Tuesday, May 29, 2012

29 May 1956 “Living My Life and Father Knows Best: Don’t Wear Your Pants So Low”

I have no real reason for my long 13 day absence from my blog. I have to admit to not even using the computer for the past few days. At my last check in I saw that our good follower/friend Sanne noted that we are having Spam on our new Forum. As I am paying monthly to have that forum so as NOT to have spam you can see that is rather frustrating. It was sort of another ‘straw breaking camel’s back’ for me.

I have been, then, simply living my life. Each day has not been any particular year but my own now certain form of timeless living. I still watch no modern media and only read vintage magazines, but most of the day is filled with gardening, planning out a new project for my barn/studio and biking and walking.

Where I live is certainly a Summer Season destination, so you can imagine this time of year it is lovely. The days are warmer but still with a hint of cool sea air. The wooded path where we walk and bike down to the sea is alive with blooming wild jasmine and roses right now. I feel rather transported back in time when wheeling down that lane, my skirts flying and the fragrance of the wild flowers begin to mingle with sharp notes of the sea.

Have I seen to the problem with the forum? No. Have I bothered to research a particular moment and compare and contrast with today? No. I have simply and happily swirled through these days with mornings punctuated by my old percolator popping as I stand on the terrace of the kitchen and dream up my next garden. Or laugh with friends on the rolling lawn of our local tea house, watching the birds play on the waters of the old Mill Pond downtown. An afternoon spent poking around the antique shop, trying on Victorian rings and helping friends try on 1800’s silk bonnets.

I seem to be coming to a point in which I have begun to see the world as it truly is. I can see the funny old professor behind the curtain pulling the strings that manipulate the great and powerful OZ that is our modern world and while it first scared me, it has now brought me to a place of complete neutrality. I feel I have no real power to change the vastness of our world. I, much like many of the masses during the hard times of the past, simply must wait to be swept up into whatever the puppet master chooses to be our next production. In the meantime I want to live.

And the things I am doing and have been learning since 1955 seem to be quite helpful in the changing times. Gardening, cooking, mending, de-cluttering. Even things as simple as selling and donating things once bought at big box stores for the look of it with China stamped on the bottom for one small item that is truly old and has true value. It needn’t be expensive, but whole shelves of cheap knock offs can be worth nothing and can quickly be yard-saled and one nice piece of sterling silver, a pair of sugar tongs say, can replace them. They take up less space. They hold a store of value (as they are sterling and mostly silver) and are also useful. And what fun to polish them and be proud when serving guests tea and asking “One lump or Two” to which the little clawed pincers goes into the sugar bowl and presents the cleverest little claw of sugar.

Yesterday, Hubby had the day off and we worked in the yard. We trimmed out some more trees, though it is rather late to do it, but we have fun. And I finally decided the old lilac, which has been rather sick and gets worse for the wear every year, should go. Its sacrifce gave me not only a flood of light in my little kitchen but literally another sunny area to expand my vegetable/fruit garden. I was excited at the prospect.

“Aren’t you moving?” you might ask, Well we do have our house on the market. But, I am also realizing that we are no where near the bottom of the housing market, despite what is said in the press. (again the professor happily presses the button and the Great Oz Speaks!) and see that what we would want for our home means it might sit here for some time. And that realization also makes me wonder if my future plans should not involve keeping our lovely old home after all. Again, acceptance, realization, prepare, then move on to living and enjoying each day.

I have decided this summer to do some fun art courses. I am going to learn some wheel throwing in ceramic/pottery. This week I will also be going to learn more about encaustic, a very ancient art form where one paints with layers of wax and colors. Again, living my life today as well as appreciating the past.

I am not sure how my posts will change. I do know that I shall be trying to ease back into more daily posting, but I need to emerge from this cocoon of strict past rules and spread my wings of joy and living.

I will close now with this link. I was unable to find a YouTube version but was able to find it on Hulu. It is free, but you will need to watch commercials. I luckily have these shows and many others on old dvds my hubby made for me back in 1955 to ‘watch tv’ as it were then without any modern things breaking in. This episode I found funny and topical as in the late 50’s the fashion of teen boys (not girls though) wearing their dungarees or (Levi’s as they say here, branding) was becoming popular. As was a more casual look for girls when not in school. This episode compares the parents 1920’s youth to the current 1957. It is a good episode and I hope you enjoy it. HERE is the link.

Have a lovely day all and Happy Homemaking.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

16 May 1931 “Women in the Workforce and Austria’s Largest Bank Collapses”

After WWI, the idea of women working was more the norm. Prior to that, of course, the working and servant class always had working women. Domestics were often female, male servants being rather expensive and usually only afforded to the upper classes.

