Monday, December 22, 2008

Living the Slow Life

Holiday Impressions by Susan Rios (click for a closer view)

Christmas Cottage by Susan Rios (click for a closer view)

These homey scenes are the newest creation from Just click on "Christmas Cottage" on the left side and view 4 or 5 pages of her altered paintings, where she has added colors and ornaments for the season, to many of her original paintings. Since I enjoy the altered looked (making more than one use of things) I think these paintings would be a bright spot for the home.

Snowed In Today

Snowed in can be a good thing, as it encourages the slow life as we once knew it. The fifties were only 10 years, and contrary to the rumors spread by those who were not even there, those years were not "fantasy" but reality. Much of the slow life was due to the fact that most women were home-based, and even if they earned money from the home, they were not as pressured to do everything. Men worked and brought home the bacon, as it was said, and women guarded that money and watched the out-go of it as carefully as they watched the in-come. That is one reason that we made so many things. We saved the money for things we could not possibly produce ourselves, but we also did not feel we needed a lot in order to be happy and fulfilled.

My own family spent many days snowed-in on the homestead, which I wrote about in the chapter called "Songbird in the Snow" in "Just Breathing the Air."

This is the beginning of the snowfall here where I live. It got much deeper after the photo was taken. In winters in the 1950's my parents enjoyed a large puzzle that would take all winter to put together. One of my brothers did not like puzzles, so my mother and father would always save out the last two pieces for him to put in place. It became such a tradition, that now that he is in his 40's, they still leave out two pieces for him, for when he drops by for a visit.

I recently put together the pink house by the sea by Nicky Boheme (available at the Dollar Tree for only a dollar) but it was very complicated. I got stuck around the seacoast of the painting and decided to give it up and go take a bath and get ready for bed. When I came back, there was the entire puzzle put together, with two token pieces left out for me, by my daughter, who loves puzzles. I don't care for them particularly, but the pink cottage by the sea was so tempting, that I made an exception. Personally, I could never figure out how some manufacturer could take a perfectly beautiful photograph or painting, chop it into a thousand pieces, and torture someone to put it back together.

For relaxation, I like to play around with different looks in table settings. When the photo-shoot is all finished, the family sits down to a meal using the new arrangement. Here I have used fabric and a few old cups for a green scene. Everyone enjoys the next "scene" for a meal time.

When I have homemaking classes for girls, I get out a variety of mismatched dishes and let them create their own place settings and centerpieces. Aqual lame fabric used as table cloth for this setting

This is another altered box, and can be made from a tissue box or half a saltine cracker box. It is first covered in white paper, any kind. Paint white glue on with a brush and just wrap and cut paper to size. Then paint glue over the top of that white surface and place tissue wrapping paper or any kind of napkin with a pretty print on it. While still wet, sprinkle with white glitter or iridescent glitter. Let dry in front of a heater or just let it set for an hour or so until dry. With a hole-punch, make holes on the sides and thread a wired piece of tinsel or ribbon through it. This box will hold a supply of hand made soaps. or maybe some small loaves of pumpkin bread for someone. In the 50's we used boxes for many different things and were always thrilled to get a nice box, so much so, that when a new box of Kleenex or any kind of dried food like oats, came into the house, we would say "I get the box!" and the first one who said it got the box.

There is a way to make a book binding out of the cardboard of some boxes, much like a three ring binder, which I might show sometime in the future. We used to have hours of engrossed contentment making our own little books.

It seemed that people were not in any particular hurry in those days, and if they could not get something they needed or go where they wanted, people became very resourceful with what was available. My mother spent a lot of time writing letters, reading books, knitting, making jewelry from resin (she bought a kit and put sea shells and local dried flowers in the pieces) and telling her own stories. Many women of the time worked very hard at home, and so their relaxation and luxury was in these things, which meant that others would benefit from their efforts.

