Thursday, December 31, 2009

31 December 1955 “Happy New Year and My Project”

I figured the end of 1955 and a year of changes was as good a place to talk about the sometimes feeling unnecessary world of flux. Change has always been inevitable for the human animal, for the world really. Though, we once, centuries ago, lived in the world that had an almost comforting static to it. We lit by candles for centuries, than oil. Fashions changed, but rather slowly as we had no means to know of the changes save through slow postal routes. Then the trains came and we found ourselves looking at time tables and taking trips that would take days in a few hours. Once the Industrial Revolution hit full speed by the end of the 19th century we never looked back. Two wars and a production boom afterwards left us so used to constant change, we felt it had always been a part of our lives. Today, change is so rapid, life itself so constantly turning over, we think little of it. A computer is ‘out of date’ in six months. Our cell phones last about as long. The tv must be bigger, now it must be flat screen, wait now we MUST have HD! Video games are evolving and a rapid rate so what we played with five years ago looks childish. Every six months, new and better and we toss aside the old and throw our money and hopes at the new, then next great thing…When will it all stop?! Is it good or bad?

There is a comfort and quiet calm in constancy. Though, in a way, it is a false sense of security for we cannot stop change. Every day we march one day closer to that ‘Great Equalizer’. Yet, while we are here, day to day, and in the moment, it does sometimes just feel good to stop. To look around us and think, “hmmm, do we need it all? Does my phone need to be a camera and a TV? Do I need to have a phone with me at all times? Why does it matter that I can buy everything at one place at an incredibly low price? Do I care about the consequences? Does any of it matter?”

These, of course, bring us to the root of the very philosophy of living. What does it all mean? What is the answer? I suppose, really, we can’t ever really know. But, we must know something and we do need to be here and in the moment.

We certainly want things, such as medicine to advance, but do we need to have and crave the constant flux of the modern world? Is there any comfort in always coveting and striving to obtain the new and tossing out the old? I am not sure. Weren’t we suppose to have MORE gadgets to make life EASIER so we could work LESS and just ENJOY LIFE? Yet, everyday are more and more things we NEED and cannot live without, so we are told. And of course we raise our children in this world, or sometimes the media, TV, and computer raise our kids and we all know what they want us to believe.

Exactly 365 days ago I woke up, shed my Uggs and jeans, put on my crinoline and girdle and thought, “Well, this’ll be an interesting diversion”. Little did I know then that the change I was eliciting was really a change of my entire world; a redub of the very fabric of my way of thinking and feeling and being. That was a change I was glad for. Though it began with my very modern sensibilities of ‘the therapy of shopping’ to find the best vintage this or that or how great it would be to own this, it slowly revealed to me the very framework in which our modern world was built was a shabby sham sort of way to live. To shop is to live; To buy to Be.

The more I looked back to those women of yesterday, the ladies I was trying to emulate in my vintage finds, the more I realized how much they were actually living. How they had made it through a Depression (which meant literally almost no food and making do unlike our ‘Recession’ where we were told to ‘shop to stimulate the economy’) and a World War and another war after that. Yet, they smiled, brushed themselves off, said goodbye to those who had fallen and never said, “Who is me, Look how hard I have it, I deserve some pity and some ME TIME”. Instead they made families and homes and dinners and kissed scraped knees and kissed husbands cheeks sending out the men not to war now but to the office. They laughed at dinner parties and thrilled at the latest gadget, all the while keeping their purse strings tight and setting aside their pin money so Johnny could get a new baseball mitt or Susie, her daughter, could go off to college.

These were real people who did not have it great but made it great. They took a barren lemon tree and made gallons of lemon aid. They have become, as many previous generations, object of respect and now true study. In our world of yesterday is old news, I want my new gadget, don’t trust anyone over 30, I have to stop and smile and look back. Thank goodness for the 1950’s. For they were there, on the pinnacle of what was to become the modern world and they said, “Yes, we can make a good world where people are free and treated fairly and we can trust and depend on one another”.

Tonight I dug out my old clothes. I put on the low rise jeans and the overpriced uggs; The jersey top and I stood before my looking glass. I thought I might cry or laugh, I wasn’t sure. But, there I stood an anachronism more now then back in Jan when I donned by 50’s garb for the first time. Had I become a joke of my former self? Was I now in costume or before in my girdle and petticoat? I don’t know. I found myself replacing those things with my handmade wool dress and girdle. I felt the comfort in my gloves and hat and pocketbook as I prepared to pop out to get some refreshments for tonight.

So, I thought standing in line, who am I now? Am I 50s gal? Am I that other person I left on the wayside those 365 days ago? Then, I spotted something. As I stood in the long Holiday line a young mother in jeans, rumpled hair and hoodie three times too big came in with her two young daughters. They were in their pajama bottoms and uggs. Their tops were similar hoodies and rather messed up. The older of the two girls, most likely around12, snarled at the world as she held that modern pose of the tween with her head bent as she mumbles into the tiny phone in her hand, her sleeves pulled over her hands and her loose fitting clothes hunching her poor posture all the more. The modern family: ‘comfort’ and slumped, together yet not talking to each other, mother as sloppy if not more so than daughters.

Then I noticed the littlest girl, maybe 8-9, kept looking at me. I figured, she was probably wondering why I was dressed like that, perhaps a freak. I had on my dress, hose and heels (despite the snow) my coat with the fur collar, my vintage matching dress gloves and my black hat with the veil. To me, I felt normal, comfortable. I shuddered when I recalled myself earlier in the Uggs and jeans.

I noticed the little girl smiled. She stood up straighter and fussed with her hair. I kid you not, she stood up and straightened her loose fitting hoody. Another woman, similar slovenly, smiled at me. When I left a young man actually rushed to hold the door for me. This was me. This is me. I am who I am because of what I have found and discovered from this year, but it is me. I am proud of myself and feel it is important to me and others that I am well groomed, that fashion means to me a way of expressing my moment. These fluctuating fleeting slips of days the slide off the calendar of our lives our mine and I am going to live as happily and as fully as I can in them.

So, now, here I am on the eve of either 1956 or 2010. But, which way is my calendar going to read? Well, after much thinking this is what I have come to decide:

In many ways I feel as if I have indeed lived in 1955 for the past year. Many habits and manners of my life, even speech and writing have changed. Yet, I feel so much that I want to share and take what 1955 has meant to me and bring it into the 21st century, but I also don’t want to let go of that beloved time. Therefore I have decided that my project should be this. Though it will take some suspending of belief, I am proposing I am, indeed, from 1955 and that I have been suddenly, without that aide of the normal passage of time, been transported here to 2010. The second decade of the 21st century. Yet, as it is important to me, I am allowing my self the ability to ‘travel’ back to the ‘new year of 1956’. I want to see what a 1955 middleclass homemaker will make of this new century. I want to see how the modern world will affect me. Will I want to take it all back in? Will I want the ease and easiness of passive entertainment? Will I find myself bored and see that I am happy continuing with the level of technology I have thus enjoyed? So, along with my blog, which will be my life as a 1955 woman in 2010 with easy trips back to 1956 for encouragement and continued learning, I want my website to be a part of this year’s project. It is very much in its infancy now. I have even begun to think of it much the way I would attacking a recipe or a sewing project. Look at it, dissect it, think about it, learn some more, read some more, then dive in and try it.

I want it to be an organic thing that will grow with me and you this year. I want it to be almost a child, I will set my hopes on it, but it most likely will want to go its own way and change and be influenced by others.

So, change; flux is it good or bad? We cannot hide from it, but at its current pace is it good or bad? Did we just about have it right in the 1950’s and now we need to try and reign it in? Do we want to go even further and have more faster and cheaper? Does the ultimate goal of cheapest at ANY cost really the main battle cry of modern man? I don’t know, but I want to find out. By looking to the past and even yesterday, can we find a comfort and happiness in a more static sort of life? Why buy new and cheap and better only to throw it away? Why not find an old technology and make it work for you? Do we need to be constantly amused or can we stop and amuse ourselves with a book or even by sitting and thinking and planning our own lives in the pattern we choose, but not what is dictated to us by mass media, advertising and corporate sponsorship? I don’t know. I have halted, in many ways, this rapid advancement and constant media connection for this past year of my life living in 1955 and found I was the happiest I have been. Can I live in a modern world as a 1956 woman and find my footing or will I be lured by the siren song of ‘new better faster cheaper NOW”?

So, if you are curious or want to join me in my challenges or perhaps you like to be amused, come along with me for the ride. I want the website to be a sort of learning and experiencing too where we can share and find old recipes, old technology, old thoughts and ideas all made new and comforting by the power we yield over their choice and implementation. I want it to be as my blog has been but to grow and expand more.

So, that is my coming project of 1956/2010, what do you think?

