Friday, December 31, 2010

The Germ Cloud of Doom

Mom caught a cold. Andrew has a cold. Jen really has a cold. My constant prayer is that I would not get sick until after Sunday. I'm sure everyone feels this way at times, when family members are dropping like flies all around: There's no avoiding the family illness. It's just a matter of time until it catches you. But since we have events over the weekend, I'm trying to hold out until Monday.

One way to try not to get sick is to take medicine preventionally: to ward it off, to boost your immune system. But then, if you take too much medicine sometimes you can't tell if you're really getting sick or not. I took quite a bit of cayenne tincture last week. So then you get phantom sicknesses: am I really sick? Is my throat starting to get sore? And can't we all see that black cloud of germs floating overhead? The ratio of sick germs alone is enough to ensure you will get it.

In other news, I cut off eight inches of my hair. It's a New Year's tradition that Jen and I have been practicing for the past few years. It's a relief, really. I've had long hair all my life, and I enjoy having long hair- it's very feminine. But on the other hand, really long hair is a pain, especially in the dry winter season. And not to worry, it will grow back in six months. Jen cut her hair shoulder length and mine is a few inches longer. As good as it feels I don't think I could ever but my hair that short.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holidays make me Lazy

Holiday fever: when you want to sleep in until the shockingly late hour of 9am and eat nothing but sweets for every meal; when you don't feel like doing anything but be a couch potato and read novels.

I didn't actually spend my Christmas doing that, because we had events on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and Sunday too, to I really spent my time making dozens of cookies and lots of soup and gathering all the mish-mosh of STUFF we just have to take everywhere we go. We went caroling twice, and that was fun, though embarrassing(we're novices at singing in parts). I played my year's allotment of board games out of kindness to my hosts, now NO MORE! I can't handle any more. We had so many cookies and sweet gifts around I feel like I've been living in candyland. I feel fat, too.

It was nice spending time with Church family. For most of our lives Christmas has been us alone at home, which is ok, but when you have the opportunity to be snowed in together every week for the rest of the winter somehow it's just not as much fun. This weekend we have round two: New Year's celebrations all weekend long. I am strongly against sleep deprivation for the purpose of seeing the clock in a certain position, so hopefully we will not collectively be required to do that.

Thankful for:
Only one inch of snow and no more so far!
Church family, even if they make you play board games.
No tragedies(except a cold going around that I haven't gotten yet).

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dwelling on the past:

I will now post about Thanksgiving 2010.

I have very little to say about our actual Thanksgiving day, because it was kind of boring. I guess we are a boring family. We had no family about to come over and no family to invite us over(it's a theme with us: our blood relatives avoid us) and all our church family had already been invited over to various houses. Hopefully Christmas will be more buoyant.

So, now for that seasonal question everyone else has already answered with exclamation marks at the end of every sentence: What are you thankful for?

Two physical differences stand out in a brief look back at the past year:
  1. Much more traveling than usual, both together as a family and for me alone.
  2. The entire family being so very sick over the summer
Traveling, though eventually exhausting, is always a great learning experience. This year I traveled to Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, Illinois, South Dakota, and Ft. Robinson, NE. I began re-enacting the 1820's at Ft. Atkinson. I attended a dance workshop in Iowa and campaigned in Omaha. I'm not sure I can summarize the widely varied benefits of these trips, so I'll just say they were good for me. I'm grateful that now I can travel more(funds permitting) as the boys grow older and I have fewer of the babysitting responsibilities that used to tie me down.

Being (so terribly, horribly, awfully)sick wasn't in itself perhaps a good thing, but it was providential. Our church family was a huge blessing to us while we were ill and I know we are so grateful for our Church now in ways we weren't before. Joining the church five(or six?) years ago was a huge adjustment; having Dad quit his job at the University this spring and work for the Church was too. And we were blind, totally blind, to the changes it would bring. I think we are all feeling much more accepted and a real part of the church now, and are really enjoying it. And being sick was part of that. So bring it on.

And notice, I didn't use a single exclamation mark.


Education through Frugality

When we were little, every free concert, every free event, we attended if we could in an effort to gain "culture." We heard the Air Force Band from Offutt; we saw the Christmas Carol, we heard every traveling gospel band and local choir possible. We take other people's junk and use it anyway, because it's free. We take leftovers, hand-me-downs, and coupons. Sometimes I truly appreciate what comes our way, but other times it drives me nuts to have so much "junk."

Last week our neighbor offered us a (dead)deer. We've never butchered a deer before; I think we've ever only done chickens. But Mom, in the spirit of education and frugality, accepted. Because of course, we have a book in our library that tells you how to cut up dead deer! What could be easier? And then we had no choice, because it was hanging up on our garage and we couldn't park there until it was gone.

It took Mom and Caleb ten days to carve up the four quarters. I've decided that if anyone ever offers me a deer, I will gratefully take it to the butcher.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New and Improved

The finished and nearly re-arranged living room. Notice we moved the clock(a long-lived wedding present) to a different wall- I garuntee you that for the next month we'll all be looking at the wrong wall to check the time.

The boys insisted we place the furniture differently from it's former position. Why, I don't know. I would think new paint and carpet would be change enough. Besides, the room itself is so small as to make rearranging extremely difficult and highly controversial.

This picture was not staged. Jen might be reading "Fearing God;" but then again, she might be reading a novel. Gasp!

So there it is, and so it will be for the next ten years(we decided it's better to redecorate every ten years, instead of every fifteen). The new curtains are still in the works, and some of the wall hangings aren't back up, but the important stuff is pretty much in place(namely, the TV and couches).

After 15 Years: Our Living Room Facelift

When we moved in to our house seventeen years ago(conveniently marked by Caleb's birth, and thus remembered), the house was green: painted drab green outside with dark green trim, green wallpaper inside, avocado green carpet, painted green rooms, and a green kitchen with rust-colored metal cabinets.Think massive eyesore. Thankfully, only one green room remains today and  we don't often go in there.

