figmo: (Lynn-Lady)
I love researching my family tree. I was very close to all four of my grandparents, so for me it's a case of looking up stuff about people I adored. Every once in a while I check Ancestry.com to see if there's anything new.

Yesterday it felt like I hit the motherlode. Specifically, they now have Pennsylvania Death Certificates online from 1906 through the end of 1963. Since most of my mother's family and a few of Dad's relatives lived and died in PA, this was a treasure trove.

I now have maiden names for my great-grandparents on my mother's side. Unfortunately, trying to tell which "John" and "Anna" Petro were my great-great grandparents is dicey at best, especially since they were already married when they came over from Austria-Hungary (now Slovakia).

A little over a year ago I exchanged email with someone who had my entire maternal grandfather's family tree, in humungous detail, in his tree. I couldn't tell whether he was related to me through my Grandpop's mother or father because I saw both last names in his tree. After more examination last night, I realized why: My Grandpop and this guy's grandmother were double-cousins! His great-grandfather was my great-grandmother's older brother, and his great-grandmother was my great-grandfather's younger sister. Unfortunately, Ancestry.com doesn't handle double-cousins properly. Instead of showing the family trees double-linking, it shows the married siblings of his parents separately with separate branches.

What will be interesting is to see when he uploads more digitized photos of his family. I am very curious now to see whether his mother's family looks a lot like my mother's family.

Now I get to anxiously wait till they upload more PA death certificates. I am eagerly waiting for 1966, when my great-uncle Sam died, so I can see my Egyptian great-grandmother's name in writing. They didn't just have the data; they had the actual images, so I could verify that I was indeed looking at the right certificates. One of the fields is for the person "reporting" the death -- usually a family member -- and in every case I saw the name of someone I recognized. Needless to say, I'll be spending time this weekend further filling out family trees! W00t!!!

They also have more phone directories uploaded. Looking at one from 1933, I can see that whenever my Mom's maternal grandfather gave info for it, all his kids (and his brother-in-law) were still living under his roof. I know that later in 1933 a couple of them had moved in with Mom and her parents. Mom was especially close to them, and I suspect that had something to do with it. Back then, everyone who might be living in a household was listed, along with their occupation, whether they were a renter or a homeowner, and in some cases their marital status. In some cases they even listed the name of a widow's late husband!
figmo: (Default)
In a nutshell:
  1. Paul Metz's memorial, followed by a double birthday party.
    Can we say "emotional see-saw?" I offered to speak (I knew him a long time, got to watch him grow up, and I'm a "professional voice"). I was fried after that. [livejournal.com profile] dimakoi and I carpooled, shlepping from one affair to the other. We got out of the memorial later than planned because we kept running into folks we hadn't seen in ages and who we missed. When we finally got to the party, I was too tired to change into something more appropriate for the party (Hawaiian themed), even with Hawaiian shirts lying in front of me. I needed the party after the memorial, but I was frazzled.

  2. Steve Jobs died.
    If I said I was surprised by this, I'd be lying through my teeth. It was a case of deja vu for me because my father lost his fight with cancer within a month of being told he had to sell his dental practice. Like Steve Jobs, Dad was a workaholic. Dad was also 56 when he died.

    As for Steve, I didn't really know him, but I met him on a couple of occasions and even got to chat with him briefly. He was very nice to me, although I suspected it was partly because I was one of the few reporters who wasn't asking a question that showed a lack of understanding about computers. (For the record, I asked about the pronunciation of his name; back then, you'd hear it as both "johbs" and "jahbs," and I cared enough to get it right.)

  3. I made plane and car rental arrangements to go to New Jersey next month.
    I'm visiting my relatives for the first time in 3 1/2 years. Am I nervous? A little. Am I looking forward to it? Yeah. When my cousins and I get together, we kind of fall into place as if we hadn't been apart. I'm going to my cousin Sophie's Bat Mitzvah, and as usual, I've been searching for the right fabric. At the Fabric Outlet in San Francisco I found a knit ultrasuede in a smoky blue and pale pink that's sort of smudged and swirled almost like a tie-dye. It's color-appropriate for my palette and for the time of year (November). Better yet, it was 40% off! I wanted to make something with a little stretch because I expect to gain weight before the affair. I'll have been at my mother's house (aka The House Of Food) for two days, and Mom will likely want to feed me 3 1/2 years of home cooking in less than a week. Mom is starting to fill her two refrigerators and full-sized freezer with stuff she knows I'll want to consume.

