Monday, December 30, 2013


So there I was with one soon to be past-it Bartlett pear and an idea for a dessert.  I had a box of frozen puff pastry that I’d not used over the holidays, so I looked up what might go with a pear tart. O.K.: lemon, cinnamon, ginger, sugar – it sounded good. Here’s what I did –

First I thawed one sheet of puff pastry. When I was ready to start the prep I turned the oven on to 450°.  I rolled the pastry out a bit to even out the fold lines, buttered the whole thing, and placed the pastry on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  I do wish I’d taken prep pictures – maybe next time.

Then, without peeling it (peeling an over-ripe pear is slimy), I quartered and cored the pear, sliced up each quarter into about 8 slices.  In a bowl I mixed

2 Tbsp. brown sugar
A dash of salt
A packet of True Lemon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. cinnamon

Next – with “impeccably clean hands” I tossed the pear slices in the sugar mix and arranged them down the center of the pastry. I folded the two long sides over to meet the edge of the pears.

Into the oven it went for 15 minutes. A thing of beauty if I do say so myself – and a culinary delight to the taste. We could have pigged out and eaten a half each, but sanity prevailed and I cut half into two servings. This would be great with ice cream – ooo la la – or with whipped cream. We had it just by itself.

I can’t call this a quick recipe because you have to have the forethought to thaw the pastry, but once that’s done it really is a breeze.

Friday, December 27, 2013


I think the simplicity of the Japanese life – at least as it was when I was reading about it – is very appealing. Very little in the way of possessions, just one or two special things to be showcased in a special place in the home. The beauty of life lay not in things, but in art and nature and traditional ceremony. (I’ve never been to a Japanese tea ceremony, but I hope that from my readings I’d know some of the proper etiquette for the occasion.)

Not everyone can have or even needs things, but beauty and ceremony are always needed, and are ours to see and enjoy for (usually!) free. In the ages where the Roman Catholic Church would impose an interdict on a country, the people there mourned the loss of the ceremony of the sacraments. Religious ceremony, even a funeral, was one of the few things that enlivened otherwise mundane lives. Today many people separate themselves from any religious ceremony, but that may be part and parcel of the abundant availability of other things to do on a Sunday morning.

In this era the television brings us most of the ceremonies we see. Royal weddings, inaugurations, this New Year’s Eve in Times Square, major sporting events – even the Daytona 500 – involve not only the moment itself, but the ceremony surrounding it. We think we’ve come a long way since the days of the interdicts, but really we’re quite the same.  We don’t need stuff but we do need and love ceremony.
Let’s all go see a parade! Rose Bowl anyone?



Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Merry Christmas morning. Christmas is really for the children. We had a marvelous Christmas Eve enjoying a fine meal and the antics of our three youngest granddaughters and their cousin. Spirits were very high. The oldest, age 7, read, as is a long-standing tradition, A Visit From St. Nicholas. Actually - 'actually' being one of her favorite words - threatening her younger sister that next year she would have to read it, she ran right through it. She wanted to get to making up the snack for Santa and the reindeer - Santa's 'snack' included a good belt of good bourbon provided by the adults - and then get on up to bed.  They all knew that the faster they got to bed the faster would come Christmas morning - right now!  I can't wait to see what Santa brought for them.
I hope your day is merry and bright and brimming with love.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Time to repost a quick recipe for the busy days ahead. Just think of what you might do with Christmas leftovers, some cheese, and an egg or two for each serving.  Be creative!

