Sunday, January 31, 2010

Calvin Lives

A few days after the blizzard earlier this month, every house on the next block woke to find a snowman on the front lawn…so placed as to be staring accusingly through the living room window when the homeowners opened the drapes in the morning.

I suspect the teenagers who live on the corner and some of their friends. Darn kids.

(Wish I’d thought of it first).

A Noon-Day Breakfast for the Swagger Set

From Breakfasts and Teas; Novel Suggestions for Social Occasions.

"The following is an excellent bill of fare for a noonday breakfast:

Little Neck Clams
Cold Wine Soup
Angels on Horseback
Chicken Patties
Newberg Lobster
Green Peas with New Turnips
Grape Fruit Sherbet
Broiled Birds with Orange Salad
White Custards
Cannelons with Jelly
Strawberries in Cream
Black Coffee

For a simple repast for a few persons, two relishes may be omitted, only one entree being served; then the sherbet, the birds, and one desert, with coffee; this combination would make a most acceptable small breakfast."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Man's Work Is Never Done

He (on hands and knees, scrubbing bathroom floor): HEY! That was real nice!

Me: What happened?

(The Drama Queen is perched on the side of the bathtub, looking maliciously innocent).

He: She just walked across where I cleaned the sink and left dirty footprints all over it!

Me: Welcome to my world.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Xin Nian Kuai Lo!

Happy Year of the (Sleepy) Tiger!

Quote of the Day

Where words fail, music speaks. ~ Hans Christian Andersen

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Online Bookshelf - If Your Baby Must Travel in Wartime

Published by the Children's Bureau of the Department of Labor in 1944, and wittily illustrated by Gluyas Williams. From Project Gutenberg.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Patterns of the Past - Butterick 6618

A classic. What was it about the Fifties and redheads, anyway?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Crochet - Some Vintage Edgings

While looking for something else, I can across a major stash of vintage thread company booklets. How on earth did I accumulate all of these? This one was issued by the Lily Mills Company of Shelby, North Carolina. I can't find a publication date and I think there may be some pages missing.

Two pages of these and other edgings can be downloaded from my Flickr account.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vintage Advertising - Swift's Ham

From Woman's Home Companion, October 1921. Left-click to enlarge -- don't you love those Fauvist curtains?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Stuff Of Life

(Four of these fat rascals are helping themselves to the bird feeders, after stripping the squirrel corn back to the cob. There is a fifth, just off-camera. Photograph taken at a rather awkward angle from the kitchen window this morning).

Mrs Fisher's recipe last Sunday for a cornbread made with cornmeal and boiled rice was an interesting variation. Cornbread used to be a staple on every American table, North and South. In the little grey bungalow, corn and pork are a vous et nul autre team; if I serve ham, I make sure there are corn muffins to go along with it, and pork chops are always….always…accompanied by a side dish of the corn that we “put up” the summer before.

I found this recipe on an age-speckled clipping tucked between the pages of a Depression-era baking book I brought back from Michigan this fall. The last step before baking -- pouring a cup of sweet milk over the batter in the skillet -- is interesting.

CORN BREAD. "1 1/2 cups corn meal, 1/3 cup flour, 1 cup sour milk, 1 teaspoon soda (scant), 2 eggs, well beaten; 2 cups sweet milk, 1/4 cups sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 tablespoons butter. Mix and sift corn meal and flour. Add sour milk mixed with soda, eggs, 1 cup sweet milk, sugar and salt. Melt butter in iron frying pan and turn in mixture. Pour over remaining milk and bake 50 minutes in moderate oven (350° F.). Serves about six."

The eggs and sugar make it a Yankee recipe; I am told a true Southern cook never puts sugar in her cornbread and the purists frown on eggs and butter (my mother, a Texan, used bacon grease). For Southern-style cornbread, check out Christy's recipe at Southern Plate.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Does The SPCA Know About This?

