Monday, November 30, 2009

30 November 1955 “Party Prep and a ‘How do you Do’”

christmas ad 2 Okay, gals, just a quick one today!

I am still busy post Thanksgiving, as I am hosting a Christmas Tea for the ladies tomorrow afternoon followed by a Tree Trimming Party. It will not be a big affair, but I am busy none the less.

I promise a nice big post with photos and recipes from Thanksgiving and also this party. I am making chocolate gingerbread (no chilling in the ice box) and peppermint meringues that I will dip in chocolate. coffee adI will also be preparing some peppermint marshmallows for tomorrow to have with our hot chocolate while we trim the tree.

woman with christmas tree1We are getting our tree tonight and almost every old photo I see of Christmas trees show that they were rather bare by today’s standards. I rather like it! I am not sure if I can find such a tree, but perhaps I can ‘barter’ my way to a lower price, “Why look at that tree”, I might say, “Bare as a newborn babe, I couldn’t possibly pay full price!” or something along those lines.

I am not sure if they merely used different strain of pine in the old days, but honestly most of the trees I see even in Home and Garden and High end magazines of the time show them rather thin and branchy! Are any of you old enough to recall of your trees were ‘scrawny’ by today’s standards?

Well, back to work. If I can complete my new dress, I shall show that too as well as share the idea I have for it if it works.

Until later, then, Happy Homemaking!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

29 November 1955 “A chance for a REAL Vintage Tomorrow?”

I have been very moved by a modern documentary someone suggested to me. It has made me realize how much what I have learned about this year in 1955 means for my future.

Though I have enjoyed my year of ‘pretending’ I don’t want to pretend away the future. What I began to love about 1955 on a very personal scale has left me wanting it more on an overall scale. I soon began to realize, it is not a particular time because of just the fashion and music, but the feeling. The community, the spirit of the time, of the old America that I now long for. I realize, too, that by 1955, that is when our current America of convenience and low cost was put before people and community. It was only just beginning with increased trucking in of products from all over not just local. From mass production increasing to a homogeneity. Yet, it was new then. We had choices and I feel that we have now lead ourselves down the wrong road.

The wonderful news of the whole thing is we can have a realistic vintage world in that we, today, have so many freedoms and choices, yet we allow ourselves to have those choices made FOR us by corporate America. I honestly believe now that if we can seriously choose to make a change with our money we can change our environment. Our towns and communities can grow and heal and get itself back from the Walmart and the Starbucks and the McDonalds. We have to make the choice however, but if we want to continue to HAVE the choice we MUST make it if not for ourselves for future generations. When there are only a few chains that provide everything there will be NO choice for the future generations. There COULD be a time when Wal Mart and a few similar stores are literally ALL we have to get our products from. Products that are NOT made in our country and when they are made in China and India, are made at the cost of young children's freedoms and health. We may have no say over the government choices in those countries, but we allow them to continue child labor by giving them someone to supply the products too. On top of all that, we take away from our own town.

Who cares if something costs a little more or a lot more! THEN we have to learn to do without or to use less! That is the MAIN GREEN solution, not more products that purport to be safer but fewer products made and spread out.

We have allowed our country and its people to be defined by our need to consume and shop, so we must use that same power to work towards the old America of unity and community mixed with our new freedoms and that can only be done through our shopping. By choosing the right places to shop or to encourage or help to start a local place. To do without sometimes. The fix to our economy is NOT to buy more things to spur it on, but to let that dead horse die. We have to change the very fabric of how we think and react with our wallets. The world economy, the green nature and health of our planet, the very health of our towns and the emotional health of one another HAS to be addressed and put BEFORE a new flat screen TV or a new iphone! When will it stop?

I love my journey to 1955 and part of my sadness of not having the world is turned away when I see that 1955 isn’t just a point in time, or a full skirt or a hat and gloves. It is about people and community. Some how along the way we lost sight of people and each other. Our country was founded to be a place for freedom from those who felt they had none. Now we are so easily passing that freedom over to large corporations that are literally run by a few people. Why do we want a company who has no real invested interest in us to grow and prosper. Do you think if our community suddenly lost it all and couldn’t shop at Wal mart and they saw the profits go in this area, they would pull together and help us? No they would pull out, but a local store run by the man you see on the street or whose daughter goes to your child's school would.

I want back what I think has become to mean Vintage to me and that main tenet, the main focus of that is personal pride and accountability. It is easy for someone to just roll their eyes and say, “Oh, well, it’s cheaper there” but they might as well just run downtown and through bricks through the windows of the local community and wipe out any real honest individuality from their children’s future. I only hope we have enough time to stop it and we are not too late.

I know this movie is not Vintage, but please, please watch it if you can. It really does show the change that the box stores are doing to us. It matters little if you are Republican or Democrat, Christian or Jew, our country was founded so we could all coincide and get along and help one another. Now even corporate America run channels on TV that help us to feel there is an actual Divide in the this country, but that is only so we can not see the real problem. The real divide in this country is between the people and community and the corporate machine that wants to take away our personal and community rights to have our own towns run our own way. Don’t fall for the smoke screens, really go out and look at your town, is it hurting? Think before you go to the local chain store and wonder could I buy it locally and if so try it and if not, wonder when last in your town you could go locally and wonder, how much longer before there are no more choices locally, only the big box store. Then you can see it for the monster it really is. It isn’t an evil entity, but its results and need to be ruled by profit and money is and does ultimately hurt our towns, ourselves and our future generations. Don’t teach your children to choose low price over people and community.

I am sorry if this is so impassioned, but I just really want our vintage world to be revived, and it can be for all not just those of us who might like vintage fashion or music, but so that individuality can grow.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean I am not going to continue my vintage project and am very seriously meaning to make next year 1956, but I feel as if I am a time-traveling reporter who needs to go back to ‘before it all began’ and report back to all of you so we can be reminded of why we do need to change. That our lives and the lives of our children and future generations CAN now what has been lost because they can have it back. The moral backbone of this country need not be a particular political party or religion but the very humanity of its people. We must come together and care for one another so that we don’t continue to become complacent and want the companies to make it easier for us to become slothful consumers who are ultimately empty and unhappy.

So here is the LINK to watch it on HULU. You will notice the ads in between seem even more conniving because of the content. PLEASE watch it if you can. It makes you think and that is what we need most to think. The homemaker was always the thinker, we have to be to do our job, yet that very job was made to look silly or unimportant. Now, I can see not only is it a very important job, but it’s main skill of thinking things through is one of the best lessons any of us can have. Have a great day, my fellow Apron Revolutionaries. We can make a difference, I know we can!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

28 November 1955 “Touching Base”

Busy time, this holiday weekend. I didn’t want any of you to think I had forgot about you, so here I am. I hope all had a great holiday and maybe we could share some stories an such.

So, for today, here is a full episode of Jack Benny show from this year (1955), enjoy! It’s sponsor is Lucky Strike Cigarettes. It is too bad smoking is bad for you, because I have to say, it does look lovely to watch! I know, that’s bad, but believe me I considered it for this year, as I am almost certain my 1955 counterpart would have done so. I probably would have started during the War years and then everyone was doing it, so would have stuck with it, what do you think?

I will post some recipes for those leftovers and some ideas for a ‘tree-trimming party’ as I am throwing one this coming week!

