Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Our genealogical society will be having a seminar in the fall and I have been asked to present a talk on writing a family history or a life story. I always enjoy talking on this particular subject and since there will be some people in attendance who have heard me talk on this before, I have been ruminating about how to freshen up the talk.

Early this morning before the newspaper arrived I was nosing around in a book entitled "Lifelines" looking for new takes on old themes. One thing that caught my eye was the necessity of looking at what you write with the eye of person with no knowledge of your family. What you write may be clear to you, but for someone without your background of family lore, it may be clear as mud! I give everything I write to my husband Jerry for reading. He is charged with telling me what is hard for him to understand or follow. He's been married to me for 35 years and if he doesn't understand what I'm saying, then I need to simplify it so he can.

I decided this was a good point to stress in my talk, one I haven't really dealt with a lot in my earlier presentation. Words can carry a lot of baggage and you do have to be careful that what you are writing will be read in the same way you intend it to.

So this is maybe why what I later read in the newspaper this morning struck me so funny that I could hardly read it to Jerry. The story was about a sad event, and I don't mean to make light of it, but I found the wording so peculiar that I burst out laughing.

Seems Turkey season opened and a group of men went on a Turkey hunt. Here's the way the article read (I'm leaving out identifying information.)

"A local man is dead after a member of his hunting party mistook him for a turkey and shot him. The sheriff says the group was hunting on the opening day of turkey season and one man was on his hands and knees crawling through a bush when his friend mistook him for a turkey and fired."

There is something about being mistaken for a turkey that I find exceptionally funny. I am truly sorry that it happened, but I can't remember when I have laughed so hard.

And you can be sure the story will be used to illustrate a point in the upcoming talk I am working on!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I am naturally a fairly upbeat person – I’m not too hard to please, I look forward to lots of things, and for the most part my glass is always half-full, not half-empty. Off and on through my adult life I’ve written down things that make me happy, kind of a celebration of a good life. On the list have been such simple things as Jerry’s mustache and the smell of night blooming jasmine.

Most of you know that country-western music would never be on my list of things that make me happy. But if it’s music like this, you’ll find it very close to the top.

I am not sure just how younger people today are exposed to Stephen Foster’s music, or if they even are. When I was a kid it was through the school system. We had music books in our desks, and a couple times a week we would get out our books and have a time of singing. Sometimes there was a piano in the room and the teacher played the piano to accompany us. Sometimes it was a small little pump organ. Other times we just sang a cappella. The one thing we could count on was singing at least one Stephen Foster song. We sang “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Old Folks at Home,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and of course, “Oh, Susannah.” We sang them in each grade – first to sixth – by which time we had them memorized.

We did not know at that time, nor did society much care at that time, that they had pretty racist lyrics. This music came out of a very unsettled period in our history, and out of a minstrel tradition. However, they all, even the songs with now-offensive words, sing of the sanctity of family, the comfort of friends and family as one grows old, and other deeply felt human values. So as not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, the trend has been to rewrite the lyrics to the song, tossing out the offending words and putting more acceptable words in their place. This satisfies some; others simply remember what the songs originally said, and meant, and refuse to be a part of it.

About the only times I ever hear these songs any more are when I go to do genealogical research in Salt Lake City and sit in on the noon organ concert at the Mormon Tabernacle. In the thirty-minute program, which always rests and restores me for another session in the Family History Library, the organist plays his or her own arrangement of a Stephen Foster tune. While I love all the music that is played, it is this tiny little piece that touches my soul the most. And I think about what a loss it is to be deprived of these beautiful American tunes. Doing away with the words I understand. But I have to admit I can’t hear the tunes without hearing those awful words rattling around in my head.

We are being politically correct in what we do with these songs. We are being sensitive to our fellow human beings who probably still have some residual words rattling around in their heads. But I do have to laugh when on one of the websites I saw, a person make a case for rejecting “political correctness” when it comes to Stephen Foster songs and says “Nothing is more insensitive than me being forced to listen to vulgar RAP music!”

I personally don’t think there is much of a case for rejecting political correctness in this instance, but I certainly agree with this person’s position on RAP music!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Jacob, age 82, and Rebecca, age 79, living in Florida, are all excited about their decision to get married. They go for a stroll to discuss the wedding, and on the way they pass a CVS drugstore. Jacob suggests they go in.

Jacob addresses the man behind the counter: "Are you the manager?"
The pharmacist answers, "Yes."

Jacob: "We're about to get married. Do you sell heart medication?"
Pharmacist: "Of course we do."

Jacob: "How about medicine for circulation?"
Pharmacist: "All kinds ."

Jacob: "Medicine for rheumatism and scoliosis?"
Pharmacist: "Definitely."

Jacob: "How about Viagra?"
Pharmacist: "Of course."

Jacob: "Medicine for memory problems, arthritis, jaundice?"
Pharmacist: "Yes, a large variety. The works."

Jacob: "What about vitamins, sleeping pills, Geritol, antidotes for Parkinson's disease?"
Pharmacist: "Absolutely."

