Friday, December 31, 2010

A Vintage New Year's Tradition

Happy New Year!

New Year's is not my favorite holidy, but I have had some interesting experiences on those New Year's celebrations past where I've been working as a musician. I spent one New Year's Eve playing in a big band, which indulged my Guy Lombardo fantasy for those great New Year's parties of the 1930s and 40s.

But probably my most memorable New Years was playing for the Philadelphia Mummers Parade. The Mummers are a vestige of a thousands-year old tradition from the Roman Festival of Saturnalias where Latin laborers marched in masks throughout the day of satire and gift exchange. Reports of rowdy groups “parading” on New Years day in Philadelphia date back before the revolution. Prizes were offered by merchants in the late 1800’s. January 1, 1901 was the first “official” parade offered about $1,725 in prize money from the city. The Mummers, as a whole, are relatively unchanged from those seen in this vintage 1956 film:

The parade lasts all day long, with organized groups of "Comics", "Fancies" and "String Bands". It winds throughout the center of the city first, and then the groups have a second (un-authorized) parade through their stomping grounds on 2nd Street. It is a very long day for the participants, many of which never go to bed the night before. Needless to say the alcohol flows all day long.
We used to put together a marching band of about 15 players to accompany one of the comic groups- live music was a requirement back them; now I think they can use a recording. Basically, we would play a bunch of 1920s standards (Alabama Jubilee, 'Dem Golden Slippers, Tiger Rag) and the comic group (all men, at that time- they even balked at me playing in the band) of blue-collar guys wearing costume dresses and carrying tiny umbrellas "dances" up the street. They have a routine, or at least a theme, but it is mainly an excuse to dress funny, drink a lot and have a good time. Some of the groups do their best to satirize local politicians and events in the best Saturnalian tradition. Below is a fairly typical group of comics- note the dresses and umbrellas.

The Fanices are just that- fancy costumes of sequins and feathers, with elaborate, but mobile set pieces. The String Bands are similar, but they play instruments- banjos, string basses and saxophones. There are many sites devoted to them, if you're interested to learn more:

and even a museum:

This is a string band with a tiki theme!

Doesn't it look like fun? If you're in the Philadelphia area, you can catch the whole parade on TV, or better yet, in person. If not, some of the Harrisburg, New York & DC stations carry it in part. Otherwise, get your fix on YouTube- search "Mummers parade" and you'll find tons! It is truly a vintage tradition, and one that everyone should experience once in their lifetime!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Year in Review

2010 was an eventful year for us, with plenty of ups and downs. On the upside I did manage to post regular updates and keep this blog going. I hope you all enjoy reading as much as I enjoy posting! Hopefully we'll keep the party going into 2011. Believe it or not, my first post on this blog was over two years ago, in November 2008.

"Day out with Thomas" at the Strasburg RR
For our family, 2010 was the year of the train. With a five-year-old boy (and a 47 yr-old boy as well) in the house I guess that is just a given. We rode on the Strasburg Railroad, the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad and the Huntingdon and Broad Top Narrow Gauge Railroad. We spent a long weekend visiting Altoona PA's Railroader's Memorial Museum and Horseshoe Curve.  With the boys enjoying the trains and the girls enjoying the history (and opportunities to wear vintage clothes!) we all had a great time.

Watching the trains go by at Horsehoe Curve

In February 2010 we also took our first trip to Disney World as a family. We even considered going by train, but in the end opted to fly. Thank goodness we decided to do it this year, because we had the opportunity to celebrate my son's birthday and my father-in-law's birthday at their house in Florida. Just six weeks later, we lost Jay's dad very suddenly. I know my son will always remember sharing that birthday cake with his Grandpa one last time.

I also lost my aunt to lung cancer, and she had been a life-long non-smoker. Cancer does not discriminate, and we need everyone's help to find a cure. If you are looking to make a charitable donation this holiday season, why not consider the Lungevity Foundation's fund in honor of my Aunt Kathie.