Happy Homemaking!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

25 November 1955 “Thanksgiving Eve”

I thought this home movie from 1950’s Thanksgiving very sweet. I love the clothes and that dancing is part of their tradition. We might need to add that to ours next year!

I am planning on doing as much today as I can to make tomorrow easier on myself:

 roasted chestnuts I roasted the chestnuts last night and Gussie helped me shell and separate them over tea.

Today, I made my cranberries (from our local farm, grown right here in Sandwich MA!) to which I added clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg and of course sugar. I cook mine in Orange Juice, as I really love the scent of orange with it. It is actually amazing how easy it is to make. I know many of you like the canned, but along with the canned you should make some fresh as it is so easy and SO GOOD. I mean you literally put 1 lb of washed whole berries in a pot, add one cup O.J. one cup sugar and then spices as you like. Then, after 10 minutes or so (you can hear the little devils pop!) you just pour it into the pretty container in which you wish to serve them and ta-dah! You’re done. I then quickly zested some orange rind on top of it as it really mellows the flavor and will mirror the glaze for the turkey. (I reserved some of the juice from these cranberries to make the glaze for the turkey.) So that is done for tomorrow, just a reheat needed.

I am sampling my johnny cake (corn bread) right now, which I baked to make my stuffing. I am not sure if this is called Johnny cake anywhere other than New England, but its name goes back to the Colonial days. Here is the history of it from my 1950’s New England Cookbook.johnnycakes1 You should be able to click on it and get the history and recipe. Basically, our Colonial Grandmothers baked ‘Journey Cakes” of corn for our grandfathers to take with them. Journey became Johnny, I think this is because our accents were once English and Journey sounds rather like Johnny to our later ‘Americanized’ accents. However, if you did not have the time nor inclination, you could certainly mix up a quick batch of Jiffy corn mix. It is, I believe, still made by a smaller company. And, honestly, much better than just buying a bag of ‘cornbread stuffing mix’ as you can season it as you like and of course, do as I am doing now and take a little break to sip coffee and nibble a hot piece of ‘Johnny Cake’ while you plan the next item on your list!

1940s woman with rolls I am also going  to attempt, for the first time ever, Parker House rolls. I am using my Boston Cooking School book from the 1950s for this. I am going to make these up today and put them in the ice box and then bake them fresh tomorrow. It seems not too complicated, but we shall see. I couldn’t find if any prepackaged dough rolls were available in 1950s. I know the Pillsbury rolls didn’t appear until the 1960s. Do any of you know if they had pre-packaged dough rolls to bake in 1955? Well, I just didn’t feel right buying a package of Pillsbury rolls, since I should really try some homemade anyway. I cant imagine the packaged could compare to homemade, but we shall see. I will share the recipe.

I am also roasting an acorn squash and sweet potato and apple in maple syrup with rosemary. I am going to cut up and peel those things today and let them soak in their ‘juices’ tonight and just roast them fresh tomorrow afternoon.

I will even prepare my mashed potatoes today, which I will whip with garlic, chives, and sour cream. And of course, homemade gravy will come tomorrow with all those delicious drippings from the turkey.

I also made the trip to my local fishmonger today. Though I do not have a butcher close by, we are lucky to have so many wonderful fish markets as we are on the ocean. I purchased some mussels, a lovely haddock filet with skin and one lobster. I am going to make my bisque today and decided to include the other seafood as well to ‘stretch’ it. I am going to boil the lobster this evening and then hubby and I can ‘sample’ some of the hot fresh darling tonight and the rest will go into the bisque.

It was a very lovely New England moment, as the fish market is right on the water, and there was a cool grey mist hung in the air and the scent of the tide stung my nose. I was wearing a dress and the wind caught it up, but my hands were full of my bounty and I was thankful for petticoats, as those in the parking lot got a fine show of those crinolines. The gulls cried. The air had that thick wet briny  feel that I could wrap myself in. It is not a joke that I am most comfortable on the water and can only nap on boats. Hubby always laughs that the rougher the sea the more likely I will be down below snoozing away with the puppies! It is true.

I had forgot I was going to talk about centerpieces, as there are some interesting bits in my books. I did not get flowers, but will most likely make up something from the yard. We have holly and there are a few hydrangea blooms still holding tight to their branches.

I thought this sort of sweet, using what you have. 

centerpiece 1This also has such a simplistic innocence. centerpiece 2 There is also talk of placement of centerpieces from the center of the table to one end. There is one mention, where they balance the ends of the table with an arrangement on one end and bright dessert (in this case a cherry pie), which I thought a fun idea to use your pretty dessert as decoration. This, of course, left no one at the head or foot of the table, therefore making a more informal seating arrangement.

thanksgiving post So, lets remember those who have gone before us, even fought and defended our country for us. In this image I see two past heros, not only the soldier, but the grandmother, the silent holder of eons of women’s history. Let us remember both of these figures tomorrow and do all we can to make a future they would be proud to live in.

thanksgiving dinner photo So, Happy Thanksgiving to all, and those of you who do not celebrate, eat a Turkey sandwich in our honor tomorrow and we can all silently toast the APRON REVOLUTION!apron revolution

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

24 November 1955 “ Thanksgiving Menu and My Role of Homemaker”

turkey card I have been rather busy today with much holiday to-doing. Having had a fun ladies afternoon yesterday did mean my having to push a few things to today, but a homemaker’s schedule is rather elastic and needs to be. When your place of work is also a dwelling for you and your family, a restaurant, a laundry, a bookstore, an entertainment lounge, and of course an Inn, there has to be some give and take. I can only imagine adding young ones to the mix increases the need for some flexibility to the schedule, of course trying to hold to some structure for the sake of your own sanity as well as the little ones. But, I digress, perhaps I spend too much time picking through chestnuts at the market today, or considered the fresh cranberries too deeply, none the less, this post will be not as involved as I had originally planned.

I have finally decided the finalized menu for my Thanksgiving and it is as follows

                                                        Shrimp cocktail


                                                         Lobster Bisque


                        Roast Turkey in a cranberry orange glaze       stuffed with ‘Johnny Cake and Chestnut Stuffing’ (in other words cornbread). Mashed potatoes with garlic chives, roasted Acorn squash, Yams, and Apple in Maple Butter. Creamed Onions. Cranberries and green beans with orange zest and slivered almonds.


                                     Grapes, various cheese, Cheese wafers and Parker House Rolls.


                                   Godiva Cheesecake (guests contribution) served with homemade chestnut maple syrup vanilla ice cream.   Roasted Chestnuts and Coffee.  


I might actually make little Meal cards to place at each setting.

Now, one or our lovely fellow Apron Revolutionaries, Linda,  asked me the following questions yesterday:

I hope you don't mind me asking here 50'sgal but I have some questions for your dear hubby the answers to which you might be able to relay. Seeing he's on holidays I thought he might have time to answer them via you if they're not too intrusive.

