Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Tap Dance Tuesday

I'm back with another edition of Tap Dance Tuesday - though in our household Tap Dance Mondays have become the reality.  Yes, I have found myself a tap dance class to attend and have been spending Monday nights hoofing it.  I would guess that the majority of my classmates are a full fifteen to twenty years older than me (and I'm no spring chicken myself) and none of us are all that good, but who cares! I for one am having a blast even if we don't quite look like these lovely ladies yet.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Modern Ghost

"Perhaps the war, or possibly an increase in class consciousness, or unionization of spirits, or whatever, has greatly energized the ghost in our day and given him both ambition and strength to do more things than ever.  

 Maybe 'pep tablets' have been discovered on the other side as well!  No longer is the ghost content to be seen and not heard, to slink around in shadowy corners as apologetically as poor relations.  Wraiths now have a rambunctious vitality and self-assurance that are astonishing . . . Modern ghost are less simple and primitive than their ancestors, and are developing complexes of various kinds.  

They are more democratic than of old, and have more of a diversity of interests, so that mortals have scarcely the ghost of a chance with them.  They employ all the agencies and mechanisms known to mortals, and have in addition their own methods of transit and communication.  Whereas in the past a ghost had to stalk or glide to his haunts, now he limousines or airplanes, so that naturally he can get in more work than before.  He uses the wireless to send his messages, and he is expert in all manner of scientific lines."

Dorothy Scarborough Ph.D.
from the introduction to
Famous Modern Ghost Stories
(note: all images found via Google)

Monday, 4 August 2014

Human Croquet

Ah, the end of Summer.  Here in NI, we have mostly been deluged under some surprisingly heavy thunder showers.  And in the odd moments when the sun does shine, it feels more to me like October than August (okay, I am from Los Angeles where our Octobers are a little warmer than most).  Still, in those sunny moments I dream about late Summer garden parties where the sense of aimlessness is delicious and indulgent and nothing like my current unemployed ennui.  

In this spirit, here's a game from The Home Entertainer (1938) which might fit the bill:

   A game which provides little exercise, but plenty of laughter is Human Croquet.  A large number can take part, and no previous experience at all is required.  
   First the "hoops" must be placed in position - scattered about the field, in approximately the same fashion as for real croquet.  Each hoop consists of two people who stand facing each other, with hands clasped and arms raised so as to make an arch under which another person can walk.  It will not be necessary for the hoop to remain in this position all through the game; it is quite enough if the two people assume it whenever a player is wanting to pass.
   Each "ball" is a person who is blindfolded, and who does not move except when ordered to.
   Finally, there are the "players," each in charge of a "ball".
   As far as possible the game follows the style of ordinary croquet.  Each player has one stroke in turn, and is allowed an additional one when his ball passes through a hoop or hits another ball.
   To begin the play the first player gets his ball on the starting line, standing behind him gripping his arms, and aims him at the first hoop -  which of course the ball cannot see.  Then the player says "Go," and the ball trots forward, until his owner calls "Stop."  If the ball has passed through the hoop another "stroke" is allowed; if not, the second player makes his attempt.
   Every ball must run in a straight line, and must promptly stop when ordered.  When two balls collide the one that is struck stays where it is, but the other is given another "stroke," and ordered off afresh.  No player may speak to his ball while it is in motion, except to stop it, nor touch or re-direct it in any way.  
   That player wins who first gets his ball through all the hoops, in their proper order, and back to the starting line, or to a post at the middle of the "court".
   Interest and fun is added to the game if each player and his or her ball are made to wear some distinguishing colour - either ribbon or hat or rosette, so that couples are more obviously linked.
   Hoops must never move from their stations, and must give no indication of their whereabouts to oncoming balls. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Hello gentle readers,

Well, the bad news was delivered to me yesterday - my laptop is no more and since my budget doesn't stretch to a new one quite yet it does put a damper on things blog-wise.

As you can see, I can still post, but adding my own pictures is going to be a bit of a task (especially since all my photos to date went down with the ship).

So what have I been up to?  Well, watching a lot of old TV episodes on YouTube for one thing.  I thought I might share with you some of my favourites today.  If you've never seen them, they are well worth checking out and if you have seen them . . . well I think they're still worth checking out again.

Tales From the Green Valley

I absolutely love those reality programs where they have a group of "moderns" live as though they were in the past (I'm guessing reader, that you probably share this love if you're reading my blog).  The seventeenth century is not one of my usual time periods of interest (I gave up Renaissance Faires when I was in Jr High), but this is pretty fascinating stuff and makes me definitely appreciate my modern life - I don't think I would last a minute wrangling livestock or beating my laundry in the river and as for eating let alone slaughtering my own meat . . .

