Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Here's to the Mothers of Invention !!

It was the day after Thanksgiving, and I was ironing.  Call me crazy, but I really don’t mind ironing.  In fact, I rather like it. 

Courtesy of The Curious Quilter

As a little girl, I used to watch Mme Mère stand at the ironing board as she gently, but firmly, smoothed away the wrinkles in my father’s shirts.  There was something so satisfying and soothing about it.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I thought, if the bumps and wrinkles in life could be smoothed away just as easily?   Clearly I was a deep thinker even as a child (Insert smiley face here.). 

Courtesy of Etsy

The first thing I was ever allowed to iron was my Grandmother’s linen hankies.  I had to stand on a step stool to reach the ironing board.  It made me feel oh so grown-up and oh so useful. 

In short order, I went from hankies to sheets and pillow cases and to blouses.  In today’s permanent press world, few young people even own an iron.  While I no longer iron my sheets, I can’t resist the urge to iron my permanent-press pillow cases.  I just love the look and feel of freshly pressed pillow cases and the scent of lavender linen spray on my bed. 

Courtesy of Zsa Zsa Bellaggio

A crisp, well-made bed is so very important to me, as it was to Mme Mère.  She was always very particular about her bedding.  In fact, one of the things she hated most about her tiny room in St. Mary’s Catholic Home was the hospital bed in which she was forced to spend so much of the last six years of her life.  I did my best to make it look and feel like the big, beautiful bed she had shared with her husband and the occasional child frightened by nightmares and things that go bump in the night; but, no matter how many pretty coverlets and decorative pillows I added, it was still a hospital bed with a top sheet underneath her that never stayed put. 

As I ironed my pillow cases on the day after Thanksgiving, I began to think about those fitted sheets we now take for granted.  I had a vague childhood memory of something like a fitted sheet with elastic garters that you attached to the four corners to keep them secure.  And then I wondered……

When exactly were fitted sheets invented and who invented them? 

It turns out that my memory of those fitted sheets with elastic garters was, indeed, accurate.  In 1959, Bertha Berman, an African-American woman, was granted a patent for this very design.  The American housewife would be forever grateful.  Then, in 1990, a French-Canadian woman named Gisèle Jubinville created the deep corner pocket fitted sheet that we know and love today.  From then on, your bottom sheet would “stay put” no matter what (ahem!) you did in bed. 

And since we had just celebrated Thanksgiving, a day on which we give thanks for blessings large and small, it seems appropriate for me to give thanks for Mrs. Berman and Mme Jubinville and all the other Mothers of Invention who saw necessity and ran with it making our lives easier and more delicious. 

In 1903, an Alabama housewife, Mary Anderson, patented a car window cleaning device.  It had a rubber blade and a swinging arm, which allowed the driver to operate the device from inside using a lever.  Then, in 1917, Charlotte Bridgwood patented the first automatic windshield wiper.  The next time you drive through a pouring rain, you might take a moment to be thankful for Mrs. Anderson’s and Mrs. Bridgwood’s ingenuity. 

In 1930, Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn, ran out of baker’s chocolate while making cookies for her guests, so she added broken pieces of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate to the dough thinking that the pieces would melt during baking.  They didn’t. 

Mrs. Wakefield’s guests were thrilled with the results, and the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie was born.  To this day the chocolate chip cookie is still the most popular cookie in America and I, for one, am most thankful that on that day in 1930 Mrs. Wakefield ran out of baker’s chocolate. 

In the little town of Lamotte-Beuvron south of Paris in the 1880s, two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin ran a small hotel.  One day, Stéphanie overcooked the apples for an apple pie in butter and sugar, so she put the pastry dough on top of the caramelized apples and threw the whole thing in the oven to finish cooking.  

The resulting upside-down mistake would become the world-famous Tarte Tatin, and I am most thankful to whoever or whatever caused Stéphanie Tatin that day to leave her simmering apples a little too long on the stove.  


  1. Since my friend and fabulous Blogger, Linda LaRoche, had trouble posting her comment (that happens sometimes), I am posting it for her.

    "Once again Marie Therese you hit home. I love to iron and also began with hankies, my fathers. I prefer it over washing dishes and am better at it.

    While living in Germany I recall women ironing their linens, it made perfect sense to me. Although I never ironed sheets, I did and still do iron pillow cases, tablecloths and finer vintage kitchen towels. And even with permanent press my discerning eye catches when someone wears a wrinkled garment; it makes me cringe.

    Although I have only baked 2 apple pies in my life, tarte tatin is one of my specialties (Julia Childs recipe) and a favorite.
    Thanks for the nostalgia, the recognition of these exceptional women and for imparting history.

