s: the "I See Sam" books. Anybody remember those?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Two names I go by:
  1. Karla
  2. Mrs. C
Two things I'm wearing right now:
  1. dress
  2. scrunchy
Two of my favorite things today:
  1. drinking coffee with my husband this morning
  2. going for a walk with my girls
Two things I want at the moment:
  1. a fresh cup of coffee
  2. a nap
Two favorite pets I have had:
  1. Cookie, our sweet border-collie/beagle
  2. Murphy, our previous dog, a terrier mix
Two people I hope will fill this out:
  1. Farrah
  2. Gayle
Two things I did last night:
  1. worked on my craft projects for the "I Remember Laura" swap
  2. talked to my husband
Two things I ate last night:
  1. chef salad
  2. popcorn
Two people I last talked to:
  1. my husband
  2. my daughter
Two things I am doing tomorrow:
  1. working
  2. cleaning house
Two farthest trips I have taken in the last 5 years:
  1. Road trip from north Idaho, south through Utah and Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, then west to the coast, and north up the coast of California, then angled across Oregon home again! (2006)
  2. Road trip from north Idaho, east across Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, south to Missouri for a family reunion, then through Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana home again! (2007)
Two favorite holidays:
  1. Thanksgiving
  2. Easter
Two favorite beverages:
  1. caramel macchiato
  2. Coca-Cola
Feel free to copy it to your blog and insert your answers. If you, let me know. I'd love to see what you come up with.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"I Remember Laura" - Books & Music

Laura loved singing school. It began with singing scales to limber up the voices. Then Mr. Clewett taught them a simple exercise, the first in the book. He gave them the pitch with his tuning fork again and again, until all their voices chimed in with it.

...on the way home Laura sang. "Oh childhood's joys are very great, A-swingin' on his mother's gate, A-eatin' candy till his mouth Is all stuck up from north to south, But though I have to mind the rule, I'd rather go to singing school!"

"That's why I thought you'd like to go," Almanzo said. "You're alway singing."

--These Happy Golden Years

It was a perfectly new book, beautifully bound in green cloth with a gilded pattern pressed into it. The smooth, straight, gilt edges of the pages looked like solid gold. On the cover two curving scrolls of lovely fancy letters made the words, Tennyson's Poems.

Laura was so startled and so amazed by this rich and beautiful book, hidden there among the flannels, that she almost dropped it. It fell open on her hands. In the lamplight the fresh, untouched pages lay spread, each exciting with unread words printed upon it in clear, fine type. Straight, thin red lines enclosed each oblong of printing, like the treasure it was, and outside the red lines were the pages pure margins.

--Little Town on the Prairie

I have invited a special guest today for the "I Remember Laura" blog-a-thon: Melissa Wiley, author of the Little House spin-off series featuring Laura's grandmother, Charlotte, and her great-grandmother, Martha. I remember how excited I was several years ago when I saw that more books about Laura's family were being written. I eagerly began to collect them as they came out.

A few years later, quite by accident, I happened to "meet" Melissa on a homeschool forum. (She's a homeschool mom, too!) Being a huge Little House fan... and something of a would-be writer myself... I bombarded her with questions, which she very graciously answered. That was several years ago, and at least 2 computers ago, so I no longer have those emails. Not to worry, though. I just popped off another email to Melissa and asked if I could interview her for my blog. And once again, she graciously agreed.

Melissa, thanks so much for agreeing to allow me to interview you for this week's "I Remember Laura" blog-a-thon. How is it that you came to write the Charlotte and Martha stories? Are you related to the family?

No, I'm no relation, just a lifelong fan of Laura's work. When I was a newlywed and editorial assistant at HarperCollins, Roger MacBride had begun writing his Rose books and was wanting to commission books about Laura's mother, Caroline, as well. My boss, the great children's book editor Stephanie Spinner, was one of the people asked by the Caroline editor to look at some sample chapters the editor had commissioned from an author she was considering for the series. My boss knew what a Little House fan I was and asked me to take a look. I shared my thoughts with her in a report, which was in turn passed on to the Caroline editor. In this way my extreme enthusiasm for and devotion to Laura's work became known to the Little House editors. When my first baby was born a year later, I quit my job at Harper and began doing freelance writing, including several paperback novels for HarperCollins. A year or two later, when the Little House editors were looking for someone to write about Martha, Laura's Scottish great-grandmother, they asked if I'd be interested in the job. Would I be interested? I was turning cartwheels of jubilation.