This year, and every year, I lose some good friends of mine from the WWII generation- take the time to talk to these folks now if you have any close to you! We are losing so many every day now.

With Grammy and Grandpop on the beach in February

I do anticipate some changes for the coming year. I probably will not be able to continue doing a Trash-picked Tuesday post every week. I knew it would happen eventually; I'm just out of stuff. But whenever I do come across something good, you can be sure I'll share it! 

And I do want to get my Etsy store up and running, so there will be some updates on that. I've got the storefront up, just no inventory photographed and measured yet. (I don't know how some of you do this- it can be very labor-intensive!) I'm looking forward to offering some really great vintage items- mostly clothing- with a bargain-basement section for those of you who are as cheap as I am! And my husband will probably be glad I'm moving some things out of the house, instead of bringing more home! ;)

Happy New Year, PIT readers!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

All Aboard the Polar Express!

Last Saturday my mother treated Jayson, Kate and I to a trip aboard the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad's "Polar Express" train. We rode aboard a coal-fired locomotive built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia in December, 1925 and several 1920's vintage passenger cars. The route the tracks took between two Bucks County villages was historic as well, being used as the setting for the 1914 movie serial "Perils of Pauline".

The excursion is geared to families, obviously, so the train was packed with kids in their pajamas (like in the movie) but we chose to dress in vintage to suit both the time period of the train and the setting of the movie.   

The interior of the train is as it would have appeared in the 20s and 30s.
 Note the sign: "No smoking. Spitting is prohibited."

Santa greeted the kids on board!

The kids with Grandma- thanks, Mom, we had a great time!

The purple items are their tickets- if you've ever seen the movie, you understand why they look like they're holding on to them for dear life!

This is the money shot- about once in a thousand pictures do I get one like this!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thrifted Thursday- A Little Bit of Christmas

I went on a bit of a shopping spree this past Wednesday. I didn't intend to buy anything- I was only at the thrift store to drop some things off, I swear! But then I saw this cute carolers blow-mold for $6. I have a couple other Christmas blow-molds, so I think this is the beginning of a new collection!

Then my son (aka "Eagle Eye") saw this neat salt & pepper set. It's stainless with red plastic trim (not bakelite, but looks like it). On the bottom it's marked "occupied Japan". I imagine that this might have been produced by a former WWII munitions factory, judging by the shape of the canisters (very similar to a 50mm shell casing!) and the precision of the machining- the bottoms unscrew with really fine threads. It was $6.75- not a bargain, but it was too intriguing to pass up.

I bought this souvenir pillow as a Christmas present for myself. Not because my brother was in the Navy (he wasn't), but because I recognize the aircraft from my former life at a Naval aviation museum. The aircraft in the middle left is a Convair XFY "Pogo", an experimental vertical take-off/landing (VTOL) plane, of which only one was flown in late 1954/55. It was a rather bizarre aircraft, so I was surprised to find one depicted here. For $6.50, it's a piece of history I had to have. 

I had to have this handbag! I loved the shape and color. Unfortunately, I didn't look it over as carefully as I should have. The zipper needs to be replaced, and I sure can't do that myself. It's going to be a very expensive repair if I decide to get it done, which I probably won't. Maybe I can find a use for it as a storage container for gloves or scarves.

Last but not least, I bought this 1960's men's jacket for 75 cents. The thrift store where I bought these things has gotten so big (and expensive, IMHO) that they actually opened an "outlet store", where they sell clothes in bins for 75 cents apiece. That's more my price range, so I dug this out, along with a pair of 1930s suit trousers, and a few cardigans. The suit trousers are high waisted with a watch pocket in a wool herringbone. They actually fit me (I'm 5'2") so I'm keeping them to wear myself, a la Katharine Hepburn. ;)

The jacket (also the blue rayon 40's shirt behind it- so cool!) above is destined to go to the Etsy shop I'll be opening in the new year. My plan is to pass my bargains on to my customers, so you can be sure you'll get a good deal as well! I'll let you all know when the grand opening will be, and maybe we can have a virtual grand opening party!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cooking Vintage: Pot Pie with wild game (or chicken if you like!)

