August 29, 2015

This great 1950s Pineapple Marshmallow Dessert recipe captures the essence of summer perfectly

Hard as it is to believe, August is coming to an end (*shudders*). The Labour Day long weekend is here and I, like many folks, love to use it as a great excuse to get in at least one more big, festive, fabulous seasonal feast.

While I am looking forward to autumn and its rich harvest, I'm not ready to wave buh-bye to summer and its sensational culinary offerings either, which is why I've been crazy for this super fun vintage recipe for Pineapple Marshmallow Dessert as of late.

It's dead simple to make, is fairly budget friendly, can be made gluten-free in a snap (just use GF graham crackers, such as those from Kinnikinnick, which are also egg-free to boot, and ensure that your marshmallows are GF, too - Kraft's always are, so that's the brand I stick with), and is such an enjoyable medley of tastes and textures.

{Sweet with a hint of appealing tang from the pineapple, crunchy, gooey and warm all at the same time, this fun 1950s dessert recipe is so evocative of the era it hails from and will be a welcome treat on any table this Labour Day long weekend (or any other time of the year!). Vintage recipe image source.}

This fun vintage pineapple dessert recipe is somewhat redolent of s'mores sans chocolate, which makes me adore it all the more (I’m a die-hard s’mores fan!), and would also be sensational for any sort of tiki, Hawaiian, or South Pacific themed dinner and/or party.

The walnuts are nice, but not necessary, and can easily be left out or swapped for another nut of your choice. Though they do tend to burn easily, Brazil and macadamia nuts would both be great choices here that would up the tropical treat factor all the more.

It's also really enjoyable served warm from oven with a generous scope of vanilla, berry, peach, caramel, coconut, or white chocolate ice cream (dairy or non-dairy, as desired) on top. If you only have canned pineapple chunks or tidbits, you can easily use those here, too, though full rings do look especially pretty and really channel a great mid-century vibe that can't help but make one think of pineapple upside down cake.

Quick, delicious, festive and fun, this charming 1950s pineapple marshmallow dessert is just the thing to help capture all that's wonderful about the last few weeks of summertime eating and is sure to become as a firm a favourite with your family as it already has with mine.

Have a stellar, sunny, beautiful last weekend of August, everyone! (I'm off to do some end-of-the-season yard saling while I still can!)

August 27, 2015

12 rapid fire questions with famed jazz band leader Glenn Crytzer

Without a doubt one of the most interesting and enjoyable aspects of being a part of the vintage subculture is the fact that I get to meet many fascinating folks who, while not necessarily bloggers themselves, are every bit as an integral a part of the scene as those who are.

Sometimes they're hot rod and classic car enthusiasts, other times they're vintage sellers who don't dabble too much online. Sometimes they're professional historians or genealogists who work focuses (at least in part) on the decades I hold most dear, and many are entertainers from all manner of fields, the music industry very much included.

It is in this latter camp that I first came to know, through the web, legendary American jazz band leader Glenn Crytzer (whose current group is called the Glenn Crytzer's Savoy Seven), who is also well acclaimed as a composer, guitarist, banjoist, and singer. Music is clearly in this man's veins and radiates out in each project that he throws his heart and soul into.

Earlier this year Glenn gave me a shout and invited me to listen to his newest album, Uptown Jump, which is a stellar modern creation that is almost hauntingly mid-century sounding in its authentic jazz/big band era-ness. I've listed to a fair bit of Glenn's previous works (Uptown Jump is his sixth album to date) and was always struck by the same thing, but perhaps no more so than with the eighteen tracks on this gleefully enjoyable offering.

This is the kind of album that deserves a place on your shelves (or digital music listing device of choice) every bit as much as anything ever dreamed up by the likes Harry James, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey or any of the other 1930s and 40s greats of the industry. For while Glenn's work shares much in common with that of the best of the best from decades past, one picks up a sense of deeply appealing originality instantly in his music and that makes you fall for it all the more.

There is a smooth richness and electric energy to the fantastic tunes that appears on Uptown Jump and it will have you moving passionately to the beat without even realizing it. This is vintage sounding big band swing and jazz at its purest, sweetest, and most sublime.

I hadn't even gotten halfway through the first track ("The Savoy Special") when I knew that I had to pick Glenn's brain and share the results here with all of you. Settle in, enjoy these twelve rapid fire questions with the man behind the (big band) music and then be sure to give Uptown Jump a listen yourself.

