Thursday, February 27, 2014

Trivia Time!

2/26/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

February has been a dark and dreary month. It has rained—a lot! And that much-needed rain has been accompanied by day after day of gloomy skies. A day or two of blue skies and sunshine would be nice about now. You know, like the ones we had in January when it was supposed to be raining cats and dogs.

You can tell that I’m not a native Oregonian. The first clue is that I’m whining about the weather—I only like rain if I’m out of it. The second is that my daily cold weather ensemble of several layers of sweatshirts is getting worn. The third is that over the sweatshirts I wear a jacket and carry an umbrella at the first sign of a real downpour.

The real-deal, born and bred Oregonians revel in this cold, miserable winter. They often are wear shorts when they go outside. Rain? “We need it,” they’ll say, as they dash out of their cars in shirtsleeves and into stores between the raindrops. Jackets are so unnecessary in this mild weather. Snow? Ice? Freezing rain? No problem. No umbrellas. Oregonians are exceptional, hardy, practical people.

That practicality has been demonstrated in the emails I’ve been receiving this winter. I’ve not been bored while I’ve stayed warm and cozy in the house this winter. Here’s an assortment of trivia that I’ve been mulling over while sipping hot chocolate. It ranges from elbow licking to bulletproof vests to Tic Tacs.

*Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.
*Men can read smaller print than women can but women can hear better.
*Rumors that Coca-Cola was green are not true but it was originally bottled in green bottles.
*It is impossible to lick your elbow.
*The cost of raising a medium-size dog to 11 years of age is $16,400.
*Mark Twain was the first novelist to use a typewriter.
*The San Francisco Cable Cars are the only mobile National Monuments.
*Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of their birthplace.
*The most popular boat name requested by boaters: Obsession.
*The State with the highest percentage of people who walk to work is not Oregon—it’s Alaska!
*The percentage of Africa that is wilderness is 28 percent. The percentage of North America that is wilderness is 38 percent.
*Bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers and laser printers all have one thing in common. Women invented all of them.

“Everyday products you probably use the wrong way” was the subject of another enlightening email. Since this isn’t a magazine you’ll have to visualize these ideas for yourself. They are mostly about food. I’ll save the rest for another time.

You may be surprised that Tic Tacs come with a built-in dispenser. There’s no need to violently shake the container into your palm for too many pieces. Instead, tip the box and let a mint gently glide into the tiny crevice on the lid. So simple.

Did you know that those little individual serving cups of applesauce come with a spoon? Well, sort of. You can pull off the foil lid and twist one-half of it into a handle that connects to the wide part like a spoon.

And speaking of applesauce, juice boxes are hard for little ones to hold. Just pull the little ear sides up so your child has something to grasp and stop them from spilling so much. After all, kids will be kids.

Jars of natural peanut butter tend to separate the oil and get dry on the bottom. Store the jar upside down, so the oils distribute evenly.

Honey is the only food that doesn’t spoil. It may crystallize but just sit it in a pan of warm water until it returns to its normal state. Remember, that infants should not eat honey until 1 year old.

And how about those tiny little paper cups that fast food places give you to pump a little ketchup into? Pull them apart at the edges for twice the space. Just be sure to carry them on a flat surface!

And speaking of food… Did you know that Chinese takeout containers are made to fold out into plates? You unfold the box to eat your meal and then reassemble it to store the leftovers. My hubby saw this on the TV show “Castle.”

Here’s a handy hint if you eat the kind of Greek yogurt that comes in two sections: Chances are you’ve been scooping the topping onto the yogurt. It’s much easier and neater to fold the topping holder and pour it directly on top of the yogurt! Who knew?

Here’s a couple of ideas about soft drinks. If you drink out of the can with a straw, turn the tab around so that it acts as a holder and can stop the straw from rising out the can as the soda fizzes. Plastic ‘go’ cup lids can double as a coaster. There are three bumps on the top. You can set your cup down and the ridge in the lid fits the bottom.

Most aluminum foil boxes have press-in tabs on the ends of the box that secure the roll in place so you don’t have to worry about the foil flying out every time you rip off a sheet. I checked and it’s true. You just punch in the tabs and it securely holds the roll.

Oh, and one more thing, 75 percent of the people who read this will try and lick their elbows! (It didn’t work did it?)

Spring and sunshine are coming. Until then—stay warm!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Valentine Trivia!

