Monday, July 25, 2016

Mother Said: Dress Well on a Budget

As long as I can remember my mother was a "clotheshorse." Okay, so that is an old term. Today the term would be "fashionista." I remember her sisters, my aunts, would say the same that she was always in style, even when it came to how she would wear a scarf.

What Mom couldn't find in the stores she would buy a few patterns, design her own, and head to her sewing machine. We still have some of Mom's sketches of her clothing designs. They reminded me of the sketches we would see on the Oscars by former Hollywood's clothing designer Edith Head. A few years back, we surprised Mom and framed a few of her beautiful clothing sketches, as she had forgotten all about them. Through the years, Mom also collected beautiful old vintage clothes, hats, and purses that she discovered at estate sales.

After she "retired," from teaching, she didn't really "retire." Instead she went to work for a couple of clothing department stores who carried many high-end brand names. Her daughters certainly benefited when it came to her gift giving with her employee discount. Today, mom finally retired and spends her time wearing decorative ball caps, jeans, and garden gloves - her lush green and colorful flower gardens do not care what labels she wears.
Ralph Lauren Tote
What I learned from my mother was spend your money on "classics." Do not spend lots of money on the trends. Big difference. Trends come and go. Sure, if you want to look trendy, then look through the recent fashion magazines and see what is in trend, and buy these items on sale, or at more affordable department stores. Spend your dollars on timeless style handbags, shoes, outer wear, a few good pieces of basic jewelry, and even a pair of classic-style designer sunglasses. You know, that basic "little black dress?" In fact, shop around for your classics. You won't believe some of the slightly-used designer handbags you can find online or in vintage shops. Also, study the lines of the classics such as the iconic Coco Chanel jackets. Chances are you will find the same cut and detail on a more affordable brand. 

Confused on what a classic style is? Typically a "classic style" is a design that has stood the "test of time." It's a style that flatters most everyone. If in doubt, Google "Jacqueline Kennedy," However, a classic style is not to be confused with a "vintage style." Vintage style starts with the classic look, but it is accessorized in a way that it hints at a specific time period of fashion. Also to be considered are "artistic" items that you will always have, and always be complimented on such as vintage outer wear made with the same patterns as the collectible Pendleton wool blankets - again, this is just an example. 


Vintage 1960's Whiting & Davis
The texture feels so good
Also, think about some good basic pants and shirts in monochromatic colors (shades of black, navy, or brown) and then doll up the outfit with fun trendy and colorful accessories. Don't forget to add some of the vintage-retro looks, as well. 

Trust me, today I am far from being a fashion icon, especially now since I no longer work in the public eye (i.e. law firm), and now employed as a freelance writer from home. I have hung up my beautiful blazers adorned with charming antique brooches, and today my choice of "office apparel" is a pair of linty sweat pants and maybe a clean t-shirt. Hey, you never know when you have to clean up a cat-yak-hairball, feel the urge to prune rose bushes, or take a nap with a dog on your lap.
Clare V. Foldover Clutch
My new personal favorite
For the most part, I know no color other than black. In my teens, and as a young woman, I tried to follow in mom's footsteps, but finally went back to the Bohemian ways of my youth, and also gave my sore feet a break and went for comfort - - Birkenstocks. However, I still own my 20 year-old red velvet Ralph Lauren heels as if they are a trophy - - a trophy of my youth. Hey five pairs later, at least Birks are rather - - "timeless."

My point? Shop well and spend the dollars on classic and timeless styles of handbags, shoes, outer wear, basic good jewelry (precious metals and stones), and sunglasses. You will not only have these forever, but also create your own signature style. In other words - - stop buying the crap that will end up in our landfills. 

Coco Chanel 



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Cooking is Cheaper than Therapy: Tabbouleh

It was in the mid-1970's, living in Portland, Oregon, and I had an opportunity to take a series of Middle Eastern cooking classes. I had no idea what was ahead of me.  Hey, I was from a small town and our grocery stores were not filled with bags of pita bread, deli containers of hummus, jars of tahini paste, boxes of phyllo sheets, let alone it was difficult to find bags of dried bulgur. I could barely pronounce some of these names, let alone find them on our shelves. While bulgur was available, it wasn't mainstream as I had to find a health food store to locate a dusty bag of it in a town of 18,000 - - again, in the 1970's.  At least I knew what "pita" was as we were beginning to see pita bread sandwiches making the scene in the Portland deli's. 

Oh my - - we have come a long way. When I would come home to visit for the holidays, I would load up on tahini paste and boxes of phyllo sheets from a Portland deli to bring back home so I could surprise my family with my new culinary skills and recipes. Now? I can find my ingredients at most of the local markets where I enjoy shopping. 

Our cooking classes were lead by two women who had settled in the Lebanese community of Portland. Many of the recipes were just demonstrated for us where we would frantically write down the ingredients and the procedures. Some of the recipes came from their cousin's recipe book, "Lebanese Cuisine" by Madelain Farah. Of course, I still have my copy. After our classes, we would sit with our instructors and share our bounty we prepared, while they shared their culture with us, and often over demi cups of rich Turkish coffee. 

