“New” Vintage Tupperware

I just received the email confirming that I’ve been accepted to the 613flea on March 9th — only three Saturdays away. Sadly, this means I’ll be missing the market this coming Saturday, February 23rd, as I have schedule conflicts that day. Even so, I’m really exited, and I have so many “new” items that I can’t wait to show!

A perennial favourite is the Tuperware Pick-A-Deli; it’s so popular that they still make them new (although the colours have changed over the years). I believe that they started making this design as early as the late 1960’s, although I’ve had a hard time finding a firm date on that one. It’s really great for storing pickles in vinegar, fruit in juice or syrup, pickled eggs in brine, carrot or celery sticks in water — just about any solid food that you’d generally store in a liquid, really. The trick is the strainer with the handle, which lets you lift the solids out of the liquids easily without making a mess.

Tupperware pitchers (or, as we called them in our household, juice jugs) are also very popular, and they’ve come in many shapes and sizes over the years. Variations on this look are still available new as well! For people of my generation, there’s something about the older styles that conjures childhood memories of Kool-Aid or frozen juices from concentrate, served in matching tumblers in the summertime.

This last one, now, made me laugh when I found it. I never knew that Tupperware paired up with Blockbuster to make popcorn bowls. I’d guess that this happened sometime in the 90’s, when now-defunct Blockbuster was at its most popular. Apparently this kind of promotion ran more than once, since now that I’ve known what to Google, I discovered that they also came with a “Blockbuster Music” logo. It’s essentially a 26-cup Fix-N-Mix bowl with different branding, which was originally intended to throw your salad fixings inside, add some dressing, and then close the lid to mix it all together. It could still be used for the same, but I have a feeling that the Blockbuster version was marketed to put popcorn in, add butter, salt, and/or other seasonings, and then close and shake to mix. How else were you supposed to use a large plastic mixing bowl to “make it a Blockbuster night”?

Spice Cupboard

I finally organized my spice cupboard! I’ve been putting it off forever, but I finally got fed up when I yet again bought more of something I could have sworn I was out of, only to find an old jar of it stuffed in behind containers I could swear I had moved.

I mean, it wasn’t a horror show, really. But when I cleaned it out I realized that I’d had some of the contents of those containers for at least six or seven years. One, a jar of Italian spice, had to be at least ten years old. Not that any of it would have hurt any of us to eat it, but what kind of flavour was I getting out of stuff that ancient?

I’d been collecting these little Tupperware spice containers (Modular Mates small spice shaker 1843 bottoms and 1844 lids) for a while now, picking them up second-hand whenever I got the chance. They don’t make the small ones any more, and I figured that the larger ones would just prompt me to buy too much of a single spice again. While I can see that being useful for something like cinnamon that I use in large quantities, it’s not something that I need for all of my spices. And while I love those magnetic spice tins that look so great on a kitchen wall and mean that you can see what you have left at a glance, to keep herbs and spices fresh they’re supposed to be stored in a dark place — like a cupboard. (I’ve seen some designs where those magnetic spice racks are placed on the wall directly above the back of a stove, which looks lovely, but not only are the contents getting damaged by light but also by the heat of the cooking below. I wouldn’t recommend this setup unless it’s 100% for show.)

And now my spice cupboard looks like this! I find it immensely satisfying. To my dismay, I thought I had more than enough containers for my spices, but even after green binning a bunch of ancient ones, I still had more than I thought. A number of the herbs and spices that I don’t use often are now in my freezer, although I plan on transitioning them at least in part to the little containers when I get some more. For now, the freezer will keep them fresher longer anyway.

I think I’ll need to put in a couple of shelves so that the containers aren’t stacked, though. I know they won’t stay orderly otherwise. Or maybe I can find some kind of racks that slide out for easy access? I’ll have to look into it. But for right now I can find what I need when I need it, my choice of containers encourages me to buy in bulk (to reduce single-use plastic), and I’m loving it!

“New” Vintage Pyrex

I’m so looking forward to the 2019 market season! For me that won’t start until the March 9th edition of 613flea, which means that until then I’ll be working on leveling the collection I have to share. Even though I have to have patience until my next market, I have to admit, I’ve been taking a great deal of joy in some of the “new” (well, new to me) Pyrex items I’ve found.