Does he love the new lifestyle with his precious housewife? Does he think it'll last? Does he HOPE it will last? Does he mind the 'perceived' financial loss without you not bringing home a pay-check? Is he proud to say 'a homemaker' when asked what his wife does or does he feel himself needing to expound on how intelligent, artistic, talented you are? (My husband is proud of the fact that he provides for me, that he gets special treatment and we have a smooth-running, peaceful home.)What are some of his favourite 'changes' from this year? Is he surprised at how skilled you've become so quickly and how well you've adapted to this 50's lifestyle? Does he have any advice for us ladies? Please excuse my boldness in asking these questions... Linda

pepsi thanksgiving ad He does, indeed, love our current lifestyle. He has seen me ‘go through’ many phases and crazy ideas before, but this project, being now almost a year old, seems to have a staying power he feels confident in. He sort of thought, in the beginning, it was just another idea I had. Though, even when my schemes peter out, he usually enjoys the ride and they are often over due to their not really applying to our life any longer. I think if I told him I wanted to go out and work, he would not think twice about it and probably would like the extra money, who wouldn’t? But, he sees that I am happy and knows that I have a genuine role and occupation in Homemaker.woman and man pipe

Actually, concerning telling people what his wife does, he is indeed proud of it. He often comments with proud about his packed lunches when people see him take out his linen napkin and knife and fork and eat a full home cooked meal with a homemade dessert. He told me once, a co-worker asked if his wife, “since she is just a housewife” minded those calenders (those horrid ones I dislike where they take old adverts and then slap on things like “Housework is pointless” or some such) to which my hubby replied, she does not like them, but she doesn’t mind, she is, after all, a homemaker guru and many other people have been inspired by her ‘housework’. I laughed at that, as I am so very in the learning phase I thought the term guru funny, but was proud that he ‘stood up for me’ and said I was a homemaker without feeling the need to explain.

I think his number one favorite change is the food. We eat really good in this house, if I do say so myself and I DO! He also likes the smooth running of the home, as it allows him to focus on his work at work and when he comes home he can honestly enjoy his ‘free time’. He can write (he also loves writing and I can often hear him tapping away on his vintage typewriters upstairs in his little study) read and practice the piano without worrying about food, clean clothes, or a messy house. He also likes the money we save on eating out, as when we lived in the city we ate out almost all the time and it does add up! He appreciates the separate roles we have, as it allows our time together to be about what we like to discuss or find interesting and not, ‘Oh, will you clean out that, or oh did  you think of anything for dinner, or what should we do about this or that?” As any of you know, who are homemakers, when you treat making a home as a job, you do your best to keep it smooth running as you would at any work. But, I know he LOVES the food and always gets excited when I present some new creation or recipe. He most anytime can pop in the kitchen and have some homemade snack available. He also told me he likes my wardrobe as he often, even now almost a year later, will say when he gets home, “Oh, you look so nice” or “You look cute today” something along those lines.

He is not surprised at my skill level, as he says I can do anything, which of course is not true but darling of him to say so. I have always been the one to go full steam ahead into things and often surprise him at my results so he said, when I told him I was going to live in 1955 for a year, he just sort of took it in stride.

His advice, and I think it quite good, to the ladies is to have confidence and pride in the role of Homemaker. If you want your husband or significant other to take it seriously and to see it as an actual career, you have to believe it yourself and believe in it. I can see how much work it is to run a home and I applaud any who want to do it. If you want it and take the time to discuss it logically, showing the financial benefits, your husband would have to be nuts to disagree with it. The separate roles of breadwinner and homemaker are not just that roles, not labels. One is not oppressed or put upon if the roles are clearly defined and agreed upon by both involved, so don’t fall prey to the modern concept that having a two income family somehow makes you more liberated. Your quality of life is better because you CAN’T overspend, so you end up spending more time together and after all, isn’t that one of the best parts of being married, getting to be with and make happy the one you love?

So those were his answers and I hope you enjoyed them. You can see what a treasure of a hubby I do have. I think really a marriage really does need to have mutual respect and understanding. If one partner thinks what they do is not worthy or not enough or not a ‘real occupation’ it is true, how will the other partner feel that way? A marriage is a partnership, a chance in this world of ups and downs to have a partner there along for the ride, to laugh and cry and share and even get angry with, when you’d rather blame someone other than yourself, even if you know it is your fault, because you know you will do the same for them. I am proud of my husband and myself. I am proud of the role of homemaker and all it entails. As with anything we do in love from being a bagger at a grocery store to president of the united states, if we believe in doing a good job and trying to do the best we can where we are, make our self and others around us happy, then anything can be a rewarding career. Somehow we seem to have lost the sense of pride of place and worth in ourselves that says, ‘I am defined by my actions and reactions to others and not by the sign on my office door.’

Well, that is enough philosophizing for me today. I have chestnuts to roast (in the oven, I will share the results don’t worry), cornbread to make, cranberries to boil down and just to throw a little extra in, I might sew together a new dress for Thanksgiving, and who said being a homemaker was boring or lazy work?!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

22 November 1955 “Thanksgiving Preparations”

Well, Gals, this is a busy week for we Americans. That Holiday that’s main focus is food is approaching: the Thanksgiving Season.  We have turkeys to stuff, pies to bake, much to-doing.

Here, an old advert for aluminum foil, shows you how ‘easy’ it is to do everything the day ahead.

Very cute commercial, but I think we all know it would be better to cook the turkey in an actual roaster pan, but then you wouldn’t use as much aluminum foil!

Speaking of marketing ‘ease’ yesterday, at the big chain market, I saw end caps with premade stuffing, canned gravies, prepackaged this and that. Well, gals, if any of you want a time to foray into homemade or a chance to try the more ‘complicated’ homemade dish, this is your holiday. Save the premade, packaged and already made for any old day, heck this IS the holiday of cooking and baking!

Though the real focus is to come together and be thankful for what we have, the real reason for This seasons, does seem to be to eat. So why blow this chance to try any and all homemade items?

So, to help us prepare (and to amuse those non-American readers) I thought we could share some various preparation ideas from my various magazines and cook books.

Let’s start with the table.

thanksgiving table cookbookThis table setting is from my vintage Better Homes cookbook( you can see the holes where it fits into the binding). I thought it interesting how they did the centerpiece with fruit spilled down the table. The baked pears are a nice touch to that festive turkey, though I do see some ‘sliced’ canned cranberry sauce. I know those pink mints are homemade, as the recipe is in this cookbook. IF any one would like that recipe, let me know.

Now this book informs us of both a formal and informal place setting, stating that informal seems more the norm for the modern family. However, by today’s standards, I am sure the informal could be viewed as formal. I thought I would share it with any of you who are unfamliar or would like to try this set up. This is how our Thanksgiving will be set this year.

First we have the description and drawing of the setting.

informal place setting1You can click on these images and they will enlarge for you ease of reading or printing out for your own use, you could paste and hold punch them into a vintage ‘scrap book’ of ideas and recipes!

Next, this informal setting is broken down into the courses.table setting1informal place setting 2Here we start with an appetizer served with the cocktail fork. I will be doing this, as I have some lovely crystal sherbets that I am going to serve shrimp cocktail in for our meal. These will be set, with the fork, to start the meal, then cleared to the next course, which will be the soup. I am doing a lovely Lobster Bisque. I am quiet excited about this. I wanted Lobsters to play some role in this feast, as they are plentiful here and we love them, but they are too dear to provide an entire lobster for each of my guests, so I will be making my bisque on Wednesday. I will boil two lobsters, some of which hubby and I can have for dinner and the rest will be for my bisque. It does say you might want to omit soup course if serving appetizer, but Thanksgiving is about the food, so I feel a small shrimp cocktail followed by a small bowl of bisque will prepare the pallet for the meal. I have not decided if there will be a separate salad, I think I might skip straight to the main course, as there are so many sides to accompany the main dish of , of course, turkey. I wait all year to taste turkey and all year to eat goose at Christmas, so the mouth will be watering after the soup course to get at that delicious bird!

