July 9, 2014

Thoughts on who I am as I turn 30

Outfit details

1950s nylon (chiffon) scarf: Gift from a dear online friend ♥
White plastic rose stud earrings: Claire's
Navy blue knit shrug: Sears
1980s does 1950s blue and purple floral print dress: Mr. Idaho’s Vintage 
Pine green skinny belt: eBay
Green vintage Prystal bangle bracelet: Last year’s annual Rutland Antiques & Collectibles show
All other bangles: Assorted sources
Vintage purple purse: Yard sale find
Nude seamed nude stockings: eBay
Navy blue faux patent leather pumps: Payless
Lip colour: Clinique Raspberry Glace
Nail Colour: Essie Lilacism

Photography by Tony Cangiano

The internet can can be, and is, a blank canvas of sorts, a medium the likes of which the world had never quite seen prior to its invention and subsequent large scale adoption from the 1990s onward. What started out as an unsettled, unknown barren wilderness is now a city so crowded it makes places like Hong Kong, Mumbai and New York seem like quaint, quiet little villages nestled in some far off woods.

Online, unless somebody is already famous in the real world, and even then to some extent, one can if they so desire, create whatever sort of persona they desire. Not of course, that we all do such. Many strive to be as much like themselves online as they are off, but by the very nature of the fact that our interactions on the web are not the same as those had face-to-face with others in our daily lives, we often end up only sharing or intentionally divulging certain aspects of the whole, much more rounded and/or interesting person that we are.

The truth is incredibly important to me and I've never knowingly or intentionally misrepresented who I am online, but like most people, I value my privacy and as much I am working diligently at getting better at sharing more about myself, there are certain things that I will likely never say or share in the public sphere.

However, the longer the blog, the more I find myself thinking about how there are certain sides to me that I feel rarely, if ever come out in my writing here, as well as certain facts that I've reached a point where I no longer feel like I must hold them fiercely close to my chest, shielding them from the world.

In my daily life, I am - humbly - a very funny person. I crack jokes, make puns, delight in world play, and have a wicked sense of humour. Many people over the years have described me as the funniest woman they've ever known, and yet, oddly or interestingly, depending on how you opt to look at it, my personal brand of humour rarely shines through too brightly in my vintage related writing, perhaps because I'm not penning posts about topics that are inherently funny. I like to slip in a good pun or witty remark every now and then, but that's about the extent of it for the most part here (though every now and then I do love to write an intentionally humour post, such as this year's The real truth behind 15 Canadian stereotypes or 2009's look at Five items I would always/never wear).

Following in the same vein, I also love watching TV shows like Family Guy, American Dad, The Simpsons, The Daily Show, Peep Show (from the UK), How I Meet Your Mother, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Tosh.0, Impractical Jokers, and World's Dumbest. And while we're on the subject of TV, I've never sat through a full episode of any soap opera, am rarely a fan of talk shows, can't stand "real housewives" type of reality shows (which are anything but, in true reality), have a voracious passion for dramas and 80s and 90s sitcoms and have seen every single episode of Sex in the City.

Some people set out, when they begin blogging, making Youtube videos, growing a following on Instagram, or what have you, to craft and shape a specific type of persona. This is not something I did in the slightest, as I believe in sharing the real me with the world, but again, sometimes by the very nature of the web and its complex relationship with privacy, we don't end up letting people see all our good sides, or certain traits that we might not be too fond of end up being magnified in ways we never expected.

For example, I love to write at length on various topics and to be very thorough (there's no such things as being too thorough in most cases, in my books), partner that with the fact that my speech is sometimes for akin to that of Charles Dickens than Gnarls Barkley and it can become all too easy for some people to perhaps view me as being pretentious, or arguably worse, a know-it-all. Good grief! Nothing could be further than from the truth. I loath pretentiousness, which was a trait in a certain family member that I could not stand as a child and swore I would never embody it when I grew up. Much like Socrates and Plato, I know one thing: that I know nothing.

Of course that isn't literally the case, but the sentiment certainly rings true and is something that all lovers of knowledge should ascribe to because there is no shortage of topics to learn and expand our body of knowhow on throughout the - in the greater scheme of all of time - very short time we're fortunate enough to be on this planet.

