Know Your Roots Merit Badge, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 5,892 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—8,416 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Each Other/Know Your Roots Intermediate Level Merit Badge, I combed the National Archives, Ancestry.com, my local library, and the depths of my Grandma Barbie’s brain for some interesting and little-known facts/anecdotes/stories about me and mine. It turns out (as projects like this tend to do, my chickadees) that what I didn’t know about me could fill a book.

Strange, no? You’d think I’d be an expert on my family’s history, but it seems I paid about as much attention during holiday dinners reminiscing as I did in Mr. Potter’s fifth-grade history class. So basically, I know my own birthday and the year the Civil War started. I think. (Don’t quiz me. I get all twitchy and clammy when there’s a test coming.)

Finding your roots these days isn’t as difficult as it used to be. Thanks to the ol’ worldwide web thingamabobby, you can get started with something as simple as your mother’s maiden name and birth date, and lo and behold, all sorts of data will practically fall into your lap(top). And once you start? Well, it’s like homemade, organic, sea-salted kettle chips, ladies. It’s hard to stop at just one.

First of all, I opened up my grandma’s box of scrapbooks. Grandma Barbie is a hoarder collector of the finest degree. She saves everything from carefully folded tissue paper to twist ties to greeting cards to wedding invites to baby announcements to high-school-graduation programs to … well, you name it, she has it pasted into a scrapbook somewhere. And then she puts that scrapbook into a box. And then she mails me that box.

Thanks, Grandma.

*sigh*

Anyway, I figured there was more info there I could possibly need for one little ol’ merit badge, and I was correct. I decided to get her on the phone and see if she could possibly whittle down some of our basic family history into something more condensed.

Say, like Tolstoy lengths.

What follows is a transcription of our conversation. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Me: “Grammy! It’s me, your favorite granddaughter in all the land!”

G.B.: “Stacie?”

Me: “Haha, Grandma.”

G.B.: “Tutti?”

Me: “Very funny. It’s me, Jane.”

G.B.: “Oh, I know, honey, I just like pulling your leg. You’ve always been so flexible and bendy.”

Me: “Yes, well, I get it from you. Now, I was going through some old eh, priceless family heirlooms, and had some questions about my family tree. Are you ready?”

G.B.: “Shoot.”

Me: silence. “Pardon me?”

G.B.: “Shoot! Fire away! Proceed!”

Me, thinking the old-time expressions to be very odd indeed, hurried forward (Isn’t there a badge for learning another language? Does grandparent-speak count as an ancient language?): “Well, I was wondering about this Blaine fellow, first off.”

I hear Grandma coughing suddenly on the other end. “What’s that? I can’t hear you, sweetie! I think we have a bad connection!”

Me, suspiciously: “The connection is fine, Grammy. Now, as I was saying. I found these very interesting love letters to you, postmarked from Australia …”

Garbled, incoherent noises fill my ear, and also what sounds like a really bad imitation of static sounds. Then … click!

What in the name of torrid Australian love affairs have I stumbled upon?

photo-of-the-day

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continued from yesterday: Music Merit Badge, Interm. Level

Interesting facts about George are as follows, in no particular order other than their fascinating-ness:

  • Born in 1898 in Brooklyn, New York to Russian immigrant parents, Morris and Rosa
  • Real name? Jakob Gershowitz
  • You may have heard of his famous brother, Ira (Morris and Rosa must have been proud!)
  • George quit school at age 15 and took a job as a pianist for a publisher on Tin Pan Alley
  • His first hit was “Swanee” (1918)
  • In 1936 George was commissioned by RKO Pictures to write the score for the movie, Shall We Dance? with Fred Astaire (ahhh, even swoony-er) and Ginger Rogers
  • George died at the young age of 38, following a brain operation
  • Some of George (and Ira’s) most loved hits, songs, and musicals are Porgy and Bess, Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, Funny Face, Someone to Watch Over Me, Our Love is Here to Stay, Lady Be Good, and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

And you are welcome for getting some fabulous melodies stuck in your noggin!

My musician?

Steve Martin

  • Steve was born in 1945 in Waco, TX
  • As a teenager he performed magic tricks and sold guide books at Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm (I bet he was one entertaining adolescent, don’t you?)
  • He was a writer for the Sonny and Cher Show (’72-’73) but found instant stardom when he guest hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live in ’77.
  • Steve became a famous actor, writer, and comedian, but how many know of his musical talents? (Other than playing the demented dentist in Little Shop of Horrors, I mean).
  • Steve first picked up the banjo when he was around 17 years of age. He has claimed in several interviews and in his autobiography, “Born Standing Up”, that he used to take 33rpm bluegrass records and slow them down to 16 rpm, all while tuning his banjo down, so the notes would sound the same. Steve was able to pick out each note, and perfect his playing.
  • The banjo was a staple in Steve’s stand-up shows and even on his comedy albums. In fact, turn over his last comedy album, The Steve Martin Brothers, (1981) and you’ll hear Steve playing banjo with a bluegrass band.
  • In 2001, he really got groovin’, and won Best Country Instrumental Performance at the Grammy Awards in 2002.
  • He then won another Grammy in 2010 for Best Bluegrass Album.
  • Steve has performed with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Steep Canyon Rangers, Edie Brickell, and Dolly Parton, and has been on the Grand Ol’ Opry and A Prairie Home Companion, not to mention on lots of television appearances and on tour.
  • In 2010, Steve created the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, an award established to reward artistry and bring greater visibility to bluegrass performers. The prize includes a $50,000 cash award, a bronze sculpture, and a chance to perform with Martin on the Late Show With David Letterman.

