Party Planning Mid-Century Style

In anticipation of a mid-century cocktail party we are throwing later this summer I have been researching. This isn't your ordinary web based research. Trying to remain as authentic as possible, I have limited my investigation to materials published between 1950 and 1960.

So when David came home with "Hear How To Plan The Perfect Dinner Party" on vinyl the possibilities expanded. Given to him by our good friend Dick Vivian of Rooky Ricardo's Records, I felt I crossed the finish line without even breaking into a sweat. Released in 1960, this handy instruction manual from Gaynor and Dorothy Maddox offers tips on how to prepare a steak to a Polynesian dinner. Nothing remotely vegetarian, lactose or gluten free so to the modern audience this record is a tad bit dated. Our party will involve mostly liquid meals anyway.

My research takes me to cookbooks still widely used in homes today. Glancing through the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook (1953) and Betty Crocker New Picture Cookbook (1961), I found the later very amusing. Filled with sketches of individuals demonstrating how guests should appear, this is no ordinary cookbook. It almost feels like Emily Post joined the staff at Betty Crocker to design a classy entertainment manual for the "modern" home.

So next time you are at a party make sure you find time to pat a child's head while balancing a plate of food. It really is the party breaker.

This book also solved the mystery of "English" vs. "Russian" dining. Hint: who served your dinner last night? Think - hired help. No, not your mom.

Well according to this book only Russians have servants. Who knew? But then again, I am not Russian and the only "servant" I have come across is better known as a waiter in a restaurant.

Since cocktails are the theme of the party, I have also been reviewing a bunch of guides David once picked up at an estate sale. My task is to find a signature beverage that will be a crowd pleaser. Something with gin, perhaps? Luckily the party isn't for a few weeks so I will have plenty of time to sample a drink or two (or three) before I feel competent to host to millions as this book promises.

More to come.

Crazy Projects

I woke up this morning thinking it was as good of a day as any to tackle another renovation project. The victim this time was a classic mid century wood chair that had been painted black. Since the paint job was, well lets say...less than ideal, it seems time to bring it back to its original state. With heavy duty paint stripper and industrial proof gloves in hand, I set out to prove to myself once and for all that "projects" can be fun.

Then out of the blue the theme song for Flashdance popped in my head.

Ok so slapping on toxic chemicals onto an old chair has absolutely nothing to do with a struggling dancer but Michael Sembello's one hit wonder seemed perfect for the moment. Because from the first moment I slapped on the paint thinner I knew that I was a maniac.

And then it started raining. (Hmmm, maybe someone was trying to tell me something.)

By mid afternoon the clouds parted so it was time to carry on with my project. This unforeseen break provided me just enough time to restore my lungs to proper working order before exposing myself to more toxic fumes.

So I continued. Layer upon layer of stripper was lathered onto the chair. Before I knew it, virgin wood started to peak through. After a little bit (translation: A LOT) of sanding the chair was finally ready for a face lift.

By day two my little chair started looking like it did when it originally left the nest.

Biggest challenge now is removing the paint from its joints. Right now it looks like it has moles. And these aren't sexy moles. Instead they are the pesty ones a dermatologist removes leaving you praying that they aren't malignant.

But the plot thickens. I forgot to mention that this chair was part of a pair so I had to repeat the same process all over again. Ok, this is when my theme song really does kick in.

A Star is Born

Speaking of stars, David came home yesterday with another starburst clock for our collection. This one does not belong on a wall. With its marble base, our new clock belongs on a mantel. With no mantel available it now adorns our Zenith Stereophonic. No complaints here.

I See Stars!!!!

Inspired by Jon & Jose's Homes, Sweet Home feature on my favorite blog Mimomito, I knew that I wanted a star wall to call my own. Since we often come across starburst clocks during our vintage hunts, I was confident that we would be able to build our wall in no time. Luckily, David shared my dream.

Our challenge was to find various styles that would mix well together. Eclectic but with a purpose. Clocks with cords had to have a secret cubby to hide them in since visible cords would look...well...tacky. And with all of our DIY projects, our budget was a little over zero.

Ranging from $10- $70 we found clocks throughout Northern California to help build our collection. All are in working order from manufacturers such as Syroco, Lux and Sessions. All are mid century. To our relief, most were battery operated. Those with cords met the bill by having some type of nook in the back to hide the cord in. (Otherwise we would have had to rely on Serene's helpful advice to switch out the cord.)

With our project complete all I now have to do is to remember to shield my head if there ever is an earthquake or I will really be seeing stars.

Zenith Stereophonic

On our last Alameda Antique Faire pursuit we took home this lovely stereo console that now adorns our living room. Despite having the original operating guide to our new Zenith Stereophonic High Fidelity Phonograph with AM-Stereo FM Tuner, we know relatively nothing about it. After striking out on Google, I am left to make a best guess estimate that it was manufactured in the early 1960s.

This walnut console with bentwood legs is truly an attractive piece. The radio works but hums pretty loudly. Strangely the hum gets louder when the turntable is spinning. So it needs a few repairs before it is playable.

I did, however, uncover info on the evolution of the FM radio that I thought was worth sharing. According to, the story of FM radio is one of success and tragedy. Instead of me summarizing the events, check out their article on the Dawn of the FM Radio to learn more yourself.

Laura's Saga

Growing up a TV junkie I had no reason to read "great novels" that were not assigned as a school assignment. With blockbuster movies based on Jane Austin's novels, there really was no point. But when David came home after an estate sale with a 'Little House on the Prairie' box set from 1971 I felt it was time to change old habits.

A huge fan of the 70s hit show that ran for almost a decade, I giggled with excitement at the opportunity to read the story from the beginning. Now almost finished I find myself reluctant to say goodbye to half-pint and her family.

Since the publication of the first book in the series ("Little House in the Big Woods") in 1932, readers from all walks of life were drawn to this childhood tale. Written from Laura's perspective, life was not always pleasant for the Ingalls clan. From a grasshopper plague to Mary's unexpected blindness, Laura's story is a page turner. I have gained a greater appreciation for modern advances. The fact that hand washing clothes to me is a choice and not a chore seems quite remarkable after reading this series. Despite these advances, Laura's story helped me appreciate how much we have lost. Wide open spaces. Prairies without highways or better yet, tract homes. Organic produce growing in your own backyard.

So here I remain - a city girl snuggled on my couch enjoying the adventures of Miss Laura Ingalls without the television on.

Baby Bullet

Ok, I know that I already wrote about bullet planters. But I could not help but write about my latest acquisition. My charming new baby planter. I spotted it at SFADM and knew instantly I had to have it. And it fits beautifully on my bathroom cabinet. As Martha likes to say "it's a good thing".