Friday, May 31, 2013


July 1978, Watkins Glen
(This essay was originally posted in March 2011. It's been a busy week so I decided to post it again.)

In 1892 an early version of the Pledge of Allegiance appeared in The Youth's Companion magazine. It read: "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

I give a silent chuckle when I say our Pledge of Allegiance, any version, with or without ‘under God’, because I am reminded of my husband’s hearing one phrase of it as ‘and to the Republic for Richard Stands.’ He also remembers a sign he saw on the way to a scout camp in the mountains: Walter Aviable. Turns out the sign said ‘Water Available.’

The same thing happened to us at the bank where I worked for years. The bank president’s secretary wanted the file on Lester Attabush, referred to in a letter to the boss. We looked high and low for hours: couldn’t find it. Finally, in came one of the old bank hands, the one who taught me a debit from a credit and all things financial in between. He took one look at the letter she held and said: “Kathleen, you dummy, it says‘see letter attached!’”

Richard Stands=for which it stands, Walter Aviable=Water Available, Lester Attabush=letter attached. These are what are now called ‘mondegreens’, and I’d bet you’ve seen or heard some at one time in your life. Some are misread, but most mondegreens are misheardwords. Merriam-Webster’s now lists it as: mondegreen: word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung - from the mishearing in a Scottish ballad of “laid him on the green” as “Lady Mondegreen.” There are websites devoted to mondegreens, even Mondegreen-of-the-Day calendars. We all know that “there’s a bathroom on the right,” and “gladly the cross-eyed bear” because “A soft dancer turneth away wrath.”

People like mondegreens because they are a laugh at themselves in what they hear or see. To have a laugh at someone else you can look up spoonerisms. Most spoonerisms start out as spoken words. The switching of syllables of a set of words, deliberate or accidental, is named after a Reverend Spooner who was prone to using them inadvertently. As a Warden of New College, Oxford, William Archibald Spooner was a prominent man in Victorian England, so his tendency was widely known. In reference to the reigning Victoria, he is quoted as saying “Let us glaze our rasses to the queer old Dean” - there’s also a mondegreen there if you really listen. He is also known to have said “It is kisstomery to cuss the bride” and“Mardon me padam, this pie is occupewed.”

Churchill wrote The History of the English Speaking Peoples, often mistakenly referred to as Peeking Speeples, but who wrote Beeping Sleauty? That was Frederick Chase Taylor, better known as Colonel Stoopnagle on radio. He would tell fairy tales full of spoonerisms, and Hee Haw’s Archie Campbell would later do it on TV.

Some phrases such as ‘smart feller’ or ‘shining wit’ are deliberately un-spoonerized, and some, such as ‘bass ackwards’, are spoonerized deliberately. Shame on them! Getting into spoonerisms, usually the reversal of first letters or syllables, gets you into the reversal of internal ones: British politician Sir Stafford Cripps was once introduced as“Sir Stifford Crapps.” From “the Duck and Doochess of Windsor” we go to one of the most noted reversal of syllables: radio announcer Harry von Zell, probably to his eternal mortification, after saying it correctly many times during a tribute piece, referred to our 31stPresident as “Hoobert Heever.”

Starrel, starrel little twink, how high up you am I think. I’m not under the alfluence of incohol, although some thinkle peep I am. Verbal blunders, imagined in mondegreens or actual in spoonerisms, are always good for a small dose of a medicinal laugh.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013


My Grandfather
I got sidetracked yesterday.  A wonderful surprise arrived in the day’s mail: a book and a letter from a man in Germany who, it turns out, is the son of one of my mother’s cousins. His grandfather and mine, two of ten children, were brothers. I’m not sure what the technical term is – first cousin once removed, second cousin? – it’s neither here nor there.  He’d written a book in German, about his family: Dietz und Drucker.  I’m on the Drucker side.  Turns out he’d met some of our Drucker family here and they’d contributed to his research efforts.  As a wonderful Thank You he published a book in English about his Drucker family and ancestry.  Now he wants to update the book with more information about his American cousins. There were eight of them, and my grandparents had thirty-three grandchildren, so there’s a lot of information to be collected.
I got started first by answering his letter with an email, and attaching two of the old pictures I’d already scanned in. This morning so far, after receiving a wonderful email reply from him, I’ve been taking pictures of the large pictures I can’t scan, and scanning in the smaller stuff. My brother has our family album and I’ve emailed him to get him to join in on the project.