  Eureka! A new quickie supper! We were watching an old edition of one of Rick Steves’ trips, this one to Switzerland. In passing he mentioned a hearty supper of rosti, a mostly potatoes dish but his was served with eggs and cheese. I hadn’t yet decided what to make for our own supper, but that rosti gave me an idea: home fries, cheddar and eggs. Simple! So…
…I took the last of the red potatoes, four small ones, nuked them (Ha! I’d thought I’d already cooked and then refrigerated them, but nooooo – so I had to do a quick nuke and then – oo, ah, ah, hot! – dice them. Why didn’t I dice them first? Senior moment, of course) Onward: I also diced up a small onion and sautéed it with the potatoes, salted and peppered, in some oil and butter. Meanwhile, I grated up a few ounces of extra sharp cheddar.
When the sautéing was done, everything nicely, nicely browned, I spread them over the bottom of a glass dish I’d oiled, and sprinkled on some of the cheese. Then I cracked two eggs for each of us over that. To top it all off I put the rest of the cheese on top, popped it in a 400° oven for 15 minutes, and voila! Easy, delicious – sometimes I surprise myself.

It's not too elegant looking - no picture plate presentation -
but boy was it good!

Friday, December 20, 2013


No pencils please, we do it in ink!

Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the modern crossword puzzle. I was made aware of this last year when Slate made spoof predictions on which other publications would do articles on the anniversaries coming up in 2013.

I’ve been doing the Sunday crossword for untold years – well, ever since I could buy my own Sunday Times.  Before that time the Sunday crossword was always ‘owned’ by my mother. She and her brother were great fans.

We got the Times only on Sunday. If there were crosswords in our daily paper I don’t recall Mom doing them. She was strictly a Sunday Times fan. On serendipitous occasions I would come upon a daily Times, perhaps left behind in a Long Island Rail Road car, and over the years I came to ignore them if they were the Monday to Wednesday variety – usually too easy.

And what’s too hard? Any day’s puzzle from The Times of London – those folks went off on a tangent that my mind could never follow.

Some people would call it cheating, but when I don’t know the answer to the clue I look it up. I’d be cheating myself if I passed up an opportunity to learn something. “When in doubt check it out” is my motto.  A neighbor and I, from where we once lived, agreed that this was a good way to way to learn something new. I still keep an atlas and dictionary right by my chair – but there’s a laptop there too, so Google and Wikipedia have become my best resources.  I’m pretty well read, but I know absolutely nothing about
“Gyllenhall of Brokeback Mountain” or a “New Mexico State athlete.” So if I can’t get them by filling in the answers I do know, I consult my handy-dandy online references. 

To me, one of the great benefits of the internet is having access to the New York Times crossword puzzle.  Now I print out the Thursday through Sunday puzzles. The service costs about $40 a year, and it is well worth it to me, especially since delivery of just the Sunday paper here in South Carolina would cost over $200. Saves on paper too. Another new motto of mine: “Save a tree, read the news on line.”

My uncle did the puzzle in ink.  I remember him peering over his eye glasses at me and commenting that it was the only fair way to do it.  So, to be fair, I do it in ink too – red ink, so that I really see those mistakes. When I do finish one with no errors it’s like I’ve given myself a Christmas present.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I’ve mentioned that we don’t do the festive light show outside for Christmas – nary a light. We are minimalists when it comes to an outdoor show for the holidays. I’ve got a simple wreath on the front door and our porch light and inside lights shining out will have to suffice. We’ve been discussing this again this year, and we both think back to the times when the only Christmas décor in our parent’s mid-century homes was the Christmas tree, presents underneath, and perhaps a decoration on the front door.  We like to keep that tradition. 

My mother did like to do up a new decoration each year for the front door. One year, when we’d moved from a New York City apartment out to a house in the Long Island suburbs, she created a memorable display. The door was sheathed in shiny aluminum foil and she glued up a great cluster of small, wrapped gift boxes for the center.  Thinking to light this display properly, she went to the hardware store and purchased a special bulb for the porch light.  The next day one of the neighbors stopped by and, knowing my father was in the hospital, advised her to change the bulb. He told her the significance of the color: it was red. My mother, in her thirties, had had no idea. Needless to say, that night the bulb was green, and we had a green bulb at Christmas – and a great family story once we kids were old enough to appreciate it – from then on.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Not in a million years would I call myself chic. I’ve written about things like Good Grooming and Clothes Keeping, but knowing about such things does not make me chic. I Yam What I Yam. Just this morning while reading Vicki Archer’s blog French Essence I had to do a fist punch and exclaim “Yes!” I may have a wee bit of chic in me after all. 

