Monday, November 30, 2009


Some dishes are so succulent and delicious that I feel guilty even reading the recipe! This is one of those. It is very simple to make, but you do have to go on a little hunt to find arugula, as it isn't a green that the run-of-the-mill big grocery stores carry. I find it odd that in Istanbul it is called "Rocket" and it's abundant and cheap, but here in California it is a delicacy and is quite pricey. However, you dare not omit using it if you want to bring this recipe where it belongs -- in culinary heaven.


12 oz farfalle pasta
1 pack (10 Oz) frozen green peas
1/4 Cup heavy cream
1/3 cup canned reduced-sodium chicken brother
1/2 c grated parmesan
2 T pine nuts, toasted
1 bunch arugula

Toast pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat, shaking frequently until golden - 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Addpeas 1 minute before end fo cooking. Drain; return pasta and peas to pot.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, combine cream and chicen broth. Simmer until thickened slightly, about 7 minutes. Stire in Parmesan until melted.

Add sauce to pasta and peas; toss to combine. Season with salt. Add to reserved pasta along with arugula. Season wiht pepper. Toss to combine and serve immediately.


How much closer could heaven get?

Saturday, November 28, 2009


As nearly as I can remember, the only time I ever showed the least interest in comics was when I was little and my dad used to read the “funnies” to me from the evening newspaper. I listened and looked while he read Moon Mullins, Blondie and Dagwood, Li’l Abner, and Dick Tracy; those are the only ones I can remember. Now that I think about it, I do remember always reading Pogo when I was a teenager in the late 40s. But for the most part comics have not been anything I was interested in.

So that is why I am surprised at my glee over the R. Crumb book - “The Book of Genesis, Illustrated” that I blogged about sometime ago. On the cover it says, “All 50 Chapters” and “Adult Supervision Recommended for Minors” and “The First Book of the Bible Graphically Depicted! Nothing left out!” It truly is what it says it is and moreover, it is truly amazing.

Every time I picked it up I would have to interrupt Jerry periodically to say, “Look at this; Listen to this! You’ll LOVE this!” And other times he laughed heartily at the same things I did, which doesn’t always happen. And sometimes he said, “Oh My!”

The illustrations are superb. His rendering of God is perfect, and I will have to say that God appears just about how I would have drawn him if I were an illustrator, (although I can’t draw anything recognizable so I’m off the hook there.) Crumb’s creation sequence is really ‘right on.” My first surprise was about Noah and the ark.

Now who would ever have depicted the inside of Noah’s ark like this? The best way I can describe it is that if Jerry had an ark, his would look like this. Mine would look like every picture I’ve every seen of animals in the ark in picture books and Sunday school papers – full to overflowing with animals running around, getting into things, leaning over the rails – total bedlam! Crumb’s ark is so Jerry-like. And it never entered my mind to think of such a tidy ark. That made me laugh.

Another thing that made me laugh the most was when Joseph was in Egypt – had been in Egypt for enough years that obviously he spoke in an “Egyptian” language, but when his brothers arrived, who would not have been able to understand him, Joseph had a translator – and Crumb’s depiction of the event looked like this.

Don't you think this is hystericallly funny? Crumb didn’t need words of explanation to tell us what was going on. And as these conversations between Joseph and his brothers went on a long time over many sessions, Crumb doesn’t waiver in his hieroglyphics! You get the original and the translation page after page after page – and I have to tell you, both Jerry and I laughed and laughed about this. How clever. What a creator Crumb is.

And then if it is at all possible to make the begats even a tiny bit more interesting than they really are (and if any of you have tried to read through Genesis, including those begats, you’ll know how very tedious and boring they can be) – but Crumb doesn’t bat an eyelash at them. If Genesis says “This is the lineage of So and So” – then Crumb starts drawing faces of each of the people who were begat, and their sons and daughters as well. And they all look different! Can you imagine drawing dozen and dozens of different faces?

Now when I got to Jacob and his twelve sons, I was just very pleased. I’ve always known the story, and when I was in Jerusalem I bought a set of postcards of Marc Chagall’s famous stained glass windows at the Hadassah Medical Center, one representing each of Jacob’s sons. But never would I have expected anywhere to see faces of those twelve sons staring at me from a book. No one knows what they really looked like but Crumb doesn’t let that stop him. Such an amazing bit of art work.

I could go on and on. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and browsing through this book. It is a visual treat, even for a person who normally does not like comics. I can imagine some rigid religious people thinking this book should be left alone. It does depict quite graphically the business of men “knowing” their wives, (which actually I find a little bit easier to take than the slaughtering of sheep and goats for offerings). But I have found myself impressed, delighted and enthusiastic about it.

Hats off to Mr. Crumb and his amazing talent and for taking on a project such as this, which incidentally he says took five years to complete. If R. Crumb doesn't win some top prizes for this astounding book, then life really, really ain't fair at all!


This morning we had a short storm pass through, with lightning and thunder (a rarity here in SoCal) and I turned off my computer, just to be on the safe side. Left with nothing to do, I decided to hunt through one of my craft drawers to see if, by any chance, I had the right sized knitting needle for one of my infamous projects. This necesitated removing a large box in which those needles, crochet hooks and embroidery needles are kept.

In taking the box completely out of the drawer, I discovered these old War Ration Coupon books from the WWII, made out in my name. Many years ago my mother had made a display of them for me, and I took it apart so I could put them in an album. I never did, and in the intervening years I wondered what happened to them.

Well, here they are.

Inside the first one it says I am 4'1" tall, weigh 52 pounds, have brown hair and brown eyes and am 6 years old. The date is May 7, 1942. Apparently my size isn't important for the next year's card, as all it says is that I am 7 years old. And then in War Ration Book Three, I am noted as 8 years old and still at 52 pounds.

When I saw that, I thought to myself: No wonder my mother and father were worried about my health if I truly went from May of 1942 to May of 1944 without gaining any weight. But since "growing up" and having babies I've had to fight fat, so obviously there was not a big problem with my being a skinny child.

