Sunday, April 29, 2012


There is something to be said for furry things.  Especially for Squeaky, who likes to be where we human beings are.  She's not a particularly cuddly cat, prefering to sit on the arms of chairs rather than on the sittee's lap.  And although she'd prefer to sit on my lap when I am at the computer, she often condescends to use s her box on my desk next to the computer so she can take a snooze while I peck away.  It's really second choice, but she's easy.  And in her box she gets her warmth from the lamp, which moves around less often than my lap.

She snores when she sleeps, so often there are little rhythmic sound eminating from her furry body as she cat-naps.  She sleeps on my bed at night, and I mean SLEEPS flat out, looking for the world like she's flat-out dead.  Instead of waking her to make sure she's still alive, I just listen for her snore. 

This morning she looks particularly cute in her little box, don't you think?


Earlier today I was on the couch reading the LA Times when I happened to see THREE male grosbeaks feeding at the sunflower feeder at the same time.  As much as I love the LA Times, I had to put it down because these grosbeaks don't stay long either in the feeder or in the area, so you have to watch them when you can!  This year Archie and Edith (this is Archie Grosbeak above) came mid-March and then pretty much disappeared.  Considering that Jerry bought a 20 pound bag of white-striped black sunflower seeds especially for them, I figured that the bag, now open and used for little more than a week this time, would have to sit in my closet for the next 11 months until they reappeared.  We really do not have any storage space in this apartment, and I wasn't crazy about using what we do have this way. 

However, a few days ago a whole bunch of grosbeaks showed up.  Some were juvenile males, but there certainly were more full-grown males than ever before.

Perhaps the word went out that there was plenty of seeds available, because there truly was a feast going on this morning in our yard.  It is quite amazing to watch those birds pick up the sunflower seed, crack it open, scoop out the tasty morsel inside, and then "blow" the hulls off onto the grass, all done with only a beak and a tongue.  I guess we humans could do the same thing without using our hands -- except it would not be easy to get the seed in our mouth in the first place without a beak!  (Watching birds can cause you to speculate on all kinds of things.)

The flying thing today comes from a really interesting article in the LA Times called Sex in the Colonies and written by Marlene Zuk, a professor of ecology, evolution and behavior at the University of Minnesota.  The article in the op-ed section is entitled "Sex in the Colonies" and in addition to being very interesting it is awfully funny, not only what she tells about but how she tells it.  You won't be disappointed if you treat yourself to a few minutes and read this delightful article about spring romance and flying things.,0,3123979.story

Saturday, April 28, 2012


If I saw an old person sitting somewhere listening to music on an iPod I’d laugh and think how silly they look. 
However, I’ve been known to do just that…..actually I did it yesterday when I was in the lobby of the x-ray lab waiting for Jerry to finish with his upper-GI test…..but for some reason I don’t think I looked silly, since I’m really not that old!

(Liar, liar, pants on fire!)
I am very proud of myself that I was able to somehow get all my 36 music albums (that figure doesn’t include my Christmas albums) onto my new iPod.

I am not very techy, but with a little preliminary advice from my daughters, along with a minimal understanding that one end of the cable looked like it should be plugged into the computer and the other end was a male part looking for a female part, and having found all the proper holes….I became brave and gave it a try.  First, I could see that all my albums moved from the D: drive onto my C: drive, (I think), so then I had to be brave and hope that pushing the SYNC button would move them from the computer to my iPod. 
It did.  Then I had to ask my great-grandson about turning the iPod on and off, and once I had that mastered, and seeing as I don’t yet have a router to go much further up the learning curve, I have limited myself to just listening to all my wonderful stuff.

I wasn’t sure how long I would be waiting at the lab, so I took a book and my iPod with me.  I got all hooked up and turned on, and I became so engrossed in reading and listening that I didn’t check to see if anyone was laughing at me.  Finally I just had to stop reading.  The music took over.
Somehow I pushed something, so that instead of listening to each album in its entirety, my music pieces came to me willy-nilly.  First I would hear “Amazing Grace” by the University of Redlands bagpiper Kevin Blandford.  Expecting to hear his next offering, “All Creatures of our God and King”, instead I heard Michael Crawford singing “The Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera.  Next up was the 1972s Looking Glass hit “Brandy.”  Oh, that brought back such memories.

Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor followed by Il Divo’s “Enamorado” and Dave Brubeck’s famous “Take Five” were next in line.  The British tenor Russell Watson, who recently had brain surgery, sang a beautiful rendition of “Caruso” – and then Irish Violinist Eileen Ivers played a wonderful Riverdance piece from her album “Crossing the Bridge.”
The best thing about sitting in this medical facility and listening to this music was that I was surprised and delighted by each different piece as it came up.  The order was random, and because I liked each of them so well (as well I should, since it was my choice to buy the albums), it was like being surprised by joy over and over again.

I tried my best not to look like an idiot by striking a beat in the air, or by using body English to the rhythm of the jazz tunes. And when the “Best of the Brothers Cazimero” turn came and I heard “The Beauty of Maunakea” start up, it was all I could do to keep myself from humming along with their beautiful Hawaiian music. 
If I had seen a woman my age listening to an iPod I probably would have punched Jerry in the ribs and said surreptitiously, “Look at that old gal and her iPod.  Isn’t that silly?”  And he would have laughed along with me. 

I’ve learned some things from having this new to toy, even if I can’t yet use it to its fullest extent. 
      a)     It isn’t possible for me to listen to Bach and do anything else
           at the same time.  Doing so certainly short changes Bach.

b)     George Antheil wrote a whole lot more good stuff than his “Eight Fragments from Shelley” that I bought the album to hear.

c)     I am in awe of good choral singing and just shake my head in disbelief when a soloist picks his or her note out of the blue and comes in perfectly on pitch.

d)     The pop music of the 70s can bring me to tears.

e)     Any of the three tenors (God rest Pavarotti’s soul) can sing below my balcony any time they want, and Russell Watson can join them.

f)       I don’t miss the lack of country western music in my collection though I might like some good bluegrass strong on the harmonica, fiddle and banjo. 
Going to concerts is first best, of course, but I’ll never call what I hear on my iPod “second best” – because I now can here all this magic whenever and wherever I want.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I have told the story before about the time in my mid-life where I walked past a mirror and saw my mother’s old rumpled legs hanging down from the bottom of my Bermuda shorts.  I had once thought she really needed to stop wearing shorts of any kind, as her legs, especially her somewhat rumpled knees, were not very becoming displayed that way.  Best she move to ankle length pants, even in the summer, I thought. 
As the years passed, I never gave that another thought until about the time I turned 50 or so, I saw my own legs that way and immediately was mortified and ashamed that I’d even had that thought about my mother’s knees.  I wasn’t old at 50, I said to myself.  I am sure my mother didn’t think of herself that way either. 

But as I age, I keep running into things like that. 
For some reason mother always had a hard time swallowing pills.  Let’s say she wanted to take an aspirin.  She’d first get a tall glass of water at the ready.  Holding the glass with one hand, she’d place the pill as far back on her tongue as she could.  Next she took a huge swallow of water and tipped her head back.  With a quick snap she’d thrust her whole head backwards in a manner that straightened out her throat and at the same time she’d swallow both water and pill with one gulp.  It was not an easy process for her and I felt sorry for her.  She didn’t act like it was a problem and I really thought it was just the way she took pills.  Inside, I laughed.

Me?  I had the ability to put 6 or 7 pills in my mouth and swallow the whole bunch of them with one gulp.  No problemo for me!

Until the last few months, that is.  Not an evening goes by that I don’t think of the time I secretly laughed at my mother and her ordeal. I’m not laughing now.  As some people age they acquire a condition called “dry mouth,” which creates real difficulty in pill taking.  Now I don’t think my mother had dry mouth, but I do, and in taking my evening pills they sometimes stick to my tongue.  Sometimes they simply move themselves onto my soft palate or the sides of my throat.  And then it feels like no amount of water will get them to move on down where they are intended to go.  The worst is when I swallow and they stick to tissue just beyond my throat, where no throat-clearing scoop will dislodge them.  Success requires a bite of food to chew and swallow before the pills go on down the pipe!  And yes, I have found myself doing the head-jerking bit to avoid all this silliness over taking a stupid pill!

