If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. ~ William Morris

26 April, 2017

Planting A Legacy

I live in a 223 year old home built in 1794.  It is believed to be the oldest home in my town.  Unfortunately, through the years it was not kept to period as in the style of many Old New England houses, but here and there one still sees bits and pieces of its character.

Much to the chagrin of my children and curious friends it is not haunted, at least not to my knowledge.  

I always tell people when I mention the age of my house, that George Washington still had five remaining years left when this house was built to give them context for the age.

It gives one pause.

What I love most about the house besides the fact that it is set back from the road a bit, quiet, solid and on .75 acres is the flora and fauna.  Every spring, I am surprised by the little bequests that pop up left to me by some prior inhabitant.  Random tulips, bunches of daffodils, forsythia, hyacinths, white and purple violets, forget me nots.  Later comes the lilacs, peonies, irises, tiger lily, columbines.  I can tell you the precise point in the season by which flowers are blooming.

I have only lived here three years come May.  In that time I have planted a number of herbs, foxgloves, poppies, comfrey, borage, bayberry, elderberries and clematis.  I add a little something each year.

I have old plants in my garden like pennyroyal, a range of mints, costmary, winter savory, lovage, horehound, all heal, sweet cicely and silver king wormwood.  It's nice to think that someday, long after I have gone, someone will be as delighted as I am each spring.

 My son noted how the stamen in these look like bumblebee legs.

21 April, 2017

My Husband's Favorite Fried Chicken Recipe ~ A Modern Recipe for Bell's Seasoning

From the Bell's Seasoning website:

'In 1867, William G. Bell, a Boston inventor and cook, created Bell's Seasoning. A unique combination of rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, and marjoram - today's blend is unchanged from the original recipe. 
For generation after generation, Bell's Seasoning has been the essential ingredient with Holiday turkey, stuffing, and more.
What's more - it's salt-free and all-natural.'

Bell's seasoning has been a staple in my family for Thanksgiving stuffing starting with my great-grandmother.  I personally love that the box still very much resembles the original.

However, it was familiar only once a year and now it makes an appearance as a staple in my husband's favorite fried chicken recipe.  After literal years of playing with and adjusting a multitude of recipes to both appeal to our taste for seasoning and work with gluten free flour (I use Better Batter) a few weeks ago I finally hit the jackpot.  Husband gave it five starts and says it's even better the second and third day.  

Mr. Ken's Favorite Oven Fried Chicken 
(Gluten Free Version)

1 1/2 C Gluten Free Flour (we use Better Batter)
2 tsp good Hungarian paprika
1 tsp salt (we use Real Salt)
1 tsp garlic salt
1 - 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp marjoram
1/4-1/2  tsp Bell's Seasoning

Buttermilk to cover the chicken pieces

1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup olive oil

Tabasco Sauce (to taste for the buttermilk soak)

A large rimmed sheet pan, lightly greased.

Your favorite chicken for frying (Mr. Ken's is legs or thighs)  This recipe will do about 2-3 lbs.

Several hours or the night before, soak your chicken in buttermilk and your desired taste of Tabasco.  I use about three shakes.  Coat well, cover and refrigerate.

When ready preheat your oven to 365 degrees.

While you're mixing up your spices and flour, drain your chicken pieces of the buttermilk. 
(Do NOT rinse or pat dry.)  

Melt your butter with the olive oil and cool slightly.

Set up your assembly line. 

I put the spices and flour in a paper lunch sack (I use two bags to make sure there's no tears or leaks). 

 I use tongs to lift each piece of buttermilk chicken, coat it in the olive oil/butter mixture and then into the flour mixture.  Coat well and shake off the excess.

Place each piece on the sheet pan, spacing so they do not touch.  
If using thighs, place them skin side up.

 Depending on the amount of chicken and which pieces, bake approximately 45-55 minutes or until done.  Juices should run clear. (FDA suggests a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees).  

If your family likes gravy, the pan juices make a wonderful, although not low calorie one.

Serve with your favorite fried chicken sides.  Mr. Ken likes biscuits and oven fries.

19 April, 2017

Outfitting the Bride's Kitchen Part I ~Utensils in Aluminum ~1922

From Cheating the Junk Pile by Ethel R. Peyser ~1922

Chapter XIX

'We moderns are so up to date that although we expect our women to marry, they know less of the kitchen needs and the infant's psychology than of the constituencies of the planets' atmospheres.  So to correct some of the deficiencies we are going to list in this article the prices of the necessities of the bride's kitchen at the present...

A first-class aluminum manufactory believes the following to be a complete set of aluminum for the home.

