Mr. Porcupine

Meet Mr. Porcupine.  Isn't he adorable?  We think so!  This time of year, we get nearly daily visits from him.  He comes to feast on the newly green grass for a while.  Usually, he waits until cover of darkness for his foraging forays, but now he's getting quite bold.  Today, he was ravenously devouring grass at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, in broad daylight.  He's hoping I plant some cucumber seedlings soon, because he recalls those were most tasty a couple of years ago.  I'm hoping to keep my cucumber seedlings this year, as evidenced by the chicken wire waiting in the basement for planting time.  And we're definitely hoping to keep our sweet golden retriever far away from our visitor.

Preparing for a Baby Shower

We are having a baby shower for Felicity here tomorrow night!  It's an evening dessert tea, with just a few special ladies invited.  I'm hoping to make them all feel loved and pampered with pretty teacups, soft lighting, and lovely music softly playing in the background.  I bought some flowers for the centerpiece.  But then, I couldn't resist buying some more to set here and there...especially when the local store is having a bargain of a deal with two dozen small roses for $4.00!

I plan on us spending the whole party gathered round the dining room table.  The sideboard should be a good place to pile presents, and a little silver bucket full of roses seemed just the thing to add a touch of freshness.

Of Ancestors, and Picnics, and Graves

Last Saturday, Colette and I had a little excursion down into Massachusetts to do some ancestry searches.  We had a list of properties, houses, and graves to find, and only managed to accomplish some of our list, but we had a fabulous time!  

The most exciting find of the day was our visit to Cogswell's Grant.  John Cogswell was my 10th great-grandfather, and he was given a grant by the King of England to 300 acres of land in, what is now, Essex, Massachusetts.

He built a home on the property.  Over the years, it was added on to, until the original house was torn down. What remains now is the house built by his grandson (not in my blood line).  But the land, though diminished in size and no longer in the family, is still a working farm.

The older barn on the property, which I believe dates to 1728.

The house, c. 1732, is open for tours during the warmer months of the year.  But being quiet and having the place to ourselves, it provided a lovely spot for our picnic!

Springtime arrives, and each year I am just so eager to go on a picnic!  This year, I could hardly wait to get outside for one.  I've spent some time researching the history of picnics, and hope to share that with you someday soon.

- Menu -

Crackers and Quark
Sliced Strawberries & Tangerines
Croissant Sandwiches with Black Forest Ham, Lettuce, Sliced Brie,
and Sliced Strawberries (super yummy!)
Sparkling Cider

The front yard of the property is terraced into three levels, with the house and a large maple tree sitting at the top.  The yard, a little wider than the house is encompassed by an old, stone wall.  And at the bottom of the yard was a simply gorgeous patch of blue springtime flowers.  Ahhh...we felt positively transported to England!

It was all so pretty, it was difficult to leave.  But we had more exploring to do, so off we went to nearby Ipswich.  Here we studied hundreds of gravestones in one of their old graveyards, in an attempt to find the graves of about six different relations.

All of our searching resulted in just one find, but we were thrilled to find that!  John Tuttle was my 8th great-grandfather.  We laid flowers on his grave and left, determined to return another day and renew our search at another graveyard.

Costuming Tour - Old Sturbridge Village

Last Saturday, I was part of a small group (nine people) who had the privilege of touring the costuming department at Old Sturbridge Village.  The village is a living history museum that recreates a New England town of the 1830's.  It has an extensive staff of interpreters, all of whom are costumed by a small staff working out of this tiny, densely-packed house on a corner of the property.

On display in the first room, an office, was this gorgeous, gold silk reproduction gown.  If my memory serves me correctly, it was done by an intern and is an exact replica of a gown in their collection.

"Exact" truly means "exact" in this case.  It is exact in the 1/32" error in matching down the center front seam of the bodice, and in the number of handstitches per inch.  Simply an amazing piece of workmanship by a very talented, hardworking woman.  It took 2-3 months to complete.

Then it was on to explore the work rooms and closet rooms throughout the building.  Thread upon thread in gorgeous colors!

There was a bonnet storage room.  All the straw bonnets on the floor were divided by age, from age 14 to 18, as with increasing age, a girl could wear an "older looking" bonnet.

This beautiful bonnet, carefully protected by a plastic bag, caught my eye.  Such pretty ribbon!

My favorite room was the ladies' accessories room, filled with intriguingly labeled boxes containing all manner of necessities for the lady of the 1830's.

The ladies' closet room was filled with period dresses.  A newly-hired interpreter would be taken here to see if anything in the room might fit her, and if not, a new gown would be made.  I tried to imagine how fun it would be to get to choose from among these gowns, and so headed over to my size to see which one I would pick from among the selection.

This one!  Definitely this one!  Loved it's smocked sleeves!  Although the tartan dresses were catching my eye too.

And what a pretty print this is!  All the cotton prints are period reproduction fabrics.

I thought it was interesting that the men's shirts didn't seem too different, in terms of prints, than modern day shirts.  This could almost been any man's closet.

The entire basement is devoted to menswear.  Hats upon hats!  All the straw hats in the village are made by a group of Pennsylvania farmers' wives, who make hats for the village in the wintertime, when their own farms demand less of their time.

Next up is a pictorial view of some of my favorite scenes in Old Sturbridge Village.

The Complete Guide to Spring Cleaning

Although there are many guides to spring cleaning, this is the guide for people who want a really clean house!  It's quite exhaustive.  And, yes, it will leave you exhausted.  Fair warning given.  However, the sense of satisfaction in knowing your house has been thoroughly and completely deep-cleaned is worth it.

Before You Begin:

Assemble a good cleaning caddy full of all the necessary supplies. Someday, I'll get around to making my own cleaning products, but for now I use commercial products.

