Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Myths, Legends and Quiz

Have you heard your favorite Christmas song yet? Mine is Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song". Thanks to cable t.v. - we get to watch all the Christmas movies our husbands can take. I admit to never missing "It's a Wonderful Life", "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" , "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas ( the original Boris Karloff version). Yeah Christmas !!!!!
Well, I guess since I am writing for Cowboy Cleaners I need to mention something to do with clothing ( because the rest of this is just interesting stuff about Christmas) so as you know Santa wears red and white velvet suit. But the elves ( being the good workers that they are) make sure the dyes are set and the red doesn't bleed unto to the white. That is why Santa can wear his suit in any weather and the suit still looks good. If however, you should decide to purchase a suit similar to Santa's - be sure to check the dye to make sure it doesn't bleed and run - last thing you want is a red body for Christmas. Also, don't forget to bring the tablecloths in after use.We need to get the stains out as soon as we can. And while everyone makes fun of them - WEAR YOUR CHRISTMAS SWEATER!!!!! I don't care if Stacey and Clinton on "What Not To Wear" say they are awful and unfashionable - CHRISTMAS SWEATERS ARE FUN. But be sure to clean them after you wear them because a stained Christmas sweater is not fun. You only wear them a few times a year - so make sure to clean them and properly put them away. OK clothing talk is over.

So here's the Christmas Myths and Legends :

The German Christmas Pickle - you hide a pickle shaped ornament on the Christmas Tree. The person who finds it get an extra present. Today there are lots a glass pickles sold throughout the country. Only problem - The people in Germany have never heard of the Christmas pickle . They don't hang pickles on their trees. So is this just an ornament conspiracy between the glass factories and Vlasic? Well here's the pickle story - A soldier in the Civil war named John Lower was born Hans Lauer in Bavaria in 1842. He was captured during the war and sent as a prisoner to Andersonville,Georgia. In poor health and near death , he begged a guard for one last pickle before he died ( OK me I'd go for banana cream pie - but he wanted a pickle).The guard took pity on him and gave him a pickle. John said that the pickle- by the grace of God- gave him the mental and physical strength to live on. Once he was reunited with his family John began a tradition of hiding a pickle on the Christmas tree. The first person who found the pickle on Christmas morning would be blessed with a year of good fortune. Nice story ! But there is also this one - glass ornaments were produced in Germany as early as 1597. The Lausche company was know for is glass blowing making drinking glasses and glass containers. In 1847 they started making glass ornaments in the shape of fruits and nuts. Soon they were exporting these ornaments through out Europe and the United States. And today, they export the glass pickle - with the pickle tradition story along with it. So hang a pickle if you want - but there is no German pickle tradition .
Poinsettia plants are poisonous. Nope!!No deaths have been reported as death by poinsettia. A 50 pond child would have to eat 1.25 lbs of poinsettia bracts ( about 500-600 leaves). Apparently, poinsettia leaves are extremely bitter - so it is unlikely any animal or kiddo will eat more than one bite. So do not fear the poinsettia - your kids and pets won't be munching on them and you can decorate with them to your hearts content. ( OK I fell for this for a while and spent a few year poinsettia free and franky drably decorated - but no more!!)
Did you know our friends to the North (Canada) has a zip code for Santa - yes they do. All letters to Santa can be sent to the North Pole or Santa's workshop or no address at all - as long as the letter has the zip code - it will get to Santa. The zip code is HoH oHo!! Santa has had his zip code since 1982 in Canada. Each year Canada Post receives over 1 million letters to Santa at his personal zip code. Each letter gets to Santa and is answered ( in language it was written) . Letters to Santa come from all over the world to Santa at the HoH oHo zip code. So parents now you know - and we wonder why our postal service is losing money.
Haven't we all sen the movie "A Christmas Story". All Ralphie wants is an official Red Ryder BB gun. But everyone tells him no because he'll shoot his eye out. So will a BB gun shoot your eye out. No!! In order for a shooter have a BB reach his or her face the BB would have to ricochet off something. And I can try to explain this scientifically ( but frankly i can't) but there would not be enough force or speed on a ricocheted bullet to literally pop some one's eyeball out. Depending on where it landed it could injure an eye - but chances are you would have closed your eyes by then and maybe a bruise. Now if for whatever reason you put the butt of the BB on your eyes before your shoot - aside from being incredibly stupid - you would have one heck of a shiner but the eye would still be there .Most folks who have been shot in the face ( through freak accident)
ends up with a few stitches and temporary loss of sight. But the eyeball is intact. So properly supervise any child using a BB gun or airgun to prevent any accidents but rest assured they will not shoot an eye out.

So now your Christmas quiz:(answers at the end)

1. Modern descriptions of Santa as a jolly fat elf wearing a red and white suit.with a twinkle in his eye and rosy cheeks was inspired by:
a) Coca Cola advertising of the 1930s
b) the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas"
c) drawings of the 19th century artist Thomas Nast
d) all of the above

2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was originally created as holiday promotion for Montgomery Ward
a) true
b) false

3. The word "mistletoe" derived from the Anglo-Saxon phrase meaning
a) dung on a twig
b) yule tidings
c) kissing weed
d) winter harbinger
e) bitter weed

4. According to legend the first person in history to decorate a fir tree with Christmas lights ( at that time candles) was
a) St. Nicholas
b) Martin Luther
c) king Henry VIII
d) St Augustine

5. The Christmas carole "The Twelve Days of Christmas " was composed as a secret catechism for British Catholics during the Protestant reign of Queen Elizabeth I
a) true
b) false

6. Know today as Santa Clause, the 3rd century monk St. Nicholas came to associated with Christmas because
a) he was venerated for his piety and kindness
b) he died in December
c) he was known as a protector of children
d) he gave to the sick and needy
e) all of the above

7.The day after Thanksgiving known as "Black Friday" is literally the biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S.
a) true
b) false

