Picture Perfect Laura

 

Laura Ingalls digs up her own dirt.

She  never portrayed herself as perfect, like some biographers. Those ugly moments of jealousy, hatred and anger were never glazed over, although sometimes justified.

She slapped, sulked, disobeyed and coveted her way through childhood, just like kids from all generations.

Her relationship with her Pa was interesting. She records a lot of disobedience, but not a lot of spanking, although that was the  threat she felt lurking over her head. Ma and Pa kept the kids in line and kept them alive, despite the dangers and temptations in all the various places they lived. Too bad Ma and Pa didn’t write a parenting book!

As a child I related to Laura and never considered her as a naughty child.  Reading through as a mother, I’ve marveled at Ma and Pa’s patience. I’ve wondered if they ever despaired about how she would turn out.   She was the clichéd handful!

We wanted to make Laura picture perfect for our Little House Dollhouse.

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The miniatures that are just plain, paintable metal are much cheaper. (from the Dollhouse Cottage.)

 

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Two coats of gold paint with craft paint we had on hand.

 

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A postcard of the Ingalls family I bought somewhere along the line for educational purposes. Don’t ya’ have a stash of stuff ya’ just KNOW you’ll use someday?  We’ve had this on display all year with other vintage postcards.

 

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Beka photocopied the postcard,  traced around the frame, then cut the picture to fit in the frame, making sure it didn’t go all the way to edge, just to the middle of the frame.

I wanted a pic of Pa and Ma, but Pa and Laura were closest together, so that’s what we used.  The more I thought about it, the more appropriate this was.  I think Pa had a great part in helping the rambunctious Laura grow into the woman we’ve known and loved most of our lives.  He kept her from being a monster child, but never quenched her spirit.

 

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A piece was cut to perfect fit over the picture, to make it look like it was framed in glass.  I love laminating sheets!  They can be expensive, but I used to buy them at Wal-Mart for a reasonable price.  It is clearer than clear Contact paper, but easier than running to an office supply store to have something laminated.

Another piece the size of the whole frame was cut to stick the picture to the frame on the back.  That was Beka’s clever idea!  I love giving kids the freedom to do things their own way, sometimes their way is BETTER than our way. I hadn’t even thought about how we would actually stick the picture to the frame.

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Laura Ingalls –  the Picture Perfect version.

Christmas Cookies on the Plum Creek

On the Banks of Plum Creek

Chapter 31

 

Christmas came to Walnut Grove and Laura is surprised it’s Christmas because there’s no snow. I was surprised she didn’t know because in my house the kids ALWAYS know when it’s Christmas, with or without snow.  They count down the days and drive me crazy asking “how many more sleeps until Christmas?”

 

Ma and Pa don’t tell the kids, but they know there’s something going on because they have to take a bath in the middle. of. the. week.  Back then, it was a clear signal that something was up.  Actually, in 1874, Christmas was on a Friday, but Laura didn’t have the Internet back then to verify the details, and she probably didn’t keep every calendar from the previous 50 years.  But, she knew it was NOT bath night. 

 

Laura sees her first Christmas tree in the church and gets a fur cape and muff that is BETTER than Nellie Oleson’s.  Ooh, Laura is so honest about her little mean heart,  isn’t she? I love her for this, and I think that’s why we were drawn to her books as children.  She was naughty just like us! 

 

We wanted Christmas to come to our Little House dollhouse, so we started with Christmas cookies.

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Ma Ingalls had a Norwegian neighbor over and they rolled out little snowmen cookies together over cups of hot coffee.  They talked about storms, grasshoppers, the wheat harvest and naughty children almost drowning in the Plum Creek.  Baby Carrie slept peacefully in the homemade cradle right next to the fireplace.

The white apron on the left was sewn by my mommy years and years ago.  I still love playing with it! I remembering snuggling in bed late at night, listening to the whirr of her Necchi sewing machine, knowing she was stitching together amazing gifts for Christmas.

 

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Beka and I used Sculpey clay and little cookie cutters and punches. This is the same red cutting board we used when drilling and cutting a shelf for the General Store, so it’s getting pretty beat up this year in school. We painted two little wood mugs gray to look like the tin mugs Laura and Mary got for Christmas in Kansas.  We also made them candy canes and the little heart cakes they received in their stockings.   We’re trying to replicate their Christmas celebrations, of course, with some creative embellishment.

