Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I wanted to know more about "Fibber McGee and Molly," the famous mid-century radio program starring the real-life married couple, Jim and Marian Jordan. Available history seemed sort of sketchy, so I decided to read a certain highly-recommended book.

Before Christmas, I shared my book wish list with Hallie. “But don’t pay any attention to that expensive book about Fibber McGee and Molly,” I told her. “I’m going to ask the library to get it for me.”

She came back with: “They can get books for you? Cool!”

Here in our remote rural communities we have a wonderful library system – Valnet. Lewiston, Clarkston, Moscow, and the smaller surrounding communities are all part of one system, so we can check out books in Orofino or Nezperce, for example, and then return them at the Asotin County Library or any other member library. I understand that this system is a prototype that libraries throughout the nation are watching, and our library administration says it works very well.

But I digress. Mid-January I visited the Asotin County Library in Clarkston. “You won’t have this book, I’m sure,” I told the librarian, “but I’d like to see if you can get it for me. It’s Heavenly Days! The Story of Fibber McGee and Molly, by Charles Stumpf and Tom Price, published in 1987.”

First she checked the Valnet system, but my prediction was correct -- she didn’t find it. Next she checked libraries at the University of Idaho, Washington State University, and Gonzaga. Then she broadened the search to Washington cities and found a copy at the Seattle Public Library. She said that she didn’t anticipate any problems with the inter-library loan. Delivery took about two weeks.

Electronic devices are now changing our library systems. In fact, hands-on workshops to demonstrate the new technology occurred last week at our libraries. The way we read is changing. It won’t happen overnight, though. Some books might never be digitized. Perhaps Heavenly Days! is an example. KW

Monday, January 30, 2012


My children had an “A-B-C” book that I thought was largely uninspired except for the illustration at the letter H which read: “Hector waits for hotter water.” The illustration showed the animal character (Hector) testing icy water in an old-fashioned bathtub with his big toe. The first time through the book, this funny illustration was such a surprise that the kids and I laughed till we cried.

Time glides on and we take forgranted our blessings, among them instant – or nearly instant – hot water flowing through the faucet to our sinks and tubs. Grandma Ina never had the luxury, and while my world always had hot running water, I do remember that it used to fail right regularly when I was a child. Mother would fill her big canning kettle with water and heat it on the stove for our washing and bathing. Sometimes she poured hot water into the tub for my bath. Sometimes she declared that I would have only a “sponge bath.” Eventually the hot water tank was upgraded and problems rarely occurred.

I thought of these things Wednesday night as I prepared my sponge bath. We realized in the morning that we had no hot water. Mike always warms his hands in hot tap water before putting on his gloves for the ride to work, so when the water refused to be more than tepid, we knew there was a problem. We assumed the pilot light had blown out during a windstorm in the night – and indeed that might have happened, but Mike was not successful in efforts to re-light. A service call would have to happen, so we moved a chest of drawers out of the closet where the hot water tank is located in order to give the man space to work. The serviceman came, lit the pilot light, and ordered a replacement part. We’ve had to re-light the pilot several times, so I’m looking forward to completion of this work – and getting the chest back into the closet. 

Mmmmm! Nothing like not having hot water to make you appreciate it. A nice hot shower is such luxury!

And speaking of bath time, I strongly suggested yesterday afternoon that Nellie should have a bath, so Mike complied. That meant the cover of her nice big pillow had to be laundered, so Mike brought one of her old pillows into the house for the duration. Last night Nellie was restless and finally disappeared. I found her in the laundry room, lying on her big fluffy pillow. You can see the cover in the machine. It isn't just my imagination -- she truly prefers that big pillow. KW

Friday, January 27, 2012


“Hi Grandma. How are you?” I recognized the voice of our teen-age grandson. It was the right time (6:00 p.m.), and the right occasion (Mike’s birthday). I jumped right in with his name and some small talk.

Then again, when I heard, “Hi Grandma, Howyadoin’?” when I picked up the phone at 10:00 a.m., I was immediately on guard. I gauged the voice to be that of a young man.

