Friday, August 30, 2013

OUR SUMMER VACATION; by Milton O. Nelson; September 1912; Part 1 of 2

Did ever a farmer [or a farmer's wife!] have his work so well in hand that at each day's close he could say: "I have done nothing that I ought not to have done and have left nothing undone that I ought to have done and I feel as fresh and strong as a bull moose." I haven't yet met that farmer. I think Longfellow was on a farm when he wrote:

"Labor with what zeal we will
Something still remains undone;
Something unaccomplished still
Waits the rising of the sun."  

I think he wrote that along about July or August when haying, hoeing and harvest overlapped and sat in each other's laps.

Did you ever see a time during the summer school vacation when you could spare the boys--the boys that are just getting big enough to hoe their row and load the hay and milk? If any part of the year runs on winged feet it is the days between June and September when the children are home from school. According to my observation a vacation on a farm is a rare thing. It was on our old farm certainly.

We deliberately broke the old tradition this season. And this is the way it came about. Just before school closed the principal of our high school, who is a fine boy-man, invited the Little Boy of our farm to join a boy-camp in the mountains, there to spend a week. A week right out of the middle of weed-time leaves a big hold, and a Little Boy, (now nearly as tall as his mother) out of a family of three leaves a bigger hole. He had never been away as long as that. But it was inevitable. Sometime or other he would have to camp without his parents. It took about two weeks of deliberation to persuade us that this was the time.

When it was finally decided and the morning had come, we took him to the rendezvous of the expedition at the village, where a strong team [of horses] and a covered mountain wagon were in waiting. As the boys with their bundles of dunnage piled into the van, faces radiant with expectation, I'd have given a cookie to be a boy again for a week. For pure, unalloyed pleasure in large chunks just hand me the first day of an expedition of this kind. You don't get anything quite so high class in later years.

One of three things is essential to a first-class week's outing--water, woods, or high places. Clear, grove-rimmed lakes such as you find in Wisconsin and Minnesota are my choice. But lacking these, then high places with streams splashing down hill through tall, dark, leaf-carpeted woods will do pretty well. In any case it must be a place so different from the farm that weeds and skim milk won't occur to your mind once during the whole week. I have often thought this summer that if I could take a week at some quiet hotel in the city, get a room on the court where street noises don't intrude, sleep sixteen hours a day, eat once, and spend the rest of the time mousing round the city library, it would suit me. I don't know but I would recommend a city vacation for farmers' wives. It could be made much less strenuous than a week in the mountains or a camp in the mosquito-infested woods. Sue says she is going to try this next winter. But thus far this summer we have chosen the mountains.

Part two is planned for September 5th.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

SPENDING THAT "SUMMER VACATION;" by L.D. Stearns; August 1913

The following article was published exactly one hundred years ago this month. Although the specifics aren't timeless, the overall inspiration and ideas are. How many of us would not benefit from a week like this? One of my very favorite articles and I hope that you enjoy it, too.

It's time to think once more about vacation. What? Not going to take one this year? Can't afford it? Times have been hard—you've had sickness these last months, and your pocketbook is about empty?

But you need it, friend. How about that?

There are long weeks and months ahead when you must work; when you must not only give of your best, but make that best an efficient best. And you can't do it if you're not up to par physically, for however much one may push one's self there's a point beyond which Nature cries “halt!” You're like a machine, friend,--finely adjusted, delicate of mechanism, capable of great things; but you must see that the machine is in working order if you expect to turn out work that is satisfactory both in quality and amount.

A year or two ago, my pocketbook was empty, too. I'd had sickness; had done almost no work for a full year; and I, also, said--”There'll be no vacation for me this year.” And then I looked into the weeks ahead, and I saw the work waiting to be accomplished. I felt the need of recuperation, as you feel it now, and I said,-- “But yes, I'll have my vacation; and I will plan it so that every minute shall be rest; and best of all it shall cost me nothing, or next to nothing.”

In my room there chanced to be a long, wide window seat. I spread a rug over it, and piled it with cushions. I resolutely put my work out of my sight and out of my mind. I dressed the room in a holiday dress. A new fruit dish, piled high with fruit; a few magazines; a book I'd been wanting to read; one or two new articles—inexpensive, but seeming to make the room new,--and my vacation had begun. At the end I had gained in weight, in strength and vigor, and was ready to take hold of work with a new power and delight. You don't need to take a long trip, or spend money for such a vacation, and you will find it well worth while. Try it for yourself and see.

Whether you live in one or two rooms, or in your own home,--whether you work in factory, store, office, or are a busy housekeeper with your family about you, it is all the same. Make it your week.

Put aside worries. Forget work. Just relax, and live only in the minute as it comes and goes. Change your diet completely. I ate nothing but fruit. It's a wonderful tonic. After the first day, you won't want anything else; and even if you do, it will do you worlds of good to go for the full week without a mouthful of cooked food. Eat a few nuts if you like, and they agree with you, and drink much water. Be absolute and regular about it. At least eight glasses a day is none too much, and ten is better. Have certain times for it, and don't neglect it. Don't put a single article on throughout the week that is not absolutely fresh; and above all, wear your very prettiest skirts and under-clothing. Don't neglect the daily bath, either cold or tepid as you prefer; and I find a small quantity of Epsom Salts in the water gives the skin a wonderfully fresh, active feeling. Invest in a new kimono. You can buy for 59 cents almost any time at a sale; but see to it that the colors are soft and restful, and such as you are especially fond of. There's an inspiration in clothes. Try it, and see. Somehow, the sun seems brighter when one is absolutely fresh and dainty from top to toe.

