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 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. :-)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cleaning My Room

While cleaning my bedroom today, I decided to follow the directions in one of my books.  It tells me how to clean any room in my house in just seven easy steps!  Here are the seven steps, quoted directly from my book in italics with my commentary underneath in normal print:

1. First, bring order to the room.  Pick up newspapers and magazines, carry out faded flowers, put away clothing, make beds, roll up scatter rugs.

After I finished this step I decided to take a break and have a snack.  When I walked into the kitchen, Rex saw the room through the door and explained, "Wow, you cleaned the entire bedroom!  Thanks!"  I sighed and told him I had only completed step one of seven.  Ordinarily I would have thought I was finished too, but alas.  I am a vintage housewife now.  I have a seven step program.

2. Clean up grease spots or smudges on rugs under dining table, in front of fireplace and sofa, etc.  A little cleaning fluid on a clean cloth usually will take care of them.

I genuinely looked for "grease spots" or "smudges," but I couldn't find any.  I considered this step finished.

3. Now vacuum-clean rugs or carpets thoroughly.  Some housekeepers like to do this after dusting; with modern cleaning equipment, one way is as good as the other.

Because the book gave me permission, I decided to do my dusting before vacuuming.  Why would anyone vacuum first?  Then all of the dust will go onto the freshly cleaned floor!

4. Dust furniture, lamps, books, window sills.  With flat upholstery tool, clean upholstery furniture.  Use crevice tool behind and under pillows.

Have you ever dusted the tops of your windowsills, bookshelves, or pictures that have been hanging on your wall for a long time?  It's gross.  I can't believe I've been living in such a dusty environment.  It made me feel really disgusting, so I dusted twice.  Now that I've been exposed to the horrors of an undusted windowsill, I'll be dusting a lot more often.

5. Change to wall or floor brush, and clean moldings, window and door frames, Venitian blinds, baseboards, bare floor, and areas under low furniture.

What the heck is a wall or floor brush?  Furthermore, what is a Venitian blind?  Am I supposed to know that?  It wasn't in the book's glossary, so I had to skip this step.  Sorry.

6. Change to upholstery attachment and thoroughly clean draperies from top to bottom, particularly around pleats and folds at the top.

Would my bedroom curtains be considered "draperies"?  Probably.  I've never vacuumed a drapery.  What's an upholstery attachment?  This book is referencing way too many different attachments.  I need to read an entire chapter about vacuums to know what on earth is going on with that contraption.

7. Put the furniture back in place, set the room in order, and put away your vacuum and other cleaning equipment.

Wait, I was supposed to move the furniture?  Oops...  But really, there is no way that wives moved giant bookshelves and beds.  It is far more likely that the book just means small end tables and stuff.  I considered the fact that I hadn't cleaned under my bed in a long time, though, so I bent down to see what was under there.  I was going to crawl under, but the first thing I saw was that two of our boards were broken.  Um, that's not good.  I didn't want to crawl under and then have the bed crash onto me. Rex would walk in to find just my legs sticking out like the Wicked Witch of the East or something.  Instead, I grabbed a flashlight and shone it under the bed to see what kind of stuff was under there.

The first thing that happened was that the light was reflected back to me by two bright green eyes.  I screamed and had flashbacks to when I was a kid (I KNEW there was a monster under my bed!), but then I realized it was just Elsie.  She hates the vacuum, so I guess she hid under there when I turned it on.  Phew!  I also found a host of other things, which include but are not limited to the following:
- a sock
- a shirt
- some old issues of Time and Good Housekeeping magazines
- a 2011 yearly planner (how long has that been there?!)
- four mostly empty water bottles (How did those get there?  Who drinks water and then thinks "Oh, where should I put this empty bottle?  I know - under the bed!)
- another flashlight
- a back massager (so that's where that went!)
- etc. etc.

So anyway, I learned a lot today.  Namely, I need to dust A LOT more often, and I need to clean out the stuff under my bed because really random stuff tends to accumulate under there.  Oh, and a monster does live under my bed.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Rule I Won't Follow

I should have made a disclaimer at the beginning of this project.  I didn't realize I needed it, so I didn't put it in my first post.  I'm adding it now, though, because this is my project and I make the rules.  Here's my disclaimer:

I will not follow any of the rules in my textbooks that could cause physical harm, illness, or death.

Are you cool with me adding that?  After all, if I die then I can't write any more posts.  It might make my project slightly less authentic, but that's okay with me.

