Thursday, December 31, 2015

Last Minute New Year's Eve Ideas

Has New Year's Eve snuck up on you? Are you wishing you'd planned something festive, but worry that it's too late now? It's not! Here are some fun ideas from the Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Cook Book (1959), along with our even easier suggestions below!

If you like the idea of cider or spiced tea, but not the thought of studding orange or lemon slices with cloves, throw the cider or tea, cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange or lemon slices in a crock pot on low and serve when it starts to simmer. Have amber or dark rum or bourbon available for those who like their libations a little lovelier! And that clock centerpiece? Take items from around the house to create your "hours!" Use your imagination and have fun! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Have An Outer Space New Year!

Today's new episode of the "Velveteen Lounge Kitsch-en" is chock full of ideas for ringing in the new year in the comfort and privacy of your own home, with no loss of glamour or excitement (click here to watch). However, that's just the tip of the iceberg! There are as many ideas for New Year's Eve celebrations as there are revelers, including this outer space themed party from How To Have A Ball On A Baby Sitter's Budget (1959, one of my new favorite cookbooklets) brought to you by the Pillsbury Junior Home Service Center. Let these ideas help you to soar into the '60s (or 2016). Start by adding a little whiskey to that ginger ale and adapt these ideas for your celebration. Those Mighty Molivecules sound pretty good (add a little cayenne pepper for an extra kick)!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Glendora's Mulled Wine

Who better to ring in on the subject of mulled wine than our favorite cousin, Glendora? Her unending loyalty to wine (Franzia Merlot, to be specific) leads her to discover countless ways to make it perfect for every occasion, including Christmas. She even took to Periscope in order to show mulled wine being made in real time! Here is her recipe. If you like your mulled wine on the sweet side, add 1/4 - 1/2 cup of honey to these ingredients.

Glendora’s Mulled Wine

.750 ML Franzia Merlot
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup pure cranberry juice
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup orange juice
5 cinnamon sticks
20 cloves
1 star anise
2 rosemary sprigs

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and turn to high until mixture begins to simmer. Turn to the low setting and continue for three hours total.

Happy, wine-filled holidays from Glendora!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

You're Entertaining

Are you hosting Christmas or Christmas Eve in your home, or perhaps a party this weekend? If so, here are some thrifty suggestions for festive decor from the good folks at the Scott Paper Company, from their 1963 pamphlet You're Entertaining (click on the images to make them bigger):

They've also thoughtfully included a page on which to take notes about your party - what went well and what you might tweak for the next one, along with some inspiration for your hosting journey!

I love this booklet! It's filled with just as much goodness as you'd expect, including the appeal to enjoy your own party, one of our common refrains. So hang that sprig of fir on the door, line that boot box with superabsorbent ScotTowels, shake yourself up a lovely libation and have a good time! Those ScotTowels will still be there in the morning when you're ready to clean up after sleeping it off a good time was had by all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Have A Merry, Mediocre Christmas!

A mediocre Christmas probably sounds awful, but I mean only great things for you when I say that! The holiday season can be a nutty time and, as we've already seen, the pressure to perform in various arenas (gift giving, hosting, being a great friend or family member, etc.) can be a bit much. Therefore I'm urging all of us to go a little easy on ourselves this year. A truncated workout is better than no workout. A nice-but-not-incredible bottle of wine as a host gift is better than no host gift. The fact that you're giving gifts at all is better than none (unless you've agreed to that in advance). An easy Christmas dinner is better than driving yourself berserk and ruining your day. So give yourself a break and enjoy the season by lowering your expectations of yourself when you feel a little batty. I'll bet your "good enough" is actually pretty fantastic!

I call it "Tuesday night in December."

Monday, December 14, 2015

How To Have A Ball On A Baby Sitter's Budget

We recently received a box in the mail from a fabulous friend, filled with honeycomb decorations for several holidays and vintage cookbook pamphlets, one of my favorite things in life! These are the books that you see in line at the supermarket or that you can send away for or get free when you purchase a product. There were some amazing ones in the box, including this one, with which I’m obsessed: How To Have A Ball On A Baby Sitter’s Budget, from the Pillsbury Junior Home Service Center. It’s not dated, but judging from the section entitled “Soaring Into 60s” I’m going to guess it’s from 1959. It is a treasure trove of Christmas-themed fabulousness, with ideas for parties like “Winter Barbecue,” “Mocktail Party” and “Slumber Party.” Today let’s look at Slumber Party for some ideas for a Christmas breakfast (click images to make them larger):

I love that hard boiled egg decorated like Santa! Actually, I love everything about this, from the idea that one might use toothpicks to prop up their drooping eyelids the morning after (you just can’t suggest things like that in cookbooks anymore) to the punch made from Pillsbury Fluffy Orange Frosting Mix. Sprinkle with nutmeg (and copious amounts of rum couldn’t hurt)!

I’ll share more from this fabulous tome soon! In the meantime, start planning that holiday slumber party! It’s a natural for New Year’s Eve!

Friday, December 11, 2015

In the beginning...

I'm often asked about the origins of the "Velveteen Lounge Kitsch-en" and how our show came to be. As with many things in life that seem inevitable only in hindsight, it's the confluence of lots of different events and experiences...