Initially the Caroline author, Maria Wilkes, was going to write the Charlotte books too. But around the time I turned in my first Martha manuscript, Maria realized family obligations were going to prevent her from writing for two series a year. Our editor asked if I could take on Charlotte as well. I was eager to, and since this coincided with my husband's decision to leave his staff job at DC Comics and go freelance himself, I was able to commit to the second series. There was only one catch, but it was a doozy! Harper wanted my first chapter of Little House by Boston Bay almost immediately. They wanted to include the chapter in the back of the Little House in the Highlands bound galleys which were about to be distributed to sales reps and bookstores. Could I get them something by the end of the week?

"Well," I said, "I can long as the baby holds off a while longer!" I was already a few days overdue with our second baby. Fortunately, she held on for another week, and I was able to dive into Charlotte's story. I already knew a lot about her from having pored over the Ingalls Wilder family archives during my Highlands research. I wrote "The Saturday Family," and that became the first chapter of Boston Bay.

How did you find out about their lives to write their stories?

The LIW estate gave me access to all the letters and papers they had containing references to Martha and Charlotte. Wherever there were gaps, it was up to me to fill them in with historically accurate adventures. For Charlotte, we knew quite a bit: her birthplace, the names and birth/death dates of her brothers and sisters, where she met her husband, that she worked as a seamstress in Roxbury, MA, at one point. For Martha, the record is much sketchier. We knew she was the daughter of a laird and we knew she married a man her family considered to be beneath her station. We knew his name and their wedding date and location, but beyond those details, everything in the Martha books is fiction.

I have 4 Martha books and 4 Charlotte books on my shelf. Is that all there are?

Yes. There were originally slated to be more of each, but publishing plans changed.

The Martha stories take place in Scotland. Have you been to Scotland?

No—I would dearly love to go someday! I had a researcher in Edinburgh who did some of the legwork for me, looking up things I had little access to myself. I would send her a batch of questions and she'd send back a huge file of articles and books for me to read.

The Charlotte stories take place in Boston. Have you been there?

Oh yes, many times. I also made several visits to Old Sturbridge Village, a living history village not far from Boston which is modeled after a typical New England village of the 1830s. That's a few decades after the time period of my Charlotte books, but change came much slower in those days.

What kind of original documents and source materials did you get to see on in the course of your research?

If you mean materials from the LIW archives, I had access to letters between Laura and her Aunt Martha (Caroline's sister—not my Martha; the granddaughter of my Martha) and genealogical information compiled by one of Aunt Martha's descendents. The Aunt Martha letters contained many anecdotes about Martha and Caroline's childhood, and those stories formed the framework for Maria Wilkes's Caroline books. The information about "my" girls was limited to basic biographical info, no colorful family anecdotes.

To flesh out their lives, I turned to other primary source materials such as diaries and letters from the appropriate time periods and locations. I found some excellent tomes on domestic life in 17th century Scotland which had been written by late 18th-century authors; again, these contained many excerpts from period documents. For the Charlotte books, it was much easier to find primary source material, of course: all the newspapers of the era are on microfilm at the Boston libraries. Many of the episodes that happen in my Roxbury books are drawn from actual historical events, such as the parade on Washington's birthday, the hurricane, the first gaslight in Boston, and the building of the Tide Mill Dam. I also made extensive use of land records and court documents (especially regarding the construction of the dam).

I love how your "voice" in the stories closely reflects Laura's "voice" in telling the stories from a little girl's perspective. Was that hard to develop? Or did it just seem to come naturally?

I didn't want to try to duplicate Laura's voice, but I felt strongly that the voice for my novels should feel like it belonged with Laura's, was akin to it. I did study her style quite closely. I tried to develop a unique voice for both Martha and Charlotte, conveying the flavor of their very different settings. The Martha voice is somewhat more rollicking than the Charlotte voice. But absolutely, I made a conscious decision not to use a more contemporary style of writing.

Family history is something that fascinates me. I like to think that we are influenced by our ancestors, and we can have an influence on generations to come. Did you find that to be true at all as you were researching Laura's grandmothers?

