In praise of terry cloth

I suppose I’m going to be drummed out of the house cleaning corps for saying this, but I cannot stand microfiber towels and rags! The texture of the closely-packed synthetic fiber… its special laundering requirements… the way it swirls a spill around on a surface even though it is purported to be MORE absorbent than regular towels… can’t stand it!

BUT – in the interest of promoting what I love rather than tearing down what I dislike, I will instead expound for a moment on the joys and benefits of good old-fashioned terry cloth. Because I love terry cloth and use it exclusively for towels and washcloths in my home.

Pretty vintage terrycloth bath towels!

Why Terrycloth?

Terry cloth is absorbent! I can put a terry cloth kitchen towel down over a spill and instead of just spreading it around on the affected surface like synthetic microfiber, the towel actually absorbs the spill AND dries the surface at the same time. Genius!

Terry cloth can be washed with my other laundry! I can and do throw my terry cloth towels and washcloths in with all my other laundry and they come out with no residue from the other fabrics embedded in their fibers. By contrast, it’s recommended that you only wash microfiber with other microfiber – and I can promise you, I will NEVER have enough microfiber in my house to justify an entire load of laundry.

I love the large-scale floral motifs on so many vintage bath towels!

Terry cloth is snuggly! When I step out of the shower, I not only love the absorbency of my towels, I love their warmth. It feels great to surround myself with a terry cloth bath sheet because it stays put – it doesn’t slide all around my body like synthetic microfiber – and it holds in the warmth of the water from my shower.

Terry cloth is beautiful! Vintage terrycloth towels feed my vintage-loving soul with their nubby texture, floral motifs, and soft faded-over-time colors. I look for good gently used vintage towels on eBay, but also find a lot of them in the thrift stores.

Minimal Benefits of Microfiber

One of the alleged benefits of microfiber is that it works better as a cleaning cloth – supposedly the tiny “close” fibers clean better because they are “electrostatically charged” so they don’t need chemical cleaners. I certainly admit that terry cloth is not the best fabric for, say, a dusting cloth… but I use flour sack dish cloths for dusting furniture, sprayed with a little Lemon Pledge, and have done so ever since dusting was “my chore” as a kid. If using Lemon Pledge is wrong, I don’t wanna be right – I love the smell!

As for kitchen floors – I have tried using microfiber mops, and I just can’t stand them. I use a sponge mop with a little PineSol in the water, and I either let the floor air-dry or I run a terry cloth towel over it to pick up the remaining moisture.

Also love that touch of fringe at the bottom – so vintage!

Finally, the cleaning difference of microfiber does not outweigh the downsides for me – microfiber allegedly removes more bacteria. but I’m just not going to pay more for microfiber and deal with its special care needs for a six percent difference.

Terry cloth just has so much more vintage vibe! And yes, I buy them gently used off eBay, from thrift stores, and other secondhand sources!

For pure vintage loveliness, absorbency, easy care, and that wonderful “snuggle factor,” I’m sticking with terry cloth for my kitchen and bath.

How about you – Team Terry Cloth? Or Team Microfiber? Would love to know what you think!

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The forgotten legacy of Alva Vanderbilt Belmont

This post contains an affiliate link to the referenced book on Amazon.com. If you purchase the book through my link, it costs you nothing extra but I do receive a small commission. Thank you for your supporting purchase, should you be inclined!

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a). a love for the television program, Downton Abbey, and the time period in which it’s set, both in England and the U.S.; and b). a love of research into obscure topics of American history and culture. This piece is a bit of a departure, topic-wise, for my blog, but it is very timely – as you’ll soon see.

Alva Vanderbilt Belmont. Photo source: Flickr Commons Project 2012.

It seems that any time the name Alva Vanderbilt crops up, people are quick to condemn her for being a self-centered, manipulative social climber and serial mansion-builder during America’s “Gilded Age.” And she was all those things, as evidenced by the often-repeated story of how she maneuvered her daughter Consuelo into marrying the English Duke of Marlborough for position and status rather than love – similar to the fictional marriage of Cora Levinson and Robert Crawley on Downton.

But.

As with every complex and multi-faceted human being, there is always more to the story. And there was far more to Alva than just a desire to climb to the top of the New York social ladder. According to author Amanda Mackenzie Stuart in her dual biography “Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt,” Alva sought position for Consuelo not just to cement her own position at the top of the New York social heap during The Gilded Age… but because of her personal beliefs about marriage and the subjugated role of women in wealthy American society.

