Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Vintage Housewife does MATH

I've had a few female students tell me that they're not worried about doing well in school because they just want to be "wives and mothers."  Ummmm...NO.  Bad student.  I try to insist that wives and mothers need to know a bit about everything, so these girls need to pay even more attention, but they generally don't buy it.

Today, however, I came across a concrete example of why these girls will need an extensive math knowledge.  If I didn't know math, I could have never made this delicious pie:

My husband and I love going to the Grand Traverse Pie Company about a mile from our house.  They have the best pies in town, and I've been dying to get my hands on the recipe for their crumbly strudel crust.  It's top-secret, though, and they don't sell cookbooks or anything. Instead of scouring less-than-reputable Google imitation recipes, I befriended the girl who works the pie counter.  I complimented her make-up, told her that her hair looked nice, etc.  We've actually become pretty close.  You know, in a customer/pie girl kind of way.  She's in my phone as "Ashley Pie Girl."  But I digress.  The point is, last week I felt that we were finally close enough to take our relationship to the next level.

I asked her for the crumble recipe.

Eeeeeeeek!! It was so scary.  I was afraid she would get all offended and tell me that we couldn't be friends anymore because I was nosing into her top-secret pie business.  Instead, she not only gave me the recipe, but also gave me some free pie.  Wow!  What a pal.  I might actually put her real name in my phone someday soon.

The main problem with the recipe is that it was to make fifteen pies.  It included EIGHT POUNDS of sugar.  Well, I'm not about to put eight pounds of sugar on my pie.  I figured, "Hey, no problem!  I'll just divide everything by fifteen!"

That turned out to be easier said than done.  First,  I had to divide everything by fifteen, which is obviously not a tidy number.  I ended up with crazy decimals, like 0.3654 pounds of butter.  Clearly that was going to be easy to measure *sarsasm.*  After I found how many pounds I needed, I had to find conversion tables to convert pounds into cups and/or tablespoons because I don't have a kitchen scale.   Then I had to find a separate conversion table for the flour, the butter, etc. because a cup of sugar does not weigh the same as a cup of flour.

Twenty-minutes later, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table with pages of numbers that would have challenged my smartest math students.  Phew!  Who knew pie was such hard work?  Especially before I even touched a single ingredient?!

I finally figured out calculations that I thought were correct (or as correct as I was going to get), and I started assembling my pie.  I was nervous the whole time it was cooking, and to be honest, I still don't think I got all of the ratios right.  I'm going to try a little bit less flour next time.  The crumble tasted close to that of the Pie Company, but not quite right on.  If I figure out the perfect recipe, I'll post it so that you can enjoy the delicious fruits of my mathematical labor.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Magic Web Girdle

I came across this ad in the August 1954 Ladies' Home Journal:

May I just take a second to say...WHAT IS THAT??  It looks like a torture device from the Middle Ages  I know they wore corsets back in the 1800's, but this is from 1954.  Women were still wearing this stuff.  Shoot, do women still wear this stuff?   Should I be wearing something like this?  I think Spanx has taken over the market on "ways to keep your body parts where they are supposed to be,"  but I don't even own any Spanx.  In the interests of trying to be like a fifties housewife, I'm going to have to go find some sort of body-shaping thing and wear it all day.  I wish I could actually try this "Magic Web Adjustment" girdle, but I would only probably want to wear it for about five minutes.  It looks so complicated.  Were women supposed to get into that by themselves?

This ad says that if I buy their product, I can have that "girdle off" feeling anytime.  That's so great!  Do you want to know how I currently get that great "girdle off" feeling?  I don't wear a girdle.

Do you know of any places that sell legit girdles?  Because I absolutely want to go try one on in the interests of this project, but I have no idea where to find one.  Let me know if you have any ideas.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Christine Webb, the Feminist

I have never considered myself a feminist.  I just haven't.  I think men and women are of equal worth and are equal citizens under God's eyes, but I also think they have different roles that should be respected.  Today, however, I found myself thinking very feminist-y.  Or maybe it's just that this situation is so abhorrent that finally feminists and I would agree on something.

