30 Dec 2010

Bye Bye 2010 ... Hello 2011!

Image Source: Queen Poison Slayer
It's New Year's Eve Eve (New Year's Adam?) and since we're travelling tomorrow, I wanted to write a quick post to wish you all well and reflect a little on this year.

Like all years, 2010 had its ups and downs but undoubtedly the biggest thing that impacted us was the sudden passing of my father-in-law, Paul. I won't dwell on it here, but losing Paul has been pretty tough on the Byck family and I hope that 2011 offers some healing and plenty of things to celebrate and feel grateful for. While we can't replace the holes left by people who pass on, we can continue to let ourselves grow and honour the memories of our loved ones by living the best lives we can. So, here's hoping we do just that.

On the pluses for 2010, Patrick is enjoying his new job, my freelancing is going well and the 50s Housewife Experiment has brought some potential opportunities my way, plus it's connected me to some cool peeps on the blogosphere and beyond. My sister's engagement and happiness has been a pretty nice highlight as has my dad's ability to keep cancer at bay this year. All good stuff that I'm super thankful for.

As for 2011? It's a clean slate for us all. I'll hopefully be working on some 50s housewife stuff behind the scenes but she might resurface on the blog again - you never know! I'm toying with the idea of doing a 1940s Housewife Experiment (I have oodles of resources, specifically concerning wartime activities) or even a 1960s Experiment focusing on a special collection of materials I have (hint: It's from a glamorous woman's club!). Any preferences, bloggy readers?

Our New Year's Eve celebration won't be era-focused - instead we're hopping on a plane and going to Las Vegas! Eeee! (Don't get any ideas, would-be-robbers; we have someone staying at our place while we're gone!) As you can imagine, it will be all class - because nothing is classier than me, on New Years, in Las Vegas. Heh. The toxicity in my body will likely be higher than the time we ate the Asparagus Meat Mold, so I have a feeling that for the first few weeks of January, you'll be hearing about vegan this and juice that and other hippie nonsense that I'll believe will cleanse my insides.

Should you be disappointed with the lack of 50s New Year's stuff on the blog, I dug up this video that I found online. It's of a wee New Year's Eve Party from the 1950s, complete with Vienna Sausages *shudder*:

Thanks for coming by the blog this year! I hope your New Year's Eve is hap-hap-happy and safe, and that 2011 is your best year yet!


24 Dec 2010

The 1950s Christmas Cocktail Party

We're concluding our 50s Housewife Does Christmas with a party! It technically happened last weekend, but it seems appropriate to reveal the details of it now, making it the big climax of this project (sure beats getting a vacuum!).

With 20 guests expected, we I had a lot of work ahead of me - but anything can get done with a little Valium 50s housewife magic. Patrick actually pitched in a lot this time, which was super appreciated and a massive change from the last time we hosted people. Thank you, my darling man!

The decorations were pretty much done, so our focus was to rearrange some furniture to accommodate all the guests, make a bunch of food and prep a few surprises. I made a few things the day before, like the cookies, three molds and some make-ahead hot cheese balls. These cheese balls turned out really well and were super yum, so I'm happy to share the recipe below from Good Housekeeping's 10 PM Cook Book:
Patrick's brother, Jason, said that if he could make any food in the world ever, it would be these. He was also enjoying a good deal of "holiday cheer" when he said this, but I assure you - you don't have to be really drunk to appreciate deep-fried cheese - you could also be really stoned.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here ... back to the planning ...

I'd like to say that I looked like this lovely 50s housewife while I was preparing everything, but that would be a pretty epic lie. No, I was not dolled up, cool and collected - I was in yoga pants and an oversized T-shirt from about 7am until 7pm, unkempt and underdeodorized - and I wasn't smiling as much as she was either.

This is what I ended up changing into. Unfortunately, I don't have a pic of me in it. I'm the worst at taking pictures at events ... but that's the outfit all the same - a cute dress made from a 1950s pattern, a crinoline petticoat beneath it, a short black cardigan, pearls, a Christmas corsage and heels. And yes, my waist really is that small. Heh to the tenth power of Heh.

To give you the party experience, I recommend clicking on my playlist that I created for our gathering. I made it on YouTube, which we streamed from our Playstation 3 onto our HD Plasma TV - clearly the 1950s thing to do.

Got the tunes on? Then welcome to our 1950s Christmas Cocktail Party!

