Category Archives: Lisa and Jeff

The zany adventures of Lisa and Jeff

Lisa & Jeff go to White Castle


There are no White Castle‘s anywhere near us so in January 2015, when Jeff heard that a new one was opening in Las Vegas, he immediately declared that we must go.

He craves a bag o’ sliders. Neither of us has had a White Castle burger in about five years. Unfortunately, Vegas is almost six hours away from Phoenix, where we live, so it has taken a long while for us to finally get up the time, the money and the energy to make the trek.

This weekend, we are finally going. I hope they’re as good as I remember.


Martha McGrath, 1851, Bradford England

I think Martha McGrath was my mom’s mom’s dad’s dad’s mom (my third great-grandmother). I say “I think” because I’m not 100% sure. All signs point in that direction, but I hesitate to state it as fact. One of her sons shows up in a stranger’s family tree with matching information to my own, so it’s safe to assume they are the same person, but I’m always cautious if I can’t confirm it more than once.

According to the 1851 England census,  Martha lived in Bradford, England (Bradford was mentioned in the Doctor Who episode The Crimson Horror) with her three children at 120 Longland St. I can actually see that building on Google Maps. When Jeff and I go to England this summer, I’ll see it in person.

Born in 1807, Martha was a 44-year-old widow at the time and worked as a dress maker. She was born in Ireland, as was her husband and father of her three children. Beyond this, there is no information about him anywhere, at least not where I can find it.

My second great-grandfather, James McGrath, was 12 at the time. He was born in Bradford and worked as a “boot closer”. His little brother Alexander was 8, and their little sister, Mary, was 4.

By the time James was 22, he had moved to Manchester and lived as a lodger at 65 Fleet St, Ashton-under-Lyne–according to the 1861 census. He worked as a cordwainer, so apparently shoe-making agreed with him.

By 1870, he had somehow emigrated to the US (I can’t find his name on any passenger lists), because he shows up in Detroit, in the census, married to my second great-grandmother Josephine. He was employed as a brewer, which he apparently continued to do for the rest of his life–that is, at least, according to what my mom has been told.

I get the sense that he was being deliberately sketchy about being kept track of. In various places, he lists his birthplace as either Ireland or England. I can’t find him or any other dependents in any census records after that, until my great-grandfather Charlie McGrath moves out and starts his own life, with his marriage to his first wife, Maggie O’Leary, in 1894.

Maggie died, leaving him with two daughters, Marie and Grace. He eventually married Emma Gelinski, and they gave birth to my mom’s mom, Mildred in 1904.

Great-Grandpa Charlie, with my mom, Joann circa 1937

Great-Grandpa Charlie, with my mom, Joann circa 1937

In 1910, the census lists Charles McGrath as an agent in a tea store, and in 1920, he was employed as a tool clerk in an auto factory (this was Detroit, after all). He disappears from the records after that. My mom tells me that he became a brewer and ran a drinking establishment before Prohibition. The front room held a bar for the men, and the ladies would go into the back room to sit in the parlor to drink. He had to close this business down when Prohibition began.

Charlie died in 1940. This picture of him is as far back as his lineage goes, in our family photos.

But it all began with Martha, in Ireland, in 1807. And whomever came before her … and before her … and before her …

Looking for Experts: Sponsorship

I’ve reached a point in planning this trip where I am ready to take the next step: looking for sponsors. I’ve done a lot of research into “who” and “why”, and I have a pretty good list of the kinds of companies to approach. What I need from the experts is advice and/or assistance in “how”.

What I’ll be pitching:

WHO: I am a best-selling author of four books and part of my planned “Bucket List” trip to the UK is to do research for two (or more) upcoming books. My husband Jeff and I are both former standup comedians, and we make great traveling companions and story tellers. You can read one of our month-long adventures beginning with this blog.

