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Retro finds! – Cracked Ice and Chrome

School’s out . . . forever.

I have spent the past month cleaning out my classroom and sorting through 23 years’ worth of stuff.

Teachers tend to be hoarders for the same reason children will grab a handful of candy instead of taking just one piece; in the world of education, resources (especially free ones) are fleeting, so we tend to keep things that we think might be useful in the future. Sometimes that makes us a little greedy when it comes to keeping stuff for ourselves.

Case in point: see that storage cabinet in the right corner? I had about 25 textbooks in there. Different textbooks. They were all samples given to us by publishers over the year back when textbooks were the only resource teachers had. Once the internet became mainstream, teachers realized that we were no longer beholden to the big publishing companies and that we could craft our own units. However, the teacher brain in me thought it would be smart to hold onto the textbooks – y’know, just in case.

I’m fairly certain that the custodians at my school currently hate me for all the crap I piled by the garbage cans.

In addition to the clutter, though, I ran across some things that made me very melancholy. I found senior pictures from past graduates, thank-you notes from students and parents, and some relics from when my own children were little and I used to bring them to the school on a Saturday so I could work.

That last sentence is exactly what is driving me to get out of the field and transition into something else. How many weekends did I spend doing “school things” instead of taking my kids to the park? How many hours did I spend grading at the kitchen table instead of taking the time to make a nice meal for my family? Running across some of the drawings in notebooks made me feel a twinge of nostalgic pain. My kids are grown now, and I am now a grandma to my oldest boy’s daughter, and it just reminds me how quickly the time goes. Even though my kids are grown now and I could spend all of Saturday grading essays, I no longer want to.

Now I am slogging through the job hunting adventure and praying for someone to notice me and give me an interview. I have sent out about 50+ applications and so far have only gotten rejection letters. On August 31, I no longer am under contract at my school and that means I lose my health insurance. To say that I am panicking a bit is a major understatement. The stress of looking for another job haunts me day and night, yet I feel like this is something I am meant to do. I gave 23 years to education, but over the past several years, my values no longer aligned with the job, and that made for some stressful work conditions. I could only bite my tongue so many times before I felt like I wanted to explode, so I wanted to hit the reset button and start over with a field that was more results-oriented and that made me feel good about going to work every day and giving 100%. I am sad about what is happening to public education, but it’s also not a problem I can fix. So onward I go, into the very unfamiliar territory of LinkedIn and trying to get my foot in the door somewhere.

It’s taken me a couple weeks to write this post because of my conflicting feelings regarding this move. I feel like it’s the right thing to do, but at the same time, I have no safety net and I am petrified. A couple of weeks later, I have sent out 75 or so applications – possibly more – and have had zero responses aside from rejection letters. Transitioning into a different career is hard, y’all – and even harder when the field is being flooded by teachers fleeing the school system.

I hope my next blog post is about landing a new job.

In vintage news, my husband and I visited our local antique shop the other day. I have been going there for years and the owner, Polly, is an absolute gem. She remembers everyone who comes in her store and what they like, and she is a joy to talk to. Her store had become rather cluttered over the years, and she had someone come in and get rid of the excess stuff. I had fun browsing the aisles and seeing treasures that were probably buried under boxes for several years. Her tablecloths had been pretty stagnant for the past few years, but she had some new ones this time, including one that has my favorite colors – a jadeite green and red.

I snagged this tablecloth (no tag) and an interesting lime green Simtex. I couldn’t get the color accurate; the background color is very much lime green and not yellow.

I know I’ve written about Kitchen-Klatter before, and when I saw these cookbooks, I had to have them. There’s a good bit of childhood nostalgia connected to watching my mom listening to Kitchen-Klatter on the radio. She would have pen in hand as she wrote down various recipes, and I found the ladies’ voices comforting.

Well, that is about all I have to share from my neck of Iowa — soon to be the western suburbs of Chicago, I hope. I hope everyone is having a fantastic start to summer (in 9 days)!

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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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Randoms from a Tuesday

After a few years’ worth of use, my phone has finally started to tell me that it’s running out of space. I figured that it might — just might — be the dozens of videos that I had on my phone from all the various Elvis gigs I’ve gone to, so I started to sort through them this morning as I was sitting by the pond. Odd — after I started off my last post complaining about how JULY it was, we have been gifted with a week of mild weather. The temps at night have been getting down in the 60s, so the first thing I do in the morning is open the windows and throw the fans on. It’s almost like I complained and Mother Nature went, “Oh! Sorry . . . my bad.”

