Something Else I Never Knew: Prom Prep for Guys

I’m pretty familiar with the girly side of prom. Of course I have my own prom memories, although it’s an altogether different experience these days. Just a few short years ago, I was shopping for prom dresses with Hanna and doing her hair and makeup.

This year, for Laura’s junior prom, I felt fairly confident about the whole procedure. We found a beautiful gown early on, but unlike her older sister, she did not want my help getting ready. Laura got busy scouring Pinterest for hair and jewelry ideas; it looked as if my major duty would be picking up flowers.

That is, until one fateful Saturday when Laura was not available to help her boyfriend select his tux. Instead of watching her track meet, I met Kyle and his mom at a formalwear shop with the sash from Laura’s gown. Now, I was away in college before my younger brother arrived at dating age, and Joseph is just a freshman this year, so male prom prep was off my radar. Sure, I had heard about the pressure to come up with an adorable yet unique way to ask for a date, but I was blissfully ignorant about anything else.

Moms of sons, this is what you have to look forward to:

  • Black, white, charcoal, gray, navy or brown?
  • Solid or pinstripe?
  • One- or two-button jacket?
  • Notch, shawl or peak lapel?
  • Wide or narrow?
  • Plain or pleated shirt?
  • Laydown or wingtip collar?
  • Regular or French cuff?
  • Standard or bow tie?
  • Wing-tip or rounded toe shoes?
  • Pocket square or boutonniere?
  • Solid, plaid, check, stripe, polka dot, paisley or geometric pattern vest?
  • Match, coordinate or contrast with the dress?

That’s a lot of permutations, and the poor guy hadn’t even gotten to vest color yet. Vests come in every hue of the rainbow plus a few that aren’t. Purples range from lavender to lilac to plum to deep purple. This is where the dress sash came in handy: some vests were too pink, some too blue, some too bright, some too dark. Fourteen decisions and a few measurements later, Kyle was finally done. He set off to catch Laura’s relay, his mom to a baby shower, and me to check the color of a pair of purple sandals that Laura had seen (sadly, they turned out not to match). Flowers would have to wait for another day.

Here are the results of all that prep work:

Laura is resplendent in a taffeta ballgown with princess neckline, corset back and tiered pick up skirt embellished with seed beads, bugle beads and silver sequins. Her wristlet corsage features five tea roses with purple sparkles and silver ribbon.
Kyle rocks a solid black two-button notch lapel tuxedo with a plain white laydown collar shirt, deep plum striped vest and bow tie and a white rose boutonniere.



Baby Bunting Goes Ahunting?

The youth group at our church holds a rummage sale each year, an event eagerly anticipated both by bargain seekers and congregants doing their spring cleaning. Proceeds support summer work camps or the National Lutheran Youth Gathering. This summer it’s the youth gathering.

Donations to the sale include the usual array of clothing, furniture, books, household items, electronics, sporting equipment, toys and holiday decorations. Every once in a while Mags, our outstanding youth director, will ask me to research a more unusual item. One year it was a player piano spool of Old Man River. Last year, a designer purse with tags still attached. This year Mags was curious about an antique baby plate:

It’s not every day that one sees a toddler on an outing carrying a rifle and accompanied only by a dog. Lunch appears to be a baby bottle in the crook of Bunting’s left arm and a bone for Bunch, who might be happier if Bunting manages to bag a rabbit or squirrel or something.

Unfortunately, my camera’s flash washed out the design a bit. The poem reads “Baby Bunting and little dog Bunch / Go ahunting and take their lunch.” The mark on the back is “D.E. McNicol, East Liverpool, O.” The plate is heavy ironstone, with a rim so substantial it’s almost a bowl.

A search for “Baby Bunting Plate” turned up a few additional poems:

  • Baby Bunting lifts his hat / Politely to the pussy-cat.
  • Baby Bunting & Bunch while crossing a log / Are boldly stared at by an ugly green frog.
  • Baby Bunting takes his hoe / And tries to help the flowers grow.
  • Baby Bunting & Bunch, when out for a walk / Are greatly surprised to hear a bird talk.
  • Baby Bunting runs away / And joins the little pigs at play.

I found several examples of the hunting excursion plate. The borders vary; some are decorative like this one, some have the alphabet printed around the rim, say “Baby’s Plate” or are monogrammed. The little accompanying illustration also varies. This one features Baby Bunting enjoying his lunchtime bottle, another shows Bunch gnawing his bone, while yet another has a little frog, quite possibly the ugly green one encountered while crossing a log.

