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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Preserving a Harvest of Cookbooks

    Today I have spent some time “putting up” my cookbook collection. Somehow, my lonely little shelf of bridal books has grown to fill more than twenty linear feet of bookshelves (yep, I just measured). That’s a lot of recipes!

    bjsSHOP I never thought much about this “collection” until last spring when I wandered into Bonnie Slotnik Cookbooks in Greenwich Village, New York City. I stepped into her cozy little shop filled to the brim with cookbooks and retro decorative cooking gear, and I felt like I had come home. Bonnie was scrunched into her corner desk chatting with a friend who had stopped by and they both stopped to welcome me.

    I was speechless as I looked around, but her response to my first question really made me stop and think.

    “I have a problem,” I confessed. “I have too many cookbooks.”

    The women looked at each other, then at me, “Why is that a problem?”

    And here I had been feeling pressured to down-size and whittle down my books. What freedom! It was the “Ah-ha” moment when the world shifts. Suddenly, I went from being the Owner of Too Many Cookbooks to rebirth as a Cookbook Collector. It was fabulous.

    Shifting gears to my new identify wasn’t hard at all. Bonnie queried me as to my interests – preserving, community cookbooks, Jello recipes, holidays – and helped me find a few new volumes to add to my Collection. As I browsed her shelves admiring the books and whimsical 60’s timers and gadgets, she told me that the set designers had come to her for props for the new film Julie and Julia. She was excited that she was able to purchase many of the set props when the filming was complete, hence the generous selection and great window display.

    I also noticed that her books were all carefully protected by clear book jackets, and made a note to put that task on my To Do List. When I came home, I ordered a package of assorted sized book jackets from Brodart Archival Supplies. The clear covers are easy to put on the books and provide support as well as protection for the paper dust jacket.

    My plans don’t include covering every book in my collection, but I am trying to preserve copies that are sentimental favorites or that have increased in value. No, I don’t have Julia Child’s first edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I do have my mother-in-law’s gift to me at my bridal shower, Woman’s Glory, The Kitchen. If that’s not a keeper, I don’t know what is.


    Great California Garage Sale This Weekend, August 28-29

    Do you love a tag sale? Step on the brakes for an auction? Mark your calendar for August 28-29 when the State of California holds The Great California Garage Sale in Sacramento. Of course, California is automobile country, so it is only fitting that this sale to “benefit” the State is named a “garage” sale rather than the East Coast “tag sale.”

    Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared war on state government waste, and announced today that several surplus items, including some personally signed by the Governator, will be offered for sale on eBay and Craigslist as a pre-sale to the Saturday and Sunday Garage Sale. Even more items, from vehicles to video cameras, from ballpoint pens to bookends, will be for sale at the actual garage sale in Sacramento.

    Now, if only this sale could retire some of the California deficit so we could cash our tax refund vouchers!


    Tech Tuesday: Get a Grip on Email

    Amy Coffin at We Tree has decided Time Management: Too Much of a Good Thing after a ProGen assignment in analyzing personal productivity showed her that she was almost too good at getting things done, to the point of never allowing herself a break. This morning, when I opened my email program and found 1965 messages in my Inbox I felt myself wishing I had just a bit of more of her discipline.

    Today is the day I get a grip on my email. In typical researcher-style, I Google “email” which leads me to Merlin Mann at 43 Folders and his forthcoming book Inbox Zero. As a superhero of tech time management, Merlin fights Inbox glut with a simple, straightforward system aimed at keeping your Inbox absolutely empty.

    You can watch his presentation on a Google video, or read posts in the Inbox Zero series at his project website. The idea is to “process” email, rather than to “check” email, and to take action so that it doesn’t accumulate. I’ve used my Inbox as a filing cabinet for so long that the notion of seeing it empty and forlorn is a bit scary, but I think I might be able to get used to the idea that I was “in charge” of the box instead of the other way around.

    In fact as much as I like his idea of using five key actions to handle email, even better I like the notion of extending the idea to cutting down the tall stack of papers on my desk. It’s just “advanced common sense” as he says, but it is a system I can use.

    So, how to get a grip on 1965 messages; I’m going to follow Merlin’s advice and move every last message into the Email DMZ. I’ll work forward with new messages and spend some time each day weeding out the old ones until I can reach Inbox Zero status. I might even start on the stack of papers on my desk.


