Month: February 2012

The Homemaker, a women's magazine from the 1940s

The Homemaker: Spring 1946

The Homemaker, a women's magazine from the 1940s

Cover of the spring 1946 issue of The Homemaker

While cleaning her attic, my  mother found a small collection of magazines from the 1940s. My favorite is called The Homemaker, which was published by the Institute for Better CookingThe name of the publisher fills me with glee. Who doesn’t appreciate  better cooking? Periodocally, I’ll explore different issues and share tips from some of the magazine’s articles here.  

Spring 1946 featured articles like “The Plastics Picture: What do you know about plastics?”, “Sidelights on A Suit,” “Borrow or Buy: Informative and interesting books for the intelligent homemaker,” and “Today’s Slump, Tomorrow’s Hump,” a piece on the importance of good posture. Fascinating stuff.

I love the cover: despite the spring flowers and lush lawn in the background, the cover model sports a black dress. I imagine she’s preparing to host a swanky dinner paty that evening. Her hair and makeup look appropriate, and I love the formal touch of the ribbon around her neck.

The illustrated article “Coiffure Analysis” offers insight into your personality based on your hair style. I’m a sucker for these types of things–surveys and quizzes lure me in. So what does your signature hairstyles say about you? Are you pink roses and pastel chiffon or fine tweeds and good leather? Read the article to find out.

Coiffure analysis

Coiffure Analysis from the Spring 1946 issue of The Homemaker.

Plate Trio-ette

Cat + compact = FAIL.

Cats and compacts: Not always a great combination. Especially when your cats think pushing things off dressers, shelves, tables, etc. is a great way to get attention. Or that frolicking through boxes of vintage  inventory makes for great entertainment.  

Plate Trio-ette

See all the little hobnails around the edges?

Worst cat v. compact clash yet: cat puke on dresser and compact. There’s nothing quite like trying to clean dried vomit out of the details of a 1945 Reuben Blue Plate Trio-ette Cameo (one of my most prized compacts) without damaging the plastic.


A damp cotton swab took care of the larger chunks. For the hobnail edges, I wrapped the tip of a safety pin in a small piece of damp paper towel and gently wiped out as much as I could. I followed up with a toothpick, GENTLY scraping away the stubborn bits. Then I used a soft brush to remove debris. Much better. But I don’t want to have to repeat that exercise. EVER.

My husband pointed out that scattering compacts across my dresser, tucking them in random spots in bookshelves, and generally stuffing them in corners all over my office is not the best way to display them. My system (or lack thereof) does nothing to protect my compacts or show them off as works of decorative art.

For a while, we’ve discussed ways to display the collection. I talk about getting some little shelves for my office. Tim says he’ll make me some. Neither one of us does anything and the compacts remain strewn all over, subject to more feline abuse. 

I’ve been keeping an eye out for something cool during recent antique-store outings, but haven’t stumbled across anything suitable. Today we went out and browsed our local big box home improvement store. None of their wall shelves appealed to me. Online searches also struck out. So, Tim will build me custom shelves, which will probably cost less and look better than anything we would have bought anyway. I’m excited about this–I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

Or to stop worrying about cat/compact mayhem.

Gregg Shorthand

My shorthand book arrived!

My vintage Gregg Shorthand Manual Simplified arrived the other day, but this week has been so busy I didn’t really have a chance to examine it properly before now. Next week I’ve got to attend a ton of meetings for work, so I’ll try to start using some of basics when I take notes. Should be good practice…or a total disaster. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The idea of a phonetically-based note-taking system fascinates me. Can I let go of my usual shortcuts and rethink the way I  take notes? Will my shorthand notes make sense to me when I revist them weeks later? I MUST be able to decipher them–I often consult notes from weeks, months, or even years earlierto verify facts or gather relevant quotes for what I’m writing now. Learning this system is a serious commitment.

And it looks so different.

Gregg Shorthand

Gregg Shorthand Simplified: Lesson One

pencil skirt

The pencil skirt problem

I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t have some characteristic she perceives as a barrier to finding clothes that fit. No matter how envious others are of her figure, every gal’s got at least one thing that makes it hard for her to buy flattering clothes.

You know what I’m talking about. Think of your own dressing room mantra. “My boobs are too big-too small-I don’t have a waist-my legs are too long-I hate my arms-I’m too short…” whatever.  A coworker who resembles Jessica Simpson swears she has cankles. (I can neither confirm nor deny this, as I haven’t seen her ankles in the 8 months we’ve worked together.) We’ve all got SOMETHING.


From bottom of bra band to natural waist: 6 inches

I have three such characteristics:

  • a long torso
  • epic hips
  • shelf ass.

