Saturday, September 30, 2017

I'll tell you mine if you'll tell me yours...

Those of you who have visited me here and at my other blog for almost five years now might think I'm slightly obsessed with the 1950s and earlier, and you wouldn't be far wrong.

There is one subject I cannot get enough of, am besotted with, and that is:

The Life of the American Family
in the 1950s and earlier,
as portrayed in vintage women's magazines

A sure cure for the blues for me is pulling out a few of the old magazines from my collection and sitting down to lose myself in the pages.

These old magazines inspire me and I get up a better and happier woman after my time with them, more cheerful, more optimistic, more motivated.

I know that sounds crazy but Jane Davison and Lesley Davison understood the popularity of the early women's magazines in their book How to Make A House A Home:
And all of us who were turning the pages were receiving parts of the same message: we can make ourselves, our homes, our lives better by working and buying, by caring enough."

I get up from reading a vintage issue of Woman's Home Companion or Ladies' Home Journal or McCall's or more obscure magazines feeling that I've taken a magical antidepressant--without any bad side effects!

And sometimes I am inspired to cook a meal or even bake a cake.

This Brown-eyed Susan Cake from the September 1937 issue of McCall's magazine was fun to make and decorate.

Guess who made the brown-eyed Susans on it? RH did! He used almonds for the petals and chocolate covered raisins for the eyes.

But I'm not going to give you the recipe here because it was not that great. After all, it is a recipe from The Depression years, and recipes from those years are often very skimpy on sugar and other ingredients. So this is what I'll do when I make another one.

I'll take my best Devil's Food Cake recipe, which happens to be a fabulous one from RH's mother and has buttermilk and twice the sugar, and bake that.

The banana cream filling was okay but nothing to write home about so nix that. The coffee icing that I boiled to a soft ball stage was not sweet enough or intensely flavored enough so next time I will find a richer recipe for that online and use it for both filling and icing.

Because we can keep the good things of the old days and discard the bad. It's just deciding what is good and what is bad that's sometimes difficult, isn't it?

I made this cake and shared it with a brother-in-law and sister-in-law, along with a dish my mother often used to make when I was a child, Swiss Steak. As good as my mother's Swiss Steak was, 

                           I used Alton Brown's recipe instead.

I've never had an Alton Brown recipe to fail and his Swiss Steak is fork tender and full of flavor. 

RH helped me make it because we doubled the recipe so we could share it, and it required trimming the fat from two large bottom round roasts and then slicing them in 1/2 inch slices, dredging them with flour and seasonings and browning them for a few minutes on each side. That took some time, and knife skills.

Then we had two pan loads of thin sliced onions to sauté, next celery and garlic.

(And yes, I'm a messy chef.) Then we cooked the sauce, tripling it because the leftovers from this dish make the base for a wonderful vegetable-beef soup.

The day after I made the cake and Swiss Steak, I found a recipe for Swiss Steak in the October 1951 issue of Ladies' Home Journal. It was identical to Mama's, good but not as fabulous as Alton B's.

What was fabulous though was the pretty presentation of the dish, of the entire meal. The picture sure makes my Swiss Steak look pitiful. I hadn't even put a sprig of parsley on to serve it.

Get my point? That recipe needed improvement but a 1951 magazine inspired me to next time put more effort into the beauty of my meals because we also eat with our eyes, don't we?

Yes, I adore my old magazines, even though not everything in life then was as good as it is today. We have to take the good from those days for our lives now and change what was bad, I believe. And we certainly could take some of what is bad now and return to what was good in The Old Days, amen?

I admit that I am obsessed with The Old Days, the 1950s especially.

Evan Jones, in his biography of my favorite chef from that time, James Beard, quoted this from the New York Times:
"A typical American family then could afford three children, a house, two cars, three weeks at the seashore, a television set, and meat seven times a week, all on a single wage earner's income."

Ah, those were the days, my friend...