I DONT THINK A WOMANS PLACE IS IN THE HOME, I BELIEVE IT IS WHEREVE SHE CHOOSES TO MAKE IT. I DO BELIEVE IT IS A WOMAN’S RESPONSIBILITY TO DO HER BEST WITH INTELLIGENCE AND APLOMB ONCE IN THAT PLACE. It is our responsibility to be the best, think the hardest, learn the most and and teach by example as well as lesson. The modern woman Cannot go forward if she does not look back and pay homage and respect to those who have gone before. And just lip service IS a Disservice. We owe it to them, ourselves, and our daughters to emulate them as much as we can, learn their skills and then add our own intelligence and effort to them. Otherwise, who will the future generations have to look up to?

Thank you for listening to me this year. I have loved every minute of it and cherish all your words and thoughts. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart and I am glad you have got to be a part of one of the best times of my life thus far. I hope we can make a better tomorrow.

Happy New Year (Website hopefully to come tomorrow)

30 1/2 January 1955 “Just a Check In”

I am having connection problems today and I want to let you all know. I am planning on having a post up this evening and then hopefully to ‘unveil’ the skeletal beginnings of my new website. If you see nothing tonight, do not worry, it means my connection is gone. I wanted to let you know in case anything does happen. Not a great way to start the new year.

typewriter2 Perhaps my computer is fighting the new technology and is happy serving as a glorified typewriter/thesaurus as it has done up until now. But, I shall not let it get the best of me. Happy day so far to all of you.

Monday, December 28, 2009

28 December 1955 “A Cuppa and some Recipes and Tips”

woman with coffee Good morning gals, no pontificating today,  just recipes and household hints. I decided before the new year I needed at least one post with some practical applications, so no rants today. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and your ‘to-do’ list and we can share some fun ideas on food and home for the coming new year. And we are not really that far away from Spring cleaning are we?

First, I know it is a bit late for Christmas recipes, but they can always be filed away for next year, and really cookies are good anytime, right? (As always, click on the image and it should open large enough to read or print.)

Cookies:christmas cookies1 christmas cookies2 Here is a wonderful picture of some interesting and very 1950’s candy/sweets. I think many of these would be good for a Valentine’s Day tea as well, so have included them. The recipes follow and again, click and enlarge. If you want you can print them the size of an index card and glue them on for your recipe box!

christmas candy pic


Here are the Kris Kringles:kris kringles

Neapolitins: neapolitans Mint Creams:mint creams Fruit Slices:fruit slices Uncooked Fruit Caramels:uncooked fruit caramels Chocolate Roll:chocolate roll Harlequin Balls:Harelquin balls Snow Drops:snow drops


Here are some tips I have found from the time period:

Bread crusts are ideal for cleaning the meat grinder; then add to the meat dish for flavor and food.

To keep a recipe book or card clean while you’re cooking, place it under an upside-down pie plate. The curved bottom also magnifies the print.

(This tip is good for the holiday season, as I know the bottom of my stocking was teeming with Brazil nuts.)Warm Brazil nuts in the oven before cracking them.

A corner cut from an envelope and pierced at the point makes a good funnel for filling salt and pepper shakers.

(I have not tried this one, but I think I might. I would feel rather dainty going about the house rubbing my gloved hands upon everything, maybe I will wear a hat to boot and make a day of it. Hopefully the neighbor won’t stop by and peek in the window while I am in the middle of it! I think I am considered eccentric enough.)Wear white cotton gloves sprayed with furniture polish to do your dusting

When cleaning windows use one teaspoon vinegar, one teaspoon ammonia and fill small spray bottles with water, use newspapers to wipe windows, makes them shine

When grass stains get on clothes, use molasses, rub in well and leave several minutes to soak before washing.

When your bed sheets wear out, they can be folded in half and used to make pillow cases, cut them desired width and use the original hems.

Remove stains in vases by filling with tea leaves and vinegar, shake or swoosh until stain disappears.

Make mittens from old towels and use to dust blinds.

To remove mildew, 1/2 cup vinegar, douse the item up and down and mildew will disappear.

To remove lipstick stain from cottons and sweaters, use a cloth dabbed in rubbing alcohol. Apply gently to stain and it leaves no tell tale circle.

To keep skirts from sliding off hanger, wrap bar with a strip of bias cut velvet, cut one inch wide.

Cream pitchers will not drip if a little butter or salad oil is put on the end of the lip.

Freezing of clothes on the line during cold weather is prevented by using a little salt in last rinsing water.

A button sewn to the corner of the dish cloth comes in handy to scrape sticky particles from the dishes. ( I have not tried this one, but you bet I am going to use up some of those random single buttons for this purpose.)

Wet a piece of cloth with ammonia, put in warm oven for a few hours; this will loosen any burnt food that is sticking to the surfaces.( I would like to try this one, as I hate the fumes and chemicals in a store bought oven cleaner. Have any of you tried this?)

Save old match boxes and use them for molds when making homemade soap. Simply tear away the box portion when ready to use.

Work shirts that are fraying at the cuffs can be saved from the rag bag with a little bias tape. Trim off the frayed part closely and bind the edge with tape in the closest matching color. It will make a neat mend and strengthen the cuff. (I like this one and even if your cuffs are NOT frayed, it would make a quick personal touch , don’t you think?)

Don’t throw fat away even if it was used for frying fish and has retained the odor, simply fry a slice of potato in the fat and the potato will absorb the odor. (this is good to know, because one thing 1955 has taught me, DONT THROW AWAY YOUR GREASE AND FAT)

Are you just about to throw away that burnt aluminum saucepan? Pour some water in it and add an onion; set it on to boil and you will soon find that all the burnt matter will loosen and come to the top, leaving the saucepan clear and bright again

Okay, one little rant. I know I should not be talking about or knowing who Eva Longoria is (in fact, I did not really until I read this article online. Also, I have never seen Desperate Housewives, but I have a strong feeling it is probably more about sexualizing women’s roles that showing the positive role of the homemaker.) So, here is the picture that burns my casserole.eva Now, what is odd, is in the article the person interviewing her has said things like, “Eva says she wants to be a 1950’s housewife even though we know that time was, and I quote: “… idealizing a time when women had little rights and respect”. The interviewer also says, and I quote, “Is it possible to take care of one’s husband without glamorizing limiting gender roles? No? Ok”.

What I find very interesting and probably really see it now more due to my time here in 1955 (Okay, I know I am not REALLY in 1955, but my research) is how scary such an image mixed with that attitude cab be. The interviewer is quick to judge ALL women of the time in their ‘limiting’ roles and yet, this image is so overtly sexual it makes me laugh.

So, is our ‘freedom’ and ‘move forward’ only gained by trading the role of the female as someone to be cherished and respected with someone who is only sexual? And, is that ‘freedom’ role only valid when one is young and sexy, or like this actress able to afford personal trainers and plastic surgery? I just find the overtly sexualized image of  women as ‘young nymphets’ a very scary role. What other roles are there out there? I see magazines covered with young sexy people or making fun of older actresses love handles and cellulite. Who cares! When we aren’t traipsing about in our underpants or waving our ‘money makers’ at clubs in a stripper fashion, we have no value?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know there has been and will always be a place for women who choose to ‘dance/strip/ burlesque’, but even that seems to be degraded to some foul practice rather than than the artful forms of Gypsy Rose Lee with the exception of Dita Von Tease, of course.

Yet, regardless of whether a woman should want to choose this role, we are told, rather blatantly, by TV, movies, internet ads and magazines that a woman’s role is not only Decorative, but sexually so. What scares me the most is a militant feminist would be so quick to poo-poo her Foremothers of the past, while embracing a ‘freedom’ that seems to me more ‘prison’ than before. I want the freedom of career and choice and education for women, but I also want them to have the sense and reality of mind to call a spade a spade. Look around you, do you like to be solely regarded by your level of sexuality, or coolness? Do you like being judged by rather you have your low rise jeans low enough or if your rock hard abs are perfect and your exposed body parts free of cellulite. Perhaps if we were not told and viewed only by how ‘pretty we are’ we could actually be judged by our skills and our beauty might come through our choice of fashion and our minds, not merely how tone and hot and young our bodies are! Wouldn’t it be nice for a young girl to see an older woman, comfortable size not model thin, in a fun fashionable outfit with a crazy old hat and gloves who is smart and proud and doesn’t care what others think of how she ‘looks, but is concerned that she is viewed by her intelligence her skills and place she has made for herself in community. When 50 year old women feel the need to emulate a 15 year old girl and whose fixation with her own looks and how ‘cool and hip’ she is, where are our young women suppose to go? For what heights and goals are they to aim? They are already younger and sexier by their youth alone and feel no need to improve for they are the ‘ideal’, they only have to worry and fixate on ‘holding onto that youth’ as they slip into their 30s, 40s, 50s.

I guess it is all really a result of having so much of our world be visual and controlled by advertising. How does one make an older intelligent woman who doesn’t care if she is hot, but cares to look nice and dress for herself sell cars, toothpaste, or be on a reality show. The very visual instant pleasure seeking world in which we dwell seems to have no place for older intelligent women who care more about what is in their head or coming out of their mouths than if they have the ‘coolest tattoo’.

