28 Feb 2012

Vintage Dream Home Decor Inspiration x3

Hello! The good people at the UK-based Appliances Online have asked if I could link to their Smeg appliances in exchange for my weight in Marmite and warm beer. I've long loved the retrodorableness of Smeg, so it was a corporate whoring made in heaven.

Who's ready for some vapid consumerism?! I AM. I swear I didn't spend this much time looking at things I wanted to buy before Pinterest came along. Now, looking at lovely things has practically become my hobby (and thanks to today's sponsored post, it's also my job. How great is that?).

One of my reoccurring fantasies is that if I won the lottery (I'm talking about All-That-Is-Wrong-With-The-World money), I'd buy one of those old homes in the Annex that has been split into several apartments and renovate each unit to reflect a different decade. I'd then rent out the apartments temporarily to professionals looking to do period photo or film shoots, or to people who wanted to host a fun dinner party or bridal / baby shower with a retro-ish theme.

SAD FACT: As you can see, I've actually spent time coming up with a business model to support my fantasy - because even in my dreams there is no way in hell, regardless of how rich we ever were, that Patrick would let me buy a million dollar house just to decorate for "funzies". I don't entirely blame him; I doubt I'd be jazzed to purchase a home that would pay homage to his interests. The Manchester United House of Hot Dogs would have to wait until after my ashes were scattered.

But anyway, BACK TO ME AND MY IMPORTANT POST. If I had three apartments to decorate, I think I would do Art Deco 1930s, Wartime '40s, and Mid-Century 1950s (that last one's a total surprise, right?). I'd obviously want to track down original pieces from those periods to put into the apartments, but realistically (and possibly safer in a health and fire hazard kind of way) I'd also snag vintage-inspired pieces, especially when it came to appliances.

So - wanna see what I'm what I've been up to today while I was "working from home"?:

1930s Art Deco Home Decor Inspiration (I'm down with the pinks in this era):

1. 1930s K.E.M. Weber Lounge Chair - 1stDibs
2. Jacques Adnet Mirrored Coffee Table - 1stDibs
3. Pink French Boudoir Chair - 1stDibs
4. Walnut and Chrome Fold-Out Bar - L.A. Vintage Furnishings on Etsy
5. Silver-plated Champagne Bucket on Fluted Stand - Newel
6. San Francisco Fox Theater 1930s Rug - Art Deco Collection
7. October 1930 issue of Vogue Magazine - ParisVogueBazaar on eBay
8. Bagley Grantham Pink Glass Clock & Vase Garniture Set - Art of Glass on eBay
9. 1930s Pink Petal Chandelier - richardshorse on eBay

Wartime 1940s Decor (went with lots of yellowy-creams and deep greens):
1. Handmade Curtains, Early 1940s Fabric - Eva Wagenfish Emporium on Etsy
2. Edward Wormly Chanel Back Club Chair - 1stDibs
3. 1940s Walnut Desk Lamp - 3xJacks on eBay
4. Smeg FAB10LP Fridge Freestanding Cream - Appliances Online
5. Airline 1940s Tube Radio - iOffers
6. KitchenAid Mixer in Almond Cream - Sears
7. October 1942 issue of Ladies' Home Journal - Papergoy on eBay
8. Green Vinyl 1940s Wingback Chair - InValuable

Mid-Century 1950s Decor Inspiration (blues and reds called out to me!):

1. Smeg Right Hand Hinge FAB28QV1 Fridge Freestanding - Appliances Online (I'm torn on the colour! I like them all! Which could you choose?)
2. Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book - Iowa Book Farm on eBay
3. 1955 Hide-A-Bed (vintage ad from my collection)
4. Walnut Mid-Century Bedroom Dresser - GUFF
5. Federal Glass Amoeba Pitcher - Fab Five Friends on eBay
6. Marco Zanuso Wingback Chair - ICollectAntiques.com
7. 1950s Blue Burst Wall-Papered Drum Shade - Fondue on Etsy
8. Vintage Paint-by-Numbers Artwork - Nomar on eBay
9. Olivetti Underwood Lettera 22 Portable Typewriter - Jacklom3 on Etsy

And this doesn't fit into any era accurately (although it has a lovely 1950s vibe) but I'd want it in ALL of these apartments: the Smeg washing machine. HOW ADORABLE IS THAT? It is killing me with cuteness:
Ok - so, if money was no object, what would you put in your vintage-inspired dream home? Which era turns your design crank the most?


24 Feb 2012

And Then I Jizzed. In. My. Pants ....


Kitchenaid Deluxe Edition mixer in Almond Cream. In my kitchen. For me. Forever.

