Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Household Tips

Feeding the Chickens

Feeding the Chickens

">Walbourn, Ernest

Here are some tips that I have had written down for a while:

  • Use frozen peas to cool hot soups or casseroles for children; stir a spoonful into the child's dish. 

  • To get off eggs that are stuck to your frying pan: pour in about a half inch of water and let come to a boil; simmer for a while and the eggs should lift off easily. 

  • Take advantage of a sunny day to air out your bedding. Take your huge comforters that are difficult to wash very often out doors and give them a good airing and sunning on the clothesline. 

Feeding the Chickens

Feeding the Chickens

">Lund, Frederick...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Home Library Card/Bookplate

Border Image courtesy Graphics Fairy.

Here is a bookplate for your home library, or you can print it out on card stock and use it as a library card for those books that you like to lend out. Cut an appropriate envelope down a third and glue to the inside front cover of your book, and then slip this in the envelope.
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Monday, July 25, 2011

The Sew-a-holic's Fabric Stash for an Emergency

By The Pleasant Times Sewing Room Editor, Miss Thread.

Since The Pleasant Times' Editor seems to be thinking along the line of "preparation," I thought I would put in my two cents worth!

You hear it all the time on the radio-- ads for emergency supplies you can buy for the time when the country goes under. Certainly this is wise advice for everyone whether or not we have a big monetary crash-- every year, winter snow storms and hurricanes and floods and power outages happen across the country; to have a supply of food and water is vital for times like these. Whatever the event, we need to be prepared.

I hope no one thinks I am making light of that fact (this is a serious article, folks), but I have wondered: what about our sewing rooms? What if gas prices get so high that we cannot go to the fabric store, or if we do, the prices are outrageous? What if you car does not run any more? What if the local fabric stores shut down, and it is too far to bike or walk to the city where they are located? What if our dollar today, is worth 1 billionth of a penny tomorrow? What if you lose your income? What if the cotton mills shut down and the farmers plow their fields under? What if sheep farmers are told to slaughter all of their sheep for food or under orders of the government?  What if no one knows how to weave any more, or repair looms, or these skills are not passed down and we go into the dark ages? All number of horrible things could happen-- use your imagination, or just go and read a history book.

Sewing Kit of Tin at Rancho De Las Golondrinas, a Spanish Colonial Homestead Near Santa Fe

Sewing Kit of Tin at Rancho De Las Golondrinas, a Spanish Colonial Homestead Near Santa Fe
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If you sew a lot, you cannot help but build a fabric stash. Fabrics you just love but   have no immediate plans for go in the stash; large scraps from projects or fabric you changed your mind about and did not use in a project go in the stash; material you bought for a specific project that you never had time for go in the stash;  large stashes are often built by gifts of boxes of fabric some other seamstress never got around to using; materials recycled from other items such as thrift store sheets are put in the stash; and of course there are the irresistible sales at the fabric store

Some of that fabric sits in the closet (or on the shelf, or under the bed) for ten years. But there may always be that ONE time that you need a particular kind of material, and you know it will be there waiting for you. 

Sewing Circle

Sewing Circle
Knight, Daniel...

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If I were to build the ideal stash to last me during a National Emergency, it would include the following fabrics:

Heavy weight duck or denim (you never know when you need to sew a pair of sturdy pants)
Pretty upholstery material (what if you need to re-cover the couch in the bunker?)
Even if you don't use heavy material for these items, you never know when you need a nice tote bag:)
Lots and Lots and Lots of cotton calico prints and coordinating solid colors (for the endless possibilities of quilts, clothing, curtains, rag rugs, pillow cases, flags, and tablecloths)
I'd be careful with any splashy-looking trendy fabric, lest it be too dated by the end of ten years. However, if it speaks to your heart, it is worth getting just to make you happy, isn't it? Certainly a few yards are cheaper than a therapist.
Various embroidered and eyelet materials. You need them for gussying up your dresses so you can feel your best during times of crisis. 
A few yards of different kinds of fibers for various uses-- linen, wool, silk, etc. 
Iron-on and sew-in interfacing in different weights.
Camo -- I've never used it, but I'm sure if it was sitting around I'd find some use for it. You could at least cover stuff up in the back yard with it!