Women in Factories had been happening since prior to the WWI, even in Victorian times, in the working class. Many young girls chose the hard labor over becoming a domestic and thus left the remaining domestics receiving higher wages.

By the end of WWI, women of all class working began to be seen as normal and progress. Though, prior to the 1950’s, most women usually worked until marriage, then giving it up to remain home and raise children. Though many poorer families would still have seen a mother working out of the home when she could, as a domestic or in laundry services and the like. Often the close knit and close quarter living of the time afforded free child care amongst the lower class working mothers. That disappeared after the Suburban exodus of the 1950’s. Women in the workforce was not as focuses upon until the later 60’s and by the 1980’s there was more of the need of economy than any real women’s liberation behind the two working income families.

“According to the 1930 census almost eleven million women, or 24.3 percent of all women in the country, were gainfully employed. Three out of every ten of these working women were in domestic or personal service. Of professional women three-quarters were schoolteachers or nurses.”

Here is an interesting from from the 1930’s showing women in the workforce in New York city. I like this quote from the narrator:

“Unless you have enough money to support yourself the full year, Stay Home,” is the guide for these “Coal town Cinderellas”.

This silent film from 1931 was shown to girls in High Schools at the time. Again, the idea of women working becoming more the norm and even having rather high numbers prior to WWII.

I want to start looking more at working women to compare with today’s mothers and homemakers who are usually forced to work due to the high costs of living we modern people must face.

On May 11 of this year, 1931, The Creditanstalt (Austria's largest bank) goes bankrupt, beginning the banking collapse in Central Europe that causes a worldwide financial meltdown.

This bank was based in Vienna and founded in 1855 by the Rothschild Family, a banking family that is still very strong and powerful today. And though it was very successful it declared bankruptcy on May 11 1931 which resulted in a Global financial crisis. This lead to the bank failures of the Great Depression and was, in fact, a major player in the speculation and misuse in Wall St. in the USA.

Following this bankruptcy the bank was saved both by the Rothschild's (who originally owned it and filed for the bankruptcy) and the The Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) which became the central bank of Austria today, an integral part of both the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) and the Eurozone. Today the banks capital is 12 million Euros. Previously half this money was held by employer and employee organizations and also other banks and insurance corporations. But, since May 2010, all this capital is currently held by the State of Austria.

The more I hop about the past decades the more I see of the little thin almost invisible string that binds the past financial woes with today's. They say as much as some things change so do they stay the same. It seems with the financial troubles and subtle under play of what is really going on behind the scenes, little has changed over the past 100 years. Parties and presidents come and go and arguments and hatred by dividing camps of the masses seem to be the distraction to the reality behind it all, unchanging except by growing in strength and power.

The current ‘dilemma’ or ‘hot topic media story’ happily distracting one from real problems. And reality tv also does the job nicely. I hope we can all begin to look more closely and turn off the media and read a bit of history. The more we divide the more we are conquered. Perhaps we should think of our towns, states, and countries as larger homes we must care for. And in so doing, be the homemakers of the world. And every homemaker knows that we don’t like mud tracked through our clean homes or dirty smoke spoiling the furniture. And we especially don’t like secrets and whispering, for it is very rude, nor do we condone name calling and childish behavior. We need to be the grownups for the new generations, as I feel they haven’t any to look to for guidance.

I hope all have a lovely day and Happy Homemaking.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

8 May 1941 “The Victory Garden”

victoryposter1 I thought today, still poking about the 1940’s, we should look at Victory Gardens. In England Victory Gardens had been going for some time, their entrance into war in 1939, and were quite a serious matter. With much of their food being imported prior to the war, the importance of food was tantamount to everyone planting. And women were even drafted into the Women’s Land Army. Labor being of short supply during war times, many girls, the “land girls” as they came to be known, were sent off to help on the rural farms and estates.

Swan Hotel reception for Land Girls, October 1941

The U.S. had its its own Victory Gardens. Though the threat of actual invasion was never really plausible here and with more than enough farmland to go around, we still needed to provide more food for home so the rest could go overseas with our boys.

Here is a wonderful and fun 20 minute film from 1941 America showing a local family and their change to a Victory Farm.