Oh, absolutely. I was especially struck by how much personal tragedy both Charlotte and Martha had to weather, and how their attitudes about that must have influenced their children. I looked carefully at Ma Ingalls, her calm acceptance of trial, her courage. I think of how dreadful those few days must have been when she feared Pa was lost in the Plum Creek blizzard, and how each day that passed must have left her more certain that he was never coming home—and yet she was able to keep the home atmosphere cheerful, entertaining her little girls with thimble games and stories. As a mother, I know how very, very hard that is to do: to push worry aside and make things happy for the children. And it seemed to me that Caroline's strength in such situations must surely have been influenced by watching her own mother grapple with loss and adversity. Caroline's father died when she was quite young. Charlotte, her mother, was left with a brood of quite young children, yet she chose not to go live with her brother's family, depending on him to support her own family. She moved to an undeveloped area and doggedly worked to build a life for her children. That was an immensely courageous decision.

And so I looked in turn to her mother, Martha, and pondered how Martha, raised in comparative luxury (though certainly the household of a minor Scottish laird was nowhere near as luxurious as, say, his equivalent in England's lifestyle might have been, at that time) and then separated from her family and everything she knew, faced suddenly with running her own household in a much more hands-on fashion that she'd been trained for, must have had displayed her own tremendous strength of character. She lost several babies in their infancy, for example. I imagined that in order for Charlotte to grow up as stable, resolute, and lacking in bitterness as she did, her mother must have modeled a kind of cheerful perseverance that made its way through the generations. I dealt with this question head-on in Puddingstone Dam, which is my favorite of all the books. I wanted to show how Martha chose joy deliberately, and how the realization of that dramatically affected Charlotte's character.

This post is supposed to be about books and music. In Laura's books Pa was the musical one with his fiddle. Your stories are about Ma's mother and grandmother. Was that side of the family musical, too?

I had no textual evidence, but I certainly imagined they were! Music was such an important part of the Scots heritage. A lot of the songs Pa plays are Scottish airs—he too had Scots ancestry—and I had great fun incorporating early versions of some of those songs into the Martha books.

Thanks, Karla! It's been an honor!


Thank you again, Melissa, for being my guest for this week's post!

More information about the Martha and Charlotte books can be found on Melissa's website. Melissa's blog is Here in the Bonny Glen.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"I Remember Laura" swap

I am participating in the "I Remember Laura" art swap in conjunction with the blog-a-thon hosted at Quill Cottage. Miss Sandy provided some basic elements for us to start with, and our job is to embellish them. The first project ties in with the first week's theme of quilts.
Miss Sandy sent a basic 9-patch block from a vintage quilt, along with a picture of Laura Ingalls Wilder printed on muslin, and a handful of vintage buttons. I blanket-stitched around the picture of Laura, and then embroidered the outline of a sunbonnet girl with red embroidery floss, and L.I.W. with gray, then tied on a button in the shape of a pencil and another in the shape of a spool of thread. I added a strip of vintage tatting and another of tiny red rick-rack. Then I crocheted and stitched on a poke bonnet, added some buttons and a fabric "yo-yo", and finally crocheted the edging. Voila!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Workbasket (Installment #4)

The December 1950 issue of The Workbasket had a new cover design. I wondered if this was the first month for it, or if it debuted the previous month? I am missing the November issue. Still no color, though. And notice the 15 cents price!

Check out this ad for a convertible shopping bag See how it unfolds into a larger bag? Nifty, huh? But what cracks me up is the fine print that says, "Unique Double Duty design astonishes everyone... Ends drudgery..." Wow! A shopping bag can do all that? I gotta find me a penny postal to send my name in for one of those!

This next ad isn't particularly funny. Just interesting. It's a kit for making artificial flowers... out of paper, chenille (isn't that like pipe cleaners?), and wood fibre. Sounds like a Vacation Bible School craft to me. But apparently it was another way for the 1950 housewife to make quick and easy money in her spare time at home!

Oh, look! I can make a pansy potholder to go with my sunflower potholder from the September issue. Well, I could... if I could follow the pattern! I tried it and had to give up. I really do know how to read crochet patterns, but there is something about this one that is very confusing. Eh!

