Monday, August 31, 2009


It is fitting on this last day of August 2009, when the temperature is guaranteed to be 103+, to post a little picture of how kids 65+ years ago beat the heat.

My sister and I were just little twerps - I was probably 8 and she 6 - when this snapshot was taken. We were living in a rented house in Long Beach, and this side yard was perfect for all kinds of kiddie stuff. On hot days mother would set the sprinkler up for us to run through, or sit on, or hold over our heads as if we were taking showers. We had only bathtubs in the house, so pretending we had a shower was always one of the first things we did.

These were the days when polio was still a damaging disease that children caught, and mother always monitored us carefully. She kept us in bathing caps so our wet hair wouldn't cause us to take a cold. She always stood nearby with big towels, and at the first sight of a shiver or lips turning blue, we got bundled up and sent into the house. In Long Beach an afternoon sea breeze always came up, cooling the city, and that was why mother always made sure we were out of the sprinklers long before we could get chilled.

That side yard was also good for tent-making later in the year when the weather wasn't so hot. Mother would string a rope from the picket fence on the property line to a big oleander tree that was near the side of the house. Over that rope she would drape a blanket and weight the corners with all manners of heavy objects she could round up, making us a fine tent. Ginnie Lou and I used to bring our paper-dolls out and we would spend hours imagining and acting out the lives our paperdolls led. Mother always reminded us that the tent was for our use only, and that neighbor children were not to be invited into it. And like a wise mother, she always admonished us that we were not to play "doctor."

Jump-rope, jacks, hopscotch, tea parties, jigsaw puzzles, board games, book-reading -- along with the sprinklers and tents -- these were the kinds of things we played with in those days to entertain ourselves. We had interactive friends, not interactive electronics.

I remember those days like they happened yesterday. So much of what I remember is because my mother always had a camera in her hand and she made sure as I grew up I always had one in my hand too. The pictures bring back clearly a memory of the times of my childhood, and even the little insignificant events can be worth a blog or two to share with others who grew up in that much simpler time.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Daughter Erin has a birthday today (an unbirthday, she calls it, as she doesn't much like the marching along of years any more than I do). I won't tell her age, but I will say that she is my #2 child, born this date in 1957.

Sweet O is her nickname. Her brother Sean, older by 14 months, couldn't pronounce "Erin" and called her "Oneen" - and Sweet O simply morphed out of that.

She is the child who called lipstick "Lik-stick" and perfume "Spiffroom." She is the one who interrogated me one day about angels, wanting to know if they all had wings, if the wings had feathers, did they flap, were they white -- and most specifically, did angels fly vertically or horizontally. I was sorry I ever got involved with that question. She was the persistent child who one day while we were in the car insisted on my acknowledging that she had seen a horse. I was busy talking to her dad and here's how the conversation went: Erin: Horse, horse, horse mommy, mommy, horse, horse, mommy horse. HORSE! MOMMY HORSE! HORSE! HORSE! ad infinitim. I finally stopped talking to her dad and acknowledged her: "Erin, did you see a horse?" Erin: "No."

This is the child who spilled a package of Coco Puffs on the kitchen floor, which just happend to be a brown speckled asphalt tile floor. I grabbed the broom to sweep them up and watched while Erin went into a full-blown tantrum because she wanted to eat every one of them.

But she is also the child who grew into a beautiful young teenager with a singing voice, inherited from her father, that those angels would have been hard to duplicate. She was always in choirs, one of the best of the singers.

She grew up to be the kind of grandma that her own grandmother (my mother) was, a grandma second to none.

And she is a wonderful daughter, watching me like a hawk, making sure I take care of myself. She can do this because she lives near to me. I would love to post a picture of this daughter as she appears now, but I really think she will enjoy most of all my posting of her in action. If I need help, she is the one I call. This picture - she's working on getting my broadband connection up and running - is my tribute to a daughter who is turning another year older today.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of vegetables. These earthy
and elegant roasted green beans and squash squash balance just about
any entree. They also are wonderful "as is" -- no meat needed!

8 ounces fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Dash salt
Dash pepper
1 medium yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch
1 medium zucchini squash, cut in chunks
1 red pepper, cut in bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1. In a shallow roasting pan combine beans, onion, and garlic. Drizzle
with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss mixture until beans
are evenly coated. Spread into a single layer.

2. Roast in a 450 degree F oven for 8 minutes. Stir in squash and bell pepper. Roast for 5 to 7 minutes more or until vegetables are tender and
slightly browned.

3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan bring the balsamic vinegar to boiling
over medium-high heat; reduce heat. Boil gently about 5 minutes or until
reduced by half (vinegar will thicken slightly).

4. Drizzle the vinegar over roasted vegetables; toss until vegetables
are evenly coated. Makes 4 side-dish servings.

Friday, August 28, 2009


I am really not so interested in Cuba that I read every jot and tittle written about it, but I do tend to quickly scan the headlines and the first paragraph of newspaper articles, searching for something worth reading. So my overall opinion of Cuba gleaned from these quick scans is that a few things are changing for the better, though s-l-o-w-l-y.

However, today under the local newspaper's 'IN BRIEF' section the headline CUBA: TOILET PAPER SHORTAGE TO LAST TO END OF YEAR caught my eye and I read the whole thing.

In a nutshell, Cuba has a dire shortage of toilet paper. What is available, a package of 4 rolls, costs the equivalent of two days' salary for the average worker.

Seems that "the shortage is a result of the global financial crisis and three devastating hurricanes last summer, which forced cuts in imports as well as domestic production because of reductions in electricity and imports of raw materials."

I can't say that this article falls under the "changing for the better, slowly" genre. And I suppose any small island nation is going to have little glitches in their available goods every now and then.

But what made me laugh is the last line - it says Cubans are forced to buy alternatives - Chinese and North Korean magazines - because they use softer paper than other magazines. Shades of the Sears Catalogs!

Perhaps in a humanitarian gesture, and as side benefit for our own financially-suffering postal service, we can each send a roll of toilet paper to Cuba. I personally would send a roll of Charmin' Ultrasoft with Aloe. Give the suffering Cuban folk a heavenly wipe for a while and give our postal workers something to do that e-mail can't take away.

It's nice to identify a need and meet it in a constructive way. Much better than just sending a financial donation, I think.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


From today's newspaper is this announcement:

"The Brazilian psychedelic prankers (sic) Os Mutantes have, even in their absent decades, spiked the punch bowl of tropicalia with humid guitar fuzz, maniacal vocals and a restless sense of exploration. A new album, "Haih or Barauna," due out on the unlikely indie Anti-, should help cement them in a hipster hagiography of pan-global brilliant weirdos. Echoplex (below the Echo...."

Say what?!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Last week it was the light brown apple moth that came under the scrutiny of the California State Department of Food and Agriculture. Seems that these moths think that California Apples are better than Australian apples and have started to move in on the territory. The agriculture industry was up in arms, with all kind of alerts being issued. Well, that was last week. I noted in the newspaper yesterday that the powers that be aren't quite as sure as they were earlier that this dreaded pest is all that it is cracked up to be. Like everything else, there is a rush to news of any kind, and then comes the correction, or the disclaimer, or the sending of the spin in another direction. So who can believe what they read?

