Fun From the Old Days

I got a call out of the blue from an old friend of mine from school. We went through grade school and high school together, and it was great to reconnect again. We reminisced about old times, the teachers we had, the classes we took (remembering mostly the ones we feared and hated), but mainly what real fun was like back then.

When we were kids, nobody wore bike helmets or knee pads or had their own phone (shoot, I wasn’t allowed to even touch the phone at my house until I was ten years old). Fun was what you made it, and our imaginations ran wild.

In grade school we had recess. It was a way of letting kids burn up energy outside and give the teachers a break. It was hell to have to sit still in class when we all wanted to do was fidget and run around, so recess was our reprieve.

Our games went by seasons. In the spring, we played marbles. We brought our sacks of marbles to school so that we could play during recess. It was easy: we made a hole in the dirt with the heel of our shoe, then outlined a big circle in the dirt with a stick. Then we knelt down and shot the marbles into the circle by popping it with our thumbs against our forefingers to give the marble distance.

In summer when school was out, we went swimming and biking and fishing, or if we were lucky enough to have a boat (or have friends who had one), we went canoeing or rowing. At dusk, we played volley ball or red rover or hide and seek.

In the fall, we were back to school and played dodge ball or tag or played on the swings at recess. Those of us who had bikes rode them around after school.

In the winter, we always had loads of snow. We played King of the Mountain, in which the bravest kid would climb up on the highest mountain of snow and challenge all comers to shove him off of it, therefore becoming the next King of the Mountain. Of course there were the inevitable snowball fights as well. And if we were lucky enough to find a stretch of ice on the playground, we took running leaps and slid.

That was what we called fun way back in those days. I remember well what it felt like to be just sizzling with energy and wanting to run and leap and climb trees. Back then, having fun  was simple, and required no special gear; it was just fun. 

I truly hope that kids today have as much fun as we did. I’m sure that today’s technology is a big part of kids’ lives now, but I do hope that they still can enjoy the outdoors, make good friends and have their own games, songs and jokes as we did. It turns out that these things become some of our best memories.




Jeopardy at Our House

By “jeopardy,” I mean the television show, “Jeopardy,” hosted by Alex Trebeck. This was my mom’s favorite show, and she claimed that all the cats she ever had enjoyed it, too. The Crankee Yankee and I began to watch it on a regular basis and soon found we were acting as if we were actually ON the show–that is, when we had the correct answers. We haven’t gotten to the point where someone keeps score, but I can see that happening sooner or later.

Like many others, we speculate on how well we would do on the show ourselves. Of course, that’s pretty easy to say when you are sitting in your own comfortable chair in your own living room. But I imagine that just being on the show would be quite intimidating. For instance, I couldn’t say “Sh*t!” when I gave the incorrect answer. Nor could I say, “you IDIOT! How do you NOT know that?”

But it’s fun playing along while sitting in our armchairs. We encourage (or scoff at) each other; when one of us scores, the other one says politely, ‘good one;’ when we goof up, there is a withering look and a scoffing ‘tsk-tsk.’ As if we were on the show, making no mistakes at all.

So, there we are, just about every evening at 7:30 pm, watching Jeopardy, and hoping that the categories are ones in which we can shine. For the Crankee Yankee, good categories are the following:

  • countries, states, rivers, lakes
  • presidents and all thing governmental
  • treaties and laws
  • bridges, roads, highways
  • engineering
  • gardening
  • names and dates
  • the military
  • tools
  • history
  • carpentry
  • the stock market

Good categories for me are the following:

  • books and authors
  • quotes
  • grammar
  • actors
  • plays
  • Shakespeare
  • poetry
  • cartoons
  • British-isms
  • Harry Potter trivia
  • regular trivia
  • gems
  • most things Hawaiian
  • cooking

As you can see, I am far more a lightweight player than he is. The Crankee Yankee is just the sort of person that, if aliens landed in our back yard, he would be their “go-to” guy for just about anything. If they landed when I was there, they would probably just pat me on the head and say in their alien tongue, “amusing, but no help at all.”

Who knows? Perhaps there is an alien Jeopardy show on in deep space somewhere, with home viewers yelling things like “Spraaaaadtk!” “Gnowret bizzzzzzzzzzz!” and worst of all, “J#ii*hr5–II@&!!!”

Thank you, Alex Trebek.

