The Rules of Easter

It’s all about the Vernal Equinox

April 16, 2019

easter eggs.jpg

Photo from Pixabay

“The first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox.”

 

You would think something this simple would be without controversy, but as history tells us, it is not.

For Christians throughout the word, Easter marks the day of resurrection. Since as early as 325 AD, with the first council of Nicea, however, the date on which Easter is celebrated has been disputed.

According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts which do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars which follow only the cycle of the sun; rather, its date is offset from the date of Passover and is therefore calculated based on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established two rules, independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity, which were the only rules for Easter explicitly laid down by the council. No details for the computation were specified; these were worked out in practice, a process that took centuries and generated a number of controversies. It has come to be the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March, but Pink-Moon-2018-1311105calculations vary.”

One might think that setting out a fairly straight forward calculation would end the debate but, over the centuries, it’s become more confusing.

Things really went sideways when, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII decreed that the Julian calendar was way off and introduced his own calendar. The Gregorian calendar is the one we still use today.

So what does that have to do with Easter and how to calculate the date? There are people in the world who still – over 400 years later – like the Julian calendar and use it to determine the date Easter is celebrated.

There’s also the whole question of the equinox. Back in the fourth century there was no modern science used to calculate the exact moment of the equinox. Instead it was determined based on the above mentioned lunisolar calendar. Which is a fancy way of saying that the people who use such calendars needed a way to adjust the dates based on what was happening around them. Think of it as the spring equinox begins 14 days AFTER the new moon or, approximately, with the full moon of the season.

According to religious rules about Easter, then, the holiday is not truly based on it being on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox. No, the calculation is based on it occurring on the first Sunday following the full moon AFTER March 21.

This year Easter falls on April 21. But should it? The full moon and the vernal equinox both occurred on March 20 – a mere 3 hours and 45 minutes apart- with the equinox crossing the finish line first at 2:58 pm (PDT).  The moon was full at 6:43 p.m. So by scientific calculation, Easter SHOULD have already happened on March 24.

Instead, the rule – for those who follow the Gregorian calendar – is to think of March 21 as the equinox which places Easter on this coming Sunday. In the Infallible Wikipedia article, there’s an interesting table which shows the calculated dates of Easter for each competing calendar.

Year
Full Moon
JewishPassover
Astronomical Easter
GregorianEaster
JulianEaster

2015

4 April

5 April

12 April

2016

23 March

23 April

27 March

1 May

2017

11 April

16 April

2018

31 March

1 April

8 April

2019

21 March

20 April

24 March

21 April

28 April

2020

8 April

9 April

12 April

19 April

2021

28 March

4 April

2 May

 

Note that they have a column for Astronomical Easter giving this year three different dates from which to choose. The chart is also incorrect as we know the scientific full moon occurred on March 20 and not the 21.

And for the record? The most common date for Easter to occur since the inception of the Gregorian calendar through the year 3000 is April 16.

One of these days I’m certain the whole controversy will be settled. In 1997 a movement was afoot to make a change. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“At a summit in Aleppo, Syria, in 1997, the World Council of Churches (WCC) proposed a reform in the calculation of Easter which would have replaced the present divergent practices of calculating Easter with modern scientific knowledge taking into account actual astronomical instances of the spring equinox and full moon based on the meridian of Jerusalem, while also following the Council of Nicea position of Easter being on the Sunday following the full moon. The recommended World Council of Churches changes would have sidestepped the calendar issues and eliminated the difference in date between the Eastern and Western churches. The reform was proposed for implementation starting in 2001, but it was not ultimately adopted by any member body.”

And so it goes. All I know is that hunting for Easter Eggs is usually much more pleasant the third weekend of April than it is in late March. Plus, for our family, Easter this year coincides with my father’s 96th birthday! It will be the fourth time in his life that Easter is on the same day. The other years were 1935, 1946, and 1957.

The links!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter

https://www.staff.science.uu.nl/~gent0113/easter/easter_text2b.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunisolar_calendar

 

 

 

Candy Crush

A tasty treat to play!

April 12, 2022

One of the dangers of devices like the iPhone, Androids, and computers, is that there are, literally, thousands of games and other time-wasting applications just waiting to suck you in.

Tiffi (pictured here) is the main character in Candy Crush. Also pictured are some of the bright colored candies as well as striped, candies, color bombs, and coconut wheels

Such is the case for the game Candy Crush – one of the most popular games ever – which debuted on April 12, 2012.

For the game’s developers, it’s been a dream come true which has, no doubt, made them rich beyond their wildest dreams. For those who get sucked into the game, it’s a way to spend way too much time matching colorful digital ‘candy’, earning ‘rewards’, and – what the developers really want – spending money to purchase in-game boosters.

If you’ve never seen or played Candy Crush, no fear, the Infallible Wikipedia does – of course – have an informative article:

“In the game, players complete levels by swapping colored pieces of candy on a game board to make a match of three or more of the same color, eliminating those candies from the board and replacing them with new ones, which could potentially create further matches. Matches of four or more candies create unique candies that act as power-ups with larger board-clearing abilities. Boards have various goals that must be completed within a fixed number of moves or limited amount of time, such as a certain score or collecting a specific number of a type of candy.

Candy Crush Saga is considered one of the first and most successful uses of a freemium model; while the game can be played completely through without spending money, players can buy special actions to help clear more difficult boards, from which King makes its revenues—at its peak the company was reportedly earning almost $1 million per day.

A screen shot of level 15… it seems so easy and innocuous at this juncture.

Around 2014, over 93 million people were playing Candy Crush Saga, while revenue over a three-month period as reported by King was over $493 million. Five years after its release on mobile, the Candy Crush Saga series has received over 2.7 billion downloads, and the game has been one of the highest-grossing and most-played mobile apps in that time frame.”

I’m positive that pretty much everyone who has a computer or a phone has, at one time or another played a digital game. Whether your thing is a fighting game, solitaire, word games, or Candy Crush, the human animal seems to be hard wired to solve challenges.

Finishing first for an episode – 15 games – earns you 25 gold bars. Which are handy when you encounter a difficult level and need a boost. My longest streak of ‘wins’ is now 25.

Which the creators of Candy Crush figured out in spades, so to speak. The game is a visual feast of rewards. When you match three candies (the color palette of the game is bright shades of blue, purple, green, red, orange, and yellow) they sort of explode. And, when you match FIVE candies at once, special candies are created: striped, wrapped, and – best of all – color bombs. These candies, when activated, literally explode and will clear large swaths of candy from the board. It’s this ‘reward’ feature that all games have in common and that keeps players coming back to play again.