Jacob: "You sell wheelchairs and walkers?"
Pharmacist: "All speeds and sizes."

Jacob: "We'd like to use this store as our Bridal Registry."

from the Jewish Humor and Joke Page via Tom McMahon

Friday, March 26, 2010


My 3rd great grandfather, Robert Boyd Dobbins, was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1804. From then until his death in 1854 he offered classic Presbyterian faith and practices to his flock, whether they liked it or not. Some who didn’t like it were relatives. Here’s an example taken from the original Session minutes now residing in a bank vault in Ipava, Illinois, a copy of which I was able to obtain back in 1987.

In the spring of 1838 “Abraham Miller appeared before Session and confessed that he had been guilty of the sin of profane language, for which he was sorry, and asked the forgiveness of the Church, which was granted, and he was continued in the Communion of the Church.”

Four years later, in 1842, the Session decided that they had unfinished business with Abraham Miller for neglecting the ordinances of God’s house and neglecting family worship. He was cited to attend the March 12th meeting in Rev. R. B. Dobbins house to receive a copy of the charges and citations for witnesses if he wished them, or to answer to the charges if he chose to do so at that time, and that the Moderator (RBD) serve the citation.

On March 12, Abraham Miller appeared once again before the Session:

(He) being present, was asked by the session if he wished to receive a copy of the charges and citations for witnesses. He replied that he wished to hear the charges read a second time. Which was done. He acknowledged the facts stated in the charges, but denied that he was under obligations to maintain family worship, and said the Session could not prove it from the bible or Confession of Faith. Session labored with him for two hours to convince him of his error, when he replied that he considered he had defended himself in what he had said. He rose up and said there was a great deal of hypocrisy in family worship, and a great deal of devilishness carried on in it, and left the house. Session decided that from his own acknowledgements he ought to be suspended from the communion of the Church. And he is hereby suspended until he gives satisfactory evidence of repentance.

Abraham Miller was married to Rev. Dobbins’ daughter Mary. There is no record of whether or not he ever repented.

Genealogy is SO much fun!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


There is one thing you can count on: if you see a study written up in a newspaper that says adding Vitamin E to your daily health regimen has shown to be of great benefit, then shortly after you buy yourself a bottle of 500 pills another study will say that first study was flawed. When I changed medical plans a couple of times ago, my new Primary Care Physician asked me why I was taking a certain combination of pills. I told him I’d read that this would be good for me, and he laughed and said other studies indicated it was of no value.

The latest is the fish-oil scare, with claims of almost all fish-oil supplements having higher than acceptable levels of mercury, PCB’s and other toxins. My thinking is if you are trying to find an excuse to stop taking your fish-oil pills, let this be your excuse. If you and your quasi-scientific brain think your cardiovascular system needs the fish-oil more than it needs higher triglycerides, then ignore the study.

I do like to read about studies, however, but I prefer reading about studies that make me laugh. The ones that make me laugh the most are the ones that our government gives funding for, such as several thousands of dollars for someone doing a study on the average number of chin hair on a pig. (No, I haven’t actually seen that one yet, but let it represent the studies that our tax dollars are funding, whether it is something vital we need to know or not.)

For some reason, March seems to be a good month for funny studies. Last year in March the newspapers reported on a study titled, “The Spatial Distribution of the Seven Deadly Sins Within Nevada,” the Seven Deadly sins being lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. (Lest you look in the good book for them, they aren’t there named in that order but a quick read of Proverbs 6 will give you more sins than you are probably interested in knowing about). At any rate, this study was done by some Kansas State University geographers to show how quantified information could be mapped. And the information was not the issue; the mapping of the ridiculous data was.

The researchers created parameters for each sin: Wrath was calculated by comparing the total number of violent crimes as reported to the FBI per capita. Lust was calculated by compiling the number of sexually transmitted diseases reported per capita. Glutton by counting the number of fast food restaurants per capita, and so on. The maps they created were clever. The findings and the illustration of them were presented at the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers. All agreed this was a whole lot of fun.

This month the L. A. Times has given us another funny study. Two brothers, one a director at a university food and brand lab and the other a biblical scholar, have analyzed 52 depictions of the “Last Supper” in a quest to see if over the years the food portions served at the last supper had actually increased.

Using the size of each apostle’s head as a basis for comparison, the researchers compared the sizes of the plates in front of the diners, the food servings on those plates and the bread on the table. Assuming that men’s heads have remained fairly constant in size over the last thousand years, their study indicated that as entrĂ©e portions rose, so too did the size of the plates – by 65.6%.

This study, too, was called “fun” by other nutrition researchers, and no one is driving any kind of stake in on the deductions. But to me it is fun to read about and make wild extrapolations on.

My old college statistics professor always made sure we understood that statistics could be manipulated to give us the results that we wanted, but we certainly never had such fun playing with them as these folks have.

