Monday, May 2, 2016

Madison Avenue Monday: Simplicity Spots the Trends

A Simplicity ad featuring the latest patterns for spring, from Ebony magazine, April 1972. A similar ad features model Beverly Johnson.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Magic Cookie Bars: a Classic Mid-Century Recipe

If you've never eaten a Magic Cookie Bar then stop what you are doing and make these now--life is too short to miss out on this scrumptious treat!  I've been baking a lot recently and I suddenly had a craving for these. My mother often made these for potlucks or other get-togethers when I was a kid and I hadn't had one in years. As you can see from the photo, I didn't let these cool down quite enough before I cut them. Melted chocolate everywhere...because I just couldn't wait!

Sadly, many people have never heard of or tasted this scrumptious mid-century classic, and that is what prompted this post today. As far as I know, the recipe premiered in The Dessert Lovers' Hand-Book, a booklet of recipes produced by Borden in 1969 to feature Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk. I inherited my copy from my mother, and you can see how well-loved it has been in the photo below.

The bars are very easy to make! I'm sharing the original recipe along with my tips to make sure yours turn out just right.

Magic Cookie Bars 
(Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2 inch x 3 inch bars)


1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs*
1 cup chopped nuts (I use walnuts)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips**
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut (shredded is also okay)
1 can sweetened condensed milk

*Make your own crumbs by placing about nine full size graham cracker sheets in a Ziploc bag, and then crush them with a rolling pin.

**I use a full 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips because I am a chocoholic.

Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub the sides a 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan with a little of the butter, and then put the rest of the stick in the bottom of the pan. Put it in the oven until the butter melts. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs evenly over the bottom. Mix so that all of the crumbs are coated evenly with the butter. Lightly press the crumbs down at the bottom of the pan as though you were forming a graham cracker crust.

Sprinkle the nuts evenly over the crumbs. Scatter the chocolate chips over the nuts, and sprinkle the coconut evenly over the chocolate chips.

Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the coconut. It's very thick, so use a rubber spatula to remove all of the milk from the can and drizzle it over the coconut. It's important to cover as much of the coconut as possible so it won't burn during baking.

Now wait for about five minutes to allow the condensed milk to soak through all of the layers. Then put the pan in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife around the edges of the bars. Allow to cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars.

And there you have it! One of the best cookie bars you will ever taste. Enjoy!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Madison Avenue Monday: Miracle of Spring

A charming two-page ad for Lentheric perfumes and lipstick from Ladies' Home Journal, March 1954:

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Stashbusters! Crochet Beanies and a Headband (free patterns)

Although tomorrow marks the first day of Spring, there is still a bit of chill in the air in the early mornings and evenings in many parts of the country. Earlier this year I decided that I needed to do some more yarn de-stashing, so I've been making beanies for the last few months.

I highly recommend Mango Tree Craft's Basic Beanie pattern, as the hats work up quickly and the pattern comes in preemie to adult sizes. The preemie size is perfect for those leftovers from larger projects that you might have tucked away in your stash. The cluster stitch featured in this pattern was new to me, and so was the ribbing technique (crocheting through the back loops) that creates the design you see below. This pattern is suitable for an advanced beginner but complex enough that I don't get bored when making these hats. You can add a crochet flower or two to give the hats some additional personality.

 Purple child's beanie made with Lion Brand Wool Ease
Pink infant beanie made with Knit Picks Swish Superwash

If you don't need a beanie or don't have anyone in mind to make one for, consider donating a few to: 
  • Handmade Especially for You needs beanies to give to children (especially teen boys) living in domestic violence shelters throughout California.
More intriguing beanie patterns:
And finally, I just began making the Golden Fave Twist Crochet Headband, which is suitable for beginners. I'm using some discontinued Knit Picks Crayon for this project, which has frustrated me in the past because it's hard to see the stitch pattern because of its nubby texture. But this pattern is so simple that I'll finally use it!

via ouiouiouistudio

 So, happy first day of spring! What are you working on this weekend?

Monday, March 14, 2016

I'm Back

Hello! It's been a while, hasn't it?

Lately I've been thinking about this blog a lot, and I realized how much I miss sharing my vintage and creative life here. Have you heard of the #yearofmaking hashtag, where participants commit to doing something creative for thirty minutes every day of the year? While I was away I wrote a novel for young adults (I'm still working on the second) and learned a lot about my creative process as it relates to writing.

