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Adorable Crafts for Books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

This craft is sure to please your little one! Some of the steps will likely require the assistance of an adult, but your child will love crafting with you! And when it is finished, your child can use the pieces as props to retell the story.

For this craft you will need:

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  • stiffened felt in an assortment of colors (I recommend red, yellow, light and medium green, light and dark blue, pink, and light and dark brown) Note: while most craft and fabric stores carry stiffened felt, usually the colors available are limited. If you can’t find the colors you want, this pack of felt gives you a good assortment.
  • 10 (10 mm) green wooden beads ( you can use larger or smaller beads if you prefer)
  • 1 (10 mm) red wooden bead
  • about 10 inches of green string or embroidery floss – make sure it is good and strong!
  • colored permanent markers
  • a .5 inch hole punch
  • hot glue or a strong craft or fabric glue
  • patterns for the caterpillar’s food

To Make the Caterpillar Food:

  • Cut out pattern pieces for the caterpillar’s food.
  • Trace the patterns onto the appropriate colors of stiffened felt, then cut them out.
  • Glue the parts of the food together. You can use Tacky Glue or another strong craft or fabric glue for this, but hot glue will hold them together better.
  • Next, punch a hole in each of the food items for the caterpillar to “eat” though.
  • Finally, use colored permanent markers to add embellishments such as seeds on the watermelon and strawberries, a criss-cross pattern on the ice cream cone, lines on the cupcake wrapper, cherries in the pie filling, and a swirl on the lollipop. I let my kids do this part!

Now the food is done!

Now comes the part that little hands will love to do – the caterpillar!

To Make the Caterpillar:

  • Thread your green string through the needle.
  • Thread the red bead onto the string and pull it to the center of the string. This is the caterpillar’s head.
  • Now, fold the string in half with the red bead at one end. Thread both ends of the string through the needle.
  • Next, thread 9 of the green beads onto the string.
  • Now separate the two strands of the string again and remove one strand from the needle. Thread the last green bead onto the strand that is still on the needle.
  • Pull the 10th green bead tight to the other beads.
  • Now bring the two strands of string back together and tie them securely in a knot.
  • Thread both ends of the string back into the needle, and thread the tail of the string back through the 3 beads at the end of the caterpillar in order to hide the string. Cut off the end of the string.

Now your caterpillar just needs a face and he’s done! Use a permanent marker to draw a little face on the red bead. Now your caterpillar is ready to act out the story and “eat” through all the food you made!

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The Fun, Easy, and Quick Way to Teach Your Child to Read at Home: Part 1

Teaching reading is probably the most important part of a child’s early education, but for some parents, it is also the most daunting. After all, most of us were very young when we learned to read ourselves, and we may not quite remember how it was done. Today I want to offer you this reassurance: teaching reading is simple, and you can do it! The thing to remember is this: written language is simply a code. If you understand the code, you can read. I learned this principle from a book I read long ago called Why Our Children Can’t Read and What We Can Do About It by Diane Mcguinness. I have been applying this principle to teach children to read for the last 15 years with great success, and ease, and I’ll show you how you can do it too.

Here’s the catch – before you can be really effective at teaching children to read, you have to know the code really well yourself. And even if you know how to read, you might not know all the parts of the code. As a young college graduate I worked for a tutoring company. I had graduated cum laude from my university and I considered myself pretty capable. I certainly knew how to read. But when I started my tutoring company job, my employer gave me the same phonics test that I would later use to evaluate children in their reading ability. I failed it. Miserably. It was humiliating. But I learned a lesson from that experience – a person can know how to read and NOT know the code of written language. It could be that a person was taught the code as a child, but no longer remembers, or a reader may never have been taught the code well at all. My experience in evaluating children in their reading ability showed me that many, in fact most, were not being taught the code completely. Schools take all kinds of approaches to teaching reading, and there is great debate on the efficacy of different methods. Some educators don’t believe in teaching the code of reading, in other words, phonics. My experience has shown me that when children understand the code of written language, they learn to read easily and well. It takes practice, yes, but it does not have to take a lot of time every day. And it does not require tears.

Let’s get started!

The step that I recommend starting with is teaching single consonant sounds and short vowel sounds. In other words, just teach the sound that each letter in the alphabet makes, making sure when you get to the vowels you teach the short vowel sounds, and the hard sound for C and G. A pet peeve of mine is phonics books and toys that use words like owl for O, ink for I, or giraffe for G. Those are not the simple sounds for those letters and they should not be introduced first.

Most consonant sounds you will know, just be careful of C and G – teach C with the hard C sound, as in cat, not with the soft C sound, as in ice, and teach G with the hard G sound, as in good, not the soft G sound found in giraffe.

If you are unsure of the short vowel sounds, here is a guide:

A – beginning sound of apple

E – beginning sound of elephant

I – beginning sound of in

O – beginning sound of octopus

U – beginning sound of umbrella

I usually start teaching these sounds when my children are two or three years old, but if they aren’t interested at that age (or you aren’t interested!) wait until age four or five. Start with just two or three letters and work your way through the alphabet. I use fridge magnets for this ( I really like these ones from Learning Resources! They are nice and big and chunky – great for little hands!).

I put 2-3 letters on the fridge and keep them there until the child knows their sounds. We go over the sound of the letters for a minute or two at a meal time or two. I don’t ask the child to say the name of the letter, just the sound. So – I start with A, B, and C. The script goes something like this: “A says ă like apple. What does A say?” Once the child starts to become familiar with the sound, I just ask, “What does A say?” I do this with the letters B and C as well. We do this every day until the child knows the sound every time. Then we move on to a new letter or letters. Don’t overdo it – your child will likely get tired of excessive drilling. Just ask the sound of the letter once or twice a day. And that’s it! Work your way through the alphabet until your child knows all the sounds of all the letters. Make sure to review the letters you have already covered from time to time. You can also use an alphabet puzzle to reinforce or add variety to the routine.

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13 Inspiring Children’s Books About the Civil Rights Movement

This is a list of living books that tell the stories of the people and events of the Civil Rights Movement. While these are picture books, they are stories that all ages can appreciate. Some of my very favorite children’s books are on this list because they tell such inspiring stories of courage and determination. I hope you enjoy them as much as my children and I have!

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Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey

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About an African American family trying to travel to the south in the Jim Crow era. Gives insight into segregation and discrimination. Highly recommend!

A Time to Act – John F. Kennedy’s Big Speech by Shana Corey

Touches on life during the Civil Rights Movement and segregation. Tells a little about the life and legacy of JFK, and his courage in trying to lead the United States to equality.

Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport

Beautiful story about how Martin Luther King Jr. used powerful words of love and hope to fight for justice. Highly recommend! 

The United States v. Jackie Robinson by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

The inspiring story of Jackie Robinson and the role he played in the Civil Rights Movement. Highly recommend! 

Voice of Freedom, Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford

I can’t recommend this book enough! A true account of the life of Fannie Lou Hamer and her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. Heartbreaking, moving, hopeful, and inspiring, this is an emotional read. Note: there are some difficult topics mentioned in this book: forced sterilization (p. 12), and the overall injustice and violence that were realities during this time. There is also strong language (p. 21). This is a beautifully written picture book, but you might want to pre-read before sharing it with your children. Highly highly recommend! 

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton

The author tells the true story of her experience as a child observer and participant in the Civil Rights Movement. Told from a child’s perspective, so it is excellent for children. Features other prominent leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who she knew and had a relationship with, such as Martin Luther King Jr.. Highly recommend! 

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson

This story is amazing and fabulous for children! Tells the true story of a nine year-old girl who bravely went to jail to protest segregation. This book explains segregation and the Civil Rights Movement in a way that is very accessible to children. One of my favorites! 