We kids were not really all that aware of what "war" meant. We knew about rationing, we knew certain things, like shoes and tires and butter, were hard to get. We knew our uncles were overseas fighting but our dad wasn't, so our home life wasn't so disrupted. We knew we had to pour any grease from cooking meat into an empty coffee can and our mother took it to the grocery store to turn it in. We bought saving stamps each week at school and pasted them into a book which, when completed, we turned in for a War Bond. We collected scrap metal, we had a victory garden and blackout curtains, and we knew what all the searchlights around Long Beach harbor were for. Interestingly, both Jerry and I still call them "searchlights" instead of "spotlights" or whatever their real name is now!

In the schools we practiced what to do for air raids (go into the halls and line up outside our classrooms. Later in the atomic area we learned to drop to the floor under our desks). But out on the playground we called each other "Allies" or "Axis", depending on which class got out a little early and ran to get the rings first. They were always the Allies and the slower class the Axis. We knew to insult each other by calling the other Tojo or Mussolini. Kids 6 and 7 and 8 didn't really know what all these terms mean, but we had picked up the names from our folks and knew who the bad guys were.

As "The Greatest Generation" and as we who experienced it peripherally as little kids die off, all this will be forgotten, unless one can dig into a social history of that time. When I saw these books this morning, time telescoped and I remembered being little and watching how my family operated with the wartime constraints on us. It was as if 70 years ago was just yesterday, my mother standing at the stove, an apron over her house dress, tipping the skillet over the coffee can and grease running down into the container. Yes, lots of memories.

So back to reality: Of course I did not find in the box the size knitting needle I needed. Guess it's back to Michael's today to buy one!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I don’t like to trivialize Thanksgiving, because I am truly grateful for all the things we are supposed to be grateful for – health, family, nation, etc. But over the years I’ve always made a list of things that make me happy, to remind myself that not only is it better to give than to receive but also it is better to count your blessings instead of your woes. So here is my list for 2009.


1. Jerry’s beautiful grey hair and the new hair stylist who knows how to cut it!
2. Living in Southern California, which I believe has the best weather in the world.
3. Newspapers and books that I can hold while I read.
4. The gift of a used digital camera when the owner upgraded.
5. Music, especially cool jazz, classical, oldies of the ‘70s and anything Dudamel.
6. New friends in Corona and San Francisco and old friends anywhere.
7. Levis, bracelets and long-sleeved t-shirts
8. Squeaky
9. Having such a workable library system in the area.
10. An easy-going, agreeable spouse
11. Discovering wigs
12. Net-flix, which makes reliving movies of the ‘50s accessible, enabling us to
take a great walk down memory lane whenever we want.
13. Patterned socks!
14. My cousins
15. My computer and the gurus who keep it (and me) running.
16. Hot Coffee and Cool Jazz – and those who read it.
17. Grandkids old and young who hug me like they mean it.
18. Two classes of “Beginning Photoshop,” which opened up another world to play in.
19. Walking on the Outer Banks, a lifelong dream.
20. The Internet

Have a good one, everybody!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


As many of you know, I am engaged in a big genealogy project of my own making: the goal is to get everything I know about the ancestry of each of my four grandparents into a written and illustrated booklet and into my kids’ hands. I figured it would take me two months to complete one grandparent’s book, so the overall project would be, allowing for slight variations of time available to do this, done in a year’s time. I finished up my Grandma Maud Susan McConnell Dobbins’s family in two months. I finished up my Grandma Jessie Davis Ryland’s family in two months. I’m now working on my Grandpa Byrd Ryland’s family and I may need to use a little bit of that built-in variation time for him, because his two month period spans both Thanksgiving and Christmas, never a good time to find oneself at a loss for something to do. Anyway, I’m still on schedule as of this writing.

This morning I was at the Laundromat knitting furiously while the machines did their work and I was thinking about when this knit-hat project was going to be done. The hat I made for Olivia didn’t fit well, so I’m knitting another one. It needs to be done by Saturday, because that’s when I’ll see her next. I thought to myself, “Projects, projects, projects!”

Lurking in the back of my mind is an unfinished cross-stitch piece that I set aside some time back and just haven’t returned to finish it. I thought how unlike me to not finish a project. And at that point I felt my nose growing longer and my tongue turning black, both signs of a big, fat lie. And once I acknowledged to myself that I had more than one unfinished project, my mind’s eye remembered what was in one of my office drawers. In addition to the three unfinished cross-stitch pieces I’m showing, I found two that hadn’t even been started yet, and found four that I had started but didn’t like and know I’ll never get back to them. Those four are now residing in my trash can.

And because I DO know that I will keep doing the cross-stitches I dare not throw away all the threads that I’ve collected over the years. I started putting them into nice little cubby-holed boxes but finally rather than buy MORE boxes I decided to chuff them in zip-lock bags. That quantity of possibly usable embroidery threads takes up a great deal of space; I am not able to let even 1 of them go!

I do hate to have unfinished projects hanging around. Whenever I used to go housesit for Kerry I always took a bunch of projects with me. I never knew what I would feel like working on. “Feeling” is not a good rationale for completing projects. But if I assign myself too many deadlines for completing things, I feel that I don’t have time to smell the roses.

I am definitely not going to buy any more pieces to cross-stitch, nor am I going to do any more hats once Olivia’s gets finished. I AM going to make a little something for the newest Great-granddaughter, but I think I’ll draw the line there. One by one I’ll finish the projects I’ve started, finish up Grandpa Scott Dobbins’ family report by February 2010, and just maybe do nothing for a while except read. And smell a few flowers, too.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I subscribe to For every 100 words they print, I understand about 20 of them. The headlines to their articles are so very enticing – like yesterday’s article “Technology We’ll Miss When It’s Gone.” Oh no, I thought. What now? Reading their article is like wearing a haircloth shirt – there may be some value to it but darned if I can figure out much of what it is. Nevertheless, these things, whether you know what they are or not (I am addressing us older people now) MP3 players, optical drives, the mouse, dumb phones, digital cameras, Microsoft Windows, MySpace, pay phones, packaged media (CDs, DVDs) vs. downloads, and good manners are all scheduled to be things of the past, and with the 20% that I understood, I found myself getting seriously depressed. NOT MY MOUSE, PLEASE!

