Four Generations of Button Savers

On the Banks of Plum Creek
Chapter 13

Our assignment in the Prairie Primer was to make a button string.

 

“That afternoon, when Carrie was asleep, Ma beckoned Mary and Laura.  Her face was shining with a secret.  They put their heads close to hers, and she told them, They could make a button-string for Carrie’s Christmas! (p.90)

 

Beka and I decided to make the button string for the Carrie doll in our Ingalls family dollhouse. We had to pick out the tiniest buttons from my collection.

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It’s way more enticing to sort my family’s buttons on a Jadeite Jane Ray desert plate. I have some from my Grandma Geneva, from my Mom and I’ve been adding to the collection for years. Rebekah has started collecting buttons, so we have four generations of button saving in our sewing cabinet. Like the women before me, I never cut a shirt into rags before cutting off all the buttons. I used to shove shirts in the “All You Can Fit in a Bag for $1 Sale” at the thrift store just for the buttons. 

Beka and I love fingering through the buttons, sorting and imagining. We can feel the history and the thrill of creation that has passed through the generations.

 

Ma had saved buttons since she was smaller than Laura, and she had buttons her mother had saved when her mother was a little girl. (p. 90)

Mary had one end of the string and Laura had the other.  They picked out the buttons they wanted and strung them on the string.  They held the string out and looked at it, and took off some buttons and put on others.

One day Ma told them that this was the day before Christmas.  They must finish the button-string that day.” (p.91)

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Then quickly, quickly, Laura and Mary finished the button-string. Ma tied the ends together for them. It was a beautiful button-string. (p. 92)

 

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Carrie’s eyes and her mouth were perfectly round when she saw it.  Then she squealed, and grabbed it and squealed again.  She sat on Pa’s knee, looking at her candy and her button-string and wriggling and laughing with joy. (p. 94)

 

For the fire in our fireplace we use a battery operated tea light.  We cut all the extra plastic off and stacked pieces of wood around it.  It keeps the dolls warm on a winter day.  Even though the Ingalls family didn’t have one, we added a small Nativity scene to the mantle to celebrate Christmas.

We love reliving the stories of Laura Ingalls through our dolls. It’s been an amazing way to add the thrill of discovery and creation to our homeschool life. When Beka has a hard time knowing what’s school and what’s play, I know something is going right in our home…..or would that be school?

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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.