“There is nothing like a good old recipe. If it has lasted, then it is good.” Yotam Ottolenghi, Israeli chef

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Photo: Collin Yung

I collect vintage metal recipe boxes. I have eighteen in my collection. Some were purchased from ebay.com, but most were found here and there while scouting antique shops and junk stores. Most of the boxes in my collection are empty, but three contain recipes inside. Those with the recipes are ephemeral time capsules that echo with the writings of one woman’s time spent in her kitchen.

The one above was found at a little place called Shop Girl in Jefferson City, Missouri over lunch hour one day when I was visiting the city for an education conference. On my first sweep through the store, I completely missed it. As I was leaving, the shop owners asked me what I was looking for and then directed me to a display where this one was tucked. It’s perfect. Retro graphics and typography, made in USA, hinges on the lid, a few rough and rusty spots from frequent use, and… drumroll, please… recipes inside! Many of the recipes are even handwritten and all are very fragile.

There are recipes for peanut butter cookies, molasses snaps, angel cookies, prune cookies, toffee nut bars, pecan bars, chess bars, mincemeat cookies, peanut brittle, brownie drops, pecan strips. Clearly, this baker had a sweet tooth. Or perhaps this box held only her cookie recipes.

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Many of the recipes are clips from newspapers and magazines, but a good number are handwritten in cursive on note paper. A recipe for pecan sticks is written on a sheet from a notepad printed for the “New N&W Railroad… First Rate for Fast Freight.” A recipe for pecan bars appears on a sheet for “Union Pacific Railroad, The Automated Railway that Serves all the West.” One recipe is on the back of a daily expense report for “country salesmen” for Iten Biscuit Company and its Snow White Bakeries.

It’s nice to have something specific to search for when I venture into a nostalgia shop. It’s even nicer when I spot a vintage metal recipe box to bring home.

 

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Thanks, Kohl’s, for selling this shirt.

It’s nice to see clothing like this instead of that snarky shirt I wrote about recently.

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Now that’s more like it… a shirt about kindness.

 

In August, Kohl’s mailed a back-to-school catalog with a shirt on the cover displaying the words, “Shhhh! Nobody Cares!” I wrote about it in “Ten Questions for Kohl’s About This Shirt.”  I believe that snarky messages like this only send negativity into the world… and can be especially hurtful in a school setting.  I’m a middle school teacher and I know several kids who don’t need to read that their lives are unimportant.

Kohl’s tweeted to me a week or two after I published that blog post. Here’s their tweet: “Thanks for this feedback, Marilyn. We’ll be sure to pass it along to our buyers here at Kohl’s for review and future considerations.”

So when I found this “Throw kindness like confetti” shirt on a pre-Halloween mailer about a week ago, I was gratified. Yes, I know this mailer wasn’t in response to my blog post. I’m sure this flyer and the merchandise within it were all “put to bed” weeks or months ago. However, it’s nice to know that Kohl’s is aware that positive messages make the world a better place.

You Gotta Pay the Cost to be the Boss: Louis Phillips, Entrepreneur

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This is a photo of Louis Phillips standing in front of his 4th St. Grocery in or near San Diego, Calif.

I say “in or near” San Diego because, while some of the photos given to me by my mother are labeled San Diego, others are labeled El Cajon or Santee, two nearby suburbs.

I’m guessing this photo was taken during the 1920s, and someday as I have more time to research I will be able to put a more accurate date on it.

For background, Louis was the grandfather of Warren and Nelson Kerns, my grandmother’s brothers who were airplane passengers killed in a barnstorming accident in 1930. I’ve written quite a bit about them starting with this post.   At the time of the accident, their mother, Caroline Phillips Kerns, was visiting her parents, Louis (the man in the photo) and Minnie Phillips.

According to my grandmother, the Phillips had ventured to California from Missouri to find construction jobs associated with a large-scale exposition. I believe these jobs were positions created to update and expand the grounds of the Panama-California Exposition of 1915 in preparation for the California Pacific International Exposition of 1935-1936.

