I’M JUST CURIOUS: Misconceptions

by Debbie Walker

I am still learning as the years go by that some sayings aren’t at all what the speaker believes they are conveying. My first example is all the use of the term WOP. All the years I have heard people refer to Italian descent in that manner I was really surprised when I learned what the true meaning may be.

As hurtful as three little letters have been over the years, it just proves people accept things as true and are just misinformed.

One explanation has been when Italians came by ship to this country, some came with papers, some without. Tags may have been worn, the letters WOP on them. Without papers, very simply and not at all insulting. It just made unloading passengers easier. People with papers would have left first and then the others. Insulating? I really don’t think so.

And then… I have read even that may be a misconception. In further reading these three little letters, WOP, are also associated with at least 23 other uses. Look them up online and you be the judge.

Another saying people generally don’t know the original meaning of is, “It’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey”. It’s origin comes from putting iron cannon balls on a dimpled brass plate on the deck of a war ship. The brass contracts sufficiently to cause the iron balls to fall off. The brass tray called a “monkey” was used on warships in the 16th to 18th centuries. So much for misconceptions. It had nothing to do with any monkey’s body parts.

This next on is just a word I heard years ago and everyone seems to believe it to be a body part. I was reminded of it twice in one week after not having heard it for years. I was watching a show on HGTV (home improvement channel). Ben was making some seats for a swing using a whiskey barrel. He spoke of having to keep the “bunghole” in mind while separating barrel pieces. Did you know it is a hole in a barrel filled with a bung (cork)? I understand it is essential for the liquor barrels. I also heard it used on a game show last night and the guy got it wrong!

I am sorry if I made anyone flinch or insulted my open abuse of these words or terms. Remember this is my idea and not to reflect on in any way, please. If you know of other misconceptions, would you share with me?

We made a discovery, my daughter and I. We were talking about some old times and differences from then ‘til now. Talk of the phones was one of the chuckles we had. My granddaughter was there, also. I said something about the change we experienced with phones. My granddaughter does not remember when we had the house phones and were charged for the long distance minutes. We had some laughs over that one. I wonder what else there is?

I am just curious the little odd things you notice these days. Contact me at DebbieWalker@townline.org. Thank you for reading and I hope you have a great week.

I’M JUST CURIOUS: Because I said so

by Debbie Walker

Since I grew up right over the hill from Winnecook Lake/Unity Pond it seemed like I was attracted to it in all seasons. I grew up with a bit of a cocky, self-assured attitude when it came to that lake. It seemed like I was born knowing how to swim. I was always in a debate with mom and dad about the lake and it would usually end with “Because I Said So”.

I also grew up over hearing stories of dad’s escapades at the lake. I heard these stories late at night when dad and his sister were talking and they thought I was asleep. I heard about how they used to dive off the railroad trestle and how he and his brothers used to swim before the ice was out of the lake. No. Permission for this activity was not granted. However it was discovered they were sneaking these swims in when their father found their underwear hanging from the trees, drying. Seems my grandmother couldn’t figure out where all their underwear was disappearing to, but my grandfather found it all and found out their little secret.

Beware of talking about your past escapades when a child is anywhere in earshot of your conversation, asleep or awake, because you just never know for sure. I am reasonably sure those were not stories they intended me to hear.

There were several times when I got grounded by following in dad’s footsteps (seemed reasonable to me). I got caught going to the railroad trestle to swim with my cousin Kenneth, got busted on that one. I also talked a couple of the girls into going down to the lake with me before the ice was out, to go swimming, Busted once again. My mother was good, I’m telling ya.!

Well, once I was grown (?) it was always known that I was going to be the first one in the family to get in that lake each year. It was always a big joke, even into my married life. What I didn’t realize was by now I had nephews and a niece who had listened to my late night stories.

My love for the water had not changed over the years so I had added to my skill and education by taking all the Red Cross and the YMCA courses; I was a registered instructor with both. Although we had done swimming lessons with my niece and nephews as they came along, and had some water safety talks, we had missed the “black ice” talk.

