Wednesday, September 30, 2009

30 September 1955 “The Hankie and the Linen Napkin”

sneeze2These two simple items and ideas can save you a lot of money and help the environment and give you a little pride along the way.
I know to our modern germophobic minds, the thought of the hankie being sneezed upon and returned to the pocketbook or pocket seems repulsive.sneeze Yet, if we launder them and have simply a set of seven (one for each day, though I am sure they could become addictive like potato chips!) we would have a clean one to use daily. Certainly, grabbing a Kleenex is easier and may seem more sanitary, but if it is your germs and you are merely applying it to your face, you cannot reinfect yourself with the sniffles!sneeze 3 Now, add to this the added bonus of the money spent on Kleenex and paper napkins etc. I know even my paper towel budget is easily cut in half since I started this project.
The linen napkin. I know use these every day for every meal. When we were first moving and had to share the little cottage with all our things tucked away and no laundry facilities I just bought some paper napkins and paper towel. I could not believe what I went through in that one week! The waste alone! And, you feel good and grown up when you unfold that linen napkin and place it on your lap before you begin your meal. It is as if you are saluting your hard work and preparing for that time you sit and relax at the repast you have created and enjoy good conversation.
It’s funny how our incessant need to make more items that make the day easier and somehow go by faster. Why is that? It seems, if anything, we are running about more and are more frazzled today with all the new things we have. So, though it is impossible to get rid of your cell phone or not have a tv or computer, why not add some old things and remove some annoying modern things that do add to your day. The Hankie and the Napkin. Simple. Easy to add to your life. Now, you are saving money and helping the earth. In addition to this, you have now given your mind and creativity a canvas for some fun relaxing art time. If you don’t have to throw away your hankie or napkin, now you can think, “Hmmm, I wish these matched my drapes or wouldn’t it be lovely to see a little tea kettle come to life and dance around my apron?” We buy at home stores sets of things and all the added bits that are produced to ‘match’ the decor we buy. We can simply buy some piece or something we like and then ‘match’ the decor as much as we want with our own hand, by painting or needle work. Then it is also uniquely ours. There is something cold about the homogenous ‘sets’ of things one can buy at stores. The landscape is becoming the same and now go to any house in America and see that set of sheets, matching curtains and towels bought at Target. There isn’t anything wrong with it per se, but it does stifle the creative element and again, the Homemakers best and most powerful tool is her mind. We should exercise and use it all times as an important part of our job. Rather we are a full or part time homemaker, the mind needs it’s exercise.
child hankie
Look at this adorable child's hankie. The idea instilled early on to have and keep something and use it with care is important.  With Kleenex and Purell (by the way studies have shown that overtly using anti-bacterial items actually reduces your bodies own abilities to fight germs. ) we are teaching our children to be garbage makers. Here is this thing, there is an endless supply, use it and then throw it away! That is a scary message, isn’t it! And with that goes the fun and creativity of having a hankie or napkin. Certainly the dexterity given to a small child (boy or girl) who would be given some simple needlework on a hankie and then the pride from using that is immense. vogartx Even the responsibility of sitting down like a ‘grownup’ and using a sharp needle would probably seem bad parenting today, which is silly. But, how can we teach children to be responsible and adult when honestly, are any of us?  No need to learn needle work or drawing if you just use a Kleenex and throw it away. I mean the fact that we even say Kleenex, it is the name brand of the product.
But, I won’t go off on another rant, so here are some cute images of different iron on transfers that were popular from the 30s-60s.
embroidery transfer 1 I think you can still find these fairly inexpensively at local antique shops and online I am sure at etsy and ebay etc. I would check local places first. I would love to share these type of items on my new website when it is ready.
embroidery dressHere you can see how one would make their simple dress patterns come to life or have a more unique style. Surely this was an iron on pattern you would follow, but you could also stitch your own design. When fashion has a particular ‘look’ then if you can’t afford the Dior dress you can follow the example of its line and make it your own creation. The power of fashion and industry in YOUR hands, don’t you love it?!
  Here is an example of the anthropomorphized items that were popular. coffee potThis image actually came from a site I found where the lovely lady was sharing some of her patterns like this. It is an example of the kind of links I want to make on my future site. To have a place we can come to find each other and such lovely people as she who are willing to scan and share patterns. 
There is transferan innocence about these that I find appealing. teatowels Though, once I would have scoffed at their twee sweetness, I now find them rather darling and the art historian in me wonders at this piece of Americana art form that deserves more research. If only I could live to be 300 I could someday write all the books I want. I could see a whole picture book/research book on these transfers alone!
Anyhoo, what was great about these simple outlined pieces of needlework, is they were perfect to teach little hands the art of needle and easy for a homemaker to have in her sewing basket for the odd rainy afternoon when the chores are done, laundry ironed and put away, a pot of tea and some pillowcases or aprons or Hankies that needed adornment. Such an idea today by the masses would be deemed, ‘a waste of time’ but by the very same people who would waste five hours sitting and staring at a box and doing nothing! (That’s TV if you didn’t get my image.)
So, even though I have never done any needlework before but a few stitches to hem here and there, I am going to get a box of plain hankies, sew up some plain aprons and buy some plain white cotton pillowcases and lookout! I actually had a great idea, I am going to copy my Pyrex pattern that I collect ( I once made labels for spice jars check an old post of mine) and use that as a pattern on some kitchen towels. Then I can embroider teal on white towels and white on teal towels, wouldn’t that be lovely? I know I don’t really need one more thing to do, but again, I find as I do more and make it a normal part of my life, I found room for more things. Of course, this might put back my correspondence even more, but just think of the darling hankies and napkins I will have! And what a great gift!
How many of you already do needle work? Have any of you taught your children this art form and at what age? Aren’t you itching to try some now?! I know I am!