Each issue so far has featured a column called Aunt Ellen's Club Notes. From all I can make out Aunt Ellen was the editor of the magazine, and apparently there were "Aunt Ellen Clubs" for housewives all around the country. The column included "What Clubs Are Doing," "Program Suggestions," and then ideas for "Recreation Hour." I'm here to tell you these women must have been thoroughly bored to find these ideas entertaining! Here's one game suggestion:
Condiment conundrums -- These conundrums should be written on slips of paper and wrapped around stuffed dates. They may be tied in place with a bit of Christmas ribbon or tinsel. Each must answer her conundrum before she may eat her date.
  • What date is married to an uncle?--antedate.
  • What date is ramshackle and tumbled down?--dilapidated.
  • What date is part of a fence?--post-date.
  • What date makes clear?--elucidate.
  • What date brings together?--consolidate.
  • What date floods?--inundate.
  • What date ate too much?--stuffed date.
  • What date can look around?--sedate.
  • What date is not a woman?--mandate.
  • What date can't see?--blind date.
  • What date is used for punctuation?--accomodate.
  • What date is sweet?--candidate.
  • What date gives information?--data.
  • What date makes one fearful?--intimidate.
Be honest now! Would you have gotten to eat your date? And if not, would you even care?

The wording on this ad cracks me up. Okay, so that's true of most of the ads of this era. But it asks, "Which do you want?" Then it lists, "Better Digestion, Restful Sleep, Normal Elimination, Strong Healthy Teeth." You mean I have to choose just one? I can't have all of those things?

It kinda reminds me of a modern infomerical. "But wait! There's more! Order in the next 10 minutes and we'll also send you an Electrical Grill and Toaster, plus a Vita Miracle Recipe Book!!!" (They even list the value of the recipe book! Fifty-five cents! LOL!)

Another regular column was the Flower and Garden Forum where the ladies could write in questions about "any aspect of gardening" to be answered by "one of the nation's leading gardening experts, C. L. Quear". Here's a sample question and answer from this issue:

I would like to know if I should put sheep manure on my strawberries this fall or scatter it on in the spring? Mrs. A. K. M., Minnesota

A fertile soil that would produce a good crop of potatoes, preferably a fertile clay soil is what you need for strawberries. After the plants are growing in such a soil don't add sheep manure either in the spring or fall. Fertilizer would do no good and might prove quite harmful.

Silly me! I never thought of planting strawberries in the potato patch! Now what am I gonna do with all this sheep manure?

"Have you ever thought of decorating a small Christmas tree with pan holders and filling each with small kitchen utensils, such a tea strainers, measuring spoons, sugar scoop, etc.?"

No? Me, neither. I wonder if the idea was to give the sweet little pan holders with their cute little utensils to all your girlfriends as gifts at a party... or if this was supposed to be an idea for decorating the family Christmas tree using things you just happened to have laying around the kitchen?

If you're looking for a career with Big Pay you ought to check into becoming a practical nurse! The ad leads me to believe they actually offered correspondence courses for becoming a nurse... and in 12-weeks at that! Could that really be true, or are there perhaps some facts in the free booklet that explain the catch? Surely a person couldn't learn enough in a 12-week correspondence course to pass State Boards? Or maybe they didn't have to pass State Boards to practice nursing? That's kinda scary!

Isn't this a cute toy? It seems like I vaguely remember playing with something similar when I was little. But I wonder why it was considered a "miracle"?

This is the last issue I have from 1950. Next up is February 1951. And guess what? It has a color cover! (I didn't say full-color!)

But for now, I'll leave you with Your Winter Selections. Be sure and mail in your twenty-five cents (in coins) to order any of these patterns!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

2008 convention season

You know what? It's a good thing I've been at this job for awhile. If I didn't already have 9 years of experience under my belt, I might just want to throw in the towel after the season I just had! It was quite the comedy of [costly] errors.

As you probably know, I'm a homeschool consultant for Sonlight Curriculum. I had 3 conventions to attend this spring. The first one was in April in Redmond, Washington (Seattle area). Then week-before-last I was in Boise, and this past weekend in Puyallup, Washington (also in the Seattle area).

So... let me tell you the saga of my convention trips this year!

