The Daily Grind

Yep, I’m aware that I haven’t written for two months.  That little nagging voice in the back of my head wouldn’t let me forget it.  As much as I would love to be disciplined enough to be a daily (or at least multi-week) blogger, I had to accept long ago that it just wasn’t going to happen.  Something had to give, y’know?  And the truth is, I’m not that interesting.  I run out of things to talk about.  I don’t have time to scour the internet for interesting things, even the things I love to talk about.  During the school year, the majority of my time is spent on school and kids and all the chaos that goes along with school and kids.  When I’m not dealing with the chaos of school and kids, I’m enjoying a leisurely bath. Like I said, something had to give, and I wasn’t going to give up my baths.  After all … blogging while in the bath might prove to be a bit, ah, dangerous.

My part of Iowa is currently under a Winter Storm Warning.  The Weather Channel has named this one Saturn.  Their storm-naming trend has me chuckling in a way; having lived in the Midwest all my life, I know that winter storms are anything but an oddity in these parts.  They happen pretty regularly, whether it involves snow, ice, or a mixture.  The Weather Channel has already come up with some awesome names this year — Thor, Gandolph, etc. — but I know that eventually they’re going to run out of cool names and they’ll be relegated to normal names like Bob and Frank and Sharon.  In fact, giving winter storms these comic book-like names suggests that their appearance is an oddity; a supernatural event that deserves a grand name.  In reality, it’s snow.  We get it all the time here in the Midwest.  The last three Christmases have involved blizzards.  Snow is about as odd as seeing a cornfield as I drive down the highway.

But hey — Winter Storm Saturn is here and I’m sure it will run circles around the other storms (punny, I know).   Having just enjoyed a snow day last week, I think I’ll take another.  Keep ’em coming until spring break, and then I’ll burst into tears because I realize that we’ll be going to school until July.

Not much happening in the Retro Find department, I hate to say.  My youngest son and I stopped by the local antique store a couple weeks ago.  I brought him in there last year but got the feeling that he was not very impressed.  This year, I tried again, and I think I’ve made a little convert out of my 8-year old.  He eagerly went into the store with me and started puttering around, picking up this and that and asking me questions about the items he found.  I quickly discovered the value of having a short 8-year old in the store with me; whatever I could not see of the stacks of stuff piled under the tables, my son was sure to see something cool.  He found three little framed pictures with frames made in Italy; the pictures are nondescript but the frames were charming.  He found two matching ones and then pulled out another one with a different frame pattern, but the three went together so well that we bought them all.  He found a hotel bell that he begged me to have, and wanting to encourage his treasure hunt, I obliged, knowing that I would be sentencing myself to weeks and months of hearing DING! repeated constantly.  However, I drew the line at the “dogs playing poker” tapestry.  He thought it was cool, and I …. did not.  I did find a neat little wall-hanging lamp that has a total Art Deco metal edging on it.  I bought it thinking that I could hang it over my bed as a reading lamp — forgetting, of course, that my bed has a WINDOW above it.  So the lamp got stashed on a shelf until I can find a suitable place for it.

Needless to say, I think I’ve converted my youngest son into an antique hunter.  My oldest son, however, still rolls his eyes and says, “Mom, why do you have to fill our house with 50’s stuff?  Why can’t we have NICE stuff?”

Someday, I hope he realizes that those things mean the same thing.  🙂


Hello, 2013

Despite all the hype that we’ve had to listen to for the past two years (at least), there was no apocalypse; no massive power outages; no need to buy wind-up radios and generators.  Don’t get me wrong — I didn’t do any of those last things.  I tended to believe that if people were able to exist before electricity, then we’d figure it out now too.  I’m also not a “prepper,” as if there were a major catastrophe on earth and life was absolutely miserable, why in the world would I want to stick around?  But hey … we’re all still here and now the History Channel will have to dig up some more experts who will be freely sharing their other theories about how the world will end.  Personally, I think there’s a lot of danger in media hyping end-of-the-world scenarios to a young generation of kids who already don’t really believe that they have a lot to live for.  But that’s just me.

It’s been a great Christmas break and I am trying hard to ignore the fact that school has started back up.  Back to the grind.  Back to the chaos.  Good-bye, leisurely mornings drinking coffee and puttering around.  Goodbye to making lunches for the kids and taking the dog for long walks.  Goodbye, sanity.

Ok, so perhaps I’ll hold onto my sanity for a little bit longer.  Time will tell.

This Christmas was a good one.  Despite being a drought, we received a 6″ snowfall just before break commenced.  I packed up the kids, the dog, and all the presents and headed to South Dakota for a week-long stay.  I was able to spend quality time with my family, along with time with my boyfriend and a great friend from my high school days.  The recent snowstorm made for some pretty walks with the dogs in the morning, and a layer of frost over the landscape on the 29th helped me capture some nice shots.

