Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ugly Sweaters, Cute Canines and an Offensive Card Game - How Was Your Christmas?

I've had the pleasure of spending the last three Christmas' with my friend Heather and her husband, T.  This year we decided to create our own Christmas sweaters, courtesy of Value Village.  We tried to purchase ready made tacky, holiday-themed sweaters, but apparently the hipsters have cornered the market on those for their Ugly Sweater parties, so we had to resort to a DIY with some plain sweaters and bags of ornaments.

The Festive Trio - T, yours truly, and Heather 
Due to chronic procrastination issues, I was frantically sewing metal stars on mine on Christmas morning.  I didn't feel so bad when I found out that Heather was doing the same.  T's balls starting falling off about mid-point through the day, but he carried on bravely nonetheless.  Heather also started shedding wooden Santas.  This is why we don't make our own clothes.

 I have no room for a tree at my place, so it was nice to see the little one that my hosts had set up by the fireplace, decorated with ornaments that reflected their eclectic interests.  I had given Heather the stuffed fox ornament last year.

T is a chef by trade, so I know there will be an excellent meal, and this year was no exception, with duck confit, collard Greens and a carmelized onion tart with goat cheese.  There was a Big Bang Theory Marathon on television providing some entertaining background noise, and I was introduced to what is now my new favourite card game...

I had been hearing about Cards Against Humanity for months from Heather.  It's my idea of the ideal card game as there is no skill or strategy or memory involved; basically you just have to have a twisted and inappropriate sense of humour, and not be easily offended.  There are two decks of cards - black ones with statements with blanks to be filled in,  white ones with words or phrases that range from "odd" to downright filthy.  A black card is put face up on the table and players each choose a response from their hand of 7 cards, and in most cases, an impartial judge decides whose response is the most entertaining and offensive.  As it was only two of us playing, we just tried to out-gross the other.  This may become a Christmas tradition.

Two very happy doggies - Gracey, a beagle/whippet cross, and Yukon, whose got some lab and dalmation in the mix.  

Yukon is the sad-eyed stoic

Gracey is Yukon's shadow, and always in need of reassurance that she's loved.  With that face, how could she not be?

It was a lovely Christmas day - no hours of travelling, screaming children, or obnoxious relatives -  just an afternoon spent with good friends who are kind enough to invite me share delicious food and fun for the holiday.  Thank you so much, you guys know I love you (you too, Gracey).  I hope your Christmas provided an opportunity to share food and time with loved ones, without too much wear and tear on the body and soul.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Hostess With the Mostest

This is going to be my last Vintage Christmas-themed post - I've missed a couple of days, but I knew that planning to post every day for twelve days was just setting myself up for failure.  I think I made a pretty good effort though, and I hope that I provided some food for thought when it came to your Christmas gift list.   I can't stress enough how important it is to support our small independent businesses - they are the heart of a city, not the big box stores that dominate the suburban landscape.  It's where you get to know the owner, and you know you can drop in and have a chat about the latest film, book, band, or piece of vintage finery that has caught your fancy, and there is no pressure to buy something unless that's your goal.  They also know their stock, so if you are looking for something specific, they can tell you whether they have it or not, without you having to waste time wandering miles of aisles in search of a particular item, or sales staff.  Yes, you may have to pay a little more, but you are paying for service, knowledge, and a human connection, which are all too rare in today's retail market. 

So....What are you wearing to host your Christmas dinner/party/cocktails? 

How about a butter yellow sleeveless maxi dress with flowered over-jacket (or whatever you call it).  This is not technically a Hostess Dress, which tended to be rather billowy maxi-dresses, with impractical sleeves, and had nothing to do whatsoever with cooking.  The New York Times had an interesting article on the history and evolution of Hostess dresses which you can read here.   Dress from Jackpot Vintage.

