Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Christmas or what ever holiday you celebrate today has it's roots based in your childhood. At least that's how it is for me. I can remember how utterly excited we were to try and figure out what was in the various boxes under the tree!
There was mounting guesswork when a new present would mysteriously appear.  By the way the tree was this amazing aluminum perfectly A frame wonder that had a fold back pom pom at the end of each branch. The tree came in a box with numbered paper tubes that held different lengths of Mylar colored branches. The shorter ones started at the top with the longer ones at the bottom forming this Step ford like Xmas tree. The center of the tree looked like a tublar tripod with holes. Once the tree was completed assembly line style, my aunt would plug in the revolving red, blue, green and yellow wheel that changed the color of the tree every 5 seconds. The hard part was putting the tree away making sure to put the right branches in the right paper tubes. Otherwise there would be drama the next year, finger pointing  and who did it! Another memory was when I got my very own snub nose thirty eight with a Peter Gunn holster! OMG, I was the smoothest detective on the block! I must have been about 5 or 6! Oh yes, I got a Nun doll with a black and white habit the same Christmas. I LOVED that doll so much that I carried her everywhere. Imagine, wearing my snub nose under my jacket while carrying my nunn doll. That thought reveals a bit of my present personality. hmmm. Anyway, Christmas is for sharing, being with family, gratitude, forgiveness and many other wonderful times..
My question is, why not celebrate these values everyday? The reality is that it's not about buying stuff, guilt, angst, and family drama, you can get that all year round too! I say flip the switch, take 365 days and celebrate the people you love, the friendships you cherish, the gifts you were born with, your health, your freedom to choose! Take time for yourselves, be in your moment! If things are a little funky, take it one moment at a time until you can take it one day at a time. When you're done with the funky bit, cross it off your list and move on.
Thank you all for your support, your willingness to try something "NEW and Improved" and earth friendly!
I appreciate all the wonderful feed back and heart warming stories of blankets getting white again!
I'm looking forward to 20010 and all that awaits!
Feel free to drop me an email, let me know about the things that are of interest or thought provoking you would like to share. 
I wish for you all a BOUNTIFUL NEW YEAR!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Luxury for the Laundress........


Washer Wheel

Laundry  in a ghost town

Weighted Iron

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Passing of a Matriarch

Janie Jefferson Porter
My Great aunt was the youngest of 22 children born in 1922  to Sussex and Louvenia Jefferson.
Our family name Jefferson originates from the Thomas Jefferson plantation in Virginia.Some of the Jefferson children left the south in search of better opportunities, aunt Janie settled in Chicago as a domestic until her retirement in 1977. Now you're beginning to see the tradition I speak of relating to Old School Brand Laundry Soap. You could eat off Aunt Janie's floors! She took great pride in her work much to the dismay of her children. When Aunt Janie would start to hum old negro spirituals, it was a sign that it was cleaning day! Just in case you didn't get the message that she meant business, the humming would escalate, then she would be standing outside your bedroom door announcing in the tone of a preacher that it was time to get up and get busy. You know the term, cleanliness is next to godliness! Aunt Janie was the queen of clean and mean! I think her furniture is still covered in plastic.I never understood that, because the covers never came off even for "company"! There were the good set of dishes and the everyday set? Then there was the  voice she used in the presence of company and the voice she used when we were alone. I could always tell who was on the phone by the tone of voice my aunt used.  The tone would be an octave higher for strangers like teachers or bill collectors. We kids knew when to take advantage of "company" being over by asking for something which under normal circumstances would be a "NO"! Asking in front of company would get an under the breath yes, just to get rid of us! Later we would pay dearly for the interruption.

Aunt Janie and her famous collard's
Aunt Janie lived fully her 97 years and had the privilege to vote for the first African American President in her lifetime. I can only imagine the world aunt Janie saw and experienced through Jim crow, and the civil rights movement.
The tradition continues through our sharing stories with each other and our children. Aunt Janie would approve of Old School Brand, it's all about the clean!! By the way, my aunt hung her clothes out on the line! I appreciate Aunt Janies wisdom, nurturing, and putting the fear of God in us! I think we turned out just fine!
I believe she's setting up housekeeping in heaven!