But now a new pest has arrived, according to today's paper, that is stealing the thunder from the light brown apple month. And here it is:

Yep, its the Asian citrus psyllid! Now apparently the psyllid itself is not a danger. But the problem comes when it is found to be carrying the disease Huanglongbing, otherwise known as Citrus greening disease. These little psyllids are only 3-4 mm in length, which in my language equates to about 1/8". (Jerry and I had a major discussion about the metric system as a result of my asking him about how many inches 3-4 mm is. He is one of the old school nerds who still believes that our country would be better off if we all changed our thinking to metric, so actually I was sorry that I asked him and finally went on line to get my answer!) Anyway, this bug (called an aphid-like insect in the newspaper article) was discovered in a duffle bag at a Fed-Ex facility in Fresno. They don't know yet whether it is Huanglongbing-infected but all the citrus growers are on edge awaiting the outcome. Quarantines are expected.

I'm all for keeping the nasty little things at bay, but I must admit that I was a little startled to read that inspectors were so dedicated and so diligent in their work that they could find a 1/8 inch bug in a Fresno duffle-bag. Since California is a major citrus grower and a Huanglongbing infestation would spell disaster for that industry, perhaps our good governor could tweak some money out of the Federal government to hire some of the unemployed workers in California as Huanglongbing inspectors. I mean, with all the money going out to the auto industries and banks and so forth, maybe California could use a little of it to protect one of our own industries and put some more people back to work.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


When I was a kid growing up in Long Beach, California my mom used to tell me little things that happened in her life as a child. She grew up on a farm in Kansas, and she was faced with tornados instead of earthquakes, acres of crops instead of Victory Gardens, and stifling heat instead of afternoon breezes off the ocean. I was always interested in these stories and of course believed every word she said.

Among the stories was one she told about coming out to Newport Beach from their home in Caldwell, Kansas in April of 1920. She said her dad had some kind of illness that he felt the fresh salt air would help. He had tried Colorado Springs before and had experienced no change, so California was next on his agenda. Mother said she started first grade in the Newport Beach schools but that in a few months her dad packed everyone up - everyone being his wife, sons Bob and Byrd Jr. and daughters Florence, Virginia and Marie - and headed back to Caldwell.

When I started doing genealogy in 1984, occasioned by my mother's death and the realization that I was carrying around in my head lots of details about the life of the Ryland family and no one to confirm it with, I tackled the job of proving every thing she told me. None of her younger brothers or sisters remembered the California story, so I decided that when I finished with the major, more important part of my research, I'd tackle the Newport Beach story. I figured I'd run down to the Newport Beach School District to see if I could find any corroborating facts.

I never got around to it.

In 1984 I had located a fairly close Ryland relative, Verne, who still lived in Caldwell and as luck would have it, two of his three children lived here in California. One of those two had already done some research on the Rylands and over the years we swapped details and ideas. Verne died in 1997 and in the years since, his son has methodically gone through some of his dad's memorabilia. So imagine my surprise when one day in the mail I received a copy of a postcard that Verne had kept all these years (above). It was sent to Verne's mother by my grandma Ryland and gave me the confirmation I needed of my mom's trip to California. The postmark tells when and the postcard shows where.

Imagine! Almost 20 years after starting my research I received something new and surprising. In the scheme of things it is not all that important, but we who research understand that every tiny "find" adds one more dimension to the story we can leave for our children. Right now it probably doesn't matter to them, but it matters to me. And someday they are going to find this as interesting as I do.

Patience and serendipity, two important values for the genealogist.

Monday, August 24, 2009


If you are going to have insomnia the best way to have it is beside an open window under which a night-blooming jasmine is planted.

However, to get the full and right impact, it must be a happy jasmine. Ours has not been happy for a couple of years.

We planted it in the summer of 2005. It was too small to bloom until 2006, at which time it gave us everything we had hoped for and expected -- an abundance of that unique scent filling our bedroom. Then along came years 2007 and 2008. No smell. No blooms. Nada. Who knew why? When the edict came down from the apartment management at the beginning of the summer than we would no longer be able to use the outside faucets to water our plants (they capped them to make sure we obeyed the rules) and we had to start lugging buckets of water from the bathtub faucet out through the living room and onto the plants, I considered chopping the thing down. No use having a night-blooming jasmine that didn't bloom.

But bucket lugging paid off. When I had to hoist the first bucket of water down on the roots of that plant, I saw that all the leaves had acquired a half-inch edge of yellow completely around them. That was happening about half-way up the plant. I called the green-thumb of the family (Jerry) to take a look, and it puzzled him too. So he took some leaves down to our friendly nursery, where the owners are actually on site and knowledgeable, and they said we were feeding it the wrong stuff.

About a month ago Jerry gave the plant its first feeding of the "right stuff" and in the last week the blooms are back to their usual self. Oh, so wonderfully fragrant.

I've been having some insomnia lately - like lying there for two hours before the sandman comes round - and being able to smell the jasmine makes it all worth while. I am SO pleased. We have a new neighbor lady whose bedroom window almost abuts ours; I am hoping she also likes that smell because she's getting a bunch of it, I know.

It is amazing what the right kind of food does for things. Even plants.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Jack decided to go skiing with his buddy, Bob. So they loaded up Jack's minivan and headed north.

After driving for a few hours, they got caught in a terrible blizzard, so they pulled into a nearby farm and asked the attractive lady who answered the door if they could spend the night.

“I realize it's terrible weather out there and I have this huge house all to myself, but I'm recently widowed,” she explained. “I'm afraid the neighbors will talk if I let you stay in my house.”

“Don't worry,” Jack said. “We'll be happy to sleep in the barn. And if the weather breaks, we'll be gone at first light.” The lady agreed, and the two men found their way to the barn and settled in for the night.

Come morning, the weather had cleared, and they got on their way. They enjoyed a great weekend of skiing.

A few months later, Jack got an unexpected letter from an attorney. It took him a few minutes to figure it out, but he finally determined that it was from the attorney of that attractive widow he had met on the ski weekend. He dropped in on his friend Bob and asked, “Bob, do you remember that good-looking widow from the farm we stayed at on our ski holiday up north?”

“I sure do,” said Bob.

“Did you, er, happen to get up in the middle of the night, go up to the house and pay her a visit?”

“Well, um, yes!” Bob said, a little embarrassed about being found out. “I have to admit that I did.”

“And did you happen to give her my name instead of telling her your name?”

Bob's face turned beet red and he said, “Yeah, look, I'm sorry, buddy. I'm afraid I did. Why do you ask?”

“She just died and left me everything.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Right after Thanksgiving of 2006 I got an awful sinus infection, one that made me so sick I had to take a trip to the doc for medicine to bring me back among the living. Ten days later I went for a scheduled recheck and was feeling much better, except for the fact that nothing tasted right. Doc Lim assured me that I would recover from that too, and I made the statement, “I hope so, because I’d sure have to hate to live this way the rest of my life.” He laughed. “You won’t,” he said, ‘trust me.”

