Friday, May 15, 2009

14 & 15 May 1955 “Treaties signed, Mountains climbed, Gardens Grown, and the Solitary Life”

warsaw pact signing Yesterday, May 14th 1955, Eight communist bloc countries, including the Soviet Union, signed the Warsaw Pact. The Warsaw Pact was an organization of Communist states in Central and Eastern Europe. It was the counterpart to our NATO. In 1991, the Warsaw Pact will break up after most of the Communist governments fall, and the Soviet Union disintegrates. in 2005 Poland will decide to make its military archives available to the world. We will find that Poland, itself, was home to 250 nuclear missiles. It is funny how we all live so closely on such a taught thread. When I see this photo, which is from 1955 of the members signing the Warsaw Pact, I cannot help but think, what a better job, or at least a fair better job, we women might actually do running things. Strange, indeed.

The Austrian State Treaty  or Austrian Independence Treaty re-established Austria as a sovereign state today, May 15 1955. The treaty re-established a free, sovereign and democratic Austria. It would not have been long ago, today, that that poor country would have been taken over by the Germans. How fresh the fear and amazement of that war was in 1955, particularly to Europeans, I am sure, as they were left with the destruction and aftermath, food shortage etc of the war. When viewed that way, it is easy to see how we tried to ‘forget the horror’ and threw the baby out with the bath water. Everyone wanted things new and better so nothing like this could happen. Now, we look back on such a short time in history, the 20th century, and wonder where did our basic ‘good human qualities’ go? I know we are definitely better off today, I do not doubt it, but I think there is room in our modern fast paced life for manners, personal pride, and community.

makalu Makalu, the fifth highest mountain in the world on the border between Nepal and China, was first climbed successfully for the first time today, May 15, 1955 by Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy of a French expedition led by Jean Franco. [I know there are many women climbers and I am not saying specifically that it is an a men’s desire, but I do feel sometimes that men needed the ACTION of bravery and show sometimes over shadows women’s bravery of being at home and quietly keeping the world going. In so many ways, particularly before women were give the right to fight or be ‘out there’ we have had to ‘keep the home fires burning’. That is why I say our ACTION does not have to be climbing mountains or jumping out windows. Even on a very basic brain level, if our bodies respond with happiness and adrenalin after a successful day of cleaning and decorating our home, we feel the same as the man standing on top of the mountain. Is one more valid than the other? I honestly don’t think so. Hurrah for the man on the mountain but Brava for the smiling homemaker in her kitchen, dishes done, dinner cooking, cake in the oven and a basket of mending on her lap. I think if we, those we feel drawn to it or wish to try it, can see the honest inherent value in homemaking in this way, we will endeavor to follow it’s path and not be ashamed to show it to our daughter or even, imagine that, offer it to them as a CAREER choice.

Yesterday I cut my finger whilst making my hubby lunch for the day. In the end, he had to buy lunch and I was left a bit slower for the remainder of the day. Every time something comes up that causes my schedule to change, I realize how elastic homemaking is, really. I am all for lists and schedules and think to run a home on the level I think we all deserve, they are a must! Yet, as we are our own boss and staff, we can, at any point, change things up. On occasions such as yesterday, that is what we do. But, while having learned the importance of the list, we use that power to restructure our day. Not unlike a great General who has been ‘outflanked’ we must rally our troops and using our keen intellect and prowess in warfare, reassemble and charge on with new strategy. So, that is what I did.

Part of yesterdays plan was to continue with my next ‘house project’ which is actually in the garden. I have been planning a new fence along the front of our property. My veg garden sits at the front of the property nearest the road, as that is the spot which receives sun all day. I want the front of the house, it’s curb appeal, to be addressed first. I feel that way I am working from the front to the back. Also, I think the view we offer to the world is very 1950’s and, I must say, it does make one feel good to know we are showing our best to the world. Of course, right now you would not know that by the condition of my yard, as it is in flux, but a gal must do things in stages.