Between the Lines by Sandra Neil Wallace

This is the true story of Ernie Barnes who was a football player and artist. It highlights some of obstacles that he faced because of the segregation and discrimination of his time.

Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter and Shane W. Evans

Told through the memories of “Lillian” and her ancestors, this story takes the reader from the time of slavery to 1965, when the right to vote was finally guaranteed for all Americans. Good read! 

We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song by Debbie Levy

Talks about the history of the Civil Rights Movement and the role of the song “We Shall Overcome” not only in the United States, but in civil rights movements throughout the world. The text is very clear and easy for children to understand.

Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson

The story of Carter G. Woodson, the son of former slaves post Civil War, who raised himself from poverty, gained an education, and became an advocate for black Americans. He formed the movement that later led to Black History Month. Great read!

If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks by Faith Ringgold

This story takes the reader on an imaginary bus ride during which the bus tells the story of Rosa Parks. The author does a good job of making the story engaging and accessible.

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford

Based on real events, but told from a fictional child’s point of view, this is a gentle but powerful window into segregation and the movement to change it. Excellent read!

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Learning About Pioneers with American Girl Kirsten, Part 4: The Dakota Native Americans

Kirsten and her family found a beautiful new home in the Minnesota territory, but the Dakota tribe of Native Americans had already called the area home for many hundreds of years. They were a hunting and gathering people, and they lived mainly on the wild deer, elk, and buffalo that roamed the area.

When pioneers began to develop the Dakota’s lands, they chased away the wild animals. This caused major problems for the Dakota people who these animals for food. The Dakota did very little farming; they only grew a small amount of corn or squash, so when the settlers chased the wild animals from their lands, the Dakota began to starve.

In 1851, the United States offered the Dakota money and food for their land in Minnesota, and the Dakota were to move to a reservation, which was a small strip of land along the Minnesota River. Because the Dakota were starving, they accepted the offer. However, the United States often did not make their payments to the Dakota on time. There were very few animals on the reservation, and although many of the Dakota began to farm to try to feed themselves, when crops were poor they were still faced with hunger. They really needed the money owed to them by the government, and when it did not come they were angry. This led to the Dakota Conflict of 1862. Some of the Dakota attacked settlements and government agencies. The settlements were vulnerable because many of the men were off fighting for the Union Army in the Civil War. Minnesota’s governor asked President Lincoln to send their troops back so they could defend their state, and after six weeks, the Dakota surrendered. Some of the Dakota fled, others were taken and put on trial. Over 300 Dakota were sentenced to death, but President Lincoln changed most of the death sentences to prison sentences. Thirty-eight Dakota were hung, and the rest were imprisoned in Fort Snelling throughout the winter, where many starved to death or dies of illness.

Despite this tragic time in their history, the Dakota have survived and preserved many of the traditions that they had at the time that Kirsten was a girl. In Kirsten’s day, Dakota women would throw blankets over porcupines and collect the quills that got stuck in the blanket. They would then flatten the quills, dye them, and sew them onto animal hides to decorate clothing, bags, moccasins, and other items. The Dakota women also wove beads together on looms to make beautiful sashes and bags. Some Dakota women still carry on this custom and teach their children how to quill and bead today!

(information from Welcome to Kirsten’s World, 1854: Growing Up in Pioneer America)

Weave a Beaded Sash!

This is a fun project that will help you remember the Dakota people.

You will need:

  • a cardboard loom
  • pony beads (you will need about 150 for each beaded sash)
  • centimeter graph paper
  • durable thread or string
  • colored pencils, crayons, or markers (in colors that match the pony beads)
  • masking tape
  • needle with a large eye

Instructions:

  • First, create your pattern on your graph paper. To do this, mark off as many rows on your graph paper as you plan to have on your beaded sash. Color in squares to represent beads on your sash.
  • Next, prepare the loom. Tape the end of your string securely to the back of your cardboard loom. Wrap your string around the loom, wrapping from back to front until you have six lengthwise strings.
  • Now, thread a needle with a long crosswise string. Tie the end to the bottom longwise string on your loom.
  • Start with your first vertical row. Thread the beads in order onto your needle. Slide the beads down onto the string, then slide the needle UNDER the lengthwise threads. Pull the string all the way up and place the beads in between the horizontal strings.
  • Put the needle back through the row of beads, making sure the cross thread goes OVER the horizontal strings this time. Pull through the beads and pull tight.
  • Cross out the row on your pattern so you know you have completed this row.
  • Now repeat the steps until you have finished your pattern.
  • Once your pattern is complete, tie the ends of your strings together to tie off the sash.

Now you are finished!

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American Girl Kaya Part 2: Nimiipuu Food

Nimiipuu Food: Fishing, Hunting, and Gathering, and Cooking and Storing Food

Kaya’s people, the Nimiipuu were a fishing, hunting, and gathering people. They did not farm. Because they lived by rivers, almost half of their diet consisted of fish – mainly salmon, but also included lamprey eel, and any other fish that could be found. They caught fish with spears, weighted nets, hooks and lines, and traps. They also hunted and ate elk, moose, deer, rabbit, squirrel, and duck. They sometimes even hunted and ate bear. They would mostly fish in the spring, especially when the salmon were swimming up river to lay eggs. Hunting was done at all times of the year. The Nimiipuu even used snowshoes to hunt in the snow! They used bows and arrows and spears to hunt the land animals. After the Nimiipuu began to keep and ride horses in the mid 1700s, they also traveled to the plains to the east of the their homeland and joined in the buffalo hunt. The men did most of the hunting.

The women gathered food such as roots, berries, and plants such as wild carrots and onions. The camas root, which was the root of a lily plant, was a staple food. The women used shaped sticks to dig up roots. There was a method to this – they had to know just where to dig in order to dig up the roots without piercing them with the stick.

Boys and girls began to help with the work of fishing/hunting or gathering food at around age 3. Usually by age 6, a boy had made his first kill, and a girl had started to dig roots and gather food. There was a special ceremony to honor a child’s first kill or root gathering where the food was served to a respected hunter or gatherer.

Dig for Food!

Because Kaya would have had the task of gathering food and digging for roots with a stick like all Nimiipuu girls and women, we used a digging activity to learn about the foods the Nimiipuu ate. I gathered pictures of the different animals, roots, and berries that the Nimiipuu ate and buried them in a box of sand. As the girls dug up each picture with a stick (just like Kaya would have dug for roots!) I talked about that food, what is was, and the way it was obtained, prepared, and eaten.

Activity: Hunting Games!

A game that young Nimiipuu played was one where one child would roll a small hoop along the ground while another tried to throw a spear or shoot an arrow through the hoop while it was in motion. This was meant to help them practice the skills needed for hunting.

To simulate this game, use a hula hoop or any kind of hoop you have on hand. Have one child roll the hoop while another throws a stick or dowel through the hoop. We happened to have rubber-tipped arrows so that is what we used. You could also try a bow and arrow if you happen to have one!

Nimiipuu Cooking

The women and girls did the cooking and food preparation. The women would skin and prepare fish and other animals for cooking. They would smoke the fish and meat, or boil it. This was done in a tightly woven basket, as the Nimiipuu did not make pottery. The basket would be filled with water, and then hot stones from the fire would be dropped in the water to quickly bring it to a boil. As the stones cooled, they would be removed and replaced with more hot stones.

Roots would often be steamed or boiled, then made into a soup or gruel, or ground and made into cakes. Any excess food, including fish and meat, would be preserved through smoking or drying and stored for the winter months.

Let’s Cook the Nimiipuu Way!

You Will Need:

  • a small amount of salmon cut into 1 inch cubes (approximately)
  • a large pot (if you have a water-tight basket that would also be really cool!)
  • lots of clean rocks
  • water

You can simulate the way the Nimiipuu cooked by heating rocks and putting them in a pot of water. The water really does boil! This is how I did it: I gathered some rocks from a nearby river. I cleaned them really well by soaking them in clean water several times and scrubbing them off.