Monday, September 28, 2009

28 September 1955 “A Rant, Marmalade, News, and Fall Fashion”

 woman thinking As I begin to come closer to the end of 1955 I am finding myself more and more thinking of the future. I know,at my initial attempt at a 1955 woman, I first tried to buy as many things to ‘re-create’ the time as possible. I then found this action to be my modern ‘consumer driven’ need merely replaced by this challenge. I wanted to try something new, so what do I buy to do it?  Then as I began to use and appreciate the old things from that time (which I could buy cheaply and were still working), I began to discover how things are now made cheaply to be bought inexpensively and then tossed away to buy new. The garbage and pollution and money wasting of my time was more revealed.

Now, I am beginning to see that if I were a woman in 1955 I would not be buying old appliances to use, but would be excited about the future and wanting the ‘new items’. I would also expect to pay more but now it was a piece of machinery that can be maintained and fixed to last a long time most likely my lifetime. That is where I began to really see the difference. Particularly 1955 was really a year of plenty and growth. The world seemed to be promising and opening up for everyone. So the new and latest was what was wanted but the higher cost mingled with better craftsmanship made the purchase something to work towards and then take care of, the responsibility of action which seems to be devoid in a world where things are cheaply made, cheaply sold, then tossed on the scrap heap for new.

The world after WWII was all about the future. The past was unbearable and needed to be forgotten. We NEVER wanted to return to that place and time of war and destruction; “New and better” was des rigueur. But, now I find myself and many others longing for a past and that past seems to be right at that pinpoint in time when we looked to the future with hope. It seems to be an almost gateway to a new possible future.  I think now we look back in fondness at this time perhaps because we were perched on the beginning of a great new future. We were just getting it right and then somehow we took a wrong turn somewhere.  I am beginning to believe this is because we had that chance, that moment to make a new and better world and in some ways we did but in others it is as if we have given up that main element of humanity. The connectivity and responsibility of individual pride and action and the combined need of others.

So, I think the reason there are so many of us that look back fondly or are drawn to this time, this post war time, is that was when we had our clean slate. The page was blank and we could write on it. What probably happened was we had to get behind our government and think, “Go, U.S.A.” so we could win a war against Hitler, and then we just wanted to believe that government was there to protect and help us. But, it only takes a few bad apples. I even wonder if our silly involvement in Vietnam had not happened, would there have been hippies? Maybe people would have thought to look to their parents and older generations to learn and grow instead of the “Don’t trust anyone under 30” mantra of the baby boomers. And, now these same boomers, who are well over 30, expect the subsequent generations to pay for their old age.

It seems that we are moving slowly (or quickly rather) away from the local community. All our needs our being met by a few major companies that are moving into place to control the world. I know it sounds like farfetched conspiracy theory, but think about it: Stores like Wal-Mart that contain all the things we ‘need’ and even local drugstores are chains, food and clothing also chains. The landscape of  America is slowly being homogenized into an ugly sameness and we all blindly seem to follow it. Your phone company, as an example, is so inhuman and heartless.  Good luck trying to talk to someone in this country (more jobs outside our country thanks) or do something as simple as address a bill change of address. Everything is automated or shipped out to places far away. Are we headed to a world where we are merely plugged into three or four major corporations that control our food (Monsanto-if you saw the documentary I recommended) clothing needs and styles, communication? Even if we want to try to become part of our own community, how much can we help grow and make our own towns when there is still a Wal-mart, a CVS, McDonalds, Gap, Old Navy, Stop and Shop, etc.? On some level, this year has made me open my eyes and that is good, but on the other hand, I think I am becoming to feel more and more powerless as the year passes. I want to believe we can, we Apron Revolution, make a difference. But, when I hear about the world, at least our country, and it’s chains and corporate ownership of the very seeds we grow food from, it scares me a little.

I am sorry this is such an embittered post, but I feel and have begun to feel so frustrated and sad. Perhaps it is the reality of 1955 coming to an end and knowing 1956 isn’t really around the bend. There is a part of me that wants to just quietly live in my safe bubble of make believe, but as I see so many more of you seeming interested and craving for an ‘old way’ of life, I really do increasingly feel an obligation to somehow use this awareness of ours to grow more opportunity for the future. We cannot take on the big corporations, nor stop government, but maybe if we could, through example of simple pride and responsibility and a work ethic, begin to attract a few young people. The masses forming  lines to the malls and old navy and EB Games might have a few people who look our way and think, “Hmm, it is harder work to make my own clothes, or learn to cook, or read for an hour and lose some computer/TV time, but I feel better and stronger and more in control”. I am not sure if any of this rambling is making any sense. But, in my fear of our present and future I want to, in fact feel I NEED to, try and make the future better is some way and to make opportunities for future homemakers and self-sufficient and community driven ideals.

Perhaps it has been my move that has added to this feeling. It has become symbolic for me, as the year ends, to suddenly replace my location and return to a place that has history both my own and the country’s and face the challenge of this modern world in our ‘simplistic’ things. Our cell phones and DSL all set up to make life easier, and yet all the work and struggle to deal with them. I don’t want to throw out the “baby with the bathwater” I know these technologies are good for us, but what have we given up for them? We cannot get it back in the same form, but there must be a new way, a better way than we have now. There has to be a way to connect and grow and make a world around what is happening and still take the time and effort to make our own things and control our own lives more, shouldn’t there? Am I crazy? Do you think we can, a rag tag band of ladies (and gentleman) donning aprons and cookbooks with a penchant for sewing and old records, really make a difference? Should we make a difference? I am finding myself more and more determined to use this technology to somehow make a new year, not 1956 nor 2010 but some amalgamation of the two. The power of modern conveniences, as my 1955 counterpart would have wanted (the dishwasher, the blender, the washer and dryer these were intended to make her day easier), but what have we done with the free time? What would she have done with the free time?  We just seem to have filled it with ‘needing’ more and using credit until we find ourselves so in debt we must have two income households so we can keep paying and buying into the own destruction of our hometowns and the very look and feeling of our country. My 1955 self would have marveled at the new gadgets and bought them as she could afford them, but with her free time she would not have had more ‘tv time’ or ‘gone shopping with the credit card’. She would have used the time to freeze or can more food, plan more for her own family, more time in the sewing room or at the Junior League or helping in her community.

