Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Oh, the weather outside is frightful! Well, it is getting there, but the wind and snow are almost unbearable!!! It is so cold. Makes me want to hole up inside and never go out!

Here is what it looks like in Indianapolis -

The wind is extremely strong today. In fact, the snow looks like it is going completely horizontal because of the wind.

I know there will be colder days and more snow than this throughout the rest of winter. However, I do not plan on going out in it!
It looks pretty, the world all in white. As much as I hate being cold, it will be nice to see snow a few times this season. Plus, it will be priceless to watch Brenna play in the snow for the first time in her new snowsuit. Seeing snow through Brenna's eyes, especially since it will be new for her, makes me enjoy the snow a little more.
For those of you who have not had the joy of the first snowfall this year yet, don't worry. It will come. Think of snow through someone else's eyes this time to try to enjoy it more. Also, keep warm while doing it!
I see hot cocoa, coffee, or tea, warm blankets, and fireplaces in my future. :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Layer Away!

Now that it's December, we can pretty much say that it is winter, and that it is pretty much cold outside - well, at least colder. So that means more layers!! I love this time of year when I can wear warm tights with a cute skirt and a fitted turtleneck sweater, feeling comfy warm yet look really nice, too. It is also the time of year when curling up under a nice warm blanket in the corner of the couch with a good book or movie and a cup of hot coffee seems to be calling my name, too.

Let's face it - we are in the holiday season. It's winter. It's cold. It's December. It's almost Christmas. I don't really like the cold as we head farther into winter, but with the cold comes fun family activities, sometimes more travel, and some wonderful events that hopefully, bring us closer together in friendship and love.

I don't know about anyone else, but I love snow...when I can leave it behind when I have had enough of it. This is the first week that snow has been in our weather forecast here in Indiana, and I am excited and apprehensive. As long as I don't have to get out in it, and I feel warm and safe inside, then it will be fun watching the first snowfall of winter. I can't imagine going through a long, cold winter like pioneers did in their breezy log cabins! The drafts would freeze me, for sure!! However, if I had been of that time, I am sure I would have coped like everyone else. I would layer, layer, layer and quilt like there was no tomorrow!

Right now I am working on finishing up a couple of quilts I started awhile back that now just need to be hand quilted. I thought about tying them, but I just thought that I would like the look of them better if I did them right - the old-fashioned way. So, like many-a pioneer woman, I am trying to spend my cold winter days hand quilting so I can be warm the rest of the winter.

Here are a couple of swatches from one of the quilts that I will hopefully be working on. I like the neutrals, especially tans and browns.

If you don't quilt, then perhaps try knitting. Scarves are easy and don't take too long to make, and they really make a difference if you are cold indoors. They can also be a fashion accessory!

Try to stay warm, my friends!

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Simple Things in Life

The last couple of days have not been as productive as I would have liked. It seems that all I get done is mundane household chores. Not too exciting to write about on a daily basis, but very authentic for today and the 19th century. It is what moms do, even when we don't really want to!

While I was doing all of that necessary "work," I did happen to make an Apple Crisp with the help of my lovely daughter.
She does love her apples!

Apple Crisp is such an easy thing to make, and it tastes sooooo good, especially during beautiful, fall weather! Take any type of apple (I used Galas and Granny Smith to have some sweet and a little sour) and add Cinnamon and a little flour (so there will not be just juice from the apples but rather a thicker sauce). Mix up some oats, brown sugar, and a little more Cinnamon. Cut in Smart Balance Light (or butter if you can eat it) to make a nice topping for the apples. To make it really good, put some small bits of butter on top of the apples before putting on the topping. Top the apples with the oat mix and bake. So simple and soooooo good!!!!

