Book Review Living on A Little by Caroline French Benton

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My beloved bought me a book that has been on my Amazon wish list for ages. Living on A Little by Caroline French Benton.
I have looked but can not find when this book was published. It was, I am thinking early 1900s. Possibly 1890s. The lady had a telephone and refrigerator in town, they did not refer to it as an ice box but a refrigerator. Also the house in town was lit by gas jets.

I like this kind of book because I love learning how people lived in times past. This book deals mostly with the table and how to economize there.

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The basis of the story is this. Dolly is to be married in one year. So she goes to her sister while her parents travel Europe and her fiancee is working in South America, to learn how to live on a small salary of $1800 a year. The feeling is that the parents have raised the girls in luxury and now she must learn how to do with out that.

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Her older sister, Mary, has been keeping house for six years. She has some very inventive ideas too. One thing confused me in the reading and I am not sure if it is a typo or if there are two appliances the sister has to make her work easier. One is a “fireless” box. A box lined with asbestos in which she makes puddings, and things. Later it is also mentioned a “tireless” box. Which from the reading seems to be the fireless one but the typist who put it on line seemed to have changed its name.

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The grocery amount per week floored me. Mary budgets $7 a week. This covered the cost of food for herself, her husband and her sister, or maid if she has one. Plus out of this she saves for any entertaining she plans to do. In this book that included; a surprise visit of two gentlemen her husband brought home, a drop in set of guests for luncheon, 2 dinner parties and 3 luncheons that she planned. When she has a dinner party she also pays from this the 75C cost of a serving girl. Who stays and does dishes after the dinner too. At the luncheons her sister is her “maid”. She hires out her heavy laundry, does her dainties herself and hires a laundress who comes in once a week to do the heavy floor scrubbing too. The amounts of her parties were so neat to read. Imagine serving 4 people on $1.35! Or paying some one $1.50 a week to do all your heavy laundry and scrub your floors!

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The meal amounts taught me just how much we over eat now days. Then sugar was something to be saved and cakes and cookies were a rarity. Eggs were .04c a piece, cream .15c a pint, and both considered too extravagant to be used in desserts very often. Yet they had dessert every night! She used only 1 dozen eggs per week! Now to be fair I use about that too, but if I make a big breakfast everyday, I would use twice that! With two eggs each. Mary only fixes one egg each. I think in gerneal today people would think of the food amounts used in this book as starvation rations and yet they worked harder than we do and thrived.

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Some of the meats she uses I just can’t imagine. Such as boiling a calves head for meats. Using the brains, I don’t like the idea of tongue and can not stomach liver. All of which were common in Mary’s kitchen. At least when we was saving for a party. She believed in economizing before she spent extra instead of making it up afterwards. I believe in this too.

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I do find that I agree with Mary in that you need not spend a lot to have a pleasant home. Cheap pretty dishes, treated as if they were expensive china will do just as well as Haviland on a carefully set supper table.

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One thing I think today’s young woman lacks is the hope chest. In Mary’s time a hope chest was begun by the girl as she learned to sew and she made things for her future home. A passing comment is also made on the trousseau. Both the hope chest and trousseau held the clothing and linen a girl would need for at least 1 year.
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Though Mary suggests buying inexpensive linens for daily use as the purse permits. I agree with this. I prefer table linen to paper and I prefer to use a table cloth and place mats (Mary uses doilies to protect her table linen). My dishes may not be expensive ones, but they are pretty and I enjoy them. I am blessed with an abundance though, having inherited several sets from family and being given one set by a friend. My everyday set is a patterned Corelle, because it can handle the microwave and most of my inherited ones can not. (3 sets are from the 40’s or earlier). For special occasions I select my table from my more fancy, or as my dil says “ooo pretty dishes”.
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My goal as a keeper of the home, is to provide a comfortable, safe place for my loved ones. While the methods and general feel of this book is old, out of date and perhaps not considered these days I find the basis is one we should aspire to.
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You don’t need to spend beyond your means to keep what you have nice, serviceable if not pretty. Home isn’t made up of expensive things as much as it is the attitude of the one preparing the meals, doing the laundry and the scrubbing. If one does these things cheerfully, there will be rest and happiness at home. If one does these things grouchily with a complaining or as the Bible calls it a downcast countenance the home will not be restful or happy.

I understand we need money to live. Thriving is a whole different thing though. Money can not make one thrive.

I do recommend this book. If for nothing else it’s historical value.
However you do not need to buy it unless you want to. It is here on Amazon for $2.99.

It is also here on Project Gutenberg for free.

I hope you enjoy it!

Hug Y’all!