Both San Diego expositions were held in that city’s famous Balboa Park. I remember my grandmother specifically mentioning this park when she would recall her ancestors. To this day, Balboa Park remains the nation’s largest urban cultural park, according to “San Diego’s 1935-36 Exposition: A Pictorial Essay” by David Marshall and Iris Engstrand in The Journal of San Diego History. 

As for the 4th St. Grocery, I’m not sure how or when it came about. I do know that the store looks fantastic with all the produce arranged in perfect pyramids and the tidy Swift’s Pride Soap sign. No doubt, there was a fair dose of satisfaction and fulfillment found in his storefront and his family’s activities in the Golden State.


I have several more pictures from this part of my family. As I continue to write these family history posts, I’ll include additional pictures and explain a little about them.  Click “like” if you found this post interesting. Feel free to leave a comment and follow my blog to catch future posts. Thanks for reading!

 

Popcorn with sugar was a little bit different and unexpectedly good.

I have fewer memories of my father’s parents than I do of my mother’s; however, those I do recall are vivid and important.

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In their younger years: my paternal grandparents, Granny and Grandpa Douglas, who had quite the gorgeous head of hair, didn’t he?

My father’s parents, William Homer Douglas, Sr. and Ruby Edith (Cook) Douglas, lived near Rich Hill, in southwestern Missouri. Even though we didn’t stay over at their house often, one summer weekend evening my sister and I did stay to watch the Miss America Pageant broadcast live from Atlantic City. I think this happened when Grandpa Douglas was still living, but I’m not sure. He may have already gone off to bed. He would pass away later when I was in the fourth grade.

Granny, my sister, and I watched the pageant huddled on the couch in the living room.  I remember the room being dark, except for the light from the TV glowing with the parades of young women wearing evening gowns, modest one-piece bathing suits, talent competition outfits, and then evening gowns once again for their interview questions from the Master of Ceremonies, Bert Parks.

At a commercial break, it was time for a snack. Granny poured RC Cola for my sister and me into glasses. Then she popped corn in a skillet with hot oil on the stove. After pouring the popcorn into a bowl, she showed us her trick of sprinkling it with sugar instead of the usual salt. Popcorn with sugar was a little bit different and unexpectedly good.

After the pageant concluded, it was time for bed. My sister and I decided who would get the first jump onto the featherbed in the guestroom.The first jump into the deep pile of feathers was always the best.  Once your body made contact with the white cotton bedspread, you would continue to sink slowly, compressing the feathers, submerging even deeper into the down. Eventually, Granny entered the bedroom to make sure we were making progress toward sleep.  (We weren’t.)

In the morning, our parents picked us up.  As we pulled out of the driveway into the gravel road, Granny waved at us from her porch with her standard wave: two hands in the air, fingers on both hands folding down in unison. Looking at her from the back window of our big red Bonneville, we headed back to Fort Scott, which was about thirty miles away.

Thanks for reading! Click “like” so others can more easily find this post, and don’t be shy about leaving a comment. Better yet: follow my blog to read more posts on a diverse range of topics and experiences. 

To family members: Leave me a note if you think some of the details in this post are wrong and I’ll edit, or if you have a recollection to add, do that, too!

Promposals, Gender Reveal Parties, and Other Things I Do Not Understand


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Photo: Pixabay

In which I see a connection between these things and mascara

Gender reveal parties. Promposals. Save-the-dates. Bachelorette weekends. Maybe I’m a Debbie Downer, but these are all things I just don’t see a need for. I don’t understand the need for a get-together where we pop a balloon to see whether it’s filled with pink or blue confetti. I don’t understand why a guy can’t just ask a girl to prom. And if save-the-date cards are just a “heads-up” to book flights and lodging ASAP for a wedding, then does that mean the actual invitations are for people you don’t expect to show up anyway?  And finally, who decided that bachelorette parties needed to occur three states away and therefore require asking Friday off, and maybe Thursday, too?

