Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Editor's Corner


By Mary E. Adair

December 2020

“The color of springtime is in the flowers;
the color of winter is in the imagination.”

- Terri Guillemets.

So did anyone suspect we would have the year that has occurred in 2020? Have a lot of us been doing the "Chicken little" in our remarks and forebodings? Have you been numbered among those who decided if they didn't admit it, it wouldn't be happening? How many of us have done this ostrich bit?

More to the point, how many of us feel we should be initiating an old fashioned diet because we over indulged for the Thanksgiving feasts? Or perhaps we have been using food as our comfort go to during isolation and quarantine periods. Well, now Christmas is around a very close corner and we have lots of traditional treats coming up. I will be like Scarlet O'Hara and think about it tomorrow - one of the January tomorrows, probably.

On a personal note, the poem "Tiny Miracle" by yours truly was in the first Pencil Stubs Online issue in 1999, and in a few years since, but there was no hesitation in having it again this year. If you've never read it, please do.

Other poetry for this issue includes a couple by Bruce Clifford - "It's Never Quite Clear" and "Are We Ready." Walt Perryman's poem "Points to Ponder on Monday Morning" is good advice. Phillip Hennessy, who said lockdown in England gave him time to pursue composing music also whipped out a new poem titled simply "2020."

"Virtual Reunion" and "Damaged Dogwood" are the two compositions from John I. Blair. Bud Lemire sent in three poems: "I'm Everywhere," "Become Anew," and "This Year."

Marilyn Carnell in her column "Sifoddling Along" is"Dreaming of Christmas Past." Mattie Lennon, in "Irish Eyes" titled his December Irish Eyes column "Rebel Songs, Men's Sheds and A Memoir." Judy Kroll's column "On Trek" reminds us what thankfulness really is when put in action. Thomas F. O'Neill in his column, "Introspective" speaks of Yuletime in different parts of the world. John Blair in "View from My Back Steps" gives a run down of what it takes to keep his personal view populated with birds and animals.

"Armchair Genealogy" begins on the genealogy of husband Rod Cohenour's family, with more info promised in future issues. "Cooking with Rod" tells how to create new favorites when key ingredients have to be substituted using a tasty fruit filled dressing as his example.

The article is by Thomas F. O'Neill who answers an oft-asked question, "What Does He Do for Entertainment in China?"

To Mike Craner, Webmaster and co-founder of this eZine, without whom there would be no "online" production of this eZine, may your Holidays be filled with light and love!

We will see you in January!

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
This issue appears in the ezine at www.pencilstubs.com and also in the blog www.pencilstubs.net with the capability of adding comments at the latter.

View from My Back Steps


By John I. Blair


Every morning my day begins at the same time in the same way. My clock radio goes off at 6:00. Not with soothing sounds from the local classical music station – that would just soothe me ever deeper into whatever dreams I might be having – but with a raucous electronic klaxon beep that starts loud and gradually gets louder and louder until I have to struggle upright, stuff my feet into my sneakers, stagger over to the radio (which I purposely keep completely out of reach from the bed) and punch it into silence. By then I’m awake and shod and vertical, so I keep moving.

My first task is to take a couple of prescriptions that have to be ingested into an empty stomach. Then I make my way to the nearby kitchen where I scoop a big plastic jar full of cheap cat chow from the 22-pound bag I keep by the refrigerator. (I keep it there mostly so that it’s out of the road and I don’t fall over it during the day.)

After grumpily greeting my indoor cats (Gracie, Georgie, Zander, and Miss Kitty) I work my way out to the big sliding glass doors that open on the patio area. And I’m being waited for there, although any given day I don’t know whether my patient figure will be Patio Cat (a tuxedo with a sweet disposition) or Blackie (a coal-black cat with a combative personality).

The other two cats in the current tribe on the patio are much shyer of me, but I know they are around somewhere – Miss Perky Whiskers (another tuxedo) and my newest whom I’m calling “Fat Blackie” because he looks like Blackie might if he compulsively overate every day.

My first task is to fill each of two bowls to the brim with kibble. The Big Blue Bowl (which dates back to when we had 40-pound Keeshond dogs to feed in the kitchen) resides under an improvised shelter out on the patio, protected from rain and wind in the winter, sun and wind in the summer. The Bright Shiny Bowl (which is part of a set I bought years ago for indoor use but which like the Big Blue Bowl has the desirable asset of being virtually unbreakable) perches on the top step, under the eaves and next to the glass panel the door slides across, gives a backup for shy cats who might be easily bullied by either of the Blackies.

Kibble being provided, my next task is to wrestle a stiff and heavy garden hose over to the water basin I keep next to the bird feeder pole, dump the stale, soiled water from overnight, rinse, then fill with fresh, clear water for the day’s demands. Many critters depend on this basin (and in summer I provide two basins). Not just birds, although technically that’s why I keep it there. But also all the cats, the possums, the raccoon family that roams the entire block, the squirrels who live in the pine tree across the back fence, and who knows what else.

And if it’s been dry weather, after the basin is refreshed I water all of the herd of potted plants I keep on the patio, some of them there for as long as ten or more years. Mostly flowers, but there are still some fennel and rosemary plants I keep for fragrance and for butterfly caterpillars.

Ordinarily then I’m back in the house and back to bed for at least a few more hours. But a couple of mornings a week it’s time to refill the six bird feeders (seven in the summer when I also maintain a nectar feeder for hummingbirds).

In that case I’m out to the garage, where I pop the heavy lid off a big galvanized trash can and scoop a big pailful of sunflower seeds out of the open bag stored in there (to protect it from vermin). Then out on the patio again.

Each feeder (of varying age and condition) is a (commercial plug here) Droll Yankee tubular feeder from (oddly enough) Denver, Colorado. Droll Yankees are widely known as “The World’s Best Bird Feeder”, which is not an exaggeration. They’re expensive, but they’re worth every penny, because they pretty much last forever. I keep six and haven’t had to buy a new one in several years despite heavy and rough use. They are NOT squirrel-proof in the sense of keeping squirrels out, but they are squirrel-proof in the sense that squirrels do not destroy them (a fate suffered by just about every other feeder I’ve tried over the 50+ years I’ve been feeding birds).

They keep the seed dry and available and are simplicity to refill.

Lots of people feed a mix to their bird dependents, and that’s fine. But I don’t care for the host of volunteer grasses and such that always grows under a feeder with generic feed contents, so I use straight black sunflower seeds. Everybody likes them (or at least all the seed eaters) and any volunteer plants are easy to pull up or can just be allowed to grow and flower. Which they often do.

If I don’t fall down, it takes me about 5 to 10 minutes max to refill those six feeders (a couple of which hang from my house eaves and the other four from a tall metal pole at the edge of my patio). And then I’m good for 3-5 days of watching pleasure.

Besides the squirrels (30 generations of whom I have supported at this house alone) I reliably get northern cardinals, purple finches, English sparrows, chickadees, tufted titmice, whitewing doves, and bluejays. In season I get goldfinches, redwings, grackles, and a few local rarities like juncos and grosbeaks. And the crowd of birds makes other, non-seed-eating species feel comfortable coming around, like wrens, robins, and mockingbirds. For some occasional excitement, the bird crowd may also attract a hawk once in awhile. That’s the risk you run when you’re a bird.

Possums and raccoons like to search the pile under the pole for seeds that have been missed, but their chief interest is the water basin and checking the kibble bowls for leftovers. Those bowls are always licked clean by dawn.

My obsession with birds and other critters can be a bit expensive; it definitely produces a messy patio; and it reliably interrupts my night’s sleep. But it keeps me connected with the natural world around me and constantly entertained and learning new stuff. And what’s the down side to that?

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Armchair Genealogy


By Melinda Cohenour

The Cohenour Line

      My husband is Rod Cohenour. He is descended from a long line of Cohenours with an intriguing past, many interesting characters, and so many stories! This is a new series, undertaken with the desire to capture his family history (which is now, of course, MY family history as well). This first installment will merely cover the bases: his direct ancestral lineage and the earliest known patriarch of that line.

The Name – in all its variations: (It has been said the Library of Congress recognizes at least 64 various spellings of the surname COHENOUR attached to the same genetic family line.)

      The family originally spelled the surname Gochenour according to my best research. In the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, “Goch” meant hill. “Gochen” referred to people who lived on the hill. “Gochenour” referred to people who formerly resided on the Hill but had removed to another location. Thus, per this version, Rod’s family became the Gochenour folks.

      Other meanings ascribed to the name Cohenour include this reference to one of the original variant surnames: Gochenauer.

      “Americanized spelling of Swiss German Gauchenauer, a habitational name from a place named Gauchenau, named with Alemannic gauch(e) 'cuckoo', 'fool' + au 'water meadow' (Middle High German ouwe). Similar surnames: Cochenour, Ridenour, Gochanour, Gochenaur, Gochnour, Cohenour.”