If you are in the country, and can, instead of the window seat, or the couch, fix up a place under the trees,--either a cot, or a couch, or a blanket with a pile of pillows,--and spend the days there. But whether you are in the city and country, indoors or out, live idly; dream; watch the sky; breathe deep, full breaths many times a day; eat slowly; and in a week's time you will feel a new creature, with none of the work and strain incident to getting ready for some journey you cannot afford. Your pocketbook will be scarcely a bit thinner, and you will have no bills staring you in the face as result of your “summer vacation.”

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A STORY OF "BILL" AND "WILLIAM"; by School Teacher Pearl Chenoweth; 1913

To win the confidence of a child, give him something to do and let him see that you expect him to do it well. Then when he does, be sure to express your appreciation. I once got around a big difficulty by following this simple rule. Our County Superintendent of Schools had said to me, "There is a rough school over in District 14. Every teacher has had trouble there. The last one was routed completely. I would like to place you in charge, I believe you could manage it."

You see someone had confidence in me and I determined to be worthy of it. I secured board with a nice family who had no children in school. For a few weeks all went smoothly. I had kept good order from the beginning and my pupils had settled down to interested study.

One night at supper I remarked that I could not understand why that school had such a reputation. "Just wait till Bill Rawlins starts to school," I was answered. "He is the meanest boy that ever lived and he leads all the others, you'll have something to do when he starts, you may be sure."

Bill was fourteen. His cousin told me the day before he started to school that he said he meant to "put me out, body and soul," so it was not without some fears that I watched him come over the hill that Monday morning. It was quite an hour before school time. I was building the fire. He walked in with an important swagger, threw his books on a desk and spat halfway across the room. I quit shaving kindling, went over and shook hands with him, saying, "You are William? I am glad you happened to come early for I am out of coal. It is rather far for a woman to carry, you know."

He brought the coal gladly, then I gave him all my pencils to sharpen which he did more neatly than I could have done, and I took pains to let him see that I fully appreciated it. From that hour he was won. He was my knight errant to the end of the term. He did lead the others but he did not lead them astray. Bill told me on the last day of school that I was "one white guy," and because I understood him fully, I considered it a great compliment.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A PRECIOUS HALF-HOUR (Nappy-time!! :) 1939

Dear Editor: I have four active boys--aged seven, five, three, and one and a half. We do a lot of entertaining for business and social reasons. Ordinarily I do all my own work in a nine-room house. I do some of the family sewing; washings are naturally large, and ironings usually take two days and mending never seems to be quite done. I attend a reasonable number of club and society meetings and evening bedtime stories must not be neglected.

But no matter how busy I am, no one can take away from me my precious half hour after the noon dishes are washed. I relax, stretched out on my own bed, sometimes even dozing a little. The oldest child is in school and the five-year-old does his coloring or cutting during that time. I call him my little policeman, who won't allow anyone to disturb Mother, which praise seems to encourage him to respect Mother's little siesta.

I could find plenty to do in that half hour, but I believe the time well spent and I can accomplish more after a little relaxation of both mind and body.

(I just love this letter! Laurie)

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Dear Editor: My husband praises my cooking. He thinks I make a grand mother for our five children. He gives me a friendly hug or a pat once in a while. He tells me the news and the new jokes he hears. He never forgets me on my birthday and on other special days. In short, he lets me know by words and deeds that he appreciates and loves me.

I might add: He forever leaves his shoes just anywhere, his hat where it lands, his coat somewhere else and it is all right with me. What are those little things when compared to his thoughtfulness?   Contented in South Carolina

Dear Editor: Henry and Alice have been married about fifteen years. They have three children and have just finished paying for their farm. In a few months Alice will inherit a small legacy. Henry wants to use it as a down payment on an adjoining quarter section. He argues that he needs more pasture and that a larger farm will keep the boys at home.

Alice has planned to buy a power washer, and chicken-tight yard fence, paint the house, get a chest of drawers for the boys' room to help teach them neatness and order, some curtains and a rug for the living room and more trees for their orchard. Since no extra labor need be hired for this, she expects to have at least half of her little fortune left and this she would put in the bank for an emergency fund.

If they put the money into more farm land it means another mortgage, more hard work, hired men to cook for and wash for, no flowers. By the time they are out of debt again she will be too tired to care, the children will be grown and may not want to stay on the farm. If she is stubborn about it she may have a sulky husband who will not cooperate in her plans.

Alice wants this bit of security very much but she wants a happy home most of all. What shall she do?  Martha in Kansas

Monday, August 5, 2013

THE RESULT OF A TELEGRAM; by Maude Kannon; January 1907

"Oh! Mrs. Brown, do prove yourself a friend in need," exclaimed young Mrs. Elton, entering her neighbor's kitchen about ten o'clock, one bright summer morning.

