A Sparkling Vintage Life

Monthly Archives: October 2015

Pumpkins, pumpkins . . . (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 13)

All hail the Great Pumpkin! (with a hat-tip to Charles Schulz and Linus)

Autumn’s signature symbol is in its full orange glory this month. Cultivated in the Americas for at least 6,000 years, the pumpkin is very versatile and adapts well to both sweet and savory dishes. It also has delicious seeds to roast and snack on, and makes a wonderful home decoration, indoors or out. What’s not to like?

If you have a hankering to create a pumpkin-flavored edible, don’t automatically reach for the can on the pantry shelf. Try slow-roasting a fresh pumpkin in the oven (after slicing it in half and removing the seeds and “innards”). When the flesh is soft, scoop it into a blender to make a puree to

Miniature pumpkins in my garden

Miniature pumpkins in my garden

use in your favorite recipes.

Did you know that the best carving pumpkin is the Howden variety? It only dates back to the 1970s, when a farmer named John Howden developed a pumpkin that was ribbed, smooth, deep orange in color, and durable. So if carving a jack-o-lantern or other decorative use is your goal, that’s the variety to choose. Be warned, however, that it’s not made for eating. If a great pie is what you’re after, choose a different, and perhaps less photogenic, variety.


Here’s a simple recipe for Harvest Pumpkin Soup that we’ve enjoyed. Makes about 10 cups.

6 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1-1/2 cups chopped carrots
5-1/2 cups chicken broth
3 cups pureed pumpkin
1 tsp. salt

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and shallot. Cook for 4-5 minutes until onion is translucent.
Add carrots and stir well. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender (about 10 minutes). Add pumpkin and salt, stirring to blend. Cover and cook 10 more minutes. If you like your soup really smooth (we prefer ours a bit chunky), you can puree it in a blender. I use my favorite soup bowls, but I imagine this soup would be darling served in little hollowed-out mini-pumpkins.

Sweater-ing to the Oldies (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 12)

sweater girl

source: etsy.com

lana turner

Lana Turner, 1932

I was going to title this post “Be a sweater girl,” but I thought better of it, as some ladies wouldn’t take kindly to that description. According to Wikipedia, “The term ‘sweater girl’ was made popular in the 1940s and 1950s to describe Hollywood actresses like Lana Turner, Jayne Mansfield, and Jane Russell, who adopted the popular fashion of wearing tight sweaters over a cone- or bullet-shaped bra that emphasized the woman’s bustline. . . . The sweater girl trend was not confined to Hollywood and was viewed with alarm by some. In 1949 a Pittsburgh police superintendent even singled out the sweater girl as a symptom of the moral decline of postwar youth.”

Moral decline aside, I think sweaters are one of the most delightful joys of fall. After all, you don’t have to wear them skin-tight over a bullet-shaped bra. You can wear them snuggly and loose over jeans, or fitted and classic over a skirt.  matching sweaters

Sweaters are as old as hand-knitting–that is, very old–but they got a boost in the 19th century with the development of knitting machines that could mass-produce quality knitted garments. In the early 20th century, sweaters for both men and women surged in popularity when worn by the likes of designer Coco Chanel and the fashion-forward Duke of Windsor.

So go ahead–be a sweater girl this fall! Just stay classy about it.

Candied apples (31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 11)

Source: allrecipes.com

Source: allrecipes.com

“She’s candy-apple red with a ski for a wheel…” Those lyrics to an old Beach Boys song refer to Santa’s sleigh, but I’m talking about the real thing here…candied apples!

source: pinterest.com

Candy-apple red truck, 1953. Source: pinterest.com

I used to wonder why “candy-apple red” was a description of a brilliant, shiny red paint for cars and trucks (and electric guitars–who knew?), until I realized I was mixing up “candied apples” with “caramel apples.” Candied apples are, indeed, a brilliant, shining red, while caramel apples are, well, caramel-colored and dull (but delicious in their own right).

This recipe for candied apples comes from my recent favorite resource, Olive Landers’ Modern Handbook for Girls (1933). (I’ve been quoting from it a lot lately because it’s frankly fabulous and chock-full of simple ideas for vintage fun!).

(Please note that I have not tried making this recipe yet, as I am presently on Day 5 of the Whole 30 food plan and thus not eating sugar. Poor me! If you try it, I’d love to hear your results, especially with a photo!)