Next, these two bits about serving an informal dinner or a Family-style dinner are rather interesting. Again, just click on them to enlarge for reading.

informal setting 4informal setting 3 It does give some good pointers on how best to serve food and beverages. I mean, why not learn the etiquette and just make it part of your normal meal time? Again, such things  becoming commonplace to a child will make he or she feel comfortable in their life rather they are eating alone, as a couple, in a fine restaurant or at the white house! I like the bit under family style, which has one pass their dinner plates to the hostess in exchange for the dessert she serves them. I, however, for thanksgiving, will be following the informal rule of clearing before dessert. I think this gives time for people to chat about dinner, rest their stomach as the coffee and tea brews and then the table is reset for dessert and hot beverages are served.

Do any of you have any particular traditions or table settings you use? Will you use a more formal or informal service for your holiday meal. Are any of you going to try something new and ‘vintage’ this season that you have not done in the past? Are any of you going to use this opportunity to wear vintage or use a fun frilly ‘hostess’ apron? Do you dress for your Thanksgiving dinner?

Tomorrow, I think we can discuss centerpieces and I have some interesting things on serving Buffet style. Do any of you serve your dinner this way? I also want to cover stuffing, cranberry dishes and desserts.

I remembered I was also suppose to share my fish chowder recipe with you that I made for my MIL birthday dinner. This is the basic recipe I usedfish chowder1I did some of it differently. I cooked the onion with four strips of bacon and did heat the cream in that same pan to enrich it with the bacon fat and onion. I also added 5-6 TBS. salted butter. I used chicken stock, because I had some in the freezer, but in the future I will get the fish with the heads and bones to make a stock. I used Halibut (which had the skin on) and cod and I also cooked scallops in it as well, cut into chunks. Then I broiled a few whole scallops wrapped in bacon and served one of those each in the bowl as a garnish to the chowder Here is a bowl as served at my MIL dinner. I thought the it looked rather pretty. You can’t see here, but I garnished it with fresh chopped cilantro, which I just love the taste of. I also served a salad with warm cod broken over it and a fresh lemon wedge squeezed before serving. It was quite yummy and served with my home made cheese crackers.

That recipe is so easy. It is merely a stick of butter softened to room temperature, two cups of flour, one and 1/2 cups grated cheese (use what you like, I used both aged cheddar and swiss) then spice it as you wish, I used chili powder, hot sauce, garlic, salt and pepper. Then I crumble it with a pastry blender pastry blender and then, once it is sort of cornmeal looking, I use my hands and blend it until it becomes a ball of dough. Roll it out to about 1/4 inch and cut with a pastry cutter or pizza cutter into whatever size you like. Bake about 12 minutes at 325 F or until lightly browned. These are SO good on salad, in soup, or make whatever size and shape and serve with cheese and such. I made larger crackers this week to serve with smoked blue fish and cheese for hubby and I while we were on our ‘holiday at home’. So good! People also are VERY impressed when you make your own crackers, but they couldn’t be any easier! I think a food processor makes it easier, but I don’t have one and prefer to use my hands. If anyone makes them in the processor let me know how they turn out.

Now, here is a link to a Thanksgiving episode of Father Knows Best. I wish I could just post it, but unfortunately you have to go to Hulu. Here is the Link.

Friday, November 20, 2009

20 November 1955 “Realizations and New Books”

woman ironing in kitchen This morning, as I was ironing my linen tablecloth and keeping an eye on my ‘mock hollandaise’ on the stove, I had to laugh. “Just think of yourself a year ago” I said to my alter ego. “You could barely boil water and now you are making homemade white sauce, ironing tablecloths and think it ‘normal’ to eat with linen napkins in girdles and petticoats”. Times, they are a changing.woman ironing in kitchen with hubby (this picture really makes me think of Hubby and I)

It is funny how we can adapt, isn’t it?  I am glad for it, I must say. It gives a gal hope. It makes one realize you can honestly change your environment and really, who you are. If you feel akin to someone or a time period or you admire a person, you can emulate their path and then, while doing so, find your own. You then realize how the day to day can really become an adventure. We become the heroines in our own story.

Sometimes I forget to mention here, when I am making things such as the Fish Chowder for my MIL’s birthday, that it is often the first time I am doing it. Many things I have and am doing this year are really quite new to me. Yet, somehow, in this new mode of thinking, the role of the homemaker, I feel a confidence in their attempts. Sometimes I imagine I am drawing on all those who have gone before me.

As I have increased my skills this year, I find that to open the page of a cookbook, or to dream up what might be nice to try, a dress a piece of needlework, is now just an adventure or a matter of fact. It matters little rather or not I have made it before, because I am HOMEMAKER and I can conquer all!

I think I really wanted to remind all of you of my own inabilities before this year in case any of you out there are new at it or have not even tried. Or, maybe you think, “Oh, that is too much work, or too hard”, when quite honestly, it isn’t. Well, that’s not true, sometimes it is hard ,but then you work through it and think, “Hmmm, next time I will try it like this” and before you know it you are a cook/chef and you are inventing your own recipes! Even in the challenge of the thing you see the joy. I mean, yes it is easy to open a box, add water, microwave and eat. But, to me it is the difference between just being born, facing forward and marching to the grave. That is being alive, but it is not living.

So much of what media shows us has us all longing or wishing for silly things or things which might be out of our grasp. Certainly there are those out there who do go on wild adventures, marry millionaires and become movie stars, but their percentage is very low to the general populace. What I have discovered this year is not only the contentment of place ( a place I can change or choose differently if I WANT to as we do live in Modern times) but also the adventure of living itself.

I will use the kitchen and food as an example again. Yes, we can easily whip things up from packaged foods, but the kitchen is like a mad scientists lab or a wonderful surgery or magical room to which we have the keys. Think of being a child and the joy you had playing house, or thinking of ‘being a grownup’. Well, we ARE grownups, so we can play all we like! I think the adventure of cooking is an amazing journey. Why just buy Miracle Whip when you can ‘whip up’ your own mayonnaise?

Speaking of cooking, I found a new book I am SO excited to delve into. I will share the results and recipes with all of you, of course. As I mentioned, this is my hubby’s vacation week, so we have been playing at tourist in the various towns that dot our little island here called Cape Cod.

parnassus The other day we were travelling up the historic road that traverses the cape (sometimes still referred to as the Old Kings’ Highway from our time as a British Colony) and came upon an antique/used book store that we had forgot about. We often frequented this bookstore years ago and having come upon it again, it was like a gift. Yes, in that picture you DO see books outside and many of those do ‘winter over’. It is a unique place. parnassus inside Here is an example of the inside. This is the ‘office’ as you walk in and turn to your right. When you are ready to purchase your books, a lovely bibliophile of a woman stroles out and takes your money. This was an old early 1800’s house and it has done little to let go of that visage. The crooked floors are the old wood planks. The walls, between the makeshift bookshelves and areas where books are missing or perhaps toppled over, show their old wainscot. Perhaps you will spy a bit of faded wallpaper that will wink at you from between the shelves like some old grand dame rocking away her life among the ancient walls. There are two more floors which you can only glimpse when you leave. You see shelves of books through the wavy old single paned glass windows, like a locked up hermit wondering what you are up to in their yard.  It is an interesting place and yet, very much a ‘normal’ aspect of New England and Cape Cod. It is moments like these that I do really appreciate where I live.

