Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Then, and Now

The menorah Danny's using has been in our family more than fifty years. 
 Here's a photo of my sister lighting it circa 1960. Dig that wallpaper (click photo to enlarge). It was eventually replaced by gigantic op-art orange flowers. There's a reason Judi's hair is so short. Our mother would go to cut our fringe and then want to, "Even it out a bit." Half the time we ended up looking scalped. This looks like one of her better efforts. It doesn't even look like her-for a minute I was sure it was our youngest cousin, but she would have been too young to be trusted with candles at that point.  I remember that table too-it was a foldaway we kept for parties as our kitchen table was round and only seated four. Every gathering, the metal table with the laminate wood grain would get shoved into the kitchen or living room at some strange angle so that some poor soul at the edge would have to contort themselves getting in and out of the seat...but we always fit everyone in without resorting to the dreaded, "Children's Table."
I always wanted an electric menorah where you just screw in another bulb for each night, but I've yet to buy one. I'll have to check the sales in January for one.
I have no clue how Danny managed to get the dreidel to balance long enough for a photo-but he did.
 We've saved some older Christmas ornaments as well. These pine cones have lost most of their glitter, but I still remember the warm autumn day when I took two year old Danny to the park to collect them. We went home with a large bag, and went crazy with glitter and glue.
Not long after the pine cones, Danny made this Godseye from craft sticks and yarn.
Each year, we adorn our tree with gingerbread men that Danny decorates. The copper cutter is really a clown (notice the pointy head) but he's been in my family since my mum was young, and I can't imagine using anything else. I do remember the first time it dawned on us that it was a clown, not a gingerbread man. My mother looked at him (after struggling to roll out some very stiff dough) and remarked, "I wonder why the gingerbread man is a pinhead?"  Ah, memories.
The Cars ornament was a gift from our insurance agent. After the tornado in 2008, we were at the office a few days later filling out paperwork. Danny was still in a bit of shock at the whole thing (as were we) and she wanted to do something nice for him.
"Danny, do you like the movie Cars?" She asked.
He nodded that he did. Di went to the cabinet, and brought out this ornament, left from the previous Christmas. Let me tell you, he clung to that ornament through the hotel stay, and all the clean-up and putting back together at home. The following Christmas, Danny got his first tree, and this was the first ornament hung. It was just a silly, plastic ornament, but it meant a great deal to him then, and it still does hanging front and centre on the tree.
Living up to the, "Like a good neighbour" slogan.
Of course our tree is filled with birds. Sometimes I wonder what the birds at the feeder think peering through the window at all the birds on the tree. "They get gingerbread?! I'm going to get those bastards."

We got to talking about what my favourite holiday presents were as a youngster. Strangely enough, I don't remember all that many presents as I think most of the time my parents just gave us money. The things that stick in my memory were the strange gifts, like the year I was eight, and my mum bought me a Frank Zappa record. I don't know why either, but after a few weeks of listening to, "You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here" I'm certain she regretted it. I'm sure she didn't regret it as much as the Revolutionary War reproduction fife the following year. I never did get very good at playing it without screeching. I gave it to a neighbour's kid when we moved from Boston in 2001. I doubt he ever got good with it either. One Christmas, I woke to a 10 lb. candy cane sitting on the piano bench (we didn't have a fireplace at that house). I suspect it was a gift from one of my dad's customers. We had to chip at the thing with a hammer to get pieces of candy, which was fun until Valentine's day rolled around and we were sick of looking at peppermint. I'm sure it was binned shortly after, and I regret not having a photo of it as I've never seen another like it. One year someone made us matching crochet granny square vests out of pink and white angora. I never wore mine-I can't imagine my sister did either. Then, there was the year my dad brought home a balloon, and a bottle of Benedictine. I was ten. I think he forgot it was Christmas eve, and kind of panicked and bought the first thing he could find at his last customer of the day. Can you imagine presenting a child with a bottle of booze today? Yes, it was a very small bottle, and the drinking age was much lower than it is now, but still. I tried some to be polite, I remember it as medicinal. B&B would have been an entirely different story.