In April we were just 10 minutes away from the church where the convention was to be held when my oldest daughter realized that we had forgotten the catalogs! Understand that the catalogs are the most important part of my booth. Everything else is just for people to look at. Not only that, I don't take orders. I only give out catalogs. So without the catalogs it was kind of pointless for me to be there. It was 4 hours home (one way) and the convention was to open in about 3 hours! Not only that, there was the ever-rising cost of fuel to consider. But there was nothing else to do. We unloaded the booth supplies and my husband and youngest daughter headed back home to get the catalogs, while my oldest daughter and I set up the booth and as graciously as we could tried to explain to people why we didn't have catalogs that night. Lyle got back with the catalogs about 1 o'clock in the morning, so we were good for the rest of the weekend.

Except... in the process of moving our travel trailer across the church parking lot Lyle bumped another car. ..::sigh::.. So he left a note for that driver. And that ended up costing us over $600.

The Boise trip wasn't quite so expensive, but bad enough. Lyle got a ticket for expired tags on the truck while we were down there. Apparently the reminder card got lost in the mail, and it had completely slipped his mind. That was a $50 fine. Then when we got home we discovered that our brand-new backyard gazebo had collapsed from the heavy rain over the weekend, and several of the poles were broken. Another $50 to replace them. ..::sigh::..

We started off this past weekend with such high hopes. I mean, what else could possibly go wrong? Well, I'll tell ya.

First, an ominous popping noise under the hood of the truck turned out to be something wrong with the inner cooler. (Don't know what an inner cooler is? Neither do I. It seems to be something like a radiator. Maybe. Or it might be related to the carburator. Yes, I'm sure that's what it is. Any time something is wrong under the hood, it must be the carburator. OK. OK. I do know that modern vehicles don't have carburators, but I just like saying that.) Lyle did some research on the internet and found out that it might be covered under warranty. The next morning he called the dealer. They couldn't tell him if it was under warranty. He'd have to bring it in. So he did. And no, it's not under warranty. But they charged him $95 to tell him it was broke. Thank you so much for that valuable bit of information. ..::sigh::.. Oh. And to fix it? Just the part from the dealer is $1500! Fortunately, he was able to patch it up enough to get home, and he is watching on eBay for a used part. [Lyle just corrected me. It's an "intercooler" (I argued with him that there is no such word, but he insists that there is!) and the dealer part was $650. I don't know where I got the $1500 figure from. Maybe total cost of repair?]

Then, I ended up being short-handed for the convention through an apparent miscommunication. My friend Cathy, my 15-year-old daughter, and I... just the 3 of us... covered the Sonlight booth for a 3000-person event. Needless to say, by the end of the weekend we were thoroughly exhausted. Hopefully we were able to encourage and help quite a few homeschoolers make their plans for the upcoming school year.

My reports are turned in. I can unpack my boxes and put my Sonlight books all back in the bookcase in the family room where they belong. I believe I'll have a glass of iced tea and just enjoy a good book on the swing on the back deck.

Oh, wait a minute. No, I can't do that either. We are in the process of staining the deck. We started that project last night.

I guess it's just time to "do the next thing."

And mostly I just count my blessings. The Lord did keep us safe over all the miles we've traveled. No one was hurt or sick. All the "disasters" that seemed so stressful at the time are really relatively minor.

As my Grandmother used to say, "We're glad things are as well with us as they are."

Life is good.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"I Remember Laura" - Family Recipes

This week's topic for the "I Remember Laura" blog-a-thon is family recipes. Laura was such a descriptive writer that any time she wrote about a meal or a special dish, it simply made my mouth water. Later I came to appreciate the utter simplicity of the meals that "Ma and the girls" served to family and guests alike.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the Little House books describing the make-do attitude and gratefulness that is such a prevalent theme in the stories of the Ingalls family:
Ma put the crust in the pie pan and covered the bottom with brown sugar and spices. Then she filled the crust with thin slices of the green pumpkin. She poured half a cup of vinegar over them, put a small piece of butter on top, and laid the top crust over all.

"There," she said, when she had finished crimping the edges.

"I didn't know you could," Carrie breathed, looking wide-eyed at the pie.

"Well, I don't know yet," said Ma. She slipped the pie into the oven and shut the door on it. "But the only way to find out is to try. By dinnertime we'll know."

...Pa pushed back his empty plate and Ma gave Laura a look that said, "Now!" Smiles spread over all their faces but Pa's. Carrie wriggled in her chair and Grace bounced on Ma's lap, while Laura set down the pie.