8. The tradition of "decking the halls" with boughs of holly originated from
a) propaganda from the horticulture industry
b) the need in the olden days to preserve plant life from the harsh winter weather by keeping it indoors
c)) the superstition that bringing greenery into the house during winter would ensure the greeneries return in the spring
d) to add a little color to the dull medieval decor

9. The shape and color of candy canes were originally intended to symbolize the purity of Jesus and the blood he shed on the cross
a) true
b) false

10. The tradition of hanging stockings by the chimney was inspired by
a) the belief that stockings symbolize Santa's bag of toys
b) The legend of St. Nicholas, who is said to have provided dowries for 3 poverty stricken sisters by dropping gold coins down the chimney and into their stockings
c) the story of the Baby Jesus , who had no stockings

11. Poinsettias are poisonous if eaten
a) true
b) false

12. The earliest known commercial Christmas card was sold in the year
a) 1501
d) 1941

The answers are 1.-d 2. -t 3.-a 4. -b 5.-f 6. -e 7.-f 8.-c 9.-f 10.-b 11.-b 12.-c.

For those who are wondering - did she make this stuff up - nope! so thanks goes out to Snopes.com. ,Moviefone, and David Emery.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from all of us at Cowboy Cleaners. Have a safe and happy holiday. Happy New Year and may it be a prosperous year for us all. May God bless you . your family and the Untied States of America.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cranberry - Yum and Ugh!!

It's cranberry time. Yes, what is Thanksgiving without the cranberry ? A lonely turkey ( whose white meat is usually dry and needs that cranberry desperately). So everything you ever wanted to know about the cranberry and more.
Cranberries are a group of evergreen dwarf shrubs or trailing vines. They are found in acidic( surprised? nope!) bogs throughout the cooler regions of the United States and Canada. The flowers are dark pink . They are pollinated by bees ( so no spraying those honey bees). The fruit is a berry that is larger than the leaves of the plant. It is initially white, but turns a deep red when fully ripe. They are edible but have an acidic taste ( hence no surprise about the acidic soil)
About 95% of cranberries are processed into products like juice drinks, sauce and my favorite craisins( dried cranberries).Only 5% are sold fresh to consumers. OK if your cranberry sauce is in the shape of a can - we need to talk. You can make fresh cranberry sauce. Trust me -it is easy. And if you are addicted to the can shape jelly - well with a little more time and effort - you can do that too. Why you would want to - I don't know - because fresh whole cranberry sauce is amazing. ( at the bottom I'll give the recipe)
The name cranberry comes from "craneberry". Apparently our forefathers thought the flowers, petals and stems reminded them of the head of a crane. In the early 17th century New England cranberries were sometimes called "bearberries" because bears were often seen feeding on them. Native Americans were the first to use cranberries as food. They also used cranberries for wound medicine and dye. The Indians called the berries " sassamanah" and introduced the berries to the starving English settlers in Massachusetts. And thus the tradition of cranberries at Thanksgiving was born.
Cranberries are harvested in the fall when the fruit takes on its distinctive red color. This is in September through November. "So what about that white cranberry juice?" you say. Well , white cranberry juice is made from regular cranberries that have been harvested after the fruits are mature, but before they have turned dark red. So all cranberries are alike.
In 1816, American Revolutionary War veteran, Henry Hall started the first cranberry farm in Cape Cod town of Dennis , Massachusetts. Until 1930 most of the crop was sold fresh to consumers. In 1930 a cooperative of farmers was formed called "Ocean Spray" Today Ocean spray has about 65% of the cranberry market.
So what has this to do with cleaning? Cranberries can be used as a natural dye. So, needless to say, the stain is difficult (not impossible) to remove. Ugh! But that's why I'm here - to remove those tough stains. So if you or your tablecloth get cranberried - leave it alone and bring it in - we'll take care of it. But if you want to use your cranberries for dye - here's how :

Cranberry Dye

2 cups fresh cranberries
1 quart water
! cup salt

You will need :
Large enamel or stainless steel ( no aluminum ) pot
wood or plastic spoon ( remember the wood will turn red)
Large bowl
Natural fiber material ( silk, cotton, linen etc)
gloves - unless you like red hands

The fabric must be submerged in the dye - so the larger the fabric the more dye you will need - be prepared to make a few batches.

1. Put cranberries and water in (non-aluminum pot) and place on stove over medium heat. Simmer 15 minutes.
2. Crush berries with spoon and simmer another 15 minutes.
3. strain mixture through cheesecloth into bowl and discard berries. Allow to cool.
4. Add salt to strained mixture ( because all of you faithful readers know that this will .....set the dye.
5. Store the dye in a non -reactive container or add the material to be dyed ( if its is a large piece of material I recommend a storage tub)
6. Let the material soak in the dye, remove and allow to dry for about 10 minutes. If you want a more intense color - repeat the soaking and drying process until you get the color you want.
7. Now completely dry ( and if you are going to wear it - wash it)

Vicky's Cranberry Sauce (easy)

1 bag cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
pinch of salt

Put sugar and water in to large sauce pan and stir to combine. Over medium heat get the water and sugar heated ( should be clear). Add cranberries. Cook about 15- 20 minutes . The water will will turn red and thicken like jelly. Cranberries will split and you will hear them pop. If you want whole cranberries - don't stir often. I prefer to stir every 3-4 minutes and keep pushing the cranberries into the water with back of my spoon the rest of the time. So you have the best of both worlds - some whole berries and some of that can -shaped jelly (without the can shape).
But for you can shaped jelly folks - strain the cooled cranberry mixture through cheesecloth and pour into a can. Cool in the refrigerator and wallah can shaped jelly! But for me too much work and the whole berries are sweet and tasty - so just pour your cooled mixture into a bowl or glass jar and refrigerate. It will last about 2 weeks. Any leftovers( surely not) can be made into bread or muffins - Yum!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