"Here, read this," holding out a yellow paper, the like of which has struck terror to many a feminine heart.

"No bad news, I hope," said Mrs. Brown.

"Oh, no, only I am at sea as to the good dinner required," laughed Mrs. Elton. "You know Tom says 'Have good dinner'."

The telegram read, "Mother and Dolly till evening train. Have good dinner. Tom."

"Now, possibly, if I had time to go over my cooking school notes, and then had a good market, and plenty of time for preparation, I might evolve a suitable dinner, but--" the pause was expressive.

Mrs. Brown smiled. "What would be Tom's idea of a good dinner, an elaborate one?"

"Oh, no--three or four courses, well cooked and served. Tom and I have abolished cooking school menus, as being too expensive. I do not seem to have the knack of changing or adapting them to our small family, and limited marketing, and Tom hates to eat 'leftovers,' so we decided to live on plainer food. This gives me time for my painting, which, with my cooking, I did not get."

"I see," said Mrs. Brown, "now as to service, Jennie shall come over, and wait on your table--not a word", as Mrs. Elton began to speak. "One good turn deserves another,' and who came over and arranged the flowers, and tables for my last luncheon when Ruth had a headache? I'll not need Jennie tonight as Mr. Brown is away."

"I suppose it would seem nicer if I could sit quietly at table, and not be obliged to be up and down," said Mrs. Elton, gratefully.

"But the dinner--what had you planned?"

"Oh, I could not plan--I simply came to you. I have nothing to do with, but a large steak, (I bought enough for two days), a can of tomatoes, and some prunes. Oh, yes, and what was left of a chicken I was going to have for my luncheon today."

"Well, I'm sure you can get up quite a nice dinner," said Mrs. Brown. "Of course you have eggs and all such supplies--if not Jennie could go down town for you, as you will have not time to go yourself."

"Yes, I am quite well supplied, and I forgot to say Tom brought home two bunches of celery last evening, and there is plenty of that."

"Oh, how nice. Your salad, which I was wishing for, is assured now. Here is your menu: Soup, beefsteak roll, potato balls, breaded tomato, chicken salad, prune pudding. This with the jelly and pickles you always have, will be sufficient, I am sure."

"Oh, yes, indeed. I must not seem to have tried to make an impression, and if I can cook this right, I'll be so pleased."

"I do not think you will have any trouble," said Mrs. Brown, "you understand, your chicken and celery with a mayonnaise will make your salad--you can make that?"

"Yes, I have often made that; it's one thing I can do in the cooking line."

"The chicken bones," continued Mrs. Brown, "boiled in salted water, nicely flavored will make the soup, and here you can use bits of celery too tough for your salad, some kitchen boquet, etc. You can season to your taste. The leaves of your celery will garnish your salad. Strips of bread, buttered and crisped in oven, served with your soup adds much to the effect. Potato balls, you can--"

"Oh, yes," interrupted Mrs. Elton, "another thing I can make is potato balls. I often have them for breakfast."

"I spoke of them as being something you could get ready before, and heat in oven to a nice brown while dishing up dinner," said Mrs. Brown. "Now, your meat. Make a rich dressing of crumbed bread, butter and egg, season nicely, and spread over your steak roll, tie firmly and roast in oven, basting with melted butter, arrange on platter with potato balls around the edge. You can make a good gravy from the juice and melted butter left in the pan, thicken with browned flour. This, with your prune pudding, for which I'll give you my written recipe, is your dinner. Nothing difficult or expensive, and I'm sure all will be good, as you are painstaking in all you do, and that is more than half in cooking, as in other things."

"No, as in other things, genius counts, Mrs. Brown. I could think of nothing but broiled steak, and mashed potato, plain canned tomato, and celery with stewed prunes for dessert. I never dreamed of making soup and salad of that chicken--or of evolving a delicate pudding with prunes as a foundation."

"You have not had quite as long an experience as I have," replied Mrs. Brown; "besides, cooking is my strong point as yours is, in arranging your house and table in an artistic manner, yet, believe me, an artist can be a cook."

"Well, I go to prove that assertion, also to surprise my mother-in-law, whom I never saw, who firmly believes that Tom married a doll who knows nothing beyond a pencil and paint brush."

"If you need help call on me," said Mrs. Brown as her young neighbor flitted across the lawn, with her notes, which she had hastily scribbled down, flying from her hand "like a flag of victory" as she laughingly exclaimed.

Several hours later she again appeared at Mrs. Brown's door. This time she was attired in one of her pretty house dresses. With pink cheeks and shining eyes she said, "Don't you want to come over and see the results?"

"Certainly," said Mrs. Brown, rising and laying aside her sewing. "Jennie would better come, too, and you can show her where things are."

"Everything is ready to serve," said Mrs. Elton, "unless you think of something else which has been forgotten, it's worth all the work to feel that Tom will be satisfied, and I'm sure he will."

And he was.

Friday, August 2, 2013


After more than a four month's break, I have decided to return to posting. My new blog post should be up in a week, if not sooner. See you then!  Laurie