Archive for December, 2010

December 21, 2010

Vintage Fashion: Ask Miss Vivian DuBois, Part II

by Crystal Cook

Dear Miss Vivian,

Vintage clothes can be lovely, but the sizes are confusing- and buying online is totally intimidating. What  is your secret for finding vintage clothes that fit as if they were made for you?

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Oh, Kittens- Miss Vivian feels your pain! Many’s the time she has pulled a frothily lovely vintage frock off the rack and squealed with delight to find it her size, only to face debilitating and demoralizing defeat when it barely fits over her head, to say nothing of her voluptuous curves. All part of the joy and heartbreak of loving and living vintage, Kittens! But never fear: armed with a bit of information and a measuring tape, this need never happen to you!

First, we simply must get one thing straight: garment sizing has changed significantly over the decades. Vintage clothing may run as much as six sizes smaller than a comparable modern garment. Six sizes! Why? I’m so glad you asked, Kittens! First of all, we are getting larger as a species. In the 1940s the average woman was 5’2”, 129 pounds. These days the average gal is 5’4” and weighs 145 pounds; not a huge difference, but it accounts for a size or two, at least. In addition, there is no standardization in US sizing, so similar garments in the same size from different stores or brands may fit completely differently. And just to confuse matters, clothing manufacturers realized they could sell more of their product if the tag had a smaller number, regardless of the actual dimensions of the garment. Voila- vanity sizing was born! Honestly Kittens, would you buy a pair of dungarees in a “size 10”, when you could get the identical pair in a “size 6”? Miss Vivian thought not!

What to do, what to do? Below, Miss Vivian bestows upon you her golden rules of shopping vintage for the perfect fit!

1.) If you can try it on, for Pete’s sake Kittens- try it on! This is Miss Vivian’s number one rule for vintage (or any other kind of) shopping. Granted, vintage and thrift stores are not known for their luxurious accommodations; their dressing rooms are often not for the faint of heart. But gird your loins and give a go, Kittens! You’ll save yourself tears in the long run.

2.) Know what styles work for you body, generally. For example, if you are blessed with a voluptuous hour glass figure (like your humble blogger), the 1950s is a treasure trove of nipped in waists and forgivingly full skirts. If you sport the slender, slim-hipped look, how lucky you are: the 20s and 60s offer sartorial splendor that only the gorgeously boyish can embrace! Experiment, and figure out what looks good on YOU.

3.) Don’t get hung up on the writing on the tags. Like age, size is just a number, Kittens! Approach vintage with an open mind, knowing full well that things were different in the way-back-when. Give it a whirl; if it doesn’t fit, blame the dress rather than your lovely body, and move on. (And for my sisters who were designed on a generous scale: a.) you “have qualities which littleness can never possess”, and b.) it can be a bit more difficult to find vintage in our size, but it is by no means impossible, as Miss Vivian’s positively bulging closets can attest!)

4.) Buy, and use, a measuring tape. Vintage stores can be pricy, and with the rise of the internet seller, it can be virtually impossible to find vintage in thrift stores these days. That leaves buying on-line. I know, Kittens, it’s a bit scary, and it directly contradicts Miss Vivian’s first rule of vintage shopping. But… if you know your measurements, you can buy with confidence. Here’s how: in the nude, (or a well-fitting bra), measure around the fullest part of your bust, your natural waist, and the biggest part of your hips. Keep the tape level and firm, but don’t pull; there should not be indentations in your fabulous form. Now, add at least two inches in the bust and hips, and at least one to one and a half inches in the waist; this wiggle room is critical for fit! These are the numbers you’re looking for when you surf for pretty things on-line. Miss Vivian finds it best not to negotiate with these numbers, no matter how divine the garment, unless you are- or know- an excellent seamstress (in which case you know these rules already).

5.) Understand how measurements are used in vintage selling. Most sellers will provide the three measurements we discussed above: bust (which may also be labeled “armpit to armpit”), waist, and hip. When skirts are voluminous rather than fitted, the hip measurement may be listed as “full.” Occasionally, sellers will add total length, or length from shoulder to waist; these can be important if you are particularly tall, or very long- or short-waisted. It is customary for sellers to measure a garment flat, in which case you will have to double the measurement given to find the actual size of the piece. If you aren’t certain or need additional information, it is well within accepted etiquette to contact the seller and ask.

