Ma Ingalls Had the Right Idea

There is a lot in the world I can’t fix right now. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I fall to my mother’s fall back when life overwhelms: I clean.

It is a good time to clean anyway. We will have a house full of family and guests next week. But, that really isn’t what spurred today’s project. As everyone knows, the dogs have taken over our lives and our bed. Even not in our bed (for long enough that I fall asleep and/or Denise gets tired of shooing them off, they do have dog beds in our room. I should sleep on them.) they are in our room.

Something you may or may not know–there is almost always someone in our bedroom when we are home. It is the heart of our home. You might find it odd. Of course, if we are in our room–the dogs are as well. That is why most of the dog pictures are of the dogs on the bed. Like this one:
dogs (2)For the past couple of days, the odor was back. Eau de Dog! I thought I had eradicated it with washing all the linens. But it never totally went away and then it was BACK. What could that odor be? The dogs were gassy. The weather had been wet again. Maybe Buster had made another adolescent attempt at being manly?

My old housekeeping manuals seem to skip over this particular problem. In those homes of yesterday, the dogs slept outside in a dog house or something. I don’t know.

I woke up this morning and did my morning runs. I started to make the bed and THE ODOR. I had enough! So I stripped all the linens again. I glowered at the dogs. I threw the linens in the wash. When they were clean I started to make the bed. I ended up nudging the bed away from the wall. Ugh! Dust bunnies. NO! Dust DOGS! Yes, the weekly sweeping and mopping of the bedroom had missed that key area. The foot of the bed and the visible under bed area  was clean. I grabbed a broom and the dustpan.

Sweep. Shift the bed so I can sweep more. Shift it more. Unplug things so I can get the dust dog off the power bar. Remember that I need to sweep under the cubby–something I noticed last Sunday when Denise was doing her weekly cleaning. Hmm let me grab the magic eraser to get that mark. Oh there seems to be accumulated Coca-Cola spray here. I go to shift the bed back. I swipe at some marks on the door. Ugh. Wait! The wall has well…dirt on it. When you can see the wall and not the shadows….dirt! Ugh! Ok, magic eraser now dead. Fill a container with water and cleaning fluid. Get some cleaning rags. Oh drat! I seem to have wandered into my mother’s territory of washing walls and baseboards. I washed the one behind the bed and bedside tables. I notice that the ones by the dog beds also suddenly seem filthy I wash. I wash the other ones. I mop. I did stop before getting to the curtain and the mini blinds. I didn’t vacuum the bottom of the dog beds. (ewww dog hair!) That was more wretched than I could deal with when hello! work!

I was sweaty and probably smelled like dog myself by the time I was done. But, our room is clean. Really clean. And…guess what! The odor is long gone.

Still, either in pioneer times they were wiser by taking it all out in the yard and burning and sluicing everything down or the woodsmoke and general funk of just washing your body every so often must mean that Ma Ingall’s didn’t groan as Laura watched Jack and later Wolf settle down for the night. Or maybe she did and it just wasn’t spoken of in the books.

Old School/New School Communication

Back when I was a child, my mother received regular mail (you know–the kind that comes via the “mail lady” and had a stamp on it) from my great grandmother. (Yes, the great grandmother of the recipe cards.) This mail often mystified me with its lack of SOMETHING. You see, often there were clippings from the newspaper–recipes and obituaries. Sometimes there was a wedding or baby announcement or someone got an award. There’d be a note with my great grandmother’s fascinating-to-me handwriting. It often mentioned relatives I maybe hadn’t met or someone my mother had been friends with in school or a church lady friend of my great grandmother.

Sometimes there was other types of commentary–a bible study, a book, the doings of someone’s child, grandchild, my mother’s siblings. Then there was advice–baking, cooking, child-rearing, housekeeping. I rather wish my mother had kept these notes. As far as I know she didn’t. They were ordinary. Sure, a newspaper clipping here and there exists–but those ordinary notes do not.

There were also Sunday phone calls. These didn’t exist as much when I was super young. Long-distance was pricey. I do remember being put on the phone to speak to Nini. Yes m’am. No m’am. It was all very scripted in a way. I am sure Nini wanted more…but take a child who has trouble speaking anywhere without a “script” especially the phone, talking to a woman who couldn’t just see day-to-day life on my end; add a wee bit….ok a lot…of proper manners and decorum and you have a quick stilted conversation. I like to think that if Nini had lived longer that I would have eventually gotten the hang of it. I know that isn’t true though. I loved to speak to her in person (even if I was warned about my uterus falling out, the need to get a husband, and a lot of Nini correcting my mother on how I should learn my place.) Nini fascinated me. She still does.

