School Year #23 is now in session

I have almost been back at school for a month now, and it seems surreal. After last year, which was chaotic and stressful and, therefore, not much remembered since I was in survival mode, I was determined to return to school this year with renewed energy and a positive spirit. And, for the most part, I have. I’m trying really hard not to let the few challenging students drag down my entire day, but this year I’ve been handed a couple challenging CLASSES – where a majority of the kids are super high maintenance. I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t dread those days a little bit. I have already categorized my odd day schedule as the “difficult” one and my even day schedule as my “easy” one. The odd day schedule is indeed tiring; I teach straight through with my only break being 40 minutes of lunch. From 8:15 to 12:10 I am working with students and teaching; then from 12:50 until 3:25 I’m back at it. I know people will point out that hey, I get done at 3:25! Yes, but then it’s sitting there grading and planning for upcoming days. I’m not complaining. Some years are just challenging for the energy they require from an introvert teacher, and this is one of those challenging years.

My husband and I were in La Crosse, Wisconsin, last weekend for the Elvis Explosion festival that occurs there every year. In fact, that is where we were last year when my husband ended up in the ICU with sepsis. It was a little strange to be back there in that environment, remembering the emotions that I was going through the last time I was there. I had felt like the rug had been yanked out from under me in a very violent way, and I remember wandering around feeling very lost and confused.

This year, however, we had a great experience and my husband drummed like a rock star, as always. My family was able to be up there as well, so that made it extra special. The only unfortunate thing about that weekend is not really having a lot of time to enjoy La Crosse, which is such a beautiful area with a vibrant downtown atmosphere. There’s an antique store that we love to visit there that has 3 floors of goodies. We were able to go there with my family and I kind of made a haul.

First, I found a catalog full of cookbooks from Good Housekeeping. It came in a little green binder so that people could insert them as they bought them. The binder was falling apart and missing the back of it, so I threw that away and took all the cookbooks out. These are such fun with goofy retro graphics and fantastic fonts:

I plan on scanning them all in, and I cannot wait to do that.

I am also a sucker for catalogs from the 50s and 60s, as they provide great eye candy about the stuff I could have bought “back in the day.” I ran across a 1963 Hilex catalog that was in perfect condition:

The cover alone deserves to be analyzed. What exactly is behind that frozen smile on mom’s face? She is either totally in love with dad or ready to poison his coffee.

Inside the catalog, goodness abounds:

I plan on scanning that one in too. And I want ALL those clocks at the top.

I ran across a little 1959 Christmas Cookie cookbook sponsored by Wisconsin Electric Power Co. The cover alone made me want to buy it, but inside are lots of cute graphics and ads, like this one starring Reddy Kilowatt:

And, yes, I plan on scanning in that book too. (I might have a bit of a scanning addiction. Is there a group for that?)

Finally, although I have kind of eased up on Pyrex collecting because of outrageous prices, I still like looking for bakeware, and sometimes I run across a gem that is reasonably priced. Behold, a Fire King divided casserole dish, with candle warmers – original box and material inside.

The tag claimed it was “unused,” but the melted candle wax in the warmers suggests differently. Then again, the wax could have melted while being stored somewhere warm. Who knows. All I know is that $28 was a steal for something like this. Those are the prices I am used to paying for bakeware; none of that $250 nonsense that I’m seeing in a lot of antique stores for Pyrex pieces. I mean, people are selling the turquoise starburst casserole dish by Pyrex for $800 and higher. That is simply stupid.

Anyway, I know that my “to be scanned” pile is reaching ridiculous heights. I still need to finish up my postcard project that I started during the leisurely months of summer. I only have, oh, a few hundred left to go. Maybe I’ll use this Saturday to get that cleared off my plate before I start something new.

Have a fantastic weekend!

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And now, a sense of calm

Finally – I feel relaxed. No more school email, no more last-minute grade fixing, no more worrying that I forgot to do something. Now it is time to get stuff done – although the weather and general luck (or should I personify that – “General Luck”?) seem to be standing in my way lately.

Last week I pressure-washed my deck, needing to give it a fresh coat of stain. That was on Wednesday. Thursday, it rained, so I couldn’t get much done. Friday it rained in the afternoon, so by the time I was ready to tackle the deck, Mother Nature thwarted me again. The weather was supposed to be perfect on Sunday – mid 70s and partly cloudly. When I got up on Saturday morning, I realized that someone at The Weather Channel did not do their job very well, for it was horribly humid and rainy on and off all day.

Today feels like 85% humidity and is going to be hot. Here’s our forecast for the next few days:

If I remember correctly, stain should not be applied in extreme heat, so there go the next two days. So here my little can of stain sits, waiting to be used.