Living Room, 1990's version:

Is it unsafe to post pictures on one's living room online?

Notice the new-two-years-ago leather couches: we're moving up in the world!

So anyway, when we moved in Dad painted the green-and-gold three times wallpapered living room off-white, and thus it stayed for at least fifteen years, growing more and more off-white through the years. I think I can safely take credit for being the one to say, we should paint the living room again. Really, it needed it. So I forced/helped pick a color(paint is on sale, Dad, we should buy it now) and set a date(Dad, I really want it done by Thanksgiving, can't you take one day off work?) and lo and behold it happened last weekend:

We carried the furniture to the dining room, taped, and poor Dad moaned over the sagging wallpaper and cracks. I like perfection, yes, but perfection can't happen to our living room in one and a half days, so stripping the wallpaper was not an option. Then Mom suggested new carpet: 20% off at Menards! So we did that too. I didn't get to pick it.

 The floor wasn't as bad as I expected, though it wasn't finished in the center.

Not since we moved in has this room been so empty. Notice the new (clean!)wall color.

Next post: the end result.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Evolution of the TROUSERS

This has been my first year doing historical reenacting of any kind, and I dragged my brothers with me. Now, after five months and at the end of the season, Caleb finally has basic garments: Shirt, waistcoat, and trousers. And he'll probably never do reenacting again. Sigh. Maybe Andrew will grow a foot really fast and fit them properly for next year at the Fort.
Here's the back panel.
 Here's the front. Obviously these pants are constructed very differently from modern pants, with different seam lines and and drop-front(called a small-fall, in this case) fastened with buttons.
This is an inside view of the front panel. The facings for the fall-front came out a bit too short.
Here's the end result- isn't he good looking? This was the first pair of pants I've ever made. Notice the .50 inaccurate buttons.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Master and Commander: Love the uniforms

Love the hat. Love the Coat. Love the stock. Love the cravat. I have no doubt Capt. Aubrey's buttons cost at least $2 apiece.

Again, look at the buttons. Count the buttons. Understand why I'm unwilling to pay $2 each. I'd rather make them myself; or how about this: have the boys kill a deer, or any animal really, and make them out of bone! That would be historically correct, right?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

You too can Sew 1820's Trousers!

Or as the pattern calls them, "trowsers." My latest historical sewing adventure- the goal is to get them done after the Election but before Nov. 6th. None of the pants(trowsers) availible for loan at the Fort are anywhere near the boys's size. Caleb said the first time he got dressed up, he had to take his belt and loop it through the front flap on the pants to keep them up. So I figure they could really use thier own pants.

However, I vehemently refused to pay $20+ for a period-correct pattern. In my mind, pants are a very basic item of clothing and even as an middling seamstress you should not have to pay such an outrageous price for a basic pattern. But I couldn't find any online tutorials or guidlines for sewing these pants- it was driving me nuts. In the end, one of the commanding officers(a captain? who can say. I think his rank changes according to occasion) very kindly loaned me two never-before-used patterns.

Another delimma- in the case of this never-before-used pattern which doesn't belong to me, is it acceptable to cut out the size desired? What is proper pattern ettiquiette? It annoys me a bit when pattern companies make patterns in sizes 28 to 40, or whatever. If you want a size 28, buy it. If you want a size 40, buy it. But it's hardly possible to not cut out one or the other and easily interchange them. In the end, I went the selfish and easy way of cutting out the 28, which is just Caleb's size. Oh, the ease! Oh, the simplicity! No alterations needed. When I get these done, Caleb will have all his most basic garments: Shirt, Waistcoat, and Trowsers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I've not had any pressing deadlines or engagements lately; even my sewing projects are less important at present. Of course, I still have to do school with Jeremy; I still cook dinner and pick up the house and do laundry, but October has been nothing like September as far as busyness. So I've been reading a lot, and it makes me feel lazy and guilty. Now, if I had been reading "Eschatology of Victory" for two hours every day, I wouldn't count that as leisure. But I haven't been reading "Eschatology of Victory." Far from it: I've been reading through Patrick O'Brian's series of historical novels. Some years ago after the film "Master and Commander"(2003) was released I tried reading O'Brian's novel of the same name. I didn't like it at all: O'Brian's works are extremely accurate picture of the British Navy at the turn of the 18th century, a very hard way of life. I've found them to be crude and shocking at times; it's mature reading for sure. On the other hand, so few authors have the desire for historical accuracy as O'Brian shows, and I so appreciate accuracy. Even more so now that I've begun re-enacting that era. I'm about halfway through the series of twenty books. It's put me in a very Naval mind(Imagine that, in a Nebraskan).

I was never one to root for the Navy. I've always been for the Marines while Jen defends the Navy, and who cares about the Army; but when it comes to historical uniforms(the measuring stick of endorsability and adoration), I do prefer blue over red, and the British Navy wore blue. Thankfully, where we reenact the American Army wears blue, and don't my brothers look handsome in it! I won't comment on the other gentlemen.

I actually spent much part of this morning reading a biography of Charles Dickens. He seems to have been a impressionable, sensitive, and emotional man(If that's what makes a good writer, I'm in trouble). I think I first picked up a Dickens around the age of twelve, and much the same as with "Master and Commander" I didn't like it; I didn't even finish it. It was too wordy for me at the time. But when I tried again a few years ago, I found I enjoyed his novels extremely. Haven't I matured wonderfully?

And all the while I sit reading there's a nagging thought in the back of my head, I ought to be studying, sewing, cleaning, or flogging somebody into obedience(I'm thinking Navy, remember?)! I toyed with the idea of starting a project, but with the political season nearly upon us I figure it's not worth it. So I'll just try to enjoy my present state of laziness, though it does present a problem when Dad comes home and asks, so what did you do today?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Keep up your end of the Conversation, can't you!