Nothing ever gets better with old age, so I’m not hoping for a miracle.  It will be enough if I don’t choke to death trying to take my evening pills. 
I do know that I am not the only person who fights with swallowing pills.  I’ve had a discussion of this same problem with both Mack and with Fran, who both thought they were the only ones who hated taking pills.  Anyway, today’s blog is to alert you to the possibility of this happening to you at some point, or to commiserate with you if it already has.  You know, misery loves company, so join the crowd!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


After my sister died, I asked my brother-in-law to keep his eye open for some old scrapbooks belonging to my mother that my sis had kept in her "treasure drawer." They eventually turned up and he sent them on to me.

Of the three items, only one was really worth keeping in the family and I sent it to one of my daughters. I donated a second one to the local historical society, because it had quit a bit of information in it, as well as some photos, of the hospital auxiliary that she belonged to.

The third one I tossed, but I had some very ambivalent feelings about dumping that one; it contained all my mother's poems. She was an inveterate poem writer - and 99.9% of it was nothing but doggerel. Her poems were all little cutesy rhyming things and really weren't very good. She sent all of them out for publication to various poetry magazines and greeting card companies, but she never sold a thing. She saved everything, pasted them in her scrapbook and I'm sure she enjoyed reading them from time to time and reminiscing what she went through to give birth to a particular rhyme. I'm sure she thought of them as her legacy.

Before I tossed that last one in the dumpster, I consulted my brother to see if he wanted it, but he did not. Neither did I, so it is gone now.

However...... What bothers me is wondering if all my life's-worth of writings will meet a similar fate. I've been weeding out some things that I really don't need to have survive me. I have loved re-reading them, but as I age I realize there are some things that even I can finally part with -- like all the reflections I wrote when I was working for a group of clinical psychologists who were more needy than their patients! I kept a journal, to make sure I was staying sane in the midst of all the mental mayhem that went on around me day after day. I found it very interesting in retrospect, but it certainly wouldn't be so to my kids, so I beat them to the punch by tossing it and a lot more inconsequential "stuff" into that same dumpster.

Nevertheless, it was a sorry thing to think that my mother, who was so fulfilled by her writing, had her collected poetry, bad as it was, assigned to the trash heap. I really think it should have been saluted by being burned like a flag that has outlived its usefulness.

But whenever I think too hard about my own legacy, with all my life's odd assortment of words a part of it, I can't help but think of Rev. Abner Peet's lament in Edgar Lee Masters'  "Spoon River Anthology:

I had no objection at all
To selling my household effects at auction
On the village square. It gave my beloved flock the chance
To get something which had belonged to me for a memorial.
But that trunk which was struck off
To Burchard, the grog-keeper!
Did you know it contained the manuscripts
Of a lifetime of sermons?
And he burned them as waste paper.

So there! What goes around comes around. Always has, always will!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


The last thing I expected when I offered to house/childsit for my daughter yesterday was an absolutely delightful dinner with two teenagers and a young twerp. What Erin and Ron needed was someone to pick up Keara when her middle school ended for the day, and be at the house when her brother Caleb arrived home from high school. These two children, who call me “Noni,” live with their grandmother and grandfather and I am the great-grandmother. The kids are old enough to take care of themselves for short periods of time, but we agreed that someone needed to know they were home safely from school while my daughter and her husband made a good Samaritan trip down to San Diego for the day.

Lord knows Erin has helped me out often enough with cat-sitting when I needed her so I was pleased to be able to return the favor. I needed to be at their house by noon, in front of Keara’s school by 1:30, and back at the house by 3 when Caleb’s bus arrived. Kids this age don’t need entertaining, so I brought along a book to read and a few files I needed to go through. Erin figured she’d be home before dinner, so no dinner plans were made.

Traffic home was far worse than Erin had expected, so when dinnertime rolled around I knew the kids would be good and hungry. I suggested to them that we go grab a bite to eat somewhere – their choice – and they wondered whether they could bring Tyler with them. “He never gets to eat out,” they said, Since Tyler is another great grandson, lives nearby, and is a good-sized 8 year old, I figured it would hardly be right leave him so he joined the party. I asked them where they wanted to go.