I am incredibly shy, and yet, at times I can be so brazenly bold that when I later look back at certain actions, I can scarcely believe that I myself carried them out. I am a homebody who also loves to travel, with a wicked sense of wanderlust. I love to sell, always have, always will (so it was only natural that I'd open an Etsy shop one day, as I did this year). I have a complex relationship with money and was, at one point in my life, a stress spender (though thankfully, with help that I will always be truly grateful for from my husband, this is no longer something I frequently find myself in recent years), but have always been great at saving, too, and making sure my true financial priorities were taken care of first and foremost.

And speaking of stress, I am the polar opposite of a stress eater, in fact, I have a hard time swallowing a single bite if I feel consumed by stress, worry, guilt, grief, sadness, or any other strong negative emotion.

Like all of us, I am a product of my past, my present and my dreams about tomorrow. As I sit here this morning on the cusp of my 30th birthday tomorrow, a very substantial part of me feels like I could write for hours about things you don't know about me or which I've only touched on vaguely in the course of my blog's life so far. I want to share more and grow more as a person, both two things that I've been actively working on ever since the rather life altering and affirming experience that our trip to Calgary last September turned out to be for me (a point that I talked about at length in this post).

I am not the same person I was a decade ago on this very same morning. Not by a long shot. Some elements are the same of course, but a billion things have changed. From certain priorities to various hopes. I have far more wrinkles, but way less of my real hair (not sure what I'm talking about there? See this post). I've grown stronger and weaker in different ways. My health, a true shambles since I first became chronically ill at the age of just 18, is, and will - baring major medical breakthroughs - always be a train wreck and constant source of stress and problems, but it doesn't have a complete hold on me. I've learned to make a life for myself in spite of it and to use the lessons it has taught me to become a better, braver, wiser person.

If I could go back in time and speak to myself on the last day of when I was 19, I am sure there are encyclopedia volumes of information that I would tell my young self, but I don't think, if I could do the last decade over again, that I would ultimately want to. I fought those fights, cried those tears, rejoiced in those smiles, won those victories, and learned those lessons once and that is more than enough. The path wasn't always perfect, but it was my road, and I walked it as best I could in the moment, with the tools and love and ingrained sense of hope that I had right then, right there, when I needed it.
There were times in the last decade where it didn't look like I'd make it through to my thirties because of my health, but thankfully, miraculously even, I am still here. Sorry, chronic illnesses (and certain doctors who don't begin to deserve the degrees they hold), I'm still here. This ol' body of mine hasn't won quite yet and I have no plans of letting it do so any time soon.

I left home - a world filled with horrible dysfunction, abuse, sickening lies, manipulation, and endless problems at the tender age of 16, and instantly began making a life for myself from that moment onward (a topic that I'm going to be delving into a bit more in my next post on Friday). I have never given up or given in to people or things that tried to change me. I'd had more than my fair share of that as a child. I grew up far too early and in ways no one should ever have to. I've known poverty and hardship, hunger and the most brutal and vile sides of human nature. I have also never lost my inner child, the glee that I find in cute things, animals, and dressing in feminine styles.

My soft spoken-ness and typically very gentle nature often makes people think that they can walk all over me, but what they don't know is that this seemingly quiet and unassuming kitten has claws (and knows how to use them!). I always know when someone is trying to play me and they'll quickly learn, they aren't about to get away with it on my watch. I have an almost crippling fear of confrontation when it comes to myself, yet I am fiercely protective of those I love and will fight to the death for my dearest and dearest, no matter who I have to go up against.

So much has changed over the past decade. At times it feels like I have lived a lifetime in the span of each of those years. So many were fraught with uncertainty and challenges that at first seemed insurmountable, but which were ultimately tackled or at at least woven in the tapestry of the bigger picture and able to be dealt with in various ways. There were great, sometimes even amazing, points as well and the older I get, the more I not only like, but love who I have, and who I continue to, become.

I have my quirks and my shortcomings, my flaws and my failures, we all do, but I don't let them rule or worry me - for the most part at least - nearly as much as they did ten, seven, five or even two years ago. I am wiser, but still have much to learn and will always continue to do so. The good of the last decade will carry on with me into the next, the bad I've buried in the past. It is not worthy of my time or anguish any longer. I have a new day to experience, a new chapter to begin, and new set of challenges ahead of me.

There will always be elements of who I am that you may not fully know, but I hope that in this post and many more to come, I will show you further sides of who this vintage loving, resilient, bookworm, history buff, happily married, proud pet parent, chronic illness fighting, determined, optimistically realistic, joke cracking, gluten-free, travel adoring, shy, spirited, creative, passion Canadian woman is as I embark on, and embrace, my thirties.

