Whether it’s the COVID-19 virus, a major storm or natural disaster, or some other unwelcome development, sometimes we find ourselves forced to grapple with a situation we didn’t expect. Join Jennifer as she discusses twelve “vintage” ways our grandparents and great-grandparents survived, and even thrived, during upsetting times in their lives.
If you prefer to read instead of listen, scroll down for a transcript.
Books by Jennifer Lamont Leo:
Transcript of Episode #27: 12 Sparkling Vintage Ways to Tackle Tough Times
Hello, sparklers. Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we talk about all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. I’m your host, Jennifer Leo, and this is episode number 27. Today I want to talk to you about weathering a storm, whether that’s a literal, physical storm causing blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, flood conditions, loss of power, or whether it’s a pandemic like the COVID-19 that’s keeping us isolated and indoors as I record this in the late winter/early spring of 2020. Or some it’s some kind of relational or emotional storm that’s wreaking havoc in your personal life: a job loss, a relational break-up, a serious illness or accident. Whatever the case, something has rocked your world and life is not proceeding as normal, at least temporarily.
Here in rural North Idaho we’re forced to be pretty self-reliant year round. While some scoffers laugh and call us “preppers” in a sort of derogatory way, North Idahoans, for the most part, tend not to panic because we’ve already got a good supply of toilet paper, a pantry lined with canned goods, etc. This is not necessarily because we’re expecting the Apocalypse at any minute, but because we live in a remote mountain region. Storms can brew up at any time, roads can be washed out, and some of us live many miles from a town or even a highway. This past weekend, on top of concerns about the spread of COVID-19, we experienced a major snow- and windstorm that knocked out power to thousands of local households, including ours. Falling trees damaged many houses and even injured several people as they sat in their homes. We were fortunate, as it could have been much worse, but that sort of thing is pretty typical of our neck of the woods. That said, it’s not as if we have a lock on how to do preparedness “right.” (Right in air quotes). It’s just that being prepared is more or less a normal way of life for us.
Information (and misinformation) abounds about how to prepare to hunker down during a crisis, so I’m not going to repeat all that here. It’s widely available from the CDC and other reliable sources for those who want it. What I want to share with you here are some are ways people of the past, our grandparents and great-grandparents, weathered the crises of their day. After all, they made it through the privations of two world wars, the Great Depression, and plenty of life’s ups and downs between then and now. And they didn’t have the communication or mobility access we have today. I thought they’d have a few words of wisdom to offer. Some Sparkling Vintage suggestions, if you will, for weathering any storm.
First, a disclaimer. I am not a doctor or medical professional of any sort. I’m not a theologian or a psychiatrist. I’m sharing with you some ideas from decades past that helped people conquer their fears and muddle through. So seek your own counsel, consult your own professionals, choose those ideas that work for you, and leave the rest.
12 Sparkling Vintage Ways to Tackle Tough Times
- People of the past leaned on their faith. If you’re a person of faith, remember that God is in control. This is not a religion podcast, and I don’t aim to make it one now. But I’ve also made no secret of the fact that I’m a Christian, and I firmly believe that, whatever the crisis, God is in control. He’s the one who created the universe and keeps it spinning. Not the governments. Not the leaders and law makers and experts, but ultimately God. That doesn’t mean that we don’t listen to the experts and the leaders. We do. But ultimately, we trust in God. Don’t be too proud to get down on your knees and ask Him for help, if you want to find peace in this topsy-turvy world. It’s what people have done for millenia to find true peace. For those of you who say you never have time to read your Bible, now’s your chance. You’ve been given a gift of time. Pick up a Bible or a Bible app on your phone. If you’re new to reading the Bible, don’t think you have to start on page one and read all the way through. You don’t. I suggest starting with the gospel of John and the book of Psalms. Just read it, and as you read, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand who God is, and who you are, and who Christ is and what he did for us. Think about the words you’re reading and what they mean.
The fact is, if we never go through tough times, we will never grow stronger. I’m reminded of the often-told story of the moth struggling to break free of his chrysalis. If you see the moth struggling and you try to help him along by opening the shell for him, his wings won’t develop normally. Turns out the process of struggling is a necessary process for his wings to strengthen. Take away the struggle and you take away the strength. So it is with us. God gives us challenges so we’ll grow in strength, depend on his strength to get us through. He also designed us to live in community, to help our neighbor and to accept help when we need it. I’ll say more about that in a minute, but my #1 suggestion is to remember that God is in control. And remind yourself, always, that God is in charge.
- Speaking of strength, get some exercise. People of the past didn’t need to be told to do this. They got a lot of exercise in their daily lives, performing manual labor or households chores without the abundance of labor-saving devices we enjoy today. Studies show that physical exercise burns up stress-related chemicals, helps you think more clearly, bolsters your immune system, regulates your energy, and helps you sleep better. These are all things we need during times of trouble. I’m not normally one who gets excited about exercising. I’m about as unathletic as they come. But I do like the way exercise makes me feel, so I’ll go for a walk or bounce on my rebounder or dance to some tunes. just to get the blood flowing and to lift my mood. During this time of pervasive illness, you may want to steer clear of the gym or public pool, or you may have to skip it if these facilities shut down. But there are plenty of exercises you can do at home. Go for walks or runs, or use simple at-home equipment like a rebounder or hand weights. Your own bodyweight can be effective for strength-building exercises. Look on the internet for videos demonstrating exercises you can do at home. Or do what I do–put on some music and dance around your house!
- Another way to build muscular strength might be to do some of those chores around the house that you’ve been meaning to do. If you live in the northwestern united states as I do, you might well be shoveling snow. If you live in a warmer climate, do the yard work and prepare the garden for spring planting. Hang laundry on a line outside the way Grandma used to. That’ll give you both exercise and sunshine. Sunshine is a powerful mood-lifter and also a natural disinfectant.
- Speaking of sunshine, spend time outside in nature. Our ancestors got outside a lot more than we do. Sunshine, fresh air, and exercise are all so good for you. In the cities, find a park to walk in. Feel the grass under your feet. Watch the clouds go by overhead. If it’s springtime where you live, watch for those first buds, for the shoots of early flowers as welcome signs of hope. if you’re headed into fall, enjoy the changing colors, the nip in the air that can be bracing and energizing. So suggestion #4 is to get outside as much as you can.
- Eat properly. Our bodies are designed to eat good, nourishing food, minimally processed. Meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, lots of water … you don’t need me to tell you what constitutes nutritious food. In times of stress it’s tempting to hunker down with your favorite snack foods and comfort foods to make yourself feel better in the short term, but doing so will make you feel lousy in the long run and won’t help you to keep up your strength or your immune system.
- While we’re on the topic of food, if it’s spring where you live, think about starting your garden. That’s #6: start a garden. Digging in dirt and watching things grow is incredibly beneficial for your health and your mood. If it’s fall where you live, put up a harvest of healthy food to get you through the winter. If the skills of gardening and preserving food are unfamiliar to you, maybe use some of this forced isolation time to study up on them, maybe order in some seeds or canning equipment. Above all, be thankful for your meals, even if they are by necessity very simple or not quite to your liking. Now is not the time to be super fussy, but to be grateful for whatever food you have. Earlier generations prayed before meals as a matter of course, but many of us today have fallen out of this habit, if we ever had it to begin with. Take time to thank God for the food and also thank whoever got it for you and prepared it. And if that person is you, be thankful that you have that ability.
- Be a good neighbor. God didn’t design humans to be loners. Think about what living in a community means now. In these times when we’re encouraged to keep physical distance from one another to avoid spreading germs, stay connected by phone, text, Facetime, Skype. Write old-fashioned letters to one another–what a thrill to get an honest-to-goodness letter in the post! Ask those who are elderly or caring for small children if there’s some way you can help them–maybe run errands or share some of your food or supplies with them. If they need help with some task and you can safely help them without putting yourself in too close proximity or other danger, do it. At the very least, make the call, send the card, or write the letter. Often it’s a great help just to know someone is thinking about us and cares enough to contact us, especially when we live alone.
- Get your rest. Sleep does all sorts of wonderful things for your body, including building up your immune system. If you search online you’ll find an abundance of tips for good sleep hygiene. Of course, our ancestors didn’t have to worry about too much blue light or screens from their phones, but sleep was still sometimes an issue. I’m now going to read you a passage I found in a 1925 edition of the Camp Fire Girls handbook. It says,
“When preparing for sleep, remove all your clothing, as it has been absorbing the impurities from the skin all day, especially the clothes worn next to your skin. Hang up your day clothes or place them on a chair where plenty of fresh air can get at them. Wear night clothes that do not bind or press against the body at any point. Tight bands and strings may impede circulation or cause disturbed sleep. We hardly need to add that you should not go to bed before you have opened one or more windows in your room. You need fresh cold air. If you are fortunate enough to have a sleeping porch, use it by all means. Be sure the bed clothing is warm and of lightweight material. Heavy weight clothing weighs the body down and does not invite refreshing sleep.” That was advice given to the Camp Fire Girls in 1925 that still holds true today. So suggestion #8 is get your rest.
- If you’re stuck at home, think of some creative, old-fashioned ways to amuse yourselves. Take a page from the generations before you who didn’t have TV and video games. Read books, play board games, try out some new card games. Talk to one another. Practice the art of conversation. Do puzzles. Make up stories. Go for hikes. Do crafts. Make cards for people who are housebound. If you need inspiration for things to do, read some stories or novels that are set in earlier times. What do the characters in the stories do for fun? In the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, what do the Ingalls family do for fun? What do the Waltons do for fun, if you’re familiar with that series? Maybe take a cue from them.