Ladies, our welcome gift to you is a Christmas corsage! Please choose one and pin it on (the gentlemen received a fine Cuban cigar - to be smoked outside) ...

Guests then walked into our 50s winter wonderland and were immediately accosted greeted by our spread of cocktail goodies, straight out of 1950s-era cook books and magazines. We served:

  • Tomato Aspic with Assorted Appetizers on a Pick
  • Christmas Party Sandwich
  • Sardine Canap├ęs
  • Green Cheese Ball
  • Red Cheese Ball
  • Crackers
  • California Dip with Potato Chips
  • Flaming Cabbage
  • Shrimp Ring with Cocktail Sauce
  • Turkey Cranberry Mold
  • Swedish Meatballs
  • Bacon-Wrapped Crackers
  • Hot Cheese Balls
  • Roasted Nuts
  • Pretzels
  • Ribbon Candy
  • Old People Licorice Candies (I don't know what they're really called, but this is how I've always known them. Pic will follow!)
  • Gum drops
  • Sugar Cookies
  • Merry Christmas Cake
  • Cathedral Salad
  • Box of chocolates
  • Full bar o' booze
  • Christmas-Wreath Punch
  • Eggnog
  • Mini Coca-colas
Did I go nuts, or did I go nuts? I'm sure a lot of those words above mean very little to you, and oddly, the pictures of the food won't quite explain what they all are either, but here goes (sorry for the poor quality of some of the pics - I was in a rush and our camera isn't the greatest):

The main table

Side table of snacks

The main bar

Some drinkies - Coke, eggnog, Christmas-Wreath Punch

It seems kind of silly to just leave the Coca-Cola bottles in their packages but ...

Moving on ....
Cranberry Turkey Mold (original photo from Family Circle magazine, December 1957)

Flaming Cabbage; Red and Green Cheese Balls with Crackers

Party Sandwich. Original photo from Good Housekeeping's Breads and Sandwiches Book

Swedish Meatballs

Holiday Tomato Aspic with Appetizers on Picks
California Dip with Chips

Sugar Cookies and Marzipan
Ribbon Candy; Old People Licorice Candies

Merry Christmas Cake - angel food cake with layers of raspberry jelly and mint jelly. Topped with marshmallow frosting and coconut

Cathedral Salad. My best formed mold yet! Cherry and lime jello squares in condensed milk. Topped with a marzipan Santa.
The thing that probably requires the most explanation is the Flaming Cabbage. Here's the recipe from the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book:
If you think that sounds good, I only wish you could have experienced the aromatic element of this dish. After having made it - an experience that involves getting down and dirty with cabbage, olives and tinned Vienna sausages - I had to resist the urge to terrorize Patrick by sticking my hands in his face. I figured the phrase "smell my fingers" wouldn't have crossed the lips of a true 50s housewife and so I let that opportunity pass. He's a lucky man, my husband.

The Flaming Cabbage did indeed put on a "spectacular" show once lit - which I sadly didn't take a pic or video of. This cover of the Christmas Cook Book - of a totally different festive treat - does, however, give you a sense of what it's like to have flames coming out of a dish. Food that adds to the combustible nature of our home = 50s Perfection. 

In all - and this is no exaggeration or lie - a total of 16 packets of unflavoured gelatin were used to create our spread. That's a whole lotta' horse - and nearly one packet of Knox per person! If any of our guests discovered that their nails grew stronger after attending our party, you're welcome.

What? No fruitcake? 50s holiday party FAIL.

Listen, you. I might serve people strange processed meats paired with jello. And I might invite them into a home that could become a raging, fiery inferno at any minute - but I will never, I repeat, never - give people fruitcake. I am not that cruel.

Now let's take a look at some of the brave souls who attended Christmas '58: The Cocktail Party ...

Our friends Anissa, Siobhan and Tiffany
Richard, my friend Will's "roommate" (keeping things 50s with the description!)

Friends Barry and Brigitte

Chris and Patrick (cousins)

My sister-in-law Erin

Friends James and Anne

Friends Kate and Ken
I mentioned there were 20 people at our place .... and yet that was the extent of the pictures I took of our guests. Sorry to the peeps who got missed! I'm the worst photographer ever. I swear I am not the sort of  lard who is more obsessed with food than I am people, despite the evidence to the contrary.