Note that I didn’t call them figure flaws. I don’t consider my butt, hips, or long torso flaws–I prefer to think of them as traits that contribute to my appeal, yet make shopping difficult.

We’ll start with the long torso. Most dresses look Empire waisted on me. Waistlines usually hit at the bottom of my rib cage, a good 2-3 inches above my natural waist. Anything high-waisted minimizes the look of the long torso: good.

But then there are the hips. With an 11 inch difference between waist and hips, things that fit my hips generally gap at the waist. I haven’t found a good tailor yet, so my options are limited.

Finally: shelf-ass. When I played roller derby, my teammates joked that you could balance a drink on that thing. It sticks out even now, almost two years after I retired from the rink.

In addition to The Powder Keg, I work a full-time day job doing B-to-B marketing for a high-tech company. At work, I want to come across as intelligent, polished and professional. Not Va-va-VOOM. A pencil skirt that accentuates my backside can push me over the line, even if the rest of my outfit stays conservative.

Next week, I’m slated to attend my company’s global sales meeting.

And I’ve recently worn out all my black or gray pencil skirts. By “worn out” I mean torn, shrunk, faded, outgrown or otherwise rendered unwearable.


Naturally, this revelation didn’t occur until it was too late to order online from Heartbreakeror one of the other places whose sizing works for me. Double ugh. So yesterday, I went to the mall on my lunch break. I hit the dressing room with three black pencil skirts. One: too tight all over. Two: too big in the waist. Three: do they have this in a smaller size? Looks like the proportions are right, but this one is just too big.

pencil skirt

Next go-round, four more skirts. (No, they didn’t have option three in a smaller size.) Four: Squishing hips. Do they have this in a larger size? (No.) Five: this isn’t even a pencil skirt, this is A-line, and it looks frumpy. Six: Um, maybe. If I don’t eat and wear super-control top hose. Which I hate. Dang. Seven: This is another A-line, but it’s not bad. I really need a pencil skirt though. This could be cute, but it’s not what I came here for. Hit the racks again.

At last: Two more skirts. The same skirt in two different colors and IT FITS. High waist, no gap, enough curve to accommodate hips and butt without looking indecent. Just past the knee, not too tight or too loose, and only $25 each. Mission accomplished. AMEN.

When I got back to work, I emailed my friend Bernadette a link to the skirt online. Her response: “model looks shapeless. I’ll have to see it over your ass.” So we got together for lunch today where she validated my opinion that this was a good skirt for me. Pardon the background, the parking lot offered limited options for photos.

I’m pleased with my purchases and can see myself getting a ton of wear out of these two skirts. So, what characteristics make it difficult for you to find flattering pencil skirts? Maybe we can source great fits for different shapes or concerns. And remember–they’re characteristics, ladies. Not figure flaws. When you try on a shoe that doesn’t fit, you think, this shoe doesn’t fit me. Not OMG I’m a whale. Try to start thinking that way about clothes. There’s not something wrong with you, or even something wrong with the skirt. You’re just not made for each other. So when you DO find that perfect pencil skirt, you’ll appreciate it even more.

Gray vintage purse

What’s in your vintage purse?

On her blog Oh, for the love of vintage! Black Dahlia asked “What’s in your vintage handbag?”

Maybe better questions for me: “What ISN’T in your vintage bag?” or “What vintage bag are you carrying today?” I have at least three in heavy rotation. Today’s favorite: A pearly gray number with a suede band along the top edge and a lovely silver clasp.

No matter what bag I’m carrying, you’ll find the following inside:

Gray vintage purse

One of my favorite vintage handbags, with contents.

  • (From back right corner) wallet
  • Tide to-go pen, because I spill something on myself at least once a week
  • powder: here some Clinique in a miniature compact
  • nail clippers
  • vintage vanity case or compact, switched out to suit my moods. Currently carrying a navy vanity case with a viking ship on it to remind me to conquer at work.
  • fortune from my favorite Chinese restaurant: “We all live under the same sky, but we don’t see the same light.” Different bags carry different fortunes.
  • pen. Usually pens. When I get up to five, it’s time to clean out the bag.
  • vintage mother-of-pearl cigarette case full of business cards for both the Powder Keg and my day job
  • iPod, nicknamed la petite noisette
  • some form of lip balm
  • lipsticks: Here, MAC Ruby Woo and Viva Glam I plus Revlon In the Red.
  • lip liner
  • gum (Orbit spearmint)
  • crazy awesome toothpick-y dental-floss-ish things my mother-in-law gave me
  • phone. Not pictured because that’s how I’m taking the photo.