2/12/2014 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser
Puppy Love

It’s February. It’s cold and miserable outside. One minute it’s hailing and the next minute it’s snowing. I’m grumpy and ready for springtime. But wait. Can you feel it? Something warm and fuzzy is about to happen—Valentine’s Day is coming—love is in the air!

The day, of course, is named after St. Valentine. But who decided that Feb. 14th would be the day when sweethearts declare their love with gifts and romantic cards? Some say because it was the day when birds chose their mates. I think that’s a stretch. But really, who cares? It’s a day for young and old to celebrate romance.

Valentine’s Day is a fun tradition. But when it comes to celebrating and gift giving, the most important thing to remember is: don’t forget!  A 2013 survey conducted by the Retail and Marketing Association found that 53% of women who didn’t receive something for Valentine’s Day would end the relationship!

Every year, about one billion cards are purchased and sent—mostly by women for men. About 40 million boxes of chocolate are purchased—mostly by men for women. About 198 million roses (the flowers of love) are sold—mostly to men for women. Jewelry is another hot item and accounts for about $4.1 billion in spending—again by men for women. It sounds good to me.

So ladies, we get off relatively easy. A recent survey showed that men prefer a gift certificate to their favorite store over that other “stuff.” Of course, we may have to cook dinner. The survey also found that the vast majority of couples prefer to enjoy a romantic dinner at home for a fraction of the $150 cost at a fine restaurant.

Today we enjoy this holiday but we don’t take the meaning of it as seriously as couples did hundreds of years ago. I think that the following traditions maybe coined the term “blind date.”

You’ve heard the saying, “wearing your heart on your sleeve?” Well, in Colonial America, young ladies would write their names on slips of paper. At a Valentine’s party, young men would draw names out of a hat. The guy would wear the name of this lady on his sleeve for days to proclaim her as his valentine. Interesting. It makes me wonder how things worked out if the wrong name was drawn.

Across the pond, in England, a suitor would leave a basket of gifts on his beloved’s doorstep and run off. Surprise! In Italy, young ladies would awaken before sunrise and look out their window. Tradition said the first man they saw would either look like their future husband or be the man they would marry. Another surprise!

In Denmark, a man would send a woman a Valentine letter containing a rhyme and sign it with a series of dots to represent his name. If the woman guessed his identity correctly on Valentine’s Day he would reward her with a gift. But I wonder, what if she didn’t like the guy and didn’t want his gift?

Today’s generation is a bit more cynical. One Valentine’s season, Meg Pickard and her housemate David Pannet were joking around about the lack of available cards for those who don’t like the hearts and flowers hype of the season. According to an article in The Telegraph, UK, their anti-valentine card idea was born and their first cards were on the web within an hour.

Meg took the idea and ran with it. The cards were cynical, fun and immensely popular. Most of the sayings can’t be printed here but with slogans like, “Oh, my ***. Thirty and still single,” they poked fun at the commercialism of Valentine’s Day. In 2000, they sent out a couple of thousand cards. By 2005, the cards went past the 200,000 mark.

Meg has since moved on, married, had a child and shut down the website. But there are others that feel as she did. November 11 is Singles’ Day in China; a type of anti -Valentine’s celebration. It's a day for young people to celebrate being single and an excuse to log onto websites where products are sold at half price. Last year, just six minutes after midnight, $164 million was spent on, China’s version of Amazon and eBay.

Call me silly but my most memorable Valentine’s Days were in my youth. As a child, the love and appreciation for others was pure and innocent. I can still remember sitting at my desk at home and carefully choosing the person who matched the pictures and verses on each card. I envisioned my friends doing the same.

All of us then took the cards to school and placed them in a shoebox decorated with red tissue paper and doilies. Near the end of the day we had the familiar red punch and homemade cookies party. It was such a thrill to open the envelopes from your friends, bask in their attention and nibble Sweetheart candies that said, “Be mine.”

Simple sentiments made us giggle with appreciation: “Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet, just like you!” And it was really special if a card said, “You’re sugar and spice ‘n everything nice. Say that you will be my valentine!” Or, “They call it puppy love.” In High School, some of the more brazen teens would write: “Plenty of love, Tons of kisses. Hope one day to be your Mrs.”

Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all! (And whatever you do, don’t forget your sweetie!)