Given this meaning, it would appear the family may have been associated with the husbandry of water fowl (geese?) in a high meadow pond or lake. Interesting.

      With the extensive accepted spellings of this family’s surname, the meanings ascribed thereto must be equally as formidable. Here, for example are a few of the accepted spellings as listed by William A. Gouchenour, Jr. in the family newsletter “The Trail Seekers” he formerly published:

       Cnowers, Cocannouer, Cocanougher, Cocanour, Cocanower, Cochanauer, Cochenheim, Cochenauer, Cochenaur, Cochenour, Cochnauer, Coconer, Coeghnower, Coghanour, Coghenower, Coghrican, Cohener, Cohenhour, Cohenour, Cohnour, Cohonoor, Cokenouer, Cokenour, Coconaugher, Cokonougher, Connour, Conour, Couckenauer, Coughanour, Coughenour, Coukenhour, Gaachanuwer, Gaachenauers, Gachenauwer, Gachennouwer, Gachenower, Gachnauwer, Gachnouwer, Gachnower, Gacughenower, Gauchenauwer, Gauchnour, Gechnauer, Gocehnauer, Gochanauwer, Gochaneur, Gochanour, Gochenauer, Gochenaur, Gochenour, Gochenouwer, Gochnauer, Gochnour, Gockenaur, Gockenuer, Gogghnour, Gognour, Gognouwer, Gognower, Gouchenour, Goughenour, Goughnour, Kegechower, Kegenhower, Kerschner, Kochenauer, Kochenouer, Kochmour, Kochnouer, Kockemohr, Kockemoor, Kockenouer, Kocknower, Kognauwer, Kohenor, Kokanour, Konouar, Konour, and other variant spellings.

The Heritage – The earliest ancestor your author has been able to find was documented in a family history book compiled and written by Debra Kay Cohenour entitled, simply, “Cohenour History.” She indicates the earliest known ancestor was named Basthli Sebastian Gachnouwer or Gachenower:

      BASTHLI SEBASTIAN GACHNOUWER I was born on 20 Jan 1543 in Goch, Germany . He married ADELHEIT HEIDI HUBER before 1565. She was born in 1538. Basthli Sebastian: Basthli Sebastian Gachnouwer I was also known as Basthli Gachenower. Basthli Sebastian Gachnouwer I and Adelheit Heidi Huber had the following children: i. GEORGE GACHNOUWER . He married MARIA WEBBER in 1589. ii. ANNA GACHNOUWER was born on 1 Jul 1565 in Fischenthal, Zürich, Switzerland. Notes for Anna Gachnouwer: The Parish of Fischenthal is located in the southeast section of Canton Zürich. This Parish has kept a register where the births, marriages and deaths of many parishioners are listed. The record, as many ancient records, is not complete nor perfect. They are said to date back to 1546 although the earliest Gachnouwer record is the Baptism of Anna in 1565. iii. SEBASTIAN GACHNOUWER II. He married ELIZABETH PFENNIGER in 1586 in Fischenthal, Zürich, Switzerland.

The above-referenced George (Jorg) Gachnouwer (who wed Maria Webber) is said to have fathered eleven children; however, no complete record of those offspring has been found. The only documented child of that union was Jacob Gachnouwer, born 1600 in Zurich, Switzerland, where 28 May 1624 he wed Margaretha Peter, daughter of Jorg Peter and (wife) Barbara Meyer Peter. This marriage was a critical milestone in the history of the Cohenour family for her parents were among the very first converts to the Anabaptist faith in Switzerland back in 1522. Jacob converted to the Anabaptist faith thus sealing the fate of himself and, later, his descendants. The story as told by Debra Kay Cohenour reads as follows:

      Jacob Gachnouwer was born about 1600. Jacob is the first member of the family known to be converted to the Anabaptist-Mennonite Faith. He became engaged to Margaretha Peter on 07 May 1624 in Fischenthal, Zürich, Switzerland. This fact is known because on that day a great argument was noted in the Church records. Jacob and Margaretha wanted to be married but the Catholic Church required that they wait two weeks. The Catholic Church was the State Church. Apparently the Priest and Jacob had words. They married on 28 May 1624 in Zürich, Switzerland. Margaretha's family had been followers of Menno Simons since the beginning of the sect in 1522. In the years that followed, the Catholic Church records have many entries referring to Jacob as the "bad Anabaptist". Jacob would not allow his babies to be baptized. They were taken from him and baptized by the Priest with good Catholic sponsors from the community. Jacob was well aware of the penalties for his beliefs as many fellow believers had been hung, beheaded, drowned, or burned at the stake in Zürich. He was put into prison between December 1638 and July 1641 at Othenbach Convent Prison. His wife was exiled; his children became wards of the State, and his farm seized. His wife relocated to Alsace, France with the Anabaptist's Mission there. His eldest daughter, Elzbeth, had married a Catholic, Hans Kagi. They purchased the farm from the State and took in the three youngest Gachnouwer children. Other children were placed in Catholic families as apprentices. Upon his release in 1641, he was exiled. However, he returned to Zürich to gather his children and was captured. He was again imprisoned in 1644. The guards mistakenly released him after the Treaty of Westphalia was signed. They must have thought he was a Protestant. He moved what members of the family he could find to Ohnenheim, Bas-Rhin, Alsace, France in 1649.

      Thus, the Cohenour family immigrated to Alsace, France, seeking a safe and secure homeland in which to practice their faith. This haven, however, would soon become the Hellhole that nearly wiped out the entire line.

      From Wikipedia, we find: The Swiss Brethren are a branch of Anabaptism that started in Zürich, spread to nearby cities and towns, and then was exported to neighboring countries. Today's Swiss Mennonite Conference can be traced to the Swiss Brethren.
In 1525, Felix Manz, Conrad Grebel, George Blaurock and other radical evangelical reformers broke from Ulrich Zwingli and formed a new group because they felt reforms were not moving fast enough.
Rejection of infant baptism was a distinguishing belief of the Swiss Brethren. On the basis of Sola scriptura doctrine, the Swiss Brethren declared that since the Bible does not mention infant baptism, it should not be practiced by the church. This belief was subsequently rejected by Ulrich Zwingli. Consequently, there was a public dispute, in which the council affirmed Zwingli's position. This solidified the Swiss Brethren and resulted in their persecution by all other reformers as well as the Catholic Church.
Because of persecution by the authorities, many Swiss Brethren moved from Switzerland to neighboring countries. The Swiss Brethren became known as Mennonites after the division of 1693, a disagreement between groups led by Jacob Amman and Hans Reist. Many of the Mennonites in France, Southern Germany, the Netherlands and North America, as well as most Amish descend from the Swiss Brethren.

      The Cohenour History recites the following: “Heinrich Gachnauwer is the only known family member to survive the slaughter of Anabaptists in Alsace, France that occurred about 1670. He escaped to Heidelberg, Germany where his son, Joseph Gochenour, was born in 1677. Joseph married Frena Musselman in 1725. She passed away before 1732, perhaps the victim of war.”

      This is my husband’s line. The next chapter in this series will trace Joseph’s descendants as they make their way to America where they continued to adhere to their strong beliefs and dedicate themselves to the pursuit of freedom, honor, integrity, and family.

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Cooking with Rod

By Rod Cohenour

There's an old saying that necessity is the mother of invention. This recipe is a perfect example of just that. When we discovered I had forgotten to buy the oranges we typically use in our dishes at Thanksgiving, my creative spouse decided to use pineapple in this dish. The result was ..

WOW! This is one version everyone who loves Dressing will enjoy. We actually agreed it was the BEST dressing we'd ever served.

Bon appetit~!

Pineapple-Cranberry-Pecan Dressing


  • 3 pkgs. Stovetop Everyday Stuffing Mix (with dried chicken included) See Note below.
  • 1/2 LARGE onion (about 1 cup)
  • 1 Bell Pepper (red, yellow, orange, or green), diced small
  • 5 or 6 stalks celery, with leaves. Remove strings, cut broad ends lengthwise to permit a small dice
  • 1 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
  • 1 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) pineapple chunks including juice
  • Nonfat Chicken Broth (32 oz)
  • 1-2 tsp. Dried Cinnamon
  • 1-2 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1 cup butter, cut into ½ to 1 tsp size and dotted on top of mixture, fold in
  • NOTE: Checked the boxes remaining in our pantry (Stovetop Stuffing Mix for Chicken) and the can plus box equalled 24 oz. total


    1. Prepare two (2) 11” x 9” oven-proof casserole dishes. Butter thoroughly to facilitate removal of dressing.
    2. Use a large bowl to prep dressing ingredients.
    3. Gently fold all ingredients for dressing so there is an even mix throughout. Add broth in small increments so that moisture level is to your preference. Remember, the more moist a mix going in means a more compact and moist end result. We prefer our dressing a bit more like a hot bread with a drier texture. (If you need to adjust liquid for a more compact, moist dressing, add more broth or even water.)
    4. Bake at 325° for one hour. To prevent too much browning on top or bottom, you can switch pan locations from bottom to top shelf in the oven halfway through.
    5. Serve warm.

