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Like many people in the United States, I have suddenly become a homebody. I realized that my “Gee, I have no time to blog” excuse no longer applies, so here I am. Blogging. Thinking. Cleaning. Playing games with my family. Cleaning some more. Sneaking peeks at the CDC website to see what the newest bad news contains. Telling my kids that no, they cannot go hang with friends, although some days I am so tempted to just tell them to go wherever they want. I mean, MUST video games and movies be SO DANG LOUD? Repeat, repeat, repeat.

I’m a high school teacher by trade, and our school has canceled classes indefinitely. I honestly doubt that we will finish the term, and this has sent all of us into a tailspin. Unlike many other districts, we are not doing e-learning (long story) and instead are offering enrichment activities – all optional and not graded. While it has certainly started to refuel my creative side, it also has made me feel like I got pushed off the school bus and am now sitting by the side of the road, bewildered about what has just happened to me. According to my students who have answered my emails, they feel the same way. They are kind of enjoying their abundance of free time, but others are simply bored and seemed to be a little too happy to hear from me. I promised I would be passing along some stuff to pique their interests a bit.

Although I am in self-quarantine right now, I did travel to Brunswick, Georgia about two weeks ago. My husband has a band that was contracted to travel there, and I was along for the ride. We half expected the gig to get canceled, but the show did go on. Both Chicago Midway and the Jacksonville airport were ghost towns. It reminded me of going to Walmart on September 12, 2001, and feeling like I was the lone survivor of the zombie apocalypse.

Things have been pretty quiet in my quest for all things retro, although my husband and I have been able to visit some antique stores. We went to one a couple months ago and I was excited to find three metal containers that look right at home in my bathroom. I found the “cotton plucks” interesting, as I had never seen that before. Oh, and all three containers are FULL of product. The baby powder still smells the same; the Unforgettable by Avon is a lovely scent; and if I ever am in dire straits for a cotton ball, there is still cotton in that container.

This may be my new thing – trying to find metal containers that are still full of whatever they were supposed to hold. I tend to go on streaks like that.

The only other retro stuff I have hauled home involves vinyl records. My husband is a vinyl collector, and I do not mean just a casual buyer. This man has a collection of mint-condition and sealed albums that would make any vinylmaniac weep in admiration. Whenever we hit an antique store, he seems to have a sixth sense to sniff out the vinyl, and he always finds the good stuff. I, however, am more of a casual buyer. There is certain music that I like to listen to on vinyl – usually older stuff from the 40s and 50s, although my collection of John Denver and Neil Diamond seems to be growing at a pretty good clip as well. Those two are directly linked to childhood memories, however. I have distinct memories of going through my mom’s collection of records and putting them onto the lovely console stereo that graced our living room. I then spent what seemed like hours dancing around to the music and dreaming up little scenarios as I listened to the music. John Denver and Neil Diamond were some of my favorites to listen to, although I also remember being hooked on the song “Convoy.” My latest score involved three Dinah Washington albums that seemed to be sealed and in mint condition. My husband shook his head as I wasted no time in unsealing the albums and throwing them on my record player, but I tend to be a practical collector. I don’t want to just look at it; I want to use it.

Her voice sounds so wonderful in the background as I work or cook in the kitchen. As far as vinyl goes, she is my latest addiction.

Stay safe out there, and carry a big can of Lysol.


Yes, I know it’s been a while.  It took me a couple minutes to remember how to log back into WordPress.  THAT is how long it’s been.  I had to enter my password three times before I got it right.  Wordpress seemed to give me the stink eye when I successfully logged in, as if to say, “Oh, and NOW you want to see what’s been happening after all this time?”

I’ve been . . . busy.

In reality, no one really cares what I’ve been up to, so let me get to the point of this post.   I’ve been on a cleaning spree lately – mucking out the closets, sorting through clothes, and cleaning up all the forgotten places of my 50’s house. I brought a huge load of clothing and household stuff to Goodwill, and that felt pretty awesome to be able to get rid of that much stuff with a single trip.  Yesterday was my basement day, and as I was cleaning up my “box corner,” which is the place I put all the boxes I get from online shopping and whatever else – y’know, just in case I need them <cough cough> – I uncovered a couple of non-empty boxes that I had forgotten about.