Let me explain why I need the disclaimer.  I was going to clean my kitchen today, so I consulted one of my books to see if there were any applicable rules I could use.  I found a section titled "Kitchen Counter Tops."  I figured that one would be good, so I read on to see what I would have to do.  Here's what it said:

"Save that surface!  A nick here, a mar there - soon the top of your range, drainboards, and other surfaces look worn.  Protective mats are the answer, and there is a wide choice of types.  Particularly suited to use on the range are the asbestos mats with brightly colored or gleaming metallic finish."

I'm sorry...did you just tell me to use an ASBESTOS mat?  What the dickens is that?  I realize this book was published in 1961, but a few years after that asbestos was proven to cause lung cancer.  Now entire buildings are condemned because of the dangers of asbestos, and you want me to put it next to my food?!  No thank you.

I can picture it now:

Husband:  What's for dinner, dear?
Wife:  Chicken and potatoes, with a side of cancer.
Kids: Yum yum!  Thanks mom!  Good thing you got that asbestos mat!
Husband:  You're the best, honey.  *kiss*
Wife: Good thing I studied up on how to be a good housewife!

Laundry Day

This has been a busy week, so our hamper is overflowing embarrassingly into small piles of clothes on our bedroom floor.  Our cat Elsie loves it because she snuggles into the piles and makes herself a bed, but much to Elsie's chagrin I decided that I had to do laundry today.  She hates when I clean our room, because then she has to actually use the kitty bed that we bought for her (apparently that one isn't as comfy).  Oh, well.  Sorry Elsie.

Before starting my laundry, I decided it would be best to consult my books.  I was certain that one of them would give me the directions about how to do laundry properly.  I was not let down.  The first book I checked out started their laundry chapter with this quote:  "Not too many years ago, the job of washing, drying, and ironing the family laundry was a dreaded chore."  Is it not still a dreaded chore?  Did I miss that memo somewhere?  In order to be a good housewife, am I going to have to look forward to doing laundry?  I've got a lot of work to do this year.  Good thing it's still January.

Anyway, I've spent the past half hour reading about laundry (I could have spent that time actually doing the laundry...but oh well).  They said that you should never keep your washer and dryer in the basement (MOM - I'M LOOKING AT YOU!), and that keeping it near the kitchen is the best location.  Don't ask me why...the book didn't tell me.  I wonder if that advice still holds true or not.  I feel like a lot of people I know have their washers and dryers in the basement, and they've all seemed to do okay so far.  I read a bit further and found a section about how to do laundry in an apartment - score!  I read the section, though, and I can't do what it says.  It says that the best thing to do is to get a small "semiautomatic washer."  This can be wheeled into a corner when not in use, and it hooks conveniently up to your sink faucet.  Sweet!  I so want to try one of those.  I can't, though, on account of they don't make them anymore.

The book went on to say that the newest technology in laundering is the combination washer/dryer.   You put your clothes in the top, and then the single machine washes AND dries the clothes for you.  What!?  That's awesome.  Why don't we have those anymore?  I want one.

Finally I found something in the chapter that I could try.  It gave instructions about how to help your bath towels reach maximum fluffiness.  Who doesn't want an extremely fluffy towel?  Rex is gone for the next few hours to study for an exam, so this is my chance to do a fluffiness experiment.  Here's how it is going to work:  I'm going to wash a load of towels.  I'm going to take two of the same kind of towel, and I'm going to dry one the way we usually do (in the dryer).  I am going to dry the other one following the directions in the book: shake the towel vigorously when it comes out of the washer, and then hang it up on a clothesline outside to dry.  When Rex gets home, I will present him with the two towels and see if he can detect a difference in fluffiness.

I now have to put this blog post on hold so that I can go wash my towels, figure out how in the world I am going to fashion an outside clothesline, and conduct my fluffiness experiment.  I will report my results shortly.

7 hours later...

Okay, I guess I was just kidding about that "shortly" thing.  Drying a towel outside instead of in a dryer takes a LONG time!  Let me back up and walk you through what happened since I last wrote:

First I washed the towels.  That's pretty straightforward.  While they were washing, I decided to fashion my clothesline.  It's awfully hard to make a clothesline when there is no string in the apartment anywhere.  I ended up finding a spare shoelace, but that wasn't long enough.  I found some old earbud headphones behind a stack of books.  I tied the cord from the headphones around the shoelace, and my "clothesline" was just long enough to stretch across the two rails on our balcony.  Whoo hoo!