One of the things that has been holding me back when it comes to posting about my latest finds is that, frankly, I didn’t have enough room to photograph them decently. My workspace had become cluttered and messy, and my light box was just too small for the larger items. I have an absolutely lovely fold-up light tent that has worked for me for years (it’s so convenient!) and I’d eventually love one in the same style in a larger size, but right now I needed something quick and easy. So I got some large pieces of poster board and made something very akin to what you’d find in this tutorial. I think the results were pretty grand!

I absolutely love these Cinderella mixing bowls in the Colonial Mist pattern, which was originally sold from 1983 to 1986. One great thing about this style of bowl is that they’re also ovenware, so they do double duty as casserole dishes.

This set of three mixing bowls in the Homestead pattern (1976 to 1980) is a more standard shape, but also be used in the oven or microwave as well.

I was especially happy to find this Pink Daisy casserole, even though it’s a bit worse for wear and without its lid, because pink is a highly sought after colour. This particular pattern ran from 1956 to 1962, so this dish is between 57 and 63 years old, which adds to its rarity.

These Pyrex England stacking casseroles in the Emily or Spring Garden pattern aren’t quite as vintage, but since they’re from 1986 that means they’re still 33 years old — and they’re imported.

Given the colours of the pattern and the brown lids, I would have pegged them as being from the 70’s, but these Pyrex England casseroles in Brown Vine are from 1983 to 1985.

People have asked me why I like vintage Pyrex (and vintage kitchenware in general) so much. Although I really do love that I’m keeping perfectly serviceable items out of a landfill, I there’s more to it than that. I think it boils down to the fact that I like pretty, unusual things, and when I use such things I feel better about whatever I’m working on. Cooking is something that has to be done every single day, and it’s easy for it to become dreary and monotonous. I try to alleviate this by trying new dishes, new styles of cooking, and new techniques, but I think that it also helps to surround yourself with things that make you happy. To me, there is a thrill of the hunt for things that I consider both practical and beautiful, as well as a great deal of satisfaction in using these things once I have them. To paraphrase Marie Kondo, for me, these things spark joy.

Resolutions

1. Crafting

This is a two-part resolution. Firstly, I’d like to use up the materials I have purchased over the years, and/or use recycled or thrifted materials whenever possible.

Secondly, I’d like to participate in more group or community projects, like Mochimochi Land’s Let’s Knit a Ball Pit — ideally using materials previously specified. The ball pit will be a part of Vogue Knitting LIVE in New York City, and once the event is over they will be donated to the American Foundation for Children with AIDS. I contributed the two knitted balls in the photo above to this project, and I really enjoyed it! I hope that they arrive in time. I’d like to keep the ball rolling, as it were, and donate my time and skills to other events, even if it’s something as simple as hats for the newborn babies at the local children’s hospital.

2. Environmental

I would like to try to decrease our household’s reliance on single-use plastic, and to continue to reuse, repurpose, and recycle. To me, that doesn’t mean being rid of plastics entirely; actually, I think it would be rather wasteful to completely be rid of the plastics we do have, just to buy all new replacements in another material. Rather, I’d like to commit to using recycled plastics, either post-consumer recycled commercial products, or finding a new home for second-hand plastic products, like the lunch boxes above that I bought at a thrift store.

3. In the Kitchen

I want to expand my cooking knowledge, skills, and style — while at the same time trying to keep it reasonably healthy. I think I’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut lately, and I want to do better! To that end, I have purchased even more second-hand cookbooks that I’m not only going to try out, but that I’m going to read through for ideas. At Thing 1’s request, I am looking into more Japanese food:

Sushi by Ryuichi Yoshii (1998)
The Japanese Kitchen by Kimiko Barber (2004)
Ten-Minute Bento by Megumi Fujii (2007)

Of all of the books that I have thrifted lately, I think I am most excited about The Japanese Kitchen, which helps break down and de-mystify each ingredient, and Ten Minute Bento, which is all about quick and easy (and I think will become a favourite cookbook to pull out to prep dinner on busy weeknights). There is a lot about Japanese cooking that I don’t know, but these books look like they’ll really help me get a better grasp on it.

In a more general vein, I have also picked up:

Gordon Ramsay’s Passion for Flavour by Gordon Ramsay (1996)
Deliciously Dairy Free: Fresh and Simple Lactose-Free Recipes for Healthy Eating Every Day by Lesley Waters (2015)
Gourmet Meals in Crappy Little Kitchens by Jennifer Schaertl (2010)
More Bread Machine Magic by Linda Rehberg and Lois Conway (1997)
Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube Presents: The Cake Book by Cupcake Jemma (2014)
Cocktails for Book Lovers by Tessa Smith McGovern (2014)

Now, some of these, like the cupcake book and the cocktail book, are just for fun — but shouldn’t cooking be fun? The dairy-free one and the one about cooking in small kitchens (and I have to say, that title grabbed my attention) are probably the ones I’d use the most, though. Yet every cookbook is a kind of inspiration for me, even if I don’t try a single dish.