I will warn everyone, if you have not ever played Candy Crush AND if you are trying to avoid getting hooked, DO NOT go check out the game. It was in May 2014 when I made that mistake.

At the end of April that year I got my first Android phone. The main reason was to have a decent phone when driving with my son to Tennessee a couple weeks later. Having an Android became important for things like weather reports and communications with the hubby and daughter. (Be sure to read all about the day we outran the tornado here)

My son – who was moving there – had his truck loaded and I was going along to help with the driving, etc. Mostly I ended up riding shotgun and finding roads, motels, and places to eat on the new phone.

Then it happened. We are tooling along and I’m a little bored with nothing really to do and for those who have driven across Wyoming and the Dakotas, you know what I mean. I am still getting to know the phone and the words of one of my Facebook friends echos in my brain: “I’m surprised you don’t play Candy Crush. It seems like you would really like it.” To which I had replied “I don’t want to try it because I don’t need to waste more time.”

But like a dealer tempting me with his wares, I decide to check it out and play a few games just to pass the time. Big mistake.

Next thing I knew, I had played 15 games and had passed the first level. Then it was 30. Then 45. Soon I had ‘won’ 100 games and had started counting how ‘many’ of my Facebook friends were at a higher level than I was.

My friend Elizabeth was soon sending me extra ‘lives’ since – once you lost five times – your playing was over unless someone sent you them or you purchased them with real money.

Level 1476 is a good level to play when you need to collect certain colored candies or color bombs

I also discovered that every day there were bonuses I could earn that randomly gave me striped, wrapped, and color bomb candies. There were things called coconut wheels which when activated, turned regular candies into striped candies that cleared whole rows. There are little UFO’s which fly around and blow up candy and, best of all, a piñata which explodes and clears the entire board. All of these things can be purchased OR you can use your earned coins to get them. Of course you do have to be prudent in what you ‘purchase’ with your coins.

I would say I have become a Candy Crush expert in the past 8 years. I recently passed level 10,000. As of their 10th anniversary today, there are 11,511 levels in the game. Based on my current level that’s only 945 to go! Time to get back to playing…

As always a couple of links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candy_Crush_Saga

For those who wish to start playing it…

https://www.facebook.com/candycrushsaga

And if you go to your app store on your phone and type in ‘Candy Crush’, then you – like the over 1 BILLION who have downloaded it – can get addicted too.

Lava Lamp

A 1960’s symbol still popular today

April 5, 2022

Perhaps one of the most iconic images of the 1960’s, the Lava Lamp was patented on April 4, 1963. Two years later – in a very sixtyish style on April 5th,  the day after, the actual patent – was declared as National Lava Lamp day.

1960’s ad for lava lamps

Much beloved by teens of the 60’s and 70’s, the lamp – unlike plaid bell bottoms, Nehru jackets, and Twiggy’s haircut – has found new fans in subsequent generations.

The Lava Lamp got its beginnings in the early 1960’s. From the Infallible Wikipedia we learn:

“British entrepreneur Edward Craven Walker had the idea for the lava lamp in 1963 after watching a homemade egg timer, made from a cocktail shaker filled with liquids, as it bubbled on a stovetop in a pub. He hired British inventor David George Smith to develop the device and the chemical formula it required. Smith is credited as the inventor on the original U.S. Patent 3,387,396 for a ‘Display Device’ filed and assigned to Craven-Walker’s company in 1965, and subsequently issued in 1968. Craven Walker’s company, Crestworth, was based in Poole, Dorset, United Kingdom. He named the lamp ‘Astro’ and had variations such as the ‘Astro Mini’ and the ‘Astro Coach’ lantern.” 

For most of us, the details of who invented it are – likely – not of a great deal of interest. But my geeky side IS curious as to the technology behind the lamps. It turns out that it is the combination of two different materials that, when exposed to heat, cause the instantly recognizable function of the lava lamp.

Lava Lamp inventor

The material used to make the colored ‘lava’ originally consisted of mineral oil, paraffin wax, and carbon tetrachloride. This was suspended in water. The difference in how the wax/oil and the water heated is what caused the wax/oil to do what it does. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Common wax has a density much lower than that of water and would float on top at any temperature. However, carbon tetrachloride is denser than water (also nonflammable and miscible with wax) and is added to the wax to make its density at room temperature slightly higher than that of the water. When heated, the wax mixture becomes less dense than the water, because it expands more than water when both are heated. It also becomes fluid, causing blobs of it to ascend to the top of the lamp. There, they cool, increasing their density relative to that of the water, and descend.  A metallic wire coil in the bottle’s base breaks the cooled blobs’ surface tension, allowing them to recombine.”

Over the years, the wax ingredients have been replaced since one of the early ingredients proved to have toxicity which caused challenges if the glass jar was broken. 

But enough of the geeky details. For those who wish to learn more there is a link below.

I cannot recall the first time I saw a lava lamp. But I do know when I first lived in a place with one. When I moved into the hubby’s apartment after our marriage I became the defacto half owner of a lava lamp. Now, in a custody battle for the lamp I would have, no doubt, lost, since he owned it before we got married. Thankfully that custody battle has been avoided!

But over the years, the lava lamp has gone from being on display in our living room to being in our bedroom to living on a shelf in my office. But that was only until our eldest child discovered the lamp and it soon took up residence in his room. And then another one arrived to live in his room.

Here was this kid, born in the 1990’s, totally enthralled with a throwback product of the 60’s. The lava lamps moved with him to Tennessee, California, and then back to Washington. He lived for several years in Seattle but then moved out of the city in the fall of 2019. And the lava lamps arrived back in our house. Granted they were in his room, but that meant I could visit them pretty much anytime I wanted.

Our two lava lamps in phase 1

Like me, I think my son was mesmerized by the various phases the lava light goes through when it’s turned on.

Phase 1: the blob sits at the bottom of the lamp, glowing red, blue, yellow (the most common blob colors) for a time.

Phase 2: a tiny little tendril will erupt from the blob and snake its way upward like a plant sprout in springtime, only much faster. 

Late phase 2/early phase 3

Phase 3: more tendrils erupt and then, suddenly, the entire blob seems to explode like a cumulus nimbus cloud in spring, billowing up and out, filling the lamp.

Tiny lava blobs dance in the lamp/phase 5

Phase 4: the heat of the water approaches boiling and the wax mixture starts to form the ‘blobs’ for which the lava lamp got its name.