A few seconds of whispers ended with an announcement of their choice: “Hometown Buffet!” That was ok with me, and off we went.

Here’s what I learned: I have three very polite and very considerate great-grandchildren. Tyler had never been to a Hometown Buffet style restaurant before (nor had I) so I asked the big kids to take Tyler in hand and help him learn what to do. It was very interesting and very gratifying to see at least two of the kids put a decent dinner on their plate before tackling the sweet stuff. There was no running around the food stations, bumping into other customers, or careless spilling of food. I guess mostly I have been aware of smaller kids in restaurants who drive me crazy crawling around under tables, having mini-tantrums and in general acting like children with no upbringing. I didn’t have to rein in either of the teenagers, and only once did I say to the twerp that I thought he’d had enough plates of dessert. With nary a tantrum he acquiesced. All I had to do was sit and watch the lovely scene play out. Oh my, I was so proud. I’d take all three of them back in a flash!

But the best part of all was that as we were finishing up, I asked for some advice on my new iPod, which I am having a heck of a time figuring out! Solicitous of their old 76 year old great-grandma’s inability to work with something as simple as an iPod, both Keara and Caleb gave me pointers for getting from point A to Point B. I had Lesson #1 in iPod use while the kids finished up with their dessert.

Lucky me! It was the best dinner I’ve had in a long time. The cost of the bill for 3 adults and 1 child at Hometown Buffet was worth every penny spent. But the joy was in the company, not the food. Nowadays I don’t have a whole lot of contact with teenagers, but I have to tell you that these kids in Erin’s family, that is, her own kids (my grandchildren) and their kids (my great-grandchildren) have always been exceptionally loving and kind children. And yesterday they made their old Noni feel like a million bucks! Lucky, lucky me.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I like starting the day with something funny, like this:

Paragraph in the LA Times’ “FOR THE RECORD” column
“Geo Quiz: The photograph that accompanied the April 8 Geo Quiz in the travel section did not depict Brazil’s Marajo Island, the topic of the Quiz. It showed a scene in Latvia.”

HAR-HAR-HAR! That’s a good one!


CALIFORNIA Franchise Tax board says 90% of Californians pay the taxes that they owe, but the 10% who don’t are holding about $10 billion bucks that should be in the hands of the state. The tax board does file liens against these people/companies and now are making public the names of 500 delinquents who each owe over $100,000 in back taxes. I found the list online and it is quite amazing that some debts go back to 2007, although the board says they stay busy trying to collect these back taxes and have, in fact, collected $118,00 since 2007. In the scheme of things that’s not very much.

I understand not being able to get blood from a turnip, but still, I don’t think this list comes from a turnip field. It always makes me mad when ordinary citizens empty their pockets to pay their just debts while the scofflaws keep jingling their pockets in defiance.


I read today that women are mostly the culprits in auto accidents caused by hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) adds: “Drivers ages 16 to 20 and those 76 or older were most likely to be involved in pedal misapplication crashes.” Finally they offer this most interesting statement “The single factor that may explain over-involvement in pedal misapplication crashes at both ends of the driver age distribution is poor executive function [my highlighting]. The relevant areas of the brain do not fully develop until young adulthood and have been shown to decline with advanced age.”

Say What??????


Some years back a nearby city honored a local priest by naming a street after him. Later a resident went before the city council to ask the street be renamed because this fellow was one of the priests who the diocese had “credible allegations” of sexual abuse made against him and subsequently settled a lawsuit for $200 million paid to a group of plaintiffs. The street name was changed to St. Edwards Circle, which was the name of the church pastored by the priest.

The moral of the story is don’t name streets after mortals, even if they appear pure as the driven snow. Stay with Oak, Fir, Redwood, Cedar, Jacaranda, Ficus, Palm, Chestnut, Walnut, Aspen, Ash, Beech, Birch, ad infinitum. The names are dull, but they’ll never have a hidden agenda.


And to end today’s choice tidbits, here are the three Decorah Iowa eaglets. Mom just fed them and flew off for a short break. Their folks think they are awfully cute, but…

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


The first of the Happy Bits is that Archie’s back! You know, Archie Grosbeak, our regular spring visitor.

He first showed up in April of ’07 and has been back yearly. He and Mrs. Grosbeak frequent the feeder, feasting on the striped sunflower seeds we put out for them, and after a month or so they are on their way again, junior Grosbeaks in tow, to wherever they spend the summer. The last two years they have arrived here in late March, and this year March came and went with nary a grosbeak, much to our dismay. But yesterday he showed up. He’s one of the few “pretty” birds in this area.

The complex where we live has lots of acreage and an abundance of trees, which you’d think would make it bird heaven. But we get only a piddling few varieties – a hawk now and then, lots of horrible crows, a resident phoebe, lots of little “lbj’s (little brown jobs), a hooded oriole couple, and on occasion a lone mourning dove. We have seen mockingbirds in the south part of the complex but none where we live; an occasional barn swallow frequents the fence that runs along a nearby drainage channel. I’m sure there are some we don’t see.

One year the complex hosted about 12 cattle egrets, who came each morning to find breakfast in the grassy areas and then after about two months flew off and have never been back. And beginning in mid-summer we acquire a black-headed night heron who patrols our lawn all night, looking like a big humph of nothing but shadow unless his dumpy form is highlighted by the headlights of a passing car. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by people walking their dogs, and he only flies off if provoked. His wing span is unbelieveably wide. I’ve tried my best to take a picture of him, but my camera equipment just won’t do it.

This year’s second Happy Bit is a pair of Canadian geese who have taken up temporary residence on the 5th green of our little 3-par golf course. It is such fun to see them there. Yesterday there was a group of old duffers on the fairway and these geese couldn’t have cared less. I’d suppose their permanent residence is a golf course in Canada.

Another Happy Bit is the publication of a book that I have been waiting to see. It’s called “Three Dobbins Generations at Frontiers” – and the authors have taken one Dobbins Family, that of James & Elizabeth Stephenson Dobbins of Virginia and South Carolina in the last half of the 18th century – and traced them, their seven children and the children’s children. It is as much a history of the westward movement of the American Frontier during that period as a genealogy of this particular family.

Why it is important to me – and what makes me exceptionally happy – is that my 3rd-great grandfather, Rev. Robert B. Dobbins, is the first of the seven Dobbins children and the third chapter in the book is devoted to him. This particular chapter was written by my friend and distant relative Carl Peterson, a retired college professor. I was asked to write the chapter, but since the rest of the book was going to be written by real scholars, I begged Carl to do the honors. I gave him all the research on RBD that I had found throughout the years. He graciously agreed, but he added a couple of years of additional on-site research, and because of his professional research and writing ability, our chapter truly shines in the book. He has developed a well-documented and fascinating story of a special time, place and person in the history of our country. Bringing the book to publication has been a long-awaited event and it couldn’t make me happier. These three men – Bob, Jim and Carl, all Dobbins cousins – have created a real masterpiece.

The last Happy Bit is for a Happy Baby. Little NaomiHope Maree Davis is our newest great-grandchild. Born last August, she lives in Florida with momma Stacey and daddy Jonathan. I brought out all my old cross-stitch needles and threads and have just finished this piece to hang above her bed. It’s at the cleaners today, will go to the framer tomorrow, and she’ll have it sometime next week.

What this picture doesn’t show is the rich deep purple of the letters. The light just sucked the color out of them. But Stacey picked out the colors and I do think the real thing is going make a very nice addition to the baby’s room. I signed it “Noni,” which is the name I picked for the great-grandchildren to call me.

I hadn’t done a lot of cross-stitch in the last couple of years, somehow getting tangled up in knitting caps of one sort or another. But doing this for NaomiHope reminded me that I am very happy sitting quietly on the couch, listening to my favorite music and doing stitch after stitch after stitch.

This closeup photos shows just how cute the little font is. Not everybody's name wears tennies!

So there you are: Four Happy Bits.

Monday, April 9, 2012


A recent decision I made at Michael’s Craft store made me think about this aging process we all go through. I needed some cross-stitch material for a smallish project I had decided to do and figured a quick trip to Michael’s would get me started. For those of you who haven’t done any counted cross-stitching, working with material that has 11 stitches to the inch (11x) is where most beginners start out. As they get more comfortable with the technique, they buy material with more stitches to the inch, as it makes a little more detailed picture and is a little more challenging to do.