10: Sing! Singing is good for the heart, the soul, the mind, and even strengthens the lungs. Sing along to music videos or MP3s. Teach your kids some old favorite songs you remember from your youth. Writing in 1942 in the depths of World War II, Margery Wilson wrote, “Singing is the soul’s expression. it cleans out the corners of the heart and doesn’t let stale emotions pile up. If you can’t sing for fear of disturbing someone or being conspicuous, then sing in your mind, thinking the actual words and tune. Sing new songs, old songs, hymns, national anthems, football songs, arias, swing, anything, but sing! A singing nation has heart.” Those are some wise words from Margery Wilson. Recently we’ve seen the power of singing in action in the tremendous videos of people confined to their homes in virus-ravaged Italy, singing to and with each other from their balconies. If you haven’t seen those inspiring and heart-lifting video clips, they’re worth searching for on the Internet.
- If you’re stuck at home, learn and practice some useful skills, especially old-fashioned ones. I’ve already mentioned gardening and food preservation like canning, but there are so many others. Learn to cook from scratch using raw ingredients. If you’re already an accomplished cook, you can still experiment with new recipes. During the pandemic we’re not eating out as much or at all, so avoid food fatigue by learning new recipes. Learn how to make yogurt or sourdough bread or cheese. Learn to sew or do woodworking or carpentry. Study a foreign language or some other topic that interests you or that will be useful to you in your work or your life. Do those things you always say you never have time to do. If you’re isolated at home during the pandemic or for any other reason, you’ve been given a gift of time: use it wisely.
- Clean something. This one always works for me, when I remember to do it. If your mind is out of sorts, if you’re having trouble concentrating on anything, step away from the news media and go clean or organize something. One drawer. One cabinet. One tabletop that tends to attract clutter. There’s something about putting things to rights, making them neat and clean in a tangible way, seeing them come to order right before our eyes, that untangles our thoughts as well. You don’t have to tackle a whole closet at once, or heaven forbid, a whole basement or garage. Just take it one sock drawer and one tool kit at a time. Listen to music while you work, or to an audio book or a podcast–something cheerful and uplifting. Avoid the doom and gloom. As your hands put things in order, your spirit will rise. Isn’t that what traditional spring cleaning is all about?
That’s it for today. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay warm. If you have questions, if you have some other suggestions for how to survive and even thrive through tough times, or shoot me an email at jenny@sparklingvintage life.com. I’d love to hear from you. You are not alone.
If you enjoyed this podcast, please leave a rating and review at Google Podcasts or Stitcher or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. And I’ll be back soon to discuss another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.
Join Jennifer as she looks back on the legends surrounding Valentine’s Day and suggests some Sparkling Vintage ways to celebrate.
If you prefer to read rather than listen, please scroll down for a transcript of this episode.
Books by Jennifer Lamont Leo:
TRANSCRIPT OF EPISODE 26: BE MY VALENTINE
Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we discuss all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. It’s episode 26, and it’s February 8, 2020, as I record this. I took a break from podcasting in January to polish up my forthcoming novel, Moondrop Miracle, and send it off to the editor. Now it’s with the editor, and until I get it back, I need to keep myself very busy. Otherwise I’ll keep hoping she’s loving the story while at the same time worrying that she’s hating it. Chances are, the truth falls somewhere in between, but hopefully leaning toward the positive side. So, it’s best not to think about it at all until I get her edits back.
Given that Valentine’s Day is coming up in about a week, I’d like to talk to you about that–how it’s been celebrated in the past and how you can celebrate it today. If you aren’t in a marriage or a dating relationship, please don’t tune out. This episode is for you as well.
Who is Valentine? Valentine was a priest or bishop in third-century Rome, during the reign of Claudius II. Claudius had the brilliant notion that men would make better soldiers if they were all single. Possibly he thought that men without family ties would be less distracted from military work, or even that the man wouldn’t leave a family behind if they were killed in battle. As a result of his new theory, he banned marriage for young men. This did not sit well with the young men, nor with Valentine.
Rather than go along with the new law, the friendly priest carried on with performing marriage ceremonies for the young people who sought them. This, of course, did not sit well with Claudius , who as appalled when he found out what was going on, and had poor Valentine executed. But not before, as legend has it, the jailed Valentine was able to cure the jailer’s daughter of blindness. A different Valentine was credited by healing a nobleman’s son who was choking on a fishbone. In some countries they pray to this Valentine to cure epilepsy. In fact, legend has it that Valentine was imprisoned and sent a message to a loved one signed ‘From your Valentine’.
Some believe Valentine’s Day is celebrated in February because that’s when Valentine was martyred. Another theory says that Valentine’s Day was the Christianized version of a Roman feast called Lupercalia, also held in February. This feast honored Roman deities Pan and Juno and was heavy on fertility rites. Part of the ceremony was to put the names of young women into a box, from which they were drawn at random by young men who would become their special admirers, at least in theory. Early Christians hated this practice and changed it to putting names of different saints into the box rather than young women’s names. So the young men would choose a saint instead of a woman, and aim to emulate the characteristics of that saint throughout the year. Needless to say, this custom didn’t really catch on, to put it mildly, as emulating a church father didn’t hold the appeal of being linked up with a flesh-and-blood young woman.
By the sixteenth century, all eligible young people, men and women, would select a name from the respective box. They would then be symbolically paired for the year, during which they acted as knight and lady to each other. The knight was bound to the honor and defense of his fair one, for which she repaid him in smiles and silk favors when silk was obtainable. The process was carefully watched over by parents and guardians to assure they didn’t become overly friendly.
Eventually, the custom of drawing names from boxes gave way to the selection of one’s own valentine. Writing in the late seventeenth century, Samuel Pepys recalled a custom where the first person you saw on Valentine’s day became your valentine. He tells a funny story of his wife who, wanting to assure that Samuel would be the first man she saw, and hence her valentine, kept her eyes averted all day from some painters who were doing work in the couple’s dining room. She didn’t want to clap eyes on the wrong man and end up with the wrong valentine.
In the February 1929 edition of Modern Homemaker magazine, the editor says this about valentine’s day: “Let us think and say and do the kindest things possible to and of others, rejoicing in their happiness and success as in our own. We get back in double measurement that which we give out in thought and word and deed.”
Sure, you can go out with your sweetheart and spend a lot of money on a fine dinner. But you could also throw a special party for your friends–a “galentine” party, some have called it. In the Feburary issue of 1909 issue of New Idea magazine, Mary Foster suggests a buffet that includes fruit ambrosia salad, creamed oysters in pastry hearts, and an intriguing dish called “Hearts Frozen in Jealousy,” which turned out to be individual ices molded in small heart-shaped molds, then served on pale green plates. A more modest Valentine luncheon menu, better suited for the lean year of 1933, included a fruit cup, creamed chicken in a potato puff, raspberry parfait, and pink and yellow mints.
And finally, of course, what would Valentine’s Day be without the exchange of cards? With the advent of cheaper postage, the custom arose that people of all ages, men and women, should exchange cards and letters, either comic or sentimental.
Inside London’s British Library, there is a manuscript of the first printed Valentine’s message. Fast-forward a couple hundred years, and Valentine’s Day cards started being mass-produced in their thousands. In 1840’s America, cards were being manufactured with lace, ribbons and other pretty decorations. There are now around one billion Valentine’s Day cards purchased each year, of which some 85% are bought by women. This shouldn’t be a great surprise, as women do most of the card-buying for the family. While a man may buy a card for his wife, she in turn will buy one for her husband, as well as her children and grandchildren and other random relatives and friends.
And that brings me to my point today, which is that nowadays, Valentine’s Day belongs to everybody. No longer is it simply a holiday for romantic partners. I encourage you to spread some love to your friends and neighbors, perhaps a lonely teen or elderly person of your acquaintance. Buying cards and candy is big business this time of year, but you don’t have to participate in the buying frenzy if you don’t want to. Design and write your own cards, bake some homemade bits of goodness to share. Or don’t buy anything at all, but make a phone call to brighten someone’s day, or do an act of kindness or of service to make someone feel cared for and cherished. Recently I saw a suggestion to visit and animal shelter on Valentine’s Day and give the animals some love and attention, and maybe a donation of toys or blankets or food. Being an animal lover myself, I think that’s a lovely idea.
If you observe Valentine’s Day, what’s your favorite way to celebrate? I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to leave a comment at sparklingvintagelife.com/podcast under Episode 26.
Today’s grace note is a poem called An Old Valentine written by Grace Noll Crowell. It appeared in the February 1933 issue of Needlecraft magazine, and it struck me as something that would appeal to all you Sparkling Vintage spirits out there.
An Old Valentine
by Grace Noll Crowell
No shop today holds anything as fine as this old valentine.
The years have yellowed its frail lace,
But still–a shepherdess with airy grace
stands tiptoe at the water’s brink.
Her hair is gold, her cheeks are pink,
her fluted ruffles, blurred by time, once were
a lovely lavender.
Dainty and sweet she stands, and there across the stream,
with outstretched hands,
A shepherd boy
with laughter on his lips, his hair a-toss,
is reaching eagerly to help her cross.
Years come and go–loves flame and die,
and many a silver stream runs dry.
But never this…the stepping stones remain.
These two are sweethearts still.
The rust and stain have left undimmed the luster and the shine
of young love, in this sweet old valentine.