I know that “stay at home” is not the norm now. Most towns don’t have neighborhoods full of women who can meet and plan in the afternoon, but now we have this: the internet. So, we can meet per se and share and laugh. I don’t know, I think there is hope for a different tomorrow, but I don’t think I can plug myself back into the blind shopper along for the spending ride. I can’t even buy a coffee at a local Starbucks without baffling at my stupidity. A year ago a five dollar latte was nothing to me, today a two dollar cup of coffee seems a sin to me when I can get a pound of coffee for only a little more. It’s the trap of consumerism that I want to let go of and return more and more to the power of self-sufficiency.

Yet, even that word, self-sufficiency, often brings to mind neo-hippies and flowing beards or cultish people living off the grid far out in the country. Though there is nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t have to be only that. We can have a pretty little dress and heels, hat and gloves, and have just canned for the upcoming winter, sew our own clothes, use some devices less in lieu of by hand and still be self-sufficient. Make that bread yourself or buy from your local bakery, or if you don’t have a local bakery, maybe think about starting a small one with some friends. We really need to take back our Present. I think it is good and healthy to look to our Past to make it better. We are so conditioned to the moment now, that clothes from last year and ideas are meant to be forgot and to move forward, but that is a dangerous way to be. It seems the less mindful and aware we are the more we feed into the system of endless buying to fill the void and then we must work more to pay it off, but never wondering or looking to see, why do I have the void? “Why do I feel alone, or empty or unsatisfied? Somehow buying more things at lower prices isn’t making me feel better, I wonder why?”

I told my hubby the other day, when I saw an older person in a wheelchair, that I now sometimes feel a little trepidation when I think of the last of the ‘older generation’ dying off. The world is going to be left in our hands and the hands of the baby boomers and it seems scary. As if somehow, those people we did fight in WWII and were part of making our country in the 1950s, when they go, chaos will truly reign. The last of the grownups are gone, get to playing. It seems silly, but it has led me to really think more and more about what I want my future to be.

That is another element that the homemaker had that no one ever talks about now: the time and ability to think. We can make fun or joke about the unsatisfied woman ‘at home’ left to be bored watching her stories, eating chocolate while her husband goes out fulfilled in his work. But, that seems to be part of the modern propaganda to keep us FROM home. Because, the more we can think  about the world we live in the more we will open our eyes and realize what a mess we really are in! The power of thought and self-contemplation and direction is one of the homemakers best tools. If she were a super-hero it would be one of her main powers. “Look out, that corporation is taking over!” “Don’t worry” cries Super Homemaker, “Let me think on it”…”I have it, just stop buying their products/services and see them fade away!” “AGHHHH”, cries the corporation, “They realized the power was in their spending the whole time, curse you Super Homemaker!” or something along those lines.

The power of thought and thinking is our best defense and tool, but the modern world has made sure to stifle that. Tv, Computer, Video games, Malls, Cheap things to buy, easy fattening food, all of those things allow us to not have to or to not get to take the time to think. But, if we ever want to change for the better or even just affect our own lives, we have to. We have to sit still and quiet and really think about our life and the world around us and then get off our duff and get to work to change it!

Now, enough of my soap-boxing, I should share some real tangible things with you.

I had promised to share my grapefruit marmalade recipe with you, so here it is with some other fun sounding marmalades you may want to try:marmalade recipes

I think the Tomato Marmalade would be wonderful on meats, don’t you?

Now for some news.

On September 22,  Independent Commercial Television (ITV) begins broadcasting in the UK. It is interesting to see they are showing American TV such as Dragnet and Bob Hope. Do any of you  UK readers know of ITV? Here is a video of the first broadcasts.

On September 24 President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack. Here he is in October after his attack.  Interesting bit on fashion as well, enjoy. I adore the black day dress with the opening in back with the lacy white patterning.

Speaking of which, this week I am bound and determined to get to some sewing. I need clothes for fall. I am going to make some Plaid wool and Wool Felt Pencil skirts. pencil skirt 1 pencil skirt 2 Isn’t this suit dreamy?suit And if ever a gown could make me feel as if I was in heaven, it might be this lovely one from 1955 Paris, Oh, the yards and yards of velvet!gown

Well, enough of that. If I want to return to posting more often I can’t talk of everything in one day.

Happy Homemaking and Viva la’ Apron Revolution!

Friday, September 25, 2009

25 September 1955 "Don't worry, I'm still here"

I have had a busy few days, more boxes to unpack, making jams, and the general settling of moving in, changing addresses, dealing with insurance etc. All the things, I suppose, I would have had to do in 1955 but with the pleasure of putting on my hat and gloves and walking to the local office to deal with a person instead of computers and computerized voices on phones asking me to press this or that only to never get anywhere. All very unsettling and only making me crave the real 1955 more, but I digress. I shall be back later today, I promise. Sometimes a homemaker's life just pulls her along so rapidly on the 'to-doing' currant, you don't realize how far down river you have drifted!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

19 September 1955 “ News, Canning, and Biking, ”

FARM INCOMES will be boosted and surplus products cut back, if Agriculture Secretary Benson can persuade Congress to okay a mammoth new crop-control program that may cost as much as $500 million a year. Benson wants to buttress present flexible price supports by paying farmers $10 to $12 an acre yearly to grow grass, cover crops and trees on their land, thus cut down on overall farm output by taking 40 million acres out of food production. ( I am not sure who watched the video on Monsanto, but here you can see it is beginning, paying farmers to stay out of food production, slowly this leads to our sad state today with so much being imported that could come from local farmers)

U.S. RAILROADS will have to spend $20 billion for capital improvements in the next decade to meet growing transportation needs, says Pennsylvania Railroad President James Symes. His forecast for 1965 rail business: 850 billion ton-miles, 53% above 1954's total. (Sadly, we will see a decline in the railroads as well, as multiple cars and highways replace shared and cheaper forms of transportation.)

