By Ian Wilson
If you’ve been paying attention to environmental news at all, you’ve probably heard that honey bees are dropping like... well, like flies. You’ve probably been told that such a population drop could mean disaster for our food supply. Bees pollinate millions of plant species, including plants that produce fibers, such as flax. But what if I told you that honey bees are actually going to be OK? “Wait!” you cry “I read that the honey bee colonies are collapsing!” Well, they were, but not now.
The problem was partly due to the use of a synthetic pesticide known as a neonicotinoid. It mimics the effect of nicotine (a powerful natural insecticide). No one is exactly sure why it affected honey bees so seriously, but it did. The use of neonicotinoid was then banned in Europe, with the US following shortly. Now the honey bees are no longer in as much danger as they were. They’ll be back on their own six feet in no time.
So honey bees are going to be alright, but there’s another problem. The problem is the nearly 4000 other bee species native to North America. Honey bees were brought over from Europe to pollinate food crops and produce honey. They are not native to North America, and often compete with native bee species for the same food sources. Additionally, they have beekeepers and researchers to help them along. Native bee species do not enjoy that benefit; they’re on their own. These bees are more efficient at pollinating than imported honey bees; and they are more fragile. A recent study found that 50% of native Midwestern bee species have disappeared from their natural range. HALF of these highly important bees are gone, maybe for good. If these other bee species went extinct, honey bees would not be able to pick up the slack. Without native bees, our agriculture industry would completely collapse.
So what can YOU do? The simple answer is plant wildflowers and flowering trees. Find out what species grow in your area, buy some seeds and saplings and plant them. It doesn’t matter if your lawn is tiney, the bees don’t need much space. If you use synthetic pesticides, stop immediately, and switch to something safer. I’d recommend neem oil. If we all contribute a little bit of our lawns, then the bees can be saved.
During World War II rationing was just a fact of life. It was no simple thing to create the traditional family holiday. Regardless of social status, economic status, or what your faith traditions were, rationing was the same for all. Food, clothes, shoes, soap, just about everything we take for granted daily life was carefully used, shared, saved or collected. We thought we’d look a bit at how this affected the holiday plans. Inspiring us to perhaps look at how we can change our own outlook on the Holiday Season of 2020.
What, exactly, was rationing and why did government ration essentials? Good question! The answer comes from the National World War 2 Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. “Rationing involved setting limits on purchasing certain high-demand items. The government issued a number of “points” to each person, even babies, which had to be turned in along with money to purchase goods made with restricted items. In 1943 for example, a pound of bacon cost about 30 cents, but a shopper would also have to turn in seven ration points to buy the meat. These points came in the form of stamps that were distributed to citizens in books throughout the war. The Office of Price Administration (OPA) was in charge of this program, but it relied heavily on volunteers to hand out the ration books and explain the system to consumers and merchants. By the end of the war, about 5,600 local rationing boards staffed by over 100,000 citizen volunteers were administering the program.” https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/rationing The rationing program began in 1942, in part to prevent hoarding. (sound familiar?)
Naturally the program wasn’t perfect but it did keep the troops supplied with what they needed and the homefront, while struggling to find alternatives did their bit. I don’t remember hearing any of my relatives who were alive at the time, complain about what they had to do to win the war. I remember hearing one of my aunts say “we just got on with it” referring to the life on the homefront. If they needed to work around the lack of sugar or coffee they did so. I didn’t realize when I was young that some of my favorite things to eat at the holidays came about because of the rationing during World War 2. Then, like now in our current predicament with COVID-19, there are a lot of people learning to think outside the proverbial box with regard to the holidays. One thing is true of the WW2 era cooking and baking, nothing went to waste. For more information on rationing see https://www.history.com/news/food-rationing-in-wartime-america
I will get to the gift giving at another time but first I wanted to toss the blog to my daughter to discuss holiday recipes that were popular during the World War 2 era.
As happened in the Depression, the Christmas holiday was celebrated as a welcome respite from the grim world of the war. But with the shortages and staples like meats and sugar, Christmas looked very very different than it had in the past. What they were able to buy, they made it last for as long as possible. This resulted in what we would consider very odd foods, such as ham salad made with Jello. They did a lot of things with Jello… would’ve been a good time to take out stock!
