Monday, September 23, 2013

Fail

It's been over a month since I posted, and for that I am sorry.  Here's the thing:  I've found it very difficult to be a good "housewife" when my husband lives 2000 miles away.  What's the point of cooking for only myself?  What kind of cleaning tips do I need when I don't really have many messes to clean?  I may have to put this blog on hiatus for a while until he gets back.

It really makes me wonder, though - what did women like me do in the 1950's?  I doubt job opportunities were so globalized that many women found themselves thousands of miles from their husbands for long periods of time, but what about unmarried women?  All of my books and articles about how to be a "good woman" in the 1950's focus on how to be a good wife and how to be a good mother.  I admit: with Rex gone I feel as though I've lost a bit of my identity.  I took a lot of pride in continually bettering myself as a wife.  That seems to be the predominant attitude in most of the mid-twentieth century literature I've come across too: a woman is defined by how well she serves her man.  So.....what if a woman didn't find a husband?  What if she didn't have kids?  Then what?

I've done a little bit of research into this (because what else am I supposed to write about right now?), and it seems that single women in the 1950's were seen as second-class citizens.  Plenty of articles and books were written about how to find a husband, and singleness was seen as a disease to be cured.  I'm sorry - I know this is going to sound awfully feminist of me - but isn't that sad?  Your life doesn't start till you get married?  What if you don't find the right guy?  What if your husband dies?  You're not worth anything unless you're a wife and mother?  No me gusta.

So anyway, I've found a fatal flaw in my plan to live as my fifties foremothers.  No husband = no life.  I'll still try to update occasionally, but I don't have much to write about until Rex gets back because fifties women didn't have much to do except sit around and wait on their husbands.  Bummer.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Make Up Your Mind

According to Business Week, Americans spend an estimated $40 billion per year on weight loss.  They join weight loss programs, they take weight loss supplements, they buy gym memberships and then only go twice, you get the idea.  My new friend Nicole recently posted some pictures on her blog that made me stop in my tracks.  These are actual advertisements from the 1950's:


 
People used to spend money to try to gain weight.  What?!  The thought of that seems so humorous to me.  Here we are as a culture trying everything we can to be as skinny as possible, and a few decades ago women were paying money for programs and supplements to help them gain weight.  It's so weird to think about!  Would our current celebrities have been considered "pretty" sixty years ago?  Would Marilyn Monroe have been such a sex symbol if she lived now instead of back then?  Why do our views on beauty change so much? 
 
I also think it's funny that the model in the first ad is saying, "Men wouldn't look at me when I was skinny!"  In the past few months I lost fifteen pounds, and let me tell you - men look at me a lot more than they did fifteen pounds ago.  I'm not saying that I particularly enjoy people whistling at me on the street or coming up and asking me out when I'm trying to grocery shop; I'm just saying that it didn't happen before I was a size 2.  How come?  Why do men think skinny girls are attractive, when clearly they didn't think that back in the fifties?  Does the media say, "This is attractive" and then everyone on earth just goes with whatever they're told?  That seems really creepy - like we're all being brainwashed or something.  Who gets to pick what's attractive?  Why do we all listen to them?  Does anyone else think this is really weird?
 
I don't want to go into a preachy monologue about how we all need to just be happy with the way God made us (even though that's true).  I just want to comment about how fickle society is in what it demands of women.  "You're supposed to look like this!"  and then, five minutes later, "No wait, you're supposed to look like that!"  It would be exhausting to try to keep up, so I think I just won't. 
 
In honor of being a true fifties housewife, I think I will go have some pizza for lunch. Not sure that's exactly what they meant by those "gaining weight" advertisements, but that's how I'm going to take it.  Time to go make me some curves! ;-)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dress Success!!

My last post was titled "Dress Mess" because I was having the hardest time sewing a dress.  I really think I'm more cut out for skirts or pillowcases (my two greatest - ahem - only successes thus far).  With some help from my awesome mom, though, I was able to finish the dress in time for the bridal shower!  My first big party in my new house went really well.  My mother-in-law even called me "the hostess with the mostest,"  to which I of course said "thank you" but on the inside said, "WHOO HOOOOOOO!!!!! I AM A SUCCESS AT LIFE!!!!"  My desserts were a hit, my house was clean, and I got lots of compliments on my dress.  I felt very proud. For some reason, hostessing makes me very happy.  Hostessing while wearing homemade clothes and trying successful new recipies?  Well, that's just paradise.  Here's some pics of the dress:



 
So there you have it - my new dress.  Aren't you proud of me??  That's okay, you don't have to be proud of me.  I'm pretty sure that I'm proud enough for the both of us.  ;-)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dress Mess

I got a little bit ahead of myself today.

I was so excited about successfully making a skirt that I thought, "Now that I can sew, why don't I make a dress?"  I figured a dress would be easy because I already know how to make the skirt part so I would just have to make a skirt, add a bodice and - BAM - beautiful homemade dress.  I pictured myself wearing it to the bridal shower I am throwing for one of my cousins-in-law.  All of the aunts would show up to the bridal shower and say, "What a beautiful dress!  Where did you get it?"  Then I would smile modestly and say, "Actually, I made it myself."  They'd turn to each other and say, "Wow, she cooks, she cleans, and she sews her own clothes? Rex Lee certainly found himself a gem of a wife."  I have this strangely insatiable need to impress my in-laws, but then again who doesn't?

So...the dress was supposed to be easy.  Um, it isn't.  It turned out I was acting like a first grader who just learned how to add saying, "Gee whiz, I can do math!  Bring on the Calculus!"  No no, little first grader.  You're skipping a few steps.

First of all, I thought my skirt had a lot of pieces.  It had nine.  My dress has eighteen.  It's a challenge just to keep track of all of the pieces I cut out and know which ones were which.  I took lots of time to cut out the pieces precisely so that I could line them up right.  I pinned them well and began to stich, and then my sewing machine threw a tantrum.

I've never seen a sewing machine freak out like that.  It was possessed.  It started crinkling my fabric, dropping stitches, and making weird hopping motions.  Seriously - the needle would hop a few inches forward or backward for seemingly no apparent reason.  I said the only logical thing to say in this situation:  "Ummm...Mom?"

My mom came and gave it a try, but the machine wouldn't behave for her either.  We finally discovered it was because I was trying to make my dress out of jersey knit fabric.  I liked how drapey it was, but my life would  have been easier if I just picked cotton.  My mom thought that we might have to buy a new machine for that type of fabric, and obviously we couldn't do that.  I texted my mother-in-law and asked her if she knew of any relatives who are good at sewing and might be able to solve my problem.  She responded with, "All the people I would tell you to call are dead."  Oh, okay.  Not exactly helpful.

I turned to Google for advice, which might have been cheating because they definitely didn't have Google in the fifties.  I was desperate, though, so you're going to have to forgive me.  Google told me that I could buy a special needle that would work on jersey knit, so I ventured out to Hobby Lobby to track down the special needle.

Once I had the special needle, the sewing machine stopped being angry (phew!).  The next problem I'm encountering is the fact that I don't know what half of the parts of the bodice are.  Interfacing?  Stay-stitching?  Edge-tape?  Selvages?  Learning to sew is like learning a new language.

I'm lucky I have my mom to help me....so far I'm pretty frustrated.   Maybe I should stick to skirts, especially the types that don't have pockets.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Finished!

This is my finest hour.  This is my new greatest accomplishment.  It's better than graduating from college with high honors, it's better than marrying the perfect husband, it's better than getting my book published, and it's better than acing that lab practical during freshman year.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit.  Let's be realistic: nothing will ever beat acing a KAMSC lab practical.  ;-)

The truth of the matter is, today I finished sewing my very own article of clothing.  When I started, my fabric was in a giant square,  but somehow I coaxed it into becoming a wearable skirt.  I feel so cool right now.

