Friday, May 28, 2010

A Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On

When it comes to doing things around the house, or rather, doing things right around the house, who better to turn to then your mom or grandma? These are the women that have been through it all, so they know exactly what to do and how to do it. You can't put a price on their knowledge. So when I saw the book How to Sew a Button by Erin Bried I quickly started perusing through it. The author, who is a senior staff writer at Self Magazine, has collected a wide variety of tips and tricks for everything from how to unclog a toilet to how to make a pie. I of course immediately went to the chapter on entertaining. With Memorial Day weekend upon us, I decided I would give the classic martini another try. A few years ago I was at Maria's Italian Kitchen in Pasadena waiting for our table at Kabuki, which is next door. I chose to order a classic martini, having seen this stylish drink in movies and TV shows galore. I mean the people that order and drink this cocktail always look so debonnaire and wordly. Hello? James Bond. If so many people swear by this drink, it must be good right? Well for me, quite frankly, it was disgusting. It tasted like rubbing alcohol! I was pretty appalled. I managed to finish about half of it, but only with really small sips. That experience completely turned me off to that cocktail. I do admit I usually prefer much sweeter drinks, but I'll try almost anything once, and now I guess twice. I would like to think that the bartender just didn't know how to mix a good martini. So with that I'm going to give the martini another try. Bried includes ten grandmothers in her book who offer up their hard-earned wisdom. In the chapter on entertaining she covers how to make your own beer, your own dandelion wine and of course how to mix the perfect cocktail. For this martini she uses 2 ounces of gin, 1 ounce of dry vermouth, a dash of orange bitters, and a lemon twist at the end. Of course I shook and did not stir. The result? A potent, aromatic, and refreshing drink. I can't say that I loved it, because even though it wasn't like gulping down a mouthful of rubbing alcohol, it wasn't exactly what I'm used to drinking. I like my drinks sweet. Not sickly sweet, but still with a sweet edge, and this drink is just too intense and sharp for my taste buds. I could detect the layers of flavors within the gin and the orange bitters, but I just needed more sweetness. I do have to say that it packs a punch - not a sissy drink by any means. At the very least I'm ready to watch one of my favorite shows on the big screen again tomorrow, and I won't be wondering how those martinis taste for Samantha, Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda.

My Classic Martini
From what I've read, this is a classic martini (and by the way there is an endless amount written about the martini, all the different versions, the "rhythm" that should be employed when shaking, the garnishes, the origin of the name, the ratios of gin to vermouth, vodka vs. gin, etc, etc, etc....). There is also a dirty martini, that uses olive juice and olives, but I will definitely have to try that one from a professional. I'll just make sure to get reviews first.
Book Cover Photo: From website

Friday, May 21, 2010

My Look Back: 1958

Today is my mom's birthday. And because she was born in one of my favorite decades, I decided to take a personal look back at 1958, the year she was born. I found several photographs in the LIFE photo archive that caught my eye. I also found that a whole lot of things happened that year, here are a few that I think are worth mentioning (in no particular order whatsoever):
  • Lana Turner's daughter, Cheryl, fatally stabs Johnny Stompanato, her mother's lover and a purported gangster.
  • The first ever regular season baseball game is played in California on April 15th 1958.
  • Madonna Louise Ciccone is born in Bay City, Michigan on August 16th and Michael Jackson is born on August 29th in Gary, Indiana.
  • Egypt and Syria unite to form the United Arab Republic.
  • Sputnik 1 falls out of orbit and onto Earth.
  • and Joanne Woodward wins the Best Actress Oscar for The Three Faces of Eve. She also married Paul Newman in January of that year.

This first photograph is from May of 1958 at the Meadowbrook May Festival taken by Thomas D. Mcavoy. I'm not sure where Meadowbrook is. There seems to be a neighborhood in the Lake District of Seattle, Washington named Meadowbrook, and there is a Meadowbrook Music Festival that happens every year in Rochester Hills, Michigan. But in this picture the May Festival king (Randy Blake) is crowning his queen (Carol Ellis). Don't they look exactly like miniature versions of a high school prom king and queen? Adorable. I love her lace ballgown with matching gloves and the carnation in his lapel. I am all for bringing back the carnation, by the way.
Another picture that features a fabulous dress is this one from a series of photographs taken by Paul Schutzer. The title from the LIFE photo archives simply says "Kids out of school in Virginia". Most of the other pictures feature a couple in a park setting. I would like to imagine that they are doing an engagement session and that part of the story is the bride getting her dress fitted. The gown itself is very reminiscent of gowns worn by Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Grace Kelly. It's a very classic 1950's ballgown with a sweetheart neckline and lace overlay in a long sleeve style. Beautiful.