An old friend and fellow high school graduate of mine got married last Sunday. Two of her bridesmaids also graduated with us in our class of five. Out of us five girls, two are married, one engaged, and I have no idea about the other one. I never did fit in. Considering standards of dress and religion alone, I was the odd one out, but when you throw in personality, even in my silliest moments I was probably the most serious one there. So here we all were, four years after graduation, more different than ever. I avoided speaking to them out of fear for an awkward moment and a why bother? attitude.

I'm not what you would typically call an extrovert. As much as I want to meet new people and make new friends, starting and maintaining a conversation with people outside my circle of friends takes effort and can be exhausting. Sometimes I just get to tired to do even that. One good thing about being an introvert is that people don't notice you much. You can get by with a lot and not be noticed. One bad thing about being an introvert is that people don't notice you much. If people don't notice you, why would they want to talk to you?

I'm very grateful for my church family and the relationships I have there. I'm excited for the changes continually taking place as we grow together in different areas, like the guys talking to girls issue. Being more comfortable talking to the guys provides much more opportunity for varied conversation. I'm not sorry I'm still the serious one out; really, serious people have more to talk about. It's just that most people don't care to hear it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Last Weekend at the Fort

Last weekend was the last living history day for the season at Ft. Atkinson. It was a good ending to my first season. During the whole season I have made five men's shirts and one waistcoat suitable for reenacting. I intended to start on some trousers, but it hasn't happened yet. I am so grateful the Fort has uniforms available for loan during these weekends, because it takes time to create an entire period correct outfit!

At one point during the day I asked the sutler about the price of the period correct buttons sold at the Fort, since someone had told me they were fifty cents per button. I thought that was a high price, but there's a price for authenticity. But the sutler told me, no, the buttons are $2 or $3 a piece. I'm afraid I looked rather shocked. I think I'll just be that much more in-authentic and buy metal buttons at Hancock's. At least there they ARE fifty cents a piece.

Later on I met a man visiting the Fort who I had talked to about getting started in reenacting back in the spring. He does Lewis and Clark reenacting(over my dead body will I ever do that, and the same for the Civil War), and he told me about his most recent trip to Washington for an annual sacred Chinook ceremony. It involved a big Chinook salmon, and I can't recall all the details, but after the tribe's revered grandma kicked the fish dead, they cut it up and everyone received a cup of water and a cup of smoked salmon. My storyteller likened it to communion. I thought, hmm, a remnant of Christian tradition brought over from the continent? Interesting. Then it got a bit funny: The tribe took the fish skeleton out to sea in a highly authentic canoe and slipped the bones back into the water, sending the fish skeleton and presumably his spirit to tell his friends that it's okay to travel up the river now, because I already got eaten and the Indians will treat you well. It was a serious story as he was telling it, but I laughed about it later. Otherwise it was too depressing to think of pagan peoples and their ludicrous rites.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Torture. I'm torturing myself.

My sister and I started an English Country Dance(ECD) group in Omaha last December, going from knowing no ECD to teaching it in two weeks. Then I kind of took it over, because I do that sometimes and Jen is busyer than I am, anyway. So every once in a while I get to studying dance music and easy dances we can add to our small collection. Today was such a day. Our next dance is in two weeks, and I'm planning on introducing a few new dances to our group.

As far as music goes, basically, if it's not on Amazon, I'm not buying it. When you get into such an obscure genre like dance music from the 18th century, there are some poor sound quality albums out there, and I want quality sound. And we need lively music, people! We're dancing, not trying to get to sleep. I want a cross between bluegrass music and Irish, with the refinement of colonial dance tunes. It drives me mad to spend hours looking and only find a handful of tunes that will work. Obviously we don't have a live band.

Then I get to finding new dance instructions to use at our next dance. It's not too hard to find actual dance instructions; but it really, really helps to see a youtube video of the dance before I go teach it to thirty people staring at me from the dance floor. So again, if I can't find it on youtube, sometimes I just have to ditch the dance because I can't understand it.

I really enjoy ECD, which is surprising considering my history with dancing: I have none. My sister danced from an early age. I never did a dance step until in high school our home school co-op gave a country line dance class, of which I took one session and was terrible at it. Then Wham, I discovered ECD and loved it.

So in the end, after spending hours and hours studying dances, gathering information, sampling and purchasing music, I have to wait for a once a month event at which I can't even dance all the dances because I'm one of the callers! And the guys wonder why I get upset when they don't ask me(or any other girl, for that matter) to dance! One word: Frustrating. Two more words, for the guys: Learn Chivalry.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Currently Reading

Don't expect me to get through these books quickly though!

Monday, September 13, 2010


We are leaving for PHF Thursday morning. There is very little time left us. Two things are foremost in my mind: The dance on Friday night, which Jen and I are in charge of, and our guests coming Sunday night after PHF.

I'll probably have nightmares about forgetting all the dance music, or the sound system not working. Once that is over I'll rest easier.

I really care how the house looks. When guests come, I want the house clean and somewhat stylish and the food prepared. When guests stay overnight, the whole house must be cleaned. Our house may not be especially large, but it sure collects dust fast. And it's full of stuff(not my fault). Mom gave up decorating(and cleaning too, almost) a long time ago, so I have a lot of freedom to decorate the house as I like: But there still remains the fact that it's a hundred year old house, decorated when I was too young to care in cheap furnishings(we're Scottish) and 1990s floral(Mom again), and eight people live in it. It's enough to drive me mad.

I certainly hope that someday I have my own house to decorate as I wish. Until then, may God blind the eyes of our guests.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Yes, our washing machine was fixed, thankfully. Despite the cost it was still cheaper to fix it rather than buy a new one or a used equivalent. We ladies are so thankful to have means to wash clothes again, and the pantry is super organized thanks to the temporary upheaval.

