Thursday, July 28, 2011

28 July 1957 “The Efficiency of a Small 1950’s Kitchen”

Since I have been dealing with Real Estate agents (after trying to decide if we should use an agency rather than sell our home ourselves) I have begun to appreciate the smaller kitchen more. The current trend is a large kitchen which is rather ironic when one considers how little cooking actually goes on in there. It is a sort of ‘keeping up with the Jones’’ sort of room, I suppose.

Our kitchen is very tiny. It was redone sometime in the 1950s in an add-on or ‘ell’ (as we call them here in New England) that was added on sometime at the end of the 1800’s. The room is a tiny square that serves as laundry room, kitchen, mudroom, pantry and scullery all in one. I do quite a bit of cooking. All of the food is prepared here, as is our laundry done and food and extra items stored. So, I appreciate a well organized and thought out small kitchen.

victoriankitchen Before the 1950’s and at the end of the Victorian age, Kitchens were larger. Homes, for the most part, were larger as well. This was because there had to be room for extended family (Grandmother and unmarried aunts filled attic rooms where servants once slept) and of course that had to be room for the live in, as they were more a staple of middle class homes then. There needed to be room to cook and feed large families (Often breakfast being eat in the kitchen). Even farmhouses needed their large kitchens to feed big families and various farm hands.

50shouse When the 1950’s post war building boom began in the USA, small homes just made sense. Old farm land was converted to ‘neighborhoods’ and endless little homes popped up with one bath 2-3 bedrooms and a small square little kitchen. This served families of up to 5 children quite comfortably. And, without the added help of servants and extended family, all the cooking fell to the homemaker. So, she needed as much efficiency as possible. Luckily she had all the new gadgets her ancestors did not have, dishwashers, laundry machines, mixers and blenders, electric stoves and griddles. Of course, she was now utterly alone in there as great aunt Ermintrude, whom never married, and Grandma weren’t there to help peel the potatoes, wash the pots and pans and generally ‘help out’.

Thus, small was the norm and efficiency had to be born out of basic builder’s ideas of how a kitchen should be made up. Builders were, for the most part, men. And for the most part in the 1950’s men saw very little of the kitchen, so you can imagine the homemaker often had to ‘tut tut’ her new found kitchen and set about making it more workable.

I have shared these ideas and re-dos of old smaller 50’s kitchens before. I really liked this one. I thought it ingenious how they slanted a counter into the space to give more working area.


kitchenremodel1 Here is the synopsis of what they did.

kitchenremodel3 The before lay out, again a builder’s square kitchen. kitchenremodel4 And the wonderful redo, which makes so much sense and really almost adds a fifth wall by slanting the counter with the sink.kitchenremodel5 I also love the color scheme. We have talked before how the pale blue, or pale green, butter yellow or canary yellow and pinks with reds were the primary colors of 1950’s decorating schemes. Here we see the three used in harmony to the point that the curtains are a representation of these colors in three solid swaths of material. A great way to tie it all in.

kitchenremodel6 Here are various ingenious storage solutions. I also love the small separate ice box and freezer, so much smarter than these monstrosities foisted upon us today in the guise of a refrigerator.kitchenremodel7 A place for everything…kitchenremodel8 and everything in its place.

This article also includes wonderful detailed building instructions that I would like to share on tomorrows post. Would you like to see that? How do you feel about smaller kitchens? If you are in an apartment or small home and haven’t the room for larger, these are wonderful solutions. And remember, bigger is not always better, in many respects.

Happy Homemaking.

Monday, July 25, 2011

25 July 1957 “Pizza the 1950’s Way”

pizza1 I thought I would share this fun recipe and how to from one of my vintage magazines. It is from a 1955 edition.

I have been so very busy with the house and showing it and other things, that I have fallen a little behind in my posts. I hope you enjoy this and why not give it a try. You can see that Pizza, a relatively new concept in 1950’s, was hardly the over cheesed extra topping large meal we are familiar with today. pizza10

pizza2 pizza3 pizza4 pizza6pizza7pizza5   pizza8 pizza9 

Enjoy and Happy Homemaking.