I did get some great retro treasures for Christmas.  The man in my life found the perfect things for my house; it’s evident how well he knows me.  The evidence:


A star-adorned magazine rack that looks right at home in my 1953 house …..


… a pink and gray Zenith radio that is so many kinds of awesome that I just love to look at it.  Oh, and it works! ….



A Seth Thomas clock!  Oh, how beautiful it is ….

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s.





Christmas cards for the retro soul

Earlier this fall I had gone to Lincoln, Nebraska, with my love.  (Seriously — saying “boyfriend” makes me sound like I’m 12.) We were at his sister’s house and she took us out to the garage where she had boxes and boxes of “stuff” from her dad’s estate.  We opened up the boxes and started sifting through it all, and I was having a great time looking at some of the old cards, pictures, relics, awards, stationery, etc.  Most people digging through the stuff would pull out something and go, “Meh,” and toss it aside, and I’d snatch it up and marvel at it.  Yeah … I’m weird like that.  I kept saying over and over, “We need to scan this stuff in!”  It kills me to throw away pictures, no matter how obscure they are.

I found a stack of pictures stuffed in an old sock box.  There’s something you don’t see anymore — sock boxes from a department store.  Anyway, I started leafing through the pictures and I came across an old photo Christmas card.  The styling of it was so incredibly retro and unique that I made sure it went into the “scan” pile that my love and I were taking back home with us.  I knew just what I would do with it, too.  It was going to be scanned in and edited to become this year’s Christmas card.

So I took it home, scanned it in, cut out the original photo on it, and replaced it with a pic I took of my kids earlier this fall.  I couldn’t find a photo printer who would allow me to just print the photo card without having an additional design on it (OK, I did see that Apple would allow me to do it, but each card would be 99 cents!).  I ended up just printing them as a regular 4×6 picture.  I’ll write on the backs for personalization and will stick them in a regular envelope for sending out.  I think it all turned out pretty neat, and I can be sure that my cards will not look like anyone else’s cards this year.  That’s just the way I like it.

Here’s a copy of the “doctored” photo card — included here for your own use, if you’d like to use it for your own cards.  I’ve uploaded the full size here for download.



Grab a piece of WNAX history!

If you’ve read a few posts of this blog, you know that I’m a big fan of the WNAX Neighbor Lady cookbooks.  This past spring I was ecstatic when I found the very first cookbook of the series from 1941-1942.  I am usually not an aggressive bidder on eBay, but I set my max bid to what I felt it was worth, and I ended up winning the bid.

Trust me — these books are NOT easy to find.  I started my collection over fifteen years ago and that’s how long it took me to get my hands on the original.  Today on eBay I noticed another one up for grabs with five days to go in the bidding.  It might get up there, but it might not.  I wanted to put this on the blog ASAP so that fellow WNAX fans can watch this one and possibly win it for themselves.

Here’s the link! Happy bidding!


All my good intentions …

I was doing such a good job updating my blog … until, like, two months ago.  Then I had two grueling grading periods that left me with little energy for anything else.  It’s going to be a tough year due to two new classes that are being planned week by week.  One has a textbook, the other doesn’t.  That means that I am continually reaching into my bag o’ tricks to write units, worksheets, tests, and whatever else.  It seems like every time I turn around, I have another pile of papers to grade and another week of class to plan.  Insanity.  Truly.

But now it’s the week before Thanksgiving, which gives me permission to start putting up my beloved Christmas decorations.  I live for this season.  Now that I have been collecting some retro decorations, it makes me happy to see them displayed around my house. A couple weeks ago, my boyfriend surprised me with an early Christmas present: a light-up Santa from 1956.  It’s been outfitted with a new cord and is in great condition.  I wasted no time in plugging it in and just enjoying the warmth it added to the room.  As soon as I put up my white Christmas tree (I’m one of those weirdos who puts up more than one tree), I set the retro Santa beside it.  Needless to say, he looks like he’s at home.


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!



Twenty years

This coming weekend is my 20th class reunion.  At the moment I am torn whether I am going to make an appearance because my boys have football games that weekend as well, and the reunion and the games are not even in the same state.  Attending for at least one event can be done, but it would make the weekend rather chaotic; this is why I’m on the fence.

I was lucky enough to have a smallish class to graduate in with 56 kids.  Most of us got along on a consistent basis and we appreciated each other uniqueness.  No, that’s not to say that every day was sweetness and light, for we had our moments of high school bickering and immaturity, but doesn’t every class?  Overall, I have good memories of my school and my class.  And yes, I realize that not everyone has the same experience.

