An object of hungry desire

Weston Biscuits shelf

This gorgeous metal biscuit shelf is among the fine selection of food-themed antiques for sale (along with amazing baked goods) at Madoc‘s Hidden Goldmine Bakery. How I covet it to help store our collection of vintage cookbooks!

There is something for sale in beautiful downtown Madoc that I would just love to have. Its price, however, is a little north of $300, and while I am quite sure the amount is fair, it’s a little rich for my blood right at the moment. Because it is located in the wonderful Hidden Goldmine Bakery – source of the best butter tarts you will ever eat, as well as possibly the best cookie, the splendid Cinnamon Sparkle – I get to see and ogle this object frequently – because you can’t make a trip to “town” without stopping by the Hidden Goldmine.

This object is, as you can see from my photo, a vintage metal store shelf for holding packages of Weston biscuits. Now, Weston being a fine old Canadian company and all, the name is a big lure for me. I’m also very interested in the fact that this particular shelf may have come from Raymond’s home state, Massachusetts, because in the small print at the bottom it tells us that the biscuits it was helping to market to consumers had been made in a factory in Watertown, Mass.

(Now, before we go one bit further I need to point out that Watertown, Mass, is not the same thing as Watertown, N.Y., home of WWNY-TV, channel 7 CBS on the old black-and-white TV that was at the Manse when I was a kid growing up here. In the period, I might add, that I think constituted the golden years of television [as I wrote about at length here]. Those golden years included a corny made-in-Watertown kids’ show featuring the late Danny Burgess. Anybody here remember Danny Burgess? I’m sure at least a few of you do.)

Anyway, I am surprised to know that the George Weston company, Canadian through and through, had a factory in New England, and so far I haven’t found anything about that on my friend the internet. But really it’s no matter. What does matter is how much I would like to have that biscuit stand!

Why? Because I think it would be the perfect funky place to display some of our large (and growing) collection of vintage cookbooks. The ones I find at yard sales and flea markets and library sales, that promise midcentury hostessing perfection, not to mention a limitless supply of casserole recipes. I love those cookbooks! (As I’ve written before, notably here and here.)

To show you how much I love them, here are some photos featuring some of the titles. Perhaps the pictures will bring back some culinary memories for you too:

Vintage Betty Crocker cookbooks

Thanks to Betty Crocker, I have instructions on being the perfect hostess and making the perfect dinner for two. Like: Liver and Bacon Patties, with Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Broiled Tomato Halves, Fruit Compote and Ginger Creams. Wow!

Serve At Once/Dinners That Wait

I deliberately put side by side the two cookbooks Serve At Once (subtitle: The Soufflé Cookbook) and Dinners That Wait, a classic featuring recipes that finish themselves off on the stovetop or in the oven while the hostess sits down with her guests for “a leisurely cocktail.”

Vintage cookbooks

More vintage classics (and not-so-classics).

Vintage cookbooks 2

I have a soft spot for anything by Elizabeth David. And the bright colours on the dust jacket of her cookbook brighten up the shelf!

Oh yes, I guess I should also show some proof that we do have modern cookbooks too:

Modern cookbooks

And also proof that I actually use my cookbooks. Just look! Do you think any previous occupant of the Manse has ever made such a nice cheese soufflé? (Thanks for the recipe, Julia!):

Katherine's Famous Soufflé

Hot and beautifully puffy, light as air: a cheese soufflé (recipe by Julia Child) just out of the Manse’s vintage Harvest Gold oven.

Anyway, that’s a very quick partial tour of the contents of the Manse’s cookbook collection. Now can you see how perfect Mr. George Weston’s biscuit shelf would be to show them off?

In which Sieste the cat learns to share the hassock. Sort of.

Sieste and the church schedule

This is Sieste the cat, somewhat reluctantly deciding to share hassock space with the schedule for services at St. Andrew’s United Church. The things a cat has to put up with!

Long, long ago, I told you (here, in fact) about how the Manse needed a hassock, an oddball object that was unavoidable in North American households in the middle of the 20th century (including here in Queensborough when I was growing up at the Manse) and that has since kind of gone missing in action. Later, I delightedly told you (here) about how Raymond and I finally acquired a cool midcentury hassock that fits right in with the midcentury vibe of our happy Queensborough house. (And if you’re wondering why a house that was built in the Victorian days of 1888 has a mid-20th-century vibe – well, chalk it up to my midcentury youth here.)