It seems this one day one of my nephews decided he was going out onto the ice, “black ice”, this is “late in the year ice” and is not safe. (Called black because it really looks somewhat black by this time.) Again long story short, my nephew fell in and had it not been for his little brother and sister quickly getting help, our story might have turned out different.

The heart breaker to me was his first comment on being retrieved from the water was, “I beat Aunt Deb into the water this year.” I was devastated. I realized we had used the old, “Because I said so” with the kids instead of teaching them how the lake and the ice works. So please before another child wants to be the first or thinks, ice is ice, please have a serious talk with them and explain what the fall/winter/spring dangers are, not just the summer ones. If you don’t truly understand find an instructor who does and in a language the kids will listen to. Spring, summer, fall or winter, your children do not belong anywhere near the water (ice) unless you are close by. Please don’t use the old, “Because I said so”. It doesn’t work, education does. Take it from someone who knows.

There are so many more things I am just curious about. I try to replay this column every year. Consider it my “Public Service Announcement.” Reach me at DebbieWalker@townline.org. Thanks again for reading and all your comments, they are appreciated.

I’M JUST CURIOUS: Winter woes

by Debbie Walker

Winter. What a wonderful season, as long as I am in Florida. When I got up this morning it was 27 degrees. I don’t like it, but I can tolerate it for just a few days.

Sitting in my Florida home, furnace is giving me the heat I need. I decided to share some of my vast knowledge (ha! ha!) of winter that I have collected just to share with you. Also, to remind me to be thankful for every wonderful Florida winter day. Spring will be here soon.

I came across a few words of folklore. Here’s a few facts about the “Birds and the Bees”:

“So how high the hornets, ’twill tell how high the snow will rest.”


Mild winter coming in /Onion’s skin thick and tough. Coming winter cold and rough. Okay, I know you are past this stage for the year.

Winter Woes

I know pool noodles have many uses and I find humor in using them in the winter. Have you discovered you could use them to insulate pipes in an area where there are water pipes with no heat? Just cut on one side of the noodle and slip it over the pipe.

Slippery walkway: Before the coming storm fill a 32 oz. spray bottle with a half teaspoon of dish soap, one tablespoon rubbing alcohol and one quart of water. Spritz on walkway and stairs for ice free surface.

In case you lose power (of course we know that won’t happen) you need a large mirror. Sit it on a table at an angle and point a flashlight. This increases the light.

Ice proof: spritz car mirrors with vinegar at night. It won’t freeze overnight. OR cover them with baggies and secure with rubber bands. Remove bags in the morning.

Bubble Wrap: Use bubble wrap to cover front and back windshields, taping each corner. The snow will settle on top of the wrap instead of freezing to the glass. You can just slide the plastic sheet off.

Now we are going to take care of some wardrobe woes:

If you don’t keep Static Guard on hand a safety pin will work to cut down the static. Attach it to the inside of the skirt, shirt, or pants. I have always hated that clinging and it can be embarrassing as well.

Do you have any clothing that have developed those little balls, like a knit top or sweater? It makes them look older, more worn. I was told once to take a razor and shave the clothing. First and only time I did, I slit the top. It was one I liked, too. However, there is a little handheld gadget. I just got a new one at Walmart. It is called a Lint Remover and cost about $10.

Some people resist the urge to buy suede. They are concerned about cleaning it, but there is one easy fix. A pencil eraser and that’s your weapon. Erase the mess. Then use a toothbrush to brush the suede to bring back the texture.

Another woe is because the dry air causes discomfort. I was impressed when I read if you didn’t have a humidifier a handy helper would be a crock pot. Put water in, leave cover off, turn it on. It’s a help.

I’m just curious what hints you have to share. Contact me at DebbieWalker@townline.org with questions or comments. Stay warm!! Thanks for reading, Have a great week!

I’M JUST CURIOUS: Winter memory

by Debbie Walker

As a child I grew up in Burnham just over a hill from Unity Lake (or Winnecook Lake). There was a camp road just past our driveway. It wasn’t one that got plowed in the winter months, but we would use it to walk down to the lake year-round.