STATION WAGONS are fast becoming one of the most popular auto models. As the all-purpose family car, station wagons are now selling at the rate of 500,000 yearly (v. 29,600 in 1946).(I love my station wagon, that is for sure!)

Canning before the 1950’s was without question necessary. ww1 canning posterThis poster from WWI shows its urgency during war time. Certainly, during the WWII it was also important as food was becoming scarce and one needed to conserve what they could from their Victory Gardens.women canningI love the look of these happy people in their root cellar properly stocked with canned goods and fruit to last.basement canning This house actually has an old root cellar, reached from the outside through a bulkhead whose walls are made up of great stones set into place. I will show photos, once I get my shelves up. I am afraid this winter, though, it will not be this stocked, but we shall see what can be yielded next summer in my new garden.

By 1955 the new young wives and mothers would find in their cookbooks and magazines of the day Freezing to be the new food conservation. Certainly, they learned some canning at mothers knee but many younger women would be excited to fill their new ‘deep freeze’ with food. But, being my age in 55 I believe canning would still very much be a part of my life. And indeed, in my current state of 1955 with the knowledge of modern needs to not waste electricity nor overspend, canning certainly wins out. To me it makes more sense to preserve food I can store for free, than to pay for the upkeep and electricity to run a large freezer.

Yesterday I made Blackberry Jam. It turned out lovely.   It was fun and as with many of the skills I am learning this year, it takes something that seems impossible or unfathomable and opens it up to that “Oh, that’s it?” moment. It also, as has other things this year, made me see how much more of what we use/consume can very easily, cheaply and so much more healthy be hand made.

I am sure there are many canners out there. For me, this is the first time really. Here is how simply my jam was.

5 cups crushed blackberries

7 cups sugar

one 1.75 oz. package of Pectin

5 16 oz jars and lids

Boil the fruit and while stirring, slowly add the pectin. Then having measured the sugar int0 a bowl, add all at once stirring constantly until rolling boil returns. Then boil for one minute, scoop into clean dry hot jars (so they don’t crack from the hot liquid) seal and place in canning pot of hot water. Make sure 2 inches of water covers jar tops and bring to a boil. Hard boil for 10 minutes, take out and set upright on a towel and in 12 hours you have jam.

So easy so yummy. Hubby and I have almost polished off the first jar, it is so good.

For those who would like to know, and I just learned, according to my 1950s Boston cooking school book the following is the difference between jams, conserves or gumbo, preserves, and fruit butters.

Jam or Marmalade. Fruit cut in small pieces, cooked with sugar until sirup is jellylike.

Conserve or Gumbo. Thick, rich mixture of fruit cooked with sugar, usually with nuts added.

Fruit Butter or Honey. Thick, smooth sauce made of fruit cooked with sugar and strained. Seasonings are often added.

Preserves. Fruit canned in a sugar sirup, thinner than for jam. The fruit is usually left whole or in fairly large pieces.

There are so many ways and means to conserve and can fruit and jam. I also have a pressure cooker I have never used and would some day like to use it for veg and meat.

There is even a recipe to make your own pectin and I am sure very far back, one couldn’t or maybe could not afford to buy pectin for canning. I can post that recipe if anyone is interested.

My next canning is going to be some orange marmalade, which I adore, and I want to try some Grapefruit marmalade.

There are many variations of Apple Jelly ( I am not sure if they call it Jelly in UK as I know their Jelly is our Jello and what many of us call Jelly is their Jam, I know here it is Jam if it contains the fruit and Jelly if it is made clear with only the fruit juice, any UK or Aussies want to clarify that for me?) Anyway, I thought this sounded lovely as a variation of Apple Jelly (again it is made with apple juice and any other juice half and half and 2/3 cup sugar for each cup of juice and cooked to the jelly stage. It is:

Rose Geranium. Place a rose geranium or pineapple leaf in each glass and fill with apple jelly. Do not cover with paraffin until jelly is almost firm and left leaf so that it is suspended in the jelly. (wouldn’t that be a wonderful housewarming gift? So pretty)

Well, enough on canning for now.

This lovely cool brisk late summer New England day was enjoyed on my bicycle. Here she is in all her vintage bikeShe is actually a bit small for me, but I don’t mind. Much like many things I have come to use this year, we seem to work it out and work with one another’s foibles.

I hoped I looked much like this lovely lady todaybike 1as I rode happily along with my hubby. We live close to a nice path that meanders along the Cape Cod Canal. We get to it through a long wooded path that connects to our back yard. There is a wide ‘road’ through the wood of mown grass and either side rise up wonder brambles, trees and in spring Mock Orange and in the fall lovely bittersweet (great for New England autumnal decorations). The feeling I got today on this bike riding over the bumpy grass was amazing. I felt, in that moment, what it must have been that first time a woman, most likely back in the beginning of the century, rode astride her first bike. The very freedom of it. The soft pleasure as the trees glide by and you bounce gaily along. And, belive you me, with my vintage Raleigh, you get a could cushiony bounce with that wide comfortable seat with it's dual springs.

As we rode along, the sun shone. It was one of those cool late summer mornings where the promise of heat is there, but the coolness of the previous night still hangs upon you. It is a mantle of comfort when riding briskly along. That lovely smell of ocean water and the sound of the gull…ah, I have to say that is my favorite sound. To hear that while on a boat and to sleep snuggled in the forward berth of our sailboat is the closet to heaven I have found. But, I digress, the smell of the ocean, the deep child-like cry of the gull, the dive of the cormorant, it was all lovely.

