Monday, December 31, 2012

Junk Love Monday: It's Personal

We've established a reputation for loving a lot of junk, in many shapes, colors, and styles, but one feature that elevates our junk love to near-ecstasy is the presence of a monogram on the piece. It can be clothing (especially on the silky lining of a vintage fur piece), jewelry, plates, linens, cigarette holders, vanity sets--as long as it has a pretty letter, we are all for it.
So can you actually collect monograms? Of course you can. We consider the monogram an almost-lost art form. Modern versions are never as good as the ones from the 30s, 40s, and 50s.
1930s monogram letters, from

Our pieces represent many styles and stories, even if they originally belonged to other people, and we love them all. The newest additions are a pair of engraved plates from a jewelry store, with samples of different styles that were available for a customer's initials. We plan to frame them:
Engraved monograms on copper .
Engraved monograms on copper .
Some of the old monogrammed jewelry is gasp-worthy. We buy lockets and watches, in particular, but love pretty much anything with great initials.
Antique Rose Gold Locket Monogrammed
treasurebooth on

from victorianbuttons on

Dior brooch,

The thing that changes a $50 fur from "I don't really need it" to "Help me find a place in the back seat" is a beautiful monogram in the lining. We're suckers. It's true.

We always swoon over monograms in the movies. Robes, sweaters, smoking jackets, dresses...we'd die to have them all. Katharine Hepburn can often be seen sporting her character's initials in a bold way:
 And we can't leave out these beauties:
1950s Ethel of Beverly Hills Black Knit Monogram D Bolero Sweater
thegetupvintage on
Vintage MONOGRAM 1950's Black Polished Cotton Shirt Day Dress
20thCenturyFoxy on
Vintage 60's 1960s Red Dress Wiggle Monogrammed Embroidered sz m
redangora on

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Skinny: A Snazzy New Year's Cocktail Party

Don't be boring for New Year's Eve! Throw a humdinger of a party with these tips from Esquire's Handbook For Hosts (1949), and you'll be talked about (in a good way) for weeks to come.

The complete guide to perfect parties!

 I. The Invitations
Can be professionally printed, handwritten, or over the phone, but MUST include the date, time, place, and mention that drinks will be served (alcohol is the Pied Piper of parties). Ideally, your guests should receive the invite 2 weeks prior to the party, so that they have time to cruelly reject all other requests for their time. It is usually good to ask them to R.S.V.P. several days before the event, but we all know that people are lazy, inconsiderate, and far too self-involved to actually do this. Think about how many people you invited, and then cross your fingers that 70% of them show up. If extras come, and you run out of food (or worse, alcohol), then inform them that they should have followed the etiquette of the R.S.V.P. if they actually wanted you to buy enough for them. This is best done loudly, and in front of a crowd. Audiences help people learn from their mistakes.

 II.  How Much Alcohol Will Make My Party Swing?
In 1949, three drinks per person. The actual amount should be based on two things: 1. your wallet; and 2. how many drunks you want to have to remove from your house when it's over. To calculate how many bottles to buy, rely on this handy tip from Esquire: a fifth of liquor (in a 25.6oz bottle) contains 17 jiggers of liquid. If you make cocktails that use one jigger each, then you can get 17 drinks out of each bottle. If using brandy or Scotch to make highballs, the same number can be used. Easy, right?

Now for some more easy math: vermouths are to be used in half-jiggers, which gives you 34 cocktails per bottle if it is 25.6oz, or 40 drinks for the traditional tall bottle of vermouth. Champagne yields 6-9 glasses per bottle. (I suppose this depends on the fizziness, as well as how full you pour each glass, and how much you spill on your shoes while doing so.)

At your cocktail party, Esquire recommends that you offer the following variety of beverages to your guests:
          1 standard cocktail (Martini, Manhattan, etc.)
          1 other cocktail (any type)
          Whiskey and soda
          An aperitif (this is where the Sherry comes in)
          A non-alcoholic drink
You also need to stock up on maraschino cherries, olives, limes, lemons, oranges, bitters, sugar, chilled sparkling water, copious amounts of ice, and the correct glassware for the drinks you will be serving. Red solo cups are not allowed at this soiree!

III. Food For The Masses
For a cocktail party, the canape is king. Esquire's guidebook specifies that guests should not be burdened with plates, nor should they be served bites that have been wilting on their trays. Food items should be replenished once per half hour, if possible, so choose items that are easy to make. Here are some ideas:
        Bacon-wrapped olives (Or bacon-wrapped anything, for that matter....)
        Pigs in clover (Guess what? It's a bacon-wrapped oyster.)
        Pate with toast points or crackers
        Stuffed clams
        Canape Marguery (A mixture of hard boiled egg, anchovies, green pepper, tomato, and tuna fish, spread on toast, and topped with Russian dressing and 2-3 drops of Worcestershire sauce. Ummmm. Tasty?)

Olives in bacon!

