Monday, August 5, 2013

The Wonders of Baking Soda

The Wonders of Baking Soda
Ode by a Mother to Baking Soda
How do I use thee?
I can’t count the ways …
You scrub my tub, presoak my clothes
Freshen my fridge, won’t scratch stoves
Eat odors in sneakers and diaper pails
Soothe bites and burns to stop kid’s wails.
All of this without harming our earth,
You give far more than my money’s worth.
                                        Jane Foster, Picton, Ontario, Canada

Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. When baking soda is combined with moisture and an acidic ingredient (e.g., yogurt, chocolate, buttermilk, honey), the resulting chemical reaction produces bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand under oven temperatures, causing baked goods to rise. The reaction begins immediately upon mixing the ingredients, so you need to bake recipes which call for baking soda immediately, or else they will fall flat!
Most everyone is familiar with keeping a box of baking soda in the fridge to keep it fresh or as a leavening agent when cooking. But there is a multitude of other uses that you may not be familiar with that we thought we’d share with you. As you’ll quickly see, baking soda is kind of the Swiss army of knife of household products.

Just a few of many uses of Baking Soda:
1.       Keep a container of baking soda near your stove in case of a grease or electrical fire.    Also keep it in your garage as well as in your car to put out a fire. It won't damage anything it touches.
2.       Baking soda will also put out fires in clothing, fuel, wood, upholstery and rugs.
3.      Clean vegetables and fruit with baking soda. Sprinkle in water, soak and rinse the produce.
4.       Wash garbage cans with baking soda.
5.       Soak and wash diapers with baking soda.
6.       Oil and grease -- stained clothing washes out better with baking soda added to the washing water.
7.       Clean your fridge and freezer with dry baking soda sprinkled on a damp cloth. Rinse with clear water.
8.       Deodorize your fridge and freezer by putting in an open container of baking soda to absorb odors. Stir and turn over the baking soda from time to time. Replace every 2 months.
9.       Always add 1/2-cup baking soda to your washing machine load.
10.  Clean combs and brushes in a baking soda solution.
11.  Wash food and drink containers with baking soda and water.
12.  Wash marble-topped furniture with a solution of 3-tablespoons of baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. Let stand awhile, then rinse.
13.  Clean Formica counter tops with baking soda on a damp sponge.
14.  Wash out thermos bottles and cooling containers with baking soda and water to get rid of stale smells.
15.  To remove stubborn stains from marble, Formica or plastic surfaces, scour with a paste of baking soda and water.
16.  Wash glass or stainless steel coffee pots (but not aluminum) in a baking soda solution (3-tablespoons soda to 1 quart water).
17.  Run your coffee maker through its cycle with a baking soda solution. Rinse.
18.  Sprinkle baking soda on barbecue grills, let soak, then rinse off.
19.  Sprinkle baking soda on greasy garage floor. Let stand, scrub and rinse.
20.  Polish silverware with dry baking soda on a damp cloth. Rub, rinse and dry.
21.  For silver pieces without raised patterns or cemented-on handles: place the silver on aluminum foil in an enamel pot. Add boiling water and 4 tablespoons baking soda. Let stand, rinse and dry.
22.  Reduce odor build-up in your dishwasher by sprinkling some baking soda on the bottom.
23.  To remove burned-on food from a pan: let the pan soak in baking soda and water for 10 minutes before washing. Or scrub the pot with dry soda and a moist scouring pad.
24.  Rub stainless steel and chrome with a moist cloth and dry baking soda to shine it up. Rinse and dry. On stainless steel, scrub in the direction of the grain.
25.  Clean plastic, porcelain and glass with dry soda on a damp cloth. Rinse and dry.
26.  Clean your bathroom with dry baking soda on a moist sponge -- sink, tub, tiles, shower stall, etc.
27.  Keep your drains clean and free-flowing by putting 4 tablespoons of soda in them each week. Flush the soda down with hot water.
28.  Soak your shower curtains in water and baking soda to clean them.
29.  To remove strong odors from your hands, wet your hands and rub them hard with baking soda, then rinse.
30.  Sprinkle baking soda on your wet toothbrush and brush your teeth and dentures with it.
31.  Sprinkle baking soda in tennis shoes, socks, boots and slippers to eliminate odor.
32.  Apply baking soda directly to insect bites, rashes and poison ivy to relieve discomfort. Make a paste with water.
33.  Take a baking soda bath to relieve general skin irritations such as measles and chicken pox.
34.  Take 1/2-teaspoon of baking soda in one-half glass of water to relieve acid indigestion or heartburn.
35.   To relieve sunburn: use a paste of baking soda and water.
36.  Bug bites: use a poultice of baking soda and vinegar.
37.  Bee sting: use a poultice of baking soda and water.
38.  Windburns: moisten some baking soda and apply directly.
39.  Making Play Clay with baking soda: combine 1 1/4 cups water, 2 cups soda, 1 cup cornstarch.
40.  Repel rain from windshield. Put gobs of baking soda on a dampened cloth and wipe windows inside and out.
41.  Add baking soda to water to soak dried beans to make them more digestible.
42.  Add baking soda to water to remove the "gamey" taste from wild game.
43.  Use baking soda to sweeten sour dishcloths.
44.  Use baking soda dry with a small brush to rub canvas handbags clean.
45.  To eliminate dog odors or just freshen up the air, sprinkle baking soda on your carpet where your dog lies and vacuum up. Leave the soda on the carpet for half an hour. It also eliminates odor in your vacuum after it has been vacuumed up. A great way to freshen up your home air during the winter when everything is closed up.
46.  Baking soda rubbed onto a dampened blood stain can help lift the stain from the fabric.
47.  Fruit and wine stains need to be treated immediately with baking soda, but if you're in a hurry, pour a little baking soda on the stain, and then later run hot water through the back of the stain. Works great on table linens.
48.  Baking soda works great on removing ring around the collar. Rub a paste of 6 Tablespoons of baking soda and 1/2 cup of warm water onto stained clothing before laundering. Be sure to check for colorfastness first.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What is Steampunk?