My fifties housewife books tell me that sewing is necessary, like washing dishes or mopping your floor.  If it's just a necessary part of life, then how come it makes me feel so awesome for accomplishing it?!

Actually, come to think of it, I remember being pretty excited the first time I emptied the dishwasher all by myself.  That seems a little different, though, since I was six.  Also, after I did that my mom was so proud of me that she said from then on emptying the dishwasher could be my very own household chore.  It became less exciting really fast.  Ha ha.

What if I get as good at sewing as I am at emptying out the dishwasher??  Maybe this will be my new career.  I'll become a super famous fashion designer, and the skirt I just sewed will be a vintage "Christine Webb original" worth millions!  I mean, imagine how much people would pay for Vera Wang's first dress or Ralph Lauren's first polo.  This skirt is pretty much an investment in my retirement.  It's an "antique of the future."  When I'm ready to retire, I'll sell it for ten million dollars and then buy a summer home in Fiji.  Someone will write my biography and say, "Christine Webb had humble beginnings as a seamstress.  She was inspired to sew one day when she saw a discarded school print in the dollar bin at Wal-Mart and thought, 'I could make a skirt for teaching out of that.'  From then on, the legend was born.  A skirt that cost one dollar to make is now the most prized piece in the fashion world.  Many people have tried to make replicas, but no one can make the pockets as crooked as they are on the true original.  Christine originally claimed that it was a mistake because she was bad at making pockets, but after much coaxing from fashion critics she has finally admitted that it is possible the crooked pockets were just part of her creative genius."

Yep, that's pretty much how it's going to go.  Or, you know, I might just sew some more fun clothes for work.  Whichever.  I'm not picky.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pockets are from the Devil

We don't know exactly who invented pockets, but if I could meet them I would really like to punch them in the face. 

My books say that pockets have been around since the 1500's, so it's going to be hard for me to figure out exactly who invented them and even harder for me to punch that person in the face.

If you've been following along, you know I'm attempting to sew my own skirt.  (Check out my first post about that by clicking here.)  Well, I've run into a snag.  That snag is called "pockets."

Why do we need pockets, really?  I can keep everything I want in my purse.  Plus, if you put too much in your pockets then it makes your legs look all bulgy.  Also, it's a waste of material.  If we take all of the material that people have used to make useless pockets and put it together, I bet we could clothe a whole third world country.  I'll call it "The Pocket Plan" and win a Nobel Prize.

Unfortunately I can't start that project today, because my mom is insisting that I make pockets for my new skirt.  She says I'll regret it if I don't (which totally isn't true).  You might think making a pocket would be easy.  I thought so at first too.  It's not.  It has to have a curved edge to go in front (because heaven forbid we have a straight-edged pocket), and it has to do all of these folds in the back to make it functional but also lie flat.  It's advanced fabric origami. 

Maybe the Devil himself invented pockets.  I'd believe it.  He thought to himself, "Ha ha HA!  This is a brilliant plan!  I will encourage people to make pockets, which will waste loads of material.  It will also frustrate people to the point where they give up their seamstress dreams!  Hundreds of attempts people will make at becoming productive members of society have just been thwarted!  Also, people can keep all kinds of evil things in these pockets...knives, money (the root of all evil), pictures of crime scenes, those weird little porn cards you get on the streets of Vegas...it's perfect!" 

I really think it would be better for all involved if I just skip the pockets.  I've tried about five times now, ripped out seams every time, and had to start again.  I've gotten nowhere on this skirt after hours of working on it.  I don't even have two pieces sewn together! My mom doesn't even get how to do it, and she's awesome at sewing.  She says that the pattern is really poorly written.  I say that pockets are from the devil.  You know, one of those tomato/tomahto things.

If I ever finish this skirt, I'm going to be PUMPED.  Also, I will never again attempt to make pockets.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sew Simple

I have spent most of this project working on honing my cooking and cleaning skills.  I cannot believe I have neglected a different, very important branch of housewifery - sewing!  There are entire chapters about it in my fifties books,  but I've just kind of skipped over them.  Now that I'm back in Michigan, though, I have time to develop those skills.  My mom is an AWESOME seamstress, and she offered to teach me!  Woot!

As my first project in my quest to become a master seamstress, I decided to make a skirt.  That has to be pretty easy, right?  It's basically a piece of material wrapped around your waist, and then you just sew a seam up the back.  Maybe add a button or two if you're feeling crafty.

HAHAHAHA no.  That's not how it is.  I haven't even sewn a stich yet, and I'm already horrible at sewing.  When I bought my pattern to make a skirt, I chose one from a brand called "Sew Simple."  I thought, "Perfect!  This will be great for a beginner like me.  Plus, I like the play on words."

I opened my pattern to get started, and it pretty much went downhill from there.  First of all, they have all the directions in three languages.  What??  They did not do that in the fifties, I'm pretty sure.  There are pages and pages of directions that I don't understand a word of - and that's just the English directions.

Do you know what "basting" fabric is?  Because I don't.  I know how to baste a turkey...but I have a sneaking suspicion that it's not the same thing.  What is a "selvage"?  What do all of these little triangles mean?  Am I sure I'm on the English pages?!

I decided to skip the written directions and just try to follow the pictures.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.  I turned to the picture directions and looked at step 1, which had about a zillion parts.  I started with step 1A, the very first step, and here's what it is:

 
 That's it.  No explanations or anything.  What does it meeeeeean???  It's like looking at ancient Sanskrit.  I'm picturing this hanging in a futuristic museum.  A school group walks by, and the teacher says, "Okay kids.  Back in the olden days, women had to make their own clothes.  They did this by a process called 'sewing.'  A few hundred years ago, back in the 1950's, women could look at these strange markings and somehow know how to make a skirt out of it."  The kids would look up in awe, except for the one squirrelly kid who's probably on a futuristic GameBoy or something.  The future is bound to still have squirrely kids.  Anyway, the teacher would continue: "Women nowadays just program their fashion needs into an iFashion box, and their clothes come out.  Jimmy!  Put away your HoloGame!  Anyway, before we had iFashion boxes, this is what people had to do.  They had to follow the secret code directions to figure out how to make things for themselves to wear."
 
My mom helped me cut out the material into the appropriate shapes (did you know a skirt takes NINE pieces of material??  WHAT??), and by that time it was 10:00 PM and I gave up for the night.  I have to go back tonight and keep working on it.  Making clothes is way trickier than I expected.  Now I see why people just go to the mall.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Good News, Readers!

Sorry I've been gone so long, readers.  I've been moving 2000+ miles across the country, back to my hometown of Kalamazoo.  If you think about it, that seems very houewifey, does it not?  Take Rex's grandma for example:  she grew up in Kalamazoo, had all her kids here, had all her grand kids here, and then died here.  Isn't that kind of the fifties ideal?  Family all around all the time?  So HA - my life choices reflect my blog morals.  Zap.  Rex and I will now be around both my family and his family as much as we want to (and very possibly more than we want to...lol. I'm having visions of the mother-in-law on Everybody Loves Raymond.  You know, the one who pops in all the time and is totally nuts?  Ha ha...  My in-laws aren't like that.  Hopefully.  ;-)    Anyway, living zillions of miles from family (and in LAS VEGAS, no less) didn't seem very June Cleaver, but now I'm back.  You may breathe a sigh of relief.

I'm so happy that I'll be able to ask for cooking/cleaning help whenever I need it.  Already my mother-in-law taught me how to do dishes correctly.  Apparently there's a spinny thing in there that needs to be able to spin.  Who knew?  If it's not spinning, your dishes aren't getting cleaned right.  Now my dishes are sparkly every time.  Also, the good news for you is that I now have access to my mom-in-law's EXTENSIVE collection of fifties homemaking books.  That should yield many more blog posts.  Also, my mom bought me some awesome fifties books at the library book sale.  I already learned something from the first book:  "New brides often use too warm of water when baking bread.  The best temperature of water to activate the yeast is about 85 degrees.  Anything higher than 90 will scorch it."  THAT was my problem on my last batch of bread!  The yeast didn't rise properly, and I was so confused.  Little did I know that I had scorched it!  Poor yeast....  Sorry about that, little guy.  I didn't mean to kill you.  I'll do better next time.