In doing so I established a habit of doing something creative everyday. Although I didn't sew or crochet much while I was diligently writing my novel, I did dabble in art journaling for a couple of months and found out how much I love mixed media. Right now I'm on a crocheted beanie kick. Being creative in some way each day, even if it's just to try out a new recipe, is very soul-satisfying.

Blog posts give me more space to "talk" about books and projects and other stuff that I love in a way that other platforms don't. So, I'm back. There won't be an "official" schedule, but if you follow me via Bloglovin', email, or Facebook you won't miss a post.

Ta-ta for now!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

On Hiatus

I've given it a great deal of thought, and I've decided to put this blog on hiatus for a while.   I'm not sure when I will be back.

I have really enjoyed blogging and getting to know some of you over the past few years; I have had so much fun meeting new friends online and in person.  Hundreds of you still visit this blog everyday.  However, the blogosphere seems to have changed, and it seems that people aren't commenting as much.  Perhaps you all are just busier?  Or do you all just prefer tumblr? (smile)

As I mentioned in this post, it's really no fun for me when I write a blog post, especially if a post takes a great deal of time (hours!) to prepare, for that post to receive few or no comments.    And although I usually don't post about my health so it isn't apparent on the surface, several of you know that I struggle with chronic pain/fatigue.  That makes my "good" hours very precious to me.  So I've decided to work on other creative projects during those hours. I'm writing two novels.  And I get goosebumps just thinking of all the sewing, crocheting, jewelry-making and other creative projects I will be able to do....

So, goodbye for now.  I'll still be around posting and chatting on Facebook and Instagram, on Twitter for shop-related tweets, and pinning everything my little heart desires on Pinterest if you'd like to keep up with some of my projects and interests.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Madison Avenue Monday: The "In" Waistlines, modeled by Twiggy

A fabulous little fashion layout featuring Twiggy from McCall's Patterns Fashions, Fall-Winter 1967-68.  I'd wear any of these silhouettes today:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Book Reviews + Giveaway: Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs & Crochet One-Skein Wonders

Although I own a lot of vintage crochet pamphlets, you might be surprised to know that I actually only have a few contemporary crochet pattern books on my library shelf.  I generally don't pick up newer crochet craft books for the simple reason that the projects in modern books aren't usually that different than some of the vintage resources that I already own.

However, I found that both Connect the Shapes: Crochet Motifs (Edie Eckman) and Crochet One-Skein Wonders (Judith Durant & Edie Eckman) add a number of new resources to my current library of patterns, so I'm glad that I was sent a copy of both books for review.

Connect the Shapes Crochet Motifs is Edie Eckman's second book about crochet motifs; the designs can be used for embellishments upon clothes home decor projects, or they can joined together in order to create a larger project such as a scarf or afghan.  You are probably familiar with the most common crochet motif -- the granny square. This book is full of new motif designs that are not in any of the crochet resources I currently own, and there is an entire section of 3D motifs that are among some of the coolest crochet designs I have ever seen.

As granny squares are most familiar to me I crocheted one of these first in order to test the clarity of the instructions in this book. Overall I was pleased as  I found the instructions and diagrams to be very clear and easy-to-follow in the motif section.   The instructions to create each of the motifs are presented in full on one or two pages, and I really liked that I didn't have to flip to a stitch glossary in the back of the book for each new stitch type.  And the book has a covered 3-ring binding so it lays flat while open, making the book easy-to-read and use (hooray!).

I consider myself an intermediate crocheter, so I spent quite a bit of time working some of the motifs in this book to test the instructions and also to try out new designs that I had never seen before. Some of the techniques were new to me, such as joining motifs as you go (JAYGO) instead of sewing them together when finished, and so were some of the stitches used in several of the motifs (for example, the Crocodile Stitch).

There are twelve fun patterns in this book for items such as a pincushion, skirts, a placemat, a welcome mat, a baby blanket and more.  Although you've probably seen similar projects before the motif variations may be new to you, and no doubt you can interchange some of the other motifs instead of those presented in the pattern section to customize the project to your liking.

I really did enjoy this book and plan to continue working out of it to advance my own crochet knowledge.  I would recommend Connect the Shapes to intermediate or advanced crocheters.  You must be somewhat familiar with crocheting in the round and I believe that a beginner will find some of the newer stitches and complicated motif patterns too challenging to be satisfying at first.  I found the instructions for the Magic Loop (Sliding Loop) technique to be insufficient; crocheters will want to consult a friend or look for an instructional video on You Tube if they are unfamiliar with this method of starting a piece in the round.