Here's a reasonable list of what to include in your cleaning caddy:
- general, all-surface cleaner
- grease-fighting cleaner (like 409)
- window cleaner
- furniture polish
- granite/marble cleaner
- silver polish
- brass polish
- Comet or Bar Keeper's Friend
- Softscrub
- lint roller
- sponges
- rubber gloves
- toothbrushes
- toothpicks
- cotton or linen rags
- rolls of paper towels

- a feather duster (preferably ostrich)
- a broom and dustpan
- vacuum cleaner
- buckets
- step stool

I recommend choosing a room and cleaning it all until it's done, then moving on to the next.  Some years, I've powered through cleaning our home in a week's worth of serious work.  Other springs, I've done a room a week and completed it all between April and the first day of summer in June.

The Basic Idea
As you come, armed with your cleaning caddy into a room, your plan of attack is top to bottom and from one corner all the way around the room to your starting place.  Dust falls down.  Hence, you will start with the ceiling.

The Ceiling
Use your feather duster and dust your ceiling, particularly the corners, lighting, ceiling fans, heat/air vents, etc.  If it's on the ceiling, clean it.  If your ceilings are very high, a telescoping ostrich feather duster is most useful.

Everything Else
Now, pick  a corner of the room to start.  Basically, you're going to think of all the rest of the cleaning as "encounters".  Every time you encounter something, whatever it is, you're going to clean it.  How to react to all these encounters will depend on the material of the item to be cleaned.  Here's my exhaustive guide to what you may encounter:

If you Encounter...
- mouldings, picture and mirror frames...dust them, including the tops of them...use all-purpose cleaner to remove scuffs, smudges, and fingerprints.

- glass...ALL glass gets cleaned with window cleaner.  This would include: windows, TV screens, light bulbs (yes, they get dusty, and cleaning them will actually brighten the room), gas fireplace fronts, picture frame glass, glass shades on bathroom fixtures, crystal chandeliers, mirrors, glass and crystal pieces, etc.  On windows, I will spray directly onto the window (cleaning inside and out and the tracks), but for most other items, I spray the cloth and then wipe the object. 

- lamp can vacuum, but I find a lint roller works best.

- fireplace bricks...dust with feather duster or vacuum.

- lightswitches and outlets...wipe clean with cloth sprayed with all-purpose spray.

- wood furniture...polish with furniture polish.

- upholstered furniture...vacuum, including removing cushions and vacuuming under them.  Move furniture away from wall and vacuum the backs of them too.  

- baskets...vacuuming will work okay, but the best way is to give them a thoroughly blasting with an air compressor, if you have one.

- books and bookshelves...remove books from shelf, dust the book (especially the top edges of the pages), dust the shelf, and return book to shelf.

- silver and brass...polish with cleaners.

- other metals...wipe down with cloth sprayed with all-purpose cleaner.

- cupboards, drawers, and closets...remove all items (some, like seldom-used glasses in a kitchen cupboard, may need to be wiped to remove dust), clean the shelf or drawer itself.  Then sort items into one of the following four categories: 1.) throw away, 2.) donate to charity, 3.) give to someone else, 4.) sell or consign.  Return everything you're keeping to its place.

- curtains, mini-blinds, or pleated shades...vacuum, or have professionally cleaned.

- tile and the kitchen, wipe down with grease-cutting cleaner.  In the bathroom, scrub with Softscrub.

- granite and marble...polish with granite cleaner.

- beds...remove all linens and wash, dry, iron, and return.  (The bed frame, being wood, will be cleaned with furniture polish.)  Now is a great time to flip your mattress.  Remove all items from under the bed and vacuum under bed.

Now you will have worked your way all around the room, from one corner back to your starting place, cleaning everything as you went.  What remains is the floor.  Move everything sitting on the floor to another place (either in that room, or out of the room, whichever is easiest).  Rugs will be vacuumed, including using your crevice attachment for the groove where the baseboard meets the carpet.  Vacuum the baseboard.  Rugs can be spot-cleaned or professionally cleaned.  Bathroom rugs should be washed in the washing machine.  With wood floors, first sweep. Then wipe wood floors down, on hands and knees, with a damp cloth and dry quickly with a dry towel.  (I work in areas about 4'x4' at a time, so the water doesn't sit on the wood for more than a couple of minutes.)  Tile floors can be damp mopped.  With wood and tile, pay particular attention to the corners and edges, where crumbs and dust like to collect.

I hope you've found this guide useful!  It's a lot of work, but I enjoy knowing my house is really clean and I've provided my family with a healthier home.

Easter at our Home

I hope all of you had a wonderful Easter celebration!  Ours started with breakfast and Easter baskets for Colette and Max, then off to church for worship!  I always love the joyfulness of Easter morning at church...the praises sung for salvation!

Then everyone came to our house for the rest of the day.  Colette arranged the flowers for the table (Trader Joe's comes through every time with a great selection), and I did the place settings.  Easter's a great time to bring out my odds-and-ends pieces of Beatrix Potter pieces too.

Our Easter egg hunt was indoors this year, as it was a chilly day, and the outdoors is still a mixture of snow and spongy-wet earth.  Theo got the idea of egg hunting right away.  The littlest one, Nora, was content to hold one or two and shake them to hear the fishie crackers inside.  And Melissa was positively enchanting as she tiptoed about looking in vain, then spotting one, she would pitter-patter, pitter-patter to it in triumph, proclaiming, "I found one!"

Posing for a picture...three children ages four and under...always a fun adventure!

- MENU -

Brown Sugar Glazed Spiral-Sliced Ham
Scalloped Potatoes
Fruit Salad
Roasted Asparagus
Hard-Boiled Eggs
Potato Rolls

Chocolate-Raspberry Cake
Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

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