Mom is still recovering, well over a month since she first got sick. She's only able to speak in a whisper, and she's amazingly forgetful, but her energy is coming back.

Dad and Caleb have been working long and late on the upcoming Providential History Festival, which is the only conference of it's kind so of course we are very proud of it, but it's a lot of work. Dad's attitude towards his new job is totally different from his old one in that he stays late on his own initiative. There will be no rest for the weary until PHF is over.

Jen started teaching ballet classes again this week, so while she stresses over eleven classes in four locations and fifty students, I'm housebound as long as she has the car. I've been busy enough it hasn't mattered so far, except I had to drive the van in to the business today. What van, you ask? Oh, let me tell you about it.

We acquired Hank right before our family reunion in July, since our mini-van died at Presbytery and we had no way to transport our whole family in one vehicle. Some friends sold us their ancient(for a van) 15 passenger at the kind price of $650. We were desperate to get a van quick, they were desperate to get rid of it, or something like that. Hank is huge, old, ugly, the AC doesn't work, and in short, I hate it. Hopefully neither Dad nor the family that sold it to us will read this blogpost. It's not practical to drive due to gas costs and it's uncomfortable to ride in. And I had to drive it for the first time today. Life is an adventure, I'm telling you.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wash me and I Shall be Whiter than Snow

Before we got sick, our washing machine broke. We've been without a washing machine for about a month now.The boys really couldn't care less, and for those weeks we were sick we all pretty much just wore our pajamas, so we've been doing alright. But you can only do your laundry at a friend's house so many times(like, once) before it gets awkward.

Yesterday we had a fix-it friend come work on it, to no avail. So Dad made the last minute decision to take the actual machine to the big city and have it worked on there. Now, understand, we live in a hundred year old house, not made to hold washing machines. The laundry area, when it was added on sometime along with the (gasp, yes, we have indoor plumbing)bathroom, was originally under the second staircase off the kitchen. To get the machine in that space, the original owners had to cut out and then replace the wood trim of the doorway.

Now, when we bought the house we inherited that same and by now rather old washing machine which was very much stuck in that area. About seven years ago, we had a baby and decided to make things even more interesting by taking out the second stairway and make it into a pantry, since it was always covered in stuff anyway, and we bought a new washing machine as well. The old one was a good twenty years old at least, and I seem to recall it had the intermittent problem of gushing water all over the floor. So, at that point, to get it out and the new one in, not wanting to cut out the woodwork, we had the stairs tore out and had to drag it through the completely empty pantry-to-be. Today, our pantry is very much fuller, and that is still and always will be the only way to get a washing machine in or out to the only place a washing machine can ever go in our old house. This is probably more detail than you've ever wanted. Anyway, last night we had to take out three whole shelves in the pantry and completely empty the floor so the washing machine could go.

We're still waiting the verdict on the fixability of our machine. I pray we won't have the expense of buying a new machine; we've already invested a bit into having this one fixed. Meanwhile, our fancy plates and canned good sit stacked on the kitchen floor while we wander about in our unwashed clothes. Please, no visitors.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How Beautiful are the Feet...

(I wrote this last week and am finally somewhere where I am able to post it)

...of those who bring good news, but since we're all still sick I guess I don't really have any good news. Now I know why people die of influenza. Now I understand why the influenza outbreaks were so dreaded: I guess one plus to this is that I can now better understand that part of history. After twelve days of a fever, Mom to the clinic and they immediately hospitalized her for pneumonia. Dad is well enough to go back to work now, and the rest of us are all in various stages of coughing and weakness. This will be a three-week illness, at least.
I bought some new sandals last week, before we were taken ill, and they are unlike anything I have ever bought before. I really needed some nice sandals to wear to church, and so I broke down and spent $8 at Goodwill(I generally set my price limit for shoes at $3, so understand how painful this was for me). I could have bought some of those fancied-up flip-flops, which Mom with her lingering 1970's vocabulary calls "thongs", to Jen's everlasting embarrassment; but deep in my soul there is a moral standard for church wear, and it will not permit flip-flops. So I bought these:
I have long resisted wearing heels. Maybe it's because I(along with 95% of all home-schooled girls) read the Elsie Dinsmore series in my youth, where one character fell down the stairs because of her heels and was permanently crippled; but I prefer to think it is because of my own common sense and practical nature. I don't want anyone to think I am at all endorsing heels: heels are dangerous and kids, do not try this at home. You may end up permanently crippled. I pray I will not.

Anyway, I had a short time to make a decision and Goodwill had a limited selection, I rarely get to town to go shopping and these happened to be in my size, so I bought them. There was a point yesterday when a few of us had hopes to get out and go to church, so I specially prepared my feet with a chocolate-scented sugar scrub because goodness, my feet SHOW in those things! The pedicure companies and the sandal companies must be in league. We ended up being still to tired to attend church, so if it were not for this post I would have sugared feet for nothing. Feel honored I am sharing with you.

On a different note, we just watched the new "Star Trek" movie, and action scenes aside it made me laugh, which was refreshing after living like the undead for a week, but do you know how hard it is to laugh when you have a cough? It's hard. I have to admit the movie made me a bit queasy during all the spinning through space scenes- but "Up" does the same thing; I can't stand the thought of people floating in space.

This post may seem a little wordy or unusually flippant; please don't take it badly; after two weeks of confinement the (hopefully humorous)sarcasm is flowing free.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ill: unhealthy, ailing, diseased, afflicted.