So I will continue to read and research and dream about the 1950s and earlier. I think that in my retirement years I've earned the right to immerse myself in the study of this time period. And often I will share my passion here at Dewena's Window.

Are you rolling your eyes at me?

I could pick a stranger topic to be passionate about, for example:

"ancient Scottish grasses"

That's what a minor character in one of my favorite Louise Penny books, Bury Your Dead, was passionately interested in and spent his days in the library studying. The elderly man told Chief Inspector Armand Gamache:

"Ironically, now that I'm so near the end of my life
I seem to have all the time in the world."

I've adopted that stance too. I have all the time in the world now, and if I want to spend it in the first half of the 1900s, that's what I'm going to do, by golly.

Now, my very dear friends who are reading this, I shared my passion with you. Would you please share your passion with me?

What is your "ancient Scottish grasses"?

And many many thanks to a dear blog friend, Peggy of Season to Season,
who sent me some delightful magazines from the 1920s--Modern Priscilla--for my collection....just because she felt they wanted to be with me.

Wasn't that nice!

See there, if people know what your passion is they just might send you a gift of it sometime........

Unless your passion happens to be George Clooney, maybe?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Morning Mist

"It comes on a morning with a clear sky
and a clean horizon,
a brilliant morning full of blue and green
and the long shadows of sunrise.
It is not a gray mist;
it is white, white as daisy petals,
whiter than cumulus clouds,
shimmery white and so thin it shimmers
of silver as the sun strikes through it."
Hal Borland

A walk around our yard in the morning mist:

Thank you for taking this walk with me on
the day that my favorite nature writer, Hal Borland,
says that "another equinox is tallied off and
officially another Summer ends."

Our 2.4 acre wedge-shaped yard has over 500 ft.
road frontage along curving pavement
so few drivers dare speed on it. 

RH has a lot of grass to cut but I asked him
to leave a long section of it wild
along a thick hedgerow that gives us road
privacy and gives the wildlife shelter.

Happy first day of Autumn to all of you!

I'm so excited to see this day come!

Are you?

"This [a morning mist] is the blown breath of Autumn long before there is even a hint of frost in the air."
Hal Borland

The "blown breath of Autumn"....I feel it coming! Do you?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Those Were the Days

On a lovely September day of 1963 at 12 noon, I turn off my IBM Selectric typewriter in the Research and Statistics Department, put away the papers I've typed that morning for the latest questionnaire that will go to the printing department, take my purse out of the lower drawer of my desk and stand up to leave for my lunch hour.

I stop by the ladies room first and tell the other girls that I'm skipping lunch in the cafeteria to shop at Cain-Sloan for stockings as I'm wearing my last pair with no runs. I borrow some Aqua Net and then brush off the shoulders of the black sheath my mother made for me out of polished black cotton.

It is warm enough outside for a sleeveless dress but against the rules for me to wear one at the religious publishing house where I work. Needless to say, pants are not allowed either. 

I go to the elevator and soon am out on the sidewalk hurrying along. Five or six blocks later I am at Cain-Sloan and hurry inside to the stocking counter as I plan to go downstairs for a tuna fish stuffed tomato before returning to work.

There is one saleslady available and I tell her my size and she pulls out four thin boxes, opens the lids and spreads apart crisp tissue paper. I point to the tan, darker than what I wear, and she carefully slides her hand inside a sheer pair.

I envy her manicure, shake my head and say I'll have three pairs of the nude, knowing tan is too dark for my pale legs. I present my charge card and we conclude our transaction, smiling at each other, one lady dressed in black to another.

I wish I have time for lunch in the Iris Room--and my mother there to pay for it--but instead hurry to the basement lunch counter. As I walk back to work on this September day, a hint of fall in the air, I know I look slim in my black sheath dress, my Maidenform panty girdle not really needed except that it is proper and expected, and its fasteners hold my stockings in place better than the garter belt I wore in high school days. 

I fairly fly along Church Street in my black leather high heels. And my feet don't hurt even the least bit when I push open the doors to go inside, five minutes before I'm due back at my typewriter.