    How Did They Survive the Dog Days of August? Remembering Summer on the Farm with No Computer, No Internet, No WiFi – A Tech Tuesday Post

    No new gadget reviews or tech tips this week, folks. Instead, a reflection on surviving the Dog Days of August without computer, cell phone, or internet; and a memory of a few days spent on a cotton farm.

    I’ve been reviewing old posts with an eye for topics I missed and would still like to feature, and the title of one article jumped out at me today, Sometimes Low-Tech Is Just Fine. Low-tech life. . . no tv, no computer, no air conditioning! It’s hot and dry in Southern California, school hasn’t started yet, traffic is lighter as Angelenos cram in a few more weeks of vacation in other places. . . it’s the Dog Days.

    What a funny name. When I was younger, I thought the term referred to the heat – canine panting and drooling. Then, I went back to school for a graduate degree and heard that it has something to do with the zodiac. I took out my magnifying glass and my compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (must be 2-point type) to read:

    1. The days about the times of heliacal rising of the Dog-star; noted from ancient times as the hottest and most unwholesome time of the year [followed by a very scientific discussion of exactly when the dog-days occurs, beginning anywhere from July 3 to Aug 15, depending on latitude and legend, and lasting from 30 to 54 days]
    2. An evil time in which malignant influences prevail

    The way I figure, on my calendar the Dog Days occur in mid-to-late August when it’s either hot and dry, or hot and sticky; everyone is waiting expectantly for fall to begin and the long days of summer to end. Sitting in my air-conditioned house with an internet connection to amuse and occupy my time, I wonder a bit how my ancestors filled those same Dog Days.

    They probably made the best of them, like my farming aunts and uncles in Bakersfield, California. I remember visiting my grandmother’s sister in the farmlands north of Los Angeles. Aunt Rose and Uncle Ray owned a large farm and lived in a green clapboard house off a dusty road near Punkin Center. It was probably “Pumpkin,” but no one called it that. Their two sons lived in houses on either side of their old farmhouse, Uncle Hale on one side and Uncle Lowell on the other. One of them, I can’t remember which one, had a swimming pool; that was the only luxury on those farm “vacations.”

    costerisan_1964001Rose and Ray Costerisan On Farm July 1964. 
    (Privately held by Denise Levenick, Pasadena, California. 2008.)

    I stayed in the old farmhouse with Rose and Ray. By the time I woke up and came into the kitchen in the morning, the house was already hot and sticky and the kitchen full of the smell of ripe, ripe cantaloupe. The linoleum was old and clean, but so hot that my feet seemed to stick to the floor as I walked across the room. There was no air-conditioning, of course, so I felt hot and damp most of the time. In fact, my memory of times on the farm are mostly of cantaloupe and stickiness.

    For entertainment, I“helped” pick cotton. Walking along the row of cultivated bushes, Uncle Ray showed me how to grab the fluffy white flower of the cotton blossom and pull it free. The seeds were tight little burrs that would be removed by a machine, but I picked them out by hand for my own little basket of soft cotton batting.

    When that grew boring, I wandered around the yard  admiring the chickens and peafowl and collecting the iridescent feathers. The birds were either skittish or mean as heck; you had to be on your guard against an attack.

    In the late afternoon I would join my cousins for a swim before dinner. I can’t remember what we ate. Probably cantaloupe! Then after the dishes were cleared Uncle Ray brought out the spoons and started playing. He held them between his fingers and flicked them rhythmically over his thigh, making a tune grow out of the clacking metal. Sometimes, he altered the sound by substituting “bones” for the spoons. Now, I’m not sure just what those bones were made of. . . farm animal ivory? At the time, they seemed quite scary.

    But nothing was as scary as Uncle Ray’s velvet case of teeth. Amused by seven-year-old toothless grin, Uncle Ray went into the house and came out with a small case. Flipping open the latch, he lifted the lid to reveal a velvet-lined case full of ivory teeth. I remember taking one look and running away, even as he howled in delight over my refusal to accept a new tooth.