    Linda LaRoche

    1. Thank you, my friend, for your always insightful and well written comments. Julia's Tarte Tatin recipe is the best I've tried. We'll have to share a slice or two (or three?) with a glass of my favorite Sauterne. Yummm.

      Thanks, also, for your perseverance.

      Cheers, M-T

  2. Perfect tales to ponder and give thanks for as I leisurely decorate my Christmas tree. Thank you!

    1. I'm absolutely spruce green w/envy, Kathleen, that you are so on top of the holiday season that you are already decorating your tree. I'm already behind.

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

      Cheers, M-T

  3. Chère Marie-Thérèse - Yes, I too find ironing a time to reflect and review whatever is going on in my, still new, life in Paris. Such a cosy & feel good occupation which at the end of the session gives me a set of immaculate looking clothes and the family looking cared for. However, I stop at bed linens and send these out to the laundry.
    I am now taking this opportunity to wish you, your family and readers a peaceful Christmas and every good with for the New Year

    1. Oh how wonderful that sounds...."my, still new, life in Paris." We truly have a bond when it comes to the City of Light, as well as the love of well-pressed clothes and a happy, well-cared-for family.

      Thank you so much for your lovely Christmas and New Year wishes, and I send the same to you. Stay safe and enjoy your French Christmas en famille.

      Cheers, M-T

  4. I also like ironing. In the picture you've posted, notice that the woman is leaning forward, that is hard on your back. Having long legs, I've found most ironing boards are too low for me. But some years ago, I took may ironing board to work and the kind maintenance guys put extensions on the legs to raise it up a couple inches. Perfect! Thye used PVC pipe inserted into the existing legs. And, I still do iron handkerchiefs, because I always carry a fresh one in my purse. It's so useful at times! When I use a public restroom that only has dryers, or is out of towels, I always have the handkerchief to use.

    1. You are right, Rita. She is leaning forward. Being only 5'1" tall, that has never been a problem for me. What a clever idea to add PVC pipes to the legs of your board. I thought I was the only who still tucked away a perfume-scented hankie in my purse.........just in case. Kindred spirits are we.

      As always, thanks so much for stopping by.

      Cheers, M-T

  5. M-T,
    I do not like ironing. I tend to save it up until I have enough to make the effort worthwhile for me. I like to listen to an audio book or music to make the most out of my chore.
    But I do love "Mother of Invention" stories! I enjoyed the one you shared in this post :)

    1. I think most people would agree w/you rather than w/me when it comes to ironing, although I do save it up to savor the moment. Call me crazy!!

      There were so many stories to choose from on the subject of Mothers of Invention. Perhaps I'll do a Part 2.

      Thanks for stopping by, Cheri.

      Cheers, M-T

  6. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    Well, we sure are kindred spirits if the ironing is concerned.
    My feeling also is that if you have a good quality, Egyptian cotton, it becomes a joy to iron.
    As of today, I still do iron all of my bedlinen and I love doing that.
    From France I find Le Jacquard Français to be a gem to iron and its great on the bed for optimum sleeping comfort.
    Love to use linen spray when ironing...
    Funny when I was looking for my favorite linen spray I found this post from 2012 where I left a very worthwhile comment on the subject. http://attitudeivlife.blogspot.com/2012/11/sheet-dreams.html
    Sending you hugs,

    1. Dearest Mariette,

      Once again, we are kindred spirits in the big and small things in life. I can't wait to check out your comment on linen spray. In fact, I must apologize for being remiss in my Blog reading duties during the month of November. My husband and I were involved in some long-overdue home renovations (inside). Now that I can catch my breath, I have a lot of catching up to do w/my favorite Bloggers, you being at the top of my list.

      Big hugs,


  7. While I do not iron much, I do like to gather up my cloth napkins and make them wrinkle free from time to time. :)

    Thank you for the tidbits on the Mothers of Invention, now I need to look them all up!

    1. Dear Miss Fifi, I only scratched the surface of those wonderful Mothers of Invention. Much more to learn about them and from them.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Cheers, M-T

  8. Freshly ironed bed linens sound wonderful. Wish someone would do mine! I do love to iron my vintage linens and handkerchiefs, something very satisfying about that. Maybe I could fit the pillowcases at least in there!

    1. It is so very satisfying, Deborah. You are so right. How wonderful that you still have vintage linens and hankies.

      I'm overdue for a visit to your beautiful blog. Will do so very soon. It's been a crazy month (November) and I'm just catching up.

      As always, love it when you stop by.

      Cheers, M-T


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