Kimono Carelessness; 1920

The title of this article intrigued me. I could not imagine what American farm women could know about Japanese kimonos! So I did a search for “1920s kimonos” and I found this picture. Kimono means “robe.” Now I get it!

No matter how many children you may have or how much housework you may have to do, do not let yourself fall into the kimono habit. It may sound exaggerated but it is nevertheless true that this one habit alone has broken up happy homes. Once let it get its clutch on a woman and she loses all proper pride in her appearance. It is difficult sometimes to look neat and trim and it is perilously easy to slip on a kimono.

If Father gets out of bed “the wrong way” and the fire will not burn and the son of the family mislays something or other and upsets everything hunting for it, it is certainly hard for Mother or Daughter to resist just a kimono. Even in such an awful state of affairs as this, it will take scarcely a moment longer to slip into one of those convenient house dresses that one can buy very inexpensively almost anywhere. They look neat and trim—some of them are even “fetching.” Every woman and every girl owes it to herself to be neat and attractive looking at the breakfast table.

Which will make a husband or son or brother the more devoted: to carry about with him all day the image of you eating the morning meal in a slouchy kimono with your hair carelessly twisted up “any old way,” or the recollection of the same you neatly dressed and looking as fresh and sweet as the morning itself? I do not think it would take the average man very long to decide which picture he would prefer. It is all very well to quote the old saying about the way to a man’s heart lying through his stomach —far be it from me to declare its fallacy! —but experience (my own as well as other people’s) has taught me that if a woman wishes to keep a man attentive, she must please his eye as well as his stomach. It is not always the busiest woman, by any means, who is addicted to the kimono habit. For we all know that the hardest worked people somehow seem to find time for neatness and order.

 

Soapmaking–still a useful skill

Lately I keep running into people who want to learn how to make their own soap.  Soapmaking can be an art form, most definitely, but it should also be a basic skill.  After all, up until the last hundred years or so, nearly all housewives knew how to make the soap for their families’ needs.  Even though I make soap regularly and sell it here and there, I would like to see more people making their own.  There’s nothing quite as nice as making your own anything.  So, R, I, and T–this tutorial is for you!  (And for you, too.)

This is my version of a fruit/veggie wash soap, using just olive and coconut oils, based on this recipe from the Soap Queen blog.  It’s a mild, unscented soap, and very simple to make.  Although the original intention was to wash produce, these days I use it as a hand soap. It makes my hands so smooth and soft!

Here are the very basic supplies you’ll need–
I love my Bramble Berry mold, but it’s not a necessity.  For the first several years of soaping, my primary molds were Rubbermaid plastic divider trays and a cardboard box that once carried cups of yogurt.  (Just line your molds with freezer paper, shiny side up or a trash bag.)

Lye

Lye is absolutely essential to making soap–it can’t be made without it.  How else can you get oils and water to blend together and harden into a bar?  Lye (sodium hydroxide) can be dangerous stuff, but with a dose of caution, it shouldn’t scare you away from making soap.  Take bleach, for example.  You most likely have a bottle of it in your house, but you keep it away from children, avoid the fumes, don’t use it on your bare skin and use it strictly according to the directions.  Use the same precautions with lye.  Just wear safety glasses on the off chance the lye mixture happens to splash.  You can also cover the counters with newspaper to make cleanup easier.

You can find lye at many hardware stores, in the plumbing aisle.  Make sure it’s 100% sodium hydroxide; for the record, Draino is not.

Measure as carefully as you can.  You’ll definitely want a scale, so you don’t have soap that won’t harden or the other extreme, soap that will strip the first layer of skin right off….or at least feel like it!

The Recipe

14 oz. coconut oil
8 oz. olive oil
3.5 oz. sodium hydroxide
8 oz. distilled water

Weigh out the oils, either altogether into the pan or separately before adding to the pan.  Melt the oils over lowest heat.  I use a stovetop but some use a microwave.  I turn off the heat before all the coconut oil is melted and let the few remaining chunks melt on their own.  You want the oils melted, not hot.

Measure the water into a stainless steel or plastic bowl (don’t use glass or aluminum.)  You’ll notice that as you slowly sprinkle in the lye and stir to dissolve, the mixture heats up.  I usually set the bowl in a sink containing a few inches of cold water so the lye mixture won’t get too hot and will cool down more quickly.   Stir carefully so you don’t splash and make sure every lye crystal is dissolved.