    Do you think that’s what our ancestors did in the Dog Days of August? Worked? Ate cantaloupe? Played a little music? Told stories and jokes? I bet that’s exactly what they did!


    The Family Curator is Moving


    Bulldozer and work crew moving a house; from a c. 1920 original photograph. Unknown location within the United States. [Wikipedia: Image in the Public Domain in the United States]


    The Family Curator is moving to a new home and getting a fresh coat of paint. Thank you for your patience while we unpack!


    2 Good Reasons to Use a Genealogy Blogging Prompt, and 3 Tips for a Top-Notch Post

    No matter how long you’ve been blogging, sooner or later you may find yourself staring at an empty page with nothing new to say. It happens to everyone. If you are just getting started in the world of family history and genealogy blogging, you may find that you have the opposite problem, so many ideas that you don’t quite know where to begin.

    Blog Carnivals, Daily Themes, and Memes are all other names for old-fashioned writing prompts, and they can help get your fingers flying over the keyboard once again.

    A Writing Prompt by Any Other Name is still a Writing Prompt

    A basic writing prompt is a simple instruction about a specific topic, designed to help the writer focus on the subject at hand.

    • The prompt can be as straightforward as proposing a theme
      • Write about one day you spent as a 13-year-old
    • or it may encourage the writer to try a new approach
      • Recall the worst day of your teenage years, and write about it from your mother’s or father’s point of view

    Where To Find ‘em

    Look for writing prompts, memes, and carnivals at

    3 Things to Think About Before You Write

    After selecting a prompt, carnival, or theme, take a few minutes to think about what you will write. Ask yourself, How can I make this interesting and well-crafted?

    1. Use a hook to pull a reader into your story. Open your article with the most interesting thing of all.
    2. Stick with the topic. Focus, focus, focus. Try to address the prompt in 300 words or less; hard to do, but it will help you be clear and concise.
    3. Write the headline AFTER you’ve written the article. Make it even more interesting than the opening hook. If you’re clever, use a joke, a pun, a song or movie reference.

    Using genealogy and family history writing prompts can help you enjoy writing blog articles instead of dreading deadlines.


    Ride 'em Cowgirls, Remembering the Traveling Photographer

    In the days when California suburbs welcomed the Helms' Bread truck and the Ice Cream van cruising the neighborhood to the tune of their company jingle, it was not uncommon to see a pony being led along the streets by an traveling photographer similarily looking for a little business from the housebound housewives.

    My mother and aunt remember the photographer and his pony who had a regular route through their Anaheim neighborhood. For a small fee, he would hoist excited children to the back of his patient pony and snap their photograph. Mothers could order prints to be delivered at a later time, and no doubt many were tempted to buy the deluxe versions hand-colored and enlarged in the photographer's studio.

    Frances and Susie Brown, Anaheim, about 1938.


    Tech Tuesday – Taken by a Tech Surprise

    No such thing as a ho-hum day in the blogosphere.

    The Family Curator woke with a start and the realization, "Hooray, it's my birthday!" quickly followed by the horrid thought, "will anyone remember???"

    Junior, the cat, looked up from his nest in the covers and blinked in reply, "We’ll see."

    Although the sky was just beginning to show the first signs of dawn, the Curator sprang from bed to retrieve a cup of morning brew from the kitchen. In a few minutes, she was back in bed with cat and coffee, cruising the internet for the day's news. FREE for three days! at GeneaMusings

    Blog Type Spotlight – Crafts and Charts Blogs at GeneaBloggers

    Twice Told Tuesday - A Birthday Story at Shades of the Departed

    That sounds interesting, the Curator thought. It’s my birthday too, I’d like to read a little birthday story.

    . . . Please continue reading this article under the Comments to today's post at Shades of the Departed, Twice Told Tuesday - A Birthday Story



    Tech Tuesday: RVers Stay Connected with Satellite Internet

    Last week Mom forwarded an email from a member of her local genealogical association which was interesting itself, but I was really taken with the tagline from the sender:
    Home is where I hang my @
    To see exactly where that is today, view the map at:
    [I deleted her user number, here]
    The link took me to a map showing internet satellite dishes registered to different owners. How cool is that?