One of my mother-in-law's books is from the department of Homeland Defense in 1960.  It's about how to make a bomb shelter in your back yard in the event that we were to get nuked by the "crazy commies."  It even says how much radiation your livestock can be exposed to without yielding poisonous meat!  Cool, huh?  Expect a post on that soon.  :-)

So anyway, it's good to be back.  I'm sure this blog will be far less neglected now that I have a constant stream of fodder for it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Stovetop Shame

I did a lot of cooking this week, but I didn't do a lot of cleaning.  I finally decided to clean my kitchen today, and I was disgusted by what I saw on my stove top.  You're going to be disgusted too.  Only proceed to the pictures below if you have a strong stomach and are feeling non-judgmental:



EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWW!!!  I KNOW, okay?  I KNOW.  It's gross.  I shouldn't have let it get that bad.  I deserve to have my wife card taken away.  I deserve to be the star of a new reality show called "The Health Department Condemned My Apartment."  I know.   I'm sorry.  My range has always been kind of stained and yucky looking, but never this bad.  It needed an extreme makeover - range edition.

The bright side of this all is that I figured I could get a good blog post out of it.  I decided to clean my stove top fifties style.  After all, my fifties foremothers were the queens of clean - surely they could reform a hopeless slob such as myself?  I'd already tried sticking those silver thingies in the dishwasher, but that didn't really do anything.  I tried scrubbing with soap and water, but the stains were stubborn.  It was time to call in the big guns: my fifties housewife books.

I looked in the index and found an entry called "range; how to clean."  Page 71.  Perfect.  I turned to page 71, and here's what it said:

"Two ounces plus of prevention: Learn how to keep foods from boiling over and burning.  Here are some how-to-cook suggestions that will help keep your pans gleaming and your range clean."

Thanks a lot, book.  Clearly since I'm looking up how to clean my range, I've already failed at all of your preventative techniques.  I skipped ahead a few paragraphs to get to the next part.

"Cool range before cleaning."

No DUH.  I'm pretty domestically defunct, but even I knew that.

"Wipe with cloth rung out of suds; dry.  For stubborn spots, sprinkle on a little household cleaner; rub lightly with damp cloth.  Rinse.  To clean and wax, pour a little kitchen wax onto damp cloth; wipe cloth over surface of the range."

I'm sorry........wax my range?  What?!  I called over to Rex, "Hey, this book says I'm supposed to wax the stove top.  Have you heard of that before?"  He responded, "Is that sort of like waxing your legs?  You put on the wax and it pulls up all of the dirt?"  I replied, "No...I think it's more like waxing a car.  You know, to make it shiny."

Clearly we don't know about the waxing thing.  I skipped it. (Side note:  if you know what this means, please comment.  I'm curious).

The paragraph before was the one that intrigued me.  It said that for stubborn stains, I needed to rub a little bit of "household cleaner" on it.  What kind of cleaner, exactly, am I supposed to use?  Did they not have multiple types cleaners in the fifties?  Was there just a catch-all "this cleans everything" cleaner?  If so, WHERE CAN I GET A BOTTLE OF THAT?!

I'm hopeless in the household cleaner aisle.  I didn't know what to get.  I knew it wasn't Windex...I knew it wasn't toilet cleaner...I knew it wasn't Pledge...  I decided to use a lifeline and phone a friend.  I called the person who any rational wife would call in this sort of situation...my mother-in-law!

(Please picture triumphant superhero music playing as she appears in a jumpsuit in the household cleaners aisle)

My mother-in-law said I needed to try a cleaner called "Barkeeper's Friend."  She swears by it.  I was skeptical to say the least.  The title of it was strange, and the container itself looked shifty (not sure how a container looked shifty, but it did).  Still, I decided to give it a try.  I didn't have any better ideas, and I wasn't about to spray my range with Windex.

My friends.  Let me tell you.  Barkeeper's Friend is MAGIC.  If you don't have any, you must get some.  I sprinkled some onto my range, and *poof!*  all of the stains were gone.  I was so happy that I almost jumped up and down.  It worked!  Thanks to my housekeeping books and my mother-in-law, I will never have a nasty looking range again!  I can get my wife card back!  Hooray!




Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Swimsuit Shopping

I never thought I would find myself doing research on the history of spandex, but today I did.

It all started because I'm shopping for a new swimsuit.  For fun, I've been trying to follow the guidelines in my 1950's housekeeping books while choosing one.  The books tell me to check the fit of my swimsuit by doing a few things, and I have highlighted these for you underneath the picture below.




1. Sit on a chair or floor to check whether or not the suit is long enough for comfort and coverage.

Coverage?  Since when is a swimsuit about coverage?  I couldn't find one in stores that would pass the 1950's "coverage" standards, so I've been looking online.  So far, no luck.

2. Be careful not to catch your flesh in the zipper as you work the suit up over your hips and waist.

I have never seen a suit with a zipper.  That seems very strange.  Also, catching your "hip flesh" in a zipper?  Yowza.

3. Raise your arms in an action test to note whether or not the bra provides ample coverage in this position.

This one seems valid.  I'm really over the under-cleavage that you see at beaches nowadays, although I'm pretty sure some people do this on purpose.  Ew.

While searching my swimsuit options, I noted that the homemaking book tells me the best and most used fabric for making swimsuits is wool.  Have you ever heard of a wool swimsuit?  Apparently the professional swimmers in the 1950's used them.  I couldn't figure out why the book didn't mention spandex suits, as almost all suits today are made of spandex.  After researching the history of spandex, I found out that it wasn't even invented until 1959.  Wow!  So swimsuits in the fifties had no spandex whatsoever, because it wasn't invented yet.  Also, fun fact: did you know that the inventors of spandex named it "spandex" because that's an anagram of the word "expands"?  I thought that was super awesome.

So anyway, I've spent some time looking for an accurate fifties swimsuit.  I can't imagine that a zippered woolen swimsuit going halfway down my thighs could be very comfortable... but I guess I'll never know because I can't find one.  The only wool swimsuits I found were hundreds of dollars, and most of them were still at least partially spandex.  Most of the "vintage fifties swimsuits" online are made of spandex and incredibly revealing.  I guess advertisers feel that if you put polka dots on something and make the model wear cat-eye glasses, that makes it vintage fifties.  Well, that's not true!  I might have to make my own swimsuit this summer if I want it to be authentic...time to go buy some wool and zippers.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cleaning the Refrigerator

Cleaning out the refrigerator is never a fun chore.  It actually might be my least favorite.  If I cleaned it out every week it wouldn't be so bad, but I don't.  After a while, gross leftovers sit and get moldy, and then I finally clean it out and am totally grossed out by the things that have been lurking in the dark corners of my fridge for weeks.

Today I had to clean out the refrigerator.  I thought to myself, "This would make a great Vintage Housewife post."  After all, women in the fifties had refrigerators, so obviously they had to clean them out.  I figured there was a technique to it, and I was right!  I found a whole section about it in one of my homemaking books (this one was from 1961).

First of all, the book reminds me to clean out my refrigerator frequently in order to allow for better cold air circulation.  If it is all cluttered up, the cold air can't get to all of the food evenly.  Ummm...oops.  From now on, I promise to clean out my refrigerator frequently.  Scout's honor.  Okay, moving on...

The book says that before cleaning, I need to be sure to unplug the refrigerator.  What?  I've never unplugged a refrigerator!  I don't even know how to do that!  The plug is behind the refrigerator, and I'd have to pull the refrigerator away from the wall in order to be able to unplug it. I think I'm going to have to skip this step.  I hope it doesn't make too big of a difference.