Milestones such as reunions tend to give us pause as we reflect back on the past several years.  I try to reclaim my 18-year old train of thought and wonder if I had any idea that I’d end up where I am today.  The answer is an emphatic NO.  It’s not a bad “no” — just an emphatic one.

When I graduated from high school in 1992, I had planned on attending college for journalism.  I really wanted to be a photojournalist, but could not get any guidance as to how to make that happen.  No one seemed to know how one became a photojournalist, so I figured that plain ol’ journalism was the place to start.  By the end of my first semester, I had changed my major to education, so there went that goal.

I knew that i wanted to be married and have kids.  Now, twenty years later and licking the wounds from my divorce, I knew that this was not part of what I had envisioned.

However, I have always been a firm believer in the idea that things happen for a reason.  We are the product of our choices and our circumstances.  Could I have made different choices?  Yes.  Would I be just as happy?  Well, how will I ever know?  At some point we have to make peace with the decisions we have made and keep our eye on the ultimate goal for our life.

There’s a comfort in being able to gather with people who have known you since you were a poofy-haired, acne-ridden teenager.  I know that if I go to my reunion, my thoughts about the past will not be unique ones.  Life has been a bumpy road for many others as well.

Twenty years can do a lot to shape a person, and I can only hope that the “me” that exists today is a better one than I had envisioned in 1992.  I may not have traveled the paths that I imagined I would, and I may not have the “story” I thought I’d be telling by now, but I have two wonderful children and a host of memories and experiences that have made me the person I am today.

I think my 18-year old mind would approve.







The view from the sidelines

Now that my boys are old enough to start enjoying sports, I have “won” the privilege of driving to towns an hour or so away to watch the boys play football for a league team.  Yesterday was their first game, and I had a great time watching them play rather clumsy football and enjoy the experience of playing on a real football field for the first time.

I’ve read stories about helicopter parents who just refuse to let Johnny make any mistakes out on the football field, but it was rather shocking and saddening to see it in person, and I know the examples I saw were mild ones.

Third and fourth graders played the first game, and there was one dad who decided that the refs were just WAY out of line, so he yelled his opinion out to them.  Luckily one of the coaches politely reminded him that parents were not allowed to harass the refs, but I was still amazed that this parent took this game SO SERIOUSLY. These are 3rd and 4th grades, for pete’s sake!  Adults are supposed to be the role models, not the ones doing embarrassing behavior.

Later on a mom did the ultimate helicopter thing when she went over the fence, across the track, and pulled her kid aside to COACH HIM in the middle of the game.  When the real coach saw this kid not with the others and not paying attention to the game, he told him to get back over there, but the mom actually followed him, continuing to bend down, point at the field, and give her pointers as the kid walked back to the sidelines.  Seriously, people?  Perhaps next year you’d like to devote your nights and Saturdays to coaching little kids’ football.  Until then, let the real coaches do their job.

Although I’m glad that parents are not allowed to voice their opinions to the referees, I heard a lot of the chatter while I was standing along the fence with the other parents.  So many times I wanted to remind them that this was supposed to be a friendly game of football for kids who are enjoying the game.  There will be mistakes.  In fact, there SHOULD be mistakes.  How else will they learn?

As a teacher, I watch these games and hope that the parents show as much enthusiasm about their kid’s academic progress as they do about their football skills.

Wishful thinking, I’m sure.



The end of the tent

Fall is my favorite season, for various reasons.  There’s the excitement and bustle of returning to school, the beginning of football season, the changing of the leaves, and the return of milder weather.  (After a scorching summer like the one we’ve had here in Iowa, I am ready for mild temperatures!)  Normally I’d say that I’m excited to pick apples in my parents’ apple orchard in South Dakota, but I’m pretty sure the drought is going to guarantee zero apples for picking.  Oh well.  Maybe next year.

As I sit in front of my laptop and gaze out at the smattering of earlybird leaves that are beginning to fall (again, thank a lot, drought!), I notice a small Coleman tent sitting unobtrusively under a huge maple tree.

The tent.

Its color is faded on that one side facing the sun, and that’s because that tent has been there since June. I put it up as a favor to my two boys, ages 10 and 8. They have always enjoyed “camping” in the backyard every now and then and they’d always beg me to put it up.

This year, however, I thought it would be neat if we left the tent up all summer.

Why not?  It’s not a brand new tent, nor was it a very expensive one.  It has a rainfly to protect it, it’s a snap to set up, and I am not so attached to the grass in my yard that I’m going to cry if I have a little square patch of grass that dies.  That’s the nice thing about grass — it can regrow.