As we were casually biking along, we would occasionally be passed by other Saturday morning strollers or bikers. A few ‘grandma’s’ on similar bikes to mine, but newer versions pedaled on happily. Then, every so often, my skirt would swirl up and my get tossed in my eyes by a passing cyclist bearing down on me with incredible speed, stretched to the hilt in spandex.

I once belonged to these ranks. In fact, in the 90’s at university, I even mountain biked. Clad in spandex and packing power bars, bright colored plastic water bottles, I was ready for the battle of the hill or the road. Now I see this  and it seems strange to me. There is something about rambling along on a bike with no gears and the only brakes are engaged when you feel the need to pedal backwards. I realized I was not wearing a helmet and then hubby and I laughed about this. At the speed we were traveling we would have had ample time to stop without a fatal fall.

The world suddenly, there on the back of my simple little bike, seemed a little lighter. There was no time to beat or counting of miles I needed to get in . I was not in the process of trying to do anything TO THE EXTREME, no need to slam a power bar or replenish my electrolytes, whatever they may be. Simply, a sunny morning pedaling along the water, talking, laughing and enjoying the scenery. Another vintage moment given my as a little hidden jewel.

I found myself looking forward, at the end of our jaunt, to my doing this more often. I know pictured the ease and joy of pedaling to the local farmers market on Tuesday morning, filling my little basket with my wares. A ride into the local tea shop for an afternoon of cakes, a cuppa and a good read.

So, here 1955 have shown me, much like the swish of the petticoat or the simple thrill of white gloves and a hat, doing things with a bit of style and measured time makes the moments of living more real. Odd, again, that it takes time-travel out of my time to feel more in my present. When I do things with a quiet stylish determination, take that extra minute at the dressing table with my lipstick, decide which hat and gloves, decide to take a slower trip upon the bouncy seat of my vintage bike, I feel more NOW. I don’t feel I am rushing to get this or that done or running behind and trying to hurry to this or that. I don’t know how realistic this sort of time is for modern people, but maybe we need to look at what we have replaced our time with? Even for those busy with jobs, are there other things that could be done early or set aside to take your time with more personal things to make your day more yours? Up an extra half an hour to get your hair just right or to take time to sit down to a real breakfast of bacon and eggs on nice matching china? Maybe miss one of your ‘shows’ or tivo it for later so you can take the time to sit at a real table like a grown up and eat off nice dishes and talk about things with your family or read that book you have been meaning to get to? I don’t know. I do know that taking my time and doing things with a measured style seems to be changing my life in ways I never thought it would.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

17 September 1955 “Home Sweet Home”

Well, these images of the house were meant to be shared yesterday, but part of the unpacking process has been playing the game, “where is it”. So, though I had my camera, I did not have the cable that allowed me to share these images digitally. Silly, really. I guess the ease of technology sometimes makes it easy to lose the small elements that make it possible in the first place. I wonder if the first transistors (which are becoming a new thing this year, check an earlier post) elicited such responses as, “Well, if they get any smaller, we’ll never be able to find them!” I am sure to those in 1955 (even with transistor radios just appearing ) the concept of MP3 players would be unimaginable.  Not only that, I am sure they would also wonder, “Why on earth would you NEED so much music all of the time?” Another cultural divide opens.

It makes me wonder, how much did music play in the life of the typical 1955 homemaker? I know my music listening has more than been cut in half. At first I noticed it, but now I really don’t. I have a good record collection at this point and my record player is unpacked, but I often find myself not listening to music as often as I once did. I think when I return to painting (pictures not walls)I will listen more, but I am not sure. Is it bad? Good? Not sure it is neither I suppose, just a different view.

I have cd’s of music and radio shows that are in an ‘old radio’ in my kitchen, but even then, I don’t always listen. Although, I do know that many people say the radio was on often back in those days, but I don’t think we were bombarded with noise and music and sound as much as we are today. I am sure the homemaker in my age group in 55 with kids probably wanted to destroy the television and the noise it would hail with the children returning from school. A parent in 1955 must have looked down at the child splayed in front of  ‘the set’ glassy eyed and motionless and wondered, “When I was his age I would have been…” And he would have been, too! Only, think how much that has changed. We are so many generations into TV now that the concept of “when I was young” may come up, but honestly most parents today probably spent as much time in front of the TV as kids today, I don’t know. 

I remember a few scenes in movies of the 1950s with parents being annoyed by their enraptured children. In “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit” (which won’t be made into a movie until next year 1956) there is a scene where the father has to haul his children from in front of the TV, commenting about the western that is on. “Is this the only program on,” he comments only to be sucked into it himself while drying and re-drying the same dish he was helping his wife clean moments before. It does lure one in and I wonder why? Well, that was a big digression, on with some photos and news.

Here are some shots of my little antique home: In this first one you can see my orange sofa I rather like. orange sofaIt has made my color scheme here the rich oranges and reds of wood tones. While I worked on a concept in the old house for a color scheme for the house, here my furniture just seemed to tell me where it wanted to live and suddenly the disparate parts of my previous home came together and said, “Ta-da,  here is your color scheme’.

The deep red of the dining room melds into the oranges and warm tones of the wood floors and ceiling held in check by the pale blue walls. In this same picture on the old door (they are original if you can believe it and they have the old latch system that predates ‘doorknobs’) next the sofa is a hand painted sign that reads “bathroom”. This was for my mother when she lived here as with her Alzheimer's she needed help sometimes. I haven’t the heart to remove it, so it stays. Speaking of my mother, I call this shot ‘mum’s corner’.mums cornerThe chair was my mother’s chair while she lived here and this was a favorite spot of hers. On the antique table sits a photo of my hubby and his mother when he is a boy on their sailboat. You can just see the old picket fence out front that meanders crookedly along the sidewalk out front. The neighbors beautiful red maple is visible. It is nice to know I can just stroll out the front door and walk to a local eatery or ride my bike into ‘town’. Here you can see the wall color better and the old yellow upholstery of the chair, which was destined to be recovered, is now going to stay. It fits with the tones of the house and I rather like its aged shabby velvet.