 

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We baked our creations in the toaster oven.  We learned the hard way if you overcook them, they turn dark.  OOPS! (see finished  below)

 

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The little cookie cutters from Michaels.

 

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These little punches from the Dollhouse Cottage work great and are very inexpensive.  We discovered it works better to NOT use the plunger.  See the little circles in the middle of our stars? That’s from the plunger. Just roll out the dough, put it on the cookie sheet that is going in the oven,  use the punch to form all the shapes you want, making sure you push all the way through the clay.  You separate the cookies AFTER they’re baked.  The stars were over baked, but supposed to be white. We’re pretending they’re gingerbread.  The cookies on the right were from a tan clay with little red clay circles and cooked to perfection. You can tell I didn’t push the cutter all the way down, there’s still little ridges around my cookies.  But, we’re not perfectionists around here, we’re just happy to get stuff done.

 

After all, Christmas is around the corner and we have so much to do to get ready!

 

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Practice makes perfect.  So does a miniature class at the Dollhouse Cottage. While Beka and I pulled out the first burned batch, we remembered the dollhouse store has $10 miniature workshops the first Saturday of each month and they LOVE having children. As you can see from above, our creations got a little better after spending a few hours crafting with Sandi, the owner.

 

I was so surprised to find the little jars with corks in the jewelry-making department at JoAnn’s. They were two in a package for $1, but came with a little eye screw so you could fill the jars and wear them on a necklace.  We needed candy in our store for the little children.

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And since you might want to really make cookies this year, I will pass on the famous rolled out sugar cookie recipe from my 100% Norwegian Gramma Geneva.

One year the kids and I went over to another family’s house to make rolled out sugar cookies.  She made the dough ahead of time from her family’s recipe.  They were delicious, but there was no nutmeg. What surprised me even more, was how thick she rolled out the sugar cookies.  I was thinking to myself “She’s only going to get about two dozen cookies out of a batch of dough.”

I thought about “the waste” until I almost laughed out loud.  She grew up in a very wealthy family on the East coast,  with  European money gained during WWII.  I grew up in a middle class family, from very poor grandparents, who struggled to stay warm and full during WWII. My relatives rolled sugar cookies almost as thin as paper, trying to get as many cookies from a batch as possible.  My friend’s family grew up with plenty of money, and there was always more flour,sugar and butter in the pantry so they could roll out their cookies as thick as they wanted.

 

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Gramma never frosted her cookies, because they were for dunking in the coffee, but her cookie jar was always full when we came to visit. Her cookie jar has been sitting on my counter for about 15 years, and it’s rarely full.  Sometimes I put in store-bought treats,  but they always taste like guilt.  There’s no better feeling than to fill Gramma’s cookie jar with homemade cookies.

 

When I married in 1986, this recipe became a part of every holiday celebration.  I made hearts for Valentine’s day.  I made trees and stars for Christmas.  When I couldn’t find a football cookie cutter, I smooshed a circle one into the right shape to celebrate the Super Bowl with cookies.   I always frosted and decorated my cookies.

 

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This is what I wrote on the back of my recipe card. I’ve made them only a few times since 2005.

Again this year, I’m telling myself, “Maybe this year.”

Maybe this year, they’ll be Gramma’s sugar cookies in the house, not just in the dollhouse.

 

 

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If you still can’t get enough of Laura, here’s a wonderful blog post Christmastime When Laura was Sixteen,  from the blog All Things Laura Ingalls Wilder.

 

The blog,  Laura’s Sweet Memories, provided a recipe for Farmer Boy Carrot Cookies.  Last year, they blogged Laura’s Gingerbread recipe, saying if she hadn’t become famous for her writing, she certainly would have become famous for her gingerbread.

 

If you’re looking for a quick simple recipe, try Laura’s Saucepan Coco Brownies from The Cottonwood Tree, another blogger dedicated to Laura.

 

And if you have time to watch a video, listen to Laura tell her own Christmas stories.

A Trip to the General Store

It’s hard to fathom not shopping at Target once a week. 

OK, maybe sometimes we end up going once a day,  but only when I’m trying to plan something and am really scatterbrained. Like when I go to the grocery store to get milk,
come home with a Jeep load of groceries, but end up going BACK for milk.

It is unfathomable to think in Little House in the Big Woods Laura and Mary had never seen a town before.  In Little House on the Prairie, Pa goes into town once.

Once.

The family stays home. I can’t imagine going a whole year without going to a store. I can’t imagine not replenishing your pantry when you need to.