Crochet One-Skein Wonders is a book that crocheters of all skill levels can enjoy.  The "One-Skein Wonders" series of books is very popular and you may already have one of these books on your bookshelf.   As I recently received this book I haven't had a chance to make some of the wonderful projects in here as of yet, but I'm certain that I will use this book in the future for gift - making. The projects are cute and I really do love projects that can help me use up leftover yarn in my stash!

I do wish that this book had a covered spiral binding as does Connect the Shapes. And it is unfortunate that this book does not assign difficulty ratings  (to let you know if a project is suitable for beginners, intermediate, advanced) to the patterns.  However, many of the 101 projects use common stitches and are suitable for beginners or advanced beginners.

The projects are arranged by yarn weight and range from using cotton thread and lace-weight yarn all the way up to bulky weight yarn.  Although some of the projects are common (e.g., coasters, baby booties, hats)  there are some very unique and modern designs in this collection.  I liked that there is an entire section on amigurumi animals (and these cute little guys are great for gift giving!).

Two of my favorite projects are the Sea Breeze Shawlette made with super-fine weight yarn and the Burgandy Lace Hoops made with crochet thread (pictured below):

The instructions and diagrams in Crochet One-Skein Wonders are very clear and easy-to-read.  Again, new stitches within the pattern are covered on the pattern page so a reader doesn't have to flip back and forth from a stitch glossary (so convenient!).  Consider this book if you have some single skeins languishing in your stash that are leftover from previous projects.


Here is your chance to win a copy of Connect the Shapes: Crochet Motifs or Crochet One-Skein Wonders!  There will be two winners for this giveaway and it is open to US residents only.  First winner selected will choose which book he or she wants and the other book will go to the second prize winner.  Just enter through the Rafflecopter widget below by midnight PST on Friday, May 17th.  The winners will be announced on this post on Saturday, May 18th.  Good luck!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of both books for review but as always my opinions are my own!

Some photos courtesy of

Friday, May 3, 2013

Fortunate Finds: the Lady Ellen Pop Up Hair Salon

As a woman who is fascinated by the beauty rituals of yesteryear I happened to pass by a small plastic box at an estate sale.  It looked a bit familiar to me, so I opened it up and discovered that I had a Lady Ellen Pop Up Hair Salon in my hands:

This compact little box doesn't look like anything special on the outside, really, but I think this set is a triumph of mid-century design (probably made around the late 1950s or early 1960s or so).  This box of hair curlers looks pretty similar to one that my grandmother had, which is why it caught my eye.

When the box is open the graduated curlers are flat.  The lid itself contains clear plastic stakes that rest inside of the curlers when the box is closed and not in use.  However, if you open the box and place the lid underneath it, the stakes push up hidden pink plastic cylinders:

The internal pink cylinders then  push up the stacked set of graduated plastic curlers so they become easier to grab!  I love that idea.

Ingenious design, isn't it?  The curlers are also color-coded by size.  This set would have contained clips to hold the rollers in place but they are missing from this box.  (Hair clip design hasn't really changed in the last 60 years.  A metal prong clip is the type that would have been used.)

These sets were made by the Kaymar Company in Los Angeles into the early 1970s (as far as I know) with several different designs for the outer case (the designs were colorful and were "flower-power" bright in the late 1960s and 1970s).

Does this set of hair curlers look familiar to you too?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Essentials for the Forces and More: free 1940s Knitting Patterns

Did you know that the Victoria & Albert Museum has digitized some World War II-era knitting patterns and made them freely available on their website?  The patterns hail from 1940s publications  such as Woman's Weekly and from booklets like "Essentials for the Forces" by Jaeger Hand-Knit in support of the war effort.

This booklet in particular includes many patterns designed for men and women in the service (such as helmet liners and balaclavas) but there are some truly fashionable gems in this book for those who want to put together an authentic vintage look:

You can download the text of each pattern as a PDF or Word document (I linked to the PDF under each image in this post).  These knitted turbans are my favorite pattern, and the directions look very easy even for slow beginning knitters like myself:


The "When You're Off Duty" sweater is quite elegant (they are a bit hard to see, but notice that she's wearing dress clips at the collar):


The lion and tiger toys would make great handmade gifts for a young person (or a young-at-heart person!) today:


The Victory Jumper (a sweater) is just too cute:


Check out the rest of the knitting patterns on the V & A site. There is also a section on Ravelry for Victoria & Albert Museum patterns if you need help with directions, especially as the patterns use British knitting terms.

By the way, if you're on Ravelry my username is SerendipityVint. Connect with me!

Images courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum