“Love is the answer to everything. It’s the only reason to do anything. If you don’t write stories you love, you’ll never make it. If you don’t write stories that other people love, you’ll never make it.” Ray Bradbury
On June 21 at 2:13 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, the sun (which will be seen elsewhere around the globe, but not in our time zone) will stand still for a moment, thus marking its northern hemisphere zenith.
From then on it is, as one might say, all downhill from there.
The summer solstice is the longest number of daylight hours for us. In fact the sun will not set until 9:15 p.m. with civil twilight extending until just before 10 p.m. and not fully dark until 12:45 a.m.
While many think of the solstice as being the longest day, the change is imperceptible. In fact, the sun will set at 9:15 p.m. for the remainder of June and then, on July 1st, it will set one minute earlier.
Where the real change occurs is in the morning. Sunrise is at 5:09 a.m. on both June 20 and 21 but is one minute later on the 22nd. By that same July 1st date it will be a whole 5 minutes later. Now, for most of us, it will be unnoticeable since we are likely to be asleep.
While the Infallible Wikipedia does provide all sorts of technical information about the solstice, I like the website timeanddate.com which shows in very understandable graph form all the geeky minutiae I crave. As seen here:
Of course, all this is very interesting, but it does not explain what it is about the months of May, June, and July which speak to my soul. I don’t love fall and I don’t love winter. By spring it’s getting closer to my favorite season. June is, by far, my favorite month of the year.
I would venture to guess that I, like many in the PNW, suffer with some degree of Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). All the hours of light (I hesitate to call it sunlight during a year such as this one where it’s been cloudy, cool, and rainy so many days) help to buoy my spirits.
It’s as if we need the extra light to carry us through the dark months of the year.
By the time I was 18 I was, intellectually, aware of the fact that the length of days varied depending on where you were. But it wasn’t until a trip with my parents and my sister to England, Scotland, and Norway in July 1980, when I personally experienced even longer days than what we have here.
We flew into Bergen, Norway in the early part of July, arriving late morning. I didn’t think much about it until that evening, after having dinner, we walked around the town… but it never got dark. I snapped a photo of my sister sleeping at 11 pm with sunlight still streaming through the window.
It was a bit surreal. Back to Timeanddate.com. A search for Bergen reveals that the sunset in mid-July is nearly 11 p.m. and that it never gets completely dark at night. As it says on timeanddate.com ‘nautical twilight’ continues the rest of the night!
As tourists, we loved it, able to explore the country all times of the day… or night. We took a ride up a vernicular and visited the harbor late in the evening which provided the closest thing to a sunset they had.
The natives, also, adjusted their habits. In the early afternoon, all the shops would close up and the locals would go enjoy the extra sunshine too! And who can blame them? Come December, they pay for the extra light with extra dark.
As for me, I try not to think of fall or winter, but just enjoy the long light and count my blessings that I live in a place where I can enjoy the beauty of a light filled summer’s evening.
For those who were teenagers and in their early 20’s in the 1970’s, those words are instantly recognizable as belonging to the song Sister Golden Hair – one of the musical group America’s two songs to hit the top of the Billboard charts.
The song was released on March 19 and took the number one spot on June 14, 1975.
Written by Gerry Beckley – one of the three original members of America – it was a song which seemed to find him. From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“Beckley says ‘There was no actual Sister Gold Hair.’ The lyrics were largely inspired by the works of Jackson Browne. Beckley commented, ‘[Jackson Browne] has a knack, an ability to put words to music, that is much more like the L.A. approach to just genuine observation as opposed to simplifying it down to its bare essentials… I find Jackson can depress me a little bit, but only through his honesty; and it was that style of his which led to a song of mine, Sister Golden Hair, which is probably the more L.A. of my lyrics.’ Beckley adds that Sister Golden Hair ‘was one of the first times I used ‘ain’t’ in a song, but I wasn’t making an effort to. I was just putting myself in that frame of mind and I got those kind of lyrics out of it.’”
Beckley succeeded in creating a song which was a bit depressing. And yet it resonated because of its naked truth. He conveys to the nameless ‘sister golden hair’ that he likes her; heck, he might even love her. But commitment is not in the cards and, what he seems to hope is that she will be willing to accept his terms.
Not exactly a recipe for a successful relationship.
In my journey as a novelist, this song – perhaps more than any other – has provided perspective into the emotions of the male protagonists and antagonists of my stories. But also the psyche of the heroines.
It encapsulates the journey we humans are on. Women and men frequently find themselves at odds with each other because one or the other is not in an emotional place where they are ready for a lifetime commitment… and, yet, the yearning to be loved and cherished persists.
This particular song came out the spring before my 18th birthday. I had recently become involved with a young man in what was my first serious relationship. At the time we thought of ourselves as being so mature, certain we knew everything we needed to know.
But there was Sister Golden Hair to suggest, perhaps, that we had not experienced enough of life to qualify us to be making life altering decisions. We simply did not know what we did not know.
I was Sister Golden Hair in more than one relationship, its lyrics returning to my head when things didn’t work out:
Unless you married your high school sweetheart, the chances are you’ve either been in the position of the singer or a Sister Golden Hair at least once in your life. This song continues to resonate some 47 years later precisely because it captures what it means to be human.
For any individual over the age of 18 this event is, perhaps, one of the most seminal and memorable of their life.
The High School Graduation represents so very much. For most it marks the official change from child to adult. It is also a sobering reminder that it is time to either get a job or go on to college. Whichever is the case, it truly represents the end of a phase of life.
The ceremony, known as Commencement, can trace its origins back some 800 years to Europe. At that time, of course, it was a rarefied event and confined to those few scholars who studied at universities AND only in Latin. The awarding of a degree was for the purpose of conferring recognition upon those few who were to be the teachers.
The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:
“Ceremonies for graduating students date from the first universities in Europe in the twelfth century. At that time Latin was the language of scholars. A universitas was a guild of masters (such as MAs) with license to teach. ‘Degree’ and ‘graduate’ come from gradus, meaning ‘step’. The first step was admission to a bachelor’s degree. The second step was the masters step, giving the graduate admission to the universitas and license to teach. Typical dress for graduation is gown and hood, or hats adapted from the daily dress of university staff in the Middle Ages, which was in turn based on the attire worn by medieval clergy.
The tradition of wearing graduation hats in Sweden has been in place since the mid-eighteenth century. The cap is typically a white sailor hat with a black or dark blue band around it, a crown motif, and a black peak at the front. The graduation hat tradition was initially adopted by students at Uppsala University. The headgear then became popular across several other European nations as well.”
In the United States, graduation ceremonies became popular for high schools but, alas, the Infallible Wikipedia tells us nothing as to when that tradition began. In recent years ‘graduations’ have been adopted by Junior High, Middle, and elementary schools. When my children were little, even their ‘pre-schools’ held ‘graduation’ with the tots donning mortar board hats and sharing what they liked best about pre-school.
The months of May and June are prime commencement season. My own high school graduation, from Dwight D. Eisenhower HS, took place on June 6.
What is interesting is how much of that night I remember. My high school had a tradition of the Seniors having an ‘all night’ party following the ceremony. At the time I didn’t recognize the purpose of the party. It was not so the young adults could go crazy… it was to keep them from going crazy and, it was hoped, to keep them safe.
In many ways, my High School graduation encapsulated all of the joys and sorrows of life in a single moment.
It was a typical June day in Yakima. The high was 77 degrees but by graduation time it was in the mid 60’s. There was a steady 16 mph wind blowing with some higher gusts.
My class of 365 graduates assembled just outside the doors at the north end of the gymnasium and awaited the moment we were to walk in. Our parents and families occupied the bleachers, no doubt fanning themselves with the programs, constantly rearranging themselves on the hard wooden benches.
In our line, there was whispering as thoughts and gossip were exchanged. Someone mentioned that a pair of our classmates had recently gotten married due to her getting pregnant. The young woman of the couple had been a good friend in junior high and, although we had drifted apart, the news rattled me.
But it was the information I heard next which, just as the line started to move, literally shook me to my core.
To this day, I cannot recall who told me. Yet the moment is firmly etched in my mind. The older brother of a good friend had been killed in an automobile accident in the early hours of June 6. Although he had been living with his father (their parents were divorced) in Western Washington, he had a good relationship with his siblings and his mother who did live in Yakima. He was only 20 years old.
That sobering moment likely affected the perception of my graduation. Yes, we still cheered and threw our mortar boards in the air; Yes, we had our all night –and alcohol free – party; yes, all our graduates survived the night – even those who skipped the school approved event.
And sometime in the next few days I went to see my friend and her mother, both of them deep in the grief of losing a brother and a son.
That summer I turned 18 and began to prepare for the next phase of my life: college. The month of June, it turned out, was a time of endings but also beginnings, of learning in classes and out of classes, of sorrow but also joy.
All the years of school leading up to graduation had not quite prepared me for the most important lesson I’ve ever learned: embrace each moment and never, ever take for granted a single day.
Chances are you have at least one of these objects within 20 feet of where you are currently located. I would also venture to guess that there is 99.9 percent chance (nothing’s ever quite 100, right?) that if you are in your abode, you could put your hands on one of these in less than two minutes.
It’s an object we take for granted, as they are as ubiquitous as a rock on the ground or a leaf on a plant.
The object: a paper clip.
Now, we haven’t always had paper clips. Someone did have to conceive of the concept and invent them. Like many innovations, it seems as if the idea was floating around in the cosmos waiting for the right person to wonder:
“Hmmm… I wonder if I twist this little piece of metal wire into a couple of bends, will it hold together pieces of paper?”
The concept is rather ludicrous, but that is precisely what happened.
But unbeknownst to the early paper clip inventor… or I should say inventors… the idea sprang forth in different places with a few years of each other.
Those crazy Norwegians – with little else to do in the winter – had one of their own create a ‘paper clip.’ He has been widely touted as the inventor of the device and even today you can find a paper clip monument to him. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:
“Norwegian Johan Vaaler (1866–1910) has erroneously been identified as the inventor of the paper clip. He was granted patents in Germany and in the United States (1901) for a paper clip of similar design, but less functional and practical, because it lacked the last turn of the wire. Vaaler probably did not know that a better product was already on the market, although not yet in Norway. His version was never manufactured and never marketed, because the superior Gem was already available.