Happy Valentine’s Day. And thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, be sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you subscribe to your favorite podcasts. And check back soon when I’ll share another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.
If you’re wilting in the hot summer weather, here are some time-tested ways to keep your cool. Visit http://www.sparklingvintagelife.com/podcast for show notes and other information.
If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down for a transcript.
Here’s a link to Episode 17 about porch life.
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
Transcript #19: Heat Wave! 31 Vintage Ways to Beat the Heat
Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we talk about all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. I’m your host, Jennifer Leo, and this is Episode number nineteen.
I’m sorry I’ve been away for a couple of weeks. I’ve been fighting quite a bad summer cold. You might still hear it in my voice, but I’m well on my way to being mended. Summer colds always feel like a bit of an insult. We sort of expect to get colds in the depths of winter, but in summer when the sun’s out and the weather’s warm and we want to be out doing things, getting a cold seems particularly out of place.
It’s been an extra-hot summer in many parts of the United States and the northern hemisphere, so today I thought we’d talk about some good old-fashioned methods for keeping cool. Of course we have air-conditioning now, but did you know that widespread air-conditioning has been available for less than 100 years? In some areas, considerably less. And some of us don’t like to depend on air conditioning if we can help it. So here are some tips I’ve found in my research of old books and magazines of ways our ancestors beat the heat.
You get a head start if you’ve designed your home to help you stay cool. This is understandably more common in the steamy South than elsewhere.
Traditional southern porches are shady and cool. We talked about porches a couple of episodes ago. If you want your porch to be a refuge in hot weather, you want a deep eave or roof, and preferably near shady trees. You also want high ceilings in your home, because heat rises, and you want to ventilate with tall windows and wide, airy hallways.
Of course few of us can actually design our homes to stay cool, nor would we want to if we live in a climate that’s only hot a few weeks out of the year. There are plenty of temporary things you can do to cool down your home.
- Turn off lights and electric appliances you aren’t using
- Roll up heavy rugs and replace heavy curtains with lighter ones, maybe muslin or cotton.
- Close blinds to darken the room. You can also dampen the curtains to cool the breeze as it passes through.
- Cover dark, heavy furniture with lightweight slipcovers
- Put away decorative objects and clutter. Clear, smooth surfaces feel cooler than busy ones.
- Plants and ferns that cast shadow and shade
- Bowl of ice in front of an electric fan.
- Replace sheets with cotton sheets. On really hot nights, put the sheets in the freezer before putting them on the bed.
- Use linen rinse water or linen spray, esp. lavender or orange blossom.
For cooling down yourself:
- Cool shower or bath
- Hot shower or bath
- Include Epsom salts, herbs, dried flowers, milk, essential oils in your bath water.
- Run wrists under cold water, cold wet cloth on back of neck
- Witch hazel or other toner.
- Don’t use talcum powder for health reasons, but use cornstarch or arrowroot powder instead.
- Blotter paper.
- Whether to use moisturizer or not: Humid? Skip it, or maybe just use in areas that really need it.
Dry? Definitely use it.
- Put skin-care products in the fridge.
- Also put metal jewelry in the fridge.
- Pin up hair to get it off your neck.
- Avoid blow-drying or curling irons, or use them at night.
Dressing to Stay Cool:
- Skirts are cooler than pants, and loose-legged pants are cooler than tight ones.
- Loose clothing in general is cooler than tight clothing.
- Lighter colors, and natural fabrics that breathe.
- Sandals and strappy shoes rather than heavy ones.
- Accessories: brimmed hats, sunglasses, paper fans
- Hydrate regularly, and water is best. Fruit in water.
- Avoid salt, alcohol, caffeine, and fatty foods
- Eat lightly: salads, fruits, vegetables.
- Read “cold” books: Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher, Dr. Zhivago, Call of the Wild, favorite Christmas stories.
- Serene vs. frenetic schedule. Move slowly and gracefully rather than dart around.
How about you? What are some of your favorite time-tested ways to beat the heat? You can let me know in the comments at sparklingvintagelife.com/podcast under Episode 19.
Today’s Grace Note is Sea Breeze Astringent. I was addicted to this stuff when I was a teenager and had terribly oily and acne-prone skin. But as an adult I’d moved on to different products as my skin became less oily. I still liked to use it as an after-bath splash, though. It worked the same as witch hazel or rubbing alcohol, but smelled nicer. It was heavy on the menthol, which is a fragrance I happen to like. What I didn’t know was that the original Sea Breeze formula I’d known and loved, which had been around since 1908 as a remedy for cuts and scrapes, had been discontinued. Apparently it was considered TOO strong. It actually stung people. Wimps. Well, the good news, for me anyway, is that the original formula is back on the market. So if you shop for Sea Breeze now, you’ll have your choice of Original Formula or Sensitive Skin formula. Sea Breeze is not a sponsor of this show and I don’t get anything for recommending it, and I am not a dermatologist, nor a medical professional of any type. So be forewarned. I just remember liking it a lot, especially in summer, and thought you might, too, since we’re talking about ways to beat the heat. Just keep in mind that it is very strong, and if your skin tends to react badly to alcohol-based products, you’ll probably want to steer clear and stick with good old witch hazel.
And that’s our show for today. Tune in again next time when I’ll be discussing another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.
It’s June in North America, which means the thermometer’s rising and strawberries are in season. Bring on the ice cream and join us at that most vintage celebration of summer, the ice cream social!
If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down to find a transcript.
Home economist Laura MacFarlane worked closely with Mary Brooks Picken at the Woman’s Institute for Domestic Arts and Sciences, which you may remember from Episode 2.
Listen to Episode 16: Time for Tea! for the discussion of curate’s assistants at around 3:40..
Jennifer Lamont Leo’s fiction:
Transcript of Episode 17: An Ice Cream Social
Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we talk about all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. I’m your host, Jennifer Leo, and this is Episode number seventeen.
Hello, Sparklers. I’m so happy you’ve stopped by to spend a few minutes with me. It’s June 21, 2019, as I record this, which means summer has officially started, although apparently northern Idaho missed the memo and so I’m sitting here wrapped in a sweater. Nevertheless, summer is here, so this episode is the first of a short series on ways to enjoy a Sparkling Vintage summer. Today we’re talking about that classic summertime treat, ice cream.
But first, I wanted to give a heartfelt thank-you to Sparkler Mamamanzke, who left a five-star review. She wrote: “A Sparkling Vintage Life takes me away. When I just want to escape the stresses of today, I enjoy listening to Ms. Leo. It’s refreshing and clean. If only I were born in that era.” That’s how I hope every one of you feels while listening to the podcast. I want it to be a respite from the hustle and bustle of life, a little oasis of calm and a place to think about things that are true, good, and beautiful.
Also, on last week’s episode about tea, I mentioned that multi-tiered tray called a curate’s assistant. I mentioned that I didn’t know where the term “curate’s assistant” came from, but speculated that it had to do with church services, specifically Anglican, where a “curate” is the lowest form of the priesthood–the beginner level, as it were, assisting a priest or vicar. Sparkler Linda wrote in to say she’d recently heard that in the context of food, “to curate” means to put together certain foods for a particular meal or gathering. I guess it’s sort of like curating an exhibit in a museum, or curating a wardrobe, where you carefully choose some items and leave out others to achieve a desired effect. So maybe that’s where the term comes from. Thanks, Linda, for writing in.
And now on to our topic, which is ice cream. Writing in 1926, home economist Laura MacFarlane wrote, “No other variety of food appears to retain its popularity throughout the year with old and young alike as ice cream and its closely related desserts. But there is no time or season when these delicacies are so much appreciated nor so nearly “touch the spot” as when the mercury is creeping perilously near 100 degrees. Reinforced with a heaping dish of fresh-fruit ice cream, you will be prepared to baffle even the cruelest plans that Old Sol will take such delight in perpetrating [during high summer].”
In America, the first time we know of ice cream being served at a gathering was 1744, when Maryland governor Thomas Bladen served strawberry ice cream at a dinner party. Soon it became a favored dessert in the Capitol, with George Washington, Dolley Madison, and Alexander Hamilton’s wife Betsy Hamilton all being particularly avid fans. In 1802, Thomas Jefferson served ice cream at an official White House dinner. He liked it so much that he learned to make it and even imported equipment to do so. At that time, ice cream was molded into shapes. I can’t imagine the effort it took to make and serve ice cream in steamy Washington, D.C., or anywhere in the American South, in the days before refrigeration, But of course it was a treat for the wealthy, as they were the ones with the resources to build ice houses on their estates and plantations.
However, in the early nineteenth century, two African Americans–Mrs. Jeremiah Shedd and Mr. Augustus Jackson,–brought ice cream to the general population. Mrs. Shedd opened a catering business serving “frozen cream, sugar, and fruit” which became a sensation. And about twenty years after that, in 1832, Augustus Jackson, a White House chef, invented an efficient new way to manufacture ice cream using salt mixed in with the cream. Sadly, he never applied for a patent. Often called “The father of ice cream,” Jackson moved to Philadelphia and experimented with more flavors and methods, and he distributed the ice cream in tin cans to places called “ice cream parlors.” Ice cream parlors gained popularity throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as family-friendly places where young people and ladies could safely gather. Then they got a huge boost during Prohibition, when the liquor business went underground and many saloons switched to serving ice cream rather than close their doors. Drug stores, too, opened ice cream and lunch counters to serve the weary shopper in need of refreshment.