99% Pure Manure

Normally, I don't comment on politics - but what is normal about this occupy wall street crap? You have every freak and loser stinking up lower Manhattan. They are joined by rich kids whose parents apparently abdicated the ability to teach their kids common sense. Let me just say - right here -right now - if I was paying 100k for my kid to attend a university they had better have their butts in the desk and be studying- not hanging around loonies. But 1. I don't have 100k to send my kids to those bastions of liberal lunacy and 2. my kids have enough sense and fear of mom to never do anything that stupid 3. my kids know they would not be going back to the 100k school and would learn what it actually takes to make a buck.
Then in swoops the "I know your pain" liberals. I call Bulls*#^!!!! Do you own a $1000 pair of jeans? Did you even know $1000 jeans existed? Well, apparently Balmain jeans are $1000. What the hell make a jean worth $1000? Denim is denim is denim...... I'll tell you what makes a jean worth $1000 - Kayne West is stupid enough to be pay it.Yep , that fine example of intelligence went to occupy wall street wearing those $1000 jeans, a $355 Givenchy plaid shirt ( looks a lot like the Lamar Alexander $25 one), $500 shoes and enough gold to choke a leprechaun. And that fool acts like he is part of the 99%. Once again , I call Bulls*#@!!!!!!!
And lets talk about the top 1% and the 99%. Is there anyone out there who doesn't want to be part of the top 1%? Anyone not want to be a billionaire? Well ? If you are honest ( and not part of the 1%) - yes!!! I don't want to work those long hours - I like my husband and kids. So yeah I'm happy being a 99%er. I am not however a bottom 50% er who pays no taxes at all. You. I suspect are not either - or you'd be occupying something asking for - oh wait we don't know what they want. You are like me - regular tax-paying folks. I like billionaires - Steve Jobs made "Cars and Toy Story" and my apple computer. OK George Soros isn't on my list of likable billionaires but that's because he is funding this crap ( literal if you watch the news).
And comparing these losers, anti-Semites, druggies and nuts to the Tea Party? That is just more - well I call Bulls*#@!!!! Tea party was polite, cleaned after themselves, and had clear issues - quit spending and follow the Constitution. These crazy stinky lazy asses - they have no goals -oh DUH!!!!! Why would useless people have a goal in protesting when they don't have a goal in life?
So I am not a 1%er or 99%er - I am a 49%er!!! Yep, I care about my country. I go to work everyday and pay way too much in taxes. I think the government spends too much. I own guns, read the Constitution and even own a Bible. I am tired of being told I cannot pray in public - too damn bad - sometimes you just need God. I won't shoot you for no reason - but come near my husband, kids or pets ( in Texas they are considered property) - then Castle Law it is!!! I expect to be treated fairly and treat others the same. I haven't created anything that changed the world - but I do make clothes look good. So should I be paid the same as Steve Jobs - hell no !!!
And get this -- the anti-capitalism wall street stinkers - have over 1200 items listed on E-bay . Yep, can't take a bath but complain about capitalism while loading items on E-bay from their laptops and I-phones.$ 30 t-shirts and $3.50 buttons - what a rip -off ? oh wait isn't that what they are protesting? being ripped off !!! So I call bulls*@^!!!!!!!!.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Don't Forget

I remember listening to the radio when I heard a plane hit the World Trade Center. That was all that was said. The announcer didn't know what kind of plane or exactly what happened. I thought "oh my". Then minutes later, the same announcer said the second tower was hit by another plane. It was then that "oh my" turned into "oh God, what is happening?". We had no t.v in my office - so we ran out to get one. We knew when the second plane hit - this was a nightmare, an act of war, and a day that will forever be etched into our minds.
I will not forget watching those brave firefighters and policeman running into a building while others were running out. I will not forget the faces of family members looking and praying for their loved ones. I will not forget the towers collapsing. I will not forget those brave and patriotic Americans on Flight 93 and their sacrifice. Ordinary folks who chose to down the plane rather than allow the terrorists to kill others. I will not forget the Pentagon, the headquarters of our military, hit by yet another plane.
And then the silence. No planes flying - just silence. The background noise we have all become so used to , we no longer notice it. But when it was gone the silence was deafening. I remember looking up to the sky - waiting just waiting to hear that sound again. When the planes began to fly again - I stood in the street - just to watch them and silently pray.
Ten years have passed since that day. Ten years. Much has changed. We know the enemy has not given up. But neither have we. We stood together. We showed those cowards - those radical Islamic terrorists - we do not give in, we do not act them , we help one another and we stand together and we will not be victims. WE ARE AMERICANS!!! We are the greatest nation on the earth, we are the greatest people on the earth , and WE WILL NOT ALLOW CRAZY COWARDLY TERRORISTS TO DEFEAT US! And yes, WE ARE BETTER THAN THEM - IN EVERY WAY IMAGINABLE.
So this Sunday, September 11th, I will pray for those who lost their lives ( I will not do that for the terrorists - they can ask their own vindictive god to do that for them). I will thank God ( the kind, just and merciful one we believe in) for those firefighters and policeman who thought of others before themselves. I will thank God for the heroes of Flight 93. I will thank God ( despite that idiot Mayor Bloomberg's objection) for this country and for our people. WE ARE AMERICANS. I WILL NOT FORGET. YOU WILL NOT FORGET. We will make sure our children, grandchildren, and every future generation remembers. GOD BLESS AMERICA.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The FTC Wants You

It's the 100th day of over 100 degrees in San Antonio. ( well maybe not 100 days but darn close). So as I wither here, I was wondering what I could possible write about. My brain is fried and I could be an ad for any antiperspirant - even though I haven't worked out. So what does my whining have to do with the Federal Trade Commission? Not a darn thing. But I just figured it's my blog and I can whine if I want to ( or it's my party and I can cry if I want to). But onto the actual topic of this blog.