My whole family has been miserably, horribly, terribly sick all this past week. There's no point to this post other than to bemoan our situation, so don't feel like you need to read it.
Main Entry: ill
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: sick
Synonyms: a wreck, afflicted, ailing, below par, bummed, diseased, down, down with, feeling awful, feeling rotten, feeling terrible, got the bug, indisposed, infirm, laid low, off one's feet, on sick list, out of sorts, peaked, poorly, queasy, rotten, run-down, running temperature, sick as a dog, under the weather, unhealthy, unwell, woozy

Pretty much all of those apply to my family. Symptoms include splitting headaches, extreme weakness, a cough, and achy muscles. The coughing is almost constant when you get the eight of us together. Mom and Dad got it the worst: Dad actually had a headache for three days straight, and Mom was so weak that she couldn't even sit up for long. Parents aren't supposed to get sick, so I don't know what they were thinking. We certainly aren't strong enough to nurse them. We haven't been this sick for a long time. Illness certainly makes heaven look even more appealing.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Observations on Humidity

Nebraska summers are humid. This year has been much wetter than normal, with frequent rain and hotter temperatures, making Nebraska seem like a mid-western corn jungle. The weather has had an interesting affect on our life here: In this weather, your hair is curly whether you want it to be or not, and even if it's naturally straight. Breathing is drinking and walking is like swimming. Everything is sticky- you sit on the couch(it's leather) and you're stuck. Your fingers stick to the keyboard. The laundry never really dries. You can drink water when you're not thirsty and never have to visit the (ahem) powder room. One more month and then we'll be done with it, and we just have to take it a day at a time.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Solitude, Day One

I'm house-sitting for some friends this week while they are away on vacation. Here I am, with a three bedroom three bath huge kitchen house all to myself. Some observations:

I always thought master bedrooms with their own bathrooms were a waste of space and unfair, too. The parents get their own bathroom while the six, seven, ten children share the other one? But... the experience of having one's own bathroom, one's own shower with no interruptions, may have changed my mind. The privacy is priceless and worth the space. If I am ever a parent I shall advocate for a master bath.

I ended up not sleeping well this first night because of the silence. It is so amazingly quiet in this enormous house that every little noise scares me half to death. Because of my semi-large family, I prize alone time for work or rest; but also because of my semi-large family I am not used to being alone. It's very strange. I think living alone all the time would be horrible.

I came here to study uninterrupted. My goal is to have the text and illustrations for my little book(let) 90% done by the end of the week. We'll see if I can get over the silence to be able to study!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ft. Robinson- Vacation Continued

Ft. Robinson is where Mom grew up. Grandpa started the Stagecoach rides there back in 1962. Our family hadn't been there for a long while, so it was like discovering it over again. The country is really beautiful out there.We saw the buffalo up close, and staying in the officer's quarters was wonderful. Jen is convinced she wants to marry an officer now. We all got a ride in (what used to be)Grandpa's stagecoach: it was incredibly bumpy, which was really fun for ten minutes. If you're prone to motion sickness you may not want to ride in a stagecoach; though since the windows are open at least you wouldn't have to pull over to empty your stomach.

Even the "Family Reunion" part well fairly well, considering that our family doesn't seem to understand us. I can picture this in thought bubbles above their heads: "Homeschooling? weird. Church people? Odd. Girls not going to college? That's just plain wrong! Poor ignorant children!" Education is everything to them.

And they don't want to know why we do what we do. And since we don't agree on religion, the environment, politics, history, or family life, that doesn't leave much to talk about. Mostly food and the weather. So it was good that we A: only had three days together, B: the entire family wasn't there, C: we had a large enough house to provide for personal space and D: we had activities to do. The whole reunion went very well.

Ten years from now, I'm just guessing our family reunions will look much different. Hopefully what with marriages and grandchildren, the Duff family as we know it will double; and then we'll really get to celebrate!


Our formal vacation this year was a five day trip up to the Black Hills of South Dakota, and then a four day stay at Ft. Robinson in western NE for a family reunion. We were last in the Black hills eight years ago when Mom was pregnant with my youngest brother. So while technically all three of the younger boys were there, none of them remember it.

We camped in tents of course, visited Mt. Rushmore, the Presidential Wax Museum, and went hiking. We also went on the drive-through nature loop in Custer St. Park, which took forever, and stopped at Jewel Cave on our way to NE. It was enjoyable; however, there is such an age range in our family as well as totally different expectations for vacation according to each family member, that sometimes vacations don't turn out as happily as expected.

The boys want to hike every day. I don't want to hike at all. Mom grew up camping and wants to completely rough it. Jen wants to shower. The boys enjoy being dirty! I endure camping so we can visit museums in other states. Sigh. Other than that, I would say the Black Hills is a one-time trip: It's such a tourist trap that everything is crazy expensive. The Caves are really worth touring; Mt. Rushmore is great, but once you've seen it, you don't really need to see it again. The wax museum is enjoyable as well.

Ft. Robinson was much different: for our family reunion, Grandpa reserved one of the large former Officer's quarters. It was a three-story brick duplex dating from the early 20th century, and it was beautiful. Our family(which made up almost half the size of the group) got the entire third floor to ourselves. And it had a shower!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It doesn't get any cheaper

Every spring a nearby town has town-wide garage sales- always a great way to find a bargain. This year one of the churches was selling all clothing items for a nickel each. There's no way you can get the same amount of material for so little, so instead of looking at the actual garment, I looked for material I liked. I found a LARGE pair of pale blue pants, 100 percent linen. Linen is really expensive, but it's the best for historical reenacting. I'm sure I can get good use out of those XL pants! I also found two stretch shirts is really pretty colors, also XL. Yesterday I finally got around to making-over one of them to fit.

Here you can see the size of the nickel shirt compared to one of my T-shirts.

I simply cut around my shirt, keeping the hem and neckline,
but creating new shoulder and side seams.

I cut the sleeves smaller...

And here's my new T-shirt, which I bought for a nickel,
cut up and re-assembled with very little trouble.

