Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wanna' Go Back?

I'm knee-deep in some pretty intensive prep work for an upcoming pitch on my MG historical fiction novel, but at the same time I'm anxious to start the next project. It, too, will be historical fiction. Its characters are calling for attention, and I don't want to ignore them much longer! And so, torn between two eras, I took an unscheduled break and opened up Keeping Hearth & Home in Old Ohio, A Practical Primer for Daily Living (edited by Carol Padgett), that I found at the Half-Price Bookstore. (An aside, don't you love second-hand stores--books and, ahem, designer clothes?)

Anyway. The tips come from 19th-century cookbooks, household manuals, and periodicals. And what wise, whimsical, and in-today's-world-odd-sounding gems can be found in its pages. For example...

Developing Good Habits for Personal Appearance: Stock Your Toilet. "No matter how humble your room may be, there are eight things it should contain, namely: mirror, washstand, soap, towel, comb, hair-,nail-,and tooth-brushes. These are just as essential as your breakfast, before which you should make good use of them."

Setting Up Household: Sleeping Rooms."The best feathers for beds and pillows are feathers plucked from live birds. Chicken, goose, or duck feathers may be preserved and used by putting all the soft feathers together in a barrel as they are picked from the birds after scalding. Leave the barrel open to the sun and rain, covering it with an old screen to prevent the feathers from blowing about."

Appointing Your Kitchen: Match Safe. "Keep a stock of matches on a high, dry shelf in a covered earthen jar or tin box where they will be out of the way of children and safe from rats and mice. These animals are fond of phosphorus and will gnaw match heads if they can and often set them on fire."

Care of the Hands. "Always wear gloves when housekeeping, outdoors, sleeping. Sleeping in soft, white kid gloves, after rubbing mutton tallow on the hands, will keep them soft and white. Large mittens worn at night filled with wet bran or oatmeal keep the hands white, in spite of the disfiguring effects of housework."

Butter. "For making butter, strain unskimmed milk into a scalded churn, where the churning is done daily...In summer try to churn early in the morning, as fewer flies are swarming then."

And, finally, Remedies for Household Pests. "Mix a little powdered potash with meal and throw it into the rat holes and it will not fail to drive the rats away."

I could go on and on, but I hate to bore you. Besides, I want to dig a little deeper and find out more about "Developing the Mannerisms of a Lady,"and "Strengthening the Union." Just for fun.

And you? Any books you've read recently, just for the fun of it?


  1. Interesting! I'm always fascinated by how people used to do things.

  2. My post tomorrow has something to do with History as well. I love learning things like this. It is so absolutely fascinating!

  3. Love this post! I adore history and historical fiction for sure. Great info and best of luck on the pitch!

  4. I got such a kick out of this post. How fun to read about things from the past like this. Thanks for sharing and good luck on your pitch.