Thursday, September 19, 2019

Over 100 Years Later, Where Are They?

Department Store, Cosmetics CounterThis past summer, I realized that I haven't seen a couple of stores in town recently.  Both of these stores have been around for quite a long time but they seem to have started disappearing.  One is Sears and the other is Penny's.

Sears began back in 1886 when Richard Sears started a mail order watch company in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  One year later, he moved his business to Chicago, and hired Alvin Roebuck to repair watches.  Together their mail order company sold watches and jewelry.

In 1889 Sears sold the business but a couple of years later, he and Roebuck began another mail order business but Sears sold his share of the business to Julius Rosenwald who manufactured clothing.  Sears stayed around to create the catalogues they sent out selling everything they could at low prices. Two events helped Sears reach more rural areas of America.  First the government established Rural Free Delivery in 1896 and then Parcel post in 1913 which allowed Sears to send mail to anyone.

I remember seeing reprints of the original Sears catalogues from the 1890's and early 1900's.  They had just about everything you'd find at a general store.  They had stoves, cooking gear, clothing, bicycles, cars and anything you could possibly want on a farm. Sears also owned Encyclopedia Britannica which they sold via their catalogue from 1920 to 1943.

Sears began opening retail outlets beginning with the first one in Chicago in 1925. By 1931, the number of retail stores had increased so much, their retail sales topped mail order sales for the first time.  Unfortunately, by the 1980's Kmart and Wal-mart stores expanded enough to surpass annual sales done by Sears and Roebuck.  Sears had to divest itself of its real estate, insurance, and other financial services they had for years in order to continue growing.  In 2002 , Sears acquired Land's End and three years later, they purchased Kmart.  Due to some bad moves, Sears was forced to sell off assets before declaring bankruptcy in 2018. They still have some stores but they are not the force they were.

J. C. Penney's began in 1902 when James Cash Penney along with two partners founded the Golden Rule Dry Goods store in Kemmerer Wyoming.  Over the next two years, he and his partners opened two more stores in other towns.  By 1905, JC Penney bought out his partners and acquired new investors/partners.  By the time they incorporated in 1913, J.C. Penney's had 34 stores spread across the west.  One year later, the company moved their headquarters to New York City.  In the mid 1920's the company became publicly traded and it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.  Within two years, the company had over 1,300 stores.

J.C. Penney's did their part for the war effort during World War II by setting records selling war bonds.  The other thing is that even with the materials shortage, this company successfully increased their sales to $500 million.  The stored continued growing and maintaining a cash only policy until 1958 when they issued their first store credit card.  In 1962, J.C Penney purchased the General Merchandise Company there by entering the mail-order business for the first time in its history.

Over time, they chose to accept major credit cards but in the 1980's the store quit selling electronics, sporting goods, and photo items only to replace them with women's apparel.  Although they continued to acquire other businesses, they had to move their headquarters to Texas from New York City to save money.  By 1990's they began loosing money due to the economic recession that hit the area hard.  Due to struggling with increased costs of running physical stores, J.C Penney's opened an online division in 1999/2000 which did quite well.

Even with all this, J.C. Penney's struggled with the changes in the way people shop.  Even now, they are having to cut stores to stay afloat and there is a question of how long they can continue.  I don't think they have any stores in Fairbanks anymore and this explains quite a bit.  I suspect both of these chains will disappear completely from the scene.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Dogs, Poodle, White Boxer, Pet, Animal It is said that about 68% of American households have pets.  This comes out to about 85 million families.  I've owned a few pets but I  made a decision when I moved to Alaska, I wouldn't own one.  The extremely cold winters and the cost of transporting them if you live out in the bush.

Pets have sort of been around for a while but its only in the last century or so that its become quite popular.  It appears man began domesticating wolves some 12,000 to 14,000 years ago.  They were not always pets but often work animals.

About 4,000 years later, when people began moving from being nomadic to farmers, the cat began being domesticated.  These farms had buildings with small creatures such as mice and the cats hunted these invaders.  As far as being pets, only the rich could afford these animals because they were for pleasure, not for work.  The records indicate Chinese emperors kept dogs who had their own servants while in Ancient Greece dogs helped out as healers in temples.