And finally something pretty unrelated to the previous photographs, but noteworthy nonetheless, I came across this picture from the Eden Roc Night Club in Miami, Florida of Egyptian twins performing a belly dance routine (taken by Lynn Pelham). I love belly dance. I've even taken a few classes. Mostly I like the hip belts and scarves we use, and I have collected quite a few. It looks like they are performing American Belly Dance, which has its origins in the United States during the World's Fair of 1893 in Chicago. Beginning in the 1930's, dancers would perform this style of belly dance in nightclubs and restaurants. The Eden Roc itself is still in Miami, but is now touted as "The Bold New Eden Roc" (still no 'k').

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Glass of Milk a Day....

It wasn't until I was house hunting last summer that I came across a milk box or milk door. My house is only the second house I saw that had one. The first house (which we did not end up purchasing) had an even more elaborate one called a "Milko-Box" that had dials and a list of other items besides milk, like whipping cream, eggs, cottage cheese and even a slot for "nothing" (ha!). I knew that milk and other grocery items were delivered back in the day. I mean, who doesn't? But I had never actually seen this contraption. I absolutely love it. I can't find a use for it now, but I love that it's there. Just the idea that a delivery person would ride up to your house and place a bottle of fresh, cold milk in that little space is so charming. I could only find a few resources on the internet that have to do with this bygone method of food delivery and architecture, and there is actually a group on with photographs of milk doors, 48 so far. I'm thinking of adding my own. Among those images I found this picture of a milk door from the 1950's in the creative commons of This one actually looks like a set of double doors near a back porch. The style of the house is much different than mine, and it looks like it is from Milwaukee. Other ones that I liked include one that is made by the Durasteel Products Company of Los Angeles, CA, and one that is painted a bright turquoise with just the word milk on the outside. Our door also has this simple style, including the outline of an actual milk bottle, and maybe one day I will find a good use for it. I wonder if I can get someone to deliver a cold drink through it for me one of these days?
Our Milk Door

1950's Photo: From purpleslog Flickr page

Friday, May 7, 2010

My Look Back: 1941

Back when I was house hunting before purchasing the house I currently live in I paid extra close attention to the years the houses were built. I was especially drawn to houses built in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. The older the better if you ask me. I know it’s clich├ęd, but they really don’t build them like they used to. We saw houses that were built in the 1970’s and 1980’s and you could practically hear each other breathe through those cheap, thin walls, not to mention that architectural details are almost non-existent, and frankly I’m not a fan of the open floor plan. Viewing older homes I came across several very charming houses that included details that you just don’t see anymore, like coved ceilings, inlaid floors, and curved walls. Our house was built in 1941, and next year I will celebrate its 70th birthday (still deciding on what kind of cake it prefers - red velvet? tres leches? hmmmm). The architecture is extremely simple in our house. The fireplace is the most elaborate piece. If at one point it had crown mouldings, they are absent today, which is a project I plan to take on in the next few months. It does have a chair rail in the dining room, which I love, a curved detail in the hallway closet, a built-in ironing board, and this really great detail that harkens back to the days of milk deliveries (more on that in my next post). I think perhaps since it was 1941 and World War II was going on, builders probably relinquished most adornments and extra details when building a house. Nonetheless I love my house, and my interest in the year it was built led me to find several images from 1941.

The first is an advertisement for Coty Air Spun Makeup. The image is from the website, and it features a beautiful blonde wearing red lipstick of course. I really love the colorful containers pictured at the bottom of the ad. And what about those prices! $1 dollar for the air spun powder and 50 cents for the rouge. You even get shade suggestions for brunettes and blondes (don't know what the red-heads or raven-haired girls will do).
The next image I found and liked is one from April 1941 by photographer William C. Shrout, from the LIFE photo archive. It features Dorothy Lamour during a soldiers party on a beach in Hawaii. The young man accompanying her is carrying a small dog, which I thought was really cute (although the dog doesn't look all that happy to be there). Earlier that year, in January, soldiers held another party in her honor where Dorothy dined with the soldiers in the mess hall. Since she was considered to be one of the most popular pinup girls of that era, I can only imagine the thrill these servicemen got from interacting with the movie star. As part of the war effort, Dorothy Lamour, along with other Hollywood stars, toured the country promoting the purchase of U.S. government bonds. The actress was born in New Orleans and was 27 that year. Her movie, Aloma of the South Seas, was released in August 1941.
Another one that caught my eye is actually from Australia. The photograph shows two models outside the Minerva French Perfumery in Kings Cross, Sydney (photograph by Russell Roberts). The fashion of the time is really apparent, with the two women wearing hats, gloves, dresses, beautiful jeweled brooches, and one of them is wearing what looks to be a fox fur stole. I love this about decades past - men and women really took care in what they wore. I mean have you ever seen an I Love Lucy episode when Ricky is not wearing a suit and tie (besides the one where he refuses to throw out his old clothes)? Lucy even cleans in a dress! When I vacuum you'll find me in my pajamas and a pair of socks. I could go on with this, but I'll save it for another post. I also love the picture because of the perfumery itself. The curved walls of the facade and the lettering is so emblematic of the time period. All in all, 1941 was a very stylish year even with a war blazing on.