You will want rocks that are as non-porous as possible. I put them on a baking sheet and let them heat in the oven on its highest setting, which is 525 degrees in my oven, for about one hour. You could also heat the rocks in an actual fire if you have a place to make one, which I think would be really fun! I then carefully placed the rocks one by one in a pot of water.

When the water was hot and bubbling in places, we held chunks of salmon on skewers in the water and watched them cook. It only takes about 5-6 minutes. We salted the salmon and ate it. It was tasty! NOTE: You will want quite a few rocks for this – your water should be just barely covering the rocks or the water won’t get hot enough. Also, the water won’t come to a rolling boil, it will be bubbling near the rocks, steaming, and definitely hot enough to cook the salmon, but it won’t boil all over.

Activity: Weave a Food-Gathering Pouch

The Nimiipuu used baskets as containers for many things. Kaya would have carried a basket or woven pouch with her for gathering food. You can weave your own small pouch too!

You will need:

  • About 1/4 yard of burlap cut into 1 inch strips. You will need about 14 strips to make your pouch
  • 1/4 yard of Fusible interfacing
  • thick embroidery floss
  • a tapestry needle

Cut your burlap into strips that are one inch wide and about 10 inches long. I recommend using a rotary cutter for this. Once your strips of burlap are all cut, weave them together by first laying 7 strips side by side vertically, then weaving in the horizontal strips by alternating in an over, under pattern.

Once your strips are woven together, cut a piece of fusible interfacing to fit all but the edges of your weaving. Press it on with a hot iron. I recommend using a press cloth to protect your iron while you do this.

Next, flip your weaving over and trim off the edges. Fold the weaving in half, then whip stitch the open side and bottom with your embroidery floss. Whip stitch around the top as well, to keep the edges from fraying, but be careful to leave the top of your pouch open – don’t accidentally sew it shut! Now your pouch is done! You can decorate it if you would like – the Nimiipuu put lots of beautiful designs on their woven items, so that’s what Kaya would have done!

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Learning About Colonial America with Felicity Part 2: Colonial Food, Tea, and the Boston Tea Party

The colonists in Felicity’s day were proud of their hospitality. They welcomed family and friends in for tea, and strangers as well. The “middling” class and the gentry loved to throw fancy balls and galas, and they included lots of wonderful food. A festive meal would have several courses, sometimes with over 20 dishes in a course!

The Virginia Colony, of which Williamsburg was the capitol, had a great mixture of cultural influences on its food. There was, of course, a lot of British influence on colonial food, and quite a bit of Native American influence too. The Native Americans shared many of their traditional foods with the colonists, including pumpkins, corn, and beans. So we can thank Native Americans for pumpkin pie, corn on the cob, popcorn, and baked beans! The colonists also adapted some of the cooking methods and foods from slaves that came from Africa, and from French cooks, which were considered fashionable at the time among the wealthiest colonial homes.

Colonial food was typically cooked over a fire in a huge fireplace in the kitchen, which was usually an outbuilding in order to remove the heat and smell of cooking from the main house.

This fireplace is in R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse in Williamsburg
Spider Griddle

The cooking would be done by the women of the family in a poor or lower middle class household, and by servants or slaves in an upper middle class or gentry household. They would use dutch ovens and large kettles and pots suspended from a spit over the fire, and the spit itself would be used to cook meat. Usually a small oven was built into the wall of the fireplace for baking. Cooks would test the temperature by putting their arm in the oven and counting. If they could count to a certain number (usually 20 or 30) and no more the oven was the right temperature! If they could not get to the right number without pulling out their arm, the oven was too hot. If they could count longer it was too cold. Colonists would also fry food over the fire on something called a spider. That is how Johnny Cakes were made!

Let’s sample some of the foods commonly found in Williamsburg that Felicity would have eaten!

Puddings

Puddings were often served in the colonies as a main dish, a side, or a complete meal in one! Chicken pudding most likely would have been served at dinner, which was the biggest meal of the day and served around 2 pm. The colonists would have breakfast around 8 or 9, which usually would include tea, then dinner in the early afternoon. They had tea again around 5, which included bread, and sometimes sweets such as tarts and spiced nuts. The final meal of the day was supper, which was a light meal in the late evening before bed.

Try making some colonial food to try!

Chicken Pudding (from Felicity’s Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • shortening or butter to grease casserole dish
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

Directions:

  1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat
  2. Add the chicken breasts to the skillet. Brown on both sides.
  3. Add water and 1 teaspoon of salt to the skillet. When the water boils, turn down the heat until it simmers.
  4. Cover the skillet and cook chicken 1/2 hour.
  5. Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
  6. Transfer chicken breasts to the casserole dish and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Make the batter for the chicken pudding: combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl.
  8. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter.
  9. Beat the eggs with the milk in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the melted butter.
  10. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Beat the batter until it is smooth, then our over the chicken breasts in the casserole dish.
  11. Bake the chicken pudding for about 40 minutes or until the batter puffs up and is golden brown.
  12. Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

One of Felicity’s favorite foods was pumpkin pudding. Pumpkins were a popular food in Williamsburg because they were easy to grow and they kept very well throughout the winter. You can make your own pumpkin pudding to share with your family and friends!

Pumpkin Pudding (from Felicity’s Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 pound can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 cup milk
  • butter or shortening to grease a casserole dish

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Beat them with a fork until they are light yellow, then add the pumpkin and mix well.
  3. Add spices, molasses, and milk. Mix well.
  4. Grease a 1.5 quart casserole dish. Pour the mixture into the dish.
  5. Bake the pudding for 1 hour. Serve warm.

Now it’s time for dessert!

Almond Tarts (from Felicity’s Cookbook)

Ingredients

Pastry:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • extra flour for rolling dough

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup butter (I actually found this to be too much, you might try 1/4 or 1/3 cup instead)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. To make the pastry dough, measure the flour and the butter into a medium mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter or fork to blend them until the mixture is crumbly.
  2. Crack the egg into the bowl. Add the cream and stir to form a smooth dough.
  3. Chill the pastry dough for 15 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  4. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  5. To make the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.
  6. Zest the lemon. Put 1 tablespoon of lemon zest into a large mixing bowl.
  7. Add the melted butter, ground almonds, orange juice, eggs, and sugar. Mix well. Set aside.
  8. Divide the pastry dough into 12 pieces and shape each into a ball.
  9. On a floured cutting board, roll out each ball into a circle about 1/4 inch thick.
  10. Fit each circle into the cup of a muffin pan. Pat the sides to make them fit like tiny pie crusts.
  11. Scoop filling evenly into each tart crust.
  12. Bake the tarts for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  13. Enjoy!

Yum! Tarts were a popular dessert in the colonies and for good reason!

Candied Flowers

Colonists used things like dried fruit, candied flowers, fresh herbs, spices, and other plants to decorate their food and tables. You can decorate your tarts with candied flowers.

You will need:

  • edible flowers (you can find these at a health food store)
  • 2 egg whites
  • fine white sugar
  • a new paint brush (wash it with soap and water)

Directions:

Make sure your flowers are clean and dry. Whisk the egg whites until they are foamy. Use the paint brush to brush each petal of your flowers with a thin coat of egg whites. Sprinkle your flowers lightly with sugar. Allow them to dry overnight.

