January 31, 2010

Honouring Heirlooms

Something I've been thinking about lately is the human tendency to pack cherished heirlooms, fancy things, or nice gifts away to save them for a 'special' occasion or to use with guests.  

In our student days, Hus and I used a bunch of really cheap silverware he bought by the piece in a clearance bin at Zellers when he moved out of his mom's at the age of 19.  I think he paid a dime a piece.  It was of really poor quality, and some of the forks and spoons had ragged edges which caught on your lips as you ate.  For all those years, however, I had a set of real silver silverware I inherited from my Oma packed away.  It was not all that old; probably from the 1960s. But my mom tells me that it was a popular brand and pattern in Germany (actually my other Oma had it as well).  

Despite having it packed away we continued to use the crap.  When I became employed I looked around for a good set of silverware but was paralyzed at the thought of choosing a pattern to use for the rest of my life.  I'm not sure how I finally decided to use my Oma's silverware for everyday dining, but I did.  And we've never looked back.  Using it daily means that I never have to polish it, and the forks and knifes have a solid weight that gives some gravitas to dining.  The spoons are of a particularly nice size for soups.

When I was visiting one of my sisters in the Lower Mainland last week, she showed me Oma's watch that she inherited.  It is a delicate gold wind-up watch.  My sister was looking for a nicer watch than the one she regularly wears, and I encouraged her to wear this one, since she already has it and it means something. It seems a fitting way of honouring an heirloom. She feared it might be broken, but winded it up and it worked.  While she was busy, I quickly took a picture of it (on my wrist).


We couldn't make out the name on the watch, but it looks like the manufacturer is Bergen. Again, it probably is not particularly old or valuable.  But it is better worn and cherished than shut away in a dark drawer.

January 30, 2010

Weekend Wanderings

I'm starting to write this post with no particular focus, just wandering though my mind about things I've been thinking about and doing this weekend.

I am glad to be home this weekend and returning to my regular mundane weekend routine.  First up, Hus and I returned to 'Friday Pizza Night.'  We used to order out on Friday nights, but several things made us opt for making our own pizzas.  First, homemade simply tastes better and we control what goes in it.  Second, we often ordered from a major international chain, but then I learned that just 1/4 of their large pizza had more salt than a person's daily recommended allowance.  Hus is particularly worried about salt consumption.  (on a side note I have been reading Salt: A World History and have been craving salty food. I'll do a review when I finish).  Third, takeout means a bunch of garbage involved.

Our favourite toppings include feta, marinated artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, pesto and spinach, on a homemade whole wheat crust. Here is the before picture:

Then we popped it into our new gas top/electric convection oven.  The convection makes the pizza get nice and brown all over.
Yum!  It also fed us for lunch today.  My arms got a workout from kneading the dough, and I got another workout today when I made bread.

My bread never gets that high but it is tasty (and not quite as dark as the picture shows).  

Pictured with the loaves is another of my recent vintage finds: a pyrex butter dish. I think the pattern is called Amish, and I also bought a small casserole dish with the same pattern of white on blue.  Pyrex never really crossed my mind until I started following the blogs that I do.  Their pictures gave me a new appreciation for it, particularly since it comes in so many different patterns and colours.  But they are not cheap. I bought the butter dish at the collectable flea market for $10, but another table had it marked for $25!  

While I was out buying groceries today, I stopped by a few thrift shops, but came out empty handed.  I did find a Sierra Designs quilted vest for $3.  I've been looking for a good outdoors vest; this one was quite nice and fit me, but I questioned how thick of a sweater I could wear underneath. Since it was not perfect, I left it where it was.

Tonight, I made something I've never made before: Wonton Soup with tofu wontons. I didn't really follow a recipe, but it turned out quite good. Here's another picture:

Tomorrow, we'll be going cross-country skiing with a bunch of friends and their dogs, so the leftovers of this soup will make a nice lunch.

January 28, 2010

Kooky Vintage Brooches

As I get older, I'm finding that I want to buy basic long-lasting clothing, but dress them up with unique accessories.  For the last few years I have hardly gone a day without wearing a necklace; but lately my accessory of choice has been a brooch.  As long as they are relatively small, the kookier the better.

I have several vintage pieces already, but over the last two weekends I found 6 more.  In order of not-so-kooky to maybe-this-is-too-kooky-to-wear kooky:

#6. Just Nice, Not so Kooky

I have no idea what era this brooch is, or the make, but I wear a lot of green and I liked the leaf motive.  I have already worn it twice, and no one has looked at it incredulously, so it ranks very low on the kooky meter.

