Country Living Shows Off

In October, I visited Country Living magazine located in the Hearst building in NYC.
New York_Country Living greeting desk
Pretty exciting!
New York_Country Living visitor pass and clutch
The architecture of this building is the most stunning renovation – from the escalators moving through a series of cascading waterfall steps to the welcoming openness of walls of windows through which you can see the skyline. 
New York_Country Living lobby (Copy)  New York_Country Living atrium 1 (Copy)
While anticipating the arrival of my CL contact, Cosmopolitan’s 2011 bachelors took a break from their photo shoot – took me so long to find my camera, this is the only snap of the Pin Up Parade I managed.
New York_Country Living Cosmo bachelors
Had much better luck with this snap taken by a helpful floor steward – after weeks of communicating via email and telephone, CL editor Sara Morrow and I meet!
New York_Country Living Sara ea-4
Sara’s vision for an article on show toweling – specialty towels normally set out for guests – included my providing background to such household goods, along with a variety of toweling from my collection. Appearing in the December-January 2012 issue, the
CL cover Dec 2011
two-page article is an informative and fun read on this distinctive vintage genre.
          CL_article DEC_JAN 2012 PG 1 (Small)  CL ARTICLE DEC-JAN 2012 PG 2 (Small)
While I enjoyed providing towels for selection within the article, I’m glad I wasn’t in Sara’s position and forced to pick one over another! Rather than just put the towels away until I used them myself, I thought to share more of these showstoppers here.

We’ve always set out our “best” linens for guests, especially as  homes with multiple bathrooms were not always the norm, which meant guests would be using the main or only bathroom of the house. Knowing the bathroom was going to be used by non-family led the hostess to prepare the bathroom for her guests’ inspection with a change out of the everyday, from soaps to toweling, with specialties reserved just for company.

Of the showy specialties not included in the article is this couples’ motif set. 
Show Towels_HisHers (Small)
His and Hers, Mr. and Mrs., Yours and Mine, His and Mine were very popular transfers, and available through newspaper and magazine services, catalogues or specialty stores like five and dimes. Companies provided these transfers in bright packaging, which added to the sense that such embroidery was for fun.

This type of toweling was also a popular set for a young woman to embroider and store in a Hope Chest for her future life as a wife.

The embroidery on this towel is very fine and very beautiful, the stitches impossibly tiny and perfect. These days, handwork of this type is a dying art. It features drawn work, an ornamental needlework done by pulling threads out of the fabric; the remaining Sara #11a Monogram close up [640x480]
threads are then bound together in a variety of ways, creating decorative patterns. The monogram was then stitched to the design, which was sewn into the diamond shaped cut out. Even with a magnifying glass, it’s hard to absorb the stitches are hand done. A fine linen towel so beautifully embellished would leave many a guest searching for an alternative to mussing it. Displaying such 
Sara #8 Kitchen_Under Stripe Over Floral [640x480]     Sara #12c Undertoweling Dressed Up [640x480]
heirloom artistry upon a larger, utilitarian hand towel is one solution to the dilemma of Am I really supposed to dry my hands with that top towel or what? 

Usage Tip: To eliminate confusion about whether towels are really to be used, drape one a tad off kilter or slightly dampen one’s edge and wrinkle it a bit.

Souvenir toweling has always been a popular purchase, perhaps because it was so packable. This linen towel exhibits pulled thread with embroidery, likely bought during the 1930s, when Cuba was a popular vacation destination. I discovered “CUBA” in an old suitcase filled with stained and torn lace. I was happy to pay the seller’s asking price: $1.00.Show Towels_Cuba linen_picnik (Small)
This “peek-a-boo”  towel is titillating and a little bit naughty, which were the ground rules for such humor in the Fifties. Aprons in this peek-a-boo genre have a skirt that lifts to reveal lacy undies, which is very PG compared to this lassie’s panty-reveal! I’d venture this towel was purchased as a souvenir or as a gift for a friend, and
Sara #6 Plaid Peekaboo  Sara #6a Plaid Peekaboo_the peek
set out to amuse party guests. This example of mid-century risqué humor is a bit of social history and worthy of a higher price tag.