Now, back to the fence. I have toyed with a few different designs in my sketchbook for fencing. The idea of hiring someone to do it is out as the amount of fencing, which is not really alot, would be VERY expensive. I figure, I am a homemaker and clever, I certainly can manage to design and then execute a fence. What is a fence, really? Some boards and post fastened together to either exclude or impress or a little of both. I mean, certainly I adore this classic-fence-design-gate but it would look rather silly on our small drive leading to our little cape cottage. That brings me to another thing, SCALE. It is so important, I think, to remember scale in your home. Obviously, no one would put this massive gate in front of their little home, but I have seen many things done horribly out of scale. When I used to watch design shows and a designer would create a ‘theme room’ I would shudder. Yes, you may indeed like an Italian villa, who wouldn’t, but if you live in a ranch house in Wisconsin, it is not going to fit the scale of the house and really, it won’t feel right.

So, I wanted something in scale that would look nice, express the idea of ‘private property’ but still say ‘welcome neighbor, lets have a cup of coffee.’

Now, I love the look of this type of fence rounded-corner-fence as it is very equestrian. It makes one think there might be a fine thoroughbreds head peeking over it at any moment in search of an apple. But, I also wanted a bit more ‘style’ to frame the yard. The front of my house is also where I have planted my little orchard, so both my veg garden and the orchard will be viewed from passers by, even more reason to make them more than just functional.

Here are some of the very rough sketches of plans I had from my little sketch book. fence ideas I decided to go with the simple ‘X’ pattern. It is remeniscent of a horse paddock,  or even a fence to be jumped, but decorative enough to frame a small home.  The central X makes a great spot to highlight a low growing flowering plant, of which variety I have not yet decided. Here it is in its beginning states.veg fence1 First the poles had to be sunk in. I use a post hole digger. It is one of my favorite tools, as I love fencing. It is the architecture of the garden and if you get the architecture right on your project, the rest will follow wonderfully. Without a good sound base, your home or garden could be as unflattering as an ill-fitting dress. So, I dug the holes, leveled off the posts (pressure treated garden posts quite cheap only 4 dollars a piece). Then you need to level by eyesight. There was much standing back, as I did not only trust the level, because how it looks to the eye in this case was more important to me. I am sure my neighbors, who probably already think me a little nuts, were wondering what I was up to now. So, here is the next phase veg fence2 You can see I installed the top and bottom sections and the cross pattern. I can see this garden and fence from the windows in my little sitting room  (my command central)view of new fence from sitting room 1 You can see the picket fence I installed last year. It was going to be white and may still be, but I have not yet decided. I was happy that I can see my veg garden from this room. Certainly, it does not look as nice and orderly as I will want it to be, as I envision it, but part of the homemakers skill, I believe, is to be happy in the moment. Knowing there is more to do to make this look ‘finished’ feels good to me. For, I can enjoy it as the work I have done and also the thrill of seeing my ideas come to life. But, unlike some jobs, I do not dread the future work, for I am doing what I love.

I have in my sitting room what I call a ‘thought box’. It is an antique drawer from an old cabinet that used to keep old letter type. I am sure you have seen these around. They are narrow and full of little compartments, but when you tip them up on their side, like a frame, it is a little divided world. I have one that rests on the ledge of the chair rail in my sitting room. mind box bw I sometimes haphazardly put things in the little boxes. It changes with my moods and sometimes I don’t think about it and then look back later and go, “ah,”. It can be therapeutic and also reveal a little of yourself. In it right now are some shells and sea sponges from my hubby and my time on the water in our boat. Treasures. Old family things, a calling card form a great grandmother etc. But in one of the little cubicles is a fortune from a fortune cookie, it reads : “Doing what you like is Freedom. Liking what you do is Happiness”. And, really, I think that says it all.

We can be in the midst of the chaos of our ‘making over our homes’ but if we do try and keep to a schedule to make living in the moment happy, then tomorrows work load is not a dread but a happiness. Liking what you do is Happiness.

Now, back to my fence. If you were to have such a fence designed and installed it would be very costly, but this is very economical. In fact the cross pattern is made from strapping, which is under a dollar a piece! It is not pressure treated, but it doesn’t matter, as it is getting painted white in outdoor weather sealant paint. In the old days, there was no pressure treating, you merely treated it yourself. Even the little finials, here I have only one installed, are very cheap at my local lumber yard and they simply screw into the post. I have since decided on another design finial, which you will see when the fence is done and painted. You can also see that this section sits in front of my veg garden. This, too, is in a very ‘beginning’ state. But, the important bits are in, the good soil and some of the plants, they don’t know rather or not the garden looks pretty! I will show before and after of the veg garden, however, as it progresses. I have some lovely sketches of different ideas I want for my veg garden I will show one day.