For an instant Pa did not see it. Then he said, "Pie!"

His surprise was even greater than they had expected. Grace and Carrie and even Laura laughed out loud.

"Caroline, however did you manage to make a pie?" Pa exclaimed. "What kind of pie is it?"

"Taste it and see!" said Ma. She cut a piece and put it on his plate.

Pa cut off the point with his fork and put it in his mouth. "Apple pie! Where in the world did you get apples?"

Carrie could keep still no longer. She almost shouted, "It's pumpkin! Ma made it out of green pumpkin!"

Pa took another small bite and tasted it carefully. "I'd never have guessed it," he said. "Ma always could beat the nation cooking."
--The Long Winter

The day was ending in perfect satisfaction. They were all there together. All the work, except the supper dishes, was done until tomorrow. They were all enjoying the good bread and butter, fried potatoes, cottage cheese, and lettuce leaves sprinkled with vinegar and sugar.
--Little Town on the Prairie

You know Laura grew up to be a farm wife, but did you know that she was also a journalist for many years before she wrote the Little House books? I've been reading some of her earlier writing recently. Here is a portion of an article from A Little House Reader that she wrote about taking in summer boarders.

If you have some spare rooms in your house by all means fill them with summer boarders and try marketing some of your surplus farm products that way. Get help in the kitchen if you can but if not, put out the washing, buy the bread and make the work light in every way you can.

Do not try to give them their meals in city style. They have come to the country for the sake of living the country life for awhile. Your common every-day things will be treats to them. Newly laid eggs, thick sweet cream, new milk, fresh buttermilk and butter, the fruits and vegetables fresh from the garden, are things nearly impossible to get in the city.

These things cost next to nothing on the farm and with the addition of some of the frying chickens are nearly all that is needed to make a delightful bill of fare for the summer. Everything necessary for the most delicious salads is ready at hand and they are not difficult to make although this is a dish too often neglected in the country.

The using of the things raised on the farm, many of which would otherwise go to waste or be sold at small price, is where the profit will be made and it will also give the greatest satisfaction to the summer visitors.

The first time I took summer boarders a couple of my friends began at the same time. I followed this idea of using home products and made a good profit from the start, doing better as I learned from experience. My friends could make no profit and even lost money.

The difference was that they bought fancy meats and canned goods. If they planned a salad they made a fruit salad of pineapple, bananas, oranges, etc., while I went to the garden where I gathered tender lettuce, whcih arranged on pretty places with a hard boiled egg cut in half to show the golden center and a little ball of cottage cheese made a beautiful and tasty salad. The dressing for the salads I made myself of homemade cider vinegar, mustard, sugar, an egg, with pepper and salt. When my friends prepared a dessert it was some expensive pudding or pastry while I served fresh berries, peaches or other fruit with sugar and cream.

The result was that while I made money they lost it and the humor of the situation was that their boarders wanted to leave them and come to me.

By using home products in this way, combining with a spirit of hospitality, a little taking of thought and some extra steps you can receive in return at least $5 a week and often more for each person entertained, and full half of this will be profit.
--"Summer Boarders", A Little House Reader

Well, my family never took in summer boarders... (somehow we never seemed to manage to have "spare rooms") ...and we didn't always have a garden. Or chickens. Or a cow. But neither did we have expensive or fancy food. Yet my mother always graciously served whatever we had "with a spirit of hospitality [and] a little taking of thought and some extra steps" to family and guests alike.

Isn't that the way it should be?

P.S. I chose to talk about meal-planning and hospitality in this post, rather than specific family recipes. But that's not because we don't have family recipes. We do! Lots of them! I have actually published 2 large cookbooks full. Volume 1 is out of print, but Volume 2 is still available here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mount Rainier National Park

It was a crystal clear day... a rarity in Seattle... and the mountain was "out"... so we decided to come home via Mount Rainier National Park. (please excuse the dirty windshield)

Our first glimpse of the mountain this morning...

Entering the Park...

Pictures taken from the highway through the Park...

