31 July 2009


I just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible. The writing was delicious. I've heard a lot about this book over the last year or so, and I'm immensely glad I've finally read it.

The book is about a Baptist preacher from Georgia who takes his wife and four daughters into the Congo on a mission in 1960. Essentially. Except, really, it's about so much more than that.

This year I've watched a handful of movies dealing with Africa: God Grew Tired of Us; Blood Diamond;Out of Africa; Lord of War (which is only somewhat about Africa); and The Last King of Scotland.

All these works have really made me think a lot about Africa - its problems, the rampant corruption, the horrendous violence, the devastating diseases. Not only that, but also the causes of (contributors to?) these things (I'm looking at you, imperialism and neo-colonialism.), as well as the treatments and solutions to some of these problems.

I wish I had something really insightful and intelligent to say, but I don't. All I can think of is how Africa makes me sad. It makes me want to help. Last year Eric and I were going to buy a goat for a village or something along those lines. Maybe we will do it this year now that we are both working again. Plus there's always the Perpetual Education Fund.

This isn't much of a post. Sorry.

30 July 2009

End of an era

The last two British veterans of World War I both passed away this month. Have a listen to the story. It is short and well worth it.

(I tried to embed the story, but it didn't work).

27 July 2009

And how was your day at work, dear?

Want to hear a story about an ancestor of mine? What if I promise it will make you laugh? Okay, here it goes.

This is Austin Oliver Sexton. He was one of the younger brothers of my third-great grandmother, Mary Ann (Sexton) Ennis. Austin was born 15 August 1852 in Chicago. In 1874 he passed the bar exam and began practicing law with Mary Ann's husband, James Ennis. Some time later Austin branched off on his own and no longer practiced law with James.

One time in 1885, Austin got into a fistfight in court with another lawyer because the other lawyer said he was too busy to move a court date. Fortunately for all of us, the Chicago Tribune printed a really splendid account of the fight:
You're a - - liar," yelled the German jurist. Sexton leaped for him, took his head under his arm, and punished the German badly.

Eppstein roared like a sea-calf and begged for mercy, and finally Sexton let him go. But by this time Eppstein was mad - he was very mad. He sent Sexton flying over tables and chairs; at last clinched with him and for a few moments hard blows and harder words were as thick as autumn leaves in Vallombrosa. By this time Justice White, who had been sent for to hear the motion for a continuance, arrived, and with him was Constable Glistropp, who soon separated the warring lawyers.

"Your Honor," gasped Eppstein, as he wiped his bloody face, "I move vor a gontinuance of five minutes vile I vash up."
As Eppstein moved off Sexton said: "Eppstein, can't you lend me a collor-butto?"

"Certainly - won't you come down and take a drink?"

The two went down and cemented their friendship with a glass of Pilsener, and as soon as Eppstein's dislocated shoulder is set and Sexton's left eye is pried open they will probably be as good as friends of yore.*

Now, aren't you glad I shared? Two things really strike me in this: (1) the poking fun of Eppstein's accent, and (2) the fact that Austin later went on to hold public office multiple times.

(Also, please excuse the poor quality photo. It was printed from a microfilm of a newspaper then scanned as a jpeg. I really need to go back and get digital images from the microfilms).

*Source: "A Legal Tangle," Chicago Tribune, 1 August 1885, p. 15.

25 July 2009

Why I hate crickets

Today my office-mate, Trish, misheard something I said, and she thought I said "cricket." I cannot for the life of me remember what I had actually said, which is too bad because I do remember that it was funny. Anyway, her mishearing me did trigger a memory.

My sophomore year I had no intention of going to homecoming. None of my close friends were going, and I definitely didn't have anybody to go with that year. (I was probably too busy mooning over one of my friends' boyfriends. I had a tendency to fall for unavailable guys that year). As it turned out, though, my brother, Steven, was nominated for Homecoming King (lest you think that I was also even remotely popular, let me assure you that I was not.), and I began to feel more and more obligated to go. (I felt this obligation because my brother and I were actually reasonably close in high school, which may be surprising to people who only know me on my blog as I rarely talk about him. It's not like we dislike each other now, we just aren't as close and don't see each other as often, and he never reads my blog*, so I feel okay writing all this here). So, I decided to go to Homecoming.

My friend, Linda loaned me a dress, and I went. I'm thinking I went with Rhonda, which is interesting since now she is married to Steven. After the dance a large group of us went to a restaurant. Now, I should mention that this was Homecoming season, so early October-ish. Early October in the Dallas area is cricket season. Swarms and swarms of crickets. So many crickets that the football stadium reeks of dead crickets. I do not exaggerate. It's pretty bad. So there we were, a group of about ten to fifteen obnoxiously loud teenagers at T.G.I. Fridays late at night.