Melissa

Fun Friday: Altered Apron

Well I did not get any serious sewing done today. I really should have. However my brain just could not handle it. My Beloved was ill last night. A call to his Dr resulted in reduced medications and he was ok this morning. Still I spent a sleepless night expecting to take him to the ER.
Once he was safely fed and off to work I laid back down and slept for… 5 hours! I never do that!
Then I had to tussle with my sewing machine, Baby, which I LOVE but she did not want her new needle put in. I guess she was tired after yesterday’s apron and mending too.
Finally after about 30 minutes of fussing the new needle was installed and threaded. By then my brain needed something fun and quick and so an altered apron was born.
I do not know if you are like me or not. I always have too much stuff I want to keep next to my living room chair. To the point where I recently downsized my table from a 2 shelved rectangle to a small no shelf square. Just enough space for my lamp, tissue, note pad, Bibles and a drink. Some days that works, others not so much. What do I do with the magazines? What if the kitties knock over my drink on my Bibles?? Such great problems needed a solution.
Here dear ladies is that solution.
You will need
1 pocketed 1/2 apron
scissors
safety pins
some method of sewing
and a wooden dowel about 12 inches long.
This is my beginning:

The apron was made for me by a dear friend, but as you already know I just don’t do 1/2 aprons. I also have very limited storage space. So if I am to keep it it must have another use. 
 

Cut cut cut:


Pin Pin Pin:

Sew sew sew:
Now to put it in place
Slide the dowel end between the cushion and the arm:
Hang it over the side:
Put the cushion back:
Fill it with things you do not have space for on your tiny square table. 
 
In my case I have a Country Living Magazine (new one!) Penzey’s Spice catalog and one of my Bibles. I also put my back scratcher in there.
I hope you enjoyed this diversion!
Keep Sewing y’all!

Retro Style Apron


This finish was harder for me. Mainly because I began this one over a year ago and it has been sitting partly sewn in my to make basket since then. Things I thought were ok then, kind of pester me now! LOL
I like this one for its full coverage. It is almost a jumper! One thing I have decided is that any new aprons that have the facing will also have material to cover it. I am just not giddy with the facing.
Here I go again:
Iron the rumpled pieces


Sew some seams


Oops broke the thread! I really dislike those nicks they put on the thread spools. When hand sewing they are ok but when one stops your thread when you are machine sewing everything goes all wonky!

Get the magnifier out for rethreading…
Ok off again sew sew sew

Place the pockets
Pin the bodice

The facing I am not giddy about:

The collar I am not really sure about either

The skirt

Tada! I will get some pics of a person in the aprons this weekend.
Keep on Sewing y’all!

What to do?

The need : Curtains to cover the ugly window…
The available tools:
Scissors
Thread
Sewing machine
Aprons!
Since this blog is all about aprons, you just KNEW aprons had to figure into this some how right???
Cutting the apron in half proved to be very difficult. Not because straight lines and I do not get along (though we do not!).
It was made by a cherished friend I have lost touch with. However being a ½ apron, I just kept it in a drawer. I need the drawer space and can not longer justify storing aprons I do not use. What to do??? I want to keep it for the memory it holds of my friend.
The answer was repurpose it and make it into something else. I have 5 such aprons and am thinking on projects for all of them. However this one is perfect to cover my ugly window.
The window in my kitchen is ugly. Well ok all the windows in my home right now are ugly. They all need to be replaced, but I only have 1 that can be fixed with an apron.
So I cut the apron in 1/2. I actually cut 2 aprons one I will use for a different idea later.
Here is the ugly window:
Yes I have a window ac unit in the kitchen. When it is 103 outside, I need all the help I can get to stay cool!
Here is the area where magic happens… ok so it is where my feeble efforts to produce pretty things happens:
The beginning, 2 aprons with no clue the harm about to befall them:
Under the watchful eyes of Spazzie Girl the cruel scissors do their work…

2 aprons are now 4 panels…
Off to the sewing machine for new hems…

Sew Sew Sew… 

 
Viola, the ugly window is… still ugly but less so with pretty curtains in place!!!
Stay tuned tomorrow for my philosophy on aprons!
See y’all then!

Things I have learned from this apron.

Yes dear friends the apron is finished. If I can get the camera to work I will take pictures of it. This project taught me several things.

1) I underestimate what God allows me to do.
2) I like sewing
3) If I can make this, I can make a skirt or jumper too.
4) 41/8 yards is a lot of material to work with.
5) I can thread my sewing machine with out help.
6) I love bobbin winders
7) I can replace bent needles.
8) I do not have the patience for traditional gathers
9) Cheat gathers with elastic look just fine
10) Bias tape hemmed on the ends makes for good ties…

The apron took about a week from cut out to final product. Had I had time it probably would have taken a day. I think this one will not be one I make for sale. I may make a few later, after I have become more experienced. Now I know though that I am capable of more than 1 piece projects and am planning to begin a new one tomorrow. I just have not decided what it will be yet. Judy is picking a pattern for her apron and we will work on it together.

Overall I have enjoyed this experience immensely. I can hardly wait to begin the next item.
OK now for some pics:


The front of the apron. I love this fabric!

The back of the apron. We used iron on facing, Then hemmed the 2 together.




A closer view of the front, I tried to get the pockets in this one.

Whew, now off to make breakfast, eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, biscuits and gravy.