The FTC wants you ( well sorta)! Every now and then the Federal Trade Commission decides to review some of their laws. This year they are reviewing the care label law. This could be a cause for celebration but it's government - so I'm going to go out on a limb here - this will probably be a total screw -up. But this is your chance to tell them what you think about the care labels. I did!!!!!

They are actually pondering if care labels are necessary. Yep, you read that right . The Federal Trade Commission wants to know if you want to know how to safely clean your clothes. ( did you just mutter "that's government for you".) And that my dear readers is just one of the thirty or so questions they have listed. You can go to htttp://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/ftc/carelabelinganpr/ to read the whole questionnaire and voice your opinion. Please do .....

Since I have spent the last year whining about care labels - those that are wrong, stupid and just plain outlandish -WE NEED TO COMPLAIN!!!!! Aren't you tired of the " Do Not Dry Clean Do Not Wash Spot Clean Only" label? Tell the FTC. Wouldn't you like to know all the methods that are safe to clean your clothes? Right now the manufacturer only has to give you one method.But most of the time the garment can be either wet cleaned or dry cleaned. But you the consumer, the owner of the garment will never know. FAIR? HARDLY!!!!!

This is your chance to tell the FTC what you want - do you want the care labels in English? Is that a big DUH!!!! Do you prefer written instructions to the fun and funky symbols? It's your clothes - it's your chance - don't let it pass you by - write the FTC.

So once again - here's the link:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Frankly,my dear I give a damn

Yes, I know I have changed the iconic line from "Gone With The Wind". But I do give a damn about the dresses worn by Vivien Leigh in the Oscar- winning movie. Now, you Rhett Butler's out there will care less - unless one of us Scarlett's show up wearing the drapes. But we gals, we remember all those beautiful gowns and if asked we all have a favorite. So southern belles - this column is for you.

Restoration has started to preserve and restore the dresses from "Gone With The Wind." The bad news is - some of the gowns cannot be made to look like they did on screen. The holes, and dropped stitches can be repaired. Feathers added to the Burgundy ball gown removed. But, the dresses are old, badly faded in spots and one is too fragile to handle.

In 2014 an exhibit will mark the 75th anniversary of the film. The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas acquired five of the dresses from the collection of David O. Selznick in the 1980's. The center will spend $30,000 to preserve the five dresses. The five dresses are Scarlett O'Hara's green curtain dress, her velvet gown, a burgundy ball gown, a blue velvet night gown and Scarlett's wedding dress.

Cara Varnell, an art conservator who specializes in Hollywood film costumes is doing the restoration work. Varnell has studied the dresses. The waistline of the green curtain dress has been altered several times and extra feathers were sewn on the ball gown. The dresses are in rough shape. The reason was David O. Selznick realized the value of the dresses and put them on tour. They went through decades of traveling displays and were even loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City ( fell free to utter the Pace Picante sauce line from the their commercial here) Plus, costumes were never made for everyday use- they were made to wear for the filming of movie and then be discarded.

But thankfully, since 1980 the Ransom Center has has kept them in a properly temperature and light controlled storage environment. Sadly, the the curtain dress has long faded streaks that have turned the fabric an ugly brown mustard color. Ms. Varnell does not believe this was caused by light fading because the fabric is not dried out or fragile in those areas that would be typical of light fading. Records show the dress was likely sprayed with Sudol, a disinfectant similar to Lysol, which may have affected the rate and nature of the discoloration. ( note to selves - never spray disinfectant on your clothes)

So the curtain dress will not be restored to it's original shade of green. Ms Varnell said her job is to keep the dresses sturdy enough to endure in as close to original form as possible, not to recreate their precise look in the movie. ( so disappointing but hey - it's going to be 75 years old - none of us look as good as we use to)

Varnell believes the dresses travels and faded spots are " part of it's history".( kinda like my wrinkles, grey hair and a few extra pounds) She believes she should "honor the history and honor the piece."( ha- take that husbands - honor the history - honor the wrinkles) The Burgundy ball gown, however, is still it's same vibrant color. Scarlett's silk wedding dress veil cannot be restored. It was brittle and lined with permanent creases when it was acquired and is now so fragile that it will likely disintegrate if handled. But Ms. Varnell said " we are all organic material ans when a costume has come to the end of its life, it is no different than we are.

So in 2014 - head to Austin to see Scarlett's dresses. But use what happened to them to as a reminder to be careful with your clothes. Proper care and storage would have kept Scarlett's dresses in better condition. Proper care and storage will do the same for yours. But no matter the condition, aren't you thrilled to know the dresses are still here? Can't you still picture Clark Gable looking up the staircase - when Scarlett asks who is that man ? Don't you still wonder why she preferred Ashley Wilkes over Rhett Butler? And don't ya just feel like saying "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn?"

Monday, June 20, 2011

We're Having a heat Wave

Some of you will remember the song "We're Having a Heat Wave." If you are not old enough to have heard it on the radio , watch re-runs of "M.A.S.H." But, if you are living in San Antonio - we are having a heat wave. Heck we are frying. Yesterday it was 104. Today it's 104. Tomorrow- who knows. We need rain. My lawn is a lovely shade of brown and plants are dying. So simple reminder - drink a lot of water, stay indoors if you can, and try to keep cool.

I know I talked about this before - but it really needs to be said again - perspiration can damage clothes. It can change the color of the dyes used in making your clothes. It is important with days like these to make sure that anything you wear - is immediately cleaned to remove perspiration. Don't leave damp clothes in your hamper - one garment can fade unto another. So if your garment is damp from perspiration -hang it up to dry (if dry clean only) or wash immediately if you can. Don't put these garments back into the closet until it's cleaned.