Phase 5: the numerous and various sized blobs, slowly at first, engage in a mesmerizing dance bouncing off one another, moving around through the lighted water lamp.

Phase 6: the blobs combine with one another, the large absorbing the smaller, until all that’s left is one huge blob. This phase continues until the lamp is turned off and the blob then settles in the base of the jar to cool down.

Phase 6 – large blobs

Each of these phases is interesting in its own way. My favorite, by far, is phase three. In fact, if given the chance, I will wait until the billowing wax looks like clouds… and turn the lamp off. 

My son, as far as I can tell, loves the lava lamp when it’s in phase 5, the multi-blob state. During the time he was living with us and the two lamps resided in his room, I would often go in to visit with him and the lava lamps would be illuminated.

Two years ago he took off for Mexico and, subsequently, decided to move there. Because of the logistics of getting household goods into Mexico was a challenge, the lava lamps had to be left behind.  So far, they have remained in the same spot where he had them displayed… but I think in honor of lava lamp day it may be time to relocate them to my office. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lava_lamp

The King and I

Rogers and Hammerstein Hit Musical

March 29, 2022

It is difficult to imagine – in today’s world – this Broadway musical ever being a hit, let alone even being made.

But on March 29, 1951, The King and I opened at the St. James theatre in New York for 1,236 performances. The musical was based on a Civil War era novel which chronicled the travels of widow Anna Leonowens and her two children. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In the early 1860s,  (Anna) a widow with two young children, was invited to Siam (now Thailand) by King Mongkut (Rama IV), who wanted her to teach his children and wives the English language and introduce them to British customs. Her experiences during the five years she spent in the country served as the basis for two memoirs, The English Governess at the Siamese Court (1870) and Romance of the Harem (1872).

(Novelist Margaret) Landon took Leonowens’ first-person narratives and added details about the Siamese people and their culture taken from other sources. The book has been translated into dozens of languages and has inspired at least six adaptations into various dramatic media:

  • Anna and the King of Siam (1946 film)
  • The King and I (1951 stage musical)
  • The King and I (1956 film musical)
  • Anna and the King (1972 TV series)
  • The King and I (1999 animated film musical)
  • Anna and the King (1999 film)

At the time of its publication, The New York Times called it ‘an inviting escape into an unfamiliar, exotic past… calculated to transport us instantly.’ The Atlantic Monthly described it as “enchanting” and added that ‘the author wears her scholarship with grace, and the amazing story she has to tell is recounted with humor and understanding.’”

For those of us over a certain age, the iconic actor Yul Brenner will forever be remembered as the epitome of the King of Siam; his blunt manners, assertive personality, and certainty of his God-given right to be the ruler, belonging to a different time and era.

And yet audiences everywhere were charmed by the musical, being drawn into a world that no longer existed, by characters who – in our own time and place – would not exist.

For those unfamiliar with the story, here’s the summary of the musical from The Infallible Wikipedia:

“A widowed schoolteacher, Anna, arrives in Bangkok with her young son, Louis, after being summoned to tutor the many children of King Mongkut. Both are introduced to the intimidating Kralahome, Siam’s prime minister, who escorts them to the Royal Palace, where they will live, although Anna had been promised her own house. The King ignores her objections and introduces her to his head wife, Lady Thiang. Anna also meets a recent concubine, a young Burmese, Tuptim, and the fifteen children she will tutor, including his son and heir, Prince Chulalongkorn. In conversation with the other wives, Anna learns Tuptim is in love with Lun Tha, who brought her to Siam.

Anna still wants her own house and teaches the children about the virtues of home life, to the King’s irritation, who disapproves of the influence of other cultures. She comes across Lun Tha and learns that he has been meeting Tuptim in secret. He asks her to arrange a rendezvous. The lovers meet under cover of darkness, and Lun Tha promises he will one day return to Siam and that they will escape together.

King Mongkut becomes troubled over rumors that the British regard him as a barbaric leader and are sending a delegation, including Anna’s old lover, Sir Edward, possibly to turn Siam into a protectorate. Anna persuades the King to receive them in European style by hosting a banquet with European food and music. In return, the King promises to give Anna her own house.

Sir Edward reminisces with Anna in an attempt to bring her back to British society. The King presents Tuptim’s version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a traditional Siamese ballet. However, the King and the Kralahome are not impressed, as the play involves slavery and shows the slaveholding King drowning in the river. During the show, Tuptim left the room to run away with Lun Tha.

After the guests have departed, the king reveals that Tuptim is missing. Anna explains that Tuptim is unhappy because she is just another woman in his eyes. The King retorts that men are entitled to a plenitude of wives, although women must remain faithful. Anna explains the reality of one man loving only one woman and recalls her first dance before she teaches the King how to dance the polka, but the touching moment is shattered when the Kralahome bursts into the room with the news Tuptim has been captured. For her dishonor, the King prepares to whip her despite Anna’s pleas. She implies he is indeed a barbarian. The King then crumples, puts his hand over his heart, and runs out of the room. The Kralahome blames Anna for ruining him as Tuptim is led away in tears after learning Lun Tha was found dead and dumped into the river. That causes Anna to sever all ties as a governess and declare she will leave on the next boat from Siam.

On the night of her departure, Anna learns that the King is dying. Lady Thiang gives Anna his unfinished letter stating his deep gratitude and respect for her, despite their differences. Moments before the ship departs, he gives Anna his ring, as she has always spoken the truth to him, and persuades her and Louis to stay in Bangkok. He passes his title to Prince Chulalongkorn, who then issues a proclamation that ends slavery and states that all subjects will no longer bow down to him. The King dies, satisfied that his kingdom will be all right, and Anna lovingly presses her cheek to his hand.”

I cannot recall if I first saw the musical on TV or if my initial exposure was as an elementary school student during an outing to A.C. Davis High school in the fall of 1968 to see it performed live.

What I do know is that it made an impression on me. A couple of memories stand out. In the fall of 1968 I was in sixth grade. Every fall and spring it was tradition for the elementary school students in the Yakima School District to get to attend the musicals put on by the two high schools: Davis in the autumn and Eisenhower in the spring.

I loved going to Davis for theirs if for no other reason than their building was impressive in a way that Eisenhower’s was not. Davis’ theatre was in a two tiered auditorium with carved columns and an expansive stage that – if you were seated in the balcony – you got to look down on and appreciate the grandeur.

