I quarantine; therefore, I write

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.

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Calling all Elvis fans!

Although I was a little late to the party, I discovered Elvis while browsing through channels one day in 1987.  It was around the birthday celebration week, and HBO was airing the documentary That’s the Way It Is.  My parents were not Elvis fans, and I had apparently grown up in some sort of bubble, so I had no idea who Elvis was.  I stopped on the special, intrigued.  Who was this man?  What was with that fringed jumpsuit?  But man, he was handsome, and he could sing.

I went upstairs and told my mom that I was watching some guy in a white jumpsuit sing on HBO.  She said, “Oh my, that must be Elvis.”

And that was it for me.  My obsession with all things Elvis began.

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Kudos to Kleenex

It’s the time of year when I can easily be found wandering the aisles of Walmart with a glazed look in my eye, buying school supplies and about 842 other things that I really didn’t need but had to have at that exact moment.  I don’t know what it is about Walmart, but I think there’s some sort of tranquilizing drug that is piped into the entrance, causing them to forget their budgets and release any sort of remaining restraint that they have.

Perhaps this is why I found myself with a laminator in my cart just a few days ago.

I went there for two things: boxer briefs (not for me, obviously) and Kleenex.  I walked out of there $228 poorer. With a laminator.

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Life is short; use the good china

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?”

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A tribute to a great man

Although I certainly didn’t just sit on my duff all summer long, for I took lots of trips and was able to take care of a lot of house clutter, the pace of life has certainly picked up in the last week alone.  School started.  I got the stomach flu (which I’m currently still “enjoying”).  My grandpa died.

Out of all those things, it’s the last one that has me reeling.  I can handle hectic weeks.  I can handle the stomach flu.  But I always dreaded the time I’d have to say goodbye to my sweet grandfather.  He was a good man who lived live with vigor.  He beat colon cancer but suffered through countless intestinal issues from the mid-90’s until he died.  Even through it all, he made sure to let those around him know how much he loved them, admired them, and he made sure to thank anyone who helped him.

Writing is definitely cathartic, and I sat down a day after my grandfather’s passing to write a tribute to him.  I wrote it for myself, but I shared it on Facebook so that those who knew my grandfather could enjoy it as well.  Now I’m sharing it with all of you.  Even though you didn’t know him, we can all learn from the gracious way he lived his life.

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House Beautiful Magazine: 1950 vs. 2013

NOTE:  During a recent software update, the pics from this post somehow disappeared.  In fact, I must have deleted them off my computer, too, because they are nowhere to be found.  I am going to try to retake these photos and fix this post.  In the meantime, please know that this post will be restored soon.  🙂

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I started paging through the bound collection of 1950 House Beautiful magazines that I have lying around here and I started noticing the striking difference — and amazing sameness — of the ads that appear in the magazines then and now.  I happened to have some new issues in my massive “someday-I’ll-get-the-chance-to-read-these” pile and I started to contrast what the two years’ issues reveal about us as a society.

Some things never change.  Cars will always be the full-page eye candy of the magazines.  Although our ads today tend to emphasize more environmentally-friendly features, there are still some common threads.  We still want Cadillacs to reveal that yes, we are just a tad bit more successful than the average Joe ….

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And we still expect our Toyotas to have a little more zip.  (Yes, I know Toyotas didn’t exist in 1950.  Play along, will you?)

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We still want faucets, toilets, bathtubs, and showers to convey that we have great taste:

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But in 1950, even having good choice in a toilet seat alone was a priority.  (When’s the last time you’ve seen an ad for toilet seats?)

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Beauty and staying young was important to women in 1950.  They even took a risk and invested in rather scary contraptions like this all in the name of youth:

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Today, rather than having these little ads make up the tiny little ads in the back of the magazine, we get to see full-page ads of Botox-injected, plastic-surgery laden, professionally hairstyled celebrities pretend like they actually use these products to look the way they do.

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Call me jaded if you will, but I’m pretty certain Courtney Cox’s hair has never been drenched with any Pantene product.  Just a hunch.

In House Beautiful, paint ads in 1950 were full-page and usually in color:

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Some things never change:

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In 1950, people seemed to be on a constant quest for the perfect, most comfortable mattress.  These ads usually were full-page as well:

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Our aching backs were definitely an issue back in the day.  We wanted something orthopedic … something that would make us sleep like a baby … yet something that was stylish.  Behold, 2013:

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I made this one larger so you could see the text: “made from certified natural materials.”  There’s that environmentalism again.

In 1950, Liz Taylor graced the back cover of the magazine, touting the luxurious carpet that Gulistan had to offer:

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And now?  AllState Insurance graces the back cover, presumably trying to convince you that once your house is House Beautiful, you need to sign up with them to protect all that beauty.