But, my imagination could make a store for the Ingalls family. Just in case Pa forgot something and Ma needed to go, we put it next to their house.The pretend world I’m creating for her is much easier than her real world.

We started this project last year while playing and learning through “The Olden Days”
but couldn’t finish. 
Since we’re using The Prairie Primer this year, fun projects are easier to fit into school.

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Although I didn’t have the Gramma and Grandpa growing up,  they were a fun, inexpensive find on Etsy from the Chicken Coop Stamper. I spent less money to bring age and wisdom to my pretend world  than I would to buy a new Barbie at Target.

They will have dual roles in the Ingalls lives, portraying the grandparents left behind in Wisconsin, and the store owners for whatever town the Ingalls currently live in.

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Sara Jane Benson is trading eggs for yard goods today. She is another doll from the Sunshine Family mold that actually came dressed in prairie attire. She was found in the Etsy shop Days Gone By Treasures.

 The store is actually an old wooden crate I had with a hinged lid that used to hold embalming fluid.  EW gross, I know!  Beka hasn’t noticed the lettering on the side, so I didn’t bring it to her attention.

We had a blast scouring the house for things that would work. I love miniatures, so had some from my childhood and some from a printer’s shelf display. 

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At the thrift store the other day, we found four more dolls from the Sunshine Family, so bought them for extras.  We’ll have an adult Laura and Almonzo. I have NEVER found them at the thrift store, so to finding  many in one day, was better than that dream where you’re picking up money off the street. Oh, you heard me squealing in excitement?  I’ll try to keep it down next time.

We just needed an older gentleman sitting by the fire playing checkers. The game board was copied off from Jim’s Printable Minis, Mod Podged onto cardboard and set on a baby food jar.

Jim offers vintage maps, Christmas cards, important looking documents (we printed one up for Pa for homesteading since he had trouble with the government, we needed to make his next move official), labels for canned food, Confederate and American money, newspapers, and periodicals.  I love that Jim offers a variety of sizes/scales depending on which dolls you’re playing and learning with.

My public library allows me 25 free colored copies a week, so I printed many things on my last trip to the library. It saves money and the quality is better.

We have a pile of little projects to work on now in those free moments when the rains are starting to look dreary.

The shop counter was a wooden box that candy came in years ago, of course I squirreled it away for the right day, and just added a shelf with balsa wood.

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See the little peg shelf?  Beka made it. When she  found these candles in some stash I had, she immediately knew they needed to hang up in the store.

We decided with so many projects to create, we couldn’t wait on the menfolk in the house to come home and drill and cut for us.  My Honey-Do list for the house is long enough without adding a bunch of craft work to it.  I wouldn’t want my husband to come home at the end of the day and hand me a list of things I have to do for him, so I try to keep his list as short as possible. We took out the tools and started experimenting.

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She cut a strip of balsa wood and cut four pegs from a skewer. She was NOT interested in measuring, so I let her eyeball it. I don’t have to cram a math lesson in everywhere, although my logic was saying, “This would be a perfect place to use a ruler and division!”
My heart knew too much “school” would take the fun out of it.

She found the correct size drill bit by trial and error on a scrap piece of wood. After drilling four holes, she put a dab of glue and  a peg in each hole.

At this point she was a little bored, so asked me to stain it while she went to play. We hung it up with poster putty.

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Thin strips of balsa wood were cut with an exacto knife and a metal ruler. I scratched the snot out of my cutting board. Not sure what real crafters do, but I think I need to buy a new one for the kitchen. My favorite vintage color is Minwax gunstock.
Beka cut little strips of calico to wrap around the boards.

When Beka decided we needed to tie up packages with brown paper and string, we found a cap to a hair spray bottle, added a pretty blue button with two holes for the lid, wound some fine string around a piece of dowel to completely cover it, popped in it, and we had string on the counter.

We’re working on a wooden structure to hold a roll of brown paper.

As we add to our General Store, my goal is to teach Rebekah to be creative and use what we have.  If she dreams of something she wants in the store, I want to see if we can make it first.  Some day, we’ll make a trip to Hobby Lobby, but I want to start with homemade.  I want her to have the thrill of learning to use the tools and materials on hand to create something she imagined in her mind.

Even though the world we’re making isn’t big enough to live in, someday she’ll have her own home. I want her to be like the previous generations of American women, including her own ancestors,  who had the needed skills and pioneer spirit  to make wherever she’s living a HOME.