Sep 30 2010

When I was a kid, we saved “Lady Head” Dimes.

By the time I was a kid in the 1950s, there was a mixture of “Mercury Dimes,” or lady head dimes as we called them, and Roosevelt Dimes in circulation. I had a girlfriend, a BFF or Best Friend Forever, by today’s vernacular, who belonged to a very functional family that seemed to have every based covered. They were also very frugal and spent their money wisely from everything I could see and from what I can now remember. The concept of saving lady head dimes” was not my own, therefore, but came from my girlfriend, Janet.

A Roosevelt Dime

I remember one day when I was at her home with her and her family, one of them was handling a handful of change for some reason and exclaimed, “Oh! A lady head dime!” The treasure was immediately removed from the handful of change and placed in a savings bank. It was explained to me, that lady head dimes were being saved. Saved? That was a new concept: to save regularly from pocket change. But, saving that way was a formal experience and I enjoyed the immediacy of Janet’s lady head dime method deducted from “cash on hand.”

I thought collecting lady head dimes was a great idea and started saving them on my own in a little round glass fishbowl Daddy had helped me win at a carnival by throwing a ping pong ball at a display of goldfish meekly awaiting their fates. After the fish had decided to move on to better things, the fishbowl sat on my Mother’s old vanity table in my room at home.

The bowl just sat there and the dimes within it grew and grew until one day I had the fishbowl almost full and spent it for some goody at the dime-store, which you have to admit, was appropriate. I have always remembered the thrill of the experience, for it made the idea of saving money for a rainy day into a game of treasure hunt. And the Liberty Dimes were declining in the frequency with which they were found in pocket change, so I did not generally miss the amount subtracted from my cash flow.

I still save that way today saving selected state quarters. It’s a handy way to save and it is amazing how these little subtractions from pocket change add up to provide a nest egg. Why not try selecting a coin for saving out of your pocket change? Then you’ll have a cache of coins for when you need that little extra something.

Why you could even save them in a sugar bowl in the kitchen cabinet, just like they did in all of the farmhouses on TV. If you watched those shows, you’ll remember the mother would think pensively about some otherwise denied purchase, go to the kitchen cabinet, solemnly take out the sugar-bowl and say wistfully, “Well, I guess we’ll just have to take the money out of the sugar-bowl.” Her voice then trailed off into a fear for the future.

Start your Sugar Bowl nestegg today! It’s fun and it accrues quickly.



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Sep 29 2010

Winged Liberty Head Dime
(1916-1945)

When I was a kid and called this a lady head dime, I was corrected more times than not by someone offering the admonition that this was not a lady, but was the head of Mercury, the Roman messenger to the Gods. Now, having carried this grudge for years, I would like to set the record straight. Although many people call this a Mercury Dime, this portrait is not of Mercury and actually is of a lady, Lady Liberty.

Lady Liberty wears a Phrygian Cap, a classic symbol of liberty and freedom and the wings extend outwardly from the cap to indicate Freedom of Thought, in particular. Winged Liberty Head Dimes were produced from 1916 to 1945. The Roosevelt dime, showing a portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was produced starting in 1945 and is still minted today.

Funny how things change.  You could look long and hard before you find a Mercury Dime in your change today. Better pick a favorite state and collect state quarters…



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Sep 28 2010

Have you planned your Wampanoag Garden yet?

A Wampanoag Garden is one of the clever Native American garden systems used to grow the “three sisters” of corn, squash and beans like the Native Americans have been doing for thousands of years. Each different Native American culture has their own style of doing things and two years ago, in the fall of 2008, I found a fantastic website outlining the history and methods of three sister Native American gardens from several different tribes.

Once you catch on to the beauty of these companion planting practices, you’ll want to keep this web site handy for reference. I want to share with you that the web site’s section on Squanto’s Secret Garden is my favorite pdf of all time. You will have to sign up to get the free e-book, but I did two years ago and have never regretted it.  The Squanto’s Secret Garden e-book is wonderfully informative and well worth the time investment.

Sampling of “The Wampanoag Garden” from Squanto’s Secret Garden pdf:

“This is the design that is most traditionally associated with Squanto and the Pilgrims. Many of the Native American tribes of the Northeast used this garden design. This garden is traditionally planted in a round shape, however, feel free to modify it if it does not suit your gardening area. Keep in mind that it would be possible to create a round shape within a rectangular one, and use the corner portions for gardening other plants that do not suit your companion planting.

