Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Back in November of 2008 the space walkers and repairers of things in space lost a tool kit into the big ether. I wrote about it in a blog, saying I didn’t like to think of myself as Chicken Little – “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” but - with the remote possibility that a wrench might come plummeting down and land somewhere close to me, I’d say, “I told you so.” Nevertheless at least it would be one less piece of space that shouldn’t be there.

Now I see a recent NASA remark about what appeared to be a comet’s tail on the rear end of the Discovery spaceship as it headed for home really was what I’ll euphemistically call a “space dump.” It was urine and they called it a “water dump.”

NASA puts it a little more scientifically: The light show Wednesday was aided by an unusually large amount of water being dumped all at once - about 150 pounds (68 kg), said NASA spokeswoman Kylie Clem. Discovery had just undocked from the International Space Station the day before, and had not been able to unload waste water during the 10-day visit. "It would have been a large quantity because we don't do water dumps while docked to the station now," Clem told in an e-mail. "That is a fairly new restriction over the last couple of flights in order to prevent potential contamination of the Kibo module." The Kibo module is a new Japanese-built research lab on the space station that includes an external platform to expose science experiments to the space environment. Water dumps from a docked shuttle could potentially pollute the experiments.

Now I’m smart enough to know that urine, unlike a wrench or hammer, is unlikely to land on my Chicken-Little head. But this leads up to what bothers me now:

A few weeks ago there was an article about some new space skivvies that were being tested by a Japanese astronaut who had been up in space for four months. Seems his job was to wear the same pair of skivvies for a month at a time without a change. The developer of the undies said they were a new type of anti-bacterial, water-absorbent, odor-eliminating underwear provided by Japanese researchers. The astronaut brought back the used undergarments for scientific analysis. "I haven't talked about this underwear to my crew members," the astronaut said. "But I wore them for about a month, and my station crew members never complained, so I think the experiment went fine."

I find this simply gross beyond words.

I can imagine if these male undies work, and if they are adopted by whoever decides what the space dress de rigueur is, they are NOT going to bring back all the month-old, month-worn skivvies and send them to the Laundromat for washing, nor can I imagine them putting them in zip-lock bags at Cape Canaveral or Edwards Air Force Base like so many used disposable diapers and sending them to the local dump. I have the feeling that each month when it is time to change undies, the astronauts will fling them out into space where it is assumed that they will be burned to a cinder.

Let me just state this for the record: In recorded and unrecorded history, people who threw things away thought nothing of future clutter. And look what a mess we’ve made of the earth today with things that are not recyclable or reclaimable. We have not been very careful with things we toss out. I’m afraid that same thing is going to happen in space: “Oops, there goes a wrench. Well, too bad, we’ll get another one.” “Oops, just lost the space sawhorse. Too bad, but it’ll burn up.” And I can just hear it, “OK, men, this is the day we send Month One’s skivvies out into space. Make sure you toss your old pair out before the end of the day.”

You know Chicken Little? The sky is falling? How ‘bout a month-old pair of skivvies landing on your head?

Space may not be crowded now but at the rate we’re going, it may happen sooner than we think.

Monday, September 28, 2009


It is commonly thought - and most correctly, I think - that cats don't like water. You'll probably never find a cat willing to jump in a pool to "fetch" one of his favorite toys. And although I know some people who bathe their cats, I think it is a matter of their cat having either an unusually placid disposition or a small brain.

But after observing how our many cats behaved around a swimming pool we had at our house in Orange, I’m not sure they recognized that the pool actually had water in it. Our pool had a diving board at one end and a slide at the other. There was rarely a time when one or the other of our three cats wasn't sitting out on the end of either the slide or the diving board washing itself. Dolly, our pretty calico whom we referred to, out of her presence of course, as our "dumb blonde" would sit on the end of the slide, which hung out over the water some three feet, and start grooming herself. She covered every inch of her body with her tongue, totally ignoring the fact that her legs extended out over the edge of the slide more and more – and invariably, with a large plop (as she was a fat cat), she'd drop off the end into the water. She was out of the pool in a flash, her long hair clinging to her body, looking even more senseless than normally. We couldn't help but laugh and she always acted highly affronted, but that never stopped her from using the same place to clean herself again.

Sammy Davis III, our sleek black cat who came knocking at our door one day as a young runaway, preferred sitting on the end of the diving board for his daily ablutions. Having more of a brain than Dolly, he was quite adept at balancing himself and only one time did we see him fall in. He landed in deep water and had to swim -- dog paddle, to describe his stroke more exactly -- from the center of the pool to the side, a distance of probably 8 feet or so. What made it so funny was that he was able to stretch his neck so his head was about a foot above the water. His big yellow eyes were as round as saucers and he looked like a black periscope traveling in our pool. I hate to admit this but when any of us saw a cat on the end of either the slide or the diving board, we would head for the patio to watch the show. The day that Sammy went in we nearly split our sides laughing at him. He was mortified.

Our only cat who didn't go in the water was Spot, who was old and wise and did her grooming on our bed in the night while we were in it. However, a neighborhood cat often came into our back yard, and this cat, whom we called "Red Kitty", for some reason irked the daylights out of old Spot. Spotty was 16 years old and had started moving somewhat slowly and wasn't good for much anymore except chasing Red Kitty out of the yard. She knew Red Kitty was not part of the family and she wasn't going to tolerate her in our yard. One morning Red Kitty somehow made it into our back yard and was nosing around looking for scraps of food. Spot was sitting inside the house, looking out the sliding glass door and ran to the back door to be let out. When we opened the door for her she shot outside as fast as a bullet out of a gun, hissing and growling at Red Kitty, who took off running toward the back fence. The red cat forgot completely about the swimming pool, running into it and then breaking an Olympic record in getting to the other side, almost running on water. In a matter of seconds, all that was left of her was a big wet streak across the cement on the other side of the pool, up a small retaining wall and then up and over the grape stake fence. She herself had been merely a blur.

It was the wet streak she left that convinced us that she did, in fact, swim mightily and depart even faster.

That, and the big smirk on Spotty's aging face.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


If Edgar Allan Poe would have used a computer he might have written:

Once upon a midnight dreary, fingers cramped and vision bleary,
System manuals piled high and wasted paper on the floor,
Longing for the warmth of bed sheets,
Still I sat there, doing spreadsheets:
Having reached the bottom line,
I took a floppy from the drawer.
Typing with a steady hand, I then invoked the SAVE command
And waited for the disk to store,
Only this and nothing more.