Monday, November 30, 2009

The “One Best Way” to Wash: A Home Economist Explains

In the early 20th century, new household technology was both accomplished and inspired by the tremendous increase in American industrial production. As in industry, mechanization and scientific management were part of a larger reorganization of work. And as in industry, efficient housekeeping was partially a response to labor unrest—both the “servant problem” and the growing disquiet of middle-class wives. A major proponent of the new housekeeping, Christine Frederick was consulting household editor for Ladies Home Journal from 1912 to 1919 and the author of numerous books and pamphlets on scientific management in the home. Frederick’s pamphlet, You and Your Laundry (1922), instructed women in the daunting complexities of washing clothes—a process comprising fifteen different steps. You and Your Laundry also illustrated the close alliance between scientific housework and consumption. Written under the sponsorship of the Hurley Machine Company, Frederick’s pamphlet frequently invoked its brand name and products. The pamphlet ended with a pitch for buying on installment, a payment plan that helped to spur consumption. Read the full article by clicking the link.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Outdoor Afro talks about Old School

Clothesline Photo: Renee Gunter
Clothesline Photo: Renee Gunter
I was going to write about sustainable landscaping – and I still will, but something else came up:
The Laundry.
Washing clothes is actually my least favorite chore right along with mopping the floor, taking out dripping trash, and investigating that “noise” in the middle of the night. Thus, I view the laundry task through a ‘necessary evil’ lens. But I like when it’s done. The problem is, it’s never done! I think I handle laundry fairly well for a household of four, but every time I get the last bit folded and put away on a Sunday night, the basket is already nearly half full with a new load, which is a real buzz kill.
Can’t you tell I could use some excitement in the laundry department?
Photo: Roy Montgomery
Photo: Roy Montgomery
So imagine my delight to stumble upon some countryfied laundry soap, made with old-school attitude by a sustainable minded sister from Los Angeles. And before you go glossy eyed on me: No, this is not an ad…in fact, she doesn’t even know how sprung I am on her mission. Yet.
Renee Gunner
Renee Gunter
I actually heard about Renee Gunter and her sustainable landscaping and water saving from Outdoor Afro community member, birder, and backyard innovator Cindy Hopkins, but when I dug deeper, I found her Old School Brand blog, which is an adventure that takes us back to the days before the soap opera of TIDE improvements to a place I had completely forgotten existed. I admit that I had long ago bought into the jingle’s message that “Tide gets it clean“, but lately I have wondered to myself: at what cost?
Laundry might have taken all day in the basement, or in the backyard back in “Big Mama’s” youth because of the contemporary technology and orthodox methods needed to produce no less than perfectly starched, white collars. But in spite of the toil, it was sustainably done without health and environmental consequences.

Tools of the Trade
Tools of the Trade

How did our grandmothers produce sparkling laundry without chemicals leeching into our water systems?  Or without irritating delicate skin? I have a hunch Ms. Gunter has captured their solution in her soap. She makes the soap in small batches with kind ingredients for use with the modern convenience of a machine.
best friends forever
best friends forever
After reading her blog, I have to admit I felt like a laundry wimp who has conveniently avoided the real deal of laundry duty experienced by the women of my heritage. Her blog chronicles the presence and skill of African American women in the activity of cleaning laundry, and hanging it to dry outside, with some gorgeous historic photos.  She writes about the matriarchs of her family, all of whom were maids who migrated from Arkansas to the Los Angeles area, and recalls sitting and watching the meticulous cleaning her mom and aunts did for wealthy whites that relied more on skills and sweat equity than on products.
Laundry in the Sunshine
Laundry in the Sunshine
So to gain some laundry cred, I am ordering Old School Brand soap this week! And when I get it, maybe I’ll go a bit further to save quarters, reduce my household footprint on the environment, and let the unmentionables hang outdoors for the sun to bleach, and all the neighbors to see, as one more way to help make the world healthier.
For more information: Old School Laundry Soap
Click Picture to Order
Old School Laundry Soap $10
Old School Laundry Soap
. Bar B said: Sounds like a wonderful product. This post took my mind back to my own days of going with my great-grandmother, and sitting and watching her clean and work for a wealthy white woman out in San Rafael. Interesting times, partly growing up and considering this woman and her family extended family. Anyway… my grandmother still hangs her unmentionables out on the clothes line today. As you pointed out, it saves those quarters and, in a way, brings the great outdoors, in.