Children were taught to wash their hands and face with soap and water before eating. Wetting just the fingertips didn’t count and always earned one a trip back to the sink. These towels
Show Towels_childrens xstitch bunny_picnik (Small)
may have been gifts, adorably adorned so as to encourage membership in the “Clean Hands Club.”

‘Tis the season to show off our vintage holiday towels and not
Show Towels_Greetings xmas .49 (Small)
worry about value, for the fun of searching out “new” show toweling never gets old.

Tie One On…an apron, of course!

Leftover Night a Vintage Speciality

I was recently browsing an antique mall, and in a nearby stall overheard a woman recite to her friend this proverb: Our grandmothers used it. Our mothers threw it away. And now we’re buying it back. Looking at my shopping tote a-bulge with vintage castoffs once belonging to someone else and soon to take up residence in my life, I shook my head at the truth in the old saying.

Home and unpacking my purchases, I again admired the vintage cookbooks, little girl cookie cutters with red knobs, assorted child-size cookware, hot pads sewn of fabrics from earlier decades, and an addition to my metal container collection: a red recipe box.

Of late, I’ve been utilizing the old metal containers as decorative storage for office and stationery supplies, business cards, black and white photos featuring aprons (of course!) and so on. Looking at the containers as I sit at the computer makes me happy, which is reason enough to buy one now and again.

Consistent with the saying is also the truism that we’re paying a lot more for that “old something” than our grandmothers’ paid for the same item. Just how much is too much is the question I always mull, but in the case of the red metal box, not for more than a blink. It called to me (we all know what that means), and at $8.00, I actually dubbed it the “b” word – a bargain.

You can’t imagine my surprise when I turned to this page in the April issue of Country Living-

According to CL’s antiques specialist, my red box is from the 1940s, “when designs became a bit fanciful…” The specialist noted that in today’s nostalgia-driven market, such red metal boxes are desirable and sell in the $20 range (!). Value increases with the presence of original dividers, household hints and handwritten recipes.

Dividers? Recipes? Well, strike up the band!

The box included a cache of recipes, each titled and typed out front and back on index cards. On one side of this card is the recipe for Chicken Chowder (step one: Cook a large fat hen in pressure cooker until tender.), and typed on the other – Saturday Night Special.

“Special” has long been the designation to the week’s final supper – a one-pot hodgepodge of leftovers.

From a 1949 Woman’s Day, a homemaker declares her love of smidgens of vegetables, plops of potatoes, spoonfuls of rice and cubed meats when reheated in a sauce made piquant with 3 tablespoons French’s mustard.

In 1942, Leftovers were considered so integral to cookbooks, the category was a separate chapter.

Leftover cereal? “When you have leftover cooked cereal, turn it into a glass, chill well, slice, saute to a golden brown as in Fried Mush, p. 156, and serve hot with butter, molasses, honey, syrup or jelly … or serve instead of potatoes with sausage, bacon, etc., for luncheon.” What mileage from

such humble food stuffs.

My red metal box may be of some monetary value, but to me, it’s true worth is in the recipe cards, which are like little windows into the lives of women of earlier generations…who were geniuses when it came to turning a little into something special.

Saturday Night Special

1 lb. ground beef
1 can pork & beans (1 lb 7 oz. size)
1 no. 303 can tomatoes (drained)
1 tsp. salt
1 large onion thinly sliced
2 slices bacon
1/4 c. brown sugar
Brown meat in hot skillet with no added fat.
Then add the beans, tomatoes & salt. Pour half of mixture in a baking dish. Add layer of onions and top with remaining mixture. Top with strips of bacon. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake in moderate oven 350 degrees 1 hr.
Can be cooked in a skillet on top of stove.

Tie One On…an apron, of course!