To afford more time for things like quilting or painting (it seemed like everyone, including the men, were artist in those days and they loved to paint the scenery), women would put a huge pot of soup or stew on the wood burning cook stoves and a big pan of corn bread in the oven. When anyone got hungry, they would take a break and get the plates filled. Sometimes women brought their ironing (everything had to be ironed because you could not even get your shirt buttoned if it was not pressed. Fabric was that wrinkly), and ironing boards and visit with each other while they did their work.

I will try to write more about some of the ways of women in the 50's before life began to be so fast, including how they dressed, and what sort of feminine things they liked. Yes, they did like dresses and they did fix their hair and enjoyed pretty things like a new purse, shoes and gloves, and yes, they did make themselves presentable in the home. I've heard that people think it was all a fantasy, but even the every-day photographs of the time show the women looking as though they looked after themselves. Some did not, but it was not the trend to look dressed down or casual.


Marqueta (Mar-kee-ta) G. said...

Dear Lady Lydia,

Thank you for yet another bit of inspiration! Yes, we love stories of how things used to be; they bring a sense of groundedness to our lives.

May you have a blessed Christmas,


Laura Ashley said...

The boxes are very cute and a good way to reuse and recycle. I'm afraid I'm not artistic
at all. And I have become self-conscious about anything creative I do, so I avoid doing art if possible. I'm too scared it looks like something a preschooler would do. I want to do things like place settings and interior design but I'm too scared of what visitors will think.

Anonymous said...

Loved this post and can't wait for your follow-ups! I plan on making some pretty gift boxes for presenting my homemade goodies and hand knitted items in.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Lydia,

Thank you for this nostalgic post and for the lovely tutorials on homemade gift bags, boxes and cardstock ornaments. I just love glitter!

I grew up in the 60s and early seventies, and in our area, life was much as it was in the 50s - slow-paced and resourceful by necessity. It wasn't until the early 80s that I saw my mother dressed for everyday in anything other than a home-sewn cotton housedress! She began wearing the polyester slacks and shirts for ease in gardening and housework but never wore them to town.

Whenever I'm feeling blue or overwhelmed with day-to-day cares, I know I can come to your blog and receive some common sense ideas; simple, yet beautiful!

I wish you and your family a blessed Christmas.

Kind regards from,

Susan T.

Mimi said...

In our area, we don't have continual snow. We get two or three snowfalls a year at the most, and they melt quickly. Since our town cannot clear the roads and since most of us do not know how to drive in snow and ice, everything stops. As long as I know my family members are safe and snug inside, I do really enjoy the quiet, slow pace of those snowed in days!! They are sort of like extra holidays, in which you can pass the hours doing wonderful things with and for your home and family. It's fun just even watching the snow come down.

Our family really enjoys jigsaw puzzles, too.

I was born in the fifties. I do agree that women -- including my mom -- really did dress in a way that was feminine and presentable, even to do housework. And, there were so very many women who really did make home and family their career and happily so, too.

Anonymous said...

The only time my mother ever wore slacks was when she had to get on a ladder to clean windows or clean the wallpaper. I can't recall any of her friends wearing anything but the pretty housedresses. They were so pretty and had many little details of tucks or pretty sleeves or rick rack or trims or some of it cut on the bias. The variety was endless. Also the variety of aprons was too! Their clothes were always clean and pressed and they took care of their appearance. When we went out to visit or to town we always wore a hat and gloves. I was born in 1947. The only time girls wore slacks to school was for the half day we had physical education. In the morning we would wear a dress or skirt and when we went home for lunch we changed into slacks. We did wear snow pants but they were under our skirts. Women would go to each others house and help them do heavy cleaning or just general chores off and on for a change of pace...they also gardened together and went to town to grocery shop etc. They were there to help each other in times of sickness and such too. We could walk almost anywhere we wanted to go or take a bus. People did for each other and never gave it thought. You would sweep their sidewalk when you did yours and they might snovel the snow off of yours when they did theirs. We would bring flowers from our yards or fields to neighbors or share cookies or books etc. We were in and out of each others lives and houses. Every household had their private times but the neighborhood shared celebrations and everyone was quite patriotic. There was respect and courtesy. Each family was different but seemed to work together for the common. There didn't seem to be as much division. Yes those times Were real. It is not just something on an old tv show or dreamed up by someone. Those days of sitting on your porch and people would stroll down the street even at night was real. Those days of having and taking the time to invite people up on that porch to visit was too. Jody

Melonie said...