  • Rue (author) said: Barbara — your last statement was right on point — thanks!

  • DNLee said: Interesting. When I was in Guyana for a field course in tropical biology, there was only one way to do laundry – the old-fashioned way. I got a very quite tutorial from Aunt Gloria – the caretaker of the field station – a little ration of soap and whitening square. The tub, washboard, stiff brush, and tank of water were there for my use – or I could walk down to the creek. After numerous rinsings and endless ringing, close werehund out to dry – if they ever became dry (it was the tropics and it was humid and rained several times a day). Laundry was a day long task and I certainly thought of my grandmothers as I whiled away the day. But I loved it. I actually found it to be soothing and relaxing. I also learned some important facts about fabric, textiles, and what makes a quality garment in a tropical climate. I love cotton, but soon realized knit fabrics are a no-no for keeping shape, and easily become tattered or looking worn with hand washing.
    It was fun. I have some pictures of me – on film – doing the laundry. I’ll have to share some day.

  • Courtney said: I’ve read and heard that the clothes dryer is really VERY inefficient from an energy standpoint. I haven’t been able to take advantage of the sun to dry my clothes yet but I am thinking of how I might be able to do it in the future.

  • Rue (author) said: Yes — imagine laundry as a craft — don’t get me wrong, I love that we have modern conveniences. I have kids, and there is no way I could be scrubbing all day, but I don’t mind the idea of slowing down a bit and letting nature take on part of the process.

  • Rue (author) said: Courtney — let’s make a commitment to hang clothes out to dry before Thanksgiving…wanna swap pictures too?