Next the book tells me to make sure I'm keeping the evaporator defrosted and to clean out the moisture collector box.  This needs to be done at least once a week.

I've lived in this apartment for two years, and I've never cleaned out the "moisture collector box."  I have also never checked to make sure that my evaporator is defrosted.  I don't even know what that is.  Do I have one of those?  Do you have one of those?  I looked all over my refrigerator and freezer, but I couldn't find one.  I'm going to guess that somewhere between 1961 and 2013, they stopped using those. I hope so, anyway. otherwise my moisture collector is probably really dirty.

So far I haven't done a single thing that the book tells me to do.  The third step is to make sure that the temperature is set correctly.  It should be set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Well, I looked all over my refrigerator, and there is nowhere to set the temperature.  There are "levels" to set the temperature, but those range from 0-6 with no indication as to what the corresponding temperatures are.  With no other ideas, I stuck a thermometer in there (the kind you use if you have a fever) to try to see what the temperature of the air was. The only reading I could get was "LO."  I guess the thermometer doesn't go down that far.  I put my hand in the refrigerator and estimated that it feels about....40 degrees.  Perfect.  ;-)

The next step was one I could do - clean the shelves and the sides with a warm water/borax mix.  I couldn't believe that I actually had borax, but I did!  I used it in an experiment for fifth grade the other day, and I had no idea what it was before then.  Ha ha.  Apparently it's a great kitchen cleaning agent.

The book didn't say anything about throwing away the old moldy food, but I guess they just considered that to be a "duh," factor about cleaning out your refrigerator.  Or perhaps they did it so often that it wasn't a huge consideration.

This is the first day that I'm glad I'm not a real fifties housewife.  I really hate cleaning refrigerators, and theirs took a lot more maintenance than mine does.  I guess I should stop complaining.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Salsa Incident

In my quest to become the ultimate vintage housewife, I have yet to quote the highest authority on acceptable housewifery: the Bible.  Well, today is the day.  Our quote of the day comes from Proverbs 16:18, and here it is:  "Pride comes before the fall."

You've all heard that before, but I doubt you've heard it made in reference to Mexican food.

So there I was, mixing my guacamole to bring to our Southwestern-style barbecue.  Rex was already out at the grill with our friends, and I was putting the finishing touches on our contributions - the potato salad (I tried a new recipe!) and the guacamole (this was for chips but also to put on the burgers.  Yum.).  I learned how to make my homemade guacamole from the ultimate Guac Master - Josh Mackaluso.  Now, I can't give away his entire recipe lest I be hunted down and smothered with a particularly beefy bushel of cilantro, but I can tell you that one of the ingredients is Tositos salsa.  You may think it's weird to put salsa in guacamole, but just trust me - it's GOOD.

I tried to open the new jar of salsa, but it wouldn't budge.  I tried harder, but it wouldn't budge.  I squinched up my face and grunted like a pro-wrestler, but guess what?  It still wouldn't budge.  Normally in this situation, I would sashay into the living room and hand Rex the jar.  Without asking questions, he'd grab the jar, open it, and hand it back to me all without taking his eyes off of his notes.

If you've been paying attention, you know that at this point Rex was already down by the grill.  Well, I wasn't about to go walk across the apartment complex to have Rex open a jar for me.  It would be way too humiliating, especially since the only other female down there was a buff German feminist friend of ours.  I could only imagine the scowl I would get from her if I had to have a man open my Tostitos jar.

I decided to keep trying.  I grabbed the jar gripper out of our drawer, but it didn't do any good.  I hit the side of the jar lid with a knife, because that sometimes works for my little sister when she's trying to open a jar of pickles.  It didn't work either.  I tried everything!  It was no use! I considered making the guacamole without the salsa, but that just seemed wrong.  I would be bringing shame to the Mackaluso recipe.  Finally I realized I had no choice.  I had to have Rex open the jar.  (Side note real fast - how do you single girls out there solve this problem?  Do you have random unopened jars in your house?  I was not single long enough to experience this problem...please explain how you deal with this).

I packed up the rest of the barbecue supplies and prepared to go to the party with my guacamole only half assembled.  I put Elvis on his leash, and I took a deep breath, ready to face my embarrassment.  Just as I was walking out the door, I thought, "Maybe the lid is loosened up now that it's had a break for a few minutes.  Why don't I try one more time...?"

That was either a really bad idea or a really good idea, depending on how you look at it.  I will say this much: the jar opened that time.  "Opened" isn't really a good word for it, though.  What the jar actually did is EXPLODED.  I got salsa EVERYWHERE.  I got it on the counter, on the floor, on my dress, on my dog, in my hair...everywhere except in the guacamole bowl.  I'm serious.  I even got a chunk of onion in my eye, but none got in the bowl.  I looked like an extra from some low-budget horror movie.  I looked down at the dog, both of us dripping in salsa, and said out loud, "Elvis, let's never speak of this to anyone."  I don't think he was listening...he was licking tomato chunks off of his foot.

Anyway, in the future, I think I will just have Rex open the jar.  It will involve less clean-up, and I won't accidentally show up to the barbeque with salsa on my shoulder (so they all ended up learning what happened anyway).

Sorry, gotta go.  I have to do some push ups to get ready for our next grill day.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Preparing a Turkey

I think that preparing a turkey from scratch is pretty much the most domestic thing any woman can do.  My ultimate goal is to one day host the family Thanksgiving for my husband's family.  It's a big deal to them - all of the aunts and uncles and cousins come together and celebrate with REALLY GOOD food.  The aunts are pretty much my heroes in life.  So anyway, I'm going to do that someday.

In preparation for this ultimate goal, I decided to cook a turkey for Easter this year.  We had a turkey in our freezer since last Thanksgiving (that's a pretty good story in itself...you can read about that HERE).  I decided it was time to get out the turkey and try to cook it.  That way, if I failed miserably, it would be okay because no one would know except for Rex and I.  All of my in-laws are back in Michigan.  Plus, Rex has this thing about making a big deal for Easter dinner.  I figured it was a good time to attempt cooking a turkey.

Did you know that cooking a turkey and going to medical school have a lot in common?  It's true.  First of all, you have to pull out all of the turkey's guts.  It was like dissecting fetal pigs in high school, but it smelled less of formaldehyde.  It was still gross.   Even it's neck came out!  Ewwww!  I don't want to think of a turkey having a neck!  I only want to think of it as deliciousness!  Housewives are tough.  Women of the past even killed the animals themselves - I'm not there yet.  I got squeamish enough having my hand up a turkey's butt.  Gross.

Not only is it like medical school because there are guts involved, but also because I had to inject the turkey with stuff.  Did you know that's how to flavor a turkey?!  I got an injectable marinade, and it came with a syringe.  I had to screw the needle on and everything.  Then I started injecting it all over the place.  Poor turkey...good thing it was already dead.  In my head I was pretending to be a doctor giving vaccinations: "Now you won't get smallpox....now you won't get measles...now you won't get polio...."  Ha ha.  Anyway, I injected all of the marinade, and then I rubbed a bunch of spices on the top.  My friend Elle told me to "massage" the spices onto the turkey.  Two seconds ago I was a doctor; now I'm a masseuse for dead poultry.  It was crazy.  Below is a picture of me injecting the turkey.  Please notice that the picture is dark - that's because I prepared the turkey the night before in order to have it ready for Easter dinner.  WOW - a two day cooking project!  That's advanced.