My intent originally was to share all this with you, but not wanting to lay depression on my readers, I decided instead to share something that really makes me happy. And that is the website called It is a site that acts like a broker for independent used bookstores all over the world. I am always wanting or needing a book that I no longer can find anywhere. And instead of driving to every used bookstore in town, I simply tell what I want and almost instantly, voila! I see on my screen a list of bookstores which have that book and all the details about it and the vendor.

Now I am not looking for books like a collector of old books does, but I’ll tell you what I’ve picked from their offerings. I wanted a book that was referenced in an article I read about the meteor shower of 1833. The book was published in 1998 in England, published by Cambridge Press and entitled “The Heavens on Fire.” For $7.00 plus shipping I got a book that had been in the DeKalb (Illinois) County Public Library and later had been de-accessed. It obviously hadn’t been used much. I used the book to learn all about what it was that my great-great grandmother had seen.

I used Abebooks to find a copy of a book called “Goodnight Children, Everywhere: Voices of Evacuees” about the little kids in London who were sent to the countryside to live with other families during the Second World War. It was published very recently in England. I just learned a friend of mine was one of those kids, and I wanted to know more. This book was a real eye-opener.

I used Abebooks to find a copy of Ken Starr’s new book “Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963.” Yes, I could have found it at B&N or Amazon, but the price was within my budget at, enabling me to purchase it instead of just borrowing and re-borrowing it through the library systems.

And yesterday I just ordered another book. A year or so ago a beautiful new coffeetable-type book about Tony Duquette, a California artist and interior designer, was published that sold for $75.00. It’s now selling at about $50. In 1980 Duquette mounted an exhibit of Angels that celebrated Los Angeles. Jerry and I went, and I was so enthralled by what I saw that I went back for a second time, insisting that my mother needed to see it too. She was not very healthy at that time and she hadn’t been able to get out much, certainly not to Los Angeles, so I wanted her to see this really amazing display. We took it very slowly, and she loved it as much as I did.

Yesterday I decided to see via Abebooks if one of these big fancy books had come down in price to fit my pocketbook. I knew the book encompassed much more than just his Angel exhibit, but the angels were what I wanted it for. Abebooks let me know that for a mere $16.00, which included shipping charges, they could supply a book specifically about the Angel Exhibit – with color illustrations. Needless to say I bought it. And got undepressed really fast!

So in spite of what PCWorld said that causes me to be distressed (DON’T TAKE MY MOUSE, PLEASE!) I now know that a romp around is good for what ails me. If you haven’t had a reason to look for an old book you are interested in, do yourself a favor and snoop around on their website. You never will know what you might find that will brighten your day in an very affordable way!

Monday, November 23, 2009


Jer and I got into a funny discussion the other night as to whether we sidled or slithered around in our tiny apartment. There was some minor disagreement as to which was closer to what we have to do but no disagreement at all that both of them are appropriate.

The problem is that we have 1000 square feet of furniture and a 750 square foot apartment to put it in. And we've gotten rid of the big stuff! So you can see that we have to do some fancy footwork to get from here to there.

We have a one-person-wide kitchen. It is a much better kitchen than the one we had in our larger Loma Linda apartment, so I have to keep this in mind whenever I say "bad" things about this kitchen. It's a galley kitchen, so we can work side to side quite easily. We just can't change places easily. Only the cat can walk past us. For Jer and me, the mode is either to slither or to sidle.

We gave away our beautiful big dining room set with 8 chairs and china cabinet, and replaced it with a small wooden round table and 4 chairs. We have a little dining area at the juncture of our kitchen and living room, but again, even that tiny set is too big for that area. Whoever gets up from the table has to either sidle or slither into the kitchen because one of the chairs, when occupied, blocks the ingress.

Our "master" bedroom would not be quite so tight if we didn't have Jerry's desk and file cabinet in it. But as this was the only room that could hold it, there it sits, and it too causes a lot of fancy footwork to happen. To get to my bed I walk through the bedroom door, turn sideways to pass between the foot of Jerry's bed and the double-dresser and then make a sharp right hand turn to reach it. To open the drawers, we have to stand to the outside of the drawers and pull them out in front of us into the narrow little passageway at the end of our beds. If one of us is rummaging in a drawer for something, the other one either has to bide his or her time or else crawl over Jerry's bed if it is imperative to get to the window quickly. (As an aside, Jerry never has to rummage in a drawer. His are so neat he doesn't know what the word "rummage" means. I am the rummager).

I wrote a poem once about that very subject. It's called Honesty.

I place my books back on the shelf
instead of let them rest
upon the couch or table where
I think they suit me best.

My clothes get put on hangers,
not just tossed upon a chair
or dropped upon the closet floor
and then left lying there.

I promptly do the dishes so my
drainboards always shine.
In opening cupboards high or low
you'll find no mess in mine.

My house is always spotless
so it satisfies my mate,
but don't be fooled: this tidiness
is not my natural state.

You'll only see my image in
my waxed and polished floors.
The real me is hidden in
my messy dresser drawers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


When my mother died, I became the inheritor of her cardboard box of accumulated snapshots and photos. Right up to the time she passed away she was intending to get all her photos in order. It never happened.

When Jerry's mother died, he inherited a similar box from his mother, who also had all the photos from her two older sisters, both of whom died childless.

Jerry and I each brought into our marriage a box of snapshots from our first marriages, and then, of course, we started our own collection. Frankly, it became overwhelming.

However, midway in our marriage I did a very smart thing. I spent about a week sitting on the floor sorting all the photos into groups. One group was for my brother, one for Jerry's sister, one for my cousin Shirley and one for Jerry's only cousin Ethel. Into each group I put all the school pictures of their children that they had sent over the years, as well as many family photos in which they appeared. I put each family's photos in a big manila envelope and then invited the families to the house for dinner.

The after-dinner coffee was served along with stuffed manila envelopes for dessert. There was much hooting and hollering over the old photos and we had a riotous time. It was an exceptionally entertaining dinner, one that we all have remembered. And best of all, it certainly thinned out our existing photo pile.