Now going back to the present day studies in question – Vitamin E and Fish oil: did I give them up? Do I believe the test results? Which test should I believe? Are the authors just having fun? The only thing for sure that I can say is that the fish oil pill is way too big to go down easily, and God save you from burping afterwards.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Every once in a while we are blessed with finding someone with whom we totally “connect.” Yovonne was one of those people in my life. She had a presence about her that was tangible. Even if she was out in the warehouse, where she was the head supervisor, I was always aware that she was one of the main reasons why our facility ran so well. There was no problem so big or so small that I felt uncomfortable discussing with her and getting her “take” on the matter. I valued her attitude, her approach, her reasoning and her constancy. I felt she brought one of the few examples of professionalism to our operations staff.

I think one of the reasons I found her special was that she was strong in the areas where I was weakest. She made decisions without shooting from the hip or waffling on the reasons. I remember how the previous supervisor used to sit in the staff meetings and when the boss asked him about something, he’d get all mealy-mouthed and try to figure out an answer that wouldn’t come back to bite him. Yovonne’s approach was the exact opposite; she believed in her decisions and was forthright in her explanation of them. Dissembling was not one of her strategies; she told it like it was. I so admired her for that.

She knew what the goal was and how to get there. Many supervisors and managers trample people in that process but Yovonne considered her charges as valuable employees and worked to bring them along in every way. That she was supremely successful was testified by the number of “little people” who came to pay tribute to her at her memorial service.

And she was such fun. She was one of the reasons I could get through each day at our facility. It was so hard those last couple of years; work had stopped being fun, but Yovonne hadn’t. She would fly into my office and say, “Miss Bobby, I’ve got a problem.” We’d sit and talk about it a bit, with her solving the problem in the process of ruminating about it. She didn’t need me. She needed a safe place where a sane person could be a sounding board. I was so happy that I was there where she could take a minute to restore herself. She felt incompetent to write a letter and always asked my help. She knew exactly what needed to be said. I simply put the words in some kind of order for her. That was my talent, and I thought of it as my tiny gift to her, considering the enormity of her own talent. It pleased me a great deal to do the simple typing for her. It is what friends are for.

Probably the one event that captures in my mind what Yovonne stood for was the time in staff meeting when we were all discussing which staff members should be CPR trained. Names of various people, all men, were being tossed around and everyone had a different idea of who all should be given that responsibility. I finally stated, “I want Yovonne trained, because with her I know she will get the job done. If anything happens to me, I want to be placed in her hands.” Everyone laughed, but they knew I was right. And she made all of us rethink our definition of gender roles. I’d stack her up with the best of any man.

I felt that she and I were like sisters, and I would have been proud to be her real sister, even though our skin was not the same color. I’m aggrieved that she had to suffer the terrible indignity of a cancerous brain tumor, and yet as hard as it is to say, I’m glad that she isn’t suffering any more. But that doesn’t take away the pain I feel. I am missing her a lot, still, after all this time.

Rest in Peace, my friend.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


This morning I was mulling over a recent article I read about a Kentucky "to-do" having to do with religion. Seems that the head football coach of a high school took about 20 players on a school bus to his church for an evening revival meeting. He thought it would bring the team together. It was a voluntary outing. Parents' permissions were not required. The coach paid for the gasoline. The coach left it to the team members to advise their parents. One of the young attendees said the coach told him and other players that the outing would include only a motivational speaker and a free steak dinner. The school superintendent also attended.

What caused the tempest is that about half of the players responded to the altar call and were baptized afterwards. Some of the parents of these boys were ok with what happened, others were furious. The legal community, at least up to the time of the writing of the article, was divided on whether or not this action violated Supreme Court edicts on the separation of church and state. I'm not in a position to know the legal ramifications, but I did kind of make the excuse that this was Kentucky and probably a part of the "bible belt" and as such probably didn't know that this kind of thing was not really a good idea any more, involving the school with religion.

So this morning while I was re-reading the article, I thought about how when I was in elementary school there was a program called "Released Time Christian Education." Once a week those children whose parents had given permission (by way of a signed release) were walked across the street to a church where we had Bible stories told to us, and at the end of the hour we were walked back to our classroom. I did that my 4th grade year at Willard Elementary; even changing schools made no difference, except that during the last two years at Whittier Elementary, there was no church nearby so a trailer was pulled to the street in front of the school and we were instructed in that portable classroom. I am not aware that there was proselytizing to the extent of an altar call, but then I'm not sure at that young age I would have recognized one if I saw it.

In light of today's careful treading of water when it comes to religion and the public school system, I thought that Released Time Christian Education's time had passed. But I Googled to see if I could find anything on its history - and to my shock and surprise I found the following, at

What it's all about...

PURPOSE - The purpose of Released Time Christian Education classes is to share God's Word with the 4th and 5th grade boys and girls in the public schools and to assure them of His love and forgiveness through His Son Jesus Christ. Hundreds of students are enrolled annually in the classes in Orange. For many, this is their only Bible study.