With many drinks had and very little of the aspic and / or Turkey Cranberry Mold eaten (but props to Ken, the only guest who tried everything), the mood was all kinds of drunk joyous. We even did a large round of The Name Game - this time with clues like Winnie the Pooh and Rob Ford - which were often mistaken for one another. Tiffany proved to be the Queen of The Name Game - scoring as many as nine points in a single turn. Hurrah! Other people were not quite as adept at the game, but this also proved to be great fun as it gave us glimpses into how their strange brains worked (like using the words "basketball ... pancakes" to describe Prince ... although the explanation that was later given cleared up some of the confusion ... sort of).

Our last guest spilled out of our place around 3:30am, which is not too shabby for our crowd of old timers. Har. We put the leftovers down the toilet away and hit the hay just before 4:00am - and then slept until after noon. Success!

Cocktail Party: 1950s Christmas Checklist
√ Tiny details 
√ Colourful
√ Highly Flammable
√ Diabetes and / or Cancer-causing
√ Presents an obvious danger to small children, pets and idiots √ Confusing

So - that's really it for us! Hope you enjoyed the 50s Housewife Does Christmas and that you and yours have a very merry holiday. Be sure to sit back, relax and enjoy this time with your friends and family - that's something that never goes out of style!

PS: Thanks to reader Capucine who tidied up a couple of my images! Thanks!!


23 Dec 2010

50s Christmas: Everything Is Aluminumated

Sorry for the lateness of today's post. Loading a video to YouTube proved annoyingly time-consuming and error-filled. Yarg.

Today, I show you the completed look of our home when the 50s Housewife Does Christmas! But first, I have some gift wrapping to do. There actually wasn't much to wrap as we mainly gave gift cards this year (I know, not very 50s of us) but I turned to my resources for inspiration all the same. This one is from Better Homes and Gardens (Dec. 1959). Wrapping with straws and muffin cups and aluminum foil ... something tells me this woman didn't get out of the kitchen much:

And then there are these bizarre suggestions (I'm looking at your Puff Ball Container) from Good Housekeeping's Book of Cookies:
Well ... if they say so! I had picked up some cute jewelry for a couple people and wrapped my heart out with the 50s spirit flowing from my fingertips. The results:
After the straw tree incident, I was quick to chat with Patrick and explain that those things were not garbage - despite the fact that one of the packages looked like it was covered in Santa pubes. That one just so happens to be for my mother-in-law who will undoubtedly correctly think her son has married a raging alcoholic.

Gift Wrap: 1950s Christmas Checklist
√ Tiny details
√ Colourful
√ Highly Flammable
√ Confusing

With gifts wrapped, it was time to give them a home - under a tree. This was my big 1950s splurge - I bought a vintage aluminum tree, a rotating musical stand and a colour wheel. Say it with me: SQUEEEEEEE! (or if you're Patrick: UUUUUGGGGGHHH. Where are we going to put that?) Naturally, I also picked up a bundle of vintage mercury glass ornaments from the 50s - and, my, how they're breakable.

Here's some pictures of the Christmas tree craziness:
Fun, right? I'm not sure why these aren't popular anymore ... The shock risk? The tackiness? The strange tumours people develop after being near one? Those pictures just don't do my darling any justice, but you'll eventually see a video in which I oggle our aluminum tree like I'm some kind of Christmas perv, so be sure to check that out!

Christmas Tree: 1950s Christmas Checklist
√ Tiny details
√ Colourful
√ Presents an obvious danger to small children, pets and idiots
√ Cancer-causing (maybe? Just a guess)

Image Source: Family Christmas Online
With all this great stuff set up, there was only one 1950s holiday decor aspect missing: a gruesome electrical fire lighting! I had intended to show you vintage bubble lights, but that's one of the things that the post office appears to be holding onto indefinitely. Boo. We instead bought large bulb indoor / outdoor LED lights, which I guess are safer, but obviously not quite the same.

We are also tempting a flammable fate by having a few candles about, but I did resist going for that 1950s mega-fire hazard, the rotating angel chimes. It's basically a flimsily-held together spinner that moves when the heat from a bunch of candles beneath it rises. It's basically a balancing act that meets fire - what could possibly go wrong? (Google: "Angel Chimes" + cat + disaster)

With all this crafting going on, I hope no one out there thinks I'm being a neglectful 50s housewife when it comes to dear Patrick. Rest assured, his bar is well stocked - now with some roasted nuts and marzipan. That's enough alcohol to get a small elephant wasted (Merry Christmas, Babar).