With the pictures that I saved, I put them in "children" piles – a pile for each of my children and one for each of Jer's children. I made sure there was a like assortment of ancestor pictures, their own children's pictures and pictures of their cousins in each pile. I bought 6 big photo albums and after culling out pictures I wanted to save for my own album (to muse over in my old age), I made an album for each kid, labeled them, and set them in the den on low bookshelves. Whenever the grandchildren came over, they always ran over to "their" family album to look at it.

When Jerry's daughter Kathie drew close to the five year point in her valiant fight with breast cancer and was not doing well, I gave her the album with her name on it so she could have the pleasure of looking at it. The rest of the children will have to wait until I am gone before they get theirs.

Since then I have periodically updated the albums. Each time I tuck photos away in the proper albums, named and dated, I am touched by mixed feelings -- intense love of family and wistful sadness at the passing of some of the people pictured in the albums who have been so important in my life.

When I die my kids will probably tear their hair out over what to do with all my genealogy stuff. But I have to laugh when I think of them marching in my office after I'm gone, grabbing the book with their name on it, and thanking me in absentia because I had the foresight to do this for them. They will never have to know how awful it is to be burdened with 5,000 photographs all at once - unnamed, undated and piled in a cardboard box.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


It's not often one has an occasion to show a picture of their husband in his birthday suit. But today is a special day - a commemoration of Jerry's first appearance back on November 17, 1929. He was the best gift a young husband and wife could have received. The family lived in Los Angeles. Daddy was a pharmacist and mom, before her marriage, was a page at the Central Library in downtown LA. Everyone remembers that the Great Depression began in November of 1929, but there was no depression whatsoever in the Title household. Jerry had arrived!

Forty years passed, and Jerry aged well. Full beards came in style, and while I think it made men look a little older and more suave, Jerry managed to blend just the right amount of grey hair in with his own dark hair (grey hair possibly acquired from marrying a woman with four children!)to look like a man easing easily into middle-age.

So another 40 years pass. Here he is today at 80, relatively healthy, relatively active, and relatively sane, he says. He plays 18 holes of golf every Sunday with his son, patrols weekly in his job volunteering for the Sheriff's department as a "COP" (Citizen on Patrol), works on various committees helping sort out by-laws, and still finds time to work on the "Honey-do" list that is posted on the fridge. He's the keeper of the cat box, waterer of the sweet peas, clipper of the coupons and balancer of the checkbook. He's a good husband with a good disposition, an adoring grandpa, an active great-grandpa, a great friend and a genuinely nice man. Who could ask for more as a legacy!

Happy Birthday, Jer. And many, many more.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I have known for a long time what my mission in life was. I never said anything about it to anyone because I thought maybe some new revelation would appear in my psyche that had a more noble significance than the little mission early revealed to me.

Actually I had always hoped that at some point I could say something like “My mission in life is to ….” and be able to look back and see that I had fed the hungry , or made it possible for small children to have a cleft-palate repair, or to provide a loving home for little homeless cats, all of which I have done in small measure but not as a mission in life. I’ve had other little charities that I’ve supported either over a period of time or for a specific reason, but none so as I could feel it was my mission to do.

But very honestly, by the time one gets to be my age, there probably is not going to be any big change in what one feels called to do, or at least it isn’t going to happen very often. So I have decided that I’d better just be satisfied with what has been somehow impressed upon my mind as what I can do to make my little corner of earth better. I am actually a bit embarrassed to admit it, lest you all think I have gone slightly cuckoo, but it is what it is.

And here it is: I am impelled to advise restaurant management when I find women’s restrooms in need of attention.

Why me? Why a restroom? Why a restaurant? Such an ignominious calling! Such an inglorious mission!

Remember the poem “Abou Ben Adhem” – (may his tribe increase) who found an angel standing beside his bed one night writing in a book. He asked the angel what it was writing and the angel said “The names of those who love the Lord.” Abou learned that his name wasn’t there, so asked the angel to write instead that Abou loved his fellow man. And the next night when the angel came Abou learned that from that one admission his name had been moved to the top of the list.

No, I don’t suppose many of you remember that poem. It may be that because my mother read that poem to my sister and me so much when we were little, I always thought I needed to have a mission in life too.

But women’s restroom maintenance? Is that all there is behind my name in the book of life?

Here I must state that I do feel I am doing the women who come behind me into the public bathroom a big service. There is nothing like being caught with no paper seat cover, or no toilet paper. Or wet floors around the commode. Or worst of all, an unflushed toilet! After finding such conditions, I always quietly march out to the nearest employee and advise them that the women’s restroom is in immediate need of attention. Usually the bosses appear grateful. The employees usually roll their eyes at me. But at least I’ve discharged my part of the mission. Now it is up to someone else.

I do love my fellow man, however, So perhaps the Angel at the foot of my bed will, after writing “She brought dirty bathrooms to the attention of restaurant Management”, add “and she does love her fellow man, too, just not as much as clean bathrooms!”

Sunday, November 15, 2009


If you are tired of having a plain old traditional roast turkey dinner this Thanksgiving you might want to consider creating a Turducken instead. The food section of our local newspaper ran an article last week on this dish, where a chicken is stuffed into a duck and then the duck in turn gets stuffed into a turkey. Since I wasn’t cooking this year, I didn’t pay much attention to the article, except for a little blurb that caught my eye where it said the nice thing is that your slice of Turkey will show the various layers of fowl.

I didn’t think any more about it until the next day when I mentioned the recipe to one of my daughters and I realized that I didn’t have a clue as to what the recipe really said. She and I laughed ourselves silly at the thought of taking a chicken and stuffing it through the rear end of a larger duck, and then stuffing that kit and caboodle into the end of the Turkey., My God! we thought. To get a slice of Turducken on your plate you would have to use a chainsaw on the turkey, hacking through bones and all. Obviously the recipe meant something else had to happen, but I didn’t have a clue as to what it was.