Alva was clear in her observation that rich American wives were soon cast aside by their industrialist husbands, who always had something next to conquer and who expected their wives to fade into the background of caring for home and children while they (the husbands) enjoyed complete freedom to pursue whatever pleasures they wished – both intellectual and physical – outside the bonds of marriage. Alva experienced this personally with her husband, William K. Vanderbilt, who – like most rich men of his era – strayed overtly from his marriage vows over and over. That his wife filled this void with lavish parties, beautiful homes, and exerting control over her children can hardly be wondered at – indeed it was the way society expected her to deal with her husband’s infidelity and to make a life within her particular station.

More to the point, Alva perceived wealthy American wives (herself included) as “captives like flies in a bottle, and having once flown in, could never regain their freedom.” She did not wish for her daughter (or herself, for that matter) to be a fly in a bottle. Rather, having traveled throughout Europe as a young woman, Alva wanted Consuelo to live well, but with personal fulfillment and a greater social purpose. While American culture seemed to impose no sense of social responsibility on the wealthy, in England Alva saw that the aristocratic class was expected to use their wealth to improve conditions for all classes. The career she sought for Consuelo was one based in firm social standing at the top of the ladder, to be sure – but with care and concern for the aspects of society that needed improving. Rather than being a bystander relegated to tending the home fires, Alva wanted her daughter to be able to use her brain, her power, and her money for social good – something that would be considered completely unnecessary, and even chastised, had Consuelo married a rich American in the culture of the time. Based on her personal experience, Alva believed that England was the place for this life to unfold for Consuelo, so marriage to the Duke was the best possible answer.

Beyond the ever-clashing forces at work in Alva’s personality which led her to engineer her daughter’s marriage to an English Duke, there is one other aspect of Alva that deserves far more recognition than it has received. This is her role in the American woman’s suffrage movement.

Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, second from right, at the 1915 Woman’s Voter Convention. Photo Source: Library of Congress.

When Alva’s second husband Oliver Belmont died in 1908, she visited Consuelo in England and was taken by the manner in which her daughter had fully embraced the “career” of empowered, respected aristocrat. One of Consuelo’s primary interests was woman’s suffrage, and the widowed Alva found a similar passion for this cause while in England. She returned to New York from that visit ready to throw in with the National American Woman Suffrage Association, but found their lack of national visibility to be cripplingly ineffectual. She contributed funds to a more visible New York-based office and the establishment of a press bureau responsible for literature sales and public relations with the media.

Alva argued vehemently that the vote was not a privilege, but a right – a human right. She believed that success in securing woman’s right to vote lay in executing a far more forceful fight on the national political stage. She floated the ideas of a federal constitutional amendment and alignment with one of the established political parties. The “National American” often disagreed with her beliefs and methods, preferring a low-key, conciliatory approach. Eventually Alva re-aligned with the more aggressive Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CU) led by Alice Paul, and she funded the establishment of the National Women’s Party. For more than a decade, Alva fought vigorously and consistently for the suffrage cause.

This paragraph from Stuart’s dual biography effectively sums up Alva’s contribution to the suffrage movement:

“Alva was critical to reviving the fortunes of the National American when she joined in 1909… she was highly effective in translating her society experience into a political campaign for which there was no precedent in America, impressing on the suffrage movement the importance of positive action, public impact, strategically placed buildings and expert manipulation of the press. She was well ahead of her time in perceiving the importance of alliances with other groups of women… In becoming the main financial backer of the National Women’s Party, she helped to introduce a new, confrontational element to the suffrage campaign… (which) was highly effective in holding male politicians from the President downwards accountable for their failure to deliver the vote, and in pioneering the idea of a suffrage amendment to the constitution… an approach which eventually won the day and also became the basis of Carrie Chapman Catt’s ‘Winning Plan.'”

While not a movement leader on the scale of Catt, Paul, or Susan B. Anthony, Alva’s contributions to woman’s suffrage were critical in reviving the stalled movement and in its eventual success.

It is easy to dismiss Alva for her “sins” of being controlling and manipulative, but it’s also easy to dig just a little deeper… to investigate and even appreciate her full reasons for wishing “the Duchess’s life” upon her daughter and her efforts to bring about social reform through woman’s suffrage and progressivism.