Deep into the monitor peering, long I sat there wond'ring, fearing,
Doubting, while the disk kept churning, turning yet to churn some more.
"Save!" I said, "You cursed PC! Save my data from before!"
One thing did the phosphors answer, only this and nothing more,
Just, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

Was this some bizarre illusion? Some maniacal intrusion?
These were choices undesired, ones I'd never faced before.
Carefully, I weighed the choices as the disk made impish noises.
The cursor flashed, insistent, waiting, baiting me to type some more.
Clearly I must press a key, choosing one and nothing more,
From "Choose Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

With my fingers pale and trembling
Slowly toward the keyboard bending,
Longing for a happy ending, hoping all would be restored,
Praying for some guarantee
Timidly I pressed a key.
But on the screen there still persisted words appearing as before.
Ghastly grim they blinked and taunted, haunted, as my patience wore,
Saying "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

I tried to catch the chips off-guard-
I pressed again, but twice as hard.
I pleaded with the cursed machine: I begged and cried and then I swore.
Now in desperation, trying random combinations,
Still there came the incantation, just as senseless as before.
Cursor blinking, angrily winking, blinking nonsense as before.
Reading, "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

There I sat, distraught, exhausted by my own machine accosted
Getting up I turned away and paced across the office floor.
And then I saw a dreadful sight: a lightning bolt cut through the night.
A gasp of horror overtook me, shook me to my core.
The lightning zapped my previous data, lost and gone forevermore.
And no "Abort, Retry, Ignore?"

To this day I do not know
The place to which lost data go.
What dreaded nether world is wrought where all lost data will be stored?
Beyond the reach of mortal souls? Beyond the ether? In black holes?
But sure as there is C, Pascal, and Lotus, Ashton-Tate and more,
One day you'll be left to wonder, data trying to restore,
"Will I see it nevermore?"


Saturday, September 26, 2009


Jer and I really aren't world travelers. Although we went to the Caribbean on our honeymoon, the middle-east on a guided tour, and then of course to Turkey when he worked there, the other trip that I can say we really had total control of was our month-long driving tour of England in 1985. Every single choice was ours to make, and that is probably why it stands out as the vacation of my dreams.

We rented a car and drove for three weeks. At the end of that time we turned our car in, took a train to London, and hoofed it for the whole week we were there. This is surely seeing England in the best way possible.

The photo at the top of this column was taken in the Dales after we left the amazing town of York. To be honest with you we haven't seen all there is to see in the U.S., so we may have some scenes that equate with this one, but for us we had never seen such sky, such clouds, such green fields, such stone walls and charming houses, and of course so very many lambs. On this particular day we were hoping to outrun the storm. We didn't want to miss anything, but we sure didn't want to spend our afternoon in a downpour. And we discovered that we just had nothing on which to base our understanding of the weather. Where we live now in California we can judge from the time of year and the condition of the sky what kind of weather is going to happen in the next few hours. In England we couldn't even speculate! It was an odd feeling of being quite handicapped in figuring out what we should do.

On this particular afternoon we managed to make the right choices and by late afternoon we had found a little bed and breakfast house that was available and we booked ourself in. It was called the Brough Castle Farm and it was a real working farm and it sat next to Brough castle -- castle ruins to be exact, but then one doesn't see many "working" castles except maybe like Windsor or Buckingham. Anyway, this castle was good enough for us.

The Beckwith family owned the farm. Mrs. Diane Beckwith was a young mother with the most beautiful red-headed children I'd ever seen. Mr. Beckwith came in from his farmwork in the evening and was out again in his field early in the day. We slept in their extra bedroom and took our meals in their kitchen. We found that many of the bed and breakfast accommodations were almost like an inn - a real commercial operation. Not so many were little operations run by mom and dad. These are the ones, like the Beckwith's, we remember. And of course we remember their red-headed children who now are probably grown up and have families of their own. Things change.

Besides those children I have two very distinct memories of this place. One was that it was so far north that it was still light enough at 2 a.m. to read a newspaper in bed! The other was that out our bedroom window we could see the castle ruins. The castle truly was very close to our room, and it was beautiful to us even in its ruins.

We still have the business card they gave to us. It says "Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast" Brough Castle Farm, Brough, Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria. Who knows whether or not it is still operating there as a bed and breakfast. But I'm sure the old castle will still be there, charmings others as it did us.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Not too long ago a new weekly column appeared in a local newspaper - a column especially for seniors. I was delighted to see it, but that delight was tempered by two things: first, the writer may have had one toe over the age of 50 which qualified her, I guess, but she's no senior and can't even imagine what a real senior is like, and secondly, she wrote about "Moo-Moos," which of course reinforced my thinking that she is not the one to speak (or write) to my generation.

In spite of the fact that her column droned on about preparing for old age, all tidy and theoretical, it certainly did jog my memory about how living through the Hawaii craze of the late 40s and early 50s influenced my life.

Our family acquired our first television in the late 1940s, the first in the neighborhood to have one. One of the top shows in those early years, starting in 1949, was Harry Owens and the Royal Hawaiians. The show was an immediate hit and all the young teenagers, which I was at that time, bought ukuleles and song books and taught ourselves to play all those tunes that were featured on his show - Sweet Leilani, Little Grass Shack, Hawaiian War Chant, Blue Hawaii, Lovely Hula Hands, Little Brown Gal, To You Sweetheart Aloha, Hilo Hattie Does the Hilo Hop, On the Beach at Waikiki, Song of the Island, and the funny Ukulele Lady, among others. Harry Owen's program lasted a long 9 years.

I was in a scout troop during the years 1945 to 1953 and almost all of us had ukuleles we took everywhere with us, ready to play during any lull in activities. Living in a beach town, we all wore bathing suits made of Hawaiian prints, and learned how to make leis out of both crepe paper and a more sturdy silk fiber material. Just before I went away to college I purchased a Martin "Tipple" or "Tiple," which is a 10 stringed ukulele-like instrument, larger than a standard uke but smaller than a guitar. It used ukulele chording but with the additional strings gave a much fuller sound, not unlike a mandolin.

In college and young adulthood, the luau was the party of choice, either at the beach or in the backyards of our homes. We bought Tiki Lamps for our patios, and all the women wore Muu-Muus and the men, if they were brave enough, wore lapu-lapus. Eventually the Hawaiian craze settled down and finally went out of fashion. We grew up and put our ukuleles away. I later gave my uke to my son, a musician, who was as enchanted with the tipple as I was. As it aged, it became more valuable.

Muu-Muus went out of fashion too, and even though they were wonderful to slip into if you wanted real comfort, eventually they began to look like things old ladies wore when they got tired of wearing their girdles and corsets and needed to "let it all hang out and covered up." And as the trend in everybody's clothing became less formal and more relaxed (think of young people going to work in jeans now), we aging ladies kind of adopted T-shirts and bermuda shorts as our "around the house" wear.

