Tuesday, September 19, 2017

On Being An Introvert And Deciding To Open Up

As an introvert, I've always struggled with feeling secure enough to open up my true self to people. Yes, I've had friends over the years to talk to, but only rarely has there been anyone who could really understand the deepest thoughts. My husband, bless his heart, has always accepted who I am and has encouraged me to be myself.  Being a Cancer adds another level of emotion, too. Some days the weirdness runs rampant in our house!

rocks, minerals, and fossils on my nature altar
An altar to the beauties of nature in its current form on my desk.

Though art and making have been my main areas of creativity over the last 30+ years, the idea of writing a blog has been intriguing for some time.  I've held back on giving it a go because of the fear of sharing too much or being misunderstood. Having a thin skin for criticism hasn't helped, either. Though I love being part of a community, I value my privacy very much, and don't even share everything with family - the less people know, the less they have to criticize or gossip about.  

Crystal, amethysts, fossils, and interesting stones on my altar.

But you know, I've just turned 61, feel pretty good about it, and have decided maybe it's time to be brave and open up a bit more. I know there are others out there who feel as I do, who see the world the same way, and have the same interests. I'd love to find other blogs by women my age who are living life grounded by a feeling of consciousness, of awareness of our connections to All, and a loosening of the ties to the consumerist world as we get older.  For me, it's a joyous way of looking at life, not solemn and serious (though there is that part, too). And while I don't feel fanatical about any of this, it's always a comforting presence there in the background as I go about the day to day.

Statue of Bastet, Egyptian goddess of cats, joy, protection, dance, love, and music
Statue of Bastet, Egyptian goddess of cats, joy, protection, dance, love, and music.

When I started this blog, I did want to share things from the vintage magazines and books I've collected, and probably still will. But having this space as an extension of the things I write about in my journal seems like a more authentic use of whatever writing energy I have.
I AM happily old fashioned, at ease with the way things used to be - always have been and no doubt always will be. Living a simple, slow-paced life is my particular comfort zone, and I'm perfectly happy here, no need to step outside.




Saturday, September 16, 2017

Ironing as Meditation

I've been feeling unsettled and restless the last few days. Nothing seems worth doing, and I've been too much in my head. At times like this,  a repetitive activity is calming, so I ironed my handkerchiefs. I like ironing at any time, but especially on days like today. It's so satisfying to iron carefully and mindfully, pressing out all the wrinkles and making these squares of pretty cloth even nicer. Too bad I can't iron out my life as easily.

Ironing hankies is calming to the mind.

It helps to let my mind wander and imagine the stories these hankies could tell: how many pockets and purses have they been tucked into, where did they come from originally, were they bought by the owner or received as gifts?  Or to not think at all, and only enjoy the designs and the soothing motion of the iron over cloth. 

Hankies all ironed - a job well done. 

I also have a collection of vintage pillowcases, which we use all the time. Some are printed, but many others have embroidery, and it's enjoyable to iron these as well, smoothing out the thick white cotton made soft from years of washing. I like thinking about the women who stitched the designs, and the pleasure it gave them to make their homes pretty, the way I do with ours.

Ironing doesn't solve every problem, but seeing a pile of orderly items when you're done is a nice feeling of accomplishment.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Wheel of the Year Turns Again: Dressing The House For Autumn

One of the things I've always loved about homemaking is changing the decorations to suit the seasons. It's a way to feel more in touch with the wheel of the year, as the days shorten or lengthen, the cool nights or warm days roll around again. Now begins my favorite season of all: autumn. After the hot, enervating days of summer, the crispness of the air brings new inspiration and more energy. I love the shorter days, the long, cozy evenings by lamp- and candlelight, the colors of the leaves and the bright, blue sky. It seems as if the sky is never so intensely blue as in autumn.
October 23, 2013 - the yellow leaves of our cottonwood tree, and deep blue sky of autumn, a perfect combination of colors.
We spent last week and the first part of this one doing odd jobs outdoors, putting away what we could, tidying the yard, emptying the compost barrel, painting sheds, and those end-of-summer things that require attention - it's been exhausting. By far, the most enjoyable of all has been decorating the house over the past two days. 

The sideboard decorated for autumn with a beautiful handmade antique embroidered net runner with fringe.

Vintage mirror layered with an antique pale-yellow-painted wood frame that once held a mirror over a dresser.
Most all of the decorations were bought over many years of  treasure hunting at thrift stores or yard sales. I try to do things a little differently each year, but always with the goal of making our home as cozy and warm as possible. Winter usually lasts a long time where I live - at least, it seems like it does! - so having a comfortable home is a priority.

