Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hail, Hail, The Gang's All Here

(Someone is running a vacuum cleaner in the next room).


Tweet! Tweet!
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Friday, January 30, 2009


Patricia at Agence Eureka has four pages of Epinal paperdolls on her site.

Quote of the Day

Care to our coffin adds a nail, no doubt,
And every grin so merry draws one out. John Wolcot

(vintage poster art from Dover Publications).

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Now where did I leave that tin opener?
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Loch Ness Catster

A ripple appears on the surface of the loch. What can it be?

A terrified world holds its breath as....

...slowly the monster emerges.

(bloody nose in 3...2...1...)

Patterns of the Past - Hotpads!

Readers of Modern Knitting magazine in 1950 could send away for these potholder patterns. It's a pity they're no longer available; I'd make one to match my cow-shaped teakettle.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sewing - Bloomers and a Costume Slip from 1929

The Clarks O.N.T Thread Company published a number of sewing booklets in the teens and twenties of the last century. This one is from 1929.

These are half-page copies. Full instructions on drafting and making the bloomers and the slip above can be downloaded from my Flickr account.

I own an original copy, but I've seen reprints that are available on eBay.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I'm not sure if it's because she disapproves of the website I'm checking, or she hates Solitaire, but the Drama Queen keeps trying to park her furry butt on top of the mouse.

Xin Nian Keui Lo!

Happy Chinese New Year (and as someone else remarked, let’s party like it’s 4097!)

My favorite papercraft site, Canon/Japan, has let me down. No models of an ox to make (they have a new one up for an Orca that is a wow), but you can cut out and assemble this one for a cow. It’s as close as I could get!

(Chinese Peony print from Dover).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weather Report

It began snowing again early this morning, but I shouldn't complain. At least it's not this cold. And it gives me an excuse to post a photo of Babyface with both ears up.

Using It Up

Cookbooks are not normally devoted entirely to the topic of leftovers, but occasionally you run across a little booklet (usually put out by a cooking school) dedicated to this noble end. In a thriftier time, homemakers gave much thought to the question of what to do with the remains of yesterday's dinner. Heating something up another day was the easy way out, but very often there wasn't enough left to make much of a second meal. The Culinary Arts Institute of Chicago, Illinois published this vintage charmer in 1940, just after the hard times of the Depression and just before the hard times of WWII. It offered suggestions for using up kitchen remnants like stale bread, leftover meat and vegetables, and soured milk.

Ruth Berolzheimer was the director, and here are her recommendations for leftover cake, something we never seem to have in this house, at any rate.

“Keep leftover pieces of cake or cookies an a covered metal box. Crumble into pieces or grind into crumbs; combine with cooked leftover fruits (with juice) for steamed fruit puddings. Serve with lemon sauce.”

Leftover breadcrumbs also had many uses.

I think any of these would be quite tasty except maybe the brewis. It doesn’t sound very appetizing even if it will use up two cups of breadcrumbs (left click to enlarge the recipe page).

I mentioned liver loaf a couple of weeks ago when I was discussing rationing. A liver loaf by any other name is just a pâté, and made with calves’ or chicken livers I’ll bet it wouldn’t be half bad.

Liver Loaf with Pan Gravy

1 ½ lbs beef liver
1 ½ cups boiling water
2 slices salt pork, ¼ inch thick
1 medium onion
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 cups soft breadcrumbs
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 t. salt
¼ t. pepper
2 T. flour
1 ½ cups cold water

“Rinse liver, cover with boiling water and let stand 10 minutes; drain. Grind with salt pork and onion; add parsley, crumbs, eggs, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Press into baking pan (8x4x3 inches) and bake in moderate oven (350F) about 1 hour or until browned. Remove loaf to hot platter. Stir flour into drippings and brown; add water gradually and cook 5 minutes, until thickened; season and pour over loaf. If you like, omit gravy and garnish your liver loaf with crisp, brown bacon. Serves six.”

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Heat Wave!

It got up to 5F/-15C here today. Woo hoo. Pass the sunblock.

Prairie Neighbors

Driving home this week, I thought I saw this guy:

It is far more likely, of course, that I saw this guy.

Peregrine falcons are not normally found perching on metal fenceposts in the middle of the upland corn prairie (which is why I started hyperventilating when I saw the black tail bars), but Broad-Winged Hawks are. Oh's still something to add to my life list.

(Photos from and You didn't think I had my camera with me, did you?)


Access Denied!
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Friday, January 23, 2009

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

(Steinlein poster reprint from Dover).


