Reading : Olden Days Books & Loving Their Photos

I know that many bloggers routinely post about the books that they are currently reading. My tastes are eclectic…you might find me reading old novels by D.E. Stevenson or reading and researching on the Net about ancient religions, archeology, and what-have-you. I am all over the place :)

Occasionally I retreat to my books of simpler times…and thought I’d do a share.

I love olden days / historical types of books and this one is wonderful. I will show a few pictures from it and here is the description from the back : THE KITCHEN —at times a harried work space and at others the sentimental heart of the home..has always played an important role in our lives. This lavishly illustrated book tells the story of America’s kitchens from New England hearths to Spanish colonial kitchens, from detached kitchens on plantations in the South to open plans of the 1950s suburbs, up to today’s varied styles “

It truly is ‘lavishly illustrated” …..198 pages of eye candy if you like this sort of book.

Next up is ” Our Own Snug Fireside”  and it is about New England from 1760-1860.  Fascinating read. Many illustrations but you have to be in to history to enjoy it. I did enjoy it very many of the primary sources are the writings of women diarists….there are many interesting details of their households and management, social life, etc.  As the book jacket describes  ” Through them Jane Nylander opens the doors of their houses and reveals the complex reality that was everyday life in Old New England.”

Early American History was generally B-O-R-I-N-G when I was young and in school. This was wonderful…not a boring minute in the book.


Going further back in time…. “Daily Life in a Victorian House” It’s sort of a “Downton Abbey” book because as the book jacket explains you ” Discover how a wealthy family and their servants really lived….Daily Life in a Victorian House chronicles a day in the life of the Smith family, from the moment when the housemaid struggles wearily out of bed to light the fires, to the moment when the last candle is snuffed out and the house is once more at rest. ” This one is very picture heavy and so very interesting to view and read. It is simple enough to get a grade schooler interested…I think it could be used for a book report for a grade school or early middle school child if applicable to something they are studying.

Finally, there is nothing like a good memoir and “The Spencers of Amberson Avenue” is one of the best I’ve ever read. I was revisiting it recently…and that is what inspired me to do this Olden Days post :)

I reside south of Pittsburgh in western PA. This book is of particular interest to me because it revolves around middle-class life at the turn of the century in a large Victorian house in Shadyside, a Pittsburgh neighborhood. Mr. Spencer was a middle-management employee working for Henry Clay Frick.  The book is written through the eyes of Ethel Spencer, the third daughter.

Luckily Mr. Spencer was an amateur photographer, so the book has many photographs. If you like a good memoir or historical biography, this book is a gem.  I purchased it online….there are a lot of used books available through Amazon.

There is so much of interest about the daily life back then; for instance, the sleeping arrangements of a family of nine. The children doubled up in beds, separated by a bolster. Of course they had bolster fights each evening !:)

Housekeeping difficulties :  ” Though lace curtains stretching from ceiling to floor hung at most of our windows, they had a look of austerity in the parlor that they had nowhere else. Mother spent hours pinning ten-foot long curtains to stretchers when they had to be washed–which was about twice a month in those days of uncontrolled smoke. ”

Religion : ” After Sunday School on Sunday afternoons we went home to a four o’clock dinner, followed by a period devoted to memorizing passages of Scripture.”

So there was church, then Sunday School, Scripture memorization, a Bible reading time  with the grandfather, and then Sunday evening church services. The older children had to attend the evening service, and the younger ones could stay home but the only game they were permitted to play was “the Bible game”. This game was simply cards with questions about the Bible. Ethel recalls that the only pleasant part of Sunday was when her mother sat at the piano, late afternoon after dinner, and played hymns and they sang along.

Clothing : ” When it became absolutely necessary, new clothes were supplied, but since no decent ready-made garments were available for girls, to get hold of what we needed was not easy.  Even some of our underwear had to be made at home, and in consequence Mother spent much of her life at the sewing machine. ” Ethel further describes how her mother needed help in regards to fancy dresses and was often having troubles securing the professional help of a seamstress. It is interesting to read that the fee for a seamstress to come into the home and work all day was 1.75 !

” If the seamstress were any good, she supplied ideas, cut out the materials Mother had provided, put together the pieces, and fitted the lucky owner. Mother took out bastings, made buttonholes, sewed on buttons and hooks and eyes, whipped seams, and put the final finish on the garment. ”

These ( above )  are just a few snippets …the editors describe the book as ” a fascinating insight into one kind of urban life of three generations ago.” 

The book has many wonderful and interesting photos such as these. If you can find the book in your local library or from a  bookseller online I’d highly recommend it if you like memoirs or are interested in ‘the olden days’ .

By the way, as a quilter, I always enjoy Kyles’ posts over at Timeless Reflections because she includes so many ‘olden day’ photos in her posts…

You might also enjoy :  Potatoes in Days Gone By   or   Puttin’ Up & Eatin’ Food in Days Gone By  or  Family Tree : The Old Homestead

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Winter Fare : Chicken and Biscuits





Eating around here is fairly plain for the most part. Brocolli is just broccoli. Sweet potatoes are just sweet potatoes with a little butter and brown sugar. The broccoli casserole and sweet potato casserole and other fancy, multi-ingredient expensive recipes are saved for the holidays and birthday gatherings.

If I make a large pot of soup or a batch of cookies, they are shared with my sons’ family. Chicken and biscuits is a meal to share, and the youngest loves it too. Of course biscuits from a can are fine as well….they don’t have to be homemade.

With all of the snow and ice storms moving across the country lately, I thought that it might be nice to post a recipe that is most certainly winter fare :)

First of all :  you can roast a chicken in the oven or cook one in the crock pot and use creamed chicken as a recipe for the leftovers another day. Should you do that, you can save some of the broth  and  cook your own gravy from the drippings . That’s a very cost effective way when you are cooking for a crowd or family dinner. 

For today’s post, I did a faster, easier variation. I used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Lately, those have been cheaper to buy than an uncooked chicken and these jar-gravies are always on sale around the holidays if you don’t want to make your own.

Chopped celery, red pepper and yellow pepper added to a skillet… with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.


When the peppers are cooked down a bit and charred somewhat, the olive oil will be just about gone and then I add chicken broth to the skillet to finish cooking on low, until the vegetables are fairly tender. I like mine about 3/4 done…I like them to have a bit of crispness left when biting into them.


Towards the end I add a wee bit of 2 % milk ( Perhaps a 4th cup or less ) though you can use whipping or heavy cream as well.


To the cooked, cut up chicken in a bowl, I add the jar of gravy ( or the equivalent of home made gravy…about a cup )


Mix this into the skillet with the vegetables and cook another 5 minutes or so to let all the flavors mingle and to let the mixture thicken somewhat. You will have a creamy mixture that is somewhere between gravy and soup.

Delicious served over biscuits for a lunch or served with mashed potatoes and various side dishes for a full dinner.


You might also enjoy : Delicious Fried Cauliflower with Cornbread & Homemade Preserves  or  Making Pasta & Other Randoms  or  Fun Finds : Old Magazines and Sears 1908 Catalog   or  A Finished Baby Quilt & Doggy Birthday

Sharing at : Savvy Southern Style