A couple of years ago I mentioned to my cousin Shirlee that I was considering finding a nice trendy Muu-Muu, if such a thing existed any more, to put on after I showered at night but before I donned my pjs for bedtime. She just about had a stroke, telling me it would make me look like an old lady. While I was still thinking that somehow I'd look like I did back in 1960, I figured she was probably more accurate in depicting my visage, so I took her advice. No Muu-Muu for me.

I paid her back when she moved to North Carolina into a nice mobile home park to be close to her daughter and said she was thinking of getting a tricycle so she could maneuver around the park without using her car. "A TRICYCLE?" I shouted into the phone? "ONLY OLD PEOPLE USE TRICYCLES, CUZ. YOU'LL LOOK STUPID!" And then I said, "You listen to me the way I listened to you when I said I wanted to buy a Muu-Muu!" She did, and both of us still consider that we are not old yet because we didn't succumb to things that aged us!

So I do think that this columnist is not the right age yet to do a column about us, the generation of the '30s and '40s and '50s. Let me screen the next writer. Only one who knows the difference between Muu-Muu and Moo-Moo is old enough to write bout us!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


No one feels much like cooking on a hot day. So this salad has always been a favorite at our house when September comes and brings three-digit heatwaves!

I had a wonderful little cookbook in the seventies that seemed to have recipes made exactly for my taste - light, colorful and simple. The cookbook is long gone, but I saved a few special recipes from it. This is one of them.


1 pound cucumbers, peeled or unpeeled (your preference)
1 C cider vinegar
¾ cup sugar
1 t MSG (optional)
cooked shrimp or crab meat (garnish)
cherry tomatoes, halved (garnish)

Cut cucumbers in half; thinly slice crosswise; sprinkle lightly with salt; mix well and allow to marinate for a while. Then squeeze dry with your hand; rinse and drain well. Combine vinegar, sugar and MSG; pour enough of this dressing over the cucumbers to coat them and allow to marinate for awhile. Squeeze dry again and chill. When ready to serve, add the remainder of the dressing to the cucumbers; toss gently and place the cucumbers in individual bowls. Garnish with cooked seafood and sliced tomatoes.

Eat and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I can just see it now -- all of you rolling your eyes, wondering what on earth this old woman is doing!

In spite of the fact that I'm not looking totally gleeful, inside I am just happy as a clam to be able to show you "my property" - the only bit of real estate I have ever personally owned. That it's in a cemetery is really irrelevant. It only took me about 30 years to finally pick it out, so of course I am gleeful about it. And believe it or not, Jerry is gleeful too.

In 1975 when Jerry and I started talking about marriage, we made sure we had talked out certain things. I told Jerry that a Christmas tree was very important to me, not for religious reasons but because I totally loved them and couldn't envision life without a decorated Christmas tree in December. I could understand that as Jew he might not want to have one in his house. I needed to know ahead of time so I could weigh that into the marriage consideration.

From his perspective, he had only one request of me, and that was that I take care of my "final arrangements" before too much time passed. He had experienced having to go through all this after the passing of his first wife and he found it a very onerous chore. He made his own arrangments at the same time and he wanted to be sure he never, ever, had to go through such a thing again. I understood.

Those being our only major points of discussion, he was ok with a tree and I was ok with making my arrangements. We married on August 1, 1975.

We have had a Christmas tree every year since then. It took me until 2005 to find a suitable burial place. It wasn't that I didn't try. I just wanted to be buried in a cemetery where I could have a nice upright tombstone. As a genealogist I wanted to be sure the stone was big enough so I could put all my names on it: Here lies Barbara "Bobby" Gail Dobbins Kirkpatrick Title. Anyone a hundred years from now looking for me would surely be able to know that this is where I was buried! The stickler was that cemeteries in our part of the state do not allow upright headstones. So over the years I considered being buried in Colorado Springs where the beauty of cemeteries is considered more important than easy quick lawn-mowing. But who would think to look for me there, I wondered? Anyway, Jerry knew that I wasn't just stalling; he didn't even bug me about it. He figured I'd promised and that I would produce....sometime!

When my Aunt Marie died in 2001 she was cremated and her daughters had her ashes placed in a cemetery rose garden. I had not previously considered cremation, but she had such a lovely resting place I decided to go to the cemetery adjacent to where we were then living and see what I could see. I went over to Montecito Memorial Park, checked out their ash garden, and decided right then that this was the place. Jer and I went over, made the arrangments, and my part of the bargain finally got done.

Recently we were at Montecito for a friend's funeral and I told Jerry I wanted a photo of me showing the very lovely place where I will finally be placed. The area is a tiny 4x6 inch spot where the ash container will fit and where my name will go on a little bronze plaque. (I did make sure all my names will fit on the plaque!) To my surprise and delight, I found the properties on either side of mine have already been used. There will be a man on either side of me! (That is why I am not grinning in the photo; I didn't want to seem eager!)

You can see in the photo how pretty the area is. A stream of water meanders by, it is always shady, and because it is at the end of a canyon, there are lots of little critters and birds that come down for a drink now and then. But you also can see that I'm not ready to use it yet. Whenever I go to San Bernardino or Loma Linda I always swing by and take a look at "my property." I know some people think cemeteries are awfully ghoulish, but I'm quite pleased with myself for finding such a pleasant setting. And Jerry, after 35 years, can finally breathe easier! I finally fulfilled my part of the bargain.

Monday, September 21, 2009


I am hoping most of you will be able to access Youtube from my blog. What I'm sending is of great historic and great humanitarian interest -- and I doubt if many people in the United States know about it.

So much about the second World War is being lost...and yet tiny bits and pieces of little-known events still exist and are usually found by accident. There was a nice story on this yesterday in the newspaper; I tracked the video down on youtube and want to share it with you today.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


"The First Baptist Church of Friendship, Allegany County, New York had its inception in the early missionary meetings held in various parts of the town beginning about the year 1813. One of the many devoted workers in the new region was Rev. Jesse Braman, a Baptist, through whose earnest efforts a church organization was perfected on the 10th of July, 1822. The original members were Mr. Bramen and his wife, and the pioneers James Reed, Moses B. Sherwin, Jonathan Savage and Harry Hayden. The first baptisms were those of Mrs. Polly Baxter and Nancy McQueen. This being the first regularly organized church of the town, it received a deed of a hundred acre tract of land from the Holland Land Company. The land was sold for the benefit of the society and the avails used in the purchase of a parsonage lot. The first church edifice was erected in 1825, and although twice substantially remodeled in later years, it was sufficient for the purposes of the society for more than half a century. In 1890 it was replaced with the present church house, one of the largest and most complete church structures in the county. Indeed, this is the strongest and most religious society in the in the county. The present members number 258. In the past four new church organizations have been formed from the society."