Once a week 4th and 5th grade children attend a 40 minute Bible Study. Students are walked to a near-by Chapel-On-Wheels. During this time a variety of teaching methods including visuals, music, chalk talks and dramas are used. Each child is treated as a special and unique individual who is loved by God. Everyone is welcome.

UNDER THE LAW - The program has been available for the 4th and 5th grade students in the Orange Unified School District since February 1954. Under the Released Time Religious Education Law (California Education Code section 46014) local school boards may give permission to release students once a week for religious instruction during the school days. Released Time Christian Education classes are not held on minimum days.

So obviously it's NOT just Kentucky. Of course a big difference is that at least with RTCE permission from the parents is secured. But also in Kentucky it wasn't done on school time.

I don't claim to have any answers. I am not sure of what the questions are, either. So I'll simply leave this for you to mull over, in case you feel like it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


About the only snails I can stomach (to look at, not to eat) are the tiny little things that clean the sides of a fish tank. I don’t know anyone who could find fault with those little guys. The garden variety of snail is another matter. I don’t like to see them, I don’t like what they do to a garden, and I most especially don’t like to accidentally step on one in the evening when I’m taking a walk barefooted and don’t see the ugly thing crossing the sidewalk in front of me.

I don’t mind snakes. I don’t mind lizards. I am not crazy about earthworms but I let them be because they are good for the soil. But there is something just revolting about a snail. I have eaten a raw oyster but never a cooked snail. And I never will.

Thank goodness I don’t live in Florida. I read in the newspaper that they are having an invasion of Achatina fulica - giant snails. Again.

Seems in 1966 a little kid smuggled three snails into the Miami area. The article doesn’t say where he got them, but apparently Grandma didn’t like them any more than I would like them and she turned them loose. She didn’t even step on them, throw them against a wall, toss them out in the street or pour salt on them – all ways I’ve heard of to get rid of snails. Within 7 years a census was taken of these giant snails and searchers found they had multiplied from 3 to at least 18,000.

How they disposed of them I don’t even want to think about. But whatever they did was enough to get rid of them. They are major plant and citrus destroyers, plus they eat houses - stucco and plaster - to help grow their shells. But the worst of it is that they spread diseases to humans. Now the newspaper article didn’t say how the disease was spread, but it didn’t take me long on Google to see that most of the damage comes from eating them.

Oh, gross!

From the little I could understand of the medical reports, there are parasites galore inside the snail flesh. Eating them cooked should kill the parasites but it seems the damage can be done just by touching the snails while preparing to cook them. And since the parasite causes a form of meningitis and often ends in death, it just isn’t something you want to take a chance on. But I’m sure there is some restaurant that is going to say it ain’t so and serve a giant snail anyway, probably like a shrimp bent over a finger of rice in a sushi parlor. And there is going to be someone foolhardy enough to try it. There always are. Consider the pufferfish.

Florida is going on the attack. I imagine while the humans are taking their own census, the federal and state powers that be in Florida are going to do another Achatina fulica census to determine how many are back and how aggressive extermination programs should be.

After being in Florida one time – on August 2, 1975, arriving by plane and heading to Ft. Lauderdale for a honeymoon cruise - I could never understand why anyone would live in a place where when you tried to breathe air all you got was water in your lungs. Now I am even more confident that Florida is not the place I want to be. Battling large bugs, ugly alligators and that summer humidity is bad enough. Now to think of finding a giant snail crossing one’s path, if not on one’s plate, is just too much.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I admit to not knowing much about Queen Victoria and Albert. I knew more about the Victorian era and Victorian prudery and her wearing of black for the rest of her life after Albert died. But about the persons of the Queen and her Prince I really knew very little.

A new book just came out about them and once again I have had to put everything aside while I read this book from cover to cover. Having spent a bit of time in England I was fairly familiar with the places the book talks about but less so with the monarchs and their lifestyle.

I was really surprised when I ran into a sentence that said: “She (Victoria) liked to sail, and she found it refreshing to immerse herself in the sea in the sanctuary of her bathing machine.” I didn’t have a clue as to what a bathing machine was. And the book offered no clue.

There is a famous engraving by William Heath done about 1829 which shows women, called “dippers,” who assisted the bather both in and out of the sea, as well as in some cases actually pushing them into the water and then yanking them out quickly as part of their bathing experience.
Apparently I am one of the few who didn’t know all about them. But quick learner that I am, I discovered that almost every culture that has the sea close at hand has gone through a period of using these machines for modesty’s sake. They were in fashion as early as 1805 and still being used as late as 1910.

Victoria wrote in her journal in 1847: “Drove down to the beach with my maids and went into the bathing machine, where I undressed and bathed in the sea (for the first time in my life), a very nice bathing woman attending me. I thought it delightful till I put my head under the water....”

For the most part, these bathing machines were four-wheeled carriages with an 8’x8’x10’ room set on it, made either of canvas or wood sides. It had a door that closed tightly but no windows. The person got into the "machine" on the beach while in their street clothes and changed into the bathing apparel. Then the machine was either pulled by horses or by human power down to the water. The door had to face the ocean, so when the person opened the door he or she could step down a small set of stairs and enter the water with great privacy.

