Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cinema Spotlight-1936's Swingtime

Today I am participating in Ruckus the Eskie's Thoughtless Thursday with my second cinema spotlight post.  This is vintage and old holly wood related rather then dog related so if you may want to skip it if you are looking for dog only post.

There is no film star I admire more then the incomparable Fred Astaire and no screen pairing I find more delightful then Astaire and Rogers.  Their films are the epitome of 1930s style and stand the test of time beautifully.   One of my favorite Astaire and Roger's pairings is 1936's Swing Time, the duo's fifth outing. 

The movie represents one of the few times that Astaire and Roger's play more every day folks, rather then the glamorous and successful stage stars they portray in classics like 1935's Top Hat and 1937's Shall We Dance.   Astaire is Lucky Garnet a dancer and gifted gambler who falls in love with a local girl, Margaret, when his traveling dance troupe plays his home town.

Betty Furness played Margaret

Lucky's dance partners are less then thrilled by the impending marriage of the star performer and set about trying to put an end to the match.  In one of the film's best scenes which pokes fun at Astaire's unending devotion to style they convince him that his wedding suit trousers need cuffs.

Held up by altering his trousers and sucked into a bit of gambling Lucky misses his wedding.  Margaret and her father are understandably upset but when Lucky convinces them that he was late for the wedding due to an opportunity to earn a good bit of money, Margaret's father says they can marry if Lucky earns 25,000 dollars.   With that goal before him Lucky decides to give up dancing and heads to New York to make his fortune as a gambler, his friend Pop, played by Victor Moore, tags along.
Pop played by Victor Moore on the left chats up Mabel Anderson played by Helen Broderick
Since Lucky's dance troupe has taken all his money, Pop and Lucky have only one  quarter to their name.  Pop wants change for a cigarette machine and Lucky asks Ginger Roger's, playing Penny (get it Lucky's Penny), for change for the quarter.  Knowing that the quarter is special to Lucky. Pop sneaks it out of Penny's purse and Penny thinking that Lucky took it calls the police.

During the quarter scene Ginger is wearing the most amazing cape jacket. I'm dreaming of having this copied, imagine it with a detachable cape!
Lucky feels bad about the trouble he caused Penny and follows her to the dance studio where she works as an instructor.   He pretends to be a perspective student with no gift for dance.  The two perform the first big dance number in the film with Pick Yourself Up.  The sweet little dress Ginger wears in this scene is one of my all time favorite movie outfits.

Penny advices Lucky to save his money since he will never learn to dance and her boss overhearing, promptly fires her for her honesty.   To save Penny's job Lucky dances to the best of his ability and her boss is so impressed he decides to make them into a new dance troupe and arranges an audition for them at a local club.

However, Lucky is without the dinner clothes needed for the audition and gambles to win some, but instead winds up losing his own clothes.  Penny is furious and Lucky launches a campaign, complete with protest signs,  to win her forgiveness:

Eventually he succeeds by singing The Way You Look Tonight which one the Oscar for best song in 1936.

On speaking terms again the duo prepare to audition for the dance club but the band leader, Ricky Romero, is in love with Penny and refuses to play while she dances with another man.   Fred gambles with the clubs owner, wins Ricky's contract and the two begin dancing at the club.  Meanwhile Penny is falling in love with Lucky, but Lucky who has yet to tell her about Margaret is trying to avoid her.  In order to get some time alone with Lucky, Penny and her friend Mabel, the delightful Helen Broderick, cook up a plan to visit the country for the day.  This leads to one of Rogers's best most moments in the series when she and Astaire sing the comic duet A Fine Romance:

Usually Fred is the pursuer who falls in love with Ginger at first sight, but what I love about this number is Ginger's Penny is all out to get her man.  Plus I really want Ginger's snow gear.

After the trip to the country Lucky has decided to end the relationship with Margaret and pursue a relationship with Penny.  Penny  meanwhile takes up Mabel's dare to kiss Lucky, smearing lipstick all over his face in the process.

After the film's big kiss, Astaire performs what is probably his most controversial number, Bojangles of Harlem, a dance tribute to Bill "Bo Jangles" Robinson done in black face.  It is one of Astaire's most brilliant and technologically complex dances, he dances with three shadows of himself, but since its done in black face it is certainly offensive.  However, some dance critics view it as a tribute, and even a clever dance exploration of racism.  There is a New York Times article about the number by the dance critic Alistair Macauley that explores this issue.  Whatever our feelings about the dance today Astaire apparently meant it is a tribute to a dancer he greatly admired and Robinson was flattered.