    Now, this could be a little creepy from a security/Big Brother-point of view, but it is very "geek-cool" from the idea of staying in touch. I followed along to the main website of and found that the site provides location mapping for users of the Motosat Datastorm, particularly targeting RV users.

    Just think, internet connections and tracking virtually anywhere. It is like a giant GPS/satellite address book. What would our ancestors have thought of this? No more lost wagon trains.


    Footnote Gets Bigger and Better Every Day

    Footnote just keeps getting BIGGER and BETTER first appeared on my monitor just about the time I was gearing up for my classroom project Reading Women's Lives. It looked like a site with lots of potential, but I was a little wary of posting Arline's personal correspondence online for all to read.

    Fast-forward two and a half years and over 58 MILLION original historic documents -- the growth and impact of Footnote is monumental. As a former English teacher, I am especially excited about Footnote's potential for classroom interaction. I saw my last-semester Seniors come to life when they read and transcribed my grandmother's original correspondence. In deciphering the archaic handwriting and colloquialisms, the students became more aware of early twentieth century culture. One question led to ten more, their personal response with the original documents drove the lessons each day.

    Of course, any scholar or lover of history can interact with the documents as well; we can all be students again, excited by the discovery of learning. I am delighted to see Footnote's partnership with the National Archives and Records Administration and can only imagine the future archive content, but it is exciting to think that my contributions of obituaries clipped from 100 years ago from Midwest newspapers can be used by other Footnote readers to help answer their family history questions. That's truly collaborative learning.

    Access to the 1930 US Census is available free of charge at throughout the month of August; and Footnote has also extended the special membership subscription rate of $59.95 until August 10. Go to for more details.


    Still Talking About the Jamboree

    The Southern California Genealogical Society has just posted the latest edition of News & Notes which features more comments and acknowledgements from the very successful Jamboree, and news about upcoming events.

    The participation and efforts of Geneablogger Thomas MacEntee and the blogging community were noted on page 11:

    Thanks, too, to the terrific group of genealogy bloggers who traveled from points around the US and met at Jamboree. They helped keep everyone informed about Jamboree and kept everyone excited and interested. “Mr. Geneablogger,” Thomas MacEntee, helped set up the Twitter wall display, performed the technical magic behind the Virtual Surname Wall. Thanks to all.
    Mark your calendars now – Southern California Genealogy Jamboree, June 11-13, 2010, again at the Marriott in Burbank . See you there!


    Miss Penny Dreadful Writes for Weekend With Shades, “No Fish Tale – How a Lady Learned to Cast a Line and Landed Quite a Catch”

    Penny Our friend Miss Penelope Dreadful is at it again for Shades of the Departed with a family story of summer romance and youthful hi-jinks.

    When the Evergreen Anglers Association casts its net for new members, two sisters get a notion to bring together a favorite spinster aunt and the widowed fisherman in charge of the new group. How they manage to persuade Aunt Millie to go on an overnight fishing trip makes for an old-fashioned tale of summer adventure.

    If you have ever felt the urge to play matchmaker for an elderly aunt and a suitable gentleman, you will enjoy Penny’s story, “No Fish Tale – How a Lady Learned to Cast a Line and Landed Quite a Catch” appearing in today’s edition of Weekend With Shades. And please do leave a comment for Penny, she loves to hear from her readers.


    The Family Curator Meets Lisa Louise Cooke for a Chat About Blogging, Technology, and Caring for Your Family Treasures

    h-lisa-louise-cooke-SMLisa Louise Cooke makes it look so easy. This week, The Family Curator is honored to be the guest of popular podcast host Lisa Louise Cooke in Episode 39 of Family History: Genealogy Made Easy, recorded last month at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree in Burbank.

    Lisa is the creator and producer of Genealogy Gems and Family History: Genealogy Made Easy, and hosts the monthly Family Tree Magazine Podcast and videocasts for Family History Expos. Her warm voice and wonderful laugh quickly put interview subjects at ease and set the stage for an engaging conversation on all subjects related to genealogy and family history.

    I have enjoyed listening to Lisa’s interviews and news for well over a year on the Genealogy Gems Podcast, but I never imagined that one day I would be sitting across from Lisa chatting about caring for family treasures and using technology to share family history. It’s not hard to see why Lisa’s podcasts are enjoyed by both beginners and experienced genealogists and family historians; she is a skillful interviewer who packs the session with helpful tips, news, and interesting topics.

