Sparkling Vintage Fiction. Among other things.

Vintage Living

With the right lipstick, who needs a time-travel machine?

I don’t do a lot of product reviews on this blog (well, except for books, lol) but I feel compelled to share something that has gladdened my vintage-loving heart, and I thought some of you might get a kick out of it, too.

It’s a cosmetics company called Bésame, out of California. Founded by artist and cosmetic historian Gabriela Hernandez, Bésame produces cosmetics that replicate shades and formulas from the early- to mid-twentieth century (updated to today’s product-safety standards, and all products are cruelty-free and paraben-free).

I’d heard about Bésame a while back, but held off purchasing because the prices seemed a little high for my admittedly modest make-up budget. But I joined the mailing list, and it turns out they offer some great deals now and then that let me try some products without straining the piggy bank. I suppose I should mention here that I have no connection to the company, and any product I review, I purchased with my own money.

The items came packaged with a fun faux-“newspaper,” the Bésame Bugle, that describes not only the products and how to use them, but other newsy tidbits. For example, an article introducing their 1937 “Snow White” collection explains how the color palette was chosen based on the original animated film. Another article tells about Adriana Caselotti, the teenage Italian-American opera singer who voiced Snow White (described as “the perfect mix of child-like innocence with a strong operatic singing voice”). There’s even a word-search puzzle that had me hunting for “Evil Queen” and “True Loves Kiss”! Be still, my heart. These “newspapers” are a great example of how a company can promote its products and philosophy without being sales-y.

Back to the products. First off, the packaging is lovely–burgundy and gold in an Art Nouveau floral motif. Just looking at them on my shelf makes me happy. Two shades of lipstick I’ve tried are Victory Red (a vivid patriotic red–I believe it was a special edition, as I no longer find it on the website) and American Beauty (a softer berry red). The formula is more matte than glossy, which is good for me because gloss never seems to last too long on my lips. The instructions explain how to apply with the angled tip and blot with a tissue, which is exactly how I remember my mother applying her lipstick, back in the day.

I also remember my mom using cake mascara before the advent of the applicator-in-a-tube. Hers came in a little red box from Maybelline and was applied with a tiny brush that looked like something a doll would use. Bésame’s comes in a red-and-gold tin containing a cake of mascara and its own tiny brush. So far I’ve been a little too clumsy with the brush to make a success of it on my lashes, but I’ve found that I love using it as eye liner. I wet a narrow brush with water, brush it over the cake, and apply a thin line right next to my lashes. Works great!

Next I tried Cashmere Foundation in True Beige. It comes in stick form and takes a bit of blending, but I like how well it covers the redness in my face. I tend not to apply it all over, just in the areas where it’s needed, and I blend, blend, blend (sponge or fingers work well). Then I set it with Vanilla Brightening Powder, which comes with it’s own darling little puff. although I prefer a fluffy brush. It’s a finely-milled powder in a light, translucent color with a delicate vanilla scent. There are, of course, multiple shades to choose from, even color-correcting rose and violet. There are several cream and powder rouges available, too, but I usually skip rouge because of the aforementioned redness.

Finally, I picked up a sample set called “Decades of Fragrance.” The set contains six sample-size vials of colognes named–get this, vintage lovers–1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, 1950, and 1960! According to the company website, each scent “uses familiar ingredients from each period to create an impression of a decade of time.” (Note: The vials came packaged in a small cardboard box, not in the red velvet bag shown in the photo above. The bag is my own–but what a cute way to package them for Christmas, dontcha think?)

To wrap up, I feel like this company really “gets” me, as a customer and a fellow lover of all things vintage. I’m eager to try other products as needs arise and the coffers allow. Even if I’d just bought one lipstick, I would have enjoyed feeling transported back to the grace and elegance of an earlier era, connected somehow to generations of ladies who came before us. If that sounds like your kind of travel, visit Bésame and check out what they have to offer.

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Chautauqua: End of an Era

Chautauqua Amp: Final Days

This article from David Steele at Buffalo Rising makes me sad. The iconic Chautauqua Ampitheater in New York will be torn down this week. In  Steele’s words,  “It becomes what it is over time, imbued with the mark of many summers and many generations. This magical place will soon be gone.”

For years, traveling companies took Chautauqua to cities and small towns all over America. But the Ampitheater in New York hosted the granddaddy of all Chautauquas. I know times have changed. I know the Ampitheater has been used for different things and is no longer what it once was. That doesn’t change the fact that my heart hurts.

