Saturday, February 27, 2010

27 February 1956 “February Dress Challenge, and Some Recipes”

shirtwaist1 My February Dress Challenge started out by dreaming on these lovely shirtdresses. I hadn’t a pattern and after the success of the January Dress Challenge Dress, I thought I would give it another try.

brownshirt  So, starting with this men’s brown shirt I had thrifted and this lovely pink cotton fabricpinkbrownfabric I wanted to create my own design.

Would I make this dress again? Not this way. I had to pin and then take apart, rethink, cut, ponder and put it away a lot. But, I persevered. The dress itself is very comfortable and I am wearing it now as I write this. It was just the way I went about making it that I would not try again. I think I will make more such dresses, but after the struggle with this one, I have learned what I will NOT do next time.

The initial idea of taking a shirt that is already constructed and adding a pleated skirt to it became more of a chore. However, if I had a dress form, many of the mistakes and struggles would not have happened. It is rather hard pinning it to oneself and then trying to take it of again. The shirt I had to cut down and then my plans to have a zipper in front proved to look silly. In the end I had to split one of the side seams and put a zipper into the shirt and skirt of the dress. The result is nice as it zips up nice and snug and the top buttons, so overall a great dress.

pinkdress1 First I decided where I needed to cut the shirt down. Again, this would have been much easier on a dress from.

 pinkdress2Next, I took the yardage of fabric while it was still one long piece at put bias tape on the hem. I just wanted the look and I like how it adds weight to the skirt. You can see my ‘new’ machine in action here. I actually have a foot that puts bias tape on for you, but have not tried that yet. I have tried the ruffle/pleat foot and it worked really well.

pinkdress3 My original plan had me sewing the rough edge of the skirt onto the top as you would a normal dress pattern, but due to my crooked cutting and inability to get a good straight line on me (again, no dress form) I decided to put a tall waistband on the skirt. So at that point it basically was a finished skirt I could have put a zipper in and wore it with the shirt, but I had already cut the shirt and this is a Dress challenge not a skirt and blouse challenge.

So, after putting the zip in (pinned only thank goodness) I took it out and realized that I had to take out part of the side seam of the shirt. I love the look of a high-waisted skirt, but it always rolls down, so having it sewn as the actual bodice of the dress makes it stay put, which I really like.

I wanted the shirt to look part of the dress and not just a separate top, so I decided to cover the cuffs. This is what I did. pinkdress4I laid out the cuff as a pattern and cut around it (double twice and on the fold so I ended up with two equally cut cuffs.

 pinkdress5I did a roll hem as you can see here, as the edges would sew the way I was sewing it over the existing cuff.

 pinkdress6Here you can see (I hadn’t hemmed the cuff yet just did this for a picture) how it is basically an envelope of fabric that slips over the existing cuff.

 pinkdress7As I literally sewed on the outside of the fabric (where it shows) I added an additional decorative stitch (this is one of the built in stitches in my Rocketeer) just to make the showing stitch seem on purpose.

And after all that, a pocket square in the same fabric and viola’:

 pinkdressonMy version of a pattern-less shirtdress! I am sorry I look so stern in this shot, but it was a long day of sewing and hubby was luckily home to take my photo. I was happier than this photo demonstrates.

pinkdressonbwAnd here is the dress in black and white for no other reason than I like to see how 'vintage’ I look if I turn it to black and white, silly I know.

I have decided that part of my March Dress Challenge is going to be doing a duct tape dress form. I think it will make dress making much easier. The finished dress hardly looks professional, but I am proud of it considering, again, I have never been taught to sew and much of what I do is trial and error. I do learn from my mistakes MOST times, but not always.

Now for some recipes. I have a few I have done lately.

As I have been doing my Breads, I am baking my way through as many recipes as I can get my hands on deciding which will remain a part of my normal baking day and what are just for special times or not good.

I had listed a great oatmeal bread recipe before that used honey that is wonderful, but until I get my bees again and honey is not so dear I wanted another oatmeal bread recipe that did not use honey. I found this one.

1 packet yeast
2 Tbs. molasses  (You could use honey and even, I think, real maple syrup might be nice)
1 C.  rolled oats
1 Tbs. butter plus 1/2 t. for buttering pan

1 tsp. salt
1 C. unbleached flour plus 1/2 cup for kneading
1 C. whole wheat flour

In a mixing bowl, combine yeast, molasses and 1 cup warm water (wrist temperature). Let sit until yeast is bubbly (about 5 minutes). Stir in oats and butter and let sit for 5 minutes.
Add salt and flours, stirring in 1/2 cup at a time. Knead dough into a soft blob, return it to the bowl and cover bowl with a damp cloth. Let rise until double in bulk (about 30 minutes).
Punch dough down and knead until smooth, adding reserved flour as needed.
Shape into a loaf, place in a buttered loaf pan, cover again and let rise. When loaf has doubled in bulk, place in the oven and bake at 350°F.  until done (about 45 minutes). Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before slicing.

easyoatmealbread1 Here is the lovely little dough ball before it’s first rising.easyoatmealbread2 It made a nice little loaf. What I liked about this recipe was it was comparatively fast for yeast dough that must rise. I will definitely make it again and I am going to try it with real maple syrup instead of the molasses and see how it affects the chemistry of the bread. You know we New Englanders will use any excuse to put maple syrup on or in anything! Mmmm.

Now another fun ‘bread’ I made was homemade tortillas. I have had never made them before and it was really just one of those “oh, I have some ground beef and would love to have a fun Mexican dinner, but don’t want to run out and get tortilla’s ( I am a stickler with my weekly shopping trip!) These were SO easy to make, so much fun and they were 1000 times better than store bought.

