Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Bridge of Dreams...

What a fabulous Saturday! Me and the ladies packed up our wallets and a picnic lunch and traveled up to Amish country yesterday - I cannot tell you how much fun we had! Me, Tonia, Candi, the Pattys (that's my sister and Tonia's best friend), and Tonia's mother, Gail, all piled in the van and away we went. Sadly, our friends Elma and Cassi could not make it this time around (of course they will be present at our next ladies' outing under threat of death and dismemberment), however, there are more wonderful events to come with all of us ladies in attendance - watch out world!

Ohio has the second largest population of Amish in the United States, and a whole tourist and craftsmanship industry has been build around this community. Most of our Amish are located in the north-eastern part of the state, particularly in Knox and Wayne counties. This region of Ohio is stunningly beautiful, rich with forests, marches, wildlife reserves, rolling hills, terraced farms, charming towns, and Amish intrigue. It's a trip we ladies try to make a couple times a year, if anything just to wonder at the Amish way of life, to escape the chaos of the city, and to enjoy the sense of peace we all feel while there. It's odd arriving home, sometimes, after a day in Millersburg, Berlin, or Martinsburg (where my dad lives) - the big cities seem so polluted and our lives overly communicated and many times have Tonia and I said, "One day I will live here" (or some place like it)?

Unfortunately, Ohio, like other states with significant Amish populations, is in danger of losing hers - over the last few years, there has been an exodus of eastern Amish moving west of the Mississippi and settling in states such as Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. The Amish claim the land out west is cheaper, their communities are more isolated from the general population, and they mean to escape the overpopulated, tourist trap communities for peace. Indeed, a whole tourist industry has been built around the Amish communities here in Ohio, and honestly, it is far more a tourist experience than an Amish one. However, the thought of losing our Amish population to another state is simply dreadful - the Amish are one of the many distinct groups that make Ohio such a uniquely diversified state - I cannot imagine Ohio without Amish. And heaven help the northern half of the state, which has been home to the Amish for 200 years - that region will certainly feel their absence the most, both culturally and economically. I can only hope the Amish remain.

Despite the Amish moving west, the crowded shops and traffic lined streets of the many towns and villages that run along route 62 indicate that at least for now, it's still business as usual! The first stop we ladies made was at the Breitenbach winery right off of old state route 39. We sampled their many fruit wines before each of us indulged in a glass of our favorite. How wonderful to shop for wine while drinking it! lol! Oh, it was lavish, let me tell you, and oh so good. Breitenbach makes delicious fruit wines, the cherry wine being my favorite and Frostfire being Tonia's. This time around (and this is why I love going in the fall!), the winery was featuring their warm spiced apple wine - it was a hit among the ladies and each of us walked out with at least one bottle! In the end, we left with two cases of fruity spirits and some good cheer of our own! 

By the time we arrived at Walnut Creek general store, we ladies were stripping off layers of clothes, quickly warmed up from the wine tasting! There are other general stores around the area, like Swiss Market (which is about 2-3 miles up the road), and they all specialize in something unique, like grains and cereals, bulk and dried goods, fresh produce, and feed, etc. I like Walnut Creek because they have food samples everywhere, a country store with loads of over-priced merchandise I love drooling over, and every kind of candy and dried food you can imagine! So, needless to say, I stock up! This time around, it was red and blue popping corn for me (last time it was whole wheat flour and corn meal). I love open markets - I love sampling the products for freshness and quality, I love not just seeing my food, but smelling it, touching it, tasting it, and knowing where it's coming from. I wish our supermarkets acted more like an open market (getting their products locally, even if that means having seasonal items) - I'd feel better about shopping and feeding my family! 