Singer Sewing Machine

Singer Sewing Machine
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Besides fabric, I would stock up on trims, ribbons, webbing (for straps and handles), elastics of different sizes, hook-and-loop tape, sew-on snaps and hooks, zippers (the long ones-- because they can be shortened to the right size), buttons, and thread. Lots of basic white thread, black, and then several shades of each color; also different weights of thread besides all-purpose.

The single most important items to have on hand are the sewing machine needles and hand-sewing needles (all different kinds to go with all the different fabrics). . It would be so handy to have a working treadle sewing machine, just in case electricity goes out for a long period of time. Specialized presser feet that make life easier (may as well get them now) and a good sewing manual or two-- or perhaps a small library of sewing books (you never know what you may need to look up, after all! especially if there is no more Internet)-- will be such a comfort.

Excelsior est la Plus Douce

Excelsior est la Plus Douce
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I'm glad I have a good variety of patterns on hand (thanks to the 99-cent sales!) just in case I need to make my own winter coat, or a man's shirt, or a slipcover for a chair, etc. Online instructions are great, too, but what if the Internet is down?

If all plans for stocking up fail, then there are many ways you could re-purpose household items -- remember Scarlett O'Hara's green curtain dress?
Like most of the population, I am hoping that nothing bad will happen to the country and every day life will go on smoothly as usual. The rising cost of Everything makes me want to take advantage of the sales and beef up my sewing stash even so!

Mischief with the Sewing Basket

Mischief with the Sewing Basket
Merlin, Daniel

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Here are some good articles to read about building a sewing stash!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Have you seen your needles lately?

By The Pleasant Times sewing editor, Miss Thread

Pins and needles, needles and pins, 
It's a happy man that grins!

(I do not know why, but the above was often quoted to me as a youngster. Could it be I was a bit cranky while sewing?!)
An experienced seamstress and I recently went shopping at the fabric store. We treated ourselves to new pincushions, with the sharpening strawberry on the side.
After transferring my pins to the new pincushion, just for fun I decided to open up my old one and find all my needles that had been pushed too far in and were never seen again. I found ten needles!
I thought that was quite something until I asked to open up the experienced seamstress' old pincushion:

She had fifty.

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Monday, July 11, 2011


What will your future be?

Do you have plans for your future?

This is the question asked to many high-school graduates. The idea is to get them into college. "Uncertain about which direction to take for your "future?" come spend 4 years and a tens of thousands of dollars with us!

"Shouldn't I have some plan for the future, just in case something disastrous happens? Should I have a back-up plan?"
You should prepare for the future!
You should have a back up plan!

When you are single is the time to prepare for the future-- get your back up plan* laid out and ready, get your preparations done now for the future. 
In a young girl's dreams, the future is rosy. Prince charming comes, she marries him and lives happily ever after. Maybe they even have maids to do the housework! There are no such things in our castles of the air as bills, lean times, sickness or exhaustion. There are not even interruptions. Thus we are often not prepared for the things life throws at us, even in our imagination. 

There are numerous difficulties that may come to a wife and mother in her lifetime, that she labels "disasters," which may not be as bad as real disasters (like tsunamis). Everything from severe illness, times without income, frequent moves, to lonely days, late (or burnt) dinners and crying babies will be called "disasters."
When I was younger, a daughter at home, I thought I was prepared for the future. I had a big trunk in which I put away dishes, cookbooks, a few small quilts and other household items in, and called it my "hope chest." I found treasures in antique shops and furniture in thrift stores that I hoped to take to my future home. I knew how to cook and bake, and sew.

Now I'm wondering if I perhaps needed a second or third "hope chest" for the times to come; one for baby things, definitely!
 The best preparation time for the future is as a single girl at home with her own family. Here are some ideas that I wish I had known, and some that I was glad to know already, as young women preparing for the future. There are more things mothers and grandmothers could add to this list, I am sure!


Outside the Cottage

Outside the Cottage
Strachan, Arthur...

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There are some things you learn along the way in life, of course, but I wish I had come into my new home with a few more memorized recipes in my repertoire, and ideas for quick (15-20 minute prep) meals that were also healthy. Knowing good food combinations for those back-of-the-pantry-shelves end-of-the-month dinners that need to be stretched is another skill that would be useful to tuck away for the future. I am glad to know how to make my own sauces and salad dressings, many times a sauce really makes a humble meal shine.