Here is the very easy recipe:

Tortilla Recipe

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar (optional)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (more for softer tortillas)
1 cup water

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and oil. Add water and mix with hands. Divide into 10 small balls. Roll each flat with rolling pin and cook on very hot ungreased griddle until lightly brown on each side.

tortillas1 Here are the little balls before I rolled them out.tortillas2 Here is one rolled out. I made them fairly thin. They roll out very easily if the rolling pin is floured. tortillas3  This is the uncooked side up while the first side is down browning. See how lovely they bubble?tortillas4 The browned side up whilst cooking. And, of course, I love my close up shots of my food.tortillas5 Just look at that lovely flourly texture. They were so good warm from the griddle. Yesterday, Hubby had one in his lunch with tuna salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and mushrooms. He come home and said, “That was the BEST wrap I have EVER had”. I just love standing in my kitchen and thinking, “Hmmmm, what have I bought that I could try making?” I have to say, it’s fun! I have a lovely meat pie recipe, but I think I will share that on another post.

For those of you who follow or visit the website, I have been working on redisginng some of it and hope to upload the changes on 1 March. It will, of course, still be a work in progress and really part of the project of this year to see what I will have with it at the end of 1956. I hope to make its layout more conducive to me easily adding bits and bobs everyday. We are going to have our first APRONITE of the month and one of our fellow Apronites, Cedar, is going to be writing the first Guest Blog we are to have on Vintage Entertaining. If you have not checked out the site yet, that might be a good time to start.

Until next time, keep your Apron strings tight and your mind and hands busy!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

25 February 1956 “No Excuses, Just Happy Diversion. And A Job To Do.”

I was feeling rather guilty over not having posted these past two days. Though I don’t always post everyday, I at least  begin writing, scanning images, research etc to prepare for the actual posting. Yet, I cannot claim to have done that these past two days.

These past few days, except for a few moments of ‘sticking my head in’ at the Forums, have been blissfully unplugged. I have gone about my usual day, of course, the running of this house, the preparations of its meals, sewing,  and such. Yet, I have almost not touched the computer.

As I have mentioned before, we have a TV in our house, but it is hooked to nothing save a DVD player and we rarely use that. So, that contraption has not been too much  distraction in any case. But I must, by the very nature of my project ( my writings and website and research) use the computer. And I don’t know why, but these past few days I have just looked at it and sort of moved on. At one point I think I almost scoffed at it, that great heap of metal on the floor next my desk. That wretched dust trap (for surely it is that if nothing else) and the odd black screen; lifeless like an empty picture frame.

I did not do this on purpose. I did not get up and say, “Alright, I shall not touch you over these next few days” but it just sort of happened. I think what I have discovered now, which has finally lead me to write this, is that while in the past the TV and computer were the distraction from my life, now My Life is the distraction from the computer and TV. That is to say, at one point, I would muddle about with life, trying to get it done as quick and slapdash as possible so I could get to the TV and computer. Now, these past days, I have found myself happily humming along though my life and dreading having to get back onto the computer. Odd indeed!

It seems as I continually get deeper into this new sort of life I am living, that so many concepts of living have changed. Things I thought cement and constants have been shown to me to be merely my perceptions or modern day notions. I always wonder when this will sort of ‘level off’ and then another thing like this happens. I find my whole level of thought and pleasure flipped topsy-turvy. I am again, Alice at the tea party with the Mad Hatter.

There is always a little lesson in it for me, these ‘ah-ha’ moments as I have come to call them. There is a realization that I have suddenly begun to do things in a very different way or in a way contrary to what I thought normal. Then I will find that normal is relative and that often this new way makes more sense. Even my very core beliefs and understanding of people and politics etc have changed. We can be so IN THE MOMENT, that unless we step so far out( 54 years out to be exact) we can not see how we are merely reacting to the norms of our times. There is a lot of mimicry and mind washing done to us in the modern world as we are all so ‘plugged in’. It wasn’t until I unplugged and stepped back that I really realized how deep this goes.

Now, this post isn’t going to be about how I am going to run away from the computer nor try to use it less. I feel a very real duty and obligation to write my blog, continue to work on my website, and to grow it and to contribute to the forum. I even feel compelled to possibly make a book of my experiences from last year. I do not need to do this. There is no one telling me to do so, yet I feel it is right and that it should be done.

I do feel, at least from all of you who have written me and commented on my posts over last year and up to now, that I have touched you and made you think. That rather you are hating my, thinking me mad, agreeing with me, or thinking me confused, you none the less were there and wanted to see more. So, with that I feel a certain level of responsibility. This is another element new to me since 1955. The old me would have tried it out for a few months, became bored or lazy and moved onto something else. But, part of what pushed me forward last year, what made me get through the humps of “I just don’t want to write today, or I don’t want to clean or work on that meal, etc” was that I thought, “I have taken on a bit of serious work here”. I am out  to prove that a homemaker is a real person that it is a real career and that the way it was once addressed is valid and is IMPORTANT.  This spurred me on, made me feel I was doing something worthwhile and important. And, feeling responsible to all of you and myself  kept me going. IT is the very feeling that will keep me going with this blog and the site and the forum and any other avenues this takes me down.

But, just for these past few days, I was a little belligerent. I was busy with my days, baking bread, working on my dress, planning out new dresses for Spring, thinking about doing over my kitchen, looking for seeds and planning out my garden. My walks in town and to our local library, chatting with people there, going out to find more local merchants to shop at. These were important to me, but they were also fun and it left me dreading the computer at home. There was just so much Living going on, that it was work to drag myself to the computer.

