The Darker Side Of Christmas – 5 Dark and Deadly Elements of Christmases Past

Getting sick of all the holiday cheer? Looking for something a bit more sinister to feed your Grinchy heart? Check out this list of morbid, unusual and downright bizarre facts about Christmas days of yore.

Getting sick of all the holiday cheer? Looking for something a bit more sinister to feed your Grinchy heart? Check out this list of morbid, unusual and downright bizarre facts about Christmas days of yore.

1. Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, How Deadly Are Your Branches

See What Happens If You Don't Water Your Christmas Tree? - Gothamist
Keep your Christmas tree well-watered if it’s real, and if you’re using a vintage artificial one, be careful of the lights you use.

Christmas trees as a North American tradition date back to the early 1800s, having been brought over from Germany by the Moravians. The habit of dressing them with lights (originally candles) likely comes from a combination of the 17th Century German Christian’s Christmas tree and the Pagan Yule log. While this made for some brilliant looking trees, the candles the Victorians adorned their trees with could be deadly. It was difficult to secure candles to the tree, and tipsy flames could lead to disastrous fires. In 1882, the first electric Christmas lights were created, but early electric bulbs could get quite hot and still become dangerous on a tree that was too dry. In the mid 20th century, artificial trees made of aluminum became popular, and one might think that with that, the danger of electric lights was eliminated: not so. According to the CPSC, you should “never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.” This is why mid-century trees went with colour wheels under the branches, as opposed to hung on the tree itself. Planning on having a sparkling, glowing tree? Maybe opt for a festive fire extinguisher to match it.

vintage Penetray Christmas tree color wheel rotating light in box, works
The safe option for lights on an aluminium tree.

2. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, (Don’t) Let It Snow

It won’t set on fire, but it will cause cancer!

While you’d be hard-pressed to find anything new made with asbestos nowadays, it was widely used in the 20th century in a variety of products – including fake snow. If you’re not familiar with the product, it’s a fibrous silicate mineral and carcinogenic linked to the lung disease asbestosis, as well as a rare form of cancer called mesothelioma. Basically, it’s not stuff you want around. It is particularly dangerous when the fibres are loose, and able to be easily inhaled – an unfortunate fact for those who worked on the Wizard of Oz, and were covered in it during the infamous poppy scene. If you’ve inherited something that you think may have asbestos, contact your local waste disposal centre to learn how to get rid of it safely.

Look at all those lovely little asbestos fibres. Sadly, not even the worst thing to happen on that set.

3. Mad As A…Glass Blower?

Antique Kugel Christmas Ornament History | Martha Stewart
Colourful, sparkling, and no longer deadly!

You’ve likely come across “mercury glass” ornaments or decor in your festive shopping, as this popular “silvered” glass has been a holiday staple for years. But the cheap, plastic “mercury glass” that you’d buy at a hardware store is very different than the true glass ones from upscale retail, which is different still from the proper ones from the 20th century, that themselves differ from the original ones that actually contained mercury! And it’s a good thing, because mercury is linked to a whole host of health problems, the most extreme of which is Minamata disease, a horrible neurological disease that can lead to insanity and death (and what inspired the phrase, “mad as a hatter“). While the very first mercury glass ornaments were made of mercury and tin, the difficulty, cost, and toxicity meant that very quickly the process was switched to silver nitrate, which is far less dangerous (sometimes even used in medicine). Still, the name stuck, and remains a fun little reminder of the deadly materials of yesteryear, and begs the question – what are we using today that our great grandchildren will shake their heads at?

4. Snapdragon – Fun For The Whole Family!

“In my day, our raisins were on fire! And we were happy to have the heat!”

Ah Christmas, the time of year when we gather ’round with friends and family over presents, hot cocoa, and burning raisins we toss into our mouths – wait. Burning…raisins? Yep, that’s Snapdragon! A popular Victorian game that actually dates back to the 1600s. You take a bowl of brandy (off to a good start), toss in some raisins and light it ablaze. Then, sitting in a circle, everyone takes a turn reaching in to try and snap a raisin and extinguish it in their mouth. It seems the one who was the least burnt…won? Look, this was not only before tv and movies but before electricity as well, so even reading on Christmas might have been difficult. Might as well play with fire!

5. Creepy Christmas Ballads

Opinion | Have Yourself a Merry Little 2017 - The New York Times
Think the lyrics are depressing? Look up how they got poor little Margaret to cry so convincingly.

Murder ballads are a genre of folk song that deal with horrific events, usually murder, and relate what is often a true story to the listener. Chances are you know some – El Paso, Stagger Lee, Mack The Knife – some are upbeat and almost fun while others…well, you really do feel like you’re listening to a song about murder. But what may surprise you is that there are Christmas Murder Ballads, songs that, despite their dark content, somehow get included in lists of “Christmas music”. “The Murder of the Lawson Family” tells the story of a real-life murder that took place on Christmas day, 1929. “Delia’s Gone” is a first-person classic, based on a true story of a young Black woman being murdered Christmas Eve, 1900, by her white boyfriend. Then there’s goofier, but still rather dark hits like “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer“. And while not exactly creepy, if you’re looking for a sad xmas tune, look no further than the original lyrics to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, sung by Judy Garland in Meet Me In St.Louis;

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
It may be your last
Next year we may all be living in the past

Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us, no more

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on our troubles will be out of sight

Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us, once more

So what do you think? We’ve got more, should we do a part 2? Have any you think we should add? Let us know in the comments – and happy holidays!


Vintage-Inspired Gifts for the Kid At Heart

Vintage-inspired gifts for the kid at heart.

1. A Very Fancy Grown-Up Toy:
LEGO Typewriter

Typewriter 21327 | Ideas | Buy online at the Official LEGO® Shop CA
Admittedly, this would be an expensive gift ($269.99 CAD) but I couldn’t not include it – how cool is this?

ABOUT: Designed by Steve Guinness, a lifelong LEGO gan who combined his passion for brick building with a love of vintage typewriters, this mid-century modern inspired piece is based off one used by LEGO’s founder, Ole Kirk Kristiansen.

PRICE: $$$

SOCIAL IMPACT: N/A for this particular item, but while browsing the LEGO site I found that they make braille bricks as a fun way for seeing-impaired kids (or their friends and family) to learn how to read! A great way to introduce some diverse learning styles in a way that feels like what all the “other” kids are doing, I definitely think they should get some of this in elementary classrooms.

WHAT WE LIKE: I loved playing with LEGO as a kid, and I would likely still do it today if I had some around. They have a whole series of more “adult” projects that make beautiful, displayable pieces, and I think this is one of my favourite.

2. Candies From Their Childhood:
Candy Funhouse

You’re probably not buying for someone born in 1893, but this is just one of many examples of the classic candies you can buy at Candy Funhouse.

ABOUT: “Candy Funhouse is the biggest online candy store in the world that sells candy and chocolate by the bar and by the box. We are a 1-shop-for all candy store, and we are on a mission to make sure that everybody in the world has access to every candy and chocolate bar ever made! Whether you’re looking for the historic candies of the 1800’s, or the latest and greatest chocolates that were only just released yesterday, we’ve got you covered.” Read more here.