Keeping with the tradition of odd gifts, Danny looked at the strangely wrapped Hanukkah gift tonight and asked, "What is this, some sort of prosthetic leg?"  He couldn't have known how close he was, as once the wrapping paper was off it revealed a theatrical pirate's hook that you can wear over the hand. Mr. ETB bought that one. It wasn't a bottle of Benedictine, but it was close.

Now you share-what's the strangest thing your parents ever bought you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Hanukkah

We're a multi-cultural family, which makes the December holiday season all the more festive. I don't know how other families do it, but we avoid large presents as Hanukkah opting instead for small inexpensive items. When Danny was little, he'd get a Matchbox car for each night, but as he's long outgrown that, we've went for things like interesting erasers, stickers, and items of that sort. I was able to purchase nut-free chocolate coins for playing dreidel (a 4-sided spinning top) which will be a nice treat. The holiday celebrates a miracle that occurred after the sacking of the ancient temple. There was only enough oil to burn in the eternal flame lamp for one night, yet it burned for eight. To remember that, we light a candle in a menorah each evening at sundown for eight days. It is also custom to eat oily foods symbolic of the miraculous oil. In Israel, they do a sort of jelly filled doughnut, but in the American midwest, Potato pancakes (latkes) are more common. We didn't do these at home growing up, but every restaurant had them on the menu which was good enough as I don't think a frying pan in my mother's hands could have ended anything but badly. Frozen latkes are easy enough to heat on a baking sheet in the oven, but as I learned as an adult, grating and frying potatoes isn't nearly as difficult as it is made out to be.

Through trial and error, I've settled on this recipe being best:

Applesauce and sour cream are the typical sides served with potato pancakes, but we've been taking inspiration from our Canadian friends and one year, I came up with this:
Cheese curds and gravy have no place on potato pancakes...oh, what am I saying? Of course they do!

If standing and frying isn't your style, a potato kugel (pudding) is also delicious.

If you really must fry doughnuts, this recipe is excellent. To make a filled doughnut, don't cut a hole, and after frying make a slit in the side, and fill through a pastry tube.

I let Danny finally see where I hid the wrapped the laundry hamper. I knew he'd never look there!

Happy Hannukah.

Monday, December 15, 2014

On Your Toes

"The ballet?! I thought we were going to be at the football."
We didn't really trick him. The football stadium is just down the street from the ballet, but he knew where we were headed. He'd be wearing the right colours though, were he to show up at Memorial Stadium for a Huskers game.
As they have a strict, "No photography" policy, we decided to take some photos at the parking garage across the street. The rain stopped just long enough for us to do a few snaps, then walk across the street to the ballet. I love it when the weather cooperates.
My concerns of being overdressed for a matinee turned out to be unnecessary. Because it is holiday time, there was wall-to-wall cocktail dresses, sequins, velvet and sparkles. Lincoln is our state capitol, but it is a very small town. There's a couple universities here, which does keep the population young-ish, but it is also a very, "Out in the country" feeling place. Going to a ballet is still a big enough deal that people dress for it, which is lovely. It was an exceptionally well behaved crowd-not a phone or camera in sight, and I didn't see much movement in the audience until intermission. Well done, Lincoln.

It was a relaxing weekend-before things get really busy. I have five days to pull Danny's birthday party together, which is always a bit nerve wracking. I don't obsess about Christmas, but the birthday is always a bit of a race. His quilt will be a bit late this year (as I couldn't see out of my left eye for a couple weeks, and then my hands swelled so I couldn't sew) but he's been watching the progress and understands it is getting there. I'm still dealing with (several) complications from the root canal, and as it stands, it still hasn't been completed...because I'm still having nerve related issues. Anyway, enough about that because it is a bummer. Know what isn't a bummer? Taking my almost ten year old to the ballet-he loved it! Danny loves music, and has expressed interest in taking oboe lessons. I admit to being slightly disappointed as I had hopes he'd pursue accordion to the point of someday having his very own polka band, but I suppose the oboe is a perfectly respectable instrument. We do have a piano you know-a piano that sits unloved, collecting dust. No one wants to play it. Oboe? I have no idea where he came up with that-he would have to pick an instrument with expensive reeds.