IV. Entertainment
Of course, live music is great (and there must be dancing!), but in the absence of a band, throw on some vintage vinyl and play party games. It is best to choose games that are 1. fun when you are almost drunk; 2. safe for people who are almost drunk; and 3. unlikely to result in the destruction of property. Esquire recommends lively conversation, card games, riddles, and fortune telling. Fun!

V. A Well-Oiled Machine
How to keep the party rolling smoothly? Plan. Purchase your food and alcohol (and aspirin) the day before. Begin cooking earlier in the afternoon. Shower and dress yourself before the guests arrive. Have a parking arrangement that makes sense. Designate a door greeter, a coat-checker, a kitchen director, and a bartender. Mingle, but stay sober. (A good host is never drunk!) Make the rounds and show you care. Get rid of everybody by 12:30am. (Be sure to check bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, and back seats!) Hire a cleaning crew. Have a drink and reflect on your success. Go to bed and sleep very late. Wait at least 2 months to repeat the process.

Now, party on!
Smoke a Webster cigar while you're at it. Or not.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On the Radar -- Emerald Angles

I'm sure by now you've heard that Emerald is Pantone's color of the year for 2013.  I'm on board with that because emerald is my birthstone, and the color is one of my faves.  But you can get even more specialized than just the color -- the angles and facets of the gemstone itself are hot right now, too.  That deep, dark green mixed with hard geometric lines makes for some interesting, and beautiful, home decor and fashion.

Console from

This green is all about glamour. It's sharp, classic, but also, new.

Desk Set from

 The lines are crisp, but never boring.  The scale can be bold.

Pillow from Giardino on

Or delicate.

Emerald and tourmaline earrings by Petra Class, from

And of course, you can get your fix with vintage finds, as well...

Vintage glass from Lemon Rose Studio on Etsy.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Junk Love: Merry Christmas!

Okay, this week's Junk Love Monday is secretly happening on a Tuesday, but we have a good excuse--it's Christmas! The Blackbird girls are busy spreading cheer and opening junk and spending time with our families, and we hope that you are having the same good time. Next week, we'll dish on a few of our top items, and maybe we'll tell a funny story or two about our family shenanigans. Until then, Merry Christmas to you, and we hope you enjoy this flaming snowball:
plan59 :: retro vintage 1950s christmas ads and holiday art :: flaming ice cream snowballs, 1955

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Skinny: I'm Sorry, But Have We Met?

Does she look familiar? She should. Meet Bild Lilli, the doll who inspired the creator of Barbie.
Lilli Bild 1955-1960's
And meet Barbie, the doll who killed Bild Lilli. (Scandal!)
Lilli began life as a German comic strip character, and was certainly not intended for children's entertainment. She was a cartoon pinup, a sexy secretary who knew exactly what she wanted and how to manipulate men to get it (and okay, she might have been a hooker, according to some sources). Her weekly adventures became so popular that she was soon put into doll form and marketed to adults (particularly males, as gag gifts). She was commonly sold in tobacco shops.
vintage Lilli strips

The Bild Lilli doll has side glancing eyes (ever so coy!), perfect lips, and a cute little curl in the center of her forehead. She was made with a variety of outfits for any occasion, but since the doll was not intended for children, the outfits were not always sold separately. Her hair was attached to a removable scalp held in place by a metal screw (see? definitely not a toy). She was usually blonde, but brunettes were also available. Lilli even came with a miniature copy of the Hamburg newspaper than ran her comic strip.

Eventually, the demand from mothers prompted the company to switch gears, and Lilli became a popular toy for girls. She had a house with furniture (sold separately, of course)! They even made a movie. And then, Ruth Handler, president of Mattel, went to Europe. She bought three dolls, gave one to her daughter Barbara, and kept the other two for product development. She tweaked the design, created a killer marketing campaign, and Barbie was born.
Ruth Handler was no dummy. Under her guidance, Mattel bought all of the rights to the Bild Lilli character (on the cheap, as rumor has it), and consequently, Lilli died in 1964. Mattel continued Handler's brilliant marketing strategy, and Barbie went on to become the gal we still love today. Lilli, on the other hand, was a fallen woman, reduced to walking the streets...--okay, not really. Her molds were sold to various foreign toy companies, and used to make knock-off Barbies. What a way to go....

But still, a real, original Bild Lilli doll, especially one with the clear cylinder package and correct stand, is just as collectible as the first Barbie (and probably much harder to find). Even one without the package sold on eBay for $1400 in 2008.

*information obtained from:;

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On the Radar -- Divine Deco

Carey Mulligan in Gatsby
Baz Luhrmann's reboot of "The Great Gatsby" was set to release this holiday season, getting all the designers in a tizzy to show their very Art Deco best.  Alas, the film's release has been moved to the summer of 2013, but the gorgeous clothes and accessories are everywhere now!

In case you don't know, Art Deco is a design style that started in France in the roaring 1920s, and maintained its popularity through the 1940s.  It's known for its symmetry and rectilinear shapes. We have great "The Skinny" posts about International Art Deco from August of this year: and .

For today's blog, our round-up of favorites from top designers...