 #5. Mildly Kooky

 Very mild.  This pin is very small, but it is of a fish.  I have a great coral-coloured cardigan to wear it with, and I liked the shape of it.  I think this is the newest of all the brooches; I would suspect from the 1990s judging from the lack of wear it has.

#4. I'm a teacher, what can I say?

The fact that I bought a brooch to match my profession is kind of kooky.  This apple is quite bulbous, and was made by Napier, probably in the 1970s?

#3.  Camp Geek-Chic

The fact that this is leather craft of the BC dogwood  flower is reminiscent of something teenagers would have worn at Camp somewhere in the Southern Interior in the early 1980s. It has 'Canada' stamped on the back. 

 #2.  Maybe I should wear a monocle with this one? 

It is just that kooky!  I've discovered that little kids love it, especially since the pupil shakes around in the eye.  I already have one Sarah Coventry Owl pin, but it is a stick pin and quite small, so I felt perfectly justified in purchasing this one; and besides, Owls are in!


#1.  I've gone off the 'deep-end' Kooky

It's really ugly.  But in a good way, right?  It has no markings, but the dealer said it is from the 1940s.  From the level of wear and its construction, I think it is too.  The kicker is..... the claws are attached by tiny springs.  So as you walk around the claws are constantly moving.  I can't wait until I work up enough courage to wear it!  I need to find a cute red cardigan to showcase it (and for it to blend in a bit).

Which is your favourite?

January 26, 2010

Orange and Brown

Two of my favourite colours.  I love to wear orange and brown, decorate in them, and cook and eat off of orange and brown.  Several years ago I found a set of four Hornsea Canisters at a Garage Sale, and bought them.  The owners had taped a note on the largest one, writing that they had been purchased in the UK in 1972.  The pattern is called Saffron, and since then I've kept my eyes open for more.

This was one of the things I was seeking to buy in Vancouver last week.  My sister and I had planned to go to the Vancouver Flea Market, but since it is open every weekend, we nixed that in favour of going to a special Vintage and Collectibles flea market.  But, even with four large rooms of mid-century collectables, there was no Hornsea.  However, I did find other pottery, behold:

Orange, brown and blue!  Another favourite colour combination.  This is West German Pottery, which is apparently having a resurgence in popularity due to its modern design that fits with contemporary decor.  I love it!

January 21, 2010

On Not shopping in Vancouver

I have a few moments to post.  I'm having a good time here in the Lower Mainland.  Tomorrow is another all-day meeting (ugh!) but I'm planning on hitting a few thrift and vintage shops in the Broadway-Main area this afternoon.  I've already found some awesome vintage finds, and had to borrow a small bag from my sister to haul them home again!  I'll post pictures next week.

I know people from the hinterlands of BC (or heartland, if you prefer) who carry an extra empty suitcase with them to Vancouver to fill up at the malls.  This week I wandered through the Pacific Centre and Coquitlam Centre, but didn't find anything really attractive or suitable to buy.  The only new things I've bought are practical: a London Fog umbrella (it was pouring when I arrived on Thursday!) and some Clark's waterproof boots.  I actually planned to buy both; and I purposely wore my old worn-out black ankle boots to leave behind when I bought the Clarks (which are really comfortable and great for walking):

I used to take so much enjoyment from traditional shopping, but now all I can think about is how long the clothing will last or look decent.  I suppose this isn't something to be really sad about as I saved money by not buying the mall-stuff, and I don't have to carry an extra suitcase home!  Rather, I have a small bag full of less expensive, previously-loved items.

January 13, 2010

10 day hiatus

Tomorrow I am heading off to Vancouver and the Lower Mainland for work meetings and visiting family.  I probably won't be posting again until the end of the month.

My sister and I plan to visit the Vancouver Flea Market this weekend, so hopefully I will have thrifted treasures to share with you soon.  I'm planning to look for retro Pyrex, Hornsea pottery and vintage 1970s brooches, as well as anything else that catches my eye and can fit on the airplane.

January 12, 2010

Retro Cooking

Tomorrow is Wednesday, which means another installment of mid-century recipes over at No Pattern Required.  This is where she picks several recipes from her collection of vintage cookbooks and documents making and eating them step-by-step.

I love this segment, since I am also in love with cookbooks from the 1940s to the 1970s.  I can't help but pick them up at thrift stores and yard sales, and I particularly love it when I find mementos from the previous owner inside.  Here is a picture of several of my favourite ones...

Once I found a shopping list in a cookbook (not pictured) for fruitcake with the original receipt from 1968.  Because it was the days of manual cash registers, and not computers, there was only a tabulation of prices on the receipt and the total.  The fruitcake-making woman (I'm pretty sure it was a woman) had written the ingredient in teeny tiny script beside each of the till entries.  I've always meant to take the same recipe and and see how much it would cost to make now, as a comparison.  Providing that nothing in my life goes horribly awry, this might be an interesting exercise for next winter.