Vicki, an author whose books and blog I enjoy, had a conversation/interview with Tish Jett, author or the new book Forever Chic, whose blog A Femme d’Un Certain Age is also one of my favorites. Vicki asked questions about Tish’s life in France, how the book came about, the blog, and just what makes a French woman so chic. (They are, you know. Never in my travels in France did I see a woman of any age who wasn’t thoughtfully turned out when she left her home.)  Vicki asked Tish about her beauty routines, products she couldn’t live without, and what she carries in her handbag. Ah! One of the things she carries is “a tiny bottle of my perfume Aromatics Elixir.” Voila! Aromatics Elixir. That’s my perfume too – when I remember to wear it.

But just that one little connection, one thing in common with a woman I admire, makes me think that maybe somehow I’m on the right track, and just might have just a soupçon of chic.  Ooo la la!

Forever Chic is billed as being “for any woman who last saw forty on her speedometer” and that certainly would be me. The book is on my Christmas Wish List, as is another bottle of the delicious Aromatics Elixir. Can’t have too much of a good thing.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Lazy lump that I am, I’ve decided to take a stress-free Friday the Thirteenth this year and repost this piece from the first week of December 2010. 
National Stress-Free Holiday Month - is there such a thing as a stress-free December?   Many families have begun to simplify the whole process in several ways, some of which might work for your own family.  
First category on our lists: Gifts!  I’m sure that if you are at the base of a very large family tree you are having a hard time just thinking of suitable gifts for everyone on those branches and twigs, much less going out to buy, and then wrap and, perhaps, mail the gifts.  It’s no longer fun when it becomes a chore or when the monetary end of it gets out of hand. 
 Some families stop giving gifts to those married or over twenty-one, those no longer children.  In other families they do a grab bag swap, in others the adult exchange gifts under a certain dollar amount. In many families they’ve eliminated gifts for all but those in their own households - after all, is it great fun to open them - and make instead a nice charitable contribution in the name of the family.
Next: holiday cards. Many folks streamline the card process by having them printed with their names, and then use printed labels for the addresses.  Good for them!  Good for me!  I then can streamline my own list by eliminating them from it.  When you care to send the very least, without even a hand-written “Hi, how are you?”, it says to me that we must not mean too much to each other.  Cards are one of my favorite parts of the holidays.  I make, write and address them all by hand, so I am less than appreciative of the shortcuts.   

Then there are those almost ubiquitous holiday letters.  I read this recently: “Holiday letters are a lot like fruitcake.  People either love them or hate them.”   Too true!  I can love ‘em or hate ‘em, depending on how well they’re done.   I’ve retired friends who are great travelers and who send letters filled with wonderful pictures and highlights of their experiences.  I’ve other retired friends who regale their readers with pages of the minutiae of their own, their children’s, and grandchildren’s daily lives - boring, to be truthful.  Can you guess which ones I keep and which I toss right out?

Cards or letters, you can make life easier for yourself by tackling the job early - everything begins in January.   Update your card list early in the new year (be ruthless!), then save money by buying your cards at the January sales.  Begin working on your holiday letter as the newsworthy events occur.   Start writing the cards and wrapping up the holiday letter just after Thanksgiving.  Sounds easy and, when you start early and stick to it, it is.
Here’s a good topic: decorations.  To do or over-do, that is up to you.  When we moved to Sun City, though our house here is bigger, it was the perfect opportunity to cut down on the ornamentation.  I passed on their favorite ornaments to our children, and gave away a lot of the extraneous décor. What I kept, for indoors and out, now fits in three 14-gallon totes.  This year I may decide to pare down even further, using more fresh flowers because they don’t require future storage!   It can be counterproductive to use all your decorative pieces just because you always have.  Pass most of them down, cull out a lot, and cherish the very best of the rest.  It’s always fun to pull out the decorations, saying hello to old favorites.  It’s less fun to have to take everything down, dust it all off, find the right boxes, and pack it up again.  Revel in the simplicity of minimal décor and less to store!  Oh - that rhymes!
Last, but not least in our hearts: food!!  Are you still cooking the whole meal from soup to nuts?  You are either a glutton for punishment or a control freak.  Let some of the younger generation start to hone their culinary skills.   Pass the torch, and then promise to bring along your specialty - the family favorite appetizer, zesty carrots, or praline pumpkin pie.  How’s that for stress-free!?

