Monthly Archives: November 2009

Retro Christmas, part III

2006, 2008

My last post was written specifically for a contest, and was considerably shorter than my usual stuff. In fact, I’d actually written a much longer post and wound up condensing it to fit within the parameters. But it bothers me. Not that it’s short, but that it’s so severely edited. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year (admittedly, along with most of the other major holidays) and I felt bad about short-changing it. So, here is the rest of that blog post, albeit RE-edited so as to eliminate redundancy.


A previous post was about decorating your house for the holidays in a retro style, with the help of brand-new items from the fine folks at Vermont Country Store. I myself have a silver tinsel tree that I bought from Target a few years back and a felt tree skirt from… I don’t recall from where. But those are attempts to recreate a Christmas that I never experienced, a Christmas built from fond memories of my family’s actual traditions mixed with healthy doses of aluminum trees from Charles Schulz and Jean Shepherd and the fashions of Edith Head as seen in Holiday Inn and White Christmas.

My own, actual Christmas memories include felt stockings decorated with glued-on sequins, real Christmas trees, and the molded (plastic? glass?) Santa figurine that I always hung from the center of our dining room’s opal-glass chandelier. And yes, hanging it involved me climbing onto the dining room table. Sorry, mom and dad! It was my father’s task to deal with the tangled strings of lights each year, but I relished the opportunity to “help” him hang them once the bulbs and fuses had been tested and replaced. There were a few years where we had only white mini-lights on the tree, but most years we used strand after strand of multicolored lights. My favorite lights, though, were the single strand of Paramount bubble lights that must have been a hand-me-down from my grandparents. You can see them in the photo in my previous post, hung at kid-pleasing level.

Our tree was decorated every year with a mishmash of ornaments that had been collected from my grandparents, family friends, and one particular Brownie project involving glue and glitter (that ornament gets placed on my father’s tree every year to this day). There were paper chains that my sister and I made each year. The glass grape clusters which my sister and I threw away when they developed mold, only to later discover (too late) that they’d merely been sprayed with artificial snow. The red-and-white mushroom ornaments that my mom carved from Styrofoam, which we hung toward the bottom of the tree so that cats could swat at something that wasn’t glass (and yet every year, we’d lose at least a couple of glass ornaments to the cats anyway). The buxom craft-dough “cherubim,” another of my mom’s creative holiday projects.

And oh, my mom’s projects. Her sugar cookies were legendary. Batch after batch of dough would be mixed, chilled, rolled out, and cut. Even “naked,” her cookies were tastier than most. But then magic happened: time consuming, painstaking magic. Bowls of royal icing all over the kitchen, dyed brilliant colors. Each cookie was a blank canvas, and what my mother did with them was truly art. Glassy-smooth garnet-red hearts with white “lace” overlays. Icy-blue bells, each one different, and embellished with silver dragées. Elephants, iced pink and “draped” with hand-painted paisley (paisley!) rugs over their backs, complete with tiny, piped-on fringe. My mom had one antique cookie cutter which created the shape of a prim woman with her hair in a bun and her hands on her hips, and mom would decorate each one with a different blouse and skirt, and she never ran out of patterns for her icing textiles. With no exaggeration, I can say that Martha and her minions have NOTHING on what my mom was doing with cookies 30 years ago.


Mom stopped making her cookies years ago, citing the very valid reason of not wanting to go through the incredible effort, nor of wanting to compromise and do a half-assed job of it. Since I now travel each year for Christmas, I’ve been putting up an artificial tree to eliminate any vacation fire hazard. The last few years have been all about color-coordination, while I built up my own stash of ornaments one year at a time.

I wanted to get a real tree this year, like we always had growing up, but my budget insisted that I use one of the artificial trees stashed in my basement. That’s okay. I hung as many ornaments as would fit, but I keep cramming in a few more. And I bought tinsel at an estate sale! I placed it high enough to be out of the cats’ reach. And when night falls, I don’t turn on any other lights, and I let the tree light up the living room. And I smile whenever I look at it.



Filed under family, holidays, nostalgia, vintage

We Wish You A Retro Christmas, part II

Freelance hasn’t kept me as busy as I would have hoped this year. I don’t have the extra money to buy whatever ornaments and decorations strike my fancy, let alone extravagant gifts. Instead, this is an opportunity to rewind to the Christmases of my youth. To use the ornaments I’ve collected from past years of color-coordinated decorating, and to let my tree reflect those childhood memories of color and light. And don’t forget the paper chains!

I’ll drink cocoa, made with my mom’s homemade mix. My outfit, ready for my friends’ annual party: a ’50s-vintage red velvet dress, found at a thrift store and paired with a matching rhinestone necklace, a bargain from Art Deco Dame. In my hair I’ll wear a fascinator, a gift from Erin at Urbanity Studio, and made with a vintage brooch. I’m making as many presents as possible, as part of an unintentionally retro, “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” theme. One thing won’t change, though. The holidays aren’t about what’s on or under my tree. Modern or retro, my holiday is about spending time with my family, both by relation and by choosing. And tinsel! :)


Truth in blogging: Candice DeVille, the author of Super Kawaii Mama, is holding a contest where entrants must write how they’d create the perfect vintage Christmas, in 200 words or less. The lucky winner gets the MOST. AMAZING. EVER. Prize package chock-full of gift certificates from some of my favorite vintage/retro vendors. Click on over for more details on this Very Vintage Christmas Competition.


