Saturday, February 27, 2010

Book Review: Little House Cookbook

The Little House Cookbook is so much more than a list of recipes. It is a history book, a kitchen manual, and a very interesting collection of old-time recipes. You won't just flip through it for recipe ideas; you'll want to sit down and read it from cover to cover!

It explains some of the most basic ingredients in the Little House kitchen, such as salt pork, cornmeal, molasses, and other stand-bys. There is a detailed explanation of the bread-making process the way Ma and Laura did it. There is a how-to for homemade butter, both in a churn and in a mason jar. There are even detailed instructions for making cheese as described in Little House in the Big Woods.

You will also find instructions for copying the scrumptious meals featured in Farmer Boy (Little House) , made by Almanzo's mother. Look for Fried Apples 'n Onions, Apple Turnovers, Chicken Pie, and even Roasted Pig!

If you remember The Long Winter (Little House), you can re-create the brown bread the Ingall's ate twice daily when the town ran out of food.

Make the same sourdough starter that Ma used in By the Shores of Silver Lake (Little House) for her biscuits.

Try the Stewed Jack Rabbit and Dumplings that the family shared with Mr. Edwards in Little House on the Prairie (Little House, No 2).

And make Fried Salt Pork with Gravy as the Ingalls family did in nearly every book in the series.

What's more, most of the recipes can be made today with our basic kitchen ingredients!

For the self-sufficient type, this book is a must-have. The Ingalls family, like all Pioneers, were self-sufficient by necessity. The Wilders were, as well.

You can find out how to make baking powder, vinegar, soured milk, and more in your own home! Find out how they used up every last morsel to make their resources stretch.

For any Little House fan, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Order yours today!

Visit my Prairie Sense Book Store for a list of all things Little House!

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Please Put All Cell Phones on Silent

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Now that our society is totally addicted to instant communication, I pondered the idea of what life was like before cell phones and email. I remember that time. It wasn't that long ago. But you'd think, today, that we never knew how to leave our house without having immediate access to everyone we know!
It was a little over a decade ago that people began carrying a phone with them everywhere, and now many people have them attached to their head!
Back up a few years more: there was no call-waiting or answering machine. If someone was home, they answered the phone. If they weren't, you tried them again later. If they were already on the phone, you got a busy signal.
But imagine, not only running errands without a phone, but traveling west for a permanent move that might forever separate you from your family and friends, and quite possibly, from all you've ever known. Imagine being content with a letter from home every 6 months or so.
This, to me, is what made up the Pioneer Spirit. It wasn't just having the courage to go to an unknown, unsettled land. It was also saying good-bye to all the comforts of civilization. Wow. I don't think I can even fathom that.
At the end of Little House in the Big Woods, the Ingalls family decided to go west. They pulled up their roots, and traveled alone to the unknown dangers of the Indian Territory (Kansas).
At the end of Little House on the Prairie, they were forced to uproot again, so they went north and settled again, On the Banks of Plum Creek.
At the end of that book, they again relocated. Every time they moved, it was to a new, equally remote location. There were no quick visits back home to the 'folks.' There were no daily or weekly phone calls. Just occasional letters.
Even the letters were short and to the point. Ma would work on a letter for weeks and weeks, adding only what could fit on on sheet of paper (front and back) and writing in the margins. She wanted to fit only the most important details on to that one sheet of paper.
The Ingalls family didn't have the comfort of discussing joys and fears and sorrows with their immediate family. Because of this, they were a close-knit family, and had a strong faith in God.
I think we can all agree that instant communication is really convenient, but it has also changed our society. Does a cell phone take precedence over your family time? Over your work? Do you answer every call just because the phone is ringing?
If you long for the simple life, put your phone on silent, let them leave a message, and you can get back to them later. After all, that's what we did in 1990.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Medical Care

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My whole idea behind this blog stems from the constant thought, "What did they do about this in the old days?" Most everything in our lives is a modern convenience, a modern way of doing things, or a technological advance of some sort. Don't get me wrong: I'm not against modernization. I LOVE my air conditioner, my car, and the internet. I love my fridge, my phone, and indoor plumbing.

But what have we given up in exchange for the modern lifestyle? I think we've given up our independence. We've said good-bye to self-sufficiency. In so many ways, we can't do things without the help of outside sources.

Specifically, we can't take care of our health anymore without the 'advice of a physician.' So how did civilized people for thousands of years manage to live without the American Medical Association, a pediatrician, a general practitioner, and a pharmacy? How did they survive without medical insurance? What did they do without Tylenol, for goodness' sake?

Let's look at Laura's family. There are numerous instances illustrated in Little House where a medical problem arose. (By the way, they probably didn't even use the term "medical problem.") Knowing what to do was part of life. They knew how to take care of a physical ailment just like they knew how to make bread, build a cooking fire, and grow carrots.

