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“Mom, these berries taste iffy,” Wyatt said of the strawberries that were starting to soften in the fridge.
“That’s okay, I’ll make them into a smoothie,” I said.
“Mom!,” Wyatt admonished.
“What you are witnessing is a new generation of Depression parent,” I explained.
My mom was a Depression-era mom: saving string in a ball, reusing aluminum foil, recycling boxes Christmas after Christmas. My dad worked at the Ford Rouge plant, located at the confluence of the Rouge and Detroit Rivers. The weekly employee newspaper was the Rouge News, which in its heyday had a circulation of nearly 90,000. The women’s section had a column called “Cutting Corners,” which featured the household tips of wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters of Ford employees.
Eventually, the hints were collected in a book. My mom punched a hole in her copy and hung it from a string on a hook by the kitchen sink. I keep the book in the same place in my house today. The cover is gone and so is the copyright date, but it’s from the 1950s, judging by the artwork in the book.
Don’t Throw Away That Pickle Juice
Cleaning a lampshade? Removing a stain from a felt hat? Fixing a cracked vase? The Ford housewives had a better idea. When something wore out, they couldn’t take the car and run out to Wal-Mart and buy another one. Even if they had a second car, or a Wal-Mart, their Depression-era sensibilities wouldn’t have permitted them the extravagance.
Some hints from the cooking section:
• When you have emptied your catsup bottle, rinse it with a bit of vinegar and use this in your dressing for salad, This is especially good when added to French dressing, says Mrs. Gene Peron.
• Mrs. James Ward has a helpful hint concerning burnt toast. Instead of throwing it away or scraping it with a knife, try rubbing it on a grater. The burnt spots will disappear and so will the burnt flavor.
• Sandra Wenner suggests saving the waxed bags in which gelatin and puddings are packaged. She says they make handy leak-proof containers for lunch box pickles or other juicy foods.
• Mrs. Ralph Campbell says she never throws the sweet pickle juice away when the pickles have been eaten. She uses the vinegar juice in mayonnaise for potato and vegetable salads. It adds zest to the salads and also helps to save on mayonnaise.
Remnants of Gracious Living
The book publishes the household hints exactly as they appeared in the Rouge News, with the household address and the division in which the husband (or son or brother) worked. Today, some of those addresses are more than likely vacant. For that matter, entire neighborhoods of Detroit are gone. This book provides a glimpse of Detroit as a city of prosperity and gracious living, with marquisette curtains and embroidered dresser scarves and gleaming mahogany furniture. (Mrs. M.J. Polakowski cleaned hers with cold tea to keep it looking new.)
I realize that not all women in the 1950s lived the life of June Cleaver or Donna Reed. Abuse and addiction were closeted, abuse considered the husband’s prerogative, addiction stifled by stigma. Some women must have been bored silly, wanting to be the breadwinners instead of waxing book covers to make them easier to dust. But what these women did was important. They were the ultimate multitaskers, the first frugalistas, the forerunners of Martha Stewart.
Today the Ford Rouge plant is the Ford Rouge Center. It comprises 600 acres instead of 2,000 and employs about 6,000 people instead of its zenith of 100,000. Its eco-friendly architecture includes a green roof. The Ford housewives would undoubtedly approve of such thriftiness. They’d also agree that iffy strawberries make spiffy smoothies.
What frugalities do we practice today that will make our kids and grandkids say, “Can you BELIEVE they did that?”
As the raindrops picked up momentum, changing from a light drizzle to a full-on rain, I checked my son’s jacket to make sure it was zipped up the front and suggested he pull the hood over his head, while wondering why the heck softball practice hadn’t been cancelled. This was the first of two softball practices that day, with my daughter’s practice from 3:45-5:00 and my son’s practice conveniently located at a different field on the other side of town from 4:45-6:00. This would be followed by my daughter’s basketball game (gotta love overlapping seasons!) from 6:30-7:30, for which she needed to be present at 6:15. And after getting home in the 7:40 PM range, not only did we still have homework to contend with, but my over-extended ass had volunteered to bake four dozen basketball-decorated cupcakes for a party the next day.
Figuring out the logistics of days like that, even in the most rudimentary sense of just getting everyone to the correct location on time, properly attired for the right sport and fed during the precious few intervening moments, make me rejoice in the fact that I bothered to earn a J.D. before opting for the stay-at-home life. Clearly, all-pro logic skills are required in order to survive this life, right? Wrong. Anyone with an ounce of reasoning prowess would correctly surmise that having multiple children play multiple sports with overlapping seasons just doesn’t work. As such, I will chalk up my ability to power through a day like that not to my advanced training in the powers of logic, but to sheer stupidity.
And I’m not alone. I am not the only mother sitting on the cold, wet sidelines during practice trying to amuse one bored sibling until the tables turn and the still-cold, still-wet mother gets to amuse the other now-bored sibling whose practice has just ended while the initially bored child practices. This is a common component of the crazy, often child-centered lives we lead these days.
How does one survive possessing even a modicum of sanity? Find your peace. Your moment of calm near the eye of the storm, where for just a short reprieve your world stops spinning and stands still. Peace looks different for everyone, as it’s more an internal state of mind than a function of just sitting on your ass for a minute (though that does bring me both peace and happiness). But I’ll share with you some of my favorite tips for surviving the sports season:
Keep your piggies perfectly pedi’ed. Sitting in a massage chair for an hour a month reading US Magazine while some Vietnamese woman sands your heels down to bone with sandpaper pays off all month long. When the weather cooperates, something as simple as sliding a well-maintained foot along the warm sideline grass or gazing down at how well you wear a flip-flop can bring a smile during a never-ending practice.