    Btw, I'm flying into Philadelphia, so if any of you want me to shlep a care package from the Silicon Valley to your kid going to school out there (I'm not naming names, but you know who you are), please let me know. I'm taking two large suitcases, and I plan on filling one with stuff that isn't coming back with me.

  4. My energy is slowly coming back.
    Once the clostridium difficile infection left my body, it was as if someone stopped sucking out my energy with a hypodermic needle. This Is Good. Sometimes I am exhausted after work, but I kick ass when I'm on the clock.

  5. My kitchen appliances are all dying at once.
    Before I spend my work money on anything fun, I need a new refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher. If I had the $$$ I'd get a dual-fuel range, but I don't, so I'm going with the cheapest electric non-flat-top stove I can stand. I've been researching this, but any additional input is welcomed.
Compared to some of the stuff other folks I know are going through (esp. my fiancé), my life has been pleasantly dull for a change.
figmo: (Default)
It feels so weird to have a laid-back day. This whole season hasn't felt like the Winter Holiday Season. I see some decorations (fewer than usual overall), but between the lack of employer-sponsored holiday parties and the tough times we're all going through, it Just Doesn't Feel Like Christmas. Yeah, I know, I'm Jewish, but I'm also half-Slovak, and Slovaks are always happy to horn-in on a good party. :-)

Today I awoke early despite the lack of phone calls (sigh). Not knowing what else to do, I started in on my other contract. A little later in the morning I went to see the worker's comp doctor. Warren was supposed to go to the podiatrist this morning around the same time, but he slept through his appointment. I rolled my eyes when he said "God had a reason for my doing that." When he called Kaiser to see if he could still come in, it turned out the podiatrist hadn't even shown up for work! Sometimes you win one, and this time he did.

It's the 14th anniversary of the day we met, and since I'm not working at KLIV tonight, we're going to spend time together. I have a late afternoon appointment with Dr. James, and after that I hope to go to Berkeley Bowl. After that we'll do a relaxed dinner. I have food for my KLIV shifts that I can fix quickly and that don't leave crumbs on the console and don't stink up the on-air booth, so I don't have to worry about last-minute shopping. I don't get a lot of time between newscasts, and since at least half the time I'll be the only one at KLIV, I need to be able to keep my blood sugar level while constantly going between the newsroom and on-air booth (without breaking my jaw again, thank you!).

Meanwhile, I think I've got a menu set for Warren's parents' Friday dinner:
  • Meat loaf, my style. Warren raved about it when I last made it. Warning: It isn't Kosher. I start out with a 2:1 mixture of lean ground beef and lean ground pork, 1 egg, mix it with bread crumbs and whatever herbs and spices suit me that day, top it with tomato sauce (mixing some into the meat) and laying slices of bacon across the top. I bake it at 350F for at least 45 minutes. You can also start it in the microwave and finish it in a regular oven to save time. If the bacon on top isn't crispy, I put it under the broiler to rectify the situation.
  • Some kind of latkes. Just to be different I'll either do sweet potato or purple yam. I'm pretty sure I have leftover shredded sweet potatoes vacuum-sealed in the freezer from the last time I did sweet potato latkes.
  • Wilted Spinach Salad. Warren raved about this one, too. I pilfered the recipe from Food Network (Tyler Florence, "How to Boil Water"). Heat 2T butter in a wide saute pan until lightly brown, then add 1-2 chopped shallots. Saute for 1-2 minutes till the shallots are translucent. Turn off the burner and add around 1/4 cup wine vinegar, the juice of one lemon, and 1T honey. Whisk to mix, then toss in a huge plastic bin (1 pound?) of baby spinach leaves, turning to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve while still warm.
  • Persimmon pudding. I am going to try the same recipe I used two years ago, but using erythritol for some or all of the sugar and using cut-up freeze-dried persimmons instead of raisins or fresh persimmons.
  • Nut roll. It's something Grandmom made every year. I'm going to try to do a sugar-free version, and since the dough doesn't contain much sugar (1/2 cup sugar to 6 cups of sifted flour), I can easily substitute it out. Warren doesn't think I can get any of this done, but the nut roll turns out to be a lot easier than it sounds (the recipe in the Slovak cookbook is "Two-Hour Nut Roll," and that was in the 1950s!) and is always impressive. The last time I made it was for a baked goods pot luck at one of my jobs, and it was the first thing to disappear. It's also a fallback in case there's a problem with the persimmon pudding.
I'm also hoping to be able to put out a tray of cookies Just Like Grandmom Used To.