Alva Vanderbilt Belmont. Photo Source: Britannica.com

August 18th, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote. A right that Alva Vanderbilt Belmont – like it or not – fought with all her power to procure for American women of every class.

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Cottage necessities: silk flower arrangements

Friends, I’ve said it before: silk flowers are a staple here in my little cottage – I could not and would not enjoy my home as much as I do if it weren’t for beautiful bunches! Do you use them? I know, I know… lots of people poo-poo them.

“They look so fake.”
“Nothing but dust magnets.”
“They’re awful.”

And to those people I say, you really don’t know what you’re missing, especially when higher quality silks are all over the thrift stores and other second-hand venues… and frequently 50% off or more at places like Hobby Lobby!

Here are a few of my favorites:

This one was $2.99 at Goodwill a couple years ago. It is presently popped into an antique biscuit jar that was a $1 auction win. I tend to move this one all around the house and change its container fairly frequently.

My little sawhorse coffee table was becoming quite the cluttered mishmash of containers holding everything from my collection of reader glasses to the TV remote and so many other random things. I rounded everything up into this cool vintage box labeled Daphne Prunes, and now it feels much more organized. And pretty, too, after setting in a bunch of Dollar Tree silk flowers from my stash for that spilled-over look!

Absolutely stunning ready-made bunch of ranunculus and other blooms from a local consignment shop for $6.99. It sits (literally) on a pedestal in my kitchen.

Perfect muted hues for an elegant table-for-two. The larger blooms are a place to rest, visually speaking, from the intricate borders on the dinnerware I used.

Simple views on my enclosed porch one day pre-pandemic as I headed off to work.

I spotted this huge solid pink poinsettia the moment I walked in the door at a Goodwill a couple of years ago. It is about two feet across and cost $2.99! Later, I found a variegated pink clip-on poinsettia bloom that mingles perfectly. A favorite at Christmastime!

What are your thoughts on adding inexpensive beauty to every corner of your home with silk flowers – yay or nay?

Here’s an image to Pin if you’d like to save these beauties!

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Vote for one…

I’m not a fan of the breadsticks… I would vote #4 out of the bag! How about you?

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Just arrived: dreamy chargers in fairytale hues

Over in my Facebook Group, Thrifty Tablescapers, members post daily with photos of lovely budget-friendly tables they’ve set with thrift-store finds, handed down/inherited treasures, and Dollar Tree dishes. These “thrifty” sources are always my go-to’s!

But recently, one of the gals posted an absolutely gorgeous table using the most amazing chargers which she mentioned were available on Amazon. When I went to check them out, they were out of stock – but a couple weeks later they returned, and I decided to go ahead and splurge. At $30 for six, plus free Prime shipping and two-day delivery, they were a bit more than I would normally spend.

But guys, I’m soooo glad I did because they are gorgeous! And while I did indeed pay full retail for them, it didn’t take long to realize how many different dinner plates I have that will go with them. SO many possibilities… and that makes them thrifty – right? (Please tell me it does!)

My first choice was the light baby blue, but I might have to go back for the “ballet pink”!
Just look at those pretty details!

The chargers are by Allgala, imported, and thick plastic. The ones I purchased are in baby blue with gold details in the sculpted edges, but this style also comes in pink. They arrived with a little foam slip-sheet in between each one, so no surface scratches occurred during shipping.

The first thing I did after unpacking them was – what else – play with some dishes to see what I had that would go well with them. I found a few favorites!

Formalities “Bernadotte” by Baum Brothers dinner plate, and “Old English” salad plate by Johnson Brothers of England.
Haviland Limoges, unknown pattern, double gold edge.
Crown Potteries 22k gold wide-shouldered dinner plate. Over the top with gold!
Hand-painted salad plate from Bavaria.
A personal favorite: Homer Laughlin Eggshell Georgian “Marilyn”.

Can’t wait to do something really special with these! If you’d like to buy them for yourself, you can follow this link:

Allgala Chargers on Amazon

Please note that the above is an affiliate link, meaning if you click on it and make a purchase through my link, it costs you nothing additional but I do get a small commission! (So thanks for using my link if you do decide to purchase! Also note that Allgala has several different chargers to pick from if these aren’t your style – same link above!)

What’s your most recent splurge? Let me know in the comments!

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