Many families are choosing to have their major holiday feast cooked by others.  Some have it catered and brought to the house - a great idea, but there is still the clean-up to be done.  Others go all out and go out.  Many like to have a festive restaurant meal on the night before, then rest and recuperate and open some presents the next day.  Many must have the main meal on the main day.  Either way, you can use Google to search for restaurants in our area that will be open on the various holidays. This is the least work, the least worry all ‘round.
December is a month for all - enjoy all thirty-one days!  You can do it!        


Wednesday, December 11, 2013


You can call me uber-organized, you can call me anal, you can call me whatever you want – but I call me lazy. I just can not wrap my mind around not being “ready” for Christmas. I’m not on a month-long marathon to decorate my house and grounds. My minimalistic décor – carried over from year to year, will suffice. There is no last minute frenzy to buy gifts: I’ve had them ready for months. I wouldn’t go near a mall at all, and all the shopping I’ll do will be at the grocery. There is no last minute frenzy to plan meals and Christmas baking: the lists are made and I’ve stocked up on the non-perishables. Christmas baking will commence this weekend – regular baking goes on all the time. There is no last minute frenzy to do much at all. I absolutely adore Christmas, but, as I said, I’m lazy. The thought of any really concerted effort just makes me cringe right now.  Being retired is, of course, a great help.  I’m past the age of raising children, I’m past the age of gainful employment, and I’m now in the age of relaxing.  I’m relaxing and siting back to watch all the frenzy around me.  It’s quite a show.


Monday, December 9, 2013


This meal takes about 20 minutes - the time it takes to get water to a boil and cook up some pasta.  We like shells for something like this. The onions and bacon get caught in the shells so you have some with every bite.

Start sautéing 6 slices of bacon cut into 1 inch pieces.  Coarsely chop one medium onion. Sauté these for a while until the bacon begins to brown and the onions soften. Add about a teaspoon of chopped garlic.  Add some fresh ground pepper.
Continue to cook this until the pasta is done.  Take a half a cup or so of the pasta water and add it to the pan.  Drain the pasta and add it to the pan. Mix it all up and serve it with parmesan cheese on top.

Friday, December 6, 2013


My minimalist Christmas Tree
I’ve been bogging for a few years now, and, as you may know if you read my entries with any regularity, I’ve several blogs I really love.  Lately, some of my own favorites have led me to other great sites.  Many of them are what I call “shelter” sites – decorating, design, home hints and such, along with the ins and outs, the ups and downs of daily living.  I tell you, some of these blogger gals are overachievers.  They must also have huge storerooms to keep all those decorations over the other non-holiday months.  (I’m wondering and can’t wait to learn what they’ll do for Valentine’s Day, Easter, and holidays through each year. My collection of a year’s worth of holiday décor is contained in six big totes: three for Christmas, two for fall, and one for spring and summer. Isn’t it nice that spring and summer provide their own décor in the way of garden things?) Last year I wrote about my own minimalistic Christmas.

On these shelter blogs the gals have decorated almost every available horizontal surface, and all the doors, windows and mirrors with decorations. Greens, ribbons, ornaments, candles, lights – you name it!  The displays are just beautiful, but I’m wondering about the time it takes to arrange them, how they maintain them for over six or seven weeks, how they dust them, and how, after all is said and done and they begin to put it all away, they don’t just chuck it all out in January and saying: “Next year we simplify!”

