Monthly Archives: April 2014



Know Your Roots Merit Badge, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 5,892 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—8,416 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Each Other/Know Your Roots Intermediate Level Merit Badge, I combed the National Archives,, my local library, and the depths of my Grandma Barbie’s brain for some interesting and little-known facts/anecdotes/stories about me and mine. It turns out (as projects like this tend to do, my chickadees) that what I didn’t know about me could fill a book.

Strange, no? You’d think I’d be an expert on my family’s history, but it seems I paid about as much attention during holiday dinners reminiscing as I did in Mr. Potter’s fifth-grade history class. So basically, I know my own birthday and the year the Civil War started. I think. (Don’t quiz me. I get all twitchy and clammy when there’s a test coming.)

Finding your roots these days isn’t as difficult as it used to be. Thanks to the ol’ worldwide web thingamabobby, you can get started with something as simple as your mother’s maiden name and birth date, and lo and behold, all sorts of data will practically fall into your lap(top). And once you start? Well, it’s like homemade, organic, sea-salted kettle chips, ladies. It’s hard to stop at just one.

First of all, I opened up my grandma’s box of scrapbooks. Grandma Barbie is a hoarder collector of the finest degree. She saves everything from carefully folded tissue paper to twist ties to greeting cards to wedding invites to baby announcements to high-school-graduation programs to … well, you name it, she has it pasted into a scrapbook somewhere. And then she puts that scrapbook into a box. And then she mails me that box.

Thanks, Grandma.


Anyway, I figured there was more info there I could possibly need for one little ol’ merit badge, and I was correct. I decided to get her on the phone and see if she could possibly whittle down some of our basic family history into something more condensed.

Say, like Tolstoy lengths.

What follows is a transcription of our conversation. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Me: “Grammy! It’s me, your favorite granddaughter in all the land!”

G.B.: “Stacie?”

Me: “Haha, Grandma.”

G.B.: “Tutti?”

Me: “Very funny. It’s me, Jane.”

G.B.: “Oh, I know, honey, I just like pulling your leg. You’ve always been so flexible and bendy.”

Me: “Yes, well, I get it from you. Now, I was going through some old eh, priceless family heirlooms, and had some questions about my family tree. Are you ready?”

G.B.: “Shoot.”

Me: silence. “Pardon me?”

G.B.: “Shoot! Fire away! Proceed!”

Me, thinking the old-time expressions to be very odd indeed, hurried forward (Isn’t there a badge for learning another language? Does grandparent-speak count as an ancient language?): “Well, I was wondering about this Blaine fellow, first off.”

I hear Grandma coughing suddenly on the other end. “What’s that? I can’t hear you, sweetie! I think we have a bad connection!”

Me, suspiciously: “The connection is fine, Grammy. Now, as I was saying. I found these very interesting love letters to you, postmarked from Australia …”

Garbled, incoherent noises fill my ear, and also what sounds like a really bad imitation of static sounds. Then … click!

What in the name of torrid Australian love affairs have I stumbled upon?



Oldest Message in a Bottle

A couple of years ago, I told you about a man who casts bottled messages off the coast of Canada, just to see who might write back.

If that story set your imagination bobbing dreamily out onto the open sea, then listen to this:

Last month, fishermen in the Baltic Sea hauled in their catch and discovered what may be the oldest message in a bottle ever recorded.


Photo courtesy of International Maritime Museum Hamburg via NPR

The message within was scrawled on a postcard dated May 17, 1913, and signed by a man named Richard Platz. His note asked the bottle’s recipient to forward his message to his own address in Berlin, reported the German online news source The Local.

Sounds like he just wanted to see if it might ever make its way back to him, don’t you think?

Instead of reaching Platz, though, the bottle ended up at the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg. Researchers managed to track down Platz’s granddaughter, 62-year-old Angela Erdmann, who lives in Berlin. Erdmann said she never knew her mother’s father, who reportedly died in 1946 when he was 54 years old, but upon hearing the news of his bottled message, she visited the museum to see it for herself.

“That was a pretty moving moment,” she told German news agency DPA. “Tears rolled down my cheeks.”




With May Day hovering on the horizon, I thought of a fun little geography quiz: Map the Maypole!