It seems that major life occasions of the twenty-something set are now bigger, better, and more celebrated than ever before. And I’ve noticed this trend not only in major life events, but also in (brace yourself)… mascara.

In fact, while shopping at Target recently, I realized that shopping for mascara isn’t what it used to be. For example, here’s what I used to do when I ran out: enter cosmetics department, find Maybelline Great Lash by looking for hot pink tube with green lid, get brownish black, toss into cart, roll eyes at $4.99 price for a teensy-weensy .34 ounces, and leave. Easy, right?

Here’s what I have to do now: enter cosmetics department, find Maybelline Great Lash by looking for hot pink tube with green lid, get brownish black, see royal blue color and wonder if I would like it (maybe, maybe not… not sure), wonder why I can’t find my classic spiral brush, find it mixed in on a peg containing something called a grabber brush, notice three other brush styles, read packages to figure out which one does what, give up, pick one, toss into cart, roll eyes at the price, leave, and wonder how mascara became so complicated.

Too many decisions. Too many choices. Too many everything. There are now mascara formulas and brushes designed for multiple purposes: lengthening, adding volume, separating, enhancing eye color.

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Cover Girl mascaras at Target

 

In fact, within Target’s cosmetics department, each brand’s makeup section is dominated by a yard-wide patch of real estate sporting glossy cardstock packages that sparkle with blister-packs of mascara shaped like torpedoes, cylinders, and even telescopes. Sometimes at Wal-Mart, the mascara even spins on a pedestal, and a little spotlight illuminates it when you walk by. And mascara gets this kind of attention at every retailer, whether it’s Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s, or the cosmetics big box known as Ulta.

The Maybelline selection alone is impressive. Here one will find a mind-dizzying array of mascaras with names such as The Colossal Bigshot, Lash Sensational, several sub-categories of Great Lash, Pumped Up Colossal, The Falsies Push Up Angel, The Falsies Push Up Drama, Illegal Length Fiber Extensions Mascara, Define-a-Lash Washable, Full ‘N Soft, Lash Stiletto Ultimate Length Mascara, plus a range of Volum’ Express versions: The Falsies, The Rocket Volume, The Colossal Spider Effect, The Colossal Chaotic Lash, The Mega Plush, The Falsies Big Eyes, and The Colossal Cat Eyes. I’m not kidding… they’re all there. Just look next time you shop.

Likewise, Cover Girl also boasts a fair share of mascara overload. Here one will discover Full Lash Bloom, The Clump Crusher, The Super Sizer Fibers, Lash Blast Volume, Lash Blast Fusion, Bombshell Volume, So Lashy! BlastPro, and Plumpify BlastPro.

You may be thinking that since Cover Girl and Maybelline are brands that target young women and teenage girls, the same group going gaga over promposals and gender reveals, it makes sense to cater to their “more is more” mentality. True, but I contend it’s infiltrating into other age brackets, including mine. Y’know, women who were married on a Saturday afternoon at a church (of all places!) and not at an exotic resort over a three-day weekend, hence the need for a save-the-date.

Don’t look now, but soon all women will be forced to sift through row upon row of mascara options. It’s already happening with Revlon. This brand may not sport the oomph of rockets and push-ups, but when one has had enough colossal chaos, there are still six choices. Oh, and they have five different mascara brushes, too, and they’re all trademarked.

So there you have it. Promposals. Gender reveals. Save-the-dates. Bachelorette weekends. Mascara. They’re all connected. Simplicity is out. Complexity is in.

And I get it: making memories and having fun is also in. But for a generation that incorporates  “simplify” and “live love laugh” wall art into their home decor, promposals, bachelorette weekends and their ilk seem to rub against that notion and complicate occasions already fraught with details.

Maybe I’m just getting old(er!), but if this generation really wants to simplify, it should scale things back. Wait to see if it’s a boy or girl. Ask a girl to prom between classes. Buy the basic mascara. Really keep it simple. Sound less than exciting? Well, Debbie Downer would be proud, so there’s that.