LIVING History

Jen was been gone for ten days, off partying in Idaho, which in itself gave a different flavor to home life- a bedroom all to myself! Josh loaned me a fantasy novel which I read while Jen was gone, alone, in the dark upstairs- no wonder people are afraid of the dark. I got a little freaked out as I was reading(upstairs, alone, in the dark, at 10:30pm, which is past my bedtime) about these big black nasty spiders, and then a real spider crawled across my neck. I decided that was a providential sign that it was time to stop reading for the night.

Since our van is gone, we are now forced to use two cars whenever we travel as a family- except while Jen was gone we squished seven people into a five person car, to save on gas. What does that tell you about our frugality? As Dad would say, we're Scottish! When we had the van it was a better ratio- eight people in a seven person vehicle.

Last Saturday Caleb, Andrew and I traveled to Ft. Atkinson to take part in the living history demonstrations there. I was a bit concerned about the qualifications for being admitted, since I get the feeling most historic forts/parks/houses have some pretty high standards on what you have to know and what you have to wear to be able to participate. Caleb and Andrew had no knowledge whatsoever because I sort of forced them to go(I'm not used to going places alone, but that's another issue). However, upon arrival we signed some papers and were allowed to dress in borrowed historic clothes to immediately take part in the living history demonstrations. The boys were enlisted in the infantry, because they are sadly short on soldiers. I started out at the laundry station, but moved over to the quilting room. Andrew loved it because he got fed lunch. My desire is to eventually do Revolutionary War reenacting on the east coast, but Ft. Atkinson is the closest thing to it in my neighborhood. It seems to be a really good place to start as a reenactor, since it's such a relaxed atmosphere. I didn't take any pictures, but maybe next time I can sneak a few after visiting hours- can't let visitors see you with a camera, you know!

The next living history event is July 3rd and 4th, and I am definitely planning on attending- and bringing Caleb and Andrew along too. Come visit me in 1820! It's a lot of fun.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Presbytery 2010

Our family trip to Illinois proved most eventful.

Our hotel's idea of providing breakfast for the guests was just a jug of milk and two containers of bagels. I am not kidding: there was enough food for maybe ten. But there was a pool, which redeemed it for the boys.

The main occurrence of the week was the death of our faithful van. The cost to fix it would have been too great, so we gave it away for free and ended up driving a rental van home. Our van, the newest vehicle we have ever owned, was a 1999. The rental van was 2010.

We also all got colds at presbytery, so I am at this very moment drinking fenugreek tea. Nasty stuff, but worth it. There would be more to share, but my head still isn't working right. Maybe later..

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Road Trip

I'm starting to feel I don't really live at home anymore. I really live in the car and random points around the country, such as Omaha, Atlanta and Arkansas.

Well, we're leaving for another trip, this time to IL, and this time for fun. There will be dancing(I'm calling, gulp), and our Texas friends will be there too.

So we're off again.

Recital 2010

Jen's recital is over. Whew.

Rehearsal was really more stressful than the actual performance, though, at least for Jen. I mostly sat in the room watching the girls. Due to mis-communication by the church, all 39 students and whatever moms wanted to stay were crammed into one small and not very well aired room for five hours while awaiting their turn on the stage. Nothing really stands out to me about that day other than, it was really tiring even though I wasn't the one doing the work! And it did go as smoothly as it possibly could. I felt sorry for one of the dance moms- nine months pregnant, and she could hardly walk. She actually went into labor the next day and couldn't attend the recital.

Recital went well, and we estimated there were around 300 people in the audience. Jen was given three dozen roses and a bouquet of lilies by her students, and then we went out for dinner, which was really weird to do at 10pm, but we were all terribly hungry because none of us got to eat dinner. Then we went home and crashed.

Ahh, well. You know what I say every year after recital? Next year, at the Holland....

Friday, May 7, 2010

We Survived

Our group of five left for AR on the 18th and arrived home on May 5th. We worked five days and hit 8000 doors, which made for an average of seven hours of walking a day. I never knew my lower body could hurt so much. I got way more exercise than I planned for, so I'm thinking that not only was it enough exercise for the spring, but for the summer as well.

As I mentioned, pain was a big part of the campaign. I tripped over some garden equipment while walking up to a house- I was trying to keep from giving the elderly gentleman on the porch a heart attack, so I was looking up, not down. I got away with only one blister- all of us girls got blisters. The guys got none, unless they just didn't tell us about them to save their manly pride; Caleb was perfectly fine. That boy must have diamond-hard feet and leathery muscles. What would we do without him? Jen is going to be in great shape after this trip on top of her upcoming recital which requires her to dance every day- whereas I just feel worn out. Yes, I'm a weakling. Always have been, probably always will be.

Now that I'm home again, for a short while at least, I'm keeping busy by stressing out about the 1001 tiny details I have to take care of before Recital, and Presbytery, and the June Dance, and my first foray into historical re-enacting, and Grandpa's 80th birthday, and Jen's trip to Idaho, and our family reunion to Ft. Robinson(Sigh), and our July Fund-raising Ball, and Providential History Festival... my life is not my own.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Here, There, Back and Off Again

Well, the F family and I arrived safely back in NE early Monday morning of last week. We were all, as Mr. F put it, completely thrashed. I realize the rationale for driving through the night- the kids sleep through the whole trip. But I am not a kid, and I just can't sleep in a car. Or a fifteen-passenger van. But it was a fun trip, and I'm glad I could go.

I leave tomorrow for Arkansas and a week long campaign trip. I'm really excited to be back on the campaign trail after nearly a year without any campaigning. This will be my exercise/tanning session for the spring. At all other times of the year I shun exercise and don't have time to sit in the sun, so if you notice my skin is the fainest tint darker next time you see me, it's thanks to our candidate Reynolds.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


It's been interesting to notice some small comparisons between this short one week trip and my ten-week trip to Ft. Bragg.