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The adventure of life goes on

Ah, youth! Betty circa 1946
1/15/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

“The adventure of life is to learn.
The purpose of life is to grow.
The nature of life is to change.
The challenge of life is to overcome.
The essence of life is to care.”
William Arthur Ward

Today’s column is a bit self-indulgent because it’s my birthday week. I’m celebrating 75 years of living and learning by taking a look back at what the world was like in the year I was born. I was born on a Friday the 13th, 1939. Some say that day is unlucky. I beg to differ. Sometimes attitude helps make your own luck.

So it's true, I've been lucky but I’m also blessed. I was born to birth parents who for some reason couldn’t keep me. I spent time in orphanages and was finally adopted when I was six years old. As a child, I always had a roof over my head, food to eat, education and wonderful friends. As an adult, I have had love, purpose, a fabulous family and priceless friendships.

Yes life has been an interesting challenge. But I’ve followed my heart and been here-there-and-everywhere! I couldn’t ask for anything more. Still, I have questions. What happened in 1939 besides me? Well, as I learned, it was a tense time in this world.

The Great Depression was grinding down the USA. The Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Grapes of Wrath” described in graphic detail a family that lost their farm and livelihood and traveled to California looking for hope. That era surely resonates with those who lost jobs and housing and hope in the Great Recession of 2008.

In April 1939, The New York World’s Fair opened. A bullet shaped time capsule weighing 800 pounds was buried and not to be opened for 5,000 years! Yes, you read that correctly. In the year 6939 it will be opened along with the one buried in 1964.

Rumblings of World War II were beginning in Europe. On September 1, 1939, Hitler’s Germany invaded Poland. That was considered a prelude to the beginning of the war. Germany earlier had annexed Austria and invaded Czechoslovakia and Italy’s Mussolini invaded Albania in April. War was coming.

Joseph Stalin was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in both 1939 and 1942. They chose Pope Francis as Time’s Person of the Year in 2013. Journalists are an interesting bunch.

In sports, the New York Yankees won the World Series Championship (again). The Green Bay Packers defeated the New York Giants 27-0 to win the National Football League championship. And the NCAA Basketball Champion was…wait for it…Oregon!

Compared to the late 20th century, 1939 was an entertainment era of innocence. Today our movies and music bombard us with graphic violence, sexuality and profanity. “Swearing like a sailor,” as the old saying goes, simply didn’t drive the media like it does today.

However, here’s an interesting bit of movie trivia: Clark Gable’s line at the end of “Gone with the Wind,” when he said to Vivien Leigh, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” was voted the number one movie line of all time by the American Film Institute in 2005.

Many wonderful movies were released in 1939. They included: Goodbye Mr. Chips, Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Wuthering Heights. Each film was an incredible work of art but Judy Garland’s “Somewhere over the rainbow” is still bringing hope to broken hearts today.

Actresses wore more clothes in those days. These “hot” movie stars and fashion icons of 1939 strutted their stuff in swirly dresses with shoulder pads, hats or (gasp!) two-piece bathing suits: Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Greta Garbo, Betty Grable and  Hedy Lamarr (famous for her sarongs).

So what else was going on in 1939? Aviation progress was in full swing. The Sikorsky helicopter was invented and the first commercial flight over the Atlantic had people talking. Einstein wrote a letter to FDR about building an Atomic Bomb. Sigmund Freud died and a major earthquake in Chile killed 30,000 people.

Television was in its infancy. It made its debut at the World’s Fair with the first presidential address by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The New York Times reported that the broadcast was received in strategic locations and the pictures were clear and steady. It would be another 10 years before it was widely available to the masses.

Of course, I was a newborn. I don’t remember anything about 1939. I do remember the 1940s as the time when my grandfather held my hand and walked me into my new home and later into school and my first grade class; drinking milk and eating cookies after school; playing hopscotch; listening to the radio and reading under the covers at night by flashlight; looking forward to summers in the mountains and wondering what life would hold for me.

By the 1950s I was tall and lanky, a serious student and violin player. I dated, got my first job, went to college, married and started a family. The 1960s and 1970s were the best. They were all about the changing ages and stages of a growing family: church, school, clubs, dancing, parties, swimming, music and sports. Mostly they were fun!

By the late 1970s we were well established in business and volunteer work. Soon it was the 1980s and the kids were off to college, getting married and starting their own families. And for the last 25 years Chuck and I have had great adventures here in Oregon.

Looking back, I can honestly say that I have no regrets. Life is good. It’s not easy but most adventures are meant to be challenging. If the object is to learn, grow, care, serve and dare—I’ve done it all—and then some.

Praise God for these 75 years of endurance and joy!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

The Candy Bomber