I found this bit of history, written by Vivian Karen Bush, on the New York Genweb page while I was scouting around to learn more about my Phineas & George Stevens families who were very early arrivals into Allegany County. What I found remarkable was the Church Covenants. Having spent many years in a Baptist Church, I would have expected an entirely different focus for such a statement. However, I found these to be not only interesting but timely and really good for the "here and now."

We promise to take heed to ourselves, to refrain from unbeliefs, pride, fleshly lust, covetousness, foolish jesting, evil speaking, anger, revenge, fretfulness, intemperance, tavern haunting and slothfulness.

We promise to keep a faithful watch over each other, to provoke one another to love and good works, to be care of each other's persons, characters, and estates; to be just in all our dealings; and to do good to all men.

I think if all of us incorporated both paragraphs into our lives, our whole society might get itself back on track, turning from the meanness that seems to be running rampant and back to good will and kindness.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


There is a somewhat obscure (to us gentiles anyway) Jewish custom called Tashlich that if it is observed at all, usually is done so by tossing breadcrumbs into flowing water, as a symbolic casting away of one's sins. The time to observe Tashlich is during time from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, which incidentally is being observed now. The Biblical base for this symbolic custom comes from Micah 7:19 - and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Anyway, last year I read about Tashlich in our Temple Beth Israel's monthly bulletin, Kehillah, and found all this particularly interesting. And in looking at the various sites on the internet, as with many things Jewish there are dozens of reasons put forth to explain it, dozens of practices that may or may not be done, and a whole bunch of dates put forth on which it may be celebrated. And of course, various places on the internet say you should toss the crumbs in water where there are fish, and other places where it says you are forbidden to let a fish eat the crumbs.

The practice of Tashlich has never been universal, though more recently the younger, more "liberal" Jews have found it a nice way to integrate a physical act with a spiritual practice in an effort to more positively effect a change in one's life.

However, the author of the article added something very clever, and if you are like me, you’ll get a chuckle at it. He says: "Remember, the water has SYMBOLICALLY carried away your misdeeds....Just in case this is your first time experiencing Tashlich, courtesy of the Internet, here are some (crumby) suggestions:

For ordinary sins....White Bread

For particularly dark sins ...Pumpernickel

For complex sins....Multigrain

For twisted sins...Pretzels

And there are more at this website:

And never say the Jews don't have a good sense of humor!

Friday, September 18, 2009


Just because you are too old to consider yourself a Sexagenarian, don't despair. The founder of this new movement is 72 and going strong, so listen up! This might be the answer to the common complaint, "Oh, my achin' back!"

Beijing resident Han Shusuo says, "From crawling comes health." He, like many others, is convinced that evolving into upright-walking creatures did us in, at least physically. Well, he doesn't quite go that far, but he does think that if we looked carefully at zoo animals, as he did, and emulated some of their patterns, we'd have less back problems, less illness, less circulation problems and -- I suspect, less hemorrhoids.

So he developed five exercises that are based on the walking patterns of several animals, including chimpanzees, elephants and kangaroos. And he developed a large following that meet every morning at the Beihai Park in Beijing. As proof of his system, he points to one of his adherents who over a two year period lost twenty pounds, firmed up his midsection and put his diabetes numbers in a much better range.

He pooh-poohs the people who laugh at him as he lumbers by, rear end aimed at the heavens. He advises that if you practice each day, you will be able to eventually reduce the amount of medication you take. He says don't pay any attention to the people who stop and stare as you lumber by. Just focus and concentrate on getting healthy.

Now I'm no longer a sexagarian, but neither is Han. So I actually did try to get into the position he takes in this picture above. I was able to assume the position, but in order to get out of it I had to rollover sideways, as that seemed to be the only way I could get my spine to unlock. I made a fairly big breathy "oof" as I landed, but at least I was on soft carpeting and was able to get back to a human position.

So right now it seems a toss-up as to which I'd rather do, practice chimpanzee walking skills inside my apartment, go to the chiropractor (which I have never, ever done), or just continue on with my incremental aging process which seems to be focusing at the moment on my mid-section, both back and front side. Oh my, decisions, decisions!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Two items in our local newspaper this morning caught my eye. They are of absolutely no consequence, but I was surprised and puzzled by both.

First, in the business section there almost two full pages of alphabetized names of people who have unclaimed money in the Riverside County Treasury.

If you are awake this morning you will notice that these are alphabetized by first names! Have you ever heard of such a thing? There are two pages of three columns each of names. Want to know how many Barbaras there are? It's easy to find out. Look under the "B"s and you'll find three. Amazing. Maybe someone in the treasurer's department thought this was a good idea. Or maybe someone had them in Excel and sorted on the wrong column. Or perhaps they only used one column for each name and couldn't do a last-name sort? Finding this in my newspaper at 5:30 a.m. was too much of a shock to my system. It is of no consequence, except I'd sure like to read an explanation in tomorrow's newspaper.

Next I found a list of local births. Our newspaper does not print this on a regular basis. Every so often, probably when they have too much empty space, they drop one of these kinds of things in. Anyway, today's newspaper looked like we are having a baby boom, for sure.

But, in perusing this page I wondered about the names of the parents. When I was having babies, my newspaper had a similar column and there we were: Joe and Barbara Kirkpatrick, boy, June 25, 1956. So in looking at today's printing, it would appear as if none of the couples are married. Each entry has a full name for momma and a full name for poppa (if both claim the baby!) Since there are 153 entries today, at first glance it would look like nobody, BUT NOBODY, bothers to get married any more. Well, I said to myself, that probably isn't what it means. Maybe it is listing the maiden name of the mother and the full name of the father. That sounded more reasonable, I thought.

But then down at the bottom I found this lone entry: Elizabeth and Daniel Bingenheimer, boy, July 31.

So, now what am I to believe?

Newspapers don't care any more. They know they are headed for print oblivion so are they just not standing back and looking at themselves from time to time? Is it enough that they put out eight pages a day, even if those eight pages don't make sense?

OK. I know this is of absolutely no consequence. Not worthy of writing a letter to the editor about. (Anymore I doubt there is even an editor). Don't get me wrong, I love print newspapers and hope that I am long gone before I am forced to read mine on my computer screen (not having a raspberry or any other kind of berry). But I sure wish my local newspaper, the one I take by choice because it is the only one that has local news in it, would eyeball its local news once in a while so I don't have to get so agitated so early in the morning!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The other day a friend and I were talking about political parties and how we both tended to take on the party of our parents, until we suddenly grew up and discovered we had minds of our own and could change parties if we wanted to.