There's a huge difference in how Mrs. F and Ms. O dealt with having me in their household.
At the O house, especially towards the end of my time there, there were times when the Os would go out somewhere while I stayed home to clean. I wasn't part of the family: I was Cinderella left home to clean the carpet and scrub the laminate flooring. I shouldn't have been Cinderella, though- I should have been a servant("But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses...." 2nd Cor. 6:4). Wow, though, it's really hard to have a servant's heart when you're under-appreciated. It takes work!

Mrs. F has a totally different attitude, very respectful and considerate of my desires/needs. Very few people treat me so much like an adult as she has. For this short time the Fs have endeavored to make me feel like part of their family. That makes servant-hood so much easier!

Another funny happening is the Fs going to Medieval Times. When the Os and I went to Myrtle Beach, it was a possibility for a short time that we might go to the Medieval Times there. It ended up not happening. Almost-promises led to disappointments, another example of poor communication.

Now during this trip, Mrs. F actually apologized that I wouldn't be able to go, and explained she didn't feel her younger boys ought to go, so that's why they planned to have me stay with them. Her attitude and communication makes a huge difference, and I am fine with not going. It also probably helps that though Medieval Times was a big deal back(way back) in high school, I've got over it by now. If it was Colonial Times, though, nothing could keep me away!

I was too cowardly to confront Mrs. O about our struggles, and either she was just too emotionally stressed to maturely deal with it, or the hardships in her past kept her from being able to handle communication. I think she expected me to be like she had been: A single woman confident in being on her own. Mrs. F, though she doesn't currently have the stress of deployment like Ms. O, encourages openness and evaluation and understands the completely appropriate need for me to be part of a family.

I don't mean to make Mrs. O look like the evil stepmother and Mrs F like the fairy god-mother- they both have faults and so do I. Mrs O, despite her degree in counseling, didn't understand how to fit me in to her family, and Mrs. F does. Getting a grasp on the Biblical place for adult single women makes a world of difference.

On to a different subject; it's markedly different from Nebraska to see so many black people everywhere, with such a distinctly different culture, and it's good to see it and learn. It's positively amazing what some black ladies do with their hair! It's also kind of creepy to see groups of young black men in this neighborhood who apparently don't work, because they walk around during work hours. You know that style of wearing pants too big for your waist so your underwear shows and you have to actually hold your pants up so they won't fall down completely? It's really in here. I despise that style.

My Room-mate

He wakes me up every morning talking to himself, and he's very cute(as you can see).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Out to Tea

Today we ladies went to tea here in Georgia- great food and a pretty place. Following tea time some of the party went to a nearby clothing store. I took a walk to a nearby cemetery I had spotted, and I have to say that made my day. I was really wishing to visit a cemetery in GA, but there wasn't any free time to find one. So this was perfect timing and a providential blessing for me!

I thought this stone's inscription was funny- I can just hear it in a southern drawl: Laaaawd, have mercy on poooor me!

There were others stones I'd like to post, but it's my room-mate's bedtime. If I remember I'll post a picture of him too- he is sooo cute(and don't worry, he's only two).

Monday, April 12, 2010


The F family and I started out our journey by leaving NE at 7pm and driving through the night, and arrived in Atlanta around 3:30pm the next day, rather exhausted. On Sunday we searched for a like-minded Church Mr F had found on a website. Upon arriving, we discovered the church was no more, so we went to a nearby church called "The Lighthouse". There were six people in he congregation, so we more than doubled their size. It was perhaps not the BEST sermon I've ever heard, but it was an interesting experience.

Atlanta is really big. Six lane interstates, full of cars- I am glad I'm not driving. Just being a passenger in a 15 passenger van is exciting enough.

On Monday we all went to the Atlanta Aquarium, which is reportedly one of the biggest in the world. I have to say the neatest display was the huge Ocean tank, with 6 million gallons of saltwater! There are three whale sharks and at least one huge 12ft stingray in that big tank, along with other smaller fish.

Our 15 passenger van qualified as an over-sized vehicle.

I hate to say it, but this fish looks stupid to me.

The tropical and reef fish were very pretty as well. I have to say, though, that the whole aquarium was really noisy, with music in the main court and lots of people, and all that plus the changing lights made it really overwhelming and overstimulating. There wasn't much educational information posted along the way, either- but I am very grateful to the Fs for taking me. Fish are amazing.

This is the big ocean tank with the three whale sharks.

Turtles are just cool looking creatures, the sort that would look good in sunglasses.

So that was Monday, and Tuesday was ladies' tea day while the guys went to the Coca-Cola museum, and today is babysitting day for me while the others are at Medieval Times and Competition Orientation. Fun times!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Here, There, and Everywhere

I'm leaving tomorrow for Georgia for a (fun) nanny trip during the LEGO World competition

Then soon after I get back I'll be leaving for Arkansas for a campaigning trip

Then after that we'll be traveling as a family to Illinois for a sort of family camp(Presbytery 1020!)

And following that, we have a family reunion at Ft. Robinson, NE

I feel busy.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Taking the Plunge

As of today Dad has officially started a new job, and no, this is not an April Fool's Day joke. I've been meaning to post about this for a month now, since it became public knowledge back in January. Most of my close acquaintances know that in January Dad was approved by our Church congregation to become a full-time Elder, a sort of administrative pastor. Since Dad wanted to finish up a school session before leaving, he waited to give notice at the University until early April; his last day there was a week ago.

We've known that Dad would probably take the new job since last November(Big Changes Ahead), but it's still hard to grasp that Dad actually quit the job he's had for seventeen years, most of my lifetime, and is moving on to something new. Very few Dads over fifty with half a dozen children at home do such things, I think. It's an exciting and a bit scary step into the uncharted future, and it's Dad's dream job. I've no doubt it was brought about in God's perfect timing.

