Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years Greeting....

This post is simple. On the same day I found Master Floyd Clark's greeting cards, I also found this New Year's Card.  It is printed by the Gibson Art Co., Cinn. O. It was never sent, but it would have only cost 1 Cent to send in the US, Possessions, Canada and Mexico. Had you have wanted to send it someplace foreign, it would have cost you 2 Cents.  I presume it is from the early 1900s, but I could be wrong as the history of Greeting Cards is not my strong point. I thought the sentiment was lovely. 

Loving New Year Greetings

May the castles you built in the air last year
become solid realities in the present one. 

May you build a kingdom of 
castles in 2012!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Master Floyd Clark's Holiday Cards...100 yrs ago...

While I was out and about yesterday enjoying a day off, I found a few cards addressed to Master Floyd Clark. Apparently, he was living in Milwaukee. I found a card as early as 1908.  I'm not sure how old he was, but with the title "Master" clearly he was a child at this time. Two of cards have wonderfully fun inscriptions and are a tiny window into the Holidays 100 years ago. Please note: I have typed them as they are written...errors and all.

Postmarked from Deer Lodge, Mont. Dated Dec 19 1910

Inscribed on Back in Ink:

Dear Floyd,

How are you? We are all well We have a new brother four months old and his name is Clark. What do you want Santa to bring you?

From Ruth & (two other illegible names)

Postmarked from Deer Lodge, Mont. Dated Dec 31, 1911

Inscribed on Back in Pencil:

Deer Floyd,

I am a little rascal and take all my brothers & sisters toys. I wish I could see you all. 

With Love from Clark Stoddard

Well, apparently little Clark was doing very well at 16 mos. since someone had written to Floyd on Clark's behalf. 

I wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 16, 2011

New Socks Revisited....

It was this past Monday that I actually wore the first pair of socks I ever made. I must admit to being childishly excited, too. I did indeed finish them, but as with a first attempt at any new thing, they are not perfect. Wearable? Yes, they are wearable. Would I give them as a gift to someone? No.

Let me first say that I did enjoy knitting them. In fact, I found it fun and extremely relaxing. I am grateful to Karl who helped me turn my first heel. He was very patient. It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be, but I would have struggled without his help.

The socks really have 2 problems. First, they turned out about a size too big for my feet. My gauge was very close. I used the size 2 needles found in the pattern, but my feet are rather narrow. I honestly didn't consider my narrow feet. The solution: I washed them in hot water and threw them in a hot dryer. As Karl stated, "It is washable wool. It is not necessary dryable wool."  They shrunk just enough to be a better fit.

Kitchener Stitch found in 
Folk Socks by Nancy Bush
The second problem was in the finishing. The pattern called for the toes to be closed with the Kitchener Stitch. This stitch is essentially the process of seamlessly grafting two raw edges of knitting together. I haven't used the Kitchener Stitch in a few years and never did use it much. I did not do it very well. I found the directions confusing. I have since found a better set of directions in the book by Nancy Bush titled Folk Socks. I will try this stitch again on my second pair of socks.

Yes, I am knitting a second pair of modern socks. I have already turned a heel without any help. The sock pattern I have used is from a how-to book published by Coats & Clark.  The book had been reprinted from the 1940s through part of the 1960s. I am using size 1 needles, and so far, they look to be a better fit. I love the ease of the pattern and enjoy the process of knitting a sock. I find the repetitiveness to be relaxing after a long day. Knitting a pair of socks is a small thing, but it was a lesson certainly worth learning.

Nancy Bush, Folk Socks, (Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1994), 58.

Learn How Book, (USA: Coats & Clark, 1941).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Oranges, Oranges, Oranges...

As the rind is broken, the smell of orange hits your nostrils. Your thumbnail accidentally punctures the fruit sending fruit juice squirting and the cold, fresh juice landing on your cheek.  You peel away more of rind; more fresh, citrus smell fills the air. All the the peel is removed. It is time to break into the fruit. Holding the newly peeled orange in both hands you press both thumbs in between two slices. The further you press your thumbs into the fruit the more cold juice hits your face. Now, two slices are separated, and it is easy to separate two slices on the opposite side of the orange. Only after you are satisfied the orange has been pulled apart into individual pieces but before you take a bite, you raise a slice to your nose and inhale. It is time to bite into the sweet, cool slice of the orange. Your mouth is filled with the sting of the citrus and sweetness of the natural sugars. ..... Now savor that flavor ....and savor that next slice ....and the slice after that.... When you reach the next slice, remember this might just be the last fresh orange you have until next Christmas......

....but we are far removed from the above scene. We seldom experience an orange in this way except if you maybe have the wonderful opportunity to enjoy an orange freshly picked from the tree. In modern America, it is such a simple thing.  An orange.

If we have a taste for an orange we simply go to the store and buy a bag.  Many of us start the day with a glass of orange juice. We find an orange in the toe of our Christmas stocking. It is very nice; it holds the shape of the toe, but really...we want the candy that is inside our stockings.  We, as contemporary Americans, even forget that oranges do have a season. Currently, it is mid-late December through the winter months. This is when we find the very best oranges...especially clementines. The tiny little oranges purchased often in 5 lb. boxes or bags.  The Victorians, however, never forget that oranges have a season. It is a short season. Oranges are a Christmas treasure.