The highway through the Park...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - Edition #27 - "O"

Continuing with my alphabet theme, here are 13 things in my life that start with the letter O:
  1. Oatmeal Cookies. My favorite.
  2. Occupation. I love being a wife and mother!
  3. Ocean. I have been to the Pacific coast several times, but I've never seen the Atlantic Ocean.
  4. Ohio. Where I graduated from high school.
  5. Oklahoma. Where my mother grew up.
  6. Old Time Radio. I have enjoyed listening to the old radio dramas and comedies for years.
  7. Oliver. One of our gold fish! (You needed to know that, right?)
  8. Open Road. My family and I love road trips.
  9. Orange. A favorite fruit. A not-so-favorite color.
  10. Organ. I had one semester of organ lessons in college. I never could get the hang of playing the bass notes with my foot!
  11. Organization. Something I strive for.
  12. Origins. Genealogy is fascinating to me.
  13. Owl. My mother-in-law gave me an owl string-art that my husband made when he was a teen-ager. She collected owls.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"Make new friends, but keep the old..."

The homeschool convention this past weekend was good... but the highlight for me can be described in one word: Friends. What a treasure!

Did you ever meet someone that you just immediately clicked with? You could tell right away that you were "kindred spirits"? It doesn't happen very often, but I met just such a friend in another booth at the homeschool convention this weekend. Gayle and her family have a hospitality-oriented business/ministry, Refreshed Hearts, that drew me to their booth. They are retailers for Feed on the Word scripture dinnerware. Isn't it just so elegant and meaningful? Naturally it caught my eye so I stopped to browse... and struck up a conversation with Gayle. As we visited we discovered we had many things in common. We didn't have time to say everything we would have liked to, so we exchanged contact information and promised to keep in touch.

Gayle is just getting started in blogging, so I shared some ideas with her. She was very excited. Do me a favor and stop by her blog, Refreshings, and leave a comment to encourage her!

Here's to new friends! But don't forget the old!

We recently found out that Allen and Canda, friends of ours from college days (close to 25 years ago!), had moved from Pennsylvania to Idaho, so we got in touch and made arrangements to stop and see them on our way through their area as we headed home. They invited us to eat lunch with them, and we had such a good visit! We couldn't remember exactly how many years it had been since we had seen them... 15 or 20, anyway. After such a long time, you would think reconnecting might be a little awkward, but it wasn't. We just picked up right where we left off... and marveled at how many years have gone by so quickly. The kids even hit it off and had a great time playing together. We hope to get together with them again later this summer.

Another highlight of the weekend was the chance we had to get together with my brothers and their families. We hadn't seen them since this time last year, so it was good to catch up. We also enjoyed reminiscing from our childhood and making all the in-laws laugh at our crazy stories.

Our little niece is two-and-a-half and just adorable. It was so much fun to watch her and talk to her. "C'mon! Le's go see duh ducks! C'mon!" She also enjoyed climbing in and out of our "big white t'uck" (the travel-trailer). Such a cutie... and growing up fast!

Monday, June 9, 2008

"I Remember Laura" - Buttons

"Ma had saved buttons since she was smaller than Laura, and she had buttons her mother had saved when her mother was a little girl. There were blue buttons and red buttons, silvery and goldy buttons, curved-in buttons with tiny raised castles and bridges and trees on them, and twinkling jet buttons, painted china buttons, striped buttons, buttons like juicy blackberries, and even one tiny dog-head button. Laura squealed when she saw it." --On the Banks of Plum Creek

Did your mother collect buttons? Mine did. Mother kept her buttons in a clear plastic hinged box that her watch had come in once-upon-a-time. It was always a special treat to get to sit in the middle of the bed and dump out the button box to sort through and admire all the pretty buttons.

A few years ago for a whimsical birthday gift, my mother sent me this honey jar about half full of buttons. Not necessarily special buttons... but just an assortment to start my own collection with. I've added a few from here and there and now the jar is almost full. I would love to have vintage buttons, but so would a lot of other people... and I'm not willing to pay the asking price for the truly collectible buttons. So my collection is really just for fun. And my girls enjoy sorting through the buttons every now and then. That's all that matters, isn't it?


As I was going through my vintage Workbasket magazines the other day, I came across this article on New Uses for Old Buttons (by Jewell Casey) which I thought would be perfect for this post. I'll scan the pictures for you and then quote portions of the article, because I thought the lady's ideas were actually very interesting. Her projects are a hokey, yeah... but that just adds to the charm, I think.

