Monday, June 03, 2013

Putting the Past in its Place

There I sat in a stranger's driveway around the corner from the home my father built and where I grew up, sifting through handwritten recipes along with clippings from newspaper food sections and product booklets of culinary past. It was a bit like digging through a history book. It wasn't my story or that of anyone in my family, but it might as well have been. Hand written recipes dotted with the sweet memories of the culinary moments of a woman's life in the kitchen where she carefully crafted tasty treats for her family stirred something in me.

As I went through the two large ziplocks full of treasure, little bits of life in another era that I once also lived flitted by and waved to me.

A few of the items were from the 50's and 60's, but the bulk of the local newspaper recipes seemed to be dated in the 70's, my teen years, and reminded me of those high school days after school when I threw myself wholeheartedly into blending, baking and stirring up sugary confections (not to mention creating my chunky years). We used to sometimes get recipes out of the newspaper back then. The ads discovered in the driveway stash brought back memories of those days and of local businesses that were once well known in these parts, but which are now no more.

The woman told me I could take everything for a couple of bucks, but I rather enjoyed sifting through and picking only what I wanted. I told her that looking through them in her driveway was fun, like a treasure hunt, but once I took it home, it would just seem like work. So she let me sift and pick and enjoy the moment before the raindrops threatened her sale and my new treasure.

It was just as well I hadn't taken all the old paper she had. There was a lot, and I certainly don't need it. It was fun to reminisce though. It's one of my favorite pastimes, afterall. Besides, I wanted some other useful items she had for sale, and she ended up letting me have everything in my final pile for $2.00 which was half of what they would have been separately. I didn't have any Tupperware before, and this nice bowl had a lid. That's a big plus. 

Two more little Corning Ware, "Grab It" bowls came home with me too. I have four of these that I received when I got married back in 1981. I love 'em. I just wish they'd had the tops with them. And who doesn't need candles? Since my pastry cutter is getting all bent from getting caught in the drawer it sits in, this one was a good find. It looked much sturdier. Also in the mix is a new paintbrush, three rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, a whisk, (which I need) and a handheld strainer. The envelope full of recipe savers will come in very handy. They are just like the poly bags I like to put my tags in when I sell them and a package of those cost about $3 or $4.

I wasn't even sure what these were for, I had to ask. I kinda guessed, but you see, I'm not one to make a turkey or cook a large bird or such, we always go to my family's for Thanksgiving and we never had anything like these when I was growing up. The woman said these were for getting the turkey onto a platter, among other things. I wanted them even though I really didn't have a particular need. They could be given to someone who might use them, but it turns out that they come in real handy when cooking pork in the crockpot, both to turn it before it starts to fall off the bone and also to sort of shred the meat and stir it around once it does and once you've added your sauce. That I do make, and often, just yesterday in fact. So I used one of these for our Sunday dinner and was happy to have it.  I love it when my finds are useful!

The graphics on these product booklets and other culinary ephemera tell their age and remind me of mine.

The Mrs. Butterworth's coupon for 10¢ made me smile, and I even found an ad for green stamps. I hoped that maybe some real green stamps might be hiding in the mix, but I never found any.

What to do with all this? I'm not sure...but here's a kitchen backsplash project I made using handwritten recipes and old graphics and food related advertising in the past. Maybe I'll concoct something new with my finds. 

You see, our kitchen is what you might call low-end. When we bought this house in 1984 we were in our young 20's and the place was still in its original 1956 state. It was an abomination to us (now I wish I had some of the cool fixtures and things we couldn't throw away fast enough. We were young. What did we know.) We replaced the kitchen cabinets and countertops with the affordable choice of the time on our very limited budget. Believe it or not, there was even a pink stove which died some years later about the time I had grown very fond of it. 

Formica butcher block was the thing at the time of our purchase, and even though that is now as hideous as the 50's stuff was to us back in the 80's, redoing it has certainly never been on my financial priority list since. Despite the ugly factor, I have to tell you that having formica countertops has its positives if you are the kind who likes to work your projects standing in the kitchen by the sink (which I do). It takes a lot of abuse, and if all else fails, the paint and modge podge and whatnot scrapes off rather easily. I have no one to impress, so I do as I please with my countertops.

We really had no backsplash other than the little formica boarder around the countertops. I find the thought of tiling unbearable, so I chose another low end option that was better suited to my abilities and my budget. Since I have finally embraced the retro sensibilities and history of my tiny home in years past, I crafted some collage images using my mom's hand written and typed recipe cards as well as ads and images that remind me of things we had in our kitchen growing up, plus some kitchen textures like plastic wrap, foil, toothpicks and some images of green stamps.

The paper backing was painted with wall paint that I had in my arsenal from when I was trying to find a good color to paint my dining room chairs. None of the colors worked for that, but I have used those blues, greens and aquas on many other projects since.

The collages may be a low end poor girl's backsplash, but they suit my tiny kitchen and bring in some happy color, plus they give me something to look at while I do dishes.

Not only that, some of the recipes I put in the collages are ones that I need from time to time and this way, I don't have to go digging for them. They are right on the wall! How's that for convenience?

Here's the other side of the kitchen with a view through to our tiny dining room which is also a walkway to get through from the front of the house to the back. The kitchen is one step wide. If you are at the kitchen sink, all you have to do is turn, take a step and you are at the other side. Talk about convenient. You can have your big kitchens, this suits me fine, except when we are all in here at once. Then it's a comedy show.

This is the view from the pickle sign looking toward the kitchen.