So, with that off my chest, I hope you enjoyed the recipes and tips. Please share more of your own in the comments with all of us. It will be nice to have a forum on my hopeful website to share and discuss such household tips and recipes.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

27 December 1955 “Thoughts on a 1955 Christmas Morning of What I Learned This Year.”

I have taken many moments this year and realized what a lot 1955 had taught me. Yet, Christmas seemed to be that sort of icing on the cake, if you will.

We do not have a large family here and some of our relatives vacate to warmer climbs before the snow falls, but for those of us left here, we enjoy ourselves. This year, back in our ‘old house’ again, it seemed even more wonderful. My hubby, Gussie and myself promised not to spend too dearly for one another, but we did want to have a fun Christmas morning. We did our usual trick (though it must sound self-indulgent to others) where we wrap our gifts to one another and keep them hidden until Christmas eve night. We always have a family celebration on Christmas eve and this year it was at my nieces home some forty minutes away, so we were not back home until midnight. We gather our various gifts and lay out our stockings and then taking turns we try our best, whilst keeping our eyes closed, to lay out our gifts and fill one another’s stockings. We then creep upstairs. Bessie stayed over at our house in the guest room so that we could all have our Christmas together. This allows us, come Christmas morning, to creep down the stairs with childlike joy at the surprises under the tree. It was really entertaining this year.

I think there is in this act, possibly, that biological need to have Christmas for a child. And, as we have no child, we replace ourselves in that role, so as I said rather indulgent. Yet, we do enjoy it and it does keep the spirit alive.

Now, for what this 1955 Christmas has taught me: Really it has added to and reinforced what I have come to discover this year and that very simply is family and friends are the most important things as is having a simple happy life.

While lying awake in the early hours of Christmas morning, not unlike the childlike anticipation I once felt, I began to make a mental note, a list if you will, of the elements that have come to have meaning to me this year.

This was an actual tactile list of very real physical manifestations of the simple pleasures of life. That balance between small luxury, self pampering, and inexpensive practicality that seems a heady mix of economy and joy. Here is a rough of that list.

my vanity My Dressing Table: I think this headed my list because as I watched the shadows slip across the slanted roof of our upstairs bedroom waiting for Christmas morning, I was taken by my dressing table. The actual table itself is an ‘antique’ in only the academic sense. It is old and not made of fiberboard, but it cost me all of 20 dollars at a local antique/junk/op shop. It has a subtle dark polish and is cut and etched in the Victorian style known as Eastlake. It is a form of Victorian furniture I am often drawn to for it’s quirky squared angles and ‘x’s’ that seem to deem it perfect for a ramshackle cottage. It has funny little curved legs and a single drawer. I have contemplated, this year, the idea of skirting it in some lovely fabric, but have not wanted to cover the legs. Perhaps if and when I redo my room it will share a fabric that will adorn walls and bedspreads. But, for now, it sits snug in its little corner of our bedroom. The slope of the roof tucks it in and it seems to be rather comfortable, like an old dame sitting and reading by oil light.

The dressing table is topped with an old three way fold mirror that was also found at a local shop for very little money. It matches my etched vanity mirror, most likely any where from the 1920s-1950’s when such items were des rigueur for vanities. On my dressing table sits a few etched glass jewel boxes and an old silver box decorated with a sail boat. It is in here that I keep my hair/bobby pins.  I received a lovely old lotion/cream container with a silver lid (to be later monogrammed) from my hubby this Christmas that will make a fine addition to my set up. vanity jarMy cold cream can now sit out on display rather than hide it’s frumpy blue label in the little drawer of the dressing table.

Now, the point of this topping the list is it seems a wonderful amalgam of what I have learned this year:which is to stop and take a moment for yourself, but not to buy into the modern notion of ‘doing it for yourself’ which often translates into an excuse to continually buy things cheap to give one an instant thrill. We then set it aside with the myriad other things we don’t need and will ignore, throw away or just forget.

The dressing table says to you, “Here is where I become beautiful”. Or, “this is my ME station, where I can think and dream or plan the day ahead, as I prepare myself for the task at hand. Or “here is where I sit, spraying scents and affixing pearls for that night out” and of course, “here it is, the end of the day, off comes the grit and grime of my day and the ‘stage makeup’ of a busy but put together homemaker”.

It seems to allow self indulgence but in a way that is not costly, as you can slowly add to your collection of dressing table accoutrement, and perhaps pass them down. It teaches one to care for oneself and ones things carefully and to choose items for your life and home with a thoughtful mind to keep and care for them so they do not have to be replaced and possibly live on for others enjoyment. The combination of self-pride with conscientious thought and prudence that has come to represent to me the proper balance of self and others and economy. We can be beautiful and stop and smell the roses and very economically have nice things and in the bargain be ‘green’ in that we are buying locally things that have already been manufactured and not ending up in the garbage.

The next item on my list is a combination : Linen Napkins and a complete set of dishes, that is cutlery, glasses i.e. a collection of dishes one is proud to own. This might seem odd, but these items represent the following to me: Care, Luxury, Conversation, Pride, and Relaxation.

Whether or not your style or desire for dishes runs to everything matching, fine china, or an eclectic mix that was well thought out and not just Hodge-podge from hand me downs, such a simple thing as a set of dishes and linen napkins can really change your life. You want to display it. When you clean your kitchen daily, you smile or beam with pride at that stack of dinner plates or the even rows of coffee cups. In the chaos of the day there is order in those lined up nice dishes.

woman setting table Now, when a table is set with your dishes you adore accompanied by the linen napkins, your dinner is not just a slapdash affair before the TV. In fact, even were you merely serving meatloaf or macaroni and cheese, a linen napkin on the lap, a fine glass for water, wine and the waiting cup for evening coffee can make you feel you are at a fine restaurant. I have come to not only enjoy this but expect it daily. Even if we treat ourselves to a Chinese take out, there are no piles of paper napkins and plastic trays. It tastes even lovelier on your own dishes, served out in bowls with serving spoons and a nice glass of wine. We have become so accustomed to the ‘ease and speed’ of the fast food pre-packed world that we are becoming content with having a fast pre-packaged life!

Really, this is such a simple act. And, again, so very frugal.  I, for instance, have my everyday dishes which are vintage 1950’s. my dishesHere is the little corner of my kitchen where they ‘live’ happily in their simple ordered life. I started to collect them because they were never dear and were rather inexpensive when they were made, even being offered as ‘promotions’ at local grocery stores. Yet, they are readily available and are amazingly strong. I had an inexpensive set of dishes from IKEA that I used in the city and I have very little of it left, as they seemed to shatter when you look at them. Yet these dishes cost LESS than IKEA and they obviously are well made as they have lasted through generations of use and various packing and unpacking of grannies attics and yard sales. One does not have to spend a lot to make a collection of something that has meaning and purpose and such an act does in fact give your day meaning and purpose.

Things themselves are not necessarily meaningful, certainly people are far more valuable than things. Yet, I feel as if today we are more likely to just buy and buy and if it breaks or we need something last minute we can just pop down to the store and buy a serving dish or a plate for a dollar, who cares if it matches or breaks, there are always more.

child and mother washing dishes Then, I begin to think of this as a sort of teaching element to anyone who may have children. What a fine lesson to teach a child that though people are more important than things, much like people, things must be treated kindly and carefully. If we willy-nilly toss plates and break things thinking they are easily replaceable, who is to say we will not treat people that way? Who cares how we treat them, we’ll just get more friends, no big deal. But, a child who sees a set of dishes being carefully laid, and thoughtfully put away, who has to sit with his feet on the ground, napkin on the lap and eat thoughtfully so as not to make more work for mother in the laundry, will be someone who can go out and be comfortable in any setting and think of others as well as his own comfort.

I have a pet peeve of opening a cabinet and seeing endless coffee mugs of various shapes and sizes, sometimes stamped with corporate logos not matching and rammed together with no thought. Think of how you respond to this and how you respond to fewer cups, either matching or with a definite theme, hung or stacked neatly in an open cabinet. Which gives you more a sense of calm and order and relaxation? Which gives you the feeling of order and refuge our home most assuredly should be? Does it also express to us that we would want to treat our clothes and home this way? Piles of inexpensive things, not well thought, but readily available inexpensively tossed about? I really feel that is a way that leads one to even spend in a way not frugal. You are not cautious or careful about what you have or how much you may or may not need because there is so much of it already, you cannot find what you want in the mess and you can just buy more because it is cheap.

Cleaning out the corners and donating all that you don’t need and then making very definite decisions about what you want for utility and for decoration/sentiment is a big move towards making your home feel a sanctuary or a place of pride or the spot you wish to snuggle into and stay and relax. Perhaps you won’t feel the need to go off and go shopping again, if you love your home and feel comfortable and have things you need and love where you can get them?! This is a lesson I have learned and am still very much in the act of resolving. Yet, I have done much in the way of moving towards this final end. And all because I want to sit and enjoy a nice meal with family and friends or even myself. Simple.

hat and gloves1 The Hat and Gloves. Such a simple pair, fairly inexpensive and of course green in the sense that they are already made. I have received probably the most compliments and or stares from merely wearing a hat, gloves and vintage handbag than anything else this year. It is odd, really, when you think of the very basic practicality of the things.hat and gloves2 Hats protect our heads from the sun, keep our hair in place and gloves protect our hands from the sun as well as from the germs of shopping and being out in the world. Two very simple items.