Our last two customary stops were Zinck's Fabrics (a disappointment this time around) and the Guggisberg Cheese Shoppe. As usual, I bought the beautiful hubs his 2lbs brick of smoked Swiss cheese, while the other ladies loaded up on their favorite cheeses, confections, and sausages. We arrived just before the shop closed, so we missed out on the sampling (drats!), but thank heaven we got there! lol! Guggisberg is a must stop every time we go up - no exception! What good is all the wine we ladies buy with each visit without the complimentary meat and cheese? 
Of course, the Amish countryside doesn't rotate and revolve on city-folk time, which means most shops close promptly at 5 o'clock on Saturday and nothing is open on Sunday (I remember when all communities observed these rules - the days before 24-hour convenient stores and extended banking hours). We stopped at a couple little country stores as their owners were cleaning up and preparing to close. Tonia and PJ bought themselves a quilted handbag while the rest of us milled around sticking our noses in fragrant candles and admiring the beautiful handwork. Eventually we all piled in the van very tired, ready for the long drive home, and making plans for the next trip up, of course...

It was a good day - a very good day - made wonderful by the company of dear friends...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Formulating Federal Foundations

In February, my sister-in-law Tonia and I are hosting our first annual Federal Ball - we have been wanting to do this for a while and we are pleased to say that we finally will! Why the Federal/Colonial Era? Because of the opulence in design, because of the splendor in costume, because of the wigs, feathers, calashes, and the absurdity and vulgarity of the time! In what other era of fashion did men in western culture smear on lipstick, powder their noses, slip on heals, and bind themselves in corsets? Not that I will get my husband to do these things, but my goodness won't he ever be delicious in drop front knee-breaches and stockings! lol! 

You know, I have never been one to just set-out looking for a particular fabric for a particular project - I have always been one to buy fabric that I like when I see it, and then assign a use for it. I find that I suffer less designing and tailoring frustration that way. The truth is, many fabrics are difficult to find due to seasonal availability, like wool or silk, for example. Certainly, I can order these fabulous fabrics from my wholesalers, but dealing with the quantity is sometimes impractical (So, what do I do with the other 40 yards of salmon silk? Curtains, maybe? Naw...). I buy whatta-steal-fabric retail whenever and wherever I inadvertently find it. Granted, I don't always have the money to buy what I see (and I hate these prudent moments - if only I were a millionaire!) and I am forced to pass it up, but I almost always find something else of comparable quality and price. When I happened upon my dress fabric this time around, I was a happy, happy girl - and it just so happened it was a "dust bin" fabric - a sage and mustard brocade on the bottom of the barrel, clearanced from $26 yrd. to $1 yrd. I could have kissed the clerk at the cutting table! And not a few weeks later, while at JoAnn Fabrics, I discovered a complimentary mustard colored tapestry fabric in the remnant bin that I will be using to accent the gown. I am very much looking forward to working with these fabrics! Yippy!

Tonia managed to find the deal of the century for her Federal gown last summer while we are shopping at a fabric outlet warehouse in northern Ohio. She spotted a striped navy brocade for $3-something a yard and bought all 18 yards. Originally, she was going to use the material to make her wedding gown (the theme of her wedding was initially going to be colonial, but she and her fiancé decided a medieval themed wedding would be more appropriate), but as plans changed, she stored it away. No doubt, when Tonia is finished with her polonaise, it will be beautiful in the navy brocade!  Of course, while Tonia is very sure of her design (she usually is), I am teetering on a couple design elements for mine (as I usually am). I know that my mediocre sketch shows a stomacher, but I am thinking about 86-ing the stomacher. Rather than a ruffled sleeve, I am considering a cuffed sleeve, and I am not quite sure if I want more than one row of pinking and pleating on the skirt. Whatever my choices, I will feel more confident about them once I begin to work the fabric. The hubby's frock, waist, and breaches will be constructed of a medium smoky blue brocade, and the boots (in the sketch) are going to be changed out for shoes. As usual, I will post progression pictures - thank heaven I have until February to work! 

In the meantime, my beautiful pear wine will be racked this weekend (this is my chance to nip a taste to see how it's coming along) - I am excited about bottling it this spring! Oh my! And, just in time for the Second Annual Lady's Tipsy Tea! lol!