No, I do not think I have that much power.

Sitting by the pond this morning was quite pleasant. It was cool, there was no breeze, and it was just as perfect as it could be. I enjoyed not one but two cups of coffee out there this morning, trying to soak up the still and calm. Right now the flowers around the pond are almost all in bloom and the deer have largely left them alone this year – with a couple of exceptions – so I am enjoying the spray of colors. I have a few volunteer sunflowers this year that are growing and the tallest recently started blooming, so now I have a beautiful sunflower towering over the pond.

Never mind that yellow stuff all over the leaves. That is how I have been trying to combat the deer this year – with garlic powder and cayenne pepper. I sprinkle it pretty generously all over the yard and plants, and it seems to have worked, for the most part. The deer have managed to get some chomps in when I have gone too many days between applications, and I am sure the rabbits are responsible for their part of the damage as well. However, this sunflower adds a nice little element to the pond, and I hope it stays blooming for quite some time.

So . . . as I was saying before, I was cleaning off my phone and marveling at the vast array of stuff I have accumulated over the past year or so. I deleted a healthy bunch of it, but there were a few snippets in there that I thought were worth sharing.

Snippet #1: Reflections of history

This last school year as I was standing in the break room, making copies, I looked down and was amused by this ancient box of tacks that was sitting with the rest of the supplies. I am a geek for old fonts and just old office supplies in general, so I picked it up and thought vaguely about permanently “borrowing” it – until I remembered that I had about 82954 tacks in my desk drawer already that randomly spill out all over the place and annoy me. So, no. Here’s the box:

But the best part is when I turned the box over. If I had any doubts that these tacks had spent decades shoved in the back of a supply closet somewhere, those disappeared in no time:

WEST Germany. Also, packed in the USA. Now you KNOW they’re ancient.

Snippet #2: Tell me you’re not a native speaker of English without actually telling me you’re not a native speaker . . .

I received a box of Instant Pot accessories for Christmas because I love, love, LOVE my Instant Pot. The accessories came with a book of recipes that I have a vague suspicion were not written by a native speaker. Don’t worry – I have proof:

I know the directions are cut off, but you can see that for the most part, they use pretty good English. How, then, did no one proofreading this booklet know that “bailecue” is not a word? Also – a 1/2 pound of ribs? Is this for a party of one?

The non-mysteries continue:

Oh, the important of spacing. How many poor, inexperienced souls have spent way too long in the baking aisle, looking for “chuck roast flour”?

But, wait! There’s more! For the low, low price of $19.95, you get THIS:

First, the phonetic spelling of Por Kloin. But that’s not even the worst of it:

THIRTY-FOUR POUNDS of chuck roast!!!!

At least they got the spacing right this time.

Want more? OK, get ready for this scrumptious dessert:

One of these things is not like the other. Heck – NONE OF THESE THINGS should go with the word “shellfish.”

Just in case you needed a side dish for any of these wonderful meals, may I suggest the following?

This is how one might pronounce “steamed vegetables” if a person held his head over a boiling pot of water for a few seconds and then had to speak immediately afterward.

Snippet #3: They Don’t Make Things the Way They Used To . . .

I moved into my house in 2000. The entire time I’ve lived here, the closet that is at the end of my hallway has had the same light bulb, and that is not because I’ve been trying to save it by responsibly turning the lights off after I was done digging in there for something. Year after year, I would marvel at how the light bulb lasted and wondered if I should start placing bets as to when it would finally go dark.

This last winter, the light bulb finally died. I took it down and looked at what kind it was.

Beauty Tone, eh? Well, I was intrigued at what sort of marvel of modern engineering created this wonderfully long-lasting bulb, so I did a little Googling. It turns out that Beauty Tone bulbs were designed to put everyone in the best light – no pun intended. Here’s an ad for that brand:

I mean, I guess I kind of get what they’re going for, but does one have to plan ahead for the mood that one wants for a room, or was it done on the fly? “Excuse me, Percy, but must change the bulb now before I slip into something more comfortable . . .”

All I know is that those light bulbs were the absolute bomb when it came to lasting forEVer, and they need to be made again.

I also love how the blue light gets a hoity-toity name – Beauty Tone Aqua – and the yellow gets to be “Candlelight,” but the last one is just “Pink.” Someone in the marketing department dropped the ball there. BIG TIME. Sunset Rose. Blushing Bride. Dainty Dusty Rose. Bubble Gum. Flirty Lip Gloss. Modesty Mauve. First Kiss. I mean, I could go on and on.