Long after Vaaler’s death his countrymen created a national myth based on the false assumption that the paper clip was invented by an unrecognised Norwegian genius. Norwegian dictionaries since the 1950s have mentioned Vaaler as the inventor of the paper clip, and that myth later found its way into international dictionaries and much of the international literature on paper clips.”
The real inventor of the most used paper clip design in the world was – well, unknown. What we do know via the Infallible Wikipedia is this:
“The most common type of wire paper clip still in use, the Gem paper clip, was never patented, but it was most likely in production in Britain in the early 1870s by ‘The Gem Manufacturing Company’, according to the American expert on technological innovations, Professor Henry J. Petroski. He refers to an 1883 article about ‘Gem Paper-Fasteners’, praising them for being ‘better than ordinary pins’ for ‘binding together papers on the same subject, a bundle of letters, or pages of a manuscript’. Since the 1883 article had no illustration of this early ‘Gem’, it may have been different from modern paper clips of that name.
The earliest illustration of its current form is in an 1893 advertisement for the ‘Gem Paper Clip’. In 1904 Cushman & Denison registered a trademark for the ‘Gem’ name in connection with paper clips. The announcement stated that it had been used since March 1, 1892, which may have been the time of its introduction in the United States. Paper clips are still sometimes called ‘Gem clips’, and in Swedish the word for any paper clip is ‘gem’.
(snip)…the original Gem type has for more than a hundred years proved to be the most practical, and consequently by far the most popular. Its qualities—ease of use, gripping without tearing, and storing without tangling—have been difficult to improve upon. National Paper clip Day is May 29.”
Now, I love paper clips so much, that instead of celebrating them on only one day, for me this is National Paper clip WEEK.
I’m not exactly sure WHEN I became obsessed with paper clips, but I think it started back in 2004 when I took a novel writing course. Every week, we aspiring authors could bring six or so pages of our current work-in-progress (WIP). But the rule was that you must bring enough copies to share with everyone in the class. And, it was strongly suggested, that the pages be paper clipped together.
Who knows what got into my brain, but this gave me an excuse to purchase the colorful paper clips I coveted. You know the ones: red, pink, white, green, yellow, blue, and purple… no boring silver metal for me. Oh, no, I wanted the coated kind.
Soon, when taking something to share, my WIP was clipped together all in the same color paper clips.
Then one day it happened. I was at Michael’s in Kirkland pawing through the sales bins and I found a card with six beautiful hot pink paper clips. At the top of each clip was a rosette of pink netting and a trio of tiny seed beads – in sea green, sky blue, and pearl white, sewn in the center. I was smitten. Further sifting through the bin produced a second set, identical to the first, but with light pink netting instead.
Both sets found their way home and the next week, my pages at the writer’s group were passed out with my beautiful new paper clips brightening up the room.
Needless to say, they were noticed and the pressure was on. What paper clips would she bring next?
Soon, I was perusing office supply stores for new and exciting paper clips. For a while, Staples had this large tubular structure filled with paper clips in all sorts of wonderful shapes and colors: music notes, stars, hearts, triangles, kittens, butterflies, and suns, to name several.
Many of these were added to my growing collection. And then one day I had an idea. Perhaps there was a way I could create my own specialty paper clips? I experimented with making small embroidered hearts. I cut out flowers from material I had and glued them to the clips. I added small craft gemstones.
My legendary paper clip collection grew.
With Pinterest providing inspiration, I taught myself how to tie on ribbons and attach buttons and all sorts of baubles. I started giving away my specialty paper clips as gifts.
The paper clip obsession continues to this day. The hubby just shakes his head and shrugs when the ‘bin’ of supplies comes out.
These past couple of years with my involvement in Eastern Star, I’ve specialized. The theme has been snowflakes. I’ve literally made a couple hundred snow themed paper clips which, as far as I can tell, have been well received. Either that or people are gracious enough to accept them while secretly worrying about the mental health of the ‘crazy paper clip lady.’
But no matter. A portion of my paper clip collection sits in a ‘lazy susan’ style pen holder at the back of my desk (I’m looking at it as I type!) and I find that, at least once a day, I spin the holder around to decide ‘which’ paper clip I want for some set of pages. The ‘ice cream cones’ with the white, purple, and blue striped ribbon? The wooden Valentine ’s Day buttons with the various shades of pink polka dotted ribbons? Or perhaps the flower buttons, adorable with the tiny flowered bedecked ribbons?
The possibilities are, as they say, endless. Well, at least for the crazy paper clip lady.
Alexandrina Victoria was born on May 24, 1819, and – until 2015 – had the distinction of being the longest reigning world monarch ever.
We know her as Queen Victoria. She ascended to the British throne, at age 18, through a series of serendipitous occurrences. Despite having three uncles in line for the monarchy before her, their deaths – and the death of her own father when she was less than a year old – put in place the exact circumstances necessary for her to become Queen.
When she was barely 18 years old, King George III – her grandfather – died and she became the heir. She went on to reign for 63 years.