First, you will need to form the mounds for the beans and corn. Each mound is about four inches high, with a wide base about 18 inches in diameter. Each of the mounds should be four feet away from the other mounds, measuring from the center of each mound. You can conserve moisture by forming a crater like depression on the top of each mound. Plant four corn seeds six inches apart from each other, three inches into the mound.

At the same time you plant the corn, you can also plant the sunflowers. The sunflowers should be positioned at the North end of the garden so that they do not block sunlight. The sunflower mounds should be placed about three feet apart. Three seeds in separate holes can be planted at the top of each mound. Squash should be planted in the house in pots or seed trays to allow it to develop into seedlings ready for planting.”

A Mantis Tiller makes breaking new ground easy.

In the spring of 2010, we began building up the soil our Wampanoag Garden. When you measure out the garden outlined in the Squanto’s Secret Garden pdf, the result is a round garden that’s 18 feet in diameter. But, we decided, with the space we have, 18 feet is too big, so we downsized to one that’s 12 feet in diameter. We begrudgingly sacrificed the spacing for a few plants to have ease of movement in and around the garden.

We are planning on planting our three sister garden in the spring of 2011, so this year we planted a cover crop of clover, added earthworms and nematodes and sat back and did nothing else all summer. We grew the clover crop, planning on tilling it back in to the soil to increase nitrogen in the soil as most soil needs more nitrogen to support nutrient vegetable growth. Building up nitrogen is the reason Native Americans buried a fish in with seeds and corn kernels when they planted.

Another big educational aspect of the Squanto’s Secret Garden web site is that most soils are depleted. Most everyone therefore, will need to build up their soil before having successfully nutritious foods produced from it. Providing the minerals and nutrients necessary for enhanced growth without chemical fertilizers allows dependably healthy plants that are able to fight off diseases and nasty invaders. And the produce grown from such plants has added nutritional value in every bite. Nutrient dense foods are what we all need to live.  If the soil doesn’t have what plants need to thrive, then the vegetables produced from the compromised plants will not have what people need to thrive.

Building up the soil insures your work will be rewarded.

Currently, we are getting ready to till the garden again so that the clover cover will be ground up into the soil. We will also ground the soil very fine and then let it sit over winter so it forms a healthy network of soil organisms, and with just a bit of work in the spring, the ground will be ready for planting. We are also adding Protogrow soil nutrients to the soil as we till with the Mantis to give our seedlings a head start next spring. Here is the website for Protogrow, where you can learn more about soil depletion, trace elements and how to replicate the techniques that Squanto used to enrich the soil and save the Pilgrims. There is also a Protogrow blog that’s fun and informative on this link.

Gardening vegetables with natural nutrients makes our vegetables as organic as we can get them.  We are lucky because the previous owner of this property loved birds and would not use chemical fertilizers on the lawn or gardens because he felt it harmed the birds.

If you are not convinced that organically grown vegetables are a necessity to a fully functional body, take time to read this article. It outlines a study comparing the nutritional value of organically grown foods to those produced by traditional farming. It also outlines how the nutritional content of produce has decreased over the years, so much so, that the FDA vitamin requirements most of us are using are outdated. In some cases, twice as many units of vegetables are needed to be consumed to equal the vitamin content of vegetables grown when the FDA values were calculated. And, remember, when they say “traditional farming,” they mean modern day farming familiar to most readers of the article. What they are not acknowledging is that the “old time” farming before the “traditional farming” used many of the same techniques we call organic today.  That was all people had and that was what was successfully used for thousands of years.

If you would like an introduction to Protogrow, there are many videos on YouTube that will help. Here is one by Jerry Greenfield. To watch, click play:

We will be sharing our Wampanoag Garden progress with you here at Sunbonnet Smart to share our excitement about companion planting and, especially, growing the “three sisters” of corn, beans and squash together. In the next couple of days, we will be sharing some history of the Wampanoag people and Plymouth, Massachusetts, just in time for making Thanksgiving plans.