Meanwhile, back in 1843 Nancy Johnson had invented a hand-cranked ice cream freezer, and she did patent it. This contraption meant that anybody with sufficient arm strength and patience could make ice cream at home. Ice-cream-churning was especially popular on farms with their ready access to fruit from the orchards and cream from the cows. The image of children taking turns cranking the ice cream on the back porch has become an iconic symbol of heartland America.
After the Civil War, large cities saw the advent of street vendors, or Hokey Pokey men, as they were called. These vendors, who were often Italian immigrants, were the forerunners of the Good Humor truck some of us may remember from childhood. The origin of the name “hokey-pokey” is a bit of a mystery. Some think it’s a variation of the magic term, “hocus pocus.” More likely, it’s a corruption of the Italian “Oche poco,” or “Oh, how little,” referring to the price of the ice cream, which was cheap, and not the serving size. Lumps of ice cream were served in glass or wrapped in paper under sometimes questionable sanitation.
In 1897 another African American, Alfred L. Cralle, was issued a patent for the ice cream scoop, which allowed the scooper to dispense a uniform serving of ice cream using just one hand. Cralle’s basic design is still widely in use today.
Ice cream as America’s favorite dessert got a big boost at the World’s Fairs in Philadelphia in 1876 and Chicago in 1893, but it was at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904 where the ice cream cone was introduced to America, although the story of exactly which vendor should get the credit for introducing it is a matter of some debate. If you watch the old Judy Garland musical Meet Me in St. Louis, filmed in 1944, you’ll see the family enjoying ice cream cones as they visit the Fair.
Another twentieth-century innovation is the ice cream sundae. Here, too, the exact birthplace of the sundae is a bit sketchy, with two towns–Ithaca, NY, and Two Rivers, Wisconsin–nearly coming to blows over it with heated debates in the newspapers. A third town, Evanston, Illinois, doesn’t claim to have come up with the sundae, but they do like to take credit for the name. Evanston was home to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which opposed alcohol in all forms and championed the sundae as an alternative to alcoholic drinks. The story goes that religious hard-liners objected to the use of Sunday, the Lord’s Day, for such a decadent concoction. So the spelling was changed to s-u-n-d-a-e to differentiate it from the day of the week. Again, much of this may be apocryphal. It may be, as one source reported, a simple matter of a misspelling on a shipment of the trademark tall, fluted glassware that sundaes are served in. No matter how it’s spelled, sundaes and make-it-yourself sundae bars, with ice cream and all the fixin’s, are standard fare at ice cream socials.
For some reason, gatherings around ice cream are called “socials.” I suppose they could be called “ice cream parties” just as well, but “social” is the term that has stuck.
I remember attending ice cream socials at my church when I was a child, but they seem to have gone out of style except in pockets here and there. I understand there’s a quite well-known one held every summer on Prince Edward Island, the home base of author Lucy Maud Montgomery and her beloved heroine, Anne of Green Gables. But, of course, an ice-cream social seems a particularly Anne Shirley-ish thing to do.
In the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, ice cream socials became a favorite form of entertainment. Churches, schools, and other nonprofit organizations, in particular, latched onto the ice cream social as a way to raise funds for a good cause. I think it’s time to bring it back.
What do you need to put on an ice cream social? Well, ice cream, of course, and a way to keep it cold on a hot day. Bins of ice or portable freezers or access to a kitchen with a freezer is ideal. A variety of flavors would be good, as well as a variety of mix-ins: sprinkles, cut-up fruit, bits of candy, that sort of thing. Some jars of sauce to pour over top. Whipped cream. Maraschino cherries. Baked goods to accompany the ice cream are nice. Shortbread, of course, for strawberry shortcake during berry season. Perhaps brownies, cake, or cookies. Bring plenty of bowls and spoons–you don’t want to run out. For decorating ideas, visit Pinterest and do a search for “ice cream social” or “strawberry social.” You’ll be deluged with decorating ideas.
How about you? Are you fond of ice cream? Have you ever been to an ice cream social, or hosted one yourself? You can let me know in the comments.
Today’s grace note is the movie I mentioned earlier, Meet Me in St. Louis, starring Judy Garland, It came out in 1944, which makes it seventy-five years old this year. If you enjoy dreamy, nostalgic images of early-twentieth-century Americana, this is the movie for you. Set in St. Louis, Missouri, in the year leading up to the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the story centers around one prosperous family as they move through summer, fall, winter, and spring, and particularly one daughter of that family, Esther, as she meets and is courted by the young man who’s just moved in next door. It’s a musical containing several songs you might recognize, like “The Boy Next Door,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “The Trolley Song. Look for Meet Me in St. Louis when you’ve had it with twenty-first century life and are ready for an idyllic rose-tinted trip down Memory Lane.
From Miracle Morning to Before Breakfast, morning rituals and routines are a hot topic these days. Join Jennifer as she discusses her own preference for mornings and looks at the daily rituals of some notable people of the past.
If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down to find a transcript.
You’re the Cream in My Coffee eBook is FREE May 13 through May 17, 2019: https://www.amazon.com/Youre-Cream-Coffee-Roaring-Twenties-ebook/dp/B01JD9XJ3S
Mason Currey’s books:
Daily Rituals: Women Who Work: https://www.amazon.com/Daily-Rituals-Women-at-Work-ebook/dp/B07FLNRYNR
Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod https://www.amazon.com/Miracle-Morning-Not-So-Obvious-Guaranteed-Transform-ebook/dp/B00AKKS278
Before Breakfast podcast by Laura Vanderkam https://lauravanderkam.com/before-breakfast-podcast/
Transcript of Episode 13: Joy in the Morning
Welcome to A Sparkling Vintage Life, where we talk about all things vintage and celebrate the grace and charm of an earlier era. I’m your host, Jennifer Leo, and it’s May 12, 2019, as I record this.
This is Episode number thirteen of the podcast–a baker’s dozen.
It’s full-on spring here in North Idaho, and I’ve been enjoying sitting on the deck in the morning with my coffee, overlooking the mountains. My early-morning deck-sitting has inspired me to focus this week’s episode on the unique and special value of mornings. More on that in a minute.
First I wanted to let you know that my first novel, YOU’RE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE eBook edition will be FREE this week on Amazon, May 13 through 17, 2019. You’re the Cream in My Coffee is the first book in the Roaring Twenties series, a clean, sweet romance set in 1920s Chicago. Small-town girl Marjorie Corrigan travels to Chicago and thinks she sees her first love, believed killed in the Great War, standing alive and well in a train station. Of course she needs to find out whether it’s really him, and if so, why he never came home. Meanwhile, she has a fiance waiting for her to come home as the ticking time bomb of their wedding looms. If that sounds like your kind of story, I encourage you to download it for FREE this week on Amazon. I’ll put a link in the show notes.
And now on to today’s topic about mornings. In case you haven’t noticed, the topic of mornings, especially morning routines and rituals meant to maximize productivity, is having a moment. It’s quite trendy these days for people to talk about how they make the most of their mornings, describing all the things they do after waking up to set themselves up to have a productive day. From Hal Elrod’s book Miracle Morning to Laura Vanderkam’s podcast Before Breakfast, it seems like everyone who’s anyone has something to share about the value of morning. but this is really nothing new. As the old adage goes, An ounce of morning is worth a pound of afternoon, in terms of getting things done.
I love mornings. I love to get up early, watching the sun come up, if possible. There’s something about morning that’s fresh and clean. I feel well-rested after a good night’s sleep, and my energy is as high as it will be all day. I also feel a tremendous sense of optimism early in the morning, like anything’s possible. Psalm 30:35 tells us that weeping lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning. I have found this to be true. Problems that loom large in the middle of the night seems somehow diminished in the light of day.
I generally wake up around five a.m. and putter around for an hour, reading and writing in my journal. If I want to have a peaceful morning I find it helpful not to plunge into email and social media first thing, but it’s hard to resist that temptation sometimes. Another key is that, while I like to wake up early, I do not like to socialize early, nor do I like to get dressed and leave the house right away. I like to float around in solitude and ease into my day. After I’ve been up around an hour or so, my husband and I meet up for coffee on the deck in summer or in front of the pellet stove in winter. By then I’m awake enough to be suitable company. We talk about everything under the sun, and we have our daily devotional and prayer time together. After that I do my morning routine of house chores and exercise and then settle down at my desk. I try to reserve mornings for creative work, when I’m still fresh and rested. After lunch my energy flags, and I find that’s the best time to do more administrative or marketing tasks, or to run errands or see friends. But mornings are for writing and creativity, and I really try to protect that time, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. By evening time, I might have a second burst of creativity, but more often I’m mostly brain dead and will need a full night’s sleep to recharge.
Because I like to look back at how people in the past lived their lives, and I know you do too, I looked around for how others have spent their mornings and found the work of Mason Currey. Using biographies, autobiographies, diaries and letters, Mr. Currey studied the daily lives of creative people–artists, writers, musicians, inventors, scientists–through the ages, looking for clues to how they spent their time. A surprising number of these productive individuals were morning people. I of course was most interested in the writers. Octavia Butler, for example, finds 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning the best time to write. Like me, she started writing early because she was working a day job and found she was too tired to write in the evenings, but after sleep she was ready to write.
The famous playwright Lillian Hellman lived on a farm. She got up and 5 and helped with milking cows or cleaning the barn, then she had breakfast and got to her writing work.