“I’m fine,” I said, giving myself a nano-second to think.  My mind immediately scanned through the grandchildren and came up negative. The wrong age, the wrong time, the wrong voice. “Who is this?” I asked.

“It’s your oldest grandson,” he replied matter-of-factly with a smile in his voice.

“Doesn’t sound right,” I said. And with that, he hung up. (Do we still hang up? Or do we disconnect or power off or some other term?)

There’s a scam out there – we’ve known about it for years – that targets lonely elderly women. (I certainly don’t fit that profile, so I’m really kinda insulted that these calls occasionally find me.) The caller pretends to be your grandchild and takes a chance that you’ll jump to conclusions and feed him the info he needs, such as his name. If the scammer succeeds in getting your ear, he eventually asks for money – or sometimes other things, but we won’t go into that.

I’m sure it’s desirable not to linger on the line with these scammers, but I found myself thinking of things I wish I’d said.

“What! But we buried you yesterday. Ohhhhh --- I think I’m going to faint . . .” Thunk!

“I suppose you want more money. What did you do with the ten thousand I gave you last week?”

The first time I received one these scam calls was about ten years ago. A female trying to sound like a child said, “Hello Grandma?”

“I’m not your grandma,” I replied.

“How do you know?” she asked.

“My grandchildren are very young,” I explained, “and you aren’t a child.”

She swore at me as she hung up, but I wasn’t too upset. She had failed.

But, you know – I have to reserve a little place for caution. When Clint was in junior high, he had good news of some sort and Mike suggested he call Grandma Bennie.

“Hello, Grandma,” he began.
“I’m not your grandma,” she said – and hung up. KW

Thursday, January 26, 2012



My sisters didn’t argue with me when I said I would like to have Mother’s collection of vintage magazines, and I couldn’t believe they weren’t interested. The seeds of my love for these old ideas were sown in childhood, though I didn’t realize the depth of my love. I didn’t even realize that I was becoming a collector of works on vintage homemaking arts as I carried boxes of needlework and specialty magazines from the old family home.

I don’t think my mother considered herself a collector of vintage magazines. She just bought what she liked – and kept it. But – she was definitely a collector of vintage booklets. I am following in her footsteps and am indebted to her for her foresight. She would laugh if she knew.
As I moved into retirement, I found myself wanting more of these vintage ideas. I began to selectively invest in an old book here, a magazine there.

A few years ago, I ordered a vintage pattern from an online seller, and she included an unexpected bonus in the package  – three issues of “Modern Priscilla.” It was very generous of her, I thought, and some months later she passed away. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was deliberately reducing her stock by giving some things away.

Anyway, “Modern Priscilla” was a homemaking and handwork magazine published from 1887 until 1930. (The publisher lost out in the Great Depression.) As I glanced through the January 1926 issue last week, I noticed an ad for “Clark’s O.N.T. Bag Book – 100 Designs for 10 Cents” for those who crochet and embroider. Buy from your dealer, read the ad, or send ten cents to the listed address and we’ll mail you a copy.

My curiosity immediately piqued, I searched for this pattern booklet online. Yes! I could have it for $10.00 plus shipping, and I had to have it! It came today, brightening a day when other plans had fallen through. I’m delighted with it.

Who knew they were making all these bags in 1925? Here are some of the categories:
Attractive Bags for the Business Woman
When Puzzled What to Give, Give a Bag
Afternoon Dress-up Bags that have Particular Charm
Laundry Bags that are Different
The Popular Utility Shopping Bag
The Kiddies Need Pretty Bags, Too
Gift Bags, Practical Bags, Bags of Great Beauty
Unusual Evening and Theatre Bags
For Hiking, Travel and School
Stunning Bags for Varied Uses
Work Bags Both Serviceable and Decorative
Bags for Household Use
Practical Shopping Bags and Hand Bags

Of course, some of the bags relate to obsolete uses. For example, I don’t need a bag for my corsets, a hiking knapsack that won’t hold a water bottle, or a laundry bag for my soiled collars. But, when it comes right down to it, a bag’s a bag. The crocheted briefcase looks for all the world like a laptop case. Evening bags are always useful. Unique handbags are in vogue again. And, of course, there’s the re-usable shopping bag.

