A Sparkling Vintage Life

Monthly Archives: September 2013

Fall Means Fireplaces!


“The living-room must have a fireplace, because a living-room without a fireplace is like a face without eyes ~ nothing to light it up, to give it expression.

Whether the fireplace shall be at the side of the room or at the end is purely a matter of choice and of convenience to your other plans. . . .

There are advantages to be considered in placing the fireplace at either the side or at the end of the room. At the side it greets you pleasantly as you enter. Also, if you should want to open the chimney on the porch or sun-parlor side of the wall and have a fireplace there, you can do so. On the other hand, bookcases seem so completely to finish the architecture of the fireplace that it is a pity not to have them, and you can’t have them and have doors opening on to your sun-parlor too. And I certainly should have the sun-parlor off the living-room. So there you are.

If the fireplace is at the end of the room you can have bookcases at either side with small high windows above them, and you can also have your doors on to the sun-parlor so that the two rooms open together giving still more effect of space.” (From A Home of Your Own by Della Thompson Lutes, 1925)

Do you have a fireplace? Or a wood stove or pellet stove? Have you begun lighting it for the season, or are you holding on to summer as long as possible?

Down to Business: The Bletchley Circle

bletchley parkBy chance I caught an episode of The Bletchley Circle on PBS last evening. It’s a fictional British miniseries that follows four Englishwomen who worked together as code breakers at the high-level security headquarters at Bletchley Park during World War II. After the war they lost touch with each other. Now it’s nine years later, and they’ve come together again to use their code-breaking skills to solve a crime that has baffled Scotland Yard, all while carrying on their ordinary daily lives in 1950s London. Will they be able to catch the serial killer before he strikes again? I can’t wait to tune in next week to find out!

If you like Call the Midwife, you’ll probably enjoy The Bletchley Circle as well. Set in a similar time period, it offers an intriguing glimpse at life in postwar England, and also a little-known (by me, anyway) but important way that some bright, talented women served during World War II.

Retro Recipe Wednesday: Blanquette de Veau for the ‘Career Girl’

apron womanI found this recipe in the November-December 1959 issue of Living for Young Homemakers. I’ve never tried veal, and I had no idea what a blanquette is (it means “a stew of light meat or seafood in a white sauce” according to Mr. Webster), but I was charmed by the title of the accompanying article: “Streamline your entertaining, if you’re a career girl.” The article says:

“We’ve often said, ‘Woman’s place is in the home–even if she’s a girl with a job, and home is a tiny apartment.’ . . . Likely as not, the career girl will plan how she’s going to look before she decides on her menu–which simply gives her a double-barreled approach to the male heart.

“Leave it to the French: the menu is simple, with stew as the centerpiece–and what a stew, Blanquette de Veau, for which the meat and gravy part was prepared the night before. It gets the finishing touches while the rest of the meal is being whipped up in less than a half hour before dinner is served.

“Water is put on to boil for the noodles, the consomme is heated (canned consomme, thinned with tomato juice instead of water and flavored with lime slices). Greens are shredded for the salad, and a platter of Camembert, crackers, and fruit is arranged. Coffee is prepared–but not made until the last minute. The makings of the cocktails are handy; most men are flattered if asked to make their pet variety.

“She ties on her apron and is all set for the doorbell to ring. She’ll be so calm and serene the male guests will wonder if there’s anything happening in the kitchenette. Just before somebody starts on a long story, she slips away to butter the noodles, slice the French bread, put the coffee on to percolate–and it’s time to eat.”

Along with the veal dish, the suggested menu includes tomato consomme, buttered noodles, green salad, French bread, Camembert, fruit, and coffee.

So here you have it, ladies–the way to a man’s heart!

BLANQUETTE DE VEAU (Veal with Golden Sauce)

1-1/2 lbs. shoulder of veal
1 quart water
1 T. salt1/8 tsp. powdered thyme
1 bay leaf
1 sprig parsley
12 small white onions
6 carrots, scraped and quartered
2 T. butter or margarine
2 T. flour
2 T. lemon juice
2 egg yolks
1 T. finely chopped parsley

Have veal cut in 1-1/4-inch squares. Put in saucepan with water, salt, thyme, bay leaf, and parsley; cover and simmer for one hour, or until meat is tender. Add onions and carrots; cook until tender. Drain off stock; measure and add water to make 2 cups or boil rapidly to reduce to this amount. Melt butter in saucepan; blend in flour, slowly stir in stock. Cook, stirring constantly until thickened and mixture boils. Combine lemon juice and slightly beaten egg yolks. Add about 1 cup of the hot sauce slowly, stirring constantly, to the egg-yolk mixture, then stir this into remaining sauce over low heat until slightly thickened. Do not boil. Add to veal and vegetables. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with hot buttered noodles. Yield: six servings.