Margaret Bourke-White was a pioneering photojournalist in the mid-20th century. In her autobiography she noted “I am a morning writer. The world is all fresh and new then, and made for the imagination. I keep an odd schedule that would be possibly only for someone with no family demands–to bed at eight, up at four.”
In the early 20th century, Edith Wharton wrote fiction each morning while still in bed, writing longhand on sheets of paper that she dropped onto the floor for her secretary to retrieve and type up. A visitor recalled that she wrote with “her writing board perilously furnished with an inkpot on her knee, the dog of the moment under her left elbow on the bed strewn with correspondence, newspapers and books.” Mason Currey notes, “Wharton always worked in the morning, and houseguests were expected to entertain themselves until 11 a.m. or noon, when the hostess would emerge from her private quarters, ready to go for a walk or work in the garden.”
And one of this podcaster’s favorite people, the doyenne of etiquette, Emily Post, woke at 6:30 a.m. and, while still in bed, set immediately to work. Her son remembered, quote, “She had improvised an arrangement which enabled her to get her own breakfast as early as she wished and while remaining in bed. A thermos of hot coffee, another small one of cream, butter in an iced container, zwieback and the dark buckwheat honey she loved were placed on a tray on her bedsitde table every night. She would breakfast and then, remaining in bed, write, edit copy, and plan her correspondence. .. No telephone calls, no visitors, no household interruptions were permitted to break in on her working time. After twelve she rose, dressed, and was ready and hungry for luncheon punctually at one.”
And the well-known Southern writer Eudora Welty also liked to write first thing, usually still in her nightgown.
For those creatives who were also parents, many of them got up early to get some work in before their children were awake. Others hit the desk as soon as the children left for school. Either way, they made the most of the limited time they had available.
Of course, not all of us are cut out to be morning people. A sizeable segment of the population are night owls, preferring to work late into the night and to sleep in late.
“In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” (Ecc. 11:6). In a note about this verse Pastor John MacArthur reminds us, “The world is full of things over which one has no control, including the purposes of God. There is no virtue in wishful wondering, but there’s hope for those who get busy and do their work.” And I’ll add, whether you do it in the morning or evening or middle of the day. As for me, I’ll take the morning.
How about you? When do you prefer to do your most important tasks? Are an early-morning lark or a late-night owl? Drop by the show notes, or visit me on Facebook and leave a comment.
If you have a question you’d like me to answer or a topic you’d like me to address on A Sparkling Vintage Life, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you can take a few minutes to stop by iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts and leave a star rating, or even better write a quick review, that will help raise the visibility of this little show so that more of our kindred spirits can find it. And I’ll be back in a minute with today’s grace note.
Today’s grace note is the work of Mason Currey, whom I mentioned earlier. Specifically his two books, Daily Rituals and Women Who Work. Daily Rituals describes the working habits of 161 inspired—and inspiring—minds, among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks.
The second volume: Daily Rituals: Women Who Work, covers similar territory but specifically focused on women. Mr. Currey found that often the male achievers in his first book benefited from the support of wives or assistants who carried the burden of making daily life run smoothly so he was free to do his work. Women generally were the ones who provided that support for others, making sure that everyone gets fed and has clean shirts to wear and So the working lives of women creatives looked different enough from the men’s lives to warrant a second book. I’ll put links to both these books in the show notes, and hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
And that’s our show for this week. Have a lovely day, and tune in next week when I’ll discuss another aspect of A Sparkling Vintage Life.
We have a winner! In the recent giveaway on the Sparkling Vintage Life podcast, the winner of the beautiful rose pin (pictured above) from 1928 Jewelry Company is Jenny Manzke! (I’m afraid mispronounced the name in the podcast…my deepest apologies!) Thank you to Jenny and to everyone who entered the drawing. There will be another giveaway soon, so stay tuned in to the podcast. Meanwhile, subscribe to my newsletter at right so you know when the next one’s coming up!
Join Jennifer Leo as she considers the elegant dress and deportment of the traveler of yesteryear, while contemplating her own upcoming encounter with the blood sport that is modern air travel.
If you prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down for the transcript.
Turns out there’s a World Tiddlywinks Championship. Who knew?
A Guide to Elegance by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux
(Scroll down to see the Rose Pin giveaway!)
Episode 11 Transcript: The Well-Dressed Vintage Traveler
Today’s topic is Travel. I’m about to embark on a trip to the Chicago area to visit my father for Easter. In preparation, I thought it would be fun to look at travel from years past in comparison to today’s rather inelegant proceedings.
It’s been a quiet week here in northern Idaho. I’ve been working on the audiobook edition of Songbird and Other Stories. I know that there is some debate as to whether authors should record their own audiobooks, or should hire voiceover talent to do it. I think that in fiction the author’s personal voice is important, so I’ve chosen to record this one myself. My publisher did hire a reader to record the audiobook of You’re the Cream in My Coffee a couple of years ago, and I thought she did a competent job. But I’d like to try recording this one myself, and so I am. That’s one of the advantages of independent publishing, that I can maintain control and make these sorts of decisions for myself, for better or for worse. If in the end I don’t like the results, I can try something else. If you listen to audiobooks, do you have an opinion whether you prefer books read by the author or read by a professional voice artist? It probably depends on whether the author is a competent reader. I suppose that just because a person can write, doesn’t mean they can do a good job reading aloud. But I think I’ll do okay. Anyway, that’s my plan. The audiobook version of Songbird should be out in early May. The cover design is already done and we’re just waiting for me to finish recording the stories. Otherwise, since I’ll be traveling this week, I probably won’t get much writing done, although sometimes planes and airports turn out to be good incubators for creative activity. I’ll be prepared with my writing materials, just in case.
And now on to today’s topic. It’s no secret that while travel has grown in speed, efficiency, and affordability, it has declined in grace and charm and, in some cases, even basic civility. As I set off on my trip I’m not looking forward to the government-sanctioned assault on my person that is the TSA pat-down, or the cattle-car atmosphere of the airline cabin. I don’t appreciate being nickled-and-dimed for every convenience, from checking a bag to having enough room to move my legs. But I will appreciate getting from Idaho to Illinois in hours versus the days that it would take by train or car. In preparation I thought it would be fun to look at some travel advice from long ago to see how travel back then compares to today’s experience.
Writing for teenagers in 1948, Eleanor Boykin had this to say about travel: “There are so many ways to travel now that no one need remain always on home base. … Don’t start even a bus trip to Uncle David’s, though, unless you can bear up under an engine breakdown or a fidgety seatmate. People who cannot adjust to the unexpected and unwanted had better play tiddlywinks by the fire. But if your disposition is elastic, if you keep your eyes, ears, and mind open–not your mouth–travel will rub off some of your prejudices and will make you a more interesting person. It will not only broaden our tolerance as travelers but also enlarge our goodwill to the stranger within our gates.”
Well, that’s still true, isn’t it, as a general rule, that travel exposes us to different types of people and ways of living, which in turn makes us more interesting to talk to? Although I wonder how many listeners will understand the reference to tiddlywinks or remember playing it. Tiddlywinks is a game that involves flipping little discs into a central container some kind.
Miss Boykin goes on to say, “When traveling, ask the man in uniform–the station guard, policeman, or other person authorized to give information. Don’t ask advice or aid of strangers, except in serious emergencies. A girl traveling alone should be especially reserved with members of the opposite sex. If not, her attitude may be misunderstood, and she may find herself in a situation she will not enjoy. The best advice that can be given inexperienced travelers of either sex is to be very discreet in the matter of acquaintances.” That’s good advice in any decade, don’t you think? As to plane travel, Miss Boykin writes, “You may find yourself on the verge of taking a trip by air. You know that you must travel light. The aviation companies suggest that you let it be known when you are making your first trip by plane, in order that special attention may be given to your comfort. Meals which are substantial enough under the conditions will be served you without charge. You can feel free to call on the stewardess for information or advice. On most lines, there is a policy of no tipping. At your journey’s end, it will not be out of place for you to express appreciation for their good services to either pilot or hostess.”
Going back further, to 1938, the more worldly-wise Marianne Meade disagrees with Miss Boykin about advertising the fact that it’s your first plane trip. She says, “When you are taking your first airplane trip, do not advertise the fact that it is your first trip, and expect the hostess and fellow passengers to be sympathetic with your nervousness or thrilled with excitement as you probably are. If they are novices themselves they won’t be interested in your story, and if they are experienced air travelers they will be bored. Maintain your poise, do what is expected of the seasoned air traveler, and enjoy the trip as much as possible.” It doesn’t sound as if Miss Meade was a big fan of airline travel, does it? She continues, “Adjust in your ears the plugs of cotton which the hostess will give you. Chewing gum may also be distributed. Both items are to prevent your ears’ being affected at high altitudes. Most passengers remove their coats, and a woman may remove her hat if she wishes. It is permissible to chat if your neighbors if they seem so inclined. Many passengers prefer to sleep or read a book throughout the trip, and under such circumstances you should not insist on carrying on a conversation.”
Here’s a totally outdated concept: “Before lighting a cigarette, it is courteous to ask your neighbor if the smoke will annoy him and then ask the copilot if smoking is permitted. In some planes a notice is posted in the front of the salon when smoking is permitted, but at other times and on other planes smoking is strictly forbidden.
“Do not wear heavy perfume in the confined space of a plane, and when your corsage wilts, have it disposed of to avoid nauseating the other passengers. Do not try to talk to the pilot or explore any of the compartments not open to passengers, and don’t take it upon yourself to open the plane door when you land.”
Some of these inappropriate behaviors would get you arrested today!
