A Sparkling Vintage Life

AtoZ

P is for Pearls

Photo source; The White House

Since hearing of the April 17 death of former First Lady Barbara Bush, I’ve been remembering her iconic strands of pearls. So I was charmed to learn about the #pearlsforBarbara hashtag, with people remembering Barbara with their own pearl images and stories.

Pearls. A timeless, classic look for a classy lady. It’s time to bring them back into style–not that they’ve ever really gone out.

 

M is for Mascara (and Maybelline)

Image source: retro-advertising.com

If there’s one cosmetic I hate to leave the house without, it’s mascara. Unadorned, my pale lashes cause people to ask if I’m feeling a bit peaked, to use  an antique euphemism for you look like death warmed over.

Today on M-day I’m lumping “mascara” and “Maybelline” together because, for many years, the two words were synonymous. According to The Maybelline Story, a book written by Sharrie Williams (grandniece of Maybelline’s founder), in 1915 Tom Lyle Williams developed a compound to help his sister, Mabel, who had singed her eyebrows and eyelashes in a kitchen accident. Tom observed how she mixed coal dust with Vaseline petroleum jelly to darken the remaining hairs. Armed with a rudimentary chemistry set, Tom worked https://www.amazon.com/Maybelline-Spirited-Family-Dynasty-Behind-ebook/dp/B008RDGIVCout a more suitable substitute. Ultimately the final product–not yet called mascara but simply “Maybelline,” as in “Wait here while I put on my Maybelline”–was manufactured by the Parke-Davis Laboratories in Michigan. Tom Lyle (always the two names together) named his company after Mabel, the product’s inspiration, who was employed at the company, along with several other family members.

While some sources credit Frenchman Edouard Rimmel, a perfumer, with the inventing the product. Rimmel’s mascara also was a mixture of coal dust and Vaseline, Maybelline surely did invent the cake mascara, which consisted of a solid cake of mascara in a tin, accompanied by a tiny applicator brush. (Today Besame Cosmetics makes an up-to-date version of cake mascara, which is surprisingly versatile as an eye liner and brow darkener as well. I’ve been using it with excellent results.) Revlon, a company founded by Charles Revson, later invented the wand-type mascara in a tube we’re familiar with today.

One of the obstacles the Williams family had to overcome in the World War I years was the negative reaction to eye makeup, which at the time was associated with theater people and prostitutes, not “nice” ladies. The company helped change attitudes by hiring wholesome-looking models and film stars in their advertising. In the 1920s, the public warmed to eye makeup as the flapper darkened her brows and lashes. And mascara has been with us ever since. Great Lash, Maybelline’s want mascara in the iconic pink-and-green tube, has been a bestseller since it’s introduction in the Sixties.

I was surprised to learn that Maybelline was headquartered in Chicago for decades. Chances are my fictional characters Marjorie and Dot would have “put on their Maybelline” in the 1920s! In 1967 Maybelline was sold to L’Oreal and today is known as “Maybelline New York.”

 

K is for kaffeeklatsch

Yesterday’s Sparkling Vintage moment was a French concept, joie de vivre. Today we’re thanking the Germans for kaffeeklatsch, a term that dates back to 1888, from kaffee (coffee) and klatsch (gossip or chitchat).

The website etymonline.com quotes Mary Alden Hopkins from a 1905 cooking magazine: “The living-room in a German household always contains a large sofa at one side of the room, which is the seat of honor accorded a guest. At a Kaffeeklatsch (literally, coffee gossip) the guests of honor are seated on this sofa, and the large round table is wheeled up before them. The other guests seat themselves in chairs about the table.” Although any beverage, coffee or tea, can be consumed, a kaffeeklatsch carries a less formal connotation than a tea party.

Here in North America throughout much of the 20th century, kaffeeklatsches were enjoyed by homemakers, who might take a break from household chores mid-morning or midafternoon to gather with neighbors around one of their kitchen tables for coffee and chitchat. Now, with many women working full-time and those at home too busy to sit and chat for an hour, the kaffeeklatsch tradition has pretty much fallen by the wayside (although there’s a loose workplace approximation–the coffee break). Perhaps the modern equivalent is the playdate, where parents chat while their children play together. It doesn’t seem like quite the same thing, though.

Perhaps we need a kaffeeklatsch revival–well, maybe not the gossip part, but certainly the caffeine and conviviality. And the coffee cake. Here’s a recipe from a 1950s church cookbook to inspire you.

CINNAMON COFFEE CAKE

1 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tb. butter, melted
1/2 c. milk
1 well beaten egg

Sift all dry ingredients together, then add the melted butter, milk and egg. Put in wide shallow pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar and cinnamon. Bake 20 minutes in moderate oven (350 degrees F.).

The recipe writer notes with brutal honesty, “This is good with morning coffee but should be made just before eating. It isn’t good after it stands.”

Do you think the kaffeeklatsch is a tradition worthy of reviving? Why or why not?

J is for “Joie de vivre”

Some people have a natural joie de vivre. My mom was one of them.

Have you ever experienced joie de vivre? It means “joy of life” in French–that sheer thrill of being alive. Maybe you’ve felt it while sharing a good laugh with friends, or watching your child play, or catching sight of a particularly beautiful rainbow or sunset. You might feel it upon completing a looming task or responsibility, or achieving some other goal, large or small–maybe one that matters only to you. Joie de vivre can be fleeting, or it can be an attitude with which some upbeat souls approach life every day.

