Thursday, April 29, 2010

In Anticipation of the Fair

It comes twice a year, but it's not often enough. The Cotton Pickin' Fair. I'll be doing very thorough blog research this trip, but for now, here's a glimpse at past Fairs.

The Fair means Hangin' out with your parents:
Daddies and Homeys (circa Oct 2006)

Aunts and cousins (also Oct 2006)

Mommies, Homeys, and Grammys ( May 2008!)

It means porch swings...lots of porch swingin':
Playing with cousins:
(Oh mercy...this picture...those children...*sigh*)

It means dirt roads, cows, southern houses, and screened in porches:

(Screened in porches are more fun with nephews!)

And last but certainly not least, the Fair means food!

Vintage Advertising

It's springtime in the South. The azaleas are gorgeous, the kids are playing outside. The pollen is thick, the temperatures are all over the place. My glands are swollen, my throat is sore. It never fails. So as I sit here in my yoga pants with a stack of tissues, I thought I'd share a few of my vintage happy thoughts. These just crack me up...

Ah yes...the secret of every attractive couple...Youth, Love, and Lard. And they lived Happily Ever After...

Speaking of staying attractive. A great way to stay slim and trim:
And another fine use for your favorite cola:

Feed it to your baby! Forget all the Mommy Debates of today (and there are plenty to ensure the healthiest and safest baby possible!). No one will even look twice at you if you pour up a soda in the playtex rapid flow bottle. Read the fine print: "Do your child a favor. Start them on a strict regimen of cola and other sugary carbonated beverages right now to guarantee a lifetime of happiness". Who knew it was so easy! Homey, go get yourself a Pepsi...I want you to be happy.

If all that caffeine gets your nerves all wacked out...we got something for that too!

That ad reminds me of the episode of Andy Griffith when Aunt Bea and her pals get schnockered on some elixir. Cracks me up every time. But seriously, it's no wonder that these women were at the end of their ropes. Check it out:
Really? That's all I got. Really?!

Then there's this one:
I know you probably can't make it all out, but it's an ad for Lysol. Referring to marriage distress. It is actually suggesting that you use this product for certain, ahem, areas of your body to ensure freshness...and therefore wonderful marital relations. Lawsie. I find this substance too caustic for cleaning my house, never mind using it, um, there! Just wow. I hope ol' Dave had an enjoyable evening. Ew.

Rule #1 to Domesticity: Keep beer in the fridge in case you burn dinner. I sure do!

And finally...I may be the only person that thinks this ad is dreamy:

I vacuum, therefore I am. Amen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Obsessed with Pin Ups

Part of my vintage obsession (but only a stretches far and wide, people) is the pin ups of the 40s and 50s. They're so fun. And innocent, yet not. But by today's trashy standards (don't even get me started on today's trashy standards...), they are innocent. And to me, they are just lovely. As far as fashion, I'd even call them inspiring. Inspiring and frustrating. Because my long stick straight hair just won't do the things their hair did back then. How did they DO that?? I admit that I am low maintenance (read: lazy) when it comes to hair and makeup, but even with product and tools that plug into the wall, I cannot make my hair look like that. I do realize that these sweet girls slept in curlers in the 40s and 50s. I understand that they laid their hair on the ironing board in the 60s. But my hair tends to do just one thing: Nothing. Curl it, it falls straight. Straighten it, it looks damaged and unhealthy. I do realize that there are products that can help with all these problems. I'm just not a product girl. They cost money, they cause "build up" on my tresses (which involves buying another product), so in my lazy and thrifty state, I just can't figure out the retro hair. Unless we skip to long hippie skirt type retro. That, I can pull off. Two braids look adorable with my hair.

I digress. Back to the pin ups. Let's look at some favorites of mine:
  • "Shady Trick" I really do hate when this happens to me. But I really do love her shoes.
"A Spicey Yarn"...Yeah, I don't knit. It's bad, I've tried. JMom showed me how to knit and purl, but seriously not for me. BUT, if I did, I would totally wear this get up.

"All Yours"...It doesn't get much more innocent than this! Nor does it get anymore impractical. But if I go to a citrus grove you better believe I'll have on my yellow shoes.

"Appreciative Audience" I know what I appreciate about this one. I appreciate that I'm terrified of birds (and the back of the garage). I also appreciate that she's applying some sort of ointment that hopefully contains SPF. Lastly I appreciate her boobs. Sorry, I do. If you know me well, you get that statement! Let's move on.

"Sheer Delight". This is one of my all time favorites. I just love her! I love her sheer gown that you can just barely see through. I love the colors of it, I love that her hair is pulled back, and I love that she is wearing high heeled slippers. So fancy for bedtime! Makes my fleece snowman pants feel a little, well, snowman-y.

Oh, remember when I had to get the wheelbarrow and do all that work getting the garden site ready? This next one is almost exactly what I looked like that day. I just forgot to take a picture of myself. No matter, it's shockingly similar to this:
Yep. That's my gardening outfit.

Let's do one more. This picture confuses me.

