Dec 28, 2012

Yugoslavia and Vintage Boots

Every once in a while I get the urge to thrift. It is a urge which needs to be kept well in check since thrift shopping for me tends to result in unnecessary purchases of clothing I will never wear (cite the parrot-design knitted ugly sweater decision of October 2012... don't know what I am talking about? That's because you haven't seen the sweater..)

Sometimes, in my moments of embarassing weakness, I give into my alter-ego - Bad 80s Clothing Brittany (she can be a bit of a badass) - and come out of secondhand stores with a fashion faux that not even a belt can fix. And no matter how many ways I try to style it - long silver necklaces, jeggings, high boots, etc., I end up realizing that it's final life destination probably should have been the thrift store, and not my closet. Friends come in handy here, too. Take only the friends whom you can trust to be brutally honest; they will save you from thrift-shop purgatory and bring you back to the land of cute dresses and butterflies. 

It helps to have a plan when going into overwhelmingly large stores like Talize or Value Village. I usually start with housewares, passing over vintage tea sets, pyrex casserole dishes, and saucers, reminding myself that, until I have a house of my very own, I can't crowd my shared space with things I have no room for. 

Once I've passed through the book section, I typically meander about the shoes. It is a blessing that I have no fear of strange foot diseases, because scooping up vintage boots has become my favourite part of thrift shopping. And I rarely fail. One of the best pair of boots I have ever purchased were a pair of vintage Eatons 80s black leather boots. I wear them on a regular basis, and other than a small repair job to one of the wooden heels, they have fared extremely well. I've also managed a pair of genuine leather Aldo cowboy boots which were too small for my already tiny feet and got passed off to a friend who adores them more than I ever could.

So when Bad 80s Clothing Brittany stumbled upon pair of vintage suede boots at a Talize in London, ON, she grabbed them and ran. 

Gorgeous, right? I thought so too, and before I could resist, the boots became the classically heeled foundation point for all further purchases.

Now, if I have learned anything from my favourite thrifting fashionista, Julie, it is that thrifting only works well if you check the tag - find out what brand the item is before you spend good money on something which, being secondhand, should cost you less than its going retail price. There is absolutely nothing worse than finding a cute dress marked $12.99 at Talize and then realizing the brand is Walmart - the dress was probably cheaper new than secondhand.

UPSTAGE is a brand I have never ever come across. I have never seen it in any Canadian or American stores. Usually when this happens, the brand is imported from Europe, has been purchased by its previous owner on holidays, or has mishapped its way across the globe. The print on the tag first alerted me to the age of the boots, as did the fact that the tag held a 7 digit serial number. Since contemporary marketing has replaced these IDs with barcodes, you can typically assume that anything with a tag looking like this is pre 1995. 

It's a good thing I have my perception led me to look, because when I turned the tag over...

Kid-in-the-Barbie-Aisle-During-Snow-Brittany and Bad-80s-Clothing-Brittany were rudely pushed aside as History-Nerd-Brittany came running in full speed, history lesson in hand (my professors would be so proud...). 

See, Yugoslavia's existence during the 20th Century was tumultuous. For a large part of its post-WWII life, it was under the power of the USSR, and was basically rendered obsolete during the 1991 Yugoslav wars. The country no longer exists under the name Yugoslavia, and hasn't since 1992. Not only that, between 1970 and 1991/2 the country/socialist republic was in a constant state of economic and political turmoil. 1/2 million people lost their jobs in a 3 year period. Wars devastated the SFRY. Unfortunately, during any war, the buying and selling of fashion is one of the first luxuries to get snubbed. And since Yugoslavia wasn't economically stable, I can imagine that the exports of suede boots were not a top priority. So, though I have no idea what these particular boots have seen, I like to imagine they experienced world history.

And lucky for you, I compiled some photos of my other thrifted gems, outfitted from the boots up!

(all photos were taken with the iPhone 4S, edited with Adobe Photoshop Elements)

Who knew a pair of boots could have so much history? I sure didn't. I guess it's a good thing that History-Nerd-Brittany took over this one. If that hadn't happened, you might have been reading a post about the importance of owning at least one sweater with a giant dog face on it...

Yes. That happened.

Dec 27, 2012

Let it be Christmas, everywhere

Since I live in Canada, I know first hand what the lyricist is talking about when they proclaim to be "dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the one's [they] used to know." Each year, sometime around November 12 (well, exactly November 12.. I have a spoken rule in my life that declares I am not permitted to think of Christmas or snow until Remembrance Day has been observed) I break out the Christmas tunes, and the visions of sugar plum fairies begin dancing around in my head. Unfortunately, this also means that my obsession with snow takes a front row seat in the life and times of winter me. And winter me is a happy me.

So when December 20 rolled around and the Mayan apocalypse was looming over my Christmas cheer, I couldn't believe my luck. Could it be? Could we really have a white Christmas? Or would my white Christmas turn green and leave me blue as I spent another year being foiled by Global Warming's cruel sense of humour. 

Sugar plum fairies turned to snow fairies, and my mind began drifting off into hypothetical snowbanks. I wanted my world to transform into the White Witch's castle in the Chronicles of Narnia. I wanted to wake up to a world glistening white and clean and magical. 