One of the most popular recipes of course was cake. “War Cake” could be made with the smallest amount of ingredients, and in such a way that nobody would be the wiser. I first uncovered a recipe for war cake in the pages of “My Secret War: The World War II Diary of Madeline Beck”, a historical fiction book by Mary Pope Osborne as part of the Dear America series. Similar to American Girl, these books examined the lives and times of girls in significant points in American history, only aimed at a slightly older audience. This cake is similar to a rich, dark fruitcake, and only requires a handful of ingredients. You can find that recipe here: https://www.food.com/recipe/ww2-war-cake-1881
Another common cake recipe was one that has been enjoyed in my family for generations: Dump cake! A dump cake is a cake made from minimal ingredients, no eggs, no butter, no milk, and turns out SO GOOD. It is my birthday cake of choice (spread with some nice coconut frosting to make German chocolate cake) to this day. You can find that recipe here:
When fruits and vegetables were rationed, folks had to find new ways of getting a square meal, one of which was planting a victory garden. The US government issued several books and pamphlets to help people unaccustomed to gardening learn to provide for themselves. There were local victory garden committees to organize community gardening efforts and share resources. In addition to the nutrition gained from growing food, gardeners got the satisfaction of having grown the food themselves and taking pride in their work. Most of what was on the table at Thanksgiving and Christmas during the war years was grown in victory gardens and canned, pickled or otherwise preserved by dutiful citizens. You can read up on victory gardens in this World War II era handbook:
https://archive.org/details/victorygardensha00mack/page/10/mode/2up?q=1943+victory+gardenFirst Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was a great influence and encouragement to the country during the Second World War. She created an entirely new attitude at the White House. A great proponent of what we now call recycling and upcycling. In the people’s house. Nothing was thrown away if it could be used to assist the war effort. No fancy lunches, just basic fare like the rest of America. According to History.com ““Eleanor wasn’t just choosing a cuisine; she was defining her role in the White House, and the food had to deliver the right message,” writes historian Laura Shapiro in the New Yorker. The First Lady wanted her kitchen to be a showcase for American foods and modern American ways of cooking them.” https://www.history.com/news/eleanor-roosevelt-white-house-menu-bad-food In an America where COVID-19 is changing how we Holiday we can certainly look to history for inspiration. For more on Eleanor Roosevelt check out https://www.history.com/topics/first-ladies/eleanor-roosevelt A big thanks to T.k. Wilson and Ian Wilson for their input into this article.
A few years ago, the Wilson family set apart a large part of our lawn to be for the express purpose of encouraging wild plants. This is known as “re-wilding”. Since then, this area has attracted many browsing mammals that would otherwise raid our gardens. They forage amongst the grasses and flowers and leave our vegetables virtually undisturbed.
The re-wilding has also become a habitat for frogs and toads, some of which are quite rare. Amphibians, by eating biting insects, play an important role in our local environment. You can hear them singing on late summer evenings.
I think everyone should set aside part of their yard for growing wild plants. It’s good for the environment, and good for us.
I live in an old farmhouse. I have to say I'm seriously biased about the farmhouse style decor and even clothing choices. I won't belabor the point in this blog, I promise. However, Autumn leaves are appearing on our beautiful maple trees here in the Northern Adirondacks. We've even had 2 nights of frost/freeze warnings! While it is my favorite season of the year, it's also a very busy season.
I know people decorate their homes to be fashionable. I decorate my home to make my family feel comfortable. The Farmhouse style in my own farmhouse suits us all. Cozy, warm and a bit eclectic. Antiques, leather chairs, Wilson Bickford paintings, throws, vintage touches in the china cabinets, the list goes on. When the farmhouse style came into "vogue" in the knit and crochet universe I was thrilled!
From home decor to clothing, farmhouse is synonymous with a relaxed, cozy environment. To be clear Farmhouse is not the same as hygge even though there is a crossover between the two styles. Hygge beckons with the Danish style of simple pleasures while farmhouse is more of a balance between old and new in a room. Warmhearted, without clutter, and I'd say, largely American and Canadian in it's sensibilities. Hearkening back to a time when manners were very much a part of our culture. There are hints of the farmhouse style in many knit and crochet designs. My attention turns to the independent designers for my own inspiration. One of the first designers to jump to mind is Jess of Make & Do Crew . She's brilliant at creating warm, charming,home decor and clothing for every member of the family. In my opinion Jess has been able to put her finger on the pulse of simple sophistication.