I suppose we all love our locales for various reasons. I think, for me, New England is such a nice fit because it wears its history with a certain casual aplomb. In Boston, there are three hundred year old buildings who lean with their aged bricks in Dikensonian patterns mingled with the cobble and brick streets. With this antiquity comes the no-nonsense attitude of the New Englander; The Yankee. Hard winters, stone filled earth, changing tides, having battled it all with out much complaint, a New Englander will tackle a problem without a word, but save the complaining for wonderful old tales to spin around the fire on the cold dark winter night. The brave stoic, the silent lover of beauty with the common sense to come out of the rain and put up what is needed for the coming winter. Do any of you feel particularly akin to your areas or environments? Do they suit you or really, upon reflection, mirror who you are? Let’s hear about it?

Well, back to the point of my story (Did I forget to mention the Yankee yen to spinning tales?)I found two wonderful new books there. Well, they are not new, but new to me. So, for the grand total of 11 dollars U.S. I acquired two wonderful books.

cordon bleu book This is the first and the one I am very excited about. This book is by a woman I am just now learning about, Dione Lucas. She was the first woman ever to graduate from the famous Paris cooking school the Cordon Bleu. Here is a quick blurb about her:

dione_lucas Dione Lucas (1909 - 1971)

The first woman to graduate from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary institute in Paris, Englishwoman Dione Lucas opened her own restaurant in London in the 1930s and began the Cordon Bleu restaurant and cooking school in New York in 1942. That quickly made her the talk of the town and won her a television show in 1948 — making her the first woman featured on a television cooking show and an even earlier pioneer of French cooking than Julia Child. Onscreen, she concocted delicious dishes for her celebrity guests; offscreen, she gave private lessons to luminaries including Salvador Dali and actress Helen Hayes. While working at a hotel in Hamburg, Germany, Lucas claimed, she had once cooked squab for Adolf Hitler, disputing the belief that he was a vegetarian. "I do not mean to spoil your appetite for stuffed squab, but you might be interested to know that it was a great favorite with Mr. Hitler, who dined at the hotel often," she wrote in one of her books. "Let us not hold that against a fine recipe though." 

Until I found this book I had not heard of her. It was interesting, as I was perusing the cookbooks, there was (as is evidenced in interior photo of the bookstore) a stack of books next to where I was looking. There, right on top, was this blue book. I could see by the artwork it was old. I opened the front pages and saw it was copyrighted in 1947 and thought, “Wow, I would have most assuredly purchased this book”.

The book so very thorough and includes a wine serving list with what temperature and what dish wines should be served with. The contents are SO exciting. Here are some of the headings: Hors D’oeuvres, Soups, Fish, Game poultry and Meats, Eggs, Vegetables, Desserts. I am so excited to delve into this book! There is even a chapter on utensils!

I already have dreams of old copper sauce pots swimming in my head. I have now, in my possession, a small set of real old French metal clad aluminum sauce pans that are very small. From one cup size to about a pint and a half. They are PERFECT when I make a white sauce. I promise myself, however, that only a new (and by new I mean a food safe vintage copper pot/pan) will only enter my kitchen by the removal of the one it replaces. I will donate the old for the new.

I really do want to cook and learn my way through this book. I was thinking, if I can successfully manage my ‘website’ by 1956 then I might have a section of it just showing and sharing my progress as I work my way through it with recipes and pictures etc. Would that be of interest to any of you? Before then, of course, I will share what I try here as well.

Now, the second book is Good Housekeeping’s “Complete book of Needlecraft”. It is very thorough and was published in 1956. So, technically, it does not come out for another month and half, but I could not resist it. It has so many wonderful tips and techniques on everything from making of clothes, embroidery, knitting, sewing for the home.

dress embroidery Look at this lovely color photo showing how to use the ‘modern technology’ of machine embroidery and my machine does these stitches as well!

Well, there is so much more I want to talk about, but I have to save more for my next post. A hint is that I want to tackle some trousers, which I have never made. We will have to discuss that next time, now lets talk cooking and books and such…

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

18 November 1955 “Why I like my Mother in Law: Book Two”

Well, as I mentioned in a comment on yesterday’s blog, I am really now realizing just how much I actually do admire my MIL. I have mentioned why, through her child rearing, I respect and thank her for making my dear hubby the person he is today. I had also forgot to mention that none of what I know of her child rearing came from her mouth. There were never conversations such as, “Well, when I was raising the kids, I did this.” Or, “We always had meals on time and this was how it was done.” In fact, my MIL is rather modest in most she does. She is never boastful and lives in  a sort of natural quiet state amongst the things I really think of as amazing. Her organized and beautiful home, her boating abilities, her amazing gardens and yard, her cooking and even her cherished display of her family pride. She does this all with a sort of subdued grace that would never seem boastful or prideful. That is why I can see that some of you might think, “Oh, she was just saying she did this or that” when in actually she has never mentioned the subject unless I ask, and only then will she begrudgingly reply, brushing off what she did as ‘no big deal’.

It is from my Hubby and my SIL’s lips that I know the real story. In fact this morning at breakfast hubby thanked me for the wonderful post about his mum. He said he read the comments and said, “You know, it really was that way. We had only a few cherished toys and they were not always strewn about. My mum always kept our rooms neat and tidy for us, but because she did so, we just sort of followed suit. We never had the ‘Get in there and clean up your room’ talk because if we didn’t do it she did and we often did it, so she wouldn’t have to. It was a definite give and take. Also, the rest of the house was always clean and orderly so it would have seemed odd to not ‘pick up when we were done’.”

This really got me thinking, it seems that honestly the example seems such a powerful teaching tool to your child. I mean if a parent lives in a messy room with clothes on the floor and things piled all over, how could they honestly ask their child to tidy up their room? I am not saying it probably doesn’t happen, but it does seem a bit unfair. Again, please don’t think I am trying to tell anyone what to do or how to live, it is hardly any of my business, only I live with a result of a mother who probably spent more time ‘teaching by example’ than ever ‘telling what to do’.

Now, I admire my MIL in her own right and not just for her being a good mother. She was an only child. She grew up in a sort of sad dark cloud, as her father, whom she loved and doted upon her, died when she was 9 of cancer.

He, probably even more so, became a distant God in her mind, as she recalled him as the wonderful handsome man speeding about in his fast boats, sailing, dancing, just being that sort of Cary Grant-esque sort of figure a man with some means in the 1940’s could be. There are pictures of him, handsome and tan, hair slicked back standing in one of his boats. He was sadly replaced with a man we all have come to loathe in my hubby’s family.

When my MIL had to be in the wedding of her mother and new step father, she was so saddened and unhappy, she walked half way down the aisle, threw her basket of rose petals and ran away crying! The resulting years with the step-father (whom my husband often refers to as the ‘evil grandfather’) were not happy years.