Women today, just like in the pioneer days, loved having some things be simple and easy. There never is quite enough of the "easy stuff" when it comes to running a household. Little special treats like Apple Crisp every now and then spice up life and hopefully bring family closer together.
Remember, not everything has to be hard!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Full Day

Today was a full day. We got our new couch this weekend, which inspired us to finish cleaning and going through the living room. We even had our carpets cleaned! Well, we did not intend to do that, but it turned out that the company I called was owned by a man whose daughter goes to the school my mom works at. My mom knew his wife and daughter! So, we ended up getting the living room and hallway done for a great price! If you ever need your carpet or upholstery cleaned, contact Eco Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning.

Anyway, after all of that excitement, it was time to think about dinner. It was suggested that we have Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo, but no one wanted it if it was made with jar Alfredo sauce. So I made it all from scratch. My family said it turned out great! You can't go wrong with cream, butter, garlic, and Parmesan cheese. My soon to be brother-in-law said it was as good as Olive Garden!

My mother made two pumpkin pies today, too, which means we have to have homemade whipped cream to go with them! So I made a big bowl of whipped cream for the warm pumpkin pie that the family had after dinner. It was a wonderful dinner!!

Homemade dinners are fun to make, especially when they are appreciated. It is a rare thing that families sit down together and eat a homemade meal anymore. Most of the time, members of families grab something processed to eat as they are rushing out the door (or they skip meals altogether). Families in the 19th century ate almost all of their meals together as a family, and they were definitely homemade! They didn't have all of the "convenience" in meal prep that we have available today. They made everything from scratch, and I am sure it was soooooo good!!
If you haven't made something from scratch in awhile or at all, then give it a try! You will remember or learn how wonderful homemade food really is!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Purging, Re-arranging, and Variety!

The past couple of days have been purging days, at least for me. I have been trying to go through things here that have not been used in ages or that we don't need anymore. Believe me, it's easier said than done! Since I have been away for quite awhile, I do not have the attachments to things around here anymore like my sisters do. It is easy for me to say, "Oh, you don't need that anymore." They do not find that amusing after they hear me say that to more than half of their stuff.

Actually, they have been pretty good about getting rid of things. In fact, each of them had more bags to give to Goodwill than I thought I could get out of them. So, today we loaded all of the stuff for Goodwill into my van (which was packed to the max!), and my sister dropped it off on her way to the school. It was a beautiful, sunny day today for us to be outside accomplishing a good thing. There is now a small corner of the garage that we can move around in as we go through the rest of the garage and purge some more!

When I get on a purging kick, I sometimes carry that over into rearranging. My excuse is that I need to move furniture around to be sure that I am not missing something that could be thrown away or given away. In all honesty, I just like moving furniture. So that is what I did, as well. The new layout has proven to be a success. My family has commented on how much they like it. We are hopefully soon going to get a new couch since ours is very old and falling apart. Then I get to rearrange again! Yay!!

Now how does all of my ramblings about purging and rearranging furniture relate to the 19th century? Well, given that houses were a lot smaller than most of ours today, families during that time did not have much space to just store things they did not use regularly. As children outgrew things, they were either passed down to the next child or remade into something that could be used. If that wasn't the case, then once something couldn't be used anymore, it was gotten rid of. Another good point to make here is that children did not have all of the toys and things that children of today have. They had much fewer belongings. Again, the space issue and not a lot of money for "extra" things.

The mentality was also different during that era. Material things were not as important. The family had what it needed and maybe a little extra, but it was not consumed with stuff. As the mother of the house, she was constantly trying to keep things in their place or get rid of them so they had room to eat, sleep, learn, and spend time together. There probably wasn't much rearranging of furniture, given that they didn't have a lot of pieces nor a lot of space in their small houses. However, I bet women sometimes got an urge to just change things up a bit for variety's sake like I do. It might be in our nature. Well... at least I think so!

You know what they say - "variety is the spice of life!"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ironing and Tips

Since I do not iron as much as many women do or 19th century women did for that matter, I thought I would show you what I did iron today. Not too exciting, but I am lengthening my mother's slacks. So, I had to iron a new crease in the bottom before I sew them.

This is what they looked like.