I know this blog post would be a lot funnier if I could say that I attempted to cook the turkey but then I burned it to a crisp and had to call the fire department.  I would post a picture of our dog gnawing on the charred hunk of meat.  But GUESS WHAT?!?!?!  It didn't turn out half bad!  It was actually pretty GOOD!  I asked my friend Elle for advice on how to cook it (she came over and helped), and I also talked to my pastor's wife about it.  Now, if talking to your pastor's wife about cooking isn't stunningly domestic, then I don't know what is.  Anyway, it turned out really juicy and flavorful, which is good because we were eating leftovers for the next week.  Here is a picture of it:



This is me and Rex at our Easter dinner:


Okay, obviously I'm joking.  That's not me and Rex.  That's us fifty years in the future!  Ha ha.  But really, that's how I felt - very Norman Rockwell.  Do you know how proud I was of myself?  I was SO proud that I called my mother-in-law and said that when Rex and I move back to Michigan (this June), I would love to host a family holiday sometime.  Do you know what SHE said?  She said that none of the aunts have signed up for Thanksgiving 2013 yet, so it might be at our new house.  Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!!!!  Then again, that would be the crowning jewel of this Vintage Housewife project, wouldn't it?  I'll call that my final exam.  Time to start getting ready...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Prison

Okay, today I didn't read anything out of my housewife books, but I DID learn more about life in the 1950's.  I visited the Idaho State Penitentiary, which was run from 1887-1973.  I learned a lot about life for women in the 1950's, especially female criminals.  Here are some fun facts for you:

1.  Did you know that a third of women in prison in the fifties were there for credit card fraud or for bouncing a check?   Do women still go to prison for that? I feel like people bounce checks all the time.  Note to self:  DON'T DO THAT!

2. I read some stories of the prisoners who were held at the Idaho State Penitentiary.  Many of the women  were there for adultery.  Were any men there for adultery?  Of course not, cuz it's okay if guys cheat but women can't.  What's up with that?!  Apparently that's the way laws were back then.  Women had to be pure....or else.

3. A large number of women went to prison for administering or receiving abortions.  It made me wonder - when abortion was legalized, did these women have to stay in prison?  Want to know the answer? YES, they did!  How unfair is that?!  They were serving a sentence for something that is now legal!  Rude.

3. During the late fifties, transitioning into the beginning of the sixties, the Idaho judicial system came under attack because a string of women murdered their husbands and got relatively light sentences.  Male murderers were sentenced for life, but women only got a few years.  The general consensus now is that there was lots of spousal abuse going on in the fifties, but it was legal and generally acceptable for a man to hit his wife.  In front of a jury, though, many times the judge felt bad for an abused woman and gave her a lesser sentence because he figured she was just defending herself.

4.  Women had WAY better quarters than the men.  The men had tiny little cells and almost never got to get out of them.  Women had a whole ward to themselves, fenced off from the men, and they only had to sleep in their cells.  During the day they got to garden, knit, do crafts, and write.  They even published a magazine for other female inmates across the country.  Wow - girl power!

So I learned today that I definitely never want to go to prison...but I guess it would be better to be a female criminal than a male one.

IMAG0127.jpg


Monday, March 18, 2013

Dry Cleaning

I need to take one of my dresses to the dry-cleaners in order to clean it for my next fancy date.  I almost never go to the dry-cleaners, but I feel like when a tag says "dry-clean only," it's not messing around.  Therefore I consulted Good Housekeeping's Guide to Homemaking for what I need to do with my clothes before I take them in.  The book never lets me down!  Here's what I got:

1. Check the shoulder pads.  If they are covered with a plastic material, or if they contain sponge rubber, they should be removed.  Plastic-covered pads usually become stiff and shrink excessively, while sponge-rubber shoulder pads are seldom dry-cleaned satisfactorily.

Ummm...my dress doesn't have shoulder pads because I bought it after 1990.  Still, what kind of shoulder pads were covered in plastic?  Would they crinkle when you walked?  Fifties fashions always look so cute in old pictures... I wonder if they weren't as comfortable as they look.

2. Remove all ornamental buttons, as they may be damaged during dry-cleaning.

Remove the buttons?  As in, cut them off and then sew them back on?  This seems like a lot of work.  What if I just be really careful not to get my clothes dirty so I don't have to take them in to the cleaners?  Dang...I guess that ship already sailed for this dress.  I don't have any buttons on the dress, so that's a moot point anyway. The book didn't say anything about zippers, so I guess I'm okay.

3. Clean out all pockets.  Certain types of matches left in pockets are particularly hazardous.  They may ignite during the deodorizing process, which follows the dry-cleaning, and start a serious fire.

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!  Who keeps matches in their pockets?!  Why would you suddenly need matches?!  We are not boy scouts camping out in the wilderness; we are wives cooking barefoot in our freshly mopped kitchens.  Okay but really... I don't think I've ever kept a match in my pocket in my life.  I almost want to now, just to see what happens if I accidentally wash and then dry it.  Then again, it could send my apartment up in flames, so I guess I won't.

4. Be careful not to leave lipstick in pockets.  It can cause great damage to clothes during dry-cleaning.

Valid.  I bet  this one is still applicable.  I don't keep lipstick in my pockets, but it seems like people might actually do that.  I guess one out of four rules is still worth passing on.  So lesson of the day:  don't keep lipstick in your pockets.

Or buttons.

Or shoulder pads.

Or matches.

Enjoy your clean clothes!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Shoe Modification

"Techniques and habits of good grooming are essential for the clean, fresh look that goes with attractive clothes.  Understanding of good workmanship aids in judging the quality of a ready-made garment.  Ability to make your own clothes saves money, thus rendering first aid to the family budget."  - Homemaking for Teen-Agers, page 205

The entire chapter I just read was all about the pros and cons of making your own clothes versus buying a "ready-made" garment.  I know literally no one who makes their own clothes anymore, but I guess it was pretty common back then.  I wish I could do that...  perhaps that will be a summer project.

The chapter reminded me of something I did this week that was almost like making my own clothes.  I modified existing clothes.  More specifically, I modified my shoes.  What I did was so brilliant, by the way, that you're probably going to do it too after reading this blog.  Well, unless you're a guy.  Then you're probably going to think I'm psycho.  You don't wear girl shoes, though, so you'll never truly understand.

I have been very frustrated with my flats lately.  There is no good way to wear them.  If I wear socks with them, I look like a total dork.  If I wear the socks especially made for flats, they stick awkwardly out of the sides (my feet are huge).  If I wear no socks, my feet get really sweaty and stinky and I squish around in my shoes all day.  It's disgusting.  I can't wear tennis shoes to work, though, and I can't wear high heels either because I'm on my feet all day long.  I had to make my flats work.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention.  One morning, I decided to put kleenexes in the bottom of my shoes in order to soak up the sweat and keep my feet from slipping.  The problem with this method was that the kleenexes got all shredded up and stuck to my feet.  I didn't like it.  I thought to myself, "This was a good idea, but I need to improve upon it.  I need something that's going to absorb the sweat but won't get all shreddy.  It needs to stick to the bottom of my shoe, but not to my feet."

At that moment, an idea hit me square in the face.  It was just like in cartoons when a lightbulb flips on over a character's head because they had a good idea.  At that moment, I knew I would never be uncomfortable in flats again. I wanted to jump for joy, but I hadn't tested out my new theory yet.

The following morning, I put my plan into action.  Rex walked into the kitchen and stared at me, stared at my new creation, and started laughing.  He was laughing because it looked funny, but he was also laughing nervously like how you might laugh around a tempermental rhinoceros.   Like, "Oh my gosh...my wife has finally cracked...I should just back away slowly..."  Do you want to know why he was laughing?  He was laughing because he saw this:




Yes, friends.  That is a maxi pad in my shoe.  Have you ever heard of a more brilliant idea?!  It makes socks obsolete!  It adds extra cushion for comfy all-day wear!  It can be changed so it feels like you're wearing a new, sweat-free pair of shoes every day!  This might be my best idea ever.

