Sparkling Vintage Fiction. Among other things.

Monthly Archives: January 2015

Sparkling Vintage Habits: Rise and Shine!

morning coffee“An ounce of morning is worth a pound of afternoon.” (Traditional proverb)

Last week I kicked off this little habits series with “getting a good night’s sleep” for good reason: to get your reading to experience a Sparkling Vintage morning!

Oh no, I can hear you groaning, she’s going to ask us to get up early!

I’ll confess up front that I am a morning person. I wasn’t always that way–in fact, family members will attest that I used to hate early mornings, especially as a teenager and young adult, but usually that was because I was burning the proverbial candle at both ends. For the past twenty years or so, I’ve found mornings to be the best, most productive part of my day.

So what’s so vintage about getting up early? Pretty much the same thing that’s vintage about getting a good night’s sleep–it’s in keeping with the natural pattern of daylight and nighttime that the human body is designed to work with. It involves slowing down, even for an hour, the rush-rush pace of modern life. Mornings are full of optimism–remember Ronald Reagan’s chipper phrase, “It’s morning in America“?

“Discipline,” writes Richard Shelley Taylor in The Disciplined Life (1962), “will push its possessor out of bed when he yet has time to get to work without rush, which is much better than dawdling another half hour and then regretting it the rest of the day. Or she will make the bed and do the dishes in the morning, rather than allow afternoon hours to find her wishing she had, and maybe in tears because of the neglected housework that suddenly stares her in the face.”

Don’t get me wrong–this is not a sermon about the virtues of rising early. If you’re a natural night-owl or a shift worker, getting up early might be sheer torture for you. I’m not talking about a specific time of day–it’s about how you use the first few hours of your day, whenever they may fall on the clock. If your “morning” starts at 1 p.m., then merely adjust what I’m saying to suit your schedule. If you get a good night’s sleep, the time on the clock doesn’t really matter. It’s your attitude that matters. The point is to try to rise early enough that you move through your daily preparations at an unhurried pace. There’s absolutely zero elegance in racing around like a mad fiend because you’re late and the kids are hungry and you can’t find your car keys and you really should exercise but there’s no time, no time to say hello, goodbye, you’re late, you’re late, you’re late (to paraphrase the White Rabbit).

Okay, that we’ve gotten that out of the way . . .

While reading Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Curry, I was inspired by the many creative, prolific individuals who did their best work within a few hours of rising, including Henry James, Igor Stravinsky, Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, Maya Angelou, P. G. Wodehouse, Franz Liszt,Franz Schubert, Flannery O’Connor, Victor Hugo, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, and Charles Dickens.

(To be fair, there were plenty of “afternoon people” as well–James Joyce, Samuel Becket, Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre, among others–and a fair number of night owls, too, like Marcel Proust, Glenn Gould, and insomniac Louis Armstrong.)

These days my morning routine includes making coffee, reading the Bible, praying, writing in my journal, exercising, and getting myself ready for the day. My husband and I also spend an hour together, drinking coffee, reading aloud, praying together, and just talking. This simple routine starts my day off on the right foot. And the nice thing about having a routine that’s pretty much the same every day is that I don’t have to think too hard. I just do it, and by the time I’ve finished, I’m energized and ready to begin the day.

The specifics aren’t important. Your morning routine might look completely different from mine. The point is, are you making the most of the earliest hours of your day? Are there things you could do to make them more peaceful and productive?

 

Retro Recipe Wednesday: How to Make a Sandwich

I found this adorable video by way of The Apron Revolution.  I love how the mother and daughter are working together in the kitchen to make tuna sandwiches for their guests. There’s something so homey and charming about such a scene.

 

The commentary that accompanies the video on YouTube is pretty amusing too. Some women seem most fearful that making a tuna sandwich for a boy will toss them straight back to the Victorian era and shackle them to the stove. Funny! I think we’d all be better off, health-wise and budget-wise, doing more of our own home cooking and relying less on restaurants and take-out.

What’s your favorite sandwich?

Sparkling Vintage Habits: Get a Good Night’s Sleep

sleeping“Sleep, thou that knittest up the ravel’d sleeve of care…” (William Shakespeare, Macbeth)

I’ve been thinking a lot about habits recently. I’m not much of a New-Year’s-resolution-maker, but I do find great value in establishing good habits and dropping unprofitable ones–not just in January, but at any time of year.

