Simple, Spiritual, Outdated Living in a Vintage New England Home on the Southern Coast of Maine

Friday, December 30, 2016

Our Winter Wonderland (and cleanup!) after the Nor'easter

Wayne and I are fortunate because we didn't lose power other than for a brief minute in the middle of the night. Over 25,000 people in our county are without power right now. The storm started yesterday morning with snow, then rain, then snow, more heavy rain before it turned over to very heavy snow. We think we got maybe eight or more inches in our yard.

He got started with the snowblower around 5:30 a.m. when it was still dark.

After a blustery night the air was still and the scenery spectacular.

Wayne cleared the driveway and brushed our cars off. He's the best.

I was outside in my pajamas and storm overcoat (it's an L.L.Bean wool duffle coat I bought in the late 1990s that looks brand new but it's too big for me now so I just wear it for shoveling and such) taking pictures and keeping Wayne company. Not to worry, he gets coffee in bed every morning, plus I spent two hours shoveling last storm!

Our home looks cozy and cottage-like.

The neighbors were also up clearing their driveways. The sounds of shovels, snowblowers and plows are a constant after a storm like this.

Getting lighter out.

He gets used to it.

The changing light changes everything around it.


Roof raking is an ongoing chore for Wayne. We don't want ice dams!

Seems like it could be comfy despite the cold.

After we moved our cars Wayne finished clearing the driveway from the snow that came off of them.

See what I mean about the light changing things?

I love it!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Vintage 1905 Steamed British "Mother Eve's Pudding" Recipe

Wayne and I enjoyed a beautiful British steamed pudding after our Christmas dinner. As promised, here is the recipe for this obscure 1905 treat, Mother Eve's Pudding from my British Women's Cookery Book. This recipe was submitted by Miss Orkney from Bervie. (I found an earlier recipe in poetry form online.) I cut the recipe in half, as follows, for a smaller pudding:

2 large eggs: 140 calories
3 oz bread crumbs ground fine. (I used ground gluten-free crackers but will bake my own gluten-free bread to make crumbs next time): 420 calories
3 oz currants: 240 calories
3 medium apples: 240 calories
2.5 oz sugar (I used brown): 275 calories
Nutmeg (I used 1/2 tsp)

Put the bread crumbs in a bowl, add the apples peeled and chopped, then the currants, sugar and nutmeg.

Add the eggs well beaten, mix well, pour in buttered mould and boil slowly for three hours.

It seemed simple up until that part, right? I was able to find this very helpful BBC video that demonstrates how to steam a pudding. I followed the instructions and used parchment paper, aluminum foil, heat safe string and a buttered vintage Pyrex bowl placed on a trivet in a cast iron dutch oven. I filled the water so that it reached halfway up the bowl.

I set the heat on medium and turned it down when it came to a boil. I left it to a slow boil for three whole hours, checking the water level from time to time.

I had no idea what was going on in there! What kind of transformation would take place?! I've followed many vintage recipes before and oftentimes I was very pleasantly surprised with the end result. Still, I had my doubts. 

My doubts were confirmed! After three hours I removed the bowl and uncovered it. All it looked like was a heated mess of ingredients! What a waste of time!

I decided to keep an open mind and continued to trust Miss Orkney. I let the hot mess cool and gently ran a rubber spatula around the edges before flipping it upside down over a serving plate. 

Wow!!! It was a legit pudding!!!

I mean, look at that! I try to minimize vintage cookery drama in the kitchen but I was high-fiving the sky, thanking Mrs. O, then ran over to Wayne with my creation. "I did it! I did it!"

So the bottom isn't level but the rest is moist, delicately sweet and delicious. We really liked it with vanilla bean ice cream. I may try it with warm maple syrup next, and yes there will be a next time! 

This little pudding makes eight servings with about 165 calories each not including your toppings and additions. 

Now that I'm over my fear of steaming pudding I have a list of recipes to try out!

