The Denton Record-Chronicle‘s former opinion page editor, Mike Trimble, called big vocabulary $50 words. He knew a lot of them and used them to finish the New York Times crossword puzzle. Occasionally, he dropped one in his Mark Twain-like editorials, which sent you running to the dictionary. But we reporters are not allowed to use them in news stories, so my vocabulary muscles get flabby sometimes.

Five years ago, I stumbled on a $50 word that inspired understanding of an important concept for me as the parent of someone with autism. You can read some random thoughts about neoteny here.

Today’s $50 word, eleemosynary, means charity or alms giving. It’s also the title of a 1985 play by Lee Blessing, who is best known for A Walk in the Woods. Eleemosynary is filled with $50 words because the story involves a precocious teenage girl and her obsession with winning a spelling bee.

I learned the word today because of The Telephone Book Lullaby. I blogged about this little tune, written by Alec Wilder, about two years ago. It befuddled me how many times people landed on that page after a specific search for the lullaby. I thought I was writing about something pretty obscure. I suppose the lullaby still is obscure, since my blog post comes up so high in internet searches for it.

Occasionally, a reader has sent an email asking how to find the music to the lullaby. (Yes, Internet people, you can borrow a book of sheet music through interlibrary loan, just like any other kind of book). When I received yet another request recently, I asked why.

The woman told me that she was putting on the play and the playwright called for lullabies during the transitions between each act. Blessing calls for The Telephone Book Lullaby in one of the transitions.

The play appears to be enjoying a bit of a revival, based on how many recent productions showed up in a news search I did today. That suggests why people are looking for this obscure piece of music. As far as I know, it’s only available in an out-of-print children’s book.

I added a little piano recording to the original post to help out.

It’s nice to solve that little mystery, but it has lead to another one: How did blessing know Alec Wilder and The Telephone Book Lullaby and why did he call for it? 


Peanut Brittle

by Peggy on November 3, 2014

I have a microwave. It’s good for warming a cup of coffee, which is very important, don’t get me wrong. But I try not to cook in it.

With this significant exception: peanut brittle

I got this keeper of a recipe out of a family cookbook from an old friend in California. It turns out every time.

Peanut Brittle 

1 cup white sugar

1 cup white corn syrup

1 cup roasted, salted peanuts

1 tsp. butter

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. baking soda

In a 1 1/2-quart microwaveable bowl, stir sugar and syrup. Microwave on high power for 4 minutes. (Be careful each time you remove the bowl from the microwave as it gets increasingly hot.) Stir in peanuts and microwave on high for 3 – 5 minutes until light brown. Stir in butter and vanilla, blending well. Microwave on high 1-2 minutes. (By now, everything is very hot.) Add the baking soda and stir gently. It will become lightly foamy.

Pour over a lightly greased cookie sheet. Let cool about one hour. When cool, break into small pieces. Store in airtight container. Makes about 1 pound.


Wandering Seoul returns

October 30, 2014

Watch to find out the weird food winner from Paige’s summer abroad in South Korea.

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Spaghetti Lasagna

October 20, 2014

Sam (peeling off the aluminum foil for a late night snack after work): Alright! It’s Spaghetti Lasagna. And that is how this new, improvised recipe — which rocketed into the regular rotation after the first run — got its name.   Spaghetti Lasagna 1 lb. Italian style turkey sausage 1 lb. box of whole wheat […]

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Overheard in the Wolfe House #282

October 11, 2014

Peggy (the birthday girl): Ok, let’s go to the movies. Who’s hosting? Michael (the underemployed dude): Not the broke guy. Sam (the other underemployed dude): Are you calling me broke?

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Sam and Trevor and a little Sunday jump

October 5, 2014

We had to get out of bed pretty early to get to Aubrey in time for this 8 a.m. ride, but it was worth it.  

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Overheard in the Wolfe House #281

October 5, 2014

Peggy (puzzled, and motioning to the car door): It’s open. Sam (still standing motionless, holding a fistful of horse show ribbons): I know. I have some euphoria.

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Summer of ’01, Week #2

October 5, 2014

I wonder who won on June 21. June 18, 2001 Write in detail what YOU would do to save Ginger. What I would do to save Ginger is that when she was released from the leglocks and into the duct, I would catch her. If she fell into the duct, she will be made into […]

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Summer of ’01, Week #1

September 28, 2014

In the summer of 2001, while I was writing about The Bus and lots of other things at the student newspaper, Sam was in summer school writing about whatever prompt was on the board that day. He was 13. That’s often thought of as an awkward age, but for Sam it meant a new, level playing […]

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Old-school cakes: Coconut pound cake

September 26, 2014

I didn’t want to post this recipe until I had a chance to talk to Aunt Regina again about it. A few of these old recipes from her collection have called for ingredients in ways that you don’t often see anymore. This one called for a “can of coconut.” I searched on the web for […]

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