Filed under family, gardening, holidays, nostalgia, vintage

All I Want For Christmas

pile o' presents given by Wink, 2006

People are asking me what I want for Christmas. How very kind and generous! For anyone who isn’t aware, I keep an ongoing list at and I have finally (to Mandy’s delight, I hope) moved the sold-out or discontinued items under a separate heading.

But there are things that don’t fit neatly into an online shopping list. Such as:

The Ungiftable
– I would like steady contract work, or, barring that…
– A very large sum of no-strings-attached money paired with unsteady contract work

The Unlikely
– Many, many months ago, I found a pair of ’50s or ’60s bronze glitter pumps at Boss Vintage, my favorite reseller here in Denver. The shoes are barely, but definitely, too small. More recently, I spotted a similar pair at Femme Fatale Vintage, but those are also too small. I would like a pair in my size.
– I absolutely love my gold De Weese swimsuit, but I’ve worn it to the annual Tiki Pool Party two years in a row, and it needs a rest. However, how do you “top” a metallic swimsuit embellished with embroidery and rhinestones? I need something fabulous, yet swimable (nothing in velvet, for instance). And, of course, in my size.
– I would be SO HAPPY if my car was the color it is supposed to be. Stealth Gray Pearl (RP24P).
– My car’s antenna is of the power variety. The motor still works, but the mast wore out and then the antenna snapped off a few years ago. This can make listening to the car radio a bit… frustrating. An aftermarket antenna/mast kit is about $55, but I’ve looked up how to replace it and I think it’s beyond my limited skill set. Not to mention my tool set.
– I have what could be considered an obscene number of shoes (although still far fewer than Megan, thankyouverymuch) and desperately lack the shelving required to store them all.

The Ongoing
– Some of you know that I have developed a small collection of tiki mugs. I don’t collect for rarity or value, and I don’t know anything about the few mugs that I have. I just like how they look. I hope to someday have space for little tiki bar and a few display shelves. In the meantime, I’m always on the lookout for more mugs.
– While it’s true that I actually enjoy cheese-in-a-can, for the most part I have a more refined palate. More refined than, say, my budget. Please know that washed-rind cheeses, macarons, springerle, and other fancy foodstuffs are always appreciated. Heck, I’d even appreciate a can of Easy Cheese. Mmmm, snacky!
– A MaxLifeâ„¢ oil change at Valvoline runs about $50 these days, I think. I’m just saying. I know, it’s no fun whatsoever.

Now, how about YOU guys? Whaddya want for Christmas this year?


Filed under holidays

We Wish You a Retro Christmas

One of the things that I do well is shop. I have a bit of free time these days, which I can spend searching online for pretty, useful, and/or elusive things (like a faux-jaguar hat to match my ’60s-vintage coat). As a public service, and to further make it more difficult for me to find time to sew, I thought I might start occasionally posting cool finds that I stumble across on these here digital pages.

As an etsy shop owner, I have a certain bias towards that particular coalition of artisans and vendors. Oh my, there are wonderful treasures to be found there! And, as has hilariously made everyone aware, some real stinkers as well. While you can find many wonderful and perhaps wacky vintage Christmas treasures within the shops there, the Vermont Country Store has a reputation for stocking brand-new versions of those items that you remember from Christmas at your grandparents’ house.


The items shown above are, clockwise from top left:

Truth In Advertising: I am receiving NO compensation or any other “encouragement” from VCS for this post. I was simply tickled by the items in their Christmas catalog and decided to write about them. However, if VCS wants to thank me in some box-at-my-door way, it would be rude of me to refuse a gift. ;)


Filed under holidays, nostalgia, shopping, vintage

Mid-Century Sugar Dispenser

The above is a photo, hastily taken in my father’s kitchen, of my grandmother’s sugar dispenser. With full permission, my dad got it when my grandmother moved to her condo, and was no longer in the mental or physical condition required for entertaining. My grandmother had it for about as long as anyone can remember, and it is a bit of industrial design genius: you pick it up, with your index finger through the loop. With your thumb, you depress the black plastic plunger. From the spout on the opposite side, precisely one “portion” of sugar (I never measured, but probably a teaspoon) drops out and into your cup of steaming tea or coffee. It doesn’t leak. It doesn’t stick. It has never broken. It isn’t ugly. As you might imagine, every member of my immediate family (and a few less-immediate members) want to get their hands on this item. And we have looked for others. Oh, have we looked. The only mark on the item is a very clear “Suko” stamp on the bottom. We have searched etsy, we’ve searched eBay, we’ve searched Google. Nothing. Nothing even like it. And so I now ask you, Dear Readers, have you ever seen anything like this, perhaps in your grandmother’s kitchen? Preferably in your local hardware store, where they have a dusty old case of 24 sugar dispensers that they forgot they even had? WE WILL BUY THEM.


Filed under citizens, family, nostalgia, vintage