I told her that although I didn’t change my voter registration from Republican to Democrat until close to the mid ‘70s, my outlook on things had begun changing from the courses I had taken from Dr. David Dressler at Long Beach State College in 1959. By then I had married, had three children, and had begun experiencing life as an adult. Having taken a few years away from schooling to have babies, I entered in my junior year and was lucky enough to sit in some courses that Dr. Dressler taught. This man had worked in Washington DC in the Roosevelt administration and he brought experiences and insights into his courses that for me was like having light-bulbs go off in my brain. He gave blue-book tests and upon reading them he knew whether or not you “got it.” Next to a course in advanced statistics, his courses were the most difficult and most enlightening I ever took.

Down the road a few years I was doing some housecleaning one day, going through boxes to see if I really needed to keep all the junk I found in them. Lo, I came upon an old blue book test that I took in one of Dressler’s classes. On the front cover was a number – probably where I sat on the bell-curve, a note under it that said, “Aside from anything else, it is a pleasure to read a literate paper,” and then a big “D.” When I saw that I laughed myself silly. I had no recollection of that test, but to find such a nice sentiment written on a paper that obviously got a “D” – well, it just tickled my funnybone. I showed it around to my friends and told them the story of Dr. Dressler, and told them I wasn’t surprised that I got a “D” because he really was making me think and reach and in spite of doing so poorly, I had learned so much.

I tossed the blue book on the table to show my husband when he came home. Later I walked past it again and picked it up, this time noting on the back cover, in my own handwriting a list of numbers. I don’t remember specifically what they were – but it was a grade range: numbers between xxx and xxx were an “A,” between xxx an xxx were a “B,” etc. I looked again at the front of the book, noted the number at the top, and then looked on the back to see where it fell. It, in fact, was an “A.” And then it occurred to me: that “D” on the front was Dr. Dressler’s initial, right at the bottom of what he wrote. I had another go-round with the laughter and of course had to run back to my friends and share it with them.

I have never forgotten Dr. Dressler. It was because of him that I eventually changed from my parent’s political party to one that I believed in with all my heart and moreover, that I knew exactly why I believed in it. There have been a few people in my life who have been very special; there have been a few who have given me a good boost along the way. I remember Dr. Dressler once saying to our class that he didn’t teach because he loved teaching; he taught because having the job enabled him to do what he most wanted to do: write. But he truly was a good teacher, and although I had other good teachers, both in school and on various jobs, I’d have to put him as #1 on the list of people who impacted my life.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I have probably said it before but I don't have an artistic bone in my body. To cover that sad fact, I always add that I believe the artists of the world need appreciators, so that is my role. I know it isn't all that important but somehow it seems to be the "plus" to counterbalance that "minus" in my life.

And maybe what astounds me even more is that aside from the execution of one's art, there is a conceptualization that needs to be there first, and that is where I am just boggled. How do artists "see" something in the first place? I just don't understand it because I don't have that either.

Well, all that is a weighty issue to be talking about on a Monday morning. What I like for these Mondays are funny things - and my favorite brother-in-law Don Smith e-mailed me a piece of art that truly made my day. I do not understand how this particular artist ever conceptualized something like this, but I'm glad he did, I'm glad Don sent it to me, and I've been laughing all morning over it. Be sure to turn up the volume on your computer before you have a go at it. And wait patiently for it to download. You need to do this to join me as an appreciator.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I happen to like snakes. At this stage in my life I can't say I'd like to have one, but there was a time many years ago when I saw a really lovely tiny green snake at a pet store, bought it and a smallish aquarium-type glass box for it to live in, and took it home to show the kiddies. The kids' dad took one look at it, ran into the back yard and said he wouldn't come back in until I took the snake back to the pet store. Seems I didn't know he was terrified of snakes.

The other day at a friend's house one of the young teenagers there showed me their new California kingsnake like the one in the picture above but much smaller. It was very pretty and I think I surprised him by not being afraid of it. I asked what they fed it. He opened the freezer and hauled out a box with dead baby mice packaged in ziplock bags. I yelled "GROSS!" and he smiled and agreed with me. We both admitted we liked to see the snake a whole lot more than the dead baby mice!

My sister had a snake once. Her young son was going to be in a talent show doing an Indian dance. He was in Indian Guides, had his costume, and to insure that he was a hit in the show my sister bought a big snake at the pet store. She and her little son worked out the dance steps with him holding the snake in both hands up over his head while a friend beat on a tom-tom.

The dance went well. Her son's stock went up, which is what she hoped would happen. He was a quiet little fellow and he suddenly found himself the center of attention, which was helpful for his little self-image. He was 7ish and he had a younger brother and sister. The three of them would sit on the floor in front of the TV with the snake draped across their laps. Each had a section to pet. The snake was well loved.

The snake resided with them for a while and finally my sister got tired of the feeding process, which was not then done with frozen mice, and she told the two boys that it was time to let the snake go back to its natural habitat. She lived in Mission Viejo just shortly after it was built and there was still lots of open space around. She told them to take it down to the wash and let it go. They weren't happy about it but agreed to do it "for the snake's sake!"

About 20 minutes later she heard them running back, whooping and hollering with way too much enthusiasm. Wondering what was going on, she opened the door to find the boys holding a large iguana that obviously someone had similarly released into the wild.

A few months later the boys exchanged the iguana for a big frog, which one day disappeared somewhere in the house and since she couldn't find it she assumed it had escaped. Later, in a flurry of housecleaning one spring she moved a large piece of furniture and found one very dessicated frog.

Although I did like lizards, reptiles and the like -- and even took a wonderful Zoology class in high school where we had snake hunting field trips -- I never, after that one abortive try, kept them as pets. Where my sis and I got our interest in them I don't know. We both had it, but only one of us got any mileage out of it! All our kids are middle-aged now, and someone always brings up a pet story when we are together. Lovely memories, those.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I think I have mentioned before that I hardly knew any of my grandparents. My grandpa Scott Dobbins died in 1917, when my dad was only eight years old. My grandpa Byrd W. Ryland died in 1934, the year before I was born. My grandmother Maud McConnell Dobbins died in 1940, when I was not yet 5 years old.

My remaining grandmother, Jessie Davis Ryland, died in 1947, shortly after my twelfth birthday. So this is the only grandparent I ever knew. Grandma Ryland lived in Long Beach with her married daughter, my aunt Marie, her husband Sam, my cousin Shirley and my grandma's youngest daughter, my aunt Margie, who was still a teenager. Whenever we went over to see grandma, what I see in my mind's eye is of kids playing in the house or out in the yard. I never "see" grandma in the picture. I'm sure she was sitting talking to the adults while we kids, my cousin, my sister and I were all busy with kid stuff. I do not remember my grandma in a "special," singular way. Except that when I do try to recollect a vision of her, it always comes to mind exactly as a picture in my baby book or in a photo album my mom had. I don't seem to have an independent recollection of her.