4. Business

I think that it’s time for my business to expand from flea markets to online. I think I will start with local sales, since a lot of my products are both heavy and quite breakable. I just don’t know that it would be cost-effective to try to ship vintage Pyrex or, heaven forbid, cast iron cookware. But vintage Tupperware is both hardy and light enough to make the trip! I think that this expansion will challenge my photography skills (since product photography is quite different than casual snaps) and my organization skills. I’m also looking at how to make it all as environmentally-sound as possible; I especially don’t want to package items in styrofoam, bubble wrap, or air-filled bags, since they’re all single-use plastic. I’m looking into wool and straw and other biodegradable options. People shipped things without breaking them long before plastic was invented, so there have to be options. The question is, can I keep it cost-effective? Challenges, challenges!

So what are your resolutions for the New Year?

Kitchen Gifts

Of course, because my friends and family know that I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, a lot of my Christmas gifts this year centered around that.

One of my friends gifted me with some delicious Chex Party Mix and a lovely loaf of Makivnyk (a Ukrainian style poppy seed tea roll) from the Black Walnut Bakery. Oh, and Thing 1 gave me the Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix In A Jar that she’d made, thus ensuring that she would get to eat some of them too.

I also acquired a number of cookbooks over the holidays, some as gifts, others from thrift stores or as bargain books.

The Perfect Pie Book by Anne Marshall, 1984 (thrifted)
Hershey’s 1934 Cookbook, Hershey Chocolate Company, 1971 (thrifted)
Anita Stewart’s Canada by Anita Stewart, 2008 (thrifted — and I’ve wanted my own copy for quite a while)
Bread! Simple and Satisfying Recipes for Your Bread Machine by Kathrun Hawkins, 2006 ($4.00 at Dollarama)
Pumpkin Butternut & Squash by Elsa Petersen-Schepelern, 2000 (gift)

My parents gave me an Instant Pot and a handmade apron, my brother gave me a copy of Jamie Cooks Italy (since I’m a huge Jamie Oliver fan), and a friend gave me a Paderno tamagoyaki pan.

I can’t wait to try out all of my new toys!

Portable Cutlery Set Tutorial

Recently, a video about a sea turtle that had to have a plastic straw removed from its nose went viral on the Internet. So powerful was the suffering of the poor animal in this video that it sparked plastic straw bans in many cities. As much as I appreciated the sentiment behind this move, my personal opinion is that it treats a symptom rather than the underlying disease. For example, to reduce plastic straw use, some restaurants redesigned the lids of their disposable cups — but continued distributing single-use plastic lids that could not be easily recycled. Bans also left many people with disabilities in a tight spot, since they have no options but to use disposable straws. Plastic straw bans don’t help any of the old straws already out there to get recycled instead of going into landfills — and according to this site it takes 100 to 500 years for a plastic straw to decompose. It doesn’t address recycling policies that keep plastics from being properly recycled in the first place. And once the furor raised by the video died down, a lot of people — and more importantly, a lot of companies — went back to single-use plastics without a second thought. As it stands right now, 89% of plastic is not recycled in Canada.

So I asked myself, what can I do? Well, I personally I can stop using plastic straws whenever possible, that’s a given. But in all of the viral-video-fueled excitement for people to buy their own personal reusable straws to use with their takeout food, I think a lot of people forgot about the disposable cutlery that goes hand with those straws. While personal cutlery sets have been available for years (and are especially popular with those who camp), and they’re definitely better than disposable, I think it’s possible to do better. Why? Because these are generally made with new materials.

If you go out to any thrift store you will find that there is lots of perfectly good, used, stainless-steel cutlery that can have a second life as a portable cutlery set. Not only that, it’s generally quite affordable! When I buy vintage kitchenware for my market stall, it often comes with old cutlery thrown in; a lot of people don’t see its value. But all it needs is a recycled travel case to put it in so it can be thrown in a purse, briefcase, backpack, desk drawer, or lunch box.

