Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Getting My Kicks

I had to travel to a couple of the small farm towns north of Cornfedton last week and decided I would skip the Interstate and drive Route 66.

I must be living right. I pulled into a roadside thrift store that I have passed at least half a dozen times before and hit the jackpot.

Five food company cooking leaflets (including one from Post cereals circa 1943) and ten vintage sewing patterns. One of the apron patterns is cut from a newspaper, complete with a shoe ad and an article about Adlai Stevenson on the back.

(I thought of Lidian when I saw the “Too Tired To Cook” booklet from Veg-all but neither the recipes nor the artwork were tempting enough to shell out the quarter it cost).

The patterns were ten cents apiece. I tactfully pointed out the church ladies running the shop that the three patterns from the 1930’s would sell on eBay for five dollars each, minimum (and the monogram for probably a lot more). It took some convincing but they reluctantly agreed to let me pay them ten dollars for the entire haul; patterns, booklets, and a cone of ice blue synthetic mohair. If I were a truly unscrupulous person I would have walked off with the entire shelf-ful of Little Golden books they were selling for a buck and a quarter.

And in one of life’s little mysteries, in the rear of the store, on a rack full of polyester caftans, was a beautiful eyelet peignor with a “Pierre Balmain Paris” label. How it wound up in a church thrift shop in a town of 1100 in the middle of the cornfields is anyone’s guess.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sewing - A 1922 Negligee and Boudoir Cap

This negligee and cap set is from the May 1922 issue of Needlecraft magazine. It would have been worn along with a silk petticoat for breakfasting in the privacy of the home and presumably by a young lady who could afford a cook. I can't see frying eggs and bacon in this.

The instructions are here. They are of course free but the cunning magazine editors assumed that you would want the embroidery patterns too, and those would have cost you 20 cents. For a dollar and ten cents you could order the required amount of flesh-colored batiste, already stamped with the pattern.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mexican Cooking for American Homes

Gebhardt's Chili con Carne

"Place can of Gephardt's Chili con Carne, plain or with beans, in saucepan; cover with hot water. Boil gently, 20 minutes. Turn into hot bowls; serve at once."

Well, you can't get much simpler than that.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


(photo courtesy of

Friday, April 25, 2008

For the Birds

I am on nights this week. Anyone out there who works nights on a regular basis, you have my complete sympathy. It is hell trying to sleep during the day, even in a relatively quiet house in a relatively quiet village like ours.

Wednesday afternoon I was drifting back and forth in that not-quite-asleep/not-quite-awake borderland when I gradually became aware of an odd sound. A cross between a buzz, a flip, and a whir, like a very large fly trapped behind a window glass. It was punctuated by muted galloping noises and muffled thumps. Almost as though a party of cats was up on the shelves, pushing things off.

I was trying to resist the urge to swim back up to complete consciousness when there came a thud-thud-thud-swoosh-crash. The noise a cat might make by racing across the living room, leaping onto the dining room table, and sliding across its polished surface and off the other end and taking with him a stack of bills, Martha Stewart, and the Quarterly Journal of Military History. Theoretically speaking, of course.

Funnyface had been lying next to me, ears up, head cocked to one side; but this was too much for him. He launched himself off the bed and disappeared in the direction of the dining room, I heard a chair go over and reluctantly decided it was time to get involved. Stepping out into the hall I heard that buzz/flip/whir--

--and a sparrow hit me right in the kisser.

Once I got my heart beating again and found my glasses, I went looking for our avian guest, which activity involved a lot of crawling around on my hands and knees and peering under various pieces of furniture (note to self: we have serious dust-bunny issues). Eventually he ricocheted off the bedroom window and went to ground under the bedside table.

Reserve Cat reached him just before the Drama Queen or I did, but I was able to use the old back-of-the-neck Vulcan death grip and get the bird out of his mouth although he was growling at me the whole time, the little varmint.

(The cat was growling, I mean. Not the bird).

I took him outside, across the street, and into the garden of the Catholic rectory, where I parked him up in the branches of one of Father Carl’s Japanese maples, as high as I could reach. Honestly? I didn’t give much for his chances, between the internal injuries undoubtedly inflicted by Reserve Cat and the blow on the head he got when he kamikaze’d into the window.

Returning under the sullen and accusatory glares of the cats, I closed the doggy flap—which is how they introduced their little feathered friend into the house in the first place—and went back to bed.

It’s a good thing it was a slow night at work because I wasn’t worth a tinker’s damn.

Quote of the Day

"Old mathematicians never die; they just lose some of their functions." (John C. George, University of Illinois)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Knitting - a 1947 pullover

This sweater, to me, is the "classic" 40's sweater. I can see Lauren Bacall in this one, with a wide-shouldered, tailored tweed jacket and a wide-brimmed felt hat. It's knitted in mistake-stitch rib and in what appears to be sportweight wool.

It's from Smart Knitting and Needlework, 1947. Instructions can be downloaded from my Flickr account, here.

Sewing - a 1954 skirt

This one-yard, one-piece skirt comes from Smart Sewing magazine, circa 1954. I have made one-yard skirts from similar patterns and have found them to be very versatile.

