Thursday, April 30, 2009

30 April 1955 “Goodbye Old Friend”

These past two days have been hard. Our dog has had to be put down. He is old, 17 years to be exact, and we came about him in an odd way. It actually is rather fitting that I should be with him, now, at the end of his life. We have only taken him in for the past three months, but he came into my family by my own hand.

girl and puppy1 The story of Gilbert. Where to begin.

I was young and just back from Europe and not yet done with school. Being young and impetuous, I thought I needed a dog. I had moved out of dorms, so had my own place. An impetuous afternoon lead to a young college student with a full schedule and a strapping young Jack Russell.

He was everything a young dog should be. Rambunctious. Playful, of course always wetting the floor when he shouldn’t. I often carried him around in a shoulder bag. He’d poke his little head out, sniff the air and breathe in life. He was white with red spots. One spot covered his eye and ear, making me recall old Little Rascals episodes on Saturday mornings as a child. I even have a newspaper clipping of me and my little guy when I visited a local antique show. The person asked if they could get a shot of us for the local paper. I didn’t know until it came out, why they wanted it. “Antique enthusiast follows ‘no dogs allowed’ rule at this year’s antiques fair” we laughed about it, hung it on the fridge and went on into the summer.

That fall, returning to university, Gilbert stayed behind. I hadn’t time for him, really. He had become accustomed to my parents and our family dog. He enjoyed the yard to romp in and the constant attention my mother could lavish on him. I kissed his head, waved good bye and somehow the rigors of life speed by.

I graduated. Moved to Boston then the Cape and life just sort of lumbered along. I would hear of the dogs occasionally, but new dogs, a husband and a life had replaced the part in my heart he once filled.

Flash forward to two years ago. My parents, being quite old ( I was born when my mother was in her 40’s) plan to move out to the Cape. I am excited, but it is short lived. I had heard less and less form my mother over the years and really thought little of it. We were always close but we had such full lives, separately, that many times a few years would go by with only occasional calls. Now, I knew why. My mother had Alzheimers and my Father had kept it from me. I was floored to say the least. That, however, is another story.

They moved out here, with Gilbert, the family dog having passed just before. 15 years had gone by, but Gilbert was holding on. We have a house we own that we used to rent out and so my parents moved in. It is a wonderful old Cape built in 1718. Finally, I thought, it will be filled with family and laughter and of course, the patter of dogs feet.

Gilbert. Here he was. So old he was unrecognizable. His playful red spots had faded to all white. His rambuncious prance, replaced by careful steps. His bottom row of teeth, what was left of them, now protruded and he looked oddly comical when he would peer up at you, teeth jutting out, ears alert. He played, as best he could, with my younger dogs when we would visit and have our family get togethers. Finally we were all close to one another.

Alzheimer's is a horrid disease. I have since often thought it is the closest thing to living with a real ghost. You see the image of your loved one walking about, only you cannot communicate with them and they often look right through you; perhaps she smiles at you, or holds your hand, only she cannot tell you what she wants. Words elude her. She wants to communicate with you, like a ghost, but having left earthly things behind, she cannot be made to understand who she is or who you are. You smile best you can and hold her hand. It is a sad place for all.

Being the youngest and born to such old parents has often left me to face things many people do not encounter until they have older children of their own. I have no children but I do have old parents. It is as if I have lived with those sights and knowledge of old age since I was a child. They have been my companion in my youth and were gone for a bit, but with my parents return to me and Gilbert they returned. Perhaps my love of vintage things was due to my being brought up on it. I often lived in the photographs of my parents when they were young, with my other siblings. It was a life that had been real, they spoke of it, I could see the participants, but I was never there. Maybe, in some way, my trip back to 1955 now is, in some part, my trying to go there. A chance to visit that shinning Camelot I viewed as a child, alone on the sofa in books of black and white photographs. Alice trying to get through the looking glass.

Now, a few months ago, for reasons too long to explain my mother, now in a nursing home, and my father have had to move back home, many states away from me. My father, burdened with so much, could not take Gilbert. He was too old, wouldn’t survive the trip. “Perhaps he should be put down”, he said. “No, I will take him. After all, really, he is my dog”.

Though Gilbert was technically my dog, he had become my father’s dog years back. My mother would often be followed by our family dog, but Gilbert was dad’s reluctantly. My father would often play the ‘I don’t care about that old dog’ trick, but we’d see the food slipped quietly under the table for him, or the fresh chicken he would cook for him daily. When Gilbert was still young and my father more mobile, you would often see the pair of them tottering about the yard and if my father went somewhere in the car, Gilbert was the first in the front seat, his place of honor.

Now, those days are gone. My parents, too, are gone. My mother installed in her new nursing home being visited by my siblings. My father, installed with family, free of the ‘burden’ of Gilbert.

Since we have had Gilbert he has loved us, best he could. He, for some reason, took a shine to Gussie. He would follow her around and wait for her to appear from her bedroom. Though I was with Gilbert all day, and he would kiss me and eat the food I gave him, he would sometimes give me a look: as if, some where some how, he recalled me. Days in bags and eating muffins hidden in class rooms. Maybe, just maybe, he never really forgave me for walking away from him years earlier. Now, with circumstances beyond either of our control, we found ourselves back together. Fate, perhaps? Whatever it was, here we were. Dog and Girl, having shared various years and holidays, back together.

Now, Gilbert is an old dog, but we have dubbed him the ‘energizer bunny’ as he just never quits. But, unfortunately that is not the case now.

This past Sunday Gilbert seemed stiffer than usual. His hind leg wouldn’t cooperate. He shuffled along, but still made it out the door and into the yard, to stare disdainfully at the antics of my younger dogs or to wag his tail at the site of Gussie. By Monday he could barely move, so off to the vet we go.

“Lyme disease,” says the vet. “We don’t have to put him down?” we respond? “No, give him these twice a day” responds the vet and off we go.

Here we are today and Gilbert is on his last legs. He cannot move to go to the bathroom. We found him this morning, slumped under the kitchen table near the door, knowing he should not go in his bed, but his body not following his command. We called the vet and today he must go.

I have been racked with emotion today. Is it best and right to let him be put down. Certainly, it must be, as he cannot stand. He is not crying out in pain, but certainly there is no hope of healing. I spent the morning holding him in his favorite blanket, an old one of Gussies, and every so often he would look up at me. I know, through his poor eyesight, he hoped I was my mother or father. I too, in a way, wished he were my mother, one last hug and all. So, I figured, here we are, we odd pair both hoping we were someone else, but only having each other. I hugged him a little tighter and he fell asleep for awhile.

It is sunny and warm. The birds are singing. The rooster just let out that he is around. I figure, Gilbert is entitled to enjoy some of his last day outside in the warm air. I found a soft patch of grass, laid him down with Gussie’s blanket and sat with him for awhile, stroking his head. Once he drifted off to sleep, for I could see the blanket rising and falling, telling of his breath, that he only slept, I grabbed the shovel and headed for my new little orchard.

Perhaps it was destiny that I took a break from the finishing touches on my dining room yesterday to plant up my little orchard. I was so proud all the little apple, plum and pear trees, erect and freshly mulched. Hubby and I had cleared the area the previous Sunday on that unseasonably hot day. I daydreamed the future little path and the fence I’ll put in. Over there, I thought, will go the stone wall and maybe some day a little fountain and some chairs to enjoy it all. Now, here I was, digging a hole under one of my favorite apple trees, knowing it was not destined for another tree. This, I thought, will be will Gilbert will lie.

It seemed odd, almost macabre to be digging his grave as he lay quietly snoozing in the fresh grass. It made me reflect on my own life and my own mortality, which death always does. We always feel the pain of a loss the fact that for us, we shall never see them again in our lifetime. But, there is a selfishness to grief, I think. Perhaps we don’t want to know it, but it is there. You see, how can we not see ourselves a little in death. It is there for all of us, certainly. We grieve for those who are going and reflect on their life. But, what about our life? Are we living it?

Perhaps, this project could not have come at a better time for me. It has taught me to grow up in many ways, and to have responsibility. It has also taught me the joy and importance of living happily in the moment. I used to think I lived in the moment, but really I just wasted my time. Diversion, entertainment, what ever I thought was making me ‘happy’ because we don’t ‘live forever’. But, now my living in the moment has a sort of timelessness about it. I can feel a joy in planting up trees that I hope to see grow and age and provide food for our table. The happiness at the moment I place the roots in the ground, the watering of them in the morning and dreaming of the tomorrows they will bring, all the while knowing how happy I am and can be at that moment. Maybe, just maybe, these past few years of illness and facing death will help me to make a life I will be sad to let go, but will enjoy along the way. Even the silly things I talk about like wasting time on tv and not really trying to take ACTION, they, today, seem to have even more importance to me. They seem a road I am glad to struck out upon.