So, Kittens, now you too can find the dress of your dreams or the frock of your fantasies! Miss Vivian would be lying if she claimed she has never splashed out on a lovely vintage piece, only to find, upon receiving the package, that it didn’t quite fit. However, the successes far outnumber the failures these days, and the pay-off is a completely unique, utterly fabulous wardrobe! Happy shopping, Kittens!

December 15, 2010

So Wrong or So Right?

by Crystal Cook

Do these mushroom candlesticks add the perfect amount of whimsical decor, or do they just remind you of a bad trip? (We’re not talking about the 2nd grade trip you took to the museum.) You decide—so wrong or so right?

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December 14, 2010

For the clumsiest of Queens in your life

by Crystal Cook

I don’t know what they put in this stuff but it’s like a little miracle in every bottle. Trust me, they don’t call me ‘grace’ for a reason—I spill often. This has saved my carpet, my couch, cocktail dresses and many aprons. Pair with a bottle of red wine for a wonderful holiday gift idea!

You can buy you own bottle here:

Wine Away

December 8, 2010

A little something for the smartly dressed Queen

by Crystal Cook

We’d like to think this dress sums us up perfectly: retro-chic with a bit of sassy sleek. It’s also the perfect little number for the fashionista in your life. Make a statement this holiday with a dress that will stand out at any party, or give her a gift she’ll absolutely adore.

December 6, 2010

Inside the Queens Studio: Meet Olivia!

by Casserole Queens

Drawing inspiration from James Lipton (or maybe Will Ferrell playing the part of James Lipton on SNL), we periodically interview someone we find interesting and inspiring. In our second installment, we talk to cupcake cutie Olivia Guerra O’Neal.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am Olivia Guerra O’Neal, owner of Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop.

I have always had a love of baking and as I got older I realized that it was more than a passion, it was something I wanted to pursue as a career. I love creating and baking desserts and watching people’s reaction when they have that first delicious bite of cake. I also love being a part of our customer’s birthdays, weddings, and “just because” celebrations.

What is your “recipe” for success?

My recipe for success is that I truly have a passion for the industry I am in and I work hard to ensure that I have an equally passionate team. All of our staff truly cares about the product we are creating, along with making sure that our customers have a great experience when they come into our shop. We have a very low turnover rate for the restaurant industry and I think it’s because we all love what we do and what Sugar Mama’s stands for.

If you weren’t a pastry chef you would be…

A rockstar! I recorded music back in the day and have always wanted to have a singing career, lalala!

Your spouse called and his Aunt Edna is in town and coming over for dinner. Quick – what is your go to meal?

I can bake a cake, but cooking is a whole other ballgame for me. With that said, we love Taco Night at the O’Neal household, along with an ice cold Margarita and my famous guacamole.

If your personality was described by a casserole – what would it be?

King Ranch casserole for sure! A little bit spicy, a lot cheesy, and everyone would have a strong opinion about me one way or the other.

Name one kitchen disaster you’ve had.

Just one? The one that comes to mind is the day we opened Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop and I realized that I didn’t know how to run a convection oven. There were lines out the door and we were in over our heads! I called a fellow baker in Las Vegas and she gave me some pointers, and Sandy of Casserole Queen fame spent opening day at Sugar Mama’s saving my behind! The Casserole Queens aren’t just amazing cooks, they’re superheros on the side.

What dish from your childhood brings you the most comfort and why?

My dad makes a soup that he named Hobo Stew. You take all the veggies from the kitchen along with some lean sirloin and cook it over a hot stove for about 8 hours. Hobo Stew and a some crusty San Francisco sourdough makes everything right in the world.

Who was the most fun/interesting person you cooked for?

We’ve had celebrities and notable personalities come through our shop, but I get the most pleasure from baking for my three-year old. He is in love with everything I make and when I watched him eat his first piece of chocolate cake his eyes actually rolled back into his head. It was fantastic and he’s a great eater – from Ethiopian food to Sushi it’s so fun exposing him to new cuisines and he loves them all. The other day he told me he wants to be a chef.