I’ve stayed in touch with only a few of my cousins, and this project is really bringing the memories flooding back.  It is wonderful to see pictures of them. Some of the gals have white hair!  Whew – so do I!  We’re all getting old!
So that’s why my usual Tuesday posting went missing – I don’t apologize!
My Grandmother

Friday, May 24, 2013


Once, when I annoyed someone because I knew the correct answer on a quickie quiz, they muttered “know it all!” Well, I do have a lot of relatively useless trivia – such as where we get the concept of trivia – stored in my (alleged) mind. But it’s been said that if you knew it all you’d go crazy.

Just think of all there is to know – everything from the exact amount of pi* to the last time your neighbor went to the bathroom; the bloom time of every daffodil to the time of the next eclipse; the function of the microorganisms in your body to what is in the center of a black hole. There is too much to know.


Recently I read an article in Foreign Affairs on The Rise of Big Data. The article says that if all the available information today were put on CDs there would be five piles of them reaching up to the moon. TMI, TMI. Even knowing that TMI means Too Much Information is TMI. Like spiders, they are saving everything that hits the web, from learned essays to the latest tweets. I’m so glad that none of my own thoughts about day to day happenings will stick to that sticky web – I don’t post on Facebook and I don’t tweet. To me this is all ‘evidence’ junk: evidence of something done, something won, or a presence somewhere thought significant to someone.  I’m not social enough for social media. I know that the vast majority of people care less about what I do, though this blog will probably make the cut.

I suppose all this stuff has to be saved because one never knows when a biographer might want to know what his subject wrote about the events on a certain day, or what plans a mad bomber hatched, but really, all that stuff is junk.  Would we be better off now if Einstein or Hitler or Alexander the Great had tweeted? How ‘bout if Lucretia Borgia or Thomas Jefferson were on Facebook? We’ll never know – and I’m so glad.

*Pi, I’ve now learned, is infinite. Around the same time I read the article on the rise of big data, I came upon an article from Slate called Your Life in Pi. Speaking of TMI, the Pi article tells me "Pi is an infinite, nonrepeating decimal - meaning that every possible number combination exists somewhere in pi. Converted into ASCII text, somewhere in that infinite string of digits is the name of every person you will ever love, the date, time, and manner of your death, and the answers to all the great questions of the universe. Converted into a bitmap, somewhere in that infinite string of digits is a pixel-perfect representation of the first thing you saw on this earth, the last thing you will see before your life leaves you, and all the moments, momentous and mundane, that will occur between those two points. All information that has ever existed or will ever exist, the DNA of every being in the universe, EVERYTHING: all contained in the ratio of a circumference and a diameter."  Whew!  Let someone else convert things into ASCII – I went pi-eyed just googling that.

I can’t begin to know when or even if our store of information will outgrow our ability to store it, but I think I’ll not be around to worry about it.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Egad!  I just saw an ad for tuna – Chicken of the Sea.  I must admit that I haven’t yet seen the actual item on the shelf, but it is 4, count ’em: FOUR! ounces, probably  - I could almost guarantee it! - packed in the same size can. Remember way back in the not too distant past when tuna was 7 ounces? (I do know there were once 8 oz. cans too. But the slip from 8 to 7 eluded me.) I still have in my pantry one special 6 ounce can, and several 5’s – but a 7 ounce can of tuna is a thing of the past.  Just think of any of the recipes you and I might have that have that call for a 7, even 8 ounce can of tuna – now we’ll have to double the 4.