Today I am sad. I have held my dog, the puppy I once ran with and left behind. He has come back and here we are the pair of us, alone in our grief. But, we have had times, oh we have had times!

Now, as I dig the hole, I think of his little body in there, covered in the earth. The roots will grow over his remains some day. He will enrich the soil. The tree will grow and bear fruit and will become pies and jelly and fill our bellies. He will be gone and will one day be forgot, but now, here in my new little orchard, he will be remembered. I too, one day, will be gone and forgot. But, for awhile, perhaps, I will be someone's happy memory. Maybe there will be someone to walk in my orchard, now overgrown or perhaps well cared for with large gnarled old trees and they will stand where my puppy was once buried and not know he was there. But he was. And I was.

I only hope, for any of you who read this, that you can walk away today and think “I am alive!”. Maybe you will suddenly feel the need to take that trip you have been putting off or maybe you will walk into your home and sit with your cup of tea and think, “I am happy right now. There is the picture I have hung, the clothes I have folded. There is the pie I have baked. Who will care in 100 years, but right now, I care and am happy and alive.”

All of this because today a little dog has died. I suppose it doesn’t really matter if I am in 1955 of 2009, I am glad I have struck off on the road I am now on. There are rewards amongst the loss, and really that is what life really is: Finding the happiness and love amongst the sadness and misfortune. I am glad that this year of taking away things, such as some modern conveniences and ideals, has lead to a new kind of happiness, self-worth, and knowledge. And, how much that is like life. We have to give up things and people we love, but sometimes, from it, comes a new happiness and a new way of living. I am going to live the best way I can, and realize sometimes that best is simply sitting in my orchard with my family and friends resting my foot upon the grave of dear old Gilbert.

R.I.P. Gilbert (1992-1955)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

28 April 1955 “Insurance, Hospital costs, Diets, Letters and the art of Conversation”

From Time Magazine:

Patients are "alarmed by the confusion and the cost of a system in which the doctor competes with the hospital for the patient's pocketbook," Dr. Basil C. MacLean, New York City Commissioner of Hospitals, told the New England Hospital Assembly in Boston. Furthermore, said MacLean, some hospitals seem "to be designed on the pattern of a clip-joint nightclub," charging as much as 60¢ for a couple of aspirin tablets that they buy at 60¢ per 1,000. "If the voluntary hospital system is to continue," warned MacLean, "shock therapy is needed to cure it of its schizophrenia." [I just assumed the overpriced hospital fees were always there. Apparently, the practice to gouge and therefore require insurance to cover 100 dollar Tylenol was just starting out in 1955. Look out world, it’s going to get worse.]

This bit about insurance was also surprising to me:

A major extension of insurance to cover long-term illnesses now excluded was approved at a joint Chicago meeting of Blue Cross (hospitalization) and Blue Shield (medical care) representatives. By year's end, most of the autonomous local plans are expected to offer combination policies (for extra premiums of about $1 a month for an individual, $2 to $3 for a family) to provide up to two years of care for long-lasting disorders now excluded, e.g., mental illness, tuberculosis, incurable cancer, alcoholism. Most plans now exclude these illnesses, and limit protection to about 70 days' care for acute conditions. Policyholders will still have to pay 20% of the costs out of their own pockets.

That means, this sort of coverage would only cost us today around 7 dollars a month. I become so disillusioned when I look at how the insurance industry has lead to the current overpriced medical system. I am really numb with anger at how it has left our country in it’s current state with health care. The insurance lobbyists are the most powerful and plentiful in Washington.

I have been going through the 1955 Diet book and it seems full of nothing but good sense. I found this bit rather good:

“Another reason why no specific time limit is placed on the diets is that reducers who slim down on short-term diets are prone to feel that the battle of overweight is won, once and for all. It never is or hardly ever. Fat will come right back again if eating is unrestrained and daily meals pile up a calorie surplus. Permanent weight control depends upon reeducating one’s appetite and eating habits. Foods provided in this book are meal plans that are common to average American diets. That way the transition to higher calorie diets, after weight is reduced, will be easy and natural. Diet containing exotic ‘health foods’ or strange and unusual things to ear are all too likely to make the reducer feel that there is some wonderful short term magic in them. There is no such magic, and the road to lifetime weight control lies in intelligent eating and a wide variety of common and delicious foods of the familiar kinds provided by the following meals.”

Again, accountability. You can eat normal easy inexpensive foods. You don’t have to eat odd bars or weird flax covered tofu wads (unless you like that). But, really, these meals are simply plain meals you would serve for you family and they would be on a ‘diet’ with you, as you would want everyone to have a healthy weight and you control that up or down with the PORTIONS of the meal.

The book gives this list of “Eat-all-you-want foods”. They are 3-percent-carbohydrate vegetables which give a very large amount of satisfying bulk but surprisingly few calories.

Here they are:

Asparagus, Beans (green or wax), Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celery, Chard, Chicory, Cucumbers, Endive, Escarole, Greens (beet dandelion mustard turnip), Kale. Lettuce, Mushrooms, Parsley, Radishes, Rhubarb, Romaine, Sauerkraut, Spinach, Summer squash, Tomatoes, and Water Cress.

So, eat up gals!

I thought this was good advice for those who like to snack or need to eat at night (I know Jitterbug mentioned having that feeling):

“Save a serving for a snack. If you just must eat something before you go to bed or in the middle of an afternoon, let the snack be a serving from lunch or dinner (not breakfast) of the day’s diet. You overdraw your diet, make repayment by not eating the ‘borrowed’ food at regular mealtime.” [Don’t you love it! It is just good common sense and also applies to saving money! So many people do say, “don’t eat after 8” which is true, but if you are taking a certain amount of calories and you save some of them to eat after 8 you are still eating that same amount in the day and your body doesn’t know if it is 8 at night or 12 in the afternoon. I asked my friend who is a doctor and he said, that if you are eating say 1200 calories a day then it doesn’t matter what time during the day that you eat it as long as it is restricted to that amount between the morning and evening. So, for any late night snacker, just reserve some of your lunch for that late night ‘ice box raid’.

So, here are the spring meal plans with the various daily caloric intakes. I will post the various recipes in my next post.


spring 1000 calorie plan spring calorie plan 2 spring calorie plan 3 spring calore plan 4

Since I have begun some correspondence with various followers, I have of late really begun to think of the art of letter writing. According to my book on Etiquette from 1952 under the correspondence chapter,

“Letter writing, like conversation, is often spoken of today as a lost art.”

Even then, with more frequent travel, automobiles, and the telephone, the letter was beginning to be viewed as fleeting. However, the letters of 1955 certainly outnumber those of today and even in their casual manner, certainly have more info in them to peruse and study. The etiquette book states,

“Though few of us today are writing the sorts of letters that will be studied and collected by historians in the future, we all do a certain amount of letter writing.” Yet, how we today, find the simplest letter home from a young bride interesting and often, between the lines, are volumes spoken.

I found some old letters I had mailed home from my time in Paris and England in the early 1990’s. Even then the concept of email was far away. I found that the post cards I wrote home were more detailed than many emails I wrote in 2008 and certainly more so than a text. Here is what I wrote on a post card home on my return to Paris from England:paris post card

                                                      29 July

“I am back in Paris. It is so bloody hot! England was wonderful and where I was staying in Hampstead was a  lovely little swimming hole in the middle of the Heath. It was fenced only for women (so, men couldn’t peek) and had to be reached through a curving tunnel of foliage. It was so Victorian, I utterly loved it. All of those English women, young and old,  just bobbing around without a splash. The water was green like pea soup and ducks shared our pleasure. It is good to be back in Paris, besides the heat. Having a wonderful time, will write later.

P.S. This is a wonderful park where I eat my morning bread. The old people sat in the green metal chairs are as solid and beautiful as the ancient stonework.

Certainly, in 2009 on such a trip, one might toss off a few emails: It’s hot. Liked England and swimming was fun :) So hot here, but nice park ';)

Somehow, down the road if one were even to have copies of old emails, would they ever bring back the images of those lost times? That calls up another issue, will we have copies of all our old emails to one another? Will they be left in boxes for others to find and love? I know I never print my emails out. They are fleeting, like a quick “Hi, how are you?” to a stranger.