I was surprised to find tips for plane travel going that far back, to the 1930s. For some reason I thought airplane travel only became commonplace for the general public after World War II, as opposed to just the military personnel. But clearly enough people were flying before the war to make such etiquette rules necessary.
Writing in 1934, Hallie Ermenie Rives sounded a little more enthusiastic about air travel in her book on etiquette. She says, “Today the great, luxurious airplane glides through the air as smoothly as the most perfectly equipped automobile takes to the road. The airlines plan everything for the passenger’s comfort. As soon as he enters the terminal, his baggage is stowed away in the plane, to be forgotten about until it is claimed at the end of the trip. Aboard the plane, the same efficiency and courtesy prevail. An attendant places the passenger’s belongings on a rack above his head. Just before the take-off, the stewardess hands him a package of chewing gum and some cotton for his ears. The passenger remembers that he must not smoke until he is in the air; but once aloft, the stewardess passes cigarettes and points out the convenient ash tray. The plane affords a generous assortment of magazines and newspapers, and at various intervals refreshments are served by the stewardess. Reclining chairs, individual ventilating systems and in some planes motion pictures all provide for the traveler’s comfort.”
If you were wondering what to wear on your travels in 1934, Hallie Rives would have come to your rescue. “A woman for traveling should select a simple, unostentatious dress. Dark colors are preferable to light, as they are less conspicuous and more serviceable from the standpoint of dust. The traveling clothes of the well-dressed woman are admirable in their severity of cut and design. A close-fitting dark hat, preferably one with a flat back, so that one may lean back comfortably, a tailored dress and smart topcoat, little or no jewelry, and sensible footgear, mark the experienced as well as the fashionable traveler.”
In the 1940s, Veronica Dengel agreed. “Take clothes that won’t crush easily. On your trip, wear tweed or cloth suits or wool frocks with heavy coats, rather than dressy silk things.”
A couple of decades later, in 1964, Genevieve Antoine Dariaux had even more to say on the topic. In her book A Guide to Elegance, she writes, “If you consider that when you are far away from home and surrounded by strangers, you are judged entirely on the strength of your external appearance, perhaps you will realize the importance of being flawlessly well dressed whenever you travel. Which means that your clothes should be perfectly adapted to your role of traveler and not give the impression that you are on your way to a wedding with a veiled hat and fur stole, or at the opposite extreme, toward the conquest of Annapurna with a knapsack on your back. On the excuse that travel so often leads to a holiday resort, there is a dismaying tendency today to set forth already dressed for that first sun bath.” She say, “In trains, planes or cars, if you are traveling from one city to another, you should wear a city outfit. With this basic ensemble you will need really very little in your suitcase if your accessories have been carefully planned. In the winter your black pumps, black purse, and coat will be just as appropriate for all your evening wear. In the summer your bag and shoes might be beige. A lightweight coat and a dressier stole in a neutral color will combine attractively with the two or three little dresses in your luggage. During three seasons out of four, a suit is the mainstay of your wardrobe. It can be warmed up by a blouse or sweater or it can be worn alone when the weather is mild.”
How does that description stack up next to the apparel sported by passengers on your most recent flight?
Finally, Hallie Rives offers us some advice for train or plane behavior that we’d do well to heed today. “It is just as objectionable to annoy others by loud talking or boisterous laughter or by other unnecessary noise when in a train or plane as when in a private home. To wander up and down the aisles, to open conversation with strangers, except as man to man, perhaps, in the freer atmosphere of the smoker, to call attention to oneself by eccentric behavior, are badges of ill-breeding or of the self-conscious and inexperienced traveler. A train or plane is not the place in which to hold forth upon one’s personal affairs. Neither is it courteous to discuss one’s fellow passengers or to point out peculiarities of appearance.”
Goodness. I can’t wait to see how well-behaved the general public will be on my upcoming flights. Maybe it’s time for the tide to turn and good manners to come back into fashion. But, I won’t hold my breath, lest I pass out and require smelling salts from the congenial air hostess.
A reminder from last week’s episode that there’s still time to enter the giveaway of a beautiful porcelain rose pin created by The 1928 Jewelry Company, visit jenniferlamontleo.com/podcast, click on Episode 11, and leave a comment that you’d like the pin. Or, even better, leave a review of the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you leave a review, please alert me by e-mail (email@example.com) and I’ll put your name in the drawing. Winner will be chosen at random on April 30, 2019. I’ll also post a photo of the pin in the show notes so you can see it. You can find the show notes at sparklingvintagelife.com/podcast under Episode 11.
If you have a question you’d like me to answer or a topic you’d like me to address, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can take a few minutes to stop by iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts and leave a positive review, that will help raise the visibility of the show so others can find it.
And I’ll be back in a moment with today’s grace note.
Today’s grace note is A Guide to Elegance by Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, one of the books I quoted above. Originally published in 1964, this book was reprinted 2004 and copies can still be obtained through Amazon. Some of the used copies available there are quite inexpensive, or see if your local library can obtain it. Madame Dariaux was a Frenchwoman who was considered quite the fashion guru back in 1964. She wrote A Guide to Elegance as a primer on being well dressed and developing grace and poise. It consists of 91 short articles arranged alphabetically, from Accessories to Zoology. The Zoology chapter covers using live animals as accessories, a trend which apparently was having a moment in 1964. Madame Dariaux writes, “Making a public appearance with a baby panther, a tame crocodile, or an orangutan, even a very intelligent one, should be reserved for starlets in need of publicity, for it creates a circus atmosphere that is quite incompatible with the discreet behavior of an elegant woman. However, the situation is quite different if one’s animal companion is our most faithful of friends, the dog.” That sounds like something worthy of a future episode.
Take a peek into Jennifer’s medicine cabinet as she shares her three favorite old-time beauty products: items that have been around for decades, even centuries.
If you’d prefer to read rather than listen, scroll down to find the episode transcript.
“The Christmas Robe” is one of the stories included in Songbird and Other Stories
Episode 9 Transcript:
Today’s topic is vintage cosmetics. Specifically, I’m going to tell you about three old-fashioned beauty products that Grandma and Great-Grandma might have used, and that I still use just about every day.
This topic came up because I’ve recently finished writing a novel about the rise of a fictional cosmetics tycoon in the 20th century. The working title is Moondrop Miracle. Moondrop Miracle the name of a skin tonic that my main character from very humble beginnings expands into an international cosmetics empire. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but in doing research for this novel I investigated a lot of beauty products and their histories. I thought you might like to hear about three of my longtime favorites that have a storied past.
But first, here’s what’s going on in my writing life. The novel that I just mentioned, Moondrop Miracle, is currently with my agent and making the rounds of publishers. I’ve yet to hear any feedback on that. Hopefully there will be some nibbles soon. I made progress this week on the 1930s Hollywood novel–still writing the first draft of that one. Starting April 8 through the 17th, You’re the Cream in My Coffee will be included in a promotion of Inspirational Historical Romance books through BookSweeps. If you enter that contest, you’ll have a chance win a set of over 20 inspirational historical romance e-books, and even a brand new new eReader. I’ll put the link in the show notes and you can check out that contest.
And now, on to today’s topic. Before I begin, I need to remind you that this show is for entertainment purposes only. I’m not dermatologist or a medical professional of any kind, and this information should not be taken as medical advice. Take what works and leave the rest. Also, I am not paid to endorse any of these products. I’m only telling you about them because I like them and have used them with good results.
Okay, let’s start with Pond’s Cold Cream. I use this every single day. Every evening I smooth it all over my face, and I wipe it off with a warm, wet washcloth. Some people tissue it off, but I prefer a washcloth. I should also state that you do need a washcloth or tissue or abrasive of some kind. It won’t just rinse off with water.
I looked into Ponds and learned that it was invented in 1846 by an American pharmacist, Theron T. Pond. He discovered that extract of witch hazel could heal small cuts. This was called “Pond’s Extract.” A company was formed, and by 1910 both “Pond’s Vanishing Cream” and “Pond’s Cold Cream” were created. The cold cream was for cleansing and the vanishing cream was for moisturizing, so-called because it vanished into the skin and was undetectable.
In the 1920s, Queen Marie of Romania toured the United States. Alert readers might remember that Queen Marie’s tour played a role in my story “The Christmas Robe.” Anyway, Queen Marie loved the Pond’s products so much that she gave them great publicity. In 1955 Pond’s merged with Chesebrough Manufacturing Company–I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly–which became Chesebrough-Ponds. And today it’s part of the international Unilever brand. Interestingly, while you don’t hear much about Pond’s these days in the U.S., it has a big market in Japan, India, and Thailand.
I don’t know if those of you watching the video or looking at a photograph me can tell, but I have rosacea, which is a hereditary skin condition that makes the skin appear quite ruddy and red. I find Pond’s Cold Cream soothing and comforting to my skin. I don’t know if it’s actually reduced the rosacea breakouts, but it certainly hasn’t hurt, and I love the way it feels on irritated skin. It also removes makeup very well and my skin feels soft and smooth. So that’s my little unpaid endorsement for Pond’s Cold Cream.