When I was doing most of my work I used material that had 22 stitches to the inch, and one time I even used 28x to the inch. That was a long time ago. To do this project I was contemplating now I thought I probably would use 18x. I looked carefully at the material, put it back and I looked at the 16x. Finally I settled on the 14x, almost the "baby" stuff. To say I was dismayed is putting it mildly. Luckily the project I was going to do doesn’t have a lot of detail to it and 14x will work fine. But using that size is very close to where I started out. And it’s all because my eyes aren’t what they used to be. I had to make a concession to my presbyopia, which is a nice term for “old or aging eyesight.”

My body is starting to require other concessions. A more major one than cross-stitching is the condition of my knees. Luckily, they don’t hurt me but they have acquired an ability to buckle when I least expect it. A while back I needed something out of an upper cabinet in the kitchen. I pulled a wooden chair over to the cabinet, grabbed the door handle of the fridge with my right hand and put my left hand on the counter. With my right foot on the chair seat I was hoisting myself to a standing position but my knee gave out. I started to go down bottom first, but since I was hanging on to the fridge door handle I didn’t hit the floor. Instead, I hit my rib cage on the seat of the chair and then I dangled until I got on my feet again. Luckily no ribs cracked, no bones broke, no tendons tore and I considered myself very lucky. At that point I conceded my ability to climb on a chair to get things. I’m too old to be doing that any more.

I have also conceded climbing stairs, scrubbing the bathroom and kitchen floor by hand, and looking under the davenport to find the cat’s toys. I can get down fine but getting up is another story – make that “problem.”

I have conceded having a nice cup of coffee with dinner, unless it is decaf. (Ugh). Or iced tea with dinner, unless it is herbal tea. Even the hint of caffeine will keep my eyes wide open until midnight.

I have conceded wearing shorts, as the state of my backside when I’m in shorts is nothing that I would want anyone to see. I see what old women’s legs look like, and I am just vain enough to want mine hidden from view as much as possible. So when summertime comes and brings with it 100+ weather I still strike shorts off the options of summer apparel. And I only wear tank tops if I have a blouse with sleeves to wear over it when I go outside. Inside the house I don’t care.

I have stopped eating carmels, salt-water taffy and certain candy bars because I fear that with every bite my teeth might leave my gums and affix themselves permanently to the candy. I am very careful with gummy bears and jelly beans for the same reason. In spite of my dentist, my teeth give me no assurance they will stay where I want them too. In fact, when I was still working I found the back half of one of my molars removed by a small chocolate chip cookie I was eating, necessitating a thousand-dollar root canal. There is no piece of candy worth that. So now I don’t eat anything more dense than a marshmallow.

Because Jerry and I both have physical conditions where we should not pick up heavy items to move them from place to place, we have to honor our limitations and either wait for one of our kids to come by or we call our maintenance department for help. Both are very accommodating.

Now let me think: Are there any plusses to this aging process? I can think of a few that are probably just peculiar to my own situation. One is that I no longer have to be in charge of big family dinners. Another is that I don’t have to get up for work but can sleep in to whatever time the cat will let me.

But best of all is that I can take an afternoon nap if I so choose.

*Image courtesy of

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I think you have to be of a certain age to understand what I’m talking about when I say “Harvard beets.” And I have to admit that the disconnect in my own family comes because I don’t believe I ever fixed Harvard beets for my sweet little children. I asked hubby Jerry if he liked them and he’d never heard of them, which I’m sure is because for his family the role of beets was exclusively in cold beet borsch. This week at Ralph’s market I bought a can of sliced beets and I’m going to introduce Jer to them. (For those of you who don’t know, Harvard beets simply have a “sweet and sour” (read vinegar and sugar) sauce on them and are served warm. They are yummy, but of course one must like beets to begin with. I think for the most part, beets are a non-starter with young people.