I am okay with this new finding. THIS is a wonderful realization for me that the very things which may have seemed drudgery or work before or things I thought would feel that way, or be too much bother, have become the things I look forward to doing. The old ‘distractions’ (computer) are now the work. But, it is my work, this blog and site and such, and I shall treat it that way. I have no children and therefore cannot say to myself that I cannot find time in my ‘busy day’ to do my bit of work. I have found myself this far in and I don’t want to turn back. I know much of what has come to be the better quality of this new life is responsibility. Responsibility to my husband to make our home, manage our money in exchange for his working outside of the home. My responsibility to my country and the things I want to see change, to try and shop locally and save and reuse. And, of course, the responsibility to all of you to continue to record my findings, share what I find and to grow a site so that we can, all of we crazy ‘outsiders’ can have a place to go and commune with like minded people. To share ideas and ideals. This is a very important job and though it can sometimes seem very much like real work for which I do not receive actual money, it is none the less important. My modern concept of placing value on things only by the comparative money it generates is over. In many ways, it makes it harder for me sometimes, but I cannot let it stop me. I know I should and will go forward learning and sharing and writing.

So, this post won’t contain any recipes or pictures of my dress. There is no images or videos displaying the 50’s in some way. It is merely to explain this wonderful discovery I have made. How does it affect you? Well, I think there are some of you who do feel now that TV and computers are your distraction or your reward, but in some way feel you wish it wasn’t so. For those of you, I am proof that it can be changed. It means hard work and working at that which you want to do other than tv/computer, but the happy result will be that the ‘other stuff’ will soon become that happy diversion. Though ‘writing that book, cooking that meal, learning to sew, trying to shop local’ all those things are harder than what we can do to ‘get by’ in the modern world, they are not always the most fulfilling. Most times the best things are hard won and the good of it is, once won, they are suddenly a joy and no longer hard work or struggle.

For anyone else, it is merely another moment in my odd little life that you might look at like as you would a  picture in a museum. You can stare and wonder, “How on earth” or “Well that’s sort of pretty” or “How horribly out of date” and then move on to the next. For whatever purpose it serves, I felt the need to share it. To put it out there.

I don’t want it to sound as if I think writing is just hard work. I have always liked writing and enjoyed it, but I was lazy about it. I would never follow through. I used to subscribe to that very modern statement: Well, if you like something or it is fun, if you turn it into a job, you will grow to hate it. I now realize that is just another modern moment where we disguise our laziness as some truth or concrete reason. Writing isn’t easy. I don’t even know if I am any good at it,  I know my spelling is atrocious, but I do like it. Is it always easy? NO. Is it always fun to research some news and recipes and various topics for a post? No, sometimes it can be quite tedious and make me swear under my breath, but when I am done with it, I am glad for it. Hard work and determination DOES really pay off. It seems that sort of adage or common sense rule of  “if you want something worthwhile than work at it, work hard and it will be all the sweeter for its labor”, is never really taught anymore. It almost seems we worry more about rather people/children are more in touch with their feelings or if they feel ‘okay’ with things more than just saying, “Tough, it’s hard but get to work and in the end you will have something”. You will know how to play an instrument very well. You will be able to write papers for school. You can rebuild an engine. You can write a novel. You can perform brain surgery. You can run a home efficiently and beautifully. You can raise a child to a good responsible human being.

I have thought a bit about Tasha Tudor again over these past few days. I imagined how she was able to completely submerse herself into her ‘time’. Certainly 1840’s may be much harder than 1950’s ,but the more I ‘take away’ the modern bits, the more I covet the more antiquated things. At one point I thought, “Well, 1955 is not too shabby, as I can have my dishwasher and dryer, my electric lights, color movies, even TV if I want it”  But the more I live the experience the more I see that were I to suddenly do “My Year 1855” it would be quite hard at first, much like 1955. I would find myself stumbling, as if brand new to housework and such, into odd territories. Yet, I don’t think now that I could not do it. And I may even end up not wanting to come back from the 19th century.

But, I won’t. At least not yet. I have found that while my initial experience was an almost ‘hide away’ project, my new life has become more about how I can help other people as well. I have come to feel more in tune with my life and to truly be living than ever before. While it would be easy to just turn off the computer and turn away from all of you (save using old fashioned letter writing which I have got behind in because of my amount of computer writing) and go on, quietly. Yet,  I cannot nor will not. Even if only one or two of you remained after a few more months of my site and blog here, yet enjoyed reading my words or even were angry enough to write back to me, I would feel an obligation. I think that so important. That is the main thing that seems to be missing from our modern world: personal responsibility and obligations to others.

I know there are plenty of modern people who are more self responsible and responsible to others, but for the most part it is easy to just cloister ourselves away and do nothing but the bare minimum to scrape by, as it is so easy and to just ‘entertain’ ourselves the rest of the time. Why bother doing or trying harder, it might interfere with our ‘shows’ or our computer time. Now I know( at least for me) that Entertainment was actually stealing my life away. It was and is not bad in itself, but the amount of time and energy I put towards it could and has been better spent in other avenues and I am happier for it. True, that might not be so for all, but if even one person could feel that freedom, then I will feel I have done my ‘Job’.

woman with typewriter So, thanks again to those of you who bother to listen to my rants and writings. I am honored to have this bit of work to do.

Monday, February 22, 2010

22 February 1956 “Dress Challenge Debacle, Spring Fabrics, Marilyn and Daisies, Automobile’s Across the ‘Pond’, And A Bus Boycott”

