Weird Search Terms #3

It’s time for another edition of Weird Search Terms, where we look at how people get to this blog and ask the all-important question, “Why would you want to know?”  Here are some of the latest goodies I have collected:

“Why should we eat cheese curds?” — There are several very important reasons.

1.)  They are good for the economy.  Without the consumption of cheese curds, Wisconsin dairy farmers and cheese factories would be in grave danger of going belly-up, which would in turn cause soaring unemployment for the entire state, since the job market rests entirely upon the three-legged stool of dairy, paper mills, and cranberries.  Chop off that dairy leg, and the employment platform goes BOOM!  Eating cheese curds also keeps the national economy healthy.  The makers of Ex-Lax and Milk of Magnesia are counting on us.

2.)  If you are a Wisconsinite, abstaining from cheese curds is unpatriotic.  Our mamas ingrain loyalty to the state in us from the moment we can toddle, and eating the right cuisine is part of that.

3.)  Fresh cheese curds keep your teeth clean.  As you chew them, they rub all over your gums and molars, removing plaque and stimulating healthy gum tissue.  It’s true!  Ask your dentist.

4.)  They taste better than escargot, caviar, grits, and jambalaya.

“When it rains, I have maggots in my window sill.” I’m sorry — truly.  I would freak out if I had maggots in my window sill.  I would call Orkin or Roto-Rooter or even the Highway Patrol — ANYBODY who might be willing to help me!  I have had ants who thought they were termites and mice as big as beavers in my home, but never once have I had maggots in the window sills.  If it is any comfort, at least they are not in your corn flakes.

Let’s think creatively for a moment.  Get your man to buy a sturdy chainsaw at Home Depot.  Have him cut the window sill completely out.  (Make sure you keep a disposable bath towel under the area of deconstruction to catch the filthy little wigglies if any fall out during the process.)  Have your guy carefully carry the window sill and bath towel outside so that none escape onto your linoleum or into your carpet.  We don’t want any of them to go undiscovered and then migrate to your corn flakes.  Once he has removed the major portion of the problem to the great outdoors, minutely inspect what is left of the window and surrounding wall with a magnifying glass.  If any maggots remain, unfortunately, you may have to cut out the entire wall.  Call Home Depot or the Highway Patrol to find out for sure.  Do NOT call me!

“Sample Rummage Sale Signs” — Hobby Lobby might have them in a variety of tie-dye styles.  Your local newspaper may give you a couple for free if you buy the $35.00 classified ad to announce your sale.  If you make your own, be distinctive — even creative — in your spelling.  It will make your sale stand out from all the others.  Rumge, rumage, ramuge, and rummidge sail are all acceptable variant spellings for the great summer event here in Wisconsin.  Whatever you do, don’t call it a “yard” or “garage” sale, or you will have umpteen wiseacres who think they are original asking how much you want for the sod or the shed.

“50 or over benching contest” — Believe it or not, we have a yearly benching competition here in Appleton.  Only, you have to be 65 or older to qualify.  The recreation department collects the benches from the parks all over town and deposits them on the main drag.  From there, the fun begins.  We have contests in various categories, such as

1.)  Musical benches — Gets a little rough sometimes.  Some of the geezers are pretty aggressive and are not above pushing, shoving, etc. to get their bench.  Caning another contestant will produce immediate disqualification.

2.)  Guinness Book of World Records event — Who can sit the longest without wiggling a muscle?  It’s a stiff competition.  Serious contenders practice year-round to get their stamina up for this one.  We’ve had some sit from July, when the official contest opens, right down until the frost hits in the end of September.

3.)  Bench-dancing — The judges seem to prefer tap dancing or jitter bugging, although square dance teams have been known to place in the finals.  Dressing up like Sammy Davis Jr. or wearing a Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire mask will not enhance your chances of winning.   If you tip your bench over and can’t dance it back up again, expect disqualification. 

4.)  The grand finale is the bench race.  Teams from all over the Fox River Valley spend the winter months streamlining their stripped-down, customized boogie-benches.  Watch your baby strollers, moms!  If you leave them unattended for a moment at the mall, you may lose the wheels.  These guys don’t care how they get the parts.  Winning is everything!   One guy drives, one rides shotgun, and four harness up to gallop down the stretch.  Beats the bed race in Seymour’s Hamburger Fest any day of the week!