Friday, July 22, 2011

22 July 1957 “Tenant Drama Continues, A Trip to the Farmer’s Market, and a Cookout”

Yesterday was our court date. We, hubby and I, had to go to continue the process of evicting our derelict tenants. We figured, as would have been the norm, that they would not show up for the day. They have no case as we are evicting on the grounds of non-payment. It has now been over 4 months since we have seen any sort of rent from them.

At first we had to sit through all the criminal cases, which were quite interesting. As we assumed, there was no sign of our tenants. Then, just as they began to announce that they were to next move onto the civil cases, a full hour after our scheduled time, one of the tenants shows up. She saunters in an hour late and still manages to get there on time.

I had to say, listening to some of the other tenant issues before we were called up were really bad. One couple hadn’t paid for seven months and they told the judge, “Well, there were bed bugs and mold”. The landlord said, “We sprayed the complex for bed bugs three months ago”. Then they countered with, “Well, he doesn’t seem to care that the microwave electrocuted our daughter”. The judge said, “Was she seriously hurt, did she have to go to the hospital?” They said, “No, it was just a shock”.

The judge then proceeded to tell them, “Look you have to pay rent or get out.” The landlord said, “If they get out in 10 days, by the end of July, we will waive any un-paid fees”. They said no and the judge them gave them until the end of August, so they have another free month rent.

What was interesting about this couple was later, when we were waiting to meet with a mediator (the judge had all the cases concerning tenants go through the mediator and then back to him) we heard this couple bragging to another couple in the waiting area about new tattoos! They were showing a large one on his arm and he said, ‘Yeah, and the wife just got this one” and he shows a large one on the back of her neck. Now, how is it that they can pay hundreds of dollars for that but not any rent? And if their microwave really is unsafe for their daughter, how about using that money to buy a new one, since a landlord is not required to provide a microwave, just an oven/stove. It was amazing how much of the “It’s not my fault” attitude that so many people have. Do they not realize the landlords also have to pay to live somewhere as well? That no one is allowing them to just live for free and do as they please? There is so little actual rights to private property in this country any longer, it was quite sad.

The good news was that due to our mediation, our tenant agreed to pay back the $5800 in back rent $200 a month. Of course we realize we won’t see any of this money, but as part of this bargain she relinquished any rights to get a 10 day extension. She agreed to get out by Aug 1 (and we can now have a sheriff remove her 48 hours after that if she has not done so) and she is required to move all of her own belonging with anything left considered abandoned and we are allowed to throw it out. We were really concerned as our state also has laws that may have required us to pay for a moving company and a storage company for them! All in all it turned out better than we hoped. Of course we are still out months of rent, we will have to pay for a dumpster to removed all the things they will leave (such as old sofas in the yard and so on). It is really hard to be a landlord in my state.

On Wednesday, however, I had a lovely day out. It was nice to have a good day before yesterdays ordeal of tenant drama. A friend and I went to the Farmer’s Market in Hyannis, a town about half an hour away from where I live further down Cape.

farmersmarket1Here I am, ready for the day in a new skirt I whipped up that day. It matched my favorite summer handbag.farmersmarket2My friend (not my vintage friend but also a lovely vintage dresser when we get together) looked cool and fresh in summer yellow with her trusty vintage rattan Summer handbag.

Hyannis is the main town on Cape Cod. It is the largest and therefore we figured its Farmer’s market would be larger than our own respective towns of Sandwich and Dennis. We were wrong. It was quite small. And two of the vendors were from farms here in my town of Sandwich.

farmersmarket3I still purchased some of their lovely beets though. Look at those amazing colors of orange and purple.farmersmarket6Another vendor from my ‘neck of the woods’ is the Jam Kitchen. Here you can see some of there selection including cherry and of course beach plum, a Cape Cod specialty. beachplum The Rosehips of the Rosa Rugosa, or Beach plum are wonderful for jams and can be cooked and even made into teas. beachplumrose The flowers are a single row of petals rather than the fuller look of hybrid or tea roses. They are lovely, though, and are often seen dotting the beaches and dunes as well as a favorite yard plant along with the hydrangea and day lily. They grow like weeds here and are the easiest rose to manage, very resistant to insects, mold and so on.

 farmersmarket7Of course there was a lobster vendor. farmersmarket8And I loved the name of this Farm: “Not Enough Acres”. Believe you me, I know how they feel.

     farmersmarket9 There were lovely homemade pies and sweets.