Liberty Tea

Tea was an important drink in Williamsburg, and in all the other colonies too. By the time Felicity was a girl, just about everyone was drinking tea, two or more times a day! But there began to be a problem with drinking tea. England had decided to tax all the tea that the colonies imported. It also had decided to dictate who the colonists could buy tea from. And the colonists were not happy about it. England had just spent years and years fighting wars with the Spanish, the French, and the Native Americans, and its treasury was depleted. England wanted to build its treasury up once again. King George III and parliament had a simple solution to this: tax the colonies. So first they taxed sugar (the Sugar Act), and then they taxed official papers and published items (the Stamp Act). The colonists didn’t like this, and they protested it, but when England started taxing tea, that was the last straw! The colonists had no say in parliament, so they could not give any input on these taxes, and they felt that was incredibly unfair. They called it “taxation without representation” and declared that it was against their rights.

The colonists began to boycott tea. Tea was an important part of their way of life, so they replaced it with coffee, chocolate, or “Liberty Tea” which they made from whatever plants and herbs they could find. They used raspberry leaves, chamomile, and other herbs.

Drink to Freedom with Liberty Tea!

You will need:

  • an herbal tea such an chamomile or raspberry leaf (use either a loose leaf kind or cut open tea bags for a more authentic experience)
  • a tea service and tea strainer
  • hot water

Place the tea in the teapot with the hot water. Let it steep for a few minutes, then serve tea to your guests as Felicity did! (Find details below)

In Felicity’s day, tea parties were important occasions, and so were the manners that went with them! The hostess of a tea party was the one who poured the tea and she was responsible for keeping the tea cups full. The colonists used loose leaves, not tea bags, so the tea would be strained as it was poured. The hostess would refill all of her guest’s cups again and again until they signaled that they were finished by turning their tea cup upside down and and laying their spoon across the top. If a guest was unaware of this custom, they might end up drinking a lot of tea!

A colonial tea service would include a teapot, cups, saucers, a small pitcher for milk, a sugar bowl, and a dish for discarding the tea leaves. You will notice in the pictures that these tea cups had no handles. The tea cups that Felicity drank from would not have had handles because the tea pots and cups that were used at the time were imported from China and the Chinese did not put handles on their cups. Sugar was added with little tongs from a cake of sugar. In colonial times, white sugar was made through a process that used water and resulted in a hard cone or “loaf” of sugar. The sugar was hard and was broken off in “lumps,” which is where we get the phrase, “one lump, or two?”

Make a Sugar Loaf

You can easily make a sugar loaf to go with your tea party. All you need is white sugar, water, cooking spray, and a small bowl. I used a silicone muffin cup so that I could remove my sugar cone easily, but a small glass or plastic bowl would work fine, I think. Just be sure to spray it with a little cooking spray before adding the sugar. In a small mixing bowl, mix about 1/4 cup of sugar with a teaspoon of water. Add water as needed until your sugar mixture is like damp beach sand and sticks together when pressed in your hand. You do not want your sugar to be too wet. Once the sugar is moistened. press it into your greased bowl until it is packed down. Then, leave it to dry completely. It should be dry in a couple of days, and you can turn it out of your bowl to use for your tea party.

As the colonists were boycotting tea, they were also organizing more aggressive protests. Samuel Adams had formed a secret society called the Sons of Liberty. It was the Sons of Liberty that organized the famous Boston Tea Party to protest England’s tax on tea.

Make a Teacup for Felicity!

These tea cups do have handles, so they are not accurate in that way, but they are still cute and fun to make!

You Will Need:

Just use your Sharpies to draw a pattern onto your tea cups and let dry. That’s it! Now your American Girl Doll can have her own tea party!

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Learn About the Southwest Frontier with American Girl Josefina Part 4: Work, Fashion, Trade, and the Sante Fe Trail

Life on a rancho in New Mexico was full of work! Josefina would have started her chores in the early morning and continued working until the evening time, doing things like washing clothes, fetching water, cooking, weaving, gardening, and sewing.

Josefina’s family raised sheep, and she helped take care of them. She also helped in the process of turning her sheep’s wool into beautiful blankets and rugs that brightened and warmed her home. To do this, the sheep had to be shorn, then the wool had to be cleaned, carded, dyed, spun into yarn, and then woven on a loom.

Spin Some Yarn from Wool!

You might be able to find raw wool to work with at your local farmer’s market. If not, you can get some here.

Clean your wool by dipping it in hot water repeatedly, but DO NOT AGITATE! You will felt the wool if you do! Or, you can skip that step by getting wool roving to work with.

After raw wool has been cleaned, it has to be carded, or untangled, before it can be spun into yarn. Here are some good instructions on how to card wool:

How to Prepare Fiber with Hand Carders

Once the wool has been carded, you can try spinning it into yarn. You can use a spinning wheel if you have access to one, or a drop-spinner, which is inexpensive to buy and easy to use. The link below is a good tutorial on how how to use a spinning wheel for beginners.

How to Spin Yarn on a Spinning Wheel

Once you have made some yarn, try weaving it on a loom!

Try Weaving on a Loom!

This little loom is really easy to use and is very similar to the kind of loom that Josefina would have used, although her loom would have been HUGE (like the size of a wall)! Josefina would have woven blankets, rugs, and certain items of clothing such as panchos on a loom similar to this, but bigger of course. All you have to do is set up the lengthwise fibers with the yarn, then use on over-under pattern to weave in the cross-fibers. That’s it!

Try on a Rebozo!

In addition to creating woven blankets and rugs, Josefina would have also woven clothing items like a rebozo and sarape. A rebozo is a kind of shawl that Mexican women would wear around their heads, shoulders, or waists. It was a really useful item of clothing and was used for warmth, but also to carry things such as vegetables and fruit, and even babies! Mexican women would wrap the rebozo around their baby and then around their back to make a kind of sling. The rebozo is actually still used by many Mexican women today. Try one on and see what you think! You can find one here.

Trading in Santa Fe

In the last lesson, we learned about how El Camino Real gave New Mexicans access to goods and ideas from Mexico, Spain, and many other places around the world including China, Africa, England, France, and other European countries. But when the Spanish were ruling New Mexico, they did not let Americans or any other foreigners trade there. As soon as Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, however, Americans immediately began to come to Santa Fe to trade. Thus the Santa Fe Trail was blazed from far-away Missouri all the way to New Mexico, and cultures from all over the world came together and mingled in Santa Fe. Trade took place in the Santa Fe plaza. Josefina was just six years-old at that time, so she grew up seeing items from all over the world! New Mexican girls admired the pretty things that came from Mexico City on El Camino Real and from America via the Santa Fe Trail, but they were often expensive and difficult for a rancho family to attain, so resourceful New Mexicans made their own versions of things like jewelry. Josefina’s grandfather brought her glass beads from Mexico City, and she made herself a pretty necklace from them.

Make a Necklace for Josefina (and a Matching One for You!)

All you need is:

  • wooden or glass beads
  • 30″ piece of leather cord (if the holes on your beads are big enough – works best with wooden beads), or hemp cord if you have glass beads with small holes
  • seed beads for Josefina’s necklace
  • 18″ piece of stretchy cord for Josefina’s necklace
  • crimping beads
  • scissors
  • small pliers

Instructions:

For your necklace, create a pattern with your beads and string them in your leather or hemp cord. When you are finished stringing the beads, tie two knots with both ends of your cord so that your necklace will be adjustable. First take one end and use that end to tie a knot around the cord. Then take the other end and do the same. Now you can slide your knots up and down your cord to make your necklace longer or shorter and get the perfect fit!

For Josefina’s necklace, cut an 18″ piece of the stretchy cord. String the cord with the seed beads in the pattern you like, and then string both ends of the cord through a crimping bead so they are overlapping through the crimping bead. Pull the cord through until the necklace is the length that you want and then flatten the crimping bead into the cord with a pair of pliers. You might even use two crimping beads next to each other for good measure, as they can sometimes come loose or fall off. That’s it! You’ve got a necklace for Josefina!