D.E. McNicol held a patent for Holdfast Plates, which featured a metal ring attachment to secure the plate to a feeding chair. These were very popular around the turn of the 20th century. In addition to Baby Bunting, Holdfast plate designs featured nursery rhymes (Jack and Jill, Little Bo Peep, Higgledy Piggledy My Black Hen, Hickory Dickory Dock, Tom Tom the Piper’s Son, Pussy Cat Pussy Cat Where Have You Been, Ride-a-Cock-Horse), Felix the Cat, Campbell Kids, a a boy on a rocking horse, and a little duck that’s out of luck if you eat all the luncheon. Intact Holdfast plates in mint condition are rare and quite valuable. This plate is missing the metal ring and has some crazing on the finish, wearing on the pattern and a few little nicks or chips on the bottom rim. Plates I found in similar condition to this one sell for $10-$15 plus shipping at Etsy or eBay.

I discovered this short history of the D.E. McNicol Pottery Comany (1892-1954) from History of Columbiana County, Ohio by Harold B. Barth, Historical Publishing Company, Topeka-Indianapolis 1926:

The history of this pottery began in 1862 when John S. Goodwin built the original plant, consisting of two kilns. After operating this plant for a few years he sold it to H. A. Marks, Enoch Riley, John Neville, and others, who conducted the business as A. J. Marks & Company until 1869, when it was sold to John McNicol, who organized a joint stock company of the following members: John McNicol, Patrick McNicol, William Burton, Sr., William Burton, Jr., Mitchell McClure, and Adolph Fritz. John McNicol died in 1882 and his son, Daniel E. McNicol took over his interests and later on from year to year he bought all the other interests from members of McNicol Burton & Company. In 1892 he organized the D. E. McNicol Pottery Company which was incorporated. At this time W. L. Smith became interested and took an active part in the business until 1908 when his interest was purchased by Daniel E. McNicol. Since that time The D. E. McNicol Pottery plants have been operated by D. E. McNicol and his four sons: John A., Hugh L., Daniel E., Jr., and Cornelius C. McNicol.

I am seriously considering a pilgrimage to East Liverpool, O. Not only would I have the opportunity to visit the Museum of Ceramics and learn more about the dozens of porcelain, china, crockery and pottery kilns that earned the city the moniker “Pottery Capital of the World,” I would stay at the Sturgis House. This bed & breakfast was formerly the Sturgis Funeral Home, where the body of bank robber Pretty Boy Floyd was taken to be embalmed after he was killed in a 1934 FBI shootout. I could enjoy my breakfast in the very dining room where Floyd’s body was displayed to a parade of curious onlookers, followed by a visit the laundry room, which houses embalming equipment as well as Pretty Boy’s death mask hanging over the dryer.

For those interested, the rummage sale will take place this coming Thursday and Friday from 7:30 – 5:30 and Saturday from 7:30 to noon in the Faith Lutheran Church gymnasium (2027 Industrial Drive, Jefferson City, MO). Who knows what other items of interest will turn up?

5 Things I Never Knew Until Last Week

If, as the saying goes, a person learns something new every day, then this post should rightfully be titled “7 Things I Never Knew Until Last Week.” Perhaps I did learn seven, but only five come to mind and it seems a good enough number, easy to multiply as well as Hanna’s favorite numeral. When she was a little girl, Hanna used to sneak an extra item into the grocery cart if I were buying four. Come to think of it, she still does.

In no particular order, the top 5 things I never knew until last week:

1. April 10 is National Siblings Day

According to Wikipedia, 2013 marks the 14th celebration of National Siblings Day. That means the first one took place back in 2000, although I do not remember hearing about it until the explosion of Facebook posts and Twitter tweets last week. Claudia Evart wishes to honor her late brother and sister by achieving federal recognition of the day, like Mothers and Fathers Days.

Happy Belated National Siblings Day to Mark, Susie and John. Love you guys!
A belated Happy National Siblings Day to Mark, Susie and John. Love you guys!

2. The Louisville basketball team is a hotbed of Christianity

Last Monday night I was multitasking as I awaited tip-off of the NCAA championship game. I don’t remember whether I was checking my e-mail or finishing up a Scrabble game as a prerecorded introduction of the Louisville starting five played. I vaguely heard athletes announce that they played for their family or for grandma or school spirit or whatnot, when Peyton Siva’s statement made me sit up and take notice: “I play for my Lord.”