I did a trial run with my new shoes at school, and they worked great.  I'm going to start doing this all the time.  Friday night I was hanging out with a bunch of teachers from school, and my friend Elle outed me to the rest of the teachers.  "Guess what Christine has in her shoes?!" Elle asked.  I couldn't believe Elle was revealing my feminine product fashion statement.  Well, I thought I was in for some huge embarrassment, but guess what happened instead?  The teachers all laughed at first but then said, "Dang...that's actually kind of a really good idea..."

Right?  Of course it is.  So you may think I'm crazy right now as you read this, but next time you're squishing around in a pair of flats you're going to think to yourself, "Maybe Christine's idea wasn't so bad after all."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cara's Major

I got a really fun new homemaking book.  I didn't realize it when I bought it, but it is actually a book for home economics teachers on how to be better teachers.  Cool!  I was stumped by the first chapter, though, when it told me that in order to be a certified home ec teacher, I need to have an education degree with a home economics major from a reputable institution.  A home economics major?!?!  That was a possibility?? Where was I?  I could have taken COLLEGE CLASSES on how to be a good housewife?

No.  As it turns out, I could not have done that.  I checked MSU's website, and their whole home economics (AKA "Home Ecology") department has been shut down for years.  Not only is it no longer a major, but there aren't even classes covering the topics.  I can take a class on the life cycle of a fly, the literature of the Lord of the Rings, scuba diving, or the history of Lao, but I can't take a class on cooking and cleaning?  That's ridiculous!  Isn't college supposed to prepare students for their future?  Most students are going to do much more cooking and cleaning in their life than traveling to Lao, so I think practical classes in homemaking should definitely be offered (possibly even required...but that's another argument altogether).

Anyway, I got pretty heated up about this injustice while talking to my friend Elle.  She said "You should give MSU a piece of your mind!"  She was most likely being sarcastic, but I thought that it was a fabulous idea.  I first decided to write them a strongly worded e-mail, but who wants to wait for a reply?  Plus, I wasn't confident that they would reply at all.  I decided to give them a call.

I, as a rule, do not lie, so I had to come up with a good excuse to call.  Here is what I came up with:  "Hello, Admissions?  My name is Christine.  My little sister Cara is looking at possibly to coming to MSU, and I'm helping her explore her options.  Do you offer a home economics major? Like, where you can learn to cook and clean and such?"  Of course, the answer was no.  The person on the phone sounded like a student, and she also sounded like she thought I was nuts.  I asked why they don't have a home economics major anymore, and she answered that they've never had one.  I replied with "Actually, yes you did.  Mary Mayo started it, and now you have a residence hall named after her.  I'm just wondering why there are no longer any ways to study this topic at your university?"  The snarky student said, "Well, I don't remember ever having a major like that."  Oh, really?  You don't remember it?  Well then, I guess it never happened.  Michigan State University has 40,000+ students and hundreds of majors.  Is this kid really so pretentious as to think that she knows all MSU majors past and present?  I responded with, "Well, sorry you don't remember it.  It wasn't a major while you attended school, but it used to be one.  I'm sure of it."

Now certain that she was dealing with a crazy person, the admissions girl gave the only logical answer she could think of:  "Ummm........I'm going to transfer you to the registrar....."  Okay, you do that.

The lady at the registrar was older and seemed to have more time to deal with me.  I explained my situation, and again I got the same answer: no home ec major.  She, at least, admitted that there used to be one.  I asked if there were even any classes pertaining to home economics subjects.  Nope, none.  Then I asked the question of the day: "Why?  Why are there no ways to study such a practical field?"  She didn't know.  I pressed further: "What causes classes to be discontinued?  Was there low enrollment?  Did people feel it was outdated?  More importantly, how do we bring back a class to study these things?  My sister needs this class!"  The registrar lady didn't know, didn't know, and didn't know...  What are these people good for?  Why can't they answer my questions?  And most importantly...

Where am I supposed to go to get my masters degree in homemaking?

Friday, February 22, 2013

New Apron

I love aprons.  I started a collection of them before I even started this project, so I guess that should have been a heads up that I really belonged in another decade.  Most women today use aprons for decoration rather than function, but I really like them.  I read an article on the history of aprons, and I liked this quote from it:

"Magazines from the 1940s and 50s feature apron-adorned women in nearly  every advertisement that is related to housework or cooking. It was a standard uniform that, at the time, was not frowned upon. Aprons were a selling feature for irons, kitchen appliances, food products and more.
The 1950's brought out the half-aprons of highly starched cotton,  
feedsack  and sheer fabric trimmed with lace for special occasions.  Two piece aprons and short smocks of bright cotton prints for every day use were popular."


So the half-apron started in the 1950's.  Who knew?   It made me happy to read that because I just got my first ever half-apron for my birthday!  My in-laws gave it to me.  I figure I will put a couple of pictures of it in this blog for you to see since it's so cute.  For those of you who care about brands, it's Vera Bradley. The acquisition of this half-apron makes me one step closer to being an official fifties housewife.  I'm not a forties or thirties housewife....don't you see my half-apron?!  That was popular in the FIFTIES.  It wasn't even around before then.  Now I can have the functionality of an apron in the kitchen but still be able to sit at the table and look sophisticated and put together from the waist up.  What a good invention.  Apron makers everywhere were probably so excited about that trend.  They got to use less material and still make the same amount of money.  Someone certainly had their thinking cap on.

If I ever find a time machine, I'm zipping back to 1953 and donning my new apron so that I will be the most fashionable girl in town.  My in-laws rock.

Here is a picture of the apron.  The picture below it is the box it came in.  The box was shaped like a small oven, and when you opened the oven door you could pull out the apron.   How awesome is that?!




Friday, February 15, 2013

Guilt Trip

I have discovered a fatal flaw in my plan to be a perfect housewife.  The books tell me that I have to have kids, and I don't want to.  Here is the way I see it: I have kids all day long at my job.  I love them very much,  but I like the part when they go home at the end of the day and I can have some peace and quiet.  What's so horrible about that?  Everything, apparently.  Check out this quote from one of my books:  "Couples who marry without any intention of having children, even though able to do so, are often motivated extremely selfish desires which, in themselves, defeat marriage, since marriage assumes love, the opposite of selfishness."

Rude!  Why can't I be a selfless wife if I don't want to be a mother?  It's not like the reason I don't want to have kids is because I want to have extra time to sit on my duff eating bon bons and watching Jersey Shore. I don't watch Jersey Shore, and I've never eaten a bon bon in my life.  I don't want to have kids for a lot of reasons.  There's the work reason, there's the fact that I like having extra time to write children's literature so that I can enrich the lives of children all over the place, and there's the fact that my doctor said that considering my current medical conditions, a pregnancy could result in many health difficulties for me and for my baby.  So really, I just don't want one.  Rex and I have prayed many times that God would give us a desire for kids if we're supposed to have them, and so far we don't have that desire at all.  So basically, we were okay with that conclusion until I read page 209 of the book Your Marriage and Family Living.  I took a picture of that page for you:



Bad news, Rex.  We have a 70% chance of divorce because we don't have kids!!!  Forget the fact that we love each other, constantly sacrifice for each other, and are best friends.  We don't have any diapers to change, so we're screwed.

Except..........  does this graph look weird to anyone else?  SEVENTY percent of marriages without children fail?!  That simply can't be true, especially back in 1946 when this book was written.   I tried to do some extra research on this issue, but unfortunately there aren't many online articles about divorce rates in 1946.  I can tell you, though, that 1946 was before birth control was widely available, therefore virtually all families had children.  I'm sure the divorce rate was lower then than it is now, but I doubt it was as low as 8%.  I just think these stats seem very strange and unfounded.  I wish they would have told me a bit more about where they found these numbers.  Frankly, I think they're bunk.

***EDIT***  I did find some research on divorce rates in 1946.  They were at roughly 20%, which was "deplorably high" and "an indication of an unstable society."  So yeah, I think the stats in the book were dumb.