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Sep 27 2010

When I was out of college and working and when I formally took quilting lessons, I turned an obsession with sewing and following directions to the letter into a new hobby that turned out to last a lifetime.

The determination to cut every piece out just so and sew every piece just so, allowed me to have lots of fun mastering fabric. It’s brought many hours of pleasure and I offer the story to you, because if you think you can’t sew and things turn out just a “little shabby and homemade looking,” then I bet you are a great deal like I was inside before I took formal lessons. And, like me, I bet that if you learn a few tricks and secrets of fine construction, you’ll also breeze along in the world of pleasurable sewing.

The Friendship Star, an advanced piecing block
and exercise in construction technique.

Now that my hair is going gray with streaks of white, I have been teaching quilting and sewing for thirty-four years, since 1976. And, with this brand new web site and our future ahead of us, those of you who would like to quilt and sew better are going to be pampered with all of the secrets I’ve learned. So, stay tuned! And, why not comment and let me know where you have trouble? Or, just get a sewing “horror story” off your chest!

By the way, a hearty “Hello!” to the Friendship Star Quilters Guild in Gaithersburg, Maryland!

If you don’t know about “FSQ,” the Friendship Star Quilters Guild, then go here to CHECK IT OUT!



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Sep 25 2010

John Hamilton Higgins, resident of Rockville, Maryland.

Captured by Confederate Soldiers on June 28, 1863.

One of the most peculiar experiences of my life happened in the summer of 2009 when I was keeping up with the local news. Here, in Rockville, Maryland, we have a weekly, local newspaper called the Gazette. It arrives, every Wednesday, delivered to our doorstep, or close enough, thrown onto the driveway.

One Wednesday, I was sitting on the back porch slowly turning the Gazette pages, when I realized I was eyeball to eyeball with a photograph of my great, great grandfather, John Hamilton Higgins in a display ad for a new on-line exhibit, Montgomery Connections. There he was, employed as a spokesperson from beyond the grave for the Montgomery County Historical Society located over a couple streets on West Montgomery Avenue.

Great, great grandfather Higgins was part of the Historical Society’s fantastic multilingual outreach program, Montgomery Connections. The story of his capture by Confederate soldiers when they marched through Rockville on their way to Gettysburg was being profiled by the Historical Society. What was really amusing was a phone number in the Gazette’s display ad that said I could call up the Society and listen to Sophia Barnard Higgins, who was John Higgins’ wife and my great, great grandmother. As we had never spoken, I hurried to the phone to see what she had to say. Dialing in to the Historical Society, I heard a reenactor reading a letter my great, great grandmother had written. She wrote her mother after her husband, John Higgins, was captured, then released and after she knew he had lived to tell the story.

You see, my great, great grandmother, Sophia “Dora” Barnard Higgins, wrote a letter to her mother, Sophia Cropley Barnard who lived in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., telling her about John’s capture and forced march out of Rockville to Brookeville, Maryland, twelve miles away. “Dora” didn’t know John’s fate until he came walking back through the gate at their home on Adams Street, but she had had her hands full herself, guarding their Higgins Hardware Store in town center Rockville. She stood out front and kept soldiers from raiding their store for supplies for six hours, all by herself. All of this real time action is told in Dora’s letter to her mother and you can listen to ‘Dora” read her letter by going here.

The Confederates soldiers that went through Rockville on June 28, 1863 were on their way to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in preparation for what would become the Battle of Gettysburg, fought just days later on July 1, 2 & 3, 1863. If you are interested in learning more about the Battle of Gettysburg, you can do your research by clicking here.



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Sep 24 2010

With all that Virginia has to offer, we always go to Dinosaur Land.

When you live in the suburban Washington, D.C. area, basically meaning Maryland and Virginia, and you start to look for dentists that have a mercury free practice, as you surely will someday if you have mercury fillings in your mouth, you’ll end up in Ft. Royal, Virginia at the Dental office of Dr. Craig A. Zunka, but that’s another story. At the same time, if you were driving to Front Royal in 2002 with children in the car, you’d end up at Dinosaur Land and eating ice cream at the Royal Dairy, and that’s this story.