Since the book did not elaborate on exactly what Queen Victoria experienced, we don’t know if she used “dippers” or not, but you can be sure great attention was paid to getting her out of the bathing machine and into the water without even the tiniest glimpse of the Royal tush or the Regal bosom. Below is a photo of Victoria's bathing machine.

As the years went on, the bathing machine evolved to a higher level and some of the machines were pulled in and out by cables propelled by a steam engine.

Well, I certainly learned something new, and though I doubt if I’ll ever read another book that talks about a bathing machine, learning new things are good for a person. Left to my own devices to figure out what a bathing machine might be, I might have pictured a big wash tub type thing that people sat in and while they were being pulled down to the sea water some brushes inside the tub rubbed the grime of the day off the bather, like an old agitator washing machine.

Anyway, now I know the facts. Makes me wonder what else I’ll find in this excellent book before I reach the end. Incidentally, the book is called “We Two - Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals” by Gillian Gill.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


The picture above is of a hanging basket of sweet peas grown in England. Why couldn't I do that?

I love sweet peas, and I've planted them everywhere we've ever lived. They grow easily, bloom profusely and smell wonderfully. I've tried growing them three times here in Mira Loma, but have hit obstacles each time.

First, I planted them in a corner where they would get sunlight at least through mid-day. I strung up a netting for them to climb. They climbed all right, but they obviously needed more sun than I could give them because they only bloomed at the top of the net where they could have as much sunlight as they wanted. I had to climb up on a ladder to cut them for bouquets.

The second year I planted the bush type in that same area, and they grew way out of their boundaries, over onto the grass. And each week when the lawnmowing crew came by they either got weed-whacked or mowed. I think directions for the crew said to mow the grass and it didn't matter if there were flowers draped over the grass -- they rode their machine right over the flowers. I got a few bouquets but it was really not a successful growing event.

I didn't plant any last year, but this year I decided to try a different tack. I had seen on a website that hanging baskets could be used for sweet peas if you planted the bush type. Jerry kind of rolled his eyes when I told him what I wanted to do. He swears he is not going to do any more gardening, and I know that he'll take over whatever I start because I'm not very good at it. So he helped me get all the needed equipment and we sowed.

We planted them in November and watched for germination. Jer told me we were going to have to be ruthless in our thinning, because they needed root space to grow. I knew that, but when the time came I just about had a fit at what all he was pulling up - and I finally had to go in the house and sulk. I knew he was right, but I sure didn't like it.

He was right. This is what we have now. It is not good. There are too many plants. He has not told me that ("I told you so" is not something he wants to say unless he thinks I don't know.)

The potted pea plants are trying to grow, but they are gasping for air/soil/space. The baskets are right outside by office window and as I sit at the computer I can see -- and hear -- them. "AIR. SUN. SPACE." they moan. They do not look healthy at all. But I can't give up yet.

Look. I have one pea! :)

Friday, March 12, 2010


There was a time in my life when I thought I wanted to be a "purist" in my cooking. By that I don't mean I wanted to go out and grab eggs from under the mother hen -- or head out to the rice paddy to reap something that I'd sown. But I did think that to be a really good cook I should not look to cans any more than I had to. I was willing to shell the peas, de-string the green beans, make the biscuits from flour instead of Bisquick, and use fresh herbs instead of dried ones. By and large things were tastier, and as I was in a new marriage and really wanted to do things right this time, I was willing to take whatever time was called for to make things perfect.

My mother was not a good cook, nor an adventuresome cook. I was seriously underexposed to good food from her cooking - salads were either jello or lettuce and tomato; salad dressing was always Miracle Whip; meat was cooked until it had a consistency of shoe leather. Potatoes were boiled, spaghetti was out of Franco-American cans. Mother did not like to eat nor cook, and until I left for college in 1953, I had never tasted a pizza, seen a bagel, or eaten a rare steak. When I married the first time, my cuisine was limited by finicky children whose preferences ran to hamburger patties. By 1975 and in a new marriage, I decided this was a second chance. Dating as an adult had opened my taste buds to all kinds of culinary experiences and I figured I was smart enough to learn to cook the right way. Armed with books from James Beard, Julia Child, Bert Greene, etc. I started experimenting.

In 1980 Jer and I went to Israel. In our week there I decided I wanted to bring home two souveniers - a piece of art and a cookbook of Israeli recipes (but written in English, of course.) I found exactly what I wanted: a great silkscreen of Moses crossing the Red Sea, and a spiral bound cookbook of everyday Israeli food. What caught my eye in the cookbook is that there was a recipe in there for Hummus that listed the first ingredient as "2 cans of chickpeas."