Here is the introduction letter to a feature article in a 1954 issue of Ladies' Home Journal (I will type the words underneath so you don't have to read the tiny print):

Dear Dawn Norman,
       When I was 16 years old, I weighed 287 pounds and wore a size 54 dress.  I looked older than my mother.  Today at 23, I am 150 pounds and a size 14.  I'm still dieting.  My doctor tells me that 135 lbs would be better for my height of 5' 6 1/4 ".
       I have started dieting many times, would lose 20 or 30 pounds, and then quit.  Then I fell in love with a very handsome fellow.  Of course he wouldn't give me a tumble.  I was at rock bottom.  It was the Journal stories about real-life dieters that gave me fresh courage and made me realize that I could do something besides feel sorry for myself.  
       In one year I lost close to 100 pounds.  By the time I reduced to 190, Dennis asked me for a date.  At 165 pounds we started "going steady."  When I reached 150 he proposed.  Today we are happily married.
       My heartfelt and most humble thanks to the Journal for giving me a new and wonderful life.
Doris Stradley McFall

To be honest with you, I read the entire article that follows this letter with the kind of mixed intrigue and horror with which a person would watch a true crime show.  I could not believe this girl's story.  Here it is in a nutshell, just in case you didn't get the picture from her introduction:  The girl loved ("loved") this guy, and her friends tried to set her up with him, but he was totally uninterested.  She decided, "I love him, so I must lose weight in order to make him love me back."  She started losing weight, and he got progressively more interested.  It took losing 97 pounds before he asked her on a date, then she lost 25 more pounds and she was worthy to be his official girlfriend, then after another 15 pounds he proposed.  Um.  How did no one see an issue with this?  How did the editors of LHJ look at this and think, "Wow, what a great example to set for our readers"?  This was a feature article, so clearly they thought it was important.  Nowhere in the article did it emphasize, "Once I lost the weight, he was finally able to see my great personality, which attracted him to me even more."  Nope, it was all about, "If you're skinny enough, you too can get the man of your dreams!"

What kind of way is that to start a marriage?   What if she gains the weight back?  Will he still love her?  What if she gets pregnant?  You can't expect a woman to be skinny if she's pregnant.  Also, nobody is sexy when they're old.  (With the exception of George Clooney, who I contend will always be sexy).  You don't look at an 80-year-old and think, "Wow, what a hottie."  Presumably marriage is forever, though, so eventually you would hope to be married to an 80-year-old (when you're approximately 80).  If that 80-year-old isn't as sexy as the twenty-something you married, does that mean you leave?  Of course not!  That's why your marriage has to be built on a solid foundation, and that solid foundation doesn't include temporary perks like attractiveness.  Come on, Doris.  You can do better than this guy.  You need someone who's going to love you no matter what you weigh!

Also, side note - I think it's great that she lost the weight.  I have friends currently struggling with weight issues, and I think it's awesome that they're working so hard to get healthy.  They're doing it for themselves, though, and because it's good for their health.  They're not doing it to "get a man" or to make their husbands love them.  That is absolutely the wrong reason to do something.  Imagine the constant insecurity that would stem from that mindset!  If a guy is going to love you, he should love you for who you are and not for your dress size.

Interesting side note...I did a bit of Google research, and I found a marriage record between a Doris Stradley and a Dennis McFall that lasted from 1954-1956, which would be consistent with the timeline of this article.  I don't know how reliable the source was, but assuming it's true...that would mean that their marriage lasted two years.  Either one of them died (possible), or Dennis was a misogynistic a-hole and one or both of them got sick of that (probable).

I realize this doesn't exactly translate to my project of trying to be more like a vintage housewife, but the article made me really mad so I just had to write on it.  I suppose I could hit the gym, go on a diet, and try to lose weight for my husband in order to better identify with Doris.  I feel like if I did that, though, I would start resenting my husband (which is totally unfair because he would never ask me to lose weight for him) and also  I would lose respect for myself.  Also, I'm not overweight, so losing weight isn't even a necessary goal at this point.  I think I'll just leave this as a "take it for what it is" post, and I won't integrate the principles into my life.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How Well Do I Know My Husband?