Victoria – along with her husband Prince Albert – seemed to understand the future of the monarchy would be one of ceremonial influence. From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“Through Victoria’s reign, the gradual establishment of a modern constitutional monarchy in Britain continued. Reforms of the voting system increased the power of the House of Commons at the expense of the House of Lords and the monarch. In 1867, Walter Bagehot wrote that the monarch only retained ‘the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn’. As Victoria’s monarchy became more symbolic than political, it placed a strong emphasis on morality and family values, in contrast to the sexual, financial and personal scandals that had been associated with previous members of the House of Hanover and which had discredited the monarchy. The concept of the ‘family monarchy’, with which the burgeoning middle classes could identify, was solidified.”
During her six decades reign, her popularity waxed and waned. After an assassination attempt in 1882, sympathy and approval of the Queen soared. Victoria said – when the-would -be assassin was found not guilty by reason of insanity – it was “worth being shot at—to see how much one is loved.”
Perhaps her greatest influence was on the culture of the day. As the mother of nine children and 42 grandchildren, she came to represent home and hearth.
The Infallible Wikipedia offers this:
“The rise of the middle class during the era had a formative effect on its character; the historian Walter E. Houghton reflects that ‘once the middle class attained political as well as financial eminence, their social influence became decisive. The Victorian frame of mind is largely composed of their characteristic modes of thought and feeling’.
Industrialisation brought with it a rapidly growing middle class whose increase in numbers had a significant effect on the social strata itself: cultural norms, lifestyle, values and morality. Identifiable characteristics came to define the middle-class home and lifestyle. Previously, in town and city, residential space was adjacent to or incorporated into the work site, virtually occupying the same geographical space. The difference between private life and commerce was a fluid one distinguished by an informal demarcation of function. In the Victorian era, English family life increasingly became compartmentalized, the home a self-contained structure housing a nuclear family extended according to need and circumstance to include blood relations. The concept of ‘privacy’ became a hallmark of the middle-class life.”
For those of us who observe the British Monarchy from a distance, it’s impossible to fathom a system built on a tradition of grandeur and pomp. Yet out of the monarch system – especially true of the Regency and Victorian eras – mountains of fiction have been written.
During the era, novels erupted in popularity, chronicling the time. Even today, the Victorian novel remains popular. A quick search reveals 214 current “Victorian” novels for sale on GoodReads.
Besides the books written by the Bronte sisters, I’d never read many Regency or Victorian novels. But my mother did. She loved the eras and the stories, especially Regency author, Georgette Heyer.
When, in late November 2010, my mother fell ill, she ended up spending 9 days in the hospital as she had contracted the H1N1 flu. It was touch and go, but eventually she no longer required hospitalization and was to be moved to Good Samaritan in Yakima for rehab. Transfer day was scheduled for December 7 and I had driven over the mountains the previous afternoon to be there to facilitate her relocation.
There were patches of snow and ice on the ground. It was cold, gray, and raw. I spent the night at my sister’s house and the next morning made my way to the hospital. Soon Mom was in the aid car and then arrived at her new room at Good Sam.
I spent the afternoon with her as a parade of nurses and caregivers came and went as they got her settled in.
Now, my mother had been suffering with dementia/Alzheimers for at least a few years by then. Nearly two weeks of severe illness had exacerbated the situation.
But the folks at Good Sam didn’t know her and did not realize how extensive the memory issues were.
About 3 p.m., a young woman enters the room and introduces herself as the Occupational Therapist (OT) and wants to talk with Mom. Mom’s bed is parallel to a window which looks out onto an interior courtyard. I’m sitting on a chair right next to Mom, between the bed and the window; the OT is on the other side, closer to the door.
So Mom keeps swiveling her head between us as the OT asks the questions; it’s as if Mom is looking to me for confirmation that she is answering correctly. For my part I am, of course, letting her answer the questions even if the answer is “I don’t know.”
Mom does know her name, her birthday, and the name of the town where she lives. Then the OT asks the following:
“Do you know where you are?”
Silence. Mom looks over at me and clearly does not know for SURE where she is, then turns back to the OT and says “Isn’t this the Queen’s court?”
The OT’s eyes lock on to mine and get very wide. I nod and smile because in that one answer the OT understood quite clearly that rehab for Mom wasn’t going to mean sending her home to resume life as most of us know it.
After the OT left, I stayed with Mom through her dinner and then made my way back to my sister’s for the night.
The next morning, before heading home, I stop in to see how Mom is doing. The first thing I notice is how pretty the snow looks as it gently falls outside the window, the ground now a blanket of white. Mom is awake, propped up in the bed and finishing breakfast. The room is warm and Mom looks comfortable.
With a big smile – she’s obviously glad to see me – exclaims “Oh, you’re back from England!”
Indeed. We had been to the Queen’s Court and back. The nearest to a monarchy I’m ever likely to get.
It was in 1949 when the walnut got its own “National Day.” While I am certain that a large portion of my readers are thinking “National Walnut Day? Really?” Upon research I arrived at the conclusion that walnuts deserve such an honor. Of course, those who decreed the day might have been a teeny bit self serving. From thereisadayforthat.com we learn:
“National Walnut Day was created to promote the consumption of walnuts and the first National Walnut Day was proclaimed by the Walnut Marketing Board in June 1949.
On March 3rd 1958, a Senate Resolution was introduced by William F Knowland. The Resolution was signed by President Dwight D Eisenhower on the first National Walnut Day which was on May 17th 1958.”