In the Medieval times, the aristocracy owned pets.  Women preferred smaller lap dogs while men desired a dog who could hunt so they went after hunting hounds.  This lead to people breeding dogs to hunt specific creatures.  At the same time, the Church suggested it was better not to own pets because the money could be used to help the poor.  This dislike reached a point during the inquisition where owning a pet was used against the charged person.  In addition, if a person was friendly to an animal during the witchcraft trials, it was said the animal was the "witch's familiar" thus the person was a witch.

It took till the and of 17th century for people to begin accepting that one could have a pet and not be evil.  Then in the late 18th century, the middle classes began keeping pets but it wasn't until Victorian times pet ownership was more acceptable but it was still considered acceptable for the lower class to own pets.  Furthermore, the first competative dog show was held in New Castle in 1859 for pointers and and Settlers.  England has been known for dog breeding since Roman times.

Around the same time, Charles Darwin published his book "The Origin of the Species".  This book provided the first detailed information on how characteristics are passed on and this lead to a formalization of dog breeding. Since then, it has become more acceptable for people to own pets ranging from dogs, to cats, to fish, to birds.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Strange Animals

Gharial, Crocodile, Reptile, Ganges

Mexico, Turtle, Swim, Underwater, Nature I adore learning more about nature because many of the creatures are unique.  I remember reading about the naked mole being found.  I had to look it up and realized the adult looked like a new born without its hair and wrinkly, scrunchy skin.

I'd love to share some odd and strange animals with you.  First is the glowing sea turtle found in the Solomon Islands.  Although there are several bioluminescent animals, this is the first bioluminescent reptile found.

This hawksbill sea turtle's shell glows with both green and red bioluminescent.  Scientists think the red glow is caused by biofluorescent algae on the shell.  Scientists are not sure if the glowing is used for communications or for blending in with the reefs.

Animal, Pangolin, Wild, Pangolin
Then there is a Pangolin, a unique mammal found in Africa and Asia.  A pangolin is almost a punch line to the joke "What do you get when you cross an anteater with an armadillo.  A pangolin is covered with a protective keratin shell and has a long tongue designed to pick up ants and termites from the ground.  Unfortunately, it has ended up on the threatened species list because it is caught for its meat and shells.

On the other hand, the tiny emerald glass frog was found in Costa Rica back in 1973.  What makes this frog different than the usual ones is it's underside is clear and you can see the heart and other body parts.  This tiny frog is less than one inch long and quite a jumper.  It also looks a bit like Kermit in shape.

Axolotl, Leucistique, Male, AmbystomaIn Mexico you can see the Axolotal also known as the Mexican Walking Fish.  This actually a type of Salamander found in several different lakes in Mexico.  This creature is black or albino, can regenerate lost limbs, and has lidless eyes.

In Russia, one can find the Saiga Antelope.  This creature has an extremely large nose that is used to filter out dust, and helps regulate it's body temperature.

Then in Thailand, there is a long horned orb weaver spider that has long horn like spines coming out of its abdomen.  It also has eight eyes. Although it is found in fields in Asia since the 1700's, there is not a lot known about it.  Scientists are not sure what the purpose of the spines are but it has been included in an artists book on mythical creatures.

Gharial, Crocodile, Reptile, Ganges Another unique creature is the Gharial crocodile.  It has a much skinnier snout filled with 110 sharp teeth. This animal is only found in waterways in India.  It is estimated there are only 235 Gharials left in the world.

From the Galapagos Islands, one can find the red lipped batfish.  The bat fish has huge red lips, a horn, and kind of a fuzzy skin.  It is quite different in that it walks along the bottom of the ocean rather than swimming.

I love looking and learning more about creatures like this.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Common Substitutions

Spice, Chiles, Paprika, Chili, PowderThere is nothing worse, when cooking, to discover you are out of one of the ingredients you need for the dish.  Yes, you can pop down to the store to pick it up or you could make it another time but if you live in a place with limited grocery stores, you need options.