  • Friday, October 30, 2009

    Following in the footsteps of Bessie Stringfield

    I've had motorcycles on the back burner for years. In the seventies I lived a year in New York. One of my friends road a motorcycle, I can't remember what kind of bike, but it felt exciting in a romantic kind of way.
    I rode on the back of his bike with my arms tight around his waist as if we were one carving the road with this powerful machine. It was exhilarating feeling  the open road with no expectation but to be in the moment!
    I've been looking at bikes on Craigs list for the last several months, just seeing what is out there. I've talked to people, gone to bike shops and tried on helmets and jackets. many have told  tell me of  the dangers of the road and to stick with a car, "it's safer". I read a post on one of my favorite blogs called, "The Selvedge Yard", where I read an article about this amazing woman named Bessie Stringfield, story to follow. I said all this to share with you all that I took and passed my motorcycle license test today!!! Woo Hoo!!! I'm closer to two wheels!! I want the choice of leaving my "mommy car" at home and reduce my carbon footprint even further!! Bessie is an inspiration! I'll keep you posted when I get my bike!!
    The life and times of African-American motorcycling pioneer Bessie B. Stringfield seem like the stuff of which legends are made. Bessie has been written about in books, magazines and newspapers. She has been mentioned in television documentaries, and someday there may be a film dramatization based on her life story. In 1990, when the AMA opened the first Motorcycle Heritage Museum, Bessie was featured in its inaugural exhibit on Women in Motorcycling. A decade later, the AMA instituted the Bessie Stringfield Award to honor women who are leaders in motorcycling. And in 2002, she was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame.Bessie – BB as she was known among friends – would probably be amused and yet proud of all the attention. Referring to her adventures and her 60-plus years of riding, she once quipped: "I was somethin'! What I did was fun and I loved it."
    In the 1930s and 1940s, Bessie took eight long-distance, solo rides across the United States. Speaking to a reporter, she dismissed the notion that "nice girls didn’t go around riding motorcycles in those days." Further, she was apparently fearless at riding through the Deep South when racial prejudice was a tangible threat. Was Bessie consciously championing the rights of women and African-Americans? Bessie would most likely have said she was simply living her life in her own way.
    In interviews with author Ann Ferrar, Bessie revealed how she drew courage from two things: Her Catholic faith in Jesus Christ, whom she called "The Man Upstairs," and the values she learned from her adoptive mother.
    Early on, Bessie had to steel herself against life’s disappointments. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1911, as a child she was brought to Boston but was orphaned by age 5.
    "An Irish lady raised me," she recalled. "I’m not allowed to use her name. She gave me whatever I wanted. When I was in high school I wanted a motorcycle. And even though good girls didn’t ride motorcycles, I got one."
    She was 16 when she climbed aboard her first bike, a 1928 Indian Scout. With no prior knowledge of how to operate the controls, Bessie proved to be a natural. She insisted that the Man Upstairs gave her the skills.
    "My [Irish] mother said if I wanted anything I had to ask Our Lord Jesus Christ, and so I did," she said. "He taught me and He’s with me at all times, even now. When I get on the motorcycle I put the Man Upstairs on the front. I’m very happy on two wheels."
    She was especially happy on Milwaukee iron. Her one Indian notwithstanding, Bessie said of the 27 Harleys she owned in her lifetime, "To me, a Harley is the only motorcycle ever made."
    At 19, she began tossing a penny over a map and riding to wherever it landed. Bessie covered the 48 lower states. Using her natural skills and can-do attitude, she did hill climbing and trick riding in carnival stunt shows. But it was her faith that got her through many nights.
    "If you had black skin you couldn’t get a place to stay," she said. "I knew the Lord would take care of me and He did. If I found black folks, I’d stay with them. If not, I’d sleep at filling stations on my motorcycle." She laid her jacket on the handlebars as a pillow and rested her feet on the rear fender.
    In between her travels, Bessie wed and divorced six times, declaring, "If you kissed, you got married." After she and her first husband were deeply saddened by the loss of three babies, Bessie had no more children. Upon divorcing her third husband, Arthur Stringfield, she said, "He asked me to keep his name because I’d made it famous!"
    During World War II, Bessie worked for the army as a civilian motorcycle dispatch rider. The only woman in her unit, she completed rigorous training maneuvers. She learned how to weave a makeshift bridge from rope and tree limbs to cross swamps, though she never had to do so in the line of duty. With a military crest on the front of her own blue Harley, a "61," she carried documents between domestic bases.
    Bessie encountered racial prejudice on the road. One time she was followed by a man in a pickup truck who ran her off the road, knocking her off her bike. She downplayed her courage in coping with such incidents. "I had my ups and downs," she shrugged.
    In the 1950s, Bessie bought a house in a Miami, Florida suburb. She became a licensed practical nurse and founded the Iron Horse Motorcycle Club. Disguised as a man, Bessie won a flat track race but was denied the prize money when she took off her helmet. Her other antics – such as riding while standing in the saddle of her Harley – attracted the local press. Reporters called her the "Negro Motorcycle Queen" and later the "Motorcycle Queen of Miami." In the absence of children, Bessie found joy in her pet dogs, some of whom paraded with her on her motorcycle.
    Late in life, Bessie suffered from symptoms caused by an enlarged heart. "Years ago the doctor wanted to stop me from riding," she recalled. "I told him if I don’t ride, I won’t live long. And so I never did quit."
    Before she died in 1993 at the age of 82, Bessie said, "They tell me my heart is three times the size it’s supposed to be." An apt metaphor for this unconventional woman whose heart and spirited determination have touched so many lives.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    What they're saying about Old School Brand!