 

What do you think about promposals, gender reveal parties, etcetera? Click like and leave a comment so I’ll know whether or not I’m a Debbie Downer who just needs to chill out.  

I’m a writing teacher who writes. Click here to find my teaching blog.

Anyone Who Has Time to Clean is Not Reading Nearly Enough

Books, books, and more books that I have read

 

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Photo by Annelies Geneyn on Unsplash

 

Here’s a list of books I have read off and on over the past year or so… all of which were excellent distractions from the writing I should have been doing. I have a hard time reading and writing simultaneously. I’m either reading all the time, or writing all the time.

These books are listed in no particular order. You can see that my interests are far-reaching. I can read about a TV sitcom one week, and ISIS the next. As a result, I know a little bit about a lot of things. It’s just who I am and I’ve come to accept it.

Ten questions for Kohl’s about this shirt

Yeah, it’s just a $10 t-shirt (when you buy two of these charmers), but clothing has power.

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This is the cover of a back-to-school Kohl’s catalog I received in yesterday’s mail.

 

  1. Is this shirt supposed to be funny, Kohl’s? Because it’s really just mean. 
  2. Did you know that back-to-school should be a time of building students up, not tearing them down? “Nobody cares” has no place in an environment structured for emotional growth and learning.
  3. Do you realize the clothing you sell affects the social climate? Sure, maybe we don’t read and reflect on messages like the one on this shirt, but I think our minds do absorb its spirit.
  4. Do you know this shirt also says “You don’t matter”? It extends the “Whatever!” attitude with an added dose of disdain and egotism.  
  5. Do you know how a message like this can harm someone who’s having a bad day? I’m a middle school teacher. Messages like this are the last thing a middle schooler needs to see.
  6. Could you sell this shirt without the wording? Because it appears to have a nice fit and I like the longer length.
  7. You paid a designer to design some new back-to-school fashions, and this is what they came up with? And then you put it on the cover of your catalog?
  8. Do you know that the world doesn’t need this shirt? We’ll all get along better if we don’t cover our bodies in snarky comments.
  9. Do you realize that people actually do care about other people? In fact, I contend there is a greater capacity for compassion among humans than there is for scorn.
  10. Do you really want to associate your brand with such disrespect? I didn’t think so. You’re better than that, Kohl’s.

 

 

If this post made you think, regardless of how you feel about rude t-shirts, click the like button, leave a comment, and share on social media. Follow me to read more or check out my teaching blog, www.elabraveandtrue.com.  Thanks for reading!

Why am I learning how to erase my iPhone from NBC Nightly News?

iphone-6-1523232_1280-2According to NBC’s Rossen Reports, if someone sells their iPhone or any smartphone, for that matter, without erasing their data, the next owner (or hacker) is able to access text messages, apps, shopping activity, banking information, you name it.

Jeff Rossen, NBC investigative reporter, even found some previous owners who had sold their phones online to let them know that their information is still “out there” on their old phones. They were all surprised. Why? Because Apple doesn’t quickly/easily/freely tell you anything.

If I need to know how to fully use my iPhone, why must I instead search for the online owner’s manual, or find an online forum or go to the FAQs? Wouldn’t a nifty printed manual be easier? It would. Of course, it would.

Maybe my idea is old-fashioned (yes, it definitely is), but I would really appreciate a printed manual with my $600 iPhone. True, Apple might have to reconfigure the packaging to modify the clean, edgy minimalist look we all know and love, but Apple should do it anyway. I shouldn’t have to scour the Internet — or rely on Jeff Rossen — when I need to learn how to protect, of all things, my privacy.

Merry Christmas. 

I am a Christian.  I believe that Jesus Christ was sent to Earth to save humanity from its sinful nature. He did save us. It is finished. There is nothing you can do to earn the grace of God provided by Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection. It is freely provided to you when you repent of your sins and accept Christ. 

Yes, it sounds too good to be true. That’s why so many of us reject its simplicity. But salvation, eternal life and joy for this life on Earth can be yours.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Merry Christmas.