Everyone knows that a mark of a good wife is that she knows her husband well.  In July of 1954, the Ladies Home Journal published a quiz in order for women to see how well they know their husbands.  I figured I would take it too, to see how I measure up.  Here is a picture of the quiz, but I will rewrite the questions as well for easier reading:

1. Do you know positively what...
      Color he thinks most becomes you?  Ummm...  I'm not sure that Rex actually cares what color I wear.  He doesn't notice fashion much.  So I guess my answer to this question is "no, I don't know."  Blast.  I'm not off to a good start.
       Are his three favorite desserts?  Homemade pie, shamrock shakes, and homemade snickerdoodles.
       He wants to do when he retires?  Sit on his front porch with his bloodhound and his gun, surveying his hunting land.
       Kind of vacation he likes?  Anything rustic and low-stress.  He doesn't like airports, so flying places is not his favorite.
       His true religious views are?  Uh, YES.  Probably summed up best by Jesus's words in John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."  I even know Rex's definition of life success, which is "Bring as much glory to God as you possibly can, and have as much fun as possible along the way."  So ha.  Do I get a bonus point for knowing both?  I have a quick comment, though - why would someone get married without knowing her husband's religious views?  That would be really strange.  And why does this question come after what color he likes best on me and his favorite desserts??  These questions had better not be in priority order...
      Trait he likes most about you?  Physical or non-physical?  We'll go with non-physical.  I think he likes my sense of humor, which is good because I couldn't be with someone who didn't get it.  I also think he likes my cooking.
       Habit of yours that most annoys him?  Hmmm...  he really hates when I use any of the plethora of pet names I've tried to invent over the years.  He just wants to be called "Rex."  How boring.  He also hates when I refer to his underwear as "panties."  So the sentence, "Rex, honey-bear, would you like me to wash any of your panties?"  would really drive him nuts.
       First attracted him to you?  I really don't know.  I guess I lose points on this one.

Do you know positively whether he...
      Likes or dislikes your friends?  Yes.  For sure.  And I'm positive which ones he likes and which he doesn't, ha ha.
       Loves or doesn't love you?  What kind of a question is that?!  That's so sad!  What if a woman knew all of the other answers to this quiz, but got to this one and was like, "Hmmm...tough one..."  That's horrible.  Yes, I'm sure my husband loves me.  He tells me all the time, in a million different ways.

Do you know positively why he...
       Is friends with his best friend?  Assuming the best friend can't be me...  I think he's friends with his best friend JB because he and JB endured the entire traumatic experience of physical therapy school together, and that somehow bonds people.
       Likes or dislikes certain relatives?  Ha ha... I like this question.  And yes, I do know which relatives he likes and dislikes, but I'm definitely not publishing that online lest I get him and me both in trouble.
       Is or isn't proud of you?  Again, sad question!  Yes, Rex is proud of me.
       Does or doesn't like to talk to you?  What??  These poor housewives!  Whose husband doesn't like to talk to them?  Like, "Make me a sandwich, woman!  Now go sit in the corner because I don't want to talk to you!"  Did that actually happen?  Is this one of those questions that is supposed to be really easy and boost your point score for when you didn't know why he was first attracted to you?  That's what I'm going to tell myself.
Okay.  Time to score myself.  I get two points for each "no," one point for each where I wasn't sure, and zero points for yes.  Hold on while I add this up.

My score is 5 (two points each for the "what attracted him to you" and "what color does he think looks best on you," and one point for why he's friends with his best friend because I'm not positive on that one.)  Here is my prognosis from the article:  "If you score four or lower, you either know your husband very well or think you do.  A score of 5 or 6 is average, but with a score of seven or more you are either not observing your husband as you should or you and he have very poor communication.  Spend more time with him, watch his reactions to what you say and do, and you may get better acquainted with him."

Alright, I'm average.  I guess I can handle that.  I'm going to quiz him on all of these plus a million other random facts tonight, though, so that next time I stumble across one of these types of quizzes I'll look like a rock star wife.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Buy This Cheese

I had a fun time doing some research at the MSU library today - they have every issue of Ladies Home Journal from 1918 until 2013.  No lie.  They take up two book shelves, but they're a wealth of knowledge. They show how women coped with the fallout of World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the crazy "Free Love" movement of the sixties, etc.  It's like an entire commentary on women's history, right there in the basement of the library.  It's fabulous.  Since I'm focusing on the 1940's and 50's, though, I read a few magazines from that era.