One habit that seems to prop up just about everything else in my sparkling-vintage life is a good, old-fashioned night’s sleep. With sufficient sleep, I’m calm, optimistic, pleasant, and productive. Without it, I’m . . . well, none of those things, with a decided lack of sparkle besides. To mangle Shakespeare, let’s just say that without proper sleep, my sleeve of care unravels at warp speed.

In many ways, our ancestors had an easier time of sleeping than we do. Before Mr. Edison unleashed his electrical genius on the world, nighttime meant darkness, and darkness meant sleep. Today, just because the world keeps going 24/7/365 doesn’t mean that we should. Our circadian rhythms benefit from cues like darkness and quiet to help us get the rest we need. A lack of television, computers, and other electronic screens in the olden days was also a boon for sleep. Today our addiction to wireless devices keeps us wired way too far into the night.

In my quest for rest, I toured the Internet to collect words of wisdom to sleep on. Here are some tips to help you slumber like it’s 1899:

*Go to bed in a dark, quiet bedroom. Use a sleep mask if it’s impossible to eliminate all light, and ear plugs if a noisy environment keeps the sandman at bay.

*Develop a nighttime routine to help you settle down and to signal the brain that you’re heading for bed. The specifics are up to you—maybe choose tomorrow’s clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth, smooth on some hand cream, change into sleepwear, read, pray, and do some light stretching exercises. Nothing too strenuous.

*Speaking of sleepwear, do you have something decent to wear to bed? Throwing on any old tee-shirt and sweatpants, while comfy, is not very Sparkling Vintage. And don’t tell me it doesnt matter if “no one sees.” YOU see, and so does your spouse if you’re married, and any housemates you might have. So treat yourself to a pretty nightgown or pajamas in natural fabrics for a comfortable night’s sleep. I like cozy flannel in the winter and crisp cotton in the summer. Some of you slinkier types might appreciate silk. Beware of one-hundred-percent synthetics if you tend to be too warm, too cold, or of an age when you’re prone to hot flashes.

*Did you know that lavender is conducive to sleep? Pour a little lavender oil in a warm bath at bedtime, or put a few drops on a cotton ball and slip it inside your pillowcase.

*Warm milk and chamomile tea are time-honored remedies for wakefulness. Just don’t drink a lot too close to bedtime–you don’t want your slumber to be disturbed by frequent trips to the bathroom. Avoid heavy meals and caffeine late in the day.

*Turn off the TV and other electronic screens at least an hour before bed. The evening news report is not likely to help you relax, anyway. Read, talk with your loved ones, or cuddle up instead.

Nighty-night!

Shifting Gears: The New American Woman Hits the Road

motoring1I’ll confess it now . . . I’m not a big fan of driving. My feelings about life behind the steering wheel range from neutral (on fine days) to negative (on snowy, icy days). I’d say I never truly love driving–not the way a real enthusiast does.

I’d also say, it appears I’m missing out on something adored by many ladies of yore.

The first decade of the 1900s saw a tremendous rise in the popularity of the new “horseless carriages” being churned out by Ford, Chrysler, and Oldsmobile. In addition to the home-grown variety, about 60,000 automobiles were imported from Europe in 1906. The market was hot.

Women as well as men hopped on the new craze for “motoring,” as it was called. “The ‘New American Woman’ was the rage of 1907,” explained Lloyd Wendt and Herman Kogan in their book Give the Lady What She Wants! The Story of Marshall Field & Company, about Chicago’s premier department store. “She was celebrated in song, famous artists idealized her for the popular publications, newspapers devoted entire sections to her interests, her exploits, her escapades. . . . “The papers were packed with feminine style news, household hints, profiles of society leaders, professional women, girl athletes . . . She had taken up the bicycle craze and golf and roller skating and lawn tennis–and she demanded the outfits for these sports. Grimly, in tight-necked ulsters [overcoats] and goggles, she was learning to drive automobiles. She was healthier, more athletic, taller, stronger, self-assured and, most important for those who sought her patronage, she had the right, opportunity, and ability to earn her own money.”motoring2

With all due respect to Messrs. Wendt and Kogan, I don’t know that I’d use the word “grimly” to describe a woman’s early efforts to drive. Sounds to me like she had a lot of fun. The motoring craze even gave rise to songs like “My Merry Oldsmobile,” the refrain of which goes:

Come away with me, Lucille,
In my merry Oldsmobile
Down the road of life we’ll fly
Automo-bubbling, you and I

To the church we’ll swiftly steal
Then our wedding bells will peal
You can go as far as you like with me
In my merry Oldsmobile.