Canus Magnus
Canus Parvus
Felis Malefica

Scene: the master bedroom of a small bungalow. Stage left is a window. Stage right is the door to the hall. A bed is placed against the wall center stage, and a bedside table (with an antique glass-globed lamp, telephone, books, etc) is fitted into the very narrow space between the bed and the window.

Canus Magnus lies asleep on the floor at the foot of the bed. Canus Parvus is curled up snugly under the window, paws twitching in pursuit of dream bunnies. Two blanket-swaddled forms occupy the bed. As a vagrant moonbeam teases its way under the drawn shade, a soft snore can be heard. It is well past midnight.

Enter Malefica from stage right. She tiptoes across the carpet until she is about two feet from the larger dog.

Malefica (whispers): Mrowr. (There is no reaction).

Malefica (a little more loudly): Mrowr! (Still nothing. She places herself directly in front of the big dog’s ear).


She scoots under the bed a split second before Magnus leaps to his feet and lunges for her. As his one hundred and twenty pound frame slams into the bed-stead, the headboard bounces violently off the wall and knocks against the bedside table.

He (shooting bolt upright from deep REM sleep as the lamp—a present from His mother—topples over onto the telephone):
What the HELL?!?

Magnus, his massive head wedged firmly under the end of the bed-stead, begins barking in rage and frustration. Parvus awakes and adds her piercing falsetto yelp to the din. Malefica strolls out from under the far side and hops up on top of the bed where she sits down next to Me and surveys her handiwork with quiet satisfaction.

Me (softly but with great depth of feeling): You cow.

Quote of the Day

If people destroy something replaceable made by mankind, they are called vandals; if they destroy something irreplaceable made by God, they are called developers. Joseph Wood Krutch.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Patterns of the Past - McCall's Slippers

From McCall's Needlework and Crafts, Winter 1943-44 (left click for a larger image). Many clothing items, including leather shoes, were rationed during the war. You could make your precious footwear last longer by slipping on a pair of slippers as soon as you got home. They would be made of un-rationed cork soles and scraps of fabric left over from other projects.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tech Support

Some day, I'll have to admit to Hewlett-Packard what's really wrong with our printer.

Embroidery and Crochet - a Pillow Cover from 1949

From Modern Knitting & Needlework, Spring 1949, an embroidery pattern and a crocheted edging to trim a purchased baby carriage pillow. A larger image can be downloaded from my Flickr account.

(edited to add the Flickr link!)

Monday, January 19, 2009

True Colors

Forty years ago, if I had applied for a non-clerical position at State Farm or IBM or Ford Motors, the hiring manager would have tossed my resume as soon as he read my name. I would not even have appeared on his professional radar. This despite the fact that I have a graduate degree and thirty years of experience, military and civilian, in training, logistics, quality control and project management.

In this year of grace 2009 I’m on that radar, and it’s mostly because a young Baptist minister laid down his life for the idea that everyone in this country is entitled to justice, equality and human dignity, not just the white, straight, male, Christian, and able-bodied.

Thank you, Dr. King.

Vintage Children's Book Illustrations - The Olive Fairy Book

"In a part of Arabia where groves of palms and sweet-scented flowers give the traveller rest after toilsome journeys under burning skies, there reigned a young king whose name was Lino." From The Blue Parrot.

The Olive Fairy Book, with eight color plates by Henry J. Ford, can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Good Old Days

(copyright-free advertising clipart from Dover).

It is certainly possible to put a bad meal on the table in this day and age, if you are careless or tired or angry, but dinner-time for the average cook is a lot easier than it used to be.

I am not a professional cook or a professional teacher, but I would undertake to teach just about anyone how to prepare a simple meal. By that I mean a main course of something like…I don’t know…maybe meatloaf and baked potatoes, a green salad and a dessert, and serve it forth without fear of either indigestion or food poisoning on the part of my family.

Good home cooks today are the norm rather than the exception, and not just because of the pervasive influence of FoodTV and Betty Crocker. The job has been made possible by the kitchen tools that are now available, tools that we take for granted; such things as controlled-temperature ovens, electric appliances, accurate measuring cups, and raw ingredients that come with some guarantee of freshness and purity. The amateur venturing into the kitchen today has been provided with that which will not permit her/him to fail (unless of course for your first meal, you decide on something like quenelles de veau and soufflé au Grand Marnier).

This was not the case in Victorian America. There’s a reason good cooks were celebrated and not just because it was an acceptable arena for a woman’s efforts. No, cooking back then was, to put it bluntly, a crapshoot. Take coffee, for example.

