Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Den is CLEAN!

My party is over! The Vincentennial was a resounding success, the details of which I'll have to lay on you at a later date. I am a weary, bleary mess of a gal this morning, but I think it was worth it!

Yesterday, in the midst of shelling twenty-four eggs for devilled eggs, pinning bacon to water chesnuts (which I later forgot to put out, meaning mock rumaki for breakfast!), and mixing concentrates into a fine gloop of what was eventually party punch, I did manage to do a little housework, and thought I would show off my favorite room in my house.

Behold! The clean den! As opposed to the den littered with Goodwill finds and clothes and magazines! Neat as a pin. The couch is my favorite piece of furniture in the whole house-- it, the lamps, the side tables, the coffee table, and the yellow chair you see below all came from the same estate sale...for $90. STEAL. OF. THE. MID. CENTURY.

The panelled room in my house was originally a garage, but some time in the seventies the first owners closed in area to make a finished den. I was going to paint the faux woodgrain when I moved in, but the finish was so scarred by the earlier renters (Lord grant me the strength not to launch into a full blown harangue about the people who lived in my house just before me), I decided this was the perfect room to practice my "too much is not enough" design aesthetic. I always liked the idea of having a gallery like those Regency mansions you'll see, I guess documentaries about Regency mansions... with great, ornate paintings hung from ceiling to floor, very close together. I went with that and just hung every thrift store wall hanging I actually owned at the time in this one room.

The tv is an UNBELIEVABLY HEAVY 1960 RCA color television, which took my dad and a fireman that was attending the sale a LOT of gruntwork to get down a narrow flight and a half of stairs in a 1920's house in West Meade. The owners of the house had six boys, so I guess they had built in helpers when they first put the tv in the upstairs room. This is the Cadillac of early 60's tv's. I saw it online in an ad for an estate sale that started on a Friday and actually took a day off work to be there when they opened so that I could buy it. I didn't know how many vintage tv's I would eventually see at estate sales at the time or I might not have been so nuts about getting to this one, but I'm still glad I did. It came with the original sales slip and the booklet on how to use your new, color tv. ABC and CBS weren't even in color in 1960! You could only watch NBC in color! It's hard for me to wrap my head around that concept.

The mannequin was my grandmother's, and is wearing an impossibly small hipped, but unbelievably Mad Men esque ensemble of belted dress and matching scarf. The console record player sadly does not work, but wow what a beaut! It's an early sixties Telefunken from Germany, with extra tubes and all intact! I tried in vain to find a schematic for it online, but honestly it more than does its job in the looks department.

The hand stitched poodle runner was in one of the drawers from a bedroom suite I bought at the same estate sale as the living room suite came from. I bought two roomsful of furniture at the same place, and gosh wasn't everything there a) so stylish and b) so inexpensive. The people running the sale were the children of a couple who had been neighbors to the woman whose house it was-- she had passed away and left them the estate, and they were trying to clear the house on the last day of a not very successful sale (I guess they were just waiting for me to come and literally take two truckfulls of stuff). The magazines are from 1962, just some decorating/housewife-ish books I picked up at Great Escape when they'd just opened their Charlotte location for I think fifty cents.

Bob Hope statuette from my grandmother, race car drapes from Goodwill, a sheet where a door to the laundry room will hopefully one day be.

Here's a piano our friend Louis gave us! I'm not sure of its provenance (other than "from Louis"), but it sure does add a touch of "class" to the whole set up. It's an electric keyboard mounted in a baby grand body for that sophisticated look (ah ha ha ha). Babu's a professional musician, so I sometimes press him into service to learn some of the thirties sheet music so I can sing along. It's totally fun. The oil painting is of Bab's grandparents on his dad's side. His grandfather (who passed away about a year before we started dating, and who I really wish I could have met) was an extremely well-liked and gregarious senator from Missouri in the 60's and 70's, and his grandmother, who still lives in St. Louis, is possibly one of the nicest people on this green earth (we were on a trip to see her when that tornado tried to blow me to Kingdom Come). Visitors have expressed surprise that at least ONE portrait in my house is actually of someone I know (terrible vintage photo addiciton).

The lamp is one of those great 50's whipstitched edge, fiberglass shaded numbers... the beige piece at the bottom is a little faux marbled Bakelite insert that's part of this neat "night light"feature where a separate switch turns on a little light at the foot of the lamp. The guy at the yard sale I bought it at said his grandparents had bought it "when they set up house-keeping in 50's". Fifteen bucks. I kid you not.

And that's my den! And gee is it clean! That's the twenty-five cent tour. I sure am proud of it now that it's all put together like I want it to be. The only downside to this is the limiting factor of not having any more rooms to left empty to decorate, buuuuuut so it goes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Good Housekeeping's Ten PM Cook Book (1958)

It's 10 o'clock at night! You have guests! They have appetites! What will you do?