What is Steampunk?
Steampunk is a word gaining increased use and popularity in our lexicon. What is it? Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. Therefore, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. 
     Steampunk perhaps most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. Such technology may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or the modern authors Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld, and, most notably, J.K. Rowling in her Harry Potter novels.
     Steampunk also refers to any of the artistic styles, clothing fashions, or subcultures that have developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, and films from the mid-20th century. Various modern utilitarian objects have been molded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical "steampunk" style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.

Steampunk-inspired Hogwarts Diary 
William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's 1990 novel The Difference Engine is often credited with bringing widespread awareness of steampunk.  This novel applies the principles of Gibson and Sterling's cyberpunk writings to an alternative Victorian era where Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage's proposed steam-powered mechanical computer, which Babbage called a difference engine and led to the dawn of the information age more than a century "ahead of schedule". 

An assortment of steampunk collectibles

In general, the category includes any recent science fiction that takes place in a recognizable historical period (sometimes an alternate history version of an actual historical period) in which the Industrial Revolution has already begun, but electricity is not yet widespread.  It places an emphasis on steam- or spring-propelled gadgets. The most common historical steampunk settings are the Victorian and Edwardian eras, though some in this "Victorian steampunk" category can go as early as the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
"Historical" steampunk usually leans more towards science fiction than fantasy, but a number of historical steampunk stories have incorporated magical elements as well. For example,  Morlock Night, written by K. W. Jeter, revolves around an attempt by the wizard Merlin to raise King Arthur to save Britain in 1892 from an invasion of Morlocks from the future.The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers involves a cabal of magicians among the beggars and thieves of the early 19th century London underworld.  And of course, most recently, the Harry Potter novels. 
      Steampunk design emphasizes a balance between the form and function. Like the Arts and Crafts Movement, this blurs the line between tool and decoration. Various modern utilitarian objects have been modified by enthusiasts into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical "steampunk" style. Example objects include computer keyboards and electric guitars.The goal of such redesigns is to employ appropriate materials (such as polished brass, iron, wood, and leather) with design elements consistent with the Victorian era, rejecting the aesthetic of industrial design.

A steampunk computer keyboard

     Because of the popularity of steampunk, there is a growing movement towards establishing steampunk as a culture and lifestyle. Some fans of the genre adopt a steampunk aesthetic through fashion, home decor, music, and film. This may be described as neo-Victorianism, which is the amalgamation of Victorian aesthetic principles with modern sensibilities and technologies.

A steampunk-inspired watch

     Steampunk fashion has no set guidelines, but tends to synthesize modern styles influenced by the Victorian era. This may include gowns, corsets, petticoats and bustles; suits with vests, coats, top hats and spats; or military-inspired garments. Steampunk-influenced outfits are usually accented with several technological and period accessories: timepieces, parasols, flying/driving goggles, and ray guns. Modern accessories like cell phones or music players can be found in steampunk outfits, after being modified to give them the appearance of Victorian-made objects. Aspects of steampunk fashion have been anticipated by mainstream high fashion, the Lolita fashion and aristocrat styles, neo-Victorianism, and the romantic Goth subculture.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Antique Milk Bottles

Milk Bottles


Before milk bottles, milkmen filled the customers' jugs. For many collectors, milk bottles carry a nostalgic quality of a bygone age. The most prized milk bottles are embossed or pyroglazed (painted) with names of dairies on them, which were used for home delivery of milk so that the milk bottles could find their way back to their respective dairies.