This maybe is one reason why I have worked so hard to make myself a grandma of a good sort and one that will be remembered by my two youngest grandchildren, Olivia and Justine. I figure that they probably will not have independent recollections of me until they are at least 12 or 13. Actually, I guess it is important to me because I have always felt kind of left out of the pleasures of having a grandma who loved me.

But the other day I realized that I do have some tiny recollections of her that do not appear in any photograph. First, I remember how when I sat on her lap and looked at her face, her cheeks were very soft and fuzzy -- and they smelled like powder. I can remember feeling them and they were warm to the touch, and then my hand would smell like her cheek.

I also remembered that she wore what I guess were called "pince nez" glasses. These had no earpieces and were held on the bridge of her nose by little spring-loaded clips between the two nose pads. Hooked to one corner of the glasses was a long chain. If grandma wasn't wearing the glasses, the chain was connected to a round clip that she wore on her dress like a broach. She could pull the chain out when she put the glasses on, and she could, with a little bit of pressure, tug on it and it would rewind and leave the glasses dangling on her shoulder just under the broach. In the picture above you can see the round clip on her right shoulder. I can remember always wanting to pull the glasses and see them come down, but of course she didn't allow us to make it into a toy.

The other thing I remember about her is how her crepe dresses felt. Crepe was a soft, textured material. It draped beautifully and didn't wrinkle a lot. In my grandma's era the older women didn't wear cotton housedresses or pantsuits or slacks; when they went out of the house they usually wore simple crepe dresses.

In 1952 I took a summer job at Libby's sportswear shop on 4th street right behind the old Sav-On Drugstore at 4th and Pine in Long Beach. It was a small, privately owned business. There were three departments in the store. When you walked in the door, to the right was where the hats were sold (old lady hats!). To the left was where the sweaters were sold (sweater sets in those days). And adjacent to the sweaters were the wool skirts that matched the sweaters. Then across the back of the store was the women's clothing. For the most part, they only sold crepe dresses. And we had lots of customers for those crepe dresses. The owner, Hal Ash, made sure we understood that there was a no-return policy on black or navy blue crepe dresses, which was his solution for preventing women from buying a dress for a funeral, wearing it and returning it the next day, saying they didn't like the way it fit. So I know crepe dresses were still around in the early 1950s - but at some point they disappeared.

But when I think of my grandma, I think of her in crepe dresses, pince nez glasses and with soft powdery cheeks. So I guess I do have some kind of memory of her. It is a good memory, and even if it isn't a picture of her whole life, it is, at least, something more than a picture than hangs on my wall. It's my grandma.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I have lots of granddaughters – April, Robyn, Stacey, Carley, Jill, Katie, Caitlin, Olivia and Justine. Some are adults and some are still little kids – there’s a wide spread in their ages. They are all good kids and I have no reason to think they don’t like me.

But not all grandmas are so lucky. Did you read the article in the paper about one woman’s granddaughter who just got bored one day and decided to play a trick on her grandma by making threatening phone calls? She told her in a disguised voice things like, ‘I’m going to kill you,” “I’m watching you,” and “You’re going to die.” She made these calls to her grandma’s cell phone and involved one of her friends in the so called “prank” calls as well. She later said she was “bored and just wanted to have some fun.”

Her “fun” was spread out over 45 different phone calls. Needless to say, the grandma called the police and ultimately the “perps” were traced and arrested. The granddaughter said that although they made the calls to scare her grandmother, she didn't really want her grandmother dead. She said she knew it was wrong but not that it was illegal.

The girls, if convicted, could each face more than 10 years in jail.

I cannot understand how any young person would think so little of their own grandmother that they would consider doing something like this. Having lived through the teenage years of my own four kids, I know young people can make dumb decisions on occasion – and sometimes for understandable reasons just based on their own inexperience. I tend to give a lot of leeway to the teens. thinking back to some of my own dumb decisions. The granddaughter in this story was 21, but she definitely was way far from adult-like in her thinking.

And the explanation of “I knew it was wrong but not that it was illegal” is an amazing rationale. She cooked her own goose and she is going to have to pay a stiff price for doing something stupid, wrong and illegal, that’s for sure. What a shame.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I can see you putting on your bifocals and then scratching your head to figure out what kind of a picture I'm using for my blog today.

Unless you read Latin, don't strain yourself too much, because the writing is completely in Latin and simply says that Robert B. Dobbins has completed the requirements to graduate from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. About midway through you can see his name - Robertum B. Dobbins. The year is 1799.

I have often given a genealogy talk called "Research Surprises: Making Them Happen." The original talk was written back in 1985, when one's research was limited to sending letters, hiring researchers or traveling to distant places in an attempt to fill in the blanks on one's Family Group Sheets.

Since the advent of the Internet, I've had to change my talk a bit, and it is one of those changes that my photo above illustrates.

Within a year after I started doing my Dobbins research (1984) I had located (and been provided a copy of) a report of the 1911 Dobbins family reunion in Fulton County, Illinois. In that report there is a statement that the patriarch of the family, Rev. Robert B. Dobbins, had graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary and his Diploma was in Latin and was hanging on the wall of a certain family member.

Now in the intervening years this diploma's whereabouts had been lost to further researchers. I had given my best efforts at finding out if the information on the diploma mentioned in this family booklet was true or false, even to the extent of having a nice chat with an Archivist at Princeton. No record of Robert B. Dobbins existed there, although they were very helpful in suggesting other avenues of research.

After Internet research became a possibility I did plenty of searches for information on this old fellow - who by the way is my 3rd great grandfather - but really didn't find much that I didn't already have. And after 20 years of research, there was a whole cadre of us descendants who were in touch constantly, sharing with each other every tidbit that came our way.

In early 2004 my phone rang one night and a very excited Dobbins researcher told me quickly to go on E-Bay, that RBD's Diploma was up for sale and she was going to try to get it for us. I offered to help. To make a long story short, she did not make the top bid, and we learned later that the new owner was none other than Hampden Sydney college in Virginia. That was ok with us, because we now knew where it was and could go visit it anytime we wanted.

How to you make research surprises happen?

1) Do not believe everything you read; wait until you can prove it to believe it. Until then, it is just a theory, a likelihood, or a possibility. I always call things like this, things that are close but not exact, right church, wrong pew!

2) Do not stop with one search. Keep your eyes open. Especially with the internet what isn't there today may just be there tomorrow.

3) Keep contact with your other researching friends and relatives. Something you may never have known sometimes crops up in someone else's material.