Think of that!

You might ask why I didn't wear pantyhose instead of stockings?

It took me years to switch to pantyhose. Why?

Picture this day:

I am excited to be wearing pantyhose for the first time. I swing up out of my new red MG Midget after parking on the roof at work, feeling very sophisticated and free of a hot panty girdle. 

I hurry along to the roof elevator when the dreaded thing happens. My hose begin to creep down. By the time I enter the elevator they are around my thighs. Off the elevator I take mincing steps, pressing my knees together. 

I pass the cafeteria and realize I am not going to make it much further without them puddling around my ankles. I go into the nurse's office and tell her my predicament. She solves the problem and for the rest of the day I carefully maneuver around the office with four safety pins holding my new pantyhose to my slip.

And so I threw the pantyhose out and returned to my panty girdle and stockings until pantyhose was much improved, probably about the time they came in white plastic eggs and were sold in grocery stores.

But what I wouldn't give for just one more day of shopping in Cain-Sloan in downtown Nashville at 5th and Church, my mother along to whip out her charge card and my father there to take me and my little sisters into the record department where we would pick out new records and go into a booth to listen to them.

Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end......

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Oh, dear...

Last week we had dark and stormy nights, days too, here in Nashville with record cool temps. Perfect for reading Louise Penny's newest book, Glass Houses featuring Armand Gamache, now promoted to the Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec. 

I am a longtime Louise Penny fan. So what did I like about Glass Houses?

I loved the last chapter.

It was exactly as I wished last chapters to be, the essence of Penny's core characters that I love dearly, even those I am beginning to like--Ruth and her duck Rosa. Ruth is beginning to grow on me but I still have reservations about the duck.

In the last chapter the core Three Pines villagers are safe, including my literary crush Armand who is in Montreal attending to...well, I won't reveal that.

In Olivier's bistro in Three Pines, the villagers are gathered to view Clara's newest odd paintings of...well, I won't reveal that. Suffice it to say that I cried in the last chapter with love for Clara and Myrna and Ruth, maybe even a little for the duck.

What didn't I like about Glass Houses?

I'm sorry to say that the last few Penny books have let me down. To me it seems that they don't have the rich character development of the early books. This was an action driven book, which I guess is what sells to a wider demographic as this author has only grown in popularity with the majority of fans. Penny's style seems to have changed, many more sentences become choppier. Maybe this is on purpose? What readers want now? Or how the author wants to write now? So who am I to question that?

Still, let me show you a passage from Penny's Trick of the Light as this is an example of what I've missed in the last few books:

As far back as she could remember Clara wanted only one thing, even more than she'd wanted the solo show. It wasn't riches, it wasn't power, it wasn't even love. Clara Morrow wanted to belong. And now, at almost fifty, she did.

And from A Rule Against Murder:

Was there an invisible world, Gamache wondered. A place where diminished people met, where they recognized each other? Because if he knew one thing about Julia Martin it was that she too was invisible. The sort others cut off in conversation, cut in front of in grocery lines, overlook for jobs though their hand might be raised and waiting.

And from A Fatal Grace:

Saul Petrov sipped his beer and took a bite of his roast beef sandwich on a baguette with melting Stilton cheese and arugula. Beside it on his plate was a diminishing pile of shoestring fries, lightly seasoned.
It was perfect.
For the first time in years Saul felt human. He wasn't quite up to approaching these friendly people but he knew when he did they'd ask him to join them. They just seemed that sort. Already a few had smiled in his direction and lifted their drinks, mouthing 'Santé' and Joyeux Noel'.
 They seemed kind.
No wonder CC loathed them.
See what I mean?

Will I buy next year's Louise Penny mystery? I will. I remain ready to pack my luggage for a trip to Three Pines, hidden away in the Quebec countryside near the Vermont border. 

While I'm there, if I'm lucky, a near-perfect murder will take place and I will gather at the Bistro with Armand and Reine-Marie, Olivier and Gabri, Ruth and the duck, and Clara.