It’s like this with a lot of grocery items. Remember when a pound can of coffee weighed 16 ounces? The same size can now holds 11.5 ounces.  They say (you know who ‘they’ are) it makes the same amount of coffee. Oh, really?  And now a half gallon of ice cream weighs 1.5 quarts (unless you get Trader Joe’s Vanilla – which, as my unsolicited testimonial, is absolutely creamy delicious – and that is the whole half gallon.) And a lot of ice cream these days – usually the crazy mixed variety – is called frozen dessert, not ice cream, but that’s food for another rant.

So, on to my perennial question: why not just leave the same amount – tuna, coffee, crackers, ricotta, ice cream, whatever – and raise the price to cover the costs. Gasp! Raise the price? That’s not good for business.

We know, for example, that meat prices have risen, but a pound of ground round is a pound of ground round: the scales usually don’t lie. A dozen eggs are still a dozen. It appears that they can’t mess much with items that aren’t in packages: fresh meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit and flowers. so the prices have to go up. But we are lulled into thinking that many grocery shelf item prices have stayed the same because they can get away with the fine print on a box or can – or cheese package: Kraft Cracker Barrel was originally 10 ounces – now its 8. We just reach out and grab the familiar item from its usual place on the shelf.

And, just as an aside, think of the resource savings if the tuna or coffee or crackers came in a smaller package.  Ah well, c’est la vie these days.
Here's the ad from Harris Teeter:
Solid Light Tuna - No Drain
Chicken of the Sea
Solid Light Tuna - No Drain         
4.00 oz
($1.50 VIC Card Members)
Sale price valid through Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Reg. $1.99
$0.50 oz

Friday, May 17, 2013


This will be a busy day for me – I've a luncheon to attend; it’s Syttende Mai, Norwegian Constitution Day, the day when they celebrate the signing of their own constitution and their independence from Sweden; it’s my son and daughter-in-law’s anniversary: Zen Hugs to them; and, celebrated according to the Chinese lunar calendar, it’s the day for this year’s celebration of Buddha’s birthday.

As always on Syttende Mai we will be flying our Norwegian colors – red, white and blue, of course – and, this year, having Norwegian kjøttkaker, their meat cakes. I use a variation of Andreas Viestad’s recipe. To me they’re better than any Swedish meatballs, and served with lots of lingonberry preserves they are just delicious. Sometimes in the past we’ve had seafood au gratin or fiskefarse.  Fiskefarse, even fiske bröd, are better ways to say fiskepudding, fish pudding. Doesn’t sound too appetizing does it? We Americans conjure up images of a sweet for after dinner, the Europeans think savory. But it is really delicious. I’ve put the recipe on Latelife Recipes.


Andreas Viestad's version of Norwegian kjøttkaker -
have to have those lingonberries!

Buddha’s birthday brings my dear Canadian friend to mind. Her wonderful blog is here. Read her blogs and you’ll know why Buddha’s birthday brings her to mind. Actually, there are a lot of things that bring her to mind. As I write this on the 15th she is having an operation, maybe this very minute. I’m regularly sending warm Zen Hugs thoughts up to her for a successful outcome and a speedy recovery.

At the Jogye Temple in Seoul
This colorful picture is from the BBC

It is also the birthday of, among many other notables, Eric Satie.  So to celebrate his day I shall play the haunting Gymnopédies while I prepare those Norwegian kjøttkaker and chant om mani padme hum.




Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Ah yes – May is National Strawberry month.  Here in the Carolinas we get
lots of luscious strawberries – a deliciously welcome change from the
sometimes partially white and tasteless things that are the winter offerings in the supermarkets.

Some of the most wonderful, hugest strawberries I ever had were the daily fare in restaurants and hostelries in France and Italy in the spring. I think the deliciousness of them was akin to the deliciousness of hot dogs at the ball park: location, location, location. But the best tasting strawberries ever, big or small, were right outside our door when we lived in upstate New York – that is when we could beat the beasties, the chipmunks, squirrels and birds, to them.  I didn’t plant them: they came, along with my favorite Johnny-jump-ups, from God. They came in on the wind - or as a ‘gift’ from those same beasties - and planted themselves here and there in the garden. When they began to ripen I’d get out there early in the morning and harvest a handful. No bigger than maybe a baby lima bean, they were absolutely delicious on our cereal in the morning. I had better luck with the wild strawberries than I had with the wild blueberries or hazelnuts.  Those grew in the woods further from the house.  I’d see that they were almost ready to pick, but when I remembered to get back to them they were gone!  I do believe the vigilant beasties deserved them more than I did.
Tomorrow the Fresh Produce Club has its Market Day here in Sun City Carolina Lakes.  I’ll be taking my empty quart boxes back to refill for this week’s supply of local strawberries.  I’ll be so sad when strawberry season is over – but the fresh peaches will soon follow.