Becoming American

Through the Santa Fe trail, more and more American influence was creeping in to New Mexico. Ultimately, the United States decided it wanted to take over New Mexico and the rest of the Mexican land in North America, so they started a war. It was called the Mexican American War and lasted from 1845 to 1848. The Mexican army was under-equipped, underpaid, and under-fed, so the United States army had the upper hand. In the end, the U.S. took half a million square miles of Mexican land, and so Josefina’s home, New Mexico, became part of the United States of America. Josefina was now an American!

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Learning About the Southwest Frontier with American Girl Josefina Part 3: Cooking and Food in New Mexico

New Mexican Food

Like most parts of her culture, Josefina’s food combined traditions from the Spanish, Mexicans, and Native Americans. Families like Josefina’s who lived on ranchos (or farms) in northern New Mexico grew most of their own food. Their staple foods were corn, beans, and squash (including pumpkins), which they learned about from the Pueblo Native Americans. They also used many kinds of chiles, eggs, and cheese made from goat’s milk. They ate meat from the goats and sheep that they raised and hunted wild animals such as deer, buffalo, and rabbits.

Grind Corn Like Josefina

New Mexicans ate corn in many different forms. They ate it fresh, dried, roasted, and treated with lime and ground up for use in making tamales and tortillas. Josefina would have used a metate and mano to grind corn. This is a fun thing to try – you really get an appreciation for how hard people in New Mexico worked in order to feed their families! A metate can be hard to find, but if you can get your hands on one, place a handful of whole corn on the metate and use the mano to scrape the corn down toward the bottom. Pull the corn back to the top, then scrape it down again. Repeat 4-5 times. Then you have cornmeal!

Tortillas made from corn or wheat were an everyday food for New Mexicans. Josefina would have eaten tortillas at breakfast every day. They would have been cooked on a hot grille on the fire in the corner oven in the kitchen or the outdoor oven in the courtyard. Try making homemade tortillas like Josefina ate – they are delicious!

Flour Tortillas (from Josefina’s Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 c. lard (you can use shortening if you can’t find lard)
  • 1/2 c. hot water
  • extra flour for handling the dough

Directions:

  1. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add lard and blend it in with a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture becomes crumbly like sand.
  3. Add the hot water and stir until you have a soft, sticky dough. Form the dough into a ball.
  4. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead the dough for about 1 minute.
  5. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
  6. Flatten the dough and cut it into 12 equal pieced. Form the pieces into balls and cover with a damp towel for 30 minutes.
  7. Flour a work surface, your hands, and a rolling pin.
  8. Flatten a dough ball with the heel of your hand, then roll it out with the rolling pin into a circle that is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.
  9. Heat a griddle for 30 seconds on medium-high heat. Place the tortilla on the griddle, then flip after about 30 seconds.
  10. The tortilla is done when it has puffed up slightly and has light brown spots on both sides.
  11. Remove from the griddle and keep tortillas warm until served by wrapping them in a dry towel.

Special Foods

There were also some special foods that New Mexicans got from Mexico City through traders that traveled a trade route called the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Some of these special foods were sugar, chocolate, and spices such as cinnamon and anise seed. It took months for traders to travel the Camino Real, and so these foods were not always readily available. It was exciting for Josefina’s family when traders arrived from Mexico City!

Map of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro

Grind Spices Like Josefina!

When Josefina’s family got spices from Mexico City they weren’t ground up like the spices we can buy in a bottle at the grocery store today. Josefina would have ground her family’s spices herself using a mortar and pestle. The mortar and pestle were made of wood or stone. The mortar was the bowl and the pestle was used to crush the spices.

You can do this just like Josefina did!

You will need:

  • a mortar and pestle
  • whole allspice berries

A mortar and pestle is easy to find if you don’t have one already. You might might even be able to find it at your local grocery store. Your local grocery store should also carry whole allspice berries. Place a few of the allspice berries in the mortar and use the pestle to smash them up. That’s all there is to it!

Josefina’s Hot Chocolate

Josefina’s family could get chocolate from Mexico City in the form of partially sweetened, hardened wafers. Chocolate in Mexico dates back to the ancient Mayas and Aztecs, who consumed it as a bitter drink. When the Spanish came to South America and were introduced to chocolate in the 1500s, they brought it back to Europe and added sugar to sweeten it, and this is how Josefina’s family used it. It came in the form of cakes of sweetened chocolate that the New Mexicans would grind up and mix with hot water or milk to make hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate was a special treat for Josefina. Here’s a simple recipe for hot chocolate like Josefina’s.

Ingredients:

  • one cake of sweetened chocolate, such as Abuelita
  • 2 cups of hot water

Instructions:

  1. Grind the cake of chocolate with a grater
  2. Beat the ground chocolate into the hot water with a whisk. Beat the chocolate quickly and for several minutes until your hot chocolate is nice and frothy. For an even more authentic experience, you can use a molinillo, which was a special wooden stirrer that New Mexicans used to make their hot chocolate frothy.
  3. That’s it! Pour your chocolate into a cup and enjoy!

Serves 4

For an extra special treat, you can serve bizcochitos with your hot chocolate!

Bizcochitos are New Mexican sugar cookies that were a treat for special occasions. They were flavored with anise seed so they have a light licorice sort of taste. Here is how to make these tasty cookies:

Bizcochitos (from Josefina’s Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup lard or shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons anise
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons cold water, or as needed

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Put the lard or shortening in a large mixing bowl. Use the wooden spoon to press the lard or shortening against the side of the bowl until it is soft and smooth.
  3. Mix 1/2 cup sugar into the lard or shortening a little bit at a time. Stir until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then crack the egg into the mixture. Add the anise seed and mix well. Set aside.
  4. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, then add to the lard and sugar mixture. Use a pastry cutter or fork to cut the flour in until the mixture is crumbly.
  5. Add the vanilla. Then add water a little at a time until a ball of dough forms as you stir. Use as little water as possible, just enough so the dough will come together. You don’t want your dough to get sticky.
  6. Divide the dough into 3 balls. Put 2 balls in the refrigerator while you roll out the other ball.
  7. Cover your table with a piece of parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Rub flour on a rolling pin and roll out one ball of dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick.
  8. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Place the cookies about 1 inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  9. Sprinkle the cookie with the cinnamon sugar mixture.
  10. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them! They burn easily!
  11. Sprinkle more cinnamon sugar on the cookies and more them to a paper towel to cool. Continue with the rest of the dough until all the cookies are made.

Other Foods

There are some other foods that Josefina would have eaten that you might be able to find at your grocery store. Goat milk and goat cheese would have been everyday foods. Tamales and empanadas, both the sweet and savory kinds, would have been foods saved for special occasions, like Christmas. See if you can find some of these foods and give them a try!

15 Fabulous Children’s Books About Slavery

This collection of stories are excellent read-alouds for young and old. Most of them are true stories and give a lot of insight into the lives of slaves in America.

Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter

I love this story! Tells the legend of Peg Leg Joe who helped lead slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Be sure to listen to the song after you read the book!

Hammering for Freedom by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

The true story of William Lewis and how he worked day and night for over 20 years to earn the money to free his family from slavery. Beautiful and inspiring. Highly recommend!!

Almost to Freedom by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

The tale of a young slave girl who escapes to freedom via the underground railroad narrated by her rag doll. Does a great job of telling the story of slavery from a child’s perspective. 

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Beautiful story about Harriet Tubman and the many heroic ways she served others throughout her life. Touches on her work as a nurse, a spy, a general, and a suffragette, which is not mentioned in many books. Highly recommend! 

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Caroline Boston Weatherford

Beautiful illustrations and rich poetic text. The author imagines what Harriet’s spiritual journey may have been like, as well as her physical journey to freedom. This story really helps you imagine what it may have been like to make the escape from slavery. Great factual information about Harriet Tubman at the end of the book. Highly recommend! 

