2020, Here We Come

As much as New Year’s Day is a snore of a holiday for non-partying me, I love starting a new year. A fresh start, a new journal, a chance to start over. I’ve heard it said that the 20s don’t technically begin this year, but actually start in 2021. While there’s logic behind this reasoning, I’ll follow the crowd on this one and welcome in the 20s with everyone else. At the worst, I’m just getting an extra year of the 20s.

The Youth’s Companion, March 10, 1927

It’s surreal that it’s the 20s again. Not that I remember this decade from the 1900s but for some reason, it doesn’t seem all that long ago and I’m not sure why. It might be because my grandparents were born in the 1920s and I have a connection to the decade that way. 

Or maybe it’s because it’s a decade from the past that we can relate to. There were huge differences from the early 1900s to the 1920s in every way, from transportation to clothing to technology. But  think we can identify more with an era of cars, radios, and electricity than we can relate to the times of ankle length dresses and horse-drawn carriages just a few years earlier.

I also think that the 20s don’t seem long ago is because the 1920s are as accessible to us as present-day media. What started as a quick youtube search this week led me down a rabbit hole of countless fascinating videos from the 1920s. The first talking movie was made in 1927, after all.

I’m really excited to explore the life of a 1920s housewife this year and for the decade to come. When people think of the Roaring 20s, they usually think of the flapper culture and the loosened morals. They were a part of the decade, of course, but those were only subsets of the culture. It was a fascinating time in history.


I’m hoping that 2020 kicks off a renewed interest in the 1920s. So, as long as it’s the 20s….Art Deco everything, please! Suits for men, dresses for women, and elegant hats for all! Jazz and songs like “I’ll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time” and one of my favorites, “Stardust.” Sitting around the radio and dancing the Charleston. It would be the bee’s knees.

Vintage Readings for Christmas

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Here we are again in the middle of December, the height of the Christmas season. For me, the time from November 1st to January 1st is jam-packed with Christmas music, lights, movies, food, and hopefully lots of snow to set the mood. Getting my fill of the holiday to last me until the next November 1st is serious, focused work.

Music, movies, and food are ubiquitous during the holiday season, but what about Christmas stories? Yes, it’s likely difficult to slow down for a quiet activity like reading. But it’s another way to enjoy this special season if you’re able to take the time.

Everyone knows the story of the Nativity, A Christmas Carol, and “Twas the Night before Christmas.” As well known as the stories are, people seldom take the time to actually read them. But you should! I notice something new every time I read one of the familiar stories. Every Christmas season, I pull out my old and new favorites to enjoy.

Journey into Christmas. I found this copy last January at a used book store and saved it all year to read this Christmas. Bess Streeter Aldrich is one of my favorite authors. If you enjoy cozy stories about home and family, I highly recommend her writing. Some of the stories are excerpts from her longer novels but others are stand-alone short stories. This is a collection of just her Christmas-themed stories–old-fashioned vignettes of family and simple living. I read “Youth is all of an Up and Coming” for the first time last night and the ending took me by surprise. My, my, such a scandal!

Did you know that Charles Dickens wrote more Christmas stories than A Christmas Carol? I have this particular beast of a book that my husband bought me, but you can get a similar edition here. (And if you like the e-reader format, you can get the ebook here for a song.)  The book includes The Chimes, which I have in a separate, antique edition titled Christmas Stories. I’ve started it several times, but this will be the year I read the whole thing, I’ve told myself.

Another of my favorite discoveries is this little ebook gem, called Evergreen Christmas Readings. This bargain has everything Christmas–stories, poems, and carols, all by classic authors. The collection includes authors I know, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Lousia May Alcott and it’s introduced me to many “new” authors of the past. I even found a story I’ve long looked for but didn’t know the title, called “Papa Panov’s Special Christmas” by Leo Tolstoy.  It will take me years to read through this collection, but that’s perfect. By the time I finish I can start all over again.

Applesauce Cake, 1936

A few months ago a friend Aaryne sent me a little booklet she ran across somewhere in her travels. It made her think of me, she said, which shows she knows me pretty well. It’s called Successful Baking for Flavor and Texture.  The name alone is a giveaway that it wasn’t written recently. It was published in 1936 by the company that made Arm & Hammer baking soda.

 

homegrown, home canned applesauce

I’ve marked out several recipes to try and today I decided to make the Applesauce Cake. I’m still working my way through bushels of apples so I’m always looking for ways to use my apple abundance.

 

 

 

While I was making the cake, I went to the pantry for raisins and realized I was completely out of them. However, I did find 3 bags of dates, so I probably should have made the fruit cupcakes (that called for dates) on the facing page. Another day. I was also short on walnuts but I thought the cake was just fine with the ½ cup I used. It would have been a much more rich, heavy cake with the extra nuts and the raisins.

 

I frosted it with a simple icing of 3 T. honey and 4 oz. cream cheese with a little splash of vanilla. I thought it was delicious for a 95 year old cake (recipe)! (And now I’ve joined the masses of women who have baked “for flavor and texture!”)

 


Print Recipe


1936 Applesauce Cake

Servings
pieces


Ingredients

Servings
pieces


Ingredients


Instructions
  1. Sift, then measure the flour. Sift three times with the baking soda, salt, and spices. (I sifted once, just for that authentic flair.)
    Cream the butter well. Gradually add sugar, beating after each addition.
    Add the egg, beating well, then the raisins and nuts.
    Alternately add the dry ingredients and applesauce, beating until smooth after each addition. Turn into a greased loaf pan or 9x9 pan. Bake at 350 until done.

True Happiness, 1933

Everybody is trying to get there first. It is just hurry-scurry from one thing to another. Everybody seems to be wanting something she doesn’t have, and is in a hurry to get it before someone else does. After we do get a thing, we never have time to enjoy it, but just start thinking about something else we want.

This sounds like a good description of 2019, doesn’t it? But this was originally written in 1933, during the Great Depression. In an era characterized by widespread poverty, I expected people would have been more appreciative of their meager possessions in light of others in a worse position. Somehow, I imagined more contentment and less running after the next thing. But people are people the world over. We covet the latest iphone, maybe they coveted the brand new board game of 1933–Monopoly or the latest record for the victrola.

It’s hard for us to separate material possessions from happiness. Even our country’s economy measures success by how much we’re spending. But many of us have come to realize that all this stuff hasn’t made us happy. The current minimalism trend is a reaction to the many years of economic prosperity which led to our unchecked materialism. But simply getting rid of everything won’t guarantee happiness, either. Happiness comes from within and consists of enjoying the things we have, which aren’t necessarily material things.

Work? Why be happy about work? Ask the man out of work what he wants most. Health? Why, of course. Yet few of us appreciate it, or try to keep it until we begin to lose it. Ask the invalid what she wants most.

The fact of the matter is we all want happiness, and happiness is just enjoyment of the things most of us have–work, health, home, family, and friends. Being satisfied and content with what we have: this is happiness.