I just might surprise everyone someday and make one or two of these bags. Until then – fascinating to look through this booklet. KW

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


On a previous post, Leah commented about her mother’s attitude toward her handwork. Leah subsequently sent me pictures which I’ve posted here together with her original comments.

“I think my mother enjoyed telling others how long it took her to do a certain piece (by hand). She did an huge owl embroidery for the wall 30 years ago as my Christmas gift. This work took a very long time, she reminded me, and also bragged that the design was done with one thread thickness. It was excellent work and I know made with love.

“When I moved to L.A., 30 years ago this month in fact, I had a HUGE disagreement with the moving company. They raised their original prices and I couldn't pay the bill. All my worldly goods (furniture, family photos, china, etc) sat in their warehouse for many weeks. It looked like I might lose it all. Finally after contacting a consumer advocate with a national TV show, the bad moving co. settled with me for the original price. Nothing strikes fear into a big business more than nationwide publicity for fleecing poor defenseless women. What did my mother say? She was afraid I'd lose the owl embroidery that she's just spent months working on. Not the family photos, all my furniture, anything else. Just her owl embroidery.”

I can certainly relate because as my mother got older, she also became more possessive of her work and particular about how it was used. She made each one of her children and grandchildren an afghan – except for Hallie, the youngest. Mother failed before making Hallie’s afghan so she received one that Mother had made for herself. But when Mother visited in my home, she would make comments about how the afghan she made me was treated. She didn’t want it to be used.

I began to think about that even before Mother left us. Those things that we use, we risk using up. They wear out or get broken or perhaps are lost in other ways. If we don’t use them, they have no meaning to us and are lost to us through dis-use.  And those things that we do for others through our pass-times – well, aren’t we motivated by our love of the activity as much as by the love of the recipient?

When I worked at the museum, we talked about preserving photos and documents in archival quality boxes, sleeves, etc. So, when I asked a local artist to frame Hallie's embroidery and requested an acid-free mat, she said, "It will last your lifetime and your daughter's. What more did you want?" Food for thought.
At a Christmas gathering last month, I was amused when the man next to me began to talk about all the stuff in storage since he moved -- stuff he doesn't miss. He mentioned in particular a box of afghans. "Can we get rid of those?" he asked his wife, to which she replied in the negative, recounting how they were made for her by special people. He went on to say that they keep their house at 70 year-round and he doesn't anticipate ever having a need for those afghans.

Well, I love afghans and I will keep making them, but it brings me up short when I visit consignment and thrift stores and see all those handmade afghans for sale.  KW

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Just as I began to wonder if I should plant some spinach, “Old Man Winter” arrived in force, covering the L-C Valley with 8 to 10 inches of snow on Wednesday (the 18th). Mike was disappointed to have to drive the car to the office, while Nellie and I have been mostly confined to the house and general neighborhood. Now that things have warmed up a bit, water stands or runs or makes mud and is again treacherous in the morning.

Fortunately we had that big influx of food as we closed the farmhouse for the winter. It would be a while before we’d starve, even if we couldn’t cook. Of course, Mike gets out everyday and so has wandered into the grocery store a time or two for produce. But today – today I am going out! I need a boost from Jo-Ann’s, and then I’ll shop Albertson’s for a few things. I’m just waiting for the day to warm up and bring more moderation. Mike says I can't leave until he's sure I won't go sailing off the driveway into the house below us.