4) Cultivate contacts in various areas. Over time and as they get to know you and your needs better, you might be surprised that they will actually contact you with information you didn't even know to ask. It has happened to me many times, both "BI and AI" (Before and After Internet). If you need them to do something very specific for you, pay them what they are worth to you if they don't already have a set fee.

Things like this are what keep us plugging away, moving our lines ancestor by ancestor, and learning enough about them to turn them into people we know, not just names on a pedigree chart.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I used to smoke. I stopped many years before it became the “smart” thing to do but it took a long time before the smell of smoke didn’t make me want to relapse! And even now every once in a while a whiff of smoke will, like a flashback, run a tiny video through my sensory nerves of that time some forty-five years ago when I took my last puff.

But except for that unbidden little blip of memory, smelling someone else’s smoke is just about the most irritating thing I can think of. The crazy thing is that as all of us non-smokers know, second-hand smoke will always and immediately drift over to the nose of a non-smoker. Even if the smoker moves, a breeze will suddenly appear that heads the smoke to the nearest nose again.

In the apartment where I live, the room I use for an office backs up to my neighbor Larry’s den. Larry is a smoker, and even with my window closed, I can smell it when he lights up. I do believe a person has a right to smoke in their own abode, and since Larry is a good neighbor, I just can’t bring myself to tell him his smoke is offending me. So I just grin and bear it. I am not much of a confronter.

But some people are. I had a good laugh the other day to read in the paper about a big brouhaha in Florida between a smoker and a non-smoker. Seems the smoker stepped outside her apartment to have a cigarette and of course the smoke immediately drifted into a nonsmoking neighbor’s apartment. There is some kind of back-story that wasn’t told in the newspaper about events leading up to the brouhaha, but the upshot of the matter is that the police arrested the non-smoking woman for waving a can of Glade Potpourri Air Freshener around the smoking woman's head while dispensing its contents. The police report said the offender then allegedly pointed the can at the back of the other woman's head and sprayed it for nearly a full minute. Police said she told the victim she would keep using the spray can as long as the victim kept smoking in front of the attacker's apartment.

"I will do it again, and take it to the Supreme Court because I have the right to breathe fresh air," the police report quoted the suspect as saying. The woman was arrested and charged with battery.

As I said earlier, I am not much of a confronter. As some of you will understand after my latest episode of confrontation, it makes my chest hurt! But I have to admit that I understand exactly how the non-smoking woman felt. There have been plenty of times when I wish I’d had a can of air freshener in my own hand. I hope the Florida judge will take pity on the attacker and not hit her too hard with consequences for her action. It’s true, I don’t approve of what she did, but I certainly do understand why she did it!

Sunday, September 6, 2009


In Istanbul we lived on the Asian side of the city in an area called Goztepe. Directly across the street from our apartment was a very large park and at the far edge of the park an elementary school. Early each morning the children would gather in the park at the entrance to the school, all decked out in their school uniforms, and sing the Turkish National Anthem.

Our flat was on the 6th floor of the building overlooking the park, and each morning we heard the children sing. They were accompanied by a tape, so it was a very nice rendition of their National Anthem and we could hear it loud and clear. We lived in that apartment for almost two years, and we heard that tune enough that I could at least hum the melody along with them. Jerry, not being very musically inclined, was not particularly interested in the daily event, but I was quite taken with it. The little kids were so cute and so earnest.

Although I cannot now remember what the occasion was, one morning after the singing I could see the children all re-arranging themselves and suddenly the flag bearers stepped out in time to the music and they began marching along the paths in the park as if they were in a parade.

Next came a group of horn players. They didn't have instrumental horns but horns nevertheless that they quietly tooted in concert with the music and their marching. The boys got to play the horns.

Next came the lady drummers. There was not the noise one would expect to hear with that many drums but they certainly were doing quiet little rat-a-tat-tats.

It took several verses of the national anthem to get them around the route that had been selected for them. It was strange to be watching and not really understand what was going on, except that it was as much fun for me to watch them as it was for them to make a big parade! By the time the parade passed in front of our apartment and headed around the bend, all the residents of the apartments were out on their balconies watching the festivities - and you can be sure that we gave those children a standing ovation.

Things like this were one of the serendipities we had during our two years there in Istanbul. We didn't need to understand; it was enough to simply look, enjoy and applaud.

In 1993 we came home. Occasionally I would catch myself humming the Turkish National Anthem, which struck me funny because I don't believe ever in my whole life have I hummed The Star Spangled Banner. But the Turkish National Anthem is a march, and marches are made for humming along. I didn't have the Internet until 1997, so it took me that long to get accompaniment to my humming.

So I've provided you all with a lovely rendition found on YouTube. When I hear it I remember all those darling children in their special little parade. And when you hear it, you can listened for my humming!

Saturday, September 5, 2009


A very interesting article in the LA Times this morning, especially if you are one of those people who contribute to the 5% monthly loss that hotels/motels experience of their linens:

"A company out of Florida has developed a device to pinpoint the location of every towel, sheet and pillowcase in a hotel.

The Linen Tracker service uses thumb-size radio frequency identification tags, sewn into hotel linen, to keep an accurate linen inventory and determine when a sheet or towel needs to be replaced.

Antennas that read the devices can be placed in hotel laundry rooms and stockrooms to determine how often a towel has been washed and how many sheets and pillowcases are in a stockroom's shelves."

The article goes on to say that there already are other companies who sell hand-held scanners that keep track of inventory, but Linen Tracker makes it possible to read tags from about a 20 foot distance from the antenna.

While the object of the new company is to keep better track of inventory, if a hotel/motel wants to limit its shrinkage it can install antennas near the exit doors and catch linen thieves in the act.

I've never considered stealing towels, washclothes or sheets, but one time I briefly considered how to negotiate with the motel to trade my mattress at home for the one I slept on in their facility. I didn't consider stealing it, but I sure hated to check out and leave after I'd had the best night's sleep in years.

Friday, September 4, 2009


It was about 11 a.m. Jerry was in his recliner in the living room with a cat on his lap and a cross-word puzzle book in his hand. From his vantage point he could see the front yard and the street. From an adjacent room where I sat at the computer I heard him say loudly, “Here’s the mail!”

At our house there is an unwritten rule that whoever doesn’t have the cat on their lap will bring in the mail. It was early for the mailman, but I knew Jerry expected me to go check the mailbox, so I called back to him, “I’ll come in a sec.” Jerry retorted, “You’re gonna’ miss him! Quick!”

I didn’t understand why I needed to get to the mailman immediately, but just in case he knew something I didn’t, I hustled out to the living room where I found Jerry excitedly pointing out the window. “There he is!”

There was no mailman.