I also made a festive meal today, straight out of the Better Homes and Gardens December 1959 issue:
 I followed the recipe to the letter - which means nearly everything on our plate came from a can. Never had I ever had hamburger that contained evaporated milk but ... tis the season?
It turned out fine, although Patrick did not care for the sweet potatoes, especially when he found out they weren't fresh from Mexico. He also didn't try the plum pudding, but if you've followed our previous 50s housewife experiments and are familiar with what edibles Patrick loathes, you'd hardly be surprised that something stuffed with plums and raisins got the big ol' nose-turn by Mr. Byck. What-ev.

Holiday Meal: 1950s Christmas Checklist
√ Tiny details
√ Colourful
√ Highly Flammable
√ Diabetes and / or Cancer-causing

So - wanna see the whole place done up? It's more charming in person, but here's a quick video of the place, with a scotch-sipping cameo by Patrick!

Yes, I realize the fact that I made and posted this video makes me an ultra dork. Is that really news?

Tomorrow you'll read all about our 50s Christmas Cocktail Party for which I made not one, not two, but three molds. The holiday spread really was something to vomit over.


22 Dec 2010

More 50s Christmas Darlings and Disasters

Another day, another 50s Housewife Does Christmas attempt.

That picture is of a vintage bottle brush tree and is the sort of Christmas craft a 50s housewife might find herself working on. That one stood about 12" tall, was made of a bottle brush (hence the name) and a deconstructed brass scrubbing pad, featured loads of little trickets and ornaments (this person never heard the phrase, "less is more") - and sold for $300 on eBay (no, not to me - I'm not that into recreating the era).

Keen to make what would surely become a valuable family heirloom (heh), I decided to try to create my own bottle brush tree. It turns out that they don't make bottle brushes like that anymore. The next best option was to find a sisal tree at a craft store.

I realize this next resource is not from the 1950s, but it's too good not to share. First, the intro of this waiting-to-go-viral video made me wonder if I was watching a secret Bruce McCulloch skit from Kids in the Hall. Turns out it's real. Second, it features my favourite kind of person ever: The Southern Gay. I just loves me a homosexual man from Georgia. His voice is butta' to my bread - especially when he starts to get excited about glitter:

I don't know how long they were letting their trees sit in that bleach, but mine sat overnight+ and the shade only changed a tiny bit, as you can see:

Oh well. I glued on some mini ornaments and voila! Soon to be sold for hundreds of dollars on eBay? Not likely - but as you'll quickly discover, it's not the most hideous thing I made that day:

Bottle Brush Tree: 1950s Christmas Checklist
√ Tiny details
√ Colourful
√ Presents an obvious danger to small children, pets and idiots (specifically, the cup o' bleach you have laying around to make this)

With that tree done, I decided to tackle another - this time a weird table decoration that I found in a 1959 magazine that was made of straws (the centre one):

As usual, there were no instructions on how to make it, so I played around with a pack of straws for a while. At first, I decided to encircle the straws around something round and then tape them where they lay:

Um, why do you own a can of Vienna Sausages?

That is for me to know and for the guests of our 50s Christmas Cocktail Party to have nightmares over, Mr. Italics.

It turns out this method caused the circle of straws to collapse on itself (like a stomach would upon eating the contents of that can), so I cut the circle in half, crushed them at the top and taped them together. I then went about decorating the tree with bits of paper. The result ...
You don't have to say it. What happened next says it all. This little tree won't be featured in any other photos of our holiday home - and it's not because of silly things like "pride" or "shame." Patrick accidentally threw it out, figuring it for a pile of garbage. For real. I can't say I blame him. That said, I've made a note to myself: Never take Patrick to the National Gallery.

Straw Tree: 1950s Christmas Checklist
√ Tiny details
√ Colourful
√ Highly flammable
√ Confusing

One last craft for the day - a wreath for our door! This Christmas, I wanted something that would tell all the people who pass by our home a simple holiday message: A crazy woman lives here.

My magazines provided me with a couple options that would do just that - all using muffin cups:

I went with the simplest possible route to create this look. Cardboard, streamer paper, muffin cups, a few beads and some glue later and ...

Not totally horrible, right? Slight vindication for the earlier craptastic crafting, yes? But so not what you'd think to put on your door either.