What a couple of amazing guys, huh? Makes me want to brush off the ol’ musical instrument and get to making some sweeeeet music … or is that the Expert Level Badge? I hear it calling me: it sounds like a banjo playing Lady Be Good.

I’ve always wanted a theme song.

 

Music Merit Badge, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 5,843 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—8,286 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life

For this week’s Make it Easy/Music Intermediate Level Merit Badge, I had the nifty task of researching one composer and one musician from the last one hundred years. I’ve always liked research (at least when the subject matter is interesting and exciting) and it makes me feel like a scholarly detective.

Gumshoe.

An intrepid investigator of the studious type.

That’s me!

Call me old-fashioned, but I still like cracking open the ol’ books to do my detective-ing. I know, I know: Jane, you say, the whole world is at your fingertips and your laptop! Google knows everything about everyone and you never have to leave your house or change out of your pajamas.

Normally the thought of staying in my PJs most of the day is intriguing, but with Spring upon us, I love myself a good walk to the library. So off I went, spy glass and Deerstalker hat in hand (I mean, head). No, not for stalking deer, sillies – it’s what Sherlock Holmes wears, don’tcha know?

I already had my musician in mind, but narrowing down my composers was like picking my favorite child (or my favorite ice cream). Nearly impossible and dependent upon on my mood at the moment. But detectives are nothing if not ruthless and able to keep their emotions in check, so I straightened my hat and chose … drum roll, puhleeze …

George Gershwin

Want to learn what I found out about this amazing composer? Wondering who I chose to be my musician? Read on, little chickadees, read on … tomorrow.

 

Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Starletta Schipp!!!

Starletta Schipp (star-schipp, #1927) has received a certificate of achievement in Cleaning Up for earning a Beginner Level Green Energy Merit Badge!

“I did a lot of research for this badge and shared my findings in the chatroom on the Farmgirl Connection.

It is so much information to take in and I was quite disappointed to learn that the electricity I use is coal-sourced. However, I did find that my electric co-op has a program to get up to 30% of my energy from renewable resources.

It is obvious to me that wind and solar are the most reasonable sources these days but their output can be inconsistent. Therefore, it is really lifestyle changes that need to occur. The days of not thinking about my power usage are over. I truly love this about the Farmgirl lifestyle that helps me to reach out to learn things I didn’t even know I needed to know … and once I know it, I can’t un-know it so it spurs me to make lasting and sweeping changes. Thank you for that!”

photo-of-the-day

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Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … April Whitehair!!!

April Whitehair (#5806) has received a certificate of achievement in Stitching & Crafting for earning a Beginner Level Buttoned Up Merit Badge!

“I received many buttons from my mother who had been collecting them for years. I also added several of my own to the collection. The ones I collected were all free, off of old clothing and from torn or stained clothing that we couldn’t sell at the church rummage sale.

With my own buttons and the ones I got from my mother, I now have many, many buttons.”

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Shopping Green Merit Badge, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 5,843 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—8,286 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Cleaning Up/Shopping Green Intermediate Level Merit Badge, I threw out the last of my toxic, scary, chemical laden (but “naturally fresh,” of course … pshaw!) cleaners out of the bottom of my cupboard.

It felt good.

Really good.

A couple of the spray bottles weren’t too bad, in terms of shape and size, so I rinsed them out thoroughly and decided to keep and reuse them.

Next: I filled a couple of too-cute baskets (one for the kitchen and one for the bathroom) with a few Mason jars, a squirt bottle or two, and those recycled spray bottles. And after that, I filled those bad boys with the following:

Homemade Soft Scrub (great for countertops and sinks and tubs)

  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 Castile soap
  • 2 T water

Mix together and store in lidded container of your choice. 

DIY Dishwasher Detergent

  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1/4 Epsom salt
  • lemon juice

Mix the powders, then drizzle in lemon juice until soft and sticky. Spoon into ice-cube trays and sit on your windowsill to harden. Use 1 cube per load. 

Homemade Dryer Sachets

  • small muslin bag (think large tea-bag size)
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/8 cup arrowroot powder
  • handful of lavender and rosemary from the garden
  • a few drops of essential oil (lavender and/or rosemary if you like themes)

Mix the powders and herbs; drop in the oil(s). Tie up your sachet and toss in the dryer. (Or in your hubby’s stinky sock drawer. Or in your teen’s smelly closet. Or toss them at your doggy when he’s feeling particularly odiferous.)  