I felt something itchy on my leg. But I just kind of shook my leg and the itch went away. I felt something itchy on my stomach, and at this point I knew that this was a real something. So I said, "Something is inside my dress." Rhonda said, "It's me. I'm in your dress." (She didn't mean that in any sort of weird way, just in a silly way. You would have to know Teenager Rhonda pretty well to get it). I said, "No. I'm serious." She said, "I'm serious. It's me." Then I started kind of fanning my dress from the front, and what do you know? A cricket came flying out of the top. And in my panic to GETITOFFMEGETITOFFME the cricket flew down my back. Meanwhile, my friend, Erin, was sitting next to me, and she was also freaking out and trying to help me remove the cricket. At some point the cricket disappeared and all was well.

There were some people at a table near us who began making fun of the freaking out. Maybe it was justified, but at the time it sure felt rude. And everyone was astounded when generally-quietly-opinionated Erin said loudly to them, "Well, imagine how you would feel if YOU had a cricket in your dress."

And that's the story of the cricket. Anyone want to hear the story from that same year when a guy took me out on a bet?

*Oh, do you read my blog, Steve? Hi!

22 July 2009

Don't ask me! I'm just a girl!

I've said before that even though I know how to change a tire, I am just not strong enough to get those bolts off. At least one person told me I could if Eric or some other man wasn't right there to do it (out of necessity, you see). My dad said I could if I stood on or kicked the wrench.

Tonight, I proved both of those people wrong.

My tire pretty much exploded on the highway at about the half-way point in my drive. Karina and I (read: Karina) managed to loosen two of the bolts on the tire. But the others were no-gos. We worked really hard on loosening them, but we were both very relieved when a man pulled over to help us. And by "help" I mean that he pretty much did the whole thing.

Note that it didn't help that the bolts were rusty. It also didn't help that Karina and I were both in flip-flops, which made it harder for us to jump on and kick the wrench. (Yes, we both tried hopping on the wrench).

21 July 2009

Review: Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream

My brother got me an ice cream maker for Christmas 2007. We finally got around to using it, and I fully anticipate using it many more times in the future.
  1. Was the recipe easy to follow? It was very easy to follow, but it definitely requires some special equipment and some expensive ingredients.
  2. Did the dish taste good? Yes, but it was a little rich. I'll cut the chocolate a little bit next time.
  3. Would you make it again? Definitely. I'm really eager to get a lot of use out of my ice cream maker.

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
8 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, broken into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped day-old brownies

  1. Heat the whole milk until it is just bubbling around the edges (this may be done on the stovetop or in a microwave).
  2. In a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse to process the sugar with the chocolate until the chocolate is very finely chopped. Add the hot milk, process until well blended and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl and let the chocolate mixture cool completely. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla to taste.
  3. Chill for 30 minutes or longer.
  4. Put the mixture in the ice cream machine and turn it on. Add the chopped brownies during the last five minutes of mixing.

18 July 2009

Review: Zucchini Bread

This week's Whip It Up theme is regional favorites.

And who can think of a better regional favorite than zucchini bread in a state where folks regularly grow zucchinis like this?

I'd heard a lot about zucchini bread ever since I moved to Utah, but I had never made it until today.

I used this recipe.

Here are the questions and answers:
  1. Was the recipe easy to follow? Yes, there was nothing confusing about it.
  2. Did the dish taste good? Indeed.
  3. Would you make it again? If I ever have an abundance of zucchini again, it is likely that I will make zucchini bread. In this case I had some because a co-worker brought in about six of about the size in that picture. [Editor's note: I did make this again, and out of sheer laziness I decided to put the zucchini in the food processor instead of grating it. Bad idea. Never again.]
So, there you have it. Three weeks of WIU down, five to go.

15 July 2009

Luscious, yes?

Want to know what happens when I eat a mango popsicle?

My lips decide they want to fall off. They get bumpy (see the bottom lip). They crack (see the top lip). Puss comes out and makes really lovely scabs (see the top lip). And the itching! OH THE ITCHING! I would say it's one step below having poison ivy on my lips.

And yet, I can't wait to have another mango popsicle. Only, this time I will put it in a bowl and eat it with a fork.

14 July 2009

Review: Lime Spareribs

I'm just now getting around to posting my second dish for Whip It Up. Enjoy!

The recipe is found here.
  1. Was the recipe easy to follow? Why yes, yes it was.
  2. Did the dish taste good? We both really enjoyed our spareribs. However, I would say they weren't quite as good when we had them as leftovers.
  3. Would you make it again? If I had spareribs on hand again, then yes. I don't usually buy them, but they came with my food co-op, so I wanted to use them.
Overall, it was a great dish, and it was really easy to make.

Nobody recommended this dish, so I can't put any names into any drawings for it. But I am going to (hopefully) get around to a pie that my brother recommended. Be prepared.