Another sweet and sour type food that I think has mostly disappeared is watermelon rind pickles. Didn’t your mother ever make them while you were growing up? These are the only things my mother ever “canned” – and she did so because they didn’t require a full-blown canning process, of which my mother was deathly afraid of, but instead these watermelon rind pickles could, after preparation, stay in the fridge for enough time for the jar’s contents to be downed. They went fast, served as a side dish at meals and as snacks right out of the jar. It’s been suggested that they were developed during the depression as a way to utilize every scrap of food available, but I think that is not so. And as a funny aside, I remember my dad, the family’s appointed watermelon thumper, going from melon to melon in the produce market, thumping each one for the perfect sound, and then paying 2 cents per pound for the perfect melon.

Many things I grew up eating are now a part of history. Our family always had toast for breakfast. Each member of our family had a type of bread they wanted used. When my sis and I were little, to keep peace in the household my mother one week had to buy my sister’s favorite bread (Wonder Bread, because Wonder Bread was a sponsor of the radio program Lone Ranger, my sister’s favorite cowboy), and the next week she had to buy Langendorf Bread, which was the sponsor of the program “Red Ryder,” my favorite cowboy. Now seeing as that was over 65 years ago, I may have the sponsors connected to the wrong program, but you’ll get the point.

My mother and dad also had their own favorite breads, which we always kept in the house and which as we kids got older we learned to eat. Mother’s favorite was Hollywood Bread. Now I’ve looked on the internet to find a picture of the bread I remember – and I don’t find anything remotely resembling my recollection. The bread was very dark brown, with a crust scattered with sesame seeds. The loaf was smaller than the traditional white breads, smaller, thinner slices that toasted up perfectly. The internet shows some diet bread called Hollywood Bread and indicates it was from Hollywood, Florida. I do not know if this was Southern California’s Hollywood Bread; again, I would guess not, but memories are faulty and mother was skinny as a rail, so I’m thinking maybe what we ate in the 1940s and early ‘50s was something different. I’d buy a loaf or two today if I could find an exact replica.

But my father’s favorite took the cake! We called it “stinky bread” because when someone popped it in the toaster, the family would almost have to vacate the premises because it smelled so awful. It was the famous Van de Kamp’s “Salt-Rising Bread.” None of us liked it as sandwich bread, but it was nonpareil as toast. That smell definitely did not transfer to taste. Oh, that bread was so good. I was able to find it in the stores until about 20 years ago, but alas, I do believe it is gone for good. I see recipes on the internet for it, but as a non-baker I’d never go to the trouble of making it; my attempts over the years to make ordinary bread have sealed my fate. I can only remember, and drool.

Those of you who have read my earlier blogs will remember that I said my mother was a notoriously untalented cook. Her idea of spaghetti was a pound of ground chuck and some onion browned in a skillet with two cans of Franco-American spaghetti stirred into it. Her idea of salad was chopped iceberg lettuce and chopped tomato with mayonnaise stirred in. You get the picture.

However, there was one item she kept trying to make – something that she had eaten in the past and wanted oh so badly to duplicate – but alas (or perhaps thank goodness) she never was able to perfect her skills. And that was Philadelphia scrapple. She always told us that it included pork and cooked cream of wheat. Whatever else went into it ultimately ended up in a loaf, which was baked. Slices of the scrapple were fried and served at breakfast with eggs. Somehow my sister and I learned that what we later knew to be called “Head cheese” was involved and we refused to ever take a bite. Mother couldn’t get anyone to help her finish eating the loaf, as it looked most unappealing and if one read the label on the head cheese package it truly WAS inedible by southern California standards. So that went by the wayside, too. It was certainly far worse than her spaghetti.

And finally there were a few canned items that were always in our cupboard that I haven’t seen or thought of it many years: Kadota figs and canned grapefruit slices. The Kadota figs were difficult to eat, as the skin of the figs were hairy and scratchy and the tiny seeds lurked between your teeth and your gums for weeks. When mother served it, we were required to eat it, and although the taste was pretty good, the "feel" of it in one's mouth was just horrible.

The canned grapefruit slices initially weren’t bad, but mother craved them when she got pregnant with my little brother and they were the only things she could keep down, so we had them every morning for breakfast for about 8-1/2 months. I don’t know if either of these canned items are on any store shelves now, but I’m telling you that I’d turn my head and avert my eyes if I ever thought I was going to see canned grapefruit slices, even after all these years (my brother turns 63 this year.)