    I needed a non allergenic laundry soap and yours seems to fit the bill!- Michael Barnard

    I love the detergent! It gave a really clean wash and left a wonderful smell. -J. Gayle

    Hi Renee- I love 'Old School', I like how it cleans, how little I use, which is a water savings and the best part, NO PLASTIC!!!! Plus I can send back the package to you for a refill. Best Regards-Janet

    I LOVE the detergent. I usually hate scented anything, but the scent of that stuff is very understated (like myself) and pleasant. David really liked it too. I will have to get some more.-C. Bradshaw

    I Love your soap! do you have a bigger size? -E. Green

    Thank you all for your continued support, it's really a lot of fun bringing community together over clean laundry! I have a following in my neighborhood that knock on my door for refills. It's like a scene out of a movie. A neighbor knocks on the door, I crack the door open peering out, she whispers,"you got any more of that soap?, I'm runnin a little low, front me a bag until Friday". They're hooked! She walks away smelling the bag of soap! LOL!! So cool!
    Listen, you all need to indulge yourselves if you can by hanging your laundy out on a line. Hang it on a tree even.The fresh smell of clean laundry on the line is indeed divine!! We have NO dryer at our house and the electric bill has been cut in half!! Really! You would be amazed at how much power a dryer consumes!
    My teenage kids are now timing their wash to be lined dry! Now that is a major accomplishment!
    Wishing you all a great week...keep in touch!

    Friday, October 2, 2009

    Old School Brand Laundry Soap is ready for her close-up!!!

    We have been very busy at Old School Brand. On the 20th of September our soap was included in the goodie bags at the Emmy's and at the end of the month our soap was featured in the gift bags at Andre Agassi's 14th Annual Grand Slam Children's Charity Event in Las Vegas! Sending out a big thank you to Dina Rezvanipour of Distinctive Assets for making this all possible! Old School has a celebrity following and everyone needs clean clothes, even if it's your house keeper that does the laundry!

    This weekend we are participating in Mar Vista's Green Event, spreading the word about Old School Brand Laundry Soap.
    We are changing old habits one load at a time!
    We've been getting feed back on our laundry soap from as far as Amsterdam and Japan! 
    Thank you all for the amazing support! We are growing and appreciate all the feed back and the constant flow of regular orders! There are neighbors that knock on my door for their fix of Old School Brand for the month!! You know who you are, and I love you!!! Alright, I've got to get back to my chores.. stay in touch and I'll keep you blogged on what's going on at Old School Brand!


    Monday, September 14, 2009

    Tuesday, September 8, 2009

    Take care of your body mind and spirit.

    I've been reading articles on the state of our health care policy's. There is so much debate about how to create a standard of care for America's constituents. I believe that it's a hotbed issue because there are too many players in the game making huge amounts of money on health care. Reform of current policy's are intricate and politically charged. Million's are holding onto jobs that are not fulfilling just for the medical coverage. When one finds themselves in need of medical treatment or hospitalization there seems to be a loophole that dis-allows a particular procedure or medication. How many times have you gone to the doctor and he or she comes into the room holding a clipboard with your file, looks down at the file simultaneously asking you "what seems to be the problem"? I am a huge advocate of preventive health practices. I strongly believe that you can eat everything and anything, only in moderation. Think about what you're putting in your body. You don't really have to eat the whole box of chocolate, save some for later!
    Get that body off the couch and AWAY from the T.V., get a good walk in at least two to three times a week.
    Walk with a buddy, it's a lot easier and so much fun! Create a disco night, move the furniture and put on your favorite old school jam from the 70's. Be bold, get out your hair brush (microphone), and lip sync your favorite tune!! Who cares if your teenager rolls their eyes, move that body! You would be amazed at how good you'll feel after a good workout! the best part is that it's free! I dare you to learn the "Single Ladies" dance by Beyonce! Take time to give thanks. In the grand scheme of things you live in abundance. Give back in some way, even if it is to buy a cup of coffee for the person in line ahead of you at Starbucks. Take time for yourself and slow down. Seriously, there is only ONE of you and only you can love yourself unconditionally!
    Remember this if nothing else, "If you think you can or you can't, then you're probably right"      -Henry Ford

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    I am honored by the wisdom of the powerful matriarcs before me.