I have a lot to say about a lot of different articles ("What To Do if a Negro Asks Your Daughter to Prom") or ("How to Get a Husband by Losing Weight"), but for now I just want to show you an ad that struck me as strange.  It has nothing to do with feminism or women's rights in general.  It's basically just weird.  A lovely "What?" moment that I found stuck right in the middle of August 1954:

Dear Miss Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese,

How is this ad supposed to inspire me to buy your cheese?  I'm confused.  Is it supposed to go well with pie?  Does anyone eat cheese with pie?  Because that's messed up.  Am I supposed to see the pie, take the subliminal message to become hungry, and then replace those feelings of hunger with a need for cheese?  Also, why isn't the cheese melting?  Isn't the pie warm?  No one likes cold pie.  Is that what you're trying to tell me about the cheese?  That it's so hardy that it won't melt even when placed upon hot pie?  I don't think I like that.  That's not a desirable quality that I consider when choosing cheese.  What if I'm trying to make nachos and your cheese won't melt?  Then when my husband gets home dinner won't be ready and he'll freak out because of it (at least, that's what an article from July's issue told me he'll do).  It's just...I don't understand the point of this ad, Miss Wisconsin.

Although...all my considerations of this ad have made me kind of hungry.  I kind of want some cheese.

Sneaky - I see what you did there.

Christine (60 years in the future)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Business in the Bathroom

Today I had to take care of some business in the bathroom.  By "business," I mean clean it.  Obviously.  Don't be gross.

I figured this would be a great time to bust out my home ec books and do this right, fifties style.  This book is from 1952, and luckily there was a whole section titled "How shall we care for the bathroom?"  It was exactly what I needed.  I'll walk you through my cleaning experience, with the words from the book in italics.

The bathroom requires thorough cleaning once or twice a week as well as some care each day.  Thorough cleaning consists of wiping down the walls, mopping or scrubbing the floor, washing the woodwork, and cleaning the mirrors, cabinets, tub, stool, and lavatory.

I'm supposed to wipe down the walls and scrub the floor once or twice a week?  Wow, I'm an epic failure.  At least now I know.  I can work on that.  Also, what is the "lavatory"?  I thought that just meant "bathroom," but this lists it as a separate thing.  I am confused. 

*quick Google search*

They say it used to mean "sink."  Oh, okay.   Now I know.  I need to clean the sink.  Got it.

Step 1: Clean the tub and lavatory
1. Scrub with a soft, moist cloth, and a fine nonabrasive cleaner to remove soil and any scum left by hard water.
2. Rinse thoroughly with water.
3. Wash faucets with soap and hot water.
4. Wipe them dry

Wait, that's it?  I don't have to use any of the crazy cleaners and chemicals that I see at the grocery store?  Maybe that's where the "nonabrasive cleaner" comes in.  I decide to use SoftScrub, because it has the word "soft" right there in the title so I figure that must mean "nonabrasive."  NonabrasiveScrub just wasn't as catchy.

Next it tells me to make sure that the "waste water" goes out of the "stool" at a good rate to make sure nothing's clogged.  I toss a piece of Elsie's cat food into the toilet and flush it down.  It goes down.  I figure that means we're good to go onto the next step: cleaning the stool.

Step 2: Cleaning the Stool
1. Use a stool brush or one made from a string dish mop with the strings cut short.

I can use a normal old toilet brush, right?  I think yes.

2. Use soapy hot water and clean thoroughly.
3. Disinfect and cleanse once or twice each week with chorlide of lime or a commercial cleanser prepared especially for stools.

I'm not sure what "chloride of lime" is, but I don't have that.  I used "The Works" cleaner and then sprinkled some lime juice in there instead.  I hope it does something good.  The bathroom smells kind of limey, so that's a nice side effect.

Step 3: Clean the mirror
1. Use soft cloths that are nonlinting.  (How do I know if a cloth is linting?)
2. Moisten the cloth in clear, warm water, and wring moderately dry.
3. Wipe the mirror, taking care that water does not seep under the frame or backing.
4. Dry with a clean, dry, soft cloth.