After Lucky's big number Margaret returns and Penny walks in on them talking.
Hurt and angry she decides to marry Ricky Ricardo.  A broken hearted Lucky sings Never Gonna Dance, declaring that if he can't dance with Penny he wont dance at all.  This is one of Astaire and Roger's most beautiful numbers with stunning art deco sets.

Of course since this is an Astaire and Roger's movie everything comes to a happy end.   Margaret tells Lucky she  has met someone else, Lucky confesses his love for Penny, and with the assistance of Pop and Mabel he brings an end to Penny's impending nuptials and still manages to leave everyone, even the jilted Ricky, smiling:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Vintage Outfit Post-Poka Dotty!

If I had to spend the rest of my life wearing only one print it would surely be polka-dots.  Polka dots are so much fun and so elegant and so often turn up on gorgeous dresses from my favorite era, the 1930s.  If you aren't convinced just look at this amazing dress worn by Ginger Roger's in 1935's Roberta.

Or this stunning number on Joan Crawford

Image Source
Or better yet take a gander at the beautiful polka dots worn by these fabulously stylish "ordinary" women.

These images would lead any vintage enthusiast to conclude that if you are going to have a 1930s wardrobe you need to have a polka dot dress.  I couldn't find my dream long sleeved navy polka dot dress in vintage form, so I turned to the amazing Kim at Time Machine Vintage on Etsy.  She made me a repro dress that is just as good as, if not better, then the genuine article.  Its so much fun to wear:

 Of course I don't like to leave my dogs out of anything so I made sure to put Weasley in his navy and white bobble sweater made by the wonderful Melissa from pug notes.

I paired my dress with a 1930s hat from Adeline's Attic on Etsy, mod cloth oxford shoes, and a vintage barrette.  Since its always fun to mix eras I wore my vintage style cape from American Apparel and my navy 1960s Good Will gloves when I took the dogs for a walk.

One person asked me why I was so dressed up, the answer, as vintage style icon Dita Von Teese says: "the special occasion is life."

Outfit Details:

Dress Time Machine Vintage
Hat Adeline's Attic
Shoe's Mod Cloth
Gloves Goodwill
and of course Weasley's sweater is from Pug Notes!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tasty-Vintage Recipes

Over my winter break form work I made a delicious old fashioned meaty pasta sauce using a recipe from one of my favorite blogs,  Chronically Vintage.

It was such a delicious recipe and so nicely old fashioned I thought it would go well paired with an old style dessert, not that you need a dessert this is a filling pasta sauce.   Still I decided to make an update of a classic treat I've never really liked the taste of, but love the idea of, cream filled cupcakes:

(I really wish they still made add like this, energy for work and play, fresh in cellophane, 54% reserve energy and 46% reserve energy, clearly the 1950s where the hey day of advertising).  Anyway, I saw a recipe for a gourmet version of cream filled cupcakes in Lora Brody's  Chocolate American Style.

Cream Filled Cupcakes

4 ounces soft cream cheese
scant 1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
pinch salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips, preferably mini

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 of a stick of butter (3 ounces), soft
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
scant 1/2 cup milk

Line 12 cupcake tins with paper liners.   Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine the filling ingredients in a food processor and set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  In an electric mixer beat the butter until soft and then gradually add the sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time beating and scraping after each addition.   Alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the butter mixture in two additions beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.   Spoon the mixture into the cupcake liners until half full and then top with a tablespoon of the filling mixture and then the rest of the cupcake mixture.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Let cook completely in the pan.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Mischief-Weasley vs The Tug-A-Jug

Like all proud pet parents I am naturally besotted with my lovely furry companions and I tend to blather on and brag more then a  bit about their many winning qualities.   For example Weasley is undeniably a gorgeous puggie

and full of sweetness and affection.

However, I am afraid there is one virtue he may be lacking.....intelligence.  Now I have never been particularly keen on having a super smart canine, after all a highly intelligent dog is apt to get in lots and lots of trouble. Still I've always foubd my own pets clever.   My reason for feeling somewhat hesitant in regards to Weasley's brain power is due to the tug-a-jug debacle.

A Tug-A-Jug similar to the offender

Now its likely that every reader of this blog is familiar with the tug-a-jug but in case you are not its a jar with flexible stick in it.  When the dog tugs the stick the treats in the jar spill out.  Its a good puzzle for pugs as you need not have a long nose to solve it, its all done with the mouth.  Our late pug Bingo was a whiz at it.  Tubby and Ping just don't seem interested.  Weasley, however, is desperate, and I mean desperate, to get in that tug-a-jug but its just beyond him. 