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall.(zpqt)

Tintagel Castle (Photo credit: Bob Linsdell)

WHAT: We’re planning a summer-long trip to the UK in 2014. We will be exploring Arthurian legend sites, tracking Doctor Who shooting locations, visiting ancestral sites (we both have extensive and interesting ancestor stories from all over the UK), interviewing the occasional celebrity that we’ve seen on BBC America (we’ve already successfully started booking interviews), taking gorgeous nature walks, blogging and writing restaurant reviews. The pinnacle of the trip, for me, will be to face my intense fear of heights and take a photo of the sunset over the Irish Sea from the top of the Blackpool Tower.

English: Blackpool Tower

Blackpool Tower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WHERE: England, Wales, Scotland and possibly Ireland.

WHEN: We’re shooting for next summer, from the start of June until the end of August. We’ve been invited to a Druid Solstice ritual shortly after we arrive, and we’ll spend June in southern England and Wales, exploring Camelot and Avalon, and Jeff’s ancestry and Doctor Who locations.

In July, we’ll spend time in Liverpool, because we’re Beatles fans, then head to Janet’s Foss, a waterfall in central England where the Queen of the Faeries is supposed to have lived. Along the way, we’ll be taking long nature walks to see the beauty that is the United Kingdom. Then we’ll head up to Scotland for a visit, to find where my ancestors ranged from dirt-poor coalminers to ancient royalty.

English: Janet's Foss

Janet’s Foss (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In August, we’ll still be in Scotland and possibly Ireland, but then we’ll come back south in time to spend a week in Blackpool during their annual Illuminations celebration. We’ll be tracking down shooting locations for the incredible BBC miniseries, Blackpool (starring David Tennant, Sarah Parish and David Morrissey). We’ll wrap up the trip in London and head home.

WHY: Why not? Life is short and the world is waiting.

Regarding sponsors, I have a list of several companies to approach. I’ve already started to build a platform. I have very good reasons why each of these companies may be interested in trading goods/cash in exchange for shameless pluggery. We’re going anyway. They may as well come along for the ride.

So … now what? How do I make this happen? What kind of presentation should I create? How do I pitch this? Do you want to sponsor us? Do you want to help us find sponsors in exchange for sponsorship? Your expertise is requested and appreciated. Fill in the form below, or email me at lisa @  Meantime, I will continue to plug away with research.

Follow my progress on!

Give it 100: Day 1

My friend Curtis told me about a really cool site called Give it 100. It’s sort of a video blogging site where you set your sites on a goal and vlog a daily 10 second video with a progress report.

Here is my Day 1 video:

I’m uploading it to YouTube, too, because the Give It 100 site cut off the last second. I’ll get better at it, I promise!

Here is the link to Day 1’s entry:

Looking for experts: healthy birthday cake recipes!

I’m sending out the call for experts again. This time, I’m looking for recipes for the best tasting healthy birthday cake!

Yellow Sheet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting & Berries

My birthday is Saturday. I would love to celebrate with a cake and candles, but I’ve  lost 35 pounds and cleaned up my dietary habits to the point where the kind of cake I used to eat would probably make me ill. It may taste exquisite, but I know the aftereffects of eating that kind of thing all too well.

So if I’m gonna have a birthday cake, it’s gonna have to be really healthy, with a minimum of fat, sugar and processed ingredients. (This means no Splenda or aspartame.)

This may sound impossible, but I know there are recipes out there and I’m asking for the experts on this subject to chime in.

If you eat mostly clean, what is your favorite cake recipe?

First responder: “Blackpool” actress, Sarah Parish!

Part of our planned travel-blog trip to the UK next summer is to interview as many of my favorite actors from BBC America as I can. British television is so different from TV in the US (it’s not all just Doctor Who over there!), and I look forward to helping to introduce sarah parishthe American audience to some of these people. As the BBC series Blackpool is the original impetus for our trip, I started first by contacting those actors. And Sarah Parish, the actress who artfully played the female lead, Natalie Holden, has said yes!

