Declutter 2017: Proof I could have gone farther in math

My last math course was 10th-grade geometry. I did well in it. I am still angry at the high school advisor who told me I didn’t need to take any more math or science classes because I was going to be an elementary school teacher. I am still angry at myself for going along with it.

The teacher of this course was a gentle human. He was slight and sported a handlebar mustache. I think that other kids in class made fun of him but I never did. Maybe he saw that I was on his side. He also had been a student of Bill Jordan, the father of my best friend throughout middle and high school.

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Mom’s stuff: 2 recipes made with beer and jotted on an envelope

I have in front of me a business envelope on which are two recipes in my mother’s handwriting written in pencil. The date stamp on the envelope is September 14, 1995.

The first recipe has no title:

  • 1 ½ lb. beef top round
  • ¾ c. flour
  • ½ t. salt
  • ⅛ t. pepper
  • ¼ c. Coors beer
  • ¼ oil


  • 2 T flour
  • 1 c. milk
  • ½ c Coors beer


  1. Cut meat into 6 pieces.
  2. Pound steak between waxed paper til thin (1/4 inch thick).
  3. Stir together ¾ c. flour, salt, and pepper.
  4. Dip meat in flour mixture, then in beer, then in flour again
  5. Brown in hot oil in skillet, turning once (3 to 5 minutes per side)
  6. Remove meat and keep warm


  1. Blend 2 T. flour in drippings
  2. Stir in milk and beer.
  3. Cook until thickened and bubbly.
  4. Cook and stir 1 – 2 minutes, serve as gravy.

The second recipe is titled Chili Tostadas

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • 1 12 oz. can of beer
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 4 oz. can chopped chilies
  • 1 T. Chili powder
  • ½ t. sugar
  • 8 6-inch corn tortillas
  • cooking oil
  • 1 16 oz. can refried beans (warmed in a pan or in the microwave)
  • shredded lettuce
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 c shredded Monterey jack cheese (8 oz)
  • 1 avocado, seeded, peeled and sliced


  1. Brown beef and onion until meat is brown
  2. Stir in beer, tomato paste, green chilies, chili powder, sugar, and salt
  3. Heat to boiling.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 20 minutes or until desired consistency.
  5. Meanwhile, cook tortillas in hot oil for 20 to 40 seconds on each side until crisp and golden
  6. Drain on paper towel
  7. Spoon beans, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato and avocado on tortillas


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Declutter 2017: Two books

My high school may not have been the best in the state, but it was progressive when it came to classes. For instance, I took an English class called “The Literature of Love and Loneliness” in which we read a variety of books about, well love and loneliness. A couple of the books we read for class caught my mother’s eye because she was deeply into self-help books.

Why am I afraid to tell you who I am?

She bought two of the books from that class, the first is sitting next to me on my desk. It is titled why am i afraid to tell you who i am? and was written by John Powell, S. J. The purple book cover features a black and white photograph of a sad or pensive looking teenaged girl. The bright red all-lower-case title of the book wraps around the photo of the girl. I honestly do not remember reading anything from this book whose tagline/subtitle is (insights on self-awareness, personal growth, and interpersonal communication). Chapters include: Understanding the Human Condition, Growing as a Person, Interpersonal Relationships, Dealing with Our Emotions, Human Hiding Places: Methods of Ego Defense and Catalog of Games and Roles.

The other book which is not sitting next to me, it is somewhere in the boxes of stuff, is titled The Wisdom of Insecurity:  A Message for an Age of Anxiety and was written by Alan Watts. I don’t remember this book either, but I remember my mom reading it. I don’t know if it helped her or not.

I never understood the appeal of self-help books. I know they are still sold and lots of people read them. I just never really felt the need to read books about how to fix myself. What I have read always sounds so mumbo-jumbo to me. I’ve yet to find a passage in why am i afraid to tell you who i am? that actually makes sense to me.

Both of these books are going in the giveaway box. No happiness here.

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Declutter 2017: Cousin Cindy’s Hair Dryer

When I was a pre-teen my slightly older cousin, Cindy, gave me her used hair dryer. I remember using it a few times when I put my hair in curlers and then sat under the dryer waiting for my hair to dry, but mostly I remember using the nail polish dryer that was part of it. I thought that was very high-technology at the time. I found the hair dryer at Mom’s a few years ago and thought I might use it, but never did and now my hair is short and in no need of a hair dryer of any sort. This is one item that will be given away with no regrets whatsoever.

Yes, the background of some photos shows the absolute chaos that my office area has become. Very depressing…



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Collingbourne Mills, Grandpa Green, Harriet, Jean and Me

Among the items I brought back a while ago from my mother’s house is an old briefcase that was full of crochet or tatting thread and embroidery floss, a newspaper clipping about a temperance leader, a family tree and receipts for various purchases a Harriet Switzer made in the 1920s. Much of the thread and floss was in a tangle, but I managed to save a small plastic grocery bag of thread to be given away. One bunch of floss caught my eye because it was made in Elgin.

Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was made by Collingbourne Mills. I’ve written about Collingbourne Mills before, but not on this blog. One of my Grandpa Green’s first jobs, and likely the reason I am here to tell his story, was as a sales representative (read traveling salesman) for Collingbourne Mills. His sales route took him to Two Rivers, Wisconsin where he met the woman who would become my Grandmother.

The only thing I really remember my Grandpa Green saying about Collingbourne Mills was that ONT meant Our New Thread. I don’t know if that is true or not. The thread I found says A.B.C.

In 2010, at my father’s funeral, a woman approached me and told me she was the little girl who’d grown up across the street from me. We became friends on Facebook, and only then did I realize she’d married a Collingbourne. I asked if her husband was any relation to the Collingbourne Mills family and she said they were.

So here’s another connection between my pre-existence and childhood and present life with some detours in-between. I love connections.

Interesting fact: Harriet and her husband, Howard, lived just down the street from A.B. Collingbourne, the president of Collingbourne Mills. (Harriet’s address was on some of the receipts and A.B Collingbourne’s address is on the Internet.)



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Old Writing: Part 8::School

I am going to guess this was 4th grade. It was written in cursive and I think we had fruit breaks in 4th grade and another piece that looks identical is from fall of 1966. This was the year I had Mrs. Tidwell, an opera singer-shaped single mother who lamented not being an opera singer, loved Hawaii and for some reason had a huge model of the Marna City building complex in her classroom. I despised Mrs. Tidwell.


I like school because we have a fruit break every morning. I don’t like school because I don’t finish my work sometimes. I like school when we have records to play. I don’t like school when we have a short recess. I like school when it’s warm to walk to school. I don’t like school when we have hard work. I like school when we have parties. I don’t like school when we play outside when it is cold. I like school when I am not at school. I don’t  like school when I don’t bring any fruit. I like school when it’s fall and leaves change color. I don’t like school when I get hurt at school. I like school when I go outside and play. I don’t like school when we have a fire drill sometimes. I like school when we have a fire drill sometimes. I don’t like school when I don’t get a ball. I like school when I get a ball.

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Mom’s Artwork: Exhibit 3: Man With a Camera

This piece has no date, but it was Lesson 21, Assignment 2. Therefore it was completed after the lighthouse if the lessons were completed in order.

man with a camera

Man With a Camera

The artists at the Famous Artist School sent the painting back with critiques via a piece of translucent paper over the original piece and suggestions in writing and on the drawing itself:

critiques of man with a camera

Critiques of Man With a Camera

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Dad and friends at the Shangri La

Found this among the photographs/letters/recipes/magazine clippings at Mom’s house. I wish I knew where the Shangri-La Bar was located. The photo was inside a two-fold handmade card with the Shangri-La Bar drawing taped to the front. On the inside, facing the photo are the addresses of the other sailors.This is not politically correct and quite offensive, but this was probably 1949, so let’s give it a pass. Anyway, that woman was probably about to turn around and give the wolves a piece of her mind.

Three wolves dressed in navy gear at a bar

Shangri-La Bar. Front of a handmade card

I love the look on the bartender’s face. These days we’d call it photobombing.

Four sailors and a bartender

Dad (far left) and friends.

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Mom’s Artwork: Exhibit 2: Lighthouse in Several Shades of Gray

This piece was completed July 27, 1967. It was lesson 1B, Assignment 2. Opaque Plate – 4. She was 32 when she painted this. I was 10, soon to be 11. Kevin was 4.

While my mother was not completely personally unfamiliar with real lighthouses in 1967 — she probably saw the Two Rivers lighthouses many times on her trips there to visit family — I don’t think she’d seen one that looked like this, on rocky cliffs. The idea of this drawing/painting was likely taken from a magazine photo.

I like the serenity of this piece. The ocean (or lake) is completely calm. Not a ripple or wave in sight. The sky is either cloudless or completely overcast. It must be dusk or dawn since the lighthouse is lit and it seems like there is a hint of light on the horizon. It could be anytime in between, though, and the glow is a city on the other side of a large lake.

The small house’s door seems too big, compared to the size of the lighthouse, but maybe it was a short lighthouse on top of a large hill.


Lighthouse in several shades of gray

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15 Ways to a Man’s Heart

I am nearly at the bottom of the last box of memorabilia I brought from my mom’s house — at least the last box from the most recent trip. I’ve still got to sort everything and put things in their proper places, but at least I don’t have any more sealed boxes.

My favorite find yesterday was a Zip-Loc(R) bag of recipes, some clipped from magazines, some handwritten, some typed. There was even a two-page menu for a Swedish dinner party from someone’s high school home economics class (1934).

I liked this particular trifold from Betty Crocker. Especially the 5th page. And the recipe for Spaghetti Loaf with Shrimp Sauce. Yum!

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