Lanvin, Spring/Summer 2013

Jenny Packham bridal gown, 2013

ASOS evening bag

Alexander McQueen, Spring/Resort 2013
Christian Louboutin

Monday, December 17, 2012

Junk Love Monday: Wrap It Up!

I was fortunate enough to have plenty of grandparents to spend my childhood with. Of course, I had my father's parents, and a great grandmother on that side. On my mother's side, I had grandparents, 3 great-grandparents, and one great-great grandmother. This meant plenty of love, and pre-dinner cookies, and secret quarters slipped to me when no one was looking. It also meant vastly different variations on Christmas.

We always had a green artificial tree at home, covered with homemade ornaments, new and vintage ornaments, multicolored lights, and tinsel garland. My dad's parents did a 1950's tree with angel hair tinsel and colored balls. Another house always had a real tree with delicate German ornaments and birds. And then we have my great grandmother Irene's house, where the tree was not quite as full, or as tall, but covered trunk to tip with ornaments painted by my mother and uncle when they were children. There was tradition and ritual to the decoration of each of these trees, but a lot of years, Irene's tree was dressed by just the two of us. We would dig out the ornaments, wrap garland around the porch rails, hang the mistletoe, and then select from decades of stored Christmas cards that she had received (she never threw a card away, a habit that I still struggle to break free of) to prop around the house. Then came my favorite part--the paper.

Both available on

As any well-trained pack rat knows, you should never waste something that you know you're going to need again next year, especially holiday items. This extends to wrapping paper. The old paper, that came folded in a neat plastic package, is much easier to store than a roll. It is also cuter than a lot of modern paper. And, if you're careful when you unwrap your gifts, you can re-fold it to use again. Our presents were always wrapped in paper from the 1950s and 1960s. We were all aware of the importance of saving the paper, so at Irene's house, there was no rip-and-tear enthusiasm. You start at the end flaps, carefully separate the tape along the main seam, and then trim the sticky bits off with scissors. Bows go into a paper grocery bag; the paper gets flattened and put into a stack.

Yes, the paper got incrementally smaller over the years, but it also meant that I got to have presents wrapped in my favorite papers every year. I also got to be the one to re-fold and store the paper after Christmas was over (one of life's little joys...). The bottom two drawers of one of the dressers in the house were devoted entirely to the storage of vintage paper. Sometimes, when I should have been napping, I would get on my knees and carefully ease the drawers open to look at the paper.

Occasionally, we would find a pack at the Salvation Army, or a dime store that is still operational in a nearby town, and it would get added to the stash for next time. I still look for it, even though it is getting harder to find the cute patterns. And, I'm not sure that I could bring myself to use it on an actual present. But it has made me a wrapping paper snob. The annual choice of paper is just as important as choosing the ornaments for the tree, or the presents themselves. I'm still drawn to vintage-inspired patterns. And I still use it to the last scrap (seriously, I save 4-inch pieces of paper that I really like, because you never know when you'll need to wrap something small...). This is a problem, because I want (need) to buy new paper every year, but I feel like I shouldn't if I still have paper left over from last year (and of course I do). Luckily, I have lots of presents in need of a good wrapping....

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Skinny -- A Christmas Memory

From Parisian Prairie Charm on Etsy
Everyone has certain holiday memories that stay with them throughout their life.  My most favorite memories of Christmas are the goodies my mom used to make (and still does...), and the time we spent together baking.  We had a double sided bar in the house where I grew up that was between the dining room and the kitchen. Most of the year it was a catch-all for all the things a busy family needed, but at Christmastime, it became the resting place for the goodie smorgasbord! We would have cookies, cakes, and candies enough to last us through to New Year's.  We each had our favorites -- mine are Gooey Butter Bars. 

I always knew that when she pulled out her stack of worn, stained recipes, that the fun was about to begin.  She would stockpile all the ingredients on the bar before baking, buying pounds and pounds of flour, sugars, nuts, and chocolate.  There was also, inevitably, a glass filled with candy canes and a gumdrop tree.  Her recipes were gathered from family and friends, neighbors and little old church ladies.  But the most exciting to me was when she pulled out this book, the Farm Journal Christmas Book, published in 1970.

This book has the recipe for my sister's favorite in it -- Seven Layer Cookies (without that icky butterscotch layer -- we are NOT butterscotch people!).  But I loved it because of the fun, bright pictures of gingerbread houses, candies, cookies, and best of all, crafts.  I looked at it for hours. 

My mom still uses her copy.  I never remember seeing the dust jacket on hers, it was probably lost before I was born.  A few years ago, I was able to find two copies of it -- one for me and one for my sister.  And there are copies that can be found very reasonably (like the one above, available on Etsy for $8!). 

So for today's post, beyond the reminiscing, I thought I'd share some great paper decorations shown in this gem of a book.  They may be designed in 1970, but I think they look pretty current!


(The measurement on the bottom lantern for the height of the divot is 1 7/8" and the width is 1 5/16".  Sorry, the scanner got blurry!)