Most of the time, I find the recipes in these books too bizarre to actually make, although they are highly intriguing.  I'm glad that I can live vicariously through No Pattern Required, though.  Out of the five cookbooks above, I have only ever made anything out of the Fish Cookbook - and it is my go-to recipe for Halibut.

Here's the recipe for "Oven Fried Fish".... (sorry there is only a [bad] picture - I don't have a scanner and am too lazy to type it out)....

With the breading I usually add Parmesan cheese and fresh or dried dill.  This is really the only recipe that I like for Halibut.  I am mostly a vegetarian but do eat seafood.  I usually find Halibut a little too 'meaty' but something about this recipe makes it really savory and good -- probably all the breading and butter!

Which brings me to another thing I love about vintage cookbooks; they come from an era where people really knew how to eat.  What's wrong with breading and butter?  What people ate in these decades were usually made by themselves or their families, and were eaten in moderation at the table.  Luckily, a movement is afoot, inspired by Micheal Pollan, to return to such a lifestyle.  I haven't yet read his new book Food Rules: an Eater's Manual but plan to do so at the earliest opportunity.  Rules such as "Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself" hearken to an earlier time, and is one rule I can follow!  Bring on the oven-fried fish!

January 09, 2010

Sustainability Stream of Consciousness

Since my last two posts have been essentially about thrifting, I thought I should turn to the other part of this blog: leading a sustainable lifestyle.  This is sort of a round-up of what I did this week.

Vehicle usage was minimal.  Hus carpooled to work with a neighbour, and except for Thursday, when I needed the car to do errands, I walked to work and back.  It only takes me about 15 minutes, and I like the time to clear my head on the return.

Food was eaten.  We still had a whole salmon in the freezer.  It should have been eaten months ago, so we though we'd better get to it.  We baked and ate some for dinner on Monday.  Then the next day, we made salmon patties with it including shallots, capers, parsley, bread crumbs etc.  Those were frozen and a few were taken for lunches.  We have some for next week as well.  

I also had to organize a monthly lunch meeting at work.  There are always left-overs, so I brought containers to take home the soup and salad.  We'll eat these for lunch this weekend.

Clothes-swap was planned.  Last night we were invited over to dinner at our friends' house.  Being similar-minded, we got on the topic of clothing and decided to organize a clothes-swap for our circle of female friends in March.  I've never done one, but she has.

Recycling was organized.  I had more paper than usual due to Christmas.  I was very careful to put all the cardboard boxes etc. into the recycling.  But I'm happy to report there was not a shred of wrapping paper.  We unwrapped our gifts carefully, and saved it all for next Christmas.  

January 07, 2010

Sally Ann Bag Sale

After work, I had to head downtown to do some errands.  I haven't been to the thrift shops for weeks, but since the Salvation Army was just down the street from the Post Office (stamps, by the way, are going up by 3 cents each on Monday, so Canadian readers should go stock up) I headed there.  I needed some duo-tangs for work and hoped to find some used one.  I did!  As well as some other school supplies.

At the till, I found out - unbeknownst to me - that this was the monthly bag sale day - fill up a bag for $6.  Giddy-up!  

I stuffed my bag with an assortment of vintage and not-so-vintage wrapping paper.  Check out some of the cool patterns!

There was even more, but that picture was fuzzy.


A lot of people must have done post-Christmas de-cluttering.  So, I got a few Christmas things, although I should mention that I am very choosy with Christmas stuff.  Every year my mother gave my sisters and I a single, unique, ornament.  I don't think my sisters hang theirs, but I do.  That means I really have no bulbs.  I liked the size of these, and three look rather old.

Unfortunately, after I took this picture, I was curious if there actually was a CD in the case.  There wasn't.  But don't worry, the case won't go to waste. I have the perfect project in mind, see. I made about 10 of these this Christmas and had a blast.  Covered with sequins and glitter glue, they looked really good on the tree (and compensated for my lack of bulbs).

I also stashed a red patent leather belt in my bag.  I have to see if it will work with my new-old winter coat (see last post).

And on the theme of accessories, I added this brooch.  Lately, I've been really into vintage pins and brooches.  This isn't vintage - its Hallmark, but I thought I might wear it.  One of my work colleagues always wears crazy pins.  She has a theory that it gives the students something to focus on while she is teaching.  I'm not sure about this, but seeing that she is retiring in the summer, I might take over her tradition.  

Finally, I threw some Canadian publications and music in with the lot.  Good for evening reading and listening.

I also added three other things, but these are destined as gifts, so I can't show you.