Buckle up and keep the camera at hand, I can already tell it's going to be on heck of an exciting ride - and I wouldn't want it any other way.

July 7, 2014

A birthday party perfect 1950s Borden's Cheesecake recipe

As a child, I would classify myself as having been a fairly adventurous eater. I was rarely picky (sure, like most folks, there were a few foods I really despised, but overall I was quite the little gastronome), usually jumped at the chance to try new dishes, and adored it when my mom "guinea pigged" us with a recipe she'd never made before. And yet, in spite of loving the ingredients in it separately, I wasn't terribly fond of cheesecake when I was little.

I think that part of the reason was that most of the ones that I'd tried were, to be brutally honest, rather subpar. Too dry, too watery, too acidic, too cloying, or just too dull. It was, interestingly enough, a cheesecake made by a Portuguese friend of the family that stared ricotta, not cream cheese, tried somewhere around the age of thirteen that began to sway my taste buds for the first time.

Jump ahead another two or three years once, especially I began baking my own, and this rich, decadent, completely scrumptious dessert had been elevated to the highest echelons of my dessert repertoire and very quickly became one of the most frequently consumed sweet treats on my birthday.

With that particular event rounding the bend again in just three days time, it seemed only fitting to launch this celebratory week with off with a marvelous looking 1950s recipe for Borden's Party Cheesecake (isn't that name wonderfully fitting for a birthday fete dessert?).

{One of, if not "the", mid-twentieth century's best known dairy brands, Borden’s, delivered this classic, elegant, party perfect cheesecake recipe to readers back in 1951 and it remains as appealing today as it did sixty-three years ago. Image source.}

Unlike many cheesecake recipes over the decades, this one does not call for crushed graham crackers or chocolate cookies as the base, instead it suggests one use zwieback, a form of rusk that originated in Germany, spreading to North America via the Mennonite community. While it zwieback can sometimes be found in specialty food shops and well stocked grocery stores in larger cities, most of the time your best bet is to order it online (Amazon, for example, stocks Brandt Der Markenzwieback and Jacobsen's Original Zwieback Snack Toast).

By all means, feel free to use graham crackers, your favourite suitable cookie, or even crushed pretzels here if you prefer. Being a GF myself, for years now I've most commonly used Kinnikinnick Gluten Free Graham Style Crumbs when making cheesecakes myself (they're very tasty and really work well for this purpose).

Despite it's name, this isn't a wildly fancy or over-the-top cheesecake as it stands now by any means, so if you want to jazz it up with your favourite fruit, chocolate, Nutella, caramel, or butterscotch sauce drizzled over top, by all means have at 'er! You could also swirl some fresh fruit, peanut butter, or cocoa power in the batter before baking, if desired. Top it with fruit, chocolate shavings, nuts, chocolate truffles, candied flowers, sprinkles, or mint leaves - and of course, if this is a birthday cake, at least a few candles for the gal or guy of honour to blow out and make a special wish on.

As with most years, I'm still debating what I'm going to make for my birthday dessert right up until the last minute, but as always, a cheesecake (a fresh raspberry and strawberry version of which is what I whipped up for my 29th last year) is definitely in the running. At the moment, it's a bit of a three way tie between a cheesecake, raspberry trifle, and bacon + salted caramel brownies (which, if you've never had, are mind blowingly delicious and can even be made with chicken, turkey or vegetarian bacon).

Given that this is my 30th birthday, a rather big milestone, maybe I should just go to town and make all three! One for each decade of my life that I've lived so far. Hmmm, tempting as that thought is, I'll probably just stick to one and enjoy a generous helping of it as I ring in the next exciting chapter in my life. One which, I hope with all my heart, will be every bit as a sweet as this lovely vintage cheesecake recipe is.