Both my family and my husband's family are Pennsylvania Dutch. Therefore, it goes without saying that we eat "real" Pot Pie, especially in the winter. Most of you probably have a very different idea of what "pot pie" is, and I won't blame you for thinking that it's like chicken and vegetables with a pastry crust on top.

It most certainly is not, Marie Callendar to the contrary. Around here, we make that plenty, but it is called "meat pie", since there is nothing to do with a pot.

Real, Pennsylvania Dutch-style pot pie, or "bot boi" in the dialect, more resembles brothy soup with noodles. I usually make it with wild game, as that is primarily how we feed our family, but you could certainly substitute a whole, cut-up chicken (or chicken legs) for the squirrels that I'm using here. Or even just vegetables- but you will need to use eggs and dairy in the noodes, so I don't think you could do a vegan pot pie. (Yes, I said squirrels- next time you see them hanging around your bird feeder, you can use this to threaten them!)

Whatever meat you decide to use, make sure that you trim off any fat or skin, because you do not need that greasy-ness in a dish like this. (Obviously, we take the skin off the squirrels, but there is virtually no fat to trim. Wild game is not bred to be fatty, like conventional meat.)

In a large stock pot or dutch oven, cover the meat with water, add some salt and pepper and two peeled and sliced garlic cloves. Let that simmer for an hour or two, then add a chopped onions, carrots and celery. (Note gratutious shot of my aqua Club cast aluminum dutch oven! ;)

Simmer the meat and vegetables for another hour or two until tender. Remove the meat to a separate bowl to cool and bring the broth & veggies to a boil while you make the noodles.

Sift together 2 cups of flour and a pinch of salt. Add 3/4 cup sour cream and one lightly beaten egg. The sour cream gives the noodles a nice bite and also some elasticity that you would not get with butter.

The dough should be fairly wet and sticky (not dry like a pie crust)- add some milk if you need more liquid.

Roll out the dough on a well-floured surface to about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.

 Cut the dough into 2" squares with a sharp knife- this is the classic "pot pie" noodle shape, but if you wanted to make them skinnier, no one would care!

Add the noodles to the boiling broth.

Let them cook for about a half-hour, while you prepare the meat.

Separate the (by now, cooled-off) meat  from the bones. With squirrels, this is very labor-intensive, but with chicken it should go pretty fast. Discard the bones.

Add the meat back to the pot and about a tbsp of fresh chopped parsley.

Heat it through and enjoy real PA Dutch "pot pie"!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thrifted Thursday- ReStore, ReUse! (or Tom's House, pt. II)

I had a chance to go over to my brother's new place last weekend and take a few pictures. The place is painted, and the carpet and some of the laminate floor is in. He still needs to lay the floor in the living room and get the bathroom sinks hooked up. But I think we are approaching move-in. Hopefully it will be before Christmas, because he has some awesome Xmas decorations that should be put up (like a 7 ft aluminum tree).

And since today is Thrifted Thursday, I will show you some of the furniture pieces we purchased at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore a few weeks ago.

This credenza is over 6 feet long, and solid cherry. Let me tell you that it was just about the heaviest thing I have ever lifted! Besides the drawers on the sides, behind the center doors are a set of long dresser-type drawers. I love the style of it, especially the curved sides. I don't know whether this is 1950s or 1970s, but it's extremely high-quality. 

 The pair of lamps I picked up at a yard sale for $6. Eventually the lamps will move to end tables, and hopefully we'll find a nice Kroehler-type sofa or sectional to go with them. The blow mold Santa is our token Christmas decoration so far. Since this is a bachelor pad, I'm sure Tom will get a giant TV to go on the wall above the credenza....