But there was a male oriole at our hummingbird feeder. Mama oriole had been there earlier and we had remarked on how seldom we see the intensely colored yellow and black male. Sure enough, here he was. And because I hustled, I got to see him.

There have been times in our marriage when understanding each other has been as confusing as it was the other morning. The confusion wasn’t a case of who was right and who was wrong. In this particular case, my ear didn’t discern between “mail” and “male” – and nothing else said by either of us clarified the meaning of what Jerry said and what I thought he meant. Neither of our intentions were meant to irritate each other, so we just chalked it up to “another miscommunication” and laughed about it.

I once knew an older couple who bickered over everything, big or small. Statements were challenged at the drop of a hat. Recollections of either person were never accepted as correct so details had to be nit-picked until one of them gave in. Each took every word as a personal affront and responded in a cutting way. They were hard to be around, because the negativity was simply draining. Their actions, which they were not even aware of, lead to nothing more than a fight to be right. These folks were kinder to other people than they were to each other. I loved them both, and it made me sad.

I learned a lot from that older couple. I have tried my best to bring that learning into my own marriage. Jerry and I rarely argue. We don’t always agree and sometimes one of us gets a little irked. But we have chosen not to demean each other in order to be right. I think somehow marriage often slips into being a contest instead of a joint venture. I think that is such a waste of good people. When I look at couples who do that, I don’t see much love between them. I am afraid they most often don’t see themselves as other people do – negative people who bicker over everything and are not that much fun to be around.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I hate to post anything in its entirety that was written by someone else, even if its author was shown as "anonymous." Someone created this funny list below, but by the time it got to my eyes there was no author specifically named. So a tip of the hat to "anonymous" -- and a message: I'm borrowing your very funny article because reading it is a wonderful way to start the day!


At the COMDEX computer expo, Bill Gates reportedly stated, 'If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.'

In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued this press release:

1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash - twice a day.

2. Every time they repainted the road lines, you’d have to buy a new car.

3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You’d have to pull over; close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. Somehow you’d simply accept this.

4. Occasionally executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you’d have to reinstall the engine.

5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was five times as fast and twice as easy to drive - but would only run on 5% of the roads.

6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single 'This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation' light.

7. The airbag system would ask 'Are you sure?' before deploying.

8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.

9. Every time a new car was introduced, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

10. You'd have to press the 'Start' button to turn the engine off.

PS - I'd like to add that when all else fails, you could call 'customer service' in
some foreign country and be instructed in another language how to fix your car yourself!


Wednesday, September 2, 2009


This recipe accompanied the PTA President's Procedure Book when I took my turn in that office way back in 1962. It was truly a lifesaver in those busy days.

It still tastes as good now as it did then.


3-4 pound beef roast (brisket, 7-bone, etc.)
1 packet dry onion soup mix

Place meat in center of double-thickness of aluminum foil large enough to completely wrap roast. Sprinkle the onion mix on top the roast. Seal tightly in foil and place in shallow open pan. Put in 200-degree oven between 9-10 a.m. and remove at dinner time (but not before 5 p.m.)

If you are no longer so rushed for time (kids grown, etc.) and want to give it a little flourish, remove from oven 1 hour before eating, carefully open one end of the aluminum foil, toss in some baby carrots, seal up tightly again, and throw some small quartered red-potatoes on top the foil. Put back in the oven for the last hour of cooking or until the potatoes are done.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009


There are a whole bunch of people in the world today who won't know what an Eisenhower jacket is, which is why I have put a picture of it on the blog today. So before I start, I want you all to know what I am talking about.

In late August of 1952 my mother and I set out to buy me some school clothes. I was going to be a senior at Long Beach Poly and since I had grown two inches during the summer I really needed to supplement my wardrobe. Mother pretty much let my sister and I pick out what we wanted to wear, but since it was going to be a major undertaking this time, she went with me.

We headed for Walkers Department store in downtown Long Beach, a store that fit our budget to a T - not as pricey as Buffums or Desmonds but a step up from Sears and Penneys. I had no sooner walked into the young women's department than I spied the most wonderful and glorious outfit I'd ever seen. It was a maroon two-piece fine-wale corduroy outfit - a stylish Eisenhower jacket with 3/4 length sleeves and a long pencil skirt with a fairly smallish slit on the side. The floor model had a white scarf tucked in at the neck and white Joyce shoes and anklets on the feet. The outfit shouted my name and I told mother that I needed this whole outfit, from top to toe.

I know she thought it was attractive, but being a wise and practical woman, she reminded me that because we always had such blistering hot weather in September (mainly Santa Ana winds that sent the temperatures in the three-digit range) that it probably wasn't something I should think about wearing until maybe November.

I didn't care when I wore it as long as I could have it. It wasn't the only thing I bought that day but it is the only thing I remember.

And I can remember exactly how I felt when I walked out the door that first day of School in September of 1952 dressed exactly like that floor model. Not only would it be the first day of my senior year but also the first day of my first-semester reign as Editor of the school newspaper "High Life." I felt totally dressed for such an occasion and since I loved school so much this whole day is imprinted in my mind.

My dad took my sister and me to school each day because our first period class began at 8 a.m., but we always walked home since dad had to go to work and we were a one-car family. It was a lovely, clear day. As I got out of the car I felt really well dressed and important.

By 10 a.m. a hot wind had kicked up, and by noon we were in the middle of a full-blown Santa Ana condition. The temperature was zooming past two digit and into the low 100's. Clothed in corduroy, I started sweating. Since the Eisenhower jacket took the place of a blouse, I certainly couldn't take it off. The only thing that came off was the silk scarf around my neck.

In those days the Santa Ana winds were very dirty, because they travelled west down Santa Ana Canyon where there was no development whatsoever to help hold the dirt down. As the sweat ran down my legs, my neck and even my scalp, the dust stuck to my body. Trying to brush it off just smeared it around. I kept running into the lavatory to wipe the dirt off my face and neck, but it didn't do much good. I felt horrible and looked even worse.

Finally 3:10 came, the hour school was over for the day. The idea of the mile-walk home heading east into that wind was just almost too much to bear. I tied the scarf around my face like a bandit mask, hoped no one would recognize me and turned the corner of the building to head home.

There My father's car sat next to the building, and he stood outside, signalling me to hop in. My little sister was already in the car and I crawled in beside her. I was never so happy to see anyone in my whole life! When we got home he dropped us off and headed back to work. Mother didn't say a thing like "I told you so." She just grabbed the clothes as I peeled them off and took them directly to the back porch where they would be washed, ironed and hung up until the cooler weather arrived.

I can remember that day as if it were yesterday. So many lessons in it, not the least of which is to listen to what you mother tells you!