Candied Apple on Sticks

2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup water
Red paste coloring
Oil or essence of cinnamon
Peppermint or clove
10 or 12 apples

Make a syrup by boiling sugar, water, and corn syrup until it is brittle. Test by dropping a little in cold water. Add a few drops of red paste or liquid coloring while this mixture is cooking. When it is done, remove from the fire and set in a pan of hot water. It may be flavored by a few drops of oil or essence of clove, cinnamon or peppermint.

Select red apples of about the same size and not too large. Insert a wooden skewer into the blossom end of the apple. Hod the apple by the skewer and plunge into the syrup. Remove it quickly and twirl it until the syrup coats the apple and spreads smoothly. Dip the apples the day they are to be used, for the coating is likely to get sticky if it stands. It is not advisable to make a smaller quantity of this syrup, and this quantity will cover from 10 to 12 apples.

‘Tis the Season to Be Colorful (31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 10)

mademoiselle fall 1958Here’s another simple tip for celebrating autumn: Dress in seasonally-appropriate colors! If autumn’s reds, golds, and browns aren’t the most flattering for your own coloring, consider using them in accessories, jewelry, and away from your face (as in skirts and pants).

Here’s what Mary Brooks Picken had to say about seasonal colors in clothing in 1916:

“Nature serves as an excellent guide in color selection, and she may always be followed to advantage in matters of dress. Thus, in the spring, Old Mother Nature does not consult the fashion books, but puts forth the beautiful violets, primroses, hyacinths, and daffodils. In her scheme of coloring she harmonizes the fresh green of the trees with the pink petals of the apple blossoms and the delicate colorings of the springtime flowers. Her color scheme is so near perfection that no one has been wise enough to improve on it. In summer, she modifies these colors, making them lighter in tone and thus creating an atmosphere of coolness and comfort; in autumn, she turns the foliage to the soft browns, tans, and russets, suggesting appropriate colors for this season; and as snowy, bleak, cold winter steals upon us, she warns us to defy the icy blasts by dressing warmly and putting on bright colors suggestive of heat and warmth. . . . By following Nature, that is giving correct thought to appropriateness in the matter of color and choosing gowns and wraps suitable for each season, there will be little chance for repetition of color in a person’s wardrobe; likewise, there will be greater opportunity to work out a color scheme in gowns, wraps, hats, shoes, and accessories and thereby avoid the extravagancies in dress so often accredited to women.”

(from “Harmony of Dress,” an instructional booklet published by the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts & Sciences, Inc., 1916)

A Touch of Tweed (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 9)

Tweed suit, from a 1952 issue of Vogue

Tweed suit, from a 1952 issue of Vogue

Tweed–that rough, woolen fabric so strongly associated with fall– reminds me of academia, the patched elbows and ever-present pipe of a stereotypical professor straight out of Central Casting. Tweed also reminds me of offices, of dressmaker suits and hair scraped into a bun, and heels clicking on hard floors, of clocks and calendars and the clacking of typewriters. These vintage images don’t jibe with my own experiences. Even in my long-ago day, professors were wearing some variation of khaki and polo shirt, or bohemian broomstick skirt and bangles, or, in one memorable case, biker denim and leather. When I last worked in an office, employees wore head-to-toe T. J. Maxx, office floors were carpeted to mute noise, and the clacking of typewriters had faded away in the glow of computer screens. No, these tweedy images in my head hearken back to some earlier time–that misty time I never knew yet yearn for in a curious way.

Tweed brings to mind hunting parties and strolls along the heath wearing sturdy leather brogues–scenes not from my own world, but my imaginary tweed downton abbeyone, fueled by countless BBC dramas. This is the tweed of the British Isles, of shooting parties in cold, damp weather out in the rugged country. It’s the fabric of Sherlock Holmes and the men of Downton Abbey (and the ladies, too, from time to time). A 1998 Smithsonian article described it thusly: “Whether woven in herringbone, houndstooth glen check or tartan, flecked, mingled or striped, the traditional rough feel and subtle coloring of Harris Tweed — and the fact that it is, by definition, handwoven in Harris and the other islands of the Outer Hebrides — have made it, to quote one designer, one of the world’s most ‘noble fabrics.'”

Tweed reminds me of fall, of pumpkins and mist and bonfires and piles of flame-hued leaves. It’s a warm fabric suitable for crisp fall days, but not a cozy one. It’s the sturdy jacket, not the soft sweater underneath. It speaks of ruggedness, protection and strength, which may be why it’s strongly associated with menswear.

