Channeling my inner First Footman…

Hard to believe that this over one hundred year old acquisition still works and looks even better in person than it looks here.

Hard to believe that this over one hundred year old acquisition still works and looks even better in person than it looks here.

Other than the tablespoons, we now have service for fifteen for  Anna and Nick Koerner's original wedding gift to my parents.

Other than the tablespoons, we now have service for fifteen for Anna and Nick Koerner’s original wedding gift to my parents.

I have had it in my head for some time that I needed to polish the Dirilyte.

My original plan was to do that before last Thanksgiving. I am not much of a procrastinator, but apparently I decided that the polishing was really not a big priority.

Much of the Dirilyte set was purchased as an add-on to the original set that my father’s stepmom, Anna Koerner, had made sure that for his wedding gift, he and my mom would have a wonderful cutlery set. The add-ons were purchased after I had the shiny gold utensils, which were originally for dinner for eight, I believe. At some point I realized that there was a missing fork. I went online to e-bay and realized that I could easily purchase replacements at a decent price. The bad part is that many of the replacements were badly tarnished. It is a brass alloy that when shined looks almost gold. Samantha, when she comes over, is so enamored of it that she likes to use it when she eats. The funny thing is that Samantha is right; the weight of the utensils is seemingly perfect when you eat. I am a soupspoon nut, as my wife can attest, and I find that the Dirilyte soupspoons are the best shape, weight, and size, that you can find.

So on Saturday, after a run-around beginning where we had headed out to attend to errands that ended up being unneeded, we came home. I went to the gym as I am trying to get back into the five to seven days a week plan I had had before MK retired. I came home to find one of the Koerner girls at our house. I spent some time with her and then, when she went down for a nap, I hit the polish.

I will say that each time I polish it, it gets easier as the big stains are pretty much gone and I can put my energy into making the entire set look good. With the help of some extremely fine steel wool, I got the nasty spots out with the help of Boyer Brass polish, instead of using the usual professional Dirilyte polish that is still made. I had three different rags to use as I tried to remove the tarnish that turns them black. I used so much elbow grease that I tired myself out and got quite exhausted once the grandgirl had left.

Looking at a few other things that I pulled out to polish and didn’t, like my $5 gold pocket watch my Grandfather had purchased in a South Bend, Indiana bar about one hundred years ago, and the gold chain he brought with him from Hungary. I quickly realized that it was more than I could handle and saved it for another day. I also forgot some Dirilyte: the sugar tongs, two sets of salt and peppershakers, and the small candlesticks. That is for another day.

The title of this event is ‘Channeling a first footman,’ because, as I was doing this and since we have been watching Downton Abbey on Sunday nights, I wondered who on a British Estate would be responsible for the polishing. MK did the research and found that it would be the first Footman and that the silver should be ‘rubbed’ once a day and polished once a week. That is not going to happen here. Today, I am an educator, leaving my footman talents aside, and instead grading my weekly students’ work. So much for polishing…

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Posted in Cleanliness, Cuisine and Food, Family, Grandchildcare, Life in general, Television, Time pieces | Leave a comment

Below zero!

Stewart sitting outside as it is below zero.  I wonder how long he would stay there before getting actually cold.  It helps to have a fur coat like his at times like this.

Stewart sitting outside as it is below zero. I wonder how long he would stay there before getting actually cold. It helps to have a fur coat like his at times like this.

This is taken through glass, obviously, but the extreme cold is visible even with that...

This is taken through glass, obviously, but the extreme cold is visible even with that…

I awoke and quickly went to the thermostat, having noticed right away that it seemed colder than usual. It was as if the thermostat thought that we were in 1959. Apparently when Richie was over yesterday while we were at his house, he turned off the HVAC system for a moment and it was just enough to put the thermostat clock back in time. I quickly reset the clock and the heat started up; it was set in the 50s (both temperature and time). I wonder what the people down south would think of that.