Once the towels finished washing, I put most of them in the dryer but took one out and hung it on my clothesline.  My clothesline wasn't as successful as I thought, however, because the weight of the wet towel broke the oh-so-secure knots I had tied.  The towel fell onto the ground.  Obviously that stunk because it meant that I would have to wash the towel again, but I figured I would continue with my fluffiness experiment anyway and just wash it again later (probably...).

Since my clothesline was an epic fail, I just set the towel over my balcony railing.  After all, it would still be exposed to the sun and wind that was supposed to boost its fluffiness.  It wasn't exactly what I wanted, but I figured it would do.  I noticed too late that a bird had pooped on the railing where I set the towel, which means I am now 100% for sure going to have to wash it again.

The rest of the towels were dry in about forty-five minutes, but my air-dried towel was still soaking wet.  Rex came home, we had lunch, got some chores done...and the towel was still wet.  Finally, at 5:00 when we were leaving to go to a pizza/football party, I brought in the air-dried towel from the porch and set it next to its dryer-dried twin.  I told Rex that I needed him to check the towels for fluffiness.

Rex (who didn't ask any questions about why I asked him for this weird favor) walked up to the towels, rubbed his hands together to prep them, then closed his eyes and began towel testing.  I looked at him strangely and said, "Uhhh...Rex?  You don't have to close your eyes.  The towels look exactly the same, and you don't know what I did to which one."  He responded, "I know, but I'm using sensory deprivation.  When I can't see the towels, I am more in tune with the differences in their feel and fluff."  I married a weirdo.

After a few minutes of testing, Rex said, "The towel on the left is definitely fluffier...but I don't think it's all the way dry yet."

I felt it again, and he was right - it was still a bit damp.  It had been over six hours since it came out of the wash! Good heavens.  I'm glad it was fluffier, but I don't know if it was worth the trouble.  I think I would rather have a slightly less fluff-intensive towel that is completely dry in forty-five minutes.  Plus, now I have to wash the air-dried towel again because I dropped it in bird poop.  Next time I'm drying it in the dryer.

***UPDATE ON PREVIOUS POST***  Having the toaster in the middle of my kitchen counter is driving me nuts.  It's ugly, and I haven't used it once since I put it there.  According to the laws of this project, do I HAVE to leave it there all year?  I must think on this.  Advice is appreciated.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Toaster Fail

In reading one of my Homemaker's Guidebooks, I came across a section on toasters.  There are only three directions to follow when considering your toaster, and I am zero for three.  Blast!  Here are the rules, verbatim from my book:

1. Don't buy blindly.  Know what types of toasters are available.

2.  Don't hide your toaster in a dark and inaccessible corner.

3. Do try to find a convenient, prominent place to keep it.

Rule number one is impossible to go back and follow now.  After all, I already have a toaster.  I didn't do any research before I bought it, either.  It was on sale at Wal-Mart and I thought, "Hey, a toaster!  That looks like a fun thing to have!" and I bought it.  What kind of research was I supposed to do, anyway?  The book claims that I should try to save up for a while in order to be able to buy a "high-end, automatic" toaster because the non-automatic toasters are quite tedious and inconvenient.

Ummm...does anyone out there know what the heck a "non-automatic" toaster is?!  Do you have to set the temperature yourself?  Do you have to watch the toast to make sure that it doesn't catch fire and burn your house down?  How many people in the fifties died due to a faulty non-automatic toaster?  This idea sounds highly weird, and I can see why they aren't popular anymore.

Just for fun, I decided to channel my inner fifties and do some "toaster research" to see what kind of toaster I would want if I were to go buy one now.  Here is the one I picked:

I don't think I chose it for the right reasons... I searched the web for about ten minutes for cute toasters and picked this one because it looks punchy.  But really, what was I supposed to research?  The book didn't give me much direction past the automatic/nonautomatic debate.  I know looks aren't all that matters, but...if it toasts my bread then I really don't know what else to base my decision upon.

Back to the rules I've broken:  Rule #2 says that the toaster cannot be placed in a "dark and inaccessible corner."  I think that sitting inside a cabinet next to our sink and behind our vases would probably count as both dark and inaccessible.  Here's the thing, though - I don't eat toast that often!  Rule #3 says that I have to put my toaster in a convenient and prominent place.  How come?  I don't want to take up precious counter space with my ugly toaster.  It will be like an ugly black mole on the otherwise flawless skin of my light counter tops.  Why do I have to have it out if I don't even use it?  That seems unfair.  I want to keep my toaster in the cupboard, and then I'll just take it out when I need it.