Can I get a "Fuck Yeah!"?

Also? It's a Pinplement. AWWWWWYEAH.


22 Feb 2012

The Rebuttal: 1950s Housewives Blast 1950s Business Girl

If you saw yesterday's post, I showed you bits of an article from the March 1950 Chatelaine in which "business girl" Beverly Gray tells housewives how much they suck. In June of that year, the housewives had their chance to bite back in the article, "Housewives Blast Business Girl".

According to the magazine, over 500 housewives wrote letters in response to "Housewives Are A Sorry Lot" and Beverly Gray's phone rang off the hook with calls from irritated readers. This was all pre-Google, so women actually had to put time and effort into tracking down and stalking this lady ("You say I'm silly and leading a wasted life? THIS'LL SHOW YOU!"). I wonder how many psychotic phone calls were received by people listed under "B. Gray" in phone books around Canada:

"I've learned a lot more things about housewives I didn't know before!"
I'm sure they're all super flattering observations, too.
Seems Bev, a newspaper woman, was kind of like an early version of Canada's favourite sweetheart: the ever attention-seeking, ever judgemental Christie Blatchford. I wonder who could out-grump the other. My money's on Blatch.

The commotion was so great that Chatelaine decided to post a few pages of snippets from many of these letters rather than provide one uniformed response:
Sure, sure. If comment sections on the Internet have taught us anything,
it's that people respond to criticism with "tolerance and good humor."
The quotes from 1950s housewives can basically be placed into five different categories ...

I'll Have You Know That I Am Very Busy And Important. CRAZY IMPORTANT:
The census man rolled his eyes. "Sure thing, lady," he said as he checked the box marked "housewife."
Yeah, you heard me. I said it. PIE. They don't bake themselves, you know.

Preach, sister, preach! (Well, except for that first part.)

Business Girls Suck More Than We Do:
I think it's a rule that no one looks good on public transit.

Just wait until the Internet shows up.
... a shoplifter's dream.

... They're Also Dumb Sluts:
BOOM. Suck it, skanks.

I Feel Sorry For You Because You Can't Get A Man, Haven't Had Babies, And Clearly Don't Know What True Happiness And Fulfillment Is:

Same old disposable income, same old independence ...

... well, that and Valium.
Beverly Gray Is A Fucking Bitch With No Friends (And Is Probably A Big Ol' Lesbian):
Haters gonna hate.
Ah, good stuff, ladies. Good stuff. I have a feeling you'd fit in just fine with women today.


21 Feb 2012

Women: Judging The Shit Out Of Each Other Since The Dawn Of Time

From the March 1950 issue of Chatelaine, "Housewives Are A Sorry Lot" by Beverly Gray:

Get mad all you like. But somewhere in this article there's a truth for every one of us.

Beverly Gray, a business girl, looks over her married friends, shudders, takes reef in her girdle and strikes out these observations:
  • Marriage brings about a full stop in mental development.
  • As soon as the wedding is over a woman drops phoney interests in such things as sports, politics, and world events.
  • Her life channels into a narrow domestic little tunnel.
  • A girl expects her husband to be a combination of Ronald Coleman, Gregory Peck, and Humphrey Bogart.
  • Chat with any housewife and she's sure to bring the conversation round to how terribly frustrated she is.
  • If the individual housewife is a saddening sight, housewives in the mass are appalling. 
I want to know what kind of day Beverly Gray had that made her plunk her ass down at the typewriter and write this all out.

I don't know why I love this so much - it's got to be the bluntness and the how-dare-she'ness of it all. It, of course, only gets better from there:

And it goes on and on ... basically labelling housewives as lazy bags who let their looks and minds melt to mush on account of their obsessions with crap like soap operas, romance magazines, and running a home. Throughout the article, Gray has no sympathy for the women who put themselves into this position, but rather, she feels bad for the husbands who have to come home to these griping "militant matrons":


She gives no advice on how women can become happier creatures - that's not the point of the article; the point is: Beverly Gray has an opinion and a rabid need for attention. Why else publish something like this?

But, oh, how I love it. Her opinions are so unapologetically out there; wild, swinging, untethered punches to the face and stomach, as if they were Lindsay Lohan's boobs on the way to a courtroom. I think I adore it (the article, not Lohan's rack. Well, maybe Lohan's rack, too) because it's so ridiculous.

We, of course, still judge each other all the time, but do we really care that much about how other people live? Do we really feel that strongly about it? It's so easy today to get online and barf an opinion out about anything, but does that really reflect how we feel about each other most of the time (presuming we really spend that much time thinking about others at all)? And do we really care what other, totally random people think of us? Do you?