I made use of the “in” time to tackle another unfinished project on my list – a white apron to which I’ve added time-consuming machine embroidery embellishment. The stitching on the bib required several hours on Friday, while the three scallops on the bottom took all day Saturday – with interruptions, of course. And it’s not perfect. I had some troubles. Embroidery designs interface to my sewing machine from my laptop, and unbeknownst to me, my computer cord was slightly dislodged, eventually causing the computer to shut down in order to charge. When I was able to bring the design up again, I somehow re-started with a mirror image with the result that one of the scallops is – well, different. Thank goodness for the symmetry of the design or hours of work would have been lost. At one point I also found myself referring to the wrong color change sheet which never bodes well. I had to re-stitch in order to save.

And I think that’s why I fail to finish some things I start. I keep thinking my skills will be better tomorrow. I have to remind myself that at this point it doesn’t matter anymore. I am the master of my own experience. Now is the time. (Etc., etc., etc.)

Last week I abandoned a doll dress I was making from a vintage pattern. I realized it would never be right, and I was happy enough to let it go and cross it off the list. That’s still a decision -- and progress -- in my book.

I'm taking a "wait and see" attitude toward this next week. It looks like daytime highs will reach the 40s, but it could rain. It could even snow again. Predictions for the Camas Prairie (farmhouse) are at 1 to 3 inches tonight. Spring will still come -- it happens every year -- so back to the seed catalog. KW

Wednesday, January 18, 2012



Even the sunshine of our warm Pacific Coast must give way occasionally to leaden skies and chill dampness. And for this season, Man,too, must prepare. His dwelling-place must hold warmth and cheer.
Easier Housekeeping, Pacific Coast Gas Association, 1931 

We in the Northwest have been bracing for a snowstorm. In the Lewis-Clark Valley, it began snowing in earnest during the night and we awoke to about four inches of the fluffy stuff. Mike had to go to work. I’m grateful to be staying at home.

Now – to share my new cookie recipe. I often eat raisin bran for breakfast, but once I’ve eaten down to the bottom of the box where the bran flakes are mostly crumbs, I no longer enjoy the experience. The crumbs are immediately soggy in milk, and the texture just doesn’t inspire me. Sometimes there can be quite a lot of crumbly product in the bottom of the box, so I began to save it with the notion of making “raisin bran cookies.” Additionally, Mike had mentioned that vegetable oil is better for us than either butter or margarine, so I decided to make that substitution. Online research indicated a substitution of 7/8 cup oil and ½ teaspoon salt for one cup margarine.

½ cup applesauce
½ cup cooking oil (scant)
½ cup egg substitute
½ cup white sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2-3 cups crumbled raisin bran cereal
½ cup raisins
½ cup nuts
1 cup cinnamon baking chips

Blend applesauce, oil, and egg subs. Add sugars and vanilla and blend well. Mix flour, soda, and salt and add to sugar mixture. Stir in remaining ingredients. I baked them for 8 minutes at 350 on parchment-lined baking sheets. Yield: about 4 dozen cookies.

I simply made substitutions to a standard cookie recipe. Mike and I both thought the cookies were delicious.

What I know about basic cooking I learned from my mother. She taught the importance of exact measurement and stressed that any deviation can affect the result. She kept a straightedge in her kitchen to smooth the extra flour or sugar off the cup, demonstrating that smoothing with curved spoon handles or knives will affect the measurement. She was insistent that I follow the exact procedures she taught. However, after years of baking for my family, I find I’m a little lax with exact measurement and have no problems with that. KW

Monday, January 16, 2012


Yesterday we untrimmed the tree. I sure hated to see it go and I took the candle stubs and melted them in a pan, then I took a string and dipped it in the wax, so I made a candle. It sure was bumpy but it worked.
Shirley Jean (Ina’s granddaughter), January 1937

Shirley Jean would have been eleven when she and her parents spent this Christmas of 1936 at the farm with Ina and Julian. The tree was lit by small white candles in holders that were clipped to the branches. Of an evening, they would light the tree for a few minutes, sit together to admire it, then blow out the candles. So, Shirley Jean is saying that she made a new candle by melting the stubs of the candles that adorned the tree.