Wow. I wasn’t quite sure if I had heard correctly, but later in the game as he prepared for a free throw attempt, one of the announcers remarked that Siva wears jersey number 3 to honor the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Double Wow. And after the game, when asked about his role in the Louisville basketball program, Siva responded,”First off, I got to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for blessing us for this opportunity. I thank God, and without my teammates, without my parents, my girlfriend over there, my sisters, my brothers, none of this would be possible. I’m just thankful to God.” Triple WOW.

Siva is not alone in his faith. Final four MVP Luke Hancock prayed with Kevin Ware as his teammate lay in shock with a compound fracture earlier in the tournament. Ware himself, when asked about the secret of Louisville’s success, answered “We are brothers, and brothers glorify the Word.”

How refreshing: role models who have their priorities straight.

3. A fender dent can be repaired with a hair dryer and compressed air

It warmed up enough early last week to address some hit-and-run parking lot paint scuffs left on both front fenders of my Subaru. I read online that WD-40 would clean them. While I had no luck with WD-40, I learned that rubbing alcohol applied with sufficient elbow grease will do the trick. I’m not certain if one of the scuffs was more recent than the other, or if the offending vehicles had different types of paint, or if one side was hit a little harder, but the driver side was a lot easier to clean than the passenger side.

I favor the theory that the passenger side was hit with more force, because there is also a dent on that side. It’s very slight and only noticeable when the light hits it a certain way, but it bugs me to know that it is there. I heard about DIY dent repair using a plunger and ran a YouTube search. Turns out there are all kinds of options involving not only plungers but magnets, popcorn and specialty suction gadgets. I think the most intriguing approach utilizes a hair dryer and compressed air.

I haven’t tried this yet, but I am going to when it warms up again. I hope to enjoy a result like this:

4. Hell is in the Inbox

In the roughly seven and a half months that I have been posting to this weblog, I have received more than a thousand comments. I approve only the pertinent ones, of which there have been a whopping 17.

The rest have been either spam or seem to address some other unrelated weblog. There was a series thanking me for beautiful wedding photography, another bunch wishing Tim and me every happiness in our marriage. My favorite accused me of thinking I could just post a random picture with a line of text and pass it off as a weblog (this was on a post with no pictures). I got that one twice.

Non-pertinent comments seem to come in waves and without rhyme or reason. Sometimes there are even comments to individual photos rather than posts. I usually let them build up a while and then do a bulk spam report. There was a bit of a lull earlier this month, but last week comments skyrocketed. I received nearly 200, most of them linked to my book review of David Shannon’s Hell in the Head.

When I told Dave about the onslaught, he theorized that it was due to the title of his book, and pointed out that there was a heavy metal song with a similar title (perhaps I Am Hell by the Machine Heads?). Since my post on Day of the Dead was currently running a distant second, I think he may be onto something. I disabled comments for those two posts and the comments slowed to their usual pace.

5. There exists a kitchen gadget specifically for slicing bananas

For a reason known only to its marketing programmers, decided that I might be interested in this item. Interested is an understatement; the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer is nothing short of fascinating. To think that for years I have settled for using a knife to slice bananas! If you do not find this gadget funny in itself, be sure to look through the gallery of customer images and read the customer reviews.


Now that I have looked at the banana slicer, Amazon thinks I might also be interested in a strawberry core remover, stainless pineapple slicer with wedger, one-step corn kerneler (I already have the corn-on-the-cob butter holder) or perhaps even a $300 onion slicer.

I think I’ll just stick with a knife. Good thing Laura got me a hot pink leopard print one for my last birthday.


Grandpa Hilgert Salve

Last week, my husband’s Aunt Carol invited my mother-in-law to a little family get-together to help identify some family photos found in an old trunk. Their late husbands were brothers, and Carol had invited two remaining Hartman brothers and a sister as well.

One of my many roles is Ethel’s chauffeur. She doesn’t get out a lot any more; most of our trips involve a doctor’s office or Wal-Mart. Friday also happened to be her birthday, so I was game to drive her to a social gathering for a change of pace. After lunch and birthday cake, the five of them settled down to business, sorting through stacks of family snapshots and identifying as many subjects as they could.

Most of the pictures had been taken before I was born, much less married into the family, so I was of little help. Carol had also found a piece of paper tucked into her family Bible, with no idea of when or how it got there. She was trying to figure out exactly what it said.


Those of you who have been with me since my weblog began may remember that I like to research. Here was something I could do!

This is what it looks like:

Grandpa Hilgert SalVe

1 pound Clean Lard
1/2 pound Bees Wax
1/2 pound Campler
2 heping table spoon Borom

G. H.

I’m confident that Campler is actually Camphor, and heping is heaping. I suspect Borom is either Boron or Borax.