The spousal unit does not drink coffee (he also does not cook. He would argue the point, but he’s wrong. He applies heat. He’s a perfect example of my premise). He has no trouble making coffee because we own a coffee maker. The back of the Folgers can tells him exactly how much ground coffee he should use, and the mark on the side of the coffee maker tells him exactly how much water. He plugs it in and pushes a button. Ten minutes later, very good coffee.

Had he been born in 1858 instead of 1958, this would not be the case.

“Well, Aunt Jane,” said Grace, very gravely, “I suppose I am to write down Rhoda’s recipe. Number 31. About enough coffee, some hot water, as many eggs as you happen to have, stir it all up together, and let it boil till its done. Is that it?”

“I think, perhaps, I can make it a little more definite, and easier for other people to understand,” said Aunt Jane, “but I’m afraid I shan’t be able to put Rhoda’s judgment into the receipt-book.”


One quart boiling water, half a pint ground coffee, one egg, half a pint cold water; mix the coffee first with the egg, (which should not be beaten,) then with the cold water very thoroughly; put it in the coffee boiler, pour on the boiling water and let it boil fifteen or twenty minutes, then set it where it will not boil, and throw in one-half gill of cold water.

“How much is a gill, mamma?” asked Amy.

“A gill is a quarter of a pint; half a tumblerful, or about two small wine-glassfuls,” said her mother. “A half gill may be measured by putting four even tablespoonsful of water into a cup and noticing how high they come up. Then you will always have your measure at hand

(Six Little Cooks, or, Aunt Jane’s Cooking Class, by Elizabeth Stansbury, pub. 1877).

This book is available online at the University of Wisconsin’s website and it’s a dandy if you’d like to get some idea what was required to put together a dish in a kitchen with a wood-burning stove, no appliances, no measuring cups (!), no cooking thermometers, and ingredients such as flour or molasses or baking powder of unknown, untested, and very likely uneven quality (the Pure Food And Drug Act was not passed in the U.S. until 1906).

Because this is a book targeting young girls, it takes nothing for granted. An experienced cook would know, for example, that to prevent lumps of un-dissolved alkali, baking soda has to be added to warm water before it’s put into sour milk for cakes, that gelatin has to soak for an hour before it can be used in a recipe, and that eggs should always be broken, one by one, into a separate dish, in case one of them is bad. And an experienced cook would know her oven.

“Your recipe doesn’t say how long we must bake these things,” said Grace.

“There is very little use in giving any exact direction about that,” answered her aunt. “Stoves vary so much that half an hour in one means the same as three quarters in another. I think this one will bake the cake in half an hour, and the custard in somewhat less, but we must watch them. There is no absolute rule but experience.”

I have a gas stove. It isn’t restaurant quality but it bakes at an even temperature and it comes with a timer.

My Mother’s Meatloaf

3 slices bread (stale is fine)
1 c. milk
2 lbs ground beef
2 eggs
1 packet onion soup mix
2/3 c. of tomato ketchup
1 T. brown sugar

Pour the milk over the bread in a large mixing bowl and allow it to soften. Add the eggs, ground beef and onion soup mix and squish everything together thoroughly with your fingers. Don’t worry about the dry bits of onion in the soup mix, they’ll soften during cooking. Pack the meat mixture lightly into a large loaf pan or casserole dish and bake uncovered in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Dissolve the brown sugar in the ketchup. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and spread the ketchup over the top. Place it back in the oven for another 15 minutes or until a skewer shows that the meat loaf juices are running clear. This serves nine people with no leftovers if four of them are boys.

My Peach Crunch

2 cups frozen peaches
½ stick butter
3 T. quick-cooking tapioca
½ c. Bisquick
½ c. oats
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. butter, cut in bits and chilled
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. nutmeg

Rinse the peaches in warm water and put them, with the half stick of butter, in a baking dish that can go from the microwave to the oven. Microwave, covered, until the peaches are thawed and the butter melted. Stir in the tapioca, which is not strictly necessary but helps thicken up the peach juice. Some people use flour instead. Taste the peaches and if they need it (we freeze our own peaches but commercially packed frozen peaches vary), add brown sugar to taste. A little ground cardamom is nice, too. Allow the peaches to stand for ten minutes. This gives the tapioca a head start.

