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Digital Restoration & Archiving Family history Family stories Recipes

What’s in that box of family photos and papers?

You won’t know if you don’t look!

You don’t know what is in that box of old letters and photos…until you look.
Contact me if you have a restoration or archiving project.

One of the services I offer through Chandler Designs is archiving family collections of photos and documents. Digital versions of your heirlooms and written materials such as letters, are easy to share. The more people that can read the letters left by a parent or great aunt the better your chances of finding pearls of wisdom about daily life that led to your family traditions and who you are now.

Digging into family history reveals the gift of insight

Our family culture developed, on its own and/or along with our greater society’s evolution. We leave clues of how it happened behind us in the form of diaries, letters, photos, newspaper clippings. Our parents and grand parents left plenty of these things too. We live in the age of electronic archives and instant photography. Technology is fabulous, but it does not take the investment of attention that our ancestors had to employ to record points in time of collective human experience.

If they saved it it mattered.

And everything that matters is fueled by food.

If you are blessed with a family cookbook that has handwritten recipes added in the margins you get a sense of how your family came together over homemade meals. The talented cooks in any home can make a point of writing the family secrets, even if in their own coded notes. Some of our deepest memories are built around daily life events. With food it is as much about how we prepare and share food as it is about familiar recipes.

In the piles of boxes I have from both of my parents’ families there is a gift of literally reams of writing by my maternal grandmother, Eva. Diaries, chatty letters and original artwork. From childhood Eva wrote about any and all things that mattered to her. The topics were family, faith, art, and social issues; in no particular order, as they all seemed to be of equal importance. That was one of her most important lessons. Everything that life has to offer is important.

Eva went to a boarding school and while there in 1905-1907 she wrote long letters home to her family, detailing life, her hopes for her future, and her impressions of people. As was customary, prior to our current age of “buy everything at the store”, she learned how to do everything needed for a good life, including cooking from scratch. In the margin of one letter she added her own recipe for a spice cake. It seems she had some time, and ingredients and access to the kitchen so she made good use of them all.

I have replicated her recipe, slightly adapting the ingredients as she left out the sugar and salt amounts. This was written in the age when cooks knew how to cook and recipes were often a cook’s unique version of standard methods and amounts. Did Eva leave out a couple of ingredients because everyone knows how much sugar and salt is needed in a cake, or was she in a hurry to finish the already 12 page letter?

My version of Eva’s Spice Cake:

  • almost 2cups of egg – about 9 large eggs
  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 cups butter
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 6 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • about 3/4 tsp salt

Wisk together dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add dry mix alternately with milk.

I fit batter into one 13″ x 19″ sheet pan and one 8″ x 8″ pan. Be creative, it’s a lot of batter! And as Eva wrote…it is good!

Bake 50 – 60 min at 350°.

When I grew up most people, ok, women in particular, and the smartest men, learned to cook. There were and are social and cultural conventions which dictate roles in life and how we break bread is central to all of them. Convenience food allows cooks to get out of the kitchen an do work that is their choice. That never really replaces the experience of friends and family breaking bread with a homemade meal; making memories to be rediscovered in a box of family treasures.

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Historical Documents: Community Covenant, Andover, Maine

Historical documents are particularly useful when researching family history. They take us to a point in time and to an era and can give insight into how groups of people handled complex and every day decisions. They also shine a light on the path our ancestors took in forming beliefs and customs—what is referred to contemporarily with an all encompassing vagueness as “our core beliefs”. One such principle of the United States is religious freedom.

In my family history is a group of my ancestors, led by Ezekiel Merrill, who were the first European settlers of an area of Maine where they founded the town of Andover. They first broke ground on a property, now known as Merrill house, in 1792.

In 1822 Ezekiel, his son Ezekiel Jr. and the adult men of Andover gathered and signed a covenant establishing their religious community. A print of the document hangs in my house:

Historical Documents Andover Maine Community Covenant

A partial transcription:

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Translating Old Family Tree Data Files

The challenge of translating old family tree data files with current software happens in all digital areas of interest and for do-it-yourselfers this problem can be particularly vexing— or exhilarating depending on how you feel about being your own IT person. Before getting into a few tips on file format translation for family tree applications I will note that my best practice method for having files stay accessible is to always invest in the latest and most flexible application that you can find and afford to do the original job. Subsequently, I try to convert files as technology changes rather than many years later as there may be nothing available to open your original files.