09 July 2009

Guess Who

This is Dave:
He is five. (And a half). He is adorable. Sometimes during this last weekend I called him "Davey." He didn't seem to mind. He snuggled up with me to watch fireworks. It made me love him even more. His picture is the background on my phone.

But, being five, there are a few things that Dave doesn't quite have the hang of yet - like guess the animal/person. You know the game - it's basically the same as 20 questions - only we usually play with an infinite number of questions, especially if we are playing with kids. Dave was pretty good at asking questions. I mean, he doesn't really know the difference between a mammal and a reptile, but he can guess lots of animals.

Sadly, though, Dave was not really a master of answering questions. One round went like this:
Dave: Okay, I'm ready.
Questioner: Is it a boy?
Dave: Yeah.
Questioner: Is he from a movie?
Dave: Yeah, he's from Star Wars.
Questioner: Is he a Jedi?
Dave: Yeah, it's Luke Skywalker.
And that's how Guess the Animal/Person goes when you play with a five-and-a-half-year old.

(Also, it was in this game that Eric made Dave cry, but that's a story unto itself).

08 July 2009

Three sheets to the wind

During our weekend in Jackson Hole we arrived at our fireworks-watching-spot a few hours before the beginning of the fireworks. This gave us plenty of time to hang around, chat with the adults and play with the kids.

While I was playing with Colette at the playground, my brother, John, was wrestling with the kids. They had been carrying on with the wrestling and running around for quite some time. A rather drunk man came up to my brother and said, "These kids are crazy!" My eleven-year-old nephew, rather unaccustomed to being around inebriated folk replied, "You're kind of crazy!"

I wish I hadn't missed it. I don't know if it was Tyson's first encounter with a plastered fellow, but it brought to memory my own first encounter.

I was eleven. My family and I had attended my first ever Texas Rangers baseball game at the Ballpark in Arlington. The game was against the Minnesota Twins. I don't remember who won, but I think it was the Rangers. As we were leaving amid throngs of people a man started talking to me. He mentioned how crowded it was, and then he said, "Wouldn't it be funny if somebody farted?" Then he laughed. A lot. But I was just confused. Then my mom grabbed my hand and told me not to worry, he was just a friendly drunk.

And that was it. When did you first encounter a sloshed individual?

(Incidentally the drunk man was completely zonked out before the fireworks even began).

Editor's note: As it turns out, when my brother told me Ty's response, he didn't mean my nephew. John meant his friend, also named Ty. So, as it turns out the story is a little less funny than originally published.

07 July 2009

"Important" Facts

My nephews have this book. Ooooooh! Educational!

The back of the book agrees:
Give your child a head start with this informative and interactive Lift-A-Flap book. With brilliant colors and peek-a-boo flaps, your child will have a great time learning many important facts about the Presidents of the United states [emphasis added].
Important facts, eh? Let's see what you've got!

What can we learn about Andrew Jackson? He was the only president to fight in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Interesting.

John Tyler's wife is the reason Hail to the Chief is played to the president? Interesting, but not really important.

James Buchanan was known as the Bachelor President because he promised his wife he'd never remarry after she died? That's sweet. Interesting-ish. Important? I'm not sure.

What's this? Abraham Lincoln was the tallest and the first to have a beard?

I guess that's all I need to know about him!

Seriously though. They couldn't think of anything better than that?

06 July 2009

Weekend in the Hole

The first day there was a cookout in the Tetons that was preceded by a lovely little hike.

These are my nephews and niece. As my brother says, if you've seen one you've seen them all.

We took a little detour to see the Moulton Barn on Mormon Row. It's supposed to be the most photographed barn in the world. That's probably true. We managed to get one good shot with all the kids.

But it's important to note that this is what the kids normally look like.
On Saturday we attended Music in the Hole. It was awesome. (There's my brother on the left. Do we look alike?)

After Music in the Hole we went to a field to watch fireworks. We were there rather early and had plenty of time to play.
Dave and Colette took turns riding my feet and legs.

Then my back started playing up so I tried to teach Dave how to do a head stand. I can't say that it was a successful lesson

Of course, there were fireworks too. Probably the best show I've ever seen.

04 July 2009

What Are You?

I had a discussion once about how many people claim "American" as their ancestry on the U.S. census. This person felt that this was a sign of how many people didn't know where their ancestry originated. I took it as a sign of a lot of people feeling they are not English just because their great-grandfather was. Usually when people ask me, I say I'm American. But if I give that answer and the inquirer is specifically asking about my heritage, "American" doesn't really appease them. I know my Americans came from somewhere, but they've been here a rather long time. In fact, MOST of my ancestors have been in America for a long time. I have many ancestors who fought in the Civil War (both sides), and many who were around and fought in the Revolutionary War. Not to mention my Dutch ancestors who helped settle New Amsterdam (which, as They Might Be Giants have taught us, is now New York City).