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By Thomas F. O'Neill

It can be extremely difficult especially with the coronavirus pandemic to maintain an upbeat and positive attitude during these trying times in America. Especially, with the rise in coronavirus cases and deaths in US hospitals.

That being said, I still love to teach my students about this special thanksgiving season it is the season of giving in America. The world can learn a great deal about the value of being thankful for what we have in life and the special people in our lives.

I conduct a lesson every school year about the history of thanksgiving and its meaning and importance for us Americans.

I like to explain to my students that being thankful is a powerful affirmation it brings more of what we want into our life. When we are thankful for the things, we have, we will attract more goodness into our lives and the lives of those around us.

The yuletide season is once again upon us with all the hustle and bustle of mad shoppers. I for one will not participate in the frenzy of Black Friday like millions do in America and I never will.

I am one of those people who simply enjoys the sharing and to give thanks for the special people in my life. That truly makes this time of year special for me because I surely have plenty to be thankful for. Throughout my life people have gone out of their way to be kind to me and I like to tell my students in class when you care for others you are cared for and when you love others you are loved. This special season of giving should reveal our love for one another through kindness because loving kindness gives this special season its true meaning.

There was a time though when I felt the season of giving was simply a common courtesy to receive and provide our significant others with material gifts. I now understand more clearly that this special season is for heartfelt acts of gratitude for having people in our lives. When keeping the true spirit of giving close to our heart it enables us to give from the heart all year- round.

The yuletide season should be a time when our love comes to call because that love gives this time of year its true meaning. I have found over the years, though, that it's not the material gifts that count in life but rather it's the unrecognized, undetected, and unremembered acts of loving- kindness that are our greatest gifts and achievements in life.

If we truly want to see a world of loving and joyous people, we must be loving and joyous toward the people in our own lives. That potential is part of our humanity.

When we reach out and touch others, we touch a part of the humanity that is within us. When we enhance the life of another in need, we in turn enhance our own lives.

Objects gift-wrapped in shiny paper can be forgotten over time, but kindness whispered to those in need will echo endlessly throughout the community. Those small acts of kindness resonate with the giver and the receiver because they are gifts from the heart. Such priceless gifts can never be measured monetarily though because how can you put a price on love?

From my heart to yours I would like to wish all of you a very joyous holiday season.

Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
    Phone: (800) 272-6464
    WeChat: Thomas_F_ONeill
    U.S. Voice mail: (410) 925-9334
    China Mobile: 011 (86) 13405757231
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    Email: introspective7@hotmail.com
    Facebook: http://facebook.com/thomasf.oneill.3/

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Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

Rebel Songs, Men's Sheds and A Memoir

We Were Rich and We Didn’t Know It.

Tom Phelan was born and raised on a farm in County Laois. His first novel, In the Season of the Daisies, was published to acclaim when he was fifty, prompting one reviewer to write, “The most obvious question posed by a novelistic debut with as much resounding vigour as this is: Where has Mr. Phelan been?” Since then, Tom has written the novels Iscariot, Derrycloney, The Canal

Bridge, Nailer, and Lies the Mushroom Pickers Told. He lives with his wife in New York

His latest, a memoir of his Irish boyhood, We were Rich and We Didn’t Know It consists of 42 stories from his early days in Mountmellick. Many prominent Irish writers have given us memoirs of their early years and To Phelan can hold his own with the best of them.

The first story JohnJoe’s Clever Plan is a fascinating tale of his father’s cunning plan to rid the homestead of a “spinster” sister so that he could get married. The ploy, from which all concerned, including the sister, benefitted was the work of a genius. The next 41 stories in the collection are no less gripping.

Tom lives in New York with his wife. When asked what he misses most about Ireland he replied,” It is now 47 years since I left Ireland. I will always be Irish in my brain and in my heart. The Ireland I knew was the country of my childhood and youth. That Ireland is gone forever and I can never go back to it. But! There have been many times in the past when I longed for the peace and quiet of the Irish countryside.Whenever we feel overwhelmed with the noise and pace of life, my Brooklyn-born wife, Patricia, a descendant of Irish emigrants, will say to me, ‘It’s time for the farm in Ireland.’What I miss most about Ireland is being in places like the Slieve Bloom Mountains, where it is so quiet that only the wind and birdsong are heard.

We were Rich and We Didn’t Know It is published by Gallery Books. Details; business@simonandschuster.com

* * * * *

Easter 1916

The songs. The stories. The vision.

Irish Rebellions & Revolutions is a 3-CD set which has 36 tracks which includes many songs which were written and sung about The Easter Rising, The War of Independence and The Civil War and previous Fenian risings. Songs such as The Foggy Dew, James Connolly The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Mickey MacConnell’s Only Our Rivers Run free. Top Irish singers featured include Paddy Reilly, Patsy Watchorn, Finbar Furey, Johnny McEvoy and many more.

Poems written by Padraig Pearse, Sean O’ Casey and W.B. Yeats as well as a commemorative poster of THE PROCLAMATION OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC are also included in this anthology.

Those poems and songs give a voice to those who fought and died in the cause of Irish freedom.

It is a must for Christmas and will make a wonderful present. Details from; essentialirish.com

Or info@dolphinmusicgroup.com

* * * * *

Photos: Dandy Lodge 1903 and Dandy Lodge 2020.

The people of Listowel may ,not always, be able be able to move mountains but they sure can move houses. In this 1903 picture in the National Library Collection, the Dandy Lodge, Listowel, is visible in its original location on the left looking towards town. In October 1989 the Dandy Lodge was demolished and rebuilt in Childers' Park. Denis Carroll videod the move and uploaded it to youtube. Here is the link;

Link 2: youtube.com/watch?v=lzXPh2-

The Australian Men’s Shed Association (AMSA) was established in 2007 by the Australian independent community-based Men’s Sheds to represent, support and promote the Men’s Shed movement. It was founded on the principle of sharing information between sheds and those communities wishing to establish and operate a Men’s Shed. It acts as a central hub for information exchange. At the time it was recognised as one of Australia’s largest male based community development organisations. In the thirteen years since the idea has spread worldwide. In the thirteen years since their idea has spread worldwide. As I write there are 450 Men’s Sheds in Ireland with 10,500 members. Sean Farrington of the Irish Men’s Sheds Support Group ,told me “.We need support. In these hard times with the pandemic many of those men mainly over 70 years old have no IPhones but in some cases don't have a phone to make contact with their friends. So we started a campaign and ask people to donate their old good phone and we can distribute and make them user friendly for them, maybe your friends would get together and send some to me please, my email to contact me first is : seanfarrington64@gmail.com”MEN’S SHEDS

Happy Christmas.

See you next year.

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Sifoddling Along


By Marilyn Carnell

                      Dreaming of Christmas Past

      The year 2020 is almost over and I don’t know anyone who wants it to last a minute longer. This year has shaken our world with uncertainty and fear of a tiny virus. Perhaps that is why we are so nostalgic about the holidays and long for a time when traditions can be observed once again.

      In our family Thanksgiving and Christmas were similar, but Mom always made sure that Christmas was special. We saw dishes that were only seen once a year.

      I inherited my Mom’s recipes but confess I have done nothing with them except store them in a big box in my office. There are hundreds written in her careful, legible handwriting. It is hopeless to find all of the recipes I will mention and in the few I found she was so sparing with words that only a very experienced cook could follow the directions.

       Holidays were a shared family experience, but I will concentrate on Christmas. The host family cooked the turkey or ham and a “few” side dishes – an Irish potato dish, a sweet potato casserole, a green vegetable dish, coffee and iced tea (a year around beverage). We counted on a fancy molded salad from my sister. We teased her about bringing a different one every year. My favorite was cherry jello made with Coca Cola and filled with Bing cherries, cubed cream cheese and pecans. I finally convinced her to bring it more than one year. My sister-in-law brought her broccoli-rice casserole, in my Minnesota years, I brought wild rice-mushroom hot dishes and pumpkin pie squares. The aunts brought pies and other treats. It wasn’t Christmas without Mom’s date-nut loaf (recipe follows).