Source: http://www.buffalorising.com

Source: http://www.buffalorising.com

Once upon a time I wrote about the Chautauqua movement at Writing North Idaho.

What buildings or other structures have you been said to see torn down?

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Grace Note for August 18, 2016

003“There would be cool blue shadows on the north porch where the pines were thickest about the hotel, a wonderful spot to come with a book before the world was generally astir. There would be the aroma of coffee, honeydew melons and toast, hot rolls just out of the oven, and a hint of brook trout frying in deep fat.” (Grace Livingston Hill, Happiness Hill)

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Sparkling Vintage Life: What to Bring Back from Yesteryear

One more Lilly Jarlsson video… (Yes, I’m letting her do my speaking for me today, lol. She does it so well.)

I’ve often said that I don’t wish to simply turn back the clock and live in the past. There is much to love about modern life, and much to loathe about days gone by. Still, there are ASPECTS of the past, particularly in regards to public life, that we would do well to bring back.

In this video Lilly reflects on things from the past that she wishes we could bring back from the past, including:

Patience
Politeness
Chivalry
Quality over quantity
Local shopping
Artists with talent
Good grooming

What would you bring back from the past, if you could?

Sparkling Vintage Health: Steps on the Journey

tennis2Last week I wrote about wanting to improve my health and what the pre-World War II ladies magazines call “vitality.” I looked up “vitality” in the dictionary. The first definition is, “the peculiarity of distinguishing the living from the nonliving.” That’s telling it like it is!

So far my old-fashioned approach has been two-pronged: walking a lot and choosing fresh, unprocessed food as much as possible. In the May sunshine, walking is pleasant and I actually look forward to it, but making time for it can feel like a hurdle. Twice in recent days I’ve been stuck “in town” between appointments (“town” being about 15 miles away from our rural home) and have used that time to walk in a park. I told myself I didn’t need workout clothes or athletic shoes (although, note to self: keep a pair in the car). I was already wearing comfortable flats, so off I went.

Walking in the park is fun for two reasons: (1) the terrain is flat–a nice break from the steep hills around my home. (My husband figured out that walking from the bottom of our property to the top is like climbing eight stories!) and (2) there are people around! Baseball and lacrosse teams, kids and moms on the playground, tennis players, other walkers . . . such fun to people-watch. I love to nature-watch, too, and soak up the peace and solitude of the woods surrounding my home, but for a literal change of pace, it’s enjoyable to switch to the park. Bonus: I felt like that interval between appointments wasn’t wasted.

Feeding myself well is harder. It’s so easy to grab whatever’s at hand and call it a meal. I’ve made a deliberate effort to concentrate on protein and vegetables and limited carbs. A typical breakfast is coffee, an egg, and a quarter of an avocado on toast. Lunch is soup or salad and a sandwich (trying to limit to half a sandwich). Dinner is meat or fish and vegetables for me, plus bread or potatoes for my husband. And water, water, water.

So where does the “vintage” part come in? Eating fresh, minimally processed food and walking have been human activities since forever. I don’t need a gym or any special gadgetry (although I got a nifty fitness band for my birthday that tracks my steps and heart rate–definitely not vintage, but kind of useful). The foods I’m eating are not much different from what a woman would have eaten 100 years ago.  My fitness is centered around typical human activities: walking, bending, stretching, putting some muscle into housework and yardwork. Drop me into 1916 and my food and activity wouldn’t look that different. Except, of course, from jumping on the Internet to talk about it!

First week’s results: two pounds down, high energy, and rosy cheeks from being out in the sun.

Sparkling Vintage Health: Shaping My Future

Hikers, 1940s.

Hikers, 1940s.

This is going to be one of my more vulnerable posts, but I’m sharing it with you because I know that at least a few of you struggle with a similar issue: health and fitness. My doctor, my scale, my own eyeballs in the mirror, my recent birthday, and the summer clothing I’m pulling out of hibernation (not necessarily in that order) have convinced me for the umpteenth time that it’s time to Do Something About My Health.