Pursuit of genealogy, family history and archives is time consuming. The tasks of scanning, labeling & organizing files and entering information into a family tree database can be endless. I do lots of photo scanning, repair and file organization for clients

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Story Tree

Story Tree Digital file created by Chandler Designs, Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Contact Chandler Designs for permission to use this file
Illustrate a slice of your family story with a Story Tree. ©2016 All Rights Reserved.

Chandler Designs is introducing a custom design service for Family Tree charts—the Story Tree—as well as expanding our archival printing services.

With added text and images a family tree chart can become a Story Tree. We can now print them up to seventeen inches by ten feet long.

As I write this it is 4th of July weekend 2016, a great holiday to visit with family, friends and neighbors and reflect on the American story. This is also a great time to look at your family’s history along with America’s and retell the story of what brought your family to this great country.


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Crafts and Textiles Stitching Projects

Crewel Stitching Project – Part 3 Finishing the project as a pillow

It’s  done. Daisy and the Chipmunk – a fun Jacobean style story pillow of Daisy chasing a chipmunk around a blueberry bush.

Daisy and the Chipmunk
Daisy and the Chipmunk, crewel pillow in the Jacobean style

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Crewel Stitching Project – Part 2 Choosing colors and stitches

Continuing from Part 1:

In the last week I have drawn the design onto linen,

chosen several colors and stitches and started the stitching.

This past week was Thanksgiving and with the time spent visiting there was a lot of opportunity to chat and stitch.


The final image has been simplified to emphasize the rich colors and textures of the wool. A double branch of a blueberry bush with a bit if the “lake” showing in the distance behind the “trunk”. Under the bush are Daisy and a chipmunk, very faintly drawn in permanent ink (I used a Faber-Castell super fine sepia pen). It is really difficult to see in this image but in Part 3 next week the color should be stitched in.


The stitches are all traditional crewel stitches, again keeping the choices simple — long and short, satin, chain, coral, stem/rope, and maybe brick by the time it is complete.
I am keeping detailed notes for those interested in a stitch guide for this design.

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Stitching Projects

Crewel stitching project Part 1. Creating an heirloom of a family vacation.

The stitching project that got me hooked a few years ago.

Framing needlework and textiles happens fairly frequently in my shop but in the last few years I have begun to work in stitching myself. So it follows that creating an original from concept to pattern to completion is my latest challenge.

In keeping with the idea of art combined with family story I have chosen a family vacation to pick a memory from and create a story pillow.

A couple of summers ago we were invited for a visit to family on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. It was everything a vacation should be, catching up with family, relaxing and we were invited to bring our dog, Daisy, who spent the entire time alternately chasing critters and dispensing unconditional love to the humans. Her favorite quarry was chipmunks—abundant and speedy.

My plan is to create an image to transfer to linen and stitch in a Jacobean crewel style, my current stitching favorite. While I am fairly new to serious stitching the freedom of crewel embroidery should be a good fit for my first design experiments. On to my subject: Daisy chasing chipmunks.

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Restoring historical documents – 1840 Land Grant signed by President Martin Van Buren

Why do we humans love story so much? Reaching into our past for a story is part of all our lives. The collective story of a country or culture gives insight on current events and helps us navigate our own times. Your family history—oral or documented—adds dimension to cultural traditions which otherwise might languish as dull repetitive motions.

land-grantDocuments which place our ancestors firmly at a point in time create an almost impossible sense of being in the story. Documents such as United States Land Grants from the 19th century are a treasure trove of information on what your ancestors might have experienced in their daily life.

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Mat Design

Archival Matting of Works on Paper

Mats on paper art are a relatively new innovation in the care and display of art. Paintings and tapestries predate paper for wall display by centuries. 14th century broadsides are some of the earliest European examples of art for the pleasure of a wide audience via the use of wood blocks to make multiple and inexpensive copies of an image.

By the 1600s the use of copper engraving was employed to illustrate books, particularly for renderings of scientific aspects of plants – formally known as botanicals.

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Frederick County Beekeeping Association Logo

I have just completed the new logo for the Frederick County Beekeeping Association, of Maryland. It has been approved by the FCBA members. This diligent group shares a passion for beekeeping, which is not only a rewarding hobby for some and business for others, it’s benefits effect the well being of each of us.

You have probably heard about honeybee colony collapse syndrome. This condition of bees mysteriously disappearing is a topic of concern for farmers and home gardeners alike. While the definite cause has not been determined it is certain that all beekeepers and their hives are part of the solution. The honeybees which provide pollination here in North America are originally from Europe. There were even hives on the Mayflower.