    Thank you, Lisa, for the opportunity to join you at Family History: Genealogy Made Easy. It was fun chatting about our Southern California roots and those Orange County memories. I hope to see you in Burbank again next year, and introduce you to my friend, Penny Dreadful too!


    Tech Tuesday and Setting up a Genealogy Photo Workflow, Part 2

    Last week in this column, I wrote about the scanning procedure in Setting Up a Genealogy Photo Workflow, Part 1. This week, we tackle Part 2, where we move the photographs to a photo organizer/editor.

    After scanning my photographs and storing the images on my external MyBook hard drive (Western Digital), I turn to Part 2 of my Photo Workflow.

    Importing Images to a Photo Organizer/Editor:

    Note: TIFF Images are stored on an external hard drive.

    1. Connect hard drive to desktop computer.

    2. Open Adobe Lightroom2, Import photos, with settings to retain file names.

    3. After import, tag photos with useful keywords, location, names of subjects, place, date.

    4. Rename files with descriptive file name prior to original scan filename. For example: aak-001 becomes
    kinsel-arline_1912_ portait_aak-002
    I use a hyphen to separate names and placenames and an underscore to separate categories, thus name_year_description/place_original file name

    4. Convert files as JPG and store on C Drive of Desktop computer.

    5. Back up file on second MyBook hard drive.

    6. After tagging, converting, and backing up, TIFF files are never touched! All edits are made to jpg files. In Adobe Lightroom, all edits are “nondestructive” meaning you can return to the original without loss of data. Files may be resized, emailed, cropped, etc. all without damage to the original image file.

    Other photo editing software can do a similar job with tagging, renaming, and converting from TIFF to jpg. Adobe Photoshop Elements is a great program and easy to learn and use; Apple iPhoto or Adobe Photoshop Elements for Mac does the job for Mac users. But, to the best of my knowledge, Adobe Lightroom2 is the only software that offers “nondestructive” editing. If you use a program that records changes on the original file, it is wise to always work from a copy, and save an archived original.

    With my originals safely archived on MyBook (#1), and backed up to MyBook (#2), I am comfortable editing and working with the jpg images on my hard drive. Next step, printing a contact sheet and 4 x 6 prints from a local warehouse store to use as reference.



    When It’s Not So Dreadful to be Talked About

    Penny My friend, Penny Dreadful, returned this afternoon from a weekend out-of-town and dropped by all a-twitter to see me. It seems that Penny overheard our mutual friend footnoteMaven talking with broadcaster Lisa Louise Cooke about fM’s popular magazine, Shades of the Departed, the very publication that Penny writes for each month, and she just so-happened to hear her own name mentioned. You can imagine, how Penny pricked up her ears to catch the conversation.

    Without really intending to eavesdrop (SUCH a nasty word), Penny had stumbled into a conversation between footnoteMaven and Lisa Louise Cooke. They were talking about the Maven’s life as an editor/publisher and her break from legal life to publishing. As any good journalist, Penny couldn’t simply ignore their remarks, so rather she leaned in closer to catch every word. What a surprise to hear her own name mentioned! I am sure her ears were on fire!

    “I was shocked,” she told me. “Absolutely stunned. To be mentioned as a fine writer by Editor Maven, herself. To have my work noted in the same breath as Ms. Maven named so many other outstanding writers including Miss Fenley, Miss Jasia, Miss Olson, Miss Pointkouski, Mr. Geder, and Mr. Manson.”

    "You do keep illustrious company, Penny,” I laughed.

    “Well, yes, I guess I do,” she admitted. “But you must know that each person named by Miss Maven has at one time or another encouraged and aided my own fledgling career. Why, if it weren’t for Miss Maven, I wouldn’t be who I am today!”

    “I agree, Penny,” I told her. “We are indeed fortunate to be working in a field where we are welcomed not so much as competitors but as colleagues.”

    It’s a fine time to be a geneablogger, indeed.

    Psst: You can listen in to the conversation too at Family History: Genealogy Made Easy, Episode 38, a podcast interview by Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems with footnoteMaven, recorded at the SCGS Jamboree June 2009.


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