The second product I love is old-fashioned cake mascara. I remember my mother using cake mascara from Maybelline that came in a little red case. Mine is made by Besame Cosmetics in California. I’ll put a link in the show notes. What’s great about cake mascara is, not only is it vintage, which right there makes it cool in my book, but it can be used as both mascara and eyeliner. I use this little stiff brush, dampen it, run it over the cake, and apply it to my lashes. Or I use this eyeliner brush, dampen it, run it over the cake, and use it as eyeliner. I like that it goes on very subtly, more subtly than most eyeliners I’ve tried. You can add more coats to build it up if you want. I’ve also heard it can be used to darken eyebrows, although I haven’t tried it for that yet. Cake mascara is more expensive than some tube mascaras, but if it’s three products in one, that’s a bargain. It’s also paraben-free and cruelty-free and good for sensitive eyes, and has a longer shelf life than tube mascara.
I’ve saved the best story for last. The third old-fashioned product I like very much is Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap. The story behind this soap is really interesting. In 1929 a third-generation German-Jewish soapmaker named Emmanuel Heilbronner immigrated to the U.S. Sadly, his parents remained in Germany and perished in the Holocaust. He dropped the “heil” from the name, “Heilbronner,” because of its association with Hitler. He was also not a medical doctor, but a spiritualist. He developed his own spiritual ideology, sort of a unitarian-humanist philosophy about unifying Spaceship Earth. One day he was preaching about his philosophy at the University of Chicago and was arrested for speaking without a permit. Somehow, this incident led to his being incarcerated in the Elgin Mental Hospital in Illinois. Interestingly, I used to drive past that facility almost every day on my way to work when I lived in Illinois, but I never realized its connection to the soap I like so much. Anyway, after his stint at Elgin, he founded his soap company and printed various writings about his faith on labels of his products. Today Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps is a for-profit company run by some of Emmanuel’s descendents. I love the smell of this soap, minty but not overpowering. It’s full of good-for-you things like coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, peppermint oil, and sea salt, and it’s certified fair trade. It’s something I feel good about using, and, I must admit, I find its history fascinating. It’s amazing what you can find out about ordinary, everyday things if you just scratch the surface a little.
So there you have it. Three old-fashioned products that I still use today. Do you have any oldies-but-goodies in your medicine cabinet that you would swear by? Drop me at email at email@example.com.
Today’s Grace Note is VICTORIA magazine. If you appreciate the grace and elegance of earlier eras, you must take a look. I’ve been reading this magazine since the 1990s, and it’s one of the few that I still insist on subscribing to in the print edition. It’s filled with the most gorgeous photography, home interiors, flowers, profiles of women running colorful, creative businesses, and great travel features. They tour castles and formal gardens and all the things that are dear to my vintage-loving heart, and maybe yours too. In an age of minimalism when so many fashionable trend seem cold, hard-edged, and gray, Victoria offers a breath of color and light. I’ll provide a link in the show notes, which you’ll find at sparklingvintagelife.com/podcast under Episode Nine. You can also leave a comment. You can sign up for my newsletter there as well. As always, I’d love it if you’d subscribe and leave a review at iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.
And I’ll be back next week with another topic in A Sparkling Vintage Life.
In the northern hemisphere, as the days grow longer and the sunshine grows brighter, the dust and cobwebs come out of hiding. Join Jennifer as she discusses that vintage, old-fashioned ritual: spring cleaning. Whether you choose to tackle the seasonal housework head on or pretend the grime doesn’t exist, this week’s episode will inspire you to come clean.
If you’d rather read than listen, scroll down to find the transcript.
I’ve been using and highly recommend the HB90 quarterly planning and productivity system for authors developed by Sarra Cannon at heartbreathings.com
Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson
Daphne Deane by Grace Livingston Hill
Transcript of Episode 8:
Today’s topic is loosely tied to last week’s Home Ec show, because I’ll be talking about Spring Cleaning, which seems like sort of a home-ecky topic. Don’t worry. I’m not going to bombard you with stern admonitions to vacuum all the lampshades. Although, if they need it, as mine surely do, spring is as good a time as any to get it done. Today, what I hope to give you–and myself–is just some inspiration to get some spring cleaning done. If we need to talk specifics, maybe I’ll do so later on.
But before I get into this week’s episode, here’s a brief update on my own writing. I’m still hard at work on the 1930s-Hollywood novel, so nothing new to report there, except that so far this week I’ve been able to keep up with my daily word count goal, which is incredible. Many thanks to Sarra Cannon over at HeartBreathings.com for helping me figure out a solid productivity method for writing books seems to be working for me. Having a system for managing my writing time has helped me corral my easily-distractible brain. I’m also finishing up an article for Sandpoint magazine about the history of our local beach, the oh-so-poetically named City Beach. I love delving into the history of things and spending large swaths of time at our local museum, leafing through old photographs and documents.
And now, on to the show.
Spring cleaning. Did your family do spring cleaning when you were growing up? Do you do it today? In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, in the olden days, spring cleaning was a time when the whole house was cleaned, top to bottom, attic to basement to garage to gardening shed. Upholstered furniture was taken outside and aired in the sun, rugs were taken up and beaten, heavy winter curtains were taken down and replaced with lighter ones. Basically, picture everything you own spread out on your front lawn for all your neighbors to see and evaluate. Except they’d be too busy to spy on your stuff, because they’d be working on their own.
Windows were washed, and so were walls and ceilings and floors. In Home Comforts, her encyclopedic tome on housekeeping, Cheryl Mendelson explains that this thorough scrubbing of all and sundry was necessary because of the way homes were heated and lighted in those days, with coal, oil, gas, kerosene, and candles. She writes, “By winter’s end, everything in the house was coated with a malodorous layer of black grease and grime, the ugliness of which would become ever more apparent as the days became longer and sunnier.” She points out that modern heating and lighting systems no longer create this layer of soot and grime, so a thorough scrubbing might not feel as necessary. Still, there are cobwebs galore to contend with, and smudges, and mud. Oh, is there mud here in North Idaho. Impossible to avoid it, here on our mountain. Sticky, oozing mud. But it’s not snow, so there’s that.
In the house I grew up in, we didn’t turn the whole house upside down come spring, but I remember certain chores, like removing and washing the storm windows and replacing them with screens. And we had a LOT of windows. The smell of Windex still carries me back to those golden afternoons of wishing I were just about anywhere else, doing anything else than washing windows.
And there was usually a yard clean-up day, with much raking and bagging and wishing I could go ride my bicycle in the warm sunshine. I wasn’t much for yardwork. Or for housework. Or, really, for much work at all. But I digress. The point was, we did some spring clean-up, but we certainly didn’t empty every closet and drawer or scrub every baseboard, the way the housewives of old did, plus whichever offspring they could press into service. Or, in more stately homes, the servants.
As part of cleaning these millions of windows–at least it seemed like millions–we took the draperies off the rods and either laundered them or took them to the dry cleaner, depending on what they were made of. But we didn’t dry them on stretchers, the old-fashioned way. In her 1937 novel Daphne Deane by Grace Livingston Hill, the title character goes about the charmingly antique task of curtain-stretching while enjoying the company of the attractive young man who lives next door. Here’s a Sparkling Vintage Literary Snippet for you, from Daphne Deane by Grace Livingston Hill:
“But Daphne did not wash curtains the next morning, though the sun was shining brightly and she had made her brother bring the curtain stretchers down from the attic and set them in position for her. She had put on a little blue print dress, one of her plainest morning dresses, and was all ready to go to work, but instead she went to answer a knock at the front door and found Keith Morrell standing humbly on the porch, an eager look in his eyes.
“Good morning!” he said. “Are you very busy? Would I be a terrible nuisance if I asked a favor of you?”
As it happens, the young swain gets roped into helping with the curtains, although he doesn’t seem to mind too much. He gallantly carries the curtains to the laundry room and dumps them into tubs of soapy water. There they need to soak awhile, which gives hero and heroine time to repair to the vine-covered porch where they can continue their mutual admiration society. Later they stretch the curtains on the stretchers that the brother had brought down from the attic. I had to look these up, never having seen one. They looked to be heavy wooden rods with measurements marked on them. These apparently kept the fabric from shrinking and wrinkling before being rehung on the windows.
Anyway, how often is it that in our modern world we can enjoy some moments of innocent flirtation while doing spring cleaning? That would surely make the process move a lot faster, in my opinion.
I don’t love spring cleaning. But I do love the results of spring cleaning. The fresh carpets, the sparkling clear windows, the knowledge that all science experiments have been expelled from the back of the whistle-clean refrigerator, the polished cherrywood table just waiting to receive a vaseful of colorful tulips. Something about spring cleaning is as restorative for the soul as it is for the house.
What are your thoughts about spring cleaning? Do you love it? Loathe it? Do it at all? Why, or why not? No judgment here. If you have a spring-cleaning routine, I’d love to know what sorts of chores you tackle. Does the whole family get involved? Or do you shoo the family out so you can work uninterrupted? Do you have any tips to make it more fun, like playing upbeat music or rewarding yourself with a nice dinner afterward? I’d love to hear about it. I need all the inspiration I can get.Just leave a comment below.
And I’ll be back in a moment with this week’s Grace Note.
This weeks’ Grace Note is the book I mentioned at the beginning of this episode: Home Comforts, by Cheryl Mendelson. First published in 1999, this thick volume covers everything you could possibly want to know about cleaning and caring for a home, from scrubbing and dusting to cooking to laundry to household safety. The author goes in-depth, maybe a little too in-depth for some, and even addresses how to care for specialized items like pianos and books. There’s even a section on domestic employment laws, should you be in a position to be hiring help. Ms. Mendelson happens to be a lawyer as well as a domestic maven. If this all sounds dry as, well, dust, it’s not. It’s a well-written book I truly enjoy picking up to read when I need some housework inspiration. The problem is, I’d rather read about cleaning than actually do it. But to paraphrase an old song, “Sunshine on my cobwebs makes me itchy.” I’d better go plug in the vacuum.