After Christmas, we all put everything away and it’s business as usual. While the holiday / celebration mode just can’t go on forever, I like to think that Christmas as an event leaves me better than it found me – that some bit of it lingers to brighten my heart during the dark days of January. Candles are a good example.

This year, burning candles is on my “to do” list. I have a burgeoning collection of candles – from the partially burned to brand new. This year I have resolved to burn up at least the partially used. It’s not fun to be a saver of used candles, but I was raised in a household that did just that.

This fading photo was taken on Christmas Eve in 1957 or so. It shows my dad lighting the candles on the buffet table – candles he made. I was just a little girl, but perhaps Daddy meant to be sharing the experience with me because I knew what was happening with every step. I remember saving waxed milk and cream cartons for the molds. On candle-making day, Daddy heated wax in an old pan and poured it into the molds. The candles were red and green – coloring provided by old color crayons melted in the wax. The coloring was really not intense enough. Today we’d think nothing of buying a couple of boxes of crayons in primary colors just for this project, but a new box of crayons was a big deal in my ‘50’s world. It seems like ice chips in the hot wax left irregularly-shaped pockets in the candle. I remember Daddy tearing the waxed cardboard off the hardened wax. As a finishing touch, he whipped hot wax until it was frothy and poured it over the candles.

When Christmas was over, we wrapped the candles in tissue paper and stored them with the Christmas decorations. Every year we burned them just a little. And then they looked old and we didn’t get them out any more, but we still had them wrapped in tissue paper for years. Maybe not all families save such things, but mine did.

Once I suggested to Mother that we should make candles again. “It was a big mess!” she said, and I knew I was talking to the clean-up person. I could just see the little specks of wax, frustratingly adhered to stove top, counter, windows, maybe even curtains. And that doesn't even count the cooking utensils. Now I knew why we had never done that fun project again. My suggestion had fallen on deaf ears. That was that.

Mother loved candles, though. She burned them sometimes, and she hoarded quite a number of them. I think she kept a certain number on hand in case of emergency – because, you know, the electricity used to go out with some regularity, and sometimes it was not immediately restored. Candles, matches, and flashlights were necessities. KW

Friday, January 13, 2012


Mike and Ken had planned to hunt on Thursday (Jan. 12), but Ken decided he didn’t have time to go. His tv set, purchased in 1989, finally died, so he had to take care of the business of getting a new one – and stepping up to the whole HD/digital thing.

Anyway, I knew that Mike had arranged to be out of the office during the afternoon and that he would feel "all dressed up with no place to go." Figuring he would want to substitute another outing, I suggested we make that quick trip to the farm we’d been discussing. That would get a large basket of clean laundry and several boxes out of this small house and back where they belonged, plus we could add the table scraps to the composter and pick up one or two needed items.

We arrived at the farm about 2:00. The traps were free of mice. Mike practiced with his new pistol while I put the clothes away. I picked up a few vintage magazines for inspiration and checked the pantry for food items I could use up during these winter months. I threw cereal, cake mixes, and marshmallows into the basket. And I found a bag of chips I would have overlooked again had I not crouched down to check the lower shelves. We also brought back a second “wind trainer” for my use. (More on that later.)

We were on the road again by 3:00. It was cold in the farmhouse, but I wore my new microfiber long johns (wonderful!) and I was fine as long as I didn’t take my gloves off. 

Another day gone without much progress made on my “to do” list, but taking care of these needful things was an accomplishment. In the evening I finished crocheting the granny squares for the little doll afghan. KW

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


In our local Geocaching community there are three or four players who pride themselves on getting FTF’s (first-to-finds). One even has a specialty license plate that reads “FTF”. This is a fierce competition. Members can opt to have all new geocaches electronically sent to their cell phones as soon as they are published. It’s nothing for these competitors to race to a newly published cache at midnight. I like to score FTF’s too, but as geocaching is only one of my several obsessions I don’t participate in the phone notification races. The FTF opportunities that appeal to me are the caches in more remote areas that require some planning and physical effort. I have a better chance on these.