Anyway, what you might not know – yet – is that one of the favourite recurring characters here at Meanwhile, at the Manse, Sieste the cat, totally loves that Harvest Gold hassock. It is one of her preferred places to perch, and she’s even got used to the fact that it has wheels and sometimes rolls around a bit when she jumps up on it. (I think maybe it’s her version of a midway ride at the Madoc Fair.)

Even as I write this, Sieste is on the hassock by my right knee, keeping an eye on me and on all that might be going on in the Manse’s dining room on a quiet Wednesday night. Which is, truth be told, not all that much – but then it doesn’t take a lot to amuse Sieste.

Anyway, I thought I’d share the photo that’s at the top of this post because I found it funny how Sieste felt she had to find a place on the hassock a couple of nights ago, even though much of the hassock space was taken up with a piece of paper showing the schedule of services at St. Andrew’s United Church here in Queensborough and the two churches with whom we share the services of The Rev. Caroline Giesbrecht, St. John’s United in Tweed and Bethesda United in the hamlet of White Lake. The schedule was there on the hassock so I could refer to it as I did some church work – I am the secretary at St. Andrew’s – but Sieste could not bear to have her space usurped. So she kind of worked her way into the situation, first by jumping up and announcing her intention to make that pesky piece of paper make way for her:Sieste making her peace with the church schedule 1

And then by trying to find a way to settle down beside it without looking like she was being too accommodating to this annoying intrusion on her space:

Sieste making her peace with the church schedule 2

And then finally settling herself comfortably (without disturbing the church schedule, I might add) and making peace with the situation.

You’ve heard of separation of church and state? Well, I consider this separation of church and cat. A separation in which, appropriately, everything has its place. Right there on the hassock.

Three years on, the Manse is a cozy, happy place

Cozy corner of the Manse

Our living room, filled with warmth and nice things, where we spend a lot of time. It’s something happy to reflect on as Raymond and I mark the third anniversary of owning this great old house. And yes, the vintage curtains – the ones that hung here in my childhood – are still there!

Well, people, here we are: three years and counting. Three years of Manse ownership, that is; it was on this very day three years ago (Jan. 30, 2012) that Raymond and I became the owners of this great old house in beautiful little Queensborough, the house that happens to be the one that I grew up in. Today is also the third anniversary of Meanwhile at the Manse; our first day of ownership was also the day of my very first post. And you can read that post – which explains how we got here, and kicks off the 940 (yikes!) and counting other posts that were to follow it – right here.

On the first anniversary of our Manse acquisition, I used my post (which is here) to speculate about whether the subsequent 12 months would see the start of our much-discussed but not-yet-started renovations of the house. (They didn’t, by the way.)

On the second anniversary (the post is here), I was busy ruminating on my non-buyer’s remorse for failing to snap up a vintage telephone table at a bargain price. That’s kind of funny, actually, because non-buyer’s remorse is a recurring theme at Meanwhile, at the Manse, and I was going on about it again just the other night, in a post about vintage cheesy but endearing paintings of big-eyed urchins that you can read here. (Also, by the way, I did eventually get a great telephone table, which I told you about here.)

As I thought about what I would write tonight, to mark the end of Year 3 and the start of Year 4, I decided there would be nothing better than to reflect on what a cozy and happy place the Manse has become, unrenovated though it may be.

Staircase carpeting

That 1970s carpeting! It’s got to go. Sometime.

Yes, it’s still a little rustic. Our bathroom is, while very clean, alarming in many other ways; pieces of the flooring are torn up in various places; sections of the walls are missing wallpaper and showing crumbling plaster underneath; there is still horrendous early-1970s wood panelling in one of the guest bedrooms; and that orange-and-yellow broadloom on the front staircase just won’t quit.

And I didn’t even mention the tiny pantry kitchen with the Harvest Gold stove and the washing machine – the washing machine! – conveniently (not) located in its far-too-constricted space. Oh, well, I guess I have mentioned it.

But despite all of these imperfections and jobs waiting to be done, the Manse is a cozy and a happy place. At the end of every day, when I return home from work as a professor of journalism at Loyalist College, and Raymond sets aside his duties as editorial consultant for the National Newspaper Awards, and we’ve cooked a nice dinner in that tiny kitchen, we make ourselves comfortable in our living room. Often we watch a television program (there’s only ever time for one before my early bedtime), but sometimes we read or do more work on our laptops. (For one thing, there’s always a Meanwhile, at the Manse post that needs writing.)

Cozy fireplace

Our electric fireplace might someday be replaced by a real wood fireplace, but its cheerful red colour and warmth make us happy on a cold winter night.

