My days have seem to have run together in a never ending whirl of aprons, casseroles, scrubbing, threats of jello molds and always present shoulder bursitis.
But, since Ive been doing this for a little over a week now– and I can only talk about casseroles so many times before I become a terrible bore– I think I oughta start with a recap.
– My house is cleaner and more presentable than it’s been in ages. I wasn’t exactly a terrible housekeeper before, but the new habits I am developing are keeping things at a much higher standard at all times. I like that if I have unexpected guests drop by (and please dont do that, seriously. A girl needs a bit of warning so that she can put pants on.) that I will not be stressed and uncomfortable about clutter/dust I have been ignoring. Anyway, once I got things to a presentable level, it’s so much easier to spend 5 minutes a day maintaining it, then letting it get bad again and having to do all the scrubbing all over again.
-The routine I have adopted when Johnny Rotten gets home from work is going way better than I thought it would. I never really ignored him when he got home, but quickly freshening up and then going over to greet him with a “Hi, how was your day?” is a whole lot more than than me simply calling out “Hey” from whatever room I happened to be in at the time. He feels appreciated, I feel far more put together and ready to shift gears into him being home, and this whole routine is a win.
-Expanding my horizons into vintagey cleaning products has been great. While there are a few that I’m not wild about, for the most part, they persisted for a reason. My mom pointed out that perhaps vintage cleaning products are meant for vintage materials, like my formica countertop. Smart lady. It seems as though they are.
-I have a whole new appreciation for my modern appliances. A couple of days ago, I decided to make a pot of coffee with my stovetop percolator instead of my coffeemaker, and while the coffee was excellent, it took 25 minutes to make, and that was simply unacceptable to me. When I want coffee, I want it NOW.
I love you, old timey percolator, but I can’t wait my whole life for you. Its not you. It’s me.
My immersion blender, my breadmaker, my super quick electric kettle and my microwave are also now treasured items in my life, and after attempting to make things without their help, I have a whole new understanding of exactly how hard ladies from the midcentury worked and the patience and timing they had to have in order to put even a basic meal together.
-I have learned that gartered stockings are the worst thing ever. They look great and far more classy than pantyhose, but only until they start sagging and bagging and pinching your bum with the little clip thingies with every step you take. You cant look like a classy lady when you are constantly dealing with surprise bum pinches, so we’re going to file that under “N” for “No”, “Nuh uh” and “Never again”.
-Vintage cookbooks are fun and the meals– though scary looking sometimes– are often surprisingly tasty and economical. However, I do not approve of the amount of MSG they call for. Two part question: Can you even still buy that? If so, for the love all thats good and right, WHY?
-I cannot bring myself to make jello molds. Sure, they look all pretty, but then I realize it’s boiled horse toenails and it puts me right off that idea, even if it is lime flavored and full of mini marshmallows and celery.
Does anyone know what wine goes best with horse toenails?
Anyway, The Good Housewife Project has gone smashingly well so far. Yes, smashingly. I’ve learned a lot, developed quite a few new good habits, and I’m having a lot of fun.
It struck me, a few days ago, how indulgent Johnny Rotten was of this idea, even though he clearly did not think it was swell when I first announced that I was going to do this. And, I should point out, that he did not actually have any say in this matter. It wasn’t a matter of “Hey sweetie, what do you think?”, it was more of “For the next three weeks, I am going to make you food with scary names like ‘Party Loaf’ and while you don’t have to like them, you are going to eat them.”
He’s not one to turn down food other people make. I guess years in the military trained him to like just about anything that doesn’t come out of an MRE bag. But, I was honestly surprised how he’s gotten into this whole thing. He’s surprised me with cute new aprons. He’s gone to the thrift store and picked out all the midcentury cookbooks he could find, knowing full well that I’m going to make him eat the recipes inside. He’s been just grand.
It’s a Wittnauer 10k gold filled watch, from the early 1950’s, I believe. It’s a little beaten up, but it runs, um, like a clock, and it’s so, so pretty. I just got it in the mail today (and can I tell you how happy I am that I don’t live in an era without ebay? Egads, the horror of that thought) and I can’t wait to give it to him.
I didn’t post yesterday. A lady cannot possibly blog every single day and maintain her wit and charm, or she’ll get the vapors. No one wants the vapors, so yeah. I took a day off from this. I did not, however, take a day off from housewifing, . Today’s entry is all about wax–not the hair removal wax that I have already proven is too dangerous for me to have– and is a review, because I am a helpful kind of lady when I don’t have the vapors.
Step 1: Wax on. Step 2: Wax off. Step 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2 until desired level of gleaminess is achieved.
All right. Review time! Here we go!
First is Butcher block conditioner:
The butcher block conditioner is a new love of mine, and while it’s not super retro-y, it is super handy to have. As I mentioned before, I picked up some battered (and not in the good way, like mozza sticks are battered) podwood/monkey wood/acacia midcentury snack bowls at the thrift store for about $0.99 each, and the butcher block conditioner took most of the scratches right out. I then tried it on my rolling pin and wooden spoons, and they looks better than they did when they were new.