You can see the old line where the bottom crease used to be, and hopefully, you can see where I made a new crease a quarter inch above the serging. Needless to say, my ironing for the day consisted of two pant leg hems.

Here's a couple of tips on how to iron certain fabrics.

1. When ironing wool, use a thin piece of cotton fabric to lay over the wool, then spray with water to make steam. Never iron directly on wool! It will turn shiny.

2. When lengthening pants or skirts and trying to get the old crease out, make sure your iron has water in it so you can create a good amount of steam. Depending on the type of fabric (i.e. cotton, wool, or synthetic) and how long the item has been washed, ironed, and worn at that length, the crease (or line) may not completely iron out. Steam is one of the best things to try.

3. With synthetic fabric, remember not to have the heat turned up too high. The fabrics will melt!

And last but not least, here is a simple homemade starch recipe that also makes your clothes smell nice, too.

Lavender Linen Starch

Dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 1 pint cold water. Add 6 drops of lavender essential oil (or whatever your favorite scent is). Place in a spray bottle and shake before using.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Infamous Wash Day

The dreaded wash day is upon us. After that wonderful, relaxing Sunday day of rest, it is now time to get back to the daily grind. Many people don't mind doing laundry, but to some of us it is a chore that seems to be unending. I can't even fathom how women of the 19th century dealt with all of the laundry, washing it the old fashioned way. I think it takes long enough sorting the different colors, putting one load in the washer at a time, waiting to switch it over to the dryer, all the while starting the next load. Then folding everything and putting it all away.

Now I have no reason to complain since I don't have to boil water and scrub my clothes by hand or with tough soap such as lye. Nor do I have to wait for the outside air to dry all of my clothes. Don't get me wrong, I love the smell of clothes freshly dried in the sun, but choosing to do that and having that as the only option are two different things!

Here is the before and after of my day's laundry.

- The dirty clothes pile
The clean clothes pile -
I am still folding and putting away the clean laundry. No nice, neat folded stacks of clean clothes for me. Not when I have the loving help of my 10 month old. No excuse compared to 19th cenury women. They definitely had it harder - the process, the space, the help, and so on. Since we don't have it as hard as those women did (and we don't have a specific day to do laundry on), I think it is safe to say that at least the laundry is clean and my baby is happy!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Much Needed Day of Rest

Today was a good day overall. We went to church after sleeping in a little. Then went to lunch at a 50s diner called Edward's Drive-In. They have a really good Pork Tenderloin Sandwich that is huge! So, after a nice dinner with most of my family, we came home to watch my mother's favorite sport - football. It's not so bad. The Colts won!
Since having a baby, naps have become one of my favorite things, especially on a Sunday afternoon. Pioneers had it right. Resting on Sunday takes the pressure off of feeling like you have to get something productive done (at least on this particular day). Brenna and I took a nice nap together while the rest of my family watched football. Very cozy, hearing them cheer for their team in the other room while relaxing with my baby in another. It is very rare indeed to have most, if not all of my family at home at the same time.

I actually had a short break from being a mom this evening, which I'm sure didn't happen much for 19th century women. My mom wanted to take Brenna to church tonight with her, even though I was not really up to going. So, while they were gone for an hour and a half, I was able to relax and drink a cup of coffee without having to keep my precious little girl from trying to drink it or burn herself trying. Once everyone was home, we decided to do something spontaneous and fun. That translated into playing Apples to Apples. Everyone played, and it was great! It made me think of families back in the day that spent most every Sunday together as a family. I can see it now. Father reading by the fireplace, Mother handsewing in her rocking chair, and the children playing on the floor with their toys.

Well, playing a game on the living room floor is the closest my family can get to that picture right now, and I'm ok with that. We had a wonderful time together, and I'm sure we will try to do it again now that we remember what fun it is to take the time to play games together.

If you haven't tried doing something together as a family in awhile, even if it watching a good, old movie or playing a game as we did, try it!! You will love it!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Baking Day!

