Saturday, July 14, 2018

Thrifty Acres: Let's Party Like It's 1958 - Part One

Hello! I'm fascinated by the vast amount of entertainment ideas in older cookbooks, so naturally I snapped this up a few days ago at a local thrift store:

The Good Housekeeping Party Book, edited by Dorothy Marsh and Carol Baker. It was published in 1958. 

A LOT of information was packed into the 270 pages of party planning, with chapters covering such topics as "Little Luncheons And Dinners", "The Business Couple Entertains", "Come To Tea", "Come For The Weekend", "When The Club Meets" and more. There's three sections on children's birthday parties, divided by age groups. And speaking of clubs, there's even advice on parties hosted by teen clubs and college groups. 

And of course, there's advice on preparing for holiday gatherings, showers, Mother's Day, Father's Day, "Bon Voyage", housewarmings, adult birthday parties, and more. It would have been quicker, it seems, to list the days on which no party is necessary!

Some of the party suggestions still sound like they'd work today, 60 years later. For instance, a mother-to-be would probably still enjoy a "Lady-In-Waiting" shower: "Ask guests to bring gifts to glamorize (the mother-to-be) during the last months of waiting, in the hospital and in her first days of parenthood: A bed jacket, a necklace, hair ribbons, nail polish, etc." Invitations were designed to look as from a royal house, and the guest of honor got a corsage too. Sounds like a nice bit of pampering! 

So after the "Lady-In-Waiting" has become a mother, then what? Mother's Day, of course! A deluxe breakfast in bed is one possibility: dipped strawberries, sauteed ham, scrambled eggs, hot biscuits and honey, and choice of coffee, tea or cocoa. All this is delivered in a tray, "complete with a rosebud". 

Sigh - I've been a mom for 23 years now and have yet to receive a breakfast like that on Mother's Day. But I guess I shouldn't complain about that, as I've never served a big breakfast like that either. My husband and daughter aren't big breakfast eaters. I've treated houseguests to eggs and sausage, but it hadn't occurred to me to fix them biscuits and honey as well. And never a dipped strawberry either (that's just strawberries accompanied by a bowl of powdered sugar).

I like one of the other Mother's Day party suggestions even better than the nice breakfast, though: "A Drive In the Country". For this event, the family drives off to the country after church. "A picnic basket (its contents a mystery to Mother) is stowed in the luggage compartment..." The book goes on to give the menu, which has five eatables and two beverages. 

Now, my question is this: how could the rest of the family prepare or bring in all that food and drink in advance without Mom finding out about it? That wouldn't have worked with my mom, and it wouldn't have with me either! But I do like the idea of the surprise picnic lunch.

What about Dear Old Dad? Of course, the Good Housekeeping Party Book has several ideas for Father's Day. One of them is cute, like a party for several dads along with their sons. Thus, dessert is "Initial Apple Pie" (cut initials of each man in piecrust). 

However, "Something For The Boys" had me scratching my head. For this party, "Dad's old buddies" have been invited over as a surprise for him. What, they have to give up Father's Day with their families?!

But "A Midnight Raid" sounds just plain sad to me. "Everything goes on as usual on Father's Day, and Dad feels like the forgotten man. When he finally consoles himself with a trip to the refrigerator, he finds on a tray the makings of a Dagwood special". And along with the sandwich fixings, Dad is also left a note telling him where to the find the cake that has been hidden from him. 

Poor Dad, feeling forgotten! Maybe his surprise upon learning Father's Day had been remembered after all would have been worth it, but I wouldn't try something like this to find out. 

Moms and dads, of course, have those titles because they are parents. So let's not forget their kids! As I'd mentioned, there's three sections on kids' birthday parties. I had to chuckle at the admonishments for simple parties for one-year-olds, like "keep it small". When our daughter turned one, she was part of a playgroup that included five other kids, and the playgroup events were always at night so all the parents could attend. This meant that our daughter's first birthday wasn't exactly small.

The book also advises: "Omit candles for children 2 years or less". Phooey on that! I used to enjoy buying those number-shaped candles for our daughter's birthday cakes, beginning with her very first birthday. 

But moving on, this party book continues with several birthday celebration ideas for every year on up through the teen years. A lot of fun ideas here for younger kids, like cookie making/decorating, a bike theme (just for boys, though; girls get a dress-up party instead), puppet-making, backyard sleepover, pirate fun, soda parlor party, and more. Most of the parties don't sound much different from the ones highlighted in Family Fun magazine. That is, except for the mention of providing a victrola for record-playing. Victrola? Records? I'm guessing those words don't show up in Family Fun!