In Little House in the Big Woods, Laura tells the story of a naughty boy who stomped up and down on a yellow-jacket nest. Needless to say, he was stung numerous times. So much so, that his entire body was swollen and his eyes were squeezed shut.

They lived in the 'wilderness' with no close neighbors, and of course, no emergency room. They didn't have Benadryl, or an epi-pen, or any injections. They had old-fashioned, everyday wisdom. They packed the boy with mud and wrapped him up tight with cloth. That's it. And he actually lived through it!

In Little House on the Prairie, Ma was helping Pa build their new log cabin when a very large log fell on Ma's ankle. Pa couldn't call 911. They were out in the middle of the Kansas prairie. Pa had picked the location because there were no neighbors close by. The nearest town was 40 miles away, and their only form of transportation was horses.

But Pa didn't waste a minute. He instantly examined Ma for broken bones. He determined that she had only sprained it. Then he had her soak her foot in the hottest water she could stand, and wrapped it tightly. She stayed off her feet for the day. That's it. And the next few days she hobbled around the campsite, continuing on with her work as usual, cooking outdoors, washing clothes, and caring for three little girls. Oh, and Pa sternly said, "You may not help me build the house anymore until your foot is better." : )

Now, I know the argument could be made that we don't live in the wilderness. We don't need to know how to set a broken bone, or treat excessive bee stings, or anything like that. But, is that really true? Have we become so accustomed to calling the doctor, or rushing to the ER, or asking our doctor's advice before starting an exercise program that we can't think for ourselves anymore? Do we really need a prescription for restless legs? Couldn't we just cut back on sugar or caffeine?

Why shouldn't a mother be able to treat minor (and some major) physical ailments? Why should we fear the label of 'bad mother' for not taking our children to the doctor for routine checkups? Why don't we use some common sense?

Since we do live in modern times, we live pretty comfortably. This message could easily fall on deaf ears. But, take a look at history. Civilizations come, and civilizations go, and before one disappears completely, it falls into chaos and then ruin. Are we so sure that America and her modern ways will last forever? I'm not. It could fall into ruin and become only a memory with just one catastrophe. Or it could come very close before it's rescue.

And where will the people be in the midst of the chaos? Where will we turn if the hospitals are overrun, the doctors can no longer practice, or over-the-counter pain relievers are not easily available? Just take a look at Haiti. All it takes is one disaster to plunge a nation into chaos.

But, armed with a bit of knowledge, independence, and self-determination, that same people could survive, and possibly even thrive, because of a little basic knowledge.

So what's my suggestion? Do your research. Learn what they knew in the old days, before major pharmaceutical companies existed. Google phrases like healing herbs, natural healing, nutritional healing. Educate yourself, and then educate your family. Add this information to the basic stuff you teach your kids, like making beds, mowing the lawn, and making pancakes.

Stay healthy. Eat right. Get fresh air and exercise. Turn off the TV. Grow some vegetables. Drink more water.

Sound simple? It is. Haven't you read Little House yet?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Easy Prairie Costumes

This week I will begin teaching Little House Sewing to some homeschooled kids in our local Enrichment Class Program. We will be using some of the following patterns in our class:

If you'd like some cute Little House dresses, try McCall's Pattern 2337. I've used this one many times. The dress is extremely easy, and you can use a simple ribbon tie for the waist instead of the cincher. In fact, I've never made the cincher.

And the bonnet is a great one! I've made this pattern in many sizes, kids and adults.

The dress above is so basic, it could be made into many things. It would make a cute colonial girl's dress, or sewn in white it would make a cute old-fashioned nurse or maid dress. And what a cute old-fashioned nightgown, with eyelet trim! I even used brown fleece to make an Indian dress for my daughter:

In class, we will be attempting the bonnet. We will also be making this apron:

This is McCall's 4547. My class is a group of girls in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. Everything will be sewn by hand.

I've also got a boy's class of 7th & 8th graders. That's right: BOYS! They voluntarily signed up for my class, and I don't think they want an apron or a sunbonnet.

So, I've come up with a different set of projects for them. I'm trying to find a pattern for this:

I've gotten brave enough to try moccasins with help from this site. And I think we'll also try a simple bean bag for playing toss.

If you don't sew, try this site for pre-made costumes.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gracious Living

I spent 4 hours listening to the Little House on the Prairie audiobook this week while doing some work, and I am just bursting with some great insights! This is the book where the Ingalls family moves from their Little House in the Big Woods (of Wisconsin) and head west to Kansas in a covered wagon.

One of the main points that stood out to me was the family's ability to maintain a very normal lifestyle while traveling. They were basically on an extended campout, and rarely passed through any towns or saw any people.

Each morning they woke with the sun (if not sooner) and began the chores. Water had to be carried from the nearest creek for coffee and for washing breakfast dishes. The horses must be taken to water as well. Ma would begin making breakfast while the girls made their beds in the wagon.

Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie washed their faces and combed their hair and dressed nicely each day. After breakfast, Ma and the girls would wash and wipe the dishes and clean up the campsite. They would gather up all the twigs and throw them in the fire.