When I go on “Back Road Auto Trips,” which are my favorite, I am always trying to subconsciously recreate the outings of my childhood in the 1950s before the Interstate highway system. I long for the trips with my grandmother and her friends who all had pocketbooks with colorful handkerchiefs and rolls of peppermint Life Savers and who doted on me as I tried not to roll around in the car’s big back seat before the days of seat belts. One way or another, no matter where we were headed, we’d be sure to stop for an ice cream cone so, every trip I go on to this day, I am always in search of old fashioned soda fountains with Formica counters and polished chrome.

The beauty of a 1950s road side restaurant menu.

Imagine my delight when a trip to the dentist, not usually something to which one looks forward, became my favorite place to go and that was the day we discovered that Front Royal, Virginia was home to the Royal Dairy. It was the kind of place you’d “just happen to stop by” when you were out for a ride with your grandparents. You know, the kind of place with the big menu encased in thick plastic with brown leather binding that had the center open inside for the changing of the “Daily Specials.” The burger and fries kind of place where the hamburgers were free formed by hand and the lettuce and tomato slice garnish sat next to a pickle spear.

Well, those of you born before McDonald’s will know what I mean and appreciate the trips to old ice cream parlors and malt shops such as the Royal Dairy.

The Royal Dairy could dish up ice cream in any flavor with any topping.

Alas! A deep sadness came over me when I looked up the Royal Dairy to get their link and encourage you to go. After sixty years in business, the Royal Dairy closed in 2006. No more malteds for the kids at Randolph Macon and no more ice cream for us when we travel to Front Royal. I suppose that’s progress and the customers of the new Korean Sushi restaurant are happy to have such an option, but somehow, it’s just not the same.  Do you have a traditional ice cream shop where you live that I could put in my sights? I’d love to know where it is! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

As you can see, I love to travel back in time and remember things as they were.  If you really want to time travel, as far back as the age of the dinosaurs, then our next stop, Dinosaur Land, is for you. What a great place for the little ones who love dinosaurs and will get excited about great, big dinosaur recreations located on a pleasant walk through a Virginia woods. Of course, you have to love tourist attractions and I do because they are another part of my longed-for past. I’m big on the culture of roadside America, that special time when cars became more dependable and families headed off to sight see in their station wagon.

Dinosaur Land is a big hit with kids discovering their “inner dino.”

If you want a pretty ride through the Virginia countryside with a great destination at the end, try Dinosaur Land out for size. Everyone is friendly and the gift shop has much of interest, including a section for Civil War buffs. If this seems like fun to you, here is a link for more information.

And here is a map of our part of the country in case you need to get your bearings:

The red star is Dinosaur Land, just outside of Front Royal, VA.

When we travel to Virginia, we use a guidebook that lists attractions that are “off the beaten path.” You’ll find Dinosaur Land on page 155, if this type of visit appeals to you. Here’s “our” book:

If this book seems like it would fit your interests, it can be previewed by hovering your mouse over this link:

Virginia Off the Beaten Path, 10th: A Guide to Unique Places (Off the Beaten Path Series)



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Sep 21 2010

Have you been frustrated while trying to sew for yourself or family? Well, I can understand. I experienced this disableing emotion quite a bit when I was learning sewing as a child. The patience it took to plod incrementally through a sewing project, “do this, then this, then this” was so didactic for someone who loved colors and wanted to combine them to see the final effect. I wanted to hurry up and get things finished!

Talk about SHABBY! Kitty says she never worries about
construction technique and gets along just fine.

But how did that finished project look? Well…a little shabby and homemade, I suppose. And so, for a while my sewing efforts abated while I finished high school, disappointed that I “couldn’t sew” no matter “how hard I tried.” Then, I was facing going to college on my own and stayed out a year, between high school and college, to make money and sew clothes. But! I had to face lots of demons to conquer my bad attitude about sewing for myself. I decided I had to change and, where before, I was sewing seams by eye that looked like 5/8.” now I was going to measure every seam line and draw it on the wrong side of the fabric with a pencil. That was what I decided to do and that is what I did.

Home sewing saves money and allows a greater selection of style.

And it worked! First I made a pair of culottes, then blouses, dresses, skirts and all sorts of things to wear. At the time, in the early 1970s, I could get on a bus, go to J.C. Penny’s and buy, on the clearance rack, a yard of fabric for 33 cents! So, needing three yards of fabric for a dress, I could make a dress for a dollar.