January 05, 2010

New Vs. Old

I bought, I thought at the time, a classic winter coat.  I paid a lot for it - around $150 at a boutique known for its quality.  Even the brand marketed itself as quality.  It came with a removable fake fur collar.  Two looks for one!  I wore it for one or two winters.  It had problems.   Once I took off the fur collar, I could never get it back on due to the teeny tiny buttons and elastics.  But the worst - the worst - was that it almost immediately started to get pills, particularly where my arms met my torso.

Exhibit A and B:

 As you can see in the photo, I am holding the fur collar I could never re-attach.  I did gain 10+ pounds since I bought it, but I don't think it was ever right for my pear shape.  After the second winter, I didn't wear it anymore because I felt like a bag lady (not that there's anything wrong with that).

And then this summer, as I was browsing the coats at the Salvation Army I came across this vintage lovely....

I snatched it off the rack before anyone else could (never mind that it was in sweltering August and no one else was in the store).  I quickly examined it.  There were no buttons or no belt, but I could not find a pill anywhere on it.  It is at least thirty to forty years old.  I figured that if it didn't pill in the last forty years, it won't ever.  The inside revealed a red satin lining with a label "Denise Originals by Pierre" A true original! Another label indicated it was Union-made in North America.  (Guess where the new coat was made?)  All this for $8.  Last month I found a belt a the same Sally Ann for $1, and paid the most (about $15) for new buttons.

Here are some close-ups, demonstrating that I can also get two looks out of this coat.


 The only issue I have found with the coat is that the sleeves are a pinch short, but I found some long red polar fleece gloves to compensate for that.

Best of all, most of my female friends and acquaintances have commented on how much they love my coat.  No one ever did that for my former new coat.  

New Vs. Old?  Definitely Old.

What I am coming to love about vintage clothing, is of course, their quality and durability.  Things are not made the way they used to be.  Sweatshop labour in China is no match to goods formerly made by well-paid, unionized North American workers who were proud of their craft.  It is a shame that outsourcing and the 'race to the bottom' has led to the end of the garment industry here.  According to the documentary Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags, 95% of the clothing worn in the United States in 1965 were made there; by 2009 this had been reduced to only 5%!  Want a reason for the economic doldrums?  Here it is.

From a more vain and ascetic point of view, vintage clothing's style and patterning cannot be beat.  This coat has great colours running through it, including a pinky-orangy-red stripe.  Lately when I have been shopping for new clothing, I have been disappointed with the lack of patterns.  Next time you go into a chain store, have a look - nary a pattern to be seen. This of course, is related to the outsourcing and mass production of new clothing.  In Cheap, the author explains that to make money, multinationals have to cater to the common denominator; because patterns tend to be a personal preference, they will not have mass appeal like solid colours will.  I love patterns, therefore I will keep searching out unique vintage finds.

January 03, 2010

First Post

What do people write on their first posts?  I haven't really been following blogs long enough to know.  I guess I should tell you a little about why I decided to write this blog.  I only started to follow blogs (anonymously) this summer.  I had always assumed that blogs were a 'vanity project' in our age of diminishing privacy and Reality TV.  

But, I was soon inspired by the blogs and bloggers that I was reading (many are linked herein).  I found the bloggers so honest about their everyday lives and everyday challenges.  I was captivated by their efforts to reduce their impact on the environment, I was thrilled by the things they scrounged up on the street or in their cupboards, and I lived vicariously through their garage sale finds.  I have changed my perceptions; we should not be modeling our behavior and lives on the people we see on television, we should be modeling ourselves on real people --- each other!  

This blog is a modest attempt to share my passions.  I am not perfect, but I try to live a lifestyle that reduces waste and carbon, and is also beneficial to my health and happiness.  I am a bit of a Luddite, so this blog is a real stretch for me.  I also extend my Ludditism to everyday life; I believe that the 'old' ways were, largely, the correct ways.  Carrying your own reusable bags to the grocery store, eschewing plastics, and cooking and eating whole foods are lost arts that are being rediscovered.  It is important to our planet and ourselves that they are.

Now to thrift shopping.  Growing up, my family went to the occasional garage sale, but in adulthood my sisters and I returned to the frugality of buying perfectly functional used products that come with no packaging.  This summer I also read Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell, which reminded me that today's goods are inferior in ascetics and quality to those of the past.  I will discuss this in my next post, where I compare my last winter coat (purchased new at a posh boutique) with my current one (bought used at the Salvation Army).

So, I feel that I am really stretching myself with this blog, by learning a new skill and by being so 'out there' on the internet.  Until today, I always used the internet as a one-way mirror, I never (and I mean never) participated.  But, I was so inspired by the blogs I was reading, that I felt compelled to join them.