The smell of freshly baked bread wafted through the house while I finished up yesterday's cleaning and worked on dinner. Ahhh... baking day; I love fresh bread! I love kneading the dough. There is something so satisfying about kneading bread. I bet pioneer women loved having this opportunity on a weekly basis, what with the stresses of daily farm life.

Here is how my loaves turned out today.

Below is a simple bread recipe that I have used before. It's one of my favorites!

Easy Wheat Bread (or rolls) - by Helen Farver

5 1/2 cups very warm water

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup honey

1 tablespoon salt

7 cups freshly milled whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons dry yeast

3-5 more cups whole wheat flour

Combine water, oil, honey, and salt in a bowl. Mix while adding the 7 cups of wheat flour and yeast. Continue mixing and add 3-5 more cups flour until dough pulls away from sides and forms a ball. Knead for 8 minutes. Grease 4 loaf pans - turn oven on to 150 degrees. Divide into four loaves. Let them rise in the oven (with it on) for 25 minutes. Leave the bread in the oven and turn temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes - cool.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Cleaning Day the Old Fashioned Way

Today, being Friday, was cleaning day. I got lots done (including the bathroom, living room, bedroom, and some of the dining room), but while I was working I was thinking of the ways 19th century women cleaned their houses. This turned my attention to the simplicity of which cleaning products should be. We don't need chemicals to thoroughly clean and sterilize our belongings. Because I have a little baby around putting everything in her mouth, I am constantly aware of the fact that what I clean with will probably end up in her mouth at some point. So, combining the concern for my baby's health and safety and the knowledge that I have of old fashioned cleaning supplies, we will look at a few basic items that will also help you be more "green."

Every household almost always has baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice. These are the basics. So simple! You can always make something a little more elaborate or that has a fragrance, and I will share with you a couple easy recipes for everyday cleaning supplies that can be added to.

1. All purpose cleaner - for two cups of water add a few drops of natural soap (liquid castile soap is a good, safe one). If you want to add a fragrance, add 15-30 drops of your favorite essential oil, such as lavender or tea tree. Put mixture in a spray bottle, and you can clean just about anything.

2. Clogged sink or drain - pour one cup white vinegar and one cup baking soda into the drain/sink, and let it sit for a few minutes. Then pour a tea kettle full of boiling water down to flush it through.

3. Window and glass cleaner - mix half a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water.

4. Toilet bowl cleaner - sprinkle baking soda and lemon juice in the bowl and let it sit. Then use your scrub brush on it.

5. Dusting spray (or furniture polish) - mix a half cup of lemon juice with one cup of olive oil. Wipe down furniture using a soft rag and mixture. Smells better than the store bought!

Hope these are helpful to you! I am keeping an eye out for more interesting and easy ways to clean and disinfect our homes without using chemicals.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Woman's Workweek

So, I thought we would take a look at the old adage about what chore was done on each day of the week.

Wash on Monday
Iron on Tuesday
Mend on Wednesday
Churn on Thursday
Clean on Friday
Bake on Saturday
Rest on Sunday

Since today is Thursday, I should have made some butter. Unfortunately, I didn't have any heavy cream to make some (and I can't eat real butter anyway). So, instead I made peanut butter cookies that used butter. They turned out sooooo well!

Why was there a set day for each chore? Well, here is how I see it. Laundry was done on Monday probably because it was such a hard job, and the mother needed all of her energy. Since she had just rested on Sunday, she was at her best first thing Monday. Tuesday is the logical day for ironing because the clothes were just washed the day before. Since all of the clothes have been labored over meticulously, the woman knows what needs mending on Wednesday. Now on to the kitchen work for the week. Churning butter on Thursday took its time, but I'm sure it was worth it to have butter for that freshly baked bread that was sure to come on the weekend. Friday was the cleaning day. In some ways, my least favorite chore but my favorite day of the week. That probably helped get through the chores of that day by remembering that it was soon going to be the weekend. Baking was done on Saturday so there would be fresh bread for Sunday dinner. Sunday was the much needed day of rest!
Very logical progression of the woman's workweek in the 19th century. So, over the next week, I will share with you my version of these chores in my daily life. Who knows. After having been sick all week, something might actually get done this coming week!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Costumes, Clothes, and Sewing

It's been a long time! Finally getting back to myself after being sick for so long.