There is a weekly publication emailed to all members by the geocaching publication, Groundspeak, that lists all new geocaches. The last one of the year listed one up Asotin Creek in the Blue Mountains. No one had logged this one but some of the competitors had already posted notes. One was a real challenge which read something to the effect –“I was in Spokane when this cache was posted but be advised the clock is ticking”.

Well, I saw the clock was still ticking on January 2nd so I loaded up Nellie and a mountain bike in the truck and headed out. I knew from one of the posts that the road that would take us to the vicinity of the cache had been closed for the winter. On the way out before reaching the closed gate across the road we stopped and picked up a cache that we had not attempted. I parked at the gate, unloaded the mountain bike, put on a backpack and biked up to a parking lot not too far up the road. From there we had a choice of taking a trail bordering the creek on one side of the ridge or taking the road up the other side. We took the trail because there was another cache up the trail a little ways that I didn’t have and I would rather have Nellie running along the trail than on the gravel road. I had biked up the trail in the past after caches in previous years but always in the summer. The trail steadily climbs and the ground was mostly frozen but it wasn’t particularly strenuous.

The first cache was no more than a half mile up the trail and required a short climb up the hill. It was hidden in a little recess at the base of a cliff.

When I got as close as I could to the cache from the trail I had traveled a little less than 3 ½ miles. I left my bike there and headed up the hill. To my surprise the cache was not very far up the mountain and I was there in less than 15 minutes. I was somewhat taken aback to discover that the logbook had several old entries in it including one of my own. It turns out that this was a cache that had been moved from another location.

I had expected this cache to be much more difficult so it was a little of a let down. However, I’ve been working on a cache of my own called “No Hill for a Climber” which will be a multi-cache involving several stages. I had brought one of the containers with me so we started up the mountain to find a place for it. I soon saw a prominent rock formation that looked like a good spot. However, as I got closer it looked more and more familiar to me. Sure enough, when I got there I found a cache hidden there that I had found several years back. Well, the only thing to do was to head on up to the top of the mountain which we did. At the top we found a large mesa about 100 yards long by 25 yards wide. It was at an elevation of about 3,425 feet which was about 1,000 feet above the trail. I found a good hiding place in some rocks on the southwest end of the mesa.

I decided to take a different route down which turned out to be a mistake. We got into a series of benches separated by cliffs. Some of them I could have climbed down but I didn’t want to chance Nellie trying it because she thinks she’s a mountain goat. After a lot of hiking on steep side hills we eventually found several places to negotiate the series of cliffs and get back to the trail.

After a pause for some lunch we headed back down the trail. It should have been a great ride because it was all down hill. Unfortunately, it had warmed up enough to change the hard ground to mud. By the time we got back to the truck the bike as well as Nellie and I were covered with mud.

Now the funny part. Parked at the gate was the truck with the FTF license plate. I left a note on his windshield saying, ”Well, you said the clock was ticking”. I found out later that after seeing my truck (which he knew) he had gone up the road to get another cache he didn’t have before looping back and settling for 2nd to find on the other one. That made my day. [The last two pictures are the view from the mesa and the location of my cache] M/W


Leah requested an update on Nellie's wound.

Nellie was out hunting with Mike and Ken mid-November when she showed up with a wound on her left foreleg. Neither Mike nor Ken saw what happened. Mike trimmed the torn skin and provided no other treatment except to protect the open wound with a bandage when she hunted.

I say we provided no other treatment because we have been this route three times, and we now act according to advice given on the first occasion. The vet told us that stitching the wound is not the best option. It requires surgery (hard on the dog) with the possibility of re-tearing, etc. Plus, it's difficult then to keep the dog from licking the wound, which is actually the best thing. The vet said to trim the skin and then the dog's attention to the wound -- licking and saliva -- were all that was necessary to cleanse and eventually heal the wound. Besides that, the vet added, there would be minimal scarring, which would not be the case with surgical intervention. We were skeptical, especially when a week later Nellie still had a gaping wound, so Mike called the vet's office again and was told he just had to be patient -- that eventually the wound would close. And that's what happened.
So now when Nellie sustains such a wound, Mike trims the skin and lets her tend to the wound herself. It takes three weeks to a month but then the wound closes without a visible scar unless you really look for it. (In the photo to the left, you can just see a remaining red spot at her elbow.) In a world that hastens to intervene, it seems like an amazing thing.