I remember the thrill of having a tent to crawl into — my own personal space where I could hide out from the world and pretend that I was on my own in the middle of the woods.  My house is not the palatial palace that I’d like it to be; therefore, I wanted a place for my boys to be able to call their own.

They wasted no time in making their own, either.  I slapped an eggcrate mattress down so they didn’t have to lie on the hard ground, and they chose the blankets and pillows that they’d keep out there.  Oodles of books, toys, booklights, and DVDs followed, and I gave them free use of a portable DVD player that was just sitting in my closet, collecting dust.  It was a modernized version of “roughing it,” of course, but my boys were more excited about having their own space.  They spent the first two weeks in there nearly every night aside from the nights that they stayed at their dad’s house.  Bedtime became something to look forward to, for a change.  They’d go into the tent about 8:30 and spend a couple hours reading books, giggling, playing with flashlights, or watching DVDs.  They’d usually konk out about 10:30, and I wouldn’t hassle them to get to bed, because it was summer and I knew they’d tire eventually.

When the sun hit the tent in the morning, they’d straggle in, a little groggy from lack of sleep but excited to do it all over again that night.  When friends came over, they’d show of their “house,” reminding kids to make sure their feet were clean before entering the tent, since they would be walking on their beds.  They took responsibility for the contents of the tent and cared about keeping it nice.  Perhaps in a way it made them understand why sometimes Mom gets so persnickety about the way her house looks.

Soon the earlybird falling leaves will become a steady rain as the maple tree sheds its summer coat, and the tent will have to be cleaned out, cleaned up, and put away until next summer.

And in June, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be getting out that tent and putting it back up for yet another summer of memories.  In twenty years, I hope my sons remember these summers, and I hope the memories make them smile.


Atomic flatware: some mysteries solved

A few weeks ago I wrote a post regarding some starburst flatware that I had picked up in various stores and my quest to identify the wide variety of patterns I encountered.  Read the original post here.  As I described in that post, what I thought would be an easy task turned into a frustrating series of dead-ends as I tried to match up the plethora of patterns to definite names.

Then I received a most helpful email on Etsy from a fellow Etsyer named Wardrobecat.  She took the time to correct my futile attempt to identify the pieces and provided oodles of great information.  Here is her email here:


I just ran across your website that had a post dated 7-18-12 talking about your recent purchase of many different styles of flatware similar to Mar-crest “Citation”. 

I happen to own a full service for 24 of this pattern, as well as having many new-in-box samples of it. Yes, I realize that I have gone a bit overboard in buying this stuff, but I just love it. I use one set of 12 for everyday use and keep another set of 12 in storage for when I have guests. Many of my pieces are nearly mint. Many I have found in thrift stores for 10-29 cents a piece, and others I must admit that I have paid a lot on E-Bay and Craig’s List.

So anyway, the true Marcrest Citation piece in your photo is the one on the far left. It should be marked “stainless steel USA” near the base of the blade. It will not show the word Mar-crest. Every other type of utensil made in this pattern will have the words “Mar-crest stainless steel USA”, but for some reason the knife does not have the word Mar-crest.

This pattern was made in the following pieces: dinner knife, dinner fork, dessert spoon, teaspoon, salad fork, round bowl soup spoon, iced drink spoon, grapefruit spoon, serving spoon, cold meat fork, butter knife, sugar spoon, seafood fork, cocktail sauce spoon and pie server. 

The knife that you thought was the real one, second from the right in your photo, I am fairly sure is a pattern called “Starette”, made by the National Stainless Company in Japan, which is often marked as “NSCo”. If it has the word Japan, it definitely is not Marcrest (Marcrest will always show “USA”).

I hope this helps you weed out the many variations of similar styles made by different companies. Good luck finding pieces to add to your collection!

and a later email …..

Here is some more info, just to add to the multitude of starburst designs!

The Mar-Crest pattern that you like is called “Citation Futuristic”. There are two additional patterns made by Mar-Crest that are called simply “Citation”. All three feature different starburst designs. The Futuristic pattern has three stars on a wavy handle; Citation variation 1 (often called MCF-1 by online consumers) has five large stars on a tapered handle with a rounded tip; Citation variation 2 (often called MCF-2) has three small stars and four swirling lines on a relatively straight handle that has a slightly square/round tip. I have included a photo showing all three together. 

Sorry it is not a better photo, I tried several times and kept getting glare spots. This is my original photo taken on 8-26-12, and you may use it if you wish.


Needless to say, I am eternally grateful to Wardrobecat for the helpful information!  I look forward to adding more pieces to my collection and seeing which one is truly my favorite, as it seems to vary each time I set a table with them.