Saturday, December 22, 2012

99 books, 99 authors, 99 cents

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dad's Old Lunch Box


This is my father's metal lunch box and collapsible tin cup that he used as a child for his mid day meal at school. He would have been of school age in about 1921. It's pretty banged up, bent and dented. I remember asking him if that had happened over the years since he used it as a child, as it had laid around the house all that time? He smirked a little and said, "Nah, it got banged up from me being a kid...getting in fights, going fishing...boy stuff. After that Ma just used it for a button box." It was indeed still full of some of grandma Hall's large button collection. I don't know if it was used before he got it or not, or if it was made as a lunch box or for some other purpose.

The cup, he had always kept in his small chest of drawers that he used as a bed side stand. One of my favorite things was going through those drawers with him, searching for some small drawing or measuring tool I wanted to borrow. He would pull all kinds of little treasures out of there and tell me about them. I never tired of hearing the stories. He had an old cigar box with a black tire inner tube rubber band around it to keep it secure and in it he stored the old drinking cup along with his old report cards, small rulers, and mathematical/drafting tools from his school days. His favorite subject was physics. And he was always very science and mechanically oriented. I think I got my interest in science and nature from him, along with my love of gadgets. He taught me a lot about wild plants and flowers and could do complicated calculations in his head at a snap of the fingers. He knew all the formulas by heart. He graduated from high school, but I think he always wished he could have gone to college. He got kind of a wistful or a sometimes obstinate attitude when he talked about his love of math and science, and especially physics. I think he felt it had never been an option for him, growing up in a coal mining family during depression times and then beginning a family of his own.

My Dad, Thomas J. Hall, was the youngest of the family
shown here with his four older siblings and an older neighbor girl.

When I asked him what was packed in their lunches for school he said usually pasties, which were like meat pies that the miners always took for lunch. I was surprised since I'd never heard him mention them before, though I knew what they were from researching his Welsh ancestry. He said Grandma Hall made them from whatever left over meat was available and whatever she had on hand, and packed them still hot from the oven in newspaper so that they might still be warm at lunch time. And for dessert there were often homemade cookies, and water to fill his cup from the well at the school. Though sometimes on bread making day, he had fresh homemade bread with butter and jelly and maybe a hunk of meat or cheese. And sometimes fresh fruit was available. On very cold days he might have a jar of hot coffee or tea tucked in with the hot pastie. I never found a recipe that was written down for pasties in any family recipes, but have included one below that was found online. There are many variations, with various meats including ground beef, potato's and other vegetables. A modern version can be made easily with prepared pie dough. They can be picked up like a sandwich and dipped in a condiment, or eaten with a fork when smothered in gravy or some other sauce. Or just eat them plain like my Dad's family took in their packed lunches or picnic baskets.

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups lard
  • 10 tablespoons ice water
  • 2 pounds top round steak, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 5 red potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 turnips, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt


  1. Place the flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, and the lard in a bowl. Quickly rub the lard into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles small peas. Pour in the ice water, and form into a ball. Add more water if it feels too dry. Divide the dough into 6 balls, and wrap in plastic. Chill one hour.
  2. In a bowl, combine the meat, turnips, potatoes, onions, remaining 1 tablespoon salt, and pepper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).
  4. Roll out one of the balls on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a cake pan, trace a 9 inch circle in the dough; cut out the circle. Place about 1 1/2 cups of the meat mixture into the middle of the circle. Fold the edges of the circle up to meet along the top of the meat filling, and crimp the dough along the top to seal. Repeat until all dough is used up. With a spatula, transfer the pasties to an ungreased sheet.
  5. Bake the pasties for 45 minutes, or until golden. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday Tray made from Mint Hard Candies

My friend Jannie tried a really cute idea that she saw on TV the other day - a tray made entirely of peppermint hard candies. She bought a bag of the hard mint candies at the dollar store, and her daughter Jayde helped by unwrapping all the candy pieces. She said it was an easy, economical, quick and fun holiday project.

I think it came out great!

Just line a baking sheet with wax paper, place the candies evenly all over the tray about 1/4" apart  and bake in a moderate oven (300 - 350) for 5 - 7 min. Trim edges as soon as you take it out of oven, if needed and remove from wax paper while still warm. It makes a great tray for Christmas goodies. You can also create small decorations using the same method, cutting the shapes before candy sheet has cooled. I think a round tray might be nice. I wonder if maybe butterscotch or other hard candies would work as well?