Though the years I have enjoyed preparing (and eating) hummus, kafta, tabbouleh, falafels, qirashalli (anise-raisin bar cookie), baking pita, and even Lebanese-style baklava. The year I turned 55 years old, I decided to host a small gathering to celebrate, since my 50th birthday was consumed with taking my enology-viticulture finals (yeah, I went back to college). I hosted a "Middle Age Meets Middle East" for a few of my gal-pals and of course, appropriate dress was a must. 
Curried Cauliflower Salad, Lebanese-style Baklava, Red Pepper Hummus,
and an assortment of  dried fruit, nuts, and noshes
Tabouleh with Romaine Scoops, Kafta (beef meatballs with traditional Middle Eastern spices),
Chicken Kebabs, Peanut Sauce, Tzatziki Sauce, and assortment of Matzo and other unleavened bread.
Yes, and I even used some of my Depression Glass (See my Depression Glass post from 7/7/16)

There are many of these recipes to share, but let's start first with the Tabbouleh. So, what is Tabbouleh? It's a savory vegetable salad made with bulgur and lots of parsley, and mixed with a fresh and lemony dressing. So good and so addictive. It's traditionally served with romaine leaves to "scoop and eat" the salad from your plate, or I have even stuffed tabbouleh into pita bread.  I originally started with the recipe in the book, Lebanese Cuisine. However, though the years I have added, removed, and made it my own. It's really one of these fool proof recipes. Now, get to chopping - - 

Ingredients:

1 cup bulgur
2 medium tomatoes
1 medium cucumber - peeled and diced (English cukes are perfect for this salad)
1 small red onion - diced
1/2 cup green onions - chopped
1/2 cup parsley - chopped
1/2 cup mint - chopped, or use an additional 1/2 cup of parsley instead of mint, or add mint to taste
1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground pepper or to taste

Dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (or a skoosh more juice or a sprinkle of lemon zest if you prefer a "brighter" taste)
1 - 2 cloves of garlic, to taste - minced

Quick rinse bulgur in a small netted sieve; drain and transfer to bowl. Add cold water to cover bulgur in bowl. Cover bowl and set aside bulgur to soak for two hours until soft. Drain excess water. 

Core tomatoes, seed, and chop. Add chopped tomatoes to bulgur. Stir in diced cucumber, onions, parsley (and mint), and toss to combine. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together. Pour over salad. Toss well. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Kesak!


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Depression Glass

My mother would reminisce how as a kid, she and her siblings would use it as a target for throwing rocks when they would visit the field the locals used as their dump. Her memories about this beautiful and colored glass made me rather - - depressed.

Depression Glass is a colored, yet translucent glassware that was distributed free, or for a few pennies, around the time of the Great Depression from the 1920's and even into early World War II. This glassware was often seen in colors of amber, green, pink, soft blue, and sometimes clear. 
Some of the less common colors were yellow (often referred to as "Vaseline" glass), Jadeite (opaque pale green), red (ruby), amethyst, and a white milk glass. 
Floral aka Poinsettia by Jeannette Glass Company
The patterned glass was often incentives to purchase products such as the Quaker Oats Company, and sometimes gas stations with a "fill-up." Movie theaters would hand out a piece simply for coming in the door. An antique dealer once told me that often at the end of the movie, when the patrons would stand up, you would hear the crash of glass breaking as the patrons would sometimes forget the piece of glass was on their lap. 
Sharon aka Cabbage Rose by Federal Glass Company
Most of this colored glassware was made in the Ohio River Valley, where access to raw materials and power made manufacturing inexpensive in the first half of the twentieth century. There were more than twenty manufacturers making collectively more than 100 patterns, and some patterns were made into entire dinner sets with serving pieces.  Some of the more popular Depression glass producers included: Anchor Hocking Glass Company, Federal Glass Company, Hazel-Atlas Glass Company, Jeannette Glass Company, and Imperial Glass Company to name a few - - and each company making at least five to ten different patterns to collect.
Floral & Diamond Band by U.S. Glass Company
Depression glass has been highly collectible since the 1960's, but I started collecting it in the late 1970's and mainly concentrated on the pink Floral (aka Poinsettia), amber Cabbage Rose (aka Sharon),  green Floral & Diamond Band, and the blue and also red "Bubble." And of course, there are a few other serving pieces from other patterns that I use to "mix and match." 
Blue Bubble by Anchor-Hocking 
Although of marginal quality; such as thick glass, and definite rough manufactured edges, it is still highly collectible with rare pieces fetching a few hundred dollars.  Some patterns, such as the pink "Cherry Blossom" were reproduced in the 1990's. It's a buyer beware on price, but the reproductions serves a purpose if wanting to complete a set of some of the serving pieces. You don't see Depression glass as much as I use to 30 years ago, but I have noticed it is coming back around. No doubt back re-circulating because of estate sales of former collectors. 

Looking for a good reference on Depression glass? Might I recommend any book by Gene Florence. While many of his books were published 20 years ago, he has a few current ones. However, even the old ones will still have the information about the glass companies and patterns, which is all you really need to know. Price? It varies and will depend what you are willing to pay and where. 
Ruby Red Bubble by Anchor-Hocking
(This comes out during the holidays)
Do I use my Depression glass? Absolutely! Although it sits rather regal in its own antique cabinet, I still take it out and use it. My motto: If I don't use it and enjoy it (and even accidentally break it), then someone in the future will. 


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