Family Feud

A TV staple since 1976

July 12, 2022

The concept of this game show is fairly simple: two groups of five people – families – compete to see which group can successfully guess the top answers to questions answered by a studio audience.

The Family Feud premiered on July 12, 1976. It has been one of the longest running and most popular game shows on American television.

When it first went on the air, it was hosted by Richard Dawson, a British actor made famous as Lieutenant Newkirk on the 1960s sitcom, Hogan’s Heros. When that series ended, Dawson became a regular on The Match Game and was then made the first host of Family Feud.

Dawson was known for his kissing of the female contestants; a practice which drew criticism during the show’s first iteration. For Dawson, however, it seemed to have worked out well. From an article in Good Housekeeping, we learn:

UNITED STATES – APRIL 16: FAMILY FEUD – 4/16/81, Show coverage. Pictured: host Richard Dawson, (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

“He allegedly asked viewers to vote on whether or not they would like him to stop. The votes came in 14,600 to 704 in favor of kissing, according to Hogan’s Heroes: The Unofficial Company. The book also reveals that contestants filled out a questionnaire before each game including, “Do you mind if Richard Dawson greets you with a kiss?” Apparently, not many declined.

As controversial as the kissing was, in 1981, Dawson planted a peck on a woman who would eventually become his second wife. Forty-nine-year-old Dawson met 24-year-old Gretchen Johnson when she was a contestant on the show.”

Dawson continued as host for the next nine years but the kissing stopped after he and Gretchen were married.

The show had two subsequent hosts after Dawson but the show – and game shows in particular – had lost popularity with the viewing public.

Dawson with future wife Heather when she was a contestant on the show.

That all changed when, in 2010, they hit upon Steve Harvey, a host who was so relatable that it’s ratings skyrocketed back to the top. The infallible Wikipedia shares:

“The show’s Nielsen ratings were at 1.5, putting it in danger of cancellation once again (as countless affiliates that carried the show from 1999 to 2010 aired it in daytime, graveyard or other low-rated time slots). Since Steve Harvey took over the show, ratings increased by as much as 40%, and within two short years, the show was rated at 4.0, and had become the fifth-most-popular syndicated program. Fox News’ Paulette Cohn argued that Harvey’s ‘relatability,’ or ‘understanding of what the people at home want to know,’ was what saved the show from cancellation; Harvey himself debated, ‘If someone said an answer that was so ridiculous, I knew that the people at home behind the camera had to be going, ‘What did they just say?’ … They gave this answer that doesn’t have a shot in hell of being up there. The fact that I recognize that, that’s comedic genius to me. I think that’s [what made] the difference.’

One of the things which has endeared Steve Harvey to Family Feud fans is his expressive face.

Steve Harvey’s Family Feud has regularly ranked among the top 10 highest-rated programs in all of daytime television programming and third among game shows (behind Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!); in February 2014, the show achieved a 6.0 share in the Nielsen ratings, with approximately 8.8 million viewers. In June 2015, Family Feud eclipsed Wheel of Fortune, which had been on top for over 30 years, as the most-watched syndicated game show on television, and consistently began ranking among the top three shows in all of syndication.”

Unlike Dawson, Harvey does not kiss the female contestants. I think the thing which makes him so endearing is that he clearly is having fun as he hosts. You see him laughing along with the contestants and the audience at the ridiculous answers often given.

I had not watched Family Feud since the 1970’s when Dawson was the host. But in early 2012 when my mother landed in one particular care facility, their version of getting the residents up and interactive was to move them to a half circle of recliners set up to watch TV each morning and afternoon.

In my mother’s ‘house’ there were six residents plus one particular twice a day visitor and fixture, also known as my Dad. When I would visit Mom at the facility, Family Feud was often playing on the big TV.

For me, I always enjoyed the show but my dad, well, not so much. Every day there seemed to be a battle over ‘what’ would be watched on the living area TV. Dad consistently angled to get control of the remote and soon Family Feud was gone and Gunsmoke or Gilligan’s Island reruns would be playing.