I had intended to be sharing my February Dress Challenge success with this post, but I have been having some trouble with it. I have pinned and repined it on myself and changed it three or four times and now it might be a completely different looking dress. But, I promise it WILL be done before the 1st. of March and I will share my results with you.
springfabric1 Here are some fabrics I recently purchased to start my Spring dresses. This is my color palette for the season. The first is actually a lovely spring green but it looks more yellow in the photo. I love the second fabric so much, here it is closerspringfabric2 and it looks so vintage. It is actually a new fabric but it was marked down and might be discontinued. I think I have enough to do a short sleeved dress.
Speaking of Fashion,56 vogue
look how fresh and modern this 1956 Vogue photo looks. Vintage does not have to be frumpy and whip creamy. It can be tailored and smart. Though I do like a bit of froth and twee as well, which is why I love the fashions of the 1950’s.56frocks It seemed to embody both the classic clean lines as well as frippery and fantasy. It did not take itself too seriously, yet seriously enough that you knew you better look darn good when you went into ‘town’ and even if you were taking the dogs for a walk in a pair of trousers, you’d still have a hat, gloves, scarf and some jewelry to make the ‘look’.
56marilyn NPG x40268, Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean Mortensen) Here are two lovely Cecil Beaton Photos of Marilyn Monroe taken today, 22 February 1956. It shows the innocence of the early part of the decade and the sultry sexuality that will ultimately form the 60’s and onward. Even the use of the daisy has an odd foretelling of design and style in the coming 1960s.daisyclock 60’s daisy clock 60's daisy fabric 60’s daisy fabric and even Pyrex daisy pyrex It is interesting to view the stages of fashion, art, photography and so on during the end of one decade to see it slowly evolve into the next’s ‘latest thing’.
fiat600 The Fiat 600 was released this year, 1956, in Europe. When you see the compact size and almost modern lines, you wonder how it was that we were making such larger cars.fiat6002 And the Fiat 600 Multiplafiat600multipla could seat six and was a recreation type vehicle, yet look at how small it is. Then compare what the USA was making the same year. As this Chevy 1956Chevy-ad and this Ford.56fordv8
I wonder why it was that we just made larger cars? Could it be the endless space we had and the increased production from after the war? We also had a great burgeoning highway system forming at this point as well. And of course gas was becoming even more big business. It is interesting that small compact cars were being made in Europe this early.
56 mg It looks as if any idea of Foreign cars are considered a sports or luxury car at this point in time. This 56 Feb edition of Sports Cars Illustrated features MG’s. I love MG’s. I am much younger (20 years) than my older Siblings. I remember when I was very young, about 5 or so, my sister had a lovely racing green MG convertible. I have fond memories of she and I going shopping together, and I would love to wear a scarf on my head, as she did. Once they had children, the car went away. It was a darling little thing.
kingarrestphoto This is a photo of Martin Luther King’s arrest this month in 1956. As mentioned in my 1955 year, when Parks was arrested (and even preceding her in the 1940’s a woman was also arrested for not giving up her seat) the year long Montgomery Bus Boycott is still continuing. Blacks had to fill the bus by sitting at the back to the front and the whites sat filling the front to the back. The two races would meet halfway. When the bus was full and a white person got on, a black person in the rows behind the last white row HAD to get up for that white person, no matter if you were male, female, young or old. This year, later in the summer, the Alabama laws of bus segregation will be declared unconstitutional.
I have said it before and I will say it again: if we would try and treat one another as we want to be treated and to respect each other as human beings and then follow the manners of age (such as an older person should be offered a seat by a younger) and gender sometimes ( A man letting a lady have his seat) so much of the hate and violence may not have had to happen.
What is interesting is we see things now that have been changed, yet how badly they have had to come about because of people not wanting it, fighting it and there being horrible violence. Even the rights of women to vote etc was at first intensely objected. Then to the point of horrible cruel treatment to women, but in the end they won the rights. The same with blacks in our country. Yet, we continue, in the case of people who are considered not justified to have rights equal to all, to fight such things. Do we really not see that in the end those rights will out and that the unnecessary hatred and destruction could be easily avoided if we buy consider we are all allowed our own freedoms. We may not all agree on the same religion, politics etc, but we are ALL of us humans and Americans and I do wish people could be more kind, rational and just better mannered. Because we were not in the past, now we have people who are rude and angry for not having their rights. It is not right for them to have that anger, per se, but if we could just, even now, try to be more tolerant of one another, than we might be able to stop future problems such as this.
If we are, each of us, strong in our own convictions (rather it is religion, politics, etc) privately, then what matters it if there are people who live or act differently? If we raise our children to respect one another and to understand our own beliefs, than we cannot live in a world of fear that they will be affected or wronged by ‘those people’ now matter who or what ‘those people’ are. Acting cruel and irrational because we fear, do not understand, or personally loathe another person’s actions is not only damaging but only serves to show us up as brutes. Let us not try to coerice others into what we want, let us show our points of view and feelings through example. If we live as we see fit, as kind, considerate and thoughtful people, than others may wish to emulate us. If we see what we do not like or fear or loathe and then shout and throw mud at that which disgusts us, have we not then, ourselves, become disgusting?
I know I am going off on a tangent, but I really do think if we could think with kindness and consideration first our actions could be better served to a brighter future.

Friday, February 19, 2010

18 February 1955 “Some Fun Bits and Bobs and Making Time For Your ACTION or Doing It All.”

This is a great British short about a movie star/journalist doing over a country cottage. I love the blue paper in the stair hall, though she doesn’t use it in the end. Look for it when she unrolls it to show to her little poodle.


I think I have shown this before, but we have been discussing hair in the Forums and I felt it would be fun to show this one again. If they still made this home perm, I think I would give it a try. I wonder if I could get a salon to do a pin curl permanent on me?

I found this a fun little ‘story’ about a British ‘Farm Girl’ who become’s Beauty of the Month.


I have to say, I am not completely in love with her hairstyle after her make over. This is from 1957 and you can already start to see the move to a bouffant look.

Now, one of our fellow Apronite’s, Zebu,  posted this question on my last blog:

Do you ever find yourself with your plate too full when you are always making yourself trying new things rather than saying, “Well, after this or that”? This is an area that I need to work on, and I am just wondering at which point you tell yourself to stop or that learning something new will have to wait until you have less going on. I really appreciate your insight, as I was just thinking, about an hour before reading this, that I have been wanting to try a particular new thing but that this year is taken up with other goals and maybe it would have to wait.

Now, this is something for which I definitely struggle. It may have been a bit more of a problem before 1955, but I do have to watch it now.