Yet, despite all the contention and abuse my MIL witnessed at her own mother, she managed to turn out rather well. The point where my MIL grew up is a small jutting pennisula that slips out into the Atlantic. We often laugh, when we hear the old stories of that ‘point’ from the 40s-ealry 60’s as it sounds much like the Great Gatsby. There are stories of a wives sneaking out of windows for dalliance with the neighbors, late night cocktail parties and you can imagine.

My MIL had to openly witness her step-father’s adulteries and even when I was first married to my hubby we openly spoke of ‘Del’ or ‘Mack’ two current concubines of the evil grandfather, though my MIL mother was still alive. So, in a nutshell, my MIL grew up in privilege but in a very sordid way that she wanted to remove herself from as soon as she could. This resulted in her going away to fashion school in Boston as soon as she was done with high school.

She has had quite a few adventures in her life. When she was young and first married to her first husband, she traveled around a bit with him, living in everything from nice apartment in Paris to a trailer park in the states.

After she met my hubby’s father, she came into her inheritence and gave up her dress shop and nice home on Cape Cod to go live on a farm in Maine. The spirit of adventure called her to it. She, unfortunately, soon found my hubby’s father was not willing to help, and she was left to run a farm, hand milking, killing chickens, making butter and cream and raising a child, while her new husband did little to help. She loved the farm and speaks fondly of it now.

I once asked her, “If things had worked out with you and hubby’s father, do you think you would have stayed”.' Without skipping a beat, with a twinkle in her eye, she said. “Oh, yes. I loved the farm and the animals. The fresh cream and butter.” But, things were not meant to be, so she had to sell the farm, giving what she could afford to my hubby’s father and moved back home with her parents. Shortly after that, my husband’s father took the money, moved to Alaska and eventually committed suicide. All my hubby ever knew of him were his writings and poetry. From the sounds of him, though it might sound harsh, he was better without his influence.

When my MIL returned home with her child to the family home, her parents were kind enough to buy a plot of land down the road from them on the water. They began to build a house for her, which she got to have some say in the design. When it was near completion, there was an argument with the the ‘evil grandfather’ about a dog my MIL had that had been attacked by the evil grandfather’s dog and had to be put down. He blamed my MIL for having to have her own dog put down and kicked her out. The family still owns that house, but she and my hubby never once lived in it.

So, she had to start all over again. But, I think having had some say in the design of that house intrigued her for she was to design and build two other houses that she and my hubby and SIL lived in, including the one she now has, that my hubby mostly grew up in.

I also admire my MIL take on the hippies. She was born in 1942 so was really there at the first cusp of the hippie generation, but her response to it was more about the freedoms and color of fashion and the new ‘return to nature’ ideals that lead her to a farm. She never got into the mindless drug binges and orgies that she saw around her. In fact, I love the story of her trip to Woodstock. While most hitchhiked or took the VW bus, my MIL went in her Jaguar, found it too muddy and stayed in a hotel. That was the end of that scene for her. And, quite honestly, I don’t blame her, I might have done the same thing!

As I have said, my MIL is the opposite of a braggart. Though she could go on about the things she has done and seen, most of it we get from asking or stories from others. She even recently, though she is in her 60’s, sailed their 45’ boat down to Florida from MA, which is an amazing adventure that took weeks. She will tell you of her white knuckled fear at the swell of some of the big waves, but for the most part takes it all in stride as ‘no big deal’. So, I think what I most love about my MIL is her ability to do things well because she felt she wanted to, that she needed to make a safe comforting trusting home for her children because she did NOT have it, yet never played the “I never had it like that when I was a kid” to her children. Perhaps those are the best role models, those who quietly live amazingly, but would scoff at your admiring her for anything. So, I am lucky in my MIL. She is a fine woman indeed.

I hope, in my hubby’s choice of me, that I hold some of those very same qualities and perhaps that is why he was drawn to me. I do know I love talking plants and gardening with her. She is always praising me for my various own crazy adventures with cooking, or raising chickens, or building a barn. She gives me praise and credit as if she could never imagine doing it herself, when I know, for a fact, she has done more and done it well. But, really, that is a sign of a good mother figure, to praise and encourage through your own abilities and attempts and help along the way.

Mum and Than Here is one of my favorite pictures of my MIL with my Hubby as a boy on their boat. I just think it shows the love and adventure she instilled in her children.

Well, that is the saga of my MIL. My hubby is on vacation this week and we had originally planned a big trip. We decided it was silly to waste the money and have been having a lovely time enjoying our home here on Cape. Yesterday we went to a wonderful old used book store we hadn’t been to in awhile and I found two lovely books that I will share with you tomorrow. I will also share my Fish chowder recipe. It was the first time I have ever made homemade chowder and was happy with the results.

Until, then, happy homemaking!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

17 November 1955 “Why I like my Mother in Law”

I quickly mentioned yesterday, while taking a break from my little kitchen, that I was preparing a dinner for my MIL birthday. It was a success, but when I returned in the evening I had a question from a commenter about my relationship with my MIL and how she, in the future, could herself become a good MIL.

Well, as sometimes happens, in my attempt to rattle off my opinion, (which I seem to be always full of!) mingled with late night fatigue I managed to press a wrong button and all my ‘wisdom’ was for naught. It was lost to the great void of deleted or misdirected comments in the blogosphere. I wonder if there is such a place, perhaps it has become the reading for ghosts and others ‘caught between the veil’?

So, as often happens with you darling readers, you got me thinking. I had begun to consider why it is I do like my MIL so much. Even though my initial response is now the reading material of ghosts, I have thought about it more and consider it would be post-worthy.

50s mother in law It also got me thinking how much more, most likely, the MIL played in the role of the 1950’s homemaker. She was most likely more a figure to be dealt with and rather you liked or loathed her, she was a major input in your own homemaking life.

As most women ‘back then’ were homemakers, you were most likely to inherit a MIL who also had her own schedules, recipes and ideas on how to run a home and raise children. IF she were overbearing and the type who thought, ‘no one is good enough for my dear boy’ then you probably suffered through. But, even if that were the case, you most likely learned some things.

It seemed once we women dwelled in a close knit world of ancient wisdom handed down generation to generation. How to cook a chicken, what is the best way to remove a grease stain, how do you get the whitest whites? Even, how do you keep the parlor maid out of the sherry. We were a vast world of knowledge and practical skills handed down and mingled from mother and grandmother and then mixed up a bit with the MIL. Yet, we were very much a sorority of sisterhood. When you entered into the married state as a homemaker, you most likely brought with you knowledge from your mother and grandmother. Mixed in with that knowledge was of course the knowledge and know-how of their mothers and grandmothers. And, with your marriage in most cases, came the MIL. She, herself, was most likely a homemaker.

Regardless of class, as well, a woman was the maker of the home.  If she had a staff of servants under a housekeeper, she still was the ruler of the roost. She okayed meal plans, arranged dinner parties, and made sure things were done properly. So, in a way, she shared a sisterly bond with the farmers wife or the bankers wife who may have had a girl who came in once a week or simply able daughters. They all had the knowledge and ability to run the home.

Now, back to the MIL. I am lucky in my MIL in that I live her very much; love her even. I give her a kiss on the cheek upon greeting and leaving and always refer to her as ‘mum’. In some ways, I am happy for her role in my life, as my own mother, ravaged by Alzheimer's for some years now, is for all intents and purposes gone from me.