(I do know there are those with deep pockets and little room who decorate to the teeth each winter with all new purchases.  Keeps the economy rolling along, doncha know!)

Many, many memories on this tree.

If you are one of the gals who love to decorate to the nth degree, I’m sure you really love all that goes into the effort – and, of course, the results. More power to you, as they say, but, lazy lump that I am, I think I’ll pass.





Wednesday, December 4, 2013


It seems like I’ve noticed fiftieth anniversaries are coming thick and fast these last few weeks: the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination; the fiftieth anniversary of good old WNET Channel 13, New York’s public television station; fiftieth anniversary of Pavarotti’s debut – we watched the PBS special last night; and the fiftieth anniversary of the BBC’s Dr. Who.

My favourite doctors? – Tom Baker, of course (I once knit for my nephew a scarf similar to his – it went on, as this Doctor did, forever!); Peter Davidson because I loved him in All Creatures Great and Small; and the ninth, short-lived Dr. Who, the gorgeous Christopher Eccleston. There are all manner of Dr. Who video clips out there to be seen again. So many clips – so little time.

Above all others, it was the fiftieth anniversary of my arriving at the age of 21. Ah, to be that age again and to know what I know now.  Time sure flies when you’re havin’ fun.


Monday, December 2, 2013


Who doesn't have leftover mashed potatoes at one time or another? I've got a few one-cup bagsful in the freezer, ready to make potato pancakes for a Sunday breakfast, or a dinner where I’m stuck for a starch.  This happened the other night.  We were on the last servings of a boneless pork roast, with a dollop each of turnip (or, as they call them down here: rutabaga) and only a wee bit of gravy, so I took out a bag of frozen mashed and whipped some up as follows:

1 cup of leftover mashed potatoes
1 egg
1 Tbsp. dried onion (I’ve used fresh chives and scallions too)
3 Tbsp. flour
salt and pepper

Mix it all up, let it sit for a bit so that the dried onions soak up some liquid, and drop four portions into a frying pan in which you’ve heated

1 or 2 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Let them brown on their bottoms – you’ll see the edges start to get brown – flip them over, brown the other sides and Voila!  Good schtuff!


Friday, November 29, 2013



File this with the other strange things that run through my mind when I’m trying to go to sleep: I’m not sure if it’s my own imaginative thinking, but I have been thinking of some of the families I know and I find some have certain characteristics in common.

If the first two children are of the same sex the older will be ‘more’ of many of these: open, serious, responsible, grave, and Monday’s Child fair of face.

The second child will be ‘cuter’, and more blithe, mischievous, and secretive, and if it is the second of three, life may be a bit harder because it will always be a ‘middle’ child - neither the first who usually gets a bit more because its older and, obviously, has lived longer, nor the last who gets more attention because it’s the ‘baby’.

A third child of the same sex as its two older siblings will be a problem child: good looking, smart, clever, but a problem nevertheless.  The ‘terrible twos’ may last a lifetime.

I’m not familiar with any families that have more than three of the same sex in a row. One large family I know is a random mix of sexes, and another large one repeats the pattern of boy-girl-girl x 3! But I’d guess in larger families the older kids keep the younger ones in check – no matter how they came in order.

If the child is an only child (poor thing!) then, naturally, all bets are off.


I’ve never come upon or heard of anyone commenting on this before
– have you?


Thursday, November 28, 2013


Today the BBC in Pictures is running part of a series called
 by photographer Jimmy Nelson. The indigenous people in these photos would be absolutely appalled and most probably stunned by the activities and excess of most of the American non-indigenous peoples today: overeating at a huge meal and preparing to shop ‘til they drop on Black Friday.