Though we currently are at war in 2012, we seem to not really speak about it in the same way. In fact, our country is involved in many wars and skirmishes and occupations all over the world, yet for some reason the press and Government has not seen fit to rally our country to a war time status of community and self-reliance. In fact, with the growing climate of increased food costs, loss in jobs and a very shaky economic climate, we are almost an odd amalgam of both the Depression and the War Time years. Now, more than ever, would we all benefit from such government advertising of self reliance and gardening and make do and mend. However, being a complete consumer culture now more than ever, this would not sit well with the major large corporate chains and big box stores and groceries.

However, those of us who do care to pay attention or simply look carefully at our current world, can see a very real need to learn to do more and to grow your own. So, there is much to take to heart today from our WWII homemaking sisters who, much as today’s mothers, had to go out to work as well as run a home, care for children and work to earn.

The main difference, as was seen in the movie above, is that many homes had elder relatives in who could help with day care. We are pre 1950’s mass building and the concept of the new Middle class set out in isolation from the extended family into neat little rows has not as yet happened. So the concept of extended family and more general knowledge in cooking, gardening, and even sewing was already part of the WWII women’s arsenal. And there were many Government printed booklets to help any new to it. There was a general overall support that does not exist today.

And today the working mother has much  more to spend to drive places, while pre 1950’s neighborhoods and towns were much more walking biking friendly. So when there was no petrol for the cars due to the war, it mattered little. Today, however, when one has to work  just to pay the debt on credit cards ,but the shops and the work is at least 20 minutes away, then one HAS to pay the $4 a gallon of gas. We seem to be rather trapped in a way that our Wartime sisters weren’t. They had it bad, for sure, but in many ways they had each other and their community in a way that we no longer even understand. That will hopefully be rectified as more and more people realize that we are not enemies of each other but that to combat high prices and changing environments of economy and such, we need to help each other despite our differences and realize that the camaraderie of failing economy is a great equalizer for us all.

If you haven’t room for a plot of land, there are many veg and even soft fruit you can grow in containers on balconies or even in window boxes. I came across a miniature tomato the other day that stays small enough to be in a window box, but bears cherry sized tomatoes all summer. So, don’t plant flowers in those boxes, plant herbs and tomatoes!

onions1 And some veg, like my onions here, can do double duty. As we had such a mild winter, my yellow onions wintered over so nicely, that I simply moved them to the border of my little garden where I will have edible flowers and herbs.

onion2 While the onion flowers are not as bright and purple pink as a chive flower, they are still none the less quite lovely. They will be a wonderful white and chartreuse. And, as a perennial now along the border of my veg beds, will be a showy and edible plant. Though the bulbs will not be large and worth digging up, as the energy is going into the seeds rather than the bulb, the stems and flowers are still edible like a chive. And I rather like them in arrangements and in salads both. Now that is Victory garden double duty, a bit of brightness at dreary times and then, plop, onto the dinner plate to eat right up!

Pots on roof decks or balconies in cities can certainly grow many food items and I even recall sharing this idea with an apartment dwelling follower a few years ago.guttergarden HERE is the site where this family did just that. One could easily do this on the railings of a deck in an apartment or the walls on the deck. A kind landlord might even allow them along the outer walls of a south facing apartment building. Say you will share your harvest with the Super and you might get a green light on the idea! Again, community sharing and coming together, we can’t all do it alone. Our War time sisters knew this and they worked together helping neighbors and friends out as they could.

Of course, keeping chickens became more important during the War years. Not only did it provide eggs and meat, but much needed manure for compost for the veg garden. The cycle of growth and the importance of living within the cycle of nature was right at your doorstep, even in cities.

vegbed1 Here you can see one of my new veg beds this year. I did four. I took some old 2 x 8’s I had lying about and made four beds. Here it is just sitting atop last years garden. The weeds are happily enjoying last years rich soil, but this year I of course dug up inside the bed nice and loose. Then I added a wheel barrel full of chicken manure from my chickens compost and then some top soil from my compost pile to make a nice rich loose soil to plant. I did my potatoes here.vegbed2 potatoes I sprouted my spuds in my pantry in a wire basket while we were away on our week in Maine. I was happy to find them thus on our return. They are now happily nestled in their new rich organic beds.

And around the beds I will plant step able herbs like thyme and chamomile, that acts as an edible lawn. And will border them with basil and coriander.