I have always wanted to do a billion things. I like to try them and am lucky (or unlucky not sure which) in that my personality and general demeanor is okay with trying something, not liking or losing interest, and moving on. I try not to beat myself up over things tried and failed or interest waned.

Now, having said that, I also know that one good lesson 1955 taught me was Lists and  Prioritize. There are still so many things I want to try, but have put them on the back burner. That does not mean I do not think about them and in fact because they become part of my Hierarchy of Hopes, I can always, of a day, jot down ideas or items to them in my journal of future endeavors. Yes, I have plans or things I would like to try out and then I jot them down and if I think of aspects of it or things I would like to add then I can jot them down with the idea in a journal (like thorough note taking-I was a whiz at note taking, as I loved to procrastinate study and could always rely on my notes last minute to give me a good point by point synopsis of the terms lecture).

A case in point is the website. This was a big undertaking for me. It was not something that I ever really wanted or thought  about before 1955, but due to our wonderful talks and all the information I was collecting and enjoying doing so, I felt it needed a repository of sorts. Now, of a morning, I might have a little grip of panic as I think, “Good lord! I have so much information I want to upload, so many images to scan, to have another hand at laying it out” I get overwhelmed with it. I have to stop myself and say, “Okay, one hour of time on it today. Even if what you do does not immediately show up for others to see, just go at a steady pace and keep it in context to your day”. This will help me to calm down and to, literally, ‘schedule it’ into my day.

It has come to be my opinion that for the most part we modern people (not all of us, as I am sure there are many of you out there that are amazing people who do a million things a day)but we seem to still desire to try and do things but often find our self never beyond the planning stage. And I see, in bookshops, online etc, that there is an entire business niche built around this very attitude. The “Get organized” “You can do it” “Planning” books. I am not saying these are bad and I love my vintage organizers, but they seem a different breed of book to today’s versions. Now, I am not saying, don’t use them or buy them, but realize they are a part of the process of DOING and that simply, wanting to try something, watching a few shows about it, some YouTube, and buying a stack of magazines and books about it is NOT doing it. That is the prep work, at the most.

I was guilty of such things. I am sure there are homes littered with organizing books and magazines that are simply part of the piles of disorder and chaos of the home. This hardly seems helpful and in fact seems to only add to the very thing you are trying to dispel.

Now, as for trying new things, I certainly have a lot on my plate. When I see or hear something, as someone asking about a little scrubby you can make, I become intrigued. I look it up, find out it is crochet, and then I want to try it out as well. In this case, I learned a quick little stitch pattern that can satisfy that need for now. I can hardly crochet a sweater or blanket yet, but I don’t necessarily need or want to. I can learn a ‘bit of the skill’ and still get a great deal of satisfaction from it. So, I feel, in some cases things can be only done half way with still pleasing results. For the most part, if you are going to do something, they say, then do it right or don’t do it at all. That could be true for some things, but I fell, particularly with our modern world of easy diversion and uber procrastination, that sometimes learning only a bit, enough to make one  satisfied and enjoy it, can be enough. Then, if that skill or study becomes of more interest, you will wish to follow through more and make a better show of it. You will naturally be driven to want to perfect it and that is when you could easily let another thing go to the wayside.

I think we see so many reality shows about ‘who is the best, or supreme chef, decorator, designer etc’ that we feel we need to be the best at something or why bother. Just sit back and watch someone else fail or succeed. It is all a competition for the single BEST of that thing. Well, it is not really a great message for the masses. We don’t need to be a great designer and seamstress to have a happy sewing life. I am proof of that. I am only now learning to use the different feet and about more than basic sewing on my ‘new’ machine, but before that I could sew forward and reverse. I did not even change the foot to a zipper foot to put in zippers. I merely figured out a way to do it with the normal foot. This may seem lazy or a half-attempt, but for me, at the time, I needed to make some vintage dresses and things, I knew sewing to be a part of my day in 1955 so I used and learned what I could. Now, I could happily go forward with what I know, but the eventual curiosity of ‘well, now how did they do that?” will find me learning more. But, I did not let a thorough knowledge and understanding of all of sewing and pattern making stop me from sewing and making my own dress style and pattern up.

So, I really think, if you have a list of things you want to try you should, prioritize them. You will also find that some will feed off others. Such as ‘dress more vintage and learn basic sewing’ go hand in hand, two sides of the same coin, really. Don’t be afraid to start something a little bit. Better to schedule an hour or 1/2  hour on a day off to attempt it’s beginnings than to only relegate it to a list and a pile of magazines.

I think the other BIG task in undertaking and beginning to try out and do new things is to take away some of your tv/computer time. I know, I know, I shouldn’t go on about it and yes, I know I am currently writing this on a computer, but we do , we modern people, waste a lot of time. If you have made a little list of things you would like to try/learn then go through your week mentally and think about the tv/computer time. Can you steal half an hour here and there to put towards this skill/idea/ task you would like to undertake? You might be surprised how much time, like pin money with nickels and dimes, you can ‘store away’ to ‘spend’ on trying out new things. Think of it as a little ‘skill bank’ where you collect up minutes and hours here and there to try out your new project/skill.

  I am not sure if that is helpful or realistic for all of us. I would really encourage you to not feel as if you are ‘spreading yourself to thin’ but actually, trying out some things to see which is worth investing more time and energy into. If you like a multitude of things, then see where and when you can steal more time for it. I still think a person would be happier doing a few things not on a professional level, but still a satisfying level more so than not doing anything at all. There is truth to doing one thing very well, but if you are craving more, than you aren’t satisfied with that one thing.