Candles on top of the TV cabinet, with a string of multicolor lights around the dining room window in the background.

For as long as I can remember, I've been strongly affected by my surroundings, especially at home. A home, to me, needs the things that give you comfort and express your personality, layered with meaningful items that have been gathered over a lifetime and show a home that's grown with you and reflects your spirit.  My desk has a collection of feathers, rocks, minerals, and fossils I've collected from here and there, and I love the memories associated with them - they're so much more special than anything I could buy from a store.

It's gotten to the point in my life where it's time to start letting things go, paring down to just what I love the most. In aid of this, we've spent the last few years donating things and having yard sales. Hopefully we'll live here for many years yet, but the thought of having less to take care of as we grow older is very appealing. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Always Looking Up, and A Cat Lives Here

Living where we do, our home looks out over fields and the yard is open to the wide blue sky. I've been witness to some of the most beautiful sights: cloud formations, sunrises and sunsets, birds and wild animals, all sorts of things. We've had clear views of eclipses of the moon, and amazing storms. Photographing nature is one of my hobbies, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos.

Full moon rising over town, 9/7/17. It's orange from all the smoke in the sky.

Close up of full moon, 9/7/17.
7-1-12, 5:21 a.m., sunrise from our back yard. Well worth getting up for.

9-23-11, 6:29 a.m., sunrise from our back yard. These are the actual colors, Mother Nature does it best!

7-9-17, 9:35 p.m., sunset rays in smoky skies, from our back yard.

6-4-12, a supercell thunderstorm moving in from the west. It was incredible!

7-12-17, 10:24 p.m., looking north, sitting on the deck enjoying the beautiful blue evening.
The outdoor space has always been one of the best things about our home. Though we have tall trees near the house, most of the back yard is open to the sky, and faces north. Luckily our yard is mostly dark at night, and we can even see the northern lights sometimes, though not nearly as often as I'd like.  Every day there's something interesting to look at.

Speaking of interesting things, here's something I noticed yesterday. My husband and I went out of town on an errand, and this is what I saw in the parking lot:

This is where the cat lives?
I love that someone thought it was important to make sure this hole wasn't boarded up so the cat was able to come and go. What a thoughtful thing to do; makes me feel that there is hope in the world, when one person takes the time for such a sweet act of kindness.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

On Journal Keeping And Documenting A Life

Journaling has been a part of my life since the Christmas I was 11 and received a 5 year diary with lock and key. There are a few dozen entries in the diary, and then no evidence of any other writing until age 22, when a few months' worth of entries in a spiral notebook documented a time of change in my life: wondering what the future would hold, and feeling unhappiness with the relationship I was in. Writing about all of that helped to work out the problems.

My journals, including two that I hand made. Currently working in the green book, center of bottom row.
A few years later there are several pages from the early, happy years of our marriage, when life was full of fun and being too busy to write. Then, when the babies came along, I began to write again, keeping track of their growth and progress, writing down funny things they did and said. So glad I did, because now each of them have a story of their childhood filled with things I'd never have remembered otherwise after all these years. Dad also wrote on their first-year baby calendars, so they have the things that he thought were important to write down, too.

For each year from 1994 to 2016, I kept a separate daybook for our family, with appointments as well as a short overview of each day, with our activities, visitors, what kind of home and school projects we were working on, weather ... basically a day-to-day record of family history. It's fascinating to read them now (all 22 volumes!) and see how much we accomplished.  Don't know where we got the energy for it!

Foil embossed journals.

The first volume of my personal journaling began on April 11, 2005. Again, it was a period where I had things to work out, so turning to a blank book was a way of dealing with the worries. But to my delight, it also became a place to write down the happy things, the amazing things of the natural world that I saw out the windows as I worked from home, views and opinions, just anything really. It was so freeing to be able to write about whatever I wanted to without worrying about justifying myself to anyone, or whether my words would be misunderstood, or boring someone. It became addictive. And so, after that first short entry, I'm now beginning the 12th volume.

Two journals that I hand made, with pages of wallpaper liner, cloth covers, and Coptic stitch binding.

As if writing wasn't enough, I also made some journals. The first one was in 2004, the brown book in the last photo, then the blue linen one with a tree, and most recently the chartreuse silk book. They're all made from wallpaper liner, which is thick and has a somewhat rough surface for writing on, which I love, and covers made of book board covered with fabric from old clothing, stitched together with a Coptic binding. They're enjoyable to make, and even more fun to write in.