Our thermostat is wonderful as it is easy to read and displays the outdoor temperature as well as the indoor temperature and the humidity level. The humidity level is what caused my issue this morning as Richie realized that our difficulties in setting the Aprilaire humidity are due to the primitive gauge that was installed with our system. I had no idea that easier to read and program gauges were even a possibility since I had no faith in the Aprilaire system anyway. We have had one for years and either we have too much humidity or too little. It has always required more attention than that with which I can provide it. I have just never been pleased. Just the other day, Richie had us purchase a new gauge and he is going to install it; it will apparently revolutionize our difficulties with winter humidity. Time will tell.

The thermostat readout told me it was below zero outside. I decided that I had to see for myself what throwing hot water up in the air would do so I boiled some water and threw it up into the air. I watched it as it turned into a steamy cloud and move off. It was worth it.

Meanwhile, seated on a chair in the living room with a Pendleton wool blanket covering me and with my book. Not a bad thing.

Posted in Appliances, Life in general, Meteorology, Thoughts and philosophy | Leave a comment

Does anything really ‘Mantel?’


I am guessing the year is 1976 or 1977 and MK and I were living in the Western Suburbs of Chicago. La Grange Park was the suburb. We were out and about and somehow ended up at an estate sale and bought the mantel clock whose key was posted on the previous blog.

I am an inveterate “time piece-aholic,” for some reason I really like things that are not bombs and/or incendiary (other than words I might use) and tick. I absolutely love to be in a room and hear the ticking of a clock. I do not even mind a chime or a cuckoo clock, having lived with one or a while. In 1971 or 1972, I was at the end of my Eurail Pass and took a quick trip to Switzerland, sleeping on the train as it went through France at night, arriving in Basel, Switzerland at 6:00 AM, in Lucerne (if my memory serves me well) by 9:00 AM, and on the train back to France by noon, after having purchased and shipped a cuckoo clock to my mother. I still have it although the Koerner family cannot stand to hear a cuckoo clock.

Our mantel clock was a house fixture until we got a grandfather clock a few years back. The clock came with a special deal from the University where Mary Kay and I met and, more importantly, we were able to buy it on time without interest. We did not have the money at the time and were quite happy to be able to have the clock this way.

So the mantel clock has been in our office for a few years now, not being used. For the longest time I would fire up its eight-day movement but then stopped for some reason. I do not know why. I have never had it serviced, but I have taken in apart, super glued the chime hammer back on, oiled it, adjusted the pendulum, and such. Its chime sounds a bit tinny because of the way that it hits the metal wire serving as the chime, but that only adds to its charm.

The Highland Park Koerners have the oldest house of the brood and a naked mantel so the clock decided to emigrate from Deerfield and be of use.

I did some quick research and have not come up with much in terms of its age. It came with an Ingraham key but I am not sure that the key has always been partnered with this clock; it may well be a replacement. The clock does not have identification and the face is strangely made of paper. I just read that numbers on the movement may indicate the age but the numbers are not on a part of the movement that is visible when the clock is put together, you would have to remove the movement to know more.

I had lost they key for a short time. The clock went to Highland Park without a key but since it was wound, it worked for a time. I ransacked the home office but came up with nothing. On Thursday, I was doing a few things to straighten up in the office and lo and behold, the key was where I thought it was supposed to be. Hmm… A mischievous ghost?

I am sitting in the Highland Park home as I write, the clock is sweetly ticking, it is as if this house were made for the clock or vice versa. Funny how things work out.

Posted in Family, Life in general, Odd occurrences, People and their characteristics, Thoughts and philosophy | Leave a comment

It’s ‘Snow Surprise!’

This key was missing, it mysteriously showed up where I was looking for it.  It powers the mantel clock that currently resides in Highland Park.

This key was missing, it mysteriously showed up where I was looking for it. It powers the mantel clock that currently resides in Highland Park.

Although it is winter and it is Chicago, I had no idea that there was going to be a sufficient amount of snow to actually shovel or to send out the plow guys to do their North Shore job.

We were out and about on Wednesday evening, at our French class with our wonderful “Oakton Trois.” They really are no longer the Oakton Trois as MK has joined the group, so I would say that we are the “Oakton Quatre.”