      About a week before Christmas treats began to appear on our dining room table. Fudge with and without black walnuts, divinity with and without pecans, peanut brittle made according to the recipe my sister got in a home economics class at college, a big bowl of nuts and a handy cracker. That awful “Christmas candy” in bright colors and designs. At the last minute, pecan, apple, cherry and mincemeat pies were added.

      I found the recipe for date-nut loaf. You will see what I mean about Mom’s terseness.

      Date-Nut Loaf
      I lb. nuts (I think she used pecans)
      1 lb. dates
      4 eggs unbeaten
      B.P. 1 t (baking powder)
      ½ t. salt
      1-1/2 cup flour
      1 cup sugar
      1 t. vanilla

      That’s it. No directions at all. I haven’t time to research similar recipes on the web, but will have to do so before tackling that recipe. I have not idea what steps are required. I recall it was fluffy, so the eggs must have been separated and the white’s whipped. I know I always covered it with a lot of whipped cream as it wasn’t a favorite

      My experience in dipping into my Mom’s recipe cache reminds me of the many wonderful meals I had with my immediate and extended family. I have had a fortunate life. This year I will eat a restaurant-prepared Christmas dinner (likely alone), and I will take the time to be grateful and remember Christmases past.

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On Trek


By Judith Kroll


It is that time of year, to ready for winter, and stoke the fires, to build friendships, and do reading, finding our time to BE.

Since March of 2020 we have been spinning our webs, staying home, learning to BE.

SThanksgiving has come and we do want to share, we do want to mingle and laugh and give hugs and love.

SWe can silently pray for the world to cure, for heavens to open with clean air for our lungs, happiness and abundance for all.

SOur Thanksgiving table this year is smaller, but we are grateful for those with whom we can share. If in each home

Swhere we meet, let us pray for the world and let them feel our love. Pray for the animals, the environment too, for every soul is connected here, and this is the year, where we live without fear, knowing we are mighty in spirit, and powerful to touch every soul with our pure intent binding our spirit in the shroud of unconditional love.
Judith 11 25 20

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Entertainment with Thomas O'Neill

 By Thomas F. O'Neill

A question that comes up quite a bit in my emails is, “Tom, what do you do for entertainment in China?”

I tell them I enjoy singing old karaoke tunes. That was something I enjoyed doing in the U.S. as well. Karaoke is extremely popular in China just like in America, and throughout the rest of the world, which I was glad to see when I arrived here.

Karaoke technology was first invented in Japan in the 1980s. In 1992, I discovered the Karaoke rave in Malaysia, Australia, and believe it or not India. It has been nearly thirty years since I traveled to those places and technology has advanced quite a bit since then.

In today’s world, hundreds of thousands of songs can be stored on a 2TB portable hard drive. A person running a Karaoke event can easily locate songs from a laptop computer. If a Karaoke DJ still cannot locate your favorite tune, they can easily download the karaoke version from the internet in a matter of seconds.

Singing is one of my favorite pastimes and I have discovered many locals here with extraordinary musical talents. I wish today’s technology were around when I was a teenager. I would have discovered earlier that I could actually, belt a tune.

American music is having a huge influence on China’s culture, you can hear the western tunes everywhere you go, and the youth cannot get enough of it. American music and films are popular throughout the world, especially among children and teenagers.

American films are also having a huge impact on Chinese pocketbooks. The Chinese are willing to spend 200 RMB (approximately $29.00) to watch an American movie in an IMAX movie theater. I have gone to an IMAX theater here in Suzhou and I must say it was a great experience.

I like telling Children here that when I was their age, I was able to see a movie in my hometown in America for 25 cents. I then explain that 1 RMB is now worth 14 cents in American money. They always reply by saying “Movies are expensive in China.”

I mostly download movies from the internet and watch them on my computer. It does not give you the same bang for the dollar as an IMAX movie theater, but it can still be quite enjoyable.

In the apartment building where I live there is a lobby with a couch, chairs, a coffee table, and end tables. The lobby is a great place to project movies for the kids that live in my apartment building. A couple of weekends a month I show an American Children’s movie there to entertain the kids.

The last time I showed a movie in my apartment lobby was a few weeks ago and the entire area was filled with children with beanbags to sit on. They always reserve a chair for me because I’m not a beanbag person. Bowls of cut watermelon and other fruit will miraculously appear for everyone to munch on too.

I showed them the 1978 movie version of Superman which they never have seen before and now they cannot wait to see the sequel which came out nearly forty years ago. The children here are extremely cute, and they all clapped their hands every time Christopher Reeves turned into Superman.

Our school’s Chinese art teacher lives in the same apartment building where I live, and her daughter is in the third grade. The third-grader always invites her school friends over whenever I treat them to a movie. I enjoy the time I spend with those kids and I find that when I entertain them, I am also entertained in the process.

In the City of Suzhou, there are various amusement parks with many fun rides. If that is not your cup of tea - you can always take a boat ride along the city canals. The canals run throughout the city of Suzhou and into an ancient part of the city. It’s a great tourist attraction for an old foreigner like me with all sorts of shops and ancient buildings. The ancient buildings give you a glimpse of the city’s ancient past. In one of the ancient buildings, there is a large rug on the floor with a board game in the middle of the rug with human wax figures playing the game. The Chinese have been playing that game for thousands of years and it is still a form of entertainment for many of the Chinese elders.

The streets in the ancient part of the city are very narrow - much too narrow for cars to drive on. Some of the buildings and gardens were built around 2000 years ago. I enjoy taking the tour and I once told a Chinese tourist that the buildings we visited are older than America. He then excitedly said, “I have been to America, I enjoyed your country very much.” His knowledge of the city was more in-depth than our tourist guide and I learned quite a bit from him.

There are also plenty of western restaurants and bars in Suzhou that serves a variety of western-style foods. I enjoy going out to eat with others and meeting new people in those places. You can find all sorts of ethnic foods from around the world in the city and you can take your time enjoying the various ethnic tastes.

The internet is also a form of entertainment for me because today’s technology enables me to stay in touch with people in various parts of the world. On Skype, Facebook, and Zoom I can have face to face conversations with people without leaving the comfort of my home. I also use the video phone feature on WeChat to communicate with former students of mine who are now studying in Canada and the UK.

One of my former students asked me last week, “Tom, what makes you happy?” I told her true happiness is a state of being and you experience it more fully when you share it with others. The same can be said for those who seek joy in life. Joy is simply a state of mind and the more you share it with others the more joy you experience throughout your day.

Our ancestors did not have the technology we have and yet they found their entertainment through simple games and by conversing with one another. A simple conversation and the telling of great stories to children are truly richer than today’s computers and IMAX movie theaters. Our imagination can be a marvelous tool to develop, especially, when it comes to the art of entertaining.

I get great enjoyment in telling children, and my students, stories that make them laugh. The telling of a great story does not have to be left to Hollywood these days. I like to remind others that storytelling was a great form of entertainment for those who came before us. Those who possessed such talents were sought out and held in great esteem. Storytellers were entertained too by simply taking the time to unweave a great tail. Adults and children alike who are the recipients of these great gifts - passed down through the ages - are truly enriched by the experience.

Most of my entertainment comes through the interaction with the Children here. When I hear their laughter, it reminds me of how things used to be when my Irish Grandfather (Red O’Neill) told me the entertaining stories of old. He too inherited the gift and talent from his ancestors and hopefully, those same gifts are being passed on to a new generation by this old American foreign teacher here in China.

Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
    Phone: (800) 272-6464
    U.S. Voice mail: (410) 925-9334
    China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    WeChat: Thomas_F_ONeill
    Email: introspective7@hotmail.com
    Blogspot: http://thomasfoneill.blogspot.com
    Facebook: http://facebook.com/thomasf.oneill.3/

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Tiny Miracle

 By Mary E. Adair

Tiny fist near tiny eye,
The softest sound of breathing,
Tiny mouth moves in a sigh,
As puff of air is leaving.
Mother gazes thoughtfully,
As husband stands nearby,
Humble setting holds the three
With barely space to lie.
Tiny Babe will change the world,
Mother senses as she rests,
Husband stands in cloak tight-furled...
Someone comes, are they foe, or guests?
On bended knee, in robes well-worn,
Shepherds praise the precious Child.
They've been told that this Newborn
Is the King they've longed for quite awhile.
Others arrive in more costly garb,
With royal gifts for Royalty...
These earthly Kings have traveled far,
Star-guided, this Babe to see.
Mary pondered, when she saw wisemen kneel,
Just how much He will see in His life.
Reality must have seemed unreal
To the husband watching Child and wife.
Blessed moment in time, through time undimmed,
As angels sang, 'neath Bethlehem's sky,
Many came to the stable to worship Him,
None knowing or suspecting how He'd die.