In the winter, a stocking cap and knit gloves receive no particular notice, but wear a tiny 1950’s vintage hat and white gloves in the warm weather and see what results you get. I am actually surprised by the amount of positive feedback I get. Sometimes, such as in line at the shops or the post, I will see ladies (young and old) spot me in my hat and gloves, catch my eye and smile and then, fix their hair or try to ‘right themselves’ somehow. It is a contagious thing, fashion and order. It might seem easier to just throw on the sweats and run out the door, but honestly, how much time does it take to put on a hat and gloves? I often do it as I am walking out the door, it is not as if I spend hours contemplating myself in the mirror, and yet such a simple thing makes one feel different; better. I find I walk taller, feel more in ‘the moment’ when I am ‘dressed’ to go out. A trip to the grocery story is not a mad run in and out with my hair a mess in my slippers and pajamas (yes I have seen this at our grocery store!) it has me taking time to find the best bargain etc.

I also notice that many people seem to derive joy in seeing someone ‘dressed up’ . It makes them smile and most likely stop for a  moment and consider their life. If it makes others feel that way, imagine how fine and wonderful it is to be under that hat and inside those gloves! Fashion IS important in that what we wear expresses ourselves and colors the world much like art. Today, so much more money is spent on clothes than ever before even though so many things are so cheap, yet I see almost no style. Endless t-shirts and jeans and clunky boots. You would think people could spend almost NO money when they really wear a sort of uniform and yet I know there are closets full of cheap clothes in bags with tags still on in many closets, for I too once suffered this same modern ague. This leads to another item on my list

50s dress The dress/skirt. Nothing could be easier to sew than a circle or full skirt with a waistband and zipper or a dress with a simple seamed two piece bodice. And with that pattern the world is your oyster. You can use actual vintage fabric, new fabric, fabric you paint or print on yourself, you can honestly express yourself endlessly in this pattern of dress. Or, purchasing well made vintage pieces that have lasted and then caring for them to last you forever. Style, Utility, and Economy.

It is not colder nor more uncomfortable to wear a dress or skirt and yet I always hear people say, “Well, my jeans are so comfortable'”. Perhaps it is just me, but I can say without any doubt that a dress is far more comfortable and offers much more ease of movement that a pair of jeans. Even a nice pair of wool trousers feel much more comfortable to me than jeans ever will. Now, I do have dungarees I wear when I garden or if there is a particularly nasty job to do, but is it harder to put on a skirt that a pair of pants/jeans? People act as if it is a production to have a skirt or dress on. And again, it comes down to this:we often feel different, walk and hold ourselves differently when we are in ‘dress up’ clothes. So, why do we save them only for ‘special occasions?” I have learned that my day to day life, the very act of living it out is special and I am not going to leave off fashion and joy in my clothes to two or three occasions a year! I am worth the effort, to which honestly there is very little, to wear nice things that I make or buy and care for. I find a closet with a few things ironed so much more promising and fulfilling that piles of clothes that are ‘easy’ to wear and are so ‘cheap’. And one does not need to dress vintage to dress this way. Hats and gloves can be ‘modern’.modern dress There are modern dresses and skirts that certainly cut a better figure than low rise jeans or the worst of all, those wretched velour running pants with “Juicy” written across one’s derrière.

Again, personal style is just that personal, yet I wonder at individual personality when one feels comfortable wearing items of clothing that have logos and company names writ across them and might find a thousand other people wearing the same thing. There is much to be said for a personal sense of style that is made by your likes and joys and not so as to ‘fit in’ or merely ‘be comfortable’. If clothes really didn’t matter we would all just wear blue jumpsuits with no varying changes amongst them.

The reason the modern version of ‘fashion’ attests to be about comfort and freedom is merely the advertising gimmick. It tells us we are  happy with misshapen ill made things while really this is the ‘style’ as these are the cheapest easiest items to mass produce and sell over and over again, merely changing a pocket or logo or height of waist line. We are dictated our fashion by the ease and profit margin of the very chains we frequent. Again, one of the main elements 1955 has taught me is this is MY life and I want to live it to the fullest with MY OWN expression and joy and not to merely buy into and pay into the current consumer corporate world that I really feel is rather vapid, hollow and empty. I certainly don’t see teems of happier people because all is cheaper and easier than it once was, and in fact I see more rudeness, anger, frustration and down right selfishness on a day to day basis in the ‘shopping’ world. There is a reason for it.

And, though I could possibly make a much longer list, there is but one final thing to add:

SKILL and THINKING. The personal skill to put to oneself to learn to make your own food, sew, mend, decorate, etc is such an important element to anyone’s life, be you rich or poor. And, I put Thinking in with this because quite honestly, one is more thoughtful when making and doing new skills.

You have to think to cook your meals and plan your food budget. And, once you open that dam you begin to question things, “Is it easier and cheaper to buy those cheaply made clothes? Is it easier to buy ready made food in all those plastic containers? Do I need to buy containers to keep my food in or does some of my food come in containers that can be washed out and used again instead of the cost to the earth and wallets to recycle it?”

You begin to stop and look around your world. You begin to see that you are not merely a spectator in your life or a demographic to be sold to, but an actual individual with your own thoughts and mind. You can see the world for what it is and decide and know you have the power to illicit change in your own little world. If you have to work a job you dislike, perhaps if you spend less and make your home more a place you want to be then your free time can be enjoying your life and not trying to forget about it by mindlessly shopping.

Or you find yourself ‘bored’ while you sit in a home with so much diversion that you realize you are not bored but merely mind numb. The video game the tv the movie the endless items to cost us and distract us from life are making you feel empty because you are becoming empty. Look inside, sit down and listen to yourself. Give yourself that place to prepare for the world. Make a little corner to sit in and read and knit or sew. Turn off the iPod the TV the computer and grab a book or merely watch the birds out the window. There is a life out there waiting to be lived, and I have learned I WANT to live it and not just Waste or Bide my time.There is a place, surely, in our modern world for the technological distractions, but moderation will make them a joy to you rather than you a slave to it!

1955 has taught me to look to myself to make my life and my happiness and to not make excuses but to make my life better. I don’t need more money and more things, I need to start actually participating in my life. There is so much ‘virtual life’ out there to live, but I also want to enjoy my ‘reality’ as well.

I don’t know if my little list will make a difference to any of you, as I am sure most of you have known these things all along, but as a modern woman in a very typical middle sort of life, I have come to realize how much fun and joy there is in simply living. I hope any of you who have not yet discovered that can indeed find it.

And as I face the encroaching new year I ponder what I have learned from the past and consider how much a continued part it shall remain in my day to day living.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

26 December 1955 "Happy Christmas"

I hope all had as lovely a Christmas as we did here in 1955.
We had a white Christmas, which I cannot remember the last time we were lucky with that here on the Cape. We were even able to go 'coastin' or sledding. The snow was a little wet at that point, but we went none the less and had a great time.
I will share more with all of you, but am feeling rather exhausted. This cold really has held on through the holiday.
Enjoy your holiday weekend all and look forward to hearing what you did and received for Christmas.
I shall be back with a proper post tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

22 December 1955 "Dolls and Apologies"

I thought it might be interesting to look at what toys might be under the tree this year for children.

This ad shows the idea of the money down, pay off your gifts. The concept of spending beyond your means to provide things for you child is really beginning to grow. Christmas as Commercialism is really beginning at this point in the decade. I am sure the few years right after the war, Christmas was very much about being home, together and sharing in family. Yet, here we are over 10 years past and the mass production of toys (easier now with the increased production of factories during the war and a war torn Europe and Japan to get cheap labor).

Every little girl usually loves a doll. At this point in time dolls were very much an example of what a young girl would be expected to be when she grew up, a mother. But, it was too change in four years, with the advent of Barbie.

It is interesting to note that up until 1959 (with the advent of Barbie) the dolls being produced for girls since the 1920’s were primarily baby dolls. Particularly in the 1950’s even the ever popular ‘Bride Dolls’ had a somewhat baby-doll look. One could say that a young girl, at that age, would often find herself playing at ‘being mother’. Then, in 1959, when Barbie was introduced, the element of nurse-maid help-meet was replaced with the concept of you ‘becoming the doll’.

Then, you would put yourself in the place of the doll, with her perfect and rather racy figure (she was actually modeled after a ‘sex figure’ doll based on a popular cartoon from Germany called Lilli .

Many mother’s at the time were very against Barbie and found her too racy and too ‘grown up’ for their children. Before Barbie, a little girl would play mother to the baby doll, or if she wanted to imagine herself the doll, she would imagine herself simply, a little girl or, again, the mother to a young girl. Her wardrobe was not ‘grown up’ in a ‘high fashion’ way. The accoutrements of such dolls were also about taking care of a child or being responsible for its well being.