I've always been interested in the mid-century era. I was the kid who'd walk to the Balboa Theatre, on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, CA, to sit by myself in a darkened theater on Saturdays and watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers or Marilyn Monroe triple features. I'd bury my head in books about movies and theater and watched pretty much any technicolor musical or screwball comedy I could on TV. And classic TV: I could spend HOURS lost in "Bewitched," "Family Affair," "Gilligan's Island" and many, many more. When I was cast in a community theater production of "Grease" my grandfather, who played the coach, drove me around to thrift stores to costume shop. An entire world opened up to me. The stores were filled with fabulous '50s and '60s clothing, furniture and knick knacks. If only I could go back in time and shop at those stores, with the same stock, now!

I also grew up very much middle class, but surrounded by wealthy ladies who planned and attended parties, brunches, balls, excursions on their yachts and all manner of entertainment. I was fascinated by the glamour of it all. I later discovered vintage cookbooks, which gave me another window to the world of entertaining. Everything from a midmorning coffee break to a Christmas cookie swap to a birthday party seemed to be an opportunity to exercise one's creativity.  I always knew that one day I'd throw fabulous parties.

While all of this was happening, I was beginning my life as an actor (I'd later add writer to my title). As a youth I was all about the theater, which was very respectable, though deep down I longed to do TV. I tried the "legitimate" route and even attended a full-time, two year conservatory for Shakespeare and classical theater training. But while my classmates were rhapsodizing about the latest Shakespeare production that had aired on PBS the previous weekend, I was nodding and smiling and trying to conceal the fact that I'd been watching "Mystery Science Theater 3000." I would still love to hang out with Shakespeare sometime, drinking mead and cracking jokes, but I just couldn't sustain the fiction that I had any interest in being a dour theater snob. I finally admitted that comedy is my forte.

In the 1990s I discovered Atomic Magazine, which jibed exactly with my retro sensibilities, and the beginnings of the craft cocktail revival dovetailed with acquiring my first home bar (which is where we still shoot the cocktail sequences of our episodes!). I'd just begun dating Paul and picked up the Sardi's Bar Guide, the first of many we'd collect over the years. That was the real start of our interest in cocktail culture.

However, as we met like-minded folks and began attending events, I noticed a disturbing trend. What had begun as a real effort to bring back quality cocktails and encourage experimentation and creativity on that front had left some people feeling inadequate. They picked up the best liquor and ingredients that they could afford, but felt their efforts would never be up to snuff, at least not to the cocktail elite - the ones who set the standards. This felt like such a shame. It was like acting school all over again, where if it was fun and easy you clearly were doing something wrong. This was serious business. We met more and more people who were afraid to throw parties because they felt they'd never be good enough. We were flabbergasted. Parties and entertaining should be fun! If they're not, what's the point?

The "Velveteen Lounge Kitsch-en" came to be as a result of all of these influences, along with some coaxing from friends. We deeply believe that parties, holidays and special occasions both large and small should be opportunities to enjoy friends and loved ones, indulge your creativity and have a good time! Whether it's a cocktail after work or Thanksgiving dinner for 20, the point is to have fun. Throw that party! Host that poker night or brunch and do not worry about whether or not it's "good enough!" There is enough to fret about in this world. Indulge in the aspects of hosting that appeal to you and outsource the rest. If you enjoy making cocktails, but not cooking, provide the beverages and get a few catering trays or have a potluck. If you love to cook or bake, but cocktails aren't your thing, make a punch or serve wine or beer. All anyone will remember is that you invited them into your home, offered your hospitality and showed them a wonderful time. And, in the unlikely event someone makes you feel badly about your efforts, scratch them from your invite list! As you get more comfortable hosting you'll soon find that your gatherings are tremendous fun for all, you included!

We're so grateful to all who watch the show and support our efforts! If you have any hosting or cocktail issues you'd like us to address, please let us know, whether here or on Facebook, Twitter or our website! We're happy to help!

My early hostessing days...

I've always enjoyed a small gathering!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Happy Holidays...To YOU!

Our current episode (click here to watch) is all about fighting Christmas craziness by taking good care of yourself and listening to what you truly want out of the holiday season. It seems so simple, but this message has a way of getting lost this time of year, which is why you see so much made of it in the media.  It can feel as though we're bombarded, not only by the expectations of others, by our own expectations of what our season should look like.  Pinterest-perfect parties with gorgeous tablescapes, beautifully wrapped gifts that make recipients universally squeal with delight, lots of glamorous photos of shiny outfits and perfect hair days on Facebook... it's enough to make anyone feel like a failure if even one aspect isn't Instagram-worthy. Who needs it?! Participate in the aspects that make you happy and ignore the rest. They're your holidays and every aspect is optional. If you don't want to go to the party, don't go to the party! If your family is a passive-aggressive nightmare, stay away! You don't like wrapping gifts or making cookies or singing carols? Don't! Remember, peace on earth starts at home, so treat yourself well and enjoy some inner peace this season!

Christmas on the sofa, with cocktails? Yes, please!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

New Vintage Recipes!

I added some new vintage recipes to our website, just in time for holiday entertaining! This time we're featuring lighter fare in the form of salads (yes, there's Jell-O involved) and champagne cocktails. Easy and indulgent, two of my favorite things! Here's the link!

Just about anything can be a salad according to this book!