Synonyms for joie de vivre include joyfulness, cheerfulness, cheeriness, lightheartedness, happiness, joy, gaiety, high spirits, elan, joviality, exuberance, ebullience, liveliness, vivacity, verve, effervescence, buoyancy, and zest.

What can you today to add to your joie de vivre?

I is for Ice Cream Cone

My Merriam-Webster dictionary dates the term “ice cream cone” to 1909, but I’m sure I’ve heard the confection itself first appeared at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis in 1904. Or maybe I just remember that scene from Meet Me in St. Louis, one of my favorite movies of all time, or images like this commemorative stamp, below.

Wikipedia dates the concept of the cone back way back to an 1888 cookbook that included “Cornet with Cream,” a similar concept to the familiar cone.

(Did you know there’s also an “ice cream chair,” armless with a circular seat, for use in ice cream parlors? It’s a wonder what turns up when scanning the dictionary. )

Anyway, back to the cone. The specifics vary. It can be conical in shape, or more bucket-like with a flat bottom (sometimes called a cup or a cake cone). It can be sweetened (sugar cone) or unsweetened. The waffle-like or cake-like texture pairs well with the rich cream and helps soak it up as it melts. In any case, the point of the cone is that it allows ice cream to be eaten on the go, without dishes or utensils. You still have to be quick about it, though, to avoid your fingers getting coated in melting ice cream.

My personal favorite is mint-chocolate chip ice cream in a sugar cone. What’s your favorite kind of cone, and your favorite flavor of ice cream to put in it?

H is for Harmony

…as in, does anyone harmonize anymore?

In this article, Tim Challies makes the point that the demise of hymnal use in church, in favor of projecting the lyrics on slides, has had a detrimental effect on people harmonizing in church. No doubt the decline of music education in the schools has had a similar effect on the general population. Here’s a clip of a congregation singing in harmony together, if you’ve never heard it done.

But do we even sing at all anymore, anywhere, much less learn to harmonize? I sing, but I belong to both a church worship team and a community choir, and I’m rather an oddball besides. 🙂 These days it seems we leave singing up to the paid professionals, as if ordinary mortals can’t find joy and satisfaction in singing just for fun.

I’ll leave you with these heartening clips of families harmonizing together here and here.

Do you ever sing in harmony just for fun?

 

G is for Genteel

From the dusty archive of antique descriptions we don’t hear much anymore:

Genteel (jen-teel)/adj. From the Middle French gentil = gentle. a: Having an aristocratic quality or flavor; stylish. b: of or relating to the gentry or upper class  c: elegant or graceful in manner, appearance, or shape

It all sounds very Downton Abbey. Is “genteel” a word you ever find occasion to use? Do you know anyone personally who fits the description?

 

F is for Facials

Do you ever get professional facial treatments? I don’t because my sensitive skin hasn’t reacted well to them in the past, but I understand that for some people they can be relaxing and rejuvenating.

From Personality Unlimited by Veronica Dengel (1943):

“Expensive skin treatments are a pleasant luxury if you can afford them, but not at all necessary to insure a beautiful skin. You can do everything required at home, inexpensively, effectively, provided you really do it. … Protect your hair with a band of gauze. Apply your cleansing cream with smooth, upward strokes. … Now with a cleansing tissue in each hand, begin at the base of the throat and remove the cleansing cream with upward strokes. When you have removed the cream, wash with warm water and soap. … Your skin is now ready for the toning step. Take a square of cotton and pat the tonic in upward movements. Apply your lubricating cream. Follow the same routine as used for cleansing. Do not apply great ‘gobs’ of your lubricant, you are only wasting it. There is no need to go to bed ‘gooey’ with grease. It isn’t good for your linens or nightie, and certainly not for your appearance!”

E is for Enchanted April

Photo source: Goodreads.com

This month the Sparkling Vintage Ladies’ Reading Circle is reading, appropriately enough, The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. I’ve not read this book before, although I’ve seen a movie version a few years ago (there have been at least two films made of the story).

The book was published in 1922 and follows four women who leave the dismal early-spring weather of Britain for the sunny climate of Italy. Strangers to each other, they’re joined by the common purpose of renting a villa. I’m looking forward to reading about four distinct characters and how they change and grow during their sojourn together. I hope I’m not disappointed. Come join us if you’d like to talk about the book.

Today I’m looking out on a gray, wet, chilly day. The idea of a vacation to somewhere warm is very appealing at the moment. The Enchanted April takes place in Portofino, which sounds appealing. But if I could choose any warm destination in the world, I think I would choose the south of France. I spent one day in Biarritz, long ago, but it was rainy and cold in the off-season. I think I would like to see it again in all its summery glory.

If you could whisk away to someplace warm and sunny, where would you go?

D is for Daffodil

Here in far-northern Idaho it’s still too early for the daffodils to appear, at least at my elevation. But assorted little green shoots have started appearing through the melting patches of snow. Those of us in hard-winter areas take a special joy in the signs of spring, however small.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac website, the word “daffodil” comes from the Greek word asphodel, meaning “king’s spear.” Because they are one of the first flowers to appear in spring in the northern hemisphere, they are a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings.

Are daffodils blooming yet where you live?

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