Two handmade journals.

Handmade travel journal.
Being old fashioned doesn't really preclude the use of all technology, so in addition to keeping handwritten journals, having an online outlet for writing seems like an interesting experiment. It wasn't really on my bucket list, but it's an adventure nonetheless!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Growing Old Graciously, Advice From 1928

When reading my collection of Fashion Service Magazines from the 1920s and '30s, I get the impression that the women writing the articles were offering advice on how to live life, to "play the game" as they put it, with the best you could bring to it. Not really being stuffy about it, but earnestly encouraging their readers to have fun and enjoy life, to keep learning new things, to dress appropriately, work hard, and present yourself with dignity.

Growing older doesn't have to be drab and dreary, of course. We're lucky to live in a time when we can feel free to express ourselves in whatever style we're comfortable with.

There's an awkward in-between age, though, when you're no longer a girl but not ready to dress like your grandmother, where you no longer have the nice firm outlines of face and figure that you used to and your old style doesn't work well anymore. It's confusing - who are you now?  The older I get, the more I prefer simplicity of clothing and hair, stylish but comfortable. Wonder if that qualifies for Ms. Ellison's criteria for aging "graciously", and gracefully?

Growing Old Graciously, advice from Fashion Service Magazine, August, 1928

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Book Premiums Offered For Subscriptions, Needlecraft Magazine, 1932

It's fun to buy something and then find it later in one of my vintage magazines. My women's novel collection started many years ago, and I'm always on the lookout for interesting titles. When I saw this page of books offered as premiums if you submitted subscription orders to Needlecraft magazine, of course I had to check the shelves to see how many I had.  

Needlecraft magazine, August, 1932

These books are listed above, but I also have others by the same authors. When browsing bookshelves at thrift stores or book sales, it's easy to spot the ones from the teens through '30s because they're all the same size, and have similarly textured covers.
Some of the books are better than others, of course; better written, or with a more interesting story. But they're fun to read, and I can often get through one book in an afternoon. It's also an interesting way to learn about the language of the time, especially the slang phrases. One thing is constant though, whether it's 1919, 1932, or 2017: the stories of hope and love, struggle and success, are common to all people in all times. We're not really so different from our grandparents after all.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Our 1936 Wards Sideboard

A few years after we married, we were given this Art Deco style sideboard that had belonged to my husband's family. Because we didn't have room for it in our small house at that time, it was put into storage. Finally, though, we moved into a larger house with a dining room where we could enjoy not only the sideboard, but the vintage dining room table and chairs that had been passed on to us from other family members.

We never really knew how old it was until, at an antique show, I found a Wards Fall & Winter, 1936-1937 catalog. Browsing through it one day, voila! - there was our sideboard!  Well, close enough. The handles are different, and the wood grain veneer on the doors, but otherwise, everything about it is pretty much the same: the shape of the top edges, the grooves in the legs, etc. 

Our pretty Art Deco sideboard, c. 1936, from the Wards catalog

This single wall in our dining room is actually a darkish pumpkin color, more like the color along the right side of the picture. But in the afternoon sun, the wall takes on a brighter, more luminous color, so cheerful. In the fall and winter, when I light the candles, it makes the room seem warm and welcoming. I know a lot of people don't like orange, but it was an experiment that we ended up loving. Orange is supposed to help stimulate the appetite, too, so it's perfect for a dining room.

Sideboard from Wards catalog, Fall & Winter, 1936-1937
Dining room furniture from Wards catalog, Fall & Winter, 1936-1937
 We also have two of the side chairs, which are, unfortunately, in poor condition. I'd love to have the china cabinet as well.
It's been such a pleasure to have the sideboard to decorate for the seasons. Soon it'll be time to get out the autumn decorations - the perfect season for our pumpkin-colored dining room!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Pretty Summer Frocks To Sew, 1932

In the 1930s movies I've watched, the clothing was so attractive and feminine. I'm thinking especially of Myrna Loy in the 'Thin Man' movies, and Claudette Colbert with Clark Gable in 'It Happened One Night'.  Such lovely, elegant ladies. The natural waistline silhouettes were more flattering to all figures, it seems, than the straight, boyish, low-waisted dresses of just a few years earlier. These are fairly simple, but have enough details to be stylish.

Woman's Home Companion magazine (July, 1932) offered these patterns at a cost of 25¢ for the dresses, 15¢ for the children's clothes.