Pre-Conference Mix and Mingle

I’m late to the party, as usual, but in the process of preparing to go to ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference later this week, I stumbled across this fun Pre-Conference Mix & Mingle meme at Laurie Tomlinson’s site. Thanks, Laurie!

Name: Jenny Leo (writing as Jennifer Lamont Leo)

Location: Northern Idaho–the skinny part up near Canada

What you write/tagline: Historical fiction/”Sparkling Vintage Fiction”

Place in the book world: Pre-published author with one completed manuscript, one work in progress, a third waiting in the wings. Represented by Ann Byle of Credo Communications. First book is set in the 1920s, second in the 1930s, third in the 1910s.

On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: Hand-shaker at first, but I magically transform into a hugger as friendship grows.

The unique talking point that will get you going for hours: Stories about “the good old days.”

People at home you’ll be missing: My husband, Thomas, two Feline-American family members, and my church family.

Conference goals we can pray for? That my will is aligned with God’s, knowing that his real purpose for sending me there might have nothing to do with my books.

Up for any contests/awards? Genesis finalist in the historical fiction category

Any disclosures, disclaimers, or crucial information we must know? When I feel under pressure, I talk to myself. So the woman you see in the hallway, murmuring to herself, complete with hand gestures…that’ll be me.

Retro Recipe Wednesday: Bettina’s Apple Jelly

bettina septI love September, don’t you? The bit of crispness in the air, the promise of bonfires and cozy sweaters and apple pie. As the weather cools, I feel more energized and ready to tackle things than I did in lazy, laid-back August.

I’ve never made jelly before, but this week will be my first attempt: plum jelly, thanks to my neighbor’s bumper crop. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Meanwhile, here’s a story from the darling 1917 (revised 1932) cookbook A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband by Louise Bennett Weaver and Helen Cowles LeCron. In it, the fictional Bettina cooks her way through her first year as a newlywed with her adoring husband, Bob. What it lacks in plot, it makes up for in charm.

This chapter is called “Bettina Makes Apple Jelly.” (Notice the little commercial for a new and unfamiliar product, artificial food coloring. Today we are warned of its dangers, at least of red food coloring. Makes me wonder if a food-coloring manufacturer subsidized the publication of this cookbook.)

“‘What have you been doing?’ asked Bob, as he and Bettina sat down to dinner.

‘Oh, Bob, I’ve had the nicest day! Mother ‘phoned* me this morning that Uncle John had brought her several big baskets of apples from the farm, and that if I cared to come over and help, we would put them up together, and I might have half. Well, we made apple jelly, plum and apple jelly, and raspberry and apple jelly. I had made all these before, and knew how good they were, but I learned something new from Mother that has made me feel happy ever since.’

‘And so you came home, and in your enthusiasm made this fine dandy peach cobber for dinner!’

‘Bob, that was the very way I look to express my joy!’

‘Well, what is this wonderful new apple concoction?’

‘Perhaps it isn’t new, but it was new to me! It is an apple and mint jelly, and I know it will be just the thing to serve with meat this winter.’

‘How did you make it? (I hope you are noticing how interested I’m becoming in all the cooking processes!)”

‘Well, I washed and cut into small pieces four pounds of greening apples. Then I washed and chopped fine one cup of fresh mint, and added it to the apples. I coveredthe mixture with water, and cooked it all till the apples were so tender that they were falling to pieces. I strained it then, and used three-fourths of a cup of sugar for each cup of juice. I cooked this till the mixture jellied, and then I added four teaspoons of lemon juice and enough green vegetable color paste to give it a delicate color.’

‘Isn’t that coloring matter injurious?’

‘Oh, no, Bob! It’s exactly as pure as any vegetable, and it gives things such a pretty color. Why, I use it very often, and I’m sure that more people would try it if they knew how successful it is. It is such fun to experiment with. Of course, I never use anything but the vegetable coloring.’

‘Well, go on with the jelly. What’s next?’

‘That’s all, I think. I just poured it into glasses, and there it is, waiting for you to help me carry it home from Mother’s. Now, Bob, won’t that be good next winter with cold roast beef or cold roast veal? I know it will be just the thing to use with a pork roast.’

‘Sounds fine.’

‘I’m to have all the apples I can use in the fall. Uncle John has promised them to me. Then Mother says we’ll make cider. Won’t that be fine?’

‘I should say it will! Cider and doughnuts and pumpkin pie! Makes me long for fall already. But then I like green corn and watermelon and peaches, so I suppose I can wait.'”

(* I’m tickled by the use of the apostrophe with “‘phoned,” reminding us that it’s a slang abbreviation of the correct verb, “telephoned.” The telephone was still a relatively new gadget in most homes when the original version of this cookbook was published in 1917. Today, of course, the noun “phone” and the verb “phoned” are standard English, evidence of how language evolves over time.)

Have you had success making jelly or jam? Any hints to share with the novice jelly-maker?

Down to Business: For All Who Work

labor day poster


~ Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The woodcutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day-at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.


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