Hey, Westinghouse? If you ever do bring these lovely bulbs back to life, I’m your name gal.

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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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Lord Calvert’s Infinite Wisdom

I belong to an atomic living-themed group on the book of faces. A couple weeks ago, a lady posted a booklet that she had gotten handed down from her mother, published in 1960. If the cover alone doesn’t make a retro-junkie shiver, then I don’t know what will:

The lady who had this gem in her possession initially was just going to give it to whoever wanted it, but when the the post blew up and hundreds of people started clamoring for it, she decided that the most fair way to get this book to someone who would appreciate it would be to do a random drawing.

Guess who won?

I seldom win anything – in fact, I think the last cool thing I won was in 1988 when I was the 13th caller to a local radio station, winning a Kenny Loggins cassette (yes – CASSETTE) that I never picked up because that would require social interaction. Plus, I really couldn’t drive yet, so that was also a damper on collecting the winning goods.

Anyway, I was more than thrilled to receive this book and I knew that I wanted to share it with others who loved this stuff as much as I do. This book is an absolute gem – lots of drink recipes, party ideas, and goofy illustrations.

Just to make yourself feel REALLY old, turn to page 84 and see what Lord Calvert recommends to stock a $25, $50, and $100 bar. Let’s just say inflation has run rampant just a tad since 1960.

Click on the image below to view the book. Enjoy!

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An extended absence – with an excuse

This past year was cray-cray. I cannot express that enough. In particular, the last six months have had me running around like a crazy person as I try to keep the lid on the pot.

I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say that a multitude of health issues have made 2021 a nightmare – the health issues belonging to my husband. It has been a domino effect from July on, and we’re still not out of the woods. Once your health is in jeopardy, it seems like everything stops. In a way, it does, but also in a way, it doesn’t. I still had to go to work, pay the bills, take care of life’s little responsibilities, and keep on top of my teaching and schoolwork. I can honestly say that this year I feel like a truly horrible teacher. I am barely keeping up with my responsibilities and am certainly not being very creative or fun. I feel like I am shortchanging my students because my attention is always being pulled by this “other stuff.”

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Winding down, winding up

School let out May 25th, and it’s hard to believe that I’ve been on summer break for one week – probably because the end of the school year was a chaotic mess, as usual. I wasn’t able to check out on the 25th due to a bunch of late work being thrown at me, but I was able to get it wrapped up the following day. And now it’s time for a much-needed break. I am freaking tired.

My hubby and I left for a quick trip to Chicago soon after school let out so that we could celebrate his birthday and visit friends. We took in a Sox game (which was FREEZING thanks to a weird cold snap), walked around downtown Naperville, bought way too many books at Half Price Books (to add to my pile of unread books from the last time I went there), and had a good time with everyone we visited with. It was the perfect start to the summer and a great stress relief. I needed to laugh and be a little carefree for a while. Well . . . almost carefree.

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Eternally annoyed by fake spring

I am sure I have said it a few thousand times on this blog, but I really, really loathe March in the Midwest. The snow takes forever to melt – IF it melts – and when it does, everything is a muddy freaking mess. I dread letting the dog outside because it means the inevitable muddly dog prints all over the kitchen when she comes prancing back in. Sometimes winter forgets that it’s supposed to leave quickly and quietly and instead hangs around like a drunk party guest, making messes in the form of winter storm after winter storm.

I feel like the den mother for a riotous frat party who, while cleaning up the chaos of the latest party, picks up a blanket to find a sleeping Old Man Winter. After a couple weeks of having above-average temperatures and quickly melting snow, we are now under a Winter Storm Watch for Monday.

<sigh> Whatevs. It goes with the territory of living here, I guess. I should know that once that glimmer of hope sparks that maybe — just maybe — I could get my pond up and going in record time that it awakens the Snow Giant. So we’ll hunker back in for the storm, look forward with dreary eyes for the Big Melt, and then repeat the process all over again.

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The Covid blues . . .

I’m not going to lie; I’m so freaking tired of events being canceled. Everything that my hubby and I have gotten tickets to and have looked forward to has been canceled; all of his band gigs have been canceled or postponed to a later date. We keep setting our sights on the next thing to look forward to, and then it just vanishes.

It’s my pity party and I’ll cry if I want to. Please do not lecture me about how selfish this sounds because I have news for you: I KNOW. Back in March, when my husband and I returned from a band gig in Georgia, the Covid thing was just starting to get serious; my school ended up going online the week that I returned. I remember thinking at the time that we’d have a few months of this and then be back to normal.

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