Thank goodness for Good Housekeeping's Ten PM Cookbook (1958)! A wealth of information on last minute tidbits and nibblets is at your disposal thanks to this slim, handy little volume. I have a whole set of these GH-penned recipe books (I'll have to share with you the appetizers edition some time, which features a cheese ball with toothpick antennae that looks a little like Sputnik) and the clever little things just CAN'T BE BEAT for MCM illustrations. Some of these drawings are so much like the ones you'll see for contemporary, retro-minded items (example: Dyna Moe's excellent Mad Men: the Illustrated World) that you would almost mistake the source material for the reproduction, but let me assure you, these are real-deal, 100%, gen-u-ine article 1958 artwork. And doesn't it just make your heart skip a beat!

"We are hors d'oeurves! We're hors d'oeurves! We're hors d'oeuvres!"

I'm planning a little get together this weekend at my house in honor of the Vincentennial (didn't know it's what would have been Vincent Price's 100th birthday this weekend? Well, now you do...) and while I have my serving dishes all laid out, I'm still quizzing myself a little over the state of the larder versus the participatory level of cooking I want do versus who all is coming.

Ideally, my basic set up would look a little like the above, with oddly tinged dip (Green Dragon dip, recipe below) and crackers, mock rumaki (though the above is very real rumaki, I can never accustom myself to the idea of livers as party food), and some kind of pineapple-ham toothpick combo. The ham and biscuits seem a little over kill, but according to the caption they're just brown and serve rolls browned with deli meat inside. I'm probably going to do a bowl of chips and salsa, and another of chips and dip, but more of the need to showcase my two vintage chip and dip sets than out of menu necessity. These brief party appearances almost make up for the ridiculous amount of kitchen storage taken up by items, like the chip and dips, specific to special occasions (stainless steel icebuckets with penguins on them, punch bowls, sets of fancy crockery, oversized platters, etc). Almost.

After a disasterous encounter darkened avocado bits in the past, using them in little kabobs sounds delicious but risky. Tidbit kabobs in general can be wildly time consuming... I can remember two parties ago, I spent a good half hour mindlessly threadings bits of fruit and cheese and ham to multi-colored toothpicks. The effect was lovely, but I don't know that I'll invest that much effort into snackables again. I am, however, totally on-board with this pineapple-salad mold. The only pertinent decision not yet made is which mold to use... I have one shaped like a pineapple (appropriate enough), but I think it's too large. And doubling the recipe to fit the mold means double the Jello... sometimes our contemporary fellows have a weird aversion to Jello molds. I've been suckered into using them just about every time by the vintage aura about them and the fact that you can make them any kind of crazy bright color and shape you want.

Were mixed nuts drastically less expensive in the 60's? Every time I try to make a 60's recipe, I find myself shell-shocked (no pun intended) by the 55-cents-an-ounce-and-up walnut/pecan/etc prices. Not all of us are the kind of Rockefellers it would take to make a prodigious showing of "nut bits" in a snack platter arrangement. I could always go the Planter's route and tell the rest to go to the devil, but it's simply not fancy enough. What's the point of doing a sixties' party spread if things aren't don't look fancy? P-R-E-S-E-N-T-A-T-I-O-N is the word of the day.

And speaking of, aren't the above photos just a SONG of what a pretty party table should look like? I really like the use of goblets (wine glasses would work) for chi-chi, single item servlets. I was worried that the items at the lower right in the midst of the grapes were hot dogs slathered in peanut butter (anyone who's into these 60's cookbooks KNOWS how crazy ingredient lists can get) but it turns out they're buttercream frosted eclairs (MUCH. MORE. PALATABLE). I'm pretty sure the beans-and-franks photo at the upper right was on Lileks. I love that man.

These recipes? Perfect solutions to the quandry: "What shall I serve at my Gala?"

More illustrations! Yes! Yes!

White sports-coated new years. When hearts were all a-flitter. Also, I will wear that crazy boater the girl in the middle sports any old time.

Icebox cake! And are those the ever-recipe-present olives in the lower left hand corner of your refrigerator, Madame? Or possible chilled gumballs?

One of the cutest illustrations in the whole book. Give me that sweeping collar, stranded pearl choker, that curled bob, and those earrings and see what kind of trouble I can't get into. I want hair like this so badly! I know I wouldn't put enough effort into it to make it look this cute, however! It's a sad, self-awareness that I carry with me.

Faceless, unexpected guests at twenty paces!! Most of the recipes in this section require you to make food up to a month in advance, freeze it, and then thaw and cook it in the twenty stalling minutes you can manage before these beastly, unmannered friends of yours demand vittles and libations. I guess this section really has more to do with friends just dropping by on the way to or from something, and me, I'm glad to see anyone drop by as in the days of yore, but I still get a great kick out the idea of "dealing" with unexpected guests, as if they were a hostile force indeed.