Outfit Particulars:

 Newish 3 piece beaded suit-Hand-Me-Ups
Velvet and silk coat-Filenes, 20+ years ago
Sara Coventry earrings and brooch-Antique store in WI
Aurora Borealis necklace-Another antique store in WI
Brooch on coat-Marshall Field's about 30 years ago
Velvet and silk Nick and Nora scarf-Goodwill
Laura Ashley shoes-Goodwill
1940 suede bag-Thrift World

Danny's wearing:
 Vintage Orlon cardigan from Thrift World
Pinstripe trousers-K Mart
Broadcloth shirt-K Mart
Tie-nicked from his papa
Christmas braces (penguins) Salvation Army
Snow-globe pin-Hand-Me-Ups

Danny had a haircut yesterday-not obvious, is it? I saw the pile of hair on the floor as evidence, but it mostly came off the front so we can see his eyes. I decided long ago that hair wasn't somewhere I needed to exert parental control. If he's happy washing and brushing it, then so be it. The kid is stylish-he even makes that belt full of eppi-pens and other medications look chic.
I could look chic if I wanted to...but first I have to get this booger out of my nose, so pardon me for a moment...
Oh crud...I dropped it on my coat.
Have a great week!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Pants? Can't Be Bothered

Don't you worry though, I've got tap pants underneath.
It was the day I'd designated for spreading Christmas cheer-that is, I went to deliver homemade jam and Lucia buns to all the people on my list. It was an unseasonably warm day-the sort of day that makes you wonder where the blizzard is that almost always follows this sort of warmth. As it looks like we may never get winter, I went ahead and wore my vintage skating costume knowing I wouldn't be getting anywhere near ice soon...because there isn't any!
What do you mean, "No owl?" I'm wearing a rather large one round my neck. See?
The saffron buns came up especially nice this year.
A tablet attempted to get fresh with me at the store. You have to watch out for those voice-recognition perverts. And you know it is exaggerating. Perhaps six inches, at most.

 Speaking of Naughty Lists, I'm afraid Father Christmas is a bit lecherous as well.
Outfit Particulars:

1970's skater dress-Goodwill
Tights-can't remember
Owl Pendant-Hand-Me-Ups
Earrings-Big Lots
Poinsetta brooch-K Mart
Hair flower-Tiff and Tam
Waistcoat-Esprit, years ago
Boots-K Mart
Vinyl 1970's bag-Goodwill
Belt-Thrift World
Satin coat-Neiman Marcus (by way of Thrift World)
 We bring walkie-talkies to the mall to report naughty children to Father Christmas. I had a security guard rolling his eyes, and a mother laughing so hard I thought she;'d pee her pants. "Come in Sandpiper, I have a naughty child in aisle four. Do you read me?" Great fun.

There was a quick stop at the library as well. 

I made what I *hope* will be my last trip to Hobby Lobby for a while to get more food colour decorating pens for the cookies atop Danny's Birthday cake. Somehow, I left with a cart full of other stuff like seashells (I thought the landlocked kid might like some shells in his Christmas stocking) blown glass figurines, and educational toys. I may wish to re-think a kit that builds a working trebuchet. Ten year old boy+catapult=nothing good. Oh well, we have insurance.

Here's this year's gingerbread house. Not my best work, but acceptable.
I shouldn't do things in a hurry. Still, Danny's happy with it, and the dining room is fragrant with spices. I don't know what happened with the green icing. Thank goodness for candy to disguise could say they were (wait for it) Lifesavers.
 This 1950's cocktail dress is my first choice for tomorrow's ballet. It fits perfectly, and the weather continues to be warm. Still, it is a little...boring.

 This is second choice. Less flattering due to all the sequins, but less boring. It would be difficult to accessorise.