Go HERE for more information and to watch video.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Haiku Healing


by RLHall, ArtfulExpress

Healing thoughts and prayers

to a universe aware

soon return with care

. . .

Rain, fog, mists lie low

in the gully of my soul

light awaits at crest

. . .

A simple joy found

treasured as well as shared

lifts a soul's despair

Friday, December 14, 2012

Great, Great Grandpa Green's Poetry Book


I'm lucky enough to have possession of a book that belonged to my Grandpa Derr. It was given to him by my Great, Great Grandfather Green. I remember it being in excellent condition when I was young. It had a padded cloth cover that was was stamped with an ornate design and embossed in gold. The lighter area toward the top was once a gold colored front plate with the name Longfellow embellished across it. It also had gilded pages edged in gold. Unfortunately it was damaged by an area flood in 1972, just before it was handed down to me. Though not as beautiful and much more delicate now, it still has all it's pages and is still very readable.

James and Effie Green

James P. Green was born in 1850, and was in his forties when this book was published. His Grandson, Thomas Herald Derr was born in 1895. On the corner of the front page of the book, a price of fifty cents is marked in pencil and below that is a record of the book's passage down to me. I think the second installment in pencil must have been written by my Grandpa Derr when he was a boy. Though I never met him, I feel a connection through the few stories I've heard, a couple of photos, keepsakes... and this book that I knew he must have cherished since it was so well taken care of through his childhood and up until his untimely death at 22 years of age. I suppose that he cherished it because it was given to him by someone he cherished as well. That love, in some small way has been passed down through the generations with this book. As I read it, I know that their hands once held it, their eyes once read the words printed there and their minds contemplated the meanings of the poems. Just as I do now.

My Great, Great Grandfather obtained a common school education, and began working as a Carpenter like his father when he was sixteen. He soon began working around the machinery at the coal mines and eventually was employed as an Engineer in the mining industry where he worked for many years. He was the eldest of his siblings and married at the age of 25, raising 5 children. He and his wife were members of the Free-Will Baptist Church, and he was a member of the P.O.S. of A. and was known politically as a Republican.

When my Grandmother passed this book down to my Mother, I was in grade-school. I spent many hours reading the poems and thinking about my ancestors that we never knew. When a school assignment called for the reading of a poem soon after, I knew exactly what poem I wanted to read to the class. I was allowed to take the book to school with me, and I was so proud to tell them about the history of the book and how old it was. I also took a picture of my Grandpa Derr and told them what I knew of him. At that time, all I knew of his Grandfather was his name, and that his daughter Jennie was Grandpa's Mother. As I recall, my presentation was a great success and even as shy as I was, I enjoyed speaking out that day.

If I had only known then, that those who could answer my questions about our family history would too soon be gone, I would have asked many more questions than I did. Now my hobby of genealogy is helping me to find the facts, but as for the kind of person they were, that is in great part left to my imagination...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

New Life for Old Picture Frames

I yanked a couple more old picture frames out of the big cardboard box in the shed and had fun decorating them.
 With the small one I stripped all the old varnish away, which wasn't hard to do because it was mostly peeled off to begin with. Then I used a sponge to apply different shades of paint, being sure to leave some of the wood showing through between the blotches of color. Once that was dry I gave it two coats of polyurethane to brighten up the wood areas and give it a nice shine.

The larger frame wasn't as old or in as bad of shape...just drab. I roughed up the old finish with some sandpaper, cleaned the dust off and repainted it with enamel paint that I had left over from another project. I painted some contrasting doodles around the whole frame at intervals. Then I glued rolled paper squares, made from colorful magazine pages, side by side all along the flat area on the front of the frame. Lastly I applied two layers of polyurethane to the entire frame and then added an extra coat to the paper squares to be sure they had a nice hard finish.

Now...what to put in them...?     

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Journals from all Upcycled Materials

I decided to use an old heavy duty laminate art poster I've had laying around for years, to whip up a couple of journals yesterday. I used the laminate for the covers, along with salvaged carpet cord and discarded newspapers for the pages since I'm just going to use them for idea scrap books. Only pasting bits of paper on the pages - sketches for projects, magazine and newspaper clippings, reminders about art supplies I'd like to try or craft books I'd like to read.