Going back to the purist idea, I had earlier learned that Hummus was a wonderful appetizer, and I always made it the old fashioned way, soaking the dried chickpeas overnight and cooking them the next day. They had to cook for a long time, and when finished I had to make sure to remove all the little "skins" that covered them. This was a long ordeal. Some of the skins had come off in the cooking but I had to make sure, pea by pea, that no skins remained. Believe me, it was a long, tedious process. But I wanted to make the Hummus the right way, and the right way, I thought, was to do what the instructions said - and removing the skins was a must.

So when I saw in that Israeli cookbook that the people there used CANNED CHICKPEAS I was stunned. Once I got home, I tried it -- and to be honest with you, the Hummus tasted every bit as good as doing it the purist way. From that day forward, I have always used my authentic Israeli recipe from that little book and I've probably been asked for my Hummus recipe more than anything else I've ever cooked.

So here is how to do it the easy way, folks. If you like Hummus, you'll love this recipe. If you don't know what Hummus is, try it out, because it is simply too good to pass up.


2 1# cans garbanzo beans, drained
5 T fresh lemon juice
6 T olive oil
1 t garlic powder
1 t salt
¼ t pepper
¼ t paprika
Dash cayenne pepper (optional)
1/3 c Tahina paste [usually found at all big supermarkets in international food section]
10 springs parsley.

Reserve 2 T beans for garnish. Process beans in food processor until smooth. Mix in the lemon juice and olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, starting with the Olive Oil, processing well after each addition. Add garlic powder, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne, processing well to mix. Finally add the tahina, processing well. To serve place on flat plate and smooth out with back of spoon. Garnish with the remaining whole beans in the center, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of red paprika and a few sprigs of parsley. May also be put on individual salad plates.

Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


In the files that had to be cleaned out after my mother's death I found this one bit of memorabilia that surprised me. Dated June 20, 1944, it was an acceptance letter written by Union Gospel Press for an article she submitted to them called "Remember the Sabbath" and for which she was paid $1.00.

She died in 1982 and she had kept this letter AND the dollar bill all those years. I tucked it away in my own files and it will be handed down to one of my kids when I pass on.

Oh, how she wanted to write. One of my earliest memories is coming home from elementary school to see her sitting at her old typewriter pecking away. My sis and I knew she was writing stories, and most of them were little moralistic pieces featuring little Barbara or little Ginnie Lou as the good little kids. Of course we weren't interested in what she was writing. As with most kids, we didn't much interest ourselves in the big folks' business unless one of them was baking cookies or bringing home a bag of Sears freshly popped popcorn. So her writing was of no particular interest to us; mother at the typewriter was a common scene.

Mother was a high school graduate who went to work in a photo studio immediately upon graduating to learn "retouching" and "tinting photos" but who married soon and left the work force. According to family lore, her grandmother Louise ghost-wrote a book of early Caldwell, Kansas, and althought Grandma Louise died when my mom was 8, mother always felt that her own desire to write was passed down in her genes from her grandma.

When I saw this letter and dollar bill, I had a vague recollection of it from my childhood. As I recall, mother had a copy of the published story that we all read. It was fun to see her name in print and of course we thought she was now famous and were very proud of her.

Unfortunately for her, this is the only thing she ever published, but it was not from lack of trying. What her constant efforts at writing did was to aim both my sister and me at the typewriter! My sister entered college as an English major. And from the time I was in 9th grade, my mother encouraged me to take journalism classes, which I did through high school and college. And of course any of you who know me personally will know that the drive to write is no less in me that it was in my mother. I do not have a need to publish, but I do have a need to write. That urge bypassed my sister.

The most interesting thing for me when I look at this letter is that my mother was not religious nor was she a church goer. She always sent us kids to the nearest church to where we lived, and I suppose her idea of submitting an article to this publication came from her seeing something we brought home from Sunday School. And the second most interesting thing is that although you can't see it very well in the photo above, the dollar is a "Silver Certificate" instead of a "Federal Reserve Note" that is used today. And I note that my mother wrote her initials on the note up toward the left corner: VRD for Virginia Ryland Dobbins. She wanted to be sure she would always have the EXACT DOLLAR that she earned in her possession.

Yes, I have a copy of the check sent to me for the first article I wrote that was published. But there certainly isn't as much drama in that as in what my mother left for me.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I have been hearing and seeing a lot lately on the new fad of wearing pajama bottoms in public in lieu of "real" pants. The first time I saw this happening was when Michael Jackson was shown being escorted somewhere wearing a dress jacket and the bottom of his pajamas. I considered the circumstances and the celebrity; I did not see it as a trend in dressing.

But in the last few months I've seen quite a number of men who have appeared just as the man above, obviously in pajama bottoms while he is out shopping. The first time I saw one of my neighbors wearing them was as I was walking around the complex and met him coming the other direction. We stopped to chat for a minute, and I couldn't help but see that he was definitely in flannel pj bottoms, a jacket and his walking shoes. Hmmm, I thought. Very strange.

This last week I went to the bank and got in line behind a youngish fellow, casually dressed with nice new running shoes on (way too white to be anything but new), a tee-shirt and pj bottoms. We are really very casual here in So. Cal, but I have been a little surprised at just how casual we are becoming.