The doc was wrong. I have yet to regain my normal taste bud function. The sensory nerves in my taste buds no longer perceive tastes they way they always have. And strangely, even my spit has a different “taste” to it, meaning I always have a really weird taste in my mouth and I have to chew gum almost full time to keep from going nuts from the taste in my mouth. I’m in the 3rd year of what the doctors call “dysgeusia - idiopathic” – and one can imagine what that means when you see them shrugging their shoulders as they say those two words. They mean impaired taste of unknown cause and therefore untreatable.
At the end of 2006 we left Kaiser Permanente, as they wanted to reshuffle their membership to eliminate most of their aging population and did so by raising their co-payments so high we could no longer afford to stay with them. Ultimately we found a new HMO and when I finally, 4 months later, was able to get in to see my Primary Care Physician, he was sure my taste problem was caused by some pill I was taking. He sent me to a specialist. After taking NO pills whatsoever for 6 weeks, the time it takes for pill effects to get out of the system, I still had dysgeusia. “Sorry,” the specialist said, “maybe a miracle will occur. Otherwise….”

Do I believe that one day I’m going to wake up and be able to taste things normally again? I hope so but don’t believe it is going to happen. In the meantime here is a short version of how my dysgeusia affects me. Coffee tastes to me like someone poured ½ cup of salt and ½ cup of sugar into each cup. Believe it or not, I can drink it but I sure don’t like it. I cannot eat anything sweet – no pies, cakes, puddings, cookies, candy bars, etc. I can’t eat any fruits but cantaloupe or watermelon. I can’t eat any bread except for one kind of crusty roll. No milk, no cocoa. I can’t drink tap water, but I can drink ice cold bottled water or seltzer water. Diet coke goes down well. No beef or pork, lamb, bacon, pastrami, steaks. I sometimes can eat a piece of chicken IF it is highly marinated and covered with peppercorns or something similar. I can eat little bits of cheese. Most salad dressing is horrible. It is awful to buy a bottle of dressing and give it up after one taste! Such a waste. Sometimes I can eat a scrambled egg, but more often than not the first bite tastes so bad I have to spit it out.

There’s not much I can eat. Do I lose weight? No, because most of what I can eat is full of carbohydrates. I take lots of vitamins and minerals to make sure my body is not getting all out of whack, and once a year I beg and implore my young PCP to do blood work on me. He doesn’t like doing this but one time he found I was anemic, so I think it pays off to nag.

Is there anything good about this? Yes, sort of. When I first went to the new doc and told him about my taste impairment, he asked if my sense of smell was affected too? When I told him that it was not, he said “Good. If both your smell and your taste were affected we’d look for a brain tumor.” The smells, however, are a constant reminder of what I am missing out on. So sad. So sad to think that one must go the rest of one’s life without enjoying food.

I allowed myself a year to moan and groan about this. It was like grieving, and at the end of the year it was time to move on. I got tired of hearing myself talk about it, so for the most part new people I meet don’t know about this very distressing condition. Now you all know. But I won’t be mentioning it on the blog ever again!

Friday, August 21, 2009


In Poisonwood Bible, author Barbara Kingsolver writes, “I was afflicted with Africa like a bout of a rare disease, from which I have not managed a full recovery.”

When I read that, my soul vibrated with the knowledge that I knew exactly what she meant. I feel the same way about Turkey. Jer and I were there from May of 1991 to December of 1992 - eighteen months. We would have liked to be there twenty-eight months, or longer. There was never a day that we questioned, or regretted, our decision to accept moving there. Yes, there were days where life was not easy, but never was there a day that we weren't surprised, delighted, or exhilarated by what we were experiencing. We never knew each morning what kind of water was going to come out of the faucet - or what color the water would be, or whether anything at all would come out. Once I got caught in an elevator during a short power failure, and the Turks kept yelling at me, "We will rescue you. Don't panic. We will take care of you" while I stood in the little elevator and laughed. The Turks to a man (and a woman) were kind, generous, hospitable, helpful and gracious.

The country was unbelievably interesting - and old. One day our driver was taking us on a ride through the countryside near Istanbul and we came across a directional sign that said in Turkish "Hannibal's Grave" and pointed to the right. Imagine! Hannibal's Grave! We found blue-eyed, fair-skinned, blond and very westernized Turks in Istanbul

and black haired, darker skinned and sometimes rather oriental-looking Turks in the center of Turkey.

Only in the area around the Black Sea did we see any who looked like what Hollywood has always portrayed as the fierce fighting Turk.

I have not yet recovered from Turkey. To some extent the experience is being kept alive because I researched and compiled a book on a Protestant Cemetery in Istanbul while I was there, and I am still being asked to present talks on this cemetery to various genealogy societies. Sometimes there is a perception that the genealogists are going to hear very little more than a travelogue - but from the responses I get afterwards, they are inspired and challenged by what I found to do in that tiny 4 acres in Istanbul. I hope I do not ever recover from Turkey. It was a life-altering experience that is continuing to be a source of happiness each day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


When Jerry and I returned from Istanbul in 1993 we moved into a wonderful rental house in a lovely old part of Santa Ana. The neighborhood, which was in the process of being gentrified, had mostly old Victorian houses and early 1900’s bungalows. Sometime in the past as other houses had fallen into disrepair they had been replaced with somewhat unsightly apartments. As Santa Ana began feeling the influx of immigrants from Mexico, these apartments became full to overflowing with people.

Overall, though, we felt the neighborhood with its jacaranda-lined streets was relatively safe and we loved the little house we rented on Lacey street. What we liked best was a result of the Mexican influence: the vendor carts being pushed through the neighborhood selling all manners of tasty goodies. This is where Jerry and I learned just how delicious corn-on-the-cob purchased off these carts tasted. Instead of slathering the cob with butter, salt and pepper, it was thoroughly brushed with mayonnaise, rolled in grated parmesan cheese (or a reasonably facsimile!) and then sprinkled with red pepper flakes. Having once tasted corn fixed that way, we never again went back to the old way of eating them.

Perhaps a year after we moved in, the residents of Santa Ana were getting really miffed about the influx of “illegals,” and to be honest with you, about the only way they could effect any change at all was for the health department to create an ordinance that kept all food vendors off the streets. I understood the rationale from a health standpoint, but in the two years we lived in Istanbul we learned to eat all kinds of things off vendor carts.

Providing food in this way is part of the whole system of getting working people fed in big cities. Istanbul was not a city where every family had a car, so much of the food shopping was done at little mom and pop places or perhaps at a little stall called a “bufe.” Also, every day at about 2 p.m. a stakebed truck full of watermelons stopped in front of our apartment, which was on a relatively busy but quite narrow street. The sides of the truck were taken down and wonderful ripe watermelons were sold for a pittance. Everything came to market ripe and was intended to be eaten immediately. In the hot summer months, with the humidity almost drowning a person with each intake of breath, those melons sold out fast day after day.