Nellie is good to go again now. 

It was cold here this morning -- 19, but the cold is the best thing for us at this time of year. Now if we just had some precipitation. It's really dry. KW

Monday, January 9, 2012


When hunting season starts, Mike switches Nellie from her bowl to a perpetual feeder so that she can eat as much as she needs. This works well until the season slows down. And every year the need to switch back to more controlled feedings catches us off guard. Before we know it, Nellie begins to get a little roly-poly. And then it’s tough for a few days as we switch back to the regular feeding schedule.

“I put a little food in Nellie’s dish,” said Mike as he left for work. “I’ll feed her again when I get home.” I took that to mean that I shouldn’t slip her any extra food. 

During the noon hour, Nellie ate what little chow Mike had left for her. After our walk at 2:30, she checked the bowl again and noted its emptiness.  She climbed in my lap, resting her head on my chest so that she could gaze into my eyes. I call that move the “German Shorthair mind meld.” I shooed her off so that I could get to work.
Her next tactic was to lie in my way in the middle of the kitchen. When that didn’t work, she asked to go outside. Nellie’s evening feeding often occurs after an outing, so if things are not to her liking when we return from the walk, she prompts me by going out and coming back in. I let her out and she was back in five minutes.

“You just have to wait for your supper,” I explained to her. “I know you’re hungry, but Mike said he would feed you when he gets home.”

She evidently got something out of those words because she plopped down on her pillow with one of her snort / sighs.

Mike and Nellie are on the same wave length when they hunt, but Mike is oblivious to Nellie’s messaging at the house. If she has something to say, she talks to me. KW

The Vintage Housekeeper
"The building of a menu should not have for its only consideration the mere suggesting of something to eat. This is the end, the result; other factors are important as a foundation. The tastes of the members of the family, their requirements in respect to age and occupation, and how these can best be satisfied from the household allowance and the market -- these should be the study of the housekeeper -- that poor housekeeper, who sometimes so sadly needs someone to study her. She who is the unwilling and unhappy target of three-fourths of what is written on the subject of cooking."
Helen Louise Johnson, The Enterprising Housekeeper, 1906 (IRD collection)

Saturday, January 7, 2012


“The modern housewife keeps her house clean rather than house cleans[,] giving each room a rather thorough cleaning as often as may be necessary. For this cleaning the following program is suggested:
1.     Dust bric-a-brac and clean metals. Place them all together and cover them up
2.     Dust wood furniture and vacuum-clean overstuffed furniture. Remove the smaller pieces to another room if possible. Cover those which remain. In bedroom take off bedding and thoroughly clean spring and mattress, make up again and cover
3.     Clean rugs with a vacuum cleaner and roll them up
4.     Remove portieres and draperies and clean them on a flat surface with a vacuum cleaner
5.     Dust ceiling and walls
6.     Dust wood trim, doors, and surbase
7.     Clean windows and mirrors
8.     Dust pictures
9.     Dust lighting fixtures, wash globes
10.  Clean and polish floor
11. Replace everything”
-- from the Rumford Book on Home Management, c. 1920

I don’t know. Any way you look at keeping the house clean, it sounds like house cleaning to me. The biggest challenges in the above program would be removal and re-hanging of the drapes and rolling up the carpets, which most surely means lifting or moving some furniture. Just how often is “as often as may be necessary?” I would perform those heavy chores no oftener than quarterly, while the rest I would divide between monthly and weekly. And just how am I going to fit this into my weekly schedule, published in the previous post.