Wonderful post! I enjoyed reading the comments just as much as the post itself. I will definitely send this link to my Nana and my Mom to enjoy as well. They both love to do puzzles and will really enjoy this whole series you are sharing.

Anonymous said...


Great comments too, I especially enjoyed Jody's comment too. (o:

Ace said...

Hi Lady Lydia!

Lovely post as usual. It does seem like a fantasy to me (grew up in the 80s and 90s)...a wonderful one. It must have been lovely to be a homemaker and have someone to talk to during the day. I can not imagine SEEING other homemakers around (I have been in my neighborhood for nearly ten years and I know only of a widow in her 90s who is at home during the day besides me...and I get questions all the time about "when am I going to do something for myself and get a job"...I tell them I HAVE the best job in the world and I am exhaused from that so why would I go get another one? ).

Our whole family was just very sick for over two weeks and we are not near by family. However, it wouldn't have mattered, no women in our family stay home (I mean, the ENTIRE combination of both me and THE General's family). I can't imagine how it would be to be sick and have someone check on you, or bring you a meal. That only happened to me once, when The General did it and he was trying to get me to date him (we have been together ever since :).

So much of what you talk about seems lost forever. I don't even know how to recreate it for my Princesses. I don't want them to be lonely homemakers...but I will prepare them for this Holy calling regardless.

Keep writing, it is beautiful, maybe one day it won't be a dream anymore.

Many Blessings :)

Z said...

To Jody,

It's nice to hear that those times in the fifties were real. I see so many images of dressed up women from that time period, and I always wondered whether it was just because it was in a magazine or if it was for real? (I was born in 1978) I am fascinated by the lovely wardrobe of the forties and fifties that I see portrayed. My six year old is in love with the I Love Lucy show, and we often comment to each other on how fancy Lucy and Ethel look. I want to know the difference between a housedress and a cotton day dress and anything else. It seems so nice that women took such care in their appearance even at home. This is something I want to work on personally, and I look forward to learning more about this era.

Happy Holidays

Lydia said...

Though Lucy and Ethyl looked dressed up, their clothing at home was considered casual. Those were their house dresses. They wore aprons over them, and when company came,they removed the aprons. To go out, they would have worn a long coat over them or changed into something less casual.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Dear Lydia, thanks for this lovely post and for the neat tutorials. Looking forward to reading more.

Mama to 12, so far said...

This is a wonderful post and I am enjoying it very much. The comments were great as well. There is still so much to learn....I can't wait for more.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyable post as always! Looking forward to the next installment. Thanks for your work in reviving the "old paths". Gives me lots to think about.

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

I can never understand why fashionable progressives shudder whenever the '50s are mentioned, especially, since, as you say, most of 'em hadn't even been born yet.

I think the thing is that most people will believe whatever is most fashionable to believe-- most of the nice middle-class liberals who are so haughty about the social values of the decade would have actually liked them fine if they were surrounded by people who expected them to.

My grandmother and great-grandmother DID both live through the decade, and both seem to recall it fondly.

(Apparently they have not been informed that they were oppressed and brainwashed by the patriarchy.)

Both always say that "a dress made at home is so much nicer than anything you can buy in a store" which encouraged me in my early, frustrating, home-sewing days.

They're right, too-- most of the stuff in stores like Old Navy or Wal-Mart IS of inferior quality, once you really LOOK at it.

We've just learned not to look, or think, too much.