Dad and Uncle Royce enjoyed ice fishing in that area. This memory tonight is one that had Kenneth and David, my cousins and myself going ice fishing with Dad and their father, we were thrilled to go. I believe it may have been the first and only time we went with them.

What a day we had! Uncle Royce had a nice warm fish house. It had a wood burning stove and a hole in the floor for a nice, protected fishing hole. And, oh my, the lunches and the hot cocoa!!

We were more than happy to be with them for the day. We did a little fishing, that was kind of boring if you weren’t catching much. We had sleds (no snowmobiles back then) and our ice skates, and we were prepared with extra mittens that Mom and her mother made all winter.

We were treated to a hot dog lunch cooked by Uncle Royce. They had us strip off a couple of layers of snow clothing to dry out while we ate.

We stayed busy all day and we left there very tired. I had had trouble with tonsils and adenoids, throat, and ear infections all that year.

As we were walking home the wind picked up. Each time the wind blew hard I would lose my breath. Poor Dad, I swear I must have been almost as tall as Dad. Poor Dad, I swear I must have been almost as tall as Dad (maybe it is a slight exaggeration) and yet he managed to carry me nearly the entire trek.

Needless to say, Dad did not take me fishing again. However, he did get me in the doctor’s office that week. It was still in the days of removing tonsils and adenoids and my turn came up quickly.

Uncle Royce had his fish hut for a lot of years. When you saw the hut on the lake you knew winter had arrived. My Dad and Uncle are both gone now but at least we have our memories.

There are more memories such as when Dad was given a pair of skis and he made a sled for him and me. Yes, that was a great sled for us. So down over the hill we went and smacked into a tree. Fortunately, Dad had rolled us off the sled before we hit!

I’m just curious if you discovered once you have a memory, more follow. For questions, contact me at DebbieWalker@townline.org. Thanks for reading and have a great week.

I’M JUST CURIOUS: My latest favorites

by Debbie Walker

I do love these little tidbits of information (hacks) that show up online on the computer, things from my newsletters from The Farmer’s Almanac, advertisements for Joey Green’s latest books usually have a few tidbits. (If you check out Joey Green’s list of books you will find some easy to follow instructions and usually an entertaining read.)

Tonight, I got excited because I read the advertisement for Joey Green’s book The Wacky Uses for Elmer’s Glue. (I am on his emailing list). It listed 14 uses and my favorite was about sewing on Scout badges, but it has so many possibilities . So easy, you use a white glue-like Elmer’s, glue the patch or badge on the garment where you want it. Let it dry. Stitch it in place. When you wash it the glue will wash out. There must be other uses like this that we can come up with.

I was out with my daughter and granddaughter one night when they were looking for one of those exfoliating things for the face. I watched as they covered their face with it. They laughed and sent out funny pictures of themselves, but I got to see them as they were removing it from their face! I didn’t know at the time that they could have used a paintbrush to put the white glue in place of this special fancy stuff they bought. And I would have gotten even more laughs out of the experience. No, I didn’t feel like giving up any layers of my face at the time.

I read an article the other night about how to be a good guest in your adult child’s home. Some tips from experts being a gracious guest:

A. Before you visit have a discussion about what I refer to as “House Rules”. We laughed about it but we both knew it was a good idea.

B. Be a helper but respect how they want things done.

C. Bring a gift that reflects your host family’s interests, not yours.

I found a new years resolution I could probably live with. 1. Put on at least 30 pounds. 2. Stop exercising. 3. Procrastinate more!

I really only have one resolution: to discover the difference between wants and needs. May I have all I need and want all I have.

I have always had very thick hair. Guess what, to me it is feeling much thinner, and I am not happy. Tonight, I saw this idea and I may try it. When you cook pasta keep the water you cooked it in. Pour the cooled pasta water, from roots to ends of damp hair, let set for 10 minutes. Rinse. Wait till I tell my hairdresser I tried this one!

If you want to pack for a trip and you want to know an easy way to handle the jewelry: Use a thin carboard, lay jewelry on it and cover with Press and Seal. A thin gold chain you can just feed through a straw to keep from knotting.

I’m just curious which of these you will find interesting. Contact me at DebbieWalker@townline.org. with any of your questions or comments. Thanks for reading and have a great week!