Weird Search Terms #2

It’s time to comment again on weird search terms that people have used to get to my blog.  This is fun!  I’ll have to do it regularly.

1.)  “The advantages of lobotomy” — Apparently we have a lot of Dr. Frankensteins out there.  This one comes up rather frequently.  Instead of desiring to give someone a piece of their mind, perhaps some people ought to learn that song that the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz sings — If I Only Had a Brain!  Personally, I think I would prefer to keep all the brain I’ve got.  I just wish it functioned a little better than it does, at times.

2.)  “Where to buy sauerkraut in Wisconsin” — I have news for non-Wisconsinites: we buy our sauerkraut in the same place everyone else does — in the grocery store.  We find it in the canned vegetable aisle.  Or, we buy nice sterile bags of it in the meat department, next to the pork.  Boring, but true.  Hardly any of us fix it up in the back yard in a rain barrel.  We don’t go to a kraut factory, like foreigners do for their cheese curds.  By the way, once you’ve opened sauerkraut, you can keep it in your refrigerator for at least six months without noticing any sign of decay.  That’s because it is already as decayed as it is ever going to get.  Even molds don’t want any part of it.  I know.  I’ve done it.

3.)  “What should I buy at rummage sales?” — Is this a trick question or what?  You need help in figuring out what to buy at rummage sales?  You buy what you want and leave the rest.  If you have money just burning a hole in your pocket, and you don’t know how to spend it, ask the old lady next to you what she’s going ga-ga over, and then snatch it out of her hands and run for it.  The thrill of the chase will give you both a buzz.  Buy extremely ugly things and give them to your kids and grandkids for Christmas.  Some people make life too hard!

Rummage Sales

It is April 29.  Even though it snowed big flakes all over the lawn yesterday and it was only twenty-five degrees when I got up this morning, I know that rummage sale season is right around the corner.  In Wisconsin, we walk by faith, not by sight.  We believe in spring and summer, even when neither of them has yet shown up by the Fourth of July.

At our house, we are veterans at hosting  rummage sales.  My teenager, who thrives on cleaning out my clutter, sees to it that we have one every year.  Through the years, we have noticed some patterns among the customers, and I thought it might be fun to pass on our observations to the world:

First of all, maybe you don’t call them rummage sales where you come from.  Yard sales, garage sales, rummage sales — they’re all the same thing.  Come to think of it, not everyone calls them rummage sales here, either.  I’ve seen quite a few signs for rumage, rumige, rummag, and rammuge sales.  We may know how to have ’em here in the Rhubarb State, but we don’t necessarily know how to spell ’em.

People spend their hard-earned nickels on the oddest things — gross things, to my way of thinking.  Why would anyone want to buy used personal items — deodorants, cheap perfumes, body wash, lipstick, makeup, hairbrushes(!)?  I wouldn’t buy them, and I wouldn’t have the guts to try to sell them.  However, it works.  A friend sold them at one of our sales.  I’m wondering what would have happened if she had attempted to get rid of used toothbrushes for a quarter each.  My guess is that somebody would have bought them.  She managed to unload samples she had gotten through the mail, too.  Resourceful creature!

Do you know what sells best?  Stuff that comes out of the junk.  My husband occasionally junk-picks.  I don’t know why he does, so don’t ask.  Now that he is retired, I think I am going to send him out every trash day to look for salable stuff.  He brings home seemingly worthless items, and the rummage sale queens all want them — lamps, bicycle baskets, rusted milk cans, flower pots, Christmas garland, radios, plastic flowers, you-name-it.  If it came out of somebody else’s trash, it is guaranteed to be the first thing to go.  Perhaps this is because Wisconsinites are a very ecology-minded folk.  We do our duty to God and our country by recycling our junk back and forth among each other, rather than filling up landfills.

The guys that come through really get into all the hardware and technology items.  But sometimes they want to know why my husband would have fifteen razor knives, eight bottles of windshield wash, and ten wire nippers (all still in the package), in the first place.  I don’t usually divulge the reason: Paul gets them free with rebates at the local hardware store, and then sells them at the yard sale.  Sometimes the men are onto him: “I know where he got these … I got them there, too!”  I just smile and don’t say too much.