Off to Google! Boron is chemical element number 5 with the symbol B. According to MedLine Plus: “Boron is a mineral that is found in food and the environment. People take boron supplements as medicine. Boron is used for building strong bones, treating osteoarthritis, as an aid for building muscles and increasing testosterone levels, and for improving thinking skills and muscle coordination. Women sometimes use capsules containing boric acid, the most common form of boron, inside the vagina to treat yeast infections. People also apply boric acid to the skin as an astringent or to prevent infection; or use it as an eye wash. Boron was used as a food preservative between 1870 and 1920, and during World Wars I and II.”

Note that Grandpa Hilgert did not write out boric acid, which would have been the form used in a topical salve, so it’s on to look up Borax. For all the chemistry whizzes out there, Borax is generally described as Na2B4O7·10H2O and is easily converted to none other than boric acid. Borax is sounding more likely at this point.

Next, I googled both “boron salve” and “borax salve.” While “boron salve” had just one recipe hit (with a question as to whether it might instead be Borax), “borax salve” yielded multiple hits, including many recipes and the tidbit that Borax is often used in do-it-yourself skin care creams to help bind the oils, fats, and liquids with a creamy consistency and to balance pH. I think we have a winner.

As a final check, I looked back at Grandpa’s recipe. The “n” at the end of spoon is nothing like the letter at the end of Boro?. But looking back at the “x” from Bees Wax, instead of being formed by a simple cross, it looks like a loop down and to the left, then up and to the right. (This is easier to see on the original than in the photo.) The squiggle at the end of the word in question has strokes in the same directions, although they don’t meet in a formed “x.” Since there are other words misspelled in the recipe, it really doesn’t bother me that it is Borox rather than Borax.

So the recipe should actually read:

Grandpa Hilgert Salve

1 pound Clean Lard
1/2 pound Beeswax
1/2 pound Camphor
2 heaping tablespoons Borax

G. H.

According to other salve recipes I found (such as these at Google Books), the ingredients would be simmered together in a double boiler, then cooled and stored in a jar. Gramps must have assumed this was common knowledge. (If anyone is actually interested in replicating Grandpa Hilgert Salve, here are instructions for cleaning lard.)

I would still like to find out whether the initials G. H. stand for Grandpa Hilgert or for his given name and the approximate date of the recipe. For now, I am happy to have solved the ingredients part of the mystery.

NOTE: I’m sorry the picture isn’t clearer. I took it with my cell phone, then enhanced it with the free – and incredibly useful – online Photoshop Express Editor.

Top 5 Reasons My Weblog is Late!

When I attended the Glorieta Christian Writer’s Conference, one of the seminars I attended focused on magazine writing. One of the tips: include two sidebars, one of which is a list (or checklist) related to the main article. For instance, an article on travel might include a checklist titled “5 Must Haves in Your Carry-on!” Using a number is highly recommended. An exclamation point is optional.

People love lists, hence the popularity of David Letterman’s Top 10 feature. Checklists are especially appealing. Checking items off a list, even relating to items on a list, releases endorphins, and some days every little bit of feel-good therapy helps.

Longer lists can serve as a stand-alone article. These proliferate on the internet, which allows for much longer lists than print:

  • Lindsay Lohan Mugshots: The Complete Set
  • The 30 Hottest Athlete WAGS Who’ve Posed for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue
  • Top 10 Everything of 2012
  • 100 Greatest American Movies of All Times
  • Procrastinating Tips: 9 Reasons to Slack Off

But I digress. Without further procrastination, here are the top 5 reasons that today’s weblog is late:

1. I could not come up with a clever April Fool’s Day hoax. I’m sure I will come up with a splendid idea tomorrow or perhaps Wednesday, then forget it by next April 1st, which won’t occur on Monday anyway.

2. I did not want to post about basketball three weeks in a row. (Although I would like to point out that three out of four winners last weekend were the lower ranked team!)

3. It is spring break and I have enjoyed spending time with my kids. Even helping Laura prep for the ACT was fun. I also had a lovely Easter – my favorite holiday of the year.

4. It is more fun to surf the internet for interesting lists than to write my own. Unfortunately, surfing invariably takes more time than I think it will.

And 5. I decided I would rather post late than not post at all. I’m afraid of losing the momentum I’ve maintained since last September.

If I hit the publish button now, I will have three hours and seventeen minutes to spare. Til next time – Is it Monday Already?