Tea Kettle............................. $7.05
Double boiler......................... 4.05
Sauce pan and cover.............. 1.40
Straight sauce pan (2)............ 2.35
Preserving kettle, cover......... 3.62
Steamer Section.....................1.80
Coffee pot..............................4.15
Tea pot...................................5.85
Fry Pan..................................3.60
Waffle mold..........................3.65
Pudding Pan (2)....................1.60
Bread pan..............................1.15
Tubed cake pan.....................1.85
Mountain cake pan...................85
2 jelly cake pans (ea).............1.20
Corn cake pan........................1.20
Gem pan.................................1.60
2 pie pans (ea)............................62
Measuring cup............................60
Water Pitcher............................6.00
Jelly Mold.................................2.90

 (additionally recommended per the author)

2 Muffiners, 6 cups...................1.65
Dish drainer...............................4.00
Quart measure............................2.00
Dripping Pan..............................2.95

Categories to be continued:  utensils in enamel, glass, earthenware, japanned ware, tin ware, iron ware, woodenware, cutlery, hardware, brushes, wireware, fabrics and paper, machinery and general.

18 April, 2017

A Timely Introduction or Everything Old is New Again

Courtesy of Vulcan Stove Co.  The smooth top 38" gas range takes the stoop out of stoopid cookery.

As we deal yet again in 2017 (some 95 years later) with the struggle to establish and maintain women's rights, Ms. Peyser's words could have almost been written yesterday.  There should be no negativity attached to the home being a woman's domain.  For even today as working women, mothers, caregivers of our adult parents or siblings, single or married, we find ourselves still the primary purchasing agent of home goods, decorator, and home maker.  Making a house a home still remains largely a feminine task.  The ability to do so should be a badge of honor, and not a prison or mark of shame.

From Cheating the Junk Pile ~1922 by Ethel R. Peyser


The Housewife as Manager and Purchasing Agent

'Several years ago we heard a great deal of talk about women's place being in the home.  The slogan was used as a campaign challenge and as a sneer.  It was bandied up and down the country-side until we got pretty tired of hearing it.  Since the privilege of voting has been given women and since their weight is being felt in the elections, the cry has died down.  The simple reason is that neither the employment of women in war-work nor the radical challenges of the ultra-feminist has altered the  fundamental fact that the home is a women's realm.  Now you can banish her to the home and make it such a place of drudgery that she loathes it; or she can abide there as a queenly figure, director of its work.'

12 April, 2017

A Children's Easter Party for April ~ 1928

From The Women's World Book of Children's Parties


Easter Salad--Stuffed eggs in a nest of shredded lettuce
Nut Bread Sandwiches
Bread and Butter Sandwiches
Pineapple Sherbet
Individual Cakes-- with yellow icing and in the center a wee nest of coconut held together with white icing and three or four yellow and lavender candy eggs in a nest.
Chilled Grape Juice


The loveliest colors for the Easter season are yellow and lavender and the two combine in charming effects.  For a children's party nothing could be more entertaining than a surprise basket in in the center of the table.

No Easter party would be complete without an Easter Egg Hunt.  Hide the eggs all around the yard or in the house if the weather does not permit.  Give a prize to the child finding the most of one color and a prize to the one finding the smallest number of eggs.  A little basket filled with candy eggs may go to the winner, with a chocolate rabbit as the consolation prize.

Egg Rolling Contest

Give each child a colored Easter egg.  Have them all stand in a row and start at a given signal to roll the eggs to a certain point.  The child getting to the point first with his egg uncracked should receive a prize.  It may be a fancy cardboard egg filled with candy.

Bunny Hop

This is played the same as tag, except hat instead of running, the players must hop.

Guessing Contest

Have a certain number of Easter eggs in a basket.  Let each child have a look at it and guess the number of eggs it contains.  The child guessing closest to the number should receive a prize.  Be sure to have an uneven number of eggs in the basket.  A little potted plant, artificial of course, makes a good prize.


Stool-Ball is as popular with American Children as it was when played by the milkmaids in the days of Merrie England.  Instead of using stools as the milkmaids did, it can be played with flat stones out of doors or with cushions indoors.

Arrange the cushions in a circle at a considerable distance apart.  Each player takes a cushion excepting the one who is "It" who stands in the center with a ball.  When the one who is "It" throws the ball in the air, each player must run to the next stool.  If the one who is "It" can catch the ball and tag any player with it before that player reaches the stool for which he is bound, that player becomes "It" and the one who has succeeded in tagging gets his cushion.

11 April, 2017

Housewifery -~Schedules, Dishwashing as Meditation and Work for the Common Benefit

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A well arranged and well equipped kitchen, New Rochelle, N.Y.
From The Efficient Kitchen by Georgie Boynton Child ~ 1915

This past month it finally happened.  My aged dishwasher that was here when I moved into my aged house, died an undignified death that involved smoke and the smell of burning electronics.

And I did the unthinkable...I chose not to replace it.  Cost was one reason.  The wiring would need to be updated, a plumber called, an electrician and more fees, fees and fees.  So I did what I had done in the past year when my toaster oven died (it was a taco shell related fire, let us never speak of it again...) I waited.  