This stuff is really easy to apply, is food safe, and has no significant odor. I’d say I’d buy it again, but considering how little I had to use, I think I’ll be having to bequeath the rest of the bottle to someone upon my death of really, really, really old age.
Verdict: If you have heirs to whom you can give wood conditioner, buy this stuff. Its great!
Next is Johnson’s Paste Wax:
As I told you guys last time, I got a new-to-me vintage dining room furniture set. It’s gorgeous and I love it, and I need to stop talking about it before I dissolve into a fit in excited, incomprehensible babbling and idiotic hand clapping.
I used Johnson’s on it, and while I like it, I also hate it, but I like it… but, I hate it. It gives a great satiny shine, and the wood feeeeeeeeeeeeeels good after being waxed and buffed. It leaves a really nice finish, and doesn’t seem to attract dust and pet hair like furniture dusting sprays do.
(You know there’s a but coming, right? Wait for it….)
(There you go. I bet it feels good to get rid of that “She’s going to say but” anxiety!)
But. It stinks like shoe polish, and I got The Vapors at least twice from the fumes while buffing. And holy cow, it is a chore to buff off completely. As I was buffing and buffing and buffing, I realized that pretty much every housewife who used Johnsons would be able to compete in a pro arm-wrestling circuit, if there was such a thing. It is work.
I actually feel like a whiny baby for about complaining about buffing the table. Apparently, ladies of the time used to do their floors regularly with this stuff. My hat is off to them, but I think I’ll stick with my new fangled floor products. Waxing my floor by hand is a serious limit for me. No. Just no.
The Verdict: Johnson’s paste wax provided a great shine, a weird headache from the fumes, and a workout like I’ve never had before. I don’t know how I feel about this.
Last up is Jubilee Kitchen Wax:
I saved the best for last, and I’d like you guys to meet my new best friend Jubilee Kitchen Wax. (“Guys, this is Jubilee Wax. Jubilee Wax, these are the guys.”) This was taken off the market for approximately a gazillion and four years, but has recently returned much to the delight of people who are far better housekeepers than I.
And, I admit that I can totally see why. I’m in full on love with it. I guess it’s meant to polish and protect your stove front, your fridge, your toaster and other kitchen food-prep-things, and it does. Everything is reflective and much cleaner looking, and fingerprints seem to wipe off much easier. However, it really shines– pun fully intended– in the bathroom. I wouldn’t use it on the floor or tub because of slipping risk, but omgomgomgomgyouguys, everything now glistens in there, from the faucets to the green tile someone installed to halfway up the wall because it was 1952 and green wall tile was the hip new craze, like the twist or um….going to the sock hop with your best gal in one hand and a malted shake in the other. Anyway, water spots wipe right off, pet hair doesn’t seem to want to stick to the tile, and my bathroom is now so much easier to maintain.
The Verdict: I can’t talk right now, I’m too busy gurgling delightedly over the shininess.
I waxed on. I waxed off. I’m ready to blind Cobra Kai with my shiny appliances, wood furnishings and bathroom tiles. Go me!
Today, I really didn’t housewife it up much because the lovely Johnny Rotten and I were out shopping. I finally harangued sweet talked him into going out to look for a dining room table that ISN’T a patio set reject from before we were married, and surprise of all surprises, he not only agreed to look, but we are having a Duncan!! Phyfe!! reproduction!! from 1940ish!!! dining room set!!! delivered some time within the next week.
I guess I’m both cute and vitamin-enriched lately, because he just couldn’t resist my pleas for a real table.
So anyway, I’m 31 flavors of stoked about that, but I really didn’t do anything midcentury at all today, other than the daily tidying up that has become the norm around here. I’ll be posting photos the moment the set arrives, because YOU-GUYS-ITS-SO-PRETTY-AND-AWESOME!!!
Speaking of pretty and awesome though, did you know that you’re not? I mean, I personally think you totally are, and I mean that for each and every one of you, but the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s would beg to differ. In fact, they’ve been meaning to talk to you about a few things.
First of all, your stocking maintenance has really been lacking lately, and you spouse can no longer admire you.
And if you aren’t serving him breakfast in bed on your knees while he’s inexplicably dressed in a suit and tie, you’re wifing so wrong.
I mean, he’s willing to be benevolent, but let’s face it, you’re pretty inept at ALL THE THINGS. Sorry to tell you, but you need to know.
Your choice of coffee is so bad, you deserve to be physically assaulted.
Even if you’re an outstanding cook, and your choice of coffee is superb, you’d still better not get older. Your husband won’t love you any more, and understandably so. Girl, THAT SKIN. Stop it.
It’s not just middle aged women with middle aged skin that go unloved. If you don’t brush with the right toothpaste, 4 out of 5 dentists agree that your husband will stray.
But really, there’s one problem that’s more of a problem than the rest of your (many, many, many) problems.
You haven’t cleaned your nether regions with Lysol, and you suck as a person. More importantly, you suck as a wife.
No. He would not. In fact, it seems pretty clear that you disgust him in every single way he could ever think of, and even in a few ways he hadn’t thought of. Maybe you should go talk to your friends instead?