I’M JUST CURIOUS: New Year thought

by Debbie Walker

I didn’t plan to do a New Year’s column this week but a conversation with my nephew, Josh, last week I decided I wanted to share with you. I learned that he has an excitement about the family history. He has been doing a great job of pulling it all together. He called me, I’m the oldest, wondering if I could fill in a few holes for him and I did, but he still has more questions.

Have you ever noticed there is usually at least one person in the family who is interested in past generations and their stories? Have you ever been the one digging around and learning new ways to research? It all can be very frustrating and there are times of great excitement.

My dad knew that I would sit and listen to him talk about the family history. I had an extra treat because I spent quite a few hours sitting by my great-grandmother’s feet listening to her talk about her days as a traveling nurse, travels were by horse and buggy. I could listen to her forever. So in our family it was dad and I. If dad were still alive, he would be so thrilled to know Josh has more than shown an interest.

I did a program years back called Journaling for the Generations. I was interested in the people I was talking with learning that they don’t have to put information in a chronological order. My thought was to make a “Memory Jar”. This was used in my family. You put out a big jar or basket with a pen and note pad next to it. When you have a memory of your family or about jobs you may have had, etc. Three ladies I sit with know their children don’t know and wouldn’t care.

You have to remember you are leaving this information for anyone in the future who might be interested and if you aren’t aware of anyone now I will guarantee someone will come forward with interest. When that person becomes aware of the info they will so enjoy it.

It couldn’t be an easier process. You don’t have to put any of your info in any order. It would be helpful if you could put the years or your age at the time of the activity taking place.

I don’t believe there is anyone in my family interested at this point in time but I also know they would not throw any of my writing away. Someone, someday will hear that I was a writer and they will be interested in reading some of it. They will probably have to shake of the dust!

I am changing gears now. I would like to thank you all for reading and for the wonderful comments you have given me. I am wishing you the Happiest and Healthiest New Year.

I am just curious how you feel about resolutions, share with me, please. You can always contact me at DebbieWalker@townline.org.

I’M JUST CURIOUS: 12 birds of Christmas

by Debbie Walker

Merry Christmas! What does that have to do with all those birds in the song The 12 Days of Christmas? What’s the story behind that? Well, I just read about all this in, yes, The Farmer’s Almanac newsletter.

I learned it was first published in England in 1780, most likely as a lyrical poem much earlier. It became a song in 1909. But I was more interested in the birds.

The first gift was a “partridge in a pear tree”. This bird would have been around in the holiday season. The pear tree is a gift of food. They perch and roost in the trees, but they won’t eat the fruit as they eat grains and seeds. The fruit is harvested in the fall but stored, can last into the winter. Two bountiful gifts.

Two turtle doves are the second day. The doves in a pair would have been a good gift because may breed and be meals in the future.

Three French Hens could lay as many as 900 eggs per year! They could be eaten, sold, or allowed to hatch and young chickens to be used for meal or even more egg production. Food and possible income again.

Four Calling Birds are believed to be the Eurasian blackbird. A thrush with a wonderful sound. It would just be for singing, I guess.

Five Gold Rings you might consider bird banding, also called bird ringing. Not much else to say.

Six Geese A-Laying would be another form of animal, food gift. This gift probably was for the meat but could also be the feathers of resulting flock as goose down for winter wear and insulation. It would be ideal for a holiday gift for the coldest season.

Seven Swans A-Swimming aren’t specially noted as laying, they were most likely a gift of luxury. Swans are a symbol or romance and elegance.

Oh yeah then there were 8 Maids a Milking, 9 Lord’s a Leaping, 11 Piper’s Piping takes us back to birds, and you would probably find them on the beach. They are actually Piping Plovers.

Obviously the birds represented a richness and symbolism of the carol.

Done with birds and on to Poinsettia, the seasonal plant associated with Christmas.

Poinsettia are the number one potted plant sold in the USA today.

They are not toxic to children or humans but if a child ate 500 leaves that would be unsafe (!!). They are mildly poisonous to cats and dogs.