Not sure if the teen party ideas have held up as well, though. A pie party theme? "Pancake Parade"? Come dressed up as a magazine title? 
Coat-hanger Party? (the attendees craft things out of coat hangers. Why?) 

I've only scratched the surface of the Good Housekeeping Party Book, so I'll describe more gatherings in Part Two.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Get Carded: Cooking Up A Happy Birthday

Hello! We visited our out-of-state daughter last weekend to celebrate an early birthday with her. Her birthday's actually today, though, so I'll show off the card I made for her. 

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • art paper scrap (top edge of card)
  • orange art paper scrap
  • cookware ad from 1974 catalogue
  • image of woman from 1940's crafting magazine
  • "cooking up a happy birthday" - orange ink stamped on white card stock scraps; orange ink edging on these scraps
  • vintage black eyelet
  • decorative yarn
  • "The cook was in very good humor" - words cut from 1930's grammar book
A close-up of the card:

I found the cookware ad first and it was a happy coincidence that the colors of the woman's outfit was a close match. It may seem odd to use a vintage cookware ad for our daughter's card, but there definitely was a method to my madness. The cookware shown above is similar in appearance to two matching saucepans I'd found for my daughter several years ago when she needed cookware for the first time. The woman who sold me these saucepans at a garage sale told me they had originally been her grandmother's, so it wasn't surprising that they looked like they came from the same era.

Of course, saucepans that old aren't going to look as pristine as the set in the ad does. Over time some of the interiors had chipped away, and more recently, our daughter had accidentally burned the bottom of one of them. I'm sure she could have used enough elbow grease to get it clean. But when I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, replacement saucepans were one of her requests.

Not only did the cookware ad on the card reference the old saucepans, it also foreshadowed her present from us: I found a cookware set on sale, and in the color that matches her kitchen linens, so the purchase was a no-brainer. She wasn't expecting such an upgrade from her two old saucepans, so she was delighted with her gift. 

So yes, you could say we cooked up a happy birthday for her!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Made It: Happy 4th Of July!

Hello! My dad would have been 96 today (he lived to be nearly 94), so my siblings and I planned a get-together in his honor. Alas, the gathering fell through, so instead today my husband and I visited the one sibling who wouldn't have able to attend: a brother who was hospitalized over a month ago with life-threatening health issues. Fortunately he is much improved now and may be allowed to go home soon. 

I made him a decoration in honor of the holiday:

Materials used:
  • white card stock backing
  • 1880's ledger paper (there are subtle red and blue lines on this paper)
  • Uncle Sam stencil set
  • white card stock decorated with red marker (pants, hat)
  • vintage time card, altered with blue acrylic paint and stars stamped with white acrylic on top of the  blue paint (jacket, hat, stars in upraised arm) 
  • white card stock scraps (beard and hat brim)
  • black art paper scrap (shoes)
  • beige art paper scrap (hands)
  • red art paper scrap (stars)
  • 1974 catalogue (man's face)
  • red ink (July 4) 
  • blue ink (2018) 
This was the first time I'd used the Uncle Sam stencil set, which had been a garage sale purchase years ago. I think another time I'd use more vintage catalogue images- for example, men's shoes instead of shoes cut from art paper scraps. I think this would bring more interest to the piece. 

As it was, the man's face from the catalogue was a late edition. I'd cut a face shape from beige art paper, using the corresponding part of the stencil set, then I drew a face on the shape. But after I was done I wasn't overwhelmed by what I'd drawn. So out came my scissors and the vintage catalogue. 

I forgot to measure the finished work, but I'd guess its dimensions are around 6"x9". My brother seemed to appreciate this simple gift, but to me the real gift was seeing him back on the mend!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Thrifty Acres: It's For The Birds!

Hello! I would describe myself as a casual birder: I have a current birding field guide and keep a running list of the feathered friends I've seen. I feed them in the winter and try to identify the various sounds they make. But I don't have binoculars and I've yet to go out on a organized excursion like the annual Audubon bird count. 

Speaking of birding field guides, I like the artwork and information of vintage ones. These are easily found at secondhand sources like thrift stores - and more recently, a church rummage sale. 

This Golden Nature Guide - Birds A Guide To The Most Familiar American Birds was published in 1956. The loose pages seen sticking out from behind the cover are due to the images I've already cut out of the book, such as this one:

The blue sections on the map represent the winter range of the bird in question, while the pink areas show the summer range. 