Have you ever had or made a steamed pudding?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Merry 2016 Christmas from the three of us!

Hello everyone! I mentioned in a comment on my previous post that my skin biopsy came back as benign, thankfully. Timmy went through a rough patch with his infection and course of antibiotics but he's on the mend! Wayne is still grieving the loss of his close friend who passed unexpectedly but like everything else we take it one day at a time. Even so, our day was very merry!

Many of our presents were from Timmy, believe it or not. He has a lot of helpers, apparently.

He even got Wayne a vintage card! The other vintage card is from me. Groovy, no?

Poor Timmy lost weight when he was sick but he's getting his healthy appetite back.

Timmy got me a little Christmas tree for my birthday, so I decided to make it a centerpiece for our table.

I placed the tree on a Fenton saucer and added some vintage mini mercury glass ornaments around the base. The embroidered table topper is also vintage from Germany.

Kitchen selfie.

Wearing one of my vintage Christmas aprons. Lots of pockets on this one!

A plate with a big slice of standing rib roast makes Wayne happy!

I cooked the roast with heirloom fingerling potatoes and onions. 

I made a wonderful steamed British pudding from a 1905 recipe in an obscure cook book I recently acquired! It was delicious and I served it with a little scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. I'll post that recipe this week! 

Thank you again to those of you who took the time to wish us well (here, privately or in spirit) during our tough times. We appreciate it and you.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Bit of a blog break

One of Wayne's dearest friends passed away suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack on Saturday night. They were supposed to get together Sunday morning. It's been devastating. He was a very healthy and active man about the same age as Wayne. 

Timmy, who was able to stay off antibiotics for a full year developed an infection and is now on antibiotics. The abuse he suffered from his previous owners three years ago (and happy anniversary to him being with me!) left him with permanent damage to his skull. There is a fracture that permits bacteria to get into places it shouldn't which makes him susceptible to infections. Antibiotics are hard on his system, especially his stomach, so I have to hand feed throughout the night and day. The good news is that he appears to be on the mend.

Yesterday I had a skin biopsy. My health insurance for 2017 and beyond is scary; I've been on Obamacare since my divorce last year. It's pretty stressful.

I just need some quiet time to replenish and reflect on things. I love blogging and will be back! Until then, I hope you have a safe, peaceful and healthy holiday!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Importing Midlife Style from Marks & Spencer in the UK

This style post features two 100% natural fiber tops I ordered from Marks & Spencer, the British retailer est 1884.
. Color: Red Mix. UK Size: 10.

"Cut for a bodycon fit to follow the contours of the body, choose your normal size." 

It's made of 100% Plan A Cotton. I had never heard of that and was intrigued to learn about their commitment to sustainable cotton. As far as the weave and feel, this cotton is unlike any I've owned. It's silky soft and has a stretchy weave. 

Price: $13. YES! Only thirteen US dollars!
This is the most form-fitting top I've ever owned, maybe a little too much for me personally. My plan is to wait until the spring to wear it underneath a denim jacket which I think will be cute paired together.

Below: Tie Front Crewneck Jumper. Color: Burgundy. UK Size: 10. 

"Shaped for a relaxed, loose fit, choose your normal size." 

Made of 90% wool, 10% cashmere.

Price: $56. Very reasonable!

This sweater "jumper" which appears to be the UK term for sweaters, is mysteriously super soft, as in how do they do that? There's not a hint of itchiness to it. As you can see it's definitely a relaxed fit.

Express shipping is free. I placed my order Sunday evening and my shipment arrived from the UK only days later on Thursday! My sweater shipped on a hanger and was fully wrapped in plastic similar to a dry cleaning bag. I'm looking forward to seeing what they offer for the spring!

M&S has an extraordinary selection of beautiful food that sadly is only available in the UK. Wayne has actually been to their London store. It's a dream of mine to take a prolonged vacation in the UK someday. I'm heartbroken that they did away with their retirement Visa!