    As I live longer the seeds of wisdom my ancestors planted have taken root and have broken the soil. In an ever changing world this wisdom is my guide in so many ways. I'm finding that there is a foundation in the basics. Tried and true as they say.I want to share some laundry tips with you that have worked for me over the years. 
    I think it has been commercially assumed that everyone knows how to do laundry efficiently.
    I mean, do you really follow the directions on the side of the box? Now the question remains to who's advantage is it to use 1/2 cup of detergent when a teaspoon will do the same if not better job? Just a thought..anyway, back to the tips...
    Top Loaders: Allow your machine to fill with a little water in the bottom of the tub. Add the measured amount of soap, swish the water around, then add your laundry.
    Front Loaders: Dissolve your measured amount in a cup of warm water. Add the liquid soap to your dispenser, then add your laundry.

    Tough Stains: Moisten the stain with water, add a half teaspoon of Old School Brand to the spot. Scrub the area by hand or with a brush. For extra challenging stains, soak for fifteen minutes not longer. After treating, add to your regular wash.

    Line dry your laundry if it's possible, even indoors! Air drying will brighten your whites and your clothes will smell wonderfully fresh! Just a thought, to keep dark's dark, wash and dry them inside out!!  You will definitely save energy and dollars by giving your dryer a vacation.

    You do not need bleach with Old School Brand Laundry Soap! After a few washes & line dry's your whites should get brighter.

    Finally, if your clothes feel a little crunchy after being lined dry, add a cup of white vinegar to your rinse cycle. Trust me, your clothes will not smell like vinegar, but they will be softer without using perfumed dryer sheets!

    These are just a few tips I wanted to share for now. When something else comes to me, I'll post it for you.  This blog thing is a new experience for me, but I thought it was a little faster than the underground railroad and I can reach more people with whatever thoughts or wisdom I can share.
    I wish you all peace and clarity. Most of all, thank you for having the interest to read my blog.

    Sunday, August 30, 2009

    Old School Brand Laundry Soap..the beginning

    The inspiration for Old School Laundry Soap was the constant dirt and stain challenges my now teenage kids brought home from school. Once a teacher sent home a note apologizing for my daughter's dirty clothes! No worries, I had a history of getting clothes clean behind me. I had the matriarch's in my family's collective housekeeping skills as maids over the last two century's.
    As a child, I was often given the task of ironing the dinner napkins, later graduating to collars and cuffs of men's shirts.

    There is just something wonderful about crisp fresh smelling laundry from the clothes line! Many times I was reprimanded for twirling amongst the laundered sheets!! airy and fresh! I've never forgotten the scent and the luxury of sun dried sheets to this day!!
    I challenge you to air dry your laundry! You will not only love the freshness, but the dollars you'll save on energy costs!!
    I've used many commercial brands over the years and have not been impressed. I knew what I needed, and it wasn't more perfumes, dyes, fillers,or colorful boxes offering something new and improved! I just wanted clean, fresh and no junk!!

    With Old School Laundry Soap, I am sharing a family tradition of clean fresh laundry! Hard working laundry soap that gets the job done without bleach or additives. I hand mill our soap in small batches in Los Angeles. We have inspired a following that appreciates the cut to the clean of our soap, as well as the fresh scent created with a spcial blend of essential oils.

    All you need is one tablespoon of our laundry soap for a small load! Yep, I said one tablespoon!
    Our soap is great for all colors in cold or warm water, and is junk free!!