Of note here: for my home state of Michigan, in 1956 this particular bird only lived in the eastern half of the Upper Peninsula during the summer. This is noteworthy because this map is for the ranges of the now-so-common Canadian goose! 

Hard to believe this bird was once so rare in Michigan, but on the other hand, I can still recall my excitement the first time I saw a Canadian goose on a lake; this was in the mid-1960's. I'm sure that my daughter wouldn't even remember the first time she saw one, since they now seem to be pretty much everywhere there's grass with water nearby.

I was being rushed through a church rummage sale recently (my husband was with me, as we'd been in the process of traveling from one town to another on a weekend excursion), so I grabbed this after only a quick glance:

Bird Guide - Land Birds East of the Rockies, authored by Chester A. Reed. A look through the pages showed that it was an old birding guide, but I didn't realize how old until I viewed the title page later:


This guide came out in 1909!

This is a far more personal birding guide than the type I'm used to; Mr. Reed had opinions and wasn't afraid to write them. For instance, this passage about cats: "If a dog kills sheep or deer, he is shot and the owner has to pay damages; if a man is caught killing a bird, he pays a fine; but cats are allowed to roam about, without restriction, leaving death and destruction in their wake. All homeless cats should be summarily dealt with (did he mean killing?), and all pets should be housed, at least from May until August, when the young birds are able to fly."

Lots of luck telling your pet dog or cat that they have to stay indoors during the summer months!  

Mr. Reed had opinions about birds too. For example, the blue jay: "...unfortunately they have a very bad reputation." But the indigo bunting is "A jolly summer songster".  However, Mr. Reed apparently didn't care for the song of the red-eyed vireo: "All through the spring and summer months their warble is heard from woodland and roadside, often becoming so monotonous as to be irritating." Well, really - it's not as if this bird warbles as it does just to be irritating!

Some bird lover - Mr. Reed seemed like a bit of a crank about them 
at times! 

Remember my surprise at seeing the 1956 range map for the Canadian goose? The 1909 field guide also had a big surprise for me, courtesy of this bird:
Reed had this to say about cardinals: "They are southern birds, rarely seen in the northern U.S. unless in cages, for large numbers of them are trapped for this purpose, a practice that is being stopped as rapidly as possible by enforcing the laws which protect them." 

Wow, I had no idea cardinals never used to live in Michigan! And it seems bizarre that they were once trapped to live in cages for northerners' pleasure. I can understand wanting to have them around, though, since they're such a pretty bird (well, the males, anyway)and have pretty songs too. 

Another bird whose habitat was far more limited in 1909 than today:

The starling. Mr. Reed informed us "These European birds were introduced into New York a number of years ago, and are now common there and spreading to other localities in Connecticut and about New York City."  According to my modern guide, The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds Eastern Edition, this introduction occurred in 1890. 

Mr. Reed worried: "How they will affect other bird life, in case they eventually become common throughout the country, is a matter of conjecture, but from what I have seen of them, they are quarrelsome and are masters of the English Sparrow, and may continue their domineering tactics to the extent of driving more of our song birds from the cities."

As I'd said at the beginning of this post, I'm only a casual birder, but it seems to me that the English sparrow - also known as the house sparrow - has done just fine since 1909. This sparrow, and the starling, are now both very common in the US. My Audubon Field Guide shows the same range map for these birds: every state in the lower 48. 

Not surprisingly for such an old volume, Reed's book is beginning to fall apart. No matter - after I'm done reading more of his birding opinions, it'll join the Golden Nature Guide as a "cutter" book to be used in projects. And such usage certainly isn't for the birds!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Get Carded: My Kind Of Greeting Cards

Hello! Two occasions this past week called for greeting cards, so I spent some time in my studio making them.

Father's Day came first:

  • white card stock
  • scrap from vintage atlas page for a map of Illinois
  • vintage postcard of a scene along the Chicago River
  • "Blank kind of town Chicago is" stamped in black ink on white card stock scraps, then affixed to card. The "blank" piece has my husband's name stamped on it. He didn't want his name shown here, so I removed it for this blog post. Thus, instead of saying the song line "My kind of town Chicago is", the card actually reads "Blank's kind of town..."
Chicago really is my husband's kind of town, since it's his hometown! 

The Chicago card theme was chosen because of the Father's Day gift I gave him this year: an e-subscription to the Chicago Tribune. He had enjoyed reading the online version of that paper until it began using a paywall. From time to time he would talk about getting an e-subscription, but hadn't gotten around to doing so. Now he doesn't have to. 