First he sits beside the tug-a-jug looking cutely dejected and wondering what human silliness it is that has lead me to give him an inaccessible jar filled with food rather then a bowl.  As he gradually realizes that I am not going to open the jar, frenzied panic sets in.  There is food and he can not reach it.

While not visible in this photo Weasley frantically scratched and bit at the side of the jar loudly baying all the while.  The one thing he did not try, pulling on the cord.  I'm not that cruel that I can stand ideally by while a pug starves so I tried demonstrating the technique needed to get the treats.  Weasley was quite pleased to eat them but did not make the connection.  Then I tried putting peanut butter on the stick, Weasley licked it off.  At one point he inadvertently pulled the stick and was rewarded with a burst of treats: Success!!!  Except he made no connection between his action and the flurry of treats.  He never tried the tug again, but returned to squealing and pawing the sides of jar.  Finally, he looked so depressed

I just gave him some treats. 

I have tried the tug-a-jug with Weasley now every day for five days and no success.  Does anyone else have a dog baffled by this puzzle? As a professional special education teacher you would think I had some clever ideas for how to instruct Weasley in this skill but my mind, like Weasley's, is a blank.  Any advice would be appreciated.

Friday, February 14, 2014

See Beautiful-A Funny Valentine Treat

Today is Valentines Day and See Beautiful Friday so it's time to share the love.  

For the last few Fridays I have been posting some of my favorite 1950s and 60s film strips, which are always good for a laugh, and of course laughter and love go hand I hand. Today I have one of my favorites What To Do On A Date in which a mid century teen wonders how to keep a girl entertained. (I actually have two versions here the original and the version that was riffed by the television show MST3K).  Hope you get to share a laugh today with one you love and don't forget to See Beautiful

Oh and if you want a sweet treat here is a recipe for

 Red Velvet Cakes with Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups salted butter (at room temperature)
2 cups plus 4 tbsp sugar
4 eggs
2 tbsp red food coloring
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp white vinegar

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 lb cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 stick butter (at room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 box confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 and line 24 cupcake tins with paper liners.  In a large bowl whisk flour, cocoa, and baking soda together.  In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter until light and fluffy and then add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Add vanilla and red food coloring and beat at low speed.  In a measuring cup combine the butter milk and 2 tsp vinegar.   Add the butter milk mixture and flour mixture into separate additions beginning and ending with the buttermilk (so add buttermilk mixture 3 times and flour twice).  Beat well after each addition.   Spoon the batter into cupcake papers and bake for 18-21 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for ten minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Frost with the cream cheese icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Beat the cream cheese and butter together in an en electric mixer until light and fluffy (one minute on high speed and then 3-4 minutes on medium speed).  Mix in vanilla extract and add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth.  

Im on winter break from teaching next week so I will be forgoing blogging to spend some extra quality time with my fur babies.  I hope everyone has a great week.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dog Doppelgänger

In honor of doppelgänger week, February 2-8, DogVacay asked dog bloggers to write about who their dog doppelgänger would be.  While my post is a week late, I had no problem identifying my dog doppelgänger, I live with three of them, the pug:

Some might say its a chicken or the egg question regarding whether the dog becomes like the owner or the owner becomes like the dog, but I am sure that I was originally drawn to the pug breed because of essential similarities in our personalities and world view.  Over my many years living with pugs the pugness of my nature has only deepened. Here are a list of seven things I feel I have in common with pugs. 

1.  Pugs have a sense of history. 
Pugs are one of the oldest dog  breeds dating back to 400 BC.  They have been the companions of emperors, monks, kings, and queens.  A pug named Pompey saved the life of William of Orange by barking to warn him of an assassin.  A pug named Bosco was the companion of Queen Victoria.

 This rich history makes the pug the perfect companion for a history lover and vintage collector like myself.