To add some vintage flair to your fall, reach for tweed. Some families hand sturdy tweed garments down from generation to generation. Even if you’re not part of the landed gentry, tweed is widely available in shops, and you might find some excellent specimens in thrift stores and on the Internet.

What do you think about tweed? Does it hold good memories for you, not-so-good ones, or no memories at all?

Dressing with a Vintage Vibe (31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 8)

I was THRILLED to stumble upon this kindred spirit in all things vintage. Her name is Lilly Jarlsson and she lives in Germany. We share a similar philosophy of vintage-but-not-costumey (but she does it so very much more charmingly than I do. I have much to learn!). Check out her YouTube channel and enjoy this video on dressing with a vintage vibe for fall and winter.

Plant a Japanese dish garden (31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 7)

Dish garden with bonsai (photo credit: Moss and Stone Gardens)

Dish garden with bonsai (photo credit: Moss and Stone Gardens)

Autumn is the time to start thinking about bringing a bit of gardening indoors, to brighten your mood during the long, cold winter (at least for tus northerners). Apparently the idea caught on after the World’s Fair of 1893, where Japanese art and design captured the imagination of American designers, gardeners, and homemakers. This idea for a Japanese dish garden sounds like just the ticket to lift a cabin-fever mood (another gem of an excerpt from The Modern Handbook for Girls, 1933):

“A Japanese dish garden is a toy garden, but can make a charming table decoration if well done. Take a broad shallow dish or bowl and cover the bottom of it with small pieces of charcoal. Over this place a thin layer of earth, not spread quite flat but molded prettily in fairy hills and valleys. A few picturesquely-shaped stones will serve as boulders and some gravel scattered in patches will give further variety. For grass, moss of the bright green kind that grows like a cushion will make tiny lawns. Arrange tiny winding paths through it, adding small moss-covered stones, if obtainable. Cactus plants–the very tiny kind that are grown in thimble pots–are your shrubs.Plunge them into the earth up to the rim of the pot. A piece of looking-glass will make a good pond. And if you like, you can add a rustic bridge, a tea house and a lantern, such as you can find in the shops. [Ed. note: A quick search for “Japanese miniatures” turned up this source and several more on eBay and elsewhere.] To water such a garden, fill a small sponge and squeeze out a few drops over the plants and the moss two or three times a week.”

The Handbook continues, “A Japanese water garden is another novelty you can easily make and use as a centerpiece on the dining table. Use a wide, shallow dish of copper, brass or pottery. Tiny Japanese bridges, pagodas and figures may be purchased. Fill your dish with water and place the garden scenery in it. Then cut up a horseradish root and put the pieces into the bottom of the dish. Dark green leaves will soon grow from the root and complete your garden.”

In the November 1921 issue of House Beautiful, Marion Brownfield waxed eloquent on the subject of dish gardens:

“The Japanese art of making a dish-garden or Hachi-Niwa is as unique as it is picturesque.  Imagine a miniature landscape perfectly carried out in a shallow dish or bowl measuring anywhere from six inches to two feet, and you will know what the Japanese dish-garden is.  No wonder it is called landscape gardening in a teaplate!  Many of these tiny gardens can be set with perfect ease on a tea-tray. . . . Such a miniature garden is particularly charming for the porch, paved court, or window ledge, where growing green things are limited, or where winter cheer is desired.”

Brownfield went on to suggest, “Such things as moss of every variety, lichens, and tiny pebbles of various shapes and colorings are all part of a typical Japanese dish-garden, and quite easily obtained on a jaunt into the country. . . . Damp earth makes the foundation for whatever scene is decided upon.  All the scenery – mountains, hills, cascades, and brooks – is next carefully molded, and then covered with whatever material seems most natural, whether it is moss, sand, or pebbles.  Sand is often arranged to flow down between rocks to imitate a rushing mountain torrent!  Next are placed the stones which are part of every Japanese garden and full of symbolic meaning according to their shape, color, and position.  . . . After the garden stones are placed comes the placing of miniature Japanese bridges, homes, teahouses, or such bits as make a picture.  Trees are now planted.  In Japan these are most frequently dwarf maples and pines – the last being a good luck tree for every Japanese garden.  Bamboo is also much seen in Japanese gardens and is easily grown in this country.  But we can just as effectively use ferns, willow cuttings, or anything that takes our fancy and is in good proportion to represent a tree!”