Hit the gym! Not only does that hour a day on the elliptical trainer give you the ability to tune out the world and crank up bands your kids abhor (mine have a zero tolerance policy on anything that did not rank on the Billboard Top 40 charts during the mid-‘90s or later), but it also gives you free license to trudge around for the rest of the day rocking a dirty ponytail and no makeup in a socially acceptable way … “OMG! Have you seen how horrific Deb looks when she picks the kids up from school? Truly beastly. I tell ya.” … “Yeah, but she comes straight from the gym.”
Matinee mania. I swear there is no luxury in life more indulgent than sliding solo into a prime seat in the middle of a dead empty movie theater at 11:00 AM on a Wednesday with a 4 buck bottle of water in one hand and your whole day’s worth of calories in the other. Perfect opportunity to see that darkly depressing Blue Valentine movie none of your gal pals want to see with you or that chick flick for which you’ll have to put out in order to get your husband to see with you.
Embrace your inner Martha Stewart. Let’s face it -- not all of us can cook, clean, craft, organize, brand ourselves or serve jail time with style the way Martha can. But odds are that we’re all pretty good at at least one of those and derive some degree of gratification from it (save for the jail time, though that might be a break from the grind ;)). Find your creative calling and go for it! I personally subscribe to a mountain of women’s magazines and draw inspiration from them all the time.
BLOG!!! Yep, you read that little gem of self-indulgence correctly. Find a forum for whatever it is that you want to talk about: being a mother, making jewelry, your freakish interest in circus midgets, etc. Find a community of like-minded folk and engage with them. Meeting people outside your carpool and entering a different world for even a minute can be a glorious break from your reality.
How about the rest of you? What do you do to survive a season of overlapping sports or get through whatever other aspect of life makes you want to pull the covers over your head?
Everyone knows about The Clorox Company! It's a household name! In fact, I'm sure you have many of their products in your house right now! Clorox has a new community called CloroxConnects. CloroxConnects is really all about you. It's a place for you to discuss what you want to see from Clorox brand products.It's a place to tell us what you want to see improved, or what new directions you think we should go. And it's a place for fun stuff like sharing recipes, barbeque tips, photos, etc.We built this specifically for this purpose because we here at Clorox are very interested in meeting your needs and wants.I recently joined the Clorox Connects Community! It's your chance to talk with other consumers about the Clorox products!
Did you know the following are products from Clorox?
Hidden Valley Ranch
I use so many of those products!The Clorox Community loves to hear about consumer's experiences with their products and any new ideas so I thought I'd share mine! I love GladWare Containers! I use them for everything: leftovers, fresh fruit, even crayons! GladWare is BPA free which is very important to me and my family. Since Hayden was born we have used BPA free bottles and sippy cups. I think a nice addition to the GladWare product line would be Sippy Cups! (Is there any surprise that I would be thinking of Sippy Cups?) ;-) I love how sturdy GladWare is and the fact that it is dishwasher safe, BPA free, freezer safe and microwave safe. I think it would be toddler proof also! Make sure to head over to CloroxConnects and join the community! Submit your ideas on how to improve their products and you could win $1,000! Stay connected and like Clorox Connects on Facebook and follow Clorox Connects on Twitter!
“I've used Clorox products my entire life. My grandmother and mother used them as well. I trust the Clorox name and have been delighted to watch it grow with new ideas through the years.A couple years ago I was surprised to see Green Works products by Clorox and so curious that I had to purchase them to see how effective they were.I was pleasantly surprised and very satisfied by the results.They were just as if not more effective than some of the harsher products on the market and I felt good using them, knowing that I was doing something good for my family and the environment.I continue to use Green Works as well as other Clorox products and will hand down the tradition to my son.I have given some ideas that I had to the Clorox Company through their new CloroxConnects program http://www.mycloroxidea.com and I encourage others to do the same.Through consumers, Clorox will continue to provide great products, like those they have on the market today.” Patricia H.
Thanks Patricia for the great blog! Be sure to check out Patricia’s blog on our Facebook Fan page!
Would you like to submit your blog to the ‘myCloroxblog’ project or submit comments or ideas for Patricia’s blog? For more information contact Maria @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's an idea forKingsford about waterproofing charcoal bags. This process would help preserve the goods for your Tailgate Party Food. This was submitted by user Shaerem inour idea contest. Joinour idea contestand you could win $1, 000!!!!
"I'd love to see the charcoal come in a resealable waterproof bag of some sort. I've ruined a few bags of charcoal because I forgot to put them back in the garage after we were done grilling. Then, the rain came and washed my charcoal away... meaning it got ruined. I'm not sure if my memory will ever get better, but I think I could at least remember to seal up the bag if that was possible!"- Shaerem
Thanks for the idea! You have entered the drawing for a chance to win $1,000 in our idea contest!!!! Share your own idea and you might win $1,000 in our idea contest!!!! Check it out!!!
Here is an idea for a Kingsford on fire logs. This was submitted by mtkilpa in our Idea Contest. Join our idea contest and you could win $1,000.
"I just made a fire in my fireplace with a fire log that "burns cleaner than real wood". It was really convenient that the log is wrapped in a wrapper that catches fire quickly and aids in getting the log to catch fire. Perhaps a single-serving bag of charcoal in a bag that has a similar function. Perhaps the charcoal can already be teepeed inside the bag with a suitable ignition supply in the middle with maybe a wick or something simple to light. I am very intimidated by charcoal. If you could make the process simple enough for "even me" then I am sure I would use charcoal more because it definitely tastes better than gas. - mtkilpa
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Share your own idea or Kingsford Reviews and you might win $1, 000 in our idea contest! Check it out!