I love rows of covered buttons on dresses, even if they are a pain in the ass to fasten

In the 60's and 70's, the job of the hostess was to look pretty and keep their guests full of food and drink (Crab Nippie, anyone?)  We can retire the idea of women as "attractive servant" when it comes to Holiday parties, but sometimes it's kind of fun to channel your inner retro hostess.

Quilted, front-snaps, vibrant colours and POCKETS!   Hostess skirt available at Lovesick.

And then, there is the dress for the occasion when you want to make a spectacular statement and are not afraid of being the center of attention.....

Holy Sequinned Awesomeness Batman!  If this dress was my size, I would have definitely tried it on, but it is about a 4/6, so there is no way it would fit me.  On the right woman, it is going to make jaws drop, and you would not be expected to serve anyone drinks or food while wearing this.   Dress available at The Sentimentalist, and yes, there is just one.

detail of bird pattern on dress

As for me, I will be wearing a blinged-out sweater of my own creation (thanks to Value Village, and their "create your own Christmas sweater" display).  I'll be sure to post a photo of the results.   

If I don't have a chance to post tomorrow, I want to wish all of my readers, and blogging sisters, a very Merry Christmas (or whatever you celebrate).   Your comments and support over the last 4 1/2 years have been an unexpected and very welcomed source of cheer and inspiration at times when both have been in short supply.  May you have a roof over your head, food on your table, loved ones to laugh and cry with, and an outfit that makes you feel fucking fabulous.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

More Vintage Gift Ideas, A Festive Fascinator, and a Parcel of Joy

I missed yesterday's Vintage Christmas post - too much to do, too tired, too few hours in the day (that's a lot of "too's")  I am making up for it today with a dog's breakfast of awesomeness.

I came home yesterday to find a package in my mailbox from my lovely UK blogging pal Curtise, which contained this charcoal wrap vest.  At first I was mystified by the large circle of grey with two holes in it - I kept turning it around trying to figure out what it was, but after a few minutes, the light went on, and I experimented with belting and pinning it in different configurations.  This is what I ended up with today, for a rather soggy excursion to the Western Fair Farmers' Market with Heather.

drapey wrap vest thing - gift from Curtise
patterned jeans - retail
patent belt - thrifted
patent boots - thrifted

While at the market I ran into the Queen of Bling, Jackie, who was looking fabulously festive in red and black, with lots of sparkle, and a spectacular fascinator.  She loves dressing up for whatever the day has in store, and she was definitely the most eye-catching woman in the market today.  

Today's Vintage Gift Ideas....

When you don't want to have to worry about size and fit in a gift for the vintage-loving gal on your list, a late 1960's travel case/hat box is just the thing.  This one from Lovesick is a beauty - the white vinyl is in excellent condition, and the Paris scene is more art than kitsch. 

Also at Lovesick, this thick fleece poncho with contrasting gold lining - how cool would this look with a pair of jeans or cords and some knee high boots?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like (Vintage) Christmas

The view from my colleague's office window earlier this week when we received another few inches of the white stuff.  We work in a building on campus that backs onto a forest and riverbank and we've had the good fortune to spot the occasional deer and fox on the ground below.

Which leads directly to my Vintage Christmas gift idea post for today...

Persian lamb jacket with mink cuffs originally purchased at Simpsons

The vintage and consignment stores here have a good selection of previously owned fur coats, both real and faux.  We have had colder temperatures and more snow than we usually have this early in the winter, so a vintage fur would be a practical and stylish gift, and a fraction of the cost of a new fur coat.  I know that the wearing of fur is a touchy subject for many people, whether new or vintage, and I would never buy, or encourage someone else to buy, a new fur coat.  However, I do own a couple of vintage furs and wear them from time to time.  There are many vintage furs out there that have been carefully stored by their previous owners, and as a result are still beautiful and functional, and in my opinion, worthy of a second life instead of being left to dry out and eventually relegated to a landfill.  

A stunning midnight blue sheared beaver jacket with chinchilla collar and cuffs, previously owned by a woman who worked as a model in the 1970's.  The jacket was part of the payment she received from a furrier for modelling work she had done for them.