SOCIAL IMPACT: There are lots of great candy stores online but this is easily the best in Canada. Some places sell decade gift boxes that include popular candies from a certain era, but I suggest you get inspiration from some of those and shop here and support Canadian!

WHAT WE LIKE: I love retro candies because I think it’s really interesting to see how flavour interests have changed over the years. I also like knowing I can get some authentic looking stuff for shows, rather than painstakingly making reproduction labels myself (though I sometimes do still do that).

3. A Day At The Fair:
Scarborough Holiday Street Market

Toronto's holiday street carnival will have unlimited rides & epic  attractions

ABOUT: Located at the Scarborough Town Centre, it includes everything from unlimited rides for adults and kids, a hot cocoa bar, live entertainment – check out the website for all the details.


SOCIAL IMPACT: Check out and support some local vendors and entertainment!

WHAT WE LIKE: From the pictures it looks like a real old-timey fair, and it’s family friendly without being totally kid-oriented.

4. A Roll Down Memory Lane:
Shamrock Bowl

Vintage east end Toronto bowling alley reopens — GOODHOOD
In Toronto’s east end.

ABOUT: “Shamrock bowl is a historic 5-Pin Bowling alley that has been fully restored to the look and feel of the days of its inception (the Late 1940’s). It is the oldest and largest 5-pin bowling alley in Toronto, the city in which this popular sport and team building activity was invented! Come today to enjoy our eight bowling lanes.”


SOCIAL IMPACT: You’ll be supporting a vintage piece of local history!

WHAT WE LIKE: A classic game in a space with a classic look, it’s a great group activity and you can go for a game, for dinner, for drinks – a nice flexible night (or afternoon) out.

5. A Touch Of Fun:
Floorplay Socks

Hot Wheels - White
Hot Wheels socks by Stance ($30.00)

ABOUT: “Welcome to Floorplay Socks, Canada’s sock store since 2013.

Home to the largest Stance collection in Canada, including Stance Infiknit and boxers, we also carry a wide variety of socks from brands including Socksmith, Solmate, Main and Local, Lemon, Bioworld, Fun Socks and more.

In 2013 our founder, Janet Wright, had the brilliant idea to source the best socks from Canada, the United States, and all over the world. She set out on this mission and continues to search far and wide for unique, well-made, amazing and wonderful socks. 

Floorplay Socks is all about having fun, and letting your personality shine with fashionable, unique, and comfortable socks for the whole family. Your feet will thank you for it!”


SOCIAL IMPACT: This female-run local business carries primarily products made in North America, and the socks are all high-quality, meaning they take longer to wear out and that keeps textile waste out of our landfills.

WHAT WE LIKE: If your someone has a job that requires wearing a suit, or, possibly worse, business casual, they may find their creativity a little stifled. Funky socks are a great way to show a little personality in even the strictest of offices – Conor ONLY wears bright patterned ones, and I’ve gotten him many pairs from here!

Have something you think we should add to the list?
Let us know in the comments.

Vintage-Inspired Gifts for the Drink Connoisseur

Vintage-inspired gifts for the drink connoisseur.

1. Classic Cocktail Recipes:
The Book Wardrobe

Cocktails of the Movies
Take a journey through Hollywood’s lifelong love affair with cocktails, celebrating the greatest characters and their iconic drinks through original illustrations and easy-to-follow recipes.

ABOUT: ” It was February 2017 in Fatima, Portugal when a Book Lover wrote about the dream of having a bookstore. To this day, The Book Wardrobe’s story continues. One summer afternoon in July 2017, something magical happened when the unsuspecting Book Lover stepped inside the 2nd floor of the Robinson-Bray heritage house: the photography studio office suddenly transformed itself into a charming bookshop. It was like entering a familiar wardrobe leading to a secret space with lots of natural light, a focal wall of centuries-old bricks, and shelves stacked with colourful spines. The Book Lover serendipitously imagined a walk-in closet of stories.”


SOCIAL IMPACT: This bookstore is in Mississauga, Ontario, and is AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) owned and operated. To find other Asian run bookstores, check out this handy list.

WHAT WE LIKE: I’ve only browsed through the cocktail books listed so far, but there are SO man. Most are under $20 and they have some really cool concepts. Honourable mention to Booze Over Broadway a cocktail book for theatre lovers.

2. Modern-Vintage Glassware:
Cocktail Emporium

1890 Retro Fizz Glass
The decadent 1890 Retro Fizz Cocktail Glass exudes vintage charm. The floral swag style etched pattern accentuates premium cocktail presentation. This coupe has a flat base bowl and flared sides, perfect for cocktails or champagne and sparkling wines.

ABOUT: This female owned and operated store carries a variety of barware and accessories as well as the essential non-alcoholic necessities of any good cocktail: bitters, olives, syrups – you name it.


SOCIAL IMPACT: They carry products from all over, including a lot of locally made ones – great way to support your local community! Plus, some of their barware is vintage, which helps keep things green!

WHAT WE LIKE: They have a beautiful selection of products and very knowledgeable staff. I’ve often gotten friends gifts from here and it’s my first stop for ingredients if I’m looking to try out a new cocktail recipe.

3. A Tiki Bar Night Out:
The Shameful Tiki

ABOUT: “The Shameful Tiki Room Toronto is an extension of the popular Vancouver location. It is located in the trendy up & coming Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario. Like its counterpart there is no fanfare from the street but upon entry you escape into another world.

Similar to the Vancouver location, Shameful Toronto offers an extensive exotic drink menu accompanied by fabulous dishes from the kitchen including Crab Rangoon, a truly vintage Tiki side plate made famous by Trader Vic himself!”


SOCIAL IMPACT: Just a great local bar – tip your servers and bartenders well! It’s been an especially tough year for those in service industries.

WHAT WE LIKE: They make DELICIOUS drinks. Great for if you want a Hawaiian vacation and can’t afford one – just close your eyes and sip away.

4. Vintage Bar Accessories:
Walnut Hill Vintage

Variety Cocktail Shakers Vintage Liquor Bottles image 1

ABOUT: Unique vintage and antique finds via Etsy.


SOCIAL IMPACT: Sourcing secondhand is always encouraged, and this comes from a female-run shop in Cambridge, Ontario.

WHAT WE LIKE: These glass cocktail shakers are super fun. I’ve got a similar one I inherited from my Grandpa that sits front and centre on our old bar. Gift as is, or fill the inside with a mini bottle of booze and some garnish for a (almost) ready-made cocktail!

5. Classic Looking Spirits:

Tanqueray No. Ten Gin + FREE martini glass from LCBO

ABOUT: There are dozens of brands, new and old, that have beautiful vintage packaging, like the deco-inspired Tanqueray No. 10 shown above. Wander the aisles of the LCBO and you’re sure to find something pretty in each section.


SOCIAL IMPACT: Well, the pretty ones are usually in glass bottles! Which is better than plastic. But aside from that, not much for this one.

WHAT WE LIKE: I’m not much of a drinker, but I love the look of a stocked bar, and there are some gin brands especially whose bottles I’m more interested in than what’s inside. When the drink is finished, you can keep the bottle on display! Or, give us a shout – we can always use classic looking ones for props in our shows!

