Kitchen cures for what ails you — tips from the 1900s

photo of Mrs. DeWitt C. Owen

My great grandmother, “Nellie,” author and businesswoman.

My great-grandmother Ella Leighton Upton Owen published a series of miniature cookbooks from 1898 to the early 1900s. Among them was “Sick Room Necessities” that gave tips on how to cure ailments like indigestion, fevers and diarrhea — all using ingredients found in her kitchen.

Nellie, as my great-grandmother was known, was a woman ahead of her time. She self-published these books and sold them across the nation. They were popular as fundraisers for women’s church groups.

 

What was life like at the turn of the turn of the century in 1900 for a housewife? Here are a few fun facts:

Refrigerators for the home weren’t invented until 1913. Instead homes had ice boxes.

 

Ice was delivered by the “ice man” driving a cart and horse.

 

There were only 8,000 automobiles in the United States with zero west of the Mississippi River.

 

Less than two percent of the population graduated from high school.

 

Tuberculosis caused more deaths than cancer.

 

Washing machines consisted of tubs, scalding hot water, washing boards and excruciating hard labor.

 

Indoor plumbing and flush toilets were not common.

 

Bathing was generally a once a week affair because it was difficult to heat up so much water.

Yet, here was Nellie, publishing her books and selling them from her husband’s printing press in Illinois and eventually Washington state. Think of the work to set the type! Hint: it was all done by hand.

I’m currently working with a graphic artist and printer to get these gems back to life. This is an exciting project I’ve dreamed about for more than a decade! I’m finally doing it!

If you’d like to learn Nellie’s secrets on how to treat indigestion, fevers and diarrhea — please subscribe by email. I’ll send you an excerpt from “Sick Room Necessities.” You may find your cure is right inside your kitchen cupboard.

What other major things have changed in our homes in the last 121 years?

Views from COVID-19 — We’re still the same

I was looking through my posts from this past year amidst the pandemic. I was feeling frustrated in September when I wrote this post. That was before we decided to put our home of 28 years for sale. Before we decided to leave California. So much has changed in my life since September. And again, so much has not. This post could have been written by me today. When will we see a return to normal? Or will we?

sad pug on sofa

Waffles had the pandemic malaise too.

Do you ever have days where you wake up full of energy and ideas and can’t wait to get started on the day? Today was that day, and somewhere after my walk, doing laundry and sitting down to work, I lost that drive.

I struggled with what to start on, staring at my computer screen for a fresh burst of inspiration to come back at me. I have too much on my to do list — from writing to cleaning out the laundry room. I don’t know what to do first. Second, I started to worry about what this fall and winter season will bring. Will we have a second wave of the pandemic? Will I get sick? Will loved ones and friends get sick? I want to hurry to next Spring and skip the next few months.

Worrying about the uncertain future makes it hard to focus. How do you stop worrying? I also started thinking about how I miss my life before this virus hit. I think it’s going to take a toll on a lot of people emotionally and mentally — let alone physically. As human being we crave interaction with others. I miss my family, my occasional social outings and my swim friends. I don’t think it’s healthy for people to be cut off from each other.

I miss my mom. She’s in assisted living a few miles from where that first nursing home outbreak started by Seattle. If I were to visit her, I don’t know if I’d be allowed in. I’d more likely be waving to her from outside her window. I’m not going to hop on an airplane in the near future, so it’s a moot point.

On a more positive note, we had a treat this weekend with my son and his girlfriend making an impromptu visit. Since my kids live in the Bay Area and all the gyms are closed, by son has been looking for weights. Weights are one of those premium items where the prices  skyrocketed. It’s ridiculous! More than $2,000 for an Olympic bar and weights. We have a set laying around and my husband said if our son came down to pick it up, he could borrow it for as long as he wants.

It was great to see them in person and give them hugs. I’m lacking in hugs from other family and friends. Maybe someday soon?

Are you able to carry on like “before” or do you see a change in your motivation? Has your ability to focus changed?

Ash Wednesday during COVID-19

brother and sister at piano

My kids at a piano recital.

I just read that the Vatican has instructed priests to sprinkle ashes on the heads of people, rather than the traditional cross on the forehead. I’m going to forgo Ash Wednesday services in person this year and will listen to the service online. That’s a new practice for churchgoers that I hope will go by the wayside by next year.

I do believe that Lent is a good time to reflect on our lives. One Ash Wednesday service in past years stands out to me. Rather than giving something up — like chocolate or alcohol — the priest suggested doing something. He talked about investing more time in prayer or volunteering to help someone else, he felt it should be a time of giving of ourselves. He suggested reading the book of Mark from the Bible during the 40 days of Lent.

I’m a convert to Catholicism so I had to learn about Lent. I didn’t grow up with it. My kids did and my daughter always said she was giving up piano lessons for Lent. Yes, she hated piano. I thought piano had so many benefits and forced her to take lessons, years beyond what I should have done, she often reminds me.