So . . . back to that stellar forecast I posted above. Last Thursday, I drove down to take my son and his girlfriend out to eat and to do a little shopping. Just as I was backing out of their apartment complex, I heart a loud POP and some smoke emanating from my car. My son, who took auto classes in high school, said that it sounded like my A/C line burst. And guess what? He was right. We all went to the back of the car and saw a huge green pool of refrigerant on the ground. The car goes in tomorrow to be looked at, but I just had the A/C line repaired LAST SUMMER, and it was not a cheap job. Needless to say, I am not a happy camper. Of course the A/C breaks when it is going to be almost 100 degrees!

Next weekend, my husband’s band is traveling to St. Louis to play behind one of the best Elvis tribute artists in the country, Bill Cherry. If you do not know who he is, look him up. I will have plenty of pictures to post, I’m sure, but every time I photograph that man, I am in awe of what a great performer he is. Not only does he look like 70’s Elvis, but he SOUNDS like him – even when he talks. I know many people brush off Elvis tribute artists as being stupid or silly or “not the real thing” (um, duh?!), but I do enjoy getting lost in the moment sometimes while watching some of these guys.

Oh, and I really, REALLY hope my A/C is fixed by the time we have to go to St. Louis, otherwise we will have to take a gas-guzzling Tahoe down there, and then we will have to sell our house and all of our possessions to pay for that fuel bill.

It’s getting insane out there, y’all.

I have dubbed this summer “the summer of calm.” I have gotten into routines that not only help my physical health, but they help my mental health. Every morning I get up pretty early, drink some dandelion tea, then head out on a walk, weather permitting. If I can’t take a walk in the morning, then I take one in the afternoon, but I try to go for at least one, if not two, walks a day. In addition, I’ve been making a conscious effort to cook more healthily for my husband and me. My latest obsession has come from the Weber line of marinade seasoning packets. They are so yummy and easy and make it seem like I did something a lot more impressive than just a marinade. This is in no way a paid advertisement; they’re just really, really good. And of course, since I like them, I cannot find them in my favorite grocery store anymore. Happens every time.

I don’t know how much antique shopping I will get in this summer, as rising prices of everything has made it necessary to cut back elsewhere. I’m sure, however, that I’ll be able to pop in to some shops here and there. In the meantime, I hope your summer is wonderful so far and that you are also able to find a way to enjoy a “summer of calm.”

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I’m here, just limping

Ok, I’m not literally limping, but I am most definitely limping in a figurative way. This school year was hard. I don’t remember having a year where the ending was so chaotic, and then even when everything should have ended, it still didn’t. I am still dealing with outstanding assignments (as in, not handed in – not wonderful) and last-minute panic that should have happened a month ago.

But I digress . . . y’know – from the point I wasn’t even making yet.

Two weeks after school has ended, I am finally getting some downtime. My back would like to tell you that my carrying 5-gallon buckets full of black dirt and bags of mulch yesterday was a bad idea. A very bad idea. However, I spent a good chunk of yesterday trying to finish up the planting and preening of the perennial garden, so such deeds must be done.

I took this picture soon after getting the pond filled and operational for the season. Flowers were bought, mulch was put down, and I still had not moved away all my leaf piles, as evidenced from the background.

The pond has been operational for a little over a month, although I was frustrated with how long it took to get it up and going again. This spring was cold and wet for far too long and it delayed everything. As a result, the toads took a while to start their singing and laying eggs, and the frogs never showed at all to lay theirs. It was definitely a weird year. Even without the frogs’ additions, though, the pond is full of little squiggly tadpoles. Up until three days ago, the water was crystal clear, and then I noticed it started to turn murky. Part of this problem involves the copious amount of leaves at the bottom of the pond, blown in during one of our many windy days. I’d fish them out, but doing so would also scoop up hundreds of tadpoles, and I do not have enough hours in the day to sit there and pick them all out of there. The other issue is a lovey cloud of green algae that has very quickly grown throughout the pond. The tadpoles love to hide in there, too, so removing it can be tricky.

I know – it’s just a tadpole. But the animal lover in me just cannot bring myself to knowingly fling a living thing into the grass and then walk away. It may be stupid, but that’s the way I’ve always been.

I had to do a little replanting of some plants that didn’t make it last year, such as 4 out of my six rosebushes that the deer could not leave alone last year. Having never grown roses before, I was unprepared for them being a favorite snack of the pesky deer, who have been mowing down my flowers relentlessly this year, thanks to the late spring. For whatever reason, the unique grass that I had planted on either side of the waterfall decided to die over the winter as well after surviving the past 5 winters, so I had to decide what other kind of grass to plant there. (I wish I was good about remembering plant names, but I most certainly am not!) This past weekend I was in the Chicago ‘burbs and stopped by the wonderfully amazing Alsip nursery in Frankfort. What a plant lover’s dream that store is! I looked around for a replacement for the waterfall grass and decided on maiden grass. I hope it ends up looking nice.

