Monday, January 10, 2011

10 January 1957 “Gay Little Dots, Spritz Cookies, and The Art of the Book Continues”

armstrongad I thought I would start today with this lovely ad from my 1956 Better Homes and Gardens. It is for an Armstrong floor. First of all, to some it might see a bit ‘icky’ perhaps like something someone grew up with and loathed. To me it has a very Doris Day movie set feel.
There are two things I love about this ad: First I really adore that floor! A lovely 50’s Grey (not the bland darkened sad sea gray we see so often today. I believe Pam at calls it Graige-which it is!) I am sure this is that grey I often see if fabrics, lampshades, upholstery on vintage items, somewhere between a fine men’s flannel suiting (think The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit) and a soft bunny. Now add to this good background pink and blue and white dots and you are in heaven. Well, at least I would be in Heaven. I was thinking how lovely this would be with robins egg blue (as pictured) but still punctuated with Reds and Butter yellows. It could be a dream. And those swirly brackets might seem rather Three’s company (decade’s away) I think they are rather fun. If we decorate with things that might not seem ‘in’ but are joyous to us, then we never have to change them or feel we aren’t quite ‘keeping up’. There is much to be said about consistency and constancy. Particularly in today’s rapid changing world where even our phones are not expected to live out the year!
Now, the second think I love about this ad is the word ‘gay’. I have tried, here and there, to incorporate more 50’s words into daily usage. My favorite is the word, “fine”. If you pay attention to speech in movies from the 30’s to the 50’s you will often hear things such as:“Well, fine, just fine” for something being good, or alright or ‘cool’.
Therefore, the use of the word ‘Gay’ to mean fun, happy, darling I am trying to bring back. When I was young the term “Gay” meant two things, one being a person with that life choice OR mostly to young kids, dumb or stupid. Such as, “Those pink legwarmers are so Gay, you should get the neon green” or some such. You get the idea.
Now when I read in my books, magazines or see on my TV (which is no tv at all but simply old shows sometimes played or old commercials) the word “gay” it means the polar opposite. It is fun, wonderful.
“What a lovely gay print that fabric is, won’t it make darling curtains?” And so on.
So, to all you vintage lovers out there, why not try to re-introduce the word for its original meaning and see how many people join you after awhile.
spritzcookies These don’t look that amazing, but they were rather good. Yesterday I used one of my Christmas gifts, my cookie press, and made some spritz cookies.xmasgifts3 I love these cookies and always have. My own mother used to make these in every concievable shape and style and had them dipped in chocolate or coated in bright sugars. They were the perfect tea cookie for bridge parties, teas and holidays. I recall getting to help turn the dial on the press when I was young. Of course, I never learned to make the cookies, as I never learned any Homemaking skills. I believe my mother just thought it was a different time (the 80’s) and I didn’t need to know. So, I never bothered.
I am glad to say they are rather easy to make and a joy to create. My head is spinning with the ideas of ways to make these cookies. There is a thin and ridged disc that makes long thin cookies great for dipping or for halves to sandwich cream frosting in between. I imagine gay little pistachio flavored green cookies (ah ha, see ‘gay’ meaning darling, I told you…)and robins egg blue half dipped in dark chocolate. Oh, the cookies I shall make.
Here is the Recipe I used from my Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book.spritzcookies2
bookpagedraft5 Now, as you may or may not know, a big part of this year for me is Art & Craft. This month and next I have set myself the task to create, write, and illustrate a children’s book. I showed a few sketches before. This is a sample page. It is not done, by any means, but you can see the various layers. The little girl, Imogen, needs more layers as does the background. This scene will have flowers, fence, building and of course, the Hen, Buttons. I was excited to find the font I would like to use, as you can see here in the sample text, as it is a very classic children’s book text.
I cannot help but be influenced by the art and children’s illustrations of the 1950’s. In fact, I want to be, my only fear is that I am so immersed into it, it will only seem derivative of that time rather than original work. We shall see what we shall see. But, I really enjoy the process and style and I love working with colors. So, all round for me, it is fun but VERY challenging. There is much that goes into a book such as this, but since I have made sure that some part of each day goes to it, I hope to follow through with this first big Art & Craft task.
Again, let me know what you think. This is not a finished page by any means. It needs many more layers but I know some of you have wanted to see the process of build up of how I work, so there you go.
I hope all are having a lovely day and Happy Homemaking.