Also remember to clean to clean stains and soil as soon as possible. Any stains or soil left on a garment can become impossible to remove. Studies by the Dry Cleaning And Laundry Institute show after aging for only one week,20% of stains cannot be removed satisfactorily. After three weeks , this increases to 47%.

Always allow lotions, antiperspirants, perfumes, and toiletries to dry before you get dressed.These products can contain ingredients that can cause color loss or color changes in your garments. We all know we are not supposed to sit in the sun - ( yeah that summer tan can kill ya) so if you use a sunless tanner - be sure you give it enough time to dry.

Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight or strong artificial lights can affect the color in your garments. The light can fade the color. If the garment is white -it can cause the white to yellow or gray. I have always wondered what crazy architect thought putting a window in a closet is a good idea.

Always clean and wear matching items together.

So while you're roasting here - remember your clothes. This is that time of year to pay special attention to your clothes. The deodorant and perspiration that isn't immediately removed from those garments can leave lasting damage. Oh joy - as if you didn't have enough to worry about. But think of it this way - there are 3 things you have the largest investment in - house, car and wardrobe. So don't forget to protect your investment.

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 1961

I cannot say I really remember May 1961. Let's just say I was very young ( a lady never tells her age). But apparently, even though I don't recall all of this - 1961 was a very good year.

On January 20,1961 John F. Kennedy was sworn into the office of the president. But it was Jacqueline Kennedy who changed fashion. The pill box hat was the fashion must have. Oleg Cassini, who designed her inaugural dress was "the" designer.

If you were watching t.v. in 1961 - and weren't we all. You had a choice of 3, yes count'em on one hand, 3 channels. your favorite shows were "Wagon Train", "Bonanza", Gunsmoke", "The Twilight Zone" and my personal favorite ( back then) "Mr. Ed." Clearly, mom and dad must have been into pop culture - top shows = westerns - cleaners name = cowboy. Do you remember this - "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat"? That was the opening for the new Saturday afternoon show with Jim McKay - "The Wide World Of Sports".

The movies that year included " The Absent -minded Professor","101 Dalmatians "( still my husband's favorite dog) "Breakfast at Tiffany's","judgement at Nuremberg", The Guns of Navarone" and "The Pit and the Pendulum". The Broadway musical "West Side Story" was made into a film this year starring Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno. ( the American Romeo and Juliette) .Are you humming "We want to live in America?" or "Tonight"?

On the radio , you were listening to "Moon River" by Henry Mancini ( the theme song from "Breakfast at Tiffany's).Pete Seeger sang "Where Have All The Flowers Gone", Roy Orbison recorded "Crying". And my two all time favorite songs "Crazy" recorded by Patsy Cline and written by Willie Nelson ( yep the same Willie Nelson) and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" recorded by the Shirelles - Thankfully re-recorded by the song writer in the 70's , Carole King.

In 1961 construction began on the Berlin Wall. (amazing some young folks never saw it in their lifetime). Texas introduced the state sales tax. (oops) The first Six Flags was opened in Arlington. Proctor and Gamble introduced and test marketed Pampers in Peoria,Illinois. Coca-Cola had a brand new soft drink - they called it Sprite. TWA showed the first in-flight movie. Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space. ray Kroc had bought the rights to McDonalds and had opened 230 stores.

The average cost of a new home $12,500.00
The average income $5315.00
Gas per gallon $0 .27
The average cost of a new car $2850.00
Pound of bacon $0.67
Dozen eggs $0.30

This was when Mom and Dad decided to open the first Cowboy Cleaners. Fifty years later McDonald's is world wide ( to some the scourge of America - to the rest of us a quick, tasty burger and dang good fries). If there hadn't been pampers -millions of kids would literally have been butt-naked.( no way was I going to use a cloth diaper)."West Side Story" is a classic. And Cowboy Cleaners is still here . The company has grown but we still follow the same ideals that dad started. We do the best job. We take the the time and care to make the clothes we are entrusted with look their best. So if you look at the picture on the home page and think who are those folks? That would be us - Dad, Shannon and I and the next generation of Cowboys and Cowgirls.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy Easter

Today I recieved the usual batch of e-mails. I am sure you get them too. Friends and relatives send political information, touching human interest stories, cute photos of pets and then the odd clean and slightly dirty ( I am a cleaner - so they are never really, really dirty) jokes.

But today, I got a fun Easter related e-mail. I thought I would share it with you.

All I need to know I learned from the Easter Bunny:

1. Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
2.Everyone needs a friend who is all ears.
3. There is no such thing as too much candy.
4. All work and no play can make you a basket case
5. Everyone is entitled to a bad hare day.
6.Let happy thoughts multiply like rabbits.
7. Some body parts should be floppy.
8. Keep your paws off other people's jelly beans. ( and Russell Stover chocolate marshmallow eggs)
9. Good things come in small, sugar coated packages.
10. The grass is always greener in someone else's basket.
11. To show your true colors, you have to come out of the shell.
12. The best things in life are still sweet and gooey.

So Happy Easter and may God bless you all.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Worm Has Turned

Ever wonder where we got the phrase "the worm has turned"? Did you say Shakespeare? Then you were right. It appeared in Shakespeare's Henry VI part III " the smallest worm will turn, being trodden on." Then the phrase meant even the most humble will strike back if abused enough ( remind you of the Tea party or the you tube video of the boy that was being bullied). Like many English words and phrases it evolved over time to its current meaning - the situation has changed. So what does turning worms have to do with dry cleaning? SILK ! Silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm. The two countries that are the largest producers of silk are China and Japan.

Silk is a beautiful and yet fragile fabric. It comes in may forms. It can be smooth or rough. It can be raw, polished or suede. The colors and weaves used for silk fabrics are endless. Silk can be used for wearable fashion and for home fashion.