It is not clear when the first milk bottles came into use. However, the New York Dairy Company is credited with having the first factory that produced milk bottles, and the first patents for a milk container is held by the Lester Milk Jar on January 29, 1878 - US patent number 199837, filed on September 22, 1877. There are many other similar milk containers from around this period, including the Mackworh Pure Jersey Cream crockery type jar, the Manorfield Stock Farm, the Manor, the Pa glass wide mouth jar, and the Tuthill's Dairy Unionville, NY.
The Express Dairy Company in England began delivery glass milk bottles in 1880 and, thus, may have been among the first to do so.
Lewis P. Whiteman holds the first patent for a glass milk bottle with a small glass lid and a tin clip (US patent number 225,900, granted March 23, 1880, filed on January 31, 1880. The next earliest patent is for a milk bottle with a dome type tin cap and was granted September 23, 1884 to Whitemen's brother, Abram V. Whiteman (US patent number 305,554, filed on January 31, 1880. This bottle has been found with cream line marks and is very valuable. The Whiteman brothers produced milk bottles based on these specifications at the Warren Glass Works Company in Cumberland, Maryland and sold them through their New York sales office.
The first milk-bottle-capping machine was designed, built, and overall invented by a Polish man named Menachem Wallach.
The Original Thatcher is one of the most desirable milk bottles for collectors. The patent for the glass dome lid is dated April 27, 1886. There are several variations of this early milk bottle and many reproductions. During this time period, many types of bottles were being used to hold and distribute milk. These include a pop bottle type with a wire clamp, used by the Chicago Sterilized Milk Company, Sweet Clover, and others.  Fruit jars were also used, but only the Cohansey Glass Manufacturing plant made them with dairy names embossed on them.

Very old wire cap milk bottle

Studying the base of a milk bottle will give some clues as to how it was made and what company might have manufactured the bottle.  Also many dairies took advantage of the space on the milk bottle base to add embossing to help identify their bottle.  One thing that one will not find is a pontil mark.  Many people, especially on ebay, describe milk bottles as having a pontil mark but this is not correct.  

 A pontil is where the glass blower attached a punty rod to hold the partially finished bottle so he could form the lip.  When the punty rod was snapped off the bottle, a rough scar was left on the base of the bottle (picture).  Pontil marks are found on bottles that date to the 1860's and before.  Since the first milk bottles did not appear till the late 1870's one will not find American milk bottles with pontil marks.  We have only heard of one early jar that was from Tuthill Dairy of Unionville, New York that was reported to have a pontil but this was not in the shape of a milk bottle.

As stated above, milk bottles appeared after the period of pontiled bottles.  Some of the earliest milk bottles will be mouth blown but they will have been blown in a three piece cup mold.  The three pieces are the base of the bottle and the two halves of the body.  Therefore there will be a mold seam just above the heel of the bottle, encircling the base and a mold seam up each side of the bottle disappearing at the neck.  The base of these mouth blown milk bottles will not have any mold seams.  These bottles will generally date prior to 1910.  Starting in the late 1800's, machines became available to blow bottles and were quickly adopted.  Machines could produce many more bottles in a day compared to a man thus reducing the cost and the bottles were more consistent.
The commonsense milk bottle with the first cap seat was developed as an economical means for sealing a reusable milk bottle by the Thatcher Manufacturing Company around 1900. Most bottles produced after this tantiqeime have a cap seat.

                                          An antique Brookfield Pink Baby Milk Bottle

One thing unique to dairy bottles is that they were reused many times.  This was probably due to the fact that milk had a short shelf life.  The consumer only needed the bottle for a couple weeks and milk was only sold locally.  A United States Department of Agriculture Survey in the early 1900's found that the average life span of a milk bottle was 22.5 trips with a range from 6 to 60 trips.
Milk bottles before the 1930s were round. In the 1940s, a square squat bottle became the more popular style. Milk bottles since the 1930s have used pyroglaze or ACL (Applied Color Label) to identify the bottles. Before the 1930s, names were embossed on milk bottles using a slug plate. The name was impressed on the slug plate, then the plate was inserted into the mold used to make the bottle - the result was the embossed name on the bottle. By the 1960s, in the United States, glass bottles had largely been replaced with paper cartons.


  • 1880 - British milk bottles were first produced by the Express Dairy Company. They were delivered by horse-drawn carts and delivered four times a day. The first bottles used a porcelain stopper top held on by wire.
  • 1894 - Anthony Hailwood developed a pasteurisation process for milk which allowed it to be sterilized and be safely stored for longer periods. Milk could now be delivered once a day.
  • 1920 - Advertisements began to appear on milk bottles. A sand-blasting technique was used to etch them on the glass.
  • mid 1950s - Cardboard tops were deemed unhygienic and banned in some locations. Delivery by horse-drawn carts was still common.
  • early 1990s - The advertising largely disappeared with the introduction of infrared bottle scanners designed to check cleanliness.