Born Christ for all who would believe,
Born helpless, and gentle, and mild.
Tiny heart would soon enough grow to grieve
For those lost to the message of the Child.
For those who would not believe the birth
Of the King, to a virginal Mother;
For those who preferred things of the earth,
To preparing their life for another.
Another life that would not end in death...
Miraculous...so hard to accept, for some...
That the soul that can leave within a breath,
Can arrive in Heaven before the next one.
Passage guaranteed by belief in that birth,
And belief that He died to save us from sin,
Defeated Death, and arose to walk on the earth,
And makes heavenly promises now to all men.
Telling death is nothing but a gateway to life
In Heaven, if His Words are heeded,
A transition to Glory from sin and strife...
A believing heart is all that is needed.
Telling us how to go spread His Word
About His birth, His life, and victory over death.
Was this all in the thoughts which Mary heard,
Pondered in her heart, as she counted each breath,
And watched tiny fist touch tiny eye
Of the Child she held to her breast,
Heard tiny lips breathe that sigh...
Did she know she was truly blessed?

©1999 Mary E. Adair

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Become Anew

 By Bud Lemire

The ones who have walked before
Who have gone through Heaven's door
For the ones that are yet to be
Who will one day become Heavenly

Just as every day comes to an end
So does life as we know it, my friend
Yet the journey is far from done
The soul adventure carries on for everyone

In the spirit world, no one is dead
We leave the Earthly plane, our bodies are shed
No longer any limitations, our souls are free
Not confined to one place, but to be all that we can be

A universe of souls, all in harmony
Carrying on, more than you can see
Nothing is the same, as you know it in your mind
Beyond the human things, is what you will find

You'll leave behind, all the Earthly things
Listen very closely, the Angel sings
Heaven can wait a lifetime for you
Step through Heaven's doorway, and become anew

©November 7, 2020 Bud Lemire

                               Author Note:

Those who have passed before us, aren't really gone.
They're in Heaven, and you will see them when it's
your turn to pass over into the Spirit World. It may
seem like a long wait, but it really isn't. They want
you to go on enjoying life until you cross over.
Make every day count. Enjoy it to the fullest.


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Damaged Dogwood

 By John I. Blair

Many years ago
Tenderly I planted you
In sandy loam
Beside my drive.

Time passed,
Season after season,
As time does
When the world is real.

You grew and grew,
Sheltered by the loom
Of a nearby ash tree,
Watered by the rains.

With age came beauty:
White spring blooms,
Green summer leaves,
Red winter berries.

“Prettiest dogwood on the block”
I’d joke, for truth to say
You also were, as anyone could see,
The only dogwood on the block.

Then catastrophe.
Wind felled the ash
That heretofore
Had blessed you.

Crashing limbs
Broke half your branches
To the earth,
Damaged all the rest.

So now’s when I must trust,
Trust those parts I never see,
The roots and rootlets underground
That tie you to the soil, your home,
That feed, that heal.
And hope the same for me.

©2020 John I. Blair, 11/8/2020

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 By Phillip Hennessy

It's been a Long time coming,
with Christmas almost Here
we're leaving 2020
now it's very Clear

The year that gave us Plenty
we leave it all behind
the Good, the Bad,
and Oh, so Sad
now's the time,
to clear our mind

Although this Season is for Giving,
it may not feel the Same, somehow
for what goes on behind closed doors
is more Apparent, now

We cannot feel the Celebration
for we must deal with Isolation
All our friends, and family too
so close, yet so far,
away from you

This separation is a Test
of how we must Survive
we have to show our Best
the worst, is now behind

So here we go, Another year
Almost Over, Oh, so near
and to the Next, Behold, with Praise
that it is filled, … with Happy Days

©November 2020 Phillip Hennessy

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I'm Everywhere

 By Bud Lemire

You can not see me, but I'm everywhere
I'm on items that were touched, as well as in the air
Someone may have touched something, and you didn't know
Then before you know it, Covid symptoms start to show

I laugh at those who refuse to wear a mask
I always wore a mask, it was my greatest task
I washed my hands all the time, what else can I say
Somehow it caught me, and had to make my day

Yes, you got it, I just want to be a part of everything
So I jump right in for experience, it can really sting
I hoped it was the Flu
It turned out to be untrue

I called up Zak, he's got it too
Zak said, he might have caught it from Sue
I called up my good friend Morey
He's got it now, he said damn that Corey

Oh heck, I'll just sit here with some Peppermint Tea
Surviving comes natural to someone like me
What's that on my books, and in the air?
“I'm COVID, and you'll find me EVERYWHERE”

©November 18, 2020 Bud Lemire

                                 Author Note:

In a time when the rise in Covid is getting higher,
it is harder to avoid getting it. Don't let your
stubbornness be your downfall.
Be smarter than that.


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Points to Ponder on Monday Morning

 By Walt Perryman

If your life is ever going to go very far,
Your starting point is now, where you are.

The longer we stay in the past,
The shorter our future will last.

If you live your life but never shoot the shot,
There is no doubt if you will make it or not.

Our potential is like a 10 speed bicycle you see,
We may have ten gears but we use about three.

Summary: Starting now, take the shot,
Try not to crash but shift gears a lot.

©2020 Walt Perryman

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Virtual Reunion

 By John I. Blair

In these pandemic times
Like fish seek water
We leap to greet
On zoom rooms,

Chat as groups
Of tiny faces on PCs,
Unable to link hands,
Give hugs or kisses.

We know
It’s not the same
Nor will it likely
Ever be the same.

Don’t cry for us.
Nor should we grieve
For one another
I do think.

To see familiar faces,
Hear familiar voices
Once again can feel
So sweet, so right.

My father, mother,
Brother, wife and more
Now are gone.

Would I might arrange
A brief zoom meet
With them tonight.

©2020 John I. Blair, 11/18/2020

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Are We Ready

By Bruce Clifford

Are we ready for the steady decline
Are we certain peace is hard to find
Take us back all the way through the rewind
Are we ready for the unsteady defined

Are we ready for this steady uprise
Are we forgiving in this endless compromise
Remember when it was so easy to survive
Are we ready for this unsteady ride

Are we ready
Are we ready
Have you seen me lately
Are we ready

Are we ready for the steady decline
Are we certain dreams are hard to define
Take us back all the way through the rewind
Are we ready for this passage in time

Are we ready for this steady uprise
Are we divided in this endless compromise
Remember when dreams were easier to define
Are we ready to test our will to survive

Are we ready
Are we ready
Have you seen me lately
Are we ready

Are we ready for the steady decline
Are we certain peace is hard to find
Take us back all the way through the rewind
Are we ready for the unsteady defined

©11/3/2020 Bruce Clifford

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This Year


By Bud Lemire

In my life, I think back on all the years
This year, has brought on most of the tears
The fear of what was yet to be
Being safe, was the greatest key

Yet, if you let your guard up, once or twice
The Virus would get you, which wasn't very nice
As humans, we're taught what it means to be together
This year, keeping the distance, we found new ways we could treasure

Value ourselves, and the time we are alone
Think of the many people, that we have known
I'll take a picture, or maybe write a poem
As I sit looking out my window, safely in my home

I've always been alone, as far as I can see
I've come to love my company, as I spend time with me
I have friends and family, who call me on the phone
So physically I may be, but I'm truly never alone

As this year comes to an end, thoughts bring on a smile
I think of what we've been through, and for quite awhile
Even though the virus, has brought on so much fear
I'm so happy that I made it through, This Year

©November 30, 2020 Bud Lemire

                                 Author Note:

With Covid this year. So many of us feared it, while
others ignored it. We had to social distance ourselves
from others. It made it harder on those who had to stay
away from those we love. And then to see some of them
pass. For me, it was more alone time. In this world, I have
always been alone physically. In my mind, I have been with
many (the phone, skype, etc). As we travel through the last
month of this Covid year. Remember, you are never truly alone.


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It's Never Quite Clear

By Bruce Clifford

It’s never quite clear
Alarm bells and fear
The crosses we bear
It never seems fair

It’s never in sight
Hidden behind dimming lights
It’s never quite clear
Alarm bells and fear

We danced under the moonlight many lifetimes ago
We flew across the heavens with our hearts in a radiant glow

It’s never quite clear
Words we needed to hear
When the truth disappears
It never seems fair

It’s never just fine
We end up falling behind
It’s never quite clear
Alarm bells and fear

We danced under the moonlight many lifetimes ago
We flew across the heavens with our hearts in a radiant glow

It’s never quite clear
Alarm bells and fear
The crosses we bear
It never seems fair

©11/17/2020 Bruce Clifford

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Sunday, November 1, 2020

Editor's Corner


By Mary E. Adair

November 2020

“The house was very quiet, and the fog—we are in November now—pressed against the windows like an excluded ghost.” ― E.M. Forster, Howards End

The Halloween this year boasts a seldom occurring Blue Moon, that is, it seldom occurs on Halloween. But here in the states, our view of it, except on the Pacific coast perhaps, was limited to none or only the setting. And what can we expect from November that is always ushered in on the doorstep of Halloween?