Another aspect of the modern world (and modern education) is the over specialization  of things. There seems to be a very separate way we wish to break things into little boxes.  Thus,  there are 20 magazines, one on sewing , one on knitting, one on crochet, one on cooking, one on decorating country, one on decorating modern etc. When really, many of these things could and should feed off one another and are often all found in one contained copy of a magazine or book from the 1950s. We seem to separate so many things so they become disparate parts when they are, in fact, all intertwined and feed off one another. No wonder we often feel lost or unable to start. We even have people who ‘specialize’ in helping us decide what to do.

Perhaps it is part of the marketing and selling of the modern world as you can sell more magazines and items that way. But,  I think the ‘renaissance man’ approach to life is better: to be well versed in all aspects of life, not just a few and the rest just idleness.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

17 February 1956 “Waste Not Want Not, A New Movie and Composer, The BREAD Quest”

womanwithbread I have started baking more of my own bread. It has been something I have wanted to work into my normal weekly routine. So, since this has been happening the past two weeks, I have not bothered to buy any new bread. Then, this morning, as I was retrieving the homemade bread (this one is a whole wheat bread, recipe below) I realized I had somehow forgot to remove the leftover store-bought bread in a bag in the bottom of my large tin bread bin.

I took it and and there was a bit of mold, so I simply took a knife, cut off that bit and tossed it into the yards for the birds and proceeded to cut up the rest into little chunks. I put it back into its original bag and popped it into the fridge to use. I figured, I will make a meat loaf tonight and can use that as filler.

This was all a simple little act that took not much decision and a few seconds of my morning. But, in the middle of it I was suddenly struck by what I was doing. I imagined myself a year ago, 1955, first learning and just getting my toes wet into the ‘ways of the Homemaker’. I think it very nice that such things are more natural or second nature. Really, it took very little more time that just tossing it away and it also made me think ,”How shall I use it? Stuffing? Filler? Croutons?” and that helped me to cement my dinner menu plans.

The old me would have tossed it without thinking. I sometimes shudder when I think of the amount of waste I used to create. It isn't’ even an issue of ‘being green’, but really just common sense. Even if bread is cheap and readily available at any store, why should I toss out any good bread and have to spend more money? But, we modern people, as a whole (I know most of you, my readers, are very smart Homemakers that could probably teach me a thing or two and believe me, I would be glad for the lesson)but as a whole we are a wasteful lot.

Now, I don’t want to go off on some tangent about how we are such bad modern people and we should do this or that. I just really thought it an interesting observation I had while about my ‘busy’ work this morning in my kitchen. I am often finding myself going along as if I have always lived this way and then little memories of ‘before 1955’ slip in and I think, “Wow, I have come a long way”.  I am still amazed at how completely we can change our view and actions. Persistence, determination, work seem to result in real change. That makes me feel good and more in control of my life.

Yesterday the 16th, here in 1956, the movie Carousel opened.

This Rodgers and Hammerstein play had great success on the stage and this was it’s film debut staring Gordon MaCrae and Shirley Jones.

Today, The Second Symphony of Chilean composer Juan Orrego-Salas receives its world premiere in Minneapolis, Minn. I could not find the second symphony, but this is nice and you can hear both the discordant sound of a ‘modern’ composition, but mingled with a sweet promise of the piano that seems to me often true of the 1950’s. The shattered way in which it came about from the war, the continued rationing, housing shortage and yet the promise and hope of a new tomorrow.

 craftmag56 This 1956 Craft Horizons magazine from this month, ‘56, seems so modern. The organic shapes and the lightness of material could easily be seen in any up market shop or gallery today.


As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have been on a sort of ‘Bread Quest’, making and trying every recipe for bread I can get my eager little fingers on. As with most things I have discovered from 1955, once you just try a thing, just set aside the modern notion of, “Oh, when I have time” or “Well, when I get around to it I  will…” and fill in the blank. That was me very often. Now, I often find myself saying I want to try something and then the modern me might chime in and say, “well, after this or that” and then I turn and say to that part of me, “Now, come one. No time like the present, just get in there and do it!” I often have to be rather stern with myself, but I do learn in the end and anyway, my reward is a warm piece of bread!

Well, this ‘Bread Quest lead me to the recipe. It was a whole wheat bread and was really dense and wonderful, but it did not rise properly. I was not familiar with this form of bread recipe and was confused by its directions to make the ‘sponge’ and wait until it was bubbly.

Well, the sponge was the yeast and some white flour and warm water set in a warm place “ ‘till bubbly and light” which is certainly open for much interpretation. The recipe was rather vague about directions and it’s method called the yeast flour mixture a ‘sponge’ and I think I did not let that get ‘bubbly’ enough. It did get a little bubbly, and the this was a ‘no-knead’ bread, so I already felt as if I was cheating somehow. It did rise, but I don’t think I let it rise enough. However, the resluting little dense rectangular loaf was lovely!

My hubby even told me he shared half a slice with a co-worker who was eyeing his lunch. This happens a lot to hubby and he often gets a few people anxiously asking, “Oh, what did you get today?” recalling days of childhood sat at long tables littered with little brown bags and trading of Twinkies and ho-ho’s with the kid whose mother ‘baked’. The coworker took a bite, looked at hubby and said, “This is the best bread I have ever eaten”.

woman with sliced bread This made me smile, because I certainly knew it was NOT the best bread I have ever baked and I really have only been baking bread a few months total. I would sporadically try it in 1955, but was often left telling myself my 1955 counterpart would have happily filled her cart at the new Grocery stores with sliced bread. Even the saying, ‘better than sliced bread’ told of the greatness of the enriched pre-made loaves of the day. But, I digress…

The bread, though not properly risen, was good.

Here it is.wholewheatbread It is a sad little rectangle loaf, but really good. It made me think of images I had seen of the ‘national loaf’ they had used in the UK during the war which was made from potato flour and was suppose to be in taste, similar to cardboard. Mine, however, was really good.