Muffin Cup Wreath: 1950s Christmas Checklist
√ Tiny details
√ Colourful
√ Highly flammable
√ Confusing

Having had to go into the kitchen to get muffin cups got me in the mood to do some make-ahead baking for our party, so I figured I'd do something simple like sugar cookies. The recipe seemed pretty simple and the same kind you probably still use today. And yet ...
Lesson: Don't try to put all four baking sheets in the oven, because the bottom rack of cookies will burn, burn, burn (the top rack of cookies will somehow be perfect). The smoke will fill your apartment and you will spend the next desperate seconds clawing at the smoke alarm lid to disconnect the wires before it activates a building-wide alarm, sending the fire department to the complex.

Sugar Cookies: 1950s Christmas Checklist
√ Colourful
√ Diabetes-causing
√ HIGHLY flammable

I may have damaged the smoke alarm ... which is great timing considering my home is currently floor to ceiling 50s-grade flammable.

Tomorrow: Our super vintage tree! 50s gift wrapping! More goodies!


21 Dec 2010

Getting Into The Spirit of Things

For some people, the holiday season doesn't quite feel like it's arrived until they do a few things:

  1. Cram as much candy and cookies and eggnog down their gullets as they can
  2. Crank up the holiday music
  3. Fight the crowds at the mall for gifts
  4. Deck the halls with an assortment of holiday decor
  5. Start drinking hot rum and Baileys and scotch ... before noon
  6. Go to church
 We're usually pretty minimalist when it comes to holiday decorations, but as this is the 50s Housewife Does Christmas, I figured it was best to start there. Hopefully having all the holiday cheer visually around me would give me the inspiration to go through with the other 50s-era holiday plans.

I recently gave you a sneak peak of some 1950s Christmas decor - the putz house. Darling! Well, here is the whole village set up on our counter, atop polyester snow and lit from behind with holiday lights:

I admit, it could look better had I had the patience to prop the homes up a bit more, but because they are so light, the putz homes tend to float on the batting rather than nestle into it, and the lights that I popped into their backs were a bit too heavy for some of the little homes, causing them to tip. A true 50s housewife would have stayed up until the crack of dawn making these just so, but as I am not insane there was much more to do, I moved on to the next project.

Putz Village: 1950s Christmas Checklist
Tiny details
Highly flammable
Presents an obvious danger to small children, pets and idiots

Confidence growing from having completed the putz village, I tackled something more crafty: paper ring garland. Being frugal and wanting to keep the project as flammable as possible, I made the rings from crepe paper (streamers) rather than construction paper. This also made it look more authentic to the type of garland you could buy in the 1940s and 50s.
 It was very easy, but obviously rather tedious. A great deal of zoning out was involved. But 120 green, white and red rings later (I counted), I was finally done. I strung the paper ring garland from corner to corner of our living room, and where the garland crossed, I hung a big, red honeycomb bell that I found at the dollar store (I was grateful they had it - I would have otherwise had to trek to one of those gaudy wedding stores in Little Italy to get some).

Paper Ring Garland and Honeycomb Bell: 1950s Christmas Checklist
Tiny details 
Highly flammable

Hey! It's time for more holiday cheer - a drink!

Yes ... so I whipped those eggs and ... nah, just look to the bottom part of that recipe, "Quick Christmas Eggnog." Get eggnog, add booze. Boom - done! It's not cheating if it's in my vintage cookbooks (in this case, Good Housekeeping's Christmas Cook Book circa 1958).

Quick Christmas Eggnog: 1950s Christmas Checklist
Highly flammable

Feeling instantly cheerier, I turned to my December 1959 edition of Better Homes & Gardens and it was chock-full of relatively easy make-at-home decorations with materials that are still largely available today - I'll tell you about more of those tomorrow, but here's the last craft I did that day:

Wire hangers: not just for abortions. All you do is take some coat hangers, bend the hooks into circles and bend the bottoms to form gradually more pronounced 'M's. Connect them to one another and hang ornaments from their ends. I happen to have some vintage mercury glass ornaments (you'll see more of them later), so I used those to create this:
Well ... it sort of looks like the picture in the magazine, right?

Holiday Hanger Mobile: 1950s Christmas Checklist
Tiny details 
Presents an obvious danger to small children, pets and idiots 

Seeing as there's eggnog that needs to be drunk, I'll sign off for now. More 50s-era Christmas decor and crafts tomorrow!

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