(Overheard at the hair salon this morning)

Stylist #1: ….his grandmother gave him a hamster.
Customer #1: Has he been wanting a hamster?
Stylist #1: Hell, no. It could have been worse, she was going to get him a lizard.
Customer #2: I’d rather have a lizard.
Stylist #2: Yeah, they’re easier to kill than hamsters.


This is not Reserve Cat, BTW. Reserve Cat has prettier eyes and prefers the bathroom rug.

Friday, January 22, 2010

They’re Jes’ a Bunch of Red-Blooded American Boys

At our vaccination clinics, we equip each station with a small American flag fastened to a long stick. This flag is waved to signal to the line managers that a vaccine administrator is ready for her/his next client. This was suggested, incidentally, by a retired sergeant major who works for the local Emergency Management Agency, and we have found it to be an effective technique in large, noisy venues.

There we were at our local Big Corporation today, with the ranks of our nurses reinforced by half a dozen EMTs who volunteered from local fire departments. Strapping lads, all of them (we had to make an emergency run for size large surgical gloves).

They were lounging in the back, flicking their flags rather half-heartedly, when a quartet of attractive young ladies from the Big Corporation call center walked in for their shots. By golly, suddenly the back of the room looked like a George M. Cohan musical.

Quote of the Day

By and large, people who enjoy teaching animals to roll over will find themselves happier with a dog. ~ Barbara Holland

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sometimes, You Just Don't Ask

About an hour ago, the spousal unit announced “If I do this scientifically, it should work,” and walked out of the house carrying a pair of surgical gloves, the bathroom scale and the digital camera.

(Update: my brother in law left a sixty-five pound dead beaver in our garage. I am never...ever...going to step on that scale again).

The Online Bookshelf - The Pirate Woman

She certainly can accessorize. Book may be downloaded from Project Gutenberg.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Patterns of the Past - The Latest in Skirts and Shirtwaists

From Needlecraft magazine, May 1916. Left-click to enlarge or go to my Flickr account.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sewing - A Thread Company Booklet

As promised several weeks ago, I have finished scanning the rest of Sewing Secrets, a little booklet published by the J.P. Coats/Clarks ONT/Spool Cotton Company sometime during the Jazz Age. The rest of the booklet can be found here.

The embroidery stitches start on page 42.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Life's Little Mysteries Dep't

Why is there dog hair in the coffeemaker?

Vintage Illustrations- Zoological Etchings

(copyright-free images from Dover Publications).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Abby Fisher

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then. ~ Langston Hughes

Abby Fisher, a former slave, established a pickle and condiment business in California with her husband after the Civil War. Their products were prize-winners, and the Fishers became very successful. Mrs. Fisher never learned to read and write; she dictated her recipes to an amanuensis (which explains some of the spelling) and her cookbook was published in San Francisco in 1881. As might be expected, the chapters on pickling and preserving are extensive, but the book includes all of the Southern standards.

Maryland Beaten Biscuit. "Take one quart of flour, add one teaspoonful of salt, one tablespoonful of lard, half tablespoonful of butter. Dry rub the lard and butter into the flour until well creamed; add your water gradually in mixing so as to make dough stiff, then put the dough on pastry board and beat until perfectly moist and light. Have your stove hot and bake quickly. To make more add twice the quantity.”

Breakfast Corn Bread. “One tea-cup of rice boiled nice and soft, to one and a half tea-cupful of corn meal mixed together, then stir the whole until light; one teaspoonful of salt, one tablespoonful of lard or butter, three eggs, half tea-cup of sweet milk. The rice must be mixed into the meal while hot; can be baked either in muffin cups or a pan.”

Ochra Gumbo. “Get a beef shank, have it cracked and put to boil in one gallon of water. Boil to half a gallon, then strain and put back on fire. Cut ochra in small pieces and put in soup; don’t put in any ends of ochra. Season with salt and pepper while cooking. Stir it occasionally and keep it from burning . To be sent to table with dry boiled rice. Never stir rice while boiling. Season rice always with salt when it is first put on to cook and do not have too much water in rice while boiling.”