Grandma gifts are in much demand.  (Pink flamingoes really do sell, folks.)  If my mom bought it for me to hang in my kitchen, living room, backyard, or on my person, it’s probably going to end up in the rummage sale.  Please, don’t tell on me!  Gaudy plastic butterflies that will pop your eyeballs out 300 yards away, grinning cows wearing flowered pantaloons, plastic “Home Sweet Home” plaques spray-painted gold, ceramic plates etched with sentimental calligraphy about a woman and her kitchen.  Tsk!  The mail-order outfits that sell this stuff ought to be prosecuted for taking advantage of little old ladies!  These are very hot rummage sale items.  Grandmas not only buy these things through the mail.  They pick them up new on the summer rummage sale tour.  They pass them on at Christmas to their daughters and granddaughters.  The daughters and granddaughters smile and say thank you — and then shuffle the items into the basement, where they wait in happy anticipation of being recycled at the daughters’ or granddaughters’ rummage sale the following summer.  Other grandmas buy them at that sale and save them up for Christmas ….  They become like Aunt Maude’s recycled fruitcake — they just keep making the rounds.

Delightful Christmas Presents 

Ah, yes, it’s Christmas time again.  It’s that busy season when we do all the baking, and consequently all the eating, and hence all the blimping out that we really would rather not do at any other time of year.  We write newsletters to people we don’t think about from one December 25th to the next.  AND we buy gifts for each other that nobody needs — which brings me to fond remembrances of Christmases past and how gift-giving tends to go at our house.

My husband is a frugal kind of guy.  He gets his kicks out of presenting us with Christmas presents that he is very happy about, because he got such great deals on them.  He chortles about how cheap they were.  I don’t mind in the slightest about them being cheap.  I don’t even mind that sometimes they are kind of dumb and not of any interest to me.  I don’t have any huge wants in the material line anyway.

Last year, Paul gave Beebee and me each a pole lamp for Christmas.  Yes, you read that right — pole lamps.  And they were extremely ugly pole lamps, too.  I sometimes gazed for whole minutes at mine, scarcely able to believe that I was consenting to its presence in our living room.  The vertical support pole leaned, unable to bear the weight of the cross-pole with the lamp on the top of it.  The lamp head itself, from one vantage point, looked like an overturned stainless steel mixing bowl on a stick.  From another angle it looked like an alien being with a helmet on its head.  I endured it for about two weeks before deciding I had had enough.  There are just some things that must not be borne!  Beebee could not support the idea of keeping hers either, and those two pole lamps sold for twice as much at the following summer’s rummage sale as Paul had paid for them in the first place.

I get many ugly Christmas gifts.  Most of them come from elderly relatives, who think they are beautiful.  I have a reputation for having no taste.  But even I have more taste in my little finger than some members of my family do.  Case in point: last year’s winner of the Ugliest-Christmas-Present-of-the-Decade award.  It was a decorative plate, vaguely resembling Blue Willow Ware, with wrinkled praying hands dead-center (the straight praying hands, not clasped knuckle hands).  It reminded me of a bit of theology my mom had passed on to me when I was a child: Catholic folks prayed with their hands straight, while we nice little Protestants prayed with the clasped knuckle approach.  (Where DO people get such notions?  I think the only reason little children were ever taught to pray with folded hands in the first place, whether it was the clasped knuckle or straight hand method, was to keep their fidgety little pinkies from doing naughty things when they should have been concentrating on God.  It couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with impressing God, I’m sure.)  ANYWAY, the plate was the epitome of religiosity and was ugly besides.

When I opened it, the giver (name removed to protect the guilty) went on about how pretty it was, and brought my attention to the fact that she had even mounted it in a wall hanging, so it was all set to go.  This meant I could not hide it in the back of the cupboard under a stack of other plates.  Sigh!  In order to keep my name from being expunged from the family tree forever, the plate had to be prominently displayed somewhere for all the world to notice and make mental note of my poor taste.  It ended up in the entryway, as I could not possibly bear to have it in the kitchen.  If my relative had come over and had not found it prominently displayed somewhere, her feelings would have been hurt, and my goose consequently cooked.  I spelled this all out to my dear child, who did not want the ugly plate to be displayed anywhere except at the next available rummage sale.  I said the plate would have to be hung until [name removed to protect the guilty] had seen it and was satisfied.  Beebee gave me a very serious look and remarked that [name removed to protect the guilty] didn’t get out and about as much as she used to, and it might have to hang there a year or more, much to Beebee’s and my mortification.