Jessica of Mama in a Stitch Is one of those prolific designers that have you wondering: A. How in the world does she come up with so many great designs and B. How will I have time to make them all? A Colorado resident, Jessica designs patterns for both knitters and crocheters. With flexible styling and basic color choices Jessica offers the knitter/crocheter a plethora of classic designs.
Crocheted fall decor is very popular (especially if you have little ones). Here is a GREAT selection of Farmhouse style Fall decor from Highland Hickory Designs. Of course pumpkin is one of my favorite colors and flavors. I'm a bit biased about this collection.
Last but absolutely not least is Maria of Maria's Blue Crayon. Maria's home decor designs are a bit more whimsical but still fit within the Farmhouse style. In fact one of my current unfinished projects is the Woodland Granny Square Afghan. It's so adorable! There are several pieces designed by Maria that I'd like to share but I will try to keep it simple :).
Finding Fall Farmhouse style this year should be as easy as finding cinnamon dessert recipes. It's going to be a gorgeous Autumn here in Northern New York. I hope you've enjoyed my short (shorter than I'd like) blog on the Fall Farmhouse decor. (who knows maybe I'll write a part 2?) Until next time join me over on Pinterest for some more great ideas. www.pinterest.com/outoftheparc/_created/
As an observer of the toy world, I pay attention to a lot of the trends that pass by. One of the biggest trends has been a return to old fashioned toys, like peg dolls, Raggedy Ann and Andy, the simple toys of a bygone age. Many of these toys are also given the extra label of “Sensory toys”, meaning they offer stimulation to the senses rather than to just being entertaining. This makes them educational toys to boot!
Babies especially need the stimulation of the sensory toys as they discover the world around them. It was to this end that Leisure Arts published a brand new book of Sensory Baby Toys, a book of 15 easy to make crochet baby toys, featuring lots of different textures, colors, and patterns to stimulate baby’s senses. There are three different themed sets to choose from: Honey Bees, Circus, and Woodland Bunnies. There is not one pattern in this book that I hate, not even the circus one, and I usually hate circus themed Baby things!
I had the opportunity to make some of the honeybee toys for a cousin who just had a baby girl. The baby’s nursery is flower themed, so honeybees made sense. The toys are very easy to make if you have previous experience with amigurumi. That said, you don’t have to be some kind of genius in order to manage these toys, most beginners can manage them.
Most of the toys also require wooden pieces to add to the textures available for the baby to play with. Now, most people would go to Amazon and look there, but with all the Chinese junk on Amazon these days, you can’t trust them. I went to Etsy seller Alexa Organics instead. All of their products are made here in America, and treated with only the best in organic finishes to be safe for babies. You can check them out here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AlexaOrganics?ref=usf_2020
In all, if you’re interested in the sensory toy market as a parent or educator, I would recommend purchasing this book. You truly won’t be disappointed!
By Ian Wilson
Recently, a local mother (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent) took a picture of her child with some berries she had recently picked. She couldn’t identify what they were. Luckily for everyone involved, my own mother managed to identify them as deadly nightshade, also known as belladonna, a highly poisonous invasive weed.
Belladonnas are members of the same family as potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and petunias. They are a vine plant that grows in uncultivated yards, vacant lots, or wooded areas across the United States. They resemble pepper plants in appearance, with arrow-shaped leaves (usually with miniature leaves on either side of the larger leaf), and can grow to astounding lengths. I once eradicated one that was about 20-30 feet long! Every part of the plant is poisonous. If ingested they can cause severe gastrointestinal distress and even death. They are one of a number of poisonous weeds that might be growing right in your backyard. Here are some other common weeds you should look out for.
Poison hemlock has a mythical reputation as a poisonous plant going back thousands of years. Hemlock is a member of the carrot family and is quite deadly if ingested. It resembles the harmless wild carrot to such a degree that they are frequently mistaken for each other. Wild carrots tend to be much smaller, and have hairy stems, while hemlock is invariably smooth. So if you find a hairless, carrot-like plant in your yard or lot, don’t eat it!