July 5, 2014

Saturday Snapshots: July 5, 2014

 photo 3ccbaff1-ed4d-4f49-aa8a-f94a97cabaa4_zpscf7a65e1.jpg

{A young woman - possibly on her way to the prom (the photo is dated June 14, 1958) - poses in a gorgeous black and white strapless party dress on the front lawn. Wouldn't you just love to borrow that dress for a night?}

{This lovely group shot taken in Holland c. 1939 is captioned, "Hannie and the other secretaries link arms in the sun". They look like a sweet, close-knit group, who I'd happily spend time in typing pool with any day.}

{This great 1950s photo of a Jantzen beauty contest participant goes out to all my vintage loving friends in Portland, because the background info provided for it says that it was snapped in your fine city on Hayden Island one sunny Memorial Day long weekend.}

{In stark contrast to the photo above, many of us are already getting hit with snow again, so it seems only fitting to include a charming outdoors winter photo, such as this one of four 1940s University of Wisconsin students enjoying a spot of tobogganing fun in today's post, too.}

{Vintage wedding photos and even group wedding shots aren't rare, I'm happy to say, but it certainly isn't every day you come across one with as many bridal party members and guests in the same frame as this fantastic 1950s picture. taken in Sussex, England, has.}

{Here a fun looking couple (aren't her slacks great?) pose in front of a beautiful garnet hued Cadillac in Washington, DC - a date of '52 is given, but the poster doesn't indicate if that's for the car, the photo or both.}

{As much as I adore what this stylish young woman is wearing, it was also the fascinating bit of background information that the Flickr poster provided about her that prompted me to share her snap. It would appear that after she passed away later in life, she donated more than $5 million to the Cat Protection Society in Sydney. There's a pet loving lady after my own heart!}

{Give me a V, give me an I, give me an N, give me a T, give me an A, give a G, give me an E, what does that spell? VINTAGE! Go, vintage cheerleaders from 1954 in your adorable circle skirt uniforms!}

{Really, could this attractive young couple who are on their way to Valentine's Day costume party be any more delightfully dressed?}

{Doesn't this terrific shot of numerous female college students on bikes have pre-official-launch-of-the-Tweed-Run Tweed Run vibe written all over it?}

{All images above are from Flickr. To learn more about a specific image, please click on it to be taken to its respective Flickr page.}

♥ ♥ ♥

Early in the spring of 2013, I had an absolutely wonderful dream one night. Before I delve into the details though, it's worth mentioning that, as a general rule, I either tend not to dream at all (that I remember in the morning) or to have very vivid bad dream/nightmares. My dreams are usually stark, detailed, and serious (in terms of subject matter). I've never dreamed - as best I can recall t least - that I was flying through the air or riding a horse through a meadow of wildflowers, to put it mildly. So when I have a genuinely good dream, it's such a noteworthy event that it often stays with me for months or even years afterwards.

Alrighty, now onto the dream itself. I was about my current age, though I don't think we were living in the house we do now, instead we were in a small post-war house (that may or may not actually exist) on what looked to be the street that my high school best friend used to live on. Suddenly I was driven in a car up to this house and knew that a party was being held - my birthday party to be exact.

As I stood on the front lawn, glorious summertime Okanagan sun tap dancing across my shoulders, I began to watch the party guests arrive and quickly realized that I was seeing a steady stream of my very dear online vintage friends enter the house one by one. After everybody was inside, I went in too, and we had a rollicking good time, every last person in full vintage garb, great music and food, and just the best kind of celebratory fun one could ever hope for.

That's it, I woke up as the party wound down, and - honest to goodness - had a smile on my face as I did. Unlike some lucky vintage loving folks who live in larger cities (or towns of any size) that have a vintage community, I'm not in that boat. Though surely there must be at least a few others, I'm the only mid-century wearing person I know of north of the Lower Mainland (the area around, and including, Vancouver), and as a result I don't get to interact with other likeminded folks where I live.

I know that many of us out there are in this same kind of spot, and it can be a lonely one at times, even though the awesomeness that is our online vintage community certainly helps us feel more connected and like other people "get us" when we wear a 1950s cocktail dress or stack of Bakelite bangles nearly up to our arms as we run errands around town.

One doesn't need an interpretation book to crack the dream that I had, it's clearly my subconscious' way of doing something I'd truly love to have happen in real life, but which I know will probably never come to be (attending Viva would probably be one of the closest things to such a fabulous shindig of vintage fans).

This marvelous get-together was real, as Tennyson might have said, only so long as I was asleep, for we are spread across all four corners of the earth, and much as we adore one another, it would almost certainly be impossible to get so many vintage folks out to my wee corner of British Columbia for a day.

It's an awesome thought though, and the kind of feel good dream that really helps to counterbalance all the less than stellar ones I have in a given year.

Though this party wasn't real, the happiness that it brought my way sure was, and that's just about as wonderful as an actual birthday celebration - and who knows, perhaps as time goes on, I really will have the opportunity to meet some of those party guests in person (hey, a gal can always dream - literally! :)).