This has become an interesting concept to me this year to think about. I, myself, loved Barbie, but by the time I came around, any ill feelings towards the doll had gone and she was just a normal part of childhood. But, in the historical context, it does draw an interesting parallel between a young girl playing at ‘helping others’ or becoming a grown up responsible for a child as compared to being a young sexy woman with expensive clothes, boyfriend and a fast car. It is really a very symbolic entrance into the 1960’s. Now, I am not saying I am against Barbie, but when you consider what she has become to represent to girls, that at the time young mothers found it rather daring to play with such a doll, could you imagine their response today to what little girls actually wear themselves? Was it part of the ‘making over’ of the modern woman? Was she being prepared to care more for her looks and possessions than to care for others? Interesting to think about, non? I think it would be fun and intersting to talk about it more and to see that even the toys that were made played a role in who we were to become as Americans as the decades of the 20th century rolled by.

Now, I have been SO buy as I found myself rather behind due to my illness. I am even, today, still making Christmas cookies to give to our neighbors. I also have to finish wrapping my gifts and prepare for our Christmas Eve Party, which luckily is not held at my house this year (we take turns with our family). Every year we do a different theme for our this family party some of which have included the 1950’s, Victorian Christmas etc. This year the theme is Japanese. Our gifts are themed to that and we dress in our interpretation of the theme. As Japan was beginning to play a major role in the us at this time, it is easy enough for me. So much of modern interiors were highly influenced by Japanese culture and I have many Japanese recipes in my 1950’s magazines. Many Japanese war brides returned to with their American G.I. husbands and a neighborhood may have contact with such a wife who would introduce them to tea ceremony, sushi, and even ichibani-the Japanese flower arranging style. But, I digress…to say the least, I am rushing about to get ready for our Christmas day as I spent almost three weeks of this month being almost bed ridden.

I had hoped to do so many wonderful posts about homemade gifts and cookies and food for the holiday season and do feel bad for not having got to it. I do hope you will all forgive me that. I will try, tomorrow, to post some fun images and recipes from my magazines, though it is rather late, it might make a fun Christmas Eve post and one can never start thinking about the next holiday too soon, right?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

20 December 1955 "Snowed In"

This will be hubby this morning.

And, perhaps this will be me!

We have been hit by the “Blizzard of 2009” as it is being hailed. Of course to me it will always be the blizzard of ‘55.

I had meant to post yesterday, but before the blizzard could hit a virus hit my computer and I had to leave it untouched until hubby returned home to help.

I will return later today with a Christmas post. I know it is late hours now, but there might still be time to make some fun homemade items for the holidays, particularly if you are snowed in and cannot get to the stores!

Well, off to make pancakes and eggs, hot chocolate and coffee. Hubby will be coming in soon, frozen and wanting something warm in his belly. Until later today, then.

How many of you have been hit by this blizzard?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