The lye heating up the water
All lye is dissolved.
When the outside of the bowl is room temperature or slightly warm (not hot) to the touch, you are ready to mix with the oil.  Carefully pour the lye mixture into the melted oils and stir it with a stick blender.  You can also use a whisk, but it will take longer to thicken.

You will eventually notice that the mixture thickens and no longer separates.  When you can drizzle a stream of soap across the surface and it doesn’t sink back into the mixture, it has reached trace.   It’s now ready to pour into the mold.

See the drizzle across the top?

Pour into a mold and just leave to sit on a counter until it hardens.  I usually let it sit overnight (12 hours or so).  You will be able to tell if it’s too soft to cut or pop out of the mold.  After it’s cut/unmolded, I set the bars on pieces of plastic canvas to dry and cure for 4 agonizingly long weeks.  After that, you can keep a bar next to your sink and use it to wash your hands or your produce (and of course, impress everyone with your new skill.)

This is just a basic overview and if you find that you enjoy making your own soap, there are many sites to help you learn more about the science of soaping and how to make your own recipes with scents and colors. 

And that’s it!  You have a way to clean your produce and yourself–it’s inexpensive, you know all the ingredients and you made it yourself!  It’s not so hard, huh?

How I Spent My Dollar, part 2; Lelia Printz; 1925

Not very long ago, my aunt gave me a dollar to spend anyway I wished. I went to the city to spend the afternoon and I also spent my dollar. I paid a quarter to see a movie, a quarter for a new magazine and because my best girl friend had one and because I wanted one like her, I bought a harmonica for fifty-five cents. Then I bought a nickel’s worth of candy to eat on my way home. I didn’t have a very good time either, for the movie wasn’t as good as I expected it to be and my best hat got wet!

Party Dresses from 1925

When school time came, Mother asked me how many dresses I had that were good enough to wear. She said, “Well, you ought to have at least one more gingham dress but I cannot spare the money now.”

It was then that I began to wish I had saved my dollar for here is what I could have bought with it.

Three yards 33-inch gingham—75 cents
One spool of thread—5 cents
Three skeins embroidery floss—10 cents
One Farmer’s Wife pattern—10 cents

Total—One dollar

This is how I spent my dollar and how I could have spent it had I been wiser at the time.

Note: Lelia was living with her widowed mother when she wrote this story. A year later she married Ray R. Figg and together they raised a family in their home state of Indiana. Hopefully, she shared this lesson with her children, all girls–Evelyn, Rosemary, Wilma and Shirley. Lelia died a widow in 1994, at the age of 88. 

“Doing just nothing at all” 1879-1898

from 1898– Our life is so active, so filled with excitement, that we are much too little given in these days to quiet thought…there are very few of us who would not be the better for sitting down every day for a half-hour, with folded hands, simply for the purpose of thinking, or of letting the mind lie fallow without much effort at consecutive meditation.

I know how many women will smile when they read this, and will say, “This writer does not know what she is talking about” but indeed I do. I have led for many years an intensely occupied life myself, and I never the world would you have gotten through one-half or one-quarter of the necessary things if I had not made a point of quite often sitting down, folding my hands, and doing just nothing at all

from 1896– A day in which no breathing-space has been found is a wicked day. Not only is it our duty to the bodies which God has given to care properly for them, but it is, moreover, a positive duty to our fellow-man. 

from 1879– People do not know how to divide between the needful and the needless; they forget how minutes of rest lessen the total of the day’s fatigue; how little needless motions, liftings, frettings, increase it.

In the summer, I find that 24 hours a day just isn’t enough, especially when I try to squeeze some sleep into it. (Sleep? How unproductive is that?!?) Yard work, home-maintenance projects, gardening, farmer’s market, and of course, all the fun stuff–camping, barbecues, weddings, sporting events, and the vacations we pack into the 3 month window called summer. “Lazy summer days” have become a thing of unrealistic nostalgia.

 

Maybe they did have maids and hired help to help out with the housework. But, these women were not English aristocracy, they were American housewives who freely admitted they worked hard.

Besides, even with help, these women lived in an era with no electricity, internet, washers, dryers, cell phones… And let’s not forget that most blessed of modern conveniences, running water– they had to trot outside to the outhouse several times a day and there was no such thing as a quick shower or a long hot bath.

If they could manage to fit in some rest, I should think it would be much easier for me to do the same. How rare is it to rest and not do anything? How would that change our perspective toward the rest of our day?  This brings up another question, though. If we don’t have enough time to fit in rest, are we doing things that we shouldn’t be doing or things that don’t need to be done?

Sifting through that thought sounds exhausting. Another post for another day.