Now, my MIL is probably not a run of the mill sort, if there is such a thing. She has done, as evidenced by my lovely hubby, a great job in raising her children. But, perhaps she has not done so in any orthodox fashion. They did not grow up with the constancy of a father (my hubby’s father died when he was but 3) but she was the constant. She nurtured them in their passions. When my hubby decided to play piano, he had lessons and pianos followed up to the grand we still now own that he plays upon. His sister did dance and ballet and even followed that dream to Walnut Hill, a boarding school for the arts here in MA.

It is odd, as in many ways my hubby and his sister were given much freedom as youngsters and teens. Yet, as they grew, they were treated in a mature fashion. They ate at table, they lived in a clean and orderly house. They had respect for one another and learned the value of money through their various chores. In High School, my hubby had no curfew, yet on his own would make the decision to call his mother if he were running late. Or, as he has told me, often chose to get home early on school nights because he knew he had to be ready for class the next day. These were decisions he was making on his own at 15 when I see many people today in their 30’s unable to make such decisions.

So, somehow her mix of freedom combined with mature responsible expectations of her children caused them to be kind and considerate with an amazing work ethic. They had a stay at home mother who kept an immensely neat home and made homemade delicious meals. It seems the very act of example one of the greatest teaching elements. For example, when we were first together I was amazed at how neat and tidy my hubby was with his clothes, much like the video from the 1950’s I once showed here: Clothes removed, if still clean, hung and buttoned on hangers, dirty clothes in hampers. He even folded his underpants. Though his mother was not the type to always preach, “You must do this or that” by her very act of doing it herself, keeping a neat well decorated home, planning meals and paying bills on time, maintaining her property, caring and cherishing antiques that had belonged to ancestors, her children learned to dwell in such a pace.

That is why I know, were I to ever have a child of my own, I would have to make sure our house was never chaos. I know that may sound like someone speaking who has no child, but I know my MIL had two children underfoot and kept a clean home, well decorated with antiques that one and two year old children lived in and learned not to break or scratch or ruin but still had a joyous childhood. In fact, by their very toys being handmade or passed down antiques, they learned to care for these toys which probably held up much better than new plastic toys!

Recently, a friend of ours invited her friend to a little party at our home. She mentioned how she loved our little antique house and commented how everything was ‘just so’. How antique books and old photographs and delicate things such as great grandmother’s fan sat just so on the piano next the bust. “You must not have children”, was her comment. I thought about that and realized, my MIL home is very much like this, even more so for she has a much larger house and many more antiques. My hubby and his sister grew up in such a place and the ‘nice things’ were always out. They were what you lived with. They were not just ‘special occasions’ or a mad dash to make an appearance for company, it was HOW you lived. They ate with the actual silver it wasn’t just kept for holidays.

I know I would do the same. I would want my child to know their history and to respect the furniture and past, and it would not have to be in a stifleling  way. It isn’t about sitting in velvet sofas in constrictive clothes not being allowing to touch, it is about living in well planned rooms filled with beautiful things that you can touch, but some things need to be handled carefully. And isn’t that really a great lesson for life and relationships? We should feel comfortable and lived in our life but we should realize some things are more delicate or need more caution and tact. We shouldn’t have one way for company and a half attempt at it for our daily life. We DESERVE to live as if company is coming everyday. And, if raised in such a way, the beauty and delicacy of everyday is more apparent to us no matter where we are.

If we dwell and raise our children in a chaos of plastic throw away world of things higgledy-piggedly, what are we teaching them about things and people? Chaos and laziness are fine, but put on a ‘false face’ when company comes? A home filled with cheap plastic toys and throw away items, eating upon paper plates balanced on laps, grease on shirts, clothes piled where ever. That is a chaos that can do nothing but breed more chaos. It sounds stifling, but I know it is not. My hubby grew up happy and content in a world of clean orderly beauty and he had fun, respected his surroundings but always felt comfortable. I think this sort of life also makes one feel they can feel comfort in the world no matter what life throws at them. Simply organize the chaos, fold away your troubles and deal with each thing with a delicate hand if need be and know your place in the world is right. A lesson I cannot imagine being bad for anyone, especially children to learn.

That is not to say there is mess and spills and accidents, but I know my hubby grew up, even as  a small boy, in a bedroom that was decorated with antiques that are still in his mother’s home today. When he wanted a poster or some modern element, it was thought about and incorporated into the room. As we age, we put away those old things, but to have the security of that antique bed or that old desk that your grandfather used at university, that is a solidity worth having. Even if we do not have such antiques we can find things with a history, even if it is not our own, and share that with a child. They will learn to respect it and want to keep and cherish it in the future with their own children.

Think how in many ways it would be cheaper even than Wal-Mart to go to a yard sale or junk shop and get an old desk that is actually wooden solidly built. Redo it, paint it, stain it or even have your child help you with it. This is an adult desk and the child is but 4 or 5. If he now has this desk, solidly built, a part of his life it will have meaning. He will need to sit properly at it on the chair and use it like an adult. He will want to care for it and not scribble upon it with crayons, because it is his special thing. He will need to keep his pencils and crayons organized in a cup or try in the desk, paper put away in the drawer carefully. This one piece of furniture could teach your child so much about life. Things in their place and ordered makes a happy life and more time to do what you like as you are not always chasing your tail to keep it clean. Respect your things and others things as if they are your own. When you sit her it is to do work, rather it is hard work like learning to read, or fun work like practicing your drawing. It is a place that things get done or your dreams are dreamt, but it has a purpose and must be kept orderly as you should keep your life and thoughts.

He may take this away with him when he has his own home and children. Compare that with buying ‘cheap’ things at a chain store that fall apart. It might sound silly, but such a simple little act and decision really could affect a person. Their understanding of money, value of things, its relationship to people can start and be affected by the simple act of living in our homes and how we relate to it and those who we live with.

I think that is why so many adults today long for and pay high prices for the toys of their youth, even if they are plastic. It was the only solid tactile bit of their past that they can hold onto. When we should be recalling good times or a piece of furniture that meant something, we have to hold onto plastic totes of plastic toys that somehow represent a lost bit of our life filed away for company while we dwell in chaos everyday.

But, I digress and am getting a bit off track…

So, apart from her good job at raising up my hubby, I like my MIL. I respect her as a person and would, even if it were not due to our familial connection through marriage, enjoy being her friend.

I think I will write more tomorrow on my MIL as a person and why I respect her, so to be continued…

Monday, November 16, 2009

16 November 1955 “Just a quick Hello, Gals”

1953-american-kitchen I am busy in the kitchen today, gals. It is my MIL birthday and we are planning a trip over to cook her a meal and celebrate there. I would much rather do that than take her out and I think the food will be better.
I am making a Cape Cod fish chowder (recipe tomorrow) and with the extra cod and halibut I baked that to serve on a salad. I am making my homemade cheese crackers to eat with the hearty chowder and finishing with simple chocolate dipped coconut macaroons and coffee. Simple, but hearty and delicious.

I just wanted to touch base with all of you and know I am thinking of you today in my kitchen.

Here is a fun little short about the housewife.