I was confused here.  No glass cleaner?  Have these people never heard of Windex?  I did a bit of research, and no - they had not.  Windex came out in 1933, but it was so strong that they had to keep it in metal cans because it would erode plastic.  Eeek!  I wouldn't want that in my house either!  Windex as we know it wasn't around until decades later.  So, in honor of the fifties life, no Windex on the mirror today.

Step 4: Clean the floor
1. Sweep up all the dust, lint, and other dirt, and remove it in a dustpan.
2. Make suds of mild soap and warm water in a pail.

I didn't have a pail, so I just made a soapy mixture in the "lavatory."

3. Dip a clean mop in the suds and wring it moderately dry.

Uh oh, I don't have a mop either.  I figure it's a small bathroom, so hands-and-knees with a sponge will have to do.

4. Wipe the floor in parts, dipping and wringing the mop as each part is finished.

How big of a bathroom do these people think I have?  It's like, 5 feet by 4 feet.  Sheesh.

5. Dip the mop and wring it dry, and go over the floor to remove any excess water.

Phewf!  After all of that, my bathroom is sparkly clean.  I didn't even miss the Windex (too much), and the room smells like soap and lime.  Rex is going to be so proud.  Maybe a little confused about the lime, but still proud.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Song to Sing

I was sitting at home on a blizzardy winter day, reading Our Home and Family by Laura Baxter (copyright 1952), and I came across this section that I simply have to share with you:

"Schoolgirls seldom have the full responsibility of caring for the house. [...]  Tasks commonly given to them include the care of their own room, sweeping and brushing, taking care of cupboards and closets, caring for the bathroom, cleaning and polishing the silverware and other metals, keeping tables and desks in order, and washing dishes and utensils. Here is a song for cleaning day that should keep a girl's heart content that she has such jobs to do:

Brown soap can brew a scrubbing froth
Fragrant as orange peel or tar;
It makes a closet or a cloth
As fresh as dogwood blossoms are;
And wax, that amber soft and slow,
Embalms old carving in a glow.

Polish can turn a bowl of brass
Into a bell that beats a gleam,
Can  make a silver dish a glass
Of lights like birches in a dream;
While bright as peaches copper blooms
Out of the corners of the rooms.

There could not be a blither work
Than skill with pumice, brush, and soap,
To bring a bright thing from a dark,
To fill the house with lamps of hope.
And so before the morning goes
Put stars among the goblet-rows.

Oh boy.  Where do I start on this one? 

First of all, what the heck kind of a song is that?!  If my mom would have sat me down and said, "Honey, let's learn this fun song!" and then pulled that thing out, I would have laughed (respectfully and politely) in her face.  It doesn't make sense, and the rhyme scheme is super funky.  Were fifties children far more poetically inclined than our generation of lazy millenials?  Because the extent of my clean up music was "Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share" from Barney.

Also, the blurb before the song says that it is supposed to keep a girl's heart content that she has such jobs to do.  Umm...really?  Let's take a look into little Suzie's 1952 conversation with her mom:

Mom: Suzie dear, would you please polish the silver?
Suzie: Golly gee, Mom, do I gotta? 
Mom: You have to do it, Suzie, but good news: you can sing the bat-crap-crazy cleaning song I taught you!
Suzie: Holy moly!  What fun!  Now my heart is content.  Where's the silver?!

Sorry Ms. Baxter, that didn't happen.  Ever.  Your song is freaky and weird. 

Does anyone else think that this author just wanted to be a poet, but no one would buy her weird poetry so she just inserted it into her textbooks so she could see it in print?  Because that's what I think.

I'm trying to follow the advice in these books, so I tried singing while cleaning today.  I actually tried singing that specific song (I tried to come up with a melody, but that got pretty boring so I ended up rapping it instead.  I bet that's not what Laura Baxter was going for).  I actually got less cleaning done because I couldn't figure out the dumb song.  Elvis looked at me like I was nuts, and he was probably right.  I decided to give up on the dishes and come write this entry.  So really...the cleaning song completely backfired.  I'm going to try again with the Barney version and see if I do better.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bath Towels - Are Yours Soft and Fluffy?