p.s. "it’s just plain fun to say " Vanuatu

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


This morning, doing my regular morning round of favorite websites, Arts & Letters Daily enticed me with this: “As the last big unregulated industry, the art world attracts pirates, rogues, eccentrics, bullies, and snobs. Ruling it all is the dealer-king...” and the link went on to a piece, written by Nick Paumgarten in the New Yorker, about the art dealer David Zwirner.  Of course I had to google Zwirner. Turns out he is an interesting and quite powerful man in his field, and if you’re interested in the field it’s an interesting article. But what really struck me, and prompted this first paragraph, was not the subject of the piece but its own first paragraph, ‘buried’ in an article that would be read by very few:

“Very important people line up differently from you and me. They don’t want to stand behind anyone else, or to acknowledge wanting something that can’t immediately be had. If there’s a door they’re eager to pass through, and hundreds of equally or even more important people are there, too, they get as close to the door as they can, claim a patch of available space as though it had been reserved for them, and maintain enough distance to pretend that they are not in a line.”

Did this writer know how elegant a statement that is? It is appropriate for those in the very top echelons of our world, the cream of the elite no matter their sphere of influence, on down to the every-day rank and file members like you and me. It prompted me to think “how true!” and to bring this food for thought to the attention of my own very few.



Monday, November 25, 2013


Bubbly hot out of my trusty toaster oven.
This is my rendition of the recipe Magnolia's Baked Blue Cheese and Macaroni  introduced to us a SCCL Cooking Fingers Club by Elaine Wilson. The dish is to die for, but unless you're having a group it is quite large: one pound of pasta versus one cup. The recipe comes via the Nothing Could Be Finer cookbook, submitted by Chef Donald Barickman, Magnolias Restaurant, Charleston, South Carolina
1 cup dried macaroni
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup ½ and ½

4 oz. mozzarella – grated*
1+ oz. Roquefort, Stilton or other strong blue cheese**
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of Tabasco

Preheat oven to350°

Cook macaroni until just undercooked, about 8 minutes.

In 4 qt. sauce pan, melt the butter, whisk in the flour to make a roux, then add the ½ and ½ to make a sauce.  Cook for a few minutes. Add shredded mozzarella and stir until thickened.  Stir in the bleu cheese and allow it to melt until maybe just a few lumps are left.

Drain macaroni and add it to the sauce pot, stirring to evenly coat all the pasta.

Grease a small baking dish and pour in the macaroni mixture. Bake for about 1 hour until top is golden and bubbling.

I added some sliced green onions for a bit of color.

*   the original recipe uses Monterey Jack cheese, but I've always got mozzarella on hand so I substituted.
** to be true to our lovely state of South Carolina, you should use Clemson Blue. It is usually available at Young Plantation/Reid's on Rt.521 at Rt.160 in Indian Land.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Lazy lump that I am, I am reposting this piece from two years ago. It still interests me that we have transitioned Thanksgiving from European traditions, Pilgrims or none. We will be having a leisurely Thanksgiving at our son and daughter-in-law's home. I'll bring one of the desserts - maybe the easy family favorite chocolate cake.

My sister and I were dressed as Gypsies.
They certainly were warm outfits.

         Many folks I know from other areas of New York City never heard of this, but where I was born in Queens, New York, we didn’t go out Trick-or-Treating on Halloween, we ragamuffins went ‘begging’ on Thanksgiving. In the morning we were dressed up as beggars or Gypsies, in whatever old clothes were usable, and we went from door to door asking “Anything for Thanksgiving?” I was only in the second grade when my family moved from the city out to the country wilds of Long Island’s Nassau County, but my city memories tell me that we came home with apples and oranges, nuts and cookies, and perhaps a cup cake to add to the bounty of the day.
        Some recall that the items collected were given, in turn, to the various churches to then be distributed to the poor. I don’t recall this. I do recall a lot of walnuts at the bottom of my bag.

St. Martin's Day in the Netherlands

The custom may have a connection to November 11th, Martinmas, the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, patron saint of beggars and the poor, or St. Catherine’s Day, November 25th, both of which dates are used by many European cultures to signify the end of autumn and the coming of winter.  On either or both days, depending on the country and culture, children would dress up - or down! - and go around the town, especially with lantern on St. Martin’s Day, singing appropriate songs and, in many places, receive donations of food or money to be brought to the church, or get sweets for themselves.  Many countries celebrated with large, festive meals.