The second reason was, no doubt, due to WHO the choir director was. At the time I did not have an appreciation for what Mrs. (Aletha) Lee Farrell brought to the Yakima community. I do know that my father – by then a teacher at Franklin Junior High – always spoke highly of the woman. What I have learned recently is that Mrs. Farrell was a Julliard trained vocal coach. Yes, Julliard.

A.C. Davis High School productions were always top notch. Due, no doubt, to Lee Farrell’s influence. That particular year she had two female performers who each brought something extra to the stage. The first was a young woman by the name of Nancy Caudill. The other was Oleta Adams. Caudill was the lead as Anna while Adams played the role of the tragic Tuptim.

Both went on to pursue music careers. Nancy in opera and music education and Oleta as a Jazz and Blues singer. Links for both are below.

At the time, of course, it never occurred to me that you don’t have singers of that caliber every year let alone TWO the same year. Whatever Mrs. Farrell was doing at Davis High School she was outstanding at identifying and developing talent.

The two singers in their 1968 yearbook

Which has led me to my musings of today. Somewhat belatedly I’ve come to appreciate the time and society in which I was raised. My generation’s parents and grandparents had a much broader view of what a society should do for its members. Those things involved exposing their children to a more refined culture and elevating such things as music and the arts. Could all of us be outstanding musicians? Of course not. But that was never the point. The Nancy Caudill’s and Oleta Adam’s were the rarity; and while one would likely never experience those sorts of successes, we all benefited by seeing and hearing those whose talent was developed and shared by teachers such as Mrs. Farrell.

I can appreciate the tragic storyline of The King and I and be moved by the Rogers and Hammerstein songs. And I can also appreciate that for one afternoon when I was eleven years old, I got to experience something rich and beautiful; fortunate enough to grow up in a time and place when education immersed us in cultured experiences.

Some links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_King_and_I_(1956_film)

http://www.nancycaudill.com/bio.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oleta_Adams

Cornstarch

An indispensible addition for the kitchen cook

March 22, 2022

One thing my mother never taught me to do growing up was how to cook. Why, I’m not exactly sure. But my guess is that she found the whole process messy and, by adding kids into the mix, even messier.

So, except for a few basic things such as pancakes and eggs, everything I ever learned about cooking occurred as an adult. Needless to say, there were several attempts and fails.

I learned about the various basics needed in one’s kitchen and today, March 22, marks the date in 1841 when one Orlando Jones patented one of those basics which was a process for extracting alkali starch from plants. He then applied this technology to corn, creating a product cooks everywhere appreciate and use: cornstarch.

Cornstarch: and indispensable thickener

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us this:

“Corn starchmaize starch, or cornflour (British English) is the starch derived from corn (maize) grain. The starch is obtained from the endosperm of the kernel. Corn starch is a common food ingredient, often used to thicken sauces or soups, and to make corn syrup and other sugars. Corn starch is versatile, easily modified, and finds many uses in industry such as adhesives, in paper products, as an anti-sticking agent, and textile manufacturing. It has medical uses as well, such as to supply glucose for people with glycogen storage disease.

Like many products in dust form, it can be hazardous in large quantities due to its flammability—see dust explosion. When mixed with a fluid, corn starch can rearrange itself into a non-Newtonian fluid. For example, adding water transforms corn starch into a material commonly known as oobleck while adding oil transforms corn starch into an electrorheological (ER) fluid. The concept can be explained through the mixture termed ‘cornflour slime’.”

Okay, so that information is a bit more geeky than I usually share. Back to the use of it in cooking. It is an indispensible item in my kitchen and is used to thicken Asian stir fries, gravy’s, soups, and all sorts of things. It’s also essential for anyone who requires gluten free foods. Cornstarch provides a lighter consistency than another traditional thickener, a flour and water slurry.

I cannot recall when I learned about cornstarch. It was probably in conjunction with my first Chinese cookbook back in the early 1980’s. What I do know is that my kitchen is never without cornstarch; the small yellow box among the other staples: flour, sugar (white, brown, and confectioners), salt, and baking soda.

Keep this in mind as the story unfolds. Back in the 1980’s the hubby and I had a subscription for a program called “My Great Recipes.” Every month a handful of recipe cards would arrive in the mail. These would be dutifully filed into a rather large molded plastic holder. They were numbered and categorized and, if you finished the entire program, they filled the recipe box with meat dishes to desserts and everything in between. We found many great recipes through this program.

One day I decided to try a recipe which was named “Oriental Ham” or “Sweet and Sour Ham” or something along those lines. I’ll be darned if I can find the recipe now! It required leftover ham – which I had – and then pineapple, red and green peppers. Seemed doable.

Porsche, me and my brother nineteen eighty something. Apparently we were eating popcorn that night and NOT inedible baking soda stir fry.

At the time, besides the hubby and me, my brother and our cat, Porsche, lived with us. My brother was at work that evening when I got busy making dinner. I cut up the ham and vegetables. I started a pot of rice. I heated oil in the electric wok in preparation of the meal. All was going well. One more thing which was required was to take cornstarch and mix it with a couple tablespoons of water to create the thickener.

As the moment arrived to add the cornstarch water mix, I stirred it one last time and then dumped it into the wok and it promptly boiled up in the pan like a miniature volcano. Weird, I thought. That’s never happened before. It should have clued me in that something was wrong, but it did not.

Instead, I served the meal to the hubby and we each took a bite and promptly spit it out. It was inedible.

Not willing to admit that the dish belonged in the garbage, I took a piece of ham and gave it to the cat. He turned up his nose at it and walked away. So I put the food in the fridge thinking by the next day it might be better.

Porsche, who looked at me with ‘judge-y’ eyes like these more than once. No doubt the night of the baking soda fiasco he gave me this look.

Sometime later that evening my brother – who worked afternoons and evenings – arrives at the house and he finds the leftovers. Which he puts on a plate, heats up, takes one bite and then throws the rest out. Needless to say, ALL of it ended up in the garbage the next day.

I cannot recall what it was which finally solved the mystery for me. Perhaps it was a few days later when I went to pull out the cornstarch and realized I had, instead, grabbed the baking soda. The light bulb in my head suddenly illuminated. Cornstarch and Baking Soda are NOT interchangeable. One will thicken things and the other creates a salty mini-volcano.

Lesson learned. Or so I thought. Fast forward thirty years and I’m making a beef stir fry one evening. All is going well until the moment I add the ‘cornstarch’ slurry and – in a repeat of that infamous night – I watch in horror as the mixture erupts into the telltale volcano.