Obviously the US Senate thought it was important enough, right?
Until yesterday I had not given the walnut much thought. Sure, I’ve eaten walnuts my entire life. I like walnuts especially when sprinkled on an ice cream sundae. They are delicious in a variety of other foods also. Like fudge. And walnut bread or banana nut muffins. Candied walnuts are superb. And who can forget what happens when you add them to apples and celery in a Waldorf salad?
It turns out walnuts have been cultivated and eaten for thousands of years and have been enjoyed since at least 7000 B.C. according to thereisadayforthat.com
The Infallible Wikipedia does not let us down and shares the following:
“During the Byzantine era, the walnut was also known by the name ‘royal nut’. An article on walnut tree cultivation in Spain is included in Ibn al-‘Awwam’s 12th-century Book on Agriculture. The walnut was originally known as the Welsh nut, i.e. it came through France and/or Italy to Germanic speakers (German Walnuss, Dutch okkernoot or walnoot, Danish valnød, Swedish valnöt). In Polish orzechy włoskie translates to ‘Italian nuts’ (włoskie being the adjectival form of Włochy).”
The most popular walnut to eat is known as the English walnut despite its origination in Persia (Iran). The black walnut of eastern North America is also popular, but for a different reason. The wood of the tree is highly valued for its fine, straight grained properties. Unfortunately, the black walnut – like the hickory nut – is very difficult to crack.
Probably the best thing I’ve learned about walnuts is that I’ve been storing them all wrong. So very wrong. Walnuts, once shelled, are susceptible to going rancid and becoming moldy. Therefore they are best kept in the fridge.
Now on to a fun game which, for my family, involves walnuts. Sometimes those who visit my house will comment on the walnut (or several) which sit unobtrusively on the top of a clock my grandmother made back in the early 1960’s – or others which are seen in other spots.
Inevitably the question will be ‘why do you have a walnut there?’
It’s actually a nod to the game ‘Huckle Buckle Beanstalk’ which the Infallible Wikipedia describes as thus:
“The seekers must cover their eyes and ears or leave the designated game area while the hider hides a small, pre-selected object. When the hider says to come and find it, or after the seekers have counted to a specific number, usually sixty or one-hundred, the seekers come out and attempt to be the first to find the object. When a seeker has the object in hand, he can alert the other players of his success by yelling ‘Huckle Buckle Beanstalk!’ (snip)
A variation of the game has the person who finds the object, continue by pretending to look for the object and then call out ‘Huckle Buckle Bean Stalk’ to draw the other seekers attention away from the objects location. As the other seekers find the object, they perform the same deception until all the seekers have found the object. The winners take pride in how quickly they find the object and how much time passes between them and the next player who calls out ‘Huckle Buckle Bean Stalk’.”
I was introduced to the game by my grandmother at her cabin on Highway 12 near Rimrock Lake. As a child, my siblings, cousins, and I would play the game as described in the variation, honing our observation skills and – yes – earning the right to hide the walnut for the next round. A walnut was particularly well suited for hiding at the cabin which had honey colored pine board walls and wood ceilings interspersed with logs. The walnut blended very, very well.
When the cabin was sold in 2020, the Huckle Buckle Beanstalk walnut which lived there was one of the things I brought to my own house. The other walnuts I have were collected off the ground in Yakima last fall during a ‘dog’ walk with my sister and her hubby.
So, in honor of National Walnut day, be sure to eat a few walnuts or engage in a good old fashioned game of Huckle Buckle Beanstalk.
Whenever I read statements of (fill in the blank) was invented on (fill in the blank) date, I scurry my way over to the Infallible Wikipedia to verify the information. Frequently, I can find zero confirmation of the particular event occurring on that date. And, as with today’s topic, glean new information that suggests that not only is the date incorrect, but the person credited with the invention really was not.
I present for your contemplation the story of how and when the potato chip was invented.
Now according to legend, it was a chef in Saratoga, New York, who cooked the first potato chip for a customer who complained that his potatoes were too thick/too soggy/too something. The chef – one George Crum (real last name Speck), trying to appease the customer, returned to his kitchen, sliced the potatoes thin and then fried them. Viola! The first potato chips.
Upon deeper digging, however, a cookbook from the early 1800’s suggests that Crum was not the first. Yes, The Infallible Wikipedia provides us more information:
“The earliest known recipe for something similar to today’s potato chips is in William Kitchiner’s book The Cook’s Oracle published in 1817, which was a bestseller in the United Kingdom and the United States. The 1822 edition’s recipe for ‘Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings’ reads ‘peel large potatoes… cut them in shavings round and round, as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth, and fry them in lard or dripping’. An 1825 British book about French cookery calls them ‘Pommes de Terre frites’ (second recipe) and calls for thin slices of potato fried in ‘clarified butter or goose dripping’, drained and sprinkled with salt. Early recipes for potato chips in the US are found in Mary Randolph’s Virginia House-Wife (1824) and in N.K.M. Lee’s Cook’s Own Book (1832), both of which explicitly cite Kitchiner.”
As usual, there is a wealth of information which shares the exhaustive history of the potato chip from invention to modifications over the years. One need only walk down a grocery store aisle and see the entire length filled with the product to note its popularity.