Sweet Potato Pie. “Two pounds of potatoes will make two pies. Boil the potatoes soft; peel and mash fine through a cullender while hot; one tablespoonful of butter to be mashed in with the potato. Take five eggs and beat the yelks and whites separate and add one gill of milk; sweeten to taste; squeeze the juice of one orange, and grate one-half the peel into the liquid. One half teaspoonful of salt in the potatoes. Have only one crust and that at the bottom of the plate. Bake quickly.”

Creole Chow Chow. "One gallon of green tomatoes, sliced thin, half dozen silver skin onions, sliced thin, one gallon wine vinegar, two tea-cups of brown sugar, one tablespoonful of cayenne pepper, one tablespoonful black pepper, one tablespoonful of turmerick. Put the onions and tomoatoes together in a keg or jar and sprinkle over them one pint of salt and let it so remain twenty-four hours, then drain all the brine off from them over cullender, then put the vinegar to them and add the seasoning, and put to cook on a slow fire, stir to keep from burning. It will take the whole day to cook; you can make any quantity you want by doubling the quantity of vegetables and seasonings here prescribed, or if you want a less quantity, lessen the proportion, say half the quantity, then you want a half gallon of tomatoes to begin with, and half of everything else needed in this chow chow.”

Jumberlie – A Creole Dish. “Take one chicken and cut it up, separating every joint, and adding to it one pint of cleanly-washed rice. Take about a half a dozen large tomatoes, scalding them well and taking the skins off with a knife. Cut them in small pieces and put them with the chicken in a pot or large porcelain saucepan. Then cut in small pieces to large pieces of sweet ham and add to the rest, seasoning high with pepper and salt. It will cook in twenty-five minutes. Do not put any water on it.”

What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, at Michigan State University's Feeding America website (photograph of a plantation cook from George Washington University).

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Friday, January 15, 2010

Quote of the Day

Courage is not the absence of fear but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. ~ Meg Cabot.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

You're Only As Old As You Feel Dep't

We held a vaccination clinic at the Senior Center this evening. Towards the end a gentleman came through the door, walking with that careful, high-stepping gait one often sees in very elderly people. He leaned on his cane and peered at our sign. I greeted him.

"Sir, are you here for the H1N1 clinic?"



"No, I'm here for the square dancing class."

The Online Bookshelf- The House That Jack Built

By R. Caldecott, and published in 1878 by Frederick Warne & Co. From Project Gutenberg.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thank You, Captain Obvious

"Of course you're trying to work at the computer. Why do you think I'm leaning on the space bar?"

Patterns of the Past - An Attractive Housecoat

Sometime in the 40's (there's a 1-cent stamp on the envelope), American Weekly sent this housecoat pattern to a woman who, evidently, never made it up. I would, I would make it floor length, and I would make it of polar fleece in a deep, warm color like mulberry.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Knitting - A Bathing Suit from 1935

Just the thing for your next cruise on Franchot Tone's yacht, from Columbia Minerva's Capri Book #42, published in 1935. There are two pages of instructions on my Flickr account.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Vintage Posters - A Calendar for 1897

From Dover Publications, available as an e-card.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cat's Cradle

A simple yet elegant arrangment of the limbs...

The Ideal Kitchen

“Considering that the kitchen department is largely responsible for the health, comfort, good temper, and general well-being of the entire household, it is remarkable that so little time, thought, ingenuity, and money are spent upon it.

The newly-married couple throw themselves heart and soul into the style and decorations of the sitting-rooms and bedrooms, and criticize the architecture of the whole establishment, except that of the kitchen and what are termed domestic offices, which include a stuffy little larder, a cupboard-like place dignified by the name of scullery, and a badly built, badly lighted and ventilated for the kitchen and living-room of the unfortunate maids.

