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.


  1. I know exactly what you mean. I decided last year that it was time to learn to fold sheets properly. I did some research on the internet, looked at my storage options, studied my bed making methods, and came up with a great plan for folding my sheets. Now I have them folded neat and prim (even the fitted sheets!) so they look nice on the shelf and even making the bed is easy. When folding my flat sheets I do my first fold down the middle from top to bottom so I can lay it out on the bed and get that middle fold exactly in the middle of the bed so the sheet is symmetrical. I store my son's pillowcases the right way round and our pillow cases inside out because that's how I put them on our different types of pillows.

    BTW, I found a book the other day that you might be interested in. It's called American Frugal Housewife and it's by Mrs Childs. It's 1830s so well before your time but I figure it might be the sort of thing your 1950s grandmother might have learned from, maybe you'd even find a copy stored in her attic. I bought a cute reproduction from the gift shop at Old Sturbridge Village this weekend. I really like her attitude. Instead of letting children indulge in idle play she suggests sending them out to pick wild blueberries; just as much fun and they can make a little money or contribute to the family pantry that way.

  2. I've only recently found the joy of Vintage living. So when this month I decided to repaint my bedroom, buy a second hand dresser (which needed new runners, paint and handles) and sew my new curtains I really felt a sense of accomplishment. I'm still in the middle of the drawers but hopefully tomorrow I will finish with those and can line them with drawer paper :)

    Also, last week was Passover, when passover finished the first thing I did was bake up a batch of my 20 minute muffins instead of being lazy.

    Action is the best thing to keep yourself motivated and smiling.

    50's Gal - Have you designed your mural yet?

  3. Actually I have been toying with the design. I have the theme figured out. I am starting at the wall next to the new fireplace with a scene of the mayflower and early puritan ships arriving to represent our ancestors and then as the scene stretches around the room, their will be various moments of sea and boats, perhaps a hunt scene ( a fox hunt with horses) finally finishing in an idealized image of this house with figures representing us outside in 1950s garb and I am going to sign and date in 1955. As it progresses from ideas, to sketches to outlines on the wall to painted finish, I will keep all of you posted with pictures. I thought it would be a nice tribute to this year and we can always enjoy at dinner and holidays, as it will be in the room we dine in.

  4. That frosting was the best I've ever tasted (and you know how I shy away from frosting!)
    You are so right, though! When I reorganized my closet last week, and pulled out things I plan to sell at a yard sale or give away, I felt truly accomplished. Once those items have gone, who knows? I may do it all again and see what I missed and what items I have that would better suit someone else.
    You *are* an inspiration, 50's Gal! *~_^*

  5. ACTION - just you typing that word made me want to get up and accomplish.:) My little 'action' (outside of the normal routine) for today,will be a duplicate of yesterday on my bedside table. On my husband's I removed the pretty protective linens, soaked them in powdered bleach and laundry detergent, hung them outside in the bright, strong, autumn sun, removed and ironed them. During their drying time I meticulously cleaned the power cords, sockets, appliances (clock, lamp), the whole area. Mmmm all fresh and clean, yum. Insignificant to some but still has that FEELING of accomplishment and joy when I go in to admire it.:)

    Yes we do often waste that free time. With your inspiration and others, I'm finding I'm more aware of trying to do something useful rather than veging because every little extra completed is rewarding and even though it's 'work' it's relaxing too.

    Even when your renovations are over there's no doubt there'll always be something else to fill your time, especially by someone as creative as you.. The discoveries, learning and joy of homemaking are infinite... :)

    (The simple and ordinary DOES have wonder to it. We have to open our eyes and notice it, inhale and enjoy. I've been learning this over the past few years.)

    Thanks again! From, Linda

  6. You are simply soooo inspiring. You have such a way with words. You create pictures with your words, which make your ideas/thoughts tangible and real. I felt just as Anon did while reading this post...What things can I get accomplished that I haven't thought of yet? I really like how you spoke about the difference between routine and action. That was a great way of explaining the difference between "existing" and living.

  7. Thanks again for the comments. I am just having a quick sit down before I go and finish putting away my laundry. Here it is, 8:30 pm and I have just finished cleaning up after dinner, doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. Then, finish laundry and back to put some putty in the trim of my dining room. I will most likely stop around 10 or so and come back here to my little sitting room and think about tomorrows post. It is all, really, work, yet how much better I feel than if I were just sitting down staring at the tv. I love how we all inspire one another, it is a great feeling too!

  8. I knew last night I was going to get "myself" back. 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. Thanks for your inspiration.

  9. Jeanne how wonderful. Isn't it funny how it can make you feel. I see now that people dressed for a reason. Jeans and Sweats may have their place, but not in making you feel good about yourself. I bet you looked wonderful.

  10. 50s Gal - I forgot to mention this when you mentioned that you weren't swearing as much, but have you read Emily Post's Etiquette book from the 1920's? It's a bit much but still and interesting read since it comes from the time just before flappers and the depression.

    I'm just tidying up my e-book version and I'd be happy to send anyone a copy if they'd want it.

    Mail me at: if you want a copy....

  11. I would love to see it, as I have the Vanderbilt book from the 1950s on etiquette. Great comparison.

  12. That's my philosofy too: Love the simple things, love your daily life – that’s what matters most! I couldn’t live in an unorganized house.

    I‘ve just sorted out my shoes, sold two pairs, given two pairs to charity and trashed one pair. That inspired me to tidy up my knicker drawer – and I felt SO nice afterwards. Now I don’t own shoes neither knickers that are uncomfortable to wear. I only own what I want to use and all stacked nicely and it is easy to find what I need.

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  15. I know this post probably seems like ages ago, but I'm reading your adventure from the beginning... it's like a book, so I certainly couldn't just start in the middle ;) I just wanted to say THANK YOU for this post. I'm going to bookmark this page just for when I need that extra spunk... and sometimes that is often! I really want to get to the point your at here, and as I read your post I'm nearly in tears. I want that get up and go. When I talked to my grandma about the 50's housewife, she said "it was expected, you simply just did it." Today, it's not expected. People don't seem to care anymore what anyone does, or how they look. I feel like I'm living in the era of sweatpants. I wish I had that expectation from SOMEONE to light a larger fire under my behind. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for making me want to get up and take more action. =)


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