(Note: he also got a homemade bread and a favorite dinner for the occasion.)

I have a friend whose birthday is always easy to remember: it's on the same day as the birthday of one of my nephew's. Here's the card I sent her:

  • white card stock
  • scrap of vintage ledger paper
  • reproduction of Victorian scrap 
  • "wish" stamped on the scrap piece
  • white card stock piece edged with red ink; "happy birthday" stamped with red ink
  • ribbon accent
A close-up of the design:

I like how the "wish" stamping looks like it was part of the design all along. 

And there you have it, two examples of my kind of greeting cards.

    Thursday, June 14, 2018

    Thrifty Acres: Christmas In June Part Two

    It's going to get pretty hot here over the next couple of days, so how about cooling off by thinking of Christmas - as seen in Better Homes & Gardens Christmas Ideas for 1962. (My previous post, seen here, covered Part One). 

    Let's get right to it:

    "Designers show modern ways to do old things" the magazine declares. Guess that was the explanation for covering a pine with "rich purple spray paint". 

    I thought these figures were kind of whimsical: old flash bulbs made to look like people. Bits of cotton balls were used to form ears, noses and chins, then covered with crepe paper and painted over. Sections of cardboard egg cartons were used to form the bases. 

    Like I'd said, whimsical - but I've not seen old flash bulbs around lately, so I won't be trying out this idea. 

    Being a greeting card crafter, I took note of this project: "With only two folds, eleven clips with your scissors, and some embossed gold paper tassels, you can quickly make cards in quantity". 

    Indeed, the card would be easy to craft, but the cost of creating it would be another story. For each card, you start with a piece of green paper that measures 10 1/2" square. After the two folds are made, you end up with the card that's 10 1/2" long and 5" wide. You'd need to buy mailing envelopes big enough to hold these, which would add to the expense. But hey, they're easy to make, so why not, right?

    "Just wrap with foil you're set!" After gathering up long cylinders (wrapping paper core is one suggestion), metal foil paper and small Christmas tree balls, that is. The two objects on the table below the decked-out cylinders are treated in a similar manner, to become a place card holder and a napkin ring. I like the idea of metal foil paper, but using it to wrap cylinders seems a little weird to me. 

    A round of DIY gifts:

    "A felt record carrier that will attend every party". Gee, does the girl with the carrier get to come along too?

    The handcrafted placemats feature contrasting fabric inserts with embroidered appliques. Not only would it have taken some time to craft that set of four, but three of the four are shown in off-white fabric. (Why only one is shown in blue - the placemat in the back - is beyond me!) Yet it's suggested that these can be used at barbecues. No way I'd want to use these at a potentially messy meal!

    At first glance, I'd thought that this "Snowball centerpiece" used styrofoam, but no, a mixture of ten pounds of sugar and a half-cup of egg whites is packed into bowls, then hollowed out for easier handling. Once dry, they're adorned with various trims. Sounds like a variation of those sugar eggs one sometimes sees at Easter. 

    More kitchen ingredients, but this time with an edible purpose:

    For a holiday dinner, a frozen cranberry sauce-cream cheese/whipped cream concoction. I bet this would still go over well enough in a genteel setting. 

    And for the children's table:

    Marshmallow Men decorate a chocolate cake. On second thought, this had better not go to the children's table: as cute as these little figures are, they're not edible! The eyes and noses are made with colored glass-head pins and sequins were used to suggest buttons. The marshmallows themselves are stuck together with glue. The hats are made from paper. I'd rather see these made to be eaten. Martha Stewart, are you listening? 

    Now check this out:

    "It's a time for the boys to entertain. Holiday time is as good a time as any for a stag". Where are the women? Out holiday shopping? Spray painting Christmas trees purple? Buying more metal foil paper? The magazine doesn't say. 

    By the way, does this look like a "boy" to you?

    Didn't think so; looks like a man to me! And speaking of men, he's manhandling the main course of this "Bachelor's Feast", Deviled Bones. These are barbecued beef rib-roast bones. "Allow about 1 1/2 pounds beef bones for each hungry man. Snip between bones. Eat in Henry VIII style!" 

    Whatever that means. Don't think that Henry VIII also had Hot Mulled Cider with Orange Buoys, 1-2-3 Cheese Spread, Assorted Crackers, Can-can Baked Beans, Red Slaw, Green Slaw, Garlic Bread, Neiman-Marcus Apple Pie and Coffee to go along with those beef bones. 

