Friday, January 6, 2012

A new thread

For those of us still en route to a home and lifestyle reminiscent of a prior century, there are many ways to thread old-fashioned ideals into everyday life. Some take the work away from the machines and put it back into our own hands, some require learning a new skill (or seven), and some are just practicing looking at the world differently.
From what I've seen of the people who really own the vintage lifestyle, they are the picture we want to see. They dress the part, they simplify their tools, and they spend their time and energy doing things technology could do faster and probably better - but less humanly. Life is about living, and I for one do not want to spend it staring into the screen of a smartphone.
Here I have compiled a list of behaviors - threads - of the life I choose to live this year.

Don't hang up there
Cell phones

They are for talking and texting, yes, but not at the expense of living in the moment and being with the people who are with you. The person doesn't have to be there - he or she chooses to be.
The next time you're stopped at a traffic light watching cars go by, count how many people are on their cell phones. Or if you're in a crowded street, take a look at the pedestrians and count how many are texting or talking on the phone, obviously not mentally present in their environment. This is not the way I want to live. 
This year, I choose not to make a text or call more important than the experience or person in my presence. Remember when telephones were only in your kitchen? Let's pretend that's where they were meant to be.

Domestic Sewing Machine Co.

There always seems to be a pile somewhere, inevitable as laundry and dishes. This year I choose to make sewing a priority; a) because it's rather fun, b) because I don't like looking at the pile of clothes I wish I could wear, and c) because it requires that I slow down and live in the moment, stitch by stitch. 
If you want to start sewing or mending your own clothes, here are some resources with tips and stitch types you can try as a beginner:
I also found a blog dedicated to sewing vintage at Lots of great ideas here!

Bernardin Home Canning Guide (2), 1962

I recently became aware of some serious health issues regarding store-bought canned tomatoes. I love using canned tomatoes in my cooking, so I am going to have to remedy this by canning my own. Time for some tomato plants in my garden! In any case, lots of delicious foods can be canned and I intend to experiment with them this year. 
If you want to start canning, here are some good resources for learning:

Bags and boxes
Shopping... &c.

Big travel plans this year have thwarted my spontaneous spending habit, so now frugal's the word! I love to shop, especially vintage. This spring it will mean a lot of window shopping and digging around for the rarity of inexpensive finds.
I also want to change my attitude towards shopping to something rather foreign - spending within my means. Whatever I buy, I have planned for. While credit itself has been around for more or less ever, credit cards are new and honestly of the devil. I refuse to be another of this country's horrendous statistics of people who spend money they don't have.
Also, it's time to get creative with gifts and household items! I've found a few websites that will allow me to maintain my zeal for change and excitement while keeping a respectful distance from my pocketbook:

Food Is Fun (remix), c1950

By the way, I hate it when I write a fabulous and sardonic section on how cooking will change my life this year, and then refresh the page without saving only to lose it all. Life hates me.
Anyway, moving on. 
So I have this theory about the impossibly-tiny people who lived in this country half a century ago. Actually, two theories. One is that they were malnourished because the food they ate was limited by - well, a lot of things. The other is that they ate just fine, it's just that we are now enormous human beings because we eat just as much hormone as we do nutrient anymore. So this year, I resolve to go back to basics. We're talking fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned and processed ones (unless homemade, of course), whole grains (such as my newly-beloved quinoa) instead of the useless sifted grain-product known to the wise as "empty calories" but otherwise known as "white flour," and lean meats--and less of them.
I've already begun to adjust my pantry to more organic and non-hormone-imbibed animal products and I have one thing to say: people should not be drinking milk produced by cows on steroids. I have very good reasons for saying this, but they stray too far from my vintage theme to be discussed here. The point is, that lovely lady I discussed in The living doll? She did not serve her family food on drugs, and therefore I refuse to, as much as possible. Her downfall was most likely Crisco, which, I am convinced, was the beginning of America's food problems.
Ok, enough about drugs. I have some recipes to share that our kitchen-bound women of the 1950s can only wish they'd known about. Here are some I have either tried and love or will try this year:
Quinoa chocolate cake
Baked kale chips (I like them with garlic and salt)
Quinoa chili (double the quinoa to make it last longer)
Zucchini with quinoa stuffing (my favorite quinoa recipe to date)
Stuffed eggplant
Rosted shrimp and orzo
Sesame soba noodle and veggie salad


Okay, so work on the novel last year was short-lived. For something so long in coming, I'm disappointed that I didn't make more progress when I said I would. This year, I am determined. The fact that finishing it has been on my list of new year's goals for the last seven years is irrelevant. Also: more letters. Someday I might even write them in calligraphy. Journaling is also an important and satisfying re-addition to my life. In keeping with the vintage theme, I have a journal made from an old copy of Emily Dickinson's poems.

The Girl Scouts Rally

I always love the pictures of girl scouts from the '50s on hikes in the mountains. Exercise is not my favorite thing, but pictures like that inspire me and make me want to go do it. They did it without the help of spandex and breathable socks, so I have nothing to complain about. My only question is, when did they start selling cookies? And then how did they manage to keep their girlish figures after that?
Speaking of girlish figures, I also want to take more walks and enjoy the day because I'm convinced Americans drive too much. I blame the beautiful 1950s Cadillacs for making us want to drive everywhere instead of walk. Doubtless I would have a different opinion if I owned one myself, but in the meantime, this year is about diligence and discipline, and maybe even some tennis... but only because the outfits used to be fabulous.

Unknown Woman Reading =view

While I'd love to say I plan to read nothing but fashion history this year, I must be honest and admit my interests are more variable than that. I have some great Victorian history books (especially about the shift to home life) I'd like to read, and I may yet find my way to a Sears Roebuck catalogue. And perhaps I'll add a dash of Viktor Frankl and Dale Carnegie for good measure.

Pride and Prejudice

I love watching Jane Austen movies where you see these middle-class young women singing and playing the pianoforte at social gatherings. What's happened to the world? 
Anyway, obviously real life in this century is not like that, no matter how much we make believe. However, inasmuch as my ingenuity allows, I resolve to a) participate in more social gatherings, and b) start practicing the piano and singing more often to be prepared in case we fall back into the 19th century. Community choir, don't start without me!

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