Readers in the States may not know who she is. I didn’t, until I saw Blackpool. But she’s been a working actress for about twenty years, and played Hannah in the Cameron Diaz/Jude Law/Kate Winslett film The Holiday. She also played alongside Kevin Costner in the Golden Globe winning mini-series, Hatfields & McCoys.

Doctor Who fans will know Ms. Parish as the Empress of the Racnoss (in Donna Noble’s first episode, The Runaway Bride). I had no racnoss toy2idea they were the same actress until I looked her up on and saw that role listed among her extensive acting credits. But better yet, she even has an action figure! Now that is impressive. 😉

Because a lot of British programming isn’t available in the US, it’s difficult to find video of many of her roles, except on YouTube. But what I’ve seen shows exceptional acting ability, and I’m really impressed with the way she throws herself into whatever role she’s playing, even if it’s a spider queen, a troll (as Lady Catrina on Merlin) or the queen of Atlantis.

Sarah Parish with her two love interests in Blackpool, David Morrissey and David Tennant

Sarah Parish with her two love interests in Blackpool, David Morrissey and David Tennant

Atlantis premieres on BBC America on November 23, right after the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor. I’ll be watching both!

I’ll keep you posted as any other British thespians agree to meet with me. I’m thrilled to be able to say that my first to say yes is one that I respect so highly.

Plus, who wouldn’t want to talk to a woman who got to make out with David Morrissey AND David Tennant, even if it was just on film! Even at my age, I can’t help squeeing with envy, like a fangirl.

Why I need a new camera/phone

Black-chinned Hummingbird -- Moab, Utah, USA

This is what I saw. This is NOT what my camera saw. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While out for my morning walk, I saw a hummingbird. Right there. In front of me. Not three feet away. It was zipping around a flowering bush next to the sidewalk, from flower to flower, apparently not minding at all that I was there. I took out my cell phone to triumphantly take my first photo of a hummingbird.

I was so happy. I’ve NEVER been able to get this close to a hummingbird before and have a camera on me at the same time. BLISS!

It seemed to become nervously aware of my presence, but I felt like it sensed how important this was to me. It shimmered while it tried to stay still for me, as I zoomed in and focused the camera. I held my breath and then … snap … snap … two shots! Awesome! Now I was sure to have at least one really good photo of a hummingbird.


This is the better photo, of the two. It looks like a Where’s Waldo? picture. Can you find the hummingbird? Betcha can’t.

There is a hummingbird in this photo. I promise. I can see it, but only because I know exactly where to look.

There is a hummingbird in this photo. I promise.
I can see it, but only because I know exactly where to look.

Aside from my cell phone camera, I have a Canon PowerShot that I bought a few years ago for about $100. It’s done a nice job for me, overall, considering I’m not a professional photographer. I don’t need anything fancy–just a reliable, good-quality camera to carry around with me for impromptu moments of breathtaking beauty. But, my camera is kind of old and bulky and the new ones are light and sleek. And I never have figured out how to work all the settings–it’s not intuitive enough for me.

So between my search for a new cell phone and a new camera before our trip to Blackpool next summer, I’m hoping to combine the two as well and get a phone with a good camera–hopefully, one that can handle the occasional once-in-a-lifetime hummingbird pic.

Granted, a lot of this is operator error. Even with an excellent camera, that’s not a great photo. But birds really don’t pose, do they? I was lucky to even get this close. On the other hand, other people manage to capture brilliant photos of hummingbirds, don’t they? Part of the problem is that I couldn’t see the screen because of the sun behind me, and I wasn’t wearing my glasses. Even so, there should be some semblance of a bird in this picture.

Gaaah. I’m rambling. I’ll stop now. Just wanted to make a note of this so I remember what I want–a camera that has an easy-to-see screen–when it’s finally time to shop. We won’t be making any big purchases for a few months. Right now I’m just wish-listing.

P.S.:  Here’s Waldo …

Here's Waldo

Here’s Waldo