Here is the recipe I used:

1 c. warm water
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 env. yeast
1/4 c. hot water
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. shortening, melted
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
Mix hot water with brown sugar and shortening and cool to lukewarm.
Mix first 5 ingredients and beat until smooth. Set in warm place, free of drafts, until light and bubbly.
Add the lukewarm mixture to the sponge and mix well. Add the whole wheat flour and beat smooth, but do NOT knead. Place in one greased loaf pan and let rise until double in bulk. Bake at 350 degrees about 45-50 minutes.
As this is a sponge type of dough, be careful not to move or shake the pan while rising.

So, I began, as I often do, to do some research. What was this ‘sponge’ of which the recipe spoke? So, I did some research and found an answer in another bread I have been wanting to try: Sourdough Bread.

Now, the making of bread for me has a three fold directive. First, I enjoy it. The making of food, I have found, is not unlike the creative process in a studio or art class. It is both tactile and cerebral. Secondly, the taste is far superior to anything I can buy and the quality is good and healthy as I know what is going into the food. And, finally, cost effective. I often find homemade can mean less money. Yet, with bread, the cost of each loaf would always be so highly affected by the cost of yeast, it does not seem to come cheap. So, with my research into the infamous bread “sponge”, my piqued interest in the realm of sourdough, I found the answers to both those questions.

First, the SPONGE: this is for all intents and purposes a bowl of warm fermented batter. Setting a bowl of this ‘sponge’ in a warm place to let it ferment or ‘proof’ is what was needed for my bread recipe. It was not clear about the time and I see now I did not let it ‘proof’ long enough. It can take only an hour or two or up to 6-8!

Now, my sponge was made by using store bought yeast added to flour and warm water. As I researched the sponge I found I had stumbled onto sourdough bread making. Wonderful, one path hooks to another trail I had hoped to follow ( I find this happening a lot in homemaking skills).

Now, I love sourdough bread and really had no idea what it was made from. I assumed, sour milk? Well, I was wrong. The wonderful thing is you make sourdough bread with a ‘sponge’ and the ‘sponge’ is a living thing you create and keep and feed. The best part is, you don’t need to start with store bought yeast.

Basically, from what I understand, it is a cup of warm water and flour and then over a few days your ‘feeding’ it gives you the starter that you then can keep and use and add to forever! This was an exciting find. This would and could help in overall cost and also be rather fun. Like a little helper, quietly growing in my icebox.

So, I have not made this sourdough starter to make my ‘sponge’ as of yet, but it is the next bread quest. I shall share my results and pictures of it and if it works, I may have a new little friend around the house, my little ‘starter’ happily residing in an old crock in my ice box that I can occasionally feed.

It really does begin to bring you closer to our connection with food. We modern people really are separated from the source and chemistry of what we eat. It is probably good we are, because when we begin to look at what is in what we actually eat, all the store bought pre-made, it can be a bit disconcerting. I am not sure, in this case, if ‘ignorance is bliss’. But, just as keeping your own chickens, gathering those eggs and using them makes a connection and a realization between animal and food, so to does bread making. I begin to see how with a small arsenal of flour, butter, eggs, milk etc you have the key ingredients to so many things. At one point in our distant past, this was our arsenal of food. We needed food, we didn’t just want to eat the grass and raw kill, so we, (We women I might add!) began to mix and meld and create. Food was born. Dishes made and created. The fresh smells of bread and food cooking, the very basic nurturing scent that makes all of us, close our eyes, inhale and think, “Ahhhhh”.

Forget aromatherapy candles and odd bamboo sticks sat in glass bottles filled with odd oils to soothe your frazzled nerves. Take two minutes to throw together an easy bread recipe (This one is good) and when it begins to rise and then bake, grab that magazine, a cuppa and sit back and let the relaxation begin.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