1. Your latest album, Uptown Jump, is a toe tapping, fantastic compilation of songs that channel the distinct sound of mid-century swing era music, but which were, impressively, I may add, composed, arranged and performed by yourself and your band mates. What was the main motivation behind creating a completely new roster of songs, instead of covering previous titles from the big band era?

In the last 10 or so years, a lot of young musicians have taken up the torch of performing swing music and traditional jazz, helping to revive music that was on the verge of dying out. But, one of the things I think that the scene today needs to stay vibrant is to bring new songs into the mix. There are tens of thousands of old songs that are amazing so it's not like we don't have ENOUGH songs, but I think that without creating new material, vintage jazz music becomes more of a museum piece rather than a viable art form.

Right now, you don't see much of people playing the tunes of their contemporaries. I hope that the idea of playing each other's tunes will grow on people in the next 10 years. I'd love to walk into a jam session and find people playing one of my tunes or a tune of one of my friends' right along side tunes by Gershwin or Jelly Roll Morton or Jimmy McHugh. When we start playing one another's music it opens the door for composers of today who write a great tune to have it become one of the "standards" and it gives instrumentalists the chance to create interpretations of something new, just as their predecessors did.

I'm planning a concert for next April with my 7 piece group that's going to be all original stuff from myself and other colleagues who are writing tunes. I'm hoping that this will bring some more focus to living song writers who are writing really good, swingin' tunes, and maybe even encourage other people to play some of our music.

2. Going forward, do you suspect that you'll create more completely original albums like this?

Yep. This is my 3rd go at a completely original record. Harlem Mad was my first, in 2009, and then we released an all original EP in 2013 called "Focus Pocus." I like doing it because it gives the band the chance to be the first players to record something and put it in the world. There's something special about that.

3. What are some of the biggest influences in the sound and soul, if you will, of your music?

Well, there are the obvious influences - the old dance bands and combos led by Basie, Goodman, Shaw, Ellington and their contemporaries. But the two other big influences are the the musicians I am writing for and the dancers in the audience.

It's my goal as a composer and an arranger to put players in musical situations that make them shine brighter as an instrumentalist than they would in a typical "head tune" situation. A head tune situation is what you hear in most jazz performances - the trumpet takes the melody, everybody takes a solo chorus or two and then they play the melody again to end the tune. That's 90% of jazz performances. In that situation each instrumentalist is going to get a long solo on which to express himself, but there's nothing really highlighting their unique abilities and there's a sameness to the form of every song.

In my composing and arranging, I'm thinking about ways that I can use each guy's unique talents, their personality and sound in the the service of creating a 3 minute musical journey, taking our listeners from point A to point B. Guys aren't going to get as long of solos in a situation like this, but I'm giving their solos a larger context that really makes them stand out and shine more than they would in a daisy chain of chorus after chorus. I'm also giving them the chance to use a wider range of colors in their sonic pallet because the arrangement is demanding a particular thing of them in a particular moment.

I'm also thinking a lot about the dancers in our audience - I've been dancing lindy hop myself for about 16 years and that's how I got into this music in the first place. There are different elements of the music that dancers react to: style, the flow of an arrangement, tempo, energy, etc. More advanced listeners are going to hear more of what's going on in each of those categories and be able to respond to it in their dancing. It's always my goal to make music that a dancer isn't going to outgrow by becoming a better listener. I try to make the music that you can have really fulfilling, interesting dances to, that you can connect with on a deeper level - where the style is right and the arrangements are interesting and the energy comes from inside the music.

4. For those who may not be familiar yet with your work, how long have you been a musician? 

I've been a jazz musician for about 10 years. I started playing jazz banjo just for fun in 2005, and took up guitar in 2008. I started going it full-time in 2011. Prior to that, I studied classical cello and composition in college and conservatory. So I've been playing music all my life, but jazz I've taken on more recently.

5. Is being a musician your full time career at this point?

Answered above. :)

6. When you create a new song or album, do you picture a specific (hypothetical) target audience member in mind or do you like to create for the masses, so to speak, and then enjoy seeing who flocks to your work after it has been released?

My goal is always to make music that is interesting to listen to and perfect to dance to. My definition of what is "good" comes from a deep understanding of music and dancing rather than what is most marketable. After all if I were in the music business to become rich and famous I wouldn't be playing vintage jazz - so I don't really see any reason to sell out in a genre where the stakes are so low anyway!