Also new and of note is that I have added information for "Collaboration."  I welcome the opportunity for companies to send me things "courtesy of" to review on my blog which has been sponsor-free since its inception. I'm hoping 2017 will afford me the opportunity to devote more time to blogging!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Is there LEAD in vintage Pyrex? Here's what my home test revealed!

Originally posted 3/28/2016, Updated 12/8/2016:  Controversy has been generated by a 12/01/2016 Snopes article that referenced my YouTube video of a 3M home lead test kit applied to my vintage Pyrex Butterprint bowl. Although my video and blog post below were originally posted in March it's now going viral.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Why I no longer shop or live by labels!

Some labels from 1994 at University of Vermont in my grad school dorm: L.L.Bean, steel-toe Doc Martens, leather Coach backpack, Gucci leather planner, L.L.Bean bear and co sitting on Byer of Maine loungers, antique wooden crates still in use in my home office today and that L.L.Bean sleeping bag between the closet and fridge is always in the trunk of my car in case my car ever breaks down during the winter.

Let's talk about clothing and personal style!

My high school wardrobe consisted of hand-me-downs from my color blind hippie mother (although rare, women CAN be color-blind) who is also inches shorter than me, androgynous duds from the long-gone 59th Street Army/Navy store in NYC and a one-time prized purchase of a glittered King Tut t-shirt from Jumping Jack Flash, another 59th Street gem from the 70s. 

Sometimes my mother would drive us over the GW Bridge to the working class Alexander's department store in NJ where clothing was tax-free. I loved this mural but hated entering the store. Inside, instead of Bloomingdales' fashionable women in white lab coats spraying perfume on stylish people (which is where I walked through every day on the way home from school) things were chintzy and the smells cheap and chemical-like from the finishes on fake leather shoes and polyester. "Put that back!" an angry mother said as she grabbed a couple of clacking hangers adorned with tops away from her daughter my age. "You ain't gettin' alla that!" I learned in that moment that there were people who had less than me, and that my feeling bad about wearing discount clothing was relative. It didn't take away the sting, though.

My personal self-esteem challenge arose when I started attending a very expensive Upper East Side private school via scholarship, The Lenox School, now named Birch Wathen Lenox. Many of my classmates were chauffeured to school in limousines wearing a new outfit daily. Calvin Klein's daughter is an alumni as are some famous actors and models like Brooke Shields. It was a painful time because I could never measure up in my high-waters and dressed down look. Many times I'd be excited to wear a new t-shirt or sweatshirt but would come home feeling ashamed after receiving those disapproving looks and overheard hallway whispering. 

In college I channeled my rage into punk rock and have smirk-worthy memories of shopping at Trash and Vaudeville at Saint Mark's Place and buying my shoes/boots on 8th Street. What made it extra special was that I was attending college up in Orono, Maine where during those conservative 1980s pearls and preppy were the campus uniform. Once again my wardrobe was the subject of hushed voices, in particular my combat boots that were decorated with a silver Sharpie by a Lower East Side graffiti artist. I recall feeling a bit self-righteous about my edgy style but something really weird happened. I awkwardly realized I also liked the coiffed June Cleaver in pearls look

My confusion branched out. I made a lot of friends back then including my ultra-preppy dorm neighbors and the off-campus crunchies. Multiple aspects from each style stereotype resonated with me. I loved prairie skirts, peasant shirts and tie-dying my jeans but I also rocked a Joan Jett haircut and loved my L.L.Bean. I'm not sure if all that means I developed a personal sense of style or if I was still the girl from Lenox who walked around clashing. 

As I've written about here, I had some significant issues I was dealing with but I was in denial about the origins of my anxiety and depression. I decided  to see a counselor on campus to discuss my confusion about not fitting into one way of dressing and being because that seemed like the root of my problems. If I could maybe learn to pick just one I naively hoped that perhaps my life would become simple and linear: "Preppy people love pink..." "Hippies always...." "Conservative girls would never..." It was as if style defined the spirit of the wearer instead of the converse.