Perhaps we best look forward to Thanksgiving as it becomes less and less honored as stores begin pushing the Christmas giving a little earlier each year. Still, it is a family holiday and your editor's favorite one of the year.

The only author, however,  who mentioned food this issue (besides our Cooking columnist) is Marilyn Carnell in her column "Sifoddling Along" although not specifically Thanksgiving menus. Mattie Lennon, in "Irish Eyes" features the author Polly Hughes and along with a joke or two gives us the link to a radio play of his own.

Judy Kroll's column "On Trek" expresses her gratefulness on escaping the Oregon fires that had forced evacuation. Thomas F. O'Neill expounds on the differences governing arms and ammunition where he teaches and in America where he was born, in his column, "Introspective." John Blair in "View from My Back Steps" devotes his info to the beautiful Passion Flower.

"Armchair Genealogy" isn't genealogy this issue but a lively explanation why it isn't -- hint: the weather. Rod Cohenour serves up Russian Chicken, a pet recipe of his wife, in his column "Cooking with Rod."

Bruce Clifford has three poems: "This is Not My Country,"The Ride," and "Remember Me." Walt Perryman shares "American," "True Morning Thought," and "Re-run Aprons." Bud Lemire has pictures for three of his four poems, "Chaos 2020," "Your Friend," "This World Today," and "Say Achoo!" John Blair sent "The Cat's Meow" and "Sunflower."

Mike Craner who wears the Webmaster hat and is co-founder of this eZine keeps it humming along for which this person is thankful. The info about the Blue Moon was one of his bits of interest.

Look for us here again in December!

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This issue appears in the ezine at www.pencilstubs.com and also in the blog www.pencilstubs.net with the capability of adding comments at the latter.

Armchair Genealogy


By Melinda Cohenour

An Historic Ice Storm cripples Oklahoma leaving a half million people (assume 2.5 average population per customer account with OGE announcement of 200,000 OKC homes without power) in Oklahoma City alone. My customary Armchair Genealogy column could not be sent as not only our electric service but our email service as well was out. Thus, my posts documenting our personal distress as well as that of our friends and neighbors in the area of this historic and tragic ice storm comprise this month's story.

First inklings: Winter ❄️❄️ Storm Warning Freezing 🥶 Rain 🌧️🌧️🌧️ until Noon today then rain (if temp gets above 32°) all day

Winter ❄️❄️❄️❄️ Storm Warning Continued. Large trees down in areas of town.

City of Bethany
Sheniqia Haynes • 10/29/2020
Tree Debris Removal Plan. In order to allow citizens sufficient time to gather storm limbs on their property, city crews will begin curb side tree limb debris removal on Monday, November 16th, at 6AM. This will be a free service.

Please have limbs cut to no longer than 10 feet in length and place them in a pile parallel and within 6 feet to the curb/ driving surface. Please keep limb piles away from water and gas meters, fences, vehicles and overhead obstructions.

KFOR TV: As of Friday morning, more than 200,000 customers statewide are still without power, including about 116,000 in Oklahoma City. OG&E officials said more customers will have power restored every day. Their current estimated time of restoration is as follows: Woodward - by Sunday night. Enid - by Sunday night.

All other areas - by the end of next week. Officials said they are unable provide estimates for specific addresses at this time. As they continue to restore power, they will provide more updates to restoration estimates.

We know many of you are still dealing with power outages related to this statewide ice storm. Please know our crews are working day and night to get all customers back up as quickly and safely as possible. Since Monday, we have restored power for more than 230,000 customers. We have over 3,500 restoration personnel in the field (representing 18 states) working to restore power for our customers. This is the largest contingent of assistance in our history.

So far we've found 639 poles, 566 crossarms, 91 transformers and 178 transmission structures that have been damaged or destroyed.

We expect to restore power for customers in Woodward and Enid by Sunday. A majority of the Oklahoma City metro is expected by Tuesday. The remaining service area is expected to be restored between Wednesday, Nov. 4 and Friday, Nov. 6. We will restore power for thousands of customers every day and will update restoration estimates as they become available.

In the meantime, it is important to make sure your home is ready to receive power. If your weather head, service cable or meter socket is damaged you will need to contact a certified electrician to make necessary repairs before service can be restored to your home. Facebook Twitter Instagram © 2020 OGE Energy Corp.

This email was sent by OGE Energy Corp. PO Box 321 Oklahoma City, OK 73101-0321, US

Beautiful but deadly Ice. Photo by Melissa Bradshaw.

With some daughter help we will make it in spite of the damage to our fifteen trees (See pic below: Fallen Limbs photo by Melissa Bradshaw) and next month we expect to be able to resume our regular column "Armchair Genealogy."

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Cooking with Rod


By Rod Cohenour


This month I want to feature another of my sweet wife's wonderful recipes. Although she got the original recipe when her butcher's wife shared the four ingredient delight (chicken, soup mix, Apricot preserves and Russian dressing), she found our family's taste preferences required a few changes. Thus, the addition of onions, pineapple, and (most appreciated) the drained, sliced water chestnuts made the recipe her own.

Bon appetit~!

  • 1 Cut up chicken (Or equivalent weight chicken breasts or thighs or mixture
  • 2 bottles Russian Dressing (Kraft or Wishbone (one to cook with chicken and one to augment sauce to serve)
  • 1 pkg. Lipton Beefy Onion seasoning Soup mix
  • 2 small jars Apricot preserves or jam (save one for sauce)
  • 1 four (4) oz. can water chestnuts, sliced, drained
  • 1 or 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 can (15 oz) pineapple chunks, drained. Preserve liquid to prepare sauce


  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Dash ground black pepper
  • Steamed white rice (prepare while chicken bakes and keep warm and fluffy)


    1. Arrange chicken pieces in Pyrex baking dish. Top with onion slices, water chestnuts and pineapple.
    2. In a large bowl mix together one bottle of the Russian Dressing, Lipton Onion Soup mix and Apricot preserves. Blend by stirring.
    3. Pour over chicken pieces in baking dish, making sure to cover well.
    4. Bake at 325 ° for 35 minutes. Remove dish to flip chicken pieces. Bake another 15 minutes.
    5. Remove chicken, water chestnuts and pineapple to serving dish. Using a spatula, scrape remaining sauce into a saucepan. Add second bottle of Russian Dressing and second jar of Apricot preserves, whisk while heating. If desired, you can thicken the sauce by whisking in a slurry of 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup flour seasoned with a dash of ground black pepper. Stir continuously while bringing to a soft boil. When at desired thickness, pour into serving bowl or gravy dish.
    6. Serve over drained rice. Excellent paired with broccoli

Delicious! Can add sliced almonds

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Irish Eyes


By Mattie Lennon

A Wake Story and Winter Reading

I was told this story at a wake in Dunlavin many years ago. I don’t remember where I put my keys or if I turned off the immersion but here is that story verbatim:

       “When I was about 7 years old, I accompanied my father to the funeral of a co-worker of his, someone I didn't even know. When we got there, I stood in a corner waiting for the time to pass. A bitter looking man approached me and said, "Enjoy life kid, enjoy it because time flies. Look at me now, I didn't enjoy it." Then he passed his hand over my head and left. My father, before leaving took me with him to pay respects to his friend. When I looked in the coffin, I was horrified to see that the man in the coffin was the same man who had spoken to me! I was so traumatized I couldn't sleep properly. I had terrible nightmares. I was terrified of being alone. I saw many psychologists, endured much turmoil throughout my adolescent years. It got better as I aged, but I would still occasionally wake up screaming in fear. It was many years later when I discovered something remarkable that completely changed my life. That bastard had a twin.”

There's a new conspiracy documentary on Netflix about Covid 19. Two guys from the Wuhan Research Institute, where Trump suspects it was engineered, were due to get on flight MH370 which miraculously disappeared. Seems they were the guys behind the development of the new strain and intending to use it as a weapon, someone caught wind of their plans and purposefully downed the plane. Neither of them got on the flight though. Have a look it's really interesting, it's called two Wongs don't make a flight.

Lockdown and long winter nights ahead. I can’t suggest anything more appropriate than the works of Polly Hughes. I’ll let her explain it herself. (The only thing about her missive is that she is far too kind to me in it.)

      “I always loved Ireland, from stories at my Grandma’s knee to the time I first set foot on dear Erin’s soil. As a child I was one of those dreamers, reprimanded at school for wasting my time writing silly stories and making a nuisance of myself with school newsletters, but of course writers will write and it stayed with me.