But, don’t fret, once you get into sewing, if you’re not already, you’ll find the savings are proportionally just as great today.

You’ll find the more you visit Sunbonnet Smart, the
more you’ll want to create things yourself. It’s fun!

Come back for lessons, patterns and a guiding hand.



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Sep 20 2010

This baby rabbit munching on a dandelion is so happy to be alive and well loved. There seems to be nothing better than a dandelion flower held by a helping hand. We have rabbits in our yard and every spring we are treated to a sweet visit from little baby rabbits who like to snack on our clovers. Do you like rabbit babies?  Then you will like this post!

This baby rabbit thinks a dandelion is YUMMY!

Lots of rabbits are born every year, and sometimes, they don’t have homes. There are organizations run by people who love rabbits and take care of them until each rabbit finds a home of its own. Rabbit lovers are very enthusiastic about rabbits!

Here is a web site, House Rabbit Network, run by rabbit lovers for rabbit lovers. They have lots of fun pages with entries of rabbit facts and photos. There is even a page of photographs of mother rabbits cuddling with their babies. Go here to the mother/baby photo page, because you can click on a mother rabbit and she will tell a story.



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Why is there never time enough to do something,
and yet always time enough to do it over?

When I was in graduate school, I worked in a lab and there was a TREMENDOUS sign on the wall with the phrase, “Why is there never enough time to do something right the first time, and yet always enough time to do it over?” Wow! That was heavy. I had to admit that someone was onto something I had never thought of before.

I couldn’t understand it, but it certainly was true. There never was enough time to do anything, and yet always time to do it over. As a science student, I wanted to think this was a revelation from somebody in a physics class about a new space-time continuum, but the more I studied the phrase the more I realized that no, this was just a common fact of life. Many times I don’t allow enough time to do and job, rush through it because of a time crunch, mess it up and then, surprise, surprise, have to spend time doing it over. And, if you have experienced this, you know there is always time to do a job over. So why not do the job deliberately, intentionally, while being totally focused on the job’s successful completion in the first place?

Not being distracted, living in the moment and living with intention are things that I have been working on for quite a while. For almost thirty years, in fact, since the middle 1980s. I first learned to verbalize the concept with gifted counselors and life coaches in the Boston, MA area. When the time comes, I’ll introduce you to them. But until then, this book will explain it all better than I can and give you some insights:

To live your life with intention, or at least preview the book about doing so, determinely hover your mouse over this link: Life Is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful, and Live Intentionally

One of the Amazon reviewers had some great thoughts I thought I would share: “In short, as I read on, I found myself getting sharper and smarter. I considered why it might be better to make a mistake — and learn from it — than strain to get everything right. And I read the obituary Patti Digh wrote recently for her father — who died in 1980, when she was in her teens — and misted over.

The stories in the news these days are so big. Tectonic plates are moving. History is being made. But then, it always is. “Life is a Verb” is a reminder that our lives are bigger than the stories in the headlines. A small thought? Not to me. Now I have to go back to the beginning and start again….”



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Louise L. Hay

One of Louise Hay’s important claimss is that many people do not love and care for themselves.  They carry the burden of self criticism around in their heads in addition to all of their other problems.  When negatively self-imaged people realize that self dissatisfaction short circuits daily progress, they can then worked through the self-imposed burden by intentionally creating a positive self image. Working on creating a positive self image can be done by saying affirmations throughout the day. Affirmations are short positive sentences that address problems head on. When we realize we have a problem and work to solve it, the battle is half won.  Saying positive affirmations creates new thoughts patterns and establishes better tomorrows.

Try saying this simple affirmation from Louise Hay: “I love and approve of myself.” The harder it is for one to say, the more one needs to say it. Try saying it throughout the day and before you go to bed at night. I did in the 1980s. From this simple beginning, I was able to change my life and face the future with a great deal of confidence.

I have introduced many friends to the book and her system of saying affirmations to program one’s brain, so to speak, into creating a positive outlook that in turn creates more positive experiences. It’s one of the most valuable concepts I can share with you today. I know it sounds too simple to work, but just try it, and try it again, and again. I bet you can feel yourself relax.

If you would like to watch the trailer from Ms. Hay’s movie, click on the play button:



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