Sometimes the residents – who seemed to like Family Feud – would complain and one of the staff would switch the TV back to the game show.

That sometimes would prompt Dad to get Mom up and we’d return to her small room to visit there.

After leaving that facility, Mom had a TV in her room at the new Adult Family Home and Dad always had control of the remote when he was there. I can’t say I’ve ever seen Family Feud on TV again.

But there is, of course, the internet. YouTube has, literally, hundreds of clips which provide endless hours to waste, er, research for this topic.

For a more exhaustive look at Family Feud, here are a few links:

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

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/a46188/richard-dawson-kssing-family-feud/

A Crow Named Bob

Considered one of the most intelligent species

July 5, 2022

The species Corvus – commonly known as a crows, ravens, and jackdaws – are considered some of the most intelligent creatures on earth. They have been documented to construct ‘tools’ from materials, can recognize specific people and animals of other species, and work cooperatively together to achieve goals.

Crows were frequent visitors to our backyard in Kirkland, often challenging the squirrels for a food source.

For purposes of today’s Tuesday Newsday, we shall refer to this bird simply as ‘crows.’ I chose the first week in July to highlight crows as I propose that the national symbol of the United States could just as easily been a crow rather than an eagle.

Legend has it that Benjamin Franklin suggested the turkey as the national bird but others thought the eagle to be more majestic. In terms of sheer intelligence, cleverness, and persistence, however, it is the crow which dominates. These attributes, to me, more closely encapsulate the nature of Americans.

The Infallible Wikipedia shares the following:

“As a group, crows show remarkable examples of intelligence. Natural history books from the 18th century recount an often-repeated, but unproven anecdote of ‘counting crows’ — specifically a crow whose ability to count to five (or four in some versions) is established through a logic trap set by a farmer. Crows and ravens often score very highly on intelligence tests. Certain species top the avian IQ scale. Wild hooded crows in Israel have learned to use bread crumbs for bait-fishing. Crows engage in a kind of mid-air jousting, or air-“chicken” to establish pecking order. They have been found to engage in activities such as sports, tool use, the ability to hide and store food across seasons, episodic-like memory, and the ability to use individual experience in predicting the behavior of proximal conspecifics. (snip)

A crow seems to find these baby toys irresistible. AvesNoir.com

The western jackdaw and the Eurasian magpie have been found to have a nidopallium about the same relative size as the functionally equivalent neocortex in chimpanzees and humans, and significantly larger than is found in the gibbons.

Crows have demonstrated the ability to distinguish individual humans by recognizing facial features. Evidence also suggests they are one of the few nonhuman animals, along with insects like bees or ants, capable of displacement (communication about things that are not immediately present, spatially or temporally). (snip)

In the past there have been plenty of studies conducted on how ravens and corvids in general learn. Some of these studies have concluded that the brains of ravens and crows compare in relative size to great apes. The encephalization quotient (EQ), helps to expose the similarities between a great ape brain and a crow/raven brain. This includes cognitive ability. Even though the brain differs significantly between mammals and birds we can see larger forebrains in corvids than other birds (except some parrots), especially in areas associated with social learning, planning, decision making in humans and complex cognition in apes. Along with tool use, ravens can recognize themselves in a mirror.”

Here in the Pacific Northwest, crows are everywhere. But that was not always the case. They were rare at the beginning of the 20th century.

Recently, the hubby and I had a crow encounter which we are unable to explain. While strolling down a sidewalk in the Fairhaven neighborhood of Bellingham, a crow swooped low over the hubby’s head, causing both of us to duck. When the crow repeated the action less than a minute later – this time making contact with the hubby’s hair – we knew it was not a random event. We wonder if the hubby’s head, slightly sunburned and shiny on a small spot at the crown, attracted its attention. Regardless, we did not wish to tempt the bird a third time and crossed the street to safety.

Their reputation for collecting shiny objects is based on this behavior. https://kids.britannica.com/

It was another crow encounter, in July of 2005, which became the reason I think the crow should have been our national bird.