The Great British Garden Revival

I missed this one when it aired here last December and just recently discovered it.  Essentially, all of Britain's best loved TV gardeners present a segment on why we should revive a past style of gardening that has fallen out of favour.  Now you won't usually find me watching gardening television, but I've been taking some tentative steps into our front garden this Summer, trying to come up with something period appropriate to our little Victorian terrace house and this has been quite helpful (especially the episode on cottage gardens).

Elegance and Decadence

Ms Worsley is a huge favorite here in the B household.  A few weeks ago, after hearing that she had recently been in Northern Ireland I commented to Mr B "Y'know, she is one of the few 'celebrities' [i.e. someone regularly on the TV] who I would ask to take a picture with".  If you don't know Lucy Worsley you should definitely check her out.  All of her programs are great and she's an absolute joy to watch.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

"vintage" computers

Hi there!

This is just a quick post to tell you that I did not drop off the face of the earth, however it looks as though my trusty laptop may have done so.

Two weeks ago the screen on my lap top died, so I scheduled an appointment with my local Apple store "geniuses".  Mr B and I nearly died laughing when they brought us back a little print out that said something to the effect of "Due to your computer being a vintage model, we are unable to work on it at this location".  (Yes, it really did say "vintage"!).

The "geniuses" were nice though and suggested a repair place just outside of town, so that is where my laptop is at the moment, seeing if they can source the "vintage" parts that are needed to make my computer run again.

At this point, all is definitely not lost, just out of action til further notice, and I am set here typing away on Mr B's new iPad.

And now let me digress for a moment.  Back when I was a youngster, my mother sent me to typing classes as she felt everyone should know how to type.  With hindsight, I am now very grateful for this every time I watch someone without these skills try to type something on a QWERTY keyboard.  Let's get this straight, I am no record holding speed typer, but I do alright.

Now to get back to my point - I absolutely cannot stand typing things out on a touch screen.  It feels so slow and I feel so clumsy.  So until my laptop is fixed, or until a similar solution is found (new lap top perhaps? Sadly not in the budget until next Summer), posting around here might be a bit sparse.

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Jane

Hello there readers.  For some reason returning from holiday to my normal everyday Belfast life has left me in a bit of a slump and with little inclination or imagination to post on this blog.  But that just won't do will it, and so I will be sharing with you today what seems like the easiest way to get back into the world of posting - some of my holiday snaps.

As you know, I am not the world's best photographer, nor, it appears, am I the most prolific when it comes to vacation snapping.  While going through the photos from our trip I discovered that the majority of them were of our hotel in NYC - The Jane.  That's okay though, because The Jane is really a place worth talking about.

I have no idea if this is the most expensive hotel I've ever stayed in (you'd have to ask Mr B as he usually takes care of our travel accommodations), but it is definitely my favorite one.  Have you seen The Grand Budapest Hotel?  Well, The Jane is kind of like a hipster version of that.  Maybe not quite as grand, but it certainly looks like it should be in a Wes Anderson film.  They have an amazing lobby complete with taxidermied peacocks and classically uniformed staff.

According to the literature, The Jane was originally a hotel for sailors.  One of it's claims to fame was housing the survivors of the Titanic (a little Belfast connection there) until the inquiry into the ship's sinking.

I found this article from the NYTimes about The Jane, if you want to read more.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

hello again!

Hello there gentle readers.  I am back from my holidays in the golden state and almost ready to start blogging again.  I beg your indulgence for just a few more days while I get over my jet lag, unpack, and enjoy the beautiful sunshine we are having in NI (while it lasts).

Monday, 2 June 2014

California here I Come

I'm off to California for the next two weeks (with a few days in NYC thrown in for good measure).  It remains to be seen if I'll have any time while out there for blogging, but I'm taking an empty suitcase with me to fill up with all sorts of fun things from my collection to share with you when I get back.  In the meantime, please enjoy this informative film about my home state:

Friday, 30 May 2014

An open letter to Woman's Weekly

Dear Woman's Weekly,

In regards to your classics series "A Vintage View" - what a great idea!  I happened to stumble across issue #1 (1900 - 1920) at my local supermarket and as I am much interested in anything to do with homemaking, crafts and so called "women's issues" of the early 20th century, loved it.  It had interesting domestic tidbits and reproductions of articles from these years.  I was excited to see more.

So I bought issue #2 (the 1920s) and this didn't disappoint either.  More interesting tidbits and more crafty ideas that I plan to try out.  I was very much looking forward to issue #3 (the 1930s and a particular era of interest to me), especially since the teasers you gave indicated that there would be (oh joy of joys) knitting patterns involved.