    A lot of food for "the boys", yes? But no worries: "To complete the meal, call on wives for finishing touches". So much for it being a Bachelor's Feast!

    I've come to end of this post, so here's one last bit from Better Homes & Gardens Christmas Ideas 1962:

    "Give ideas for happier living" - and what are Mom, Dad and young Janey holding up? Why, books produced by Better Homes & Gardens, of course! An all-purpose cookbook, a handyman's book and a gardening book are shown. Not shown are the other books available, which include cookbooks for holidays, desserts, barbecues, casseroles and more food subjects. Topics such as money management, decorating, first aid, babies and more are also covered. 

    (The girl doesn't actually have a name in the ad; I just made it up for her.)

    Better Homes & Gardens must still be proud of these volumes, for recently they've come out with facsimile editions of some of these publications. But why pay today's prices for copies of yesterday's books? The originals, just like the ones Mom, Dad and Janey got for Christmas, show up often in thrift stores, for far less money!

    My two-part post on this magazine showed off several Christmas ideas, but I was tempted to include even more. It was a very entertaining magazine and I was sorry when I finally came to the end of its 163 pages. So much fun! 


    Saturday, June 9, 2018

    Thrifty Acres: Christmas In June Part One

    Yeah, I know that "Christmas In July" is a thing, not "Christmas In June", but if you read my previous post, you know I bought a bunch of vintage Christmas magazines recently. 

    I've been looking them over this past week - sometimes with approval, other times with horror. And the best examples of both emotions were found in this issue:

    Better Homes & Gardens Christmas Ideas for 1962. There's enough of the good, the bad and ugly to get more than one post from this magazine!

    In reference to the two ornaments shown above, the magazine asks "Do these look like anyone you know?" Thankfully, I can answer no. These  were made by decorating plain ornaments with various trims. Not a bad idea, but why these were supposed to look like actual people, I have no idea!

    "This paper sculptured star can be made by anyone who can cut paper with scissors!" So I guess that means that I can make these, and that I may some time. 9"x12" construction is folded twice and cut. Several of these are stapled together to make a "star". 

    Above, a large chicken wire cone is covered with tissue paper sections that have been poked through the holes. Not sure why pink, blue and white tissue papers were used. I guess I'm a traditionalist; I'd prefer to see something like this in shades of green. 

    Now here's something I haven't seen before: a "tree" made by hanging tortillas on it. Tortillas are "corn-meal pancakes", we are informed, and they've been decorated with "red Mexican beans".

    Okay, here's something I thought was bad. The poster board tree shapes aren't bad, although the blue one looks more like a rocket ship to me. Well, it was the "Space Age" after all. But the stick-like objects you see on each tree are Q-tips. Ugh. No. 

    Another modern interpretation of a Christmas tree, but I like this better: triangle shapes of wood displayed on wooden dowels and spool bases. Blue and pink show up again though! 

    This angel would take a lot of time to make: "angular swatches of self-adhesive cloth arranged in symbolic design of an angel". The background shown is black felt, but "Your background can be anything from felt or burlap to an old window shade". I'm not sure what "self-adhesive cloth" is, having never used it, but this is a project that looks like it could be worth the time. 

    Skipping gears a bit, the next two photos show off handmade toys.

    Small boxes are covered and decorated with adhesive-backed, plastic coated papers (another material I'm not familiar with) to resemble a family. A shoebox is decorated in a similar manner to look like a house. 

    I think this is a cute idea, but small boxes and a shoebox - just how durable would this set be? I'd be inclined to use different sizes of wooden blocks for the family myself. 

    Another less-than-sturdy toy:

    A lion made from paper-covered cardboard. More Q-tips again: here, the tips have been dipped in paint. But really, another toy made of cardboard? How long before someone would have flattened that thing by accidentally stepping on it? 

    So, I could see making this for fun, like on a rainy Saturday afternoon, but as a Christmas present? If I'm going to craft a toy, I'd want to make one that's going to last!

    Two more photos for this post, both related to gift wrap ideas:

    A gold metallic paper paint palette, colored ball "paints" and a gilded paint brush. Suggested for an artist friend. 

    And for a music lover:

    The gift is wrapped in old sheet music, with the use of balls again to form part of the notes. (The instructions don't say what the rest of the notes are made from; I assume some sort of black paper). 

    All for now, but I'll be back in my next post to show off Part Two!