According the June 1950 issue of Chatelaine, over 500 housewives wrote in to comment on the article. I'll pop some of those entertaining replies in the next post!


16 Feb 2012

Dinner With Grandma

Holmes & Edwards ad from the
March 1947 Ladies' Home Journal
Patrick had soccer on Valentine's Day so we instead had a mini celebration on Monday, and on the actual Day of Hallmark's Emotional Exploitation, my good friend Anissa came over for dinner, desserts, and a lot of booze. It was all also the perfect excuse to initiate a very special gift I received from my aunts and my parents.

A few weeks ago, I was delighted to accept the most wonderful package from my Aunt Teresa, my Aunt Janice, and my parents: It was a completed set of my Grandma Price's silver.

My Grandma and Grandpa Price
in 1947.
Four days after she turned 24, my grandmother married my grandfather in 1947. At some point after that (whether it was a gift or something she collected on piece at a time, we're not sure), my grandmother acquired the Youth silver pattern from Holmes & Edwards. It was a very popular pattern, one that some baby boomers might recognize, and retailed for just under $70 in 1947. It's sweet and special and features little flowers that almost anyone with a preference toward the traditionally feminine would be charmed by.

It's a set that has seen decades of anniversaries and parties, family dinners and tea with the girls. Eventually my grandmother acquired another set of silver, her own mother's (my Great Grandma Steffler's), and that set was later gifted with much love to her daughter, my Aunt Teresa, in celebration and in honour of Teresa's wedding. It was a big surprise to Teresa as my Great Grandmother Steffler's silver set was something my grandmother still quite cherished, but Grandma Price felt it was time to hand it off. She wanted to see Teresa enjoy this little inheritance while she was still alive  - and it was a gesture that was met with many tears and hugs.

And that fall, my grandmother unexpectedly and sadly passed away - something that made the early gift of an heirloom that much more emotional and sentimental.

After the funeral, my grandmother's original wedding silver eventually went to my aunt Janice, but she found that she didn't get as much use out of it as she would have liked. She offered it to Teresa, but she, too, didn't use it on account of already owning her Grandmother Steffler's set. And so they thought of who in the family might appreciate it and use it more, and a certain someone with a vintage obsession and disturbing love for dining came to mind. Yay for being a Fatty '50s Weirdo!

My Grandma Price's Holmes & Edwards pattern was typical of a woman who had raised a brood of children (eight kids!) - there were a lot of incompletes. Once, when asked where all the teaspoons went, my grandmother joked (but not) that they were probably in a sandbox. With my Aunt Teresa's work and my parents' help, they filled in the spaces, replacing the pieces that had been lost to sand castles of the 1950s and '60s, and then sent the completed set to me, tagging the forks, spoons, and knives that had been newly bought.

And so, I naturally did what anyone would do with such a thoughtful and sentimental gift:
Image Source.
HAH. You guys have no idea how incredibly and thoroughly dead I would be if I wasn't joking. I'd be murdered so hard by my aunts that my lifeless carcass would actually make Kristen Stewart look like she had an emotional range. I don't even think there would be dental records left to properly identify me.

In reality, to "break in" this beautiful silver, I did something much nicer and life-preserving: I made a special meal that my grandmother might have served, using recipes from the Steffler Family Cookbook (which I've mentioned once before when I went on a bender for prairie foods).

For dinner with Patrick, I adapted my grandmother's recipe for Shrimp Puffs and instead used tuna, so as to not kill my shellfish-allergic husband:

I then made Crispy Parmesan Chicken, whipped mashed potatoes, gravy, and buttered broccoli:

Happy Hubby:

For my ultra romantic dinner with Anissa, I cooked up a vegetable soup and we enjoyed two of my Grandma Price's desserts: Pecan Pie and Almond Cherry Cake.

I know the Almond Cherry Cake looks suspiciously like the dreaded fruitcake, but I promise, it is really frigging amazing. Because Patrick likes chocolate, I added chocolate chips to the mix. Next time I make this, I might replace the candied cherries with sour cherries or maybe even dried blueberries just to see how it compares.

For me, food is a simple everyday way to share and show my love and appreciation for my family and friends, and there's no better way to do that than with the help of someone who was so caring and special, my Grandma.

Thanks again for this beautiful gift, Teresa, Janice, Mom and Dad. I love it.