The Bell Rang by James E. Ransome

About daily life for a slave girl and the heartache she endures when her older brother runs away.

So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt

Tells the incredible and inspiring story of Sojourner Truth, how she escaped from slavery, became an abolitionist, and later a voice for civil rights and suffrage. This book is stirring and impactful. Highly recommend! 

Beacon to Freedom: The Story of a Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Jenna Glatzer

The story of John Rankin and his work in helping nearly 2,000 people escape slavery. This story is so moving and inspiring. It really brings to life the experiences of those who were traveling and assisting on the Underground Railroad.  Highly, highly recommend! 

Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson

Inspired by the true story of Reverend John Berry Meachum and his incredible “Floating Freedom School.” The school floated on a steamboat in the Mississippi River, and was Meachum’s solution to a law passed in Missouri in 1847 banning the education of all black people, slave or free. Really inspiring story and great read!

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Kadir Nelson

This story is heart-wrenching and triumphant all at once. Tells the true story of Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who mailed himself to freedom. Highly recommend! 

Freedom River by Doreen Rapport

This is an incredible true story about John Parker, an ex-slave who risked his life many times to bring other slaves to freedom. The story is based on John Parker’s autobiography. Highly recommend! 

Frederick Douglas: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers

I love this book so much! Tells the amazing story of Frederick Douglas, how he overcame tremendous opposition to escape slavery, and became a leader in the abolitionist movement. 

Frederick Douglas for Kids: His Life and Times with 21 Activities by Nancy I. Sanders

This book is packed with great information about Frederick Douglas and slavery in general. It is very text-heavy, so more suitable for upper-elementary and middle-school students. The activity suggestions are also great.

If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

This book covers a lot of information, and gives a lot of great details on what it was like to try to escape slavery. This is more of an informational type book, not a story. While very interesting, it might be best in smaller bites for a child with a short attention span.

If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America by Anne Kamma

From the same series as the title above, which I really recommend for elementary age history study! This is a very informative and interesting read, but like all of the books in this series, children with shorter attention spans might need to read it over a few days.

Learning About Pioneer Life with American Girl Kirsten Part 2: Pioneer Food

Food was a big part of pioneer life. Kirsten’s family raised or grew almost everything they ate, so the spent a lot of time planting and harvesting crops from their fields and garden, and caring for the chickens, cows, and pigs that gave the family their eggs, milk, butter, cheese, ham, and bacon. They also spent a lot of time preserving food, and of course, cooking it! Let’s try some pioneer recipes to learn about what Kirsten and her family would have eaten in the 1850s.

*Note: Most of the information in this post comes from Kirsten’s Cookbook which is a great resource and full of tasty recipes!

Swedish Rice Porridge: A Special Breakfast Treat (from Kirsten’s Cookbook)

The Swedish name for this rice porridge is Skansk grot (pronounced skone-sk groot) and it was a dish Swedish settlers brought with them from the homeland. It was usually made for dessert, but Kirsten’s mama sometimes kept the leftovers warm overnight in the cookstove so it could be eaten for breakfast. Some other foods that were usually eaten at breakfast were eggs and pork sausage. A pioneer breakfast had to be hearty to give them fuel for a long workday ahead!

Ingredients:

  • 1 large apple
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 inch cinnamon stick
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • cream or honey (optional)

Directions:

  1. Peel and core the apple and cut into small pieces. Set aside.
  2. Grease the bottom of the saucepan with butter.
  3. Put the rice, water, and cinnamon stick into the saucepan. Place the pan on the stove on medium heat.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover the pan and simmer 10-15 minutes or until all water is absorbed.
  6. Pour the milk into the saucepan. Turn up the heat and stir until the milk begins to simmer.
  7. When the milk begins to simmer, turn the heat down to low. Add the brown sugar, chopped apple, and raisins. Stir gently.
  8. Cover the pan and simmer the porridge for about 45 minutes. Stir it once or twice as it cooks.
  9. Turn off the heat and take the pan from the stove. Remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the vanilla.
  10. Serve warm with cream or honey.

Serves 6

Something that might surprise you about a Swedish pioneer breakfast is that they sometimes finished with a cookie! Kirsten would also put one in her pocket to eat for a snack later since dinner was a long time and a lot of work away!

Ginger Cookies (from Kirsten’s Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups flour (plus more for rolling out dough)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup soft shortening
  • 1 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 2/3 cup cold water

Directions:

  1. Mix flour, baking soda, salt, allspice, ginger, cloves and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  2. In another large bowl, place the packed brown sugar.
  3. Add shortening to the brown sugar and cream together by pressing the brown sugar and shortening against the side of the bowl and then stirring quickly until the mixture is creamy.
  4. Add the molasses and water to the sugar mixture. Stir to mix well.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix until all the dry ingredients are mixed in.
  6. Cover the bowl with a large plate and chill for 1 hour.
  7. Preheat the over to 350 degrees and cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out dough to 1/2″ thick.
  9. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter and place them on the cookie sheets. Place them at least 2 inches apart as they will get bigger as they bake.
  10. Bake the cookies 12-15 minutes.
  11. Remove the cookies from the cookie sheet to cool.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

In the early afternoon, Kirsten’s family would have dinner, which was the largest meal of the day. As soon as breakfast was finished and cleaned up, Mama and Kirsten would begin to prepare dinner. Kirsten would dig up some potatoes, pull an onion, and cut a cabbage from the garden to use for the midday meal.

Make Dinner for Kirsten!

Kirsten, like most pioneer children of her day, was supposed to be seen, not heard at the dinner table. But she could help her father say grace before each meal. One prayer she might have said was “Valsigna Gud den mat vi fa (pronounced Vel-SING-nuh Goodt den maht vee foh) which means “May God bless the food we eat.”

Swedish Potatoes (from Kirsten’s Cookbook)

Potatoes were an important staple of Swedish food. Many Swedish families ate potatoes at every meal. You’ll see why when you try these Swedish potatoes! Some Swedish immigrants survived on potatoes and little else their first winter in America.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion
  • 6 medium potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream of half-and-half

Directions:

  1. Peel the onion and chop it into small pieces.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes.
  3. Melt the shortening in the large skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and onion. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir a few times.
  4. Stir while you add the cream a little at a time. When the liquid bubbles, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Test the potatoes with a fork for doneness. If the fork goes into the potatoes easily, they are done.

Cabbage and Apple Salad (from Kirsten’s Cookbook)

Kirsten’s family would have grown cabbage in their garden and had apple trees on their farm. Pioneer families in Kirsten’s time preserved apples for use in the winter by cutting apples in thin slices and spreading them on flat rocks to dry or hanging them on the side of the house so they could dry in the sun.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head cabbage
  • 2 apples
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup honey

Directions:

  1. Cut, and coarsely shred the cabbage. Put the cabbage in a large bowl.
  2. Peel the apples, remove the cores, and shred them into the large bowl.
  3. Add the raisins to the bowl.
  4. Toss the mixture to combine it well.
  5. Combine the cream and honey in a small bowl. Pour the mixture over the salad and toss it again.
  6. Cover the bowl with a plate and chill in the refrigerator before serving.

Pork Sausage Patties (from Kirsten’s Cookbook)

Most pioneer families raised at least one hog every year, which they butchered in the fall. Hogs were very easy to care for – they would eat table scraps and leftovers that couldn’t be saved, as well as grains that the family grew on their farm. Much of the meat was preserved by smoking it, and every other part of the pig was used – the skin was used to make leather, the fat was used for cooking, the bristles were used to make brushes, even the brains were eaten!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground pork
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I would actually recommend 1 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ginger

Directions:

  1. Put the pork in a mixing bowl. Add salt, pepper, and spices. Mix well with a spoon.
  2. Divide the mixture into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball, then flatten into a patty.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Arrange sausage patties in the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Turn the patties and cook for 4 minutes on the other side.
  5. Remove the patties and drain any grease.
  6. Cook each side once more for an additional 3-4 minutes. Check with a meat thermometer for doneness. Be careful no to overcook!