Wild parsnips and cow parsnips are also members of the carrot family. They usually grow a little larger than their orange cousins and have yellow flowers rather than white. You frequently find them on roadsides and pastures in much of the rural US. Unfortunately, these plants can cause a severe rash if their juice is exposed to human skin. A single touch of a bruised leaf can cause the skin to blister. These reactions are typically temporary and last a few weeks, but it’s better to avoid them altogether. Strangely, these plants are harmless to cattle, sheep, and pigs.
Other dangerous members of the carrot family include hogweed, and it’s larger relative the giant hogweed. Hogweeds can’t be misidentified; they grow to immense heights: the giant variety growing as much as 17 feet tall! I saw one in Ohio that was well over 6 feet tall! Like the wild parsnip, hogweeds cause severe burns to exposed skin. Use extreme caution if you should find one. Contact the local department of forestry or department of agriculture to get information on extermination.
Nearly all of us have been exposed to poison ivy at one time or another. These vines typically grow in wilderness areas or at the edges of farmlands or vacant lots. They usually have shiny, arrow-shaped leaves in groups of three on the stem. These plants cause an allergic skin reaction in most people, so one should always take care in wilderness areas.
And how could we forget poison ivy’s equally annoying cousin, poison sumac? Poison sumac is named for its resemblance to sumac trees, with parallel compound leaves (multiple leaves on one stem) in a feather-like pattern. True sumacs are quite harmless. In fact, their flowers can be made into a pink, fruity-tasting tea. Poison sumacs can be identified by their oval-shaped, smooth-edges leaves. True sumacs always have toothy-edged leaves. Poison sumacs are typically found in swampy areas of the southern US.
Most of these plants have the added feature of being invasive species, meaning they also pose an environmental threat. By keeping them in check, we are doing a service to humanity and nature. There are dangers lurking even in our own backyards, but if we are aware of the risks and have all the facts, we can protect ourselves, our families, and our communities.
By T.K. Wilson
Things have been jumping at Laterose Doll Clothes and Doll Repair. Lots of people have been downsizing their collections or building up new ones and I have been in the center of it all! From Strawberry Shortcake, to My Little Pony, to the queen, Barbie herself, I have dealt with everyone from single dads to experienced collectors searching for that perfect toy. My biggest selling items were, surprisingly, Barbie. Because of Barbie’s iconic status, much has been written about her, and much has been done to provide makers with the resources to make a dream wardrobe for her. So, without further ado, here’s some history and tips on how to make for Barbie!
Barbie (introduced 1959)
The world’s most iconic fashion doll debuted on June 9th, 1959 to wild sales and acclaim. Originally priced at $3 dollars in 1959, (equal to about $21 dollars in 2009, according to Forbes) the doll changed the toy world forever. In Barbie, little girls could envision themselves as grown-ups having any job they wanted, even ones that weren’t open to them at the time, like astronauts!
Barbie has been put through the ringer of controversy and criticism over the years. From sexism to her unrealistic figure, Barbie’s biggest fans see her for what she is: a conduit for childhood fantasy. Have there been missteps? Oh, yeah, but on the whole, Barbie is and will remain an icon of innocence.
Christie (introduced 1968)
The first African American character in the Barbie world was Christie. Created in 1968, (with Julia coming the next year) she was a huge jump forward for African American girls everywhere. The first Christie had a stylish bubble-cut and could share all of Barbie’s fashions. Christie was not as fortunate as some of the other dolls, being taken in and out of the line for years. However, in the 80s and 90s, she became a well-known face in the line. At that time, each line focused on three girl dolls and at least one boy doll. Christie stuck in as one member of the Barbie/Teresa/Christie trio.
Kira (AKA Miko, introduced 1980) Replaced by Lea ( introduced 2000)
Kira was Barbie’s first Oriental friend. Kira’s name means “light” in Japanese, though she was said to be from Hong Kong. This doll proved to be hugely popular, with her pretty, pleasantly rounded face being used for several beautiful Dolls of the World dolls, including Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore, along with “Barbie and the Rockers” bass player Dana.
Sometime in 2000, Kira was retired in favor of Lea, an Asian doll with a lighter skin tone and thinner face. This is the doll you will most often see identified as Asian today.