If it was a wash day, Ma would heat water that Pa had carried from the creek to do her laundry in. She would wash all the clothing and bedding, and then lay it out on the clean grass to dry in the sun. And then . . . gasp! She would iron. Out in the middle of the prairie, with no people and no towns, Ma sill ironed the clothes!

When the family gathered around to eat, Ma and Pa sat on the wagon bench, and Laura and Mary sat on the wagon tongue. They held their tin plates in their laps. Mary and Laura shared their tin cup of water.

There were times when Ma would remind Laura not to talk with her mouth full, or not to sing 'at table.' Laura thought to herself, "there is no table" but the rule held fast!

Mary and Laura must wear their sunbonnet while playing, to avoid becoming 'brown as an Indian.'

So, in the middle of the wide, wide prairie the Ingalls family continued to live as if they were in polite society. I think Ma felt so strongly that the wild country they were traveling in would not make her girls into wild hoodlums, that she insisted on living exactly the way they had back in their little log home in Wisconsin.

Contrast that with today. Every time I go into the grocery store I see at least one person wearing pajama pants and house shoes to shop. Or worse.

It seems that many people don't care. Simple grooming has become too troublesome for some. Table manners in restaurants (or at home) don't exist anymore. Children have little or no standards to meet regarding their behavior.

I'm not preaching the need for makeup and salon-styled hair, or drinking tea with your pinky stuck out just so, or even the popular "children should be seen and not heard" (although some days I have contemplated enacting that one).

But if Ma and her girls could maintain a gracious standard of living from their covered wagon in the middle of nowhere, is it too much for us to accomplish in our modern society?

I don't think so!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas on the Prairie

We all know that years ago Christmas was very slim compared to today. So the following story is not surprising, yet it is very touching. I get a tear or two every time I read it:

Something was shining bright in Laura's stocking. She squealed and jumped out of bed. So did Mary, but Laura beat her to the fireplace. And the shining thing was a glittering new cup.

Mary had one exactly like it.

Those new tin cups were their very own. Now they each had a cup to drink out of. Laura jumped up and down and shouted and laughed, but Mary stood still and looked with shining eyes at her own tin cup.

What's the big deal about new cups? Up until this time, Mary and Laura would share a cup of water between them. Now they could EACH have a cup!

There was more in their stockings: a peppermint stick, a heart-shaped cake made by Ma, and a bright, shining new penny!

They had never even though of such a thing as having a penny. Think of having a whole penny for our very own. Think of having a cup and a cake and a stick of candy and a penny.

There had never been such a Christmas.
Taken from Little House on the Prairie in the chapter entitled Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Claus.

Sounds so simple, doesn't it? I know we live in a different time, and a much different world. But I am determined to simplify Christmas for my kids with every year that goes by. Instead of raising our spending limit, I'm trying to spend little and make it meaningful.

When I was a child, my parents and aunt decided it would be fun to do something similar for myself, my sister, and our cousins. In our stockings that Christmas we received a tin cup, a penny, and a peppermint stick (along with a few modern goodies!). And you know, I still have that tin cup and I will remember that Christmas for the rest of my life.

This Christmas morning, when you and your family are enjoying new gifts, I hope you will pause for a minute and remember a Christmas long ago and two little girls who were happy with new tin cups.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Frontier Village

We had the opportunity to visit Frontier Village in Denison, Texas this week.

"Frontier Village of Grayson County is a non-profit organization founded in 1966 to establish a frontier village at Loy Lake Park. In this replica of an early village, structures and artifacts historically significant to Grayson County preserve the rich background of the pioneers who settled here in the nineteenth century." - from their website

There was one cabin in particular that looked like it was lifted from the pages of Little House on the Prairie. It was set up almost identical to the description in Laura's writings of the home Pa and Ma built together in Indian Territory. The only exception was that this cabin had a loft where the children slept. The Ingalls cabin in Indian Territory was a one-story structure.

I took some photos at Frontier Village to share:

Here is the table and chairs where the family ate situated in front of the fireplace, used for both heating and cooking.

The dresses were hung on nails in the wall, next to the bed, which was just across from the table.

The bed's platform was nothing more than criss-crossed ropes. My daughter, Chloe (isn't she adorable?) shows what's under the thin mattress.

This spinning wheel was in a different cabin, but I show it because of the description in Farmer Boy. Almanzo's parents were almost completely self-sufficient. They raised sheep for wool, and Mother would spin the wool into yarn or thread, and then use a loom (also partly pictured below) to make cloth.

The cabin on the right is the one that most resembles Laura's Little House on the Prairie in Indian Territory. The one on the left is a stable.

Frontier Village is a great place to visit. They are open 7 days a week, year round, from 1-4 p.m. We had a private tour for our group. They are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable people! We had a great time, and will definitely go back.

If you're in North Texas, or anywhere close, I highly recommend visiting them.