Now, an ideal kitchen is one in which the necessary cooking can be done expeditiously and with the least possible drudgery.

There is no need for a huge kitchen; on the contrary, a large room, much furniture, and many utensils are not easily kept spotlessly clean and tidy.

However, if there is not even a tiny room in which the domestics can sit and have their meals, it is advisable to have a larger kitchen, because, otherwise, the valuable maids will soon leave, and the worthless ones, who may condescend to remain, will work especially badly.

WALLS AND CEILING. If possible, therefore, avoid a sitting-room kitchen, and if you have the opportunity of planning your own kitchen, see that the walls are built with rounded corners, like modern hospitals, and with hard, washable surfaces. These can be prettily tinted with light, bright colours in strong, washable distemper or enamel paint.

The ceiling should be painted white, and washed at least once a year. It can, of course, be whitewashed, but if so treated should be renewed annually.

THE FLOOR. The floor is one of the most important parts in the kitchen, and must, under all circumstances, be washable. It should be made of wood which can easily be stained, or covered with an inlaid linoleum, either of a carpet-like design, or in the parquet pattern. The former, perhaps, is more suitable if it is necessary for the servants to sit in the room. Linoleum is warm for the feet; and if it is inlaid, the pattern does not wear off, even under the strain of constant friction.

Cocoanut matting is strong, but it harbours dust, and the same objection applies to rugs; but, if the latter are used, the edges should be stoutly bound.

The floor of the scullery can be treated like the kitchen, for the usual stone floor is hard to keep clean, and is very cold and cheerless. At any rate, a wooden scullery mat should be provided, since stone floors, damped perhaps with splashings from the sink, are responsible for many chills.

The wall around the sink, behind the gas-stove, and on either side of the kitchen range, should be lined either with tiles, galvanized zinc, or a substance now much used, composed of zinc enameled so as to give the effect of tiles.

Curtains are out of place in the cookery department, but a bare, comfortless look may be prevented by using pretty reed and bead curtains. These keep out no air, and every now and then can be taken down, dipped into a tub of soapy water, rinsed, rubbed down, and hung up again, all within the space of ten minutes.

THE RANGE. Never grudge money spent on a good cooking range, for on the efficiency of the range depend the amount of fuel consumed, the supply of hot water, and the quality of the roasting and baking.

Nowadays there are numerous makers who build stoves with every modern contrivance and which ensure economy and good results. Moreover, such ranges are moderate in price and procurable in sizes suitable for a family of two or twenty. A gas stove, in addition, is of the utmost value, since it saves much unnecessary coal, labour and heat during the summer months.

THE KITCHEN TABLE. The height of the kitchen table should be adapted to the height of the cook, because, if this is done, she can be spared much backache and weariness. If the table is too high, supply a wooden mat to stand on; or if the cook is too tall, the table can be raised on four blocks.

The modern housewife no longer worries about the snowy boards of the dresser and table, after the fashion of her grandmother. It is not that she is less cleanly—on the contrary, she is infinitely more hygienic—but she has learned that time may be spent more wisely than in scrubbing wood. She covers her table and other much-used surfaces, therefore, with pretty imitation tiles of galvanized zinc, which can be kept as bright as any silver, or tiled oilcloth. Moreover, this substance will not be injured if a hot saucepan be placed upon it, and after it has been wiped over with hot soda-water, it looks the picture of cleanliness.

When cooking is over a cheerful coloured tablecloth can be put on the table, and this will add considerably to the comfort of the room.

It is advisable to have drawers fitted in the kitchen table; one built like a writing-table, with drawers down each side and screw-hooks at the ends on which to hang rolling-pins, pastry brushes, etc., is invaluable, but not suitable if the maids have to use it for meals.

