Sunday, January 25, 2009

Remedy for a Cold . . . and a Cold Day

It is cold here in Colorado and I keep hearing sniffles around me everywhere I go. It's just that season of the year when being cooped up inside brings the germs and viruses out to play. I hunted back through some past columns I wrote several years ago (published in the Country Register newspaper), and decided to share one with you here:

“Visits With a Victorian Lady”TM

A Mother’s Touch

“When I was sick and lay a-bed,

I had two pillows at my head,

And all my toys beside me lay

To keep me happy all the day.”

from “The Land of Counterpane,” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Please pardon me, dear reader, for any toast crumbs or blotches of beef-tea you may find staining this missive. I am endeavoring to write to you from my daughter’s room amidst the general confusion of quilts, dolls, extra pillows, and a lap tray filled with assorted sick-day remedies. You see, Elizabeth is recovering from a bit of catarrh, that malady often referred to as a “cold.”

I was not surprised in the least that Elizabeth fell ill after romping about in a pile of sodden leaves Saturday last. I knew we were likely to see some trouble when I discovered her damp stockings stuffed into her equally wet shoes by the back door. Every mother knows that it is the easiest thing to avoid cold and wet feet if only a child will heed the reminder to wear warm socks, horse-hair soles and goulashes! But do children always listen? In my experience, I must admit they do not!

When Elizabeth awoke the next morning with a sniffle, I immediately pulled my “Practical Housekeeping” book off the shelf. I have always found the advise within its pages most helpful. Accordingly, to treat the malady as suggested, I first opened Elizabeth’s window to assure her of fresh air. To quote the source, the chapter “Hints for the Sick-room” says:

“Pure air in a sick-room is of the utmost importance. In illness, the poisoned body is desperately trying to throw off, through lungs, skin, and in every possible way, the noxious materials that have done the mischief. . . Outside air is the best, but, if needed, there should be a fire in the room to take off the chill. A cold or catarrh is rarely taken in bed, with the bed-clothes well tucked in, but oftener in getting up out of a warm bed when the skin is relaxed. Of course anything like a “chill” should be avoided, and it is not well to allow a draft or current of air to pass directly over the bed of the patient.”

To counter the affect of the chill January air, I had Maude lay a nice fire in Elizabeth’s bedroom stove. Next I layered a few quilts about her, taking care not to cause her to overheat, something that “Practical Housekeeping” says predisposes one to the congestion affected in catarrh.

As a matter of course, I administered my own mother’s cure for catarrh: “put a tea-spoonful of sugar in a goblet, and on it put six drops of camphor, adding water till the glass is half full; stir, till the sugar is dissolved, then give a dessert-spoonful to the patient every twenty minutes.”

When Elizabeth complained of a cough, another remedy was applied: Along with the regularly prescribed dose of honey mixed with lemon, I wrapped a cold, wet linen handkerchief around her neck held in place by a woolen stocking pinned over it.

Even though constant attention to a sick child is important, an indulgent mother must ever be on the watch that the child’s illness not be the cause of spoiling. Many a child will whine and wheedle their way during sick-days in an effort to obtain things they would never dream of asking for when healthy and whole. Indeed, “Practical Housekeeping” suggests that “patients are often killed by kindness. A spoonful of improper food, or the indulgence of some whim, may prove fatal.” Even though Elizabeth begged for snow pudding the whole week, I held fast to the rule “a little food at a time and often repeated, is the general rule for the sick.” Weak beef-tea was ordered up from Martha, my cook, and administered by the spoonful every hour for the first two days of the illness.

I must admit that within the past couple of days I have indulged Elizabeth just a bit. I yielded to her pleas and we spent a good deal of the afternoon today cutting paper dolls and reading her favorite stories. Please don’t admonish me for spoiling! It is just that I am so pleased to see her progress -- the roses are back in her cheeks again. Perhaps with all your marvels of modern medicine you cannot understand my delight at something so insignificant as a child’s recovery of a “cold.” You may not know that in the 1890’s often half the children born to us never reach adulthood. Even so, these dear little ones on loan to us from God above are most special, and each day we have them is to be treasured. ~~~

~~~ Please pardon the jog in my writing. Elizabeth just pulled on my sleeve, and with earnest brown eyes, begged again for snow pudding. Hmm . . . do you know? I think she just might get some. Until next time, let me leave you with the receipt and the admonition to spoil your favorite child with “just a little.” A mother’s touch, after all, might be filled with the best sort of medicine.

Believe me to be every so sincerely yours, Abigail Bradshaw.


1 envelope Knox gelatin juice of one lemon

3 eggs, separated juice of one orange

1 cup sugar 1/2 pint heavy cream, whipped

a scant teaspoon of grated lemon and orange peel

Beat the egg whites and set aside. Beat egg yolks and sugar until lemon-colored. Soak gelatin in 1/2 cup cold water, heat over a pan of hot water until dissolved. Combine with the egg yolk and sugar mixture and add the juices and grated peels. Let stand until it begins to thicken. Fold in whipped cream and lastly, the beaten egg whites. Set aside in a cold place.

Copyright, 1998 - 2009, Judi Brandow, all rights reserved

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“Abigail Bradshaw” is the fictitious creation of Judi Brandow. All historic detail is gleaned form antique magazines and books, and is authentic in its content.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Evenings at Home

What might a winter evening have been like in the late 1800s? Here is a glimpse into the past from my 1883 book, Our Home by C.E. Sargent:

"Who does not still carry in his mind the sweet pictures of happy evenings at home, when all the family sat by the fire, mother with her knitting, and father with his stories of prouder days, while the kitten gambolled upon the floor or played with the ball of yarn that fell from mother's lap, and while the fire-light moved upon the wall like the waving of a white wing in the darkness, -- as if heaven could not permit so much joy upon the earth without having its representative there? Now mother tardily rises to light the lamp, and the children gather round the table with slate and pencil to grapple with those little tasks and problems that only sweeten life's remembrances.

"How indelibly through all the change-freighted years this picture remains upon the canvas of the soul. Unlike the perishing works of genius, time never bleaches the canvas nor turns the picture pale. Gaze on that picture, O youth. . . When we turn our eyes from the soft colors of a beautiful picture, to gaze upon the brilliancy of the electric light, and then turn again to view the picture, how dim the colors, how blurred is the whole picture till we have steadily and persistently gazed for a long time."

Where are you this evening, dear friend? Take a lesson from the pages of the past and spend them cozily tucked in your home with family.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Order in the Home

In Julia McNair Wright's 1879 book, The Complete Home, she writes on the topic of "Order in the Home." I can't think of anything more appropriate for January.

I thought I would share a few nuggets from Julia's thoughts on the subject, especially when we tend to be in resolution mode:

"You can bury more time in disorder than in any other way. . .I was sent a book. . . Inside was only a single page: that was white Bristol, illuminated with a wreath of flowers, bees and butterflies, and this motto within: 'Always be one hour in advance of your work.' I saw at once that here was the key to the Order that reigns. . .If I were an hour beforehand with work, I should never be hurried nor worried; if I began at once, the habit of being in season would be fixed. I saw also that the one hour would by good judgment in planning grow to many, and I should always have time to spare. I concluded to think the housekeeping matter out and have an exact routine for it."