Complete instructions are here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Thirty-Six Vintage Sewing and Millinery Books

The Department of Human Ecology (when did it stop being Home Ec, I wonder?) at the University of Wisconsin has put a collection of three dozen sewing and hatmaking books online.

The publication dates range from the 1890s to 1944. My favorites so far are How to Make and Trim Your Own Hats by Vee Walker Powell (ducky illustrations, see above), and a little 1918 wartime tome called Thrift Clothing, with instructions on cutting down adult garments to make children's clothes.

Unfortunately, the site is set up so that you have to view the books page by page. The University has no problem with you printing them off, either, but gee it would sure be nice if they offered those convenient little pdf's to download.

Vintage Advertising - Jiffy Jell

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cheese Straws a la Westinghouse

This is from a little mid-30's volume, modestly titled "Your Westinghouse Dual-Automatic Flavor Zone Electric Range" and containing some of the most luscious food illustrations I have ever seen. There's a picture of a pot roast on page 18 that almost makes me want to chew on the paper.

The salad is a fairly typical bridge-luncheon mix of shredded cabbage, olives and whipped cream that I think I'll save for a day when I feel unkind. The cheese straw recipe (although I haven't tried it) doesn't look half bad.

Cheese Straws

2 cups pastry flour (sifted before measuring)
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup grated American cheese
cold water

"Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add shortening and grated cheese, work in flour using two knives, a for or dough blender until the particles of fat and cheese are the size of peas. Add slowly, cold water, just enough to make a stiff dough. Chill the pastry before rolling if there is time. Roll and cut in strips 1/2 inch wide and 3 1/2 inches long."

(edited to add: When you look at this recipe, it is basically piecrust with cheese added. I wonder how it would taste as the crust for a savory pie?)

Saturday, April 19, 2008


(photo courtesy of

Friday, April 18, 2008

Current Events

I am told we had an earthquake this morning.

(I slept right through it).

Quote of the Day

"I can't see why cat should be a term of opprobrium when applied to a woman. Cats are charmingly pretty animals, and know what they want, also how to get it." Red Money, by Fergus Hume.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spring is Sprung

But I think the neighbors are getting tired of me standing out by the asparagus bed, chanting Grow! Grow! Grow!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Crochet-1917 Lingerie

This is from the same Modern Priscilla as the sweater; the filet pattern could also be used for counted cross stitch. Pity only the covers of these old magazines are in color!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

'splain something to me, Lucy

Funnyface stays in the backyard while we are at work. We can get away with this without censure from the Humane Society, even in winter, because like most traditional bungalows ours was built with a separate door to the basement.

We have a doggy flap and we put his food, water and bed in the laundry room, but we shut off the rest of the basement and the door at the top of the kitchen stairs stays closed.

(This decision was made after an unfortunate incident with the evil Belgian mercenary, de Batroum-Rugge, who suffered multiple puncture wounds and had to be replaced).

He still has unlimited access to the laundry room. Which is how, when I got home this afternoon, the backyard was tastefully decorated with the spousal unit’s underpants.

And we're getting another one of him why?

Knitting-A 1917 Pullover

This sweater is from the April 1917 Modern Priscilla. A larger copy to download can be found here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Happy Birthday to You

The Spousal Unit is 50 years young today. I'm afraid the gift I bought him has not arrived yet, so all he's gotten for his birthday so far is a head cold.


"You can almost feel it in the air--there's so much glamour and gaiety and bubbling interest in skillet cookery today.

Suddenly, food editors, TV chefs, restaurateurs, good cooks around the corner and the nation are waking up to the wonderful variety of everyday foods that can be glorified in a skillet--so easily with pure vegetable oil.

Imagination is now the main ingredient in skillet recipes...." yes, well, that and condensed cream soups. I am very fond of chicken livers -- before it got all yuppified, Cornfedton had a corner diner that served them deep fried and I would indulge in the occasional cholesterol overload there -- but I can't imagine serving anyone this dish.

Unless of course I didn't want them to come back.


A noble dish to set before your family and friends

1 pound chopped chicken livers
2 T Wesson Oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups water
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
2 tablespoons chopped celery leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt

Brown chicken livers in Wesson Oil. Stir in all other ingredients. Cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep spaghetti from sticking together. 4 to 6 servings."

Saturday, April 12, 2008


(picture courtesy of

Friday, April 11, 2008

Quote of the Day

"You may hope to influence your husband’s politics, religion, business, but don’t tamper with his pronunciation." (The Matrimonial Primer)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Welcome, Little Stranger

Funnyface is getting a baby sister. Because somebody who shall not be identified is on a Norse kick, we are looking at names like Joro and Nisse.

(Nisse falls more pleasingly off the tongue, but it means troll, unfortunately).

Hel is out of the question, we live across the street from a Catholic church and rectory, and I am not standing on the back step shouting "Hel!" with Father Carl around.

Any Norwegians out there with suggestions?

For The Table - A Luncheon Set and Coffee Service

I am rather fond of early 20th century painted china; I have six plates that were done by my spinster great-aunt Elizabeth. These designs (pattern on Flickr) are -- again -- from the April 1917 Modern Priscilla. It was the Bride's Number, and had a lot of stuff in it. I think I'll put the knitted pullover up next week!