Just kidding. You disgust them too.
Holy cow, you guys. I need a cookie and a hug just for reading through all of those.
Today I baked like a woman possessed. I have seen The Exorcist, and it wasn’t that kind of sweary, head-spinning possession, so Im figuring it was a much friendlier ghost that possessed me. Maybe Julia Child? Everything I made today turned out well, and I was irrepressibly cheerful and Google tells me that she passed away in 2004, so it’s entirely possible. I don’t mean to get all “It was a ghost” on you guys, but really, all the evidence points in one direction.
It was her!
First up was a simple pumpkin bread with dried cranberries and pecan bits. I didn’t take a picture because it was a gussied up boxed mix, but it turned out splendidly. I made two pans of it– one decoy cake for the family to try today, and one for the freezer for midmorning teatime with company.
It’s funny that I make decoy cakes, but that’s how it has to be with Batman in the house. If she sees a baked item cooling, she will help herself to it, regardless of whether she’s been explicitly forbidden to do that very thing or not. Frosting gets poked, the cookies dwindle until there are only 3 left on the cooling rack (“there’s still some left. Maybe if I space them out evenly, mom won’t notice 90% are missing?”), and cakes end up gouged. Its impossible to recover from in any aesthetically pleasing way. She can help herself to the test batch, make suggestions on how it might be better, and most importantly, leave the real baked goods alone.
Batman wuz here!
Anyway. The pumpkin bread was pretty darned good. The “recipe” is simply to make the mix as Ms. Crocker tells you, then stir 1/2 cup pecans and 1/2 cup dried cranberries into the mix before pouring in your pan and baking.
It was easy. Too easy, as a matter of fact. I understand how those prepackaged cakes are great for the career gal (that’s what we call them, way back here in nineteen-fif-sixty-mumblemumble) but it wasn’t really what I had in mind for baking today, so I ended up developing a recipe.
Wait. That sounds far too fancypants and gives me far too much credit for knowing what I’m doing in the kitchen. I did develop a recipe, but it was more because I didn’t realize until halfway through making a recipe that I was out of a key ingredient or six and had to substitute on the fly. You know how your home ec teacher told you to alwaysalwaysalways read through recipes before you actually did anything, just in case you didn’t have everything you needed? Naw. Unnecessary. Just have a sense of adventure and call it ‘recipe development’, and you’ll be fine.
Recipe I kind of invented: The Fruited Cinnamon Roll Things, or, “What happened to all of the raisins?!”
Dough of your choosing, dried fruit, spices, butter, brown sugar.
Use your favorite cinnamon roll dough. I made mine in a breadmaker’s dough cycle, because I felt far more like pushing a button than actually kneading. Use your breadmaker, make it the old fashioned way, or use some pre-made cinnamon roll/pizza dough from your grocery refrigerator case. Seriously, do whatever you want. Even if I were going to come to your house and judge you for your choice, you could be condescending and tell me that you were simply developing a recipe, and there’s nothing at all that I can say about that. Fair’s fair, and shhhh…. I do this all the time.
For the filling, I used 1 1/2 cups chopped up dried fruit mix (apples, apricots, peaches and plums) and a handful/end-of-the-bag of pecan bits, tossed with 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp of nutmeg, 1 tsp of ginger, and a dash of salt because the salt shaker dropped out of the cupboard and landed in my bowl, spilling some. I’d say a scant 1/16 tsp of salt, but feel free to omit that part because it’s messy, unnecessary and startling. Use what you want though– I’m not here to tell you how to live your life or how to bake fruit into things.
Roll out the dough, brush with 2 tbsp melted butter, then sprinkle about 2/3 of the filling mix on to the dough. Roll it up and pinch to seal.
Lightly spray your pan with baking spray, then melt 1 tbsp of butter in there, and sprinkle the rest of the filling mix into the pan.
Slice the filled roll, then place slices into the prepared pan. Let rise again until doubled in size, which for me was about an hour.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until the edges start to turn golden brown and your house smells ah-MAY-zing.
When you get this look on your face, they’re done.
Take out of the oven, let cool for twenty minutes, invert onto your serving plate and glaze.
Since I had no idea how to make a glaze, I sort of winged it. I know it’s this thin frostingy stuff that has no flavor other than “toothhurtingly sweet”, so I aimed for that. I used 2 tbsp of milk, a dash of powdered ginger, and 2 tbsp of date molasses in a glass measuring cup, then topped up the measuring cup with confectioner’s (icing) sugar until it measured just over a cup. I stirred it until it was smooth, then drizzled over the warm rolls.
Johnny Rotten deemed them “blue ribbon at a state fair” good.
Batman’s response to them was “Mrrrrrhhmmmmpphhmm”, with two thumbs up, because her mouth was full.
They’re really rich. They’re really sweet. They’re really great for getting rid of those ends of boxes of dried fruit that I had sitting in my pantry.
I’m actually really proud of these, and I think I should be.
You know, maybe I didn’t actually channel the ghost of Julia Child today. I think I did something more important: I channeled the spirit of Julia Child, and I couldn’t be happier about that.