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

Sharing at : Savvy Southern Style

Swept Back in Time…

I love anything to do with the “Olden Days” be it in regards to quilts, furniture, homes or history. This can involve my own olden days as a child or reach back much further in time but I am generally fascinated with all of it.

Whenever I am going to make a cake, if it is *just* going to be a sheet cake, then I reach for the old pan that was in my grandmother’s kitchen. She made many a cake in it and a favorite of mine was a streusal swirl breakfast cake, generally reserved for the weekends. Whenever I bring that pan out, I am in two places…my own kitchen, and my grandmother’s….swept back in time to being a young girl eying whatever cake her grandmother had made, that was cooling on the countertop:


King arthur flour streusal swirl for swept in time post

 ( Source )

” The antique pressed-glass spoon holder that I keep on a small table in my kitchen today is the same one that always stood in the middle of our kitchen table in the farmhouse in southern Indiana where I spent my childhood. I use it daily to keep extra teaspoons handy for use when needed at the table or for any purpose in the kitchen, just as my mother did a generation ago, and her mother before her.

Also, the ‘Starburst Spooner’ is a sparkling reminder of Mother’s old-fashioned kitchen, with red geraniums and pink begonias blooming in its sunny windows and colorful rag rugs on the floor.

….many times I pick it up without any particular thought. But other times, unforeseen and unbidden, the old spooner becomes my crystal ball, as it were, my wellspring of memory, my Proustian madeleine.”     __Marilyn Kluger in Country Kitchens Remembered

Silver Spoons in a glass cup


“Any table of virgin fir, any maple chair, any oak floor is a bundle of stories. At a lull in the conversation, move your napkin aside. There are centuries under one hand’s span…” __Kim R Stafford in Having Everything Right

amish kitchen photo


” After a stroke felled my mother’s mother, some of her objects came to live in our house. Years later, my daughter digs out clean socks from a tall dresser, reddish oak, topped with a pivoting beveled mirror, that the bubbe once waxed and polished. She dresses her long hair, in play, with the bubbe’s rhinestone comb.

My two-year-old boy hides thimbles and dice in the drawer of the bubbe’s fruitwood cigarette table, a light thing he drags from room to room. We mash potatoes with her red-handled potatoe masher, while back in Detroit my mother chops liver with her mother’s chopper, half-moon wood handle fit to a half-moon blade. ”    __Elizabeth Ehrlich in Miriam’s Kitchen

” I’ve had a heap of comfort all my life making quilts, and now in my old age I wouldn’t take a fortune for them. Sit down here, child, where you can see out of the window and smell the lilacs…

Bushes collage

and we’ll look at them all.  You see, some folks have albums to put folks’ pictures in to remember them by, and some folks have a book to write down the things that happen everyday so they won’t forget them, but honey, these quilts are my albums and my diaries…” __Eliza Calver Hall in A Quilter’s Window


You might also enjoy : Vintage Flower Garden Quilt  or  Puttin’ Up & Eatin’ Food in Days Gone By  or  Around the House  or  Hydrangea, Bavarian China & Royal Wettina Vase

Sharing at : Art and Sand / Savvy Southern Style / Poofing the Pillows