I lost a few pounds last summer, but over the winter they came wandering back. They missed me! So now I’m back to having plenty of pounds to lose, if the standard BMI calculators are to be trusted, which I think they are, more or less. But I also know that my weight is not the real problem, but a symptom of other problems. Middle age and its attendant physical changes have hit me with a whallop. I’ve also become increasingly aware that the foods many of us eat these days are quick, convenient, tasty . . . and detrimental to our health. A heart-to-heart with my doctor, plus research into the way most Americans ate and moved 50 or 75 or 100 years ago vs. today, has gotten me interested in pursing a “vintage” lifestyle of smaller portions, more seasonal and local produce, and fewer processed foods.fat ad

As far as exercise goes, I’m not a gym rat. In fact, I’m about as far from a gym rat as you can get. I’m one of the most uncoordinated people I know. My muscles seem improperly strung and most standard gyms make me feel profoundly ungainly and out-of-place. Plus, I live on a mountainside surrounded by steep hills and endless trails, literally outside my front door. There’s fitness in them thar hills! So for now, with the weather turning nice, rambling over the hills will be my main exercise, along with some simple bodyweight exercises thrown in for strength and flexibility. At some point I may need to join a gym to gain access to certain equipment (and a swimming pool!) but maybe I’ll think about that in the fall. For now, dickering over the gym question would just be one more way to procrastinate.

"Exercise With Gloria" Source: Kevin Dooley via flickr.com/Creative Commons

“Exercise With Gloria”
Source: Kevin Dooley via flickr.com/Creative Commons

My earliest memory of exercise was as a preschooler, moving along with my mom as she watched “Exercise With Gloria” on our old black-and-white TV. I only remember doing this a smattering of times, so I don’t think it caught on with my mother, who was naturally slim and not much of an athlete, although she walked a lot and enjoyed dancing and swimming. Still, I remember the joy of swinging my arms and legs and moving my body, and I did enjoy ballet classes as a very young child, until I switched teachers to a fearsome woman who yelled a lot, and that was the end of my ballet career.

I’m pretty sure that’s the last time I found “exercise” to be fun. School gym class is something I do my best to forget, Nevertheless there are a million and one reasons to “just do it,” as the Nike people say.

fat ad2Because I’ve been immersed in vintage reading materials, doing research for another project, I’ve decided to take a journey this summer, researching old-fashioned health and fitness advice–the good, the bad, the laughable, and the downright cuckoo (tapeworms, anyone?)–and adopting those practices that make sense to me and my doc. I would love to have some companions on the journey! I should state right now that I am not a doctor, nurse, health specialist, exercise guru, nutritional know-it-all, or any other type of professional. Just a woman interested in approaching health and fitness the way it used to be, when it was less of an obsession, and seeing what I learn along the way. If you’d like to join me, or even just offer a word of encouragement, comment below or e-mail me privately at jennifer (at) jenniferlamontleo (d0t) com. Once in a while I’ll report in on this blog and let you know how it’s going.

 

Old-fashioned but modern? Hurray, I’m not the only one!

I often feel alone in my passion for all things vintage, and have trouble explaining to others exactly what fascinates me so much about life 70+ years ago. So I was thrilled to find a series of videos on YouTube by German vlogger Lilly Jarlsson, whose view on vintage vs.modern lifestyles frequently resonates with my own.

In this video Lilly explains what attracts her about the vintage lifestyle. Starting at around 7:35 on the video, she talks about modern manners vs. vintage manners, and manages to express a concept I’ve stumbled over:

“Politeness is a different thing from being good, being right and being able to determine right from wrong. So of course that was always a problem in every decade of our world, and since you’re a human being whenever you were born, you have a personal responsibility of deciding if you want to be good or bad. This is something that has nothing to do with the style or the decade or the political situation. I think that at one point a person has the possibility of deciding who and what you want to be. So this is definitely something I don’t want to sugar-coat too much, the times back then. I believe every time has its good and its bad sides as well as our world today.”

She also broaches the topic of people who make fun of those who are out of step with the modern world:

“This group of people will always find something, even if you’re “normal” in other people’s eyes, that they can take as a reason to bully you or mock you. If it’s not the vintage style, they’ll find something else that they don’t like and that they have to use as a reason against you. You don’t have to swallow everything. Of course life is cruel and people are cruel and there will always be mocking and ridicule, no matter how old you get, but I think it’s important to understand that you have a right to live, in a free society, where you decide who and what you want to be.”

If you enjoy vintage style, especially from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, check out Lilly Jarlsson’s YouTube channel for inspiration.

Elegant Air Travel: Gone with the Windshear

PAN AM 1In what alternative universe was air travel ever like this?

“Today the great, luxurious airplane glides through the air as smoothly as the most perfectly equipped automobile takes to the road. The airlines plan everything for the passenger’s comfort. As soon as he enters the terminal of an airline, his baggage is checked and stowed away in the plane, to be forgotten about until it is claimed at the end of the trip.