This time, however, I shout “Shoot” or some variation of that word, yank the wok from the stove, dump the beef into a colander and thrust it under the faucet. The meat now wet and cold I examine it and think it’s worth a try to add new spices and, instead of baking soda, cornstarch.

I’m happy to report that the quick rinse did eliminate the baking soda and, unlike that fateful night in the early 80’s, dinner was saved.

Now, in my defense, the manufacturers of cornstarch and baking soda seemed to choose packaging which made the two boxes easy to mix up. After the second incident I started buying my cornstarch from Costco so that the two containers will never again be confused. I might also have taken a black sharpie and written on the boxes in large letters what’s inside. One cannot, after all, be too careful when it comes to cornstarch.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_starch

Serendipity. Coincidence. Synchronocity.

What Are The Chances?

March 15, 2022

I admit that I spent this morning searching for the right word to describe the following: when you end up at the exact same place and time as someone who you would not expect to see in that place or time.

The first word which came to mind was Serendipity. Dictionary.com provides the following meaning:  an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

So that is not the word which exactly fits the scenario. Then I started putting in all sorts of words to try and figure out exactly what I was trying to describe. Which led me down the rabbit hole.

People have, seemingly forever, been unable to accurately describe such circumstances. So here’s what happened to pique my interest.

A week ago Friday, March 4, the hubby and I had been in Spokane for a meeting the night before. That morning, before heading west, we decided to go to Manito Park to look for what’s known as a ‘Geocache’ (note to my readers, more on that is scheduled for May 3).

So off we went to the park. At the first stop I noticed a pond and that it still had a partial layer of ice. Which triggered for me a memory of my Dad sharing stories of his childhood and how he would, in the winter, go ice skating at Manito Park.

For those who know me well, you also know that I’m always interested in genealogy: Mine, yours, does not matter. I love talking about genealogy. Several years ago I took a paid subscription to Ancestry.com.

Photo of my Dad and his brother (I think they are the two boys in the foreground on the right side) skating at Manito Park circa 1928-30.

Of course I knew my dad had grown up in Spokane. I just had never realized how close to Manito Park. And I knew exactly how to find the address of his house: the 1930 census. Which could be found on Ancestry.

Two minutes later, I had the address which – it turned out – was less than a half mile from the park and the pond.

So I say to the hubby that I want to go see the house. He agrees that we can – just as soon as we find his list of geocaches. So off we wander in the park, finding (or in one case, not finding) a few caches. Finally, at about 11:45, I put the address into my map application and we head east to find the house.

How pleased I was when we turned the corner and there, on South Sherman Street, was what I presumed was the house where my Dad, his brother, sister, and parents all lived in 1930.

Dad with his older brother, Lyle, and dog, Buster, sometime in the mid-1920’s at the house. The photo was, unfortunately torn in half and taped together at some point.

I got out of the car and just as I was about to cross the street – which for the record was a side street where little traffic would ever travel – a car turns south from the corner of 17th and starts to drive by. I happened to look at the driver, who is staring gaped mouth at me. He then stops the car, backs it up, and is now staring gaped mouth at the hubby. I might add the hubby is staring back in a similar manner.

By this point, it’s obvious that the driver and the hubby know each other. A window is rolled down by the yet unknown to me driver, and the hubby steps from the car.

“What are you doing here?” The man exclaims.

“We were in Spokane for a meeting last night,” the hubby answers.

“Yes, but what are you doing HERE?” the man asks once again, then adds, “That’s my house.” And he points to the house next door to the one where my DeVore family lived.

“That’s house where my dad grew up!” I exclaim.

By this time, the hubby is introducing me to his friend, Roger, who he has done extensive volunteer work for a number of years with in the Washington Masonic and Scottish Rite organizations.

Roger, it turns out, was coming home that day as he had a Zoom meeting at noon. Five minutes earlier or later the chance meeting would not have happened. We are invited to visit Roger’s greenhouse and I’m given a gorgeous purple orchid. One of Roger’s hobbies is raising them. He gives us the name of the neighbor – who he has lived next to for 17 years – and encourages us to ring the bell and introduce ourselves.

Which we do. She is happy to oblige and we snap a few photos and discuss the house and my genealogy before heading on our way.

The author with the current owner of the house where my Dad grew up near Manito Park in Spokane

So, what are the chances that we would be on that street at exactly the same moment when he happened to be driving past to his house?

Certainly it was a coincidence. Even a bit of serendipitous luck. Perhaps the best word to describe it was coined as Syncronocity.

Of course we know that the Infallible Wikipedia has something to say:  Synchronicity is a concept first introduced by analytical psychologist Carl G. Jung “to describe circumstances that appear meaningfully related yet lack a causal connection.” In contemporary research, synchronicity experiences refer to a person’s subjective experience that coincidences between events in their mind and the outside world may be causally unrelated to each other yet have some other unknown connection.”

For me it was yet another odd occurrence in a string of odd occurrences related to my late Father. Like the incident with the 1965 Ford Mustang which I wrote about a year ago: (https://barbaradevore.com/2021/03/09/eee-161-rides-again/)

There have been others which I will eventually share here. For now, however, suffice it to say that it’s somehow oddly comforting to get these reminders of Dad, his larger than life personality still reverberating through my life. Coincidence? Serendipity? Synchronicity? Or, perhaps, a different term waiting to be coined.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manito_Park_and_Botanical_Gardens

www.ancestry.com

The Grizzly Bear

Ursus arctos horribilis

March 8, 2022

Ursus arctos horribilis, also known as the Grizzly Bear, is one of the most feared animals in the world. When the first explorers and fur trappers began to explore what would become the great American West, tales of a huge, ferocious bear soon made their way back east.

A grizzly bear at Yellowstone in 2010 from https://thegirlygirlcooks.blogspot.com/2010/10/yellowstone-national-park.html

It was that intrepid pair, Lewis and Clark, who gave the bear its name. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Meriwether Lewis and William Clark first described it as grisley, which could be interpreted as either ‘grizzly’ (i.e., ‘grizzled’—that is, with grey-tipped or silver-tipped hair) or ‘grisly’ (‘fear-inspiring’, now usually ‘gruesome’). The modern spelling supposes the former meaning; even so, naturalist George Ord formally classified it in 1815 as U. horribilis for its character.”