If you don’t observe Lent and wonder what it’s all about, here’s a definition from Britannica:

Lent, in the Christian church, a period of penitential preparation for Easter. In Western churches it begins on Ash Wednesday, six and a half weeks before Easter, and provides for a 40-day fast (Sundays are excluded), in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry. In Eastern churches Lent begins on the Monday of the seventh week before Easter and ends on the Friday that is nine days before Easter. This 40-day “Great Lent” includes Saturdays and Sundays as relaxed fast days.

Here’s a link to Good Housekeeping’s article called 25 Creative Things to Give Up for Lent in 2021: From gossip and complaining to junk food and coffee, ditching these habits could change your life by Juliana Labianca. There are a lot of good ideas to do in that article that could improve your life — whether or not you observe Lent.

A friend emailed this eight-minute Homily about Lent. It’s a time to be cheerful and transformative.

When it rains in Palm Springs…

Our country is suffering through drastic winter storms. With Valentine’s Day quietly passing us by this weekend, I remembered two years ago when I felt I was fighting Mother Nature to save our 1930s Palm Springs home. I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as what people are suffering with right now — loss of power and extreme weather — but It was a battle for hours as the biggest rain storm in decades pounded our desert.

Desert Sun 2019 flood photo

Photo from The Desert Sun

When it rains in Palm Springs I usually welcome it. Growing up near Seattle, I’m used to rain. It smells so good and makes everything green and refreshed. But, when it rains hard in Palm Springs, it can be a nightmare. And Valentine’s Day 2019 was one of those days.

I enjoyed listening to the rain on the roof the night before. But in the morning, I heard a “drip, drip” that sounded too close for comfort. I kept waking up and checking on the house from 3 to 6 a.m. Everything was okay besides a drip in my bedroom. By 6:30 a.m. our patio and garage had flooded and the water seeped in through the bottom of the French doors. By 8 a.m. the water was puddling in our living room and making it’s way across the entire room.

I battled the flooding in the house with towels. Heavy, rain drenched towels that I wrung out in the tub and threw into the dryer. Back breaking work after several hours and the rain was winning. The floor was completely covered by an inch or two of water.

My husband left for work at 6 a.m. that morning, but as the weather got worse, he decided to head back home. He bought two sump pumps on the way and had to stand in line for them at the hardware store. What a romantic Valentine’s Day present, right?

 

The sump pumps were game changers! I took a break from fighting the flood to look online to see how other people in Palm Springs were doing. Screen Shot 2019-02-14 at 1.38.11 PM

There were numerous accidents on the freeway and roads. Schools and businesses closed. We were told to hunker down at home. Screen Shot 2019-02-14 at 1.37.37 PM

The worst of the rain was still to come. I know we needed the rain–but really, did it all have to come down in one day?

Here’s a youtube video near the Indian Canyons:

 

And then this happened….

Harris hawk on jojoba Harris hawks on our jojoba bush.

After writing about my neighbor’s dog, I didn’t know that this would happen next…

I was taking a break, sitting in a zero-gravity lounge in the sun, reading a book about creativity called “Vein of Gold.” I placed two bird feeders in our back yard a few weeks ago. I enjoyed watching the quail and pigeons who came into the yard, ignoring me as I sat still with my book.

Hawk on wall Harris hawk on a neighbor’s wall.

Then I heard a crash. Another crash. I saw the giant brown wings of a Harris hawk. It looked like it was smashing into the screen door of our casita. Crash! It hit it again. I jumped up, yelled and waved my arms, hoping to scare away the hawk away who had a quail in his claws.

I quickly walked down to the casita door and quietly peeked inside. I wasn’t sure if the hawk had broken through the screen door. I was shocked when I discovered this:

Broken window due to hark The window after the hawk repeatedly flew into it.

It wasn’t the screen door but a window he smashed into. I think the hawk thought our casita was the perfect place to hide out in to devour the quail. I’ve decided not to refill the bird feeders. I don’t want my yard as a hunting ground for hawks, bobcats and coyotes to stalk our fattened quails.

Not only do I worry about the neighbor’s dog, but also large birds of prey shattering windows.

 

My latest fears…

With all the wildlife around our new home, you’d think I’d be afraid of the huge coyotes, the bobcat slinking under the window, or the javelinas staring at me through the gate. But no, I’m afraid of a neighbor’s dog.

coyote on wall

A coyote has been hanging out on our wall.

I’m not sure if it’s an irrational fear or not. You should see the dog! I’ve been walking along the road outside our development for my morning walks. One side is backyards of houses and the other side a nature’s preserve. The views across the street are breathtaking.

The dog sits in his backyard and barks at me as I walk by. He’s a big, ugly dog with a nasty growl and bark.