Also found at Alsip Nursery: these goofy looking items. I am a sucker for things that are a good mix between funky and cute, so these had to come home with me. My husband has named the two in the back George and Lennie (Of Mice and Men reference), and the English teacher in me loves that.

I haven’t gotten a chance to do any antique store hunting lately, but I was pleasantly surprised to see this piece of retro design in our local grocery store. The pic is a little fuzzy since I took it quickly, not wanting to be that weirdo who is taking pics in the grocery store, but you get the idea. I was tempted to buy it just for the design, but given the fact that it was about $6 for four cans, and given the fact that I do not drink regular soda anymore, it was a pass for me.

I have been trying to take a walk in the early mornings – even when I am out of town – to keep myself accountable for exercising. When I walked yesterday, I noticed two different does with fairly new fawns. It may say something about my frustration with trying to grow flowers that keep mowing down that all I could think about is how much destruction these two little squirts were going to do to my landscaping.

Good thing they’re cute.

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Well, that just about killed me.

Install laminate flooring, they said. It’ll be easy, they said. Just click it together, they said.

Good god.

Perhaps for Stan the Handyman, installing laminate flooring would be a breeze. For me the English teacher and my hubby the graphic designer/drummer, well, that was a different story.

The morning after the bulk of the flooring was put in, I arose at 4 a.m. because my entire body was so sore (especially my back) that it felt that I had malaria. Ok, I will admit that I do not know what it feels like to have malaria . . . but I think it probably feels like that. The constant bending over, measuring, placing, crawling around on my knees and pounding in the boards got to my aging body. Plus, I only had a vague notion of what in the hell I was doing, so there’s that too.

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An adventure in home improvement

I think I have a curse when it comes to tackling home improvement projects.

It never seems to fail: I get a great idea, I get the gumption to tackle the project, and then something goes horribly, horribly wrong. I don’t have the right tools, sometimes. Or, more often, I do not have the brain needed to know what in the hell I am doing.

My husband and I decided to refloor my breezeway area – which for the entire time I’ve lived here has been an ugly brown indoor/outdoor carpet. However, it was durable and stood up to the muck and grime that inevitably got dragged into that area day after day, so I kept it.

We had recently made an effort to turn that area into more usable space. We purchased a small square table from a local furniture store and put it in there. However, the area was also inhabited by my husband’s numerous drum cases. He’s a drummer, hence the cases. And when he plays gigs as often as he does, it is preferable to have the cases in a location where you can just grab and go. Some of that stuff is darn heavy. The breezeway seemed like a great place to put that stuff.

But now we have tired of the brown “turf” carpeting and we wanted something that made the breezeway a place to hang out, if one desired. We went to Menards and picked out some Mohawk laminate plank flooring (Lexington Pine) and loaded up our cart with everything we needed, and we picked a day to get the project started.

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Antique store scores!

Yesterday my husband and I ventured out to Okoboji, Iowa, which is about 1.5 hours away from where we live. We had visited an antique store there a couple weeks ago, but because we had gotten there so late in the day, we did not get to visit all the antique stores that we saw. There is one store in particular that my husband fell in love with because of one simple reason: vinyl. Lots of vinyl. Even better, there was lots of mint-condition vinyl.

Actually, we both discovered stores that fed our little addictions because I discovered a honeypot of tablecloths in one of the stores. Even better, they were fairly priced. I had about 30 of them to look through, and I made off with 5 of them, including a Wilendur. It is has some faint yellow stains, but I am determined to get this baby looking like new by soaking and scrubbing until it gleams again. Once I saw the tag on this beauty (plus it was 50% off), I knew I had to have it.

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Let him fly . . .

I am in the inexplicable position of having to watch my oldest child go off and be an adult. I say “inexplicable” because there is no possible way that 18 years has flown by so quickly. I know it’s a cliche to sit here in stupified silence, reminiscing that an oldest child is “of age,” but here I am.

My oldest is a “textbook” oldest. He is the most stubborn person on the planet. He likes to control the show, not be a spectator. From the time he was a toddler, I knew I was in trouble. Looking back on home videos from his toddler days, there were many times when I would be telling him “NO” when he’d reach for something and he would just turn and look at me with that sparkle in his eye, seemingly saying, “Oh, yeah? Try me.” My bookshelf began to get overtaken with self-help books about parenting a strong-willed child.

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A most colorful fall

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!

 

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Places for the retro-lovin’ soul: The Surf Ballroom

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.

 

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