The smallest has one section of twenty-four folded page units, and the other was put together with five sections of twelve folded page units. Both have simple string wrap-around closures, and an attached matching book mark.  
 I wasn't fussy about cutting the pages with these since they are for my own use, but they turned out quite well. The laminate for the covers folded nicely and are very sturdy. The folds are a little stiff, but will loosen with wear. The covers have a slight curve to them now, but I imagine they will flatten out once there are a few items glued to the pages and there is thicker support inside. They will work well for keeping all the odds and ends I have scattered here and there and will make it much easier to find an item that I want to refer to.
I've started work on a much larger one, as well, using the same materials.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hillbilly Cabin


We ran across this old dilapidated shack along side some old dirt trail a couple of summers ago. Close to a crossroads, out near the Steuben County/Schuyler County line in New York State. It was just startin' to turn to dusk but we had ta stop - wantin' to get a closer look. But somethin' held us back...


Don't know if it was the possibles of a dead body bundled up and thrown against the house or the 'danger' sign on the front door, but we had the inkling that we shouldn't be stickin' around too long. Who's ta know if there was some gun totin' redneck watchin' us from behind a crack in the door or in that dark broken out window uptop?


We stood there listenin' for noises, with all the world goin' quiet at sundown, when out of nowhere came the roar of an old pick em up truck. It sped through the four corners stirrin' up dust, full of good ole' boys hootin' and hollerin' for all their worth and as that veehicle fish tailed to a stop just out of view... we done up and hightailed it outta there!

An' ya know, we been back that way time and agin and we just can't seem to lay eyes on that same old shack...

mighty strange, I'd say...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Great App for National Park Field Guides


I was excited to find this app available, especially for free! It will be great for visits to our beautiful National Parks, and the info will be helpful in similar environments as well. Our Parks are an important resource, that we need to support, protect and enjoy!

The above photo and following quotes taken from the National Park's Traveler Website.

"The National Parks Conservation Association has come out with its own phone app for staying on told of wildlife and natural history in the parks, as well as news and park information."

"From seashores and recreational areas to scenic river ways and historic sites, the field guide mobile app features 50 national parks across the country that support critical wildlife habitats. Among the many national parks featured include: Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Cape Cod National Seashore, and Gettysburg National Military Park. To view a complete list, visit:
National Park's Traveler

Search Travel Category or go to iTunes to download.

Thoughts on Family History

Welsh Pottery Biscuit (cookie) Plate & Cover with Coffee/Tea Mug

I do not care only about placing a name, or date, in my family record in order to say that I have personally accomplished something. I want to understand what brought that entry into being and how my ancestors paved the way through their hardships and milestones - trying always to better the lives of their children, and in turn, improving conditions for the generations to come.

I want to understand beliefs and fears that were passed down, and dreams and failures through which valuable lessons were learned. I want to have a glimpse of the humor and stubbornness that got them through each day, guaranteeing their survival and therefore my eventual existence.

I want to see, in them, a part of me. I want to know their inborn talents, what brought them joy, what sparked their interest. What brought a warmth to their hearts and a smile to their face. I want to understand what angered them, what brought sadness to their lives. I want to recognize, in my heritage, that which is still evident as common family traits, whether they be good or bad.

I want to know of the culture that influenced their reactions, the songs, the poetry, the superstitions, the celebrations that brought meaning to their often destitute lives. I want to have a vision of how my life might have been different if my family had never left their homeland and struck out for distant shores.

I want to be reunited with family members left behind, not only through documents of paper, but through emotions and half-imagined memories. I want to feel as if I've gotten to know them, though I will never have met them. I want to interact with those most like them, and through joining with their present day countrymen, I may one day be reunited with my own living kinsmen.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Light Catching Bauble ~ from discarded remnants

The found glass crystals were left over from an old chandelier...
I added a top to a broken cut-glass sugar bowl
and the plastic clear dome from a fast food store drink.
I used a paper punch to make holes around the lower edge of the plastic dome
and attached the crystal lengths in a repetitive pattern around it.
Next I tied a double thickness length of fishing line around the knob on the top of sugar bowl lid and
looped it up around the sides of the knob tying it tightly at the top point.
Then made a fairly long loop above that for a hanger.
I slipped the knob and hanging string up through the small hole in the top of the plastic dome from the bottom and luckily the dome snapped tightly into place around the sugar bowl lid, allowing the weight to be suspended from the hanging cut glass lid.
It now hangs by the kitchen window where it can catch the morning light.  