When I was a child we'd go to Grandmom and Grandpop's house for Christmas. Grandmom and Grandpop were Mom's parents. Grandmom was Catholic and Grandpop was Lutheran, so we got to elbow in on a really good thing. The tree (always artificial -- Grandpop was strongly against cutting down a perfectly good live tree) was decorated the same way every year in an almost obsessive-compulsive manner. First the lights went on it, then the blue ball ornaments (later blue "icicles" when the balls were no longer available), then the boas of tinsel. It plugged into a rotating base, and there was a color wheel that would shine different colors on it. At the base there was a town scene Grandmom used to do. On one side the base was green "grass," and on the other, "snow." It was surrounded by a built-to-scale fence that was amazingly effective in keeping the dogs out. Grandpop had trained me in the assembly and decoration of the tree, but the thing at the base was always Grandmom's.

Every year Grandmom would make the same tray of cookies -- spritz, chocolate crinkles, biscotti, pizzelles, these little rolled things with nuts in them, and one other cookie that would vary from year to year. After dinner, Grandmom would delicately remove any leftover cookies on the tray, put them into their respective Tupperware containers, and put them back on top of the refrigerator (which is also where she kept the containers when they were empty).

The next year I'd be at Grandmom's and would see her take the Tupperware containers full of cookies -- spritz, chocolate crinkles, biscotti, pizzelles, and the little rolled things with nuts in them -- and put them back on the same tray with the same doily arrangement. When I was little, because I never saw Grandmom baking them, I used to think those were the same cookies from the year before!
figmo: (Default)
This post by [livejournal.com profile] cadhla reminded me of something important.

Today would have been my Uncle Pete's birthday. He was one of my favorite uncles, and I always celebrate having had him in my life today anyway.

He would have liked this kind of holiday. Although he lived alone, he was always into cheering up others. Uncle Pete was my real uncle (technically my great-Uncle, as he was my maternal grandmother's older brother), but he had dozens of "nieces" and "nephews" he looked after. He also looked after his Uncle Jack, who always showed up like clockwork for dinner at Pete's house just as the meal was being set out on the table. For years I didn't know who the strange man in the striped shirt, khaki pants, and beret was who would show up just before mealtime, sit at the same place at the dinner table every time, eat without saying a word, and then leave. Uncle Jack looked alot like Patrick Stewart and had a proud swagger to him like the guy in the "Old Spice" commercials; you could almost hear the whistling when he strode into the kitchen. After several rounds of this I finally asked Grandmom who the guy was. "Oh," she replied, "I thought you knew. That's our Uncle Jack. He's our mother's brother -- your great-great uncle." That time when Uncle Jack entered, Grandmom finally got around to introducing us to him, and things were perfectly normal.

One year my cousin Beth (my maternal grandmother's baby sister's daughter) and I were at Uncle Pete's house on Easter when we were in our mid-teens. Beth and I were wearing coordinated Easter dresses Grandmom had made for us (same Simplicity pattern, same fabric, but different views). Uncle Pete went proudly walking through the neighborhood with us, and we were just as happy to be with him. His friends kept looking at him with the two nubile blondes flanking him and sarcastically yelling, "Hey Pete, who are the two gals with you -- your nieces?" Many were winking as he walked.

Beth and I kept yelling back, "We really are his nieces!" We found the whole thing rather amusing.

The month of July was always a good month when I was a kid. Uncle Pete's was the second of four birthdays we used to celebrate in July, each exactly one week from the other. The 4th was mine, one week later (the 11th) was his, one week later (the 18th) was Grandmom's, and the week after that (the 25th) was Aunt Julia's (Dad's mother's baby brother's wife; she and Uncle Sam lived in the same part of town with us when I was born).

As a memento, I still use Uncle Pete's wallet every day.

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