I was okay with it, thinking there’s no way this devil-looking dog can get outside his fence. But then one day I faced the dog being walked on a leash by the owner and their young teen son walking a huge pit bull — who looked friendly compared to the beast. The devil dog lunged at the end of its leash, growling. The woman holding the leash pulled on it precariously. I crossed the street from the sidewalk to the open nature’s preserve.

“I’m afraid of your dog!” I called out.

“Oh, he’s fine,” she said.

I hoped she could hang onto that damn leash! I wish he was wearing a pinch collar or at least a choke chain.

Back at home I googled vicious dogs and looked for the breed. I found it. Presa Canario. Here’s the website where I found the picture.

photo of presa canario

I found this photo online. It looks like the neighbor’s dog.

This is what I learned from one of many websites I clicked on.

This breed is widely considered to make for a loyal pet and a first-rate guard dog when raised properly. But it also has a reputation as a fearsome fight dog with an aggressive streak when it is not well trained. Unfortunately, Presa Canario attacks are known to happen, and can prove deadly.

So, I don’t feel secure about this dog. I don’t know if he’s well trained or not. Whenever I go out walking and spot the woman with her dog, I turn the other way. I wonder why they need a pit bull and a presa? Isn’t that overkill? I’m sure they sleep well at night, though.

I find myself second guessing where to walk. I think I’m overacting and my walks aren’t as enjoyable. I may have to get back to the pool!

cat sitting next to flowers

Olive outside at our old home.

My other fear is that my kitty Olive will get outside and tangle with the wildlife. She went outside at our old home and loved her time outdoors. So far, she runs the opposite direction and hides whenever a door is opened.

pug face

This little guy is more my speed than a presa. It’s Waffles the pug snuggling my daughter.

Do you think my fear of the neighbor’s dog is irrational or not? How would you react in my situation?

Cancel culture and the right to freedom of speech

I wrote this more than six years ago. I can only say with the current “cancel culture” things have only gotten worse. The movement against freedom of speech and censorship has expanded from college campuses to social media and beyond.

 

Cherry blossoms at the Quad University of Washington

My alma mater. Springtime at the University of Washington, Seattle.

I worry about my kids and the world we are leaving them. I especially worry about how their ideals are so different than mine, when I was their age.

For example, I wanted to have a successful career. I was interested in getting a job. Eventually get married, buy a home and raise a family. Not that I wanted that at age 19 or even 22, but it was in the back of my mind.

Frosh pond at the University of Washington.

Another view from the UW.

I was a journalism major. My internships were at local newspapers and I spent one quarter at the state capital as a legislative reporter. I valued the written word. As an avid reader and writer for most of my entire life, I value freedom of speech and believe we are one of the few fortunate country’s in the world to enjoy this right. We have friends who immigrated from Eastern Europe. They told us how books were illegal in their country. They would smuggle photographs of each page to read and share with friends.

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Washington State Capitol with Mt. Rainier.

Washington State Capitol Dome with Mt. Rainier

I’m so surprised that our kids do not appreciate this right.

Did you hear that? Freedom of speech, which is our first amendment right, is not a favorable thing to a growing number of our college students. There was a recent Pew Research poll that tracked opinions about freedom of speech. Forty percent of students believe that our first amendment is outdated and that the government should have the right to censor our speech if it’s offensive to minorities.

“Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Read more here about the document called the Bill of Rights. 

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I was a young child in the 60s when protestors were taking over college campuses, bombing buildings and burning flags. They were protesting the War. They believed in freedom of speech.

You don’t have to agree with the words being said. You don’t even have to like it. You can hate it and find it offensive. But, don’t censor or silence it. It seems that our college campuses have become microcosms of group think where no dissenting point of view is allowed. If someone speaks out with a contrary opinion, they are shouted down, silenced and excommunicated.

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It’s very scary to me that the foundations of our country are not respected or valued by our youth. I’m hoping they outgrow this attitude as they enter the world, get jobs and raise their families.

Red Scarf Girl bookcover

A must read in today’s world.

There’s a book I read when my kids were in grade school called Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang. It’s a true story and eerily reminds me of what’s going on today with our college students.

“In 1966, Ji-li Jiang was twelve years old. An outstanding student and leader in her school, she had everything: brains, ability, the admiration of her peers – and a shining future in Chairman Mao’s New China. But all that changed with the advent of the Cultural Revolution, when intelligence became a crime and a wealthy family background invited persecution or worse.”

It’s a well written book and the story is one we should think about today.

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Here’s a story from 12/9/2015 that brings up some of the issues on campuses I’ve been reading about: Importance of Free Speech on Campus .

Here’s an opinion piece from the LA Times that addresses the issue of freedom of speech with numbers.

Here’s a couple blog posts I’ve written on the subject:

Is Freedom of Speech Dead On American Campuses

Are the Right to Party and the Right to Free Speech at Odds at UCSB?