Next to mum’s corner sits the piano.pianoThere is much love and frustration in this old thing. It was my husbands piano growing up. He studied classical piano and had at one point been set for Juilliard. The piano has followed us around. We have moved it six times. And one does not move it by themselves, so we have got to know the piano movers fairly well. It is a sight to see them move it. The legs come off and its elegant long beauty becomes odd and disjuncted as it is set on end and wrapped in moving blankets and wedged through doors by sweating men.

What is interesting about the piano now is our last move put it in this house when we had my parents here. They were nice enough to allow us to put it here and when we moved back to the cape to the other house, we had to leave it. That meant it was suffered to various tenants, but we did not want to move it again. Somehow we must have known we were coming back, for there it sat waiting for us. I remember when we finally got back in here that first day not even two weeks ago, after the tenants had left. I was unpacking in the kitchen and the sound suddenly filled the little house. It was so good to hear it sing again at the hands of my hubby.

The bust on it once sat as the mascot for my flower shop. She, too, has moved often with us. She always gets the place of honor, in the front seat of my car when the move.  Maybe I am afraid she will come to life and walk off to live with another less nomadic family. Though, I think now she may stay put.

In this same room is the living room fireplaceAt one point in our living here years ago I had wanted to paint the wall and ceilings. Though, it most likely would have been done as the colonial period progressed, the work and detail of the exposed wood is too beautiful to cover with paint and it shall remain as it is. At least my wood paneling is the real thing so somehow I love it. The little chair on the hearth was mine as a small child and I can remember rocking in it for hours in my favorite red nightgown. Leaning there on the right (it will get hung on that wall when I get the right hooks) is an antique cranberry rake that I found one day in the back of an old shops basement when they were having a sale. Cranberries have a big history with the cape. The wood and hand bent metal match the patina of the house’s wood perfectly. Again, it is as if the things I have loved and collected have been waiting for this house. Even the old brass compass/sexton on the mantel has been hid away in it’s old box in storage, now it sits proudly waiting for the Whaling captain to return.

Now, in the dining room I have a lovely deep cranberry red. Another color I will not repaint. It looks a little more blood red than it is in the photo herebar but my hubby’s old pre-civil war map of New England looks wonderful against the color and even  “Hereford” my stuffed pheasant, seems happy here. This demi-lune side table works great as a bar and extra linen storage in the dining room. You can see the whiskey decanter is rather low, sometimes we need a little nip to help us get through the unpacking process.

In this same room is a built in corner cabinet. I think readers who have followed me for awhile will remember that I had an antique corner cabinet I put in the dining room redo I did at my other house. The funny thing is, that cabinet, had I left it in its original red color, would have gone perfectly in this room, but alas, it is now being enjoyed by the new tenants. But, this dining room has its own built in corner cabinet.china cabinet dining roomThe interior is painted a soft yellow and I was going to paint it the soft blue of the walls to go with my good china, which is rimmed in that color, but I rather like the warm yellow behind the blue and it ties into the kitchen , which is off this room, in the same yellow with red and blue accents. (I’ll show those pictures later).

So, that is the house thus far. The pictures really don’t do it justice, but you can see how simply old things live here with me. Any modern 1950’s items are either in the kitchen or will end up in my studio. I am happy with it. Normally, when I move into a new place, I immediately want to change everything, while here it feels right. The combination of memories of happy and even sad times with my family and friends mixed with the mellow tones and odd angles and slopes of the floor (if you stand in the living room you can drop a marble and it will roll towards the dining room, rather like being on a ship) just seem to fit me somehow. I mean, here we are,the pair of us, anachronistic to the core. We both look ‘of another time’, yet plopped down into the modern world. We will simply shine in our antiquity and let others either enjoy or disregard us, but we both feel very grounded in time. There is a sort of solidity to attaching oneself to a time that has gone by. You can feel a certainty that is not available to you in the unknown future. It gives you a rock upon which to stand as the deluge of life and its uncertain current rushes by. Perhaps, it is indulgent or unrealistic, but it does help one to have a strong base upon which to view the world.

Now, today I am making some blackberry jam and an apple and blackberry pie. Recipes and results will follow tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

15 September 1955 “Back to the Grind”


1950myhomea Well, here I am settled into my ‘new’ home. It has been seven years since my hubby and I lived in this house, though we had my parents here for two years and that resulted in being guests at Christmas and other holidays. They were good times for the most part, though they ended on a rather sad note. In that ending, the house sat, unloved and infrequently used by various bad tenants. We have returned and I am glad.

Somehow, now, it feels as if I have been working to this end for sometime without my knowledge. I certainly was not planning on the sudden removal of my family nor the dramatic way that played out, but as I have been settling my furnishings and various items these past two weeks it is as if I have been buying and collecting with the eye for this house the whole time. There, that old metal dishtowel rack bought and forgot and stored, now just fits that part of the kitchen. That chair, bought in the city for that apartment then stored away looks and feels right in that spot. The chair my darling mother sat in, which was hauled and used in my makeshift sitting room at the last house, has returned to its rightful place and looks so perfect with that old side table of my hubbies family.