I snooped around on the internet, and believe me, producing a Turducken isn’t for the faint of heart. The first step is to make an incision along the spine of the Turkey and then gently, with the point of a very sharp knife, tease the flesh away from the bones (!) of the entire turkey. When finished, the turkey is to be laid flat out on its back, totally boneless and spread-eagled (or spread-turkeyed, to be more precise.)

Once that is out of the way, the duck and then the chicken are worked on in the same manner. Possibly if one is a professional cook or butcher, this could be done easily, but for the rest of us, we’d probably have to be carted off to the looney bin before we got the bones out of any of them.

But assuming total boning was possible, the recipe goes on to say that a sausage dressing is to be slathered across the spread-eagled Turkey. The duck gets spread-eagled on top of that dressing: he gets a cornbread dressing slathered across him. Finally, the chicken gets spread-eagled on the cornbread dressing and his dressing is a yummy (?) oyster dressing. But if you think you are to roll this up now, you are wrong. That would make it a roulade. To get a Turducken, you have to reconstruct the Turkey shape by pulling the sides up and over the various stuffed fowl and then quickly sew together all the openings. The recipe says you need at least two people to accomplish this.

We now are getting closer to completion. Once you get the mess looking like a turkey again, you stick it in the oven and bake at 190 degrees for 12 to 13 hours. When it is fully cooked, voila! You have a Turducken. It can be sliced longways first and then each side sliced crossways into serving pieces. All three dressings and all three fowls will lie there on your plate looking beautiful!

Tell me what nut would do this?

Friday, November 13, 2009


With winter just around the corner, it’s time for me to make Armenian Beef and Cabbage Stew. It’s an unusual and flavorful stew; it cooks in a tomato sauce, seasoned with paprika, cayenne and the surprise of dill. Best of all, it’s easy to make. I first saw the recipe in a wonderful cookbook called Main Course Soup and Stews compiled by Dorothy Ivens and dated 1983. I’ve made it ever since. I often have brown rice or bulgur with it. In looking for a picture of it via Google Images, I found the one here illustrating a Turkish Beef and Cabbage Stew called Etli Kapuska – and the recipe is almost identical. Regardless of where it is from, it is good eating!

1-1/2 pounds boneless stewing beef, cut in 1” pieces
4 T butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 T tomato paste
1 T paprika.
1-1/2 t salt
1/8 t cayenne
1-2 cups hot water
1 small (2 pounds) cabbage, coarsely shredded
½ cup chopped fresh dill.

Turn on oven to 325 degrees

Pat meat dry with paper towels or it will not brown. Melt the butter in a heavy, lidded saucepan or casserole, large enough to accommodate the cabbage before it cooks down. Cook and stir meat over moderately high heat until its red color disappears. Add onions and cook, stirring, until they soften. Stir in tomato paste to coat meat and onions. Stir in paprika, salt and cayenne. Add hot water, enough to barely cover meat.

Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover and place in the preheated oven. Reduce temperature to 100 degrees or whatever temperature will just maintain the simmer. Check occasionally. Cook for 30 minutes.

Stir in cabbage and 1/3 of the dill. Cover and return to the oven for 30-60 minutes, or until meat is tender. Taste and add salt if needed.

Serve sprinkled with remaining dill. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

If you are a beer drinker, this is a stew that calls out for beer!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Seeing the words, “The Men Who Stare at Goats” in my newspaper the other day gave me a start. Seeing it linked with the Coen Brothers made me gasp. And then I had a tiny heart palpitation when I saw that the movie was R rated. I’m sorry, folks, but I’m an old codger (if codgers are inclusive of females) and I feel like I spend half my time tiptoeing around to avoid seeing or hearing things that my prudish upbringing demanded I not see or hear.

So you can imagine my relief at realizing that goats are not sheep, if you get what I mean.

So now, I think, it is possible that if the movie is truly “A Wildly Funny Ride” and the R simply means for language, some drug content and brief nudity, then I just might be able to safely go see it in the theater. As always, though, I’ll wait for my daughter Kerry to see it first, and she will let me know, as I have asked her to, whether it would be ok for me to see the picture.

Now having settled that in my mind, I did see a movie promo on the TV screen that showed a goat falling over with its legs stick straight. OMG, I said to myself. They have a Tennessee Fainting goat! And for that reason only, I’m hoping Kerry will give me a thumbs up. I am fascinated by Fainting goats.

Way back when I started blogging, I wrote a whole blog on goats, prompted by discovering a small goat farm down the road from us here in Riverside County. The goat population is kept in the front yard of the house, fenced off from a rural road that is one of the few roads in this part of the county that doesn’t get bisected by freight train tracks and thus I use it a lot to get down to one of the few shopping areas locally. So in traveling down Pedley Avenue, one has to go past the goats and as often as not, stop and look at them. The owners have built little wooden “toys” for the goats to climb on, and there is always one goat or another sitting on top of a miniature house or on the high end of a teeter-totter type board.

When I first saw these cute but fairly ordinary-looking goats, I had never heard of the Fainting variety. But in wondering what breed the Pedley goats might be, I checked with Google and that is where I found the Tennessee Fainting Goats. Wikipedia (which is getting better at documenting their sources, I think) says this: A fainting goat is a breed of domestic goat whose muscles freeze for roughly 10 seconds when the goat is startled. Though painless, this generally results in the animal collapsing on its side. The characteristic is caused by a hereditary genetic disorder called myotonia congenita. When startled, younger goats will stiffen and fall over. Older goats learn to spread their legs or lean against something when startled, and often they continue to run about in an awkward, stiff-legged shuffle.

The goats that live by us are not fainters; if they were I’d probably spend a long time each day hanging on the fence laughing at them. (How rude, I hear my cousin, the vet say!) But just so you’ll understand why I would laugh, here is a video that shows the goats fainting.

If this is ALL that happens in “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” then for sure I can handle it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Last week I was nosing around on Google Earth in the Long Beach, California area, seeing what I could see. And what I saw was a street view of 1620 Gardenia, the house I grew up in. Over the years I’ve driven by it on occasions and the house, at least from the outside, always seems to be in good condition, although one time it had been painted exceptionally bizarre colors. But in the Google Earth street view, the house was back to its usual light color and, in fact, looked better than when my family lived in it from 1945 to 1964, because the dreary plain windows had been replaced with 6x6 small paned windows.