We are hoping to get into reading another book but I thought that a good conversational break would be helpful. I have an old book that was actually the conversation book I used in my Conversation and Composition class in college, way back when. It sadly went out of print and so I reconstituted it for my high school classes. I am now using it for the Oakton group as it provides vocabulary and subjects of conversation. I find it to be a great stepping off point for discussion in such a way that everyone is comfortable with the very important language acquisition activity of making mistakes. Without making mistakes, there cannot be progress. There are very few people who can just open their mouths and speak with fluency and few errors.

So after the class on Wednesday evening, we had the surprise of white stuff all over the place and it seemed as if everyone had been caught unaware since the roads were white and slipper with almost no plowing attention at all. We worked our way north and managed to go to Glencoe, get some dinner, and finally wend our way home.

Thursday morning, I went out and ended up spending a good amount of time in snow removal and what appeared to be a good five to six inches in many places but for some reason not appearing to be so on the cars. I am wondering if some of it may have just blown around.

Winter is far from over.

Posted in Education, Family, French / français, Friends, Language, Life in general, Literature, Meteorology, Thoughts and philosophy | Leave a comment

Watching your grandchildren can be good for your health!

We pulled out some vinyl, the other day, for the girls.  They loved the music and we got to hear Mr. Rogers singing in French.

We pulled out some vinyl, the other day, for the girls. They loved the music and we got to hear Mr. Rogers singing in French.

The other day, I saw one of those studies that is seen here or there, publicized on Facebook or on an e-mail home page, with info about how to manage to avoid dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They stated that watching your grandkids can be good for your health and keep the mind sprightly.

I guess I would go in for that, it is a well-founded statement in my books, as good as these statements can be as there are always exceptions and many uncertainties as we plod through life.

Apparently, we are all looking to somehow verify that we are doing the right thing to live to a ripe old age, but also to live to that age in good shape. It is funny how we really enjoy reading about how coffee has been exonerated and is now actually good for your health. They have said that three to five cups is a good thing for your heart, for example. Eggs, which were once on the no-no list, are back on the healthy list. It is hysterical to me how in my years that the cycles keep turning and what was once bad can easily become good.

I was disgusted with myself as I was convinced I had thrown my sleep cycle for a loop as I dozed in my chair as I attempted to watch TV. To be honest, I am not even sure what we were trying to watch. I do know that Michael came home and of course that meant instead of no-doze, or at least a short-doze, I did the ‘Full Monty’ of dozes by almost sleeping from the moment he came in the family room until it was past ten and I realized that perhaps my body belonged in bed.

In retrospect, the day was a busy one, one that I am not sure Michael could even understand, as one by one the girls arrived at our home and we went through the grandchild care routine cycle of pulling up things we needed into the living room, making sure that we had all the proper items to feed the young ladies, and then actually doing it. Then, once they had left, we had to make sure that things were returned to their places, some staying in place, like the ‘Pack and Play’ portable cribs for one more day.

The floors had to be swept, or as we do in the twenty-first century more often than not, vacuumed them with the appropriate wood floor attachment. The dishes needed to be washed and returned to their places and other items thought about in terms of the Thursday grandchild visit.

During the day, I always try to keep up with the disorder caused by a grandchild visit but that is next to an impossibility because attending to the needs of three different age groups is daunting.

MK even managed to make a great dinner, having made an incredible chicken soup with an organic chicken and having taken an Italian round artisanal bread, criss-cross sliced the top and infused it with mozzarella and herbs while in the oven to melt the cheese and warm the rest of it.

Our grandchildcare day dinners are more often than not accompanied by one of the Koerner son families, which we enjoy immensely.

So after reading this, after having picked up children numerous times, changed diapers, and chased after them in my car to pick them up, I guess I have good reason for doing something I do not do all that often, sleep a good eight hours and find myself, the next morning, not following the early morning routine I had planned on.

Posted in Education, Family, Grandchildcare, Music, Nature, Technology, Thoughts and philosophy | Leave a comment