DIY Countertop Wipes

  • 4 old t-shirts that you’ve been meaning to throw out anyway, cut into squares the size of baby wipes (you’ll end up with about 8 per shirt)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 2 T dish soap

Mix water, alcohol, and dish soap and pour over squares. Store in a sealed container (a recycled wipes container works well, but a clear glass canister is prettier, IMO).  

Citrus Enzyme Cleanser

  • 2-liter bottle (Something that can be shook up. I know we’re all about things other than icky plastic ‘round these parts, but I gotta say, a recycled liter water bottle works well.)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 t yeast (This speeds up the process, but you can leave it out. It will take 3 months to be ready, instead of two weeks, though.)
  • 1 liter water
  • 2 cups citrus peels (I used grapefruit)

Combine all ingredients in bottle and shake thoroughly (sing a little Carmen Miranda while you’re at it). Shake once per day for two weeks (leaving the cap a bit loose—we’re playing with fermentation here, gals). To use, mix 1 cup cleaner with 1 liter water. This wonder stuff works on everything from mopping your floor to cleaning your toilet to spot-treating laundry to fertilizing your plants to an all-natural drain cleaner to your very own insect repellent. It may even alphabetize your bookshelf and make you dinner if you ask nicely.

I lovingly arranged all my new beauties, labeled them, and set each basket under the sink. Toxic free, sparkling clean home!

Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Suzanne Holland!!!

Suzanne Holland (#828) has received a certificate of achievement in Each Other for earning a Beginner Level Know Your Roots Merit Badge!

“I have been working on the family tree with the information left to me by my mother and her sisters. I have used online resources, and through those resources, have been fortunate enough to discover distant cousins trying to fit the pieces together also. The cousins are on my mother’s side and we are working slowly together, digging through court records and archives, to put the family tree together accurately.

I am also working, on my own, on my father’s side of the family. As it turns out, my 5th great-grandfather had two land grants … one right here in St. Francisville, Louisiana, where I moved five years ago, and one in Natchez, Mississippi. The house he built, “Coyle House,” still stands in Natchez. I have had the privilege to meet the current owner, and she even had photographs of my 4th great-grandparents that she gave me copies of. Also, I found out that my 5th great-grandfather came from Ireland, County Donegal, but had land and family in County Sligo. I live right off Sligo Road, in St. Francisville, where his land grant is described as being located. I have plans to go pull court records this summer when I have more time to dig to discover the exact location and who he sold it to before moving to Cotton Valley, Louisiana.”

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BakeOver MakeOver Merit Badge, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 5,843 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—8,286 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Farm Kitchen/BakeOver MakeOver Intermediate Level Merit Badge, I was nervously pacing the length of my kitchen.

Back and forth.

Back and forth.

Forth and back.

To and fro.

Fro and to.

Forth and fro.

Etc, etc.

The source of my anxiety was this: Coming up with two new recipes/ideas for BakeOvers and then presenting them to YOU. Now I’m a creative gal, certainly, but sometimes my kitchen experiments become kitchen disasters right before my terrified eyes. Not wanting to poison anyone, I took my time with these delectable, delicious, divine, and distinctly different makeovers. Drum roll, please.

Biscuits & Gravy (BakeOver Style)

Preheat oven to 400°F. In your most favorite cast-iron skillet, brown up 1 pound of organic breakfast sausage. (Mr. Wonderful and I really like the spicy variety. It adds some kick. And also some romance, due to the spicy lips.) Drain any excess grease. Add 3–4 T flour; stir for about 2 minutes. Slowly add 1 cup half-n-half and 1 1/2 cups milk. Heat until thickened. Season. (I like lots of pepper. Again, spicy lips make for excellent smooching.) Layer biscuits made with MaryJane’s Budget Mix on top. Bake at 400°F until bubbly and brown, about 20–25 minutes.

Pile on plates.

Eat happily.

Smooch.

Honey Fig Crostatas (tarts)

On a lightly floured surface, roll out a MaryJane’s Budget Mix BakeOver crust to 1/8″ thick. Cut out eight 5″ rounds, rerolling the scraps if necessary; transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a bowl, toss 1 lb of green and purple figs, cut into wedges, with 3 t honey, 1 t fresh lemon juice, 1 t fresh thyme leaves, and a pinch of salt. Arrange the figs on the dough rounds, leaving 1/2″ border all around. Fold the edges over the figs and brush the dough with an egg wash. Chill for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F. Bake crostatas for 35 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, until crusts are golden. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Gently toss another 1/2 lb figs, cut into wedges, with 2 t honey. Transfer crostatas to plates, top with the figs and another 1 t fresh thyme leaves, and serve.

If you don’t have figs (or don’t like them), try using apricots or plums. Crostatas are are fun and easy, and they have endless varieties. Plus, you’ll really feel fancy—even when they drip hot juice down your chin because you can’t wait an appropriate time for them to cool off before devouring.

Or is that just me?