Friday, 29 March 2013

Easter, Bangs and Bobby Pins

So while my friends are all having babies like I mentioned yesterday, I'm playing with my hair. Back in 2012 when I use to grace the pharmacy of Boots with my presence I use to do my hair in vintage styles nearly every day, I managed to get it down to a quick five minutes of curling, pinning and spraying my hair in place that it would last the nine hours it would take until I returned home. Amongst the compliments most people wondered why I did it, it was neat and nicely pinned down, not the normal messy styles many of us (even me) do at times. But in the world of corporate retail uniforms it was my way of standing out and adding my own personality. Sadly too many stares wore me down and I never really did anything until the past couple of weeks and with hair spray, bobby pins and flower clips in hand, I've been working at reworking, curling and taming my hair into some vintage inspired styles. 

Ultimately you could spend hours pouring over you tube videos on styling, there's even books - vintage and more contemporary guides providing you detailed step by step instruction on recreating something similar. My research is spent searching on google images and pinterest (you can find my vintage hairstyle board here) - if you're interested in another post i'll show you some of my favourites. The best way, is to just play and create your own vintage-eque style. Mines a mix of pinning back, curling and flower clips. My hairs too thick to achieve extreme pinning back, especially of bangs and the other half is too stubborn - it still needs to be tamed. Some days it refuses to do anything, the next it'll be a dream. If you think I look a little windswept in the above images, that would be true too - a "spring" day in Michigan was met with freezing winds on a trip to the store. Luckily now the stares and the wonder pass me by.

Well that's another week down and nearly another month over. Thank you to you everyone that commented on yesterdays post - glad to know I'm not the only one out there nearly 30 and not having a baby! Easter isn't a bank holiday in the US unless you work in something government related (or somewhere that's nice and lets you have today off) so it's same old same old here. Although I did get some delicious looking Thornton's Easter bunnies in the mail which actually survived their epic journey over the ocean. Next week I'll be sharing with you part two of the vintage recipe challenge with my attempt at baking hot cross buns, introducing the concept of placemaking in reinventing public space, and in honour of Record Store Day I'll be running some great vinyl related posts throughout April. 

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Thursday, 28 March 2013

On Being the Only One Not Having a Baby

In having a light bulb moment remembering I completed my GCSE's ten years ago, its dawned on me just how many of my school year are now parents. We're all turning 26 and 27, very few are married but at least two thirds are parents. Oddly enough the third that went to university - which obviously includes me are in the minority that haven't had children, but even that is starting to change. It feels like i'm the only one not having a baby.

This week a former work colleague who happens to be two years my junior stated on facebook how she feels like one of the few people not having babies right now. O like me! Granted I've thought about children and one day I think I'd like to have them, but they certainly aren't a must for me. You see I use the word think, rather then know, because i'm not overly sure. I find it hard picturing myself as a mother, a parent, nappy changer. I don't do well with ikky stuff, I panic over minor things, I can't figure out the responsibility of being a parent. Plus at 26, I still feel too young.

Yet the difference between the school friends of myself and Joe are rather noticeable. Joe's 28 this year - very few of his school friends are married - in fact he was the first, non have had children. We both come from similar rural background, towns were everyone knows each other, towns were people either move dramatically away or never escape. But that different is huge. The same can be said of Joe's work colleagues - Joe's the youngest where he works and many of them have yet to have children. 

Are the British more bound to procreate at a younger age then the US? Even though marriages in the US tend to be at a younger age (or at least so it seems). It's starting to get to the point were it feels people are expecting me to be pushing out babies though my age and or because of being married. There's still this assumption and view of women being mothers - some of us won't be, don't want to be or will get there in their own sweet time.

Why can't people accept that a women has as much right to not be a mother as much as a right of becoming one, without being considered unfeminine or that there has to be something wrong with you. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Vintage Recipe #1 Peanutty Cocoa Bread

One of the great things about fostering vintage recipe and cooking books until I find them new loving homes, is I get to pour over their delicious ideas, copy them out and use them myself. It's like giving the books a mini test run. If I had the money and the ability of never ever putting on weight I'd bake daily and since moving it's something I've come to enjoy more as I learn more about baking to the point of even wanting to try and bake hot cross buns for Easter - but that's for another week. So my mission is to share some of these gorgeously delicious vintage recipes with you. It might not necessarily be a weekly post, just as and when I get around to baking. 

The vintage recipe numero 1 is (not overly vintage recipe) one which comes from the 1982 Hershey's Chocolate and Cocoa Cookbook which makes use of tasty tasty Reesey peanut butter chips. Please excuse the lack of photographs gracing this post - the idea of the vintage recipe posts occurred minutes after taking said loaf out of the oven - the recipe book actually found a new home this weekend so i'm glad I tried and tested this recipe before hand.

But here goes the recipe for the first;

Peanutty Cocoa Bread - makes one loaf

● 1/3 cup of softened butter (or margarine)
● 1 cup of granulated sugar
● 3 eggs
● 2¼ cup of unsifted all-purpose flour
● 1/3 of cocoa powder
● 2 teaspoons of baking powder
● 1 teaspoon of cinamon
● ½ teaspoon of baking soda
● ¾ of a cup of milk
● 1 cup of (Reese's peanut butter chips)

Start with creaming your butter (or marg) with the sugar and eggs in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda and cinamon. Once mixed alternate adding the dry indegreidents with the milk into the creamed mixture.

Once well blended, stir in the peanut chips and pour the batter into a lined loaf tin. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 60-65 minutes.

Until I moved to the US I was never aquainted with Reese cups, but oh my are they one of my favourite things about US food and sticking their mini cups in a loaf is just right on so many levels. If you're like me, serve it with butter (nom) - my grandmother got me into that habit.

If you'd love to see any particularly recipe but from a vintage cookbook let me know and I'll see if I have one!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Ask me anything ...

So this may be an epic failure or a huge success, but I've noticed other bloggers doing similar posts and while i'm not one to normally follow if it helps you get to know me, the girl behind the blog a little more all the better. I know I've been blogging on here for four years but there might be something you've always wondered or been dying to ask and now is your chance.

Basically I'm turning this post other to you - so ask me anything. Maybe about moving to the US, American life, vintage stuff to any hobbies or bad habits I might have. Literally anything. The nosier the better I say and I'll answer them all in another post (as long as I actually get some questions that is ...).

Leave your questions below in the comments box.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Dear Ms. Leigh

Vivien Leigh - Source

You may have noticed me playing around with headers and name changing for the past couple of days, I've been rethinking the name of my blog for a while and ever since feeling more at ease about blogging in the last week or so I thought a change name was in order. But actually coming to think of a new name is all but easy. And attempt after attempt I finally change up with Dear Ms. Leigh.

I somewhat wanted to use my own surname but then I didn't want the entire world knowing everything about me, so I replaced it with the surname of possibly the actress that made me appreciate vintage, the black and white world and the 1930's much earlier then I ever realized - Vivian Leigh. Everyone (or at least they should) know her from playing that insurmountable female force of Scarlet O'Hara in Gone With the Wind - a film we always had a version of since I was a child, a film I could watch and never tire. She was an actress of an incredible era, she had a presence and a beauty on screen that I have never seen since. She was possibly caught in the shadow of her husband Laurence Oliver and her reputation for being difficult and her troubles with bipolar disorder went before her. Nevertheless the films she did make are timeless, and so is her beauty.

Dear Ms. Leigh will still feature the same lively mix of vintage, baking to crafts and being that English lass in the US. Hopefully the warmer months ahead will allow my camera to go on more adventures and these pages, however virtual will come to document growing up with a vintage flair.

Monday, 18 March 2013

LIFE: From Student Nights to Nights In

On Saturday night we treated ourselves to a "put yourself together a six pack" that one of our local store does. I always love sticking in a Newcastle Brown - it's what I started drinking and takes me back to living in Newcastle as a student. Plus it's just darn right tasty. I was just going to post the above picture and be like "look booze from Detroit" but then I got to thinking about how my attitudes to drinking have done a total U-turn since being a student. 

Going to Newcastle Uni as a student, drinking comes second nature. Newcastle is the party city after all. Prior to uni I rarely went out - its kinda limited when your town only has four pubs and everyone knows each other and you constantly see the same faces and the same fights. Moving to Newcastle was a huge culture shock and I fully embraced it. My suitcases of clothes and books where accompanied with packs of Bacardi and a bottle of Jack Daniels. I went to my first ever club during Freshers week and over the first year we (I say we meaning most of me and my house and "block" mates but predominately me and my closest friend at uni as many didn't opt for the Monday nights out) were going out drinking three times a week.

Monday night was (and most probably still is) student night, we'd head for a couple of bars and end up in Digital for the Superfly night - the indie night. This was in 2005/6 when indie music was my life and it was huge - think Libertines, Razorlight and Maximo Park and you're half way there. Thursday was a £1 a pint night - seeing we lived close to a Scream pub it was only right to make the most of it and to finish off the student week Friday night was spent at the student union making the most of their just rock bottom prices. Loads of our housemates went back at 10PM we stayed for the dancing and partied till 2AM.

I'd gone from not drinking to being to girl everyone knew would be drinking triple whiskey and cokes and skittles. Don't get me wrong I never had a problem, I knew when to stop and most of the time I was the one looking after my friend who was a little wild when drunk. So much she climbed into a Marks and Sparks trolley on the way back to our student flat and was stopped by the police in the process. 

When people see me know they probably think i'm down right boring, I rarely drink, I actually don't like it anymore. Granted i'll have the odd whiskey or rum and coke but there's no way I'd get drunk anymore. I hate nightclubs now - probably because of all the drunks I've seen in my past, all the fighting, the creepy men and loosing of housemates. Maybe I went out too often as a student, maybe I just got it all out of my system. I see clubbing as something I did as a late teen, not what i'd do know as a late 20 year old and i'm so far removed from that person I can't see myself doing it. 