13 February 1956 “My ‘New’ Best Friend, Dress Planning and Some Recipes”

I would like to introduce you all to my new best friend:singer5001 singer500 Isn’t she a beauty? Since my sewing machine breakdown in January (which resulted in my borrowing a friend’s machine so I could do my January Dress Challenge.) I began researching the ultimate Vintage Machine.
In my research I found that the Singers up until the mid 1960’s were all steel work horses made in the USA.
I had at first thought to get the coveted Singer 401.singer401 These were from the mid 1950’s and are a coveted work horses. It’s abilities to sew through layers of leather and heavy sailcloth, the strong steel construction and the amount of various feet for different jobs keep that at around $300.00 or so in good condition on eBay ( or cheaper if you are lucky to find one locally at a yard sale!) I began to see the 500, which was called the “ROCKETEER”. I found, for some reason, that these tended to sell for less, despite the fact that they are the same machine inside and out (though I actually like the exterior Design of the Racketeer) and that it has a few more stitch abilities than the 401.
I had been squirreling away money here and there from grocery shopping and my ‘weekly allowance’ (I do the books for our marriage and give, based on my budget, a weekly ‘allowance’ of cash to hubby and I to spend or save for ‘niceties’ as we like). I finally came across a 500 at an incredible price (they are usually around the $200 range on eBay) with all the feet, the cams(that let you do different stitches etc) and original instruction booklet. So, I ordered it and have been waiting patiently for a week. I have even kept my mouth shut here on the blog and the forums, as I did not want to talk about it until it was in my hands!
I have to say, so far, I am not disappointed. It is a beautiful machine. I read an article that said to get a modern machine of this quality and abilities today would be around $2000.00. And to think my machine was made around 1950/60 and it still works wonderfully is a lot to say about its construction. There is not ONE plastic part. IT is all steel built in the USA. Even the feet are of such quality metal it feels as if they may have used silver in their makeup (they have the feel of an old quarter compared to a modern quarter).
You can really see why a homemaker of yesterday really appreciated her sewing machine. This machine was the top of the line in its day and would have been close to 1400 dollars, so would have been a major investment like a car. But, when you consider what you could do with it. There was no Old Navy to go to, so clothes handmade were a savings as were house goods, as curtains, tablecloths, you name it. We are lucky today to have at our disposal the well made wonderful machines of yore to be had at affordable prices. The sewing machine was really a tool that gave a woman endless creative outlet as well as the power to clothe her family and dress her home and anything her little heart could desire. An entire art school/studio space all rolled into a few pounds of steel!
Besides basic stitching, there are endless ‘specialty’ stitches for decorative as well as bindings etc. I was also lucky to get all the feet it came with as well as a specialty foot for embroidery, that I am very excited about. Though I have only tried it a bit, I think it will really be a great way to do pockets and decorations on aprons, skirts pillows etc. I also can envision some fabric art happening. Here it is, you can see it has a little spring and a guide to help hold things in place. embroideryfoot I really just  did a little filling in for practice, but it works wonderfully. The little foot bed under the needle raises up for embroidery work and for darning of socks/sweaters any thing that needs mending (there is even a mending setting which shows how much this type of machine would mean to a homemaker).
Here are two feet that I am excited to try: First is the Binder Foot.binderfoot (click to enlarge) this is a wonderful attachement, as it not only makes a folded roll hem, but you can feed bias tape over the edge as well. This allows for there to be a finished hem edge of bias tape with a decorative stitch if you wish. Wonderful possibilities for this.
The second foot is the Ruffler foot: rufflerfoot This contraption looks like something out of science fiction. Here are the wonders it can make: Ruffles (obviously, hence the name)rufflerfoot2 And these lovely pleats:rufflerfoot3 I have made a few skirts with simple pleats, but I had to hand pin all of them. I also think the second picture with the ‘group pleating’ would make a lovely Valence/Pelmet for a curtain topper, don’t you think?
I promise myself to slowly learn the intricacies of this machine. Right now my sewing skills involve, sewing a straight stitch back and forth. I have never even used a zipper foot (just the standard foot, but looking at the zipper foot, I can see how much easier it shall be). This also came with a wonderful Buttonholer, which seems an interesting machine. But, I want any of you out there who have not sewn before to realize, you can do it. I have had NO ONE teach me to use the machine. I have taught myself the simple things I can now do with it, yet have made dresses and skirts and aprons for myself. I want, know with my wonderful Singer ROCKETEER, to be able to make curtains and slipcovers and better tailored clothes with details etc.
In fact the first ‘challenge’ with my machine is to use the Ruffler foot to so pleats in my February Dress Challenge and to also make ruffles and make myself a new bathroom curtain. I shall share, of course, the success or failures and the ‘how to’ with you.
For my February Dress Challegne (as I want to keep them somewhat simple how-to’s for beginners, as that is what I am) will be taking a men’s shirt, here I bought this lovely chocolate brown one for 5 dollars at a local shop.brownshirt and these few yards of this lovely pink and brown cotton.pinkbrownfabric Here, for scale, you can see the print and the shirt cuff together.pinkbrownfabric2 So, my plan is to take the shirt and the fabric and make a dress. I will add darts to the shirt as need be to make it ‘fitted’ and the skirt will be hemmed and attached to the shirt. And to tie the dress together I will take excess pink fabric and either add to the shirts cuffs or collar and possibly a pocket square. IF it turns out is should be similar to this.shirtwaist1 I could even shorten the sleeves, as they have them here  and add the skirt trim as the shirt cuffs.shirtwaist3 Here you can see a darling belt. I might make one with the pink fabric and can use one of the buckles I got in my goodies from Ann’s Estate Sale.  So, I am hoping this turns out. I think if it does, I will be scouring resale shops for nice men’s shirts and can have an arsenal of easy to wear clothes for ‘daywear’ or even good ‘housedresses’.
Now, onto some cooking.
fannie farmer
I have often referred to  and used my Boston Cooking School Cookbook in 1955 and this year as well. My copy is from early 50’s but I just found online HERE that this original book is free to read online! You should check it out.
Last night I made my own soup invention. “What Came First Soup” Hubby named it, as it is egg drop soup with chicken in it, so both the chicken and the egg.
“what came first soup” (named by hubby)whatcamefirstsoup
4 cups chicken broth, divided (so easy to make your own broth by boiling chicken-even better with bone in-in water, add spices, then you have the chicken and broth to make the soup.
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
chopped and cooked in butter garlic ( a few cloves)
(This is REALLY good with chives, but I had none in the house)
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt and Pepper to taste (about 1/4 –1 tsp each)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 eggs
cooked chicken

  1. Reserve 3/4 cup of chicken broth, and pour the rest into a large saucepan. Stir the salt, ginger, garlic, broccoli  into the saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil. In a cup or small bowl, stir together the remaining broth and cornstarch until smooth. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together using a fork. Drizzle egg a little at a time from the fork into the boiling broth mixture. Egg should cook immediately. Once the eggs have been dropped, stir in the cornstarch mixture gradually until the soup is the desired consistency. Pouring the egg through the fork gives it the long strands you see in restaurant egg drop soup. I usually give a good stir to the pot to get it going in a circular motion and then pour the eggs through the fork.
I served this with these lovely biscuits. They rise so wonderfully. I can’t even remember where I got the recipe, but it is a great one, so give it a try. I take the extra dough when I make these and roll sugar into them and shape scones and brush them with cream and sprinkle sugar and they make a great breakfast scone as well. biscuits2
Best Biscuits
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/3 cup Butter (5 1/3 TBS)
  • 1 cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually stir in milk until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
  3. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead 15 to 20 times. Pat or roll dough out to 1 inch thick. Cut biscuits with a large cutter or juice glass dipped in flour. Repeat until all dough is used. Bake on a paper lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges begin to brown.
So, I hope you are ready for some new sewing challenges ladies! Until next time, keep those aprons on and march into ACTION!
 Search The Apron Revolution