A funny story was that my friend and I had lunch at one of our favorite little places here in Hyannis, Common Ground. The inside of the restaurant is so quaint and rather like a Hobbit House, with real tree branches and logs making up the seats with booths like little cottages with roof and windows!commongroundcommonground1  commonground2 commonground3

They make the best food all from scratch and we often choose this place as the fun go to place for lunch when in Hyannis. They make a wonderful double oatmeal maple cookie with maple cream filling. After our lunch, we decided to forgo the treat, in case there was something more tempting at the market. And, thank goodness, they too had a booth at the Farmer’s Market, so we ended the day with the cookie after all.

farmersmarket4 Here it is happily awaiting our appetites as our Summer Purses look on.farmersmarket5 Look at that lovely filling, it is large enough for both of us to share.

At the end of the day, relaxed and home again, I decided to cook some chicken and veg on the fire. We don’t have a traditional barbeque. I don’t like cooking over propane and much prefer charcoal or wood. Wood, is of course, my favorite form of outdoor cooking heat. We have a little outdoor fireplace we made with dry-stacked bricks from our property. We often enjoy fires here and I simply place a grate over the top, after I get a good hot coal going. The wood (which you can also get fruit woods or mesquite woods to throw on the fire as well) imparts wonderful flavor to whatever you cook on it.

bbqchicken The chicken turned out wonderful. I used barbeque sauce and though it looks quite dark, is how I prefer to cook it. The skin, when this shade, is so crispy yet holds the juiciness and taste of the fire, wood, and sauce. I also cook some freshly cut zucchini and squash as well as onions and peppers. And a tomato plucked from the vine and a few snips of basil from the pots of herbs on the terrace mixed with olive oil, salt and pepper made for an easy but delicious summer cook out.barbqchicken Can’t you just taste that Summer flavor?

I hope all are having a lovely day and as always, Happy Homemaking.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

20 July 1957 “She Sews For The Whole Family”

sewingfamily1 Today I thought I would shared this article in my McCall’s Magazine about a lovely homemaker who sews.sewingfamily2

“This pretty, young California housewife taught herself to sew “very Badly” she says, in her teens, because she couldn’t afford to buy the clothes she wanted. Now she’s an accomplished seamstress who thinks nothing of turning out a dress in a day and a half. Sewing has become a creative outlet for Mrs. Witter. She not only made the clothes she models here, but runs up sports shirts for her husband, Jere, an editor on the San Francisco Chronicle, and coats and dresses for four year old Ann. She often tackles slip covers and curtains too.

While she was working as a receptionist for a California couturier, before her marriage, Mrs. Witter began to understand the importance of attention to detail and fine finishing in making good clothes. Mrs. Witter, a size 9, ways fitted suits are hardest for her to make, dresses easiest. She works so fast she can make clothes as needed instead of planning ahead.

Know what she does for relaxation? She knits-Dresses.”

Here are some more of Mrs. Witter’s triumphs:

sewingfamily3 First off, I adore matching children to mother. I think it is so darling and not sure why it isn’t done anymore. I also really appreciate the simplicity of a 1950’s day dress. Simple fabric with some ric rac. It has an almost more modern simplicity than the complicated various pieces worn by modern people. And I can’t imagine tight knit yoga pants are more comfortable than a cool breezy full skirted cotton dress.

I don’t know when and why it began, but the modern idea is not to go ‘matchy-matchy’. Having ones shoes and bag match your outfit or to have your headband coordinate is seen as un-fashionable. I almost began to wonder if this was to create a sense of not knowing what goes with what else which actually leads to having to buy and own more. If you had say 7 outfits with matching accessories in a similar color story, you could literaly mix and match these outfits to create endless looks. This type of lesson was even once taught with the old Barbie doll. You purchased a doll and then clothes separately and learned to mix and match. Today Barbie Dolls are just an endless supply of the doll with whatever outfit they are wearing. So, even at play level, we are not learning how to really dress and how easily one can have less clothes but look nicer, easier, and without much thought.

sewingfamily4 This is such a darling suit. And again, we see shoes and bag match and hat is in the same color family as the bag. It looks clean and smart and effortless to me. Now compare this with a current trend Boho Chic bohochic Long, almost dangerously so, skirt very low with skin showing. Huge bag weighing down the shoulder. Loose blouse which could not even look crisp if it were ironed. Hair unkempt and rather ‘witchy’ looking when compared with the smart Mrs. Witter above. Yet, both were as easy to slip into, though Mrs. Witter hasn’t any worry of tripping, her midriff showing or, honestly, rather or not she is receiving a text about someone’s day: “I just drank a double mocha” (stop the presses!).