Jangles of Bangles

I love bangle bracelets. I love the way they look stacked up on my arm, and the way they make a silvery tinkle when I move my arm. Over the years I’ve collected many of them; mostly silver. I often wondered how hard it would be to make bangles, so I recently took a Saturday course in making them.

It was BIG FUN. It felt like the kind of fun I used to have when I climbed trees everyday, when I found the first mayflower in spring, when I found a new book to read, and so on. There were eight of us, and our teacher was encouraging and patient with us. The idea was to make a bangle bracelet out of heavy gauge copper, although the teacher did bring along some sterling silver if we wanted to buy it from her. (I did.)

The process of making the bangle was fascinating. Years ago I used to make stained glass (not very well), and was comfortable with using a small soldering iron, but in this class, we used regular blowtorches. I think I speak for us all when I say that we were just a bit intimidated by the whoosh and pop of the torch, but we got used to it during the day. I really enjoyed the process of turning a straight piece of heavy gauge wire into a bracelet. Here’s how we did it:

  • We measured the length of the wire for our wrist, cut off the piece, and then filed the ends with a flat file (see below) so that they were flat (to make a clean join). You hold the wire steady against a surface, and stroke the end pieces going one way only until the edges are flat.
  • We bent the wire to make kind of a soft triangle, getting the flat ends to meet together to make a join. This is where we solder to close the join.
  • Next, we put our ‘soft triangle’ on the fire block and brushed the join with the flux solution, then turned the torch on.
  • By heating the metal with the torch (keeping the flame about an inch or two above the metal), we *annealed the wire.
  • When the piece was hot enough, we focused the torch on the join with one hand, then with the other hand, used tweezers to pick up the tiny length of silver solder. Carefully, we touched the silver solder to the join so that it would melt into place, sealing the join. (If the join has rough edges, it’s fixable.)
  • Once we were finished, we turned off the torch, then put the now-soldered piece into cold water, where it popped when heat met water.
  • Next, we dropped the piece into the **pickle pot for a few minutes to get rid of the oxidation and flux.
  • We took the piece out of the pickle pot, then dropped it into plain water.
  • At that point, we put the piece on a mandrel (shown below), which can either be round or oval, depending on how you want your bangle.Steel Round Smooth Bracelet Mandrel
  • Placing the triangle-soon-to-be a bangle on the top of the mandrel, you force it down to form a round or oval. Using a hammer with nylon or rawhide ends (see below), hammer all around the bangle to make it follow the round or oval shape. When you take the bangle off the mandrel, place it on the table to make sure that the bangle has the shape you want. If part of the bangle isn’t touching the table, gently hammer it so that it lies flat. At that point, you can now address any rough edges on the join.

Hammers / Mallets

  • Using the flat file, gently remove any rough spots (burrs) on the outer side of the bangle. Use a rounded file to clean up the inside of the bangle. Again, just file in one direction.

  • Once the join is cleaned up, you can either leave the bangle plain or you can add some interest to it by texturing. If you choose the latter, put the bangle back on the mandrel. Choose a hammer to make the texturing:

Texture hammer, EUROTOOL®, wood and steel, 9-1/2 inches with (9) 17mm interchangeable faces. Sold per 10-piece set.

  • Once you’ve chosen the hammer, you can go to town pounding on it. (Honestly, when we all got to the texturing stage, it sounded like “***The Anvil Chorus”!) I particularly liked a small hammer with a thin straight edge; I used it to make straight vertical lines all around the bangle, then turned it and made horizontal lines over the straight ones. The effect was amazing; it looked like twinkling diamonds.
  • Lastly, we used a small brass bristle brush soaked with dish-washing liquid and burnished the bangle (and cleaned it). Once rinsed, and dried off, the effect is beautiful. Copper especially comes out looking exactly like rose gold.

That was my day of making bangles. It was a fabulous class, and I learned so much. I ended up with one sterling bangle, and three copper bangles:

Inline image

Not bad for a beginner!

*Annealing is when you apply heat (via the torch) to the piece of metal, and then slowly cool in order to make it stronger.

**Basically, a pickle is simply an acidic solution that removes oxidation and flux from a piece of soldered metal. Commercial jewelry pickles are available, and I also found out that there is an easy DIY formula as well.

***The Anvil Chorus is the English name for the Coro di zingari (Italian for “Gypsy chorus”), a chorus from Act 2, Scene 1 of Giuseppe Verdi’s 1853 opera Il Trovatore. It depicts Spanish Gypsies striking their anvils at dawn – hence its English name – and singing the praises of hard work, good wine, and Gypsy women.