13 Feb 2012

Nothing Says 'I Love You' Like A Cow Organ On Your Plate

Looking for a special Valentine's Day Menu for you and your sweetheart? Want to give it a vintage touch? Want to watch him run, screaming in the other direction? Then I have the 1950s Valentine menu for you!:

That's a whole lot of red on one plate. This beauty of a suggestion is from the Searchlight Homemaking Guide and I'm not sorry to say that they didn't include a recipe for the Baked Heart, presumably because they knew no one sane was going to make it. 

"Happy Valentine's Day, darling. I hope you know how much I love you - but if you didn't, here's something you might remember from your high school dissection class. It represents my feelings. Eat up, lover!"

I have, however, included the recipe for the Cranberry Heart Salad which, if you know 1950s cookery, you have likely already guessed that it's yet another testament to the wonders of gelatine:
Yum, yum. Who doesn't love biting into whole cranberries? 

Patrick, if you're reading this and you are about to curl up into the fetal position, let me assure you: My Valentine's gift to you is that I'm not making any of this. That's how great of a wife I am.


9 Feb 2012

Good Telly

I love reality TV, I'm a sucker for it. I especially like interesting and informative reality TV - something that hasn't really caught on in America (I'm not sure we can count Snooki's urinary tract infection story arc as a public service). However, in Britain, "edutainment" reality programs are far more popular and totally freaking amazing.

One of the inspirations for the 50s Housewife Experiment (and future experiments which I hope to share soon! I know I keep promising this stuff and not doing it ... but I swear, wheels are in motion! Motion!) was a delightful British reality show called The 1900 House, a program where a modern family moves into a Victorian home and lives the turn-of-the-century lifestyle. It is BANANAS GOOD and I was jealous that they had all the original, authentic stuff from the era to use in their social experiment. I, on the other hand, while doing the '50s thing, had to stare at my microwave and will myself with every bit of strength I had not to throw a pizza pop into it:

There have been similar spins of this program, like the Frontier HouseColonial House, Regency House Party, and Coal House At War - all of which are worth checking out and about a billion times more entertaining than any house featured on The Real World.

But as you can imagine, I was thrilled off my ass to discover another British reality show that took a similar approach to tackling eras, one week at a time, to see how the lifestyle impacted a modern couple. "The Supersizers Go ..." features the comedy duo of Sue Perkins and Giles Coren who live and, of great focus of the program - eat, like they did in different times in Britain. Each week they munch through a new era, including the '70s, the Edwardian age, and Medieval times (the period, not the hilarious castle and horse show-slash-restaurant). And .... the 1950s! Oh, it was good. Great. AMAZING. And I've just learned that these episodes are now appearing on The Cooking Channel in the States, and I must insist that you Americans with cable watch it. Like, right now. It's brilliant and will give you a taste of how good reality TV can be. The Situation and gang will never look lamer, something you probably didn't think was possible.

Because I'm so enthused, I've embedded the entire "The Supersizers Go ... Fifties" below for your viewing enjoyment. Let me know what you think of the show!


6 Feb 2012

The 1950s Do's and Don't's of Parenting Babies Is Remarkably Sane

My cousin Amy just had a baby - her first - this weekend. Welcome to the world, Ethan Brady, and congrats to his lovely mom and dad! I hope these first few days and weeks and months are as calm and sweet as can be!

I imagine new parents are inundated with advice - some welcome, some not. I tend to not be the disher of said advice, given my status as a happy-to-be-childfree type, but I have no problem giving advice to the advice givers, if that makes any sense. And my advice to them is this: Chill the fuck out. You need only take a twirl on Google to see why I say this. If you go online, the top, most-frequently mentioned advice sounds like this:
  • SIDS! SIDS! Your baby is likely to die at any given moment unless you do everything perfectly. And even then, he might still die. SIDDDDDSS!
  • Run to your baby if he is crying. Every. Time. RUNNNN!
  • Don't shake your baby - even if you really want to.
  • Get medicated!
It all sounds exceptionally stressful. Yes, postpartum depression is real and should be taken seriously, but perhaps we can do a better job supporting mothers and fathers (both in our actions and in the advice we give) to reduce factors that heighten anxiety. With this in mind, I naturally turned to my 1950s materials to see how the advice compared. Was it also riddled with stressful thoughts?

I found a "Do's and Dont's" when it came to baby from the same 1959 Best Wishes magazine that I recently mentioned on the blog. And the advice? Strikingly low-key. Calm. Reasonable. So incredibly opposite to the manic-fest that is 1950s cooking suggestions and 1950s homemaking schedules (open the picture in a new tab to see it expanded):

There are, of course, a couple funny things in there. The magazine is Canadian, so naturally there is a mention not to give your newborn beer and gravy. But those are our staples, eh? I imagine the French Canadian version has been further customized to remind new moms to avoid treating the baby to Quebec family favourites, specifically ketchup, Pepsi, and cigarettes, tabernac.