Making a dish garden seems like it would be a cheerful endeavor for a gloomy fall day. I hope to create one soon, and if I do, I’ll post a photo. Have you ever made one?

An A-Peeling Game (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 6)

apple peelWhen apples are plentiful, imaginations are flagging, and you have at least 8 people, here’s an old-time relay game (careful with those paring knives! Maybe give younger children the eating role, or use safer vegetable peelers):

Form teams of four. Give the first person on each team an apple and a paring knife. First person peels the apple, second person quarters it, third person cuts out the core from each quarter, and the fourth eats the apple. Number Four is not to start eating until the core is cut from all four quarters. The quartet first finished win for their group.

(from The modern Handbook for Girls by Olive Richards Landers, 1933)

A second peeling game requires each player to try to peel an apple in one long strip, as shown above. The longest strip wins.

If you prefer an apple game that involves no sharp objects, how about an apple relay? Each team member races to a designated spot and back while balancing an apple on the back of his hand, then places it on the back of the hand of the next player. If the apple falls, the player has to stop and put it back on and continue the race from where he left off. First team to finish wins.

Or how about pass-the-apple? Players gather in a circle. Each player places his hands on his shoulders and grasps the apple with his elbows (the first player may need help with this!). The apple is then passed from player to player around the circle, using only the elbows. Any player who drops the apple is eliminated. Last player left is the winner.


An Apple a Day (31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 5)


Nothing evokes the taste of autumn like the first bite of a fresh, crisp apple. Experts say the mellow days of October produce the sweetness, while the cool nights produce the tartness, and the combination is extraordinary. One of my very favorite ways to eat a delicious apple is the following recipe for Jarlsberg, Apple, and Mushroom Salad, from French Women for All Seasons by Mireille Guiliano.

Jarlsberg, Apple, and Mushroom Salad

1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced (Crimini recommended)
1 medium Golden Delicious apple, cored and cut into thin slices
3 Tb. lemon juice

For the dressing:

2 Tb. red wine vinegar
2 Tb. Meaux mustard
9 Tb. walnut oil
2 Tb. freshly chopped parsley
Pinch of curry
Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 oz. Jarlsberg cheese cut into strips
1 large head lettuce, rinsed and dried, leaves torn

Sprinkle the mushroom and apple slices with the lemon juice. Mix all the dressing ingredients together, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add the mushroom-apple mixture and cheese to the dressing. Toss gently with the lettuce. Serve immediately. (Serves 6)

Football Fancy, or Throw the Bumptious Out (31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 4)

football umich

Game day fashion, University of Michigan, 1920s

With gridiron season upon us, let us not neglect our manners.

Rooting Without Rudeness

It is unsportsmanlike for the friends of a team to try to rattle players on the other side by booing or shouting personal remarks. Hurling criticism at the referee is both useless and crude. Enthusiasm for your side is a fine thing, but don’t let it carry you to bumptiousness.

The members of a visiting team are your guests. Treat them like friendly enemies, and show them the courtesies you would like to have shown to your team on a return visit. When a player is hurt, forget sides. Give him a cheer and all the assistance he needs.

Back up your cheerleaders. Some stirring Rah! Rah’s and choruses at the right time are not an affront to the opposing team, and they put heart into the schoolmates you have chosen to arouse school spirit.

(from This Way Please by Eleanor Boykin, 1940)

And from Seventeen magazine in 1971:

“Lots of words have been written on the subject, but good sportsmanship still depends on how you play the game, no matter what game you’re playing. Whether you cheat on an exam or on a court, it’s equally dishonest and distasteful to others. Whatever the game, follow the three “Be’s.” BE fair. BE a good loser. BE quick to congratulate winners.”

tailgate partyOf course, nothing beats an epic tailgate party, which takes place in the relatively neutral ground of a parking lot or field. Typical picnic fare–burgers, brats, sandwiches, potato salad–is served up from the tailgates of vehicles in a spirit of good sportsmanship. But it can be fancier. One suggested tailgate luncheon menu in Lexington, Virginia, cookbook included baby mint juleps, cheese lace, cold sour-cherry soup, cold fillet of beef with sour cream, rice salad, hot rolls, and banana bourbon cake with bourbon creme anglaise!

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