        It’s a certainty that the ancestors of these children brought these customs with them when the emigrated here, especially to the east coast, and they were gradually merged with the Thanksgiving traditions already in place.  Depending on the ethnic makeup of a neighborhood, some or all of the traditions carried over.  I’m sure that the ‘large, festive meals’ were easily transferred to the last Thursday of November. 

       Halloween has become a big, commercial festival, costumes and treats galore, so I’m not too sure that children still go begging on Thanksgiving Day. They’ve probably still got a lot of loot left over from Halloween, and the lure of the Macy’s parade on the TV is just too enticing to miss. We adults fondly recall the simpler times of our younger years.  I suppose that today’s children will recall these days as being the simpler times - and I can’t begin to imagine the times in which they’ll be living in the future, when what today’s adults call ‘excessive’ will to our grandchildren be ‘simple‘. It boggles the mind!

Yes, this was me around age six. I was a curmudgeon even then.
I was often a bit snerty about having my picture taken.
Don't you love the look?  My older granddaughters call this
"the lemon look".


Wednesday, November 20, 2013


The mind is a wonderful thing, and it’s strange the things people remember.
I remember...

…my mother telling me that once when her father was away and came back unexpectedly to Ruhrort he got there late at night. They didn't believe it was him and wouldn’t let him in because they were so afraid of the Bolsheviks. He had to find a place to sleep until it was light again and they could see him. I am thinking that this must have been in the years just after the turn of the 20th century. A brief story, but somehow it stayed with me.

Friday, November 15, 2013


This is a busy month for Presidential happenings. Many of us are acutely aware of this every four years when the elections roll around, so if for nothing else November would be Presidentially notable.

Presidents were involved in some important events in the month of November.  In 1906, Theodore Roosevelt was the first President to make a foreign diplomatic trip during his term in office. He sailed on the battleship Louisiana to visit the Isthmus of Panama and inspect the progress on the canal.  Visiting almost every other country in the world, such Presidential good-will trips have continued into this century, and have expanded to include world peace and economic summit meetings with many other heads of state.

Another much more significant event took place on November 19, 1863:
Abraham Lincoln delivered, at the dedication of a battlefield cemetery, what we now call the Gettysburg Address. There are few historical events at which so many would like to have been present, especially knowing what we know now. It is astounding that the main speaker spoke for two hours and Lincoln, in contrast, for just over two minutes, the crowd hardly hearing at all the words that would become so iconic.

Five of our Presidents were born in this month: Warren G. Harding and James Knox Polk on the 2nd, James A. Garfield on the 19th, Franklin Pierce on the 23rd, and Zachary Taylor on the 24th; and two presidents died in this month: Chester A. Arthur died in 1886 on November 18th, and John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 on the 22nd.

That last sentence is fairly matter-of-fact, but the fact of the matter of the assassination is very significant for most of today’s senior citizens.  It happened fifty (yes, it is fifty!) years ago this month. Almost all of us can remember exactly where we were that Friday when we heard the news that the President had been shot.

We remember sitting in front of the television all weekend to catch any new bit of information, watching Walter Cronkite on CBS because we wanted the news from the most trusted broadcast journalist.  Many remember seeing Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald. It wasn’t a staged play with actors, it was live television and it was all the more astounding.

Government offices, banks and schools were closed for the funeral that Monday. We remember watching the funeral procession with the riderless horse following the casket on the caisson; the service with so many heads of state: the diminutive Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I standing next to the towering French President Charles de Gaulle, the many European royals in full regalia, and the commentators identifying the notable people from all over the world. And we remember the large Kennedy family and the picture of young John in his blue coat, saluting the casket. These fifty years have flown by. Over the years the sad incidents in the Kennedy family have been of interest to us all because on that weekend in November we were “there”.