I was, along with hundreds of others, at the Sundome in Yakima, Washington, for the Washington/Idaho Rainbow Girls annual convention.

Somehow, a crow had gotten into the building but, apparently, had no way to get out. No worries for the crow, as it swooped and flew around the large space, entertaining the girls, their families, and advisors.

The young woman who was leading the group that year dubbed the crow “Bob” in honor of a group of adult volunteers who had formed a vocal quartet named “The Bob’s” as all the men were named Bob.

For three days Bob flew around the building and was seen alighting on chairs and backdrops – pretty much anywhere. I imagine finding food was not an issue as, no doubt, more than a few snacks were likely consumed – and morsels dropped – by the attendees.

It was on the last day, July 10, when a scenario so perfect occurred that a Hollywood screen writer could not have scripted it better.

The moment had arrived for the Stars and Stripes to be returned from its place of honor on the main stage to the back of the room. This job fell to one of the young women present who – with great reverence – arrived at the flag, bowed to it, and then hoisted it aloft to carry it down a ramp and across the large convention center floor.

Lee Greenwood’s God Bless The USA played over the loud speaker as all eyes watched her procession. Then Bob stole the show.

The crow soared high across the arena, landing on the top of the loudspeaker system just below the ceiling, at the center of the dome. He paused for a moment and then, when the flag bearer was directly underneath him, he flapped his wings and flew in the same direction as she was walking, disturbing confetti which had likely settled on the loudspeaker a week earlier during Fourth of July celebrations.

Tiny red, white, and blue tissue paper glittered in the lights as it filled the air and swirled to the floor.

It was the most awe inspiring patriotic moment I’ve ever experienced.

I was able to confirm that Bob – like the rest of us – departed the Sundome later that evening to go back to his regular life. From the writeup in the Rainbow Girls newsletter:

“Of course, this article would not be complete without mention of Bob the bird. He appeared during set-up and stayed throughout all of the sessions, often coming to visit in the East, taking a bath in the decorations or sitting in the middle of the floor. He enjoyed the sessions and no one will soon forget our special visitor. And for those who may be wondering, Bob did leave the Sundome as the clean up process was coming to an end on Sunday night.”

Well done, Bob, well done. You are a credit to your species and an inspiration to us all.

The Links:

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

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

Washington/Idaho Rainbow Girls webpage: https://www.nwrainbow.org/

Summer Solstice

The Best Day of the Year

June 21, 2022

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.

A mid-July ‘sunset’ over Bergen, Norway, harbor. The sun never completely sets during the summer months that far north. This photo was taken by the author in 1980 around midnight.

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:

The June sunrise/sunset times for the Pacific Northwest

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.

My sister asleep at 11 p.m. in Bergen.

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.

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

Sister Golden Hair

America’s 1975 #1 Hit

June 15, 2022

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:

Dan Peek, Gerry Beckley, and Dewey Bunnell. The trio made up the group America for several years until Peek departed the band in May 1977.

“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.

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America_(band)

High School Graduation

Endings and Beginnings

June 7, 2022

For any individual over the age of 18 this event is, perhaps, one of the most seminal and memorable of their life.

Photo from the author’s Senior year annual, the Reveille

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.

Graduation Announcement

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.

The author the afternoon before her graduation

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.

The links:

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

The Paper Clip

A Gem of a Great Idea

May 31, 2022

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.

The author’s colorful clip collection

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 first to patent the most popular paper clip was Cushman & Denison

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.”

Johan Vaaler and his paper clip design… missing the last turn

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.

What’s still left of the original sets from Michaels

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.

Some of the hundreds of snowflake paper clips I’ve made

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?

A portion of my paper clip collection including the first set found at Michael’s (on the far right in the lazy Susan holder)

The possibilities are, as they say, endless. Well, at least for the crazy paper clip lady.

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

Queen Victoria

“Isn’t this the Queen’s court?”