Have something you think should be on our list?
Let us know in the comments.

Vintage-Inspired Gifts for the Gamer

1. Retro Arcade Experience:
Tilt Toronto

Funhouse pinball game.

ABOUT: Toronto’s largest retro arcade features over 50 games, a draft beer selection, lots of deep-fried food and ice cream! What more could you want? The cover is $5 and all games are set to free play, so you can go for dinner and drinks or just hit the arcade.


SOCIAL IMPACT: A local watering hole offering some good ole’ fashioned fun, you’ll be supporting a small Toronto business.

WHAT WE LIKE: They have a huge selection of video arcade, pinball and console games, as well as some classics skee ball. You can really go and feel like a kid again, and while drinks are an option, it’s one of the few things where you can go out with friends and have some indoor fun that doesn’t require drinking. There are times when kids are allowed in, but as they serve alcohol this is mostly for grown-ups, so you don’t have to worry about a 10 year old beating you at Street Fighter.

2. 18th Century Reproduction Playing Cards:
Toronto History Museums Shop

A reproduction of a deck from c.1750.

ABOUT: “Toronto History Museums are a collection of 10 historic sites owned and operated by the City of Toronto with the mission to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit, and enhance the understanding of Toronto’s diverse stories through engaging and exciting experiences.

Toronto’s many pasts, presents and futures meet at our museums. The collection of sites include: former homes of key historic figures, a British Fort, a City Hall Council Chamber, a Tavern and Inn and a Brewery and Papermill.

Toronto History Museums Shop carries a wide range of products including Indigenous crafts, artisan jewellery, books, games, local and handmade goods as well as unique items inspired by the City’s artifact collection and historic sites such as stationery, cookbooks and reproductions. Whether you’re looking for accessories, home décor, or educational items, you’ll find what you’re looking for here!”


SOCIAL IMPACT: Every purchase you make supports the operation of the City’s historic sites as well as the local authors, artists and artisans whose products we sell.

WHAT WE LIKE: I just discovered this shop exists and I love it. In addition to reproduction items they have vintage-inspired toys and decor, apparel, and it all goes to help support our local museums. These could make a great stocking stuffer, or you could go all-out and have an old-school poker night! You’re only limited by your imagination.

3. A Day or Night at a Board Game Cafe:
Snakes & Lattes

ABOUT: There’s a few board game cafes in the city, but I’m pretty sure Snakes & Lattes is the biggest. They have a HUGE selection of games, all styles, for as few as 2 players, and you can go in and play to your hearts content. Bring your friend to play some classics or try out something new – you can purchase some of the newer ones there as well. Check out their nostalgia list for their retro games.


SOCIAL IMPACT: Aside from being a local business, I think S&L can be seen as a sustainable alternative to buying games. How many of us have a stack of board games at home that barely ever get played? Not only are they pricey, but buying more things that will one day likely end up in the dump isn’t good for anyone. Places like S&L give you the chance to not only try before you buy, but to choose not to buy at all, giving you the option to play as few or many times as you want, without having to add to the heap in your closet.

WHAT WE LIKE: I’m not a big game fan, but Conor is, so places like this are great. He can try all the new ones that have caught his eye and I can dissuade him from buying them – win/win! For people that aren’t major Grinches, it’s a great activity to do with some friends, something low-key and fun that doesn’t require drinking.

4. Retro Console Games:
Retro Game Bros

ABOUT: “This family friendly video game store is run by 2 local Bros, Evan & Matt ! Together they buy, sell, & trade everything retro to next gen! Come check out Toronto’s largest stock of retro video games, accessories, consoles, & more!”


SOCIAL IMPACT: Support a local family-run business and keep things green by buying secondhand!

WHAT WE LIKE: They have a super wide-range of products and really know their stuff. Great if you’re trying to buy a gift but aren’t much of a gamer yourself – they can help you pick out the right thing.

5. Board Gamer Events:
The Guild House

ABOUT: They offer various types of strategy board games for sale and rent, as well as a selection of 3D printed accessories, and they host events like miniature painting 101!


SOCIAL IMPACT: I couldn’t find much on the owners of the store, but it seems like a good place for likeminded people to meet, and building community ties is important.

WHAT WE LIKE: Ok, I’ll admit, I know virtually nothing about these sort of games, but what caught my eye was the workshop/event on painting the miniatures used in tabletop role playing games: I love miniatures, so that’s something I’d go to. Take a pal to an event, or rent a game for a night at home. There’s lots of gift options and something for every budget.

Have something you think should be on our list?
Let us know in the comments.

Vintage-Inspired Gifts for the Homemaker

Vintage-inspired gifts for the homemaker on your list!

1. A Mini History Lesson:
Radical Dishtowels

ABOUT: “As a family, we’ve always been interested in the amazing stories of history’s radical thinkers and campaigners, and how much hope these stories can inspire relative to the politics of today. We didn’t have much business experience. But we realized that there must be other people with progressive values out there who wanted to give gifts that actually mean something, make you think, and give you hope. We all loved the idea that you might come across a design in someone’s kitchen, and that it would spark a conversation about an idea or philosophy. As a teacher, I imagined that children might see a design and ask, “Who was she?” Together we made the decision to start our very own Radical Tea Towel Company. We do all the designs ourselves, and get them manufactured in the UK with ethical partners.” Read the full story, here.


SOCIAL IMPACT: Made ethically in the UK, the main impact is in the message on the towel. What a fun way to strike up a conversation about something important, even controversial.

WHAT WE LIKE: This is such a unique idea. I’ve seen some cool tea towels, but never anything like this. They cost a bit more than the average tea towel, but are still inexpensive enough I could justify buying it if I had a place to have it visibly hanging in my kitchen.

2. Placemats and Doormats Inspired by Vintage Tiles:

Tusset Floor Mat.

ABOUT: “The first hydraulic tiles were produced in Barcelona in the mid nineteenth century.   The creativity and durability of these attractive yet functional handmade floors caught on quickly and their use spread across Europe and beyond.”

The brand is carried by Locus Vie, a distribution company for home decor products in North America.  They focus on small European design companies that are looking to make an entrance into the North American market, and you can find local retailers via their site.


SOCIAL IMPACT: The site says that they are “phthalate-free and recyclable, for an eco-friendly conscience”. While made in Spain, there are many local shops, usually small ones, that carry some of these designs.

WHAT WE LIKE: They have a vintage vibe but are super practical. They make great door mats or a runner for a high-traffic hallway, they are easy to clean and can cover up ugly rental flooring. They are a bit on the pricey side for the larger ones (I saved up and watched for sales for years before I finally got one), but a set of the placemats could make a lovely gift, and they work well inside or out!

3. Textiles Based on Traditional Indigenous Designs
Indigo Arrows

Copper and Black Moons Lumbar Pillow
This Copper and Black Moons Lumbar Pillow is currently sold out, but it’s my favourite and I had to share.

ABOUT: “For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples in Manitoba, including my Anishinaabe ancestors, created beautiful patterns to adorn their pottery collections and host of bone tools. Most of the surviving pieces are held by museums now, but I think the world needs more than exhibition- we need these patterns in our homes provoking thought; we need them bridging gaps; and, we need them inspiring our loved ones. The Indigo Arrows line picks up where my ancestors left off.