Often we’d see vendors walking around in the city selling food from a pushcart. The picture below is one I took in the town of Konya in Central Anatolia. This young fellow was selling tangerines grown locally and bananas which of course were imported.

Bananas were easily had everywhere, and my favorite dessert, called “Formul” used them. A banana was sliced onto a plate and drizzled heavily with honey This was topped by a big dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and then sprinkled with finely ground nuts. The sweet honey was balanced by the kaymak. The smoothness of the banana was balanced with the texture of the nuts. It was a wonderful, natural dessert and I couldn’t eat enough of it. Who would have thought that my favorite Turkish dish was made with bananas!

Because we ate so much “off the street” in Istanbul and then found such a delicious offering from a street vendor in our own California neighborhood, we were very sorry to see the Mexican corn-on-the-cob vendors get moved out of Southern California.

There is a bunch of chatter on the internet about the loss of these and other kinds of food vendors. But if you have ever been in LA and driven past “Pinks” on north La Brea you will see that although we don’t so much embrace the little one-man food carts, to some small degree we have some “bufe” type eateries here too. The line waiting for a Pink’s hot dog often is 25 to 30 people deep. Pinks is a true take-out place. You stand on the sidewalk, place your order and walk away eating your hot dog.

That’s not so different from how it is done in Turkey – and in Mexico!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


About a month ago I finished reading the book "Savage Beauty" by Nancy Milford, a biography of the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. I didn't pick the book to read; it was given to me by my cousin who in the process of moving across country was trying to place her beloved books with people who might appreciate them. It was a huge tome, not one that I would ever have picked to read, but as it turned out it was one of the most interesting biographies I've ever read. Aside from the story it told of the life of this magnificent poet, what really amazed me is the amount of letters, stories, sketches - all kind of paper ephemera - that Edna, her family and her friends saved through the years. Of course she became famous early and I'm sure everyone knew to save everything.

But it got me to thinking of what I have in my "ephemera" file down inside the file cabinet. And the first thing I thought of was a poem written to me in 1953 by a fellow I met in my first year of college. I was a late-bloomer and had not dated much in high school. I lived on campus in a dorm and it just seemed like the potential for dating was unlimited. I'd left a boyfriend at home, and I sure didn't want to tie myself down again very soon. It was certainly, for a shy person like myself, a real testing of the social waters.

The poem I received will forever remind me of a bittersweet moment in my life, and the really nice fellow who wrote it to me. I have never forgotten him. And so I'm releasing this little bit of ephemera from my young life into the space wherever love letters in print go. If I kept it in my own file, it would end up in a trash can when I'm gone! :)

When I behold the beauty of your smile,
A dream at once pervades my solitude.
Yet what I'd wish to be a dream of love
Must change to match the gayness of your mood.
Your laughing eyes no thoughts of fondness bear;
Their twinkle hides the depths I seek in vain.
You chase the blindness from my clouded mind;
My dream must part in lieu of promised pain.

Yet, I perceive a you the crowds have missed--
A you I wish my heart had never known.
Beneath the laughing mask that's plain to see,
Another you -- more beautiful - has grown.
Were I a fool, perhaps I'd risk your scorn;
Perhaps I'd seek my former dreams to test.
But since I know your love will ne'er be mine,
I'll lie and say that friendship suits me best.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Do you watch The History Detectives on PBS? It has be one of the most interesting and informative programs on TV – and for my money it isn’t on often enough!

Sometime in the recent past there was a story that took place at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Here’s the promo, straight off The History Detective website:

A Colorado woman wants to know if a silver baby cup from the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, engraved with the name "Patricia", can unlock the mystery to her mother's unusual start in life.

Family lore says the Chicago Public Health Board took premature Patricia from her shoebox cradle at home and put her in an incubator at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. But why were babies exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair?

History Detectives learns about the forgotten doctor who brought life saving incubator technology to the United States at the turn of the 20th century.

The story itself was amazing, but what was more amazing to me was that at least five years earlier I had read “The Hatbox Baby.” a novel set in this same time and place. Watching History Detectives brought back the recollection of that book. So I borrowed the Synopsis of that book from Barnes and Noble’s website here:

On a sweltering summer morning in 1933, a baby is delivered in a hatbox to the Century of Progress Exposition - the World's Fair - in Chicago.

This very tiny baby, born three months early, is brought by his desperate young father to the fair's famous baby doctor, Leo Hoffman, to be saved. Dr. Hoffman - part showman, part scientist - finances his neonatal research by exhibiting a collection of live premature babies in their incubators. His "Infantorium," with its giant test-tube fountain spouting pink-and-blue water and its pair of wading storks, attracts huge, gawking crowds every sultry day.

At the fair, a place of freaks and marvels, mysteries, miracles - and even murders - the notion of what is "normal" and what is not comes into questions daily. And before the summers ends and the fair closes, a number of remarkable persons will invest heavily in this fragile baby's life: Dr. Hoffman; his registered nurses; his wet nurses; the baby's spinster aunt; Caroline Day, the beautiful fan dancer and another of the fair's biggest attractions; and a dwarflike sideshow barker named St. Louis Percy, the fan dancer's cousin, manager, and bodyguard, whose stake in the hatbox baby's future becomes the most serious of all.

Inspired by the real life and work of a pioneering neonatologist, Carrie Brown once again delights us with a richly imagined story about the transforming power of love.

So today’s blog is to encourage you to watch History Detectives if you haven’t done so already; for genealogists it really gives us a look at in-depth research and makes us wish that money were no object for travel to research sites. The blog also is to recommend this most-unusual book “The Hatbox Baby” which has to be one of the loveliest books I’ve read in a long time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I have just discovered that the Ontario City Library – that’s Ontario, California, folks – has a new café in it, and that café is presently applying for a wine and beer license and hopes down the road to have a full bar.

Now how are them potatoes!

I know the big city libraries have been doing this for some time. For several years the LA Public library has had a “fast-food” type restaurant inside the building and I have partaken of the food there several times. In the old days when I’d go there to do a day’s worth of research, I’d bring something that I could surreptitiously pop into my mouth while sitting at a table, or if there seemed to be a lot of staff around, I could manage to down a few bites amid the stacks. Because that library has not always been in the best part of town, one didn’t really want to stand on the sidewalk to eat.

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has always had, as long as I have been going there, a little “break room” where you could use vending machines to get simple foods. But that was different, I thought.

But I don’t believe I have ever been in a library where a café served liquor. However, things change. The library is no longer tiny like it was when I lived in that town. It is a really lovely new building – and since libraries are going digital faster than I can count my digits, I suppose this new building is just the spot for a café with “a something different.”

As long as I don’t get sticky dried soda pop on my hands from using the now-computerized catalog, or find crumbs on the table where I’m trying to do my research, or have a waft of alcohol pass by my nose I suppose there is not a problem. I do think the food is not to go into the library, but between you and me, I am not even sure that is a rule anymore.

Oh golly’s it is hard to grow old and expect things to stay the same. They don’t. And like it or not, YOUTH RULES! Fusty and crusty old library users are almost redundant, even if they (we) don’t feel like it. So we have to get with it, guys! Let a beer and a book be our new approach. But take your Kindle with you, because soon there won’t even be books as we know them. A Coors and a Kindle. Now how does that sound?