So I guess my target audience is people who are really hip listeners - whether they're just there to listen or they're interpreting what they're listening to as dancers. They're really checking out what a tune has to say and how we're saying it as performers.

I consistently find that the people in the listening or dancing scene who are into what I'm doing are intelligent, insightful, interesting people. Our fans usually have really observant things to say about music, they often hip me to songs or other performers I might like to check out, or sometimes they tell me about totally interesting stuff, history, science, politics, etc. that has nothing to do with our music but that is fascinating. It's nice to be surrounded by people like that.

7. Your music heavily (and beautifully!) echos that of the jazz/swing/big band styles of the 1920s - 1940s. Is there a specific decade in particular that you feel drawn to from a music standpoint, and if so, which one?

Basically 20s through 40s is my thing, but I try not to mix and match eras within a tune. I think that the "generification", if you will, of vintage music is a really negative thing. I see this a lot in the dance scene where people will be doing 1940s Frankie Manningesque swing outs to some band playing really hot 1920s music. It just looks silly - the movement has nothing to do with the music, but people lump it together as a genre more and more and mix and match it. I think that's sad, because you lose all the interesting parts of the music that way.

So for me, I really try to nail a specific style, but to find my own voice within that style. I think "if I were alive in 1941, what would I be playing/writing?" Sure it'd be influenced by Duke, and Basie, and Goodman, but I wouldn't be running a tribute band to one of those guys, I'd be trying to do my own thing.

8. What are some of the ways in which living such a music filled life has enriched your world on a personal basis?

Well, as I mentioned above, I get to meet a lot of really interesting people. I get to travel, I get to explore my creativity on a daily basis.

It also takes a lot of self-discipline to have a non-traditional sort of job. You have to set your own goals and stick to them. You have to be your own worst critic. There's not a lot of safety net, and you have to deal with situations all the time that are unfair. Rejection is a way of life. This stuff wrecks some people, but if you can survive it it makes you a stronger person.

I think the most gratifying thing I get out of music, and probably the one that keeps me going when it is difficult, is that I get to do something that enriches other people's internal lives. If I can make your day better with music, then that's pretty great.

9. What's something interesting that you wish more folks knew about your music, that they might not (already) be aware of?

I'm not sure on this one. Have to think about it.

10. Are you touring to promote your your current album?

Nope. No touring planned. I was in a car accident about 2 years ago where I broke my wrist and shoulder on tour, spent several days in the hospital and couldn't play for 3 months. So, I'm not super keen to drive around for weeks on highways in a van and repeat my experience. We might head out to some specific areas for a week or so though. Some things in the works I can't talk about just yet!

11. Have you begun work on your next album or are you savouring the enjoyment of working with the tracks from this one at moment?

Just enjoying having this one knocked out! When the next one comes - who knows!?

12. And last not least, because this is a vintage style centered blog after all and I'm sure some of my readers will be curious about this point, do you wear vintage fashions often/all the time yourself, and what other areas (if applicable of your life) do you enjoy filling with vintage items?

In general if you show up to a vintage jazz gig in NYC mis-dressed nobody will take you seriously. Most recently I picked up a nice repro navy boating jacket with white piping for summer wear.

My next project will be getting a 3 piece, double breasted suit with a belted back made from some fabric I scored at the Boardwalk Empire fire sale a while back. Hopefully I can get that made this fall - I'm really looking forward to it.

♪  ♫  ♪

Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us here, Glenn. I know what a busy chap you are and I really appreciate that you wanted to share more about your work with my vintage adoring audience, many of whom are as wild for old school sounding tunes as you and I both are. I've had Uptown Jump on heavy rotation all summer long and find it as fresh and energizing each time I listen to it as when I first heard these catchy new  eighteen songs.

Are you familiar with Mr. Crytzer's work? Have you listed to Uptown Jump yourself? Are you a fan of big band music, too? (If you're fairly new to the genre, this album really is a superb introduction to the kind of top-notch modern does vintage offerings that are on the scene these days!)

I swear, I've been thinking for a few months now about writing more often about old school music, as it's a huge love of mine, and I’m thrilled that this interview with Glenn gave me the chance to do just that. If you'd like to see further posts focused on vintage (and vintage sounding) tunes here in the future, please don't hesitate to leave a comment and let me know. It's definitely a topic that I'd be game to write about more often!