Now, while we are being honest, this is pretty much what I see when there is snow. One flake turns me into a five year old kid down the Barbie aisle of the local Walmart. I go beserk. I watch out windows with Vanilla Earl Grey tea in my oversized Mickey Mouse mug (which shouldn't surprise anyone) for hours. I dig out mittens and coats and boots and walk around in it once it accumulates. I take pictures and immortalize every snowscape, visually hanging them in the gallery of my mind. And, when I am really giddy, I go in for the ultimate: I stick my tongue out and hope to capture a few flakes.

Imagine my delight when, on Christmas morning, my hometown awoke to a white world. Fresh snow glittered in the morning sun. I am sure that if Christ hadn't been born in Bethlehem, the Nativity scene would absolutely have snow. Because for me, the glory of the Lord shines through each snowflake - unique, complex, magical. 

And so I dream of white Christmases. I think it is because when I look at snow, and see the world transforming from bleak and dirty into pure and white, Frost's ministry whisks my heart away and I hear the angels proclaiming 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth; peace and goodwill to men.' In fact, I see snow and I hear this: 

Sometimes I can be such a romantic. 

Speaking of romance, check out the [my] piano. 

I guess I am thankful that the Mayan apocalypse didn't get in the way of my favourite holiday. I am also pretty thankful that Global Warming kept her cruel sense of humour away from me this year. I don't think my inner kid-in-the-Barbie-aisle-of-Walmart could have managed another green Christmas. I might have ended up singing Elvis Presley's Blue Christmas to the snow, and that would have been awkward and terrible for everyone. 

It's lovely weather...

May you and yours be blessed this Christmas season. 

Dec 15, 2012

Recipe Weekend: Momma's Apple Crumble

With the holidays approaching I felt it was time liven the place up with some holiday cheer. What better way to make the house smell like Christmas than caramelizing apples and cinnamon?

First, lay out the ingredients:
Brown sugar

And a glass of wine because you can. 

I used Gala apples because they are my favourite, but you can use whichever type of apple you like best. Macintosh apples provide a nice contrast to the sugar because they are tart, and Delicious apples fill the bowl up faster because they are big. Whichever type of apple you use, you'll need to peel the ones you use. 

Then, pick the music. I opted for a nice selection of Christmas music. I say nice, because I refuse to listen to the same old run-of-the-mill Christmas tunes that air on the radio every December. I like music with substance, that takes risks. Mercyme, Michael W. Smith, Sting, etc. These are some of my favourites. 

The recipe is simple enough. Fill a casserole dish with apples about 3/4 way full. Sprinkle heavily with brown sugar and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup melted butter, 2 cups oats, 1/2 cup flour, and brown sugar. Put the dry mixture on top of the apples and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 mins. 

When it comes out, it should be nice and sweet and apple crumbly. 

And it will - as long as you remember to add the flour.

Confession: The first time I made the apple crumble, I forgot the flour. Apparently, when you forget the flour, the oats don't get crumbly, they get soggy and stay oatsy. When this happened, I did what every self resepecting twenty-something year old woman would do - I called my mom. She laughed, as the good mom she is, and then told me that I needed to add flour. Clearly worried that I wouldn't be able to salvage any part of this apple crumble for a good blog post, I quickly set out to fixing the crumble part of the apple crumble. I felt like Dave Ramsey, rooting through cupboards, pulling out my Quaker Oats, my measuring cups, and my assortment of curse words. I scraped mushy oats off of the apples, reapplied the brown sugar, and tried my hardest to fix up my failure of a baking experiment. I didn't fix it, and instead made an entirely new apple crumble. The skrew-up apple crumble was still tasty, it just wasn't what I was expecting. The second time, I added the flour and it got nice and crispy. 

This time, I dished out the good apple crumble into bowls, and topped it with vanilla yogurt. I chose Source yogurt because it is my favourite, but you can do whatever type you like best. You can even do ice cream on the side if you feel really adventurous (which I didn't...nor did I actually have any in the freezer, which surprised me, since I usually have a exceedingly large tub of it). 

One thing I would like to note is the casserole dish that I used. It was passed down to me from my grandmother before I started university. It used to have a twin, with the colours inverted. It broke during my second year after an unfortunate tumble off the counter. This one, however, has survived. It is probably my favourite casserole dish, and I plan on keeping it long enough to pass on to a younger generation. 

Sentimental, I know.

Dec 10, 2012

Once upon a quilt..

Back in October of 2011, I began a spontaneous DIY project. I started making a quilt.

Hundreds of squares, and yards of thread later, I am 3 rows away from having the face of the quilt finished.

It's about the size of a double bed, and has absolutely no pattern other than the alternating colours. The fabrics have all come from my mother's basement. Many of the fabrics have childhood significance: old drapes, barbie clothes, or leftover scraps from mom's quilting days. It's been really cool to see them all come together into this. 

I plan on putting a thick cotton-fleece backing on the entire quilt, preferably a vanilla white with stripes on it, but I can't be picky since I really can't afford to get something super exciting. I do like the vintage look of the fabrics together, and once I figure out how I want to do the actual quilting part. I am considering stitching it diagonally. I also don't intend on putting any badding in between the layers of fabric. I am pretty sure that a cotton-fleece backing will be warm enough. 

After this one is finished, I plan on starting an Irish-Chain patchwork quilt. And after that one is finished...

The 'never-winning' tetris quilt - which I think is about the coolest quilt I have ever seen. Perhaps it is about time I invest in a sewing machine.