Time for Dessert!

The Swedish made lots of tasty treats! These Swedish pancakes are quick and easy and so delicious! You can fill them with jam, like Kirsten did. Kirsten would have helped her mother make jams from wild berries and fruits she helped to pick. It was a way to preserve the fruit for the seasons when it couldn’t be found fresh.

Swedish Pancakes (from Kirsten’s Cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon oil (I used butter for this and it worked fine)
  • Jam

Directions:

  1. Melt the 6 tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Turn off heat.
  2. Beat eggs with a wire whisk.
  3. Add 1/2 cup of milk and beat the mixture for 2 minutes with the whisk.
  4. Add the flour to the egg mixture and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  5. Beat in the remaining milk and add the butter, salt, and cinnamon.
  6. Add the oil (or butter) to the skillet. Heat until very hot.
  7. Drop about a tablespoon of the thin batter into the skillet for each pancake (I actually used about 1/4 cup of batter. 1 Tablespoon made the pancake much smaller than I wanted).
  8. After about 1 minute, the edges of the pancake will brown lightly. Turn the pancake and cook the other side for 1 minute. Remove from pan.
  9. Scoop a little jam into the center of the pancake, roll it up, and eat it right away! So tasty!

Churning Butter

Another job that Kirsten helped with was making butter. Making butter was hard work and it took some time. Many pioneers helped pass the time by singing churning songs to the rhythm of the pounding of the dasher in the churn. The following is an English churning song, so it would have been sung by pioneers from England. Kirsten probably had her own Swedish churning song!

Come, Butter, Come

Come, butter, come; 
Come, butter, come,
Peter stands at the gate
Waiting for his butter cake;
Come, butter, come.

Make Butter!

Making butter is easy and pretty fun too! I’m going to show you how to do it with a butter churn, but if you don’t have one (which I guess you probably don’t) don’t worry! I’ll show you how to do it in a mason jar.

What you need:

  • heavy cream (I used 1 quart)
  • sea salt
  • a butter churn or mason jar with lid
  • marble if churning in a jar (optional)

The first step is to pour your heavy cream into the butter churn or jar. If you are using a jar, make sure your lid fits tightly. It is helpful to also have a clean marble in the jar to help with the churning, but it is not essential. Chill the jar and marble for an hour or so to help the churning go faster.

Next, start churning! For the churn, just plunge the dasher (the wooden part that goes in the churn) up and down over and over. This is where the churning song comes in, as you are going to be doing this for a while!

Next, keep churning! You will notice after a bit that your cream is getting thicker. Keep going!

After a while you will have nice thick whipped cream. Your butter is on its way!

But keep churning! After a while longer, you will see some butter start to form, but you aren’t done yet! The fat is coming together in the butter, but you haven’t finished until you see liquid separating out from the butter. That liquid is buttermilk. Keep churning!

When you see lots of buttermilk separated from your butter, you are finally done churning! This will take about 30 minutes to an hour from the time you started churning. This is what it will look like:

Now, strain the buttermilk off the butter and save it in a jar. Use it to make some yummy biscuits or pancakes!

Now, rinse your strained butter in a bowl of ice water. Try to get all the buttermilk out of the butter by squeezing it in your hands. You can use a cheesecloth to help you with this. This sounds really messy, but the ice helps the butter get nice and solid, so its doesn’t melt all over your hands.

Once all the buttermilk is out, put your butter in a bowl and add some sea salt. 1/2 tablespoon was just about right for the butter made from 1 quart of milk, but add salt to taste. Mix the salt in with a spoon, then put your butter on a piece of parchment paper. Wrap it and store it in the fridge or freezer. You can also mold your butter by scooping it into candy molds and placing it in the freezer for 10 minutes or so.

That’s all there is to it!

Learning About Colonial America with Felicity Part 4: Clothing

Some of the early colonists were puritans and were known for their plain and somber style of dress. But not where Felicity lived! In the Virginia colony, people loved fashion! They imitated the latest styles in England and they liked to wear fancy and beautiful clothing, shoes, accessories, and wigs. The wealthier colonists imported much of their clothing from England, Holland, and other European countries. Let’s learn about the clothing that Felicity would have worn as a girl of the middling sort in colonial Williamsburg!

Undergarments: Colonial undergarments for a young lady like Felicity consisted of a minimum of a shift and stays.

Shift: The shift was the undermost undergarment. It was plain linen and sometimes trimmed in lace.

Stays: These were worn to help a girl or woman to have good posture. It might surprise you to learn that young boys wore stays too! Boys and girls began wearing stays at around 18 months or whenever they could walk well. They wore the stays over a shift or a child’s gown. Boys wore stays until somewhere between the age of 4-7 when they began dressing like men. Girls continued to wear stays into adulthood. In Felicity’s day, stays were not worn for the purpose of making the waist smaller, but for good posture and support.

Pocket: A pocket in Felicity’s time was a separate item that was actually worn under a petticoat (which is the word the colonists used to refer to a skirt). Felicity’s petticoats had slits in the sides so she could reach in and put her hand in her pocket. The pocket was tied around the waist and could come loose, so it was actually possible to loose one’s pocket! A pocket in colonial times was very large compared to pockets that are sewn into clothing today, so you can see how Felicity’s could put sugar or ginger in her pocket (mentioned in Meet Felicity)!

Pocket Hoops: Another type of pocket, pocket hoops served the dual purpose of acting as a pocket to hold things and to give shape and fullness to a petticoat.

Now for the actual clothing! The word “dress” in colonial times did not refer to a dress the way it does today. “Dress” was someone’s overall ensemble, whether male or female. Maybe that’s why we say it’s time to “get dressed” even when we aren’t wearing a dress! “Undress” was the term for everyday work clothes, “fashionable undress” referred to clothing that was less formal, but still very fashionable. “Full dress” was the term for the most fashionable formal attire.

The following ensemble would be “full dress” for Felicity.

Petticoat: In later centuries, the word petticoat referred to an undergarment, but not in colonial times. In Felicity’s day a petticoat was a skirt. Felicity’s pocket hoops help make her petticoat look full.

Felicity’s Gown and Petticoat

Gown: A “gown” in colonial times was a bodice like the one Felicity is wearing that is connected to an open skirt that shows the petticoat underneath. It was very common in styles of colonial full dress and fashionable undress to wear a gown with a petticoat. Notice how the sides have a slit that allow Felicity to reach into her pockets!

Stomacher: The stomacher was a triangular piece of clothing that attached to the front of the bodice on a gown and held it together. It could be plain or fancy, stiff or flexible, and might match the gown or be made of contrasting fabric. Stomachers could be used interchangeably to give a gown a new look. It was fastened to the gown with pins, hooks and eyes, or lacing.

Felicity’s Pinner Cap

Pinner Cap: This was a fashionable finishing touch to Felicity’s full dress. It was pinned to the hairstyle. Now Felicity is ready for a ball!

Now let’s take a look at some “undress” and “fashionable undress.”

Cap: Colonial girls and women wore caps just about all the time. A cap served the purpose of keeping the hair clean so it did not have to be washed constantly. Williamsburg was dusty because the streets were made of sand, so this was important! The cap also dressed the head without styling the hair (because who had time for that everyday?!). Caps were sometimes made of lace and could be dressed up to suit more formal dress. They were worn indoors and usually a hat was worn over the cap outdoors.

Caraco: This was a jacket that was worn with a petticoat. It was always in the category of “undress” and was worn at home or for informal activities.

Caraco

Pinner: This was an apron worn over a day gown. It was pinned at the top and used to keep the dress clean.