Then this week I noticed an ad online for PajamaJeans. Ah Ha! Now these are more like it. Made to look like jeans, they fit better than Pajama bottoms, as you can see by the picture below, borrowed from their website. And I can see how it would be reasonable to wear them in public. I think they are quite nice, and although I don't see a pair in my future, it did give me an idea.

For the most part I basically sit at a computer all day long at home, unless I'm slouched on a couch reading or knitting. I do not have jogging suits or other such athletic attire, as in the course of the day I don't do much exercise beyond lifting my coffee cup to my mouth. But I did decide that in lieu of getting dressed each day with a pair of jeans that are always a bit too tight around the waist, or a perfectly good pair that fit nicely when I was 20 lbs. heavier but fall off my behind now unless I use a belt with it, I'd wear my one pair of cotton (not flannel) pajama bottoms. They have a nice design on them, not like hearts or teddy bears or such, so that if I needed to go outside to check my sweet peas I wouldn't have to change into jeans. I'd look quite appropriate, and maybe even fashionable, in them with a tee-shirt or a sweater. Not for marketing, or going to Starbucks, or to the library.

Now maybe a younger person could feel ok about going into those places. But objectively, if I saw an old lady in the market wearing a tee-shirt and pajama bottoms I'd think she was crazy as a hoot owl. So trust me when I say I'll stick around my apartment when I'm dressed thusly. In fact, I spent this last weekend in my new stylish attire and I'm sold on the comfort and ease of slopping around looking like this. I think this calls for a trip to Target for more bottoms.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I did not much like the new program, “Who Do You Think You Are,” that aired part #1 last night. It uses genealogy to pull surprises on celebs. Probably I should not be so quick to judgment, and after I watch the next airings I may change or maybe even moderate my pronouncement. I had read a not-so-complimentary review of it in the LA Times so perhaps that had skewed my expectation, but even if that was the case and the next programs are much better, I think there was plenty to take issue with.

Genealogy is not, as this program visually suggested, a whole line-up of Wows! I have been doing genealogy for 25 years and I have loved every minute of it. I have eked out little things here, little things there, slowly building a line, family by family, life by life, proving and disproving theories, trying to figure out where to try next, learning all about the history of our country because my families were in the middle of the making of it.

I’ve had lots of successes – but only one real WOW moment, where I stood up in the middle of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City about 9:30 p.m. after being on microfilm readers all day long and said “THERE SHE IS!” All my co-researchers within hearing distance clapped. It was a WOW moment but it happened after I had looked for Mandana Bradley, just an ordinary person, for 20 years before finding her. And I was even looking for someone else when she appeared. Too many WOWS give a faulty picture of the process and do no favors for newcomers starting their research.

If one wants to join a lineage society in the worst way, hiring a researcher to trace a line is a good way to get end results. But doing it that way is missing out on the "alogy" part of "gene-". The new TV program didn’t show just how much fun it is to start at the beginning. I personally think some judicious deleting of celebs and propitious use of genealogy tools and resources would have made for a stronger program. And a more realistic one.

And as my friend and professional genealogist Teresa said this morning as we discussed the program on Facebook: “I wonder if they are going to point out the many distant cousins and friends you are going to make when you do a true genealogical journey. How many years have we corresponded, Bobby? I think you have seen my address change a couple of times!”

Teresa and I are 4th cousins, she in Kentucky and I in California. We have never met each other personally but actually met first by letter in the pre-computer days (1984). Our great-grandmas were sisters. We've shared genealogy finds over the years that helped us build our Corel families, and now by Facebook Teresa and I have daily interchanges, some about genealogy and some about things like the animals she has on her farm.

I realize “Who Do You Think You Are” is not trying to teach genealogy. I think it mostly is presenting a forum for celebrities, which our society nowadays seems to want, and maybe the discipline of genealogical research will gain a few adherents. But I hope down the line someone says to these celebs, and to all the viewers, not to believe everything you see, or everything you read, or everything you find behind a fluttering leaf. And that starting at the beginning is a great place to start!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I finally got brave enough to stop the car next to a vacant lot nearby, hand Jerry the camera and ask him to take a picture of me holding a great big dirt clod! I was going to shed my senior citizen persona and become a child again. The grass has to be just the right length, which happens shortly after there has been lots of rain. All it takes is one good pull and up comes a dirt clod just like the ones we used to use when we were kids.

What did we use the dirt clods for? For a dirt clod fight, of course.

Oh, how mother used to hate it when my sister and I and the neighbor kids had a dirt clod fight. Right next door to our house was a huge vacant lot, and after a few winter rains had come and the grass and weeds had grown 8 or 10 inches high, we would stage the most wonderful dirt clod fights. We all knew the rules: we couldn't throw them hard, we couldn't aim at faces, and we couldn't hurt each other deliberately. Other than that, it was every man for himself! The big clump of moist earth held together loosely by the new roots was just the right size for making a good splat on someone. It was hard to aim for the head, because none of us wanted dirt in our face, but we did always hope we could land one on someone's head.