16 December 1955 “Manners: Then and Now and Christmas Ideas”

Let’s start with some films on manners from the time.
This next film is to teach school age children to behave at lunch, however, this should be used for adults on how to behave in the world at malls and restaurants, public bathrooms and lines at movie theatres. Such sage advice. It is odd to me that so much is expressed today to children about being fair and loving our differences but manners should go along with this. What better way to appreciate one another than to be considerate? 
You will even notice in this film such things as when the little girl takes the last milk, rather than shouting or demanding more or arguing with the little girl, he politely asks for if there is any more. How nice would this simple action be in a retail store or grocery store! Also, like most things, politeness can be contagious and you want to emulate. However, today there are endless reality TV shows that glamorize and reward the rudest and most wretched behavior. Even famous chefs are now to be exemplified by their ill mannered shouting and harassing of others. Isn’t it amazing how much actual real life knowledge there is in these films. They may seem campy and over the top at first, but don’t you think sitting with people who are polite and thoughtful more fun than someone shouting, putting their feet up on things and spreading crumbs and filth all over? Also, good posture is just medically sound. You are less likely to have back problems and such issues from merely elongated your spine and keeping your feet flat on the ground. Simple and easy, yet now scoffed at and seen as ‘old fashioned’. Also, it is medically sound to wash before and after eating, cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing and yet I rarely see this in public and I am sure the public schools are the same and we wonder at the spread of the H1N1. That is why often ‘good manners’ are merely ‘common sense’. Even a lady wearing gloves summer or winter in stores protects herself from the germs and can wash those gloves at home. Much courtesy is also for our won benefit as well as those around us!
I also find it interesting now that many people would view this movie and think how controlled everyone had to be, lorded over. But, honestly, in public the freedom to do what we want is a gift, how we chose to express that freedom should be in that we, as a free people, choose to make it nice for others around us and therefore also for us. With the choice, we choose to make a neat kind considerate world for all in which to live. Some how ‘freedom’ has been replaced with ‘I do what I want!’ in a dogmatic way. As if your personal actions are of a greater value than those around you. We are all told how wonderful and special we are that we don’t care about others who have to clean up after us or live in the world with us.
In the introduction of my 1954 “Everyday Etiquette” by Amy Vanderbilt we get a view that things are changing now in our ‘modern’ world:
We are in the midst of a social revolution. Manners are changing but the essential need for manners of some kind remains the same. Good manners are the traffic rules for society in general-not in the purely ‘social’ sense. Without good manners, living would be chaotic, human beings unbearable to each other.
A knowledge of what constitutes good manners makes us comfortable within ourselves and with other people. Automatic good manners under difficult circumstances increase our security and our ability to help others achieve social poise, too. Reduced to a phrase, good manners is consideration of other people in respect to their feelings, their safety, their privacy and their full social rights and privileges.
                                                                                                -Amy Vanderbilt
Under the chapter ‘Courtesies of Everyday Living” I found this interesting. Here is the question:
What do you consider the important “don’ts” for a man or boy to remember?
DO NOT-(remember these are what NOT to do)
Enter a room before a lady unless it is dark and you wish to make it ready for her
Seat yourself while ladies are standing
Speak or bow to a lady before she has given some sign of recognition
Smoke without asking permission of the lady you are accompanying or sit so near (as in a train) that the smoke might annoy her.
Call any but your contemporaries, servants, or children by their first names.
Keep your hat on while talking to a lady (unless asked to replace it) or fail to touch your hat or to lift it when necessary
Take a woman’s hand, nudge her, or take her arm except to help her into or out of vehicles or across the street
Fail to pull out a lady’s chair for her or fail to serve her or to see that she is served first
speak of repulsive matters at table
criticize another’s religion, belittle his race or country, or refer unnecessarily to his color in his presence
Enter any place of worship without removing your hat (if its removal is expected) and without speaking in reverent tones.
Laugh at the mistakes or misfortunes of others
Fail to give due respect to a clergyman of any faith, to a woman or any religious order.
I found an interesting question in this book about a woman who leaves her baby in its pram outside the store while she is shopping only to find someone cooing over it. I found out that at this time, in the 1950’s this was often done.  A woman would leave her child in its pram outside a store. Such a world did exist where others new their town and neighbors well enough to know that that child would be protected BY her community. Can you imagine that today? That says SO MUCH about our current society.
Here is a good list for children.
Can you give me a list of the important “don’ts” that might serve as a guide for my two goys, aged eight and ten?
Well, they don’t-(remember this is what they should NOT do)
scratch , pick the teeth, spit, comb the hair, or tend the nails in public
chew with their mouths open or with obvious noise or lip smacking.
Leave a spoon in  a cup, or eat with a knife, or tuck in their napkins or suck their fingers instead of wiping them on a napkin.
Sit down to a meal unwashed and uncombed or improperly dressed.
Fail to greet others in the household when they arise or return home.
Tilt chairs or lounge on the dinner table or put their elbows on it, except between courses (and then preferably one elbow at a time, if any.)
Go up and down stairs like elephants and bang doors after them.
Pass in front of others without excusing themselves.
Use a flat “yes” or “no” in answer to questions. Instead, “Yes, Mother,” or “Yes, Mr. Roberts (or Sir)”.
Swear in a way that is considered offensive.
Put more than a manageable mouthful in their mouths at one time.
Burp, sneeze, or cough without attempting to turn away from others, and then only behind the cupped hand or a clean handkerchief.
Behave noisily and conspicuously in public places.
Enter a room whose door is closed without knocking and waiting for permission to enter.
Interrupt a conversation except for an important reason and then only after asking permission to speak.
I know I am always appalled at the manners of children in shops. I think it funny how so many are worried for their childrens safety and won’t let them play or do things alone, but the second they step foot in a store, off they run and the parent cares less. Then they race in front of you, never say excuse me, kick parents and shout “I hate you” while the parents ignore them or they bribe them or use empty threats “You won’t get this toy if you don’t behave” two or three times meanwhile the kid is wailing and screaming.
It seems even in 1955 the ‘new’ permissive nature of upbringing was upsetting to some. As there is a question in the book from someone about the ‘so called permissive method of upbringing”. The thin end of the wedge I suppose. Although every generation was taught less respect and manners and then their children do less then that and so on and so on so here we are.
Now this book has far too many things to give more examples. I could talk about it more in later posts if you were interested or you could also ask for a great vintage book and get this yourself. I am sure it would be a few dollars at a local used book shop.
So, I think it is a safe assumption that people were, over all, more polite then than now. Of course one could then pose the question, given the technology we have now to those then, how long would it take before they merely were like us: talking on cell phone while being waiting on in a line in a store, saying hateful things anonymously online, cutting in front of others and strutting about in pajamas and messy hair? Who can say.
I have a theory, of course. It seems to me that what we, as a people, had come to at that point in time were already acting impolite in ways to the older generations who lived before the wars in corsets and ‘ladies at home’. Yet, there still seemed a civility of sorts. I think this decade really saw the last time in a long run of history (really since the Renaissance when the concept of courtly graces and ‘manners’ really came about, but that is an entire other post, or rather a year long project!)when a unified code of ‘what is right and wrong’ existed.
Now, rather it was driven by a Christian base or not, those who were not Christian still followed the sort of ‘social code’. It is true that I do not want the inequality back, I like and think that in our country, really in the civilized world, we should allow equality for all. If others think or act or live differently than we, it should be none of our business, but then in a public setting we should be tolerant but simply not forgetting our manners. What I don’t understand is the hate. The hatred of those we disagree with or don’t approve of has a sort of life of its own. It has become a sort of public god that many worship by shouting and holding hateful signs. Honestly, someone form 1955 would find it appalling and crude and wonder at it.
Again, if we were merely more decent people at the heart of it and held to common sense and manners, there would be no need to over throw and shout and hate. Yet, we well meaning masses allow those with the most extreme opinions and it seems loudest voices stand for the majority and than we end in riots, and shouting and just ill behavior all round.
I know that we may never, as a people, be those well behaved conscientious people who think before we act or accept that we may not all believe the same, but I thought the reason for founding and growing this country was to live together in harmony of our differences. Yet, why can’t we when in the shared public sector of living have a unified code that is for all? Nothing based on religion or beliefs other than the belief that kindness, calm rational thought, and manners will always make for a better living environment? Privacy at home and public actions out in the world. It should matter little if I think one way and you another, if we are kind and considerate of one another than we could coexist. Yet, privacy and what is best left ‘at home’ is now the majority of what is on tv and media. Privacy is no longer as ‘news’ programs delve into for hours and days on end what so and so did with whom and how often. How does dragging it out and incessantly showing it make it any better? Can you imagine Walter Cronkite talking all day long about Tiger Woods and if he did or did not cheat on his wife and his opinion of it?
When thinking about this post I began to see how many ways I could break down the various ‘break downs’ in manners. Just the way we act in stores with sales help and to other customers is almost an entire post in its own right. We have become so demanding so needful of what we want right now at our time and pace and at the lowest price, be damned the economy, it doesn’t affect me! Not realizing, of course, that we are ALL the economy.
I know I am going back to the big box stores example, but Wal mart and its ilk is probably one of the worst things to happen to our country and the world. We have been taught to only want what is cheapest and easiest without caring about the local business and the physical landscape of our town. I don’t know how it was done so smoothly, but people honestly act as if it is not in their power and it is not their towns that are being taken over. How many more years before the majority of the American landscape is just a Wal-Mart and a few houses clustered about and the dead empty streets of downtown crumbling? All of these things lead to bad manners! For what is more selfish and ill mannered than demanding what you want at a low price no matter who is hurt or how it affects others?
And I think that is the root of manners today right there solved. To have manners is to think of others first. Plain and simple. There is no secret potion nor formula, it is merely think of the person next you BEFORE yourself. If we did that would we be chatting away on the cell phone and shouting at the sales girl that this is not the price you thought it should be? If we consider the consequences for the situations in public that make us angry before we act or voice or ‘opinion’ than we would be well on our way to returning manners and civility.
Now, that is the second point in manners. One’s opinion. WE have come to believe, today, that our opinion is like a great lump of gold or handful of diamonds. What we say  is so important that it needs to be shouted over others opinions, for it surely is more valuable. Of course, this is being said from someone who writes her opinion almost daily for others to read, but I don’t feel I shout them at others nor shove them down their throats. I think because we can so readily text and tweet and i.m. and call and share our opinions today without repercussion nor hearing others opinions that we have come to think we are the best thing since sliced bread!
Even so called ‘news’ programs are merely people shouting their opinions at one another. Where is the subjective manner driven world that allows a person on TV to state the facts of a news story and leave their opinion at home? There are entire news channels devoted to nothing BUT opinions. They shout and rant how right they are! The very epitome of rudeness. These are the sort of things that are on all the time on newsstands and on TV and the internet and we wonder at children’s bad behavior today? It seems the example is always a better learning tool than merely informing, so children go out and live in a world where there is shouting and ranting for news, people are pushing and screaming at one another in traffic, on phones, wanting more in stores, crashing through large wal mart with grouchy slovenly dressed people, wanting and needing and shouting their way through life. Is it any wonder the quiet civility of the past is gone? We have asked for it. We demanded to be heard and now we are all so busy shouting out our opinions that none our heard. WE must simply gather into our camps of shared opinions and shout the louder.
I do feel sometimes that we have raced back in time to the middle ages, tossing aside Boccaccio and Courtly manners and shouting, living in filth and mud, and clambering to be heard. Good bye centuries of collected knowledge of learning to live together. Hello screaming masses!
I don’t know if we could ever get back that sort of civility that existed because to do so we would have to give up some of our convenience. The ability to call anyone anytime at any minute. The chance to get that lower price on that product. The need to get your point across and dogmatically want it enforced upon others, these are such easy and luring prospects that most will opt out for that than to slow down, think, and act in a way that would be more pleasant for all. Perhaps we have gone over that brink. It is interesting that most of ill manners is simply fueled by the greed to want more and have more even though we rarely need half of what we get. How many years ago was it that none of us could contact anyone until we got home and picked up the phone? So, I am afraid, in some way, that manners have gone the way of the dinosaur. They cannot live and thrive in this climate of noise, incessant media, and selfish driven ‘me first’ mentality.
We want the pill to make us thin, the low cost without consequence to other people or our own town, we want the biggest fattest cheapest meat regardless to how the animal is treated, we want easy and instant. Well, we were told that is what we want and so we think we do, but do we really? Perhpas the process of making or doing the things we have so easily exchanged are part of living. It cost us more to have the instant life. We have to work more as we buy more of it. We give up on our towns and communities to have the big store where you can go and get it all cheap and fast, but maybe, just maybe, the time to go out into a community to get your needs met, meet your neighbors, or even prepare and make some of those things with a base set of ingredients IS living more than always getting what you want. Have we sold our actual living our actual LIFE away to make it easier for us? And what do we get with the ease? Are we happier as a society as a whole? Do we spend our extra time when not at work gleaned from the convenience of not having to do anything loving our family and sharing in our community?
I know and hope many of you out there would like a return to manners, but do you think you could (if you do not now) increase your own use of manners? I know I want to and always try to be more considerate than I have in the past. I sometimes cringe when I think of the old me and had I the chance would love to slap myself straight across the face and send myself to bed without any dessert.
Yet, we can move forward, we have to really, but will we move forward mindfully? Can we step into each day feeling we DO control it and want to change for the better: shop locally, let another cut in line, put off that phone call until you are at least in the car, smile to others, not care if this or that is on sale, but either do without or be kind and go and learn the names of the workers in the local shops? Give up our seat on buses to older people, gentleman to ladies? We can do it. Each of us are NOT actually controlled by the tv and the corporation, though we often act as we are. We DO NOT NEED the new flat screen TV or the latest video game console or the newest car or the biggest house nor to be inline first or to text and call our friends every minute about the simplest things, “I just went into the book store LOL” and so on. We CAN slow down and quietly take the world in at a pace we want. The modern world has allowed us the ability to have and make choices and yet we have become so mentally lazy that we would rather let the media tell us what to think. ‘Oh, we need that car, video game, TV, outfit,’ or ‘oh, we hate those people now and think ill of these people’. We CAN change, but will we?
A modern case in point of such a media happening is this Tiger Woods situation. I can’t but not hear about it. I should know nothing of it here in 1955, but good luck not hearing about it. Now, rather or not this person is guilty of adultery, why should it matter to all of us? I also heard he makes the majority of his insane wealth from sponsorships. So, here we live in a world where money is made by being allowed to become a commercial. What does that tell us about who we are? That commercials and advertising and fame drive our lives. Honestly, why should any of it matter. I don’t condone his behavior, but I also don’t know him nor his wife nor any of the circumstances. Yet, every ‘news’ program will be talking endlessly of it. WHY? Because, honestly, there we are again, in the middle ages milling about the gallows waiting for the blade to fall or the rope to swing so we can smile and beam at the death and destruction of our fellow man. “He thought he was better than us, Ha there you go fall and crash and burn!”
Have our lives become SO empty that the downfall of someone great (only made great by our own buying into it mind) takes a few more thoughts of our own pointless lives away from us? We can stop thinking for a moment about the job we hate and the messy house we must go home to and that wretched dinner to make, better buy more prepared food, the rude attitude I will receive at the store, oh I have to go buy this and that. We have allowed ourselves to fall into a life that is, at its roots, empty and shallow and though our mindful conscious bit of us try and peek out every so often, we can simply ignore it with the latest thing I can buy cheap, or the newest, or the latest scandal. We can silence that inner voice that knows better and really has our best interest at hand.
I am not sure why we feel the need to give up on our own lives and power so easily, but it seems this feeling of mindlessly caring about that cheap t-shirt or that scandal is more important than just slowing down and enjoying our own life! Buy less, use less, have more time, use that time to think, read do whatever you like and your life WILL be better. That is the great SECRET TO HAPPINESS, but our modern world will not let you ever think that. So, we continue to feed into the hate and need and greed and ill mannered way to our own demise and that of our children.  Really, having manners third point is being mindful or thoughtful or simply THINKING. Such behavior cannot coexist with the modern world the way it is because it would come about that we would begin to see our emptiness and bored attitude and feeling of sadness is simply tied into our pointless buying, spending, wasting of our time. Stop, talk to your  neighbor, share the cost of dinners with friends, buy less, mend what you have, work less, learn to make and sew and knit, share ideas and thoughts, read books from the past when things were a way you like and take what you can and implement it into your life now! Even personal style can belong to you, you don’t have to just covet the glamorous lifestyle of stars, make and buy lovely things and care for them. You don’t HAVE to wear jeans and a t-shirt everyday or to the store. Perhaps if you care for your appearance a little before you go to the store, you will see the polite and ready service you receive. No need to shout or push. Well dressed and groomed and mannered people often are very well treated. 
That is another aspect of our modern world, we must never want what is old, for if we covet something from the past it is simply packaged new and made a repro vintage object to buy. We long for the 1950’s because we want civility, calm and family but instead we buy a novelty toy or a book with old adverts and funny sayings and put it in the pile of growing items and stuff. And you know what, you don’t feel better because it isn’t the kitschy past we want, it is the smiling mother and wife, the happy and smart dad with his pipe and answers to questions because he reads books instead of just watching tv, a warm meal made to please you because someone cared enough about it, the smile and chat with your neighbor because you both care how the other is and what they are up to. And you know what? YOU CANNOT PACKAGE THAT. It is NOT easy, but better for the effort. You can’t sell happy lives even though everyday we are told that is what we are doing.
So, here again I have learned in 1955 another element we all long for and would love to get back simply lost at the root of commercialism and consumerism. Yes, it’s easy, but does it make you happy? Are you happy right now? Do you feel good inside when you have pushed your way in front and shouted to get a better price? Do you smile when you get home from the big chain knowing you save 10 bux but drove another nail in the coffin of the local business and your neighborhoods appearance and supported yet another dollar to communist china and allowed that little girl to make your shoes so you can have another pair for less money?Are you glad you can call someone and tell them what you are doing while you are driving? Does it make you feel good and happy with yourself? I think quite honestly who could say in many circumstances we, as a modern people, are not a happy people and therefore we must take it out on others. Certainly it is their fault. And that is how we get to the fourth element of Manners ACCOUNTABILITY. It isn’t my fault I am unhappy, it must be because I want to buy more, that is on sale, the salesperson is so stupid, that idiot on the road doesn’t know how to drive, that stupid waitress didn’t get my order right! I am fat, Sad, Broke, In Dept, Lonely, Bored, but it is not MY fault.
To have good manners one MUST be accountable for their actions and thoughts. Is it really the salesperson’s fault that you cannot find what you are looking for?
I have also come to find that many of the ‘secrets’ that that snake oil salesmen on TV sell for the thinner you, happier you, is really rather a simple solution. YOU take control and eat less, buy less etc. I do think there are many who could have a calmer richer life if they only CHOSE correctly. Parents will complain about their children and the noise and chaos of today and then buy them all computers, phones, video games, as if they have NO CONTROL, “Well, I can’t NOT buy these things, right?” That is what it has come to we HAVE to buy. There is NO question, we just get up in the morning trudge off to our hateful jobs to make more money to pay down the debt. But we DON’T have to! We can slow down. We could work less if we do without things or maintain the things we do have.
I always use the example of taking a person from 1955 and dropping them in Starbucks. Can you imagine the look of horror on their face when they realize a 10 cent cup of coffee (in our current money) is 5 dollars or in their adjusted rate of expense in 1955 a 35 dollar cup of coffee! But, we do it. We spend it. It’s easy. It is all so easy, but, another lesson learned form 1955: is easier better or does it make you happier? Most of the time it is not, it does not.
Even in 1955, when our modern world really began, you were constantly shown in magazines and TV this is better, your life will be better if you use this electric stove or own this toaster etc. You were not as bombarded by it as today, because there was far less tv being watched and fewer outlets for it, but it was starting. That is why I often now say that the 1950’s are a touchstone to our modern world. WE can look back and really see ourselves in them, but there they have a clean slate. They have not yet gone down the rabbit hole or through the looking glass after Alice. They still have a chance; they still have choices. So, let us look back, it is easy enough, then let us make choices. We may not be able to change all those around us, but by being groomed, kind, and well mannered, you will be surprised how those around you respond. Instead of trying to be ONE OF THE CROWD and the COOL KID, why not make yourself happy and enjoy life and see how soon you look like a unique individual that others will want to emulate. “How can she be smiling? I mean look at what she is wearing, she is driving that car? Oh, that outfit is so last year’” Because, when it comes down to it, the nicest most expensive clothes and cares are merely you trying to belong to some group, but do you honestly admire the tenets of that group? Does its philosophy really make you happy. Isn’t it better to worry LESS about what others think of you and THINK MORE about others so you can be kind and considerate and make yourself happy in your own style? It is doable and so worth it. I cannot tell you how much happier I have been this year than ever before in my life.
Manners may be gone from the day to day, but we are still in control of our lives and can still set examples for our children, friends and strangers. Let’s say goodbye to the endless grown babies that want what they want when they want it and to ridicule and taunt others for their not being ‘cool’ and really begin to live our own lives fully and happy. When you do that you will be surprised how easy it is to allow another in front of you in line, to hold a door, to say excuse me and please and thank you, for you will really mean it. You will be happy and honestly care for those around you.
Now, i do like to always get down from my soapbox and then share some practical tips. Here are some fun Christmas ones!
First, here is the recipe for those lovely pies I pictured in an earlier pie recipes (click on image and it should open large enough to read.)
Here are the instructions for those darling pie tin decorations.
decorations how to 2 decorations how to 1
xmas candy There are so many candy recipes that I think I will leave those for my next post.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