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Among the many hobbies I’ve diddled around with in the past was cooking. My mother was not a good cook and I think maybe I was merely a passable cook until I discovered the LA Times Thursday Cooking section back in 1975. I began snipping recipes out of the newspaper, making Jerry the guinea pig when I incorporated them into our dinners. About that same time both Julia Child and James Beard started appearing on Television, and both Jerry and I watched the shows faithfully. (“Yan Can Cook” was another must-see.)

I didn’t buy a lot of cookbooks because I had plenty of recipes on hand, but what I did buy was a set of what were called “James Beard’s Hands,” pictured above. They were a high class version of salad tongs. We loved using them, but as time went on we could see they were going to get a bit tatty-looking if we kept using them. We felt they were as much a piece of kitchen art as they were a kitchen utensil, so we hung them on our kitchen wall and went back to our utility tongs. They have appeared on the wall of each kitchen in every house we’ve ever lived in. We think their design is lovely and they certainly bring back memories of 1975, the year we were married and began cooking together.

Over the ensuing years I’ve given away almost all my cookbooks, but I’ve always kept the “keeper” recipes in a three-ring binder. Several of James Beard’s recipes appear. I’m sharing one today that is a real favorite. No, it doesn’t need his hands to be really yummy.


8 to 10 chicken drumsticks and thighs
40 cloves garlic, about 3 heads
½ cup olive oil
2 t salt
¼ t pepper
Dash nutmeg
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
6 sprigs parsley
1 T tarragon
¼ cup dry vermouth
Hot toast, or thin slices of pumpernickel

Rinse chicken parts and pat dry. Peel garlic cloves, but leave whole. Dip chicken pieces in olive oil, thoroughly coating each piece. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Place chicken parts in a 3-quart casserole with a tight fitting cover. Add any remaining oil, garlic cloves, celery, parsley, tarragon and vermouth to casserole. Seal top of casserole with a piece of foil and cover tightly with lid. Bake at 375 degrees for 1-1/2 hours. Do not remove lid during cooking. Serve from casserole or serving platter, if desired.

Spread garlic cloves on toast and serve with chicken (the strong flavor will have disappeared). Makes 6 to 8 servings.


Friday, August 14, 2009


I have a soft spot in my heart for bad dogs – Pit bulls and Rottweilers come to mind, although even a Doberman or a German Shepherd can be vicious given the right dog and the right circumstances.

When Jerry and I were staying in Amsterdam for two months after leaving Istanbul and prior to settling back in California for good, we did a lot of walking around the town. As it happened we were there from December 20 to the end of February, two of the very coldest months of the year. When we went out we bundled up so that we looked like little rotund balls with legs. However, learning to dress warmly is another story; this one is about Rottweilers.

In the city itself, with apartments lining each canal, there is no grass whatsoever. Along each street there are signs that say, in effect, “Gutter your dog.”

People who have dogs for pets take them on leashes and when it looks like a daily duty is about to happen, they lead the dog over to the gutter and the dog knows what to do. As nearly as I can remember, they did not use pooper-scoopers, but they may have.

Anyway, one day we were walking and saw just ahead of us a woman with a Rottweiler on a leash. The Rottie was carrying a stuffed teddy bear. Suddenly the dog walked over to the edge of the sidewalk, laid the teddy bear down on the curb, and then stepped off to do his duty. Once finished, the doggie retrieved the bear and went on his way. Jerry and I were dumbfounded at the cleverness of this dog – or maybe he/she had simply been well trained. I cannot look at a Rottweiler today without seeing the little Dutch dog with his teddy bear. I wouldn’t go up and pet a stray Rottweiler, but I do feel differently about them now.

And after seeing a picture in yesterday’s LA times of a particular pit bull, I found myself thinking that those dogs too just can’t be ALL bad. Somewhere in this dog’s little soul is a flicker of goodness. I have studied the face of this happy dog, and all I see is a happy dog, not a bad dog.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


We hadn’t been in Istanbul for 4 months before Tigger came into our life. He was a tiny street cat, rescued by our Ahmet, our youngish driver, and we couldn’t turn him down. But within a couple of weeks he began having diarrhea and we figured we’d better get him to the Vet as soon as possible..

I asked Ahmet, who had somewhat of a working knowledge of English, to get me an appointment for Tigger with a veterinarian. Vets in the US always had me bring in a stool sample on the first visit so I prepared one to give to the Turkish vet, carefully putting the sample on a piece of aluminum foil and wrapping it up tightly. The vet did not speak English so Ahmet had to translate for me. I don’t know what he told the vet, but when the vet opened up the foil and saw and smelled the very odiferous and ugly stool sample, he made a terrible face, closed it up quickly and then threw it in the trash. So much for that! Without even a preliminary exam, the vet told Ahmet to get the cat some baby vitamins and to return in two weeks.

We did, but at the end of two weeks Tigger was no better, so I had Ahmet make a follow-up appointment. I felt I needed to make sure Ahmet understood what I wanted him to tell the vet about Tigger’s problem.

Tigger had a lot of intestinal gas and I searched my English-Turkish dictionary for any Turkish word I thought might be descriptive. I looked up flatulence, breaking wind, even down to “fart” and “poot” – all kinds of words but in Turkish there was nothing that seemed to describe what I needed Ahmet to tell the vet. Poor Ahmet. I said, “Ahmet Bey, I am going to tell you something very important that the vet needs to know about Tigger. But I am sorry that this might be embarrassing to you.” Ahmet was very “proper” around us and I just wasn’t sure how this was going to go over. I said to him, “Ahmet, please tell the doctor that Tigger makes very bad noises when he goes to the bathroom, and it sounds like this…” and at that point I made a big “raspberry” sound with my lips.

Ahmet’s eyes got like saucers. His face went totally red. He drew himself up and very solemnly and with much embarrassment said, “Mrs. Title, we call that gaz.”

I burst out laughing, because the only thing I knew about Turkish gaz was that each week we bought a bottle of TUPGAZ, which was propane and we hooked it up under the stove so we would have fire to cook with. It never occurred to me that “gaz” itself was a word; I only knew it at TUPGAZ.

Ahmet did not laugh.

But I managed to thank him for listening and I then I reassured him I was not laughing at him but it was really a joke on myself that I found funny. I just didn’t know the right Turkish word. At the doctor’s office Ahmet did not make that noise in front of the vet, and I did not hear him say the word “gaz” either. I figured that it was like most everything else in Turkish-English communication; he may have understood and he may not have. The vet ordered more baby vitamins.

Luckily, within two weeks it became necessary for me to put Tigger in a “cat hotel” for 10 days while my daughter and a friend who was allergic to cats came to visit us. The lady who ran the cat hotel fed him raw cows liver and cow lung. Tigger came home a healthy cat with normal BMs. We had sent some cans of Whiska’s to the cat hotel with Tigger, but the lady told Ahmet to tell us that it was too rich for Turkish cats and we needed to feed him liver and lung. I’ll be forever grateful to that Turkish lady.