I (overly) analyzed the purpose this dishwasher played in my life and I realized it was really a glorified and sometimes (smelly) dirty dish retainer and nothing more.  I couldn't be absolutely sure that it saved me any actual time between loading and unloading and rinsing and I knew for certain it didn't always get things clean and it certainly couldn't fit my greasiest, largest pans and cast iron ware that had to be washed by hand anyway.

I cook A LOT.  My son has celiac's disease, so by design, it is safer to eat at home most of the time.  I cook for two children, myself, and now a carnivorous husband.  I chalk up hours in the kitchen.  So with fear and trepidation, I gave it a week and I surprised myself.

Washing the dishes by hand wasn't nearly the horror story, time bandit I imagined it to be, and...my dishes were actually cleaner...and, I actually enjoyed it and found it somewhat calming and meditative.

It took me back to my childhood and standing at the sink next to my grandmother and how she taught me to run my hands over them to make sure they were truly clean.  It reminded me to slow down and be present. It reminded me of Brother Lawrence, in The Practice of the Presence of God who answered those who inquired about his devotion among the menial, monotonous tasks of the kitchen with "We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him..."  and focused on God's presence by doing the dishes as though he were doing them for the Lord.   In short, it turned out to be somewhat of a gift.

In Lippincott's Home Manuals-Housewifery, L. Ray Balderston, 1919 a woman's day was estimated to look as follows, a mere estimate due to change on size of family and availability of help:

Food work 4-6 hours per day with 2-4 additional hours per week
Laundry-washing- ironing 3-5 hours per week
Care of clothing (likely mending and sewing) 4-6 hours per week
House care, cleaning, etc. 1-2 hours per day and 4 additional hours per week
Children and Miscellaneous 2-3 hours per day and 2 additional hours per week
Management, Accounts, Planning 1-3 hours per week

Of those 4 to 6 hours per day, dishwashing was a part of it.  Per most home manuals of the day and particularly The Efficient Kitchen from which the photo above came, there is a specific process.  

Two pans or sinks filled with hot water, one with soap (as hot as you can stand it)
silverware is put in to soak, along with plates and bowls if there is room
glasses get washed first
then dishes, bowls
then silverware
and then pots and pans

At this point any additional things that need soaking go in and then finally the water is poured out and the sink thoroughly cleaned.  Dishes can be put in a rack or if you are lucky dried by a helper along the way with a towel and put away.

"The advantage of this method is that it offers an opportunity to the children to work with their mother, giving them valuable training while they are greatly lightening a rather dreary task.  Where there are no children it cultivates in grown-ups the habit of burden-sharing and comradeship in the daily tasks, thus transforming the whole atmosphere of the home from one of drudgery to happy cooperation and companionship in work for the common benefit."

09 April, 2017

Weekly Menu Ideas, Carrot Fudge and a Menu for an Easter Breakfast

I have a collection of these wonderful little cookbooks from Woman's World Magazine, dating in the 1920s.  These three are 1927-1929.  

From many of my home keeping books and magazines dating from the early 1900s through the 1930s, nutrition and balanced meals and the proper amount of calories were the focus.  

I amazed by the sheer amount and variety of foods offered at each meal.  Always coffee with breakfast and dinner, and tea with lunch. 

Periodically (hopefully regularly) I will be featuring selected menus and recipes I find interesting.  I give the recipes to you exactly as they are written and make no guarantees.  Many old recipes were written with the foreknowledge of the home cook assumed to be experienced, so experiment at your own peril.  If you'd like a menu recipe, contact me.

Menu for the Fifteenth Sunday in April

Baked Stuffed Shad w/Parsley and Lemon
Boiled New Potatoes
Asparagus w/Cream Sauce
Dandelion Salad w/French Dressing
Rhubarb Pie

Candies for April 

Easter Gifts
Shower Parties
Sunday Night Callers

Honey Caramels, Molasses Meltaways, Vanilla Caramels, English Walnut Caramels, Harlequins, Victoria Fudge, Black Walnut Molasses Candy, Honey-Kiss-Me-Quicks, Dakota Caramels, Orangettes, Paradise fudge, Pineapple Divinity Fudge, Nougat Loaf

A Recipe for Carrot Fudge

1 1/2 cups grated carrot
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1/2 cup water

Cook carrot, sugar and water to a thick preserve like apple butter.  Make a syrup of 2 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup water, cooked to soft ball.  Take from fire, add cooled preserved carrot and cook again to soft ball.  Take from fire, add flavoring and beat until creamy.  Pat down to inch depth in buttered pan, and when cool cut in squares.  If deep colored carrots are used, fudge will be a beautiful orange color and of odd and agreeable flavor.

Menu for an Easter Breakfast

Chilled Pineapple Dice
Molded Cereal*, Cream
Mushroom Omelet

*one version of this uses leftover cereals:  Mix leftover oatmeal mush with salt and pepper.  Shape into cakes, (or put in molds) brush over with melted fat.  Place a small meatball o top and bake in a moderately hot oven, until browned.


Mix leftover mush with cheese, finely chopped meat, slightly beaten egg and seasoning; shape into cakes, brown in fat and serve with a sauce.

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