Both jackets pictured above are available at Jackpot Vintage.  Vintage furs can also be found at very reasonable prices at The Sentimentalist and Lovesick.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day Eight of Vintage Christmas, and a Blog Milestone

I just noticed that yesterday's post was post number 800 for this blog - over four and a half years of doing this, and I still enjoy it, still feel inspired, still feel like it's an important part of my life.  I guess that means I should get on with number 801...

On Day Eight of Vintage Christmas I offer this elegant men's hat.......

A beautiful deep black (the colour is a bit off in this photo because of the lighting) fur felt men's homburg - a hat characterized by the deep dent down the center of the crown, a bound edge trim and a brim with a curl.  This is not a hat for sissies; this is a serious sartorial statement.  This particular one is a size 7 1/8" and has the original owner's name embossed on the leather hatband.

It's a Biltmore, a hat making company founded in Niagara Falls in 1917 as the Fried Hat Co.  When the business was sold by the original owner in 1920, the new owners in Guelph, Ontario, changed the name to Biltmore in honour of the luxury hotel in New York of that name where one of the new owners had once stayed.  The name is synonymous with quality and elegance.

The homburg is available at The Sentimentalist, along with other men's vintage hats

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

On The Ninth Day of Vintage Christmas....

my true love gave to me....

An assortment of vintage cookbooks!

Who doesn't appreciate some new recipes to try out for the holidays?  The Woman's Day "Famous French Cookery" contains such kitschy visual delights as....

A Veal and Ham Mousse, which according to the book "is easy to prepare and can be made well in advance.  Served with crackers or bread, it can accompany cocktails with elegance" (especially when decorated with squeezable cheese, and surrounded by vegetables filled with same).

I think Julia Child would turn over in her grave at the sight of what is one of the least appetizing looking meals in the book - Filet of Sole Veronique, "a dish any cook would be proud to serve".  Those round things floating in the white sauce are green grapes.

The Holiday Cookbook has recipes for every holiday of the year, and it suggests that Crab Nippies (recipe above) would be an excellent Hors d'oeuvre to serve on New Year's Eve.  I would make these just to be able to say to guests, "Crab Nippie?"

The above pictured cookbooks, and many others, are available at City Lights Bookshop.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Vintage Christmas - Day 10, and a Random Outfit

For the hipster on your list with a retro cocktail bar in their apartment, may I suggest....

Vintage seltzer bottles from Phantastica, which would also be a great gift for those annoying friends who like to re-create Marx Brothers routines at parties

And, to hang on the wall over the retro bar....

Vintage Playboy calendar also available at Phantastica; other years available

And Just Because....

My fave colour combination in a cozy mash-up of wool and leather

I found these leather pants at H & M in the Eaton Centre in Toronto - I was drawn to the cool motorcycle pants details, and the fact that they were half price!

leather pants - H  & M
plaid blouse - Jackpot Vintage
Wool overcoat with leather detail - Mesh Consignment Store
scarf with grommets - Faye's Finds Consignment Store
Boots - Ecco, retail

Sunday, December 15, 2013

On The Eleventh Day of Vintage Christmas.....

Get Yer Game on.... 

Why not pick up a vintage board game or two to help fill the awkward span of time between lunch and dinner on Christmas day, instead of watching the rest of your family drink/fight/embarrass themselves? Think of the quality time you can spend with your kids, or nieces and nephews, teaching them the marvelous complexities and strategies of Mousetrap or Parcheesi, and regaling them with tales of how you whupped your brother's ass at Monopoly when you were seven.

Made in Canada Parcheesi game available at The Sentimentalist

Vintage board games and Snoopy Sniffer available at Jackpot Vintage

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Twelve Days of Vintage Christmas

For the next 11 days,  I'll be featuring some cool vintage items I found in some of the stores downtown.  As much as I deplore the rampant consumerism that seems to go hand in hand with the festive season, people are going to buy stuff, and I would rather encourage people to support the local independent businesses where I shop.   Why not give someone a gift that can inspire a fond memory, a good laugh, or maybe result in some quality together time as you explain the complexities of Parcheesi?  I realize that not everyone appreciates receiving an item that has already been used, worn, or played with, but for those who have no problem with receiving a gift that has had a previous life.......