Grandma Hall's Button Cans

When I was a child, I can remember my Mom as she was mending some piece of clothing or making doll clothes or stuffed toys, saying "Go get a button can." or "Can you bring Grandma Hall's buttons to me?" I was usually happy to comply, I loved it when we got all the buttons out! I think my mom taught me to handle the button cans with a certain reverence, making it a special treat for me to sort through them and match them up. After all, Grandma Hall was the one who collected them and that made them special.

Thomas Anthony Hall and Myrtle Esler Brooks Hall, my Paternal Grandparent's marriage photo.

I never had the pleasure of meeting my Grandma Hall, she passed away six years before I was born. But I soon realized that there was a fierce loyalty to her from those who did know her. I heard only kind things about her and stories of her many caring and thoughtful ways.

The many buttons she had collected and saved over the years, sparked my imagination... "What garment did this button come from and who wore it? This button looks really old, I wonder if it could have come from her grandmother's button can? This one looks like it came from a boy's jacket - maybe it was on my Dad's clothes when he was a little kid?"

Sometimes I would ask permission to look at the buttons even if we didn't need one for a project. I would spread them out on the floor and arrange them by color, or design, or size. They seemed like gems to me. I thought of all the things I could do with them. "These green ones would make good cat eyes" or "Wouldn't these be pretty on a ruffled pink blouse?" They fired my creativity.

Through the years, my Mom added buttons to the collection - I still recognize some that were taken from the house dresses she always wore when I was young. I think even some buttons came from my other Grandma and possibly my aunts or sister-in-laws contributed one or two as well. And I've added some myself and continue to do so.

I still look through them once in a while, as I did today. I actually know them well enough to often pick out which buttons I need before I even get the button cans out. But there are many special ones that are just for looking ... and remembering ... and imagining ...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Old Family Photo - Do you recognize this House?


This old photo was in a frame that was included in a box of old picture frames that my Honey got for me at an auction in Savona, N.Y. The original is very faded, and a little warped, though otherwise in pretty good shape. I just took quick snapshots and darkened them with the basic photo software when I uploaded them so they could be seen enough for someone to possibly recognise the house.

If it were found to be your family photo, you may be able to get a much better edit with clearer photos of it and more time with a better photo editing software. Original photograph was taken for the 'Northern Survey Company, Albany N.Y.' apparently by 'William? Bradley' as seen below. The number 74 is listed with the photographer's name. No dates, specific address or family name are indicated. If you know the photo to be connected to your family I would be happy to mail the original to you, so that you can try to work with it to restore it.

The photo is affixed to a decorative cardboard backing that frames it. A closeup of the writing indicating the company on this frame is shown below, and is clearly visible as the design on the frame is not as faded as the actual photograph is.

The photographers signature is handwritten on the back, in pencil and is still clearly visible.

The Northern Survey Company of Albany N.Y. was apparently known for taking photos of the surveyed properties with the family in the photograph, often out in front of their houses and was in operation from at least the 1870's through the first half of the 1900's.

I Love Quotes

"Chance favors those in motion."
~ James H. Austin

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Playing with my Camera & Aluminum Foil

I was bored. A sheet of aluminum foil left from the snack I just ate (never eat just because you're bored) was laying on the end table next to where I was sitting on the couch. My camera was sitting nearby as well - hmmm... that aluminum foil looks pretty cool with a little light reflecting off of it. I wonder what it would look like in a photo? Well, it looks kinda neat, but what if I added...
More light! I flicked the lamp on above it, ah much more vibrant!
The foil needs to be re-arranged...
Now I'll take a close-up shot.
What about adding some color? Let's see how could I manage that?
Ah! A foot away is my snake plant with a colorful glass watering bulb stuck in the edge of the pot. Since it's sitting almost directly beneath the lamp - if I lean the foil up against the plant, behind the watering bulb it might just reflect enough color off the foil...
Lovely colored highlights...
and interesting patterns.
This reminds me of an angel, or a dove.
I see faces in this one, and could that be the earth up in the corner?

Could be photo-shopped into an awesome pattern.

Or maybe a nice background...
Or be a sweet abstract on it's own.
So many ideas from five minutes of fun. I'm not bored any more :-)