Cut the butter, oats, Bisquick, brown sugar and spices together until crumbly and about the size of frozen peas. Sprinkle over the top of the peaches and bake in a pre-heated 350 oven for thirty minutes. If you use a deep dish, you’ll get a thicker crunch layer. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


(I can resist anything but a bad pun).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Quote of the Day

When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail;

When blood is nipt and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl
Tuwhoo! Tuwhit! Tuwhoo! A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson's saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian's nose looks red and raw;

When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl
Then nightly sings the staring owl
Tuwhoo! Tuwhit! Tuwhoo! A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

William Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yes, that is frost

And it's on the inside of the front door. We have to use the front door and the kitchen door, because the basement door is frozen shut.

It's -14F/-25C right now. School was cancelled so the spousal unit is outside (brrrr!) with the dogs and the snow shovel. It didn't help that my youngest brother, who is a kept man in California, sent us a snarky email last night comparing the relative temperatures.

Since the high today will only be -5F/-20C

What better time to visit Glamoursplash's vintage bathing suit retrospective (copyright free advertising woodcut from Dover).

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Obsolete Information Dep't - Teacher's Pay in 1920

Project Gutenberg has just added a little document to their online library called The Schedule of Salaries for Teachers, by the Boston School Committee, dated 1920. It lists the salary for every school employee from the headmasters down to first-year clerical assistants ($984 per annum. Nineteen dollars a week was good money compared to what most women were making. At that time, the average weekly pay in the United States for a shopgirl was eight dollars. An experienced seamstress in an upscale dressmaking establishment could make twelve).

I was not surprised to see the difference in pay between the head of the Department of Household Science and Arts (girls) and the head of the Department of Manual Arts (boys), but who would think that the director of Music and the director of Physical Training received the same salary? In Boston!

Knitting - a Ribbon Blouse from 1952

This pretty blouse is from Smart Knitting and Needlecraft, 9th edition, 1952(fifty cents). It's knitted in a slip-stitch pattern using one row of ribbon and one of gold metallic yarn, and because there isn't much "give" to these two fibers, there's a zipper under the left arm.

Instructions on my Flickr account.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Vintage Book Cover - The Bow of Orange Ribbon

(This book is available online at Project Gutenberg).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Point Taken

In the 1943 screwball comedy Christmas in Connecticut, food writer Barbara Stanwyck is reviewing a list of dishes with the chef who is the real source of her nationally famous menus. “Breasts of grey dove sautéed with peaches Grenadine, no points, chicken soup with Moselle wine, no points...”

By points, as everyone in America knew, she meant ration points. In May 1942, the Office of Price Administration began rationing many food items to ensure an adequate distribution of resources. Families were issued ration books with a weekly allowance of “points” that were handed over at the grocery store along with payment in return for restricted items like sugar, fats, meat and dairy products. Recipes using unrationed ingredients were eagerly sought after; even if some of these were things the average American did not normally find on the table, as Gourmet magazine wryly remarked.

Although it isn’t
Our usual habit
This year we’re eating
The Easter rabbit.

Housewives were urged to observe Meatless Mondays, stretch the family beef allowance with fillers such as oatmeal, and get creative with legumes and vegetables. Kraft macaroni and cheese became popular.

Actually, when it came to rationed food, Americans were pretty darn lucky. With the exception of special crops like coffee and bananas, there wasn’t much in the way of agricultural goods that couldn’t be produced somewhere in the continental United States. This included citrus fruits, sugar from cane and from beets, beef, milk, grain, and vegetables. We also escaped the wholesale destruction of transportation and distribution infrastructure as well as farm buildings, equipment and livestock that caused rationing in Europe to be both more severe and longer in duration. After the war, shortages of consumer goods such as automobiles and refrigerators continued but rationing, particularly food rationing, ended in 1946.

While it lasted, though, poor Mom would race home from her job building bombers or running blood drives for the Red Cross to put a meal on the table that might consist of liver loaf (organ meats didn’t use any points), mashed potatoes and green beans (home-canned from the family’s own Victory Garden), rye bread (white flour was rationed), and margarine that had been eked out with a little Knox gelatin. For dessert, she could offer an eggless, butterless, milkless cake that dates back to World War One. This version comes from the 1944 edition of the Good Housekeeping Cook Book. I have made it and it is a bit heavy but not bad. Best eaten the same day it is made.

War Cake

1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1 ¼ c. water
1/3 c. vegetable shortening or lard
2/3 c. raisins
½ t. nutmeg
2 t. cinnamon
½ t. cloves
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
2 t. water
2 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder

Boil the brown sugar, 1 ¼ cups water, shortening, raisins and spices together for 3 min. Cool. Add salt and baking soda which has been dissolved in 2 t. water. Gradually add the flour and baking powder which have been sifted together, beating smooth after each addition. Bake in a greased and floured 8"X8"X2" pan in a moderate oven of 325 degrees F. About 50 min., or until done. Needs no frosting.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


(courtesy of the LOLCats).