Anyway, pretty much all the married women in my family were (and are) homemakers; this is an endless source of comfort and courage to me. I feel that I am carrying on an old and worthy tradition, and hope it never dies.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Lydia,

this is yet another fabulous post. Hmm. I've had a thought... Your Home Living's blog motto is jeremiah 6: 16 yes? Upon reading this fantastic entry and coupling it with the virtual avolanche of commentary in our Media here in Australia, even among theological circles and the like (People bemoaning the loss of social cohesion within families and neighbourhood communities, mourning the fact they're so very busy and time poor etc etc) could it be that rather than a clarrion call to times past, you may in actual fact be a herald of better times to come? ('ahead of your time', if I may be so bold). As everyone from the Australian council of social services, our Prime Minister, the churches, groups such as the Salvation Army, St. Vinnies and the like are crying out for the resoldering of these broken chains, may in fact God (through and with whom all things are possible) be turning the hearts of the people back to home? yes, they are realising what has been lost, the tragic social cost to families, the home, the elderly, children and our young folk, the community, even the body of Christ itself but pussy foot about the true cause - the disintegration of the family (with the push for both spouses to work morphing into what is perceived (and sadly has been largely re-engineered) into both spouses having to work as ecconomic frameworks shifted from the 70's onwards (though there are 'escape hatches' if folk wish to opt out of this chaotic rat-race)...

What I am leading towards is a hypothesis that people (and this present system) is nearing 'critical mass', to put it one way, and people will eventually become fed up with this present model as they see the costs it brings to bear upon relationships - between spouses, parents and children, extended families, the community at large, the elderly, widows , the fatherless, and so on - and, frankly, it is simply not worth the cost.

Will this ecconomic turndown break the addiction so many in North America, Europe, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the like have with materialism (the need to have 'things' - that latest appliance, entertainment system, personal communications technology, 'McMansion' etc) be finally broken, or at the very least, weakened>?

I (with sincere optimism and hope) believe that the common sense of your generation and those who went before will be rediscovered and reclaimed as people at large finally awaken from the almost complete slumber that has befallen us for the past 45 years or so.

For, we serve a God through and with whom all things are possible. Also, remember the words of King Solomon; 'There is nothing new under the sun'... With the axe resting against the tree that is our national privatized childcare system in Australia through mismanagement of finances etc, might parents finally take the plunge, make the logical decision and raise their children themselves? Survey after survey here in Australia show the vast majority of working women with children would dearly love to return home and raise them themselves but believe themselves to be trapped in an unbreakable cage of necessity re outrageous mortgages and rents; the average Sydney rent for a simple 2 bedroom apartment being currently around $450-
$500 per week). ecconomics chases the tail of workforce entry/participation, workforce entry/participation then 'needs' to chase the tail of the new ecconomic reality (A dog chasing its own tail) and the Western World within one generation is turned on its head with ramifications only now blossoming into full bloom.

There is so much to consider in your wise posts and the many comments and contributions from the readership elicited.

God and God's ways are more mighty and powerful than any Earthly system the powers that be may wish and/or try to impose upon the population.

May all be utterly and completely blessed,

PS: Please excuse the length of this contribution and prune it if necessary; or feel free to use it as the launchpad for another blog entry in its own right

Anonymous said...

My mother taught us to buy highest quality clothes we could afford. We never paid much for them though. We saved our babysitting money {50c an hour} and other $ we earned or were given for birthdays and such and bought our clothes or material to make our clothes at the best sales of the year. By learning to sew we knew what went into the making of a high quality garment but also Mother told us to try on some clothes at the better stores. When in the fitting room she taught us to really look at the garment. Look inside and see how it is lined, are theseams duble sewen tc, some of the zippers were actually hand stitched in and such. Lining the skirts made them wear better and not sag. By buying the best we could aford in materials or clothes in the long run our clothes lasted longer and looked smarter. We had the same clothes for at least 10 years as we did not changes sizes much. By getting classics they stayed in style forever. We did not have lots of clothes but each year we added a thing or two. Fad type things were only bought if terribly cheap and or a little accessory. When our Aunts [or even Uncles] would discard some of their suits and such we would take them and cut them down for us or our friends. So many of the clothes today lack visual interest. All straight lines and such. If you look at the women's clothes of the 30s or 40s and such there were so many different necklines and collars and sleeve types and tucks and a flower pined on the dress or a scarf in the pocket or pockets trimmed on the top with eyelet and such. So very pretty and individual. When you watch the older movies pay atention to the homes and the clothes not just the conversation and plot of the movie. Oh and aprons! So pretty and soooo many styles. Jody

Anonymous said...