Besides the obvious change for Dad, there are several (seemingly large though perhaps insignificant)changes for the rest of us as well:
  1. Due to the new schedule, we all have to get up an hour earlier in the morning. Before, Dad always left so early it really wasn't humanly possible for all of us to be up for breakfast and Biblestudy before he left; but now he's leaving later and we don't have that excuse/reason anymore.
  2. So now we're also eating breakfast together and having morning Biblestudy as well. Before this, breakfast was a find what you could and be done by nine sort of thing. Shocking, isn't it? I'm on the lookout for cheap, healthy breakfast recipes that can be made in bulk. There aren't many.
  3. Later nights. Since Dad is leaving later(even though we're getting up earlier) he'll be getting home later as well. You'd think that getting up an hour earlier would translate into going to bed an hour earlier, but so far no such change has been observed.
  4. Since we're on a roll with schedule changes right now, we're cutting out Sunday movie nights. We've kind of kept it hush-hush that we watched movies on Sunday, since while it may fall in the "restful" category, it may not fall into the "spiritual" category in some people's convictions. I'm sure it's for the best, but Sunday evenings seem pretty empty right now.
  5. I've also decided, for the sake of my overall health, to give up all kinds of chocolate.

April Fools. I could never give up chocolate.

Now we really are a pastor's family. Now I can see if that vague stereotype in my head of Pastor's families is really true: living on the brink of poverty and always eating beans and rice while running a hospitality hotel with a strong trust in God. I wouldn't mind the hospitality; though I might get tired of the beans.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sew, sew, sew

Lately it seems like all my free time is devoted to a blizzard of new sewing projects. Here are a few projects I've recently finished or am currently working on:

  • A maternity and nursing dress for a friend- the first nursing dress I've ever made. It was an old pattern(so 1990's!) from Elizabeth Lee Designs. It was a good learning experience; we were never able to get together for a fitting, so I have no idea if it even fits her!
  • A dress to wear to English Country Dances. Not entirely authentic, since I pretty much made up the pattern, and also used elastic on the wristbands. I am making this dress so I can have something "old-fashioned" to wear to dances without wearing my stays, but I can still wear my petticoats.It has a high, fitted bodice and Bishop sleeves. And of course a very full skirt.
  • A new nightgown. A family asked me to travel with them for a short time this spring to watch their little boys, and it's impossible to travel and not be seen in your nightgown, so I thought I'd better upgrade.

Upcoming sewing projects:

  • Skirts for Jen's 38 ballet students for the upcoming recital in May. Thirty eight skirts- thankfully very simple- older classes get full circle skirts, younger classes get half circle. We've decided on three different colors in different shades of crepe-back satin. I'd like to make these skirts reversible, but I've never made anything reversible before and I have a deadline, so we'll see.
  • Kilts for all our boys. Real men wear kilts! These are also for our dances and our history festival. I had a hard time finding appropriate plaids that were under $20.
  • A 1940's style dress for a friend. This is good, because I need practice sewing for others.
  • And finally: a light, very pink, very spring-ish, and very much in style skirt for myself. I bought some cheap fabric at Wal-mart some time ago and have finally decided what to use it for. I'm making it in anticipation that someday it will be warm once again.
Some new blog favorites:
The Sew Weekly
Is This Modest?
Feelin' Feminine

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Unconditional Election put to Song

’Tis not that I did choose Thee,
For Lord, that could not be;
This heart would still refuse Thee,
Hadst Thou not chosen me.

Thou from the sin that stained me
Hast cleansed and set me free;
Of old Thou hast ordained me,
That I should live to Thee.

’Twas sov’reign mercy called me
And taught my op’ning mind;
The world had else enthralled me,
To heav’nly glories blind.

My heart owns none before Thee,
For Thy rich grace I thirst;
This knowing, if I love Thee,
Thou must have loved me first.

-Josiah Condor

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A New Year

Somewhere along the way of life I stopped minding the changing of the year. All that bothers me now is that I'm getting older. It's a tradition in our family that we sit down together every New Year's Eve to plan and write down our group and personal goals for the year. It's fun and a good way to begin the new year. There's a long list this year; there's actually two lists: the list for if we move, and the list for if we don't move. Because of Dad's new position in the Church we are really praying that the moving list happens soon. Some smaller goals on our list are learning to sing in parts, practice more hospitality, and buy enough sofa beds to have overnight guests. On my list is buy a sewing machine, learn to quilt, and participate in some historical re-enacting. We also have several small trips planned and so we probably won't take a formal vacation this year. Jen and I hope to campaign more this year, and Jen's recital in May is also a big event since she now has doubled the number of her students.

A big goal on my not-moving list is another volunteer ministry trip. I've been searching for a while for opportunities, but so far all doors have been closed. I'm sending in some paperwork today to a certain missions group, but it may be months before I get a clear yes or no answer on whether or not they can use me. I have great hopes for the year. My greatest hope is that I would grow and learn whatever happens. I'm curious: What are some of your goals for the year 2010?

I'd just like to note: Yesterday the temperature dropped to -22 F. On average the it remains around -11 at night and 10 during the day. The cold is causing some car problems and we're burning more wood than usual. Is it always this cold or do I just forget it every year?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Texas was Absolutely Wonderful.

And not just because of the weather- which, compared to Nebraska, was great(we missed the big blizzard of '09 while in TX)- but because of the fellowship. I have to admit I was a little worried about staying in someone's house for ten days. We usually have to beg to stay at a friend's house along the road, and I always feel with our big family we are imposing, and we eat too much.

But our hosts in TX(a family the same size as ours, so I didn't feel bad about eating too much) demonstrated the kind of Christian hospitality I have yet to learn, and we all had a blast. Even in our church we haven't (as a family) found another family so similar to us in lifestyle, numbers, and ages.

Texas itself was alright. Warm weather, great, but I'm not sure I will ever understand the enduring Texan desire to secede. And during our stay there, a cockroach crawled up my leg, scarring me for life. Nebraska, at least, does not harbor monsters of that size. It was the fellowship that made our time in TX memorable. It was wonderful!