 This is a three piece silk and bead outfit with palazzo pants. The blue is much deeper than the photo suggests, and the beading less obvious. This would be the most comfortable option, but a tad too respectable looking (for me).
The caftan is going to a birthday party at a posh hotel next week, but I couldn't resist showing it to you. I'm going to glam the hell out of this thing.

I'll probably decide as I'm getting dressed, but I have a large can of super-hold Aqua Net and some beautiful rhinestone hair combs so I guess it will be an up-do.

The perfume decants arrived today, but I haven't had a chance to sit down and do a proper assessment. As there's precious little of the Djedi, I want to chose a day when I can take notes, and not have to be around anyone. I don't think wearing it in a crowded theatre would be polite. I did catch a whiff of the vintage Guerlain Vetiver, and now I'm re-thinking giving it to Danny and keeping it for myself. I forgot just how much I love it.

Hope your weekend is going well and that no electronic devices try to get fresh with you.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Don't Jerk and Drive (In South Dakota Anyway)

South Dakota was forced to pull (heh, heh, I said, "pull") their public safety campaign that encouraged people not to, "Jerk and Drive."

Sigh. They should have left it-at least it was attention getting.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Silver Belle

Because everyone needs a silver, satin jumpsuit in their wardrobe. 
(Go on, click the photo to enlarge it, you'll want to see the outfit in all its 80's glory).
You should have seen the shoulder pads I ripped out. They had to be eight inches thick. As the jacket also had absurdly large shoulders, I still managed the 80's silhouette without feeling like I ought to be running with a football.

Wearing this roomy jumpsuit was a little like going out in a really luxe spacesuit. Or hazmat. I should hang onto it for future Halloween inspiration. People kept approaching me at the library to tell me how elegant I looked, which is funny because I was going for edgy. I thought for sure the oversized 80's blazer and wedge trainers would have taken some of the formality out of it. No matter, I'll take a compliment, and you certainly could dress this up with rhinestones and perhaps a velvet coat to transform it into evening wear. 
Now that's how you match a belt. Sometimes I impress myself. The jumpsuit still has the original belt, but this one is nicer. 
Not dressy shoes but oh-so-comfortable. 

 Can you imagine how big the shoulders would look if I hadn't taken the pads out of the jumpsuit? I'm trying to remember how I dealt with this in the 80's, and as far as I can remember, we just wore them. I had a friend that would buy extra ones to stuff into shirts making them even higher. I'm just too short and buxom for huge shoulders, but I love the look on other people.
 That's a pretty badass necklace, but it is made of aluminum and is very lightweight.
The cookies were a huge hit at the library, and one of the volunteers gifted Danny some vintage joke books. "Knock-Knock"
"Go Away!"

The creepy lion on the wall approves. 

Outfit Particulars:

1980's satin jumpsuit-Goodwill .99 cents
Wool double breasted blazer-Goodwill
Wedge trainers-K Mart a couple years ago
Chain necklace-Gordman's
Earrings- K Mart
Rings-Assorted places
Reindeer brooch (on jacket) Hand-Me-Ups
Fragrance-Jovan Woman

I have a couple events this weekend that require a little nicer than usual attire. So of course the big question is, "Sequins, or lace?" Yeah, I know-"Both!" We'll see. 

Almost Friday!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Mummy, Look at the Giant Foil-Wrapped Baked Potato!

Shhhh, honey. That's not a giant baked potato, that's a fat lady wearing too much lurex!
Thankfully, no one tried to squirt any sour cream on me. Eeeeewwwww. 