(note: Great-Aunt Elizabeth was a successful artist for a big Chicago advertising firm in the 20's and 30's and during the Depression discreetly supported other family members who were in want. However, she never married and was always an object of pity since this was a time when career women were suspect and homemakers were the ideal. O tempora, o mores!)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

For The Table - A Luncheon Cloth

This tablecloth, with a wide border and tassels, is from the April 1917 Modern Priscilla.

The rest of the instructions are here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

For the Table - Crocheted Hot Pads

This idea comes from Modern Priscilla, April 1917. You should be able to right click and save the picture, but if you have any problems please go to my Flickr account for a larger version.

Scenes from an Emergency Room

Patient is 83 yo male, in ER (accompanied by youngest daughter) after a fall. Note patient’s age. Note patient has very old tattoo of crossed rifles on one forearm.

ER doc: (coming back into room with xrays in hand and puzzled look on face) Um…has…er…has he ever been….shot?

Daughter: (brightly) Oh yes, lots of times!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Vintage Magazines - Home Needlework

A PDF of this magazine (and several other vintage Home Needlework issues) can be downloaded from the University of Arizona's needlework site.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Inspired by the Old Foodie's series on damper, I went looking for an "authentic" recipe for johnnycake, surely the North American continent's country cousin.

This is from The Bluegrass Cookbook (which can be downloaded from Michigan State University's wonderful Website, Feeding America ).

"1 quart meal
1 pint warm water
1 teaspooon salt

Sift meal in a pan and add water and salt. Stir it until it is light, and then place on a new, clean board and place nearly upright before the fire. When brown, cut in squares, butter nicely, and serve hot."

(By meal, this Kentucky cook of course meant cornmeal. The print is for sale here, and if I had $11k, I'd buy it).

Saturday, April 5, 2008


(photo courtesy of

Friday, April 4, 2008

Quote of the Day

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." Anne Bradstreet

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Obsolete Information Dep't-A 'Teens Trousseau

This list comes from a booklet published by the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences during WWI. It gives an interesting picture of what would be considered an acceptable wardrobe for a middle-class bride of moderate income.

Blouses – one fancy blouse; two semi-tailored blouses.
Corsets – one pair for wear with dresses and negligees; one pair for wear with suit or afternoon and evening gowns.

Dresses – two simple house-dresses that are easy to slip on and off, preferably light in color. Two afternoon dresses of silk in subdued tones, suitable for making afternoon calls, attending church, or attending informal evening affairs.
Footwear – one pair of walking or street shoes; one pair of soft kid or cloth-top shoes for wear with afternoon dresses; one pair of slippers for the bridal gown or for evening wear; one pair of slippers for general house wear; one pair of boudoir slippers.
Gloves – One pair of white kid gloves for wear with the bridal gown and for evening wear; two or more pair for street use, in tan, gray or black, or a color to match the suit.

Gowns – One bridal gown and veil for the wedding ceremony; one evening gown suitable for formal social affairs; one semi-evening gown for informal evening affairs and theater wear.
Handkerchiefs – One dozen linen handkerchiefs with hand-embroidered monogram in small letters, daintily embroidered corners, or scalloped edges.
Head Dress – one small or medium-sized street hat; one large or small afternoon hat; one evening hat, scarf, or fancy head covering.
Petticoats – two simple wash petticoats for house wear; one or more silk petticoats for suit wear; one dainty negligee skirt or princesse slip.
Purses and Bags – Purse of good quality leather in a color that harmonizes with the traveling suit; modish bag for use with afternoon dresses or evening costume—may be of silk or linen, beaded or embroidered.
Stockings – four pair of lisle stockings to match street shoes; three pair of silk stockings for dress shoes; two pair of silk stockings for evening wear.

Undergarments – one set of bridal lingerie, consisting of a fine lisle or silk undervest, a night dress, a petticoat, a corset cover, and a pair of drawers or a combination suit. Six knitted vests; four pair of drawers; four corset covers; two brassieres; six night dresses.
Wraps – one coat suit; one topcoat of cravenetted material, fashionable woolen material, or silk; one heavy storm coat for winter use.
Miscellaneous Articles – belts; boudoir caps; collar and cuff sets; neckwear, including bows of ribbon and lace; umbrella and parasol; veils for street wear, automobiling, and so on; traveling bag, suit case, or steamer trunk, as the occasion demands.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Knitting - a Modish Dolly's Dress from 1929

This little knitted dress and crocheted hat are from Needlecraft, January 1929. Note that no size is given!

A larger image can be downloaded from my Flickr account.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A 10K (of sorts)

The 10,000th hit showed up this morning so I am marking the occasion with another vintage pattern.

This knitted doily is from a 1952 Smart Knitting and Needlecraft, and the pattern can be downloaded from my Flickr account.

(apologies for the terrible picture!)

Tatting - 25 Motif Challenge

This is your motif (from Mrs Beeton, courtesy Project Gutenberg):

This is your motif after Reserve Cat has knocked it around the living room carpet:

(so, Sharon does it still count?)