The title of this post is identical to that of a Good Housekeeping article from the early sixties.  It caught my attention because the answer to that question is no, my bath towels are not soft or fluffy.  They're that weird matted down-worn out kind of towel that makes you wonder if it's actually soaking up any water at all.  It's really probably just time to buy new towels, but money is tight so I figured I'd see if the experts at Good Housekeeping could help me out.  Here's what they say:

"If you use a washing machine at home, it is easy to launder a load of bath towels; but can you get them soft and fluffy, and luxurious, the way you like them?"

No, I can't, housewifery gurus!  Teach me your ways!

"The only way to accomplish this is to shake the towels vigorously before hanging them on the line.  It is easier if two people shake, so perhaps your young child would like to help you."

Two problems with this: 1. I have no clothesline, and there's absolutely no way I'm hanging towels in the -2 degree weather we're having today.  They (and I) will freeze before they're even hung up.  2. I have no young child to help me.  I KNEW I should have procreated!  Drat. 

Luckily, it seems like the young child thing is optional.  Also, Good Housekeeping must have realized that not all of us have the luxury of clotheslines, so a few paragraphs down they have a section on "Drying Clothes Indoors." 

"It's no fun to hang clothes outdoors when your hands are freezing and the clothes stick to the line, and they won't dry well, anyway!  On cold, stormy days, find some place - a corner of your basement or even a play or recreation room - where you can hang your clothes conveniently."

But Good Housekeeping lady, I don't have a basement OR a playroom!  What am I to do?  I tried reading on, but the rest of the paragraph was no help:

"If clothes are properly washed and thoroughly rinsed, they'll be as white as when hung outdoors.  However, the wind's billowing of the clothes does help to take out wrinkles, so shake your wash when you resort to indoor drying."

Great, thanks.  More shaking.  With my small child.  I know.

The only place I could find to hang them was over the shower rod, so hopefully Rex doesn't need to take a shower tonight (both because I don't want him to destroy my "drying for fluffiness" project and also because he will not have any towels to use because I'm washing them).

Here's hoping that they turn out fluffy!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Simpler Methods Save Time and Energy"

Today I've been doing some reading from a 1958 home economics textbook called Homemaking for Teen-Agers.  It's a high school textbook for a class I really wish I would have been able to take!  I especially liked the section called "Simpler Methods to Save Time and Energy."  After reading the ten page chapter on how to vacuum correctly, I really needed something to help me save some time and energy.

I didn't actually do the twenty-seven step vacuuming process, I just read about it.  Still, it took a lot of time and energy to even think about doing that much vacuuming.  They wanted me to vacuum my lampshades.  No.  I won't do it.

The "simpler methods" section starts out in a very promising manner: "Simplify one's housekeeping by the elimination of as many tasks as possible: for example, use paper napkins for everyday meals instead of cloth ones which must be washed and ironed.  Tables can be attractive with paper napkins and the food just as delicious."

Awesome!  I already do that!  I save my cloth napkins for extremely special hosting Thanksgiving when I'm 45 years old and rich.  Then I'll go get my cloth napkins...from the store.

"In the early days of our country, there was no need, perhaps, for speeding up the performance of household tasks, but in the twentieth century we live at a faster pace, with many interests and responsibilities that fill our days to overflowing."

Who wrote this book?  I need to have a word with them. *flip to the front cover* Irene McDermott.  Irene, honey, you don't understand the meaning of "fast-paced."  You think 1958 was fast-paced?  That's cute.  The internet hadn't even been invented yet.  Fast food joints didn't exist.  Students weren't involved in 128 after school groups per kid.  People actually ate dinner as a family.  I mean, I guess trying to fit in a nightly episode of I Love Lucy might have made your schedule feel a little crunched, but for real.  No.  You're not fast-paced.  Nice try.

"The thinking housekeeper will find many ways of simplifying work: for example, the elimination of white window curtains which must be washed frequently."

Wait, I'm supposed to wash my curtains?  Hmmm...  I'm avoiding a guilt trip here by skipping ahead to the next paragraph.

"Keep your cleaning tools in a basket or carrier, so that everything you need will be available when you arrive at the scene of the action."