There was, of course, good reason to think of the animal as fear-inspiring. An adult male weighs between 400 and 790 pounds! Females are smaller with a weight range of 250 to 400 pounds. At an average of 6 ½ feet in length and 3 ½ feet tall, it would sort of be like having a pro basketball player combined with a sumo wrestler; a truly intimidating beast. Oh, and did I mention that its front claws are between 2 and 4 inches in length?

With the expansion of human civilization there has been a marked decrease in the grizzly population over the last 500 years. In 1850, grizzly bears were found in all of the western half of the US from the Canadian border to Mexico. Population in what would become the lower 48 states is estimated to be between 50,000 and 100,000 animals.

Their numbers have, however, decreased significantly. The Infallible Wikipedia shares:

“There are about 55,000 wild grizzly bears located throughout North America, 30,000 of which are found in Alaska. Only around 1,500 grizzlies remain in the lower 48 United States. Of these, around 1,000 are found in the Northern Continental Divide in northwestern Montana. About 600 more live in Wyoming, in the Yellowstone-Teton area. There are an estimated 70–100 grizzly bears living in northern and eastern Idaho. Its original range included much of the Great Plains and the southwestern states, but it has been extirpated in most of those areas. Combining Canada and the United States, grizzly bears inhabit approximately half the area of their historical range.”

In last week’s Tuesday Newsday, I shared information about the creation of Yellowstone National Park. In the 1950’s and 60’s, especially, Grizzly Bears and Yellowstone became synonymous. It was during this era, particularly, when the explosion of visitors, combined with an abundance of grizzly bears combing the park dumps and trash cans for a meal, collided.

What happened was an increase in bear and people encounters, similar to those often seen in movie footage of the time:

In the early 1970’s, policy changed with an all out effort to return bears to their natural ways.

Of course, I did not know all this when the hubby and I arrived at Yellowstone on September 1, 1980. As far as I knew bears roamed everywhere in the park and were around every turn. This is my mindset when, just after sunset – about 8:30 p.m. – the hubby has gone on foot to pay for our campsite.

There I sit, all by myself, the camp sites around us empty… when I hear it. The hum of an engine and the crackle of a loudspeaker, the words – at first – unintelligible.

I watch as a station wagon, bearing the National Park logo, rolls slowly into view, emerging from the dark forest. There are speakers mounted on the roof and someone from inside the safety of the car is, apparently, determined to scare any and all visitors half to death. The loud speaker cracks with sound and a solemnly intoned message blares into the quiet night to those foolish enough to camp there:

The author with a grizzly bear when visiting the University of Alaska Museum of the North at Fairbanks in March 2017

“This is bear country!” (static sounds follow) “Store all food securely in your vehicle” (more static)… “Fear… fear… fear…” (static). Okay, I made that last part up, but by now you have the picture. The message repeats as the car slowly disappears into the night. By now I am certain that grizzlies are going to emerge from the woods and make a meal of me, a certainty since all that would be between us and the 500 pound beast is a flimsy tent wall.

By the time the hubby arrives back in camp, I’m good and freaked out. Even so, we get a fire started, dinner fixed and eaten. And then I get really weird. I’m on my hands and knees, with flashlight, searching for that one kernel of corn I’m certain I dropped during the meal which, if smelled by a bear, will encourage them to rip into our tent and have us for a midnight snack.

My travel log entry reads as follows:

“I became almost fanatical in seeing that everything was securely locked away and bear proof. No bears tried to eat me during the night.”

My entry says ‘almost’ – there was no ‘almost’ about it. I was fanatical.

During two subsequent trips to Yellowstone, in 1982 and 1989, we became obsessed with trying to find a bear. It was during the latter trip that we did, finally, see one. It was about a half a mile away, across a valley, and it took a pair of binoculars to confirm. That was it. The only grizzly we ever saw in the wild.

Even so, bells tied to shoe laces do offer that extra bit of noise which is a good idea since you never, ever want to surprise a bear. Although we’ve seen grizzly in captivity a couple of times over the years, I think I’d rather not encounter one in the wild. A very horribilis idea.

As always, a link or two for those who want to know more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly_bear

A pretty good documentary if you have 45 minutes:

Nat Geo Bears of Yellowstone:

Yellowstone National Park

One of the world’s most magical places

March 1, 2022

The family at the northern entrance to the park in 2013

There are only a few places in the world I consider to be magical. This site – which became America’s first National Park – is such a place.

Long before that event, however, stories of this fantastical spot were dismissed as the ravings of madmen. Yet, as more and more intrepid explorers ventured into the American west, the stories of superheated water shooting hundreds of feet into the air, boiling mud lakes, and running water in winter, could no longer be dismissed as pure fantasy. Eventually, the stories proved to be true and, on March 1, 1872, Yellowstone National Park was established. Today marks the 150th anniversary of that event.

As always, the Infallible Wikipedia, shares some of that history:

“In 1806, John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, left to join a group of fur trappers. After splitting up with the other trappers in 1807, Colter passed through a portion of what later became the park, during the winter of 1807–1808. He observed at least one geothermal area in the northeastern section of the park, near Tower Fall.  After surviving wounds he suffered in a battle with members of the Crow and Blackfoot tribes in 1809, Colter described a place of ‘fire and brimstone’ that most people dismissed as delirium; the supposedly mystical place was nicknamed ‘Colter’s Hell’. Over the next 40 years, numerous reports from mountain men and trappers told of boiling mud, steaming rivers, and petrified trees, yet most of these reports were believed at the time to be myth.

Honeymooner Hubby at Old Faithful September 2, 1980

After an 1856 exploration, mountain man Jim Bridger (also believed to be the first or second European American to have seen the Great Salt Lake) reported observing boiling springs, spouting water, and a mountain of glass and yellow rock. These reports were largely ignored because Bridger was a known ‘spinner of yarns.’ In 1859, a U.S. Army Surveyor named Captain William F. Raynolds embarked on a two-year survey of the northern Rockies. After wintering in Wyoming, in May 1860, Raynolds and his party—which included naturalist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden and guide Jim Bridger—attempted to cross the Continental Divide over Two Ocean Plateau from the Wind River drainage in northwest Wyoming. Heavy spring snows prevented their passage, but had they been able to traverse the divide, the party would have been the first organized survey to enter the Yellowstone region.”

The author at Liberty Cap in the Mammoth Hot Springs region July 1982

While today we take for granted our National Parks, in the early years the western lands were often auctioned off, with the thought that having private enterprise take over regions would be best for getting the vast western lands settled.