And let me tell you, that room is just the nicest, happiest place you can imagine. Warmth radiates from the cranberry-red electric fireplace in the corner; there are books, including a lot of volumes of local history, in the bookcase and all over the room; there are framed photos of Raymond’s lovely grandson Henry; there is vintage furniture, and a vintage floor lamp, and there are vintage knick-knacks, every one of which has a story behind it; there are kerosene lamps in case the power goes out; there are artworks, one old and one new, featuring the Manse; and there are the very curtains that hung in that same room in the 1960s and ’70s when I was a kid growing up here. Yes, people, the curtains are still there.

Sieste in her bed

Sieste the cat, on her bed (or should I call it her throne?) in the Manse’s living room.

And best of all, there is Sieste the cat, who loves to sit with us and watch whatever’s going on, making the occasional comment – whenever she’s not doing the hard work of catching up on her beauty sleep.

We love our cozy living room. We love our Manse. We love our cat. We love each other. And: we love those curtains.

So happy third anniversary to us!

In which we do a renovation thing. Sort of.

New sink

I know: it’s just a very, very plain sink. But it’s brand new! It’s something new at the Manse! It’s shiny! It makes me feel like we’ve made an improvement! And if you don’t believe me, just wait till you see the photos of the old sink.

Well, people, a rare thing happened here at the Manse today: we actually installed something new! We did something vaguely renovation-like! Will wonders never cease?

(As longtime readers of Meanwhile, at the Manse will know, Raymond and I bought this old house that I grew up in assuming we’d get going right away on the renovations that it needs to look spiffy and smart, and to be a bit more comfortable to live in. That plan hasn’t exactly become reality (see here for a bit of wry commentary on the situation, and even that post is from two years ago), and neither of us is sorry about it. Oh, okay, I’m not sorry about it; I think Raymond would really like to get this project under way. But I am liking having lots of time to think about and plan those renovations, and to change the plans from time to time based on fresh inspiration and good suggestions. And I also like spending time in the house as it is, very much unrenovated but also largely unspoiled by the bad renovations that so many houses of its era (Victorian; it was built in 1888) have suffered. And in doing so, getting an increasingly good feel for what can and should be done with the Manse, and what should not.

Anyway, this ever-lengthening delay in getting started on the renovations makes it that much more exciting when one tiny change for the better happens – as it did today, when the 1970s-era Harvest Gold sink in the Manse’s one and only bathroom was replaced with a brand new one.

I suppose I should clarify that this wasn’t really part of any kind of renovation. It was just a necessary replacement for something too old and awful to continue to use. Much as I’ve developed a bit of a fondness for good old vintage Harvest Gold, thanks to the Manse’s trusty stove and clothes dryer, that sink had finally become so leaky and rusty and problematic that it had to go, plain and simple. Here, take a look:

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Its replacement is not exactly the sink of our dreams – not something big and lovely, perhaps on a pedestal, like this:

Beautiful sink 1

(Photo from Domaine, domainehome.com)

Today’s new sink is not the kind of fixture that will contribute to overall general gorgeousness in a glorious new bathroom to be located in a more sensible place in the house than the ground floor right inside the front door. (Click here for a for a post on my bathroom inspiration, complete with photo.)

No, this sink is simply the one that would fit the existing hole in the existing vanity (which could, generously, be called funkily retro, I suppose). It was the only one left in that somewhat old-fashioned model at Rashotte’s Home Building Centre in Tweed, and since it was the display model, we got 10 bucks off the already pleasantly low price. The faucets too are the cheapest to be found. This is, after all, a temporary sink – the one that will tide us over until the aforementioned full-on-glorious bathroom is built.

But even though it’s just a replacement, not an actual step toward renovation, I am enjoying my little moment. This new sink has the virtues of being shiny and new and sparkling white. It has a sensible old-fashioned rubber plug for a stopper, which means you actually can stop up the sink; the plunger mechanism on the Harvest Gold unit had long since given up the ghost. This new sink also does not leak, anywhere; and it is rust-stain and corrosion-free.

It is, in my eyes, totally lovely.

One has to take one’s little renovation victories where one can – right?

A happy case of non-non buyer’s remorse

telephone table

My purchase of this great midcentury object has not only kept me from non-buyer’s remorse, but made me very happy ever since I installed it in the Manse’s kitchen.

I know what you thought when you saw the headline of tonight’s post. You thought that I had decided “What the heck? Life’s too short! It’s only money!” and coughed up the (large amount of) cash for that amazing 1960s-ish turquoise L-shaped booth bench that I was swooning over in last night’s post. As you will probably recall if you read that post, my fear was that if I didn’t nab that gorgeous thing, I would suffer from non-buyer’s remorse about it for the rest of my life.