I am not saying they are bad, but we really have sort of lost a form of communication. Are we heading back to a series of grunts and hieroglyphs to communicate? Are single letters and punctuation standing in for facial expressions the new form of letter writing? It does make one think.

Here is a sample ‘bread and butter letter’ as it is called in the book:

letter It certainly would be nice to receive even this short letter in the mail. Most likely one would thank another with an email or maybe a text or call, or possibly, not at all.

I don’t want to say one is good or one is bad, but what we have now is the ability to have BOTH! They did not have the convenience of email and texting in 1955, but we have that and the ability to send letters, why not use them in tandem? An email and a quick call is nice to make sure one is arrived safe or for urgent information, but the ability to express oneself in letter form, and the joy of reading of one’s experience through their words is slipping away. I do think that language is an important part of being a human being. I wonder, will letter writing ever disappear altogether? What do you think? Do you like getting and or writing letters? When was the last letter you actually received. Do you know more about each other because you CAN communicate more easily, or do you actually know each other less as you have no need to delve into your own thoughts and feelings at length, but can just sit for hours on the cell or im-ing talking about nothing and making ;0 :) all day? Could it be the easier communication becomes the less we have to say to one another? As we have less time to think and consider what we would like to say and therefore discover ourselves who we are and what makes us happy or sad? And in our constant calling and talking on cell phones, do we need to create drama in order to have something to say to one another?

I promised photos of my dining room and they are coming, believe me, but I did give myself until the first of May to complete my project. Sometimes things come up and I am glad for my new scheduling lifestyle.

Yesterday, was laundry day, but I had to take all three dogs to the vet. I also had to go pick up the last of my new chicks. This resulted in a lot of driving about and I did not get as much done on my room as planned, and to top it all off, my drill broke! Yet, I am learning to take it all in stride, because at the end of the day, I still had clean sheets on the bed, a nice meal on the table and had time to whip up a batch of brownies from scratch. I really do find now when I have a ‘busy day’ that throws more things in my path, having now got to a certain level of things that I will make sure get done, it makes the chaos of unexpected things more bearable and I can still enjoy the day. Gussie spent most of the day with me, running errands and holding dogs at the vet, and though we had a day full of ‘to-doing’ it was all done with fun and laughter. A smile and understanding friends certainly makes the day go by nicely.

We also, the three of us Gussie, Hubby, and I, have a new nightly ritual that I look forward too and it really does help to wind down the day. After we eat dinner together, Gussie gets tea on while I serve up whatever is going for dessert (last night blonde brownies and ice cream). Then, I take out Pockets ( my darling little parakeet, another purchase for this project) who sits on my shoulder.  We sip our tea, eat our dessert surrounding by the dogs and the bird, and talk. It is so nice to just talk. With no tv to watch ( I have really even stopped watching my vintage tv, as I just forget about it and have little time for it) we have time to talk. Even if it is about nothing, we always find things we have been thinking about to discuss. Much like the joy of reading a blog, the conversation is a great way to catch up and also express our thoughts which might lead to new ideas we can work on the next day. Conversation, really, is so important (to me at least). I also find it is nice to expect a certain routine, it gives a nice structure to even a hectic day. Looking forward to time together to relax and making sure it is as important to get done as making dinner, really does make for a better quality of life.

I used to try not to be too critical of things like watching TV, but honestly I have to say now, in my current frame of mind, I find almost no reason for it. I enjoy watching movies occasionally with my friends, but is my life less full because I don’t have ‘my shows’ to watch anymore? No. I have to say that for my household, we enjoy the time together much more and have so much more quality time to share with one another without it. I began to think in 2008 that my mind was not as sharp as when I was younger, as I was always reading and considering things and contemplating life. Now, I realize, I was just becoming mentally lazy. How can I expect my mind to work better if I don’t use it! But, I didn’t have to. The TV and computer did it for me. It told me what to do and eat and buy. It told me what I should wear whom I should like or hate. 

I certainly could write a letter expressing everything we did yesterday and find it rather interesting to share.  Were I too have come home, ate dinner while we watched TV, and then continued to watch it, we would have said few words to one another and really not get to know one another. Sometimes the people we live with we begin to know so little of, as we waste our time together with the TV. I am sure there are couples who say few words together ,who eat together and sleep in the same house, but spend most of their time together in front of the distraction of television. I really do think if anyone watches a lot of TV, they should just try one night a week where there is no TV and you have tea/coffee/cocktails and just talk about your day or what you want to do or what you think or what book you read or blog or interesting article or what you want to read or do. I know it sounds simple or obvious, but I didn’t realize how much time I didn’t spend with those in my home until the TV went quiet. Just something to think about.

Well, I have ironing today and more dining room finishing touches and planting some trees in my little orchard. What a glorious beautiful day. I hope all of you enjoy yourself, no matter where you are or what you are doing and why not look forward to the evenings end with a cup of tea with your family/friends and a great conversation.

Happy Homemaking.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

25 April 1955 “Elvis, NAACP, Dieting, Dining Room, and ‘Get to the POINT’”

elivs poster Elvis seems to keep gaining in popularity but is only playing at High School Auditorium. I am not sure if I would have yet heard of him.


Eleven months after its historic proclamation that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," the U.S. Supreme Court last week heard a parade of lawyers suggest ways to enforce its ban on racially segregated schools. The simplest proposal came from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Its representatives wanted the court to set a firm deadline for complete integration, not later than September 1956.

marshallThe N.A.A.C.P.'s hard-hitting Thurgood Marshall disagreed. The Southern states are asking for "either a moratorium on the enforcement of the 14th Amendment or local option . . . There is no place for local option in our Constitution," declared Marshall.

After listening to 13 hours and 40 minutes of argument (spread over four days), the court began wrestling privately with one of the most difficult decisions it has ever confronted. It is almost certain to hand down a decision before recessing in mid-June. [This is why I am beginning to see that the 1950’s were NOT the time of repression and inequality, it WAS the time of the change away from that frame of mind. It is amazing to have come in 50 odd years to a country that can elect an African-American. It makes me proud of our ability to change and evolve. Perhaps, being a young  country with no set ancient rules allows the ability to go forward.]

I thought this was a cute story from today’s (1955) Time magazine:

It was springtime in Sheepshead Bay and the rubber plants were stretching themselves. On this perfect morning, Frank Biondo Jr. decided to pay a call on his grandmother. So he hopped into the family's brand-new, two-toned green Pontiac and started off.

A few blocks from home, Frank's eccentric driving caught the attention of Patrolman Albert Leone, who yelled at him to stop. Frank paid no attention. Officer Leone commandeered a plumber's truck and, followed by a motorcade of honking automobiles, gave chase. When he ordered Frank to pull over, Frank merely increased his speed to 35 m.p.h. The chase continued through Brooklyn's crowded streets, and Frank sailed through six red lights, sideswiped a taxi and an automobile, kept right on going. Finally, after two miles, Frank pulled up in front of Granny's and parked neatly alongside the curb. He was still doggedly pursued by Leone and eight cars.

When Frank stepped out of the car, Patrolman Leone took him in tow on the reasonable ground that no boy of eight should go driving alone. [can’t you just see the little boy, short pants and determination, off to grannies!]

One of my readers was kind enough to send me this book I am really excited about it and will share it with you in coming posts. So far, as I have skimmed it only, there seems to be a lot of good common sense. Things you DON’T hear about today, like Don’t take diet pills, and basically eat less calories if you want to lose weight. The meal plans are wonderful and realistic, not odd things like only eat garlic on every odd Wednesday and no carbs on Thursdays etc. Just good common sense that really says to the reader, It is YOUR responsibility to watch your diet and exercise and here our some guidelines. I think so much of today’s entire diet industry (for it has become a behemoth of an industry) is very typical of our times. “It isn’t your fault, you were lured into this, you just weren’t told that was bad for you…” again, no accountability. Simple fact, if you want to lose weight eat less calories than you currently do and exercise. Now I am not saying it is easy, believe me I need to lose weight, but I like the idea, as I have begun to with other aspects of my life, that you have to be responsible for yourself. Sure, it is going to be hard to do it, but to know that it is in my power to do it, makes me want to do it more. So what if there is fast food and easy to heat up fattening dinners, you have the ability to say no and to merely choose to eat less food per sitting, maybe a few less desserts, but again, a plan to do away with things altogether or to eat weird things will never result in a lasting weight loss. If you learn to cook and count your calories, it is your best bet and then you can still have cake, too!