It was in the 1950’s when the next big step in potato chips occurred: the addition of flavors. The Infallible Wikipedia continues:
“After some trial and error, in 1954, Joe ‘Spud’ Murphy, the owner of the Irish crisps company Tayto, and his employee Seamus Burke, produced the world’s first seasoned chips: Cheese & Onion. Companies worldwide sought to buy the rights to Tayto’s technique. Walkers of Leicester, England produced Cheese & Onion the same year. Golden Wonder (Smith’s main competitor at the time) would also produce Cheese & Onion, and Smith’s countered with Salt & Vinegar (tested first by their north-east England subsidiary Tudor) which launched nationally in 1967, starting a two-decade-long flavour war.
The first flavored chips in the United States, barbecue flavor, were being manufactured and sold by 1954. In 1958, Herr’s was the first company to introduce barbecue-flavored potato chips in Pennsylvania.”
But back to William Kitchiner. Does that sound like a made up name or what?
Back in the early 1800’s in England, the thought of a woman writing a book – even a cookbook – was simply not done. The famous novel Frankenstein was written by a woman, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, but published anonymously in 1818.
Which brings us back to the potato chip and ‘who’ really cooked the first ones. My guess is that it was a woman, experimenting in her kitchen. And that William Kitchiner, who could live off his inheritance, took her recipe when he published his cookbook in 1824.
Of course none of that really matters. What matters is that someone DID invent the potato chip, that delicious, can’t eat just one, crunchy and satisfying snack.
But the big question is WHAT is your favorite potato chip flavor? I find myself torn between ‘Sour Cream & Onion’ or ‘Cheddar & Sour Cream’. In my family, my son gravitates towards ‘Salt & Vinegar’, while the daughter prefers ‘Lime’ or ‘Dill Pickle’ (although she really likes Tim’s Sasquatch flavor) Since I’m staying with my sister and brother-in-law for a few days I asked them also and the answer is ‘Barbeque’ for her and either ‘Lime’ or ‘Salt & Vinegar’for him.
But back to the hubby’s response which, I think, speaks for many:
“Salt and vinegar, BBQ, Lay’s original. Now I want chips…”
Whatever your preference, we can cheer for Mr. Crum, or Mr. Kitchiner, or perhaps some unheralded mother, slaving away in her kitchen and experimenting with new ways to cook potatoes for her family. Any way you slice it, the world loves potato chips!
This activity has best been described, perhaps, as a global Easter Egg hunt. But rather than having a doting parent direct you to where the ‘egg’ is hidden, those who participate use the Global Positioning System (GPS) and hand held electronic devices to find their location anywhere on earth.
Dubbed Geocaching, the sport was launched on May 3, 2000, just one day after the US Government made it possible for ordinary people to find their location within 3 meters of a specific spot.
We turn to the Infallible Wikipedia for additional information:
“Geocaching was originally similar to the game letterboxing (which originated in 1854), which uses clues and references to landmarks embedded in stories. Geocaching was conceived shortly after the removal of Selective Availability from the Global Positioning System on May 2, 2000 (Blue Switch Day), because the improved accuracy of the system allowed for a small container to be specifically placed and located.
The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon. The location was posted on the Usenet newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav at 45°17.460′N 122°24.800′W. Within three days, the cache had been found twice, first by Mike Teague. According to Dave Ulmer’s message, this cache was a black plastic bucket that was partially buried and contained software, videos, books, money, a can of beans, and a slingshot. The Geocache and most of its contents were eventually destroyed by a lawn mower; the can of beans was the only item salvaged and was turned into a trackable item called the ‘Original Can of Beans’. Another Geocache and plaque called the Original Stash Tribute Plaque now sit at the site.”
Perhaps the above description would lead one to believe that it’s easy to walk to a spot and instantly find the Geocache (or, the cache, as we call it). Au Contraire, my friends. Some of the caches can be wickedly difficult due, in great part, to the size and clever placement of the container. Others are challenging because one must solve a puzzle to discover the GPS coordinates.
While a further reading of the Infallible Wikipedia article states that “A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and sometimes a pen or pencil,” after finding just shy of 5,000 caches, our family has discovered that they can range from being as large as a shed to as small as a tiny button.
The first participants tended to be computer geeky types who spent their waking hours on networks like Usenet. But that soon changed as people learned, via word of mouth, about Geocaching. Families discovered that it was a new and unique way to get outdoors and take a hike. For kids, it was fun to open up a cache and see what sort of treasures might be inside.
Additionally, there is an element of stealth involved, as one does not want to reveal a cache location to those outside the Geocaching community who might wish to harm a cache. Non participants have – in the spirit of Harry Potter – been dubbed as ‘Muggles.’
Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of any Cacher is to find a container right under the noses of lots of people without those people knowing it happened. It’s definitely difficult to do so!
Our family began our Geocaching adventure on December 26, 2003. I had heard about the sport from a friend and thought getting the hubby a GPS device (cell phones did not yet have the technology) would be a good Christmas present. The hubby had also heard about the sport. He was thrilled and spent a great deal of time that afternoon reading and learning how to operate the device.