You can also add to your flower beds things like asparagus, rhubarb, blueberries and such. They are perennials that give more and more each year and are still pretty additions to your landscape. Why not have something to look at and eat?

snowpeas Here are my snow peas, happily growing towards their bamboo supports. They were started in the ground in mid April as were my Swiss Chard and Arugula. Salad greens and some peas, such as these, like the cold and can be sewn outside as the early crop before you get to the more tender summer crops of tomatoes and peppers.

veggarden1 Here are my arugula, chard, and lettuce mid April before we went on our holiday. Luckily the rain we had while we were gone made them happy and they have grown twice as big. Here is a close up of the chard, which is such a beautiful plant.chard This could make a lovely border for the early flower bed. Again, grow pretty AND edible. And things like beets are pretty and you eat the root AND the leaves are lovely in salads. I have a pretty purple leaved variety growing this year in my little beds and they will make a salad pretty as well as tasty. Beet root also preserves or can be canned very well too.

We have much we can learn from our 1940’s sisters and brothers. The least of which is to depend upon family and friends and not feel we must go it all alone. I abhor the increases amount of old people in nursing homes. We lock away those with the last bit of working knowledge away from our younger generations. Look out the young kids in the 1941 Victory garden film learn from Grandpa. Today he might very well be in an nursing home rarely seeing his grandchildren. We need to begin to restructure our lives upon the good bits of the old days, as I fear much of today seems to take us further and further from one another and more and more dependent upon technology that is often merely a time waster. We can do it. I know we can!

Happy Homemaking.

Friday, May 4, 2012

4 May 1947 “Budgeting Our Time the 1940’s Way and a Need for Home Economics Today”

bugettimeschedule I know I have shared this little checklist with you before. It is from my 1947 America’s Housekeeping Book.  It is a handy little book and this is a good layout of a possible weeks work.

You will notice the little addendum on the bottom that tells one Saturday can be planned in advance as a rest day. This is certainly true if you plan the meals ahead of time and set in the ice box to simply cook that day.

It also mentions wash and marketing. I do my laundry on Monday, ironing is Tuesday and my Marketing is done on Friday as there are often sales then. But there is a list of reasons you may not be able to maintain your schedule outlined in the book and here it follows. (Simply click on any image to read full-size of course).

 budgettime2Some of these things refer you to other pages in the book, but most are simply an ‘ask yourself, test your common sense’. And some things, like the reference to the ‘one handed kitchen set up on pg. 20’ simply tells how modern cabinets are often too deep. Try to arrange like things with like such as bowls of same size together not nest larger and smaller together, as you would need two hands to get at it. Also it points out how shelves made or adjusted to simply hold one row of things, such as canned goods, make more efficiency as well as do not lead to clutter or digging to find things and lets one know what is on hand and what is needed when making next weeks marketing list.

Such films as this from 1950 on simply buying foods would not only be helpful today but would point out what I have learned. That inflation is currently rampant. Many shop haphazard and with no list or particular pattern. I have been with friends when they have shopped thus. This way many do not see the changes in prices. Because many prices are hidden cleverly today. For instance ice cream has reduced its packaging. It deceptive is the same height and width along the front of the packaging but it is narrower now. So, even when the price stays the same you are literally buying less, thus that means you are paying more per weight of item.

This has been true with tuna as well which has shrunk from 10 oz down to currently 5 oz. Just since I started my 1955 project tuna has gone from 7.5 oz. 5 oz for same brands. And though it might sometimes be on sale, even then the price over all is higher.

40steensshopping To have the ability to plan and look and watch what you are spending both for meal planning and money planning is almost unheard of today. My friend who is 28 told me she had ‘Life Skills’ courses in High School not Home Economics. And in that class they taught them how to make packaged macaroni and cheese as well as packaged cake mixes! And the school had to buy these pre packaged national brand packages as well! Wouldn’t you think one who can simply read could make mac n cheese on their own?

When I told her about the 50’s Home Economics teaching about weights and qualities and how different cuts of meat are created and used. How leftovers can be used and even understanding different fabrics to see what clothing lasts longer and how to prepare it, she said how much that would have actually helped her. So, it isn’t that today’s youth don’t want to know or understand such things.

Here is the film on buying food:

And for those who may have  been worried of the ‘Rock n Roll’ set or even if young men in the 50’s took Home Ec., here you can see this short film about young teens going to a local grocer as part of the training in their Home Economics class room.

These young people even visit the butcher while there to see the different cuts of meat and how they are used. Many people today buy premade or simply ground beef. When there is so much more economy, taste, and really quality if full meat. Though much of the meat is still full of hormones and antibiotics and the cows themselves are poorly fed on corn (not their natural diet) at least buying actual cuts of meat lets you know what you have. While pre-packaged fish fingers, chick patties and the like are mostly made of who knows what.

I heard something about some sort of ‘pink slime’ that is now used in ground beef and was only last year labeled only fit for animal foods. Another way, by the bye, that the increase in food costs are hidden, by decreasing the quality product to include ‘filler’. In a world where little is prepared but comes prepared, it is easy to slip in such false economies.