The small cabinet with the lamp on top is another ReStore buy. It's hard to tell from the photo, but it has an Asian-style round plate on the front for the hardware. It's a nice piece for the entryway without being too large. (This was where the mirrored wall used to be.) I gave him a pair of diamond-shaped chalkware plaques to go on the wall here, but until he's done with the floor, they'll stay put away.

This is one of the bedrooms. A nice neutral color on the walls and carpet will give us plenty of decorating options. Much better than the neon green paint and olive carpet! I'd like to find him a nice MCM bedroom set- hopefully in a black laquer.

The hall bathroom is still a work in progress. Because of the odd layout of this space (the tub and toilet are separated by the wall at right of the photo) he and his friends had to custom-build the cabinets and top. We tried to save as much of the original tile as possible, and used the color as a guide to picking out the other finishes. Hopefully, he'll get this finished in the next week or so!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dressing vintage in winter!

I read a lot of blogs and I know there are many people out there that dress vintage way better (and more often) than I do.  Mostly because I'm often too busy or too lazy to get all dressed up just to go grocery shopping or to the gym, I often do not wear much vintage every day.

So in the winter, I have found a trick to dressing vintage, even when I don't really feel like going through all the effort. Some of my favorite vintage items in my wardrobe are coats!

A great vintage coat can cover up a multitude of sins; even jeans and sweatshirts (but not Ugg boots!) And best of all, vintage coats are easy to find. From James Dean-esque windbreakers, to Pendleton jackets, to furs, every single time I go to a thrift store I see a rack of great coats. Do yourself a favor and pick one up- it'll probably be warmer than most new coats and no doubt it will last longer. And with the right accessories, you'll pull off that vintage look even if you didn't put on a girdle and stockings and rolled your hair.

Over the years I have probably acquired at least a dozen vintage coats. I'm a sucker for them, probably because they're easy to wear, and they don't have to fit perfectly to be comfortable, like a great dress or shoes.

This is my hands-down favorite. It's a 1950s winter-white wool swing coat with a white mink collar. I always choose this one when I'm going somewhere dressy. Even with jeans and sneakers underneath, there is no doubt that you are a vintage-lovin' person when you wear a coat like this! Throw on a great vintage rhinestone pin and maybe a mink-trimmed hat and it would even make Ugg boots look good.

This is my everyday jacket, a Woolrich plaid wool toggle jacket. I have had this coat for about 12 years and worn the heck out of it- it still looks brand new and is warm and cozy.  Woolrich was the maker of the iconic red plaid hunting suits men used to wear in the 1930s and 40s, and still makes great vintage-looking coats for men and women:

Everyone needs a raincoat; why not wear a vintage one? This is my favorite, a Misty Harbor, probably from the 60s. It's a great color- not that boring black or tan- and a very practical longer length. Plus, I love the tag line: "Wear in Good Health". Pair it with a vintage umbrella for extra style points, but leave the plastic bonnet at home! ;)

I often wear this 1950s cropped faux-Persian lamb jacket over jeans and a turtleneck. It's surprisingly warm and is a great olive-green color.

I'm sure at one point it had a collar - and was probably supposed to be worn with something like this:

But that's not really my style, and I would probably never wear a mink stole like this in public these days. I just don't need to invite that kind of controversy, even though these little guys have been dead for 70 years.

But accessories do make the outfit, and with the right hat, scarf, gloves and (my favorite!) a muff (real Persian lamb this time) any vintage coat becomes a showstopper. It helps if you're wearing vintage underneath, but with this kind of outerwear, folks might not even notice!

And don't forget the handbag! ;)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Flea Market Friday: Vintage Christmas Decorating for 75 cents!

You may remember that I picked up a few vintage Christmas items out of season, in July and October:

This glittered banner was 25 cents at a yard sale.

This bottlebrush wreath was 50 cents at a rummage sale in October.

Both are OK on their own, but kind of blah- so I put them together! Now that it's officially time to put up your decorations (not until after Thanksgiving, in my book!) let's see what they look like combined!

Much better, don't you think? ;)