But on to other examples of ugly Christmas presents.  We received one very grotesque dancing/singing frog from my brother.  In fact Gary was on a roll — we also got a fowl in a Santa hat that sang the chicken song while it hopped across the floor.  It hopped so hard that it threw a rivet out, and I couldn’t figure out where it was supposed to go back in.  But it continued to hop in rare form, even without its rivet.  And, as if we didn’t already have enough mice at all times in our home, Gary also gave us a squeaky-voiced rodent singing, “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding” at the top of its pipes. Yes, my brother has tastes that he inherited from some of the other relatives.  Family genes will do it to you every time.  (Gary will not mind that I did not insert “name removed to protect the guilty” where his name belongs.  He takes great pleasure in his personal brand of tackiness.)

Beebee wanted to immediately relegate all these atrocities to the rummage sale box along with the praying hands plate, but I insisted we keep them out to scare our grandson with when he came.  For weeks, every once in awhile I felt compelled to squeeze the mouse’s foot, just to make her squeal, “Oh, bring us some figgy pudding,” and see who I could startle.

Paul also showed me an item that almost became one of my Christmas presents — but he thought better of it.  It was a label maker.  I was in awe, and wanted to know what on earth I was supposed to have done with this gadget.  So he recited all its lovely possibilities.  I was not impressed, and suggested he make it a Happy Birthday present to himself. 

Happy Music for Happy People

A while back, an acquaintance commented that Latinos listen to polka music.  I’m sure I gave her a blank stare.  They listen to Dick Rodgers?  Romy Gosz?  Alvin Stacinski?  Why?

If you do not live somewhere in the belt between Milwaukee and Rhinelander, you may not only be asking “why,” but “what.”  You can see and hear “what” at  (Sorry, it might not work in Firefox.)  If you’ve ever lived in Wisconsin, you don’t need to visit the polka link to know what (but it will still make you smile if you do).  Polka, at one time, was so much a part of our culture that I had to learn the dance steps in gym class (I flunked).  My high school band director used to give us hysterical imitations of Alvin Stacinski playing the accordion and stomping to the music.  He sang in Polish while he did it!  We have polka festivals all over the state all summer long — but it is an aging cultural form, and I have sometimes commented that when the retired people of today die out, polka will die with them.

Apparently this is not true!  Polka lives on in the Mexican people of our area.  I am so relieved!   Why should such a wonderful art form be gone with the wind?  I thought, when my friend told me about the Latino connection, that she had been slurping something laced with … something.  But no, she knew what she was talking about.  I have our rummage sale last summer to thank for setting me straight.

We had been having a few quiet moments at the sale, when suddenly the air was filled with happy music (Polka — “Happy music for happy people” — see the web site).  It really was happy music!  And it was in Spanish!  A couple of happy-looking guys got out of a happy-looking pickup.  Unfortunately, they could not speak a lot of English, so I opted out of asking about the music.

We had an interesting conversation about the backpack one of them purchased, though — “For mi niña,” he explained.  He informed me, with pride, that it had a tag saying it had been made in Mexico.  The other one pointed to a box on my garage floor, and said the kids in Mexico carry their books to school in boxes.  I think he was trying to express the oddity of backpacks being made in Mexico for U.S. kids, while the Mexican kids use boxes instead.  Well, one father was making sure his little girl was going to use a backpack instead of a box from now on.

But polka — we were talking about polka, sort of.  When Paul and I were a young married couple, we used to entertain ourselves by going to the Cinderella Ballroom on a Saturday night.  We didn’t boogie, disco, line dance, or square dance.  We did the polka.  We were the only young folks in the place.  The seniors all smiled and pointed at us.  This may have been because they thought it was odd that young people would want to polka.  It may have been because they thought we looked funny.  But it was probably because we didn’t really know how to polka (remember, I flunked that course in gym class), and just sort of hopped around without stamping on each other’s feet.  We didn’t care.  We were having a good time in our own little way.  But it wasn’t a good time when they had a “change dance partners” song.  Then I stepped all over the old guys’ feet.  (Paul knew how to keep his toes out of the way.)  I learned quickly — when it even mildly looked like they might do a change partners song, I made a beeline for the ladies’ room.

The Cinderella has been gone now for almost twenty-five years, and all the old folks with it.  Sigh!  But polka lives on — among the Latinos.

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