2.  Pugs like comfort.  

Pugs are not a breed for harsh conditions are strenuous work.  They are bred for a life of comfort and ease and they seek such with the enthusiasm other breeds reserve for herding, hunting, and such.  Pugs are more then a touch hedonistic in their love of the good life and with their royal history they can be luxury hound.  I myself am not one for self denial and certainly like my comforts.  I'd say that along with my pugs I completely understand the Mae West Quote:

3.  Pugs are non-athletic. 

While pugs participate in agility, rally-o, and other canine sports, they are doubtless not the most athletic of canines.  Google pug breed info and on any page one of the first things you will read is the pug's unsuitability as a companion for joggers and active types.  This doesn't mean pugs are sedentary,

they love a good morning constitutional, 

but they are not die hard athletes.  I myself have never been athletic.  I vividly remember the one soccer goal I scored in junior high, I tripped over the ball and scored for the other team.  Of course this lack of athletic prowess makes me a good match for the pug, and my love of walking makes me an even better one.

4.  Pugs are non competitive.
A picture of my pack taken about five years ago, with the late Dr. Zira and Bingo featured, as you can see everyone is ok with sharing that ball.

I'd say this goes with number three.  Even when they participate in athletic events pugs are there for the joy of the game and not to win any medals.  They are the ultimate groupies interested in everyone doing well.  I've never understood the desire to win at any cost or be ultra competitive at work, school, or any other endeavor and I'd say I am happier for it.

5.  Pugs are fashion hounds. 
Image Source

They have personal style but are not interested in trends. Pugs prefer a unique look, like our dashing friend Winston Wilbur with his love of hats, 

 and they don't let their body type prevent them from having fun with fashion. 

I also love having fun with clothes and dressing up, usually with a pug at my side.

Ping and her Dad outside gourmet pie shop For and Twenty Black Birds.
6.  Pugs are foodies, but not food snobs.  Pugs will eat it all from gourmet treats to milk bones.   I myself love everything from truffles to spam.

Baby Weasley and his dad outside a gourmet ice cream shop in Manhattan.
Tubby sampling a french fry.

7.  Pugs are Homebodies.  Pugs might enjoy walks and trips and socializing, but they are always glad to be in the comfort of home with the ones they love, and I agree.   There is no place I would rather be then in my home with my pug (and non-pug) family members at my side.

Which breed is your doggie doppelgänger?

Wordless Wednesday-Cupid's Pranks

Usually I reserve these posts for Silent Film Sunday but as I did a different post last weekend here is a very early silent film by J. Searle Dawley, 1908, the film Cupid's Pranks.  In the ten minute film Cupid visits a ballroom and tries to bring a couple together.  I particularly love the beginning which shows cupid forging his arrows.  This is a lovely early example of fantasy film making and like all of these films offers a beautiful glimpse into a time gone by.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My Furry Valentine

If you are lucky enough to bask in the love of a pet then it's important you remember your furry love

on Valentines Day.  The way to a dog's heart is clearly through the stomach which makes gift giving easy:   something edible. 

Grain free Peanut Butter, Banana, and Carob Chip Hearts 

2 bananas 
6 tbsp peanut butter
3 cups coconut flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup quick oats 
1/2 cup carob chips 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Mash the bananas in a large bowl and stir in the peanut butter and eggs. Mix in the flour and oats and chips. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness on a floured surface and cut out with a heart shaped cookie cutter.

My cutter was really much too big. I need to read the descriptions on amazon more thoroughly, but it did major the cookies a good size for sharing. 

Transfer the cut out cookies to parchment lined baking sheets and bake 40 minutes or until dry to the touch.  Cool completely. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Vintage Collectables-Old Fashioned Valentines

I still fondly  remember one my first vintage purchases many long years ago. I was probably 9 or 10 and my father and I stopped at an outdoor flea market where I bought with my allowance money a stack of vintage postcards from the 1930s and 30s.  

Not my post cards but an approximation.

The best thing about the cards was the notes on the back. A few were sent home to parents from college, others detailed vacations, but the one that stands in my mind all these years later was a love note.  It was written by a man who felt his sweetheart had forgotten him.  I remember my father saying how sad it was.  I knew it was special and displayed it on my bedroom wall. I wondered if the man and his sweetheart reconciled. Or if he found a new love. Sadly over the years my post card was lost, I'd give quite a bit to have it back because I think it was the seed that started my love of vintage and collecting.  It taught me that aquiring something with a history is almost always better then something new.  

Today, I have a collection of vintage valentines from the 1940s and 50s that I display every February.   They are the school yard kind and purchased from Etsy and eBay.  These are easy to comeby and make cute displays. 

If newer valentines are your thing or you are looking for inexpensive cards to give to friends then Amazon has a good book of vintage reproduction valentines

for sale for a mere five dollars.  They are not as good as the originals, but they make a close approximation and are super easy as they just punch right out of the book.  These would be perfect for a child to give out at school.

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