Destiny Seymour is an Anishinaabe interior designer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She graduated with her master’s degree in Interior Design from the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba. She worked at local architecture firm in Winnipeg for over 10 years as their interior designer before starting her own design business in 2016.

Destiny started designing artisan textiles for interiors that respectfully reflects local Manitoban Indigenous peoples and their history after struggling to find materials that she could incorporate into design projects. Her company, Indigo Arrows, now offers a range of table linens, pillows, and blankets that showcase patterns from local Indigenous pottery and bone tools that date from 400 to over 3000 years old. These patterns are picking up where her ancestors left off.

Destiny formed Woven Collaborative in 2018, an Indigenous led design studio with fellow designer Mamie Griffith. Their design practice takes a critical look at the representation of Indigenous cultures within spaces. Their design mission is to respectfully reflect local Indigenous cultures & identity within architectural forms, interior spaces, furniture, and textiles. Their design process acknowledges community engagement, inclusiveness, and collaboration when creating new works.”


SOCIAL IMPACT: These beautiful linens are handmade, individually hand-printed in Winnipeg, Manitoba on 100% linen using non-toxic ink. This Indigenous-run company is making something that is simultaneously modern and traditional: these designs look like something you’d find in a magazine today while many of them are actually thousands of years old. Destiny names them in her ancestral language, Anishinaabemowin, and the pieces have a little description of what the word means and its significance, so it’s a nice little learning moment as well.

WHAT WE LIKE: If I had seen these without the context I would have thought they were totally modern, but when I read the history I knew they were perfect for this post: vintage-inspired doesn’t have to mean “old looking”, and it doesn’t have to be a perfect reproduction of something either. It also made me realize that a lot of the modern “boho” things you see in chain stores have (whether intentionally or not) designs that were used historically in Indigenous art, and so why not support the maker who shares that history? Promote the use and creation of something that comes from generations of artisans rather than buy a knock-off mass produced in China? And honestly, while some fellow artists may not have the money for a $100 decorative pillow, I think we all know that given the work that goes into it, that’s a steal. A lot of these are less expensive than things you’d find at Crate & Barrel or West Elm, and you can shop guilt-free knowing you’re supporting the artist who made them, not some faceless corporation.

4. Retro Canadian Pillows:
Persnickety Designs

Each pillow features a bright, bold design on each side: it’s like 2 pillows in one!

ABOUT: Peggy McEwan is a Toronto-based artist with a background in classic animation. These pillows are what she calls “comfortable art”, and they come in a range of retro designs – Toronto landmarks, old movie stars, vintage maps – there’s something for everyone.


SOCIAL IMPACT: You’ll be supporting a local female artist!

WHAT WE LIKE: I’ve been eyeing several of these for years, but found they were usually a little out of my price range. However, that was when I came across them in stores – I just realized you can buy from her site at about half of what I’d always seen them for before, and I may have to redo all my cushions! I love pop art but you don’t find a lot of it locally made, so I’m happy to add these to my already massive pillow collection.

5. True Vintage Serving-ware
Ethel 20th Century Living

This mid century piece is a great way to hint, “invite me over more!”

ABOUT: “Ethel – 20th Century Living is a vintage furniture, lighting and accessories store in the East Danforth neighbourhood in Toronto.

After helping to establish “Retro Row” in Leslieville 20 years ago, Ethel was starting to show her age. After the store changed ownersip in October 2009, it conducted business in the original location for 3 more years, and in May 2012, Ethel moved to Corktown. In the fall of 2016, we decided to close our bricks and mortar location at 327 Queen St. East, and now, two years later, we have a new home at 1781 Danforth Ave.

Owner Shauntelle LeBlanc has re-established Ethel’s brand as a store for outstanding vintage modern furniture, lighting & accessories. The store’s focus is on affordable vintage because you should enjoy your furniture, feel free to put your feet up on it and certainly not feel like you’re living in a museum (or magazine spread…unless that’s your thing, and in that case, Ethel is cool with that too).

We’re a proud Canadian indie boutique, and along with classic American & Scandinavian design, you’ll also find Canadian Mid-century pieces here. Sure, we all love Eames, Nelson & Knoll, but have you heard of Russell Spanner, Lotte Lamps or Clairtone? 

Vintage is nearly always one of a kind so our merchandise is constantly changing. You might find a complete Brady Bunch kitchen in here, or maybe a film noir detective movie set, complete with tanker desks & typewriters. Ethel has a little bit everything, from gondola sofas and teak dining sets to oddball pieces like 80s Russian propaganda posters and vintage tiki mugs.

Along with 20th century furniture, lighting and accessories, we also carry new products by RetroVerte, Umlaut Brooklyn, and more.”


SOCIAL IMPACT: A local, female-run boutique selling vintage – sustainable in many ways.

WHAT WE LIKE: There are MANY vintage shops in the city (though sadly, not as many as there once were) and I have my favourites for various things. Ethel’s is where I go for mid century. You can rely on finding a lamp, vase, serving piece etc. from the 50s-60s there, likely in whatever colour you’re looking for. She often has a selection of small retro furniture as well, like card tables and chairs.

Have something you think should be on our list?
Let us know in the comments.

Vintage-Inspired Gifts for the Music Lover

Vintage-inspired gifts for the music lover on your list!

1. Vintage Instrument:
Paul’s Boutique

If your budget allows, something like this 60s MIJ Pyramid Electric is sure to be a showstopper ($399).

ABOUT: “Paul’s Boutique buys, sells, trades, rents and consigns the finest in vintage musical instruments, amps, effects and recording equipment.”

Run by Paul Babiak, he writes: “After spending seven years in San Francisco and Los Angeles playing in bands and selling vintage guitars, I came back to Toronto in 2000 to open my own shop. I try to specialize in unique and funky gear but occasionally I’ll run across some nice classics!”


SOCIAL IMPACT: We always support buying vintage and local – sustainable in many ways.

WHAT WE LIKE: I don’t know a lot about instruments, but the stuff Paul stocks looks super cool. People like Paul who specialize really know their stuff, and I feel like even those of us who don’t really know what we’re looking for could find what we want with his help.

2. Vintage Records:
She Said Boom

ABOUT: “We sell new and used vinyl records and CDs, focusing on Alternative, Electronica, Jazz, Reggae, Roots, Afrobeat and other great music. Book lovers will adore our used book selection, which specializes in Literature, Philosophy, Art, History, Political Science, Graphic Novels, Cookbooks, Kids’ books and more. Explore a new world of wonderful music, literature and culture. New arrivals every day!”

PRICE: $-$$

SOCIAL IMPACT: This is one of those Toronto staples, She Said Boom has been around forever because they stock quality stuff. Once again, buying local and buying vintage keeps our community strong and saves stuff from landfills!

WHAT WE LIKE: They have a HUGE assortment of stuff, and last time I was in there the person I talked to was very aware of their stock. They regularly get in new products so you can go weekly and browse away. For a gift, if you don’t know what they like or want to try something different, pick up a few albums based solely on the cover – they can hear some new tunes & if they don’t like them, at least they’ve got some artwork for their walls!