Aboard the plane, the same efficiency and courtesy prevail. An attendant places the passenger’s belongings on a rack above his head. Just before the take-off, either the copilot or the stewardess (many of the large planes now provide this boon to mankind and womankind alike) hands him a package of chewing gum and some cotton for his ears.

The passenger remembers that he must not smoke until he is in the air; but once aloft, the stewardess passes cigarettes and points out the convenient ash tray.

The plane affords a generous assortment of magazines and newspapers of the city just visited, and at various intervals refreshments are served by the stewardess or “hostess.”

The traveling clothes of the well-dressed woman are admirable in their simplicity of cut and design. A close-fitting dark hat, preferably one with a flat back, so that one may lean back comfortably, a tailored dress and smart topcoat, little or no jewelry, and sensible footgear mark the experienced as well as the fashionable traveler.

Reclining chairs, individual ventilating systems, and, in some transport planes, motion pictures, all provide for the traveler’s comfort. But whether in plane, automobile, steamer, or train, the unfailing rule of courtesy always prevails.”

(Hallie Erminie Rives, 1934)

 

Take a Hike (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 29)

fall woods

Source: hdwallpapers.ca

 

Autumn is the perfect time to take a walk, whether through the woods or down a city street lined with colorful oaks and maples. Walking is good for you! In Personality Unlimited (1941), Veronica Dengel says, “Walking is good exercise for the legs, and when indulged in out of doors, encourages deep breathing and better circulation.” While Miss Dengel agrees that strolling on city streets is “better than nothing,” she goes on to say, “Hiking should be done in as clear, fresh air as you can find. . . . Exercise will help to improve the digestion of your food and promote better assimilation of it, so that you get more nourishment from everything you eat.”

I’d say a walk in the woods nourishes more than the body . . . it nourishes the mind as well. When I walk, I let my mind wander where it will . . . to think, to pray, to work out some knotty problem in my novel or my life. In Younger By the Day, Victoria Moran recalls a particular walk she took one October day. “In the company of squirrels and skateboarders, toddlers and Scrabble players, students and lovers, the arch and the fountain, I walked through the park. I read a plaque about Garibaldi, bought water from a guy with a cart, and then sat on a bench and watched and listened. I felt more alive than I had in a really long time.”

The deep woods may not yield quite the same things as a city park does. The squirrels are there in force, but I see no skateboarders or Scrabble players. Just a chipmunk and some deer, perhaps an eagle if I’m lucky. But what Victoria Moran says next still resonates with me. “Sometimes, to remember when you’re old and revel in right this minute, walk in the part–or something on that order. Do it before the winter comes. Once you get in the habit, you just might want to do it then, too.”

Lace up your walking shoes. There’s a world of wonder out there.

 

Fall Housecleaning (31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 2)

cleaning mirrorYou thought spring cleaning was over? Welcome to fall cleaning! According to Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Housekeeping by Miriam Lukken, here’s what the diligent housekeeper takes care of in the fall:

Clean and clear out cellar and attic.
Wash all blankets and sun the heavy quilts.Clean, mend, and put by furs, thick clothes, winter hats, and winter bedding.
Replace summer curtains with winter drapes.
Remove, clean, and store summer slipcovers.
Wax the furniture.
Clean lamps and shades.
Hang carpets for a good beating and then sun them for a day.
Sun and air mattresses and pillows.
Turn mattresses.

Cheryl Mendelson, in her housekeeping tome Home Comforts, adds these tasks:

Wash mirrors.
Clean the oven.
Wax floors.
Wash or wax woodwork.
Organize used drawers, cabinets, closets.
Dust blinds and shades, door tops, and other hard-to-reach areas where dust may collect.
Wash windows, storm windows, and screens.
Clean blades of ceiling fans.
Remove out-of-season clothing from closet, clean and store it, replace with seasonal clothing.
Clean and polish gems, jewelry, silver, brass, copper.
Have the piano tuned.
Vacuum books.
Move and clean underneath heavy appliances and furniture.

Mendelson writes, “Fall cleaning is an excellent way to usher in the holiday season with its extra entertaining. You can do a fall cleaning instead of or in addition to a spring cleaning. Or you can do an additional fall cleaning in some years and not in others. . . . Fall cleaning should be done . . . typically in September and, at least in the cooler climates, no later than mid-October.” She adds that, during a full seasonal cleaning, “you should plan on having no guests and doing only light cooking.”

 

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