And that’s it for today, my sparkling friend. Have a lovely week, enjoy the changing seasons wherever you may live, and tune in again next Thursday when I’ll be back with another topic on A Sparkling Vintage Life.
According to several reliable sources, home economics classes are being added back into the curriculum at a number of schools. What is home economics, where did it go, and why is it now coming back? Tune in as Jennifer waxes nostalgic (or not) about her own middle-school home ec class, and lists five reasons why home economics matters.
If you’d rather read than listen, scroll down to find the transcript.
Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping by Miriam Lukken
Today we’re talking about home economics, which is making a comeback in some schools after being basically ousted as a field of study for a couple of decades. What’s that all about? Grab your saucepans and your seam rippers and find out.
But first, a little news. My short story collection, SONGBIRD AND OTHER STORIES, is now available in paperback in addition to the eBook edition. This is especially gratifying for me, as this was the first book my husband and I self-published under our new imprint, Mountain Majesty Media. It was a learning experience and took longer than expected due to hiccups along the way. But it’s here now! So hop on over to Amazon or wherever you buy books and grab your copy. If you’ve not been introduced yet to my fiction, the short stories in SONGBIRD are a great way to sample my writing and see if you like it. It’s also a lot easier to give someone a print book as a gift, rather than an eBook. Hint, hint.
Also, You’re the Cream in My Coffee and Ain’t Misbehavin’ are getting some good attention with their spanking new covers. So check them out as well.
And now back to our topic: What the heck is home ec?
If you’re of a certain age, or if you talk to your mother and grandmother, you know about the home economics classes girls took in junior high or high school. It was also offered as a college major in some universities–one of the first college majors available to women. More on that in a minute.
The dictionary defines “home economics” as “the theory and practice of homemaking.” Wikipedia expands that definition into “a field of study that deals with the relationships between individuals, families, and communities, and the environment in which they live.” That’s so broad as to be virtually useless. In essence, if you manage a dwelling of any type, within a community of any type, you are practicing home economics. Over the years it has been called by various other names. My school called it “Home Arts.” My grandmother told me her high school called it “Domestic Science” back in the 1920s. But it was all basically the same thing: classes meant to teach young women how to be homemakers. Boys in those days were assigned to shop class instead, where they learned sturdy things like carpentry and welding and fixing engines.
Now, before we go any further, I must confess that I was a home economics failure, with a capital F. I attended middle school in the waning days of home ec, as it was being phased out of the curriculum.
I did all right at the cooking part of home ec. I have some good memories of making applesauce, chocolate pudding made with cornstarch, and Cornish game hens. My Cornish game hens were a great triumph, as I recall. But sewing was a complete and total disaster. I couldn’t sew a straight seam to save my life and spent many tearful hours with a seam ripper in my hand. I now know that I have real issues with spatial perception. I can’t envision at all how the pieces of a pattern are supposed to fit together and was forever attaching sleeves upside down or a neckline inside-out. Also, at age 12 or 13 or whatever it was, I had the patience of a gnat, and so rebelled at the tedious work of pinning and basting and hemming. Today I fervently wish I could sew, so I wouldn’t be limited to wearing the clothes that are available in stores, which are often poorly made and rather ugly besides. I’m terribly envious of those who sew well. (Is the word sewers? Because that looks like sewers when it’s written out. Are they still called seamstresses? Sewists? Anyway, people who sew. I envy them.) But even the words “inseam” or “facing” or “mercerized cotton thread” are enough to make my blood pressure spike.
When I reached high school, home ec classes were elective. So I elected to stay as far away from them as possible. Sadly, that’s been to my disadvantage, as I’ve had to learn so many homemaking skills the hard way over the years.
Over the centuries, of course, these skills were usually learned at home from mothers and other female relatives. Home economics as an academic field of study got its start in the 1800s as a means of teaching girls how to cook, sew, and manage a home economically. At that time it was assumed girls would be homemakers and boys would become breadwinners of the household. The field got a boost by the Morrill Act of 1862, which started the so-called Land Grant colleges to teach vocational subjects like mechanical arts, agriculture, and home economics. In the early 1900s home economics was organized into a formal field of study. Prominent women such as Catherine Beecher and Ellen Swallow Richards were at the forefront of the movement. Richards helped form the American Home Economics Association, today called the Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. Catherine Beecher was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sister, for those who are curious. Harriet, of course, was the author of the landmark novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Beecher and Richards and their ilk organized Home Economics around seven areas: cooking, child development, elementary education, home management and design, sewing, budgeting, and health and hygiene. I only recall studying cooking and sewing at my school, although it’s possible we touched on other subjects that I simply don’t remember. I do remember one memorable unit on how to buy a bra, with a bright pink booklet issued by one of the major bra manufacturers, like Maidenform or Playtex. I kept that booklet for a long time. Wish I still had it; it might fetch a pretty penny on eBay. I also remember all of us girls laughing at each other as we applied beaten egg white to our faces, so I suppose there must have been a unit on skin care. But mostly I remember cooking and sewing. I definitely don’t remember discussing child development or elementary education topics.
But back in those early years, home economics emerged throughout the early 20th century as a movement to train women to manage their households and to sort of professionalize job of homemaker. Some schools had “practice homes,” where students would live together and work in actual homes. Some childcare classes were taught using infants temporarily borrowed from orphanages, or from daycare centers set up at the schools for mothers who worked. At the same time, more and more consumer goods were becoming available to the general public. Interestingly home economics moved from an area of production–producing things for the household, such as cooking, sewing, and gardening,–to consumption–how to buy things and become an expert consumer.
After World War II, the so-called Second Wave Feminism led first to home economics classes being opened to both women and men, and later pushed them out entirely as being sexist. Vocational courses in general declined during this period as high schools focused on preparing students for college instead of vocational work, and especially for taking tests in the “No Child Left Behind” era. Then as now, homemaking in general was derided as being somehow less important or less valid than pursuing a professional career outside the home. First of all, that’s hogwash. Homemaking is extremely important to our families and society at large. Witness the range of problems, from childhood obesity to fractured family relationships, that come from a devaluation of homemaking and caretaking. And–newsflash–even professional career people need to make a home, unless they live in a hotel and eat all their meals in restaurants, which is unlikely. So getting rid of home ec to guide women into careers was a bit short-sighted, in my opinion.
But now, some schools are incorporation home economics back into the curriculum, often rechristened as “life skills.” They’re teaching kids of both sexes how to balance a checkbook, how to boil an egg, how to sew on a button. They’re teaching good nutrition, personal finance, and basic childcare, as well as topics like environmentally responsible house cleaning methods that weren’t a “thing” back in 1955. One downside is that there seems to be a lack of qualified teachers working in the field. With home economics eliminated as a college major, in many areas the demand for teachers outstrips the supply.
I think there are several good reasons that home economics needs to be fully reinstated in schools under whatever name. Aren’t schools supposed to prepare for adulthood? What better way to prepare than to learn the practical details of taking care of yourself and those you love? Here are five reasons.
1. Things all adults should know. There is no benefit in not knowing how to feed yourself and your family, or how to wash dishes or do a load of laundry.
2. Eco-friendly. Kids should learn how to fix things vs. replace them, to replace a button or repair a torn sleeve rather than buying a whole new shirt. It’s also better for the environment if they learn how to care for a home without using harmful chemicals.
3. Budget-friendly. Kids can learn how to save money by fixing things or making them instead of buying them. I think home economics went off track when the focus shifted from household productivity to household consumerism. Let’s bring back the production angle: to grow food, sew clothes, be well prepared and resourceful instead of running to the nearest big-box store for everything. Along with learning how to save money, we can also teach kids financial literacy, from how to balance a checkbook to how compound interest works.
4. Practical, applied use of other subjects, particularly math and chemistry. Working in the kitchen or at the sewing table teaches practical application of fractions or geometry or physics in a way that textbooks don’t. How do you follow a recipe, or a sewing pattern? How do you halve or double that recipe, or adjust that pattern to fit your particular body? What happens when you mix various elements of salt, fat, and heat, as a popular book addresses? These are practical applications of scientific and mathematical principles.
5. Safety. There are a lot of latch-key kids coming home to empty houses these days. They should know how to do so safely. How to cook a simple meal without starting a fire. How to handle the fire extinguisher if that first option fails. How to prepare and store food properly without getting sick. How to handle a sharp knife. And so on.
Those are just five reasons I think home economics should be reinstated in schools. What do you remember about home economics classes? Do you think they should still be part of the curriculum? Feel free to leave a comment at sparklingvintagelife.com/podcast. Look for episode 7, where I’ll also leave the show notes. And I’ll be back in a moment with today’s grace note.
Today’s grace note is a fun book called Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping, by Miriam Lukken. The jacket copy describes it as “a delightful compendium of homespun advice, cleaning, and etiquette tips, traditional recipes, and Southern wit.” In it you’ll find vintage cleaning hints, kitchen and laundry tips, social advice, and ideas for entertaining, drawn from a variety of old-timey sources. In the spirit of this very podcast, the book promises “Now you can bring the wise, unhurried ways and charm of an earlier time into the 21st century.” Isn’t that what we’re all about?
And that’s it for today. Have a lovely week, enjoy the spring sunshine, and tune in again next Thursday when I’ll be back with another topic on A Sparkling Vintage Life.