3. Acoustic Speaker:
ReAcoustic and Handmade Speakers Hub

Acoustic Speaker iPhone Speaker Phonograph Speaker Wireless image 1
There’s no doubt ReAcoustic makes the most beautiful versions, but their prices put them out of reach for a lot of us. Like this walnut base and early 1900s gramophone horn priced at $863.15 CAD.

ABOUT: These simple speakers work in the same was as a megaphone, amplifying the sound that goes in through the small end and comes out the large. Your phone is placed into a base so that the speaker on the bottom sends its sound through the box and through the horn. The first place I saw make these was ReAcoustic, and theirs are beautiful, but pricey. If you check on Etsy you’ll find some cheaper versions that work in the same way, but use less decorative horns.


SOCIAL IMPACT: Reusing vintage materials, often scrap pieces of wood, and they don’t require any power – very green!

WHAT WE LIKE: They are so fun. I love the look of old gramophones but admittedly they aren’t very practical. Honestly, for years I saw the old horns come up at auction and thought, gee, I need to think of something to make with one of those, so I was pumped when I first saw these. Good for a party if you throw on someone’s playlist, and it looks a lot nicer on a shelf than most iphone docks.

4. Old School Swing or Jazz Night:
The Toronto Vintage Society

Toronto Vintage Society
THE source for vintage Toronto.

ABOUT: “A home for Toronto’s (GTA) events, photos, shops and shows that celebrate the vintage/retro lifestyle. We want to inspire you to feed this community and get out and meet others who love all things vintage/retro!”


SOCIAL IMPACT: Varies depending on event.

WHAT WE LIKE: Since events are always changing I’m just linking to the best place to hear about all vintage music events in the city – the Toronto Vintage Society. They post about concerts, swing dance nights, all sorts of things that would make a lovely gift or night out. You can support local artists and meet like-minded people.

5. A Walk Through Toronto’s Music History:
Friar’s Music Museum

ABOUT: “Toronto’s celebrated music history is now on permanent display in the free Friar’s Music Museum™, with curation rotated twice a year!”

PRICE RANGE: Free! Maybe grab a drink before or after?

SOCIAL IMPACT: This museum is helping preserve a small but important part of our art history. Admission is free but I’m sure donations are welcomed!

WHAT WE LIKE: I love local history and really specialized exhibits. Toronto is often referred to in how it compares to other bigger cities, like NYC or Chicago, but we really do have a culture all our own and I think it’s important we all know that.

Have something you think should be added to our list?
Let us know in the comments.

Vintage-Inspired Gifts for the Makeup Lover

Vintage-inspired gifts for the makeup & beauty lover on your list!

1. Glamorous Faux Lashes:
Besame Cosmetics

Fashion photography's reluctant poster boy - BBC Culture
For years I wondered how I could accomplish this look without filling my eyes with melted wax.
Bésames Decades of Lashes: 1920s,30s,40s,50s & 60s styles

ABOUT: “Longing to bring back the simple glamour of her grandmother’s beauty routine, designer and cosmetics historian Gabriela Hernandez started Bésame Cosmetics.  Founded in 2004, Bésame Cosmetics has gained a cult following with our meticulously designed, historically inspired, and highly pigmented cosmetics that surpass expectations.  

Our simple yet luxurious formulations are made with pride and a labor of love for Gabriela, each one being 100% cruelty-free and created for sensitive skin. They do not contain gluten, parabens, or mineral oils. Owned and operated by Gabriela and her family, all products are produced locally in California with Gabriela overseeing every batch. All Bésame products are long-wearing, minimal waste, and packaged to be displayed proudly.”


SOCIAL IMPACT: While Bésame is based in the US, it is still a female-lead, family run business, and they create cruelty-free makeup in a range of shades meant to suit all skin colours. Buying from the US can get a little pricey, but luckily our very own Gigi’s House Of Frills carries some of their products, so be sure to check her out before ordering online. Then you can support local as well!

WHAT WE LIKE: Bésame has a wide range of vintage beauty products and all of them are great, but I chose to share these because they are unlike anything I have ever seen. It’s not hard to find a vintage shade of red lipstick, and a fair number of companies make a powder that can give you that Hollywood glamour look, but this is the only place I have seen faux eyelashes made to suit a decade, and when I saw the 1920s ones, my mouth dropped open. I’ve been wanting a way to emulate that style since my early teens.

2. Cosmetics Made With Authentic Vintage Recipes:
LBCC Historical

1936 Velour Setting Powder Matte Face Powder Vintage Face image 4
Face powder made from the exact 1936 recipe, this one is perfect for pale skin.

ABOUT: “Welcome to our shop. We specialize in researching and reproducing historical Apothecary & Cosmetics products. Our recipes are extracted from the historical archives and were used by our ancestors. We carry everything from historical hair care, to ancient salves that will heal even the worst wounds and sore muscles. Our ingredients are 100% top quality, natural, and almost always organic. If you have any questions or have a historical family recipe that you want replicated please feel free to inquire.

In my spare time ( which isn’t very often) I replicate Historical clothing for museums, forts, and interpreters. I specialize in custom orders and authentic recreations for your reenactment and museum needs. I have been replicating historical clothing and reenacting for 25 years. If you find a picture of a museum piece, please feel free to inquire if I am taking orders. I have pieces in many Museums and Forts across the US and world wide.”


SOCIAL IMPACT: This small, female owned and operated business is preserving vintage and antique recipes, the products they make come in reusable or recyclable materials, and they are cruelty free and mostly organic.

WHAT WE LIKE: I’ve talked about this brand before as I have many good things to say about them. I love that they use the real historic recipes and the reproduction labels make for an adorable addition to a vanity table. At the moment all their face powders are for lighter skinned folks (I suspect those recipes are easier to find), but they are frequently adding new products, and their other categories do have a little something for everyone.

3. A Vintage Beauty Parlour Experience:
Vintage Mrs Ree’s Beauty Parlour

ABOUT: “Mrs Rees’ Vintage Beauty Parlour is a  Glamorous Old-Hollywood style salon for Ladies. This is a salon created around old ideals when women went to the Salon and men went to Barbershop… It’s a place to feel comfortable while receiving the highest quality services with the best products in world. It’s a time to relax and pamper yourself ~ it’s a place you can feel at home! Its a piece of luxury where YOU are the centre of my attention! You’ll go back in time in atmosphere but be pampered with all the latest techniques and products… it’s an experience you won’t forget and will want to share with all the girls you know!”


SOCIAL IMPACT: Another woman-led business, they use natural, earth-friendly products.

WHAT WE LIKE: I had to go hunting for this place, so I don’t know much about it, but I’m glad it exists. There are several British stylists I follow online and wish I could see to do my hair, but for some reason the same is very hard to find in Canada. This is a bit of a stretch on a list about makeup, I know, but I think this could be a whole “night out” experience with a friend: do each other’s makeup, go get your hair done, special memories for sure.

4. Vintage Beauty Supplies:
Makeup Compacts

1960s Revlon compact  vintage midcentury face powder compact image 1
This one is from CinnamonGirlStuff on Etsy, but vintage compacts can be found al over.