*Sigh*  I didn't start this project to criticize old home economics books, did I?  I started this project so that I would follow them.  Therefore, as soon as I finish writing this blog, I will take out our toaster and give it a more prominent place in our kitchen.  Who knows?  Maybe it will inspire me to eat more toast.  The toast will fill me up and make me eat less junk food, so I'll lose a bunch of weight and start a revolution called the Toast Diet.  There will be commercials about it, an international book tour, I'll open my own gym...etc.  And then I'll say, "I owe all of my success in life to following the home economics book's rules about toasters."

Hey, a girl can dream, right?  Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go brush the dust off of my toaster and treat it like the kitchen jewel that it is.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Thank You...for Burning Down Our Apartment?

Thank you cards are supposed to be sent within 24 hours of when you were hosted or given a gift.

Well, obviously when I read this I went into panic mode.  After all, Christmas was almost two weeks ago, and I haven't sent thank you cards yet!   Ahhhhh!  I decided that probably writing them late was better than never, though, so I sat down today to write them.

Side note - You get a month after your wedding to write thank you notes, so why do I only get 24 hours for other gifts?  This seems dumb.  You should get a grace period after Christmas, too, due to the high number of letters that you need to write.  I'm going to write a letter back in time addressing this issue with the editors of my home ec books as soon as someone invents a way to do that.

To make up for my lack of punctuality, I decided to get fancy and seal the envelopes with melted wax.  My mother-in-law got me a metal "W" wax stamp for Christmas, so I was eager to use it.  I don't know if they actually did that in the fifties, but who cares?  It's awesome!  I'm sure some people did, as it was invented hundreds of years ago and I'm still using it today.

Anyway, I wrote my thank you cards first, then I closed the envelopes and turned them onto their backs so that I could melt the wax seals onto them assembly line style.  In order to make a wax seal, you burn a candle-looking thing (they call it a "wax seal stick." I'm sorry - call it what you want, but it's just a skinny candle), and then hold it at an angle so that the wax drips onto the envelope seal.  Once you have a good sized puddle of wax, you are supposed to stamp your metal stamp into it.  After that's finished - voila!  You have a professional looking wax seal.

Nowhere on the box of sealing supplies does it read "Warning: The wick may break off and drop like a tiny flaming comet onto your envelope."  It doesn't say that anywhere - I checked.  It should say that, though, because that's exactly what happened.  While creating my wax puddle on my third envelope, the wick fell off of the candle and onto the envelope.  It fell into the wax puddle and just burned for a few seconds.  It looked like a really tiny campfire on my coffee table.  I was stunned for a moment and then realized - oh crap - having an open flame on my PAPER envelope which is sitting on my WOODEN coffee table is a really bad idea.  I started blowing on the flame to put it out, and luckily it went out without too much trouble.  That seal ended up looking super weird, though (Sorry Grandma Koopsen).

Thank you cards should be punctual, but they shouldn't be perilous.  I wonder if anyone has ever burned down their house or apartment because of a wax seal that went awry.  I bet you that it's happened.  How embarrassing is that?  What a dumb way to lose your house.  From now on, I'll be sealing my thank-you cards in the sink.  Your card may suffer some water damage, but I won't be homeless.  I think it's an acceptable trade.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Beware of Boredom

Winter Break is lots of fun, but I have to admit - it gets a little bit boring when Rex is at school from 8 to 5 and I'm just hanging out at our apartment.  It made me wonder what fifties housewives were supposed to do all day while their husbands worked.  After all, I got all of my household chores finished by lunchtime.  It doesn't really take that long to clean a one-bedroom apartment, especially since I've been doing it every day.  I made lunch, and I didn't have to make dinner because today is Friday (date night!).  I sat on the couch with nothing to do, contemplating what the ideal housewife would be doing.  I figured she'd probably be caring for her children, but I don't have any.  If she had no children, she'd probably be knitting or crocheting baby blankets in preparation for the glorious day when she could finally have a baby to wrap them in.  Unfortunately (?), I don't know how to knit or crochet.  I'm adding that to the list of things I need to learn this year.

I figured I could do something artsy to make up for my lack of yarn-crafting skills.  I tried to create a painting on a canvas using new brush techniques from an art book my brother-in-law got for me (Thanks, Jake!), but the finished product looked like a Space Invaders arcade game exploded.  I got pretty discouraged and sat back on the couch again, totally bored and staring at my blank walls.  Suddenly, I was hit with a bolt of inspiration:

Life is too short to have blank walls.