However, I drew the line at buying raw liver and lung, but I did concoct a quiche of sorts. I used ground chicken, ground beef, vegetables, bread, milk, eggs and baby vitamins, all put through a food processor and poured into a baking dish. It smelled good as it baked, and Tigger ate it twice a day for the two years we were in Istanbul.

Tigger recovered, but I’m not sure Ahmet ever did. We certainly didn’t ever talk about it again. I imagine he has told the story many times and it is as funny from his perspective as it still is from ours.

Oh, Ahmet. What a dear you were!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Over the years there has been a particularly distressing practice used on dairy cows supposedly to make it easier for people to work around them. This practice is called “docking,” a practice where a long section of the cow’s tail is cut off, leaving just a short stub. The rationale is that docking helps keep the udder clean and improves milk quality. (One doesn’t like to think of the ramifications of this statement!) As if the docking itself isn’t bad enough, it apparently is not even done in a humane manner, typically done without anesthetic and accomplished by cutting the tail off with a sharp instrument or applying a tight rubber ring to restrict blood flow to the lower portion of the tail, which causes it to atrophy and then fall off.

According to Jennifer Fearing, California State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, “Leading California scientists, on behalf of the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program, state flatly that there is no benefit to docking normal, healthy tails in dairy cattle based on peer-reviewed scientific studies and governmental sponsored research.” Tail docking has been banned in several European countries and is opposed by the American Veterinary Medical Association and its Canadian counterpart, as well as the California Veterinary Medical Association. A bill to ban this practice in California was introduced in the state Senate back in February of 2009, Senate Bill 135. The process of it becoming law is still in limbo somewhere.

Two things seem to be holding up the passage of this bill. First, the California dairy industry said that not many dairies do this any more so the bill wasn’t all that important. And secondly, Governor Schwartzenegger thought that during the budget pother, lawmakers shouldn’t be discussing “cows’ tails” while the state faced a fiscal crisis.

Schwartzenegger doesn’t have a very good track record about animal care, in spite of assurances that he is “sensitive about animals,” and he wants “to make sure that animals are all protected.” He is the one who has offered a proposal to cut the state-mandated hold period for stray pets in animal shelters and has come up with a plan to tax veterinary care.

Be all that as it may, Schwartzenegger needs to get this barbaric and inhumane practice erased in California. We will have much happier cows to use in commercials, that’s for sure. And I’m sure from the cow’s perspective, they will appreciate having a natural flyswatter to help keep the flies off their bodies!

Monday, August 10, 2009


Have you ever gone to a concert and been bored to death -- and then ashamed of yourself because you were? I think it happens more often than one supposes. I happen to be crazy about organ music. When we were living in Orange, the Crystal Cathedral had organ concerts on Wednesday nights during the summer and I asked Jerry to go with me. I suspect he thought organ music would be like what one hears at skating rinks - or maybe even ball games. Instead, the organist usually opened with something really wonderful like a Bach fugue - and it took Jerry about two-and one-half minutes to fall asleep. He went with me twice, and I excused him from going after that.

I have only been "trapped" once - and I still feel guilty for not appreciating what I saw and heard. This was when we went with friends to a performance of the Whirling Dervishes is Istanbul. I had seen pictures of them mid-dance, and thinking that here in the U.S. very busy, active people are sometimes called "whirling dervishes" I assumed it we would be seeing a fast-paced spectacle. Was I wrong!

First, the ritual dances are a form of worship that represents union with God. The music that accompanies the dancing is traditional old Turkish music, played on old Turkish instruments - drums, flute-like instruments and a gourd viol. It is very foreign to the western ear and frankly not easy to listen to. Second, from the beginning to the end of the concert - a matter of 90 minutes or so - the only thing that happens is that the dervishes whirl - very slowly, which was a big surprise. The basic "dance" is repeated three times. And those of us Americans who were trying to be respectful and appreciative would have been satisfied after the first dance, since -- I'm sorry to say this -- if you've seen one dervish whirl, you've seen them all. We found it a somewhat grueling ordeal to sit attentively through the entire program. Needless to say, almost all the men fell asleep immediately.

The good part? Visually it was beautiful. And amazing. These men would whirl with their eyes closed for 10 minutes and then come to a dead stop and not fall over. It was hard to believe that they could do this without their equilibrium being shot all to pieces. Surely they were in a self-induced trance. But how did they alter the physical part of their body that governs balance?

What we were missing, and we all realized this from the get-go, is that we had no understanding of the "mystic" part of the program. Tom Brosnahan, in his book "Turkey, A Travel Survivor's Kit," shares this: The worship ceremony is a ritual dance representing union with God. The Dervishes' long white robes, with full skirts, represent their shrouds, and the tall conical red hats represent their tombstones, as they relinquish the earthly life to be reborn in mystical union with God. They pass before their Seyh (leader - a spiritual descendant of Mevlana) with their arms folded and he whispers in their ears. Each Dervish then moves on, unfurling his arms and starting the dance. By holding their right arm up, palm upwards, they receive the blessings of Heaven and communicate them to Earth by holding their left arm down, palm downwards."

The founder of the Dervishes was Celaleddin Rumi, called Mevlana, meaning Our Guide" and was one of the world's great mystic philosophers. He lived during the 1200s. His teachings were ecumenical and he has a large following today, even outside the near and middle east.

I think if one is into "mysticism" in any form, this person would be far more in tune with the Dervishes than we and our friends were. For us -- and here's where the guilt is -- we were bored and anxious for the "concert" to end. From today's vantage point, however, Jerry and I both recall it as a wonderful experience. And to the extent that we saw it once, it was. We are glad we went, but we sure wouldn't rush to buy tickets if they scheduled a concert here in here Southern California.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I recently read the following:

THE CARDIOLOGIST'S DIET: If it tastes good, spit it out.

Seemed to me that there was more than a grain of truth in it. I wondered who the author was and in Googling the entire sentence, not only did I find that the source is unknown but also some other very funny comments about dieting. Those of us who constantly battle weight will find them funny and mostly true. See what you think:

Inside some of us is a thin person struggling to get out, but they can usually be sedated with a few pieces of chocolate cake. ~Author Unknown

If nature had intended our skeletons to be visible it would have put them on the outside of our bodies. ~Elmer Rice

Avoid any diet that discourages the use of hot fudge. ~Don Kardong

I'm on a seafood diet. I see food and I eat it. ~Author Unknown

No diet will remove all the fat from your body because the brain is entirely fat. Without a brain, you might look good, but all you could do is run for public office. ~George Bernard Shaw

A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand. ~Author Unknown

If you really want to be depressed, weigh yourself in grams. ~Jason Love

I am a nutritional overachiever. ~Author Unknown

Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled over how much weight you have gained. ~Author Unknown

Gluttony is not a secret vice. ~Orson Welles

I bought a talking refrigerator that said "Oink" every time I opened the door. It made me hungry for pork chops. ~Marie Mott

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Sometimes it is just a pretty picture that is the impetus for a blog.