It's weird.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Musty Books - a How To


I love books but I dislike the smells that sometimes come with them. I'm not talking about that nice smell that old books have, just the musty, damp, ikky smell you sometimes come to sniffing when you turn their crusty pages. But I'm not one to let the damp musty smell of a book stop me from purchasing it especially if I can try and get rid of it. I remember buying a copy of Dr. Zhirago which smelt of turps from a box outside a house in Ravenscar and leaving it in the greenhouse the entire summer to try and get rid of the smell, only for the book to dry out too much that the pages fell apart from the binding. At least I tried.

But with this background and love for a random experiments (you might remember my experiment with nail whiting and denture tables and lemon juice) after purchasing a tonne of 1970's cookbooks from what we'd call a damp house in Walled Lake that hasn't been opened to air for a while I knew I had to try and rid them of the smell before I could do anything with them. So aside from leaving them by an open window, google searches suggested using coffee granules and cat litter (not together mind you) to try and decrease the presence of the musty smell. So I did. You basically pour your substance into a tub and then place into a larger container say an airtight box or zip bag and leave for as long as you can, even a good couple of days can do the trick. Or so they say.

And the results were interesting, granted the open air idea would be ideal - if you have the time and the place to leave old books to the open air. Our grumpy landlords ban you having anything on the windowsill so I have to be careful about leaving items on there. Surprising coffee granules were the outright winner - who knew!

PS - with all the forthcoming changes to GFC you can also follow LOTS on Bloglovin - it's the future and all.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


Close up of Yorkshire and the North of England - Hammond's Atlas, 1949.
Gorgeous illustration of London and the Houses of Parliament from a 1936 Atlas

Its in my nature as a former geography student to be fascinated with maps - they give such a historical and contemporary insight of geopolitics, boundary changes, wars and society. Towns can be split down a street and be in two countries, countries can fall and city names can reflect a history and or a person as in the particular instance of Russia. It was only natural that vintage atlas's would become a part of my life and it happened with a 1936 Atlas - one that depicts the Nazi flag for Germany, of a Europe on the verge of war. But many vintage atlas's go beyond showing plates of countries, they'll make delicious descriptions of countries through thoughtful narratives, illustrations and pictorial histories. 

Close up of the 1949 plate of Michigan showing Detroit and it's suburbs alongside close Canadian neighbors Windsor.

The past weekend I found a Hammond's World Atlas just sat hidden on a shelf in a relatively modern home, dating to 1949 it came from a world just waking up to the aftermath of World War 2, maps show the split Germany, American had 48 states and countries still had former names - Indochina, Siam and the Soviet Union was holding strong. Each state has one full paged plate dedicated to them - as the close up of the Michigan map shows, the interlinking red lines tattooing the landscape are the long gone railroads interlinking the cities - the Interstate Freeway System seven years away (1956).

Hopefully the 1949 atlas finds a new home as it sits currently on etsy - I know if I kept it, it would be start of yet another collection, and there's only so many collections you can get away with in a one bedroom apartment while saving for a mortgage. I hope a new owner will enjoy pouring hours over the details just as much as myself. 

Monday, 4 March 2013

The State of Cursive Handwriting

A birthday message between cousins, postmarked 1911

My recent post about the vintage railroad postcards and in general people's reactions to traditional cursive handwriting from the early 1990's and before made me look into the state of cursive handwriting today. I myself was taught how to write in cursive when I was in infants school - I don't remember the extract age but I must have been around 6 and to this day I still write "joined up" although so many people (Joe included) have issues reading my handwriting - I call it spider sprawl - the result of four years in university lecturers and writing quickly. Hey I can read it ... most of the time). 

Then I got to remembering a news story about schools and states wanting to stop the need to teach cursive handwriting, stating a lack of interest - especially in this fast paced technological era when people abandoned the pen and snail mail in favour of texting and emails. Even a teacher in this Center Daily article cites the cursive form as existing; "now for thank-you notes and letters to your grandma". The school in which said teacher works at is in Pennsylvania - a state which educates pupils to the Common Core State Standard for English - a standard which does not require the use of cursive handwriting in high school. And while it's still taught at elementary schools, it's certainly not leveled as a fixed requirement in later years. Such a difference to my education when throughout school cursive was often considered the only way to be writing.

Whereas in North Carolina, the reintroduction of cursive instruction is being billed - a move following California, Georgia and Massachusetts who have reintroduced cursive as a teaching requirement and is being considered in Indiana and Idaho. While writing in cursive not only helps you to be able to read older manuscripts like the postcards I've been scanning in, but learning and writing in cursive has been argued to help encourage student creativity and more importantly brain development

Nevertheless there's always going to be people who think teaching cursive is a waste of time. I myself think cursive should be maintained and encouraged and keeps the art of penned notes and writing alive, there's far too many emails and texts flying around and anything that might encourage penmanship is more then welcome. 

So now I ask you, do you think cursive writing should still be encouraged? Or is the teaching and learning of computer skills more important in this technological era?

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