ABOUT: A vintage compact is a lovely gift because you have such a variety to choose from. You can look on Etsy or eBay, or stop in just about any vintage shop and find one to your liking. Prices and styles range so you’re sure to find something for your someone.

PRICE RANGE: $-$$$ (there are highly collectible ones out there that can cost a pretty penny, but I would plan on spending between $20-$60 for a nice one for the average person).

SOCIAL IMPACT: Go green by shopping vintage! And if you can, support a local business.

WHAT WE LIKE: If you carry a purse, you can use a compact. And if you change your purse with your outfits, you can probably use several. They can also sit and look lovely on a nightstand or vanity, and while these are traditionally an item for women, there’s no fitting or anything that needs to be considered, so really this can be a gift for anyone!

5. Reusable Makeup Removers:
Handmade by AVO

Black Flower Reusable Organic Cotton Rounds Organic Facial image 1
I chose these for the pretty vintage floral pattern, but you can get these many places or make them yourself!

ABOUT: These small, washable pads are made to replace one-use cotton pads that are very non-eco-friendly. You can find them many places, often with pretty patterns like these, or even make them yourself.


SOCIAL IMPACT: They keep cotton pads out of the landfill, and require so little fabric you can make them with scraps, helping to cut down on textile waste as well.

WHAT WE LIKE: I actually prefer these to cotton pads because they don’t tear up and leave bits of fluff on your eyelashes. When I first saw them my only concern was how often I’d need to clean them, but honestly they’re usually so cheap I would get a weeks worth, change daily, and toss them in with whatever laundry you have at the end of the week. I’ve been meaning to make some with some of my vintage scraps – I’ll post them when I do!

Have something else you think should be on our list?
Let us know in the comments.

Vintage-Inspired Gifts for the Fashion Lover

Vintage-inspired gifts for the fashion lover on your list.

1. Vintage With An Indigenous Twist:
Resist Clothing Co.

Shirts and sweaters in a variety of colours feature this vintage postcard inspired look.

ABOUT: “RESIST Clothing company (formerly Our Feather Clothing Co.) started in 2020. It was created by Mitch Gegwetch (Ojibwe/Anishinaabe and a member of Sagamok First Nation). 

RESIST is a premium streetwear brand. We never cheap out on our inventory. We promise, our products are worth every penny, if you disagree, we offer a 30-day money back guarantee, no questions asked. “


SOCIAL IMPACT: “We are native owned and operated. Our company is certified by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. A certification only obtained by proof of the company owner’s status. View CCAB listing here.

Our mission is to build an authentic Native clothing brand that amplifies the presence and voices of Indigenous people. 

We do this by creating unique designs on high quality garments that grab your attention and provoke thought or reflection. 

We also stay true to our native roots and operate the brand ‘in a good way’ by sharing our profit with Indigenous charities that protect and uplift our Indigenous Communities.”

WHAT WE LIKE: This streetwear brand features designs by Native artists with a focus on community and sustainability. Plus, they follow a unique “quadruple bottom line approach” that places importance on more than just profit. Bonus, the prices are really good.

2. Loungewear and Lingerie:
Gigi’s House of Frills:

Golden Apricot "Hi-Craft" Cold Rayon Slip Size 40 XL #147
Gigi’s offers both true vintage (like this) and beautiful vintage-inspired and reproduction pieces.

ABOUT: “Gigi’s House of Frills is a dream realized for owner…Gigi!

After many moons of dreaming of a shop full of all of the vintage inspired brands and one of a kind true vintage lingerie pieces, Gigi decided to make it reality!

Our little brick and mortar boutique is located in Gigi’s hometown: Toronto. That’s Ontario, Canada for those of you not familiar!

Gigi’s little shop of frills has been operating since November 6th 2015, and there’s no greater joy than bringing you the latest in retro and pinup lingerie, cosmetics and hosiery alongside all of the wonderful vintage treasures we find just for you!

We strive to offer you superb customer service and aim to make lasting relationships with our lovely clients!

Come see everything Gigi’s has to offer, including local designers such as With Love Lingerie and Inspiration Vintage, world renown vintage cosmetics brand, Besame cosmetics and much, much more true vintage lingerie and hosiery!

You can visit Gigi’s in Toronto at 731 Dovercourt Road, just south of Bloor Street West.”


SOCIAL IMPACT: Lingerie is lovely, but a lot of the things you pick up at LaSenza or Victoria’s Secret are cheaply made and not built to last. Plus, they tend to come in a very limiting number of sizes. Gigi’s carries local brands like Inspiration Vintage as well as big ones like Dita Von Teese that are well-made and unique. She also carries authentic vintage, and you know how much we like to reuse!

WHAT WE LIKE: We love Gigi’s. She was one of our sponsors for The Rear Window and did a phenomenal job helping us find the perfect under things for a true vintage look. This small local shop is female run by one of the nicest and most open-minded women you’re likely to ever meet, so don’t be afraid to go in and ask for help picking out a perfect little something – she has products for people of all shapes and sizes AND has a handy sizing chart on her website if you want to make sure there’s something for you before you go.

3. True Vintage Clothing:
Victory Girl Vintage

1940s Printed Rayon Long Sleeve Dress Size Medium image 1

ABOUT: Curated vintage clothing from the 1910s-70s. You can shop online through her Etsy shop, or visit her in-store at 29 Kensington Ave., Toronto.


SOCIAL IMPACT: This female-run local small business sells beautiful vintage clothing and accessories – hurray for sustainable clothing!

WHAT WE LIKE: Everything she carries is beautiful. Seriously. I’ve been in dozens upon dozens of vintage shops and there’s always something that you go, eh, kinda ugly, but not here. This woman has amazing taste, and while her prices are a little higher than some vintage stores in the city, they are fairly priced: everything is in great shape and very wearable.

4. Vintage Fashion Mags:
Gaddabout Vintage

ABOUT: “One of the best curated stores in Toronto. Gadabout is the old curiosity shop only better! It’s filled with items from the late 1800s through the late 1970s. Curios, nostalgia, ephemera – oodles of paper, incredible vintage posters, tons of fabulous vintage clothing and accessories for men and women. Amazing textiles. It is a well-known haunt for wardrobe, prop and set decorators for film and theatre production. Gadabout does not carry furniture. If it’s small, cool, enigmatic, it’s probably in the store. The store contains a myriad of drawers all labeled and organized with items ranging from spats and opera glasses to slide rulers and office supplies. There’s even a whole area of vintage housewares.”


SOCIAL IMPACT: Gadabout is another female-run store and it carries a bit of everything. Here you can get the kinds of vintage ephemera that so often are tossed in the trash, but that really are treasures. They rent items, so if you’re doing a show or a film you can check them out for props.

WHAT WE LIKE: This place has everything. Really, I mean it. If you’re a fan of “smalls” like I am, expect to spend several hours rooting through the dozens of drawers and boxes filled with papers, pins, pens – you name it. The clothing prices are a little higher than where I tend to shop when I’m dressing a show, but this is where I go when I need something good and fast: I can always leave with the thing I need.

5. An Exploration of Vintage Fashion:
The Fashion History Museum

From the Portraits of Mali exhibit.