As I viewed the scrawled handwriting on the side of the box, the day I acquired this treasure came back to me in a flash.  I was looking around at a Salvation Army for Midcentury goodies, and I saw these two boxes (containing china service for 14!!) shoved along the wall.  I glanced at the pattern and fell in love; it was perfect 50’s simplicity, and the dishes were in remarkable shape.  The price for the set was $40, which I hemmed and hawed about initially, but then I remembered: this is service for fourteen.  I think somewhere in the back of my mind, I probably drudged up a feel-good mantra about how life is too short and to do what makes you happy.  I bought the dishes.

When I got home, I did a little research about the pattern I acquired.  The china was stamped with “Taylor Smith Taylor.”  Turns out that I bought myself a pattern that probably was from the 50’s (made 1953-1960)- a pattern called “Blue Lace.”

Given that the metallic edges are in great shape, I have a feeling that this china was only used for special occasions.  I’d go as far to say “or not at all,” but a few imperfections on some of the pieces suggest otherwise.  One teacup is missing a handle, but the packers of the box included it anyway, still carefully wrapped with a 2012 issue of the Los Angeles Times along with Christmas-printed paper towels.

I love the simplicity of this pattern – the blue flowers on white, the silver edging.

I wonder if the person who donated this china to the Salvation Army even knew its worth, since the box had “Lavon’s aqua dishes” scribbled on the side.  My overactive imagination can only wonder how Lavon acquired these dishes.  How many meals did she used them for?  What memories were made around the table as meals were served on these plates?  Why didn’t anyone else want Lavon’s china?

I spent a half hour taking each piece from the set and washing it in soapy water, apologizing for the neglect I had shown these dishes since I brought them into my home.  The boxes which contained them were mildewy and soggy from wet basement issues and nearly tore apart when I lifted them up.

Obviously, I had not been a good steward of what was probably one of Lavon’s treasured possessions.

The dishes are now clean and in storage in my kitchen, and I will make a point to use them as often as I can.  The thought which drove me to purchase them originally keeps popping into my mind as I washed these babies up: Life is short.

In light of my “rediscovery” of these gems, I would add a bit more to that mantra:  Life is short; use the good china.




Fall is my ultimate favorite season, and this year we are having a storybook fall so far in regard to the weather and the colors.  The past week we’ve enjoyed mild temps in the 70s and virtually no wind, so the trees are holding their beautiful hues.  Some years we’ve barely had a fall, as the cold weather moved in too quickly, or the wind blew all the leaves off the trees.  After the extraordinarily hot summer we suffered through this year, it’s nice to have some mild temps and an incentive to be outside.

Yesterday was a perfect fall day.  My boys had football games in the morning, so I had the privilege of watching elementary kids play games against a backdrop of fall foliage.

I have an added incentive to walk my Jack Russell, Nick, during these beautifully mild days, as the scenery just cannot be beat.

This is the first fall that I have had Nick with our family, but I think he likes it quite a bit.  🙂

Normally around this time, I’d be heading back to South Dakota to enjoy some of the bounty of my parents’ apple orchard.  However, this summer left no chance that a non-irrigated orchard was going to produce anything, so I’ll have to wait patiently until next year.

This is the season of leaves, colors, apples, pumpkins, bright blue skies, and coziness.  Enjoy it!



I’ve lived in Iowa for twelve years now, but it took me eleven years before I finally visited one of the coolest retro buildings around: the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.  Doesn’t sound familiar?  It’s known as the last place that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper played on the Winter Dance Party tour before their fateful plane crash on February 3, 1959.

The building is open during the day for tours, and the tours are totally self-guided.  The first time I was there, my friend and I were the only people there.  We wandered around for close to an hour.  This time there were some other tourists there, but not enough to ruin the cozy feel of being inside the Surf.

The preservation of this building was done with the utmost care, as retro-loving people are struck by all the great art deco and Midcentury elements that the building and decor still exhibit.  Visitors will begin noticing these elements as soon as they walk in the door.

The coat check area has all the great qualities of early Midcentury design.

What’s really neat (and a little creepy) about this building, as I’ve mentioned before, is your ability to wander around the building at will.  No one is directing you where to go.  You can sit in a booth and look toward the stage and try to envision all of the famous acts that have played there over the years.  The ballroom area is kept quite dark save for the lights of the stage.  My camera lends far more light to this picture than will appear to the naked eye.

The booth tables are still sided with aluminum and still have the original reservation instructions.

Visitors are free to roam up on the stage to see what the view has been for decades of performances. (I assume there had recently been a wedding dance here, hence the row of tables and chairs at the front part of the stage.)

To the side of the stage is a little room for bands to get ready for their performance.  The walls are covered with signatures of all the people who have played the Surf over the past few decades.

Even the bathrooms are cool!