Ace, even though I am probably Lots older than you I too live in an area on a sreet where I am the only woman home. I tried to learn all I could from the many good homemaking books I found at the library or at used stores. I avoided ones that leaned towards feminist teachings. I always hoped for a lady mentor but that never happened. My mother was a homemaker but I lived thousands of miles from her. I just tried to keep learning new skills and trying new recipes and keeping my heart home. Growing up I always thought I would grow up like my Mother did and be on a street where about every house had a homemaker home every day. It didn't happen. I have tried to encourage young women to take up homemaking full time. I feel very blessed that I can be home. How anyone could be bored being at home is beyond me! Here at Homeliving you have a sisterhood of like-minded women and if you read and ask they will do their best to help you. Go to Ladies Against Feminism web site that is on the side bar and or to some of the other women's sites and take in what they offer with prayer. You are not alone. I cannot tell you how excited it made me when I found sites such as this that celebrated being a homemaker where I could "listen" to learned women. I wish you lived close to me and we could chat over tea. Jody

Anonymous said...

Oh, how I've enjoyed this post, & the comments that followed! I'll be eagerly waiting for the next article you write, Mrs. Sherman, about this period in our history. So recent, isn't it?...& yet in many, many ways it couldn't be further away from our present way of life.

The conversation here about the quality of clothing (then & now) is so interesting. A friend of my mother's is quite the seamstress, & gave me a few things she'd made. She always likes to look pretty & stylish, so she chooses good fabric, & takes the time to use proper finishing techniques. As pleased as I was to get these nice additions to my wardrobe, I think it was even more fun for me to turn the clothes inside-out, & admire the beautiful seams, linings, etc.!! :o)


Ace said...

Thanks so much for the encouragement. I so appreciate it and it helps me to stand up a bit straighter when someone says "yes, it is hard, it is lonely, but you can do it." Even better when they do like Lady Lydia and the other blogs and sites I read, when they SHOW you. Seems silly to some who grew up with the INCREDIBLE blessing of a homemaking Mom, but I don't even know how to make coffee right and live in fear of company who want coffee (family who visit know to make it themselves after drinking a cup of mine).
Both my Grandmother and Mother didnt want me to be a homemaker and talked me out of it as much as possible. To the point that IF they tried to teach me something, I didn't want to learn, I was busy with friends and school and activities.

However God has other plans and I fell in love and married The General at 19 and ....had no idea how to make dinner! We used to eat out alot, but I want more for the Princesses and I have no real life mentors so the Internet and the women who devote themselves to this sharing (like Lady Lydia) are such a treasure trove to me. I would be lost without them!

I have had more than one older woman come up to me and ask me why I am at home, or why I am nursing my babies (instead of bottle feeding ) and they have downright admitted their INTENSE regret that they didn't (one nearly started crying when she saw me nursing). They even told me they thought their daughters, who were following their paths, were wrong and didn't know what to do.

This helps me, maybe some young girl will see me with my babies and remember and make a different choice one day.

Thanks again Jody!
Many Blessings :)

Anonymous said...

I love wearing my dresses/skirts and I do every day cleaning in them. If I know I am going to get dirty I put on an apron. I am getting better at my clothing and hope to improve this yr.

One thing I see happening w/these hard times is that women might go home and take care of business. The employment rated look high b/c women are working o/s the home. They might be happier and healthier lives. It isn't as bad as everyone thinks. So I do see some good out of this.

Anonymous said...