And with Myrna:
Three Pines had what she craved. It had croissants and café au lait. It had peace and stillness and laughter. It had great joy and great sadness and the ability to accept both and be content. It had companionship and kindness.
And it had an empty store with a loft above. Waiting. For her. Myrna never left.
In just over an hour Myrna had gone from a world of complaint to a world of contentment. That had been six years ago. Now she dispensed new and used books and well-worn advice to her friends.
                               From A Fatal Grace

Indeed I will return to Three Pines. But oh, dear...please Ms. Penny, please give me more of Myrna's story along with the action.

Are any of my visitors here at the Window Louise Penny fans? Have you read Glass Houses yet? Want to know who the bad guys are?

Now you know I'm not going to reveal that!

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Wedding!

It happened!

Even though Nashville had steady rain for several days before
the outdoor wedding of Zack and Courtney,
and no electricity the day before--
rehearsal dinner by candlelight and lanterns--
Saturday dawned dry and sunny and gorgeous and 
The Farmhouse was the scene of an enchanting celebration!

The wedding photographer's photos will come later on
but here are family pictures of the special evening
when Zack and Courtney became
husband and wife.

Amen and praise the Lord,
the creek didn't rise too high
and they're hitched!!!

And did we ever celebrate!

That's our daughter Christy on the left, husband Bryan behind,
talking to their daughter-in-law Melissa.
Our grandsons Alex and Drake catching up with each other.

Above is the ONLY photo you'll get a glimpse of now
of the ceremony site itself,
high on a hill of the 22 acre farm that was our family home
for 25 years and is now the home of the bride and groom.

That's our eldest grandson Luke above,
talking with our daughter-in-law Wallace.

The above photos were taken by our son Defee,
in case you wonder why they are so good
and the other ones here, marked Dewena's Window
are so pitiful. Good camera equipment does seem to matter.
Plus lots of experience.

There's our grandson Drake with his beautiful Emily--
they made me and RH great-grandparents last year!
Next are grandsons Caleb, Drake's brother,
and Alex with his wife Melissa, now Chicago residents,
and Luke, Alex's brother.
At the end is our son Defee and d-i-law Wallace.

Did you get all that straight?

And here is the couple that started that whole clan--

RH and Dewena!

But let's get on with the party!

We were all in no hurry; first there was the cocktail hour
where we socialized!

During this time lots of guests meandered over to the barn where there was
a beautiful setting for us to take more photos to remember the evening by, Courtney's vintage car parked close. It was an engagement gift from Zack.

Finally we were ready to eat a Southern dinner that was actually
the menu when Courtney and Zack had their first date....

Hot Chicken and Waffles with Tupelo Honey Drizzle
Espresso Rubbed Beef Brisket
Crispy Skillet Potato Hash
Buttermilk Biscuits with local jams and honey

During dinner we had music by a very
special bluegrass band that played in the picnic shelter.

And I'm so embarrassed because I can't remember their name.
When the bride and groom get back from their
honeymoon in Costa Rica I will find that out!

But they were good!

Tears here now--

First dance...

The bride and groom!

What was the song? I know it was sweet and romantic--
let me text Wallace real quick....
she's drawing a blank too but says that it might have been Crazy Love
because that's what the bride walked down the aisle to.

All I know is that I had a lump in my throat watching them.

Here's where I try to upload video.

Will that work? I guess I won't know until I hit publish.

There's a glimpse of the bride and groom--
in the above video.

Well I'm just a bucket of mush right now looking at these pictures
and videos. Wish so much we had more video of the bride and groom but we were trying not to get in the way of the real photographers.
I don't even have any photos of the bridesmaids and groomsmen.
Is it okay if I do another post when we get the professional pics?

RH and I finally went home and let the young folks party on.

As your reward for scrolling through this long family post,
here's a photo the bride texted me.

Wait a minute till I go find more Kleenex....

Ladies and gentlemen,

the bride & groom...