I picked up my pencil and paintbrushes, revved up my imagination, and went to work.  I decided to decorate the wall where Elvis's crate sits, because I always feel kind of bad for him sitting and staring at a blank wall all day.  I wanted the wall behind him to look like a doghouse, and I measured the doghouse so that his crate would fit inside of it.  I outlined the whole thing in pencil and then waited for Rex to get home.  After all, housewives of any decade probably shouldn't go painting murals on their walls without running the idea by their husbands.  As soon as he got home, Rex said that he loved the idea and that I should go ahead and paint it (See?  He's a good guy.  He puts up with my special brand of crazy).

I got started, and Rex took this picture of me:

About halfway through painting the mural, I decided to go down to the front office of our apartment complex and ask if we are allowed to paint our walls.  I didn't need the permission, obviously...since I'd already started...but I figured it would be a nice plus.  Guess what?  Not only are we allowed to paint our walls, but the office will give us paint to paint over it when we move out!  What luck!  My mural was all systems go.

Five hours later...I'm stopping for the night.  I have touch-ups and details to add tomorrow, but I snapped a couple of pictures to show you the basic idea.  Elsie is peeking around the corner of the bush looking at the house mischievously, and there is a little gray owl in the tree.  I turned the outlet into a mailbox.  I will have to post some detailed pictures later, but if you click on the ones below they will be a bit bigger so you can see them. I really like how it is turning out - hooray for my newly cultivated crafting skills!  Now I just need to learn how to knit so I can make some curtains for his crate.  ;-)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

On the Table

When the textbook tells me that dinner is supposed to be "on the table" when my husband gets home, what does that actually mean?  Have you ever tried to do that?  It's tricky.

I decided to give this concept a trial run at lunch today.  I asked Rex what he wanted for lunch before he left for school this morning, and he said he wanted canned soup.  I feel like eating canned meals is a little bit like cheating in this fifties project, but I already made homemade bread today so sorry, but I'm cheating with the soup.

I called Rex about ten minutes before he was due home and asked him what kind of soup he wanted.  He said that he had an hour lunch break, so he would just decide what he wanted when he got home.  "No!" I exclaimed, all concerned.  "The book says it has to be on the table when you get here.  How am I supposed to do that if you don't tell me what you want?!  You have to choose!"  Rex, clearly flustered, responded with, "Oh!  Okay...ummm...I'll have..uhhh...chicken noodle?"  Good.  Chicken noodle it is.  I hung up and got cooking.  I'm sure there's probably something in one of my books about not freaking your husband out by forcing him to make snap decisions about soup, but I didn't get to that chapter yet.

Canned soup is the absolute easiest meal I can think of to cook.  You dump the can into the pot, and then you heat it up.  The end.  But without knowing the exact minute at which your husband is going to get home, how can you make sure that it is served and hot when he arrives?  He said he'd be home at "noon," but if I put the soup on the table at noon and then he didn't get home until 12:05, the soup would have cooled down and I'd have to heat it up again (therefore defeating the purpose of having it on the table for him when he arrived at home).  If I heated up the soup but he got home at 11:55, then it wouldn't be ready, his drink wouldn't be poured, and the whole thing would be mayhem.  Yet I can hardly demand that Rex get home exactly at noon.  What to do?

I really don't know what fifties housewives did with this dilemma.  I mean, they can't possibly have actually had the food, at the perfect temperature, on the table when their husbands got home.  They must have had it warming or something, and then when their husbands get home they put it on the table while the man was getting changed out of his work clothes or something.  I don't know.  In the interests of following my books, though, I decided to try my hardest.

I stood by the front door and waited for the sound of the Suburban pulling in.  I felt like an idiot, but that's what I did.  Of course, I forgot that Rex didn't take the Suburban today but rather rode to school with his friend JB.  Suddenly I heard footsteps coming up our stairs.  Ahhhhhh!  He was home and the food was still on the stove! FREAK OUT!

I ran into the kitchen and grabbed the soup bowl.  Just as I started pouring the soup, Rex knocked on the door (I keep it locked when I'm home alone).  This made our beagle start howling as if a serial killer was trying to get me.  He started jumping on the door and scratching at it, which made Rex decide to knock again.  Elvis started howling louder, as if to say "Lemme at him!"  I was trying to get the soup poured and the bowl on the table, because obviously I couldn't let Rex in until the food was ready.