Enjoy the teens and their class at the supermarket:

I am going to close with this darling photo, also from my ‘47 Homemakers book. Here we see the good idea of allowing the young child to emulate and learn at an early age how to cook and bake. Of course, one must have a family member with such skills in order to pass this on to children. I fear this might be also vanishing. Today children may simply learn how to press the buttons on the microwave and how to toss out their paper plate rather than ‘cleaning up’ afterwards.

childinkitchen In many ways most of we modern people are like the child and do need more lessons. I have certainly given myself a thorough training session in Home Ec over the past three years. But, I am always learning and with still so much to understand. And with every day I feel a bit more in control of my small part of life. I only wish we had more control over our lives on the grander scale concerning laws, rights and such. So, the haven of the home shall have to be all the better equipped to handle the ups and downs of the economy and a better refuge from the turbulent modern world.

Happy Homemaking.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

3 May 1943 “Thrift, Wartime, New Kitchens and What it Meant in Advertising”

thriftad During the War years Thrift and Conservation became words used often. The idea of it being an ‘Old Fashioned’ value is present in this ad. That Grandmother’s generation, or that of the last century, valued savings and conservation. In many ways the actual amount of available products just weren’t there in her time. What is interesting in this ad is that advertising is using the idea of Patriotism and saving for the war effort as a way to sell the homefront homemaker new towels. Not thrifty at all, in fact.

Here is an article from this same 1943 magazine which opens with tugging at one’s heart strings for what the soldier longs for home. In his desires for the wing chair by the hearth and that ‘old bed’ to sleep in, really we see a complete doing over of the house. New things bought, post war, with War bonds bought now. Or to do so now would be, in a way, Patriotic. When in fact, the returning soldier would most likely want to see the old things as he left them and as he recalled them. The comfort of home is constancy not change.


 youngstownad I look at such war time ads with different eyes than I did when I started my 1955 project. Then I was keen to see what we had and what was new in the post war years. Now, I see us beginning to be told how we, as Americans, define ourselves through our things rather than our deeds. The idea that the old kitchen wasn’t good enough and that such luxury is not considered so or that our freedom is somehow tied to purchase rather frightens me now.

In some ways it makes me shutter for those older people during those years, the grandmothers, that wondered at their own value system dying away. I am sure, much as we see today with older people to today’s youth with constant need of new phones/computers etc, the same thing. Yet, that idea of flux and constant change. The very business model of constant growth was rather foreign in 1900 yet by WWII we really see that changing.

The idea of saving, though here in war bonds for future use, is already changing. The setting aside for a rainy day is beginning to blue a bit. And today savings is an almost unheard of concept. Add to that the 0% interest rates, which are meant to somehow help the failing economy, actually punishes saving. With no interest on money set aside, there almost seems little reason or incentive to do so. And many young people today most likely live only on debt from credit cards.

There is most likely not one element that has lead to the rapid change in our concept of who we are as American’s, but one has simply to step back one decade at a time to the turn of the last century to get a feel for how it has been greatly affected.

Though we had concepts of thrift as a national idea during the last World War, we today, though the US is involved in many wars, have no such national idea. We are told to spend to be American. I feel for our soldiers today and those left at home. And I feel for all of us, homemakers alike, who live in a world of flux, constant change, and continual disparaging and contradictory news and realities as espoused by whatever channel we are tuned into. When really, is any of it actual reality? We get our reality through programming while our own lives go unlived in ways unthinkable hundreds of years ago. In many ways I feel like that mythical soldier in the article above who simply wants to leave it all come home to a comfortable bed and feel safe in the constancy and comfort of home. Have we all, as a nation and a world, lost our home? Is the concept of Home even alive anymore for us to get to or is it just a marketing idea only achieved through discount shopping? I hope not.

Let’s not let Home be a product to be bought but lets make home a place of frugal savings and comfort of love not things. The comfort that comes from less and easy living because of camaraderie and not picking sides of being part of a clique is Home. Let there not be Them and Us, but let our homes be We. Let’s not be branded like cattle into our little pigeonholes, lets be happy industrious home loving families who revel in knowledge and skill. Who look at challenges as tasks to be overcome with grace and study and not to ease or overstressed life with ‘shop therapy’ or to ‘get away from it all’. A new kitchen won’t bring as much feeling of safety and home as will some savings and a meal made through thrift and skill. Getting more and getting it cheaper isn’t always the answer. Having less and caring for it and ourselves is.

Happy Homemaking.

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