So I guess I'll put page 209's advice with the previously referenced asbestos article on my list of "Rules I'm Not Following."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

RIP Monopoly Iron

The executives at Monopoly have chosen to remove the iron from their repertoire of player tokens.  Instead of the iron, they are adding a cat. 

When you stop hyperventilating out of shock, proceed to the rest of this blog post.

Dear Monopoly Executives,

You and I are in a fight.  Why did you decide to stop making the iron!?  Was that really the piece that you needed to vote out?  I think the wheelbarrow is definitely more pointless.  I've been playing Monopoly for twenty-four years, and no one ever wants the wheelbarrow.  Or what about the boot?  No one wants the boot!  I take your rejection of the iron very personally.   

Without the Monopoly iron, girls of the future are not going to be able to iron their Barbie clothes.  If they never iron their Barbie clothes, they'll never encounter the spark of joy that leads to become a domesticated woman.  I used to iron each space that I landed on when I played Monopoly.  It was very satisfying.  Now what am I supposed to do??  Is this a feminist plot to make women more modern?  You may be removing our tiny irons, but I assure you:  we will find a way to teach our children the fun of pretend-ironing.  Don't even try to stop us. 

Also, you didn't choose to replace the iron with another domestic item such as a broom, mop, skillet, or monogrammed serving spoon.  You chose to replace it with a CAT.  What's up with that?  You already have that cute little scottie dog to represent the animal kingdom.  Now you have two pieces representing the animal kingdom and zero pieces representing the housewives of the world.  That is rude!  I will not stand for this discrimination!  Who was behind this switch, a feminist at PETA?  Down with womens-lib-tree-huggers!  Up with irons!

As a personal protest, I vow to never use your new stupid cat piece.  I will get my own iron (my full size iron), and use that as my game token.  It might cover up a few spaces at a time, but hey - more properties for me.  You should have left me with the small iron, and I would have been more inspired to play fair.  Now all bets are off.  I hope the new cat gets run over by the racecar.

Sincerely,
Christine

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tomato Pop


                  Do you know how to skin a tomato?
                  I do.
                  Oh, and by the way, it’s not the same way that you would peel a potato.  I got laughed at when I said I was going to do that.  I asked if Rex thought I could use a potato peeler on a tomato, and he laughed at me.  LAUGHED.  He said, “You’re going to get tomato junk everywhere.  Don’t do it.”  Of course, he didn’t offer up that criticism with any better ideas, but I digress.
                  Don’t ask me why I was peeling a tomato.  It really didn’t need to be peeled.  It’s been a long week, and I wanted to try some new domestic technique to cheer me up.  I read that peeling a tomato is supposed to be complicated, so I decided to try it.  One of my textbooks tells me that in order to peel a tomato, I should “hold it over a gas flame until it pops.”
                  I’m sorry…I need to do what?  Turn on my stove and roast the tomato like a marshmallow?  Is this some kind of sick version of a health food s’more?  I wanted to refuse, but it was too tantalizing of a challenge.  I pulled out a fork and skewered my tomato.
                  Rex asked what I was doing.  Peeling the tomato with a potato peeler didn’t seem quite as ridiculous now that I was roasting it instead.  I felt a little ridiculous myself, to be honest with you.  I turned on the stove and tentatively pushed the tomato into the flame.  I held it there for a few seconds, but nothing happened.  I took it out of the flame and looked at it.  Was it possible to roast a tomato wrong?  I put it back in the flame….held it there for a few more seconds….and….POP!
                  I jumped and screamed in surprise.  Rex laughed again (he’s always laughing at me).   I don’t know what I was expecting, exactly, but I hadn’t expected the tomato to pop.  In retrospect, the book did say to wait until the tomato “pops,” but I guess I thought that was an exaggeration or something.  Anyway, the tomato popped.  More accurately, the skin popped.  It was loud, and it startled me.  Once it popped, I easily slipped the skin off of the meat of the tomato.  It was way cool.  You should try it sometime.
                  So there I had it – a perfectly peeled tomato.  I was very proud of myself until I realized that I had absolutely no use for a peeled tomato.  Why do people peel tomatoes?  What kind of recipe calls for a peeled tomato?  Rex says that you need to peel tomatoes for canning purposes, but that’s obviously dumb since you can just BUY canned tomatoes.  I see no reason to can your own.  I asked Rex if he wanted the tomato, but he didn’t.  Neither did his friend Steven.  I’m pretty sure Elvis wanted it, but I heard somewhere that tomatoes are bad for dogs so I ended up just throwing it away. 
                  You might say that I wasted a perfectly good tomato, but no – it was a learning tomato.  Now I have learned how to peel properly.  Once I find a recipe that calls for peeled tomatoes, I am going to be absolutely ready.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ironing Your Shower Curtain

The week gets really busy sometimes, so today I searched by books for a rule that would be relatively easy to follow.  I didn't have time to do something as extensive as my "seven step room cleaning program" (see post from 1/14).  Luckily, I found just the thing.  It's probably the easiest rule I have found in my books so far, and it takes me no time at all to follow it.  Ready?  Here it is:

Never, never, never iron a plastic shower curtain.

Do you want to know what's funny?  The fact that this is in the book means that someone did iron their plastic shower curtain.  The editors of this book found it important enough to warn people not to do that.  I can only imagine the stinky, gooey, melty mess that became of the shower curtain that got ironed.

Why would you iron a shower curtain?  Does a shower curtain get wrinkly in the course of normal use?  I mean, I suppose it has some creases when you first take a brand new curtain out of the package, but after your first shower the steam flattens them out.  I have never once had the urge to iron a shower curtain.  If I'm being completely honest, I never really have the urge to iron anything.  I try to fold my clothes well and/or hang them up right when they come out of the dryer so I don't have to iron them.  When I do have to iron, usually Rex does it for me because that's just how much I hate ironing.

Let's say for one second that your plastic shower curtain did get some wrinkles.  I'm not sure how...maybe you were singing and dancing in the shower, got tangled in the curtain, and fell over.  Then you didn't pick up the shower curtain after you ripped it off the curtain rod, and it dried all in a heap.  Why oh why would your first response be "I know, I'll iron it!"  That would be like ironing saran wrap - no way would it end well.  My best advice to that person would be to please stop dancing in the shower.  It's dangerous.  If you just use your shower for cleaning purposes, your curtain should stay wrinkle-free.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Looking My Best

I've been reading a new book lately:  Homemaking for Teen-Agers.  (That's really how they spell it: "Teen-Agers").  It is a high school textbook published in 1958.  On page 243, the book tells me that "An adequate wardrobe is one that includes the garments, footwear, accessories, and other articles needed to keep you suitably and attractively dressed at all times."

Dang.  I am definitely not suitably and attractively dressed at all times.  Sometimes I look like a downright slob.  Isn't a housewife allowed to have slob days?  When am I supposed to wear my old T-shirts and athletic sweats that I got in high school?

Today I decided that I was going to spend the entire day "attractively dressed."  I woke up this morning, showered, and looked my best.  I even tried to dress in a fifties style to fit with my project.  On the agenda for today was cooking and grocery shopping...not something I would usually dress up for.  It was kind of fun, though.  I felt like I was getting ready for a date with Rex.  It made grocery shopping way more exciting.  Here is how I looked before heading to the grocery store:



Have you ever grocery shopped in heels and a skirt?  It's kind of painful after a while.  I felt pretty sophisticated, though, with a hint of creepy.  Kind of Stepford Wives-y.  It was a good way to make me buy healthy food, though, because I can hardly tap tap tap through the aisles in my beautiful outfit and then buy oreos and coke.  I had to buy fresh produce and organic things so that other people would get the message that I am a good housewife.  I dress up to go to the grocery store AND I buy healthy food for my family.  Boom - beat that.