I made up a bunch of these sets and brought them with me to the 613Christmas this past weekend. However, I think it’s more important to encourage everyone to use them than it is for me to make a profit, so I thought I’d share a tutorial online. It is very basic and can even be hand-sewn if desired. Of course, if you are a master sewer, you can probably make something even nicer, and I encourage you to do so! Experiment! Use even tinier scraps of fabric and quilt them together in incredible designs! Knit a case! Crochet! There’s no limit to the techniques you can use. What’s most important, to me, is that your materials be recycled — not only the cutlery, but also the textiles.

So your first step is to pick your cutlery. If you’re lucky they will all be from the same set, but they really don’t have to be. I recommend the basics of a knife, fork, and spoon, but you can also include a steak knife (although probably not if it’s to be brought to school), reusable chopsticks, and a reusable straw.

Secondly, you’ll need a piece of fabric, preferably recycled. It can come from old clothing, bedding, or draperies, but another good resource (if you don’t sew much yourself) is a friend or family member who sews, who will inevitably have lots of scraps and remnants that they just can’t bear to throw out, but would be happy to see used.

Cut a piece of fabric that, when the fabric is folded in half length-wise, is at least 6″ longer than your longest piece of cutlery. Width-wise, you want it to be twice as wide as the widest piece of cutlery, plus 4″ or so to allow for the depth of the deepest piece. I found that a 30″ x 6″ strip of fabric was adequate to comfortably accommodate every style of cutlery that I tried.

Fold the fabric in half so that it is long and skinny; in the case of our demo, it became 30″ x 3″. Make sure that the wrong side of the fabric faces out. Sew a seam with half of a centimeter of seam allowance around the two longest edges. Alternately, you can serge the edges, which is what I did. (Seams indicated by blue lines in the photo above.)

Turn the tube you have made halfway inside-right, so that the right side of the fabric is visible on the outside. The tube will now be half as long as when you started (15″). Press flat.

On the unfinished end, fold the top layer back about 4″. Sew a seam on the inside layer about 1″ into the fabric, as per the blue line in the photo. Leaving an allowance of about half a centimeter, cut off the excess fabric at the end.

Fold the top layer back so that it lies flat. Fold the two unfinished edges of the top layer inside the tube, and stitch the end of the tube closed as close to the edge as possible (blue line on the right). Making sure to catch the inside layer, sew a second seam parallel to the first, about half a centimeter further in (blue line on the left).

Insert your longest piece of cutlery (usually the knife) into the tube, making sure it goes all the way to the bottom. On the middle of one side of the tube, mark a spot 1″ down from the top of the knife; sew a button on there, making sure to sew it only to one side of the tube. On the other side of the tube, mark a spot 1/2″ from the top of the knife; sew a loop of elastic onto this spot. The length of the elastic will depend on the level of stretch and how big the button is, so it may take a bit of experimentation.

Insert all cutlery pieces in the tube, roll the top closed, and loop the elastic over the button to secure it.

There you have it, your own personal recycled portable cutlery set. Make them for your friends and family this holiday season! They make great stocking stuffers and teacher appreciation gifts. And after many years of hard use, when the cutlery does finally wear out and the bag falls apart, the steel is recyclable and many fabrics are biodegradable. Even if you chose a synthetic fabric, it’s better that it be reused instead of going directly in the trash. Perhaps only the button (depending on the kind you chose) will end up in the garbage at the end of life of your portable cutlery set — and with any luck by then our recycling programs will accept them too.

613Christmas Saturday December 1st

Tomorrow is 613Chrismtas, 613flea’s once-a-year Christmas event, and I couldn’t be more excited to be participating! It’s my biggest market of the year, and even the weather is predicted to cooperate.

I have so much new stuff to bring that I can’t photograph it all. My bins for vintage Pyrex and Tupperware are overflowing, and I have a whole bunch of beautiful Blue Mountain Pottery that are waiting to be shown off. I’m enlisting my husband to help me set up so that I can bring a third table to fit it all (usually I only have two tables and lug it all myself). It means that my booth will look a little different than usual, but that’s so I can bring all of my very best “new” stuff!

There is a change of venue for this market: it’s at the much larger (and better-heated) Carleton University Fieldhouse. I’ll be more or less in the middle, in booth 808.

I’m happy to be able to say that I’ve upgraded my Square card reader for this event, so I’ll be able to take debit cards, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, as well as the usual credit cards and cash. The new machine makes it so easy!

So please pop by and say hi, even if vintage kitchenware isn’t your thing. I’m always excited to meet people who read my blog.