And here is where it gets ugly . . . yes, issue #3 had knitting patterns, but you also introduced a horrible style of cropping images with a wavy line to disastrous effect.  Several of the aforementioned knitting patterns had the last few lines of instruction completely obscured due to this, frankly not very nice looking, wavy line.

observe the wavy line at the bottom of this article, completely obscuring directions for the collar

And that's just the beginning.  Whereas the first two issues reproduced the old layouts clearly (at least allowing the sentences to be finished before cropping them) and legibly, this new issue had layouts so small that I doubt I will be able to read them even with the aid of a magnifying glass.

I was hoping this was some sort of fluke, so yesterday (with some trepidation) I bought issue #4 (the 1940s).

Alas! The same wavy line! The same miniscule layouts! The same incomplete knitting patterns!  For shame! You should know that there are enough knitters out there interested in making up garments than to print incomplete patterns!

So here is what I propose to make amends for this:  You are clearly sitting on the archives of a formidable collection of vintage knitting and crochet patterns.  Might I suggest you publish a special series of "Knitting patterns of the thirties [forties]" and reproduce these instructions in their entirety for us crafters out there.

I, for one, would buy it.


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

vintage knitting freebies

I have a nice sized collection of vintage knitting magazines.  I started collecting in the late 90s when you could still find them for pennies at the thrift store, and in the space of four years I managed to collect more patterns than I will ever be able to knit in one life time.  And then knitting became popular again and I watched these items disappear from the thrift stores and show up online at prices I will never be able to justify paying ($80 for a 1930s knitting pamphlet!!???!!!).

But I'm not really complaining here.  Aside from the ludicrous prices being asked for original patterns, there are so many good things about the resurgent popularity of knitting (and vintage style knitting in particular).  For one thing, there is so much more choice these days when it comes to affordable yarns in a huge variety of sizes.  New patterns are another great thing - I got into collecting vintage patterns in the first place because at the time there were no contemporary knitting patterns which fit my fashion sensibilities.  Nowadays there are loads of books with retro style looks for knitters.  It's great!!

Last but definitely not least are all the bloggers out there who are sharing free patterns with the rest of us.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  One day, if I ever buy a scanner, I will be only too happy to share with you some treasures from my collection.

In the meantime here are a couple of colour charts I photographed from Oldhams Encyclopedia of Knitting.  Hope you enjoy them!

This second photo was a little problematic as the pattern spanned the overleaf of the book, but it looks like these are just mirrored images of each other, so it shouldn't be too hard to fill in the missing details.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

tap dance tuesday

Previously I mentioned that earlier this year I took up tap dancing again.  I say again, but the reality is that the last time I'd had taps on my feet I was probably 12 years old and in my parent's garage with a plus sized nun my dad had arranged to teach me tap dancing (I could explain that whole situation a bit more, but I think not - it's a pretty great image as it stands.  Man was she light on her feet!).  I don't remember ever progressing beyond the kick-ball-change stage.

Anyway, after several years of dreaming about it, I took the plunge and actually bought myself a new pair of tap shoes.  A (admittedly not extensive) search online has not turned up any adult tap classes in the Belfast area, so I have been making do with online videos.  

Now I don't know if any of you have ventured into the world of YouTube tap tutorials, but they can be a bit  . . . mmm, how to put it without insulting the lovely men and women who have taken the time to post videos for ingrates like myself . . . uh . . . modern for my taste.  But time marches ever forward, and I feel that with a solid foundation I can apply it to more, ahem, backward looking dancing.

In the meantime, I keep myself inspired with this sort of thing.  "Best tap and dancer and drummer in the world" (did I mention that I used to be a drummer in a younger life) is a pretty bold statement.  I leave it to you to decide if this is true.

Incidentally, if anyone knows of any adult tap classes in the Belfast area do please let me know.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Another recent acquisition

I just picked up a copy of Jane Gordon's Technique for Beauty (no printed date, but clearly from the early 40s as chapter 23 is all about looking good on war rations).  

Some bits of this book feels surprisingly modern in tone.  There's a lot of emphasis on good nutrition, proper digestion and the like.  I haven't had a chance to read through it in it's entirety, but a thorough reading of the first chapter, and a quick peruse of the rest has not revealed anything glaringly dangerous (like you often get in older beauty manuals).  

This modern tone also makes it ever so slightly disappointing, because all the emphasis is on maintaining the quality of the hair and skin and there isn't really anything in the way of makeup colour palettes or pin-curl sets.  It that respect it's not very useful for those of us looking to recreate authentic period looks.  