Well, I am pleased – sort of – to tell you that I have done the financially sensible thing and held off, for the time being, on that astounding piece of furniture. (But just wait. That could change.) Instead I want to tell you about how I spent the princely sum of twenty-five bucks and bought myself a thing that has made me happier than happy ever since. In fact, it makes me as happy as my vintage industrial Westclox clock does! And since they are both installed in the Manse’s kitchen, that’s a lot of happiness going round. (Just think what would happen if the turquoise bench were added to the mix!)

Anyway, as you’ve figured out from the photo atop this post, the purchase in question is a midcentury (mid-20th-century, that is) telephone table. If you’ve been reading this blog forever, you might recall my post about another case of non-buyer’s remorse from last January, when I was beating myself up for not buying this telephone table at a rock-bottom bargain price:

telephone table

Well, people, when I saw the latest telephone table at the Hidden Treasures thrift shop in Tweed a couple of weekends ago, I didn’t make that mistake again. While I would have felt thriftier if I’d got it for, say, $15 instead of $25 – and in fact briefly considered not buying it because I thought the price a tad steep for a thrift shop – I soon came to my senses and realized that a) it was gorgeously midcentury; b) it was wildly useful; and c) I would never forgive myself if I didn’t. Plus there was a sign from heaven in the fact that the vehicle I happened to be driving that day was Raymond’s red truck, which meant that it would be no problem getting it home.

So I bought it and brought it home and installed it beside the Harvest Gold clothes dryer that for some unknown reason has since my childhood here had pride of place in the Manse’s kitchen. And it looked absolutely smashing. It looked even more smashing when I added our fully functional red rotary-dial telephone to the table part, and better still with a notepad and pen beside the phone and all the local phone books (such as phone books are these days, which is to say: thin) in the slot created expressly for phone books below the table part of the setup.

And now whenever the phone rings or I have a call to make, I sit myself down in the very comfortable midcentury-design chair of my telephone table, and I pick up that old-fashioned receiver that has such a nice (because well-designed) feel and heft to it, and I have myself a good old chat. Much to Raymond’s amusement, because I think he thinks the whole idea of the telephone table is silly. Fortunately for me, he humours me.

I think my telephone table is splendid. I doubt that too many of them are still in use these days, and of those that are, I doubt that many are in as great shape as mine is. I am as pleased as punch about it. Mainly because it is usefully great. But also: because it has kept me from at least one round of non-buyer’s remorse.

I guess my mum was right.

Electric frying pan at the Manse

Electric frying pans may not be fashionable now the way they were in the middle of the 20th century, but our new model served its primary purpose – warming up tea biscuits – very well indeed. Doesn’t it look chronologically appropriate atop our 1970s Harvest Gold stove?

When I was a kid growing up here at the Manse, one of the small appliances that was in extremely heavy rotation in our kitchen was the electric frying pan. My mum, Lorna Sedgwick, used it for all the things that many people would have used a non-electric frying pan for: that is, frying bacon and eggs, sautéing (canned) mushrooms, and making grilled cheese sandwiches. She also used it to fulfill what is now the primary role of the then-uninvented microwave oven: to warm up leftovers. And finally, she used it for what I have decided was its highest and best purpose, which was to warm up dinner rolls from the bakery or supermarket.

Since I grew into a teenager as snotty and snarky as is the next teenager, I used to make fun of my mum’s use of this old-fashioned appliance. (Which, by the way, she had almost certainly been given as a wedding or shower gift; she and my dad were married in 1959.) I haughtily informed her that bacon, and most other things that one fried or grilled, tasted better when done in a cast-iron frying pan that sat directly on the stove. And also that in using such a pan (or its successor in my culinary life, the non-stick non-electric frying pan) there was no bother about an electrical cord and, besides, it was easier to wash up. But Mum always stoutly defended her electric frying pan, cord and all, and in fact does to this day.

Can you see where I’m going with this? Of course you can. Guess who just recently acquired the very first electric frying pan of their lives? It’s Raymond and me, of course. Which means that once again there is just such a thing in that same Manse kitchen.

Proctor Silex Factory Store

The sign that caught our eye in Picton.

