Friday, September 6, 2013

The Skinny: A Vocabulary Lesson

We love looking through old etiquette books. Sometimes, the standards are the same today. But occasionally, we come across rules that are weird, silly, or...enlightening in some way. So this morning, as I was waiting for someone to pick me up, I decided to flip through Amy Vanderbilt's Etiquette (the 1972 reprint of the 1952 edition). If you ever needed to know any of the following, then start looking for this book right this very minute:
-The Masculine Graces
-A Woman's Manners in the Business World
-A Guide to Tactful Conversation
-Should a Christian Send a Christmas Card to a Jewish Friend?
-The Agreeable Wife
-Requesting an Audience With the Pope
-How Not to Treat a Celebrity

There is also a small section about the various uses of the bidet. Yes, various uses. I was a little bit horrified by some of them....

But, there is also a helpful section of words and phrases that a good conversationalist simply must know, and I thought I would share a few with you, so that we can all be perfect ladies and gentlemen. Not surprisingly, a lot of them have Shakespearean roots. A few others come to us courtesy of good old Chaucer.

1. "Let sleeping dogs lie"--based on a line from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
2. "Let him fry in his own grease"--also Chaucer
3. "Sour grapes"--from Aesop's fable of the fox and the grapes
4. "The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street"--another name for the Bank of England
5. "Milk of human kindness"--from Macbeth
6. "Mumbo jumbo"--a religious figure from a Sudanese tribe
7. "Caviar to the general"--from Hamlet
8.  Entrechat--a scissorlike dance move
9. Larghetto--musical term
10. Femme de chambre--French for "chambermaid"
11. Cherchez la femme--French for "look for the woman"
12. Ars longa vita brevis--Latin phrase "Art is long, life is short"
13. Deus ex machina--Latin phrase meaning "a wonderful, fortuitous and unexpected happening"

Now, your assignment is to use the above list in a paragraph, or in conversation with an actual person. Good luck!

There is also a chapter about words and phrases that people misuse or mispronounce regularly, which seems to irritate the heck out of Amy Vanderbilt. First, stop saying "tomahto." Never say it that way again. You should also never say:

-"Pardon me" (This is rude, as it is giving an order that cannot be refused. Instead, one should say "Please excuse me.")
-"Rich" (This term is vulgar.)
-"Loan" (We say "borrow" instead.)
-"Hose" or "Hosiery" (We say "stockings.")
-"Gent", "Dearie", "Girlie", "Tootsie", "Hubby", "Little woman", "Old man" (All vulgar!)

And one must never, ever, ever say "high class". This merely communicates the "social inferiority in the person uttering it."

I don't know. It could be a bunch of high-class mumbo jumbo. But maybe I'm just choking on sour grapes. Maybe all I need is a little milk of human kindness....

Thursday, September 5, 2013

On the Radar -- Pop Goes the...

We Blackbird girls had our minds blown a few weeks ago when we watched So You Think You Can Dance.  Mark Kanemura has always been one of our favorite dancers, but we have never, ever seen him choreograph anything.  It was awesome!

We don't like Jenna at all, but we'll deal if we get to see Mark in his element!

So Mark's quirky dance -- set, costumes, and moves -- started our new obsession with Pop Art -- and what seems to be a Pop Art revival.  Little did I know that we're a little behind the curve.  Designers seem to be obsessed, too, and have been all year.  Here's a roundup of some great finds, as well as some amazing fashion shots from recent magazines.  Enjoy!

Vogue Japan, March 2013
Butter Pop Art Nail Polish Collection
Kate Spade Taxi Shoe
Craig & Karl for MCM Wallet, Summer 2013
Rodnik Brillo Box Bag, 2013

Tom Ford, Fall 2013
JUCO photo

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bonus -- Window Surprise

We mourn for the windows we don't have a record of-- designs we did for Collector's Antique Mall that live on in our minds, but for some reason or other, didn't get photographed.  Or got photographed with a cell phone, that then got lost -- can anyone say Under the Sea window? SIGH.

But while working on a project for the Antique Mall tonight, lo and behold, on someone's Flickr account, I found this:

It's not a great picture of the window -- but it is a photographic record of our Christmas kitchen window!!  We thought it'd never been seen again!  This was Christmas 2011, and you can read our blog here for more about it.