Friday, May 10, 2013


It was once taboo to ask a woman her age, and under some circumstances it still is. To that one I’d like to add “What do you do?” Sharon Santoni, in rebel mode at My French Country Home, got me wondering today. Lately she’s often been asked “What do you do?” – as in how do you make a living? Unless a gal is extremely gainfully employed as an extremely well paid executive and/or celebrity, with oodles of help to do all that she has to do, there is no short job description. The quickie comeback would be: "at which hour of the day?"

Mimicking Sharon’s list, depending on the time of day or day of the week I am chief cook and bottle washer, housemaid, laundress, chauffeur, supply officer, bookkeeper - like the beat, the list goes on. At my age I’ve added caregiver – the younger gals can usually add teacher to their list, although most of us are on a life-long quest to better our children.  Throw in some seasonal occupations such as gardener and some leisure occupations such as reading or crafting, and there you have it.

I really don’t mean to disparage my husband – you know how proud I am of all he’s done – but these past weeks when he’s been out of commission the only extra jobs I’ve had are designated driver and to take out the trash. The rest of what happens in the house goes on like clockwork. Minor mishaps I can handle. Should any major maladjustment arise I know help is – as it is for most women – only a phone call away.

In this community of “active adults” it’s easiest to ask a person where’s they’re from – relatively few are from the Carolinas – and it’s easy to ask a man what he did before he retired. But unless the information is offered gratis, or if she’s introduced by someone else who includes her curriculum vitae, we never ask what a gal did before she moved here or retired because we know what she did, we know what she still does: a lot of work!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013


My doll Deadly (I made her) and some of her pals.

The blurb on Sunday’s New York Times webpage was this:

Why do our kids still have imaginary animal friends?

 Ha! Imaginary friends! The article was about how children usually have animal figures as imaginary friends and how those children, little animals themselves, relate to the animal world as they grow up.

It has been my observation that it is usually the oldest or only child in the family who has imaginary friends.  The younger ones have the older ones as friends and usually don’t need imaginary ones.  My oldest granddaughter had great imaginary friends: Dench and Shari, and a third one whose name I’ve forgotten. It was a delight to be sitting somewhere near her but where she couldn’t see us, and she would interact with her friends.

My own imaginary friends, I was told later by my mother, were Jesus, Mary and Leadus. Leadus? I guess it could be spelled that way: I got it from “Lead us not into temptation.”  I guess I must have told her that at one time. ‘cause that’s what she told me. Really.

Deadly, in red, with the whole gang.

Friday, May 3, 2013


    …are both 71. Both blonde – and that’s where the similarities end. This past Sunday’s Parade magazine had her and her age on the cover.  (Actually, she’s a year or so older. She’s 71; I’m only in my 71st year.)
I do know from past reading that she sleeps far less than I do – maybe four hours a night, so she’s packed a lot more activity into her life than I’d ever dreamed of when I was asleep and she was awake and productive.   She’s a gal who knows what she wants and knows how to get it, and I admire her for that. 
Darn, I wish I’d saved all my issues of Living – I was a charter subscriber.  After a while I no longer wanted to give all those issues house room, so I went through them, cut out some of her greatest ideas, and recycled the rest. I’ve rarely disagreed with her methods, and I applaud the easy-to-follow way the magazine presents to those who’ve really got no clue how to do things like polish silver, fold a sheet, and keep their clothes. I know of many gals whose mothers never taught them basics like those.
And Martha is a lot more fit than I am – I’ll have to work on that!
My preferred form of exercise.