Of course, the first big decision would be what to call ourselves. All Geocachers have to have a ‘handle’ and we decided on ‘Wrastro’ in homage to our White, 1998 Chevy Astro Van bearing vanity plates of the same name. Of course, this led to calling ourselves by the names of the Jetson family: hubby, George; Jane, his wife; Boy Genius, Elroy; and Teenage Daughter, Judy.
Identities established, out we went the next day to a park in Sammamish with Elroy, age 13 and Judy (not yet a teenager) age 10, to go to the park, walk up to the cache, find some excellent goodies, and then go on to the next one.
Hah! It took us waaaaay longer than it should to find the container which was, I might add, wrapped in a black plastic garbage bag and sitting in the crook of a tree. To us it looked like a random piece of trash!
That week we attempted all sorts of caches but, being newbie’s, made everything much more difficult. The good news is that we got better at it. Soon we could easily identify if something was an LPC or GRC. Or the always dreaded DNF. Don’t know those acronyms? Well, I’d be giving up sacred Geocacher’s secrets if I revealed them to Muggles. Sorry!
We also became familiar with some of the tricks of the trade and ‘how’ people tended to hide things. This was thanks, particularly, to one Geocacher in Redmond, Washington, who went by the name of Beamin’ Demon (BD). They were a legend as no one knew ‘who’ BD was; no one ever saw BD place a cache – it always seemed to occur in the dark of night; and BD caches tended to be miniscule, containing only a scrap of paper requiring one to bring their own pen. For months, the BD caches would show up and Elroy, especially, wanted to try to earn the coveted ‘First to Find’ bragging rights. So out he and George (usually) or Jane would go to find the smallest, most evilly hidden caches ever.
Elroy even ventured out with his own handle “I Like This Game” and started hiding impossible to find caches. Yes, we were out of control.
Alas, Elroy eventually moved on to other passions, and Judy found the activity irritating. George, however, persisted which is why, 18 years later, he still drags Jane out to find caches. Nowadays, one does not need a special Garmin GPS device to play. Cell phones work just fine.
George has also discovered that having Jane along is good for a couple of reasons. One, Jane can navigate; Two, she knows what to look for with the LPC and GRC’s and can grab those when George inevitably pulls up next to them with HER car door nearest the cache locations; and Three – this is the most important thing to George – he insists that she write up the log for the cache since, as he says, ‘you’re the writer.’ Personally, I think it has more to do with the fact that he has written the majority of the logs over the years and he likes the fresh perspective.
Which leads me to find a way to wrap up this rather long blog post. But, hey, having found 4,8824,883 finds (as of May 2, 2022), there’s a lot Jane – er, I – can say. Now if you want to read about Team Wrastro’s adventures, all you have to do is go to Geocaching.com and create an account. Then you can filter what you see by typing in the box where it says Found by the name WRASTRO. You’re welcome. Or not.
In the original Star Trek TV series, one of the things we learn about is ‘The Prime Directive.’ Rather than try to explain it, I turn to the Infallible Wikipedia which provides this summary:
“In the fictional universe of Star Trek, the Prime Directive (also known as ‘Starfleet General Order 1’, ‘General Order 1’, and the ‘non-interference directive’) is a guiding principle of Starfleet that prohibits its members from interfering with the natural development of alien civilizations. The Prime Directive protects unprepared civilizations from the dangerous tendency of well-intentioned starship crews to introduce advanced technology, knowledge, and values before they are ready. Since its introduction in the first season of the original Star Trek series, the Prime Directive has been a key plot element of many episodes of the various Star Trek series and served as a recurring moral question over how best to establish diplomatic relations with new alien worlds.”
This post is not about Star Trek, but rather the concept of a Prime Directive.
While our species has not, to the best of our collective knowledge, made contact with or interfered with the development of alien civilizations, I do think that we would do well to adopt a prime directive for life.
We all know that we should eat less, exercise more, not smoke, not drink to excess, and – well – do a whole bunch of other things to get or stay healthy. Easier said than done.
The Prime Directive which I have started touting to any who will pay attention is this:
You would think that this would be relatively easy to achieve but, alas, it is not. According to the CDC, one in four adults over the age of 65 fall each year. While today’s Tuesday Newsday is a bit of a Public Service Announcement, getting into all the statistics is not how I wish to use this space. But you can certainly check out the CDC link below for additional information.
Instead, I have adopted a two pronged approach to my personal Prime Directive.
Whenever I get up and am about to move about, I stop and look at my surroundings. The first thing I do is check the floor for possible items which might cause a fall: a pair of shoes, a blanket which has slipped to the floor, items which have been set down but don’t usually live in that spot.
I hold on to rails and any other handles which are provided since I assume they are there for a reason and then I proceed only after my visual evaluation indicates its safe.
There is a reason for the Prime Directive. Perhaps the first time I recognized the need for a more measured approach to walking was in the spring of 2005. I was at a friend’s house where we were having an event for the Rainbow Girls. I had headed downstairs but failed to turn on a light OR look at the way the steps were laid out. There was one additional step separate from the others and I missed it.