I know, I'm probably one of very few who'd think this makes a sufficient backsplash. Then never know. Stranger decor has happened. I've seen a few other more dramatic oddities in the blog world.

So there you have it. Now, if you run across some old food ads, product booklets, handwritten recipes or other kitchen paper memorabilia you know what you can do with them. If not to make backsplashes, maybe they would work for a cute kitchen collage just to incorporate into a wall hanging.

Or perhaps you might find a good recipe in the mix. I think I spotted a few tempting treats in the new stash that I might just have to actually use!

Sometimes the actual use for something is hiding in plain sight. There were some sweet cakes, cookies and other dessert recipes as well as some dinner recipes among the cards, and that's right up my alley. Either way, to me this little paper find was a gold mine!

Happy hunting!

I'll be visiting at some of these sweet parties this week:

mop it up mondays

Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special
Furniture Feature FridaysFrench Country Cottage Photobucket


Ivy and Elephants


  1. Liz,
    I love the back splash you created in your kitchen. What a fun and great idea. I bet there are some great recipes in that pile. I love the turkey lifters too. I have never seen those before so how unique are those. Great post.

  2. I love the backsplash collages, Liz. The frames are perfect for the subject matter. I like vintage recipe booklets. The hand written recipes, while cool, are not that sentimental to me unless they were Mom's or Grandma's.

  3. Those recipe cards are awesome. They would be great decoupaged onto some kitchen type piece of furniture!

  4. Those collages made the CUTEST backsplash! I love it! I have some old recipes and booklets like that and they are so nostalgic! Your idea was great!

  5. What a great post, I really enjoyed reading the story. The recipe cards are a great find. The backsplash is just a stunner!


  6. That minty green Tupperware bowl is classic!
    My mom always had a great big one, probably (hopefully!) she still does. :)
    Good finds!

  7. Loved this post, Liz! I spent an afternoon photographing old family recipes and I love them. This is a great way to use them in the kitchen. I was going to iron a few onto aprons for Christmas, but framing a collage might be even better for some of the ladies in my family.
    Now get that Devil's Food cake going and throw some of your homemade chocolate sauce on top. And don't forget the ice cream.


  9. I have some very similar cards, I bought them in an old tin recipe box. They're for things like "lolly pops" and other treats. I couldn't part with them, and have cooked some of the treats, but not the lolly pops. :)

  10. I have my grandmother's cookbook which is crammed full of recipes she wrote out, cut out and coupons never used. There is even a few green stamps in there that avoided our fingers when we saved for something to get with them. I am so glad to see a normal, everyday, I-can-work-in-this-without-worry style kitchen. I have old black Formica which has lost its luster, but I love the soap stone look of it. The backsplash lost its grip on the wall and slid behind the cabinet never to be seen again. I tacked up some aluminum flashing. I love your framed solution.

  11. Now that I've finally made a Thanksgiving turkey (my mother always hosted until this past year) I know how useful those lifters would be! I bought a vintage recipe box filled with recipes like the ones you found and had a fun time reading through them. I love your unique back splash!

  12. I love the old cookbooks and recipes better than the new. I've framed a few of my Grandmother's old handwritten recipes. Your collection is awesome!

  13. I love your creative back splash! What a perfect way to enjoy what makes you smile and it really is functional too. I can see some of those treasures you found being turned into collages. I think those fork thingies would make great picture holders.

  14. How creative are those cool, vintage-y collages, Liz! You definitely picked up some unique finds, all treasures from a very charming past!


  15. Hi, Liz

    I love this idea! I have miss not stopping by your lovely blog and taking a look around. It's always nice to catch up. You always have the best finds and one day I am going to go down to your area and look for those lovely treasures. LOL, I never find great stuff like that unless I go to Tampa or Orlando. Have a great week.


  16. What a brilliant idea! Your splash-back looks gorgeous. You are so clever!

    Best wishes,
    Natasha in Oz

  17. Hello Liz,
    I really like what you did for a backsplash in your kitchen...what a neat idea! Thanks for sharing it at my party.


  18. Fantastic backsplash, very creative! I love your kitchen, that photo with the retro telephone...wonderful!

  19. I don't see any poor girls stuff, I see a very creative designer who likes stepping out of the box. Great Job. Kathy

  20. what an awesome treasure. My favorite thing growing up (well into my teens) was to look at cookbooks and try new recipes

  21. I love this! Your idea is so creative and a lot more interesting than an ordinary backsplash. Great choice of frames, too.
    Visiting from Ivy and Elephants,

  22. OH you had me from the beginning of the post on :)

    Love the entire thing! :)

  23. What a wonderful post and I adore that back splash!! So many treasures!! Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words!!


  24. What a great find!! I have recipes boxes from my Mom, grandmothers and mother in law, old recioes are the best!! I'm visiting from Junkin Joe and I'm your newest follower!

  25. I think it is a cool idea for a backsplash. I love the old handwritten recipes. When I saw the turkey turners in the glass, the first thing I thought of is a great place to perch a recipe while cooking! Thank you for sharing it at What We Accomplished Wednesdays. Have a great weekend!


  26. Love your back splash and finding old "paper"! Your home is so pretty! Love it!

  27. That is one very cool backsplash! And I love old recipes - tried and true! ... You have a really great kitchen!

  28. Great idea for these old treasures! Thank you for joining Home Sweet Home.

  29. I simply love this post! Have you thought of sharing that Key Lime Pie recipe ; ) sending hugs your way!


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