People were looking at me a lot, so I whispered to Rex "I think I look ridiculous.  People keep looking at me."  Rex whispered back, "No, you look fabulous.  You just don't look like normal WinCo clientele.  You look like you should be at Whole Foods or something."  I guess that's true...I did look a little bit overdressed for WinCo.  Still, the one time I went to Whole Foods I wore an entirely different outfit...you can read that story if you click on the link:  here.

So anyway, I had a good time looking great at the grocery store even though now my feet hurt a little bit.  That just means that I get to be barefoot while I cook dinner...  I haven't found a rule against that yet.  Homemade chili tonight - a new recipe!  I wish you were here to try some.  It smells delicious.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Setting the Table

Rex and I had a dinner party last night, so I consulted my books about how to properly set a table.  There were plenty of diagrams depending on the formality of the party.  Our party was pretty informal (we only had one person over, ha ha), so I decided to go with the less formal setting.

There was a circle in the setting diagram that I didn't recognize because the plates and cups were already set.    What other circular item had to go on the table?  I looked to the accompanying paragraph to see what I was supposed to put in that spot to the right of the spoons.  Do you know what it is?  Do you?  Take a guess.

............?????.............
............?????.............
............?????.............
............?????.............
............?????.............
............?????.............
............?????.............
............?????.............
............?????.............
............?????.............
............?????.............

To the right of the spoons is the proper place to put the ASHTRAY.  Ha ha!  I guess it was so common to smoke back then that it was customary to provide an ashtray for each of your guests.  I've never been to a dinner that had an ashtray at each setting.

Here's my question - between the constant smoking and the "asbestos mats," how did anyone survive the fifties??  This project is more dangerous than I thought.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Useful Facts and Figures

Inside the front cover of the Good Housekeeping Guide to Successful Homemaking (1961 ed) there are a bunch of facts and diagrams under the title "Useful Facts and Figures Needed in Every Home."  I went to Rex's school and used their copy machine to make a copy of the page so I can hang it on our refrigerator. After all, it is NEEDED in every home.  How has your home survived without it?  Some of the things were pretty useful, such as equivalent measures (3 tsp = 1 tbs, 2 cups = 1 pint, etc) or how to measure wet vs. dry items used in cooking.  Some of the other things listed were very strange, however.  I will share some of them with you here:

1. 24 sheets of paper = 1 quire.  A quire?  Have you ever heard this term? When would I have to use this term?  "I would like to buy a quire of pink paper."  Next time I'm in a craft store I'm going to ask for this and see what kind of response I get.

2. There is a section of the page that says, "50 Years of Dates on Which Easter Sunday Falls."  It gives the date of Easter Sunday for the next fifty years...which ended in 2001.  Why would you need to predict when Easter Sunday is going to be fifty years from now?  I'm sorry, but no one plans that far ahead.

3. There is a whole list of wedding anniversaries and what their symbols are.  I feel like most of us have heard that twenty-five years is the "silver" anniversary and fifty is the "golden" anniversary, but did you know that the sixth is the iron anniversary? The twelfth is silk? Fourteenth is agate? (What the heck is agate?).  Our next wedding anniversary is in May.  It will be our third, which is represented by "leather, or any leather-like article."  I will have to find some sort of leather-like article to give to Rex.  Thanks Good Housekeeping.  I might have gotten him some totally normal, but now I know better.  Good thing I have eleven more years to figure out what agate is!

4. The astronomical solar year is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds long.  You're all saying "Happy New Year" at the entirely wrong time.  I'll have to fix that next year.

So anyway, lucky for me I now have this entire list of necessary facts and figures hanging in my apartment.  If you feel like something in your life is missing, this paper is probably what it is.  Let me know you want one and I can send you a copy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

$28 W's

From A Guide to Successful Homemaking:

"Beautiful silverware is a joy to own and an asset to any table decoration, but personalized silver is the pride of any discriminating hostess.  It is a family heirloom to be handed down from generation to generation with stories of the mothers and grandmothers who used it.  If you have recently purchased silverware, or if you have been fortunate enough to have received it as a gift, consider the advantages of having it monogrammed."  


After reading that paragraph, don't you want monogrammed silverware?  I do.  It's the pride of any hostess!  I want to have pride in my hostessing!  


I have a nice enough silverware set.  Well, I don't think it's real silver, but it gets food to my mouth pretty well so it's just fine.  I obviously don't have the money to have the whole set monogrammed  so I decided to just take the serving tools and have them done.  This operation required a wingman (because I didn't want to look ridiculous all by myself), so my friend Elle graciously offered to go with me.


We went to the mall because I know that the store Things Remembered engraves things.  A Snookie look alike asked if she could help us.  Once I recovered from the shock of her cloud of perfume and heavy eye makeup, I presented her with my silverware and asked if they could engrave it.  She took the pieces gingerly and asked if I knew what they were worth.  I said I wasn't sure.  She asked if they were antiques or family heirlooms.  I said that they weren't....yet.  I told her that they weren't worth very much (now) because they were from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  She said that she could do a single initial monogram on each piece for a total of $28 plus tax.


$28 plus tax?!  That's a little steep for two letters!  I asked if she knew of anywhere else that engraved.  She said that there was a kiosk on the lower floor that does engraving, but they could only do laser engraving.  She said that with disgust, as if laser engraving was the lowest of low.  Well, I was only engraving my serving utensils so that I could be a proper and proud housewife, so I figured that laser engraving would do just fine for me.


Elle and I went downstairs and searched for the kiosk that Snooki told us about.  When we found it, I presented my wares to the man at the kiosk and asked about having them engraved.  He told me he would do the job for $3 each piece (for a total of $6).  That sounded like a much better price, so I agreed.  The man asked me which way I wanted to have the W engraved.  Should it be facing the top of the handle, facing the bottom, or sideways?  I panicked.  I didn't know which way it was supposed to go!  I opened my book to see if it had any directions for me.  Yes, I had brought my book with me for such a  time as this.  Unfortunately, the book didn't have any pictures of the personalized silverware.  The man looked at me like I was nuts for carrying around a giant old book and searching it for answers.  I had a one in three shot of getting the answer right, and if I got it wrong then I would look like a total dweeb when anyone knowledgeable on this topic saw my silverware.  Freak out!


Luckily my wingman came to my rescue.  Elle said, "Don't worry!  I'll look it up on my phone!"  Using 2013 technology to solve a 1950 problem seemed a little bit like cheating, but I figured that I was at a disadvantage because I'd never seen personalized silverware.  People in the fifties probably saw a lot of it.  I decided that using new technology to make up for that disadvantage would be okay.  Elle found some great pictures, and all of them had the letter facing the fork or spoon part of the silverware.  I showed the pictures to the man and told him that's what I wanted.  He said alright.


Mission Accomplished!  Now I have my own personalized serving utensils, and I'm one step closer to being the penultimate fifties housewife. 





Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Matching Curtains

When Rex and I first moved to Vegas, I thought that the window in our room looked painfully bare.  I couldn't find any curtains that I liked, so I decided to make some.  I picked a fabric that matched our comforter, but I was worried that it might be a little bit too "matchy matchy."  Rex assured me that it looked fine, though, either because it really looked fine or because he wanted me to stop talking about curtains (or maybe a little bit of both).  I like how they turned out, but I've always wondered about how an interior design expert would react to my homemade match-the-bed-exactly curtains.  I was so happy when I read THIS in my home ec book today:

"Nothing could be lovelier in any bedroom than the use of matching fabric for the bedspread and draperies."

Whoo hoooooo!  Did you hear that, naysayers?  "Nothing could be lovelier!"  It says it right there in black and white on page 14.  So ha - my bedroom has achieved maximum loveliness due to a rule I followed before I even knew it was a rule!  Sometimes it's nice to read about something that I did right, since that doesn't happen very often in these books. :-)