Ace, oh how I wish the women who are struggling could tell each other and ones of us who are a bit further down and line could open up and help each other. The Titus 2 teachings tell us to do that but we don't know who is out there sometimes wanting help. There was probably someone out there for me too but I did not ask...who knows. One thing I will add as it is the only thing I can think of now and if Lady Lydia will allow... Do not forget in your chores and duties about the home the input of your dear husband. Is there something he would like your assistance in that day? Maybe you could call his doctor and make an appointment he cannot do from work...or maybe he could like some other little thing done to ease his way? Is there something he has been yearning that has not been on the menues lately? Ask him. When he comes home at the end of the day...does he love to have you and the little ones run to meet him or does he need just a few minutes alone to ease away the stress and get regrouped before joining you? Does he like meals right away or would he rather shower or destress for a while...and so forth. I also have asked my husband off and on throughout the years what are his priorities in the home. Does he think dinner on the table at a certain time is #1 and or is this or that around his home something he thinks would rank at the top or lower. I mean, I thought my husband got irritated at certain things not done around the home but found out that those were not what bothered him at all but something different. So when my time is limited I concentrate on those choices and know our world will be eased by just doing and keeping up with these especially...the rest getting done but not at such a high priority. I too knew hardly anything about cooking when I got married. We got couple very basic used cook books. The hardest part I thought was trying to get it all on the tble hot at the same time. Now I know how to time things but then I could not get the hang of it for a while. Also when you are newly married you don't know what each other likes or does not like to eat. Now that I have cooked for ages I can skim a recipe and know it sounds like the kind of food we would like. Not then! I just tried to do the few things I knew we liked and added a few as time went on and a few more etc. Yes we are very blessed to have husbands that understand our standing at home. Don't forget that and that the Lord for that. I feel very sad for the working mothers and wives who yearn to be home but their husbands do not agree. If their husbands were raised by working mothers they sometimes do not understand the difference. Also this ecomomy has some scared this could never be possible. People never have had enough $ to have their wives home or have children for that matter but somehow we always do it and it works out. If we waited for the 'perfect' time we would still be waiting. We can plan and work towards it but at some point you have to just do it. And you know it can be done. I know we had a Very low income and have still but it has worked out and we pay all our bills and have a paid for home and want for nothing. We may not have all we want but certainly all we need. The peace of mind is priceless. Jody

Anonymous said...

It was not just the women of the 50's and so on that dressed with dignity and decorum it was also the men. Men wore shirts all the time unless on the beach and had usually an undershirt under the shirt. They polished their shoes like we all did. Kept their hair tidy. How often in the older movies and in books even do you hear of men in suits even in the hottest summer months. Women thought about dressing feminine but watched the manner with which they walked and moved and sat in those pretty dresses and such as to keep that fresh appeal. If you scan many of the past articles in Lady Lydia's writings she has mentioned feminine dressing several times and has written on it beautifully. If I get time I will see if I can find some of them and write the dates. It was not a chore to dress like this was a way of life that was sweet and beautiful. People understood the rules and had no problem with it. No one made us do it...we wanted to. When I later moved where women thought me strange to never go to town without stockings and dressier shoes and a day time dress and pretty purse. I thought They were were the strange ones! I had only lived where women dressed like I did! I didn't know any difference till then. My future husband noticed the difference in me right off he told me later,and said he knew I was the one for him! Jody

Anonymous said...

Z, Best I can discribe it the housedresses were usually a cotton material in any print and color but usually though very pretty and could be detailed they were useful too. They were not loppy attire. They were well fitted and individual and ironed and even usually starched. I know many liked a little print that could hide dirt as they went about the day. They often had pockets. They were usually made of a more inexpensive material than a day dress or of course a dress for church or a party. Chintz or broadcloth was picked usually if I remember corectly. For a day dress for town I seem to remember more of the dresses might have a white pique collar or even a lace one and a bit more fitting...a finner material like a fine thin wool or crepe..oh I can't remember the names of more of the materials at the moment. Paring these dresses with pearls and a smart hat and gloves set the scene for a day dress for town or outings. To add dressier jewlery and maybe a shoe pin and fancier and perhaps smaller purse and hat and you were more into the party clothes...course this dress might be longer too and could be of chiffon. That is it too simply and I know the looks I want to convey in my head but it is harder to put on paper. I am quite sure Lady Lydia can come up with just the right words on paper to tell it better. Jody