But, when I think of housecleaning, I tend to think of cleaning the whole house, or even a whole room, at one time, instead of dividing the work into doable tasks. Perhaps I should alter my imaginary cleaning regimen so that I deep clean one room each week (see Thursday), and if I did that, eventually my house would be maintained in a state of cleanliness. That’s probably the point.

My mother told me that when she was growing up – and that would be the ‘20s – she was to clean the living room weekly on Saturday. She said she moved the furniture out from the wall and vacuumed under it routinely. (This may have been Grandma’s expectation, but Mother didn’t say so.) One day a workman came to the house for some purpose and the living room furniture was moved. The workman complimented my grandmother, saying that he had never seen such a clean home. Grandma beamed at the compliment but didn’t mention that Mother had done the work. Mother saw this as a slight and vowed to herself that she would always give credit where credit was due. Mother was most generous in this regard.

[The picture is of my maternal grandparents’ home in Orofino, Idaho, dated August 28, 1921. Grandmother Nina Portfors (35) stands in the background. The children are Francis (13) and Dorothy (11). Whatever the scenario, it seems to be a typical day. Grandma appears to be wearing an apron and dust cap. About five years prior to this picture, my grandfather opened a Ford garage – the right place at the right time – which means this was a good era for the family. This house continued to be the Portfors family home until it was sold about 1965. Note the hill to right of center. Today you can see the Gilbert Grade there, leading to the homestead of my paternal grandparents.] KW

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"for the woman who knows what she wants to know"

Everywhere I look, I’m being pressed to organize and clean my house. From sales flyers to magazines to online sites, organizing is the order of the day. And I love that. I love to make lists and card files. When I’m finished and it’s all neatly in order, I push it aside and forget about it.

Maybe it’s not an unusual failing. An old “Father Knows Best” radio program treated the same subject. Margaret, the mother, is hard at work with some very strenuous spring housecleaning activities. She’s climbing ladders, pushing heavy pieces of furniture out from the wall, etc., with the help of daughter Betty. When a weary Margaret suggests she could really use some help with the heavy work, Jim (Father) says, “Oh no, I’ll tackle the yard.” (In radio days, father was quite the jerk.) Then he begins to note what needs to be done and decides the work properly begins with an orderly list. He then disappears to the den, taking son Bud with him, expounding on how nothing can be done until proper organization has occurred. Of course, the tasks at hand are never addressed anywhere except on paper. I can relate.

I love to read household management tips from any era but especially from vintage women’s magazines, housekeeping manuals, cookbooks, etc. In older works, I love the concept of home and womanhood. Being a homemaker was a recognized vocation, and ideas were available to help with this work.

The following are extracts from the Rumford Book on Home Management, compiled by Hannah Wing for the Department of Home Economics of The Rumford Company. No publication date appears – the ‘20s, I think. As the photos of the cover show, it's not an attractive little book, and my copy shows use, which makes it all the more special.

“This book has been planned by the makers of Rumford Baking Powder to give busy housekeepers and young home makers the most helpful of the recent knowledge of modern home economics as applied to the general management of the home. …. The book is a ready reference book not a discussion paper. It is planned for the woman who knows what she wants to know.” [Don’t you just love that -- “for the woman who knows what she wants to know.”]

A suggested program for the special work which must be fitted into each day while still carrying on the routine of the regular daily work. The program should always include a daily rest period and at least one afternoon away from home.

Monday:     Mend, count and prepare laundry. Tidy house. Wash ‘fine pieces’
Tuesday:     Washing. Mop kitchen and laundry floors. Basement stairs and back porch
Wednesday: Ironing
Thursday:   Clean bed rooms
Friday:        Clean living room, clean bath room and do special occasional cleaning
Saturday:    Clean kitchen, ice box. Week-end marketing, and extra cooking”

Sounds like a plan!

From what I could discern through online research, Rumford Baking Powder is still produced by Clabber Girl. I don’t recall seeing the Rumford brand, but I know Clabber Girl. KW

Report of “finishes”:
SS retirement benefit online application
Organizational emblems returned