This had to be the most unusual item I found in my afternoon of wandering.  It is a "Carnival" Brand Magic Bow Tyer.   Not sure of the date of manufacture, but in the booklet that comes with it, there was a note from the former owner to their staff asking them to keep the booklet with the machine, and it was dated 1971.  This would be the ideal pre-Christmas gift for that person who LOVES gift wrapping - think of the many happy hours that could be spent churning out your very own handmade bows for all of the presents in your family, or even your neighbourhood. 

The Magic Bow Tyer is available at Phantastica - and there's only one!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Return to Downton Abbey

Spoiler Alert - If you haven't seen Season 3 of Downton Abbey and have managed to avoid all of the spoilers that were posted everywhere after the finale, then you should stop reading right after the next two photos....

Back in November, the Central downtown branch of our library hosted an evening dedicated to the Masterpiece Theatre series Downton Abbey, with a "high tea" and a screening of the first episode of Season 4 on a large screen.  Those of you in the UK will have seen Season 4 already, but us folks over here in Canada and the US have to wait until January before the series airs on PBS.   Tickets to the tea were sold out, but a friend managed to snag the last few (free) tickets to the screening, and invited me to join her and her daughter.

The series has been criticised for its historial inaccuracies and a rather rosy, nostalgic view of English society and the class system, but I don't watch the show for a history lesson - I watch it for the characters (Violet, Carson, and Mrs. Hughes are some of my favourites) and the visuals (OMG, the dresses!).  Also, it provides a much-needed respite from the rather dark and violent series that make up the rest of my limited television viewing (The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Game of Thrones).

The advertising for the event mentioned that guests were welcome to dress up as characters from the series, or in costume evocative of the era, which I thought was a wonderful idea, especially since the new season is set in the mid-1920's.   I rifled through my closet for something that at least had the silhouette of that era. and decided on a dress I had purchased at Jackpot Vintage a couple of weeks previous. 
Diane, (left) channels her inner Violet while I wore something with shapes that hinted at the 20's.
My outfit - dress with crocheted overlay - Jackpot Vintage
Boots, long skirt under dress - retail
1940's hat - The Sentimentalist

 Diane's daughter, coincidently enough, is named Abby, and she had dressed as Michelle Dockery's character, Lady Mary Crawley, for Halloween, so she was able to recycle her costume for the evening.  We received quite a few stares from other members of the audience, and when I looked around the auditorium before the start of the screening, I noticed there were very few people who made any attempt to dress in period costume.  Apparently a couple had won the contest for best costume, but I didn't see them (or there would have definitely been a photo).  There were some women wearing hats, and a couple of people in 20's-inspired dresses, but overall, I was disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm displayed by my fellow DA fans.  I had to remind myself that a large part of the population considers the process of getting "dressed up" (whether that means fancy dress or a costume) more of a chore than a treat.

However, I was not disappointed by the screening itself.  It was cool to watch an episode of the show on the big screen, if only because it allowed a closer look at the gorgeous costumes that have been a consistent part of the show. Season 4 picks up 6 months after Matthew's tragic death in the finale of Season 3, and Mary is mired in grief, to the dismay of the rest of  Downton's residents, particularly Carson..  There's a new modern appliance in the kitchen, and Mary's sister Edith sheds her rather frumpy image from previous seasons and appears in a stunning green gown to a rendezvous with newspaper editor Michael Gregson.   I'm hoping this is a sign of things to come for her character, who got a rough deal in Season 3.
Season 4 of Downton Abbey premieres on January 5th on PBS

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Living For the Weekend

Whew!  It's been a very busy couple of weeks and I feel kind of like a dog set loose in a park full of squirrels - which way to go next??  I'd rather have too many things to do than not enough, but when  laundry is piling up, I can't see my kitchen table for the piles of stuff, and there are photos of things from weeks ago that I haven't posted yet, it may be time to take a breather.   There were lots of fun events going on this past weekend, and I managed to put in an appearance at most of them......