So yeah, that's a whole hell of a lot of lurex. It isn't obvious in the photo, but both the poloneck and the maxi skirt are shimmery, and the braiding on the top is some sort of silvery rayon, making the effect in sunlight, damn near blinding. If there had been snow on the ground, the glare might have created a genuine hazard to drivers.
The slit originally went to where the buttons are. That might have been OK in 1970's Miami Beach (where the skirt was made) but it would get some looks around Omaha in 2015. I stitched it up a while back, but not so tightly that I can't change my mind. I may retire to Miami, and want to show off my varicose veins.
No point showing off anything here-we don't have a beach. Well, unless you count the Platte River, and I sure as hell won't be wading out into that. 
No one cares what you wear to the indoor swimming pool. I have a mini-holiday planned right before Christmas, but I already have a wild cover-up to wear down to the pool. It was sewn from a bath towel (remember those from the 70's?) which saves me the hassle of remembering to bring one to the pool. Genius. The pre-holiday, holiday is great because I get to swim, watch movies in the room, eat curry, and have my yearly fill of people-watching at the free breakfast in the morning. We just go for a pot of tea, and watch the madness as people fight their way to the free food. In their nightclothes. *Shrug* I wouldn't do it, but then my nightclothes are more interesting than a ratty pair of pajama bottoms and a fleece pullover. I DO wear robes as coats, so maybe that counts? Anyway, I wouldn't go anywhere near that chaos wearing this outfit. "Who ordered the baked potato?!"
Outfit Particulars:

1970's lurex maxi skirt by Bernardo-Goodwill, ages ago
Lurex poloneck-Goodwill
Black and silver top-Hand-Me-Ups
Earrings-K Mart
Fragrance-Bat Sheba

Everyone's coming down with a cold, although I've forbidden them both getting sick. See how well they listen? I can cope with one sick guy, I'm not sure I can deal with two. 

We have a bit of Man-Flu going on.

Good thing I stopped at Aldi this weekend to stock up on berries and oranges. Here's my triumphant, "I just bought a ton of groceries and fresh produce for sixty bucks" pose:
If you think the lurex made me look like a foil wrapped tater, this fake seal fur 60's coat makes me look like a roast. Eh... roast and potatoes go nicely together. I had to dress-up, my local Aldi is like a fashion runway at the weekend. The crowd is multi-cultural (excellent) and I have seen some of the most incredible silks, brocades, and batik, walking the aisles in search of a good deal on tomatoes. Perhaps the only place where I am routinely under-dressed. I do love a trip to the Aldi, not just for the bargains and fashion show, but for the mood of the place. It is a cheerful shopping experience. Everyone's saving money, whole families are shopping together, children are playing and having fun-go to HyVee and compare the vibe. Not even close. It feels more like a souq than a grocery store, and increasingly they're selling much more than grocery items. I'm not being compensated in any way to write about Aldi. I shop there, and I enjoy it.
Yes, there's a bit of lurex in this silk cardigan as well. Finally wore the wreath earrings! They kept brushing my face and it was becoming itchy, so I re-wired them onto larger loops. Problem solved.
Hey kids, here's a good example of how not to match patterns. I'd be ashamed if I'd sewn it, but it was made by Koret of California. I always thought they were a good brand, but someone really blew it on this skirt.

Guess I won't stand sideways then.
Or perhaps I'll just distract everyone with awesome plaid shoes. They're not just for Christmas. My younger self would have worn them with ripped fishnets.

I finished baking the cookies for the library volunteers on Thursday. I went with spritz as it is easier to force dough through a press than roll, cut and frost. I always forget I have a superb, vintage Swedish cookie press, and it really only sees use at Christmas. That's too bad, because it would make beautiful cheese crackers, and that sort of thing. I must make an effort to use it more in the coming year.

Outfit Particulars:
#1(The Lurex Nightmare)

1970's Bernardo maxi skirt-Goodwill
Lurex poloneck-Goodwill
Black and silver top-Hand-Me-Ups
Earrings- K Mart
Enameled bangle-Gordman's
Fragrance-Metal (duh)

#2 (I Knocked Your Nan Over in the Street,  and Took Her Blouse (and bus pass) ).

 1970's Koret of California skirt-Thrift World
1980's blouse-Salvation Army
Lurex and silk cardigan-Marshall Field's 80's
Wreath earrings-Big Lots
1940's brooch-Goodwill
Plaid shoes-Goodwill
Belt-Shop Ko
Faux seal coat-Thrift World

 You want your fancy blouse back Granny? Come over here and get it!