For example (I'm using the Ahnentafel numbering system, lest there be any confusion about why I started on #4):

My Grandparents (for simplicity's sake, born about 1920):
4. California
5. California
6. Iowa
7. Texas

Looking at just those four, I'm 100% American.

My Great-Grandparents (furthering simplicity - born about 1890-1900):
8. England
9. Illinois
10. Tennessee
11. Alabama
12. Virginia
13. Wisconsin
14. Texas
15. Texas

Looking at those eight, I'm 87.5% American and 12.5% English.

And my Great-Great Grandparents (born approximately 1860 - 1880):

16. England
17. England
18. New York
19. Illinois
20. Tennessee
21. Tennessee
22. France
23. Tennessee
24. New York
25. New York
26. Denmark
27. Denmark
28. Texas
29. Georgia
30. Alabama
31. Texas

As you can see there's only slightly more variation when you go back a generation. 68.75% American, 12.5% English, 12.5% Danish and 6.25% French.

You could also break it up by Yankees vs. Confederates, in which case the Confederates win: 43.75% Confederate; 31.25% neutral; and 25% Yankee.

I guess I better wear some more grey.

But anyway, what are you?

03 July 2009

Review: Tomato and Spinach Pulao

Here's another recipe from the book I mentioned on my post about kidney bean curry. (I've put the bibliographic information at the end of the post.)

I made tomato and spinach pulao once a couple of years ago, and I liked it quite a lot, but I never got around to making it again until last Sunday. Then I took it to work as leftovers for a few days, and at least three people commented on how yummy it looked and requested the recipe. Here it is:

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp ghee or unsalted (sweet) butter
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 generous cup brown basmati rice, soaked
2 tsp dhana jeera powder OR 1 tsp ground coriander and 1 tsp ground cumin
2 carrots, coarsely grated
3 3/4 cups vegetable stock
10 oz young spinach leaves
1/2 cup unsalted cashew nuts, toasted
salt and ground black pepper
naan bread, to serve

  1. Heat the oil and ghee or butter in a wok, karahi or large pan, and fry the onion and garlic for 4-5 minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring, until thickened.
  2. Drain the rice, add it to the pan and cook for a further 1-2 minutes, stirring until the rice is coated.
  3. Stir in the dhana jeera powder or coriander and cumin, then add the carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the stock and stir well to mix.
  4. Bring to the boil, then cover tightly and simmer over a very gentle heat for 20-25 minutes, until the rice is tender. Lay the spinach on the surface of the rice, cover again, and cook for a fruther 2-3 minutes, until the spinach has wilted. Fold the spinach into the rest of the rice and check the seasoning. Sprinkle with toasted cashews and serve with naan.
It's a really yummy and healthy dish. Enjoy. I think it's definitely worth the prep involved. Also, don't bother peeling and seeding the tomatoes. You'll be fine.

Baljekar, Mridula. Best-Ever Curry Cookbook. London: Anness Publishing Limited, 2005.

02 July 2009

Family legends

You are not Native American. I'm sorry. You're just not.

I know you have high cheekbones.

I know you rarely have to shave your face.

I know that family legend says that you are descended from a Cherokee princess.

Nonetheless, you are not a Native American.

At work we get a lot of people who want us to prove they are Native American. A lot, I tell you. The thing is, most of these people are not, and even if they were, most tribes have closed books these days (meaning, they are not accepting new members). Why do people suddenly want to become members of the tribes? Affirmative Action? Not really. Cool stories? Nope. Money? We have a winner.

Native American tribes with casinos and hotels and such are making big bucks. My fellow-genealogist just spent a week with members of a certain tribe who earn $45,000 per month. Each. Every single tribe member. That's $540,000 per year. No doubt, that is a lot of money. And who wouldn't want to get in on the action?

The only thing is, if you are a white individual who has been raised as a white individual, who has never had to endure any sort of hardship because of your race, you do not deserve to cash in.

I believe my great-great-grandfather was Jewish, which would make me 1/16th Jewish. That does not mean I deserve a settlement on the West Bank. My family and I have not ever had to endure any trial related to our Jewish ethnicity. I cannot even begin to claim any remote sense of connection to Jewish people. In short, I am not Jewish even though my second-great grandfather, Isadore Gasser, was.

Attempts to claim Native American ancestry irritate me (in case that wasn't already apparent). It's one thing to know that your ancestors endured a lot as part of their race; it's an entirely different thing to attempt to profit from that.

And yet, it's a two-edge sword. If a client wants us to determine their Native American ancestry, we are not going to turn them away. We will certainly tell them from the start if it looks unlikely that we will be able to prove such a thing, but we do need to make a living, and if you want to pay us for something, we will gladly take your money. Just know that if I am researching your Native American roots, I am (a) probably not going to find anything, and (b) I am going to be annoyed that you are trying to profit from other people's misery.