The dirt clod fight never lasted too long, because some adult was always coming out of a house somewhere to put a stop to the fun. For the boys, they just went somewhere else and continued to get dirty; for the girls, it meant we had to shed our shoes on the back porch until the dirt on them dried, peel out of our clothes by the washing machine in our laundry room, and head to the bathroom to take a bath and get our hair washed. Mother always told us we shouldn't have dirt clod fights. But many years later she admitted to us that she really knew how much fun we were having because she and her siblings had thrown dirt clods too, so she never could work up too much irritation at our "shenanigans," she called them.

When Jer and I were talking about vacant lots and comparing rules for his dirt clod fights against ours, he also mentioned that he and his friends ate a lot of things from the various plants in the vacant lots. I was really surprised to know that, because I thought my sister and I were the only ones who found tiny edibles in the plants. So when we picked a spot to stop today, after pulling up the dirt clod I wanted to get a picture of the plant that gave us such cute little seeds to eat.

There were lots of these plants around where I was standing, but they weren't big enough yet to go to seed, so I wasn't able to get a picture of the seeds. But he and I both knew exactly what the seeds looked like and what you had to do to get them out of their little seed cases.

The other thing we found plenty of were foxtails, ubiquitous foxtails. Jerry said he and his friends used to take them and put them up the sleeves of their sweaters. The foxtails would quickly work their way up the arms, which for some reason known only to kids brought them great glee! I never heard of doing that. What we would do would be to put our lower arms together, have someone set a foxtail in the crevice at our wrists, and then by rubbing our arms back and forth with a tiny motion the foxtail would scurry all by itself up to our elbows. Now why that was such a fun thing to do is lost to my memory. It seems pretty stupid now, but as kids we thought it was wonderful.

It was fun spending a little time in the vacant lot today. It brought back lots of childhood memories. We are in a pretty rural area and the neighbors weren't all standing out in their yards or peering out their kitchen windows at us, wondering what those two old people were doing. We did get a few woofs from some guard dogs across the street, but I told them "Hello, Pups" and mentioned that we were harmless, so they pretty much left us alone. When we finished our business, we drove off in the car to our senior apartment complex, where we donned our senior citizen look again and went inside our apartment to take a nap.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


For several years I’ve been receiving a “Word of the Day” e-mail via Some words I already know, some I’ll never have use for, but some are total standouts. One of those that I have especially enjoyed adding to my vocabulary is the word “crapulous.” It’s a perfectly appropriate word, Webster says, and basically it describes how I felt the morning after I drank too much for the first time.

On February 17 of this year I found a second word that has delighted me no end because it described a condition I have long experienced but didn’t really understand. The word is an adjective, “hypnagogic.” defines it as “Of, pertaining to, or occurring in the state of drowsiness preceding sleep".

I have long asked myself how I can be dreaming while I am still awake. Sometimes when I take a nap in the afternoon I can lie on my bed for an hour and not move a muscle, but I am not yet asleep. I keep waiting to fall asleep but at the very same time I also am having dream-like scenes playing out in my mind. Without moving a muscle I can figure out that I must be asleep because my rational mind wouldn’t be thinking the scenario that is going on in my head while I am lying there. But if I were asleep I wouldn’t be analyzing why I am not asleep. As you can imagine, experiencing that state has been such a puzzle to me.

I can wake up in the middle of the night from a dream and then decide whether or not I want to go back to that dream or on to something else. While I am deciding, I have already slipped back into the dream but I am not yet asleep because I am also wondering where the cat is and what time it is and if I really want to continue the dream. says I am in a hypnagogic state. I am so delighted to know that, even though I know it sounds a little weird. But learning this word means that I now know what is going on, and I now know that I am not the only one it happens to. Otherwise, there would be no word for it, right?

Sometimes I lie down in bed at night and as I relax I begin thinking of, and then seeing, certain regular images that come again and again in my dreams, nothing that I have ever seen before in real life, but always a certain swimming pool, a certain house built in the round, a certain house I live in that is getting ready to collapse into the basement, a certain pattern of lights that in my “dream” I know are in Manitou Springs at night -- these images are like old friends and each has appeared enough times in my dreams that I can call them up without being asleep. Amazing! All this time I’ve been having a hypnagogic adventure and didn’t know it!

It’s nice to find out that one of my oddities is perfectly normal and natural. I don’t talk about this “condition” because it actually seems a little bizarre, but I can’t deny it either. illustrates the word in a bit from Christopher Lehmann-Haupt’s story “The Faces of Night, Many of Them Scary” as published in the New York Times, January 9, 1995: “the phenomenon of hypnagogic hallucinations, or what Mr. Alvarez describes as ‘the flickering images and voices that well up just before sleep takes over.’”

And I have to say “YES! THAT’S IT!”

But I’m truly not crazy.