My liking for buttons--big, little, bright colored or drab--goes back to my early childhood. My mother permitted me to empty the contents of her button box upon the floor, and for hours I would amuse myself by stringing buttons and making them into all kinds of bracelets, belts, necklaces and many other ornaments for myself and my dolls.

So, it is not surprising that recently when I had the urge to make several gifts that would be pretty, inexpensive, useful and different, I reverted back to my childhood pastime of "playing with buttons" and have been highly pleased with the results.

Digging out the old family button box--containing some of the same buttons I played with in the long ago--I found many unusual ones that have been saved down through the years because of either their size, shape, color, or just because they were buttons and might come in handy some day! Then, no sooner had some of my friends heard of my latest project than they showered me with buttons.

After adding to my button collection, old pieces of costume jewelry, odds and ends of ribbon, florist wire, floratape, household cement, needles and an assortment of colored thread, I was ready to begin playing in earnest. Experimenting a little while with buttons of different shapes and colors, I soon got the knack and made quite a variety of articles.

Photograph 1 shows a bracelet, stickpin, hatpin, cuff links, jeweled safety pins, brooch and earrings which I designed and made.

For the bracelet I selected sixteen buttons, near the same size, but in different colors of gold, which, black and vivid hues, and sewed each one to a band of narrow black ribbon. I allowed sufficient ribbon at each end to tie around wrist and finish with a neat bow. Chokers are made in a similar manner, except longer lengths of ribbon and more buttons are required.

For the hatpin I used a corsage pin (removed old head) and for the head a pretty red and gold, round button, which was cemented securely. A long needle was used for the stickpin, with a pretty button cemented to head. The hatpin and stickpin can be used for corsages, or scarfs or many other ways...

For the corsage, shown in Photograph 2, I selected "lacy" buttons in white and pretty pinks to form the flowers in the corsage. Wiring each button separately with fine florist wire, then I wrapped each wire with green floratape, thus forming the stems. I then arranged the flowers with largest ones at top, and at central point wired the stems together for security. At this point a bow of soft green ribbon was tied.

Button corsages are suitable for year-around gifts, and color combinations may be varied to suit any costume--their possibilities are unlimited. They are very definitely adapted for mailing, since they are so light weight and will not crush...

My button gardens are perhaps the most pleasing gifts I make. They please invalids, either children or adults, and are little or no trouble to take care of.

Shown in Photograph 3 is a summer garden made with living plants, which include mosses, succulents, and most any other small plants. If watered daily with only a few drops, these plants will last weeks.

I use large coat buttons, which I first coated with glue to hold the wee plants, tiny rocks, etc. Then I put as much soil as possible around the living plants.

It's hard to imagine a garden so small it can be landscaped on a button, but once you try it, you'll soon see the possibilities of all kinds of gardens from mountain landscapes to seashore scenes...

So there you have it! All sorts of ideas to "work up your own nice little business by making button novelties"! Be sure to let me know how that goes for you! ;-)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

A Rainbow at Sunset

I got these shots of the eastern sky from my front door a few days ago...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Workbasket comes alive!

Recently I've been showing you clippings from some old Workbasket magazines that I picked up at a garage sale a few weeks ago. I've enjoyed poring over them and scanning some of the pages to share here. (Don't worry. I'm not through yet!) But for this week's Vintage Thingy Thursday I have a couple of "real-life" things straight from the pages of the early-1950s Workbasket!

Last week I showed you a picture of a sunflower potholder pattern that I said I wanted to try:
Remember that? Well, I got some colored thread and this is how it turned out!
Isn't that perfectly sweet? I love the vintage pattern! (Just wish it was easier to read and follow. I did okay with this one, just kind of guessing in the spots where it wasn't very clear, but I tried another one that I couldn't make heads or tails of... and I've been reading crochet patterns for years!)

Here's another clipping I haven't shown you yet. I came across this ad for salt and pepper shakers and did a double-take!
I have the Dutch Mills set! My mother sent them to me recently to add to my small-but-growing collection of "vintage thingies" in my kitchen. Aren't they so cute?
They aren't very big... only a couple inches tall. The ad says:
DUTCH MILLS -- All-metal, hand painted with colorful little flowers around the doors. Shown about 1/3 actual size. Boxed. Pair... 1.00.