Thankfully, due primarily to the efforts of geologist Ferdinand Hayden, Congress was convinced to create Yellowstone NP, preserving the lands for future generations to enjoy in as natural a state as possible.

Now, to be fair, this article could go on for pages and pages. There have been books written about the park and its 150 year history. It truly is an amazing story and a good start is on the Infallible Wikipedia page or the official National Park Service site (links below).

Reading about Yellowstone – or even watching video – simply does not do it justice. It has to be seen, smelled, felt, to truly be embraced by the magic of the place.

The author on a hike 1982. The upper geyser basin in the background.

As a child, my family never strayed far from home when we went on vacations. Each summer was a week or two at the beach. As a teenager, we took one trip to California and Disneyland with a stop at Crater Lake in Oregon on the way home.

I was 23 years old the first time I laid eyes on Yellowstone. The hubby and I had been married two days earlier and our honeymoon trip was, in theory, to drive back to Tampico, Illinois to visit his sister and her family. It turned in to so much more.

It was late afternoon on September 1, 1980, when we drove into Yellowstone. From my accounting of that day:

“About 5 p.m. we were at the park entrance. We did stop briefly in West Yellowstone for gas and miscellaneous groceries. While in the park that evening we stopped to see the mud paint pots and smaller geysers. (The hubby) was amazed at me upon witnessing someone who was seeing Yellowstone for the first time.

At every new site, I’d get excited just like a kid at Christmas. The same words always flowed from my mouth: ‘Oh! Wow!’”

Riverside Geyser adorned with a rainbow. 1982

Actually, I think my reaction was more like ‘Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!’

It was not until the next day that I saw a few of the ‘big’ geysers, including Old Faithful. Once again, I was stunned by the amazing displays:

“Two of the more notable geysers we saw erupting were Grand and Riverside. Grand was by far the more spectacular of the two, shooting 200-250 feet into the air.”

That 24 hour visit to Yellowstone was a lot like speed dating. We crammed as much into the visit as our time allowed before continuing east to Illinois.

Yet the ‘date’ left me wanting more. Two summers later we planned and then set out on a two week western US trip which took us back to Yellowstone. Our goal for that trip was to drive on every road in the park, and stay at least one night in each distinctive region. On that trip we found ourselves, literally, walking in the middle of an elk herd! (It was dusky and we were on our way to a campfire program put on by the ranger) We counted 29 does and fawns.

Upright petrified trees can only be seen on an insane hike called ‘Climb Through Time.’
Son and daughter at Minerva Terrace 2013

We saw a moose, marmots, and bison. We climbed to the top of Mt. Washburn and enjoyed spectacular views. We shared our camping spot with an Italian couple who had inadvertently joined us when they didn’t understand how the system worked. We visited the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Mammoth Hot Springs area. We did a ‘climb through time’ to see a standing petrified forest.

And we achieved our goal of driving every road in the park.

When we left Yellowstone on August 1st, I felt as if I had gotten my fill… at least for a few years.

The pair of us returned in 1989, and then brought the kids in 1998 when they were 8 and 5. Our last visit to the park was in 2013, the kids now 23 and 20, as part of a journey to move our daughter to Nashville.

Even writing about the trips creates a yearning to visit Yellowstone once again. Perhaps it is time to start planning for at least one more journey to this magical place.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_National_Park

https://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm

The hubby and kids from our last Yellowstone visit in September 2013

Popcorn!

February 22, 2022

There are topics which come to my attention from time to time that cause me to say: that just can’t be right.

The hubby and I have had this same set of bowls for decades now… and still use them

According to a number of sources on the internet, it was on February 22, 1621, when a Native American by the name of Squanto, at the first Thanksgiving, showed the settlers how to make ‘popcorn’.

Hmmm… wasn’t the first Thanksgiving held in the fall and not February? And did the natives of that region really eat popcorn?

A little refresher. The Pilgrims landed in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts in November of 1620. For the next year they struggled mightily, enduring hardships and starvation. There was no feast in February 1621. That did not occur until sometime between mid-September and early November 162.

Now on to the second question about the popcorn. According to History.com:

I feel confident that the two groups were not sitting around the campfire enjoying a batch of jiffy pop in February 1621.

Colorful dried corn

“It’s been said that popcorn was part of the first Thanksgiving feast, in Plymouth Colony in 1621. According to myth, Squanto himself taught the Pilgrims to raise and harvest corn, and pop the kernels for a delicious snack. Unfortunately, this story contains more hot air than a large bag of Jiffy Pop. While the early settlers at Plymouth did indeed grow corn, it was of the Northern Flint variety, with delicate kernels that are unsuitable for popping. No contemporary accounts reference eating or making popcorn in that area, and the first mention of popcorn at Thanksgiving doesn’t appear until a fictional work published in 1889, over 200 years later.”

But, the history of popped corn is interesting. A uniquely western hemisphere food, there is evidence that corn has existed and had been used as food for thousands of years.

While the Infallible Wikipedia was silent on the Pilgrims angle, it does share the following:

“Corn was domesticated about 10,000 years ago in what is now Mexico. Archaeologists discovered that people have known about popcorn for thousands of years. Fossil evidence from Peru suggests that corn was popped as early as 4700 BC.

Through the 19th century, popping of the kernels was achieved by hand on stove tops. Kernels were sold on the East Coast of the United States under names such as Pearls or Nonpareil. The term popped corn first appeared in John Russell Bartlett’s 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms. Popcorn is an ingredient in Cracker Jack and, in the early years of the product, it was popped by hand.

Charles Cretors with one of his popcorn machines

Popcorn’s accessibility increased rapidly in the 1890s with Charles Cretors’ invention of the popcorn maker. Cretors, a Chicago candy store owner, had created a number of steam-powered machines for roasting nuts and applied the technology to the corn kernels.

By the turn of the century, Cretors had created and deployed street carts equipped with steam-powered popcorn makers.”

It was, however, during the Great Depression when popcorn consumption really took off. With sugar in short supply and sweets largely unavailable, American’s discovered they could have an inexpensive salty, buttery snack instead. Soon popcorn was sold in movie theatres and people could pop it at home.

Popcorn popularity surged once again in the 1980’s  with the ability to cook the product in microwave ovens. It’s estimated that Americans today consume more than 17 billion quarts of popcorn annually!

Some of my earliest memories center around popcorn. My dad would pop a pan full on most Saturday nights of my childhood; a once a week treat while the family played cards.

My first popcorn popper was likely a Stir Crazy or similar. You poured a bit of oil on the base and heated it up, then added the popcorn kernels. It was fun to watch the popcorn fill the lid – which you turned over and it became the bowl.