August 25, 2015

Splish splash, 1960s style

Outfit details

C. late 1950s/1960s lilac purple pillbox hat: Gift from a dear friend ♥
Floral cluster earrings: Claire's
C. 1960s pink floral print dress: Mintage
Gold tone oversized chain link bracelet: Payless
1950s/60s lilac purple gloves: Artistic Endeavors 1
1950s/60s navy blue handbag: Frugal Frocks
Nude toned nude seam stockings: eBay
Navy blue patent pumps: Payless
Lip colour: MAC Party Line

Photography by Tony Cangiano

It's hardly a state secret that I'm a die-hard fan of 1940s and 50s fashions and looks which are strongly centered around, or inspired by, those decades are my usual go-tos. Yet, every now and then I get a strong urge - as many of us vintage loving folks do - to dabble in an ensemble that calls to mind another decade.

With Mad Men, my favourite TV show of the last decade, wrapping up in May, the 1960s were strongly on my mind and I decided that it was high time that I finally showed you guys the kind of look I'm apt to slip into when I when I'm in the mood for early sixties fashions.

I actually really adore a lot of the highly feminine styles of the first part of that transformative decade, so that's what I reach for more often than not when a sixties mood strikes. Mod styles, fun as they are, don't usually look good on me and I haven't rocked much in the way of hippie/boho styles since my teen years I do however have a perpetual affinity for the ladylike glamour and beauty of the early sixties and feel that this pastel filled look channels that vibe wonderfully.

One of the fun challenges of living in a small town is continually finding new locations to shot in (I have no qualms with reusing locations, especially at different times of the year, but variety is the spice of life as they say!). Tony and I recently realized that we'd never shot in front of a fountain, so on a sun-kissed afternoon in late May, we made our way down to the very splashy fountain that stands in front our town's casino.

Located right on the beach at Okanagan Lake, the aptly named Lakeshore Resort and Casino isn't a place I spend much time (I've never been one for gambling - I'd rather spend my pocket money on vintage items or craft supplies!), but it does have some lovely landscaping outside, including this fountain and so we beelined it over there and proceeded to get a very chilly shower all in the name of a fun (fabulously bokeh filled) photo shot.

This dress, a circa late 50s or, far more likely, early 60s zipper front house/day dress is one of the items that I picked up for myself last year at the renowned Canadian vintage shop Mintage, located in Vancouver (blogged about here). I pulled on the hints of lilac purple in the wee floral pattern of the dress for my choice of hats, a breathtaking light purple pillbox topped off with millinery flowers that was a treasured gift from a very dear fellow vintage loving friend a while back.

I'd not shared either of these pieces on my blog before, so teaming them up together felt all the more natural and I have to say, I really love the girly meets fabulously sophisticated vibe that they channel.

To this stylish sixties hat and frock, I added a 1950s/60s navy blue handbag, lilac hued gloves from the same time frame, sweet little modern floral earrings that look the old school part, a chunky gold tone link bracelet (also a nod to the sixties), and navy blue patent pumps. The hat and dress themselves are quite bold, so I didn't go overboard with my accessories here at all. I wanted those two pieces to be the stars of the show and for my embellishments to play supporting rolls.

Though I don't go over the swinging sixties side too often, I must admit, the older I get, the more I find that deeply feminine looks from the start of the era appeal to me (as touched on in this post at the start of the year). And you know, if I happen upon more garments from that time frame that I adore as much as I do this hat and dress, you could very easily be seeing me rocking more sixties looks here every now then - though, in all likelihood, not always in front of a fountain.

It's one thing to get an icy impromptu shower when it's 25 degrees (Celsius) out, it's another entirely when there's snow on the ground! But much as with dressing outside of your usual decade(s), every now and then it's not only enjoyable, but important, to try something fresh, be it with your outfit, your photo shoot location, or both. Who knows, maybe I'll even show you guys my spin on seventies attire  one of these days! :)

*PS* Rather amazingly, a mere few days after we took these photos, a cougar wandered into town from the hills (this isn't surprising really given the vast deer population that we have on our streets here) and was humanely tranquilized (and relocated outside of town) literally just a handful of feet away from the very spot where I was standing when these photos were taken. Could you imagine what might have happened if it had shown up when we there? Yikes!