I was vulnerable and in need of real help that day in 1986 when I presented the alleged mental health professional with my style dilemma. Because I went on to become a trained counselor I know that often the presenting issue isn't the real problem but in retrospect she wasn't very perceptive or inquisitive during that intake interview. She simply told me that it was not, in fact, normal to wear all black one day, flower-power the next while secretly wishing I could be June Cleaver. Part of adulthood, she said, is consistency of character. After some forgettable commentary delivered with judgey concern I left convinced and feeling condemned. 

Throughout the 1990s I wore a lot of preppy things but never let go of my love of black. From the early 2000s until recently my style was conservative plain Jane with lots of black and denim. When I lost weight I had to buy new everything. To keep it within budget I continued buying basics in the off-trend irrelevant old lady label section of Macy's and J.C.Penney. I don't mean sweatshirts with quilted cats or matronly bingo-hall chic; just comfy boring stuff!

As with many people, getting a divorce in midlife and starting anew meant I took a fresh look at everything. One of the things I revisited was the pronouncement to which I had unconsciously clinged since 1986. The other thing I have spent time challenging is the notion that turning fifty means shopping at Chico's et al.

Nope nope nope nope nope.

I don't do animal prints, don't wear foundation on my face and I don't color my hair. There are trends and rules for women in my age group but I'm not even sure what they are because I don't take the time to find out. I honestly don't care.

Earlier this year I took an earnest look at what was in my closet. I'm returning to some of my preppy ways but I don't drink G&Ts (obviously) which, by the way, is one of many idiotic dictates that comes like an affectation when style is used as a guide instead of a reflection of who we are.  I'm going to start wearing my vintage pieces I picked up at estate sales over the years. The hippie in me loves 70s denim, and the high waist jeans really flatter my tall frame unlike any contemporary cuts.

What is personal style? What qualifies someone to run a style blog? Do they have to have an extensive wardrobe with on-trend designers or miraculous thrifted finds like an Hermes scarf they bought for a dollar, or is consistency more important to attract a clearly defined demographic?

I'm turning 49 next week which adds to my passion and relief with being who I want and wearing what I want without checking in with any set of rules. So why not apply that to sometimes blogging about personal style, what I'm wearing and what Wayne, age 61, is wearing, too? I've been his "style consultant" for the past couple of years. When I first met him he was wearing old man white sneakers, Hawaiian prints and please, I can't even. Look at him now!

I don't think the Internet is saturated with style blogs from people in their 50s and 60s. Would you agree?

I'll close with this fabulous quote in an interview with John Tinseth from The Trad: "It’s the mixing that’s fun. I mean why be monogamous with your clothes?"

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Our Christmas Decorations for 2016

A stenciled "Merry Christmas" mercury glass ornament.

More vintage mid-century ornaments from my collection.

A 1950s glittered atom sign to celebrate the atomic age.

There's our little farm fresh tabletop tree!

A selection of vintage Japan characters always go on the mantel.

Very mod angels and Santa.

This is very special to me. I have loved this since I was a little girl. It belonged to my 100 year old Nana; she sent it to me a couple of years ago. Wind it up and Jingle Bells plays as Santa slowly spins and snow falls.

About six years ago a friend gifted me this vintage Christmas stocking when I shared the photo of my home's fireplace in 1959 on social media.

How swell is that!

More kitschy characters on my mantel.

FINALLY I can use Christmas lights on my tree! As I've mentioned before, you can't use lights on a vintage aluminum tree. The tablecloth is vintage.

This 1950s Beco blow mold Santa Claus sits in my sunroom so he can brighten the view at night. During the day my Victorian Fairy holds a boxful of old ornaments that reflect the light so beautifully.