What on earth is she doing on the roof? I mean, I suppose that the reception on her TV has gone ka-put. But honestly...I don't want to watch anything enough to climb on the roof in my thigh highs and heels. I'll consider picking oranges and gardening in thigh highs and heels, but no way am I climbing on the roof. And how did she even get up there? I see no ladder. I do love her white house with green trim, though.

All of these pictures are by Gil Elvgren. There were many pin up artists, but I tend to like that dude's art the best. Look through the entire gallery here. (Warning: Some of them really are less innocent than the ones I posted, but they're all really lovely. Just not for little eyes!) I really should peruse pictures like this more often...because it reminds me that it's okay to dress up for no real reason. So off I go to try to curl my hair...again. I think it's a vintage dress kind of day!

Monday, April 19, 2010

His Favorite Cake

I guess if I'm going to be all "vintage-inspired" and "retro", I might as well try to cook that way too. So for Mr. B's birthday, I decided to bite the bullet and bake. I don't do well with baking. It's too scientific, too exact. I'd rather cook and "season to taste"! But not only did I decide to bake, I decided to make his grandmother's pound cake. Oh dear. It's just a cake, so it shouldn't be a big deal, but for one thing it was his birthday. If the cake didn't turn out, then I'd have to put a candle in...well, since we don't have a whole lot of sweets in the house, I would have had to put a candle in either a Girl Scout cookie or his shrimp and grits. Less than festive, for sure! The other thing that makes me so ticked off if something doesn't turn out is the fact that I've wasted a ton of ingredients. And this cake uses a good bit from the ol' staple shelf. But since I didn't have anything else to serve him as a birthday dessert and since Strossners is closed on Sundays, I made the cake.

First let me share the original wording from the collection of family recipes:

Edith's Pound Cake

3 cups sifted plain flour
6 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
1/4 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream

Put shortening, eggs, and sugar in the large bowl of the mixer. Turn on high and let cream while preparing pans. Sift dry ingredients together. Creamed mixture is supposed to be light and fluffy. Cream for approximately 10 minutes or more. Add sifted dry ingredients by hand, 1/3 of the flour, mix well, 1/2 of the sour cream, 1/3 flour, 1/2 sour cream, and the last of the flour. Always begin and end with flour. Put into a greased 10" tub cake pan. Bake at 325 for approximately 1 hour 10 minutes in the middle rack of the oven. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake in order to keep the cake from sticking to the edge of the pan. Remove from pan. Place on cake rack to cool.

After this, there are very specific instructions for preparing a loose bottom tube pan, but unless you really need this info, I'm going to skip it. I'm using a bundt pan...I've seen the loose bottom tube pan. No thank you!

So anyway, that's the magic recipe that the Husband loves. I don't blame him. It's the quintessential southern dessert. It's good plain, it's good with fruit and cream. It reminds me of magnolia blooms and summer afternoons spent swimming for hours. You know that hunger you get after's like none other. And my treat was always pound cake. It reminds JMom of snow days. As a teacher, my grandmother would make pound cake on those random "day off" snow days. It reminds Hubster of his grandmother...of standing in the kitchen with her, learning the measurements, the tricks, and the stuff to NOT do (such as run like a maniac thorough the kitchen causing the cake that emptied my stocked pantry to fall. I dare a child to run in the house while this cake and it's 6 cups of dry ingredients and 6 eggs are in the oven. Big fat Time Out waiting to happen!). Here's what the recipe looks like when you really make it...

Cream the eggs, shortening, and sugar. With a Kitchenaid, I put it on 4, and let it go for about 10 minutes. Like I said, I used a regular ol' bundt pan, and I sprayed it with Baker's Joy. I wasn't about to fool with the pan instructions for the scary loose bottom tube pan. Instead I used that time to let Homey sift the flour. See how she does it?
Just pour some flour into that sifter thingy, then turn the crank. She's a pro! From that delicate floury pile, carefully measure out your 3 cups. Don't get rammy! Don't go packing and compacting, just spoon the fluffy flour into a measuring cup, delicately even it off, then call it a done day. Oh, but we have more to do. With your 3 cups of sifted flour measured out, add your baking soda and salt. Then throw all that back into the thingy and sift it again. Now we should be about ready.

Homey said "My ahrms are ti-yerd. Can you do dis?" So I took over the last of the sifting, and she checked on the progress of the mixer. When you hear this: "Oh! It's a very vyoo-full cullah lellow!", you'll know that "it's a very beautiful color yellow" and therefore ready for dry ingredients. It should be very pastel yellow at this point.

Start alternating the dry ingredients and the sour cream, as indicated in the original recipe. Now, I did not do this by hand. Hubby says that he never did it by hand either. So I just turned the mixer on the lowest setting, and let it mix literally just until combined. Once it's all incorporated, pour your batter in to the pan.
Pop that sucker in the oven, then as previously mentioned, dare Homey to jump around while that cake is in the oven. Bribe her with a beater:I checked this cake after an hour and 10 minutes. The "knife test" told me it wasn't done. Five more minutes in the oven. There was still a little too much clinging to the knife, so back in for 3 minutes. That did it. Finished! Let it cool in the pan for about 20-30 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it up. Flip it onto a wire rack to cool.