That fall resulted in a badly sprained ankle and a boot cast which I wore for nearly 6 weeks. Chastened, I vowed to do better. And I did until one day in probably 2014 or so when, in a rush, I strode into our spare bedroom, headed for the closet to get wrapping paper. I did not notice that the bedspread had slipped off the bed. (We had houseguests either a night or two before and I had not yet dealt with the bed). Next thing I knew, my right foot was wrapped up in the bedspread and I landed on both knees – the left one taking the brunt of the fall. Which was a good thing since my head ended up inches away from the solid oak of a nightstand.
While that fall did not end up with a doctor visit, my knees hurt for quite a few weeks.
Which brings me to my most recent violation of the Prime Directive. I can take comfort that it’s been at least eight years since I’ve had a violation.
The hubby and I were headed back from an overnight to Kelso, Washington, and stopped to find a Geocache* at a rest area. We were out looking for it near a copse of trees and the grass was quite long. I noticed a huge ant hill with a gazillion ants and was fascinated by this.
In the meantime, the hubby had gone on and was off behind the copse of trees. I turned to go find him when I must have stepped on a branch, hidden in the grass. From what I can recall, when I stepped on the forward part of it with my right foot, the back part popped up and the other end went up into the hem of my jeans on the left leg.
I was doomed as the branch, as though it had a life of its own, twisted the pants leg and the next thing I knew I was on the ground. Fortunately all that grass provided a fairly soft landing and I walked away with a bit of a scraped knee, only one ant on me, and a couple days of soreness.
Guess I need to add ‘be aware of and remove all branches which might attack me’ to my Prime Directive.
*Geocaching is a sport which will be featured next Tuesday, on May 3rd,when we mark the 22nd anniversary of its start.
As a child, I was only ever aware of two spices being used on food: salt and pepper. In the center of our table sat a five container antique cruet set. Despite there being cut glass receptacles for oil, vinegar, and sugar, the only ones which ever contained anything were the salt and pepper shakers.
Now, as a child, it never occurred to me that there were other spices. Undoubtedly my mother used a few others, but I was unaware that food could be a delightful adventure since she cooked mostly bland foods.
When I left home I took up an interest in cooking. It was then I discovered what I consider the essential food additive, one which has spawned cookbooks centered on it and an entire town committed to it. We are talking garlic.
April 19 is National Garlic Day, celebrated on this date since the late 19th century.
Technically, garlic is not a herb or a spice, but an allium, a member of the onion family. Like onions, it is known for its pungent aroma and taste.
Yes, the Infallible Wikipedia has a page and provides this information:
“Garlic (Allium sativum) is a species of bulbous flowering plant in the genus Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, Welsh onion and Chinese onion. It is native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran and has long been used as a seasoning worldwide, with a history of several thousand years of human consumption and use. It was known to ancient Egyptians and has been used as both a food flavoring and a traditional medicine. China produces 76% of the world’s supply of garlic.”
What many people do not realize about garlic, however, is that there are many species; hundreds in fact. While the Infallible Wikipedia does provide a good overview, I find that the cookbook Garlic Garlic Garlic, by Linda and Fred Griffith – in addition to a couple hundred recipes which feature it – offers fascinating historical and anecdotal information on garlic.
For example, there are a couple segments about the legend of how garlic repels vampires. But it’s this gem which would seem to offer a much more practical application:
Personally, anything which can ward off mosquitoes and other pests makes me a fan.
When, in the 1990’s I learned about Gilroy, California – they proclaim themselves Garlic Capital of the World – I added it to my ‘bucket’ list. The last week of July every year they hold the Gilroy Garlic Festival, having done so since 1979. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:
“An annual three-day event, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is one of the country’s best known food festivals, drawing visitors from across the nation. Located about 30 miles southeast of San Jose, Gilroy is home to about 60,000 people, and the city is a major producer of garlic. The festival is Gilroy’s top fund raiser, staffed with volunteers to raise money for nonprofit groups including clubs and schools.
The Garlic Festival has been held every year since 1979, except 2020 when it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rudolph J. Malone, then President of Gavilan College in Gilroy, was inspired by a small town in France which hosted an annual garlic festival and claimed to be the ‘Garlic Capital of the World.’ Malone started the festival, which now draws more than hundreds of thousands of paying visitors a year.”
To be fair, the United States ranks a distant seventh in garlic production by country and produces 237,000 tons. The top honors belong to China which dwarfs all others with over 23 MILLION tons of garlic grown annually. Even so, Gilroy is all about garlic, all the time.
Sadly, the hubby and I have not yet attended the garlic festival. But we did manage to visit Gilroy in the fall of 2015.
One of the first things you notice as you come across the Diablo Range from the east is the aroma. There is nothing shy about Gilroy! You pass field after field, many – no doubt – planted with the pungent crop.
But it is the town of Gilroy itself which charms. It sports a very late 19th century sort of feel with its buildings and the various shops which line the main drag. It is an inviting place to park your car and peruse the various retail establishments.
My goal that day, September 2, 2015, was to eat garlic infused food. We ended up at the Garlic City Café which stayed open long enough for us to order and enjoy lunch. Oh my. It was everything I hoped it would be. The chicken dish was topped with mushrooms… and garlic. The French fried potatoes were seasoned with salt… and garlic. It was a gastronomical delight.
I look forward to a return trip to Gilroy and the opportunity to spend a few days so as to try all sorts of other garlickly delights. Thank goodness the hubby does not mind the smell of garlic!