A girl needs to know how to double and triple recipes for a big family, or half a recipe for just two, quickly and without having to take time out to hunt up references.

Learn to stock a pantry well enough to minimize long grocery trips, what to do during lonely times or sick times, how to decorate a home and the principles of interior arrangement, some basic gardening, yard and home maintenance (on larger scales than just the small one room decor or tiny garden plot one has as a girl).

The Apple Gatherers, 1880

The Apple Gatherers, 1880
Morgan, Frederick

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With the world going crazy in dangerous experiments with food and medicines, a wise girl will know how to grow a garden and educate herself on health issues. 

Becoming a master at organization is wonderful preparation for the future! That is something that many struggle with and when you add a growing family, it becomes vital to a smooth working household. If you do not know how to organize, you will be continually sunk. 

Know how to do things so that you need not be dependent upon services. Knowing how to cut hair, for instance, is helpful when trips to the hairdresser may be squeezed out of the budget.

Ideally, a girl should be able to completely take over the housework and cooking for her mother and family by the time she is married.

Home Sweet Home by Walter Dendy Sadler
Learn some skills that will make your house seem "homey." Many girls learn to play an instrument-- try to memorize some pieces so that you can snatch a few minutes to fill the house with music. Or be the lilting bird of the house and sing while you work. Find some item to cook or bake that is your specialty, and fill the house with wonderful scents. Learn to grow flowers and fill the house with beauty. 


Good Mornin', Baby

Learn hymns and lullabies to sing a baby to sleep, know how to teach a toddler a Bible lesson, know how to teach a neighbor the Gospel, and know how to be careful and moderate in all you do so as not to neglect your family, for needs that will arise. 

A library full of books, even for homeschool, will come in handy someday. I save my old books because I know that someone in the house will need to look up the book as a reference, or may be interested in the subject 10 years from now. 
Read widely! There is not a lot of time for reading when you start to share your life with others. Don't waste time on trashy novels- read books with good morals and strong characters that will be worth keeping. 

Write letters! Now is the time to cultivate friendships with your grandparents and friends that are far away. Later on there may only be time for a card on their birthdays. 


Afternoon Tea, c.1914

Afternoon Tea, c.1914
Fischer, Paul

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A girl need not sew to be prepared for the needs of clothing and home linens. A savings account with money put by for the future is a wise idea. There are many times after marriage when something is needed, perhaps a need that cannot be foreseen, and the family budget has no stretching room. A girl can dip into her personal savings and buy that new stroller, or crib mattress, sheets and comforter for the bed, or a kitchen appliance. 

There are always the things that one doesn't really NEED (as in life depends on it), but would be nice to have around to make cooking or cleaning easier, or help out in other areas. Special kitchen tools and gadgets, a good quality sewing machine, a vacuum that works better, a set of luggage, or items for hospitality & events are some examples. Sometimes there are lean times when these things cannot be purchased, and if funds were saved up they could be used judiciously for these items. 

Learn to make a budget and stick to it; learn ways to be frugal and save money so that you can keep adding to your savings account.

It would not have occurred to me to think about nursing clothes as a girl in her late teens. Not to wear at that time, of course, but for the future. What teenager in her right mind would want think about that? Yet, after marriage, possibly being sick for 9 months with pregnancy, and then adjusting to the new baby, interrupted sleep, increased laundry and such, a new nursing mother may quickly find out that she has nothing to wear! Some new mothers are not even aware that there are special clothing items for nursing. If I could have seen into the future, I would have at least bought the patterns and maybe even some fabric so I could have them on hand, in my trunk.

(Speaking of fabric, have you ever lived in a place with NO fabric store? It could happen to you! Build up a stash of fabric and notions!)
All the grand plans for sewing cute rompers and dresses for the baby go out the window once you have a baby-- for some it takes a while to get back into a regular schedule, and there may not be a lot of leisure time for the fine sewing. It would be nice to have a few wonderful little outfits prepared in the hope chest for a baby. 