ABOUT: “When Toronto fashion collector Alan Suddon unexpectedly died in 2000, the 10,000 piece collection he had amassed over forty-years, and that featured important nineteenth-century Canadian clothing and twentieth-century French couture, was purchased privately with a promise that it would someday go to an institution. However, much of the collection was sold off or destroyed via poor storage conditions over the next 15 years. The best surviving pieces were eventually auctioned off internationally with a small remainder selectively donated to Canadian museums, of which the Fashion History Museum received about 200 pieces. The collection that should have been Suddon’s legacy and a museum’s prize collection had been damaged, dismantled and all but forgotten.” The Fashion History Museum has a long and detailed history which you can read in full on their website.


SOCIAL IMPACT: As with any museum, the FHM preserves our history and makes it available to the public.

Their mandate is: “The Fashion History Museum connects the history of fashion with the world that created it. What we wear is a subconscious human expression, guided by habit and need, that reflects aesthetics, culture, identity, politics, economics, and technology. The museum collects, preserves, researches, and exhibits historical garments and accessories that illustrate these connections to better understand our past, present, and future.”

WHAT WE LIKE: The beautiful outfits, unique exhibits and wide-range of clothes from different times and cultures.

Bonus Listing Kingpin Hideaway

Unfortunately his shop had to close due to COVID, but Jonathan “Kingpin” Hagey still has a whole host of gorgeous menswear and accessories, you just need to book an appointment to see it. His selection of high-end suits, shoes and accessories cannot be beat, and this man knows everything there is to know about vintage menswear (and about a lot of other fun vintage things too). It can be hard to buy something like a suit as a gift (at least if you’re trying to keep it a surprise), but he has ties, cufflinks and other little accessories that would make excellent presents, or, for a truly special gift, you can hire him as a personal stylist. If you have a gentleman friend who loves vintage fashion but doesn’t know how to dress himself, bring him to Jonathan. He will pick out something that suits your body, style, and pocketbook, all while giving you the history of the piece and all the new things he’s picked up at auction. Be sure to follow him on Instagram – I for one eagerly await the return of his Hideaway.

Have something you think should be added to our list?
Let us know in the comments.

Vintage Inspired Gifts for the Foodie

Vintage-inspired gifts for the foodie in your life!

1. Vintage Sodas & Sweets:
Nostalgia & Co.

Some of the retro sodas available at Nostalgia and Co. His stock varies, so call ahead if you’re looking for something specific.

ABOUT: This Cambridge, Ontario shop is packed full of reproduction and retro inspired products. From 1950s diner booths to Elvis clocks, gag gifts, t-shirts – you name it. But what brings me out there every time I’m headed to KW is the wide selection of vintage sodas and candies. It’s near impossible to find this stuff in Canada, and the shipping and duties make bringing it in from the US costly, but Nostalgia & Co. has classics like Moxie, Frostie, Brownie and more right there in their cooler. Plus, they’ve got a wide selection of vintage candies. So, shopping for someone with a sweet tooth? Why not make a gift basket? Or fill that stocking up with something sweet?

PRICE RANGE: $ (for drinks and snacks) $-$$$ (other items)

SOCIAL IMPACT: This place has been around a long time, which is difficult to do when you sell novelties like this. I got my first ever record player from them for my 16th birthday (before vinyl became popular again and it was easy to find a new turntable, back then it was the only place we could find one that didn’t cost $500+), and I visit there whenever I’m in the area. They really know their product, and I’m always in favour of supporting local specialty stores.

WHAT WE LIKE: That they have such a wide range of “new vintage”. Being able to try a pop that was popular when my grandparents were the age I am now is something I really enjoy, and there’s no where else you can get this variety without going to the US.

2. Recipes from First Peoples and Settlers:
Out of Old Ontario Kitchens

49th Shelf is a website for Canadian literature that links to places to buy the work, including small, local shops.

ABOUT: “Out of Old Ontario Kitchens is a window into the past, exploring the stories of the First Peoples and settlers. It pays homage to all those who trapped and fished and hunted; to those who cleared the land and planted crops; and most importantly to all those women — our mothers and aunts, our grandmothers and great-grandmothers and great-great grandmothers — who got up and lit the fire; who toiled and stirred and cooked and baked and who kept families alive through long hard winters, through plagues and depressions, famines and wars. Work every bit as important as agriculture, commerce, mining, politics, and the development of infrastructure.

With over a hundred historically sourced recipes as well as scores of old photographs, early artworks, botanical prints, and illustrations, Out of Old Ontario Kitchens is both a visual and virtual feast. If you want to know what life was really like in early Ontario, come to the table with us. Food stories are, after all, the real stories of our lives.” Get a copy for a special someone and encourage them to add to their own list of family recipes.


SOCIAL IMPACT: Lindy Mechefske is a Kingston-based writer and food columnist for Canada’s oldest newspaper, the Kingston-Whig Standard. You can support a female Canadian author, learn more about our history (from a range of backgrounds), and if you find a local shop using 49th Shelf, support a local business as well!

WHAT WE LIKE: Admittedly, I haven’t read this yet, but the reviews look great and I like the concept – I’ll update after we get a copy!

3. A 50s Diner Experience:

Fran's menu from 1950
A 1940s menu from their early days.

ABOUT: “It all began in 1918 when Francis Deck and his brother opened Deco refreshments in Buffalo New York. Deco quickly grew to more than 50 locations when Francis decided it was time to expand. In 1940, Francis “Fran” Deck, along with his wife Ellen Jane move to Toronto and open a modest 10-seat diner at Yonge and St. Clair.” – check out their history page for the full story. A date to Fran’s is fun and affordable, and great to pair with something like an old movie at the Revue.


SOCIAL IMPACT: While Fran’s now has several locations, each one still really feels like a ‘mom & pop shoppe’. They serve big portions for low prices which I know is especially appreciated by the college and university students that frequent the diner all times of the day and night. Still family owned and operated, they have a long history in the city that I think was well-earned, and that we should help continue.

WHAT WE LIKE: Their “Big Breakfast” and their milkshakes. The fact that you can easily split a meal and still have plenty of food. The big, comfy booths and the fact that you can get a milkshake at 2am.

4. A Cute Retro Apron:
Black Market Vintage

ABOUT: Does your foodie like to cook? Keep them clean with a fun vintage apron. The one here is from Black Market but you can find them at most vintage shops (check Kensington Market or along Queen St.) as well as on Etsy. There’s tons of styles and colours to choose from so with a little looking you’re sure to find something that suits your someone.

PRICE: $-? (there is a huge range of prices when it comes to vintage, and of course period, style, quality and a whole host of other things affect pricing. IMHO? Don’t spend more than $40 on an apron, and that’s for one that is mint and stylish. Everyone used to have them, they aren’t hard to find, and if I were looking for myself I’d be checking the $20-30 range).

SOCIAL IMPACT: Reusing old textiles is always important, and aprons are great because they can be used until they are literally falling apart (at which point they make great rags!). Buy from a local vintage shop, ideally one you can walk or bus to, and you’ve got a green gift.