I tend to stuff receipts, old grocery lists, and other random debris into my bag, so every few weeks I go through and purge, swap out lipsticks, compacts and pens, or switch bags altogether. I go back and forth with bags, swapping from vintage pieces in neutrals like gray, black and navy to modern purses in bright red or a leopard print.  

So: what’s in your vintage bag?

Green with envy: Depression glass

Depression glass pitcher

Green depression glass pitcher used to hold wooden spoons.

Over the weekend, my amazing husband tore apart our kitchen and cleaned everything…including my favorite Depression glass pitcher. My fascination with Depression glass started when I was about 8 years old. One of my grandmothers had handed down some plain green glass dishes to my mother. We used them on the weekends for sandwiches. I loved the color and how the light came though them, not to mention being mature enough to be trusted with a REAL GLASS plate…not plastic like we used at my other grandmother’s house.

I didn’t learn what Depression glass was until much later, when the love for clear green glass ran deep in my blood. When I got my first apartment, my mother passed on the green glass plates I loved so much. I found this pitcher while antiquing one day and knew it belonged in my kitchen. That may have been three or four kitchens ago, but my love for pale green Depression glass has endured.

In our current kitchen, the pitcher sits by the stovetop–the perfect receptacle for wooden spoons and other implements of cooking construction.  (The spoon in the front actually belonged to my grandfather, I remember using it to make brownies together.) I love small touches like this as accents. We use empty clementine crates with retro labels to store snack foods–another detail that gives our kitchen a vintage feel.

bowling ball

At long last…bowling!

I LOVE bowling. Though I loathed it in high school, as I got older, I began to see more of the sport’s appeal. I also overcame my fear of looking like an idiot in front of people I don’t know and gave myself permission to be horrible at things and still enjoy them. Part of my love of bowling may also stem from the fact that it’s one of the things I did with my husband early on in our courtship. At the time, I had no overwhelming longing to bowl, but he came to visit my family for Thanksgiving and I can’t spend a whole weekend with my family. We had to get out of the house and there’s NOTHING to do in the town where I grew up…I had already taken him to the truck stop, so, that left bowling.

We were terrible, and still getting to know each other, and damn, we had fun. And now I love bowling. It’s so simple (especially with the automated scoring machines they have now) and a great way to catch up with friends. You can talk and bowl at the same time. Really. Especially if you don’t care about your score. That probably explains one of the reasons for its rise in popularity in the 1950s, when America moved to the suburbs after WWII. Another reason bowling alleys started popping up all over: the advent of the automatic pin-setter.   

Last Saturday night, Tim and I went bowling with some friends. Despite a crowded alley gearing up for Galactic bowling, we enjoyed ourselves. (Galactic bowling = teenagers in skinny jeans, loud Top 40 music, and funky lighting. I find these less than optimal conditions). When we got to the bowling alley, the lanes were dead, so we decided to pop into the attached bar and get something to eat first. Thanks to some sloth-like service, by the time we finished eating, we had to stand in line for half an hour to get a lane. Unusual. This gave us only an hour to bowl before they kicked us out and opened up to the Galactic masses.

We decided to roll anyway, because a little bowling is better than no bowling at all. Having a short window of bowling time turned out for the best. Because….we all stunk. Badly. Like squint at the scoreboard during the eighth frame and wonder if you’re going to break 100. Which should have been embarrassing, but really didn’t matter because we were all equally awful. And because it felt so darn good to bowl again.

bowling ball

My bowling ball, aka the Tootsie Pop.

Once upon a time, before my husband and I got married, we used to go bowling every Sunday morning as part of the Greater Boston Rock ‘n Roll Hangover League. Which isn’t really a league at all–it’s primarily an excuse for a bunch of musicians, recording artists and other social degenerates to get together and drink on Sundays. It ruled.

During that time, Tim and I actually invested in our own bowling balls and shoes. I have a lovely pair of vintage shoes that didn’t fit one of the other hangover leaguers. I bought Tim a bowling ball as a gift and got one for myself as well. Because no matter how awful we are, we’re less awful with balls drilled to fit right. No more nasty thumb-popping noises. No left-handed husband trying to jam his fingers into a right-handed bowling ball. No more getting irritated that I can’t find the right weight ball on any of the shelves at this god-forsaken place.
When people find out we have our own balls and shoes, they frequently say, “Oh! You must be good.”
Nope. Just comfortable. And in my case, a sucker for all things pearlescent red.
 Despite our poor scoring the other night, my companions and I all had a blast. We vowed to bowl more often. My husband and I may never get back to Hangover League performance levels, and that’s okay. I will never be ultra-competetive, but damn it, I’ll have fun.
When’s the last time you went bowling?