Some varied recipes from this section and the one before it:

One funny section of the cookbook, just about at the midway mark, partitioned the remaining pages off into three categories: "Especially for the Girls", "When It's Strictly Stag", and "Teenage Triumphs". The first group, natch, was my favorite.

"All the different cute hair-do's you could do, if only you would commit, Lisa..." they seem to be whispering to me. Dig the frames on Bachelorette #3! I want some frames that are pretty much like a hood ornament for my face. I would so wear my glasses more often if I had them!

"Dishes" (oh...see what I did there... AND she's looking at dishes in the illustration...) in this section include the bafflingly titled "Ham Rabbit" (which is ham rarebit, but the use of the word rabbit there is just hilarious), avocado club salad (always and again avocado), crunchy prune cream (you can make your own joke), and profiterole ambrosia (a cream puff item mixed with your traditional ladies-lunch favorite).

Look upon of the best illustrations in this or any book. Her hauteur! Her garnished drink! Secretly, if I can't be Aunt Mame when I'm fifty, I hope I can be a little bit like character actress Jane Darwell (Mrs. Merriweather in GWTW; frivolously frumpy, continually-incensed-at-breaches-in- etiquette society woman in a dozen other pictures). This is so her!

Look. At. the. WAISTS. In. This. Picture. No wonder I'm unable to find a vintage wedding dress with anywhere near a normal waist circumference! In all seriousness, people were very, very small back then.

At right, Mr. Barksdale's choice in sportscoats literally blinds his friends and associates.

Watch a boxing match! I love how figural both fighters and spectators seem. I would reproduce some of the recipes from this section but the suggestions weren't very helpful-- most were cold cut selections with some mildly novel twist. You get the idea. Men like manly sandwiches! So feed 'em to 'em!

Hang a fish! Or a very small shark. Smoke a pipe! Look a little like Mr. Cunningham from Happy Days! Yes!

Bow in my hair...bow at my neck... bliss?

Teenage recipes in MCM cookbooks are always kind of a fun section-- I love the idea of Mrs. Homemaker letting Johnny or Jane play junior host or hostess... trusting them enough to make the menus, but not necessarily enough to work anything more complicated than the broiler setting.

Dancing at teenage parties. I've heard of teens dancing in stories from the 50's up until the 70's, when I guess teens abruptly stopped dancing and started loafing, sullenly, at parties. That's my recollection of most of the ones I attended throughout the 90's and early 00's. You couldn't have put a gun to my head and made me dance in full view of my contemporaries. I'm much looser now, but I place that blame? Praise? Squarely on the part of social drinking.

Two teen recipe selections and one of the weirdest cookbook illustrations. Teens like music, so let's do a staff of musical notes, but instead of notes, let's do...brownies, check, milkshake, check, entire turkey? It's food, but I don't quite catch on there, Good Housekeeping.

Cuuuute. All the ladies in this book are just adorable.

And some easy sweets recipes to tide the teens over:

At any rate, I'll have to tell you guys about my selections and how they fared sometime next week. On the agenda for this afternoon? DEEP. CLEANING. And maybe some practice Jello molding. Any recipes grab your attention? Have any surefire party tips? You know I'd love to hear from you. Have a happy Vincent-Price's-100th-birthday and I'll see you on the other side!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

BHG Family Camping (1961)

And to kick off this post with a little paraphrased assist from Martha and her Vandellas:

Summer's here, and the tiiiiiime is riiiiight.... for. Sleeeeep. In. in. the. Wilderness, sleepin' in the WILLLLLLDERNESS....

Your humble blogger may not be the Jeremiah Johnson type by nature, but I assure you, flipping through this 1961 guide to family camping made even this city slicker heart pine a little for the great outdoors. Or at least a serviceable pair of checked slacks and a curled bob for the occasion. And there'd better be some photo opportunities on this proposed outings. For inspiration, look at the style going on in the lower right hand photo-- hair? Perfect. Outdoorsy, casual-yet-put-together ensemble? So it is! See BHG's helpful hints for the ladies below--how I love to be referred to as a "modern Diana". Ahhhh.

Lookin' good, camp family! I'm always afraid to buy a vintage portable butane stove (a must have 60's camping accessories, I see them just about everywhere) for the threat of explosion and am presently too cheap to buy a new Coleman type. The resemblance to suitcase sized rocket packs, let me tell you, does not detract from their "buy appeal". Note the photographed family's matching-ish equipment, from the yellow paper towels and red tent, to the red cooler and red and yellow flashlight. Now THIS is how it is done!

A close up of my rocket-propelled cooking the moon.