Junk Love: A Plaid Picnic

It's no secret that we love plaid. We have plaid tins, suitcases, and blankets. Part of the thermos collection is plaid (but that's for another day). But yesterday, while I was searching for a cute vintage cook-out image, I found this:

In the name of all things holy and plaid, is that a grill? A PLAID portable grill????? My gasp of joy was so big, I'm pretty sure NASA registered the sudden formation of a low pressure system right above my house. I wanted to fall to my knees in the street and scream, "Why have we never found one of these?"

So I looked online for some more, and they are tricky. We have one of these (in a different plaid):

Vintage plaid Skotch cooler, on Etsy

But look at this grill:

Sold on Etsy

With the lid on, they would look the same! And since we already have a cooler, we try to make ourselves walk right by the others that we see. So, we might have been passing up plaid grills for years!

Sold on Ebay

Here is a grill actually being used (while surrounded by its plaid brethren)! I want to go on a picnic right now!!!
And then I found some more....

Sadly, someone has killed this one.... (Sold on Ebay)
Sold on Ebay

This one is cleverly disguised as a picnic hamper. We've probably lost out on a fair amount of these over the years, too. In the infamous words of Pepe Le Pew, le sigh....

 But this one is the coolest:

I must have one of these oval altars to the plaid gods. I wouldn't use it, partially for fear of setting my hair on fire, but I could pretend to make hamburgers on it. Just listen to my sizzle sounds: sssssssssssss!

And, since I love plaid junk, I couldn't resist pulling some pictures of non-grill items that make me think of food in the park, just for the heck of it:

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Skinny -- The Bohemian 70s

We Blackbirds are always trying to educate ourselves about the way things were in the world back in the day -- partially because we are naturally inquisitive people, but mainly because we want to know what the world was like when people wore Bakelite brooches and went to the movies to see Doris Day on the big screen.  Both of us are drawn to the 1930s through the early 1960s -- the eras of the movies we grew up watching.  We've appreciated the 1970s, but it's never been our thing.  (I'm speaking strictly junk-wise and clothing-wise -- we've always loved the music!)

I can honestly say our first real moment of oohs and aahs for 1970s design was when we saw the 1974 movie For Pete's Sake with Barbra Streisand.  We had seen seventies (and loved it) before, even with 1972's What's Up, Doc? (see Barbra above, cute as a button), but we had never really had that real AHA! moment.  With the awesome apartment in Pete's, it was a big AHA!  Wish I could show you pics of the apartment, but alas, I cannot find any online.  Try to catch the movie when it comes on TCM.  You'll love it; it's hilarious.

So, when we did the last window at the antique mall, we happened upon some Seventeen magazines from the late 60s through the early 70s.  They were cheap; we decided we needed them.  We flipped through them last night, and I can honestly say, I have a new love for 1970s fashion.

I don't like all of it -- there's a lot of bad -- but what I do like, I love.  I thought, "Hey, I'll do this week's Skinny post on some of the 70s fashion we like!"  However, when I started researching this blog, I couldn't find any photos.  I found new photos made to look vintage.  I found pictures of sewing patterns from the 70s.  But no real fashion shots.

So, dear readers, I decided to share with you some of the photos from the fashion spread that spoke to me the most.  From Seventeen magazine, May 1971. Quoted excerpts are from the spread.  Enjoy!

Gay Gibson dress, photo by Ray Kellman

"A new karma's coming -- soft, blowy folkthings in fabrics with peasant or palace vibrations.  Get into madras, tie-dyes, complex weaves or knits -- many are still made with ancient skills."

By Alexa from Sunny California, photo by Ray Kellman
By Alexa from Sunny California, photo by Ray Kellman

"Block prints from India are prized for their neat patterns and soft colors.  These American versions pick up the look and let you make it yours."

Dress by No Comment, photo by Joseph Santoro

"Here's how to go east with the ease of a swami.  Make a few passes over a marvelous caftan pattern.  Cut it out in kaleidoscopic print with a proud Afro-Indian heritage.  Sew it up, put it on -- and watch your universe expand."

McCall's sewing pattern 2896, Singer dress panels, photo by Joseph Santoro
McCall's sewing pattern 2896, Singer sewing panels, photo by Joseph Santoro