But First....

I finally tracked down the winner of the Sew Deer mittens and she picked them up from me this weekend.  Given that Mackenzie has a 4 week old baby at home, she can be forgiven for having other things on her mind besides responding to messages about winning mittens.   She was thrilled to get them and I asked her to model them for a photo.



Strand Fine Art Services had a party for the opening of their Christmas Show and Sale.  Amongst the works on offer were paintings by Jeremy Price, who attended art school here in London and is now living in Montreal.  The painting in the photo above is titled Saint Denis Morning.  Price does a masterful job of portraying light in his paintings, which represent the streets and neighbourhoods of his adopted city.

Another of Price's paintings, titled "Blackstrap BBQ"

This large oil painting on rubber by Elizabeth Barrett Milner is titled "Swans"

London artist's Leslie Putnam's collection of small music boxes, titled "Gentle Souls Hand Crank Orchestral Balladeers", were my favourite pieces in the show.  The boxes are between 5" and 8" in length and are constructed of natural materials, decorated with tiny animal and human figures.   At $250 each, they are not cheap, but would be a wonderfully unique gift for someone you love (or are looking to impress).

Bill and Andrew's cats were dying to get in on the action so they were allowed to mix and mingle with the art and the guests at the end of the night.



On Saturday afternoon, APK on Clarence Street hosted the the launch of the catalogue that accompanied the exhibit Graphic Underground: London 1977 - 1990   that was on view at the Forest City Gallery last year.  Exhibit curator Brian Lambert and project consultants Mike Neiderman and Dave O'Halloran combined their passion for, and knowledge of, the punk music scene of the era into a visually rich, informative book of the exhibit that celebrates the poster and zine art of a richly creative time in London's musical history.

Dave O'Halloran (aka "WhatWave Dave") share DJ duties for the afternoon (vinyl only!)

The Lambert brothers, Pete (NFG) and Brian (The Enemas, Nach Dem Tode), have a face-pulling competition for my camera.  Once a punk rocker, always a punk rocker  - at least in your soul.

And Then There Was Roller Derby....

Saturday night was the first game for London's Forest City Derby Guys, the Pack Men, who went up against Ottawa's Slaughter Squad.  I was skeptical as to how the men would play, given that many of them come from a hockey background, where fights are as much a part of the game as stick and skating skills.  Also, as the guys don't wear the booty shorts and fishnets, they have to find other methods to get the attention of the crowd, which translates into daredevil skating moves and bone-jarring hits.

There was a lot of this.....

and this.....

and even some goofing around between the teams' jammers while waiting for the whistle

Play was fast and furious, with a consistently full penalty box, resulting in either team rarely having a full roster on the floor.  In the end, London's Pack Men celebrated a 207 - 195 victory over the Slaughter Squad.  Well done guys!   Unfortunately, The Thames Fatales were not as lucky in the second bout of the evening against Buffalo's Nickel City Knockouts  - Buffalo won, 203 to 117.
I don't wanna play the game (one hit and I'd be in pieces on the floor), I just wanna wear the socks!

Last Stop....

Diane and Laurie, owners of From Mars, celebrated the 20th anniversary of their business this year and invited the band catl. from Toronto to come and do an in-store gig. 

catl.'s music is high energy rhythm and blues, and Sarah Kirkpatrick and Jamie Fleming (catl. the man, as opposed to catl. the band) gave a frenetic, crowd-pleasing performance.  Live music, wine, and shopping - not a bad way to spend a Saturday night!

Sunday afternoon was spent visiting with Maureen Riley, at a show of her new artwork - more about that in another post.