15 December 1955 “Feeling Better; Checking In”

50s dressing gown I apologize for not having posted before this, but my illness suddenly came to a head these past few days. Now, rather spent, but happily feeling more solidly better, I find myself well into the Christmas season. I feel as if I Rip Van Winkled and awoke on Christmas Eve. So many things to do and now rather less time.

Today is honestly the first day I can go out and attempt some shopping. We have budgeted very little for gifts this year, as it is our time together on the day that is more important than the things we give, but one does like to have a few things to wrap.woman with packages

So, I am off today to try and get back into the swing of things. I can hardly believe that 1955 is almost at a close.

christmas decoHere is a page of fun home-made decorations you can make. I thought they are a great recycling project as well as rather mid-century pretty. I will post the instructions for this as well as the recipes for the pies and some candies next. I still plan on doing a post about manners, but I want to peruse my Vanderbilt Etiquette book before hand.

Have a wonderful day and hope you are all ready for the coming Holiday.

Friday, December 11, 2009

11 December 1955 “1955: My Nicotine Patch of Consumerism, Some Fun Christmas How-To.”

F1255 We really can see the beginning of the consumer driven world starting in post war USA. We could even say it is the launching pad to today's economy and consumer world. Yet, there is an innocence and a hope about it.

I have said this before, and most likely will again, that the 1950’s USA seems an almost pivotal point in time that one can reference for learning to live in the modern world. It seems to have an almost magical mythical quality about it. In fact, today it is almost an Avalon, if you will. Rather we see it as a time of white bread American elitism or as it truly was: a time when the country as a whole had an almost shared consciousness of ‘let’s make it all bright and shiny and new and forget the past’, it seems to reverberate with most people on some level.

Now,who could blame those new families in the 1950s wanting so much new and shiny and plastic. After two world wars, the Depression and so much loss of life and really a break up of what many had thought was the ‘normal’ world for centuries. Yet, in that hope of new and better, I think we somehow  followed the wrong path to where we are now.

Certainly, one could say the paths are relative to your situation, but I don’t believe so. Somehow the newness, the production, the new plastic furniture, medicine, houses, clothes, and toys that were the answer to every problem just got the better of us. I think we began to see the product more than the people. The original intent was certainly to make a better world for future generations, but as anyone can see that is not what is happening.