I love this.  "Scene of the action" makes me feel like some kid of superhero.  "Here comes Superwife, ready to fight dust and germs!  Bacteria doesn't stand a chance!"  That actually makes sense, too, and I have an extra basket.  I'm doing that one.

"Avoid creating a general state of confusion in the room which you are cleaning.  When all of the furniture is pushed to the center of the room, it will slow up the cleaning process when you have to walk around as you work.  Keep your line of traffic free."

In the interests of avoiding a "general state of confusion," I vow to leave my furniture where it is while I clean.  Phew!  That was an easy one.

"Form the habit of saving steps.  For instance, suppose you are responsible for cleaning the bedroom section of the house.  One task is to empty the wastebaskets in each bedroom and in the bathroom, and carry the wastepaper to the rubbish barrel in the back yard.  Will you carry each down separately?  Will you place a large container in the hall and bring each basket to the container for emptying?"

A few things about this section:  1. From now on I am so calling our dumpster the "rubbish barrel."  2. Do you think I can interpret this "saving steps" section to mean that I can stuff some boxes under the bed or in my closet to clean out later?  I think yes.

Last but not least...  "Rest periods are important.  There is one often-neglected item which should appear on on every housekeeping schedule: REST. Some homemakers feel that it best to get all of their work done first and then settle down for a rest, but scientific analysis of efficiency on the job has shown that it is better to take short rest periods three or four times during the day."

Awesome.  This one's even easier to follow than the paper napkins.  When Rex comes home and the house is a mess, I'll just tell him that scientific analysis shows that I'm actually raising my efficiency.  Brilliant.  Thanks, Irene!  I think I'll read more of your book tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Discomforted by my Comforter

I was reading through Good Housekeeping's Guide to Successful Homemaking (1961 ed.), and I came to a page that talked about washing your blankets and comforters.

I wash my sheets, but I tried to think of the last time I washed my comforter and I couldn't remember it.  Well, THAT's a discomforting thought!  What kind of nasties are lurking in my comforter?!  Dead skin cells, dust bunnies, sweat, hair that fell off of my head months ago...  EW.  Gross.  How have I been sleeping in that?  I was disgusted with myself.  I clearly needed Good Housekeeping's help to de-germ my comforter.  I sat down to read the directions, however, and they started out trickier than I thought:

1. You must dry-clean silk faille, satin, taffeta, or acetate spreads.

What's an acetate spread?  It sounds like a chemist's toxic peanut butter or something.  What's faille?  I don't think my comforter is made out of any of those things, so I decided to read on: 2. Use the following procedure for washable fabrics such as chenille, candlewick, corduroy, crocheted, and seersucker.  Again - what??  Seersucker?  That sounds like something out of a horror movie.  Candlewicks?  You can make bedspreads out of those?  But what if your house catches on fire?  (then again, I don't know of any fireproof comforters...BUT THAT WOULD BE SUCH A COOL INVENTION!) I digress.  Anyway here's the real issue  - how did cotton not make this list?  My comforter is made out of cotton.  Wasn't cotton around in 1961?  I figured it would fall under the category of "washable fabrics," so I decided to proceed.

"Shake the spread to remove lint and loose dirt."

Check.  At least there wasn't much of that.

"In a nonautomatic washer, fill the tub as you would for a full load." 

I do not comprehend the idea of a "nonautomatic washer."  My foremothers are saints for having those.  I skipped this section and moved on to the directions for the richie riches with automatic washers:

"If you have an automatic washer, follow the manufacturer's directions.  Remove the spread after washing and dry in dryer."