Even building up health and strength for the time to come is preparation for the future. A teen-aged girl needs to make sure she is getting adequate nutrients and not eating junk food and drinking pop, and getting adequate rest (not staying up late to party or driving the car around to hang out with friends) to prepare her body for that time when she needs nutrition and stamina in childbearing years. 

Life may not always turn out the way you planned it! A girl may grow up to marry a fellow whose work takes them on many moves. She needs to know how to pack and move quickly, and then to unpack and make the new house seem like home. Her homey ways and touches can mean so much to the family. 

A couple may start out in a small space, and a girl needs to know how to be flexible and not be depressed if she ends up in a less-than-grand house. 
One learns with a family the value of knowing how to be spontaneous, gracefully. Learn how to throw a picnic together for the times when hubby comes home from work and suddenly says "let's drive to the beach!" Or to take a dull day to a memorable one by having some treat in store for the children.

Learn to have a gracious attitude so that when your projects are interrupted by a toddler wanting to be rocked and read to, you can do it with love. 

There may be times when sudden company or spontaneous ideas throw your whole schedule out the window. Or maybe all the children discover mud puddles and make an extra big load of laundry on a day when you were planning on some other task. Learning to adapt gracefully is a great skill!

(It also does not hurt to know some super-quick housecleaning routines for the event of the aforementioned unexpected company!)

Learning diligence in daily tasks should mastered when one is young. Learn how to avoid being sidetracked, and to stick to a project and see it through to the end are as much character traits as they are practical ones. If you find that you have a lot of un-finished projects, or that your mother is finishing your projects for you, determine to stick with it until it is done yourself. 

Learn how to manage time wisely, to look around and find a need and fill it, whether cleaning up a mess or jumping in to help a family member.

The Gossips, 1887

The Gossips, 1887
Epp, Rudolf

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Listen to your parents when they tell you what kind of person can waste your time and what kind of troubles to avoid. Tuck away their wisdom gleaned from their life experiences-- so you can minimize mistakes in yours. You don't have to "learn for yourself" or "sow your wild oats." Use your time more wisely in preparing yourself for the future.

Bible memory is so important-- there will be times when anxious thoughts arise and must be replaced with passages from the Bible, or there may be times when you need some quick advice from the scripture, but a Bible or a concordance is not handy. If you don't have it memorized, it can't help you.

It is hard to develop patience, and it is something to work on no matter how old we are! Here is a little poem taught to me when I was young:
Patience is a virtue,
Virtue is a grace;
Put both together
Makes a very pretty face.

(Just today I realized that the laundry will never, ever be done. It isn't like a project that you complete and put on the shelf as "finished." Ditto for the dishes. It is hard to have a patient spirit with these chores sometimes!)
Learn how to control your emotions and do your work through anxiety so that when disaster strikes, fear will not strike your soul and body numb. Add Fortitude to your character; try not to fold during an emergency. One new mother I know, for instance,  got a morning phone call with horrible news, and it rendered her almost immobile. It took a while to rouse herself up and take care of her toddler that morning. Whether it is bad news, hurt feelings, or some other thing that causes great worry, a girl should learn to keep in mind the others that still need her during these times. 

Girls are often accused of being "moody" and the teenage years are a good time to practice self-control in case of a future emergency. It is a time to learn that life is part good and part bad, and may not always go smoothly. It is difficult to predict when anxiety and upset may come, but one can weather it better with a strong foundation of self-control already laid. 

News from Sebastapol

News from Sebastapol
Cope, Charles...

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And in the event of a true disasters-- wars, losses and tragedies-- it is most important that your character already be equipped with good traits, to help carry you through and to help others through, too.

There are so many more ideas, but these may help you get started thinking and planning. Be prepared for the future! Be far-sighted and try to see what you need to become and what you need to set aside for your future!

Recommended reading (for ages 7 up to marriage) and Encouragement for stay-at-home-daughters:

Beautiful Girlhood  (google e-book)
Mom's articles (she allows her articles to be printed out for homemaker's notebooks, which if you started one would be a great resource!)
So Much More by Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin
The Pleasant Times  articles section (and while you are here already, please look around at the other columns!)