Oh my, I have rambled a bit…now I will get back to my original topic. I realized yesterday that I communicate with my son the way Nini did with my mother. No, I don’t send him random newspaper clippings to college. I instead will send him a link on Facebook that I think will interest him. I will text him with random observations about his siblings, the pets, our family life. The newspaper clippings are now hyperlinks. The notes now text or gchat. The love? The recognition that a parent thinks of her child all the time and in particular when something feels like that child–the same.

It’s not just boy child–though he’s the best at communicating via Facebook/gchat/text. Last week, I started texting the girlchild in Philly. I’d seen the early graphics. (Yes, I am a weather geek and get the NHC feed in my reader.) “Do you have a flashlight? Blankets? Water? I am serious! What do you mean you are scheduled to work? STAY AWAY FROM THE RIVER!” She rolled her eyes. She knew that I know she’s an adult. She knew it was me saying, “I love you but I need to fuss and reiterate the lessons I taught you growing up.” But then, she did text her other mom today and ask about her hissing radiator in the apartment. I quickly conveyed my handyman knowledge via her other mom. (ok so I googled to double check)

My children may not get the handwritten notes in the mail. I really ought to send them some just so they can save them. But, long-distance parenting of adult children really hasn’t changed that much.

One day soon Johnny Mac Pippin will be put on the phone to have a stilted conversation with his grandmothers. He will roll his eyes when he’s called to the phone. (or computer) Right now, we just get to Facetime with him and he is young enough that no matter what he does–it is perfect. I suspect it always will be…because yes, that’s what grandmas think. We just want to hear the voice and see the wee ones.

Spring Cleaning Grandma Style

In May, I’ll be a giddy grandmother. In June, boy child graduates from High School. Between now and then, our house definitely needs spring cleaning. In light of the lovely weather we’re having (more like July than March in Chicagoland), I’ve started spring cleaning. Spring cleaning really is more “cleaning that’s piled up all winter.”

As much as I want to make like Ma Ingalls and take everything out of the house and start all over, that’s not practical. With our busy day-to-day lives, it really isn’t practical to spring clean the way my mother did either. She’d spend a week cleaning and then she’d enlist our heavy duty help on the weekend. I learned a lot about washing drapes, rearranging furniture and cleaning baseboards–all in two days at least twice a year.

Now, I need to do a spring cleaning more like Alicia suggests over at BlogHer– Spring Cleaning in 10 minutes or less.

That may seem like crazy talk. If it does–I suggest to you this exercise I got from some cleaning book 20 or so years ago (probably the Sidetracked Home Executives-I love that book.) get out a timer and time how long it REALLY takes you to do one task-load the dishwasher, make the bed, or organize a drawer. Stunning. If I am super fussy, it still takes under a minute to make the bed every morning.

Back to spring cleaning, today I started by cleaning the prairie dog pen (regular chore, it needs to be done at least every couple of days). Then I thought “while I am at it, why don’t I take a few more minutes and bathe the prairie dogs. This chore ranks around giving a cat a bath as far as ease. They get a bit musky over the winter though, so well worth it. Prairie dogs bathed. Oh! Not even 10 am and I’ve finished a chore I’ve put off (cleaning the prairie dog pen; it’d been more than a couple of days) and bathed the prairie dogs. Next!

The filthy dog walked by-the real dog or as real of a dog as we have around here, my mother’s shih tzu. The last time we took him to be groomed was before Halloween. Horrible. I know. I know it was pre-Halloween because he still had one decorative orange and black bow on his ear. Ugh. We’ve put it off because he needs a booster shot for one of those odd little things they require every six months for dogs now. That means a trek across two villages, waiting, having the vet try to sell something to us (an EKG? cat scan? No problems with the dog–his breed just has a tendency to have heart problems, and then the shots. Unfortunately, while foot dragging, the dog has wallowed in mud, played under the prairie dogs, and did whatever else dogs do to get filthy. Filthy dog walks by, I am fresh from prairie dog bath success, and think “I need to bathe him before I can TAKE him to the vet now which I need to do before I take him to be groomed.” Why yes, it’s a “If you give a mouse a cookie.” I grabbed the dog and took him into the bathroom for a bath, make that two baths. I brushed. I bathed. I clipped some mats. I bathed him again. He looks a LOT better. (unless you believe my mother who thinks I ruined him. I remind her that he is her dog and she should brush him every day.)