There's not too much in the way of illustrations in this book, but the ones that are here are quite charming and I thought I'd share a few below.  (Please excuse my rather low budget photos here - I'm making do with an old "point and shoot" and the editing capabilities of iPhoto)

Friday, 23 May 2014

Greetings from Belfast

I can't really remember when I started collecting vintage postcards.  To the best of my memory it was when my old boss gave me a small stack of ones probably from the 60s (I'll have to devote an entire post to her some day because she was really quite an influence on who I am today aesthetically).  

After that I started picking up the odd hotel postcard here and there mostly for the cool midcentury look that I was into at the time.  More recently, I started accompanying my mother to antique and collectable paper shows.  She began looking for antique postcards a few years ago as research for an upcoming book (not on postcards) and man she got bit hard by the bug.  She's now an expert on the things and can date them to within a decade just by looking at them.  Anyway, while I was still based in Los Angeles, I would go along as her "assistant" and instead of getting paid in currency, I got paid in postcards.

These days I'm mostly on the lookout for places I've lived in or travelled to, hence my collection has become a bit heavy on Northern Ireland.  

I'd love to know exactly where this picture was taken, because I imagine it's not too far from my house.

Queen's University by night

Thursday, 22 May 2014

some new favorites

Don't expect any vintage hair or makeup tutorials anytime soon on this blog - I am all thumbs when it comes to these things.  (If you are looking for that sort of thing may I suggest the very excellent Lisa Freemont Street.  She does some pretty amazing hair tutorials which I can only dream of one day having the patience to do.  At the moment, this sort of thing is more my line.)

Anyway, this post is not about hairstyle tutorials, it's about books.  What you can expect from this blog are books and lots of them! I have a huge collection of tomes, old and new, (sadly most of them are in storage in L.A.) and I am constantly adding to it.

Today I want to feature two of the latest additions to my hoard.

If you are not familiar with this excellent series, it started two years ago with the 1920s, then, logically enough, proceeded to the 1930s and 1940s.  A quick search on Amazon has informed me that they're going to be skipping ahead thirty years and publishing the 1970s next.

 I'd been stalking these books for quite a while now and the 1930s being my decade of fashion preference, I finally decided to buy that edition as a birthday present to myself last month. I liked it so much that last weekend when I saw the 40s version online for £5 (!!!!) even Mr B (who, in general, is amusingly grumbly about my book habit) said "you'd better get that". . . and so I did.

 I cannot rave about them enough.  These books are AMAZING!!!! (many exclamation points most definitely deserved and required).  With 400+ pages of fashion goodness in each, they can also double as free weights were I to take that sort of thing up.

If you are a patternmaker, (which I am, in training, if not always in practice) there are tons of fashion illustrations that you should be able to copy without too much trouble should you choose.  In fact my favorite thing so far has been examining the croquis and imagining what the flat pattern would have to look like.

I'll just end by saying I totally recommend this series.  They are worth buying at full price and most definitely worth picking up if you can find them cheaper, so keep your eyes peeled.  The 20's book is on my list for someday future purchasing, but for now there is more than enough here to keep me occupied for some time.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

tap dance tuesday

Earlier this year I took up tap dancing (more on that at a later date) and after my usual dance practice, in search of a little inspiration, I came across this number which Fred Astaire called "the greatest dance number ever filmed".  Check out those splits they leap into.  Ouch!

greetings and salutations

Hello there gentle readers, allow me to introduce myself.  I'm Mrs B and I've been lurking in the shadows of the vintage blogging scene for many many years now.  Maybe I have even left a comment on your blog though I'm a shy sort and it is the rare instance that I will actually do that.

Last July I packed up two suitcases of things, put the rest in storage and moved from the greater Los Angeles area (where I was born and mostly raised) to my husband's hometown of Belfast in Northern Ireland.  We now live just outside of town in the lovely little village you see above.  I used to blog here, but over the last few years I lost both the interest and the inspiration to continue and ultimately just felt it would be best to pack up the blog and start all over again on that as well.  I will probably repost some of the better entries here in the future.

Back when I was in college I used to dress up in fur coats and 50's cocktail dresses for a trip to the supermarket.  I would groom my eyebrows to perfect arches, paint on winged eyeliner and a red cupid's bow every morning before going to class.  Between the ages of 16 and 22 I did not own a single pair of jeans.

Now I am a housewife and most days I don't change out of my house slippers.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not spending the days in sweats, but I'm a long way away from the winged eyeliner.

I am hoping this blog will a) be an incentive to bring back a touch of the glamour I have lost over the years and b) be a place to share my love of history and old things with you.  I'm aiming to post once a week, so we'll see how we go.

stay tuned . . .