*Definition of a Back Up Plan: "Back up God's plan with action, by learning to be a good wife, homemaker and mother in the most difficult times." -Mrs. Sherman

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day 2011

The Pleasant Times staff wishes everyone a very pleasant 4th and some great fireworks this evening!

Lately, our sewing room has been full of projects.
 Some of our interns helped our resident seamstress make this banner.
 It is just fabric cut to shape, and zig-zagged to a long strip of material.
 Makes a fun banner over the garden, porch, around a table, etc.
 We have a couple of home-made flags, too.
 It is a crafter's version of the Lone Star State flag.
Done in calico.
A "rustic country" style star is appliqued to the field of blue.

I have noticed that Texans are very fond of their flag. It shows up all over the place-- in garden beds made out of flowers, on t-shirts, on cowboy boots, in artwork. Texans have a nice flag for crafting:)

We had some visitors today; it seems that on this day, characters from the history of the USA can time travel from their era to ours.  We were answering curious questions from Daniel Boone, John Hancock, and a Texas Ranger from the 1800's. We were busy explaining what they called "captured lightning" and how it runs the appliances, and the horseless carriages, etc.

 In the afternoon, we marched outside for our annual 4th of July parade.

Out of our sewing room came this costume, reminiscent of something from the 19-teens.
 The Basque skirt is from the Butterick 4092 pattern.
The hat was the best that could be made up with materials on hand; it does not sit as high as the real thing would have.

Here John Hancock converses with that Edwardian lady after the parade. Perhaps they are comparing the differences that came in the 150 years after he signed the Declaration of Independence.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Down on the Farm...

By the Pleasant Times Garden Expert, Annabelle.

Well, I suppose I should introduce myself as I'm new 'round here but I'll keep it short as I've got lots to show you. I'm the new editor of the "farming/gardening/homesteading" section of this a'here blog. We may wander into the kitchen at times because things must be processed from the garden. We may take a trip into the apothecary to process our herbs into various brews and medicines.... but mostly I think we'll be outside in the sunshine. And I'll try and keep it as genteel as  possible for you dear readers of this pleasant blog.. So no worries about doing chicken soup from scratch (those old hens hafta go somewheres afterall..) ;-) 
 For my first time here I'll just give you a pictorial review of happenings around here... Here we have some cukes ... just picked. I didn't have anymore room out in the garden so they were grown in a whiskey barrel and they did quite nicely...
 The out of control squash jungle.... Actually.. these pics were from over a week ago and things have grown considerably since then...
 There are tomatoes in the background there.
 Bees are busy...
 A volunteer sunflower... that was later massacred by squirrels.... This is  a "Tiger Eye" and the seeds originally came from Baker Creek.
 Sunflowers that haven't had their time in the sun .... or being the sun yet..
 Dragon's Tongue beans...Bush Buttercup squash...zucchini.... way ... too much.... zucchini.....
 A sunflower AFTER the evil squirrels attacked... It was still blooming!!!I was so sad....
 Apricots from a nearby farm.... we had so many and we weren't going to eat them all in time so I made jam/preserves...
 I love food processors.....
 To make it less candy like and more healthful .. I used Rapidura sugar just as an experiment to see how it would turn out. It did make things an interesting color to begin with but it turned out just fine. I always use less sugar so things don't get so sicky sweet and it still tastes like apricots.
 Awaiting their golden contents...I would have a picture of the final  product but somebody around here in a fit of organization put them all away before I got that far...
 Purple Podded Pole beans awaiting a transformation into Dilly Beans. Those are the best pickles and quite easy to do.
 Bees are quite busy on the lavender...
 Calendula blooms. They get picked every day and dried for later transformation into calendula oil or tincture. It is very healing to the skin for cuts, scrapes, burns... all kind of things. And they are so cheery!
 Dill flowers for the Dilly Beans... I almost never manage to time my dill and beans to come out and the same time but this time it worked...
 Bush Buttercup nearing completion.
 Australian Butter just starting out..
And my favorite bean so far... the Dragon's Tongue (also from Baker Creek). They are delicious just steamed and tossed with salt , pepper and butter... and maybe some slivered almonds. I'm always rather bummed that all purple beans turn green when cooked but at least they are pretty raw. :-) Well, that is it for today. I hope you enjoyed the small tour around the homestead...