That’s the extent of my spring cleaning for today. I feel a lot perkier with clean pets. But watch out, I can do 10 minute bits and pieces over the next few weeks. I’ve a Sock Day present to sort out. Then Denise leaves town to go wait for our grandbaby. She’ll be all the way in Hawaii and unable to stop me from indulging in the cleaning things I like most. I will reorganize cupboards. I will spread water around. I will use bleach. I may even wax the floors. Grandbaby is coming and my trademark Grand Plans percolate when Denise is out of town. Does anyone else get their big project on when their partner/spouse is out of town? I always do.

How do you spring clean? What would you do as a BIG spring cleaning project? Be sure to go read the Spring Cleaning in 10 minutes a day post and while you are over there-go enter the Life Well Lived Sweepstakes. You can win a Kindle Fire for relaxing after you get the house clean.



Bridge Luncheons

As a child, I remember my mother holding and attending bridge luncheons. Not often and I had the idea that this was something of the refined past, rather than the present. That didn’t stop me from thinking that one day I’d hold bridge luncheons-serving tea, punch, finger sandwiches, aspics, and generally showing off my lady-like skills. I never learned to play bridge. I’ve never been to a bridge luncheon as an adult.

Every so often, I regret it. What a sociable thing to do! I picture a party that has nothing to do with sports or a holiday. Just a group of friends meeting, chatting, having delicate, yet rich and fabulous food. I see many a bridge luncheon described in my collection of cookbooks. How can you go wrong with menus like these?

Bridge Party Menu No.1 from What's Cookin'? DeFuniak Springs Garden Club, 1956


So, Chicken Mousse may make you cringe–think of it as chicken salad. Many of you might not know the joys of good tomato aspic. Yes! There is such a thing. Cheese biscuits!




Bridge Party Menu No. 2 from What's Cookin'? DeFuniak Springs Garden Club, 1956


Again with the aspic. Now this one has cheese straws and no one can resist cheese straws! Ok, not for the vegan or gluten free folks out there. What could be more precious than tiny clover leaf rolls and Coca-Cola served as a refreshing, refined option? I am picturing the small glass bottles, chilled or poured into some beautiful stemware.



Card Party for Eight Women, Menus for Entertaining, 1960


Now, the prune bread sandwiches aren’t doing it for me. In short, it is a quick bread made from prunes and spread the next day with cream cheese. Substitute it with a banana bread or a pumpkin bread and I am so there. Oh, wait, if I was served the prune bread sandwiches, I’d likely gobble daintily eat them and love them.




Summertime Bridge Luncheon Menu, Party Cookbook, Southern Living, 1972


As I scavenged my cookbook shelves for some bridge luncheon ideas, my mother asked what I was looking for and I replied “Bridge Party Menus.” She suggested off the top of her head a menu very similar to this one.

Hers included Bird of Paradise salad, which is quite similar to the Polynesian Chicken Salad, biscuits (knowing my mother they would be tea biscuits or cheese biscuits), an aspic or gelatin, cookies, Iced Tea and  Coffee. After rattling that menu off, she said “Are you going to have a bridge luncheon? I didn’t know you played! That’ll be delightful.” I replied with “Yes Mother.” and she smiled, knowing that my voice really said no at the same time I thought “Yes!”



In my Bridge Luncheon Daydreams I see this:

From The Southern Heritage Company's Coming Cookbook, 1983

With the delightful menu:





“Miss Tarrant asked her friends in for bridge yesterday at her home. Miss Tarrant, wearing her lovely red gown with white polka dots and full skirt, received her guests in the parlor. Bridge tables were arranged in the parlor, formal living room and dining room. Guests enjoyed the tarts, ices, cakes, as well as spirited game play. Miss Tarrant presented the high scorer with a cut glass dish to remember the occasion.

Miss Tarrant looks forward to hosting another luncheon next month. She plans another delightful menu featuring perhaps chicken ala king, her renowned cheese straws, and other dainties. We look forward to attending the vivacious Miss Tarrant’s next soiree.”


Of course. if you plan to be the hostess at a bridge luncheon, do invite me or just blog all about it. I really would love to attend, even if I don’t have the first idea of how to play bridge. Perhaps I can stand in as hostess for the travelogue in the drawing room?

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