Friday, January 9, 2009

Quote of the Day

January is always a long, flat month: the Christmas festivities are over, the bills are waiting to be paid, the weather is very often of the dreariest, spring is yet far distant. With February, hope and the
snowdrops begin to spring, but January is a month to be warstled through as best we can. O. Douglas, Penny Plain.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Vintage Homekeeping – Grandmother’s Sweet Jar

“Select a jar and place in the bottom a layer of cotton-batting wet with a few drops of oil of bergamot and five drops of rose geranium. On this put a good pint of dried rose petals. Mix in a few cloves, a strip of cinnamon, broken into bits, and a crushed nutmeg. Add another pint of dried petals and sprinkle three drops of oil peppermint on them. On this sprinkle a little orris root or powdered sandalwood.

“After keeping the jar tight for three weeks, open it, and it will scent the room with a delicate fragrance.” Myrtle Mayo, Home Needlework, July 1915.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Okay, that was gruesome

(edited to add the photo).

Reserve Cat just walked out of the spare room with the arm of my big wooden German nutcracker in his mouth.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Cross-Stitch Rug

This pretty little pattern is from a bundle of vintage needlework clippings I won on eBay last year. There is no date, but the Chrysler advertisement on the back shows a distinctly early 20's hat.

The directions call for rug canvas and thick yarn, and a finished size of 28 x 45.5 inches. You could also try it on needlepoint canvas for a dollhouse. The diagram and color chart can be found on my Flickr account.

Monday, January 5, 2009

More frugal luxury

Please check out The Weekend Designer's page. Several times per month he posts a sewing project. These are all copied from high-fashion ready to wear and include pattern drafting instructions.

Last week it was a pencil skirt, today it's a faux fur collar/boa, so if you liked my collar last week but can't knit, here's an alternative.

(Of course you have to sew. Or know someone who sews. Or can hire someone who sews!)

Vintage Magazines-Home Needlework

Home Needlework, January 1915.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Familiar Sight

9 Chickweed Lane

Winter Fare

The Woman’s World Book of Fifty-Two Sunday Dinners offers help for the menu-challenged as well as some really nifty Art Deco illustrations. My copy was published in 1927 and promises the reader that it will make the traditional Sunday dinner “the easiest meal of the week” with menus that are nutritious, tasty, and within reach of every purse.

“The fifty-two menus which form this book are ones that busy women all over the country planned to please their families and to render light the labor on the day of rest. These women are housewives of average income, with average materials and conveniences on hand, and many of them send or take the children to Sunday school before getting the dinner; or, even after starting the meal, go to church themselves and complete the work on their return. Certainly they set a shining example to other women, especially the young and inexperienced, and the wholesome and delicious dishes for which they give recipes can be successfully tried without fear of failure, they having cooked long enough to know whereof they speak…It may be noted that the menus aim at a mixed diet, which is the ideal one for health, and that extravagant use of butter, eggs, and other expensive ingredients have been avoided.”

These menus would have been considered simple, informal meals for the average household with no maid or at best a “girl” in the kitchen who may or may not have received any training in cooking. The book suggests that “the hostess may serve the soup, the host the roast, and the vegetables may be served from a side table. A tea-wagon, even a home-made one, is such a wonderful convenience that the housewife who does not possess one should own one as soon as possible. The dishes from one course may be neatly stacked on its lower shelf, and it can be wheeled away and brought back with the next course, much more conveniently than can be done with trays.”

But even for an informal meal, certain rules could not be broken. Tables had to be set just so, courses served in the proper order, and the silver plated crumbing brush and pan (you did get one as a wedding present, didn’t you, dear? What were your relatives thinking of?) wielded before dessert could be presented.

(Of course as I type this I’m spooning chili up out of an oversized coffee mug, with a can of diet Pepsi and a pile of taco chips graciously served on a paper towel as accompaniment.)

The dishes suggested for the first Sunday in January are actually rather frugal; perhaps the Christmas bills were weighing on the cook’s mind. There is no soup course. Stuffed steak is a great way to stretch a cheap cut of meat to feed eight people. The fruit salad with its expensive ingredients could be eliminated or cut in half, and the cheaper plum pudding served instead of the lemon pie.

Even the dehydrated peaches were an economy, if you had peach trees and dried them yourself the previous summer.

The salad course reflects the belief, still current in the South and most of the Midwest, that anything made with gelatin counts as a salad.

The entire menu page, with recipes, can be found on my Flickr account.