There is something you can do should this happen.  For many ingredients, there are substitutions available so you don't have to make it another day.

When baking, if you are out of butter or margarine, you can use 1/2 cup oil or 1/2 cup shortening .  If you discover you are out of eggs, you can substitute 1/4 cup applesauce for one large egg, or you could use two egg yolks or two egg whites for the large egg or even 1/4 cup egg substitute.  I usually keep dried eggs around because I use them so seldom.  Other fats used in baking can be replaced with an equal amount of applesauce or fruit puree.

If you are out of baking powder, combine 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter with 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for each teaspoon of baking powder. You can substitute one teaspoon baking powder for 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.   I never have buttermilk in the house so I use 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar with enough milk to make one cup or use one cup of yogurt.

If you need cake flour you can substitute 3/4 cup all purpose flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch for each cup.  Instead of one cup of white sugar you can use one cup of brown sugar or one and a fourth cup of powdered sugar, or three-fourths cup of honey.  If you don't have any semi-sweet chocolate, you can substitute either one ounce of unsweetened chocolate mixed with half a teaspoon of sugar or three tablespoons cocoa powder mixed with three tablespoons of sugar and one tablespoon of oil for every ounce in the recipe.

If you are missing allspice, you can substitute a mix of 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon of cloves for each teaspoon of the spice.  For corn syrup use a mix of 1 1/4 cup of white sugar with 1/3 cup water or 1 cup honey for each cup of corn syrup.  If you need a cup of ketchup for your barbecue sauce you can use 1 cup tomato sauce mixed with 1 teaspoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar.  If you need molasses but don't have any you can replace one cup with 3/4 cup of brown sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cream of tarter.

When I've run out of corn starch for thickening, I've replaced it with an equal amount of flour, or potatoes starch.  If you use flour, it takes a bit longer to thicken.  If you need self-rising flour, you can replace one cup with 1 cup of general purpose flour minus 2 teaspoons of flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  If you need chili sauce you can replace one cup with 1 cup tomato sauce,  1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, a dash of ground cloves and a dash of allspice.

I don't eat fish sauce, so I substitute an equal amount of light soy sauce with a bit of salt but you can also substitute an equal amount of Worcestershire sauce.  For tahini, you can substitute peanut butter or any other nut butter.  Instead of lemon juice you can substitute equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and if you don't have any lemon zest, you can use lemon juice in equal amounts.

These are the more common substitutions for cooking.  I've used many of these when I've run out of things and the local store didn't have any.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Friday, September 13, 2019

Bridal Showers - Why?

Gifts, Presents, Bridal ShowerI've managed to avoid going to bridal showers for many years.  I hated the "games" because I am not the most out going person and I can only tolerate people for so long before I like heading out for silence.   I wondered about when and where bridal showers came from.

The idea behind a bridal shower is to shower her with small luxuries in preparation for the big day.

There are several stories of where it oriented.  The first says it's roots can be found in 16th century Holland as an alternative to the dowry system.   The story behind this is that one high society girl fell in love with a miller and refused to marry the rich farmer her father had chosen. Her father objected, telling her if she married him, she would not receive her dowry.  She still insisted on marrying him so her family and friends threw a small party to give her provide her with gifts instead of a dowry.  The father was so impressed, he gave the couple the dowry after all.  The bridal shower allowed family and friends to bestow gifts on the bride so she'd start her new life for brides who lacked a dowry or whose father objected to the match.  This gave couples a new start with a few things.

A second story is that in the United States during Victorian times,  Women would get together to gossip, eat, party, and exchange gifts for a bride.  They would place small gifts inside a parasol before opening it so the gifts literally showered the bride.  It is said this established some of the traditions associated with the modern bridal shower.

The third story that the bridal shower originated when a woman could not afford a gift for her friend so she threw a party for the bride-to-be and invited friends to bring a present for the bride.  Hosting the