KITCHEN UTENSILS. All kitchen utensils should be light, durable, and made of such ware that they can easily be kept clean without laborious scouring and polishing. A few good enamel saucepans are useful, but they are only suitable for light work. Very cheap enameled ware, though pretty and clean-looking, is not economical, as the lining soon chips off. Aluminium utensils are very popular, being light, durable and easily kept clean. The initial outlay is, however, heavy, and as the heat penetrates very quickly, owing to the thinness of the metal, they are not suitable for every kind of cooking – e.g., stewing.

Copper is, of course, everlasting, but the initial outlay is considerable; it is heavy for constant lifting, and needs thorough cleaning and burnishing, and unless the tinned exterior is kept intact it soon becomes a serious danger to health.

Tin utensils are useless except for spirit lamps, although good block-tin answers well for gas-stove cooking, or for such utensils as fish-kettles, steamers, etc. The seamless steel pans, are, perhaps, the most serviceable. They are very strong, easily cleaned, and can be re-tinned, if necessary.

Nowadays, no kitchen would be considered properly equipped without a supply of earthenware utensils, casseroles, marmites, and such like, for they are so cleanly, and there is never the least risk of their spoiling the most delicately flavoured foods, if they are kept properly cleaned.

LABOUR-SAVING APPLIANCES. Although there is a vast number of really useful labour and time-saving appliances in the market to-day, it is a remarkable fact that there are but comparatively few houses into which they have been introduced.

The British housewife is apt to be distinctly behind the times in her kitchen; if her mother’s cook was content to do all the chopping by hand, pound away at the bread-dough, etc., why should she spend her money and pamper her domestics with mincing machines, bread mixers, forcing bags, wire and hair sieves?

The daintiest little moulds can be obtained, and other contrivances that put joy into the heart of any cook. Of such kitchen treasures there are scores such as; The frying basket, vegetable pressers, trussing needles, cutters, egg poaches, egg whisks, apple corers, pastry brushes.

Many of these things can be bought for less than a shilling, and yet the cook is grudged these helpers, although, maybe, she is allowed a “char” at 2s. 6d. per day and her meals, plus her wonderful skill for producing the muddle and dirt which she is supposed to be eradicating.

SYSTEM IN ARRANGEMENT. Wall space should not be wasted; if utensils are kept in sight the easier it is to find them, and the more likely they are to be kept clean. Each new cook, however, should not be allowed to hammer in nails at her own sweet will, but strips of painted wood should be fixed properly to the walls, and into these brass hooks screwed.

Pans of all sorts should be arranged in one group, iron spoons, fish slice, and skewers in another. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is one of the golden rules for the kitchen. An orderly cook should be able to find the merest trifle in the dark.

Provide white-glazed earthenware-covered jars for ingredients, with the name of the contents on each in black lettering. Enamelled tins of a similar kind look bright, although the former are really preferable. Bits of groceries should on no account be left lying about in paper bags since, if they are, they merely invite mice and beetles. Jars and tins should be arranged on a shelf at a convenient height; this facilitates work and avoids hunting for things in a badly lighted cupboard.

In the scullery it is useful to have fixed wooden grooved draining boards, sloping towards the sink; slate, marble, or tiled sides are very cleanly and look well, but plates are easily chipped against the stone when laying them to drain.

DISHCLOTHS. In many households dishcloths are a thing of the past; they are considered, and correctly, as non-hygienic, and indeed, often are greasy and slimy, and contain fragments of food. In their place large, stout, round brushes are used; something like, only superior to, the brushes used for putting on enamel paint. These brushes are easily washed, the bristles penetrate well into any crevices in the crockery, round the handles of cups, and so forth, and remove dried substances far more quickly than cloths.”

By Gladys Owen. From Every Woman's Encyclopedia, Vol I, (1910).