For the last week I've been really busy putting together a booklet on the ancestry of my paternal grandma, Maud McConnell, who married Scott Dobbins. Maud was born in Glasgow, Kentucky in 1874. Both her parents were born there too, and her ancestors all came into Kentucky in the late 1790s. Her great-great grandmother was Miriam Helm -- and the Helm line can be traced back to a tiny town in Lancashire, England named Goosnargh, where some of the Helms had been curates in the church there.

In 1985 Jer and I made a month-long trip to England and of course visiting Goosnargh was one of my priorities. Jerry left the routing to me, so from the airport we rented a car, headed east toward Cambridge, up toward York, across the dales into the Lake District and then headed down the western coast, turning inland once we got to Lancs. Finding Goosnargh took more than one circling on some round-a-bouts, but we finally made it. We headed for the church.

Like all the old churches in England, we found it extremely interesting and very different from any churches we'd ever been to in California. I'm sure some of the early churches along our eastern coast are much more like this one, but since Jer and I both were native Californians we didn't know much about those. Once inside we found a placque on the wall which listed the names and dates of all the curates. The placque was painted a glossy black with gold lettering, and with the camera available to me this was the best shot I could get of it. If you look hard, you can see two "Helme" names and very early dates on them.

It gave me a very strange feeling to be in a place where I knew my ancestors had been many centuries earlier.

But what about the map? After we left Goosnargh we headed on down the coast and eventually stopped in Chester, where we dodged into a nice old shop whose wares displayed in the window were enticing. In our snooping, I came upon a map of Lancashire with a publication date of 1730 and guaranteed by the proprietor, Richard Nicholson, to be over 200 years old. The cartographers were J. Owen and E. Bowen. Luckily for us, that year the exchange rate was about $1.25 to the English pound, making it possible for us to see our way clear to pay L34.00 for the lovely map. Once home, I had it framed.

Every time I worked on my Kentucky lines I always had that wonderful reminder of the roots of at least one of my ancestors. I'll be darned if I can see "Goosnargh" on there now. My eyes are 30 years older than they were when I bought the map and they don't see detail as well. But I know it is there.

Seeing the map makes me happy.

Friday, August 7, 2009


According to the newspapers I read, the debaptizing mania is growing like crazy. I'd not heard of it before, but apparently it has been around for a couple of years and when I read the first article I nearly died laughing.

In some places a "mock" ceremony is held in which a "mock" officiant uses a hairdryer that has the word "reason" painted on it to symbolically blow away the waters of baptism on those who have given up on religion or the church. It is called "debaptizing. Sometimes there is another part of the ceremony, in which the newly debaptized person eats crackers spread with peanut butter as a way of "desacramenting" themselves. Once the ceremony is finished, certificates such as the one above are awarded.

One newspaper reported that last summer a town in Ohio experienced a lighthearted gathering of atheists called an "Atheist Coming Out Party and DeBaptism Bash." Some participants felt the ceremony gave them a chance to spoof all the silly things that they once but no longer believed.

One fellow mailed his debaptism certificate to his old church and asked to be dropped from its baptismal record. The church told him that he was all wet. They would not remove names from registers but would place a note alongside his name that he had left the Roman Catholic Church. The priest added "I hope that God surprises you one day and lets you know that He is quite well."

Apparently debaptism efforts are not limited to the United States. "More than 100,000 Brits downloaded debaptism certificates from the National Secular Society between 2005 and 2009," and upwards of 1,000 Italians did so prior to Italy's "Debaptism Day" last year, according to Italy's Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

I found this whole "goings on" very funny, and I burst out laughing when I visualized the hairblower part of it. And of course personally, I don't believe debaptizing has any real efficacy any more than does one religion's belief in proxy baptisms. However, I do feel that there is a somewhat tasteless element to the debaptism practice that is bound to irk a bunch of people and drive another group of people to their knees in prayer for what I suppose they would consider "these heretics."

However, I really have to look at this as a clever spoof of a religious ritual, maybe not in totally good taste but funny nevertheless. What'd'ya think?

Thursday, August 6, 2009


From a local newspaper:

How do the values of today's youth differ from those of previous generations?

We are more conscious of the world, more willing to try to influence it positively, more tolerant of difference and more active in our communities than previous generations were.

Certainly we are more enaged than our parents were. We are also the most diverse generation in American history, and our ethics and values reflect that.

We're also very different from our parents in that many of us recognize that we will probably not enjoy the bounty and excess that they enjoyed.

We are going to have to survive in an America where living within your means is encouraged and where success is measured less materially than it was in the past.

So there!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


What you are seeing above is one-half of a yard. The other half contains at least as many gee-gaws as this half.

I took the picture one morning on a little walk around our apartment complex, looking to see if most of the residents were in compliance with the most recent set of rules inflicted on us. (Well, that's not exactly true: the very most recent rule is that we could not use water from the outside spigots to water our flower beds and to insure that we didn't, they put caps or locks on the outside water faucets.) The rule pertaining to our yards was precise - no lattice work, only 2 flower pots on the porch, no roses, no vegetables, no decorations on our porch, no wreaths on the doors, no this, no that.

However, our management only makes rules. They do not enforce them except on a whim. So there are many buildings (12 apartments to a building) that have not had their water faucets capped. Why? Who knows. When the rules pertaining to what was permitted on the porches and yards went into effect, some people pulled all their non-conforming plants out, tossed away their extra potted plants, and took down their door wreaths. Others, such as the one in the picture above, didn't. And apparently management does not care.

But aside from all that, my teeth nearly fell out of my mouth when I saw what the tenant in this apartment thought was cute and appropriate. Once a week when the mowers come she must bring everything in; once they leave it goes out again. I am assuming the tenant is a "she" but it is always possible it is a "he." Nevertheless, and aside from whether management cares or not, I was dumbfounded when I saw the scope of this person's decorations. I've seen it at Christmas, and it changes to all manner of Christmas items - sleds, sleighs, elfs, presents, ornaments, reindeer, santas, dolls -- you think of it, there will be one there!

It made me think of when I had a interior decorator in to help me refurbish my living room many years ago. First thing she told me - and I've always remembered - is that she works on the "Keep it Simple, Stupid" theory -- that less is best. It is hard in a tiny apartment to think of "decorating" and definitely in my place now there is WAY too much. But it's not there for any decorative purpose; mostly it is there because we have no other place to put it and we're not ready to get rid of it yet.

So when you get right down to it, you can't question what some other person thinks is appropriate. It may look bizarre to you, but if it pleases the person, so be it!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I was brought up on Joe Jost's Polish sandwiches and pickled eggs. At least two Saturdays each month, my dad would walk a few doors west from his appliance store on East Anaheim Street in Long Beach to what he called a "beer joint" and order a sandwich and egg for himself and for whoever happened to be at our house that day. Having a "Joe Jost's" (which always meant the sandwich, the egg and a batch of pretzels) was a staple of our lives.

When I became of age I introduced more than one date to this great little "beer joint" - although to call it a joint really does it an injustice, making it sound a little unsavory, which it definitely is not.