You’ve heard of people who said, “My whole life flashed before my eyes” – well, this is what happened to me when I saw that house. It was like all the joy and excitement of my youth flashed before mine. Those were such good years. My folks had passed through the terrors of the Great Depression and my dad’s business was taking off. We had a good-sized house, a den with a piano in it, a formal dining room, a bedroom for everybody, a big side yard for badminton and horseshoes, a fenced back yard for croquet and dogs. It was here where my baby brother was born, my scout troop met, where my uncle Bill sat with me on the couch night after night while he saved me from drowning in algebra, where I received my first kiss, where my folks fixed a huge pancake breakfast for all my friends after our high school graduation night dance, and where I introduced my folks to my husband-to-be. All that and more flashed through my mind.

I looked at the picture on Google Earth – and then I saw that there was a wooden sign in the front yard that said “For Sale.” I have always wanted to go back through that house and take another look at it. I contacted my cousin in North Carolina whose best friend is a real estate agent in Long Beach and asked her to find out if the house was still for sale. I didn’t get a “yes or no” answer, but I did get seven photographs of various rooms in the house and the yard.

I was so grateful to be able to take a peek, but what I saw made me realize that I really did not need to go inside the house. Everything was different. On the multiple listing page that came with the photos it said the master bedroom had a bathroom and a sitting area. Right there I knew I had better not go in. My first reaction was “What have they done to my house?” because we did not have that configuration. I suspect the den had been incorporated into the original bedroom my folks had (in those days there was no such thing as “master bedroom”) and a bathroom added. As I read on further, I could tell that much more had been changed.

What I realized is that I wanted to see it as it was, and that only exists now in my mind. I have no photographs of it, but I still know every nook and cranny. I do not want to see those nook and crannies gone. It did help me to read that there were 2000 square feet to the house. When I was little it seemed like a big house; the rooms were smaller than I remembered, but it was a good sized house. I also learned that it was built in 1916 and had a lot of history before we ever moved in to it. I thank my cousin’s friend for giving me enough material to get my good sense back. It is true that you can’t go home again. It was my home then, but it’s been someone else’s home for a long, long time. What's important is that I get to keep the good memories.

Monday, November 9, 2009



One of my favorite bloggers, Tom McMahon, finds all kinds of interesting things to talk about. I found this on his blog but he had found it earlier on the blog "Neatorma." It's fascinating. For us who are totally stupid when it comes to math (that includes ME!), it isn't the math that is special, it is the result of the math that astounds! So give it a read.

From Neatorama:

Cicadas are winged insects that evolved around 1.8 million years ago during the Pleistocene epoch, when glaciers advanced and retreated across North America. Cicadas of the genus Magicicada spend most of their lives below the ground, feeding on the juices of plant roots, and then emerge, mate, and die quickly. These creatures display a startling behavior: Their emergence is synchronized with periods of years that are usually the prime numbers 13 and 17. (A prime number is an integer such as 11, 13, and 17 that has only two integer divisors: 1 and itself.) During the spring of their 13th or 17th year, these periodical cicadas construct an exit tunnel. Sometimes more than 1.5 million individuals emerge in a single acre; this abundance of bodies may have survival value as they overwhelm predators such as birds that cannot possibly eat them all at once.

Some researchers have speculated that the evolution of prime-number life cycles occurred so that the creatures increased their chances of evading shorter-lived predators and parasites. For example, if these cicadas had 12-year life cycles, all predators with life cycles of 2, 3, 4, or 6 years might more easily find the insects. Mario Markus of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology in Dortmund, Germany, and his coworkers discovered that these kinds of prime-number cycles arise naturally from evolutionary mathematical models of interactions between predator and prey. In order to experiment, they first assigned random life-cycle durations to their computer-simulated populations. After some time, a sequence of mutations always locked the synthetic cicadas into a stable prime-number cycle.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


From a Rice County, Kansas newspaper of 1874:

"This pest, about the time of the first settlement of the county, had visited us on one or two occasions, and departed without any serious injury. But when they came in 1874, the details of the sufferings of our people at that period, in consequence of this terrible visitation, have been so freely and vividly portrayed through the press of the United States, as to render any extended repetition of them unnecessary at this time. Suffice it to say, that for five days preceding the appearance of the grasshoppers in that year, unusually hot winds from the southwest prevailed, until July 25, when the mercury stood at 106 degrees in the shade, 116 degrees in the sun, at 2 o'clock P. M. On the following day the wind suddenly shifted into the northeast, and about 2 o'clock P. M. the grasshopper storm burst upon us; and they increased in numbers until the 28th, when the climax was reached. The wind shifted on the following day to the south, and remained there until August 1, when it returned into the northeast, and on August 2, a fresh installment came from that quarter, and remained until August 7, when most of them took their departure, the wind still blowing from the northeast.

"For the first three days after their appearance, the whole heavens were darkened with their presence and the earth with their bodies. They covered every tree and plant, and every green thing -- the prairie and water courses. They flew like hail in the faces of men, dashed themselves against every object, animate and inanimate, and as they rushed through the air or near the earth, and struck an opposing object, the rattle of their contact resembled the sound of a hailstorm on the roof, or the clashing of sabres in the scabbards of a squadron of cavalry at full gallop. Like the frogs and the locusts in Pharaohs time, they were every where.

"When this scourge had fairly settled down upon us, the stoutest hearts quailed before it, and gloom was depicted on every countenance. The plow was left standing midway in the furrow, and for a while all farm labor was virtually suspended. The most gifted pen and the most eloquent tongue are inadequate for the task, for language is too poor to paint the scene of desolation wrought by the grasshoppers of 1874.