Silk does have some problems. I'm going to help you look for some of these problems before you plunk down your hard earned money and some that occur from wear. Let's start with one you can avoid before you buy.
Yarn slippage looks like puckering or separation between the fibers. It is caused by the yarns slipping apart or seam separation. The fabric will have a rippled or distorted effect and appear thinner. It can appear any where on the fabric. The yarns are not broken but have slipped across the warp yarn. How can you tell before you buy? Hold the garment up to a light - you will see areas where the yarns have a slight separation. You will notice that the yarns don't look straight but slightly wavy. These areas will eventually pucker and will become holes. So before you buy a silk blouse, shirt, dress or whatever - hold it up to light. ( sound like Poltergeist - "look into the light")
Sometimes relatively new silk garments will show holes or tears for no apparent reason.The damage appears as a local loss of fibers or tears on the fabric. Sometimes there will be a visable discoloration in the weakened area. ( in whites it will appear yellow - in colors it will appear a lighter shade than the original color). This is caused by chloride salts. chloride slats are found in perspiration and deodorants. Chloride salts are also found in many foods, beverages,skin lotions .medicines and table salt or salt water. When the solution dies, the moisture evaporates out, but the salt residue remains int eh fabric and starts the chemical process that degrades the silk. So does this mean - don't wear silk in Texas in the summer. NO! it means get the silk cleaned after wearing and make sure the cleaner pays attention to the underarms and any area you may have spilled liquid on. Just because you don't see the stain after it dried doesn't mean it's still not there. ( once again think Poltergeist - just when you think the ghosts are gone - they rear their ugly heads - and haunt you - stains not removed will haunt your silk and make holes)
You know what this looks like - the dye in an area is lighter or just gone. The dyes on silk are fragile. That is why your cleaners charges more - it takes time, patience , and knowledge to work on silks. Do NOT RUB SILK. What does that mean? OK - picture this - You are sitting at a restaurant and you spill white wine on your blouse or shirt. You quickly grab your napkin and dunk into your water glass and rub stain and it's gone. But so is the dye. when you look down that area will look lighter or once it's cleaned it will lighter. This may be able fixed by a knowledgeable dry cleaner( no promises) but if it can be corrected - it will need that done every time its cleaned. NEVER RUB SILK. ( oh while we at it - the napkin dabbing thing - yes I've done it - but never never never do that with an oil-based stain e.g butter or salad dressing)

Silk dyes can be solvent soluble or water soluble. That means some dyes on silks cannot be washed and some cannot be dry cleaned. How do you know? If you've been reading this blog - this is an easy one - read the care label. So what happens if you don't follow the care label - over-all fading.

Silk fabrics are more prone to fading from light exposure than most fabrics. This is especially true for bright,vivid colors ( blues, greens and purples). This can be caused by sunlight, strong artificial light, and ultraviolet light. ( I have never understood why a builder puts a window in a closet - can you say light fading on all your clothes)Light fading can happen with even minimal exposure to to the light source. Never place a silk in direct exposure to light. ( silk drapes with no lining or sheers - bad idea!)
We are not talking about those painful legs stretching things that cheerleaders do but lengthwise ( I guess kind of like those cheerleader legs) in the fabric . The thin warp yarns are broken and thicker filling yarns remain intact. This happens from the stress of wear and can be aggravated by by the cleaning process. If this happens it needs to be returned - the manufacturer needs to balance the yarns during construction.

So now you know - silk is a great fabric but one that needs special care. It can be soft and shiny or when raw nubby and rough. It is versatile. You can wear it or your windows can be draped in it. Beautiful rugs are constructed from it. Silk was first used in China in 3500BC. Any fabric that old - has really got something going for it. So enjoy the fabric that was once only for Chinese emperors and empresses.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The 10% Rule

We've all heard that the average person only uses 10% of their brain. This is a myth. Just look at a brain scan. I know we have all met some one we were convinced only used 10% of their brains but sadly they were really using all their brain. They just didn't have much of a brain. But this year the 10% rule will apply to clothes. The cost of clothes will be going up at least 10%.

Why the rise in the cost of clothes?The price of cotton has more than doubled in the last year. The price of cotton has hit an all time high. This is good for the farmers in South Texas but bad for the end user ( you and I). The price of synthetic fabrics has jumped 50% as demand for alternatives has risen. This may be good time to explain the difference between natural and synthetic fibers.

Natural fibers are found in nature, they come from animal and vegetable sources. Synthetic fibers are manufactured fibers and fibers created by scientist including some manufactured from cellulose and wood pulp. Is one better than the other - no. They have different properties but both natural and synthetic fibers have advantages and disadvantages. So how do you choose which to buy - check the care label. The best advice is to buy whatever you can afford to care of. One thing that those of in South Texas may want to remember , natural fibers tend to be cooler as it allows better air flow.

Some natural fibers are cotton, linen, ramie, silk, wool, bamboo, jute, hemp, and sisal.

We all know cotton - the iconic blue jean. If you have ever driven I-37 to Corpus Christi - you've seen cotton growing in the fields. Cotton grows in the seed pod of the cotton plant. Cotton is the second strongest natural fiber. Cotton has been used in fabric since 5,000 B.C. in Egypt. ( yes I used B.C. and not B.C.E.) Cotton takes dyes well allowing for a wide range of colors. Even though the cotton ball seems white -once it is made into fabric it has an optical brightener to make it appear whiter. So wondering if the unrest in Egypt is going to effect you? The answer is yes, Egyptian cotton is used to make some the best sheets and shirts.( gentleman please take note - if you like heavy starch -stay away from Egyptian cotton - it gets softer with wear and washings unlike Texas king cotton).

Linen is the vegetable fiber from the woody stem of the flax plant. Linen has been around as long as cotton and was popular with the Egyptian Pharaohs. Linen is cool and absorbent but it wrinkles easily.

Ramie is from a plant similar to flax. The plant is grown in China. ( which explains all the made in China labels on ramie.)