Here’s how it came about – and in telling you the tale I might be doing you a shopping service. When Raymond and I were down in Picton, in neighbouring Prince Edward County, one day late last month, we noticed a sign for a “Proctor-Silex/Hamilton Beach factory outlet.” Well! Picton seemed like an odd place for such a thing, but that made it all the more important that we check it out. And sure enough, there, in an utterly nondescript building with minimal and unenthusiastic signage, was indeed a Proctor-Silex/Hamilton Beach factory outlet! With all kinds of different appliances at pretty decent prices, especially the ones that were on back-to-school special.

Wondering how the heck this happened to be, I asked a pleasant person behind the counter whether the “factory” of the “factory outlet” in the place’s title was also in the building, or at least in Picton. She told me that the appliances were all made elsewhere and imported, but that the Picton operation is the distribution centre for the whole of Canada. Now isn’t that something!

nside the Proctor-Silex factory store

Browsing at the factory outlet, where there are lots of small appliances.

We left with three appliances: an ice-cream maker (electric, that is; not the kind that requires rock salt, a bucket, and endless hours of churning); a coffee maker (to replace our old one, which dripped coffee all over everything when you poured); and – yes – an electric frying pan. They were on special sale, you see. And as I noted to Raymond, we don’t have a microwave, so warming up leftovers is kind of a nuisance.

And way more to the point, there is no better way to warm up dinner rolls than in an electric frying pan. Why? Because the low heat you can set it to, and the lid you place securely on top, allows them to get warm while staying nice and soft – not too crispy, as happens when you put them in the oven, but not too mushy, which is the inevitable result of microwaving them.

And how did I know this wondrous thing about electric frying pans? Because my mum told me, that’s how. Raymond and I put it to its first test this past weekend, warming up some buttermilk tea biscuits (yum) from Madoc‘s Hidden Goldmine Bakery to accompany the corn chowder that I’ve already told you about – the one that was delicious but would have been better had some slab bacon been available to add to it.

Anyway, the tea biscuits were perfect. Raymond was happy. And my mum was right.

Duz glasses, found at last. (Not in the detergent box.)

Duz glasses at the Manse

I am pretty proud of this collection: vintage box of Duz detergent; vintage red dial phone (still fully operational); Harvest Gold clothes dryer (also operational, though probably not very energy-efficient); and – the most recent addition – two tumblers (in their original boxes, and still coated with a thin later of detergent dust) that once upon a time, probably a half-century ago, were “free gifts” inside Duz boxes.

Would you like to know what gets you page views if you write a blog? I’ll tell you what gets you page views. It is a post headlined “When towels came in detergent boxes,” that’s what.

Very rarely does a day go by without at least one person, somewhere in this wide world of ours, paying a visit to Meanwhile, at the Manse because that person had entered into Google the search terms “towels in detergent box” or “Duz detergent towels,” or “things that came in Duz boxes,” or some variation. Who knew that so many people would be interested in reading about the days when towels – and, more to the point for tonight’s post, other good stuff, like drinking glasses – came as a “free gift” inside boxes of laundry detergent?

I wrote the post headlined “When towels came in detergent boxes” more than a year and a half ago. It was a little paean to those simpler days when things like a free towel made consumers (fancy name for “housewives”) more likely to buy a certain kind of laundry detergent. And when the bathroom of every household you might go into had very familiar hand and/or bath towels – familiar because they, like the towels in the bathroom at your own house, had emerged from a box of detergent.

Anyway. In writing that January 2013 post I searched for a vintage TV ad about getting a free towel in the Duz, unfortunately in vain. But what I did find, and link to there, was an ad about free drinking glasses you could get in Duz. So given that, and also given how popular that year-and-a-half-old post continues to be, perhaps you will be able to imagine my delight when, this past summer, I came upon some vintage Duz drinking glasses for sale in an antiques emporium. Wow!

One of the two boxes had been opened, so that you could pull out the glass and examine it. (It’s brownish and kind of ugly but, endearingly, still bears a thin coating of laundry powder.) The other box was pristine – never opened, in all the years (it would have to be at least 50) since it had been packed into the Duz. They cost $2 (U.S.) each. Of course I had to have them.

And now they sit proudly on our almost-as-vintage Harvest Gold clothes dryer here in the kitchen of the Manse. Right in front of a vintage box of Duz that our friend and former colleague Gordon Beck (co-proprietor of a wonderful gallery/emporium in beautiful Brockville, Ont.) generously donated to the Manse’s growing collection of  relatively useless but nonetheless interesting midcentury stuff. And right beside our vintage red (it’s the hot line, you know), fully functional rotary-dial phone.

The lot of them make me smile every time I look at them. And hey, internet: I’ve just given you another post about when free gifts came in detergent boxes. You’re welcome!