"But the silver lining soon rose above the dark cloud. Early in September, copious rains refreshed the parched earth, and thus prepared the way for the most bountiful crops the ensuing year that Kansas ever produced. Relief to the stricken people poured in from abroad, and never was aid more timely and necessary, or even more gratefully received by any people, than it was by the citizens of this county, that fall and the ensuing winter. For our people knew and felt that their destitution was not the result of slothfulness or extravagance on their part, and that no human foresight could have averted this calamity. Joyfully and without any humiliation on their part, they received the bounty of others. The scourge of 1874 was not wholly unmixed with blessings, nor without some useful lessons. Men’s hearts grew larger and beat with quicker sympathy for each other, in the presence of this wide desolation."

I say, even making allowances for the hyperbole of the day, this must have been a horrible ordeal to live through.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Islands, Dardanelles, Mediterranean Sea, Bosphorus, Sea of Marmara, Feribot, deniz otobus, fish and fishermen. What wonderful memories I carry around from living in such close proximity to all that water.

Our apartment building in the Goztepe section of Istanbul was two blocks off the Sea of Marmara. At any time of the day we could look out the front windows of our apartment and see the Marmara, the islands right off the coast, and if the day was clear enough we could see over to the part of the old city on the “nose” of the coast as it rounds into the Golden Horn.

To get anywhere, it most often entailed a taxi ride to a dock and then a ride on either a Feribot or a deniz otobus (a smaller catamaran “feribot”). It all depended on where you were going and where you were coming from.

In the summer many people moved to one of the Princes Islands off the coast. The air was always “fresh” – a bit cooler than in the city and far less crowded. Any time you felt the need for a change, hopping on a ferryboat to Heybeliada or Buyukada was called for. One of the most delightful days of my life was spent at the island home of Walt and Vivian Leitner. They invited three couples to their house for a meal and a visit. We slightly knew the other couples, and it turned out to be one of those rare occasions where everything was perfect – the companionship, the locale, the hosts – and here almost 20 years later I still remember it as one of life’s serendipitous days. We might have talked all night but the feribot wouldn’t wait for us, so reluctantly we made our goodbyes and left.

Jerry loves fish, and one of his favorite fish restaurants was on the Bosphorus. We considered our driver, young Ahmet, as a good friend and asked him to have dinner with us whenever we went out. We did not want him sitting over in a corner eating by himself. I needed him for another reason: at this restaurant a big tank of fish sat just inside the restaurant door. Patrons were to pick out the fish they wanted to eat for dinner. I could not do that. I always asked Ahmet to do it for me. He did, and while I admit to enjoying the freshness of the fish, I couldn’t let myself think about how it got on my plate. I am still an old softie.

I found lots of things to photograph as we nosed around the various waterfronts. I can’t say as they were always “scenic” pictures to help me remember what a particular place looked like, but again, looking at these photos instantly brings back the images and the smells of those places where I took the photograph, a place and a time I'll never forget.


Each morning I scan the newspapers - The Riverside Press-Enterprise every day and the LA Times on Thusday through Sunday. I do not read them thoroughly but instead scan them for articles that might be of interest to me. Those I carefully read. So I don't understand how I could have so thoroughly missed reading about Barak Obama's younger brother. I think I knew there was one, but if you'd asked me anything about him I wouldn't have had any kind of answer.

Until yesterday ... when the LA Times carried a large article and photo of him and mentioned an autobiographical book he has recently published. The fellow's name is Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo. He and our President had the same father but different mothers. Mark's mother, Ruth, was the daughter of Jewish Lithuanian immigrants and her marriage to Barak senior was not a good one. Mark subsequently took the last name of a stepfather.

What I found so interesting is that this fellow earned a degree in physics from Brown Univerity and Stanford, as well as an MBA from Emory University. He is a classical and jazz pianist and volunteers as a piano teacher in an orphanage. He recently married a Chinese woman and currently lives in China doing business consulting. He also is a partner in a small chain of restaurants.

He did not know our President when they were children but he has met him a few times since. He also attended Obama's inauguration. Although there is a resemblance between the two, it is more in their slim build and loping gait.

So now I guess I know pretty much what everyone else already knew. Mark seems to be doing quite well and does not need to get his 15 minutes of fame by hanging around his famous brother, which is refreshing in light of some of the other presidential siblings.

I just never know what I'm going to come upon in the newspaper. Here's hoping they stay around in print form for a long time.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Recently I read a review of Kevin Starr's new book "Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance 1950-1963." The review prompted me to check out the book from the library, and it was so good and so interesting I had to buy one of my own. As a native Southern Californian born in 1935, I am of an age to remember the years 1950 to 1963 in detail. I started high school in 1950, married in 1955, had babies from 56 to 61 and bought a first house in 1959. There was rarely an event happening in those years talked about in the book that I was not aware of. What I didn't know was the history behind each one.

From time to time I'll be sharing some of the things I learned, or enjoyed reading about, in this book. But one of the reasons I purchased the book is that I needed more time than the library allowed to read and understand about the various racial components of California history, especially about the Philippinos, of which I was totally unaware.

Today's blog really isn't about the book, but it did bring to my mind something I read a couple of years ago in a newspaper and kept in my file of interesting things (yes, I have one of those, among many other strange files). Here's what it said:

“These workers fill the menial positions of our country well.”

“They follow their original national habits in food and mode of life; they have no social intercourse with white people.”

“They are non-assimilative with whites.”

“My observation has been that the laborers who are here now and coming here tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.”

“They work at what would be starvation prices for white men and women.”

“He comes here as a laborer. He comes here for the purpose of bettering his condition. He comes here as a law-abiding citizen. Where is the white man who will go into that ditch and work? He is not here. You can not find him.”

These quotes are from a hearing of the Joint Special Committee to Investigate Chinese Immigration and date from 1877. The report is in the National Archives.


My comment:

It is true that there is no new thing under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


A Jewish man took his Passover lunch to eat outside in the park. He sat down on a bench and began eating. A little while later a blind man came by and sat down next to him. Feeling neighborly, the Jewish man passed a sheet of matzo to the blind man. The blind man handled the matzo for a few minutes, looked puzzled, and finally exclaimed, “Who wrote this crap?”


In the old days it was usually the youngest daughter in any family who took in her parents as they aged. Along with the parents came the photo albums, family bible, etc. As you research, keep your eye open for modern-day descendants of that daughter. They may be sitting on a wonderful pile of ephemera that you had no idea existed. It’s happened to me twice, and both times it produced photographs of our common ancestor – a great-grandparent.