Just in case you’re not familiar, maypoles are decorative wooden poles that have stood at the center of European May Day festivities throughout the ages. It’s no surprise that the traditions of twirling ribbons and dancing ’round the pole have spread across the globe, but can you guess where in the world the following maypoles are located?

I’ll give you the answers at the end, so don’t peek!

A. A rainbow of ribbons …


Photo by Jengod via Wikimedia Commons

B. Red, white, and blue? Might surprise you …


Photo by Grenville Burrows via Wikimedia Commons

C. Those sure are tropical looking leaves …


Photo by Vmenkov via Wikimedia Commons

D. Skirts and ribbons swirl …

Photo by Jim Champion via Wikimedia Commons

E. Renaissance garb and … a plastic coffee mug?


Photo by KenL via Wikimedia Commons

F. And, perhaps, my favorite of all …


Photo by Haxpett via Wikimedia Commons


A. Los Angeles, California

B. Offenham, England

C. Victoria, Australia

D. Salisbury, England

E. Tuxedo Park, New York

F. Dalarna, Sweden



continued from yesterday: Music Merit Badge, Interm. Level

Interesting facts about George are as follows, in no particular order other than their fascinating-ness:

  • Born in 1898 in Brooklyn, New York to Russian immigrant parents, Morris and Rosa
  • Real name? Jakob Gershowitz
  • You may have heard of his famous brother, Ira (Morris and Rosa must have been proud!)
  • George quit school at age 15 and took a job as a pianist for a publisher on Tin Pan Alley
  • His first hit was “Swanee” (1918)
  • In 1936 George was commissioned by RKO Pictures to write the score for the movie, Shall We Dance? with Fred Astaire (ahhh, even swoony-er) and Ginger Rogers
  • George died at the young age of 38, following a brain operation
  • Some of George (and Ira’s) most loved hits, songs, and musicals are Porgy and Bess, Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, Funny Face, Someone to Watch Over Me, Our Love is Here to Stay, Lady Be Good, and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

And you are welcome for getting some fabulous melodies stuck in your noggin!

My musician?

Steve Martin

  • Steve was born in 1945 in Waco, TX
  • As a teenager he performed magic tricks and sold guide books at Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm (I bet he was one entertaining adolescent, don’t you?)
  • He was a writer for the Sonny and Cher Show (’72-’73) but found instant stardom when he guest hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live in ’77.
  • Steve became a famous actor, writer, and comedian, but how many know of his musical talents? (Other than playing the demented dentist in Little Shop of Horrors, I mean).
  • Steve first picked up the banjo when he was around 17 years of age. He has claimed in several interviews and in his autobiography, “Born Standing Up”, that he used to take 33rpm bluegrass records and slow them down to 16 rpm, all while tuning his banjo down, so the notes would sound the same. Steve was able to pick out each note, and perfect his playing.
  • The banjo was a staple in Steve’s stand-up shows and even on his comedy albums. In fact, turn over his last comedy album, The Steve Martin Brothers, (1981) and you’ll hear Steve playing banjo with a bluegrass band.
  • In 2001, he really got groovin’, and won Best Country Instrumental Performance at the Grammy Awards in 2002.
  • He then won another Grammy in 2010 for Best Bluegrass Album.
  • Steve has performed with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Steep Canyon Rangers, Edie Brickell, and Dolly Parton, and has been on the Grand Ol’ Opry and A Prairie Home Companion, not to mention on lots of television appearances and on tour.
  • In 2010, Steve created the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, an award established to reward artistry and bring greater visibility to bluegrass performers. The prize includes a $50,000 cash award, a bronze sculpture, and a chance to perform with Martin on the Late Show With David Letterman.

What a couple of amazing guys, huh? Makes me want to brush off the ol’ musical instrument and get to making some sweeeeet music … or is that the Expert Level Badge? I hear it calling me: it sounds like a banjo playing Lady Be Good.

I’ve always wanted a theme song.




Bouncing Baby Boy Beaumont

Arriving 12 days early, Beaumont showed up around 1:00 a.m. last Wednesday morning, born only a few minutes before I arrived for my nightly check. With a heart as big as a wash tub, no, his forehead, he came into the world looking for a heartfelt home.


This was Miss Daisy’s first calf.