  1. That kitchen is to die for!
    I have been collecting ideas to renovate our little kitchen and this one is going in the pile as reference. That dot floor has snagged my attention, most definitely.

    The children's book illustrations are simply wonderful! I cannot wait to see the finished product!


  2. Of the flooring ad: I am really more in love with all of the fresh, clean whites of the dining set! Ads must be lost on me, as, usually, I notice the items they are not trying to sell.
    "Life Skills," as homemaking skills were called when I was in jr. high and high school not 10 years ago, were a joke. We had no choice early on, then, as an elective, students enrolled for an easy A. The very sad thing, to me, is that I wanted to learn in Life Skills and Fashion (sewing class.) Yet I was surrounded by loud, obnoxious clowns who disrupted the teachers; nothing ever got done. We may have made a pie at some point of the cooking lessons, but I may only be imagining that. "Life Skills" and possibly Fashion no longer exist in the school from which I graduated. Sad.
    Imogean is absolutely adorable! I cannot help but see her as a mini-50s Gal. Quite darling.

  3. I just love the camel cookie shaper ('stencil'?)! of course, i'd eat a spritz cookie in any shape!!

  4. I was a child in the mid-60's, and I remember that a first grade spelling word was "gay", a word I'd never heard before. My teacher said it meant "jolly". So when a new neighbor moved in, I told her about who else lived in our neighborhood, and said, "You'll like Mr. G., he's very gay!" The poor lady almost dropped her teeth. It was years before I understood why.

  5. The kitchen photo reminds me of a lovely tea garden. I wish I could have something like this for my own kitchen but my husband would faint at the sight of it! His worst nightmare is that I will decorate the whole house in flowers and polka dots. I'm introducing feminine details bit by bit.

    My own family and consumer sciences class (aka Home Ec.) was about 10 years ago and I learned so little. The only requirement was to sew a pair of pajama pants. We didn't learn any cooking skills and only used the kitchens for "Free Cook Fridays". I remember it being a lot of sitting around and the teacher at her desk doing as she pleased. I wanted to learn sewing so bad and still do, so now I have to teach myself.

  6. We put Armstrong floor tiles in our new kitchen. Black and white, not a "gay" print as in the ad. My look is more a modern take on a 1930's farmhouse. This floor is wonderful and I hope it comes "back" in style because it offers more options than the standard hardwood that's shown in decorating magazines and much kinder on the feet and back than ceramic tile.

    I wasn't even offered home ec, only "shop", which I can say taught me very little in the way of managing a home. My mother was smart and knew I'd need these skills. She enrolled me in basic sewing and cooking classes in addition to teaching me herself. It's crazy basic life skills aren't taught formally in the schools or informally at home very often anymore. We're just supposed to pick up this common sense? And from where? The Disney channel?? Arg!!!!

  7. there are so many words in the english language that i long to return to their original meaning!!

  8. Your illustration is lovely!

    I totally understand the feeling you are having, because you are so influenced by a specific time period. I think that is something I struggle with, not in my art, but just in life in general. I tend to be so obsessed with the last 50's and early 60's, I tend to only know how to style (myself and my house) in that manor. I would like to start blend more vintage looks, and even some more modern (if it strikes me) into my life, but it is hard to know where to begin!

  9. Charming and lovely. I love the style. And I will buy it for my sister's five year old twins. I can easily translate it while reading it for them. It is charming that the story is about your own hen. Have fun with the work, and please do share more pictures. :)

  10. I adore that kitchen and dining area. Thanks for sharing it with us. I so miss my cookie press. I rue the days that I thought I needed to go all modern with everything. I had such nice vintage stuff from actually living in your time frame. Now I'm working to get back to the 50's again when life was so pleasant. I graduated high school in '62. Back then all the girls took home ec, and we did learn to cook, bake, and sew. The boys took shop. It's a shame that young people aren't taught the common sense skill any more.
    I'm really loving where you're going with Imogene and your book.

  11. What about teenages, what did they wear and how did they wear their hair, girls mostly (my daughter is in the high school production of Bye Bye Birdie) and want to get ideas about them. Thank you.


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