Teresa (introduced 1988)
Barbie’s best friend is Teresa, a Latina girl. Teresa was introduced in 1988 and would get her very own face mold in 1990. Teresa proved a huge hit, being marketed alongside Barbie and Christie throughout the 90s. In every line, you would find Barbie in pink, Christie in blue or green, and Teresa in orange, all equals. She followed her bestie to stardom, “starring” as the Fairy Queen in “Barbie of Swan Lake” and made an appearance in every movie after that, sometimes as helper, sometimes as sister, sometimes as friend.
Teresa was my favorite Barbie character growing up. She was more interesting to me than the plain vanilla looks of Barbie. Who wanted to be the blonde, I would scoff, when you could have this glamorous dark/red hair?
Now, we have some wonderful links to where you (yes, you!) can find vintage fashions for your period Barbie dolls.
From the Internet Archive:
And from designer Hilde Fuchs:
This young lady has some very lovely patterns for MODERN Barbie
By Ian Wilson
There’s nothing like the sight of rolling hills green with grass. However, those hills can easily become overgrown with weeds and briars. Many people choose not to mow their lawns, either because it’s time-consuming, or because they are environmentally conscious and trying to provide a habitat for wildlife. The first is understandable, the second is noble, but there are certain risks involved in letting your lawn become overgrown.
First, there are allergens. Many people, including myself, have severe pollen allergies. Letting your grass grow long is a sure-fire way to exacerbate that condition. Pigweed, ragweed, wild parsnip, and hundreds of other allergen-causing weeds can be hiding in amongst the blades of grass, just waiting to make your eyes water, your nose run, and your life generally miserable.
Speaking of weeds, leaving off mowing can help the spread of invasive weeds species in the US. These are non-native, hostile invaders from other parts of the world that can easily overrun native plant species. A number of these can be quite toxic to people and pets. See the list of noxious weeds from the USDA for more info, or you can check this list of noxious weeds.
And let’s not stop at plant life. A lot of folks want to provide a habitat for wildlife. Admirable, but there are certain critters you just don’t want near your home. Fleas and ticks thrive in unkempt lawns. Disease-carrying mosquitoes and other biting flies tend to frequent long grass and weeds as well.
All this being said, you don’t have to have a perfectly manicured, spotless, weedless suburban lawn. Mowing your lawn infrequently isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as it gets mowed now and then. Depending on how quickly your grass grows, as little as three or four times a year is sufficient. Not all of the weeds growing in your lawn are invasive or toxic. Some are beneficial, even edible. Some provide food for bees, birds, and butterflies. You can set aside a part of your yard every year for wildlife habitat, or start a butterfly garden. You can plant plants that repel pests and attract beneficial species. We must all do our part to ensure a clean, safe environment for people and animals.
The old adage "April showers bring May flowers" is true... problem is that the old adage never mentioned the TYPE of showers that would bring on the flowers LOL! Here in the Northern Adirondacks we're having snow showers! See photo below ;). However, that is not exactly what caused me to think about Christmas in April. Keep reading... it will be worth it!
As many of you know already I have many friends who live all over the continent of Africa. Though I have never been to Africa myself (yet) I have been treated with great respect and affection by the good people of Africa. Recently one of my friends, Charles Makawa, shared some very cool pictures of packages from the Samaritan's Purse, project Operation Christmas Child arriving in Zomba, Malawi! I was so excited! I'd never had friends who were on the ground to distribute the gifts from Samaritan's Purse to children. Not that it is important from the standpoint of validation but just to see the kids smiling! It was lovely. I asked Charles if I could share these 3 pictures below on today's blog because I wanted to share the smiles with my readers. He said YES! (Thank you Makawa) Secondly, It's NOT too early to start preparing hand knit and crochet items for Operation Christmas Child (OCC) (or your other favorite Christmas charity)
Operation Christmas Child distributes gifts all over the world and they LOVE getting handmade gifts for the children. I've seen pictures of all kinds of wonderful handmade gifts posted on their Facebook page, from handknit hats to fun crocheted decorations on flip flops. My daughter is a huge fan of OCC we spend a lot of hours together considering what toys should go into the boxes! (We look for sales and clearance) We always include handmade items. T.k. usually makes clothes for fashion dolls and I try to include hats, scarves, and mittens. We donate along with our church. Everyone donates to the project and then everyone comes together to create the boxes that are shipped to the OCC distribution center. However, anyone can donate! Make your own boxes to donate, get together with your office, your knitting/crocheting group, school, children's scouting group, or even your sports club. However, Operation Christmas Child is certainly NOT the only Christmas charity that gives gifts to children. For instance our family will donate items to a local charity called Holiday Helpers, Franklin County NY this year. We all love to see smiles don't we!