The more you wander around the building, the more your mind starts to work overtime to imagine all the scenes that have unfolded on the dance floor, the stage, the booths, and at the bar.

The best part of about the tour is noticing the little architectural and decorative detail.

The Surf also has a hallway of pictures that is rather fascinating.  It contains pictures of the various bands who have played there over time, along with some of the history of the Surf Ballroom itself.  You can read more about the Surf and its history here.



A few months ago I received some pieces of Mar-crest Citation flatware as a gift.  I had fallen in love long ago with the starburst pattern on the handle, but I figured that actually finding a set of such flatware was going to be nearly impossible or ultra expensive.

Oh, how wrong I was.

It started with that set.  I noticed some other small bunches of starburst flatware on eBay or Etsy, but being the impatient person I was, I wanted a full set instantly.  There were a few auctions for brand new boxes, but you can imagine how much THOSE went for.  <sigh>

Fast forward to last Thursday, when my significant other and I went thrift shopping for the express purpose of finding some good retro stuff.  What we found were a whole bunch of pieces of starburst flatware, and by the time it was all said and done, I had a pretty good set of it going.  At ten cents per piece, it was a bargain!

I took a brief glance at the flatware in the store, but I was just so excited to find this stuff that I just instructed my significant other to grab all the pieces he could find and call it good.  It wasn’t until I got home — no, wait … it wasn’t until I started to write this post — that I realized how many different pieces I actual had.  What I thought to be two different patterns going on actually turned into seven.  Yes, really.  How many different styles of starburst flatware can there be?

A lot, actually:

The more I looked at these patterns, the more confused I became.  The pattern on the left was what I was sure was Mar-crest Citation, but the the one second from the right looked like the same thing.  There was a subtle different in the style and placement of the starburst, but neither one was marked.  And what about the others?  None of them had distinctive markings except for a couple that just said “Japan Stainless Steel.”  Doesn’t help me a out a bunch.

After some research, I’m fairly certain that the second from the right is indeed Mar-crest Citation, and the one on the left is an imitation. I thought one of them might be a pattern by Wallace called Bright Star.   Here’s a page from a 1958 catalog from John Plain & Company.

Four stars on the handle.  But once I started looking at all the patterns on the knives, none seemed to match exactly.  So no Bright Star.  <sigh>  So I try to identify each piece individually.  There’s what I think is the Citation:

Then I have a smattering of others.  This first one I have found identified as Utica Silver Sheen:

This next one is Everlasting EV2:

The next one I found some pieces of from an Etsy sale, and that information identifies this pattern as Americana Star.

I think I’ve given myself a headache from squinting at pictures on the internet trying to identify these pieces.  Anyone know what these are?



Yes, this is another dog-related post, because as I wrote about last time, I happened to acquire a dog that has become a respected member of the family.  He wags his tail when he sees me.  The boys play with him outside and have a ball.  I’ve started to learn his little quirks and have become aware of just how “interesting” owning a Jack Russell can be. Read the rest of this entry »


I will admit.  I am a sucker for retro design.  And yes, I have also been known to purchase products that have retro design even though I really don’t need the product.  Here’s example one.  Here’s example two, although that sack did hold a bottle of wine and I’m pretty sure I needed that.  However, I did make a point to visit one particular liquor store for that wine because I knew that they would put it in that awesome bag. So that, my friends, is how I will go out of my way to buy retro-looking products. Read the rest of this entry »


While browsing through Etsy the other day, I happened upon some great switchplate covers made with retro wallpapers.  There’s something from every era, it seems, and she uses some great fab fifties’ wallpapers as well.  Take a look:
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So I dropped by my blog today to check something and noticed my headline from yesterday: “It’s never to early to think about Christmas.”



Did I really commit one of the most annoying grammar errors ever?

I flog myself even as I write this.  I should know better than to write a post when my two boys are chasing each other around the house, one wielding a Star Wars light saber and the other screaming, “Give it back to me!  It’s miiiiiiiiiine!”


This continues my perusal of the 1955 American Home magazines. I have been delighted by some of the finds, aghast at some of the decorating ideas, and plain ol’ astounded by some of the products.

I have always marveled at the need for hiding our basic entertainment components. I grew up in a house with this feature; one did not see a TV in any room but the basement, which usually wasn’t occupied by guests. No TVs existed in bedrooms, either. TVs were essentially out of sight, and possibly out of mind. I always found it a curious habit, as if families were content to live in denial: nooooooo, they didn’t watch TV! How preposterous that you might think so!
Read the rest of this entry »


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