Speaking of sketchbooks, you should, as a homemaker, keep not only a journal of your schedule, but  a ‘sketchbook’. It doesn't matter if you can draw; stick figures and boxes filled in with marker and labeled with scribbles are fine and do wonders to help you plan. Things from gardens, room design, to even table layout for your party, because easier, more fun and have a more tactile ‘real job’ feel to them in this manner. It might seem silly, but later on you can look back and remember and recall how you have built up your little world from ideas to scribbles to reality. It is a very powerful tool and helps to feed your future ACTION! Then, when you recall the man at the mountains summit feeling powerful, you can look around you at the world in which you and your family live and think, “I made this”. Climbing a mountain is pretty great, but so is creating a world in which to live and feel ‘at home’. A very powerful breed are we homemakers.

As I mentioned, having cut my finger did slow down my day. I was not able to work on my fence, but I did get to my usual chores. I even had time to make a quick batch of cookies for our tea after dinner. I doubled the batch and put the rest in waxed paper. I thought it so cute, I had to snap a shot of it. cookie dough tube Now, this is about the size of what you would buy ‘ready made’ at the grocery store for around 4 –5 dollars. I made a double batch of cookies, baked up half and put the other half this way, and I think the whole thing cost me around 2.00 for both the baked cookies AND this tube of dough. This is definitely cheaper and better and I am sure many of you do this already. And, when I bake these I sprinkle a dab of coconut on the top and it gets brown as they bake. They make very yummy cookies. It is just a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe from my old Betty Crocker book. I use almond extract instead of vanilla and add the coconut. I have not made a dessert in awhile, as we are all trying to watch our waistlines around here.

I have promised more pictures of what I wear and have been very lax with the camera in that respect. I went out to lunch Wednesday and here is what I wore. bw me suit

Today, I have to go out marketing and to the shops, so here is my head scarf I definitely need to lose weight and am going to now try to really follow my 1955 diet. I have to say, though, that still being heavier than I am happy with, I feel better and more confident in my vintage clothes.

I love the head scarf and my new glasses. These are very vintage looking and are tortoise shell with little orange rhinestones in the corner. The head scarf is great if you are having an unruly hair day, or just to look pulled together last head scarf glasses

Now, I really want to touch briefly on the solitary aspect we sometimes feel as homemakers or vintage women. That aspect of feeling not quite ‘in touch’ with the world. I think it deserves its own post. But for now, really, it is the attitude and position of many artists to feel so disconnected and through our art, we try to make sense or connect in someway. And we homemakers, we are artists. We take in the world, digest it and remake  it in our homes. In a sense, we are sending out an SOS signal, “the note in the bottle”. We are waiting for the answer. Living unique and outside the norm is never easy, but most often rewarding. There are days of tears and sadness. Moments when you just look at the world and those around you and think, ‘how easy to join you to just be part of it all’ only we know, deep down inside, we wouldn’t really. We’d be imposters, masquerading about with the smiling bland faces of ‘normalcy’. Sometimes, it is better to be alone and know you are in the right place, then to be awash in the crowd having lost yourself.

I know that is little comfort when one feels alone at home. But, the modern world has given us this medium to use. The internet can connect us together and though we are not next door to one another, we can still try and connect. I really do want to, now more than ever, pursue my idea of a vintage organization and perhaps someday, we could meet in various cities, one never knows. We must think of our sisters of the past, sitting quietly bent over their needlework by the fires, the clock ticking, the cat stretches and the isolation is numbing. Yet, it is this very thing, this power in the moment of quiet contemplation, that has made we women what we are today. So, though it is often sad to be alone and we should try to find or make a way to share our vintage passion with others in our community, when we are faced with that day alone in the house and feeling blue, think of those sisters of the past. Take their power of silence and determination, and take a task to hand and sit by your own fire and create. Perhaps no one will find the bottle with the message, but at least you will have found yourself.

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