I've always admired the ambitious, game attitude most mid century people tended to take towards leisure time. Many of the hobbies undertaken in those golden years involved LOTS OF EQUIPMENT... if you want to make home movies, you're going to need a camera, a light gun, a light meter, editing equipment, a projector, and a screen...which, when you think of it in terms of the time and financial investments going into said items, is quite the undertaking. Presently, I can't decide if I would use a new digital camera enough to warrant the purchasing of one to replace my old, flash-impaired model... and yet here are people probably sinking a thousand or more into equipment they will use for three weeks, once a year. The idea, I guess, is to use it once a year, for three weeks, for a NUMBER of years, until one gets the purchase value's amount of "use" out of it, but almost all the camping experience I've had in my life has been in terms of one outs. "Ok, we now know we don't like sleeping in tents. So mark tents off of next vacation. Aaaannnd we don't like KOA Kampin Kabins. Well, we do, but next time, let's pack the mosquito net no matter what. Agreed?"

Case in point, above, you see a lucky, poodle-owning family uncranking their very own pop-out camper. I really like the idea of the pop-out camper, but it definitely falls under the large-purchase, low-return category if you're not the right kind of dedicated to your new endeavor. My grandparents had one in the late sixties, which, in accordance with my earlier dismissal of multiple-use camping equipment, was taken out two or three times before being left to moulder in the patch of grass behind the garage. I would sit on top of the hardshell as a kid and read my pick of my uncle's garage-banished copies of Weird Mystery Tales, dodging hornets who had made the garage eave above the spot their home. Still! What a wonder it must have been in its limited outings!

If you go on vacation in the 60's, you might get a tour of Mount Rushmore by a full-costumed Native American re-enactor! Offensive as this might potentially be, it's also a slight rush to my everlovin kitsched out heart. Am also partial to the one grandmother at stage right, sitting on the bench and staring off gloomily into the distance. Very much my experience with camping... "What is he even saying about this stupid landmark? What is he even saying? Are we stopping at the in-camp McDonalds after we climb this flipping mountain trail? Because I've got like six more figurines I have to collect before I have a serviceable 'Bat Team'. Looking at rocks is not eating nuggets and building my Bat Team." I'm telling what God loves, and that's the truth.

Let's bunk in a tent! Bedded down in dad's old army surplus sleeping bags with a steady supply of Archie comics to read by flashlight, Chip, Kip, and Flip Camper look like they're in seventh heaven...of camping. I kept thinking about how hot it would be inside the bags. My family wouldn't dream of going camping in the winter, which is ace-primo time to stay in, watch TNT Jaws/Indiana Jones marathons, and eat brownies out of the pan before celebrating various holiday like events.

Know your hatchet. And your pertly constructed tent like building on your own little islet. Both are important. I like that the drawings throughout are done in a medium green that reminds me so much of those old Bobbsey Twin type book illustrations.

I'm being juvenile, but please. Please look at the figure of the baby being held upside down and smacked. Any kind of instructional first aid is, in book form, really hilarious.

See how the Adam-12 extra in the lower right hand corner's figure is placidly listening for signs of life. "Is Bert breathing?" "I don't know, allow me time to calmly check."

Tents I'd like to live in, solely based on looks and vibrant color selection, articles 1:



and 4:

Buzz and Cousin really like grilled food. Almost too much. Does Buzz choose poorly in his hamburger, and look longingly on Cousin's hot dog? Indeed. These tips for campfire foods include "dehydrated, freeze dried, or whole can meals". Me, I would pack straight astronaut ice cream and Vienna sausage. And beef jerky. Which is why no one would travel with me, probably.

Gals preparing meals at the campsite. Look at that cutie little girl's swimsuit at the right!

These two black and white shots make me long for bottle blonde hair, regardless of the provenance of these gals' light locks.

"There's no way we're eating on a picnic blanket. Somebody bring a completely collapsible table and camp chairs or I AM NOT GOING." Well played, beach brunch goers. Well played.

I was fascinated by the number or pop out, blow up, inflatable, collapsible, and generally spur of the moment camp dwellings on the market in the early sixties. I think a lot of these might have been inovations of WWII for the soldiers (lots of modern advancements in the mid century were), but maybe the mad scientists in their mad inflatable labs were just working overtime during the late 50's.

It's like a station wagon fort!


As well spoken as the text was on the subject of women's stylings, I feel for shame that they did not mention the men's clothes. Such as this. I agree that television stars such as Dick York could pull off the geeky MCM man look without much trouble, but let us admit that most men, even MCM men, didn't have the first Darren's considerable cuteness.

The briefest of briefs!

Hope you enjoyed our foray into the forest for one post... next time, I'm right back where I belong in the fifties' kitchen! I'm throwing a blow out weekend after this and I will need you guys's opinions on canapes (yes, you have them, you just don't know you have them yet). Til then!


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