Silk is from the cocoon of the silk worm. It was the fiber of the Chinese Emperors.The legend of silk is the concubine of an Emperor Yuen Fei dropped a cocoon into hot teas 2600 B.C. and it unraveled into silk fibers.Silk was a guarded secret in China for 3,000 years. The dye on silks can be very delicate.

Wool is the strongest natural fiber. It is breathable,hard wearing and can be soft or scratchy. Wool is the hair from a number of different animals ,most commonly sheep. If you are allergic to animals - you can be allergic to wool.

Now for the synthetic fibers...Acetate, acrylic,microfiber,nylon,polyester and rayon

Acetate is both natural and synthetic. It is composed of refined plant cellulose or wood pulp and acetic acid. It is long wearing ans resists wrinkling.

Acrylic is derived by polyacrylonitrile. Acrylic has a wool-like feel but lacks wool's insulating properties.Acrylic stretches easily - and pure acrylic cannot be steamed. Acrylic also pills easily. But if blended with natural fibers it is very durable.

Microfiber is a generic term for any synthetic fiber finer than silk. Currently, there are four types of microfibers being produced - they are acrylic,nylon,polyester and rayon. Microfiber is 100 times finer than a human hair.

Nylon was invented by DuPont in 1938.Nylon was the first completely synthetic fiber created. Nylon is very strong and flexible. nylon wears well and resists static electricity.But nylon is not breathable. Nylon makes great umbrellas and parachutes.

Polyester the fiber of the 60's and 70's. ( remember the polyester suit worn by Herb on WKRP in Cincinnati ?). Polyester is short strands of fiber bonded together. It dries quickly. It is fade resistant, abrasion resistant and doesn't wrinkle during wear. But polyester will retain permanent wrinkles if dried in high heat. Do not dry polyester in your home dryer.

Rayon is regenerated cellulose.rayon is made from regenerated wood pulp, cotton linters or other vegetable matter. Rayon is a manufactured fiber that uses natural materials. Rayon was invented in 1910. rayon does not do well in high humidity as dampness can cause shrinkage. The sizing used in rayon are often water soluble and leave the areas that get damp darker. This can cause the rayon to look stained. So don't go "walking in the rain with one you love" wearing a rayon dress or shirt .

So now you know the difference between natural and synthetic fibers. But no matter which you choose these will both cost you more.Higher cost will affect how clothes are made. Clothing makers are using more synthetics and designers will use less beads and embellishments. You may also notice less color choices. Bad weather in August of 2010 cut harvests in major cotton producing countries including China, the U.S. ,Pakistan and Australia.Restrictions on exports from India ,the worlds second largest cotton exporter behind China have also lead to the higher prices. During the recession many Chinese factories were shut down. So all this is leading to the higher costs.

What can you do? Take care of the clothes you already have. Never put anything away dirty. Even if you don't see a stain - if you know you spilled something on your clothes - clean them. Those stains will up later. Read care labels. Make sure you know exactly how to take care of your garments. When buying new garments - read the care label. Can you clean this ? Can anyone clean this? Does this require special care? Can I afford to take care of this garment? As Dad always said "when times get tough -the tough get going" Be tough - make sure you know exactly what you are buying and make sure you or your favorite dry cleaner ( ME) can take care of it. If the seafood restaurant offers that cheesy plastic bib - wear it. Make sure your winter wools are properly stored this season - now is not the time to surrender to moths and silver fish. You can do this . I can help. But get tough - know what you are buying and then take care of them. Well made clothes can last decades ( if you stay away from the latest fad and stick to the classics). I have some sweaters ( yes they still fit) that are over 20 years old. My secret - proper care. I have dresses ( some don't fit - but I keep them to encourage me to exercise) that are 30 years old. They all look perfect - proper care. So get tough - take care of your clothes and they really can last for decades.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pink Pigs and Purple cows

Pink pigs and purple cows sounds like one of those trippy songs of the 60's. But, it also reminds me of when I was a kid and drawing in the lines was not all that important. I could choose any color from my crayon box to color my world. Trees could be orange and there were pink pigs and purple cows ( the pink cows made strawberry milk and brown cows gave us chocolate milk). So what does pink pigs and purple cows have to do with cleaning? Well, we all agree in the real world - there are no pink pigs and purple cows - so all leather is dyed.Leather is animal skin - so since no pink, green, blue, purple, brown, grey or any other of those 164 colors in the crayon box exist in our animal friends - all leather is dyed.

What types of animals are used to make leather?
The most common is pig skin. One of the ways to tell if a leather is pig skin is by the pores visible on the skin. When looking at the skin you will notice tiny holes on the surface. Pig skin can be used to make leather or suede. (difference between leather and suede - which side of the skin that was used) It is the most common and the usually the least expensive leather.

Sheep - you are probably thinking - What wool is leather? Nope. Wool is a fiber. Wool is the sheared hair from the sheep, cleaned and spun into yarn. But there are sheepskin jackets with the hair attached to the skin. But the skin can also be used to make leather items.

Goat - yep. The skin is pretty tough and thick. It is not very commonly used to make clothing but is excellent for light weight tough clothing like motorcycle wear.

Cow - you've seen cow hide rugs ( come one this is Texas) But cow hide is used for clothing too. Cow hide is very thick - so it is split to to reduce the thickness. But, as the thickness is reduced so is the strength. That is why the rug can take decades of feet walking all over it and your jacket cannot. The most supple and most expensive of the cow skins is calf skin.

Fish - yep even fish are made into leather. No you don't walk around wearing those fish scales - but the skin does keep the imprint of the scales.But, knowing those crazy designers maybe the skin and scales will be the next big thing. Carp is the most common fish used to make leather or suede trims. One small problem with fish - they stink. So never wear your fish in inclement weather - you will smell - well fishy!