Where the other house and places I have lived have immediately received my paint brush and hammer, the main part of this house just feels right. I think, ‘ Hmmm, that shade of blue I painted the walls four years ago for my family just still fits’.


 early american home 1955 to show that not all 1955 living rooms looked like this 1952 livingroom Not that the second is bad and in fact, most likely due to my inundation with mid-century magazines and design books, there is much I Do love about this second modern room, but in an antique Cape built in 1718, I think it would look rather amiss, don’t you? I wanted to show that traditional as well as the ‘new’ “Early American” style was as prevalant as modern. The white trimmed built-ins, colonial inspired wallpaper and the ‘sandwich glass’ and tin lamps look much as they would today. Although I do have some victorian pieces, the Victorian ladies chair in the first picture is lovely, but I prefer my Wing chairs and of course my french inspired side chair.

Actually, there is much that I could write about this ‘Early American’ movement in decorating that really gets ignored today. Many people think that the 1950’s deco (much as they think the mindset and ideals) are all set in one pattern in the mid-century. I find the Early American probably really took hold in the war years. There is much ‘colonial’ inspired interiors in my 1940’s magazines as opposed to my 1950’s. I think it was a way to hearken back to the ‘good ole days’ the pre-war modern world and certainly had a good breeding ground in 1940’s America.

The picture I ‘borrowed’ for the above image of the ‘colonial’ home was from the same Flickr stream as the one below. I do hope that whomever’s site it is does not mind my using the image. It certainly is only done with the utmost respect and perhaps a sort of sad longing of these pictured.july 55 This one could easily be my hubby. Replace the cigarette with a pipe and that is basically his wardrobe today, maybe he’d have his straw porkpie hat on, since it is summer.  This one below was simply titled Summer 1955.summer 1955 It hit a note with me as it could easily be my yard now with hubby and I and a friend. In fact, I want to build a stone wall around our terrace here, much like they have done in the pictures, and frame it in my roses. I love the casual blue dress with the down turned pocket. The woman in front looks smart in her white piped blue pedal pushers. Relaxed yet put together. There is SO much in the 1950’s style that could be so adaptable to the modern world and in a way that allows us to have control by making it ourselves. There are no tags or labels or odds screen printed logos that are ‘must haves’ here thus making one not able to reproduce a style. 1950s fashion When clothes are fashionable but individual and not mass marketed it gives a thrift, style and personal power back to the wearers. One can look through a magazine for inspiration and then buy a simple pattern and the sky is the limit.

I have been having trouble getting myself back into using the computer again. Being somewhat unconnected and preoccupied with arranging my home, I felt almost as if I was sleeping deeper into 1955. Today, to aid my ability to still hold onto the present so I can return to my blog posts, I went to some large modern stores. This ties in with what I was just saying about clothes.

I was in town and decided to pop into Old Navy, a store I am not that happy with normally, but now it was horrible. In the past which was conversely the future, when I would go to Old Navy to ‘just look’ I would never leave without some “great deal”. Their low prices (of course fueled by cheap product mass produced by low paid child labor) were often irresistible, even though most of these items would end up in drawers and closets unworn. I kid you not, as I was packing to move here I found clothes with tags on unworn, not good.

Today, however, my disgust was filled with sadness. The racks and racks of sweat pant styled pants, everything was soft jersey, shapeless and uninspiring to see rows and rows of them. I thought, maybe I could find some 1950s inspired skirt I could mix in with my wardrobe, I could not find one skirt that was not a short 1980’s ruffled mess that I would not even have worn in the actual 1980s. I have to say I left fired to get a sewing space cleared out soon.

Now, back to the house. I have just been so busy and into setting up house, that I have barely touched my computer. One can see how a homemaker of the past would not be bored, it is as if WITH the modern computer and TV, we become bored as we can think of nothing except these two tasks to fill our free time. But, I am slowly easing my way back into a sense of the modern world. I cannot, after all, live in 1955 forever. I could certainly try, but I really feel an almost calling to bring modern and mid-century to some interesting mix in the coming year. That means eventually with a website and also with my art. Perhaps, then, I will also finally feel ready to do a podcast to include, as the idea of talking, “radio program style”, about various topics does seem enticing. Although I could easily drift away into my safe 1955 world, I would miss all of you and all the potential people I have yet to get to know and meet out there.

Well, tomorrow I will get some pictures of various vignettes of the ‘new’ house, maybe a recipe or two and some more discussion about what it might mean to emerge, come January 1, from my cocoon of 1955.  The vintage chrysalis am I.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

10 September 1955 “So Sorry”

I really am sorry that my posts are so few and far between of late, but we just literally got into the main house yesterday. I am in a sea of boxes and trying to throw together dinners with what I can find in which box. I am very happy to be back and I DO promise a proper post soon, so do bear with me. This move is all encompassing.

To tide you over here are some videos.

This is Jimmy Durante from this year.

What I notice is that just starting now, 1955, music is moving more towards teens and the need to be really attractive. Obviously stars looked good but you could be a performer based on your star power or talent not some homogenious hollywood ideal of beauty.

This looks like an interesting movie, anyone seen it? I love the hopefulness mixed with foreboding warning that 50’s sci-fi always brings. I suppose so close to two world wars the future could seem wondrous and bright but filled with the fear of repeating histories mistakes. We need to adapt this fear again and look to the past.

I thought this interesting, the moonwalk pre-Michael.

So I’ll close with this: A great performer, great song, and wonderful wonderful dress. How could you not feel amazing in that outfit?

So, until I find a few minutes, lets keep our apron revolution on track.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

6 September 1955 “A Holiday in my own Town, some News, and Happy Home Movies.”


Hi everyone, a quick check in. I am still in our little cottage and waiting for the chance to move into the 'big house'. I have decided that 'waiting' makes the heart grow fonder, as having spent a week here on my property, but as a 'guest' of sorts, has made me even more covetous of the house and grounds. During the day, amongst our various furniture and boxes piled on the little porch (those that did not fit in the cottage or my two story barn/studio), I sip my coffee and peruse my various magazines, dreaming of setting up house again.