Christmas is a good example of this.  The 1950’s really saw the explosion of the ‘over the top’ Christmas in the this country. Cheaply made goods and toys were flooding the market from war torn Japan (the China of the 1950’s) and everything was easy and new and rather cheap. People wanted to celebrate and forget about the scrimping and saving of the past and to make a better happier future for their children. Unfortunately, I think this only lead to spoiled children who could not understand the context of the immense amount of commercialization of Christmas, as they were not around for the wars and the Depression. Good intentions gone bad.

So today, really, I think it is our responsibility to fix that. I know it is hard, but gosh darn it, it is worth it! And, in many ways, I find myself going back to the 1950’s as a sort of touchstone. A place in our recent past that we can relate to for its TV, Plastics, NEW, and Consumer intent, but yet it was in its infancy. It’s innocence can help us to use this as a guide. Perhaps if we could steer ourselves back to the beginning of the consumerism, than we could get a better handle on it. It makes for an easier transition. I am not sure if I am making myself clear, but by referring to this decade we could use it as a means to slowly taper off the current trend in our country to spend  and spend without care of where or how it is made or the expense and loss to our own economy and environment.

A smoker is aided by a nicotine patch. It is a little ‘jolt’ of what they are used to and it helps them to wean themselves off the addiction. I have found 1955 to be a sort of ‘nicotine patch of consumerism’, if you will. There is enough in it  that is familiar. There are the TV shows, “Oh, I understand that” there are inexpensive goods available for all, ‘Oh, that is familiar” and then you can sort of walk your way backwards into the decade to see some helpful changes. “Wait, there is no Old Navy to buy endless ‘same clothes’ made by Chinese children, but I can make or buy a vintage dress and wait it has more style? More individuality?” Sure there are McDonalds and greasy food joints, but wait, a post roast Sunday dinner with all the trimmings is so easy and cheap to make. You sort of can wean yourself from some of the ills of today.

I really think there is a sort of prescriptive magic to this decade. It has a little bit of everything for all of us to look to and adjust our modern way of living for the better.

I am going to be getting more into wanting to be self-sufficient. To garden and grow more. There is a movement like that today, yet I feel I want to do that but also have the time to make part of my life ‘stylish’. That is to say, I want to be out there in my Wellies in the muck planting my crops and tending my chickens, but then I want to clean up, put on my prettiest frock and petticoat, a darling little hat and go to town.

I feel somehow that the ‘various’ movements of ‘vintage’ or ‘self-sustaining’ the ‘modern hippy’ they are all separate and feel they need to draw a line in the sand and throw mud at one another, when really they are all of the same ilk. One who cares about fashion certainly can care about gardening and its design, they really share so much. Someone who wants to learn to grow and can and preserve can also find joy in a pretty dress or a moment of personal style our grandmothers did! I think one is not contradictory to another. I think there is as much importance as personal style that could help our consumer driven modern world. It is easy to buy cheaply made things at chain stores, but then one gets slovenly and lazy. I honestly believe there is a REAL tangible correlation between our appearance and how we approach our day and life. If we are dressed as if always comfortable to go to bed, then perhaps we shall all day feel that way. A nice style and uniqueness also leads to one wanting to make up their own look without having to always turn to the mass produced ill made cheap things. Buying hand made, making your own and buying old clothes is also great for the environment and your local economy, as well as good for you own well being and your personal view.

I guess I am saying that as 1955 draws to a close, I am replenished with the idea that it has come to mean a new philosophy of life for me that is all inclusive. We don't’ have to have sides. This modern concept of defining oneself by the ‘group we belong to’: “Oh, I am into this, so here are the things I buy that represent that. Or this is my philosophy, so part of my energy must be spent in talking down those who do not share it or talk of how ignorant they are compared to me.” It is a damaging way to be, but really it just makes us more formed into little product niches. I am a Goth teen therefore I want and do only these things and buy this. We have allowed ourselves to become demographic markets easier to be sold to.  Why limit yourself to any one thing?  The definitions of ourselves have become marketing tools.

The whole world is out there and full of wonder and interesting things. I want to know I can build a house, raise a chicken, plant a crop, but also sew a dress I designed, wear it stylishly to the city, enjoy a concert, read read read and study and write my thoughts down. I don’t want to be defined by a specific point or item, yet 1955 has allowed me to realize this. I know now that I will most likely always refer back to the first half of the 20th century, as it has so much to teach me and us. I just hope that any of you out there who do want a change or maybe you look at your life and think, ‘hmmm, I think I am okay but I feel sort of blah or something is missing’ that you can really take a look back and see that we are not what we buy or spend.

We do not have to be defined by whatever ‘look’ or ‘philosophy’ is going at present. The true core to happiness seems to be becoming a true well rounded person. To cook, clean, learn, study, question, sew, paint, write, garden, build, darn, iron the list can go on. Those things we continually try to find ways to do easier or not at all are really part of being alive. It is who we are as a species. So, the next time you buy that premade dinner because it’s easy, think of what you are doing with the time you are saving by not making it yourself. Are you doing it so you can sit and watch a show you have seen 5 times already? Is that living? Is that life? There could be moments of living and realization in that kitchen when you are reading the cookbook, cutting those vegetables, tying up that bird with string that IS living! Be careful what you so easily toss away to convenience and modern living. If you are bored and feel aimless it is because you have purchased away your humanity, your independence. Why pay to give up the joys of living?

Well, enough of my soapbox, though it does feel good to be on it again!

Now, to brass tacks, if you will. I am STILL ill and can barely talk. Everyday I get a little stronger, but find I need to rest in between my usual daily chores. I have notices that being sick in 1955 after all the skills I have begun to gain and the amount of activity I do in one day is so much more frustrating that the old modern sickness. Then, so what, sit and watch TV and drink oj how much different is that than not being sick? But, now I see all the things I need to do. Then, when I do a 1/4 of them, find myself exhausted from the work of it! It is a sort of fitting way to put all I have learned and now do in perspective, that is for sure. I appreciate where I have got to this year and where I can still go.

couple with giftIt is unfortunate that I am sick this month, however, as I love Christmas. I always have. And there are so many darling ‘home-made’ gifts and food and decorations at this time (1955) so I do want to have a go at them! Let’s see what I can muster today.

gift giving 1 In one of my Christmas Magazines for 1955 there is a fun spread of different Kitchen Gifts they are fun and most of these could be had today fairly inexpensive through ebay or local thrift shops. This one is of particular interest as you see the little television making its appearance as a kitchen ‘necessity’. I love the fabric. You can also see as the Decade progresses the mixture of the more sleek modern with the increasing interest in ‘Early American’ or ‘Colonial’ look. The numbering and decoration of the wall clock has a modern antiquity compared with the more straight lined edges of the earlier decade. Also the use of gold tones and brass is beginning to be incorporated into kitchen design. This will of course culminate in what I rather think the most unappealing decade of Kitchen design, the 1970’s when ‘Spanish colonial’ is in vogue with dark stained wood, avocados and gold and overtly turned spindles and overly adorned dark wood plays its role accented by the avocado green shag carpet of the family room. gift giving 2  From the same magazine spread comes the color combination I love and is rather modern today: turquoise and brown. Again, you can see the feeling of a slight decorative edge to the modernity, as in the clear glass canister's turquoise design. I actually love these and maybe one day will find them. The heating/chaffing dish in turquoise is also lovely. You can also notice now, halfway through the decade, that the magazines are beginning the layout we still use today, that is photographing items of similar color and utility together into an almost modern composition. This is still done today in many magazines which, for the most part, have become advertising flyers we pay for. Pretty colors, though, are they not?

Now, here are some fun holiday decorations to make 1950’s style: glass plate christmas tree 1I love this ‘Glass Plate Christmas Tree’. It could really be done up modern or in this fun retro way with things you have around the house. And here is the How to:glass plate christmas tree 2(as usual, just click on the image and it will become large enough to read) I think you could also use, in place of the disposable pie plates, cute colored cupcake papers cut as flowers and add a petit fors in reds and greens!

poodle dog 1 You can’t get more 1950’s than with the poodle, the dog of the decade. This little darling could be so fun in pinks and grey too! Here are the instructions.poodle dog 2

I will be sharing my fun ‘how to’ decorations and gifts this month. Do any of you think you might attempt any of these if I were to include more?

Now, though I am excited about my new Dione Lucas French Cooking book and want to make such lovely desserts as Souffle’ au caramel froid (cold caramel souffle’), one cannot but help being drawn into that very American Dessert of the 1950’s: garishly showy, sometimes overtly literal and always creamy and sugared. So, look at these four lovely pies:christmas pies 1

 christmas pies 2 If any of you gals would like to try these for the holiday season I will be posting their recipes next time.

Now, as most of my energy has now been spent on this post, I must rest before I attempt laundry (I know it isn’t Monday, but a gal’s schedule is all over during her illness!).

I think I will leave you with this cute video I found on YouTube. It really shows no matter what time or persuasion, the most important part of the holiday or really of your life, is friends and families and the memories you make.

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