September 27, 2009

My Neighbor Elinor, AKA Pet



      When I read the news blurb about an Ohio man who slayed his neighbor “because he walked on the man’s well-kept lawn,” I thought of my former neighbor, Elinor Saylor, a.k.a “Pet.”

     When we moved from Jamestown, PA, to Connellsville, PA, my husband, Monte, did his usual thing: loaded up a U-Haul and drove it from point A to point B. When we arrived at our destination, he backed the van into the driveway. It was just wide enough for a car, so it wasn’t surprising that one wheel rode over a patch of lawn between the neighbor’s sidewalk and the street. Obviously, he left a tire tread mark on the grass.

     He exited the truck and was greeted by a tall, thin, white-haired woman. She was irate enough to kill him.

     “You’ll have to (more…)

September 23, 2009

What I did last weekend—September 19-20, 2009


WHAT I DID LAST WEEKEND—September 19-20, 2009

     When scanning the newspaper’s “events” listings, this particular September weekend offered several events of interest. The choice was delightful, since I had determined to take Saturday to do something different—that is, escape the demands of a cluttered house, writing commitments, and my fitness program. The events became even more pleasing because they were shared with either my husband, Monte, or my friend, Peg.

     Monte and I began the day by traveling to the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Greensburg, where the Healthy, Wealthy & Green Expo was being held. We took our time, stopping at booths that interested us. Few booths were appealing to both of us. I was intrigued by (more…)

September 21, 2009

85 Ways to tie a tie—and tying other knots



     Shortly after 18-year-old David came to live with us he asked my husband Monte to show him how to tie a tie. Our German exchange student was preparing to attend a formal dance and couldn’t recall the technique.

   Physicists at Cambridge University presented eighty-five different tie knots requiring three to nine moves. They drew their demonstrations from topology, history (ancient Chinese to the present), fashion, examples from the movies and practicality. Of the thirteen knots that survived their aesthetic constraints on symmetry and balance, they suggest the (more…)

September 18, 2009

Dare to be a Clown: Clown Types



     The clown standing before me wore size 16 red-trimmed white Pony sneakers. Her horizontally striped costume was covered with multi-colored figures and triangles. It was mismatched, indicating she could not decide what style to whip up on her sewing machine: the blouse had a long sleeve on one side and a single strap on the other side.

     Her face, though not painted, was superficially masked by a painted on smile. Her hair was hidden under a nightcap covered with an oversize butterfly.

     Her entire person was hidden from view. She was quite the clown, daring to be bigger than life, and I was distinctly aware of her, “the clown.”

     Since ancient times, clowns have (more…)

September 13, 2009

From flax to linen: The Stahlstown (Pa.) Flax Scutching Festival



      The making of linen from the fiber flax plant is celebrated by the Stahlstown (PA) Flax Scutching Festival, held in September each year.

     “We actually make linen that day,” said Marilee Pletcher, publicity chairperson.  “We use flax from our own field but when necessary we purchase it from outside sources. The distributors grow their flax the same way we do.”

     When asked if flax is grown in western Pennsylvania, Kathie Plack, who lives in Herminie, said (more…)

September 12, 2009

Where were you on September 11, 2001? Part CCH

Filed under: FEATURE STORIES — carolyncholland @ 2:30 am



Today, September 11, 2009, was the Beanery Writers Group regular meeting date. I presented the group with an “oral prompt” (Where were you on September 11, 2001 Part BW),  which led to a discussion that lasted for more than an hour. The prompt contained three questions. First, Where were you when you heard about the events of September 11, 2001? Second, how did you hear? Third, how did you feel? …Before the meeting, I surveyed customers at the Coffee Bean Café in Latrobe, PA, where we hold our meetings. Below are the non-Beanery Writers Group responses.  Carolyn C. Holland, facilitator of the Beanery Writers Group

Male #1: I was driving from here to Pittsburgh. I think I heard it on the radio and called my wife…or maybe she heard the news and called me. I felt weird, amazing, spooky.

Male #2: I was in my Greensburg office, a water business behind the Hampton Inn. The television was on in one of our offices. I felt numb. Then I went to best Buy to shop, and where I saw the second tower collapse. It was surreal. It didn’t sink in. A weird day. My daughter, a student at Valley School in Ligonier Township, saw the (more…)

September 11, 2009

Flax scutching in Pennsylvania & Europe



      When Stahlstown (PA) was a settled and respected stagecoach stop in the days of the early settlers, everything a family used was either grown or hunted in their own back yard. That included the raw materials necessary for fabric production, including sheep and flax. From these they made their mainstay fabrics, linen and wool—fabrics that covered their bodies and kept them warm in the cold winters.

     Linen, made from the fiber flax plant, is a fabric dating from pre-Biblical times. Seed was brought from Europe to America by the nation’s first immigrants. In time, easier to produce and care for cotton and synthetic fabrics replaced the linen threads that were woven into linen. It was a long tedious process that included seed broadcasting, plant harvesting, retting, and scutching.

     Following the invention of the cotton gin, cotton became the preferred fabric. When synthetic fabrics became available, linen took another hit. Although the European Union subsidizes flax farmers and processors, fiber flax has not been grown commercially in North America for more than forty years.

     To view photographs of growing flax, click on:

     The Stahlstown Flax Scutching Festival works to maintain the art of making the flax fibers necessary to linen production. In 2009 the festival will be 102 years old, celebrating flax scotching since 1907 (missing only 1908 and the war years, 1942-1947). (Official Festival website: )

     This year also marks the year that the European Cooperative Research Network on Flax and other Bast Plants has designated as the International Year of Natural Fibers. The network is a part of the European System of Cooperative Research Networks in Agriculture. Its fifty-two nation membership includes Canada and Mexico (but, notably, not the United States).

     If the European Cooperative network has its way, ancient times will not be so ancient. Producing linen from fiber flax plants may become as current today as it was (more…)

September 8, 2009

Decades: An Autobiographical Sketch


DECADES: An Autobiographical Sketch

Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius

 This is the second of two autobiographical sketches done by my mother. To read the first sketch, done in a different style, click on: MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius  

 Ten was a lovely age. It was preoccupation with swimming in the ocean, fishing for frogs and pollywogs in the creek, lying for hours on the beach painstakingly writing initials on our skin with sand and letting the sun tan around the sand. It was following the glamour of the movies and movie stars. It was the (more…)

September 3, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth



Earth nears warmest in million years…This means El Nino may become more violent, scientists write in a paper…headline for a Reuters news service article Sept. 26, 2006

United Nations climate talks involving 189 nations start this week in the Kenyan capital Nairobi to negotiate a successor to the U. N.’s Protocal beyond 2012…”a British government-backed report published Monday (10-30) painted an apocalyptic picture about failure to act on global warming…”said Ashok Sinha (director of Stop Climate Chaos) “We are getting people to look at the total carbon emission of their lives and to start making adjustments, because every single bit helps. We are talking about personal actions but it is also building up pressure on governments to take action to stop the destruction of the planet.”…Reuters news service article

From a State University of New York at Buffalo newsletter: Gore’s environmental record is unparalleled. His pioneering efforts to protect the earth’s ozone layer and to clean up toxic-waste dumps were outlined in his best-selling book “Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit,” which, recently made into a motion picture entitled “An Inconvenient Truth,” has received rave reviews.

     We may have been in Maine but the issue confronting us wasn’t just local or even statewide. The issue involves all New England, the nation and the continent. It is a (more…)

Create a free website or blog at