Today, Gussie and I spent a lovely ‘tourist day’ in our own town. We started out walking to our little breakfast place with hubby. I found the food good but longed to get back to the kitchen and make breakfast again. I realize how much this ritual has come to mean to me by not being really able to do it properly for a week. The act of rising before the alarm, padding quietly down to the kitchen with my dogs at my heals and beginning breakfast. The smell of the coffee brewing. The sizzle of the bacon and the crack of the egg. I had eggs Benedict and found the sauce okay, but longed for my homemade version and the hash was much too salty compared to my own home-made variety. It was nice to be waited on and to have a nice stroll to and from breakfast.

Next, Gussie and I were off to town. We walked to one of my new favorite antique shops to browse and dream. We wandered to an herb shop for Gussie was in search of dried hollyhocks. Then we stopped at one of our local historic houses, The Hoxie House. This salt box was built in the late 1690’s so it is older than ours, but not by much. Our home was built in 1718. The interior beams and floor were very similar (though our floors have of course been redone and glazed, but the flat head nails are still in tact.)hoxie-house 1Here is a shot of the keeping room of the house where the cooking fire place is. It was very interesting and I met some new people in my own town. hoxie house 2  You know how sometimes you do have to play tourist where you live to appreciate what you have. Our being unable to unpack and really move completely into our property afforded us the opportunity to play tourist today and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

I will definitely show pics of various parts of the house as things get done and added and changed etc.

I was struck by the fact the the Hoxie house has only been owned by two families during its existence. The last direct descendent Hoxie died in the 1950’s and the house went to the town. She lived in it in its rough state of no electricity, though the floors were covered with linoleum from the early 1900’s (thank god as it preserved the wonderful floors) I felt a little kindred there. Here she was, in the 1950’s, where I am suppose to be, huddled up in this three hundred year old house with some make shift stoves and living. It wasn’t all stainless steel and fake wood paneling in the 1950s. If I had the house I will now have in 1955, I am certain I would have kept many antique ideas and items, but of course had a ‘new’ range and ‘ice box’, which I shall do.

picnic ad I have mentioned the movie Picnic before, but found this old clipping artwork that I might see now here in my local paper as it played at one of the local drive-ins or theatres here on the Cape in 1955. Very racy, non?

emmit till On August 28, 1955, this young 14 year old African American boy (or ‘colored boy’ as he would have been known then) was brutally murdered for whistling at a white woman. It is suppose to be the act the lead to the American civil rights movement. I think this coupled with Rosa Parks act on the bus (which will not occur until December 1st of this year) did lead to that change of ideas.

This boys murder was brutal and savage. The main suspects were acquitted, but later admitted to the murder. Till's mother insisted on a public funeral service, with an open casket so as to show the world the brutality of the killing: Till had been beaten and an eye gouged out, before he was shot through the head and thrown into the Tallahatchie River with a 70-pound cotton gin fan tied to his body with barbed wire. His body was in the river for three days before it was discovered and retrieved by two fishermen. Here he is with his mother emmet and mother When a face is put on such a crime it hits home more. There are actual photos of his ‘after’ attack that I refrained from putting on here as they are graphic, but if you want to see them search his name. They really hit home when one thinks of a young boy and what it must have meant for his mother to see him thus.

Many people today see the 1950s as a racially bad time, but I see it as the time when we were, as a nation, realizing (perhaps after two world wars) that violence and hatred towards others would not be tolerated. These are things happening in the Mid 1950’s. I again feel the need to defend the decade. It was BECAUSE of the very mindset of the time that we were able to begin to look at freedom for all Americans. I feel, now, however that we seem to be unfair to all of us in our inability to have personal accountability for our actions and to not want to SEE how much of our products (food and dry goods) are being made outside our country and not supporting our own farmers, businesses, manufacturers and labor. Maybe we need our own form of American Rights movement against the corporate class.

Well, on a happier note, I found this home movie made this year here on Cape Cod and thought it was a fun way to end the post. It was nice to see the casual clothes and relaxed attitude that I would have had this year in 1955, though going out to dinner etc would have of course been hat, gloves, and stockings. It shows the water, the architecture, the attitude of the Cape. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

3 Spet 1955 "Camping out amongst the Boxes"

Though we are not roughing quite as much as these happy 1950's campers, we are roughing it. We have managed to set up my computer in the corner of the little cottage and two beds fill the small living room. Myself, hubby, the two dogs, two fish and Gussie are sharing this one room with a narrow path between boxes to the little cottage kitchen. The one bedroom is filled with boxes of items awaiting their freedom.

We managed, last night, to sweep off the little porch (my last tenent here had dogs and the smell was horrid) and arrange some furniture and throw together a small dinner and a fire in the metal firepit. It was still an exhausting day. Four days left until the tenents are out of the main house and we and all our 'things' can be liberated. Even my last four chickens (those that did not get sold, I couldn't give up fresh eggs come fall!) are huddled in their antique wooden chicken crate/carrier awaiting my throwing together a sort of 'chicken playpen' for them to scratch and enjoy some grass until their new home can be built. It is all an adventure for sure.

Today I am off with the dogs to my mother in laws house here for a nice hot shower, and room to stretch and swim (she lives on the water). Then it is back to work here. I will attempt tomorrow to try a good old fashioned post. These are the days that SPAM were made for, right? Though, Gussie did just scour and clean out the little cottage kitchen here (our previous nights attempts at dinner resulted in the little cottage filling with smoke and our running out cursing then laughing at our folly), but perhaps a dinner in a skillet over the fire might be fun tonight, we shall see.

Maybe some fun stories from you about various camping or rustic cottage adventures. Often when one is so stripped of the usual 'convienances' we begin to see the very basic things we really need and enjoy and what is just pretense or more work. Let's find out, share away:

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