If you are poor, your only Christmas present may be an orange. If you are middle, middle class, you may have many oranges. If you are wealthy, you may have many more oranges. BUT, there is a great equalizer here. Whether you have one orange or many oranges, once the season has past you may not have ANY more oranges until next Christmas and if you inhabit the northern half of the United States you will probably not have any more fresh fruit until May or June when the berries begin to show.

The scarcity of fresh fruit in the north during the winter months does not truly begin to change until the late 1890s, and that change is mainly found in the big cities (1). Oranges were arriving from places like Spain. By the 1870s-1880s, the middle, middle class American family often had enough oranges to have use them in a variety of ways. The juice of an orange could be mixed with pulverized sugar to make an orange icing for a cake. The rinds could be candied or ground into cakes or cookies. Whole oranges could be decorated with whole cloves just by pushing the cloves into the rind. These oranges could be stacked like a pyramid and their scent released into the room. In the right setting, these clove-oranges would dry and retain their scent for a while. If many oranges were to be had, the juice could be cooked down with sugar until it was a syrup concentrate and then stored in a bottle for future use.  Orange marmalade is also a good use for many oranges.  Mulled cider and wine always tastes better when oranges are added. These are just some of the ideas for oranges, but never forget that fresh orange in the toe of the Christmas stocking.

...and regardless of variety, all 19th century oranges have seeds. Navel oranges are a product of the 20th century.  Now, quick, go find an orange and enjoy it in a way that you may never have imagined.

Pyramid of Oranges &
Apples as Decoration

Layer Cake with Orange Icing

(1) Glenn Porter, and Harold C. Livesay, Merchants and Manufacturers; Studies in the Changing Structure of Nineteenth Century Marketing, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1971), 10.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Christmas Party...

The lamps on the sill twinkle while the small Christmas tree on a table in one corner is just big enough to send a fresh, evergreen scent through the air.  On a table in the opposite corner, there is a pyramid of oranges on a glass cake stand. Decadent, baked treats filled with sugar and preserved summer fruits surround their Christmas center pieces. The small dainty snacks are tasty treats stolen between dances. Glasses of warm mulled cider scented of cloves and cinnamon tickle your fancy while quenching your thirst.  

You are only 16 and wearing your first formal dress to a Christmas party. This afternoon, Mother sewed the final touch of a two inch deep trim of white lace topped with white ruched ribbon along the neckline. The soft yellow silk of your dress gently shimmers in the lamplight as you giggle with your favorite childhood friend and closest cousin while noticing how dapper a certain, young gentleman looks this evening dressed in his new frock coat.

The string trio begins to play a waltz. Reluctantly, you grant your brother a dance. The swish of your formal cage crinoline is still new to you. While swaying and twirling to the music you jest to yourself, "Surely the Queen of England could not be feeling grander than you this evening."....except this waltz is being shared with your brother. Perhaps, you will be able to partner with that dapper, young gentleman for the next schottische. 

The gathering of neighbors and family help the the wood stoves warm the hall. Music and laughter fill the evening while the crisp winter air is kept safely outside.  Hours pass without anyone paying heed. As the evening ends you are warm, flushed and filled with dreamy thoughts. You welcome the crisp winter air as you step outside in your warm winter clothes not least of which is your heavy wool cloak that is all but impervious to the wind. You say good-night to your favorite childhood friend, but your cousin,will be joining you at home this Christmas Eve. Although sad that you are leaving the party, you know there are more treats waiting to be enjoyed. Meanwhile, there is still the sleigh ride home.  Lending his hand, your brother helps you into the sleigh. You hear the snort of the horses and then feel the tug of the sleigh as Father sets it towards home. It is a beautiful starry evening as the young pair of horses pull the smooth moving sleigh over the snowy road and the hour ride is over almost before it has begun.  This evening a ride that many times has been no more than a bumpy, muddy mess has been turned into a Christmas thrill.

As Mother promised, the hired help has set the dining room table before heading home to their families this Christmas Eve. In the middle of the table, there is a tall jelly. The jelly is made from apples and preserved mulberries. It glistens in the candlelight. Mother had prayed her jelly would work, and the young, hired ladies had followed her instructions perfectly. The presentation is beautiful. The evening is turning late, but there is still time enough to enjoy more Christmas treats. You, yourself, tried your hand at fruit tarts under the watchful guidance of Mother.  You admit to yourself the tarts look to be a success. They are artfully decorative on the table. Hopefully, their taste will also delight.

The evening grows late, but before climbing the stairs to go to sleep, you and your cousin peek into the parlour to spy Christmas gifts. Quickly before your brother catches you, you shut the parlour door and head upstairs with your cousin. Rather than sleeping under warmth of a large feather tick, you and your cousin giggle and share daydreams of the Christmas treats hidden inside the stockings....