WHAT WE LIKE: Housewives of the 50s and 60s didn’t just wear aprons to keep clean, they had fancy lace ones for when guests arrived. Yes, we can analyze the sexist undertones of that, but personally, putting on a cute apron makes me more likely to clean, and anything that does that is good in my books. Plus, aprons are good for people young and old, any gender – easy gift for someone you know likes to cook, but that you know nothing else about. Hello secret Santa!

5. A Retro Inspired Slowcooker:

Retro Series Range Slow Cooker SF17021BN, BLUE, hi-res image number NaN
Swan makes a bunch of retro looking appliance, similar to SMEG, but MUCH cheaper.

ABOUT: Swan makes high-end cookware at affordable prices in a range of retro colours and styles. The benefit of a crockpot is you can dump in the ingredients in the morning and come home to a hot cooked meal.

PRICE: $-$$

SOCIAL IMPACT: Not much to new appliances or shopping at the Bay, but if a crockpot helps you eat out less it’s good for you, the environment, and your pocket book.

WHAT WE LIKE: It’s cute and practical. Some appliances I would happily buy used, but old crockpots and toasters I would avoid. Today’s power-cords are safer and the appliances use less energy.

Got something you think should be on our list?
Let us know in the comments.

Vintage-Inspired Gifts for the Film Buff

1. A Vintage Movie Date:
Revue Cinema

The Revue circa 1935. Why the large marquee is no longer there, they’ve worked hard to maintain its original charm.

ABOUT: “Discover what the Revue Cinema is all about. A unique Toronto cultural treasure with a vibrant historic past and an unwavering community commitment. We are dedicated to presenting programs which appeal to wide-ranging audiences of different age groups, diverse backgrounds and varying interests that reflect the ever-changing local community and the Greater Toronto Area.

The Revue creates community by bringing people together as we strongly believe in the power of shared experience. Our presentations engage, entertain and elevate as we strive to bring the best of independent, cultural, Canadian, documentary, current and classic cinema to our big screen.

We believe it’s our role to offer the community something different, whether it is to ensure great films from the past are not forgotten, important but less commercially successful films are properly recognized and special events from a range of cultures and interests have a venue for exhibition.

The Revue provides opportunities for people to discover, explore and learn through film, arts and culture. We program over a thousand screenings per year. Approximately one third are enhanced events which range from specially curated film series, multi-cultural film festivals, Q&A’s, panel discussions and conversations with experts, co-productions with talented exhibitors, artists and musicians, and rentals where the Revue provides the space and the staffing to support outside organizations (often not-for-profit) to run their own event, screening, or fundraiser.”


SOCIAL IMPACT: The concept of a “community theatre” doesn’t really exist today outside of a few places, like the Revue. Here you can see more than just the big blockbusters (though they play those too) – you can see little known or forgotten films, attend discussions, sometimes even performances (like our Christmas pre-show a couple years back), it really is a space for the community to come together.

WHAT WE LIKE: We love that the building maintains a lot of its original charm, and that, even where things have had to be updated, they’ve held on to the old stuff (like the original stage) that we hope one day will be fully restored. The prices are cheaper than a chain movie theatre, the movies are more interesting, popcorn is better and really, the screen size is the same as the smaller ones in the big multiple room theatres. Why ever go to Cineplex when you’ve got this?

2. DVD Classics:
Eyesore Cinema

You know kids, before there was “Netflix and Chill” we’d go pick something out at a rental store and awkwardly inch closer on the couch in our parent’s basement.

ABOUT: “Rare, Import, Out of print, Specialty DVD, Bluray and 4K rentals and Sales – We do special orders!!! Books, Magazines, T-Shirts, Posters, Special Event Space and Cinema, Local Event Tickets, Fine handmade baked goods! This is a real place, an actual, tangible environment where human beings interact in person. A place where knowledge is exchanged, opinions are debated and relationships are born. Sure, you can live in a cultural vacuum of entitlement, virtual hedonism and solipsism… but for some, nothing can replace reality for true joy, edification and a sense of community! Oh, and we also have movies!”


SOCIAL IMPACT: The place for the edgy film lover in your life, Eyesore is a great place to meet and hang out with like-minded individuals, something that gets increasingly difficult to do as we get older. Plus, it’s one of the few places that still rents out movies, something we wish wasn’t going out of style!

WHAT WE LIKE: This is where you go to find some great cult classics, and I don’t mean Reefer Madness, I mean that out-of-print, totally obscure B film you saw once in a college film class and can’t quite remember the name of. They’ve got cool stuff and are very different than most other shops in town.

3. Vintage Movie Posters:
Hollywood Canteen

Lights! Camera! Movie posters! Mike Orlando's memorabilia shop has kept old  Hollywood alive since 1984. | The Star

ABOUT: Hollywood Canteen opened in the 1980s and since then has been one of the top spots in the city for all things movie memorabilia. They’ve got posters of every size, reproduction and original, a huge selection of hard-to-find DVDS, props, merchandise – you name it. Most years you can find their booth at the CNE as well.


SOCIAL IMPACT: This local shop has been going strong for decades, and really proves the value of having specialized stores with owners who know (and love) their stuff. You may find the odd gem at Sunrise, or spot what looks to be a good deal on eBay, but if you want to be sure you’re getting the real thing, or need help finding what that “thing” is, you can’t do better than stopping by to chat with the experts. We need to nurture local speciality shops, they are few and far between.

WHAT WE LIKE: Don’t let the dated website fool you, this place is THE stop for vintage movie posters and merch, and the owner really knows his stuff. I highly suggest you visit in store, just check their COVID procedures first.

4. Film-Inspired Fashion:
TCM Shop

Product Image
I’ve seen lots of film-inspired socks but never one focused on the prop department!

ABOUT: An affiliate of Turner Classic Movies (the company that owns the rights to the vast majority of golden age classics), this is pretty far from the local businesses we’re going to put most of our focus on. BUT, it is with good reason. They have a gigantic selection of films and some unique items like these socks, dog collars and more.


SOCIAL IMPACT: Turner Classic does ensure that audiences have access to a huge selection of classic films, and they organize interesting themed weeks or months, and often have informational programs on as well. So, less of an impact than some on the list, but we do see the value in preservation of our classics.

WHAT WE LIKE: TCM has every movie you can think of. All of them. Yep, even that one. Ok, maybe not new releases, but if you’re looking for something from the silver screen or golden age of Hollywood, chances are you can find it here.

5. Books On Cinema Behind-The-Scenes:
A Different Booklist

Danger on the Silver Screen
A different booklist has a wide range of film books, including ones on Indigenous filmmakers, cocktails from movies, the porn industry – you name it!

ABOUT: “A Different Booklist is an African-Canadian owned bookstore showcasing the literature of the African and Caribbean diaspora, the Global South and all the major publishers and small presses.”


SOCIAL IMPACT: This small local business is Black owned and operated, and features a range of literature including titles you are unlikely to find in big stores like Chapters.

WHAT WE LIKE: While they showcase literature of the African and Caribbean diaspora, don’t let that make you think there’s nothing for you if you aren’t a part of those groups. This little shop carries books on EVERYTHING, and they have a lot of really focused, unique titles, as well as the ability to search for literature written by Black Canadians.

Got something you think should be on our list?
Let us know in the comments.