I have actually lost some weight since I started this project and really I cook all the time and always have desserts around. Yet, I don’t eat chips and drink soda all day and I am so busy in between meals that I think I am probably eating less. I also no longer order large coffee drinks as I used to.doublechoc_frap This double choc chip frappuchino has 670 calories 200 of which are fat! While, 1/8 of a 9” blueberry pie (that is a good size slice) is only 336 calories. I first stopped the drinks just as part of the project, but now as I see the dietary and monetary advantages of not getting these large drinks.  ( a venti flavored latte is almost five dollars!) Now, I am not saying don’t get these drinks, but just know what you are getting. If you know this drink is basically two pieces of pie and you are okay with that, than great, but if you are not, then get a plain coffee and a piece of pie or whichever, but really having the responsibility to know what you are eating and drinking is just another aspect I find to be very 1950s. I feel that the modern diet world really wants you to believe that you don’t have control over the situation so that you WILL buy their meal plans, ideals, energy bars etc. So, the products themselves are not bad, but how you use them and how you are responsible for your own caloric intake are your responsibility. Though that can seem daunting it has a sort of freedom to it. It allows me to not worry about rather I can find the ‘secret’ or how will I afford to buy special diet foods, but just merely count my calories and be cautious of my meals (it is my job to prepare and make them after all!).

It struck me funny how we sometimes laugh at the 1950s patron at a diner eating a burger and having a piece of pie, yet we guzzle huge Starbucks drinks  that are  more calories than a piece of pie! Even the image of the family eating the red meat and potatoes. There is nothing wrong with that. It is healthy protein and starch and better to use real butter made form milk than some odd spread produced by the petroleum company. It just became apparent how here we have another way in which advertising got us to slowly mistrust eating good healthy home-made food and to need to buy specialty things and second guess just making a steak and eating pie.

Even though I do eat my fair share of bacon and dessert, I am not overeating it. So, now I have an actual plan in my hands and I would like to try the meals for a few weeks and see how they work out. I like that the meals in this book are very realistic, much like I now serve. So, hubby won’t even notice. He will be happy, though, as he said yesterday at breakfast, “I am getting a little pot belly”, so perhaps a slab of homemade cake for lunch everyday is catching up with him!

Here is a sample meal plan:diet plan

I feel bad to have not blogged yesterday, but I am really plugging away at my dining room. I am determined to have it done enough to use this weekend. It is also suppose to be in the 70s and 80s here this weekend, so I want to get out and do more yard work and garden.

Here is a shot of the progression of the mantle I built for the dinning room. I just finished the final coats of paint yesterday. fireplace 1 fireplace2  fireplace3fireplace4 fireplace5 When it is totally finished, the area around where the firebox will sit will be ‘tiled’ in river rock stones. The area with the decorative design in the middle will be ‘tiled’ with seashells. I saw an interesting little ‘villa’ built by two eccentric cousins from the 1920’s who had many collections and they had many seashell mosaics.

So, it may not look like much right now, but it will be nice with some of my dishes in and the walls with the mural. The bricks on the floor will be the base for the firebox to sit on. These are actually antique bricks. I am trying to add as much ‘history’ and ‘quirkiness’ to my design as possible. I am far from a fine carpenter and there are odd angles and something's don’t quite meet and  even my painting is a bit heavy handed in parts, but really it all adds to the spirit of age. It gives everything a look as if it has been settling for a few decades and paint has gone over older paint. In my imaginings of the history for this room, I envisioned it being an old cape and perhaps a quirky pair of unmarried sisters did it over in the teens in the rage of Craftsman style and then, come the 1920s, painted it out white and added the seashell motif.Though neither could agree on a color, there were many subsequent layers of paint until they settled on matching the china. This sort of ‘storytelling’ one can do while redesigning a room or decorating is both entertaining and can really help to guide you in design choices.

This week I will show more pics of the room with furniture rugs and dishes in.

I started to ponder ‘purpose’ the other day. I thought about it. Wondered, “what is the ‘point’?” Not in an angst-ridden way or a ‘woe is me’ way. I merely sat down with my cup of tea after finishing a task and thought, “Hmmm, I seemed to have found a POINT.” Then, I followed that thought further and I’ll explain what I mean.

Not everyone may find happiness in homemaking (though I think for many the skills are important) but THAT is not the point. The point is to find your own PURPOSE. Someone may want to be an astronaut, their point, though not easy, has a formula to it. You go to school, do engineering, etc there is a course you must follow. The same if you are to be a doctor or a nurse. But, for many of us the point is often lost or vague. Or, if it doesn’t follow a specific accepted pattern laid out for us we think, for us, there is none.

I was really thinking how harmful this can be to an individual. This sort of thinking could be dangerous to your happiness and fulfillment. One might think, “ I don’t know what I want to do or how to do it, so there is no point” and then they just fill their days with distraction. When, really, anything can be your POINT. Perhaps you really like cutting out magazine photos and scrapbooking. You collect them. Look and see what it is that you are drawn to and make it your point. Then, find out what MORE there is to that POINT. Don’t just be happy with cutting out the magazine pictures, get a camera and take some of your own, or read the article and write down your own take on what you read, or maybe you are drawn to the clothes, get a sewing machine and teach yourself to use it (or take a class). Or, you might find your real happiness is the simple task of sitting and cutting out and pasting images, then celebrate your POINT and go for it. I guess, I just feel that I sort of started this project with one little idea, “what was 1955 like to live in?” and from that it became my POINT and through discovery and further ACTION I have found myself quite happy learning and doing new things. By following this POINT or line of ACTION I am really finding many skills and very fulfilling moments.

I have said before that jumping out of planes is certainly exciting and is someone's POINT, but not everyone is out for adrenalin. There is as much joy in sitting and admiring your ironed sheets or digging in your garden, setting in that first seedling you coaxed on your windowsill in the cold dark days of January. I have just discovered, that even though many people don’t know what they want to do or what is their POINT, if they take the ACTION to follow one of their likes or joys, they may find it along the way.

I am not sure if any of that made any sense, but it was something I had sort of discovered over a pondered cup of tea and thought I would share.

Now, I have to get outside and enjoy this wonderful day. Gussie and Hubby have agreed to help me work on my little ‘orchard’. There are leaves to rake, holes to dig, and trees to plant.

Until tomorrow, happy homemaking.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

21 April 1955, “Lil Stockholders, Napoleons, Pork Roast, Renovations, and Fashion”

lil stockholders First Minors to Become Stockholders under New Law. New York, New York: Keith Funston, left, president of the New York Stock Exchange, is shown presenting to two children, Howell Hollis III, 6, and his sister, Mary Jane, 4, a gift from their father - 19 shares each of American Telephone & Telegraph stock. The children are the first minors in the United States to become stockholders under terms of a new law, enacted early in March by the state of Georgia, which eliminates the red tape surrounding gifts of securities to minors. At right is the father of the young stockholders, Senator Howell Hollis (Democrat) of Columbus, Georgia. The presentation ceremony took place on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. April 22, 1955.

On the cooking a baking front I found this interesting. Whenever I peruse my Boston Cooking School book from 1951, I am always amazed. I feel sometimes to have unearthed a great tome from some long forgotten wizard. It has an alchemy about it, this book, where you will innocently look something up, as I did with this recipe for Napoleons ( which I love, but have never attempted)napoleonsnapoleon pastry So, as I read the short recipe it refers me to many other pages. Again, as if trying to deciper some ancient rite or language, I thumb quickly through the pages, puff pastry, washed butter, what does it all mean? So, I have not yet attempted it, but I will. Here are the various parts of the recipe if you, too, would like to try. puff pastry 1puff pastry 2wash butterI have never heard of washed butter until this. And in finding the wash butter directions I came across this on the same page:make butterNow, it says you can make small amounts of butter with sweet or sour cream. DO you suppose it would work with modern store bought sour cream? I am going to try it and let you know. Have any of you ever done this?

 roastI made a lovely pork roast last night with potatoes. The sugar peas look frozen but are actually coated with a sort of salt and herb rub, rather good. Here it is dished up and that is my white sauce with a touch of Romano in it. It was lovely and I cooked the roast in my slow cooker as I was busy nailing paneling to my dining room walls.

  roast on plate

Speaking of the dining room, it is still in progress, but I am not too sad about the pace I am going. Here you can see that I now have the primer on the trim. wall trim primed And here you can see the corner cabinet looks more ‘built in’ now, I believe.corner cabinet corner trimed and primed (the paint on the glass will come off last with a handy razor blade SO much quicker and cleaner than trying to tape off each pane of glass.) Here it is with the doors open.corner cabinet doors open You can see the color inside is different than the walls. It matches a color in my good china. The shelves are still primed and waiting for their second coat of the blue. Here you can see the next phase of the fireplace.fireplace hutch mantle The unpainted wood attached to the bottom is the future mantle. Today I will build out the firebox below which will bet primed and trimmed out. It will not recieve it’s fire log until fall, as we will not need it for summer and I can save the money until then. So, I think I may be able to actually eat in here this Saturday, though some bits will be undone, but can be completed as we use it, such as the mural which may be an ongoing unfolding art scape that happens over the remainder of the year.