May 24, 2022

Alexandrina Victoria was born on May 24, 1819, and – until 2015 – had the distinction of being the longest reigning world monarch ever.

Victoria, age 18, when she became Queen of England

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.”

Victoria and Albert on their wedding day

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.”

Victoria has been called the ‘grandmother of Europe’ as her nine children produced 42 grandchildren

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.

Mom and me snapping green beans at her and my Dad’s home, Thanksgiving Day 2010. Dad was in the hospital THAT day but came home the next afternoon; four days later Mom ended up in the hospital with the H1N1 flu… and was never able to live at home again.

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.

The links:

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

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

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

National Walnut Day

A favorite food for thousands of years

May 17, 2022

While walnuts are typically double sided, occasionally they can be found with 3 or even 4 sides

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?

The walnut forms inside a thick husk. When ripe, the husk splits open and the nut will fall – or can be shaken – to the ground

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.

My research included doing an internet search of the words ‘walnut + recipe’ – which garnered 339,000,000 – yes million – results. I found one recipe I hope to make this week which sounds delicious: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/unbelievable-walnut-crusted-chicken/

A scrumptious treat is vanilla ice cream, a squirt of whipping cream, Hershey’s Dark chocolate syrup, topped with a maraschino cherry, and sprinkled with walnuts. Yes, it was as delicious as it looks!

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)

The clock my grandmother made in 1962. The face is all embroidered by hand. She made two of these, one for my mother and one for my aunt. My cousin, Tim, has its twin in Yakima.

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.

Huckle Buckle Beanstalk! The main room of the cabin and the hidden walnut.

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.

A few links:

https://www.thereisadayforthat.com/holidays/usa/national-walnut-day

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

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

https://youtu.be/s1JV7rIcJcs (Although this is about Hickory Nuts, it’s hilarious! And they do mention black walnuts which are equally difficult to crack)

The Potato Chip

Bet You Can’t Eat Just One!

May 10, 2022

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.

Saratoga Chips package

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.

George Crum and, possibly, his sister Kate Wicks who some claim was the real inventor

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.”

Kitchiner’s recipe for potato chips appeared in the Cook’s Oracle

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.

Bert Lahr – who played the cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz movie – was the face of Lay’s Potato chips in the 1960’s. I thought he was kind of creepy.

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.

A typical display of Lay’s potato chips

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!

A few links:

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

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

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lay%27s

https://www.thoughtco.com/george-crum-potato-chip-4165983

Geocaching!

Tupperware Hidden In Nature

May 3, 2022

Astro – a member of Team Wrastro – checks out the Geocaching.com page

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.

Site of the first geocache in Oregon. We found it the summer of 2005 before it was archived

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.

Elroy, George, and Judy – along with our original GPS at Longview, Washington, circa 2005. The cacher on the left, cacher name Nudecacher, was NOT there that day. Jane’s epic editing skills are such that she was able to commemorate Nudecacher’s, er, contributions to the sport.

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.

George, Judy, and Elroy at “Room With a View Cache’ near Long Beach, Washington. One cool aspect of caching is that you sometimes discover places you’ve never been before… such as this one.

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.

George and Elroy caching in the middle of an Eastern Washington dust storm on August 12, 2005. One of our most memorable caching experiences ever. You can read the cache log here: https://www.geocaching.com/seek/log.aspx?LUID=eda7dbb8-14e0-469d-9f98-b2086150ed05

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!

At the height of its popularity, Jeep sponsored what’s known as a “Travel Bug”. These are items you find and then move them to another cache for others to find. 5000 Yellow Jeep Travel bugs were released in 2004 and 5000 white ones in 2005. As you might imagine many simply disappeared as they were a coveted item. Here George displays the white one we found on the banks of the Columbia River in 2005

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.

Rosie and Jane at the largest Geocache which Team Wrastro has ever found. Longview, Washington April 22, 2022.

Which leads me to find a way to wrap up this rather long blog post. But, hey, having found 4,882 4,883 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.

The Links:

https://www.geocaching.com/play/search

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

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