The true test came when Mr. B got home. It's nerve wracking to wait to find out if the recipe came out as grandma intended! His only comment was that the cake could have been "sadder". Now, the way I understand it, people generally try to avoid what's known as a "sad streak" in cakes. Ironically, it very often becomes the favorite part of the cake. The sad streak is a portion of the cake that is slightly gummy and under baked. It can happen because the temperature in the oven isn't high enough, because there is too much butter/shortening or sugar in the recipe, or because the cake is jarred while baking (which is why we threaten the small children to run through the house like maniacs while a cake is in the oven). Well, at first my cake appeared to be free of the sad streak. Making Mr. B, well, sad. But as I kept slicing I noticed some sadness appearing! Check out the difference in these 2 slices of cake. One much more sad (and ugly!) than the other.

So all in all, I would call this recipe a success. I'm going to have to go back through the family cookbook to see what else can spike my anxiety...I bet there's tons of good stuff in there!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Dishes I Don't Mind Handwashing

I'm not sure how it happened....where it started...this relationship between vintage glassware and me. But it's deep and it's real. A love that will never die. It was my first sign that I should indeed have been around in the '40s and '50s...I could have been June Cleaver with a little edge. My adoration for this glassware has led me back to Rosemary Clooney, Lucy Ricardo, Bettie Page...the music, the just makes you slow down for a moment. I remember when we first looked at this house...the light fixture in the kitchen sealed the deal for me. It is original hobnail milkglass. I knew it was the house for me based on one light fixture.

And I'm not really one of those people that collects a whole lot of "stuff". Don't get me wrong, I'm always on the hunt for great vintage finds (and I use the phrase "on the hunt" very loosely, since it's rare that I go out in the world). There is one thing, though, that I love collecting.

That word "collecting" is bothering me...makes me think of carefully placing odd stamps in a book or lining up Pez dispensers in a custom made display case. That's not what I do at all. The objects of my affection are pieces of Jadeite glassware. When I find a new piece or receive one as a gift, I feel like I'm reuniting a family. A family that worked hard in the 40s and 50s, feeding regular ol' folks like us.

I don't pretend to know everything about Jadeite, nor am I a purist. I like the dishes. That's all there is to it. I am not concerned with scratches and fading. Nor am I concerned with whether its vintage or reproduction. I just like 'em. Let me show you my Jadeite friends, and tell you the little bits I do know. Most of the sought after Jadeite is and was made by Fire King. They had other varieties, but I think (and, apparently, other people think this too) the green Jadeite is the prettiest. Don't get me wrong...I love white milkglass. If it's hobnail (or "polka dotty" if your Homey), even better! McKee also made Jadeite. Their stuff seemed to be more on the utilitarian side, but I'm still learning, so pay no attention to me.

Here is the hoosier cabinet my dishes live in. They just wouldn't be as happy if they didn't have a retro enamel topped home. They told me that.
Let's meet Jane. Jane Ray to be more specific. She's just lovely, with ribbed edges. Jadeite in general is getting pricier and harder to find, but the pieces I still find pretty regularly are Jane Ray.
The Jane branch of my Jadeite family also includes the only real serving piece I've acquired.

Next up is Jane's fancy sister, Alice. The dishes are similar to Jane Ray, but they have a sassy little floral pattern on them, and notched edges.
And lastly we have the third sibling Restaurant Ware. I guess the parents ran out of any creativity when it came time to name him. We'll call him RW, RDub for short. RW is actually my favorite, and of course the hardest to find. It's the quintessential diner dish of the 40s and 50s. It makes me want a cheeseburger or at least a slice of apple pie. RW is thicker than his sisters, with a nice smooth, rounded edge. Check, check it:
And then there are the odd-end cousins, some are vintage and some are reproduction. I actually love the functionality of this piece. I use it for outdoor meals...put a smaller bowl of fruit or another cold side dish in it, surround with ice, and use the lid to keep bugs away! Love it! But it's a repro...per the stamp on the bottom:
Then there's this little cutie. She's repro...I'm pretty sure at least, but we sure do love her!

A lattice and fruit motif? And scalloped edge? I can't stand how adodable she is!

A couple more cousins:

This refrigerator dish is like the world's first Gladware. And it's perfect for, oh you know, the custard that won't fit in the crust for your fruit pie. The cool thing about these pieces are when you find a dish that still has the lid! Think of how many times this poor fella has been moved! Think of how many times that lid slipped out of those dishpan hands and hit the porcelain's a special thing to find a fridge dish with his lid.

And the juicer! Doesn't it look like his name should be Skip? No? Anyway, just the color combination of a lemon or orange against the green Jadeite is enough to make juicing citrus less of a chore.

"Collecting" (ick!) something like Jadeite is just fun because as you're out looking for that perfect midcentury lamp, you can happen across a D handle RDub coffee mug. Or...gasp!...maybe you'll come across a cream and sugar set that have stayed together for 60 years! (If that happens, call me immediately.) It's important to keep the family together, don'tcha know?! And I know my vintage dish collection loves seeing anothing generation put them back to work. They told me that, too!