Probably the only thing I did while I was sick for a week was make a Laura Ingalls Wilder dress for my cousin for Halloween. It turned out better than I was expecting, and it looked so cute on her!
Making this costume and sharing it with you all leads me to my next topic - sewing.

With the weather continually getting colder (albeit beautiful today!), the winter sweaters, wools, pants, and layers come out. For me, with all of the physical changes I've had going on the past year and a half, my clothes are very sparse this winter. Very few items fit anymore! I guess it is a good problem to have :)
While trying to be thrifty, I have been looking at my fabric stash to see what I can make that will be warm and cozy, as well as fashionably acceptable. I have some nice wools that were just sent to me that should make some very nice skirts!
Pioneers probably did something similar, although they more than likely didn't have a "stash" of fabric like mine. Fabric was expensive and carefully planned out for each garment that needed to be made for each family member. Fabric was also reused. For example, your daughter needs a new dress because she has outgrown her old one. So, mother probably used an old skirt of her own to cut out the daughter's new dress, or at least parts of it.
To see an interesting site that is in Indianapolis and that has many costumes, take a look at Conner Prairie's website -
This idea of reusing fabric is one that I particularly like. I have an old full length skirt that I got at Goodwill Outlet awhile back that is considered dated today (but I love the material!), and I am working on remaking it over into something that I can wear today. Perhaps you will see pictures of this redone skirt in a future post.
Happy sewing!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Friends in the Fall

And so it continues. The crisp fall weather along with the rain made for a long day indoors. However, the view from my back door near sunset was pretty. Some of the trees still have plenty of leaves while others look very bare. It is sad yet invigorating! We are moving on to the next phase of the year.

But with this next phase comes the winter cold. I mentioned in a previous post how four of seven in my family have been ill with the flu. Now they are all dealing with cold-like symptoms, and I unfortunately, have not been able to keep myself from getting it. I had been pumping myself with Vitamin C and and my daughter's Viral Immune Boosting drops. So far, she has not gotten it, but I am in the beginning stages. Hopefully, this will be my one cold of the season!

Since I am all about natural things, and I love Vitamin C, I couldn't imagine how pioneers did without it. Going to a CVS or Walgreens on a street corner was not an option in those days. However, they were not without Vitamin C at all. What they did have was lots of foods from their garden that were rich in Vitamin C. Foods like cabbage, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, and red peppers are full of this immune boosting vitamin. Pioneers ate these kinds of food to help their bodies try to fight the cold. Obviously, there were other things pioneers did, but eating Vitamin C rich foods when they were sick helped them gain strength (from eating) and fight the virus (with natural remedies). Perhaps because they ate these types of food all the time, their immune systems were stronger against the common cold. Who knows?!

Here is a recipe I found in Yoga Journal that is supposed to help boost the immune system if you are starting to feel under the weather.

Immune System Booster Soup

4 cups mushroom or chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped
4-10 garlic cloves, to taste, crushed and chopped
1 carrot, grated
4-8 fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced
1-3 tablespoons grated ginger, to taste
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1. Bring the broth, onion, garlic, carrot, mushrooms and ginger to a slow boil.
2. Reduce the heat and simmer on low, covered, for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
3. Remove from heat; add the lemon juice and parsley. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.

If you want something more tradional that perhaps would have been made in the 19th century, try this recipe.