They come in many colors and are now available in marbled, striped or spotted tones.

I have two Poinsettia plants growing in my flower garden right now. It started blossoming about a month ago. Well, not so much of blossoming as the green leaves beginning to turn red. It is almost as tall as me now. I have seen them locally growing as high as the eaves on a single story house.

I am just curious if you have any curiosity about traditions. Share them, please. Remember in the next week to get your sleep, eat good meals and breath! The “busyness” won’t last much longer so find some way to relax and enjoy! Do what you can do and don’t worry about the rest.

Contact me at DebbieWalker@townline.org with any questions or comments. Thanks for reading and enjoy your week.


by Debbie Walker

Do you have a sewing machine? (If so, I know you deal with tension!) When did you start sewing? Who taught you? If I mention the word “tension”, does it cause you to grin? How about patterns? Do you know how to read a pattern?

I grew up thinking everyone knows how to sew. Hand sewing or with the use of a sewing machine, including sewing on buttons, all could bring about tension,

Problems with “tension” can cause you to have physical body “tension” (stress). I know I am being a bit confusing with the use of the word tension. The tension on a sewing machine is designed to control how smoothly the machine stitches and the length of those stitches. Just recently I got out my machine, hoping that I could just give it a few drops of oil and be on my way. Well, it was not agreeable, the stitches wouldn’t have even come close to holding anything together. Now I put the little job away until I had more time to mess with the tension.

A couple weeks later I got the machine out again. Now I had enough free time to take my time. Would you believe the test subject got just about perfect stitches? No problem with either my body or machine “tension”!

I learned quite a bit about sewing long before I took Home Economics in my freshman year of high school. Before that class I was self taught by watching my great-grandmother sewing her patchwork aprons (She had one on when she was making a new one and she sewed the old one to the new one!) And I watched mom doing mending with just needle and thread.

I had a pair of pants that I loved, the zipper died, and I was heartbroken. Mom added to that pain by refusing to replace the zipper. I was a bit stubborn and decided I would put in the zipper while mom was at work. It was the first time I ever used her sewing machine without supervision. Through trial and error that day I managed to get the zipper in before mom got home from work. Mom never put in another zipper; those were jobs for me.

My home economics teacher left a lot to be desired. If my only experience with sewing was with her, I probably never would have attempted sewing again. However, I had enough positive influences around me that I still enjoy sewing, even dealing with the machine tension!

Sewing is fast becoming another lost art, much like tatting (making lace by looping and knotting a single strand of thread), also canning (seat weaving, it’s a craft using the cane from the inner skin of a rattan palm. Its woven to make the seat of a chair).

I couldn’t believe it but it happened where ever I was working. Once word got out that I sewed I always had buttons to sew on, jackets needed zippers, and dresses needed hemmed. It has already happened here in the campground. I really don’t mind, it doesn’t take much of my time.

Sewing today brought up a lot of memories. As crazy as things have been this week in the world around us. I didn’t want to become depressed. So my sewing today put me on the right track. The only “tension” I was willing to deal with today was with my machine.

I am just curious if you have hobbies to relieve your “tensions”. How about contacting me at DebbieWalker@townline.org and sharing with me? Have a wonderful week and thank you for your time to read!

I’M JUST CURIOUS: A few ideas and uses

by Debbie Walker

Good afternoon. Any snow yet? I have to ask, you know. I am on a race tonight to get this done before Tabby (cat) comes in. When she comes in at night, or whenever she comes in, she expects to be the center of attention. Laying across my keyboard tends to assure her of the attention possibilities.

I have to ask. Have you ever heard of aluminum foil balls in the dryer? The instructions say to wad up some foil into two small balls and pop in the dryer instead of dryer sheets. I plan to try this one. I’ll let you know.

In the November FIRST magazine the question was asked, “What do you do if you can’t sleep?” The responses published were: 1. Turn your digital clock away from you to help stop the anxiety of calculating your wake-up time. 2. “Get out of bed and journal or doodle. Lying there creates negative association between bed and sleep, worsening insomnia.”