      I found myself freelancing, contributing articles for magazines and newspapers on subjects that interested me, as by now I was married with a family. Later after visiting with friends in Ireland, I set up a web magazine for Irish poets and writers, IrishpoetsWorldwide, something that was in those days ahead of its time, and indeed it did have a worldwide following. This is how I met Mattie; he wrote a very popular monthly column for us and was part of the team.

      Of course, life moved on, my family grew and my husband and I travelled, enjoying a kind of retirement, until eventually we settled just across the sea, where on a clear day I can see Ireland from my home. Then came 2020 with Lockdown, and for me this was time to write those novels that had been for so long in my mind, and so Paws for a Tail, a book of short stories to read with your coffee and keep in your heart, and the Trilogy, The Reincarnation Series, dealing with repercussions through time, romance with a twist of horror, set in UK, USA and culminating in Ireland, were published in August.

      Was that the end? As I said writers write, so a website was created but it quickly changed from a project about me to market my books, to a platform of entertainment for everyone who has shown such interest, as suddenly I find myself surrounded by friends. Mattie is helping again as I reach out to my Irish readers, beginning with his feel- good ballad, sung and put to music by John Hoban as part of the November issue, and with something special planned for December.

      Over the past few weeks, I have been contacted by people, who probably thanks to our social media campaign, remember me from IrishpoetsWorldwide, they are wishing to submit poetry. A friend in Canada suggested that I might put together and publish a book of inspirational Irish poetry reflecting us all as we step into the uncertain world of the new normal in 2021. If anyone would be interested in submitting for this, please let me know, it could be a project in the making.

      If you would like to contact me you can reach me through the website pollyLhughes.com

      Don’t miss Mattie’s ‘There is a Brightness’ ballad this month, and if you are interested, all my books are featured with a ‘Look inside’ feature and a link to Amazon. "With Love and Intrigue.”, Polly L Hughes writing romance with a twist of horror pollyLhughes,com

      Polly Hughes's YouTube channel is now up and running . It includes a Ballad There's a Brightness at the But of the Wind, which I wrote about twenty years ago. It didn't mean much at the time but now in the middle of a global pandemic perhaps it maes more sense. It was put to music by John Hoban and he can be heard singing it here. Polly Hughes Celtic Inspirations

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      Whether you saw Hawkins House as a Dublin landmark or an eyesore it is about to be demolished. The attached "In the Hut" is a short radio play which I wrote some years ago. It is set in the security hut of Hawkins House. It probably won't mean much to anyone who didn't ever work in road passenger transport.

In The Hut.wav
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Sifoddling Along

By Marilyn Carnell

Memorable Encounters with New Foods

Fall is harvest time, so I am reminded of foods and their importance in our lives. My readers may not know that I am a retired Food Scientist and Registered Dietitian. My career choices were heavily influenced by my interest in foods and nutrition. I grew up eating an organic “American” diet. It was organic because that was the way food was produced until the second half of the 20th Century. We ate home grown chickens, eggs, milk, beef, pork, the products of my Mom’s garden augmented by purchased apples, grapes, peaches, melons in season, dried pinto beans, flour, corn meal, spices, sugar and coffee. My Dad’s contribution was game and fish. The result was balanced and healthful diet that had been common for generations and was still followed in the Ozark Mountain culture of my youth.

As I grew older, I began to learn about new foods and expanded my dietary experiences. Some I adopted and some I vowed to never touch again.

I vividly remember my first encounter with pizza. I was 13 years old and visiting a dear friend, Judy R. in Oklahoma. One night we drove to Oklahoma City for dinner. My first slice tasted like heaven on a plate. It was absolutely delicious and so different from anything I had ever eaten before. I still love pizza and am still in touch with Judy. Some things in life are worth continuing.

My brother introduced us to Spaghetti Bolognese (we called it spaghetti with meat sauce, having no idea how to pronounce Bolognese). Bill’s college roommate was an Italian boy from St. Louis who shared his mama’s recipe. It was my “go to” company dish for years.

Later, Joyce, my new sister-in-law introduced me to tacos. Mmm. So good and so much fun to assemble to my taste. They are still a favorite.

While working as a waitress at Ginger Blue (a local resort) I discovered Country Ham with Red Eye Gravy. Not a promising sounding recipe, but a fried ham steak swimming in a sauce made from the drippings and hot coffee is quite good. I haven’t eaten it since but remember it well.

I moved to Minnesota as a young wife and learned about Lutefisk. It is a popular addition to Christmas menus in some restaurants. A Swedish colleague insisted I try it. We went to a nearby high-end restaurant and ordered it. First of all, I should have been suspicious when I learned it was codfish treated with lye, dried and finally reconstituted for cooking. The result was a fishy tasting translucent gel served with boiled potatoes. My friend said it was “almost as good as her grandmother’s”. I marked it off my list of “things to try”.

Another menu item I found unpleasant was raw oysters. I had my first one in the New Orleans French Quarter where they are very popular. I ate one. It reminded me of having a very bad cold. Twenty years later, I decided perhaps I had been hasty and tried another. It confirmed my original conclusion.

On the plus side, New Orleans Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce is a keeper. I tried it at several restaurants and the one at the Bon Ton Café on Magazine was the best by far. (Once the pudding was a way of using up the French bread returned from tables, but the Health Department took a dim view of that, so now it is made from scratch). They willingly share the recipe. The waitress whispered “Honey, the secret is cheap bourbon”.

A vacation to the Wisconsin Door Peninsula was memorable due to our dining at a Fish Boil. It sounds dreadful, but it is a literal description of the outdoor preparation of white fish in a huge black cauldron. The big finish is tossing some kerosine on the fire so the cooking water overflows carrying away the fishy tasting oils. The meal is served on cafeteria trays with boiled potatoes, green beans, cherry pie and a roll. All I can say is I ate it and have no need to repeat the experience. It was dramatic, I’ll admit.

While living in New Jersey, my husband and I went to a fancy French restaurant. (Other than Filet Mignon, it is a mystery to me why the French treasure foods that I regard as offal. Liver and Sweet Breads are heavily featured, for example. I decided to try the Lapin. My mom had prepared fried rabbit, so I thought it would be good. When the whole naked rabbit covered with a thin sauce arrived, my appetite disappeared. I won’t repeat what it reminded me of. I will say their desserts garnished with spun sugar were delicious.

To end on a pleasant note, I discovered ginger ice cream in China Town in San Francisco. I still remember its creamy, tangy taste some 50 years later.

Now I eat an organic diet whenever possible. It is no surprise that it is more expensive because it has become desirable to those who see value in keeping their diet as simple as possible.

Does anyone know where I can get an organic pizza?

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View from My Back Steps

By John I. Blair

Passion in a Pot

I live in the South and have lived here more than half a century. Things are different here than they were in Kansas where I’m originally from. One of the many differences is the vegetation. In Texas we have azaleas, we have magnolias, we have camellias (or at least a few people do). And we also have a rather strange and often quite beautiful plant called passionflower.

Unlike azaleas, camellias, and at least some of the magnolias, passionflowers are a native plant here. A wildflower in some areas. It’s attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. It’s attractive to people. But until recently I had never hosted a passionflower in my home garden.

There are so many varieties of passionflower (more than 550) I have no idea what kinds grow here in north Texas (most are from Mexico and central America). But they’re pretty, when you see them. So, a couple of years ago at a sale of native plants, I purchased a tiny passionflower in a plastic pot and brought it home. I placed it alongside other potted plants. And proceeded to forget about it.

When I finally remembered it again, at first I thought the passionflower had died. That year it produced only a couple of leaves, lost under the thriving plants next to it.

Purple Passion Flower amid Green Leaves

The next year, there was more action – a plant maybe eight inches tall with a dozen leaves. The vining qualities (little curling tendrils that grabbed anything in the vicinity) were obvious. Still no flowers. And the third year it got yet a bit bigger, climbing up a nearby ironweed with a tall, sturdy stem. Still no flowers.

This year it has started running rampant, ranging across several pots and using whatever vertical stuff it finds as an improvised trellis. Looks like my passionflower is here to stay – except it’s still growing out of a little pot about the right size to grow a bunch of parsley. And still no flowers, which were the original motive for growing it at all. Three years of this makes it about time for me to stop being lazy and learn something more about Passiflora – the Latin name for the genus.

“They are mostly tendril-bearing vines, with some being shrubs or trees. They can be woody or herbaceous. Passion flowers produce regular and usually showy flowers with a distinctive corona. The flower is pentamerous and ripens into an indehiscent fruit with numerous seeds.” So – time to dig out my dictionary. “Herbaceous” means perennials that die to the ground each year. I already knew that. A “corona” means a fringelike crown of floral parts. “Pentamerous” means a flower that consists of five parts. “Indehiscent” means the fruit does not open at maturity to discharge its seeds. Wow.