When I went away to college at the University of Puget Sound, I brought with me two ‘appliances.’ One was a small electric kettle and the other was an all in one popcorn popper. Of course I was not the only girl to have one in the sorority, but one could be sure that the smell of the popping corn would be a siren call to others; soon the party would be in my room.

I associate popcorn with the hubby. Not only does he LOVE popcorn, it was the thing we were both eating on the night of our first ever phone call.

The hubby’s older brother, while we were on a waterski trip to Lake Tapps in 1981, decided the hubby was a good ‘target’ for getting popcorned.

In 1979 there were no cell phones. We did not have individual phones in our rooms either. Instead, there was a multi-line phone system in the Alpha Phi sorority where I lived,  and down the hall from my room was ‘the phone room.’ This was a closet size space with a small desk and chair, and the phone for the entire sorority was located there. Additional handsets were located on the second floor and another in the basement. Members took turns being on phone duty in the evenings, answering the calls and then, via intercom, paging those who had a call.

The evening of our first call, I had just finished making a batch of popcorn when the intercom near my room announced, “Call for Barbie D on line 2.” So, with a bowl of popcorn in hand, I made my way to one of the phones. As the conversation got going my new romantic interest and I discovered that we were both enjoying the same snack.

Our mutual love of popcorn has never wavered and we are in agreement that popcorn is best when it has butter drizzled over it and a few turns of the salt grinder on top of that. Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popcorn

https://www.history.com/news/a-history-of-popcorn

Probably our 4th or 5th popcorn popper. The bowl and popcorn canister we’ve had since the 1980’s. The average American consumes 58 quarts of popcorn a year!

The Teddy Bear

A beloved childhood toy for over 100 years

February 15, 2022

Generations of children, no doubt, think of this toy – one of the first they were likely to have – as a source of comfort. The Teddy Bear was introduced in the United States on February 15, 1903.

The modern day Vermont Teddy Bears can be huge… my dad bought TWO for my Mom when she was in assisted living. The darn things took up alot of space!

Amazingly, two different manufacturers conceived the idea simultaneously. The year before, American President Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt had been the focus of an incident involving a bear. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The name originated from an incident on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in November 1902, to which Roosevelt was invited by Mississippi Governor Andrew H. Longino. There were several other hunters competing, and most of them had already killed an animal. A suite of Roosevelt’s attendants, led by Holt Collier, cornered, clubbed, and tied an American black bear to a willow tree after a long exhausting chase with hounds.

They called Roosevelt to the site and suggested that he shoot it. He refused to shoot the bear himself, deeming this unsportsmanlike, but instructed that the bear be killed to put it out of its misery, and it became the topic of a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman in The Washington Post on November 16, 1902. While the initial cartoon of an adult black bear lassoed by a handler and a disgusted Roosevelt had symbolic overtones, later issues of that and other Berryman cartoons made the bear smaller and cuter.

Morris Michtom saw the drawing of Roosevelt and was inspired to create a teddy bear. He created a tiny soft bear cub and put it in his candy shop window at 404 Tompkins Avenue in Brooklyn with a sign ‘Teddy’s bear.’ After sending a bear to Roosevelt and receiving permission to use his name, he began to produce them commercially to great demand. The toys were an immediate success and Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co.”

President Theodore Roosevelt and one of Morris Michtom’s “Teddy’ Bears

The Steiff Toy Company in Germany, which had been working on their bear since December 1902, introduced it at a toy show a month later.

It was, perhaps, the first ‘gotta-have-it’ toy for children.

Over the years the style of Teddy Bears has changed. Originally, they were made to look like real bears with long snouts and beady eyes. Modern bears tend to feature large round eyes, stubby noses, and an upturned mouth.

One need only look at culture to really understand the impact this toy made. Since its creation, there have been many children’s books which feature as its main character a bear: Paddington, Winnie-The-Pooh, and Corduroy, for examples.

The song “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” was inspired by the first Teddy Bears and there have been several movies and TV shows about the toy.

Like most products, its popularity waned over time, giving way to flashier toys. Then, in the 1990’s, the Teddy Bear had a revival spurred, no doubt, by the electronic Teddy Ruxpin and the wildly popular “Build-A-Bear” workshops.

The latter took the idea of creating your own bear and opened retail locations in malls everywhere. Now a child could pick and choose the features, give their ‘bear’ a unique name, and watch as it was ‘born.’ There were, of course, adorable clothes which can be purchased for the bear. A little girl might want a ballerina bear. Once you’ve invested in the bear – or other equally adorable stuffed animals –then there were hundreds of adorable outfits available. Today, the dolls start at $14 and go up from there. For $20.50 you can buy the ballerina outfit which includes the glittery tutu and shoes. As you can see, it gets quite spendy.

The machine where each child’s bear is ‘built.’ Part of the allure is getting to see your own ‘bear’ come to life

One of the first toys I remember as a child was my teddy bear. In fact, that bear slept with me every night, my comfort item.

As far as I know it arrived as a Christmas present the year I was two.

Over the years, his soft fur was worn away – except for one spot under the back of each of his legs – and his original eyes long ago replaced by two matching red buttons from my mother’s collection.

My sister received a similar bear, but hers was pale blue with a light pink tummy while mine was a tawny brown with a beige tummy. I asked her if she still had her bear but she said she did not, unsure when it left her life.

The author’s original ‘Teddy’ – still a source of comfort when one is sick.

Being a couple years older, I don’t think she had the same affinity for her bear that I had for mine. I’m no psychologist, but from a child development standpoint, there is a window of time when a child naturally starts to move away from their parent and when another object – like a stuffed toy, blanket, or baby doll – becomes their comfort. Around age two is about that age.

For me, when there was no one else to play with, Teddy served as a substitute. We had tea parties, I ‘read’ him books, and we colored together.

One of my favorite children’s books is The Velveteen Rabbit. It’s a story about a stuffed rabbit that is so loved by its ‘child’ that he loses his fur, his eyes, everything which makes him ‘beautiful.’ But the message of the story was not lost on me as I could see the parallels to my own Teddy. The book’s author, Margery Williams Bianco, shares this bit of wisdom:

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

And, yes, I still have my Teddy. He’s traveled with me through life, always there to offer comfort when needed, a reminder of what’s ‘real’ in life.

A few links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teddy_bear

https://bookroo.com/explore/books/topics/teddy-bears

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Velveteen_Rabbit