WHAT?  After the two paragraphs I read about the nonautomatic washers and all of the bazillions of fabrics I may or may not wash, my reward is to read the 1961 version of essentially "just wash it like you would wash anything else, you weirdo"?!  Well, that makes me feel downright pouty.  I wanted a new vintage-y way to wash my comforter.  I guess I could pretend that my sink is a nonautomatic washer, but that seems a bit too contrived.  I guess old-school and new-school housewives agree: if you can take shortcuts and have something done automatically, just do it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Hi blog friends!  It's like breathing a huge sigh of relief to be back on here again.  As you may recall from my last post (which you can read here), I put this blog on a hiatus until my husband came home.  Well, I am happy to report that Rex has moved home for good, and I can finally resume my housewifery.  I must confess I'd grown quite complacent.  Cooking for one is anticlimactic, so I got used to sandwiches and eating out.  But then when the Qdoba lady knew my name since I was there so often, I got kind of scared that I was losing my silks forever so I started cooking again, ha ha.  Cleaning took a back seat too.  I would stay pretty picked up, but who was going to notice if there was dust in my corners or if I hadn't scrubbed my shower head?  No one, that's who.  Elvis certainly wasn't going to tell on me.  So I just kind of let it go.  But now my husband's back, so I can feel good about cleaning again!

Come to think of it, I'm quite sure he wouldn't notice dust in the corners or a grimy shower head either, but somehow I feel better when I'm actually cleaning for someone instead of just for myself.

So anyway, this past weekend I went into total housewife overdrive.  In the past few days I completed the following recipes (all from scratch, obviously):

- Chipotle-crusted chicken with mashed potatoes and spiced green beans
- Spaghetti with homemade meat sauce based on the Olive Garden recipe and accompanied by homemade garlic bread (that bagged stuff from the frozen section is SO last year)
- Homemade burritos including guacamole from scratch, sautéed Mexi-spiced chicken, cilantro-lime rice made from scratch, and various other burrito accoutrements
- Cinnamon Amish Friendship Bread (PS that recipe took literally TEN DAYS to make because I had to "grow" the yeast starter.  So yeah, be really proud of me on that one.)
- Chocolate Mint Trifle (a dessert which accompanied a frozen pizza...  I felt bad about cheating on that dinner so at least I made a cool dessert).
- Chicken Tortilla Soup  (homemade, obviously.  What is this "canned" nonsense?)

Since all of that cooking happened over the course of a weekend, you can see that Rex and I have been eating pretty well.  I'm trying to convince him to never leave again, ha ha.  But really, I was just bored because I was on Christmas Break from school and had nothing better to do.  I was actually looking forward to going back to school, but alas.  It wasn't meant to be.  Due to a raging, record-breaking blizzard that has hit Southwest Michigan, I'm now on Day 1 of a (at least) two day snow day spread.  Well, I'm obviously super bored now.  I've already exhausted all of my recipes, and Rex is away at work.  I don't have any grading or lesson planning to do because I'm technically on an extended break.

Basically, I was really bored.  I had nothing to do; no one to serve.  I can't even leave the house because snow drifts are keeping my car from going anywhere (Rex took our Suburban... it's the only vehicle that has a chance in this weather).  I was trying to figure out what to do when I looked down at our dog Elvis and came up with a brilliant idea:

I would make DOG TREATS!

What's more domestic than home-making your dog's food??  Plus, I remembered that I had a really sketchy looking dog treat mix that I got from some guy who lived near the dog park last year.  I bought it for $1.  Looking back, that was actually really dumb.  I got the bag out of my cupboard and looked at it skeptically - it was a bag full of who-knows-what, with no instructions on how to turn this floury mess into edible dog snacks.  It could have been a bag of arsenic and crack, for all I knew.  Alas, boredom makes people do weird things.  I got online and googled "what to add to dog treat mix."  Some recipes were really elaborate.  People are getting weird about what to feed to their pets, like "Add GMO-free wheat that was grown in a sunny location and organic eggs from chickens who only ate organic feed and took occasional classes in philosophy..."  Okay, I'm exaggerating, but only a little.  Finally I figured, "He's a DOG.  He'll eat anything."  So I just added water to the powdery mixture until it made a pasty dough.  Then I cut the dough into dog bone shapes and slapped it in the oven at 350 for 18-20 minutes (because it seems like that's the directions for every run-of-the-mill baking recipe).  When I took them out, they actually looked like dog treats!  What's more, Elvis LOVED them!  He hasn't even died or anything, which I find very promising.  I need to cook for Elvis more often - he's my least picky critic.

I'm on a cooking ROLL.  I need to bake something for Elsie.  Or reorganize another closet.  The Vintage Housewife is BACK, y'all.  Stay tuned for fabulous.