So since we all agree - no pink pigs and purple cows - how does leather get all those colors and what color is leather ? OK leather is skin - so it is the color of dried skin - YUCK! But there ya go - it is an unappealing color in it's natural state. So all leather is dyed. Yes, you read that correctly all leather is dyed. But unlike fibers, the dye in leather may not be set. ( remember the earlier blog about salt setting dyes - salt + leather = disaster) So when leather is cleaned it must be re-dyed after cleaning. The leather cleaners has to match the leather garment you have to swatches to re-dye after cleaning.

How do you know if what you have is leather, suede or man -made? Check the label . Real leather will say "Clean by leather method only". But you can also check the backside of the garment. Leather is skin and so the backside of the leather will look like skin. You can check this by peeping under the lining. Man made leathers have a material back and no imperfections. While not required, most garments will have a content label. The content label will say something like 50% cotton 20% acetate etc. A man made leather will say vinyl, nylon or polyester. A real leather will say leather. It will not identify the animal. But it will say leather.

So how is leather cleaned? Very carefully! First before cleaning it is dye matched. Since the dye may not be set - the leather cleaner must match the dye before cleaning to restore it to the original color after cleaning. Is this always possible - honestly no - but every leather cleaner tries their best to return the garment to the original color. There are some stains and spills that can cause permanent damage to leather. Perspiration can discolor or harden the leather. Some ink cannot be completely removed. Oil stains can discolor the leather. Ground in dirt may not be completely removed with out damaging the skin. Blood stains may not be completely removed. Beer and alcohol can cause permanent color damage. Never use a pin on leather ( the hole will not go away unlike cloth) and don't ever put those "Hello my name is" tags on your leather jacket. Better to be incognito than damage your leather.

Leather is skin and skin needs moisturizer. DO NOT PUT YOUR FACE CREAM ON THE LEATHER. The leather cleaner has a specific solvent designed to maintain the garments original appearance. This solvent puts moisturizer back into the skin while cleaning. YOU CANNOT DO THIS YOURSELF. I don't want to hear that some of you heard me say skin needs moisturizer and then slather the stuff yourself all over your jacket.NO NO NO ! But, your leathers and furs are skin - so you must have them cleaned and moisturized - I recommend annually. If you don't have them cleaned - stains will set and the leather or skin may crack . Both will make your leather unusable. But once a leather or fur skin cracks - it's a goner.

Leather is tanned and stretched during the manufacturing process. Therefore, after cleaning leather needs to be re-stretched. But excessive shrinkage can occur after cleaning because excessive tension was used during the manufacturing. Always buy leathers and suede slightly larger to compensate for shrinkage.

Now , lets talk about a typical day in the life of a cow. (I know how this sounds but just go with it ) Mabel( that's our cow) is out in the pasture munching on grass ( well green ground cover that we will refer to as grass - not the stuff in your lawn) . Mabel is wondering along munching away,looking at the ground and then oops she trips over a rock. OUCH! The rock gave her a knock on the knee ( or whatever you call it on a cow). But the ever intrepid Mabel ,shakes it of and keeps moving on. Then Mabel( not the brightest cow in the herd) runs into the barbed wire fence. OUCH! That will cause a scar. But hey Mabel will not be deterred - so off she goes munching along. But poor Mabel now has a couple of bruises and pretty big gash that once it heals will scar. Oh well - Mabel doesn't really care since she already has her bull. Yep, Mabel is a mom to be and whoa - here comes the calf "Hazel". So now Mabel is bruised,scarred and damn she is going to have those stretch marks we ( human ladies) try so hard to get rid of. But hey Mabel is a cow and she already has her bull - so stretch marks - no biggie. So the point of the day in the life of Mabel. If Mabel is your jacket - those bruises,scars, and stretch marks may be disguised during manufacturing but after cleaning may become more visable. Skin , unlike fabric, is not uniform. No leather is perfect. So there can be belly wrinkles, stretch marks, scars bruises, darker or lighter areas ,vein marks and texture variances. After cleaning all of this may be more visible - let's face if you are wearing it - your jacket was probably not the brightest cow in the herd either.

Let's talk salt ( not the Angelina Jolie movie) but Na Cl. ( My high school chem teacher is now beaming with pride - yes, she really did learn something)Salt is not used in the cleaning or manufacturing of leather because it can cause staining of the skin or permanent damage. Salt can be found in food, drinks, urine, deodorants, ice melt and you ( perspiration). Salt will continually absorb moisture from the atmosphere , thus keeping the stained area of the leather damp. The salt stained area can discolor the leather.Salt can also shrink, stiffen and even crack the leather.

No salt = no set dyes. Beware the multi colored leather. Beware the dark leather on the light fabric. If the dye is not set - the dye will bleed. Can the dye be set - of course but chances are ...it is not . So I'm saying if you want a multi-colored leather or a dark and light leather or suede combination - DO NOT SPEND MUCH ON IT. This is a garment you will wear and eventually just throw away. If properly made , they can be cleaned and no problems. But lets be honest they aren't properly made any more - so avoid these or be prepared to wear and toss.

Varsity jackets are not usually leather. The sleeves are normally vinyl. These have their own set of issues. But that's for another day.

So what have we learned. To quote the little mice from the movie "Babe" - "Pigs are stupid." OK maybe we didn't learn that - but pigs are not pink. Cows are not brown. Just because they spent their life in pasture doesn't mean your coat can too. Mabel didn't care what she looked like - but you care what she looks like once she's your jacket. Leather is tough and delicate. It requires specific care. The cleaning process is intricate and longer that regular dry cleaning or washing. Leather care is more expensive than regular dry cleaning. So when you look at a leather jacket ,coat, skirt or rug - remember the cost of cleaning . Never buy anything you cannot afford to maintain. Unless - you get it cheap enough to wear and throw away. But don't you just wish there really were pink pigs and purple cows?