What would I find in your refrigerator right now?

Off the top of my head we have roasted red pepper soup, plums, roti, veggie burgers, a bottle of sparkling red and a drawer full of peppers, onions, tomatoes and other yummy veggies.

If someone wrote a book about you, what would the title be?

A Woman and Her Whisk

To learn more about Olivia and Sugar Mama’s Bakeshop, visit her website at

December 4, 2010

How to make corn tortillas

by Sandy Pollock

My awesome boyfriend Michael knows me pretty well. I know that because I found this beauty when I went to check the mail today.

A brand spankin’ new corn tortilla press! It’s a nice heavy cast-iron beauty (far superior to the lighter aluminum version).

Ain’t she pretty paw?

So shiny and new. I think it is time to get her messy! Let’s make some corn tortillas!

Ingredients: masa de harina mix (1 cup), water (2/3 cup) , and salt (1/8 tsp). Yields 8 small tortillas.

Put masa in a large bowl.

Add the water.

Put your pretty paws in there and mix.

Mix until dough comes together in a ball.

Divide the dough into equal balls. I made enough dough for 8 tortillas, because if we made any more than that Michael and I would make ourselves sick. We tend to eat them straight off the comal as fast as we can!

Now for the really fun part. Place a piece of plastic wrap on each side of the press.

Place one dough ball in the center.

Now PRESS! I like a thicker more dense corn tortilla so I keep mine just a smidge thicker than what you are probably used to seeing in the grocery store.

Seriously, how easy is that? I felt guilty that is wasn’t hard and more laborious.

My trusty comal. I use it all the time! Daily even. Love this skillet. Crank the heat to high heat.

Drop tortillas on the comal. No overlapping.

Cook for 30 seconds to a minutes per side. You are looking for the little brown spots of deliciousness to appear. Remove from comal. Cover with cloth napkin to keep soft and warm.

I am a very happy woman!

Now let’s turn these small disks of yumminess into a full blown snack!

So this is what I did. First cook the tomatoes:

Slice cherry tomatoes in half  (I used a whole pint) and mince the garlic (2 cloves). Heat olive oil in a sauté pan (about 2 tablespoons). Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add some quality balsamic vinegar to the garlic (about 1/4 cup). Add the tomatoes and mix to coat. Let them cook away. The balsamic vinegar will reduce and become syrupy and the tomatoes will start to release their juices. You will suddenly have way more juice than you started with and that is all good. Just let it reduce down. You don’t want the end result to be soupy. You are looking for a thicker sauce.

Refer to this blog post for step by step photos on preparing the tomatoes.

Melt cheese (I used Monterrey Jack, but go with whatever makes you a happy camper) on a cooked tortilla and put it in a 350 degree oven until the cheese is melted. Top with some of the sexy tomatoes, jalapenos, and your favorite hot sauce.  Easy, tasty, and a lot of fun to make.

December 1, 2010

Keep it Ugly

by Crystal Cook

Are you ready for a Throwdown? Only the best of the worst will win! Enter our Tacky Sweater Holiday Contest and win a copy of Bobby Flay’s Throwdown!: More Than 100 Recipes from Food Network’s Ultimate Cooking Challenge cook-book featuring the Casserole Queens!

It makes a great gift for the holidays! There are two books available ─ one for the first and second place winners. Here is how it will work:

  • Send us your pictures! Email your most stylish, ugly sweater photo to between now and December 12th. We will take all entries: solo, couples, family, kids and pets!
  • On December 13th, we will post the entries to our blog and the voting will begin.
  • Voting will end close of business (5pm Central) on 12/19.
  • On 12/20 we will announce the winners!

Still feeling uninspired? Check out this photo of the Napolillo family of Austin, TX. They have made the claim that this year is going to be even better, so ya’ll better think BIG (or you could change “BIG” to “TACKY” or “GAUDY”)!  Find something with lots of appliqués, sequins, jingle bells, pom poms, or bows – The more obnoxious, the better chance of winning. Happy hunting!

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