Saturday, January 9, 2010

More Saturday Cat Humor

On a Claire Day


Friday, January 8, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Online Bookshelf - Every Woman's Encyclopedia

I have two hard-copy volumes of this ladies' compendium, printed between 1910 and 1912, and was happy to hear that Vols I-VII are available for reading or download at the Internet Archive. Volume 1 covers everything from Army, Officer's Wives to Warts, Removal of.

Not Just No But Hell No

It's 7 AM

The snowplows have passed us twice. School has been cancelled and the spousal unit is helping the minister shovel out the sidewalks at the Christian Church (which, come to think of it, is an exercise in futility). I am drinking coffee and reflecting that, if I wanted to get to work on time, I should have left already.

(Update: I am listening to the local talk radio station. A man has called in to say that he's watching his eighty-year-old neighbor shoveling her driveway. The deejay just hollered at him to get his *** outside and help her).

(Update #2: I am abashed. Brian's helping shovel out the church because there's a funeral this morning).

(Update #3: I am not going to work today).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Patterns of the Past - Hollyhocks

I have to post these happy, sunny little flowers, if only because we're expecting between five and seven inches of snow tomorrow night. From McCall's Needlework and Crafts, Summer 1940.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Knitting - A Swinging 60's Sweater

Interesting pattern stitch. From Spinnerin Mills' Fashion Excitement, published in 1963. Pattern on Flickr.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Vintage Advertising - Yeast Foam

From Women's Home Companion, October 1921. Yummy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Tale of Two Sundays - January

Many vintage cookbooks offer menu suggestions, but I have two that specialize in them; one is from 1927 and the other from 1953.

The booklet from 1953 has only menus, in fact, the idea being that you were to buy the other cookbooks in the series--500 Salads, 500 Seafood Recipes, etc--and turn to them for the recipes after getting your marching orders from the menu booklet. Since I blogged about a Roaring Twenties first Sunday supper last year, I thought it might be interesting to contrast what the up-to-date Fifties housewife would be serving for dinner on the first Sunday in January.

The menu is an intriguing combination of the exotic and the comfortably familiar. We start with an Avocado Cocktail Salad, move on to Duck with Sauerkraut accompanied by a Carrot and Celery Soufflé. Dessert is Hot Mince Pie with Rum Sauce, and it’s all washed down with milk or hot coffee.

Here is the recipe from 500 Salads.

Avocado Cocktail Salad

1 avocado
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Watercress, romaine or lettuce
2 cups avocado balls or cubes
1/2 cup Appetizer Mayonnaise

Cut avocado crosswise into halves and remove seed. Slice 2 rings from each half and peel. Sprinkle with lemon juice and salt, arrange on watercress, and fill rings with avocado balls. Serve with the mayonnaise. Serves 4.

Appetizer Mayonnaise is 2 1/2 cups of regular mayonnaise with 1 cup chili sauce, 1 teaspoon Worcester sauce, 1 teaspoon horseradish, 2 minced pickles, 1 minced stalk of celery, 1 tablespoon minced chives and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley stirred in.

Of the two menus, I think I would prefer the one from 1927 both as a cook and as a member of the dinner party.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Lucky Dip

They had a basket full of junk jewelry displayed at the Mission thrift shop the other day. I picked up a few pieces, some quite nice.

Where I really hit the mother lode, however, was in a sandwich baggie full of orphan earrings. There are flowers and leaves;

There are seashells;

Gemstones of breathtaking fauxity;



Dangles (at what era in American fashion was it trendy to wear red plastic Louisville sluggers in one's ears, I wonder);

A couple of bold and not unbecoming pieces in Art Deco style;

And some very odd odds and ends.

A couple had mates; pity the pretty green ones are plastic.

And finally the pieces de la resistance; the Jellyfish earrings!

I really couldn't get a better picture although I tried several times. I think the camera kept flinching. And no, I have no idea what I'm going to do with them. But for a dollar ninety-nine for the whole bag, how could I pass them up?

(Reserve Cat says why you buy joolry, Ma? Why you not buy more pritty string for me to knock under da bed?)