Dear textbooks, are you supposed to leave your husband confused in the cold while your dog howls at him so that the table can be fully ready when you finally let him in?  Because I don't think I'm doing it right.

Finally I let Rex in, and his soup was on the table.  Success!  Maybe waiting in the cold just got him more ready for his warm soup.  Also, he loved the homemade bread.  He ate four slices - whoo hoo!  My only issue now is that the recipe I had made five loaves of bread.  What am I supposed to do with five loaves of bread?!  You can come over and have some if you want, but please be sure to tell me EXACTLY when you're going to arrive so that I can have it ready on the table.  Thanks.

New Year, New Project

Welcome to 2013 - only 63 years ahead of the time where I actually belong.

If you're too lazy to do that math yourself (which means you are probably fully assimilated into this 2013 other-people-will-do-it-for-me culture), the year to which I am referring is 1950.  If I believed in reincarnation, I would say that I think I lived in the fifties in a past life.  I probably raised a family with three kids while my husband worked his butt off in a factory or something, and then they grew up and I died of a heart attack in 1976 shortly after I learned my oldest son had been killed in Vietnam (which would explain my current sensitivity to death and war issues).

Okay, so maybe I didn't do any of that, but I will say that I feel strangely drawn to the decade of June Cleaver.  Did people like her actually exist, or is she a figment of our nostalgic imaginations?  I like to think my foremothers bear some resemblance to the fifties ideal, but I suppose I will never know for sure.

Over Christmas Break this year, my mother-in-law showed me some books that she got from a thrift store.  They were Home Economics textbooks from the 1940's and 50's.  Essentially, this is what junior high and high school girls were reading in order to learn how to be good wives and mothers.  I obviously can't post all about the books here, but I just took a picture of one of the pages to give you an idea about what these girls were being taught:

Please notice the caption on that picture.  Ha ha!  Obviously I don't agree with everything in these books, but they did make me wonder: what would it be like if I could, temporarily, live according to the rules set out for the women I so admire?  These books were very practical, telling the women of the day how to make a bed properly, how to wrap a gift, how to be a good hostess, etc.  It basically sets out the rules of how to be a fifties housewife, an ideal I have always striven to achieve.

I can hear the angry feminists screaming at me as they read this: "What are you doing?!  After how far women have come!  After all the freedoms we have struggled to achieve!  You are taking ten steps backward and submitting yourself to the misogynistic morals that we have striven for years to shake off!  You are a disgrace to our gender!"

Pipe down, Bra Burners.  I'm truly glad that women have freedoms today, and that we can do almost any job a man can do.  That's great.  Yay girl power.  But listen - do you want to know something fun about freedom?  It means that I have the freedom to choose to do whatever I want to do, including studying up on how to be a fifties housewife and then blogging about it.  Who knows?  Maybe after a few months of following these rules I'll decide that being a fifties woman is completely ridiculous and I'll become an empowered feminist like you.

I doubt it.

So anyway - here is a description of my project.  I ordered a selection of Home Economics textbooks that were used in classrooms (levels junior high through college) between the years of 1930 and 1960.  I am going to spend 2013 following as many of the rules in those books as I can.  Since jumping in to following all of the rules at once would be a little nuts (not to mention I haven't even read all of the books yet), I am going to try to follow at least one per day and make it something that I would not normally do.  Example: today I am making homemade bread using flour, yeast, etc. because "homemade from scratch is always better than buying from the store."  Stay tuned for an update on how that goes.

Each day I will try something new, and I will blog about my experiences as a fifties housewife as often as possible.  I already sort of fail at being a housewife because I have to work full time, but hey - you're not paying to read this blog and I have to do something to make money in order to buy my flour and yeast.  It's actually okay, though, because my full-time job is being a teacher.  One of my books (written in 1946) says that if women must have a career, they can choose among the following acceptable careers for women: secretary, nurse, teacher, social worker, or librarian. Sweet!  I already passed the first test by choosing an acceptable career.  I told you I would make an awesome fifties wife.

So here it is - my blog chronicling my journey to becoming like the domestic women I've always admired.  It's going to be June Cleaver and Aunt Bea with a little bit of Lucille Ball thrown in.  After all, I'm sure that after a few of these antics my husband is going say in his best Desi Arnez accent, "Christine?  You've got some 'splaining to do..."

Check back for updates periodically.  As for now, I have to go punch my bread dough before it rises out of the bowl (that's really what the directions say!).  Oh yeah, this is going to be fun.