I know fashion and style is each one’s own, but I also think the basic simple rules of matching and coordinating are actually a God send to many people as not all young ladies or gentleman for that matter, really want to care or think about fashion. Yet, with simple rules could look always put together without any effort. But, I fear the days of t-shirst and jeans and sweats are to never end.

Back to Mrs. Witter.sewingfamily5

sewingfamily6 sewingfamily7 What a darling little girl’s dress this is. And, as it states, would look wonderful belted but offers a great range of play motion when simply left unbelted. This is true for Mrs. Witters dress with the blue scarf at the waist. I actually was able to find this type of vintage pattern, where the dress is a simple long tube shape. It gets it’s waist from a belt but is a wonderful cleaning or working round the house dress when left free.

sewingfamily8 This polished cotton looks a dream to wear and yet is really inexpensive. One could easily look as glamorous while just working round the house.sewingfamily9

As some of you may like to source these vintage patterns, you will see the number with each photo, that coincides with the number for the McCall’s pattern. To help with this search I have included this image which shows the basic dress style and the pattern which you buy to make it. Using ebay or other online sources you can often find the original vintage pattern.


 flowerdress1 In my own sewing, this is the latest dress on my dress form. You may recall the navy and pink dress on here last time. That dress has been finished. I will try to remember to get a picture of me in it to share. This fabric is a wonderful floral dotted swiss I found and fell in love with. I felt it was very summery and also very vintage. I wanted to break up the pattern so there will be a band of the turquoise fabric in the center. This is also a good trick for we fuller figured gals, as a solid color emphasizing our smallest area helps to slim the figure. I also think it shows of the floral a bit better as it gives the eye a break before returning to the pattern at the top.

floralfabric  Here is a closer shot of the fabric. I just love that Robin’s egg blue, as many of you know. It is a recurring theme in my clothing and this helps to coordinate various outfits for me. Here, in this close up, you can see the lovely little raised bits in the dotted swiss fabric.floralfabricupclose Here it is up close and you can see the raised bits. In many cases a dotted swiss is sheer and used as an overlay over dresses. I would like to make this but have had trouble finding a sheer dotted swiss and when I do it is always too dear for my pocketbook. This is sheer enough that I shall line the skirt with white muslin.

Here is a very thorough definition of Dotted Swiss:

Dotted swiss is a type of fabric first made on hand looms in Switzerland in 1750. While there are many variations of dotted swiss sold, the original look is always the same: a sheer, lightweight fabric with a dotted motif. The fabric, which is usually cotton batiste or a polyblend, provides the background which is usually a muted or pastel shade such as gray, light pink, or cream. The fabric then has dots applied onto its surface in a number of methods. Single colored or multicolored dots can be woven, flocked, printed, or embroidered, resulting in a temporary or permanent pattern on the fabric.

Dotted swiss is a popular material for constructing a variety of clothing for women and children. They have made appearances in summer dresses, blouses, aprons, curtains, bedspreads, wedding apparel, and baby clothes. The fabric appears fresh and youthful on the person, and it is this timeless quality that makes it a wonderful material for heirloom goods as well.

Notably, dotted swiss can be dated by its dots. The size, arrangement, and method of application all demonstrate the original date of fabrication. For example, the authentic, original dotted swiss is created from cotton batiste, which is a sheer, delicate fabric in a plain weave. The dots are also small.

As a fabric, dotted swiss now comes in a variety of color schemes. The background may be a brighter color or be made from other material such as organza. The dots can be larger in size and printed instead of woven. At retailers, dotted swiss is sold by the yard or as a yardage piece.

The dotted swiss pattern has become very popular, and is not just limited to fabrics. The term dotted swiss has been applied to other things including pottery and cake decorating. In both instances, the term refers to the random arrangement of dots that resemble an actual dotted swiss pattern.

I hope all have a lovely day and as always, Happy Homemaking.

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