Now, in the gardening front, I have done more on my little veg garden. I will show pics of the progression from it’s being a neglected leave strewn corner of my yard to the delight I hope it will be. But, the plants cannot wait for my to put up my decorative fences or cute little hand made gate, so some things were put in the other day. I have my snow peas, cabbage, lettuce, beets in. I also put in my tomatoes even though it is really too early, but I put little hats on them to protect them and they have been fine. They will be stronger for it, I think, I am also going to try and train my zucchini to climb part of the fence, rather than take up precious room spreading out on the ground.  Here they are in their little box I just built them. That way I can control the weeds and nutrients more than directly in the soil.zucchini seedlings  Here they are planted and you can see the chicken wire where I will train them up the side of the fence.zucchini seedlings planted And here is a close up of one of the little darlings with it’s seed pod still on, like a jaunty little cap.zucchini seedling with seed

We also have some new animals in our little menagerie. Unlike the wild bunnies, though, these were planned. Six new little chicks. They are so adorable. I will show pictures in my next blog. I have four full size hens now and honestly they give me just enough eggs, I really need more, so these 6 little darlings will be joined by two more fancy chicks next week and come fall I will have a full chicken house of 12 laying hens. I am hoping to sell what I won’t use to our local store to make enough money to pay for the chicken feed, that way I get to enjoy the chickens, have fresh eggs and no cost, and I get to meet more local people as I bring in my eggs for sale. I think this is a very 1940’s thing to do that I would have held onto in the 1950’s after having gone through the war. They are adorable, and as usual, my dogs love them. Monty, my little chi, loves birds. Here he is with our parakeet Pockets. monty and pocketsThey really love each other and Pockets will groom Monty and he will sit carefully and let her nibble away. Much animal love going on around here.

I was thinking this morning about something one of my wonderful commenter's, Jeanne, said:

“I got up and did personal care make up and all. I put hose on and a nice skirt with a casual top nice shoes too. I walked taller all day and felt better about myself. I almost always cook from scratch but today I felt special while doing it. I have always kept a nice home but let myself be thought of last or not at all.”

It really made me think. It sort of cemented my ideas of the labels we use today on ourselves. It seems we, today, feel that either you are glamorous and stylish which means that you MUST forgo such trivial things as housework and cooking, or you care about cooking and cleaning and don’t have time for that fancy stuff. To care about fashion you must be a Paris Hilton who can’t open a can or won’t break a nail. Really, that might be due to the idea that fashion and style is about the designer. About it being a high priced thing only the rich can enjoy.

Somewhere along the way, the designer became more important than the clothes. I know that great designers and big design houses such as Worth were always known, but really to have style and fashion used to be more in the hand of the individual. Look at these photos from an article about  embellishing simple pieces to make your own look. tops1tops 2It doesn’t say “buy this style from this designer”. It allows fashion and style to be an accessible and personal thing. I know that Dior (whom I do love) was a known designer, but you could really copy his clothes, the designs were about making a ‘style’ and either you could afford the originals or you made your own and embellished them how you like. Now, you have to have something with a label or a recognizable pattern that you cannot produce yourself.  Here, You buy a darling top and with your own hand make it have ‘style’.

Really, the casual style of jeans did away with the personal expression of self-sewers making their own fashion statement. I know there are sewers out there, but that is not the norm. Even teens and tweens aren’t really allowed to have a cute style that has a fun innocence. mother daughterThis image is so sweet of the mother sewing and helping her tween to look adorable.patterns Could you imagine a tween or teen wearing this outfit today? I know it is not the style any longer, but I mean the sense of self-worth as portrayed through the clothes that look neat and show you are ready to be an adult. Now, adults dress like teens! Again, I don’t want to play the “it was better back than” game, but I know I enjoy dressing in pretty clothes and in a way it would be fun for young ladies to dress for themselves in fun things they like and not so much dress to ‘attract boys’ which seems to be the bare all style of today. Thank goodness I don’t have a teen daughter.

I always laugh now when I hear people say how the 1950s was when everyone had to look the same. All I have to do is go to the mall and there is the uniform. Jeans and t-shirt with an ironic saying, skin tight low rise velour sweat pants with writing on the bum. That’s pretty much it. Now, how is that not uber conformity?

Another interesting point, I was looking at the article about embellishing your new tops with Gussie and she said, “Oh, who is that model”. A perfectly valid question today when the model is celebrated for herself, but then it was a job. IF you had the right body shape you showed clothes in magazines. It was about the clothes or the article. Now,  it has to be about how wonderful a superstar the model has become. Super models. In some way, it is sort of bad. In stead of glorifying the clothes so a girl can think, “Oh I would look nice in that” it glorifies the body which is hard to have if you are not born with it. Young girls want to have the body not the darling outfits they are wearing. Those are the subtle ways I see harming women and young girls. Another layer of today peeled back through simply looking at fashion in one of my magazines.

For example, yesterday I changed out of my work dungarees to go do my errands, one of which was stopping at the lumber yard for more wood and the local grain elevator to pick up my new chicks.  I had on a nice cotton dress, petticoat, neck scarf, cardigan, gloves etc. It didn’t feel to me as if I was ‘dressed up’ but, boy did I get the service. I KNOW I can saw and build wood, so with the gentleman at the lumber yard see the ‘delicate’ lady getting some lumber, they are only pleased to help. I am not saying I was ‘playing weak’, but I did load some myself and then I was GLAD and appreciative of the help of the gentleman. Did it make me less independent or less a modern woman because I let a man help me? I don’t think so. But, clothes used a certain way do help you to feel special. And it illicit responses I find nice from others. Even if I get an odd stare or snigger about what I might be wearing, I honestly don’t care anymore. It is as if the clothes give me a confidence and power to ignore it.

Another example, after working last night again on my project and getting dinner ready and setting the table, I took 20 minutes to go upstairs and put on my nice outfit from earlier in the day and reapply my lipstick. Then, my husband gets to see me looking nice. Some would be appalled at this, thinking, “I’m not going to get dressed up for my man, if he doesn’t like me the way I am that’s his problem” but really, I did it as much for me. I take the time to make a nice dinner, set a nice table and want to sit down and feel this is MY time too. I don’t want to feel like I am the rushed servant sitting down in my tussled hair and dungarees. It is so SIMPLE to just dress for dinner, and it makes such a difference. I actually don’t even think about going out as much, because I like dressing and eating my nicely prepared meals with my husband at home, nice wine, discussions and my dogs.

Again, labels. I think a gal can be into nature, like hiking, organic farming and still wear nice dresses and take time with her appearance. I know, it seems as if it is just a matter of personal taste, but honestly you really do feel ‘good’ about yourself. We don’t mind indulging in the pleasure of tv or video games or eating junk food, but the pleasure of looking good we disdain. Even those of you who think, “Oh, it’s not my style to look pretty in a dress” you might be surprised the power of such clothes. It couldn’t hurt, right?

Now, that we have the freedom to dress as we see fit, obviously I am not saying that I want to take that away. I don’t want to be a clothes Nazi telling people what they should or should not wear. But, for those of us interested in vintage and in changing our life in a way that I think a lot of the readers of this blog do, I can tell you first hand that clothes DEFINITELY affect your well being and even, on some level, your ACTON.