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Here are a couple ads that you just don’t see anymore in modern magazines:

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I swear I’m not trying to be repetitive, because I know I’ve pointed out before how you just don’t see ads for candles in modern magazines, but I guess I was struck by how many candle ads I saw in the 1950 issues.  Today?  Zero.  Back in 1950, we could also get away with copious ads for:

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What would Mad Men be without the liquor?  Today it seems that liquor ads are becoming more frowned-upon. I figure in a few years the liquor companies will suffer the same scorn as the tobacco industry and ads for booze will not exist.

There were a few ads in the 2013 issues of House Beautiful that you just didn’t see in 1950 and definitely reflect our changing values, especially in where our money goes.  Behold the annoying, multi-page ads for the latest prescription drugs:

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Two pages of ad space for this drug?  Show me the money!

While Americans certainly had debt in 1950, it wasn’t as easy to get into debt as whipping out a little plastic card and sliding it through a machine in the name of keeping up with the Joneses.

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The text for this ad is interesting: no late fees, no penalty rates, because there are plenty of other things to stress over.

Yeah — how about the DEBT that people are incurring on their credit cards for crap they don’t need?  That’s probably the most stressful thing of all.  Now go sit in a corner, Citibank, and count your millions.

Lastly, while many people had pets in 1950 and most certainly loved them as much as we do ours today, we definitely show them love them with food a lot more than we used to.   In 1950 there were virtually no ads for pet food, kitty litter, or anything else.  Now?  They’ve got the bucks to take out those full-page ads:

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Oh, and friend them on Facebook.  It’s how we roll in 2013.

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Crazy about tablecloths

A year ago I made the decision to “de-clutter” my house by selling some tablecloths that had been sitting in my basement for years.  They were a gift from my sister, who purchased them at auctions and estate sales, and many of them were in great condition.  The only problem was that few of the cloths actually fit my table, and several were not colors that complimented my kitchen. So they sat there and collected dust until I decided to allow someone else to enjoy them.  I kept a few of them that I really loved and put the rest up for sale on Etsy.

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Vintage Cool

Every now and then I’ll go to Amazon and just type random words into the search bar to see what’s there.  One of my favorite words, of course, is “retro.”  I’m always curious to see what retro products are available now.  Sometimes it’s depressing, as in the case of one of my recent posts when I talked about the retro products that had to announce that they were retro by putting the word “Nostalgia” on them.  Seriously.  It’s like making a coffee cup and emblazoning “FOR COFFEE” on it.  We get it.  We know its style and purpose already.

So I went to Amazon and put in my favorite search terms and came up with some gems.  First up — a retro condiment set:
71wcP3y2mNL._SL1500_It’s something so simple, yet they did it right this time.  Three bottles — one for ketchup, mustard, and a clear one that you can do pretty much whatever with — are included with retro pictures.  The only way they could have improved this product was if they had used a retro font and varied the pictures on each one.  Still … these are cool. They are normally seven dollars from Amazon, but as of this writing, they are on sale for just under six.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just in case you need a place to put your new retro condiment bottles, you could always get a condiment caddy to easily put everything on the table at once.  (Sadly, your clear miscellaneous bottle will be left out, but I think it’ll recover from the disappointment.)  Since I’ve obviously gotten stuck on a theme here, let’s explore the next item:

Condiment caddy with places for salt and pepper as well.  I love the little details on this item that make it truly retro: the little ball decorations at the top and bottom of the frame pieces.  As of this writing, this item was also on sale for fourteen dollars.

 

 

 

 

 

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I was given this next item as a Christmas gift.  Although it normally wouldn’t have been something I bought myself, I am here to say that these things have a purpose in life.   (The same cannot be said for any of the Kardashians, but this phone rocks.)

This retro handset plugs into your cell phone.  While you may look like a dork using it (I keep mine in my car), it provides a much more comfortable way to talk on the phone for an extended period of time.  With modern phones, there’s no good way to grip the phone while talking.  You either a) press it up against your face until your words sound like mhphmphmphphphrmphmmmph, or b) you grip the phone along the sides with your fingertips until you get spasmodic cramping, or c) you use the spearkerphone feature, which is just an awkward way to talk on the phone because of those wonderful times when two people are trying to talk at the same time and the phone can’t handle that kind of excitement, so you get those awkward pauses when no one is quite sure when to talk.

In short, this handset is an answer to most of your worldly problems.  Plug it in, grip it like a man (or a woman), and feel confident that people are definitely laughing at you while they pass you on the interstate.  Someone’s gotta liven up that interstate driving; it might as well be you.  The best part is that as of this writing, this handset is majorly on sale!  Eight bucks ….  a huge discount off the normal price of around thirty-five dollars.  These handsets come in a variety of colors.  (Mine is pink.)