Cape: This was used for warmth in the winter.

Summer Gown: Williamsburg was very very hot in the summertime, so ladies wore the lightest weight clothing that they could. Often summer clothing was made of lightweight white linen.

Stockings and Garters: A lady always wore stockings underneath her gown and held them up with garters, which essentially were ribbons that were tied around the legs.

Day Gown: This gown is fairly simple in style and would have been worn for normal daily activities. An apron might have been worn over a similar gown for household work.

Nightgown and Cap: Felicity would have worn her shift to bed, or a nightgown which was very similar in style to a shift. Colonists also wore caps that covered the ears and tied under the chin for warmth at night.

Make a Cap for Felicity (and one for you too!)

Making a colonial style cap is a pretty quick and easy project if you know how to sew.

You Will Need:

  • 1/2 yard of a white cotton fabric
  • white all-purpose thread
  • 1 yard of 3/8″ wide elastic

Instructions:

For a cap for an 18″ doll, cut two 12″ circles of the white fabric. For a child-sized cap, cut two 18″ circles from the white fabric. For both caps, stitch 1/4″ seam around the outside of the cap, leaving a 1″ opening to turn the cap. Turn the cap right-side out and iron the cap, pressing out the seam.

Now stitch an inner circle on the cap by stitching 1″ from the edge on the doll cap all the way around, and 2″ inches from the edge of the child’s cap. Make sure you complete the circle. Now stitch another circle parallel to your first inner circle but 1/2″ closer to the edge of the cap. Leave a 1″ opening on this circle. Line this opening up with the opening on the outside of the cap. These inner circles form a casing for the elastic.

Now, cut 13″ of elastic for the doll cap and 19″ for the child’s cap. Feed the elastic through the opening of the casing with a safety pin or short bodkin. Overlap 1″ of the elastic and stitch the overlapped elastic together well.

Now pull the elastic into the casing and stitch up the openings on the caps. If you would like, you can add a pretty ribbon around the edge to make your cap fancy, or leave it as is.

Make a Hat for Felicity!

Colonial women used caps to keep their hair clean and covered, and when they went outdoors they wore hats over their caps to keep their complexions fashionably fair.

To make a hat for your 18″ doll, find a straw hat at your local craft store or here. You will want a hat that is about 7″ in diameter. You will also need a spool of 1/2″ ribbon, some small fake flowers, and a a hot glue gun and hot glue.

Cut a 1/2″ slit on opposite sides of the hat where the brim meets the center. Center a 24″ piece of ribbon over the top of the hat and feed the ends through the slits.

Glue the ribbon in place with small dots of glue at the base of the hat on either side. Now make a pattern of flowers on the brim of your hat however you would like and glue them in place. That’s it!

Learning About Pioneer Life with American Girl Kirsten Part 1: Immigrating to America

Kirsten Larson was a young girl who lived in Ryd, Sweden in 1854. Her family decided to come to America to make a better life for themselves. In America, there was plenty of land and the lots of possibilities. So the Larsons sold their home, their animals, and almost everything else that they owned, packed a trunk with their most important possessions, a few bundles of supplies for the journey, and boarded a ship to cross the atlantic.

Immigrate to America!

We pretended to immigrate to America with our dolls. I hung flags from the wall of the three countries that represented most European immigrants to America during Kirsten’s time: Germany, Sweden, and Ireland. I had each of the girls draw a card with two names and a country on it (one name for them and one for their doll). The names were actual German, Swedish, and Irish names from Kirsten’s time period. You can find names like this on ancestry.com or familysearch.org. I then had each girl stand by the flag of the country they were pretending to leave. We talked about why so many people were leaving these countries and immigrating to America.

Sweden

For the Swedish, it was mostly because Sweden had become very crowded and there wasn’t enough land for people to farm. The king had divided each farm in half to try to make more land available for people who had no land, but this made the problem worse because families could not grow enough food to feed themselves. One poor crop could be a disaster for a family. Many Swedish families were struggling to survive. The United States government was wanting people to settle its territories because it believed it would help the country become stronger. The government offered people land at very little cost to encourage them to settle the western parts of the country. The promise of inexpensive land to settle prompted many Swedish people to leave their home country to start a new life.

Germany

Many people were leaving Germany because of war. There had been years of political unrest and war in Germany, as well as famine and extreme poverty. Many people were leaving Germany to escape famine and war, or to escape punishment for political action.

Ireland

The Irish had been suffering from famine for many years because of a disease that killed potatoes, which was their staple food source. Many Irish were starving to death and many others fled to America.

Note: There were also many immigrants from China during this time, but they immigrated to California and had a very different story than Kirsten’s family, so I did not include them in our activities.

Cross the Atlantic

Once the girls had a country and a name, we “boarded a boat” and crossed the Atlantic. I happen to have a small kayak and so we used that as a boat, just so they could get the idea that the journey to America was crowded and uncomfortable. We pushed our boat down the hall to America!

It would have taken Kirsten’s family at least six weeks to cross the Atlantic. They and most other immigrants would have traveled in the steerage compartment which was crowded, dirty, foul-smelling, and dark. Because of the unsanitary conditions, many people became sick and even died on the journey. They also usually had to provide their own food, which sometimes ran out or spoiled before the journey was over. They drank from a shared water barrel which contributed to the spread of illness. You can imagine how happy they were to arrive in America at last!

When Kirsten’s family arrived in America, they landed in New York City, but she wouldn’t have seen the Statue of Liberty like later immigrants, and she wouldn’t have gone through an immigration station. The first immigration station in America was opened a year later. It was called Castle Garden. Decades later it was closed when Ellis Island opened. A health inspector would have boarded the boat that Kirsten had traveled on and checked the passengers for disease. If the inspector had found sick passengers the boat would have been quarantined for up to a few weeks, or even sent back to Europe. If everyone seemed healthy, the passengers would have been allowed to enter New York and proceed on their journeys.

Some of the immigrants would have stayed in New York, but others, like the Larsons would have had farther to travel. They would have arrived in New York and had to arrange travel by train or boat to their final destination. In the Larson’s case, they traveled to Chicago by train, then by steamboat on the Mississippi River, then finally they walked to their final destination in Minnesota. Other immigrants would have traveled farther west by covered wagon on the Oregon Trail. Whatever the form of transportation they used, most immigrants did not speak English, and had to arrange it while communicating in a foreign language. They also had to find work, food, and lodging without being able to speak easily with those around them. Sounds pretty challenging doesn’t it!

Immigrant Charades

To get a feel for how hard it would have been to try to navigate life in a new country where you don’t speak the language, we played immigrant charades. We had to try to get the group to guess the following phrases without using words:

I need food.

I need a job.

I need a place to sleep.

I need to buy a train ticket.

My baby is sick, I need a doctor.

I need water.

How do I get to the river?

Map it!

When the Larsons arrived in America, the American flag had 31 stars for the 31 states that were part of the United States at that time. They settled in Minnesota, which was then part of the Minnesota Territory. We put sticky notes on a United States map to get a visual on which states were not yet states.

We then mapped the Larson family’s journey by train to Chicago and their steamboat trip up the Mississippi River to Minnesota. We also drew the Oregon Trail onto the map so we could see the route that other immigrants and pioneers took west to settle the Oregon Territory.

Make an America Chest for Kirsten

Most immigrant families had to pack all the belongings that they brought with them to America in just one wooden chest, which the immigrants called their America chest. Anything that wouldn’t fit they had to carry in their arms or leave behind. What would you pack in your “America chest”? You can make an America chest for Kirsten!

You can find a little wooden chest like this at a craft store or on Amazon. Give it a coat of paint, and then you can trace a Swedish folk print on it, like this one.

Color it in with paint and then you are finished!

Now Kirsten can pack her America chest!