While indexing for FamilySearch from digitized records, I discovered there are often other papers connected (but not necessarily stapled to) to the death certificates of people. Papers I saw contained information such as affidavits, corrected names, adoption information, family members, medical data, etc . These supplementary papers were also digitized but not noted in the index. Now that I know this, I would suggest any time you order birth, death or marriage records, you add this to your request: “…and any other papers or forms or documents that may be relevant to the person’s birth/death/marriage record.”

At different points in your research life you will discover information that you didn’t see the first time you looked. Whenever you have a short block of time with nothing pressing, grab a family file and review all the documents you’ve obtained. You will be surprised at what you see on the 2nd and 3rd and 4th go-rounds. One thing most people never notice on a death certificate is a little line that asks: How long in this city? This information may be a real help to your research.

Things besides deeds are in Deed books. Finding a Power of Attorney noted in a Deed index sent me to the microfilmed Deed book where I found in the Affidavit the location of a missing family member. In Superior Court indexes I noted lawsuits filed by my great-great grandfather. Using the Superior Court books on microfilm, I discovered he sued a railroad and won. DO NOT ASSUME THAT EVERYTHING AVAILABLE CAN BE FOUND ON LINE! (yet!)

It will do you no good if you have a bright idea about where you might look next for a missing ancestor and then fail to follow through. My purse used to be littered with sticky notes on which I had jotted down a research idea I had at work Make yourself a “bright idea” chart and note on it four things: a) Who it pertains to, b) What you need to look for, c) Where you should look, and d)A column for checking it off when you have followed through. Don’t let your bright ideas die.

That's it, folks!

Monday, November 2, 2009


After doing genealogical research for more than 25 years I've learned a few tricks. I shared them in the Corona Genealogical Society's "show and tell" program and I think they are important enough to share with you all.

Older folks usually know more than they think they do. When you ask “Do you know when…..” they will often say “No” or “I don’t remember.” If they do, then rephrase your question to “Do you know about when….” More often than not they’ll peg the time or the place to something that they DO remember and you’ll have a ballpark idea of how and where to dig up the answer.

It is better to order a birth or death certificate now than to wait until later. Costs will never go down, only up. Furthermore, with the new identity laws going into effect down the road you even may never be able to get one. Even if you think you don’t want it, get it now anyway. Better safe than very sorry!

I have actual documents with Corel family members spelled thusly: Corel, Correll, Corell, Carroll, Carol, Corl, Curl, Carll, Care, Carles, Carl and Coral. The Kansas Corels pronounce it CORAL and the Virginia Corels pronounce it CURL. Never discount a name because it is spelled or sounds different from what you think it should.

If you think you know the oldest person in your mother’s or father’s family, tactfully ask that person if there are others older that you might not know about. Do not assume you know who that person is. I asked my Dad’s oldest sister if she was the oldest Dobbins still living and to my surprise she said no, that Cousin Percy Dobbins was still alive and well. I had never known of Cousin Percy. When I contacted him, he gave me pictures of three of our Dobbins ancestors, going back to one born in 1773. Cousin Percy died two years later at 95. I almost missed this because I wrongly thought I knew who the oldest living Dobbins relative was.

Go after coroner’s reports for people who died suddenly, or alone, or in an accident. Most Counties kept Coroner’s reports and many are in county archives. Find out where they are kept and check the index for your relatives. There may be very interesting information in them. Death certificates may tell you if the coroner was involved. You don’t need an autopsy report, just any information contained in the file.

(More to come)

Sunday, November 1, 2009


A few days ago I read in the newspaper about a woman who “lost it” while trying to get gasoline for her car. She and the attendant quibbled over whether she had given him a $1 or a $20 bill. When the attendant insisted that she had only given him a single dollar, she started screaming at him, then went behind the counter, hit him in the face and finally grabbed a pair of scissors which she held at his throat. The attendant gave her two $10 bills and she left.

Shortly after, she glanced in her purse and saw the $20 bill, so she returned to the gas station to make amends. But it was too late. The police were there and she was arrested.

In such a short article one doesn’t really know if she simply overacted to a perceived grievance or if she had some type of mental problem. I suspect the latter, but in this day and age one never knows. Short fuses abound.

But not without reason. Trying to get something done today in one try is almost an impossibility. The other day I needed to reference something at the Pomona Library, a 17 miles drive from my house. I set aside a day for it, checked their website catalog to see if they still had the book (they did) and to ascertain the hours they were open on that day. Confirming everything, Jerry and I set out at 10 in the morning for the library, but upon our arrival we learned that the book was held in a special collection and the room holding that collection was only open from 2 to 5 each day.

I took a pair of slacks that I needed to have altered to a dry-cleaners with an “Alterations” sign in its window. I needed the hips and legs taken in. It required a simple seam down the outside of both legs and then re-hemming the pants. I dealt with a young teenage girl who marked the hips and said her grandmother did the alterations. I told her I needed the pants to wear on an event Friday night. “No problem,” she said. It became a problem, though. They did not come in on Friday like she promised. And when they arrived on Saturday – too late, of course – the grandma had taken in the hips but not the pant legs, making them look totally stupid. I gave her a piece of my mind, though it did no good, I’m sure. I must confess I did not punch her in the face and hold scissors to her throat, but I felt like it.

Last weekend our TV was out. Four phone calls to the cable service and four days of information offered by the customer service rep turned out to be totally wrong. The rep had not listened when Jerry told her our TV cable service had a problem; she somehow entered it into her computer that we had a problem with our DSL connection. A visit from the repair man on day 4 solved the problem that should have been handled with a simple phone instruction to us of something to check on our TV when we called the very first time.

These things are happening just too much these days. I don’t know if heightened stress is causing all this incompetence, or whether attitudes have just changed to not caring about what other people want. I am fairly long-suffering, I think, but I’ll tell you, it is getting harder and harder to hold my tongue. I don’t want to turn into a crabby old lady, but I can sure see how it could sneak up on a person!