 

 

61j5ppdLSWL._SL1500_If you are a fan of vintage metal lawn chairs and you happen to see someone selling them at a decent price, let me give you a bit of advice:  jump on those suckers like they are trying to smuggle your TV out your front door.  I’ve learned this one the hard way; this is a trend that has started to come back into style and the “real deal” vintage models are incredibly popular.  Just a couple weeks ago I saw some on one of those local “garage sale” groups on Facebook, and I made the fatal mistake of taking a few breaths before thinking about getting them.  Poof!  They were gone.  Who knew lawn chairs could be such a hot commodity?

Just in case you don’t have the luck or the patience to try to find the real deal, the next best thing is definitely these chairs from Amazon.  They qualify for Amazon Prime shipping as well!  Judging by the “only x left in stock” warning, these are just as popular online as they are locally.

 

 

 

 

This last product isn’t from Amazon, it’s from Retro Planet.  As I’ve made clear before, I am a sucker for retro fonts and images.  Not the chintzy ones that seem to be put on a million metal signs and held up as authentic vintage decor, but for things that seem genuinely retro — not cartoonish reproductions.

Enter the rooster.  On a towel.

26428-vtMr. Rooster here has that goofy 50’s vibe with great retro colors.  I have a special weakness for that color green in the background.  I have such a weakness for it, in fact, that I painted all my kitchen walls that exact color.

These are kind of spendy towels, about six bucks, but I imagine the average person would only have a handful of these to decorate their kitchen.  It’s retro without being contrived, and in my book, that makes it perfect.

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My favorite place on earth (right now)

IMG_5107Although I have been to all the western states and a handful of the eastern states, I know I haven’t seen all the beautiful places in the United States, or the world, for that matter.  Someday I’d love to see the Smoky Mountains and the rest of North Carolina.  I’d love to see New York City and Boston for the historical sights.  I’d like to see the Civil War Battlefields for the same reason.  I don’t know if I’ll ever get to do those things, but it’s on my travel bucket list.

Last week my sister and I packed up the car and headed out with the kids to the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Growing up in South Dakota, I’ve been to the hills many, many times — for church camp five years in a row, for spring break trips, for random trips with friends and family, etc.   I’ve seen Mount Rushmore so many times that I could probably sculpt a mini version out of clay.  It wouldn’t be good or representative of the actual sculpture.  I never promised that.

When I was in my 20s I started going to Deadwood and became enthralled in the western history of that little town.  In the 80s, Deadwood was brought back from the dead by gambling.  The little town began to attract more and more tourists, which was good.  What wasn’t so good is that now the town is starting to lose its old west feel and is starting to take on an atmosphere of Vegas.  OK, maybe not to that extent, but I hate driving into town only to be greeted with a modern looking hotel.  Some of the older buildings have been razed and replaced with glitzy hotels or bars.  Little by little there is an artificial glaze starting to creep over Deadwood and it’s ruining it for me. I still love the town, but don’t want to spend a lot of time there as I had in the past.

As much as I love the Black Hills, being there makes me depressed about what it is becoming.  We stayed in a pretty touristy rental house in the Terry Peak region.  The house happened to be along the “main drag” of the rental houses and so there was a lot of traffic and a lot of noise.  I did not enjoy sitting on the deck listening to a loud party going on across the valley or hearing every word of the neighbors’ conversations as they hot tubbed.  I much prefer to experience the Black Hills in peace and quiet.  No neighbors.  No tourist traps.  That, however, is becoming harder to find as the years go by.

If you’re ever in the hills, make sure to reserve a couple of days to drive through Spearfish Canyon and through Custer State Park.  IMG_5153Depending on the day, the traffic can be heavy through both of those places, but I’d recommend going early in the morning to beat the other tourists out of bed.  Spearfish Canyon has a lot of stops you can make along the way — different waterfalls, historical sites, trails to hike, etc.  If you get there on a day like we had there — where it was mild weather and cloudless skies, you will probably stop to gawk at the awesome contrast between the blue skies, white rock formations, and green pines.  The colors are so vibrant that I was constantly trying to capture them with my camera.  However, without the help of Photoshop, the digital version is never equal to seeing it with your own two eyes.

Gold mining has always been a part of the hills since it’s been settled and today is no different.  Although the famous Homestake mine ceased operation some years ago, there’s a new one to take its place: the Wharf mine.  This thing is HUGE and is currently adjacent to the Terry Peak region.  There’s a little platform that visitors can go stand on to watch the operations, and my sister and I did take that opportunity.  It’s rather depressing, though.  There you have this open gaping pit that is a flurry of activity — then your eyes stray beyond the open pit to the miles of beautiful pines.  You can’t help thinking of what the same view used to look like without this eyesore of a mine.    Yes, I understand that the Wharf mine is providing millions of dollars in development funds to Lead and neighboring towns.  However, there’s no one who can argue with the fact that the thing is just plain ugly.