The last time we were there I mentioned to Jerry that I was eating Joe Jost's long before any of the young men working behind the bar were even born. Sadly, because we live about an hour's drive from Long Beach now, we aren't able to simply pop in for a yummy Polish sandwich and pickled egg - and a cooling brew. So it was with great pleasure some time ago that a friend sent me a recipe printed in the Long Beach Press Telegram for "Joe Jost's Pickled Eggs" that was supposed to be an authentic recipe. Well, I doubt that it was, but I tried it and the recipe definitely was a keeper.

So today I'm sharing that with you. It is simple enough to make often. In fact, I think I'll swing by the market today and pick up what I need to make another batch. Why don't you join me?


8 eggs
1 jar (12 oz) yellow chili peppers
2 T pickling spice
1 C wine vinegar
1-1/2 scant cups water
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt

Hard boil the eggs.
Mix remainder of ingredients.
Peel eggs and put in liquid while still warm. Don’t refrigerate.

Keep in sealed jar for 2 days. Serve.
The marinade may be used again.

Monday, August 3, 2009


In the early summer of 1959 my kids’ dad and I decided it was time to buy our first house. With baby #3 on the way we needed more space than an apartment was able to provide. We wanted a third bedroom and a fenced yard. And we really wanted some playmates for our kids.

At the time, Joe was driving a Coca Cola truck in the Costa Mesa/Newport Beach area, so it seemed logical that we should house-hunt in Orange county. We discovered a new tract being built in Westminster, near Garden Grove, and there we found exactly what we needed at a price we could afford.

The little house we picked on Shirley Street had 1140 square feet, with three bedrooms and a big back yard. The selling price was $15,250 and since Joe was able to use his VA loan, the monthly payments which included principal, interest, taxes and insurance would be $99. To qualify for the 30-year loan Joe had to be making $345 a month in, and luckily we barely squeaked through. In late summer our house was ready for occupancy and with the help of our friends and family we carted load after load of our goods from Long Beach to Westminster. We didn’t really have much in the way of furniture to move, so it just didn’t make sense to hire a moving van.

We lived in the Shirley Street house for five years before a job change took place that sent us elsewhere. But those five years were among the best in our lives. Most of the men of the families were, like Joe, vets of the Korean War. Most of us had pre-school or elementary school children, though there were a few teenaged girls just of the right age to baby sit. And many of us women were still having babies. Very few of the mothers worked outside the home. I do believe we were the last generation to be able to stay home and be a housewife without a guilty conscience.

We had an exceptionally compatible neighborhood. We had lots of block parties for the adults, birthday parties for the little kids, holiday parties – and especially big parties for one of the neighbors, Cliff Pike, who was still in the Navy and often went on another tour of duty. We partied him farewell and partied him welcome back. We developed a baby-sitting co-op which worked like a charm for a number of years. We belonged to PTAs together and for a while to the Westminster Women’s Club. To my knowledge we did not have any “Peyton Place” activities.

Now all this is not to say we didn’t have our little occasional problems. Politics was not much a problem until the John Birch Society era arrived; there were some mighty conservative stalwarts on our block and some bleeding heart liberals, so we all had to tread lightly for a while. Religious fervor to elect a Catholic president caused a few to feel somewhat offended, but these thing blew over without permanent damage. We considered these people our friends and we all remained friends.

Little by little as our kids grew older and our husbands moved up in their jobs, families moved elsewhere. However, a few stayed so many years that their houses were paid off.

The picture above is our Shirley Street group – minus a few who had moved too far away to attend – taken about 1985. As nearly as I can recollect, there were close to 30 children belonging to just those women pictured above. Over the years we had several reunions – and it was great fun to see everyone again. Most of us are still around, many of us stay in touch, and a few of us are getting into the great-grandchild era. But you’ll understand when I say that Shirley Street seems like just yesterday.

It was a wonderful place to be living in 1959.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


One of my ongoing and never-ending projects is to figure out what to do with all my photographs - and then do it! It is a thankless job, for it seems the more I do, the more I do, the more I do….ad infinitum.

But once in a while I see something that takes me on a nice trip of reminiscing. Blogs often are made of these little serendipities.

When Jer and I decided to sell our house prior to going to Turkey I took pictures of each room to use in a little booklet I wanted to put in our entryway for “lookers” to take home with them, a visual reminder of what our house was like. The booklet turned out well and sure enough, the house was sold. Today I ran across those original photos and when I looked at the one above of our master bedroom, I had to do a double-take. If you look closely, you will see our little dog, Missy Maud, ensconced between the headboard and the pillow. It was her favorite place to sleep

I’ve isolated that little section so you can see her more clearly.

Missy was a dream dog. We got her in 1981. She was a “found” dog that was brought into the veterinary office where my cousin was working. Less than a year old, she was dirty and bedraggled, but she got a full restorative treatment from my cousin, who was the world’s most compassionate vet. After making all appropriate efforts to find who she might belong to, my cousin called me and asked me if I’d be interested in a cute little female dog that needed a home. I drove down to take a look, and here’s what I found.

I had never had a dog of my own. I took one look and Missy and I marched out the door together. She had to be integrated into a family with three cats. Luckily it was a good match and they got along well. She was smart and playful. She didn't make demands and she didn't bark all the time. The only problem we ever had was that she absolutely abhorred baths. When she knew it was bath time, she put on what I called her “hangdog” face.

It went on the minute she heard the water run and didn’t disappear until she was washed, dried and set down on the floor again to play. To make sure we knew how distasteful she found being bathed, the minute her little feet touched the water, she discharged a small poop. She did this for 14 years. Being quick learners, we always put a paper towel beside the tub and made quick use of it when the time arrived!

That was her only bad feature. As she got older and her mind got a little fuzzy, she began thinking that she owned the neighborhood. When I took her for walks I had to pick her up if I saw another dog being walked toward us. I’d hold her in my arms and cover her eyes with my hand as we passed. If I didn’t do that, she would puff herself up to about twice her size and act like an attack dog. Luckily she was small enough for us to do this to her, and there were never any untoward incidents. Except for the neighbors laughing at her.

In her 14th year she took sick and quite unexpectedly fell over dead from a stroke. It was hard to lose her, of course, but we had lots of good pictures to remind us of our time together.

I had forgotten that her favorite place to sleep during her naptime was on our bed between the headboard and the pillow.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


A Minister decided to do something a little different one Sunday morning. He said, "Today, church, I am going to say a single word and you are going to help me preach. Whatever single word I say, I want you to sing whatever hymn comes to your mind."

The pastor shouted out, "Cross."
Immediately the congregation started singing in unison, "The Old Rugged Cross."

The Pastor hollered out, "Grace."
The congregation began to sing, "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound."

The Pastor said, "Power."
The congregation sang, "There is Power in the Blood."

The Pastor said, "Sex."
The congregation fell into total silence. Everyone was in shock. They all nervously began to look around at each other, afraid to say anything.

Suddenly, from the back of the church, a frail little 87 year-old grandmother stood up and, in a tiny quavering voice, began to sing, "Precious Memories."