And, just for fun, don’t you adore this kitchen nook? I just love that color! I have predominately yellow and red with touches of this in my current 50’s kitchen, but as we need to do our floor over (old house and floor beam rot!) next spring, there will be more of this color in. It matches my every day dishes.50s kitchen blue

Have a great day, all. Keep the Apron Revolution alive!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

14 November 1955 “More Vintage Thanksgiving and the Relative Merits of ‘Better’”

This movie is worth the twelve minutes to watch it. I cannot tell if it is made just before we are in WWII or immediately after we are out, but you can tell that part of the sentiment is affected by the reaction to the Fascism of the war torn world.

There are many good things about this short. For one, it shows the blue collar middle class, not always shown in such films. It looks as if Dad is a mechanic. Or, perhaps he worked in an auto factory (something our American Car companies seemed to think more important to move out of our own country. Again, I think it funny that there is a BMW plant now in our country, but most American companies still outsource. Especially after they were bailed out!)

I like that simple things are appreciated such as free library books, safe warm baths for baby, a private home-though it is mortgaged and needs ‘a lick of paint’.

When the neighbor drops by for flour, the mother is ‘allowed’ to talk about whatever she likes, i.e. they are not in fear of their opinions of politics and economy as was the case in Europe before and during the war.

I feel, again, that this shows a time in our country or maybe the world where we were perched on a great place to realize what technology had done for us and could do and yet to still be human. To love and understand our own needs and not feel we NEED more than we can afford. To appreciate that what IS available for us in our various monetary brackets/class could be good enough for happiness and family. The need to want more and more seems not as apparent.

This got me thinking about a comment someone made the other day about the term ‘Better’ being relative. I really have to agree. Certainly, today we have more advances in medicine and even more labor saving devices. There is plenty of food to go around and cheap clothing to be had by all. Yet, there are things missing in today’s ‘better’. I think common courtesy, kindness, community, neighborliness, self-education, fortitude, self-ability, a sense of place, contentment with simplicity.

Somehow we have become a nation reaching for some brass ring that is always dangled and can only be had by spending more than we have. Yet, we don’t look down and see we are merely on a conveyor belt of consumerism or that sometimes we are trampling on others to get that brass ring. That cheap shirt is easy to get, but don’t look to close at those in China and India making it for us. Nor, avert your eyes to the many small business that can’t ever compete. Keep your blinders on to your own neighborhoods and downtowns, as they fall to ruin and the great concrete chain stores mar up and ugly the American landscape. Pine for better things! And, when you wish for the old days, just pretend they are gone forever because it is easier to just go along with things the way they are!

Now, I am not saying ‘The good ole days were better’ because that is not entirely true. And it only pining for the old days or thinking we can recreate them because we buy things and put them on shelves is not the answer either. The actual good things, those ‘BETTER” times were about caring for your neighbor and your neighborhood, your family and your diet and your home and your bank account. The things we pine for from the past CAN be brought back, I know they can. Certainly, it is hard to fight nation-wide against endless reality shows that give fame to spoiled idiots who seem to think the louder you are and the more you are concerned about ME the better you are. We can help to draw these role models away from the young, but we really do need to start at home.

Sometimes just a simple thing can make a difference. Buy something from a local business, farm, store. Sure, you might not like or have a vintage dress, but you have nice clothes, put those on and make yourself 'Thanksgiving day’ pretty and be surprised by the smiles and help you get from strangers and store clerks. Make two of your pizza in front of the TV days a sit down as a family at a table day and see you suddenly have conversation instead of ‘comments on TV shows’.

I am more determined everyday, as the year closes, to try and see how much I feel I can really make 1955 be about today! To try and consciously make decisions that can at least change my sphere of the world into those qualities that I love and admire from the good ole’ days. So, that my Better can be both the equality and technology of today, but also the love, respect, and human quality of Better from those days. There is no reason that modern life can coincide with those attitudes and lifestyle changes of the past. One is not the opposite of the other. Only, as is true with most things worth doing, it will be harder than just ‘going with the flow’. But, at the end of the day and the end of my days, I want to think I lived the best I could for myself and others and the world, not just coasted along easy and uncaring. Anyone else up for the ride?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

12 November 1955 “The Misunderstood Decade and Thanksgiving Preparation?”

This is apropos of nothing, but I just thought it a darling ad. I guess the illustrative style, the interior of the house, the party atmosphere, it just seemed very evocative of the age. There is something almost innocent about this ad, where it simply shows people gathering and enjoying the product. NO hidden message or ‘sex sells’ undertone. Just cute animation, simple message, and fun music.

A bit of news:

NAACP Protest At City Hall After Black Woman Attacked in A Church - Jet Magazine, November 10, 1955. Again, we see white and black people in this protest. I honestly feel that the 1950s always gets the rap for being racist. And then, suddenly sometime in 1960’s, magically everyone was aware and being more ‘cool about it’. While, really, the laws and law makers were speaking for our country as a whole and it was in the 1950’s post war time that racism and unfair treatment was being questioned. There were many Japanese war brides who also faced much hatred and unfairness, but our hatred of the Japanese had to be questioned when the next door neighbor was married to a Japanese woman who turned out to be your friend.

I guess, as I have said before, since starting my project I want to make clear more about the 1950’s. It seems to be a period in which so many are fascinated and yet it is so misunderstood. In many ways it is stereotyped as Poodle skirts, malt shops, and everyone mindlessly doing the same thing, that seems to be the idea. A decade of repression and oppression. And then here comes along the 1960’s to save us all from the horrible ‘rules of the man’.

I no longer buy into this stereo-type of the two decades. Really, in the 1950’s there was so much innovation, free thinking, freedoms and experimentation in art and architecture. It was such a pivotal time and, as I have said, it seems to be that pinpoint in modern technological time that was on the brink of getting it right.

Somehow, even though the 1960’s were suppose to be anti-establishment, we now are so all encompassed into a system that exists solely to provide for the establishment of large corporations which basically supply the government with its politicians. I guess that is why I really like to use the 1950’s now as a modern time frame in which to borrow and look back to try and think, how can I copy it in ways and then tweak it as if we are making a very different choice back then to end on a happier healthier future now!  Well, enough of that…

Fun ad for this metal stool.

stool adI have this very same stool and I love it. There is just something so evocative about it. I did not know that they also made little tea carts, as you can see on the bottom of the ad. That would be a handy addition to my kitchen. I will have to keep my eyes peeled at local thrift sales.

I promised to list my petite fours recipe, so here it is:

petits fours petite fours 2

As Thanksgiving approaches for we Americans, I wonder how many of you might try Vintage recipes? Probably, in America, Thanksgiving and Christmas are probably the times when many vintage recipes resurface in the form of ‘classic food’.

This is such a sweet movie and I was going to wait until Thanksgiving to post it, but thought it might be nice to get our ideas going for the up coming holiday.

You can see how the bird in this movie is definitely pre-hormone/genetically altered as today mass market poultry farms produce. I wonder if the taste was different?

I like how they have a pudding for dessert. We sometimes have a Christmas pudding, but usually have pies and such for Thanksgiving. What I really noticed was the portions. Another aspect of today’s Thanksgiving is overeating and having too much food! Here, we see a small dessert that would be considered one serving for today and yet, here it serves the whole family. Interesting, don’t you think? Do you overeat on Thanksgiving? I might rethink the amount of desserts for this year’s festivities.





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