Despite having to view the mining operations, the hills have always been and will always be one of my favorite places on this earth.   Most people remember or know the Hills as the place where Mount Rushmore is.  I am here to say that seeing Mt. Rushmore is important and interesting, but after seeing it one or two times, the magic of the place is gone.  (Trust me … I’ve seen Mt. Rushmore about a dozen times.)  If you’ve never been to the hills before, go see Mt. Rushmore (and maybe the Crazy Horse memorial as well), spend some hours in Deadwood, and then spend the rest of your time soaking up the awesome scenery.   The hills are good for the soul; I truly believe that.

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Here I am, emerging from the coma …

School ended nearly a month ago and I am finally getting around to some of the things I’d been putting off, like cleaning my house.  Or breathing.  Showering, too.  Ha ha!  Just kidding.  Well, not about the house.  It’s like an episode of Hoarders some days.

Now that June is nearly over, I have to start turning my brain back on, and that’s always kind of a letdown.  I always reserve June as my “stop thinking and just relax” month.  Trust me — it’s needed after the end of the school year, which is always brutal.  I know teachers sound like whiners when we say this, but until you’ve been there and done that, then you have no idea.

The first vacation I took this year was to Nebraska.  If you’ve read this blog before, then you’re probably thinking that you remember reading something about a Nebraska vacation before.  If that’s the case, then you’d be right.  I did take a Nebraska vacation last year with my honey.  This year we decided to do it again just to make sure we covered the entire state.

Last year we traveled extensively along Highways 20 and 30, marveling at the intensely heavy train traffic, and also venturing off the main roads to explore some rural roads that seemed to stretch into infinity.  Here’s one of my pics from last year:

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While some people’s idea of vacations might be lounging on a Florida beach or living the night life in Vegas, my vacations tend to head the opposite direction.  I like take a break from crowds of people.  I like seeing rural life.  I love driving through small towns and taking pictures of the old signage that they still have.  My honey is the same way, so we enjoy the simple things like driving through Nebraska.

This year we took a different path, driving 1800 miles in all.  I used a program called Trip Tracker to chart our journey.  The program drops pins every so many miles and you can put specific tags on the map as well.  It’s hard to read the specific towns we went through unless the map is zoomed in, but this gives you a general idea:

Day one:  Sioux Falls to Valentine, Nebraska.

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Day two:  Valentine to Scottsbluff.  As you can see, we did not take the direct route.  Lots of stops and driving through small towns along the way ….

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Day 3:  Scottsbluff to Chadron

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Day 4:  Chadron to Grand Island

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Day 5:  Grand Island to Fremont, home of the Uncle Sam’s antique store that I absolutely LOVE.  Lots of great ’50s antiques and cracked ice tables and chairs!

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The next day we drove from Fremont back to South Dakota.

I picked up these great trays from Uncle Sam’s this year:

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I wrote about this store last year after driving through Fremont.  If you are a fan of the 50s and all things retro (especially retro tables and chairs), then make sure you visit this store!  The basement is full of retro goodies:

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There’s a little something for everyone, I do believe.

Anyway … the trip to Nebraska was so much fun and so relaxing.  I loved seeing the beautiful Nebraska countryside and driving through so many remote small towns that were clinging to life after many decades of decline.  While it was sad to see, it was inspiring to see the efforts that some towns were making to keep themselves relevant.

Although many of the pictures I took this year revolved around old school buildings and the Sand Hills, I managed to shoot some other interesting sights as well:

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I absolutely love it when I can see stretches of the old highway alongside the new one.  There’s just something haunting about seeing the asphalt get overtaken with weeds and crumbling as it sits abandoned.

(I’m weird.  I know.)

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This water is called the Dismal River, but here it provides a beautiful scene as it winds itself around the valley near Thedford.

 

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I had never seen Chimney Rock before, and it was a neat experience to view this landmark that so many pioneers had viewed along the Oregon Trail.  There’s a little cemetery near the viewing spot that provides a gentle reminder that to strike out on the trail was a risk, and some didn’t make it to their destinations.

 

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I’m not sure who decided to actually pave Whitman Road, which runs north out of Whitman, but it’s an oddity in the Sand Hills of Nebraska.  This is a one-lane road that stretches on for what seems like eternity.  If you travel it, you will be rewarded with the views of desolate, sparsely populated, yet beautiful country.  The road is rough so I wouldn’t recommend taking your little Ford Focus down this road.  A vehicle with AWD or 4WD would be a good idea.

 

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This sign, found in Scottsbluff, made my day.  What a great sign!  So much color and it just conveys happiness.

 

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I originally thought this old theater was still in operation … until I realized that the “movie posters” were actually ads for the chiropractor who now operates a business there.

 

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As always, I was able to capture some great signs that are still holding onto life along the highways of America.  Long live neon and arrows!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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