As the lyrics imply, automobiles offered unprecedented mobility and privacy to courting couples, far away from the confines of the family parlor, a development that did not necessarily please their elders.

And of course, a new activity called for a new outfit! “Field’s motoring gear, in itself, made possession of an automobile seem desirable,” wrote Wendt and Kogan. “There were richly embroidered suits, thick fur muffs, Siberian pony-skin coats, cute linen dusters and capes, caps or poke bonnets with veils, gauntlet gloves, and goggles. For the young motorist and sportswoman Field’s offered a padded, three-quarter jacket of silk or satin, gaily colored in red, green, or blue, and a muffler cap and gloves to match–excellent for automobiling, cycling, skating, or riding when worn with a thick wool skirt, divided or not, warm wool stockings, and cloth-top, high-button shoes.”

Perhaps my attitude toward driving could be significantly improved with the right duster, hat, veil, gloves, and a fetching pair of goggles.

Your turn–do you enjoy driving? Why or why not?

Sunday Serenade: Brightest and Best

three kings

As we head into the new year, with all its fresh starts and turnings of new leaves, here’s an old Epiphany hymn that I’ve always liked. This is the version I’m most familiar with. However, I like this one equally well, and it’s a little more upbeat.

In the liturgical church calendar, the season of Epiphany marks the visit of the magi, sometimes (wise men) to the Christ child after his birth. “And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, the offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:9-11)  Traditionally Epiphany was celebrated on January 6, twelve days after Christmas.

The words to the hymn are:

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;Star of the east, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on his cradle the dewdrops are shining,
Low lies his head with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Savior of all.

Shall we then yield him in costly devotion,
Odors of Edom and off’rings divine,
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would his favor secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

According to my hymnal, the music was written in 1811 by Reginald Heber, and the words were added by James P. Harding in 1892.

I wonder what happened to some of these great old hymns. So few people sing them or even know them anymore, yet they have such beautiful tunes and rich, meaningful words.

 

Happy New Year!

new year“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Don’t you just love waking up to a new day, new month, new year? Even though technically January 1 is just another day, with the same problems and joys, blessings and challenges as the day before, there’s always a sense of  clarity, of fresh starts and do-overs and a clean sweep of the chalkboard to make room for Something New.

In Victorian and Edwardian times, New Years Day was for visiting and being visited. An old Scots tradition, later carried by settlers to the Appalachian U.S., said that good luck would come to the home whose first visitor was male .  . . and a tall, dark and handsome male at that! I wonder if a tall, dark, and handsome male CAT would count.

On this day, many of you may be settling in to watch football. Some may be taking a Polar Bear Plunge into an icy body of water (brrr!). Others may be tucking into a plate of black-eyed peas and pork or ham (good luck), red beans and rice (more good luck), or festive leftovers from the fridge (probably not good very luck, but scrumptious anyway).

Me, my biggest plan for the day, so far, is to get dressed . . . eventually.

As I may have said before, September holds more of that start-of-a-new-year feeling for me than January does, possibly because of all that early conditioning to an academic calendar. Still, it’s a brand-new year and I’ll take it.

I’m typically not one to make New Year’s resolutions. If I think something needs fixing, I set out to fix it, whether it’s January or October. But I do have some prayers and intentions particular to this year:

*To love God and love others, in that order.

*To care less about what people think of me, and more about what God thinks of me.

*To write another novel, possibly a nonfiction book, more articles, more blog posts.

*To continue to study civilization, history, and culture–to narrow the sizable gaps in my knowledge base.

*To continue to honor and celebrate the best of the past on this blog and “IRL:–my Sparkling Vintage life.

How do you plan to sparkle in 2015?

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