When I was in real estate I stumbled across this suggestion: As your days are busy start a list of things you want to remember for the next day. Cross off the items on your list as the day goes by. At the end of the day go over your list and make changes as appropriate. When you go to bed that night you don’t have to be worried about forgetting to do anything the next day. It’s all written down and you can relax. You won’t forget anything. This worked well for me, so much so I still do it.

Do you know how to tell if your mascara is old? It is important to know because of possible eye infections. Too much air in the chamber makes for breeding ground for bacteria. When you pull the wand out, listen for popping sound. If you don’t hear it, trash it.

Have you gotten out your winter coat yet? Any problem with the zipper? How well is it working? I found rubbing liquid soap back and forth over the zipper. Then work the zipper up and down. You should see a difference. It worked well for me.

What do you do about your cat and plants? Cats dislike citrus. Soak a cotton ball in lemon juice and rub around the rim of the planter. It should keep Kitty away.

Do you have trouble organizing your linens? Put the pieces together with a dryer sheet into a paper bag and label, then put in closet. You will know which ones they are, and all the pieces will be together. I put mine inside one of the pillowcases. It saves time and aggravation.

I have made wind chimes in the past and I use fishing line to hang the items. After reading a short hack today I will be using dental floss next. The wax will protect the cord and isn’t as stiff as fishing line. The dental floss isn’t as stiff as fishing line, but it is strong enough to hold the items I hang.

Ever have a leaky faucet and the noise is driving you crazy? Try this: Tie a long piece of dental floss around the end of the faucet and place the other end into the drain. The leaking water will travel down the cord and into the drain. Peace at last.

I’M JUST CURIOUS: My unusual plants

Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula)

by Debbie Walker

I do not have a green thumb. My interest is mostly in the more unusual plants, at least I think they are unusual. This time I am trying to keep a Venus Fly Trap alive.

Did you ever try to grow one? My daughter, Deana, and I tried a hundred years ago (well, not quite). I read that they can grow to be 20 years old. I don’t believe ours died of old age; I think we would have realized all this if she had made it very long. Now, I might add that I have an idea why she wouldn’t have lasted very long

When I was researching the Venus Fly Trap last night, I wanted to know how to feed this poor little character. The first thing I saw was “Do not feed them hamburger meat.” I think that means I committed murder with the first one. That’s the only thing I remember feeding it. So far among all my friends it is believed you can feed them hamburger.

Also, any water you use should be distilled or rainwater. Oops. How many keep distilled water around or even rainwater? No one I have talked to so far, in fact no one else had ever had the want-to. Yesterday I went into the local pet store to purchase dehydrated blood worms. Yes, that was certainly a new kind of shopping for me!

What made me think of that was a few years ago Ken and I had an unusual request from our neighbor. He had young boys that wanted geckos for Christmas. Oh yes, we did, we said okay after hearing that they didn’t have any reason to come out of the box they lived in. Oh, and then he told us he was going to go get the crickets we would need to feed them. Feed them! Feed them, something alive and wiggly! Luckily, we were able to get through that time keeping the geckos alive and even a few crickets!

We moved after the Christmas the boys wanted two little yorkie pups. Two weeks we babyset them and I mean infant-set. Not much sleeping for those two weeks. They wanted to be fed or just held. We did learn our lesson though. We knew better than to ever be foolish enough to think we ever wanted a puppy of our own. Fortunately, we moved before the next Christmas. I was told the boys wanted a rooster and hens. They wanted to be able to sell eggs for spending money.

I believe a few weeks ago I might have told you about the crazy gift for my grandkids this year. Every year I have to do something “unusual” for them. This year with the help of my neighbor, Glen, I will be giving them a gift of loofa sponges that we grew. Odd plant? I think so. Most people think they are ocean grown sponges, but they aren’t. At one point in the growing process, you can eat them about like cucumbers, so they say. It didn’t appeal to me. I have been taking pictures along the way and will be giving them each a book of the growing and some information about the loofa. I even have one for them to uncover the real sponge.

I just wonder if you have some stories you’d like to share. I’ll be waiting. Contact me at DebbieWalker@townline.org with questions, comments, or stories. Have a wonderful week, Thank you for reading!