There's also a shift in advice when it comes to crying; while one modern website states, "DO respond to your baby's cries. You are not spoiling your baby by immediately responding to their cries at this age, so feed, change, hold, or soothe your baby when she is crying", the 1950s advice says something quite different: "Though he cries, don't pick you baby up if he is well. A good lusty cry is excellent exercise." I have no idea if cry-it-out or attachment parenting are right or wrong - frankly, I don't think anyone knows - I just love how enthusiastic the advice is: "a good lusty cry!" "Excellent exercise!" "Go watch some telly, mom!"

And there's one big piece of advice that I just love and wish it was in all the baby books and websites today:

Yes, the generation of women who were often viewed as being the "perfect mothers" and the "perfect housewives" were, in fact, not slaves to the other members of the household. Yes, a baby needs a great deal of care and attention, but you're a person who has needs too. Like rest. And personal time. And a break. Maybe that advice alone - to not be a martyr to your baby - curtailed the need for advice like "don't shake your newborn when you're frustrated" - which is strangely and sadly in all of the "Do's and Don't's" that we see today.


2 Feb 2012

Are You A Model Mother? Take the 1950s Test.

I love how articles from the 1950s are like Germans: anti-semitic blunt. Sure, we have antagonistic headlines today that also present opinions as fact, but back in the 1950s, this was a rather hilarious norm. Right and wrong, good and bad - it was all often spelled out unapologetically, especially when it came to explaining what it meant to be a "good" mother, wife, woman, father, husband, or man. It's not so much the suggestions within the articles that make our eyes bulge (ok, sometimes it is), but the absolutism of it all.

Here's a perfect example of what I'm talking about: "Are You A Model Mother?" This little checklist was printed in a 1959 edition of Best Wishes, a magazine that was provided to new mothers compliments of The Salvation Army. Best Wishes was sort of the gift-with-pushes (hee) that women would get in the hospital as they were coming out of their drug haze from having a baby.

The thing I find most interesting about this particular article is that it actually has very little to do with parenting and more to do with the kind of woman you are 'despite' becoming a mother. In short, if you live the "Mom Jean" lifestyle ("I'm not a woman any more, I'm a mom") and commit the sins that would get you a mention on STFU, Parents, you're not a model mother.

Hey, don't shoot the messenger! See for yourself:

That last one is simply magical, especially considering that the woman reading this magazine was likely still in her hospital bed nursing a destroyed vagina newborn.

So, tell me, are you a model mother? Do any of these describe you or the mother you hope to be? Or can this entire article kiss your model mother ass?


1 Feb 2012

History Month

February kicks off Black History Month - a reminder of not just the history of black people, their accomplishments, and how they rose up against inequality and intolerance, but it's also a reminder of the history of the people who challenged progress (or, to be exceedingly kind about it, "didn't know any better"). It is the history of a multicultural society that has made leaps forward, and can continue to make leaps forward, provided that we learn from the past.

A little while ago, I shared one of my not-so-fun vintage finds, an article from 1965 about neighbours giving their opinion on the prospect of a "Negro family" moving onto their street. While I can't claim to have the most extensive of vintage media collections, that article was among the earliest I had in my hoard pile possession that straight-forwardly dealt with race relations and bigotry. Because I tend to collect magazines and books targeted to women in the 1950s, the content of the material I have is decidedly focused on homemaking, family relationships, and fashion. Current events tended to take a back seat to "Easy Flower Arrangements You'll Love" and "How To Choose A Fur".

But if you specifically look for examples of how civil rights and attitudes around race were addressed in the 1950s mainstream media, you'll surely find them. Below is a half-hour drama called Crossroads that aired on CBC in 1957. Directed by the National Film Board's Don Haldane, Crossroads is a "sensitive drama that tells the story of a couple, Roy and Judy, and the reactions they encounter when they announce their intention to marry, reactions complicated by the fact that Roy is black and Judy is white."

According to what I've researched, Crossroads was well received by the Canadians who watched it on TV in 1957 and was applauded for its sensitive and accurate portrayals of people at the time. One wonders how it would have gone over in the United States.

It's interesting and sad, inspiring and infuriating, and it's a part of your history and mine, regardless of where our ancestors came from. It's a history that shapes relations and politics today within our countries, and it's hopefully a history was can continue to learn from.

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Need words? I'm a Toronto-based freelance writer who injects great ones into blogs, websites, magazines, ads and more. So many services, one lovely Jen (with one 'n').

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