To know that I wear a certain outfit, almost a uniform if you will, when I am cleaning and then change into ‘marketing attire’ means I need to budget that time. Honestly, it really isn’t as much time as you think and then when I am getting ready to switch from one task to another, instead of the old me, who may think, “Oh, well, I’ll just sit down first for a minute, or I’ll  look at the TV first” and then never do it.  When you are in that mind set that you have to go get dressed to go to the store, you are focused on it, you get your clothes on, check your hair, etc and you are ready and prepared and then you go out and do it. So, just from my own experience I really do find that ‘dressing for the occasion’ helps me to be on time and to actually DO the thing I am dressing for. Why not try, the next time you are going shopping, to put on what you think of as ‘nice clothes’.  A nice skirt and sweater or top. Nice shoes (they can be dressy flats or darling sandals) a bag, maybe a hat or scarf, put on some lipstick and fix your hair and then don’t be surprised how tall you walk and how helpful sales people are.

I guess, again, I am just finding the things I began to do BECAUSE of the project are really becoming more a part of who I want to be and who I am becoming. When it is no longer 1955, I am fairly certain my dressing will continue, as it really motivates me, makes me feel good, and helps me to organize my clothes and to have fewer, but well cared for garments. It is funny how many clothes I have from before 1955, yet so many of them are ‘casual’ clothes or so many piles of various styled tops and bottoms etc that you often feel confused about what to wear. Now, I have a determination when I open that closet door. Gardening today? Dungarees, men’s shirt tied at waist and sensible shoes. Marketing and going to town today? Nice dress or skirt and sweater set, hose, pumps gloves and hat. Dinner with my family, nice skirt clean top freshly styled hair. It almost seems that I spend less time thinking about the clothes all the time but look better and am more organized by knowing what is ‘appropriate’.

Again, I don’t want to play the “Oh, it was better then than it is now” game, I am merely stating what I am finding to be true.  I honestly believe it really can be applied to the modern world. And, in so doing, would and could really change how you feel about yourself and your life.

Well, I have many things on my plate today, so I am off.

Happy Homemaking everyone!

Oh, I almost forgot: Kay, if you are out there, I wrote you a letter today and lost your address. If you email it to me I can get your letter off to you! Thanks.

Monday, April 20, 2009

20 April 1955 “ The Duke, Animal Illustrations, Chocolate Cake, Gussie’s Pie, Renovation AND Motivation”

Tonight in Washington D.C. at the National Guard Armory, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra would appear.

The Dodgers make it nine straight victories by defeating the Phillies 3-2 at Ebbets. Billy Loes started for the Dodgers and Steve Ridzik started for the Phillies.

The nine wins in a row tied a Dodgers' team record for consecutive wins to open a season.


harrison cady This is an illustration done today by the artist Harrison Cady. He was an American illustrator born in Gardner, Massachusetts. he had a long career as a newspaper and magazine illustrator, as well as numerous children's books, featuring both fantastic and realistic animal illustrations. He had a long association with the American author Thornton W. Burgess and became best known for his works in Bedtime Stories, a daily newspaper column created by Burgess. Here is the fronticepiece to “Mother West Wind’s Children”harrison cady mother west wind a great children's book with wonderful illustrations. Thinking of him, now the bunnies may end up in some such adventures illustrated for you.

I had forgot to list this recipe and cake last week.miracle cake recipe It was a very easy recipe and only uses one egg, so it is a good dessert when you are low on those. choc cakeIt is a yellow cake and was really quite moist. It baked up a treat! I used a new frosting recipe, as well. It is called:

Velvety Frosting

1 pkg. semisweet chocolate pieces

1/2 cup soft butter or margarine

2 eggs, unbeaten

Melt chocolate over hot water; cool slightly. Mix butter with eggs. Add chocolate, beating until smooth and creamy. Fills and frosts top and sides of 2 8” layers.

I know some of you do not like to use raw eggs ( I do, though, as my eggs literally come straight from my own chickens to my table) IF that were the case you could probably make this almost like a 7 minute frosting and put the chocolate in a double boiler and melt it with the butter and then add the eggs and whip it over the heat with the mixer to make it firm. I also added one cup of confectioners sugar and 1/2 tsp of almond extract. It was really yummy and spreads like a dream! It also allows you to use one of your favorite chocolates. For example, I really like Ghirardelli pieces and I found that they have been around since the 1800’s. Though, your store brand would work as fine.

I don’t know if I inspired Gussie to make a pie, but she did. I don’t recall her making any before completely from scratch but boy did she make a wonder last night!gussies pie Isn’t is lovely. I will share the recipe this week, as I need to get it from her. The crust contains both butter AND shortening. It was delicious and what a pretty design she made. The art of food! She also used Gala apples, which are so wonderful for pies. I have bought two gala apple trees to put into my little orchard this year. After the taste of that pie, however, I may add another to the list. What I love about the art of food is it is pleasing on so many levels, sight, smell, taste, and it is also fleeting (though we do have the pictures of it) but in it’s fleeting moment, it somehow has more beauty to me. Now and try and feel that way about a frozen pie made by a machine!

Here is a little more progress on my dining room redo. I hope to show you it painted out next. My plan to have the dining room table in there today, Monday, is not going to happen, but it will be hopefully by Wednesday. The good thing about lists, is they can be amended. And, in such a list as renovating, you have to look at your successes and be okay merely putting something onto the next day. As long as it doesn’t interfere with my normal running of my house I feel it is a victory. Here is one corner with the first layer of trim.wall door corner trim 1 And here is the next level of trim. wall door corner trim 2 You can see how the horizontal slats not only help ground the wall by following the line of the really thick baseboard, but by dividing the wall into small panels ( a smaller on top of a larger) it gives the room more dimension. My hope is that at the end of it all, a very small dining room will have a very large feel. And, by painting everything below the high chair rail (dado) and the fireplace and built ins one color, it will also seem to vanish into the wall and the white tiled floor. Though this is a Cape Cod style house and I am using many early American and colonial details, I like to think of the house having an evolving history and the storyline for the dining room is that sometime in 1900-1910 the vogue of Craftsman style and William Morris (who did start selling wallpaper designs in Boston) resulted in this rooms decor. Then, of course, by the 1920s the new-colonial vogue hit and the idea of painting out all the woodwork in light tones would have happened and remained to today when it is very Cape Cod to have white painted trim for a summery feel to a house. I think by having a sort of story line to go along with my overall redo is first off, quite fun and secondly, will help to make sense of all the elements I do put into the house.

So, in beginning to list today's schedule I began to ruminate on schedule making. I have got to a point with my daily lists that I continue to document and manage the basics week to week, such as today is Laundry day. Yet, as part of this yearly project I am attempting to do as much to my Home and Garden as possible within the framework of the schedule. It can still be chaos, believe me (for example my living room soon to be library is unusable, as it is piled to the ceiling with furniture waiting for the new dining room.) However, among that chaos if there are still warm well prepared meals on time, the bathrooms are clean, our bed is made every day and fresh linens on, clothes ironed and put away, then amongst the chaos we can still function. I suppose if we could afford to live out somewhere while the work is being done, that would be wonderful, but far too expensive and I am dong the work! So, with my new schedule and daily plans I am trying to both run a well oiled machine of a home among the chaos of remodeling and throw onto that a complete landscaping job. I am going to be a busy girl, but honestly, I LOVE it!

One feels the captain and crew of a great vessel. Here I am charting a course for unknown waters, barking out the orders, “Trim that wall! Make those curtains!” I shout from the deck of my command central: my little desk in my sitting room.

“Aye, aye, Cap’n,” I call back in my flunky voice. And believe you me sometimes my flunky self is muttering under her breath at the captain, “what is she , nuts? How on earth am I going to map out, cut and install this wall paneling and still have time to do all the laundry and get dinner on?!” But, I am a taskmaster, so onward I go.

Honestly, the more I put on myself, the more I want to do. It is like potato chips, these projects and homemaking, you cannot just stop at one. I am sure, once I have the house all remodeled and the last picture hung, my energies will go overtime into the housework. I might start eyeing up things I never thought could be ironed. “Well, the sofa cushions could do with a good run through the old ironing board” perhaps, even my dogs will look like fair game, pressing and primping them, who knows? However, I have more than enough on my plate right now.

I do really want to say, though (as I know some of you say I have inspired you) just give a project a try. It might seem something you thought you couldn’t do, but go ahead, just try it. Oft times it is our fear mixed with being tired. Or ‘modern exhaustion’ I call it now. It is that feeling where you sit down and you have done a few things (nothing compared to our 1950s forebears) and think, “Oh, I am wiped out from using my washing machine and dishwasher I better sit down and take a break”. That is how it was for me. Consider our grandmothers, what they had to do and what they would have loved to do with their free time. Certainly, one nice point of the modern machine is the time it gives us, but we often ‘waste’ that time. Now, I am not saying that sitting and “considering the lily” is not a good thing. One needs to sit and contemplate and muse on the world around them, but there is nothing like ACTION!

