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17 July 2009

Remedies for heartbreak and everything else


Nothing is as enlightening for me as old-time (1880's) advice for women. Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping, a book of “Timeless Wisdom and Practical Advice” offers answers to all of life’s little wrinkles. This volume, by Miriam Lukken, is drawn from the author’s deep-south grandmother and her great-grandmother’s rules for living as a lady should.

“Yankees don’t know any better, so always be kind to them.” [Aunt Middle Mary]

From the very basic topics of getting rid of ants (wash the shelves with salt and water; then use mint tea, citrus juice, salt, ground cinnamon, or boric acid for repelling the critters. Sprinkle salt in their path. Or mix 2/3 cup of water, 1/3 cup of white vinegar and 2-3 tablespoons of dish soap and wash their marching path) to natural mosquito repellent (dab lavender oil on your pulse points), Mrs. Dunwoody has a solution for every one of life’s little problems.

Mice control: stop up openings to the house with steel wool and sprinkle cayenne pepper or peppermint extract around entry holes; mice hate these smells.

For a time-saving makeshift measurer you can carry around with you, measure your own index finger ( mine is 3 inches), hand (7 inches) and elbow to middle fingertip (16 inches).

Care of books: dust; open and fan the pages; keep books dry. If they smell musty, put them outdoors in the hot sun for an afternoon and fan the pages frequently. Damp pages should be sprinkled with cornstarch.

I was particularly intrigued by Captain Clementine’s Mint Julep recipe, since the version I was taught by my non-southern daddy knocks my guests onto the floor. Captain Clementine instructs: “Put a dozen sprigs of mint into a tumbler; add a spoonful of white sugar and equal proportions of peach and common brandy to fill up one-third. Add shaved ice to fill the tumbler and drink as the ice melts.”

Remember that old trick your grandmother did to test oven temperature? Hold your palm close to where the food will be cooking and count: “one-and-one, two-and-two,” and so on for as many seconds as you can hold your hand still: 1 second or less = very hot (450 to 500 degrees); 4-5 seconds = moderate (350 to 400 degrees). I suppose this method would work particularly well with campfire ovens.

And, at last, an illustrated “proper” table setting, complete with correctly placed napkin, water and wine glasses, 3 forks, 2 spoons, and 2 knives (one for butter). Fork and spoon instructions: select from the outside in toward your plate.

The proper tea party table is covered with an embroidered linen cloth trimmed with lace; teacups and saucers rest with the spoon in each saucer; plates or pretty doilies exhibit thin slices of lemon, small cookies, cakes or sandwiches, with the teapot just in front of them. Cream pitcher and sugar bowl should be within convenient reach. The hostess pours the tea and allows the guests to put in sugar and cream for themselves. If you expect many visitors, you might want to ask a friend to pour for you.

Remember this old saying for which way to turn a screw: “Lefty Loosey, Rightly Tightly.”

Becoming a Belle: A lady is never rude to anyone. A lady will not dress in an odd way as to attract attention or remarks. A lady is kind to all people and carries with her a congenial atmosphere which puts all at ease. A lady does not smoke, or bite her fingernails. A lady is never late (lest it give her suitors time to count up her faults). A lady’s integrity is never at question. A lady possesses a sense of humor and can easily laugh at herself, but never at others.

Cure for a Broken Heart: Allow 1 to 2 days to sulk, cry, and pout, followed by 2 days of rest and 1 day of exercise. On the sixth day, make a list of your blessings, talents, and accomplishments. Display this list on your mirror. On the seventh day, put your trust in the Lord, carry on, and do the next thing. This too shall pass. [Might work for rejection letters, too?]

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3 Comments:

Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

Lynna, this is fabulous -- though being a Yankee I take objection to Aunt Middle Mary's prejudices about us; but since I am a lady, I forgive her. She doesn't know any better. The advice about getting rid of mice, as well as getting over a breakup are both still pretty accurate, though! I've used steel wool to prevent mice entering my apartment and had heard about the cayenne pepper trick. And as for recovering from a broken heart, it seem pretty healthy to me to allow the time to acknowledge the pain, rage and sulk for a while, then move on with a few positive affirmations about one's self image. Yeah, probably would work with rejection letters, though the time to sulk and be pissy should probably be extended. :)

I never heard of the oven trick, but my maternal grandmother was very specific when it came to teaching my kid sister and me how to set the table properly, and it makes me nuts when I see the flatware set on the wrong side of the plate: forks to the left; knives and spoons to the right; soup spoon to the right (outside) of the dessert or tea spoon; salad fork to the left of the dinner fork, with the dessert fork to the dinner fork's immediate right.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

How wonderful, Lynna! I too have used the steel wool trick for keeping mice out. The way I was taught to remember the order of silverware (which also works for figuring out which to use when) is to work from the outside in in the order they're being used.

9:34 PM  
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7:16 PM  

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