Passiflora umbilicata (tendril)

“Tendril” I already knew, because I’ve grown morning glories and have long been plagued by lots of invasive vines that wrap little “arms” around the stems of other plants in order to climb. (Instead of wrapping their entire selves as do, for example, ivy and honeysuckle and Cocculus carolinus.)

Most importantly, I learned that my kind of passionflower needs lots of sunshine before it will bloom. So my next project, likely, will be to move it from my partly shaded patio to my sunny front garden and provide it something to climb on, like a trellis. That would be nice!

I have a little sprig of passionflower on my desk to look at while writing this. The leaf is dark green and has five irregular lobes, the largest about an inch in length. The tendril for climbing comes out two inches and ends in a very tightly curled “spring” because it never found anything to wrap around.

Footnotes: Passionflowers get their names because many people find Christian religious symbolism in the shape of the flower. Some passionflowers bear edible fruit (passionfruit) that can occasionally be found in grocery stores, either fresh or in various processed forms, including fruit juice. But be warned – other passionflowers bear poisonous fruit.

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On Trek


By Judith Kroll


This is our sanctuary. Almost 17 Acres surrounded by beautiful trees, creeks, and magnificent wildlife that treat us with their visits.

About a month ago, We had raging fires in Oregon. We had one about a mile from us. We had to evacuate, leaving behind our life of 11 years at this location. We had no idea if we were coming back to ashes, or our sanctuary. The Locals in our area went to work immediately to help fight the fires, as our Fire dept. Was called to work in a different area.

The locals fought day and night with what equipment they had, and others who couldn’t fight helped by bringing food for those young men and women, and supplies they might need to battle the smoke, and flames.

They did manage to save our homes, in the area. They did an awesome job. We are forever grateful. Our lives will never be the same, because we live in an area where this could easily happen again. This is the first time for our area here. We know California suffers from this yearly, but now I can truly understand the feelings that these folks suffer. Move? Where, it can happen anytime. Lightning, one fire was started because a car had troubles, and caught on fire. People being careless causes them as well. We are all learning. Being prepared is a great lesson to learn, and not just for the boy scouts!!

I love our planet, we must learn to do better in taking care of it.
Judith Oct. 2020

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By Thomas F. O'Neill

The greatest ammunition at our disposal is not disbursed through the barrel of a gun but through, thoughtful actions, right speech, and an understanding heart.

When I first arrived in China back in 2009, I noticed quickly that crime is relatively low here, especially, violent crime; it’s mostly due to the illegality of gun ownership.

China with four times the population of America has far fewer criminals. Many sociologists say the social stigma of being labeled a thief in China is a greater deterrent than a prison sentence. I also noticed that China doesn’t have the number of drug crimes that America is now plagued with. Most crimes in America are drug-related but China isn’t overwhelmed with those issues.

My students in my cultural diversity class are fascinated by the availability of weapons in America. Their perception of gun ownership in the U.S. is greatly influenced by the world media coverage of America’s high crime rate.

Many of my students see the U.S. as a gun-toting society with its citizenry hell-bent on getting their way with a gun in hand. Violent films and news broadcasts give the impression that America is a dark and dangerous place to live. I, however, tell my students that most Americans are not criminals waiting for an opportunity to rob or steal.

The right to bear arms is not something you will find in China. That is certainly a good thing and it makes for great conversations in my classes. I tell my students that you must practice common sense when it comes to personal property especially in America because thefts do take place. But not everyone in the U.S. walks around with weapons to protect themselves and their property.

In 2011, one of my students said, “guns are like toys for most Americans,” and she went on to say, “the weapons they own is a sign of their immaturity and insecurities.”

In 2010, a popular program in China showed security camera footage of a man walking into a convenience store in Florida with a holstered pistol. The footage of him was like something out of an old cowboy movie. As he stood in front of the clerk at the checkout, a man walked up behind the gun tooting man and pulled the pistol out of the man’s holster. He used it to demand that all the money be handed to him from the cashier, and after receiving cash in hand. The robber removed the bullets from the pistol and handed the gun back to its rightful owner. He then apologized to the clerk and walked out of the store. The video went viral on social media not just in China but throughout the world. People overseas use these types of videos to make our country and gun advocates in America look stupid.

I once told my students in a class that “in times of struggle gun owners are usually killed by their own weapon.” I then went on to say, “there are more guns in America than people.” My students always laugh at those statements and the statements are always followed up with many insightful comments from my students.

I find the Chinese here to be relatively honest, nonviolent, and on the most part helpful. I never worry about my personal belongings being stolen because from my personal experiences I never had anything stolen here. I never have to lock my apartment door because I know when I return everything will be there as I left it.

In 2009, an American couple left an unwanted shirt in their Hotel room in Shanghai. A Hotel employee showed up at the Shanghai train station on his own to return the shirt to them. They tried to give the Hotel employee a tip for his trouble, but he refused to take it. That experience left a huge impression on that couple and it was something they never experienced before. They said to me “experiences like that are not something you can easily describe to a person because China’s culture is not something that can easily be expressed in words it is something you have to experience.”

China was not always free from crime though because the country did and still has its share of criminal organizations. Criminals here still ignore intellectual property rights and they illegally copy popular products. In 2009, BlackBerry phones were hot items for bootleggers. Today, various brand name wristwatches, computer operating systems, and brand name clothes are copied and sold on the streets of Shanghai. You can still buy fake Rolex watches here that look like the real deal, and fake brand name smartphones on China’s city streets. Counterfeit currency is another criminal enterprise here. The China Government must continually come up with ways to make it more difficult for criminals to print fake currency.

In 2008, the Shanghai Daily Newspaper ran a story about a pickpocket ring in the Northern city of Xinjiang and the elaborate distractions the criminals came up with to pick your pocket. It was News because of the boldness of the criminals.

In the Chinese City of Fujian an illegal smuggling operation of human cargo was shut down in 2008 and the criminals were given long prison sentences. Some of the people who were smuggled out of China illegally found themselves in various U.S. cities forced into prostitution.

There were about 270 cities in China in 2010 that saw a huge rise in cellphone thefts. The reselling of stolen phones was a huge criminal enterprise. Today, however, the tracking of stolen phones has become a huge deterrent for criminals. The cellphone companies in China can turn a stolen phone off and make it impossible for a thief to use it. China is now beginning to utilize even greater technology to curb the theft of cellphones with GPS tracking and other locator software. Modern cellphones cannot be completely turned off enabling the phone to be tracked which has also become a huge deterrent for thieves.

Artificial intelligence technology and facial recognition software have also become a huge crime-fighting tool. There are cameras everywhere in the most populous country on earth. If you commit a crime it is only a matter of time that you will be tracked and caught. Law enforcement can track down criminals by user apps and facial recognition security cameras. Artificial intelligence facial recognition technology has brought the crime rate down to an all-new low making the Chinese society a relatively peaceful society.

I’m not able to adequately describe the cultural differences between America and China nor can I explain why crime is so much higher in the U.S. There is however something deeply ingrained in China’s culture that sets them apart from much of the problems that are currently plaguing our American society. I believe the U.S. is losing touch with its core values and principles that led to our greatness. At the same time, many in America still communicate the traditional values that resonate within our nation's core principles. Those core principals set our country apart, attracting our ancestors to our shores, they were the ones who built our great nation.

One simple lesson I learned from my Grandparents if you are kind and respectful others will be kind and respectful in return. That insight is also ingrained in China’s culture and it is also something we can all learn from through experience and practice. I didn’t have to travel halfway around the world to be kindhearted and respectful towards those around me. It was already instilled in me from my Grandparents from a young age. I also discovered over the years that what you give to others is returned to you in, greater fold, and that is something I have experienced firsthand.

I always tell my students our self-worth is not determined by our material possessions. Our self-worth is ultimately determined by what we give to others. The average Chinese person seems to understand that better than us average Americans.

Our American Founding Fathers believed in Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but to find true happiness, we must first have the life and liberty to bring happiness to others. The happiness I was seeking when I first came to China was already within me, but I didn’t discover that happiness until I shared it with others. I think that is why I enjoy the company of my students and why they enjoy my company.

My students want to learn all they can about the American culture and at the same time, I am gaining tremendous insights about China’s culture and its rich traditions.

Always with love from Suzhou, China
Thomas F O’Neill
    Phone: (800) 272-6464
    WeChat: Thomas_F_ONeill
    U.S. Voice mail: (410) 925-9334
    China Mobile: 011 (86) 13405757231
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    Email: introspective7@hotmail.com
    Facebook: http://facebook.com/thomasf.oneill.3/

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