Rustic Cabbage Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
a big pinch of salt
1/2 pound potatoes, skin on, cut 1/4-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
5 cups stock, vegetable or chicken
1 1/2 cups white beans, precooked or canned (drained & rinsed well)
1/2 medium cabbage, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch ribbons
more good-quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Warm the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the salt and potatoes. Cover and cook until they are a bit tender and starting to brown a bit, about 5 minutes - it's o.k. to uncover to stir a couple times. Stir in the garlic and onion and cook for another minute or two. Add the stock and the beans and bring the pot to a simmer. Stir in the cabbage and cook for a couple more minutes, until the cabbage softens up a bit. Now adjust the seasoning - getting the seasoning right is important or your soup will taste flat and uninteresting. Taste and add more salt if needed, the amount of salt you will need to add will depend on how salty your stock is (varying widely between brands, homemade, etc)...
Serve drizzled with a bit of olive oil and a generous dusting of cheese.

Either one of these delicious soups would help boost one's immune system and fend off the terrible cold (as well as taste good), and they are so much better than medication and pills!

After researching all of this, I now want to go try these soups. But first, the grocery store, since it is past garden season, and I haven't properly prepared for winter like the pioneers did. Oops!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tea Always Helps

Well, along with the colder weather comes illnesses. I don't know if it is weaker immune systems when the weather turns or if it is just the fact that the swine flu is running rampant this year. So many people have been or are sick, and we haven't even reached November yet! In my household alone, four of seven people have been sick all week. I don't know how many cups of hot tea I have made! The favorites here are Chamomile, Lemon, and Peppermint, all herbal teas from this sampler.

While taking care of them all, I have been thinking about what people did before medicine and vaccinations and central heating. We have access to a lot more now like Ibuprofen, cold medicine, cough drops, and yes, flu vaccines. But what did the pioneers do to help them when they were sick? Rest was probably the number one thing. (We need more of that today. We are just too busy these days!!) Hot beverages, such as a Hot Toddy, were used as well. Of course, each family had their own version and name for this beverage. It's soothing to the throat and helps you relax enough to get some sleep.

Here is a simple Hot Toddy recipe you can make. Try hot tea with lemon juice, honey, and some Bourbon. If you want to spice it up, add some cinnamon or clove. It is bound to relax you even if you are not sick!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blustery Days

Today was very cold and windy here in Indianapolis. The leaves were blowing around, making the trees look bare but the ground look full and somewhat colorful. All I wanted to do was curl up in a nice warm sweater and blanket in front of a roaring fire and read a good book, perhaps with a cup of hot coffee or tea.

Feeling the way I did today, I can't imagine what pioneers went through with the wind blowing through the cracks of their log homes and the only heat source coming from a fireplace. It sounds fun to us today, but as cold as I have been, I don't think I would like living that way day in and day out. Looking out my front door, I took some pictures of what it looks like on a blustery fall day. Perhaps the pioneers had a view similar to this.

Regardless of how it looks today versus 200 years ago, it is still pretty and still cold! Time to get out the wool yarn to knit some scarves or get out fabric pieces to make a quilt. It's what was done back then and is still enjoyed today.

Off to go through fabric and yarn!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Beautiful Start of Fall!

As I thought about what should be the first entry, I decided to look at the time of year. Fall is so beautiful with the changing colors, the crisp air, and yes, even the rain. I have often wondered what people of the 19th century thought when these seasonal changes began taking place each year. Perhaps it was basking in the beauty around them, or panicking that there was still much to get done before winter set in - canning, drying, hunting, sewing/mending warm garments. So much of that is still the same, only we have access to faster methods like shopping for our clothes rather than making them and buying our food at a grocery store. However, I have seen more and more people returning to the roots of the older times. Friends are gathering large amounts of fruits and vegetables and spending a day canning pints and quarts for their families to enjoy during the winter.

Some of my favorite things to can are green beans from my grandmother's garden, applesauce, tomatoes, preserves, spaghetti sauce, and peaches. My family also enjoys drying fruits, such as apples and peaches. I love the fact that everything I can/dry is organic and healthier than if I bought a processed version from the store. I know exactly what is in it!

These simple ways of life allow us to enjoy the yummy goodness of the summer gardens and orchards throughout the cold winter months.

Here is a link for Canning Basics for Preserving Food:

Time is of the essence!! It's almost winter!