NOTE: Jodie Booth designs are crocheted if you do not crochet I recommend that you look over the designs by Elena Nodel on Ravelry. You'll get the same style and whimsy as is created by Jodie Booth only for knitters. www.ravelry.com/designers/elena-nodel Sadly Elena Nodel's life was cut tragically short
Jodie Booth of Addicted 2 the Hook caught my eye last year, almost a year ago exactly now! And it was one of Jodie's designs that popped to mind when I thought about my Christmas in April blog. Jodie Booth is not only chief designer at Addicted 2 the Hook but also a contributor to the premier issue of Indie Road Magazine. (Congrats Jodie!) She's a busy lady who designs when inspired. As a mom herself, I know Jodie Booth feels as I do that a child's smile is priceless.
What design brought Jodie Booth to mind when thinking about gifting? Glad you asked :). The Toy/Doll Baby Carrier would make a great addition to your holiday charity giving! It's adorable, gender neutral and a free pattern. If you are considering giving this toy to Operation Christmas Child you might choose a neutral color. (just a thought) However, my FAVORITE piece by Jodie Booth is the Butterfly Poncho. It is so pretty and is written for ages 1 year to adult (which takes some work given the lacey design). No it's not a free pattern but hang on, I'm coming to that... Keep reading. I also considered that this very cute Poncho Pullover might also be a perfect gender neutral item to gift. Personally I love the fact that it won't fall off a child, allows for plenty of freedom of movement and for layering. Since charities like OCC collect boxes for children as young as 2 years, the poncho would no doubt be very welcome. It too is a free pattern.
Let's look at some other clothing designs from Jodie Booth's collection that would be good for gifting to charity at the Holidays: (these are paid patterns) KEEP reading :)
Accessories and toys are also part of Jodie Booth's repertoire. Sometimes we have to think a bit smaller yet still lovely. Jodie booth manages both in her designs.
Thank you EVERYONE for willingness to share your gift of knit and crochet with others. You've no idea how you will touch the world. Just knowing that someone out there cares enough to make a personal gift fills the soul. Thank you to my friends in Zomba, Malawi for the photos. Thank you to Jodie Booth for her hard work and beautiful designs.
Bees; a vital part of nearly every ecosystem. Bees pollinate flowers, which then turn into the fruits and vegetables that we eat, and thousands of other plants that we need to survive. Not long ago, bees were under threat from colonial collapse syndrome; however, through science, colonial collapse syndrome is largely a thing of the past. In honeybees, anyway.
So, you may or may not have heard about the “murder hornets” wreaking havoc in this great nation. These hornets are Asian in origin and are the world’s largest wasp. But what’s the difference between wasps and hornets? None, really. Hornets are generally larger than wasps, and their venom contains different chemicals that make them much more painful. Hornets are really just a subset of wasps, so I generally use the umbrella term “wasp” to refer to all these insects.
While they are related to bees and have a lot of features in common, wasps and bees are not the same thing. Bees take nectar from flowers and turn it into honey, which they then eat. Wasps, however, are omnivorous. They’ll eat almost anything. They can’t make their own honey, so they frequently attack honeybee nests and steal it. Wasps, unlike bees, can sting multiple times. Bees can only sting once (bumblebees being the exception).
European hornets, like murder hornets, also pose a danger to bee colonies. However, honeybees were imported from Eurasia, where the hornets are native, and have defense strategies to deal with them. Our native bees are at greater risk from a number of environmental threats, from hornets to deforestation. These bees pollinate plants that honeybees do not, and cannot pollinate. We need them so these plants do not go extinct.
If you find a European hornet’s nest, make sure and destroy it. Call a qualified professional to determine how best to handle it. We can all do our part to save our local bees.
**Opinions expressed on blogs about which I write are the opinion of the blog authors and DO NOT necessarily reflect my own opinion.