Oh Sing, Sisters!

There’s not enough singing in this world–of that I’m convinced. I don’t mean singing on the radio, in school or churches. I mean in the family.

Before our family grew up and married we were always singing. On Saturdays one sister and I might be upstairs making beds and dusting, another sister might be in the living room washing floors and Mother might be in the kitchen baking, but we were all singing, and, if working close enough together, we sang “parts” to make harmony.

Sunday was the only day Dad had much time to spend with us. We never left the Sunday table–dinner or supper–without him getting someone to play the piano and the rest of us to sing. Now that I’m married and away from home, I miss those good times. Some of the happiest memories of my dad and mother are of the times when they both joined us and our friends around the piano.

If there were more singing in family life, there would be fewer arguments and more joy. When your feelings are hurt, sing, and you will soon be happier. It is simple but it works.

From Minnesota, 1936

My DIY Kitchen Cabinet Curtain

I visited an elderly German lady last summer and was impressed by the simplicity of her little home. It reminded me of European kitchens that I’ve visited, very practical and not at all modern. I especially liked the beautiful linens that she clipped up across the kitchen windows and draped over some open kitchen cupboards.

I recently remembered this as I looked at the microwave cart in my kitchen. While I don’t use it for a microwave, it holds many of my small appliances.  At its worst it’s a jumbled, tacky mess and even at its best, it tends to look cluttered. I thought I would try to cover the shelf to give the kitchen a cleaner look. I could easily have found a piece of fabric and clipped it up somehow, but knowing me, it would have looked a little rakish. And since rakish is sort of a default look of mine, I decided that I would have to dress it up somehow in a more formal way.

 

Although I have a chest of drawers filled with fabric, my immediate reaction was to plan an excursion to the fabric store.  But in the spirit of frugality, I decided to challenge myself to use fabric I already had. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything that I thought would work.

Then I remembered a stack of pillowcases a lady gave me several months ago.  She had cleaned out her linen closet of all the single pillowcases and offered them to me, knowing I appreciate vintage linens.  They were all white, some with crocheted lace edging and some with hand sewn embroidery.  I chose one and trimmed off the seams, stitched a hem on either side, and made a casing across the top.

 

Ta-da!  A new curtain for the price of some thread, a cheap tension rod, and very little time.

I was so pleased with it that I used another pillowcase to make a little valance to dress up my back door.

Not only did I get a few curtains that brightened up my house, but they were basically free, and I made use of a couple of items that weren’t being used otherwise.  It makes me feel like an efficient housewife! 

Since then, I’ve decided to retire the pillowcase motif before the house begins to look suspiciously like a tribute to bedroom linens.

Let Not the Sun

The little neighbor boy who used to catch polywogs with me has suddenly grown up and married, and I’ve written him a letter.

It’s mostly congratulations, of course, with one tiny bit of advice–a formula for happiness, as thoroughly tried and tested as my most dog-eared recipe. It is a part of a Bible verse–”Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”

The bride’s days will be full with the fascinating job of making Jim’s home shining and lovely. She will be too busy and happy to admit there will come a morning when Jim will go out to the barn leaving the door vibrating from the force of his slam!

When Jim comes in for dinner that day, Helen is apt to be cool and distant. At supper time the tension is a little more noticeable. Jim fidgets and tries to be natural. Helen is fighting tears. She washes and dries the dishes and, after a futile attempt to read, climbs the stairs to bed. Jim follows,–not too soon because he, too, is hurt and he is proud.

And then in the still darkness, the two unhappy children find words to talk it all over. It’s so much easier to be honest and human in the dark! And in the morning, it is as if the quarrel had not been.

In our family we have paraphrased the Bible verse a little because, in a busy farm home, the business of getting down to fundamentals seems to require the quiet and peace of day’s end, darkness outside and love inside. I think this clause in our family’s “Constitution” that demands that no day’s “unfinished business” should remain to greet the next day’s sun, has done more than anything else to keep our home the happy place it is.–1936

 

 

An Early Breakfast

“If you want an early breakfast, you must have potatoes and cracked wheat or oatmeal boiled the day before; then coffee can be made, beefsteak cooked, potatoes stewed or fried in American style, the mush steamed or fried brown, and griddle cakes begun or eggs boiled, in fifteen minutes from the time you come down.  Time yourself by the clock, day after day, until you can do this.” -1884

I must admit, ever so humbly, that I have mastered the art of pulling boxes of cold cereal from the cupboard and cartons of yogurt from the refrigerator, and turning on the coffeemaker, all in less than 15 minutes.  I’m a blur of housewifery in action.

But a fast breakfast isn’t always the cheapest option so I’m always looking for ways to save time as well as money.  How am I working to speed up the breakfast process? The advice from 1884 holds true. Plan ahead!  Why is it that any job, however simple, seems to take less time in the evening than it does in the morning?  Here are a few examples that have helped me.

 

  • I cook 2-3 times the number of potatoes I’d normally cook for a meal, then store the rest in the refrigerator.  I’ll shred them up and fry into hash browns, with a fried egg on top or slice them up for a fried potatoes.  Precooked potatoes also give me a head start for breakfast burritos.
  • I always make multiple batches of muffins, waffles, and French toast.  They freeze and reheat just fine.
  • I soak oatmeal the night before.  I combine equal parts oatmeal and water with a spoonful of yogurt in a saucepan.  In the morning, I add the same amount of water again, with some sort of fruit and heat it up.  By the time it’s warmed, it’s cooked and ready to eat.
  • I schedule a breakfast routine.  Sunday is always cold cereal, Monday is oatmeal, Thursday is pancakes or waffles.  Having a regular routine reduces my need to think and not having to think always speeds my life up considerably.

These are a few of the strategies that I’ve intentionally begun to use.  It’s been an incredibly useful plan once it’s established.  Not only is breakfast served with less preparation time, but I get on with my day sooner because there is less clean-up involved.

Do you have any tips to make your breakfast routine smoother?  If you ask me, there’s no such thing as too much help in this area!