Summer dresses with belted waists, Woman's Home Companion, July, 1932

Fabric recommendations for summer dresses, July, 1932

Children's summer clothes,  and dress for mature woman

The children's clothing is cute, and looks easy to care for. I do like ironing, but thank goodness we've moved on from having to iron all the clothing for everyone in the family.   

The dress for the "woman after fifty" is very pretty, and would look good on younger women as well, I think. She looks as if she's on her way to a pleasant lunch with friends, and maybe a little shopping afterward, perhaps for a new hat.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Traveling in Style

Because we've been spending our summer working on house and yard projects, we haven't taken more than a few day trips. They've been fun, but a longer journey would be nice, too - something to actually get out the suitcases for! Maybe next year.
I've never been on a train, but in the 1930s, train travel was pretty common, as were ship voyages. Even a short trip was an event to dress up for, to look forward to, and to enjoy. This luggage ad shows some very nice pieces that one would be proud to travel with. From 'Your Thrift Guide Magazine', July, 1931.  

Suitcases and travel trunk from the 1930s.
Wardrobe trunk with sturdy hangers, and suitcase with silk lining.  


The Gladstone bag on the left is very similar to this vintage one I have. I don't think it's the same brand, since I can't see a name on it, but this type of bag probably had common features, no matter who manufactured it.

Vintage Gladstone bag

If you were going on a longer trip, this roomy, sturdy wardrobe trunk would have been ideal. It even includes a built-in ironing board! And it was insured, too.

These pieces seem to be very well made, and were probably mid range in price, since the magazine was directed at people who needed to get the most from their dollars, and couldn't afford top-of-the-line anything.  However, if you were still going to travel but had less to spend, here's another option from the same magazine.  
 I can picture a young woman heading off to college for the first time with such high hopes, having carefully saved up her hard-earned dollars. She's bought a presentable, value-priced suitcase, packed her small wardrobe, which she hoped would be correct, and been brought to the station by her proud, loving family. 
Ok, I admit it - I've read a lot of 1920s/1930s girls' novels. But travel can be exciting, and one thing is still true: you never know what wonderful things might happen. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sparrows I Have Known

We've lived in our house for many, many years. In that time, we've fed and watered a lot of birds, but my favorites are the sparrows. They're here year-round, and have become just like family, since so many generations have shared our yard. I've come to know what the sounds of their chirping mean, whether they're just lazily talking to each other, courting, or the more frantic chirps that mean a hawk has perched on the arbor, watching them as they cluster for safety in the deep heart of the forsythia bush.  The sound of birds in the yard is to me one of the most comforting, homey sounds there is.

It's been so hot this summer that they've been extra appreciative of the fountain by our deck where they can drink and bathe in the shade. This picture is from a few years ago when we were re-doing the yard and had taken out the pond. I put a shallow dish of water out for them instead, and they took full advantage of it! Even in the winter, when we set out the heated watering dish for them, they'll take baths. 

I have a set of books called The Nature Library, from 1917/1926. In the book on birds is this pretty picture, and a nice description of why the sparrow is such a welcome neighbor.
Male and female sparrows, one of my favorite birds

Length - 6 to 6.5 inches

Soon it'll be time for the migrations to start. It's always exciting to see who visits our yard on their way south - my bird book is dogeared from all the sightings I've noted over the years. But thank goodness for the little sparrows who are like true friends: there to cheer you and comfort you no matter what the weather.

New Dresses For Back To School, 1929

Fashion Service Magazine, August 1929
A few months before the Depression started, a girl could probably expect to have at least a couple of new dresses to start school with, maybe more if her mother could make them herself. The Woman's Institute not only instructed women in sewing techniques, they also sold patterns and fabric, as well. The patterns for these school dresses (and little boy's suit) cost 15¢ each.

Dropped waist school dresses for pre-teen girls, and little boy's suit, Fashion Service Magazine, August, 1929
These dresses have many of the same features of adult clothing: the dropped waist, pleated skirt, overlapped front, and narrow sleeves. Even the hats for little girls looked a lot like their mother's. They could easily be remade into a more current style the next year by raising the waist, changing the bodice, or adding a different collar.
School dress with pleated skirt for a young girl, floral frock for her little sister, Fashion Service, August, 1929

My maternal grandmother would have been 14 at the time these patterns came out, so she likely wore dresses similar to the two biggest girls in the drawing. I mostly remember her wearing house dresses, so it's fun to think of her as a teen girl and what styles she would have liked.

Here are the descriptions of the clothing, sewing and fabric suggestions.