I have come to think of my life split into two parts” there is the first, 1.)Thoughts/Routine. Here is where I dream up my future home and meals. Where I contemplate my existence here on planet earth. Or, even, where I spend a few hours wandering our local farm and snapping photos (I am going to put most of those on my flikr site) then the second half of my life, not more important but equal to the first: ACTION. This is often the HARDEST part for anyone. Sure, sometimes it seems as if we are in the midst of action. Running to work, picking up the kids at school, etc. But, really, I consider some of that daily activity, the work and routine under the first part, the routine. It is the thing you HAVE to do at that moment and you do it. Surely, you are doing the laundry and etc, but it is not real action, it is routine. To me, Action has become the Special. That which is above and beyond what you might normally do or expect yourself to do. SO, while doing the laundry might be under the first part, the ACTION of laundry might be using that homemade linen spray you made with rose water and essence of lily of the valley and pressing your pillowcases with it. That is the moment of ACTION when you have manifested something outside the norm of your day. It can be something that is so simple or seems silly. You always make dinner, really its just part of the day. But your ACTION is you make it all from scratch, squeeze fresh lemons instead of using bottled and whip up a cake and frosting and decorate it with lemon rind daisies! Or, you normally just pop in a pizza for dinner, the ACTION would be to make the pizza yourself. Get a recipe for pizza dough and whip it up. That small ACTION will give you a feeling that cannot be described.

That is why I think some people may live their whole life without action. Certainly, there are people who climb mountains, fling themselves out of airplanes and run triathlons, yes they are people of action! But, that is not the only way. I think there is as much joy and adrenalin in a life lived in the action of the everyday. Sure, if you always wanted to climb a mountain, make time for it, but if it would be just because you think that is when you really need to feel alive, I think you would find just taking little steps of action in your daily life can lead to the same feeling of accomplishment and joy.

I have ridden horses fast, and jumped fences. I have traveled and done some things I consider ‘exciting’ and I am telling you, that I also derive such pleasure from standing back and looking at the walls in my dining room that I dreamt up, planned and then struck that hammer to the wall. Looking at the little snow pea seedling freshly planted in the garden box can race your heart in a way indescribable. Yes, even ironing your pillow cases with scented linen water can give a girl’s hear a beat. Somehow, I think our modern world has made it seem that you are just an average person going to work or doing your housework, boring or you are a crazy adventurer, no in-between. SO, if you don’t have the time, money, or inclination to jump off buildings, then you have to watch it on TV or the internet. Even the level of violence and fear in movies today seems to me really to be a response to our need to FEEL something, anything!We have become numb to living, so to just show the idea of a murder by pulling the camera away and hearing a scream is not enough, we need to see the meat and bone and feel the chain saw! We have to watch reality shows where people act in ways we would never and would not want to be around, chef’s shouting rudely to students and people acting insane to get the attention of a C list celebrity, just to feel anything. It is all so we can FEEL.

We just want to feel anything to replace the numb endless machined like march the modern man seems to take. BUT, and here is the kicker I think, the simple, the ordinary, it has wonder in it. There is excitement and thrill in things any of us could do. Turn off the TV for just an hour of your normal viewing time or the computer and go outside with a camera. Look at things from weird angles. Lay on the ground and take a picture of car tires. When you are doing your laundry, take an extra half an hour out of your day and iron something, anything. Spray some linen spray on it and take the time to put it in the linen closet. I am still in the process of organizing my closets, believe me, but take that half an hour, empty one shelf of that messy closet, ironing some sheets and put them away, organized all lovely and nice. You respond to displays in stores and it gives you a “feeling”, that feeling that feeds into our need to want to buy it. We don’t NEED more towels, we just want to buy that moment of all those clean nice things lined up neat and tidy. Advertisers use this to lure you into buying, use that same power on yourself in your own home for your own benefit.

You will be surprised how taking a small moment of your day to do an ACTION will really make you Feel. Then, you can think, “Hmmm. I really liked that. I felt so apart of that moment just then. And it was all me. I didn’t watch someone iron and fold and organize on TV. I didn’t read about it on the computer, I DID IT.” And suddenly the other shelves of that closet’s chaos won’t seem so daunting. You will still have time for TV and the computer and video games, if you like. You don’t have to either live as you do now or be a Stepford wife. There is a lot of gray area in between. Keep testing the waters to see how much you want to do; how far into the water you want to go. Just stick you toe in and test the water, “Well, I guess I could just organize my lingerie drawer, press, and iron it, and lay some scented drawer paper. It is only one drawer, why not give it a try”. You might be surprised.

I think somehow we have come to be such consumers that it affects other areas of our lives. It makes us label everything. Oh, I am this kind of person, or I wouldn’t do that because I am that kind of person. Why label anything except your home to make it more organized. Don’t make the label, “housewife’ and think it is not you. A business person who lives alone can have as much joy from ironed sheets as a homemaker. Even someone who works at the local cafe can come home and enjoy an organized home. Because, once you see you can do that, the sky is the limit. You CAN bake that cake, or clean that closet, then you won’t need the TV to distract you. Then you can take part of your free time to work on your photography, or start writing that book, or knit some sweaters or volunteer at the local shelter AND still have time to watch your shows and go online. I think I am finding that really there is room for all these things, but many of us are not using are full potential ( I know I wasn’t) and in our own frustration with that we are trying to forget about it so we go online and watch TV (which is NOT bad, but there are other things too). Then, in all our need to forget about what we are NOT doing we become numb and then we need to watch things that are extreme to try and FEEL again.

So, I don’t know if any of this rambling makes any sense, but if it does, just try something small. Why not something you have always wondered about and just DO IT! See what happens. You might want to make it a part of your life. Then, when that becomes second nature you can add another thing and another and suddenly you will be looking around and thinking, “Wow, what did I do with my days BEFORE all this?” I know that is how I feel.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

18 April 1955 “News, TV, Beauty, Transference, and Bunnies”

Here is a movie life magazine from April 1955. It is interesting that the main image of the the star (Marilyn Monroe) is actually artwork and not a photo.

The first large-scale Asian-African conference, also known as the Bandung Conference, took place between today April 18 thru April 24, 1955 in Bandung, Indonesia. It was a meeting of Asian and African states, most of which were newly independent, which took place between April 18 and April 24, 1955. The conference's stated aims were to promote Afro-Asian economic and cultural cooperation and to oppose colonialism or neocolonialism by the United States, the Soviet Union, or any other "imperialistic" nation. In later years, conflicts between the nonaligned nations eroded the solidarity expressed at Bandung. [I guess these areas of the world were just not meant to be aligned. Though they saw we western cultures as imperialists, and I am not defending all our practices, it is interesting to note that these areas in this conference certainly did no better at managing their own countries. That is not a judgment good or bad, merely a fact. An interesting one. ]

One of the conferences concerns was over the trouble and conflict between the USA and Communist China. [again, isn’t this funny, considering our current state of affairs with China?]

mr wizard This is an interesting ad for the children’s program Mr. Wizard’s World. It looks really interesting and it seems the level of science he explained to young children is very high. Are any of you old enough to know this show? I know they redid it on Nickelodeon in the 1980s, but am told it was not as advanced as the 1950s version. Here is an episode:

going up 1 I found this little mini article interesting on three points: 1) The talk of a woman in a career outside the home and her chance for advancement. 2) the beauty tips and advice 3)The use of an Asian-American model. Three things one would not ‘expect’ in a 1951 magazine. Interesting stuff and the models hair is darling, I like this cut, only with really short bangs. And, honestly, this is just good advice that no one gives anymore. I mean, look nice. Take a few minutes and comb your hair and put on lipstick, it costs very little time and you ARE better received by those around you and it could help your career, as it shows you are put together and are able to manage your time to be both on time for work, as well as looking good. Subtle cues, that even if they are looked at as old-fashioned, still trigger a subconscious response in all of us. Something to think about.

I have been worried of late that my finding comfort in living in the past might become me merely hiding from the reality of the day. It would be so easy, for me at least, to just slowly meld into happy days of homemaking, gardening, petticoats and sewing. I thought I would miss the ‘outside’ world more than I do and have found I am even more self-sufficient even in entertaining myself.

It is true, then, that I can and could continue to live comfortably in a world of my own making, but there is a part of me that feels a pull towards sharing this joy with others. To somehow touch those who may feel the same way, or merely feel lost or unhappy or just a modern ennui and not know why. For, really, that was me. I wasn’t depressed or unhappy with anything in particular, I just sort of felt as if life was going along and I was caught in the current of it. Now, the simple direction of planned days is like a canoe and paddle: I can manage and navigate the eddies and currents of Life’s river. You see, I feel caught between happily slipping into my own little comfortable shell of self-discovery where I could slowly slide into a quiet contentment and yet I feel impelled to share my findings and to help other’s see the glory of such simple things. That is the balance, for sure. Or, perhaps, in my sharing it makes the doing of the new ways, the scheduled days, the continued learning of long forgot skills, more enjoyable. Although, I do have to say it would be so easy to just slip happily into my little cocoon I am building in my home and garden and happily hum away to myself for my remaining days, petticoated and gloved, snipping roses from the garden, cleaning, cooking and baking and entertaining. I can see how Tasha Tudor did it. Yet, I really feel that these skills, this very valid area of education IS important and COULD really help a lot of people. So, on some level I feel a responsibility to share that knowledge I am gaining. To let others know how sometimes it is the ‘new Prozac’.

Now, I know that homemaking is not for everyone. Yet, I really think a lot of homemaking skills can help anyone even if you are in a career and full time job. Saving money on home cooked meals prepared ahead of time, having clean and well cared for clothes to look nice and not have to buy more, all of these are good for anyone in any walk of life, even if you are rich enough to have a house full of servants, you would want them to have such economy and skill to make your life nice, so I honestly believe that the Homemaking Skills really do touch a part of all of our lives.

I also have noticed, somewhat, among some of my female friends a sort of ‘oh, well that’s not real work’ feeling. They are not coming right out and saying it, but honestly I feel that they somehow look at my project sometimes like I am a darling little child or an interesting pet, ‘Oh, that’s cute’, I can almost hear them think. When, honestly, does serving food to strangers somehow have a greater value because it gives you actual money? Isn’t it actually easier to just get up and go somewhere where you are told what and how to do something and then just go through the routine of it? You are tired from it, but you can just sort of zombie your way through it, without too much thought, collect your paycheck and go. Homemaking involves constant thinking and really no money (except what you are saving your family of course)I find it amusing that many people think housework is mindless drudgery, when in fact you make the schedule yourself and can change it up how you like to become more efficient. Now, if you are middle management, a receptionist, or a cafe worker, how are you going to do that? You HAVE to do what your boss tells you and you have to run a business the way someone else says. The ability to run and manage a home, create and design a world in which you and your family dwell, plan, shop, prepare and serve meals on time, these all require brains, talent and skill. Yet, so many people, ESPECIALLY women, seem to think it is mindless as they stand behind counters handing out food or sitting at desks typing into computers. I am not saying that they are not skilled, and I know work is hard and challenging, I have been a working girl but I also see Homemaker as a real career. One is not better than the other, but they are both valid. I have been a business owner and being a homemaker is very akin to that in personal management, creativity and guts.

Then, again, maybe my own modern thoughts on homemaking are still similar to these and I am merely transferring my own feelings onto them. They probably aren’t thinking like that at all and I am just trying still to show myself, to prove to me, YES this is real work. And you know what self: IT IS! Perhaps I need to start each day with an affirmation. Maybe between getting the coffee on and the frying bacon I should stand outside and breath in the morning air ( a homemaker is often the first to breath the fresh lovely morning air) and herald the day with my ‘creed’; outstretched arms in my dressing gown I shall call out to the great homemaking spirits of the world, “I am Homemaker, HEAR ME ROAR!” Well, if the petticoats and white gloves don’t make me the crazy lady of the neighborhood, that might. So, again, the very problem I may have found with what I think others perceive of me may, in fact, be my own coming to terms with preconceived ideas and norms. Another layer of change and personal development from time-travel. Maybe university kids should take a year of time-travel as part of their education as well as a year abroad, not a bad idea, huh?

Vintage friend and I were taking a Gardening break yesterday, when Gussie got home. She ran in, rather excited, to announce that if I wanted, we could have three new additions to our family. Three baby bunnies! I guess Easter did come, after all!

She works on a local farm and they were discovered and were going to be ‘destroyed’ I guess the story of Farmer McGregor is true, Farmers DON’T like bunnies. So, we rescued them. I bought some bottles and kitten formula ( I am told that is what is used) from our local pet store (we are lucky to have two local pet stores on the cape) to take care of our new young ones. They did not take the milk right away and we were worried. We then used an eyedropper and they liked that but prefer to lap it up from our hands, so darling.

I can’t help feel a little like the mother in this situation, as I love the idea of we getting to raise them, vintage friend Gussie and I , but can’t help see it will be mostly Me doing the work, as I am the one home and will most likely not lose interest as fast. It did make me think that I would definitely be the ‘type’ of mother that would not scream if my child brought home a wounded or lost animal (well, I might scream for joy). Perhaps, I just remember my own joy as a child with such finds. The countless baby mice, birds, frogs, tadpoles, turtles etc that marched through my childhood years are too emblazoned in my memory with joy, happiness, and sorrow that I would not want anyone, child or otherwise, to miss that opportunity.

I am sure there are some that would say it was ‘cruel’ to take in some wild baby bunnies, but not as cruel as their being drowned or whatever ‘famer McGregor’ would do to them. I think the experience of contact with a wild animal is a wonderful thing and a part of our human experience. Another element that is not a part of our modern world, we are so very disconnected from everything. Certainly, there is that in all of us, as a species, that which makes us curious to know and understand the animals around us. Somewhere in the deep ancestry of humans burned a desire to capture that wild animal, love it, and care for it and eventually we had cows and chickens etc. I can’t help but think of ancient pre-history days of ancestors huddles around caves decorated with paintings of great hunts flickering in the orange glow of their fires, while a small wild dog pup or orphaned fawn curled dutifully at their feet. The connection of human to animal is too deep for me to just ‘put the things out’. So, I will let you know how they survive. It is true they may die, but that, too, is part of life. We could raise them and set them ‘free’ but I have a feeling my wild rabbit is going to be as ‘wild’ as Beatrix Potters pet rabbit.beatrix potter and her pet rabbit It is funny that I somehow always manage to feel akin to odd women who were somewhat loners (Beatrix Potter, Tasha Tudor etc) Admonish away, I can take it.

Here are some photos of my dogs (who adore the bunnies) and the new babies. I made them black and white, as I feel they are more keeping with my vintage theme.

sophie and bunnies1 Here is my Italian Greyhound, she has been a mother in the past ( a good one) and I think her motherly instinct (despite her now being fixed) kicked in. This is my little Chihuahua who is never not entertaining.monty and bunnies He loves all things smaller than he (Napoleon complex, I believe) For example, my parakeet will often fly down next to him and they will hang out in his little bed. The bird sitting happily on the edge of it, while Monty sits down and stares at him as if he is Elvis. You can see how intent he is on them. They recieved many kisses form the dogs. monty and bunnies 2 Aren’t they adorable?!

Oh, by the way, they are called ‘Winken, Blinken, and Nod”


Having these little darlings around even got me to take out the old drawing pens and pencils. Here is a quick pen and ink of two of them.bunny drawing 1 Of course, you cannot help but anthropomorphize them. Here is one as a little girl in her petticoat.bunny drawing 2 Then, of course, I had to have a hep cat modern man in his dungarees relaxing in his atomic chair with his pipe. moderne bunny drawingThey look more like mice, but that is because the little bunnies ears are so small! No wonder I didn’t get my blog done yesterday! Now I will have to schedule in some drawing time to sketch the new babies! I will have to add bunny photos and sketches to a section of my Flikr site.

Well, I promised myself to get to the point that I can at least move the dining room table and rug and dishes into the new dining room by this Monday, so I have a big weekend ahead. The weather is also nice, so I have to get more vegetables into my garden. I will show some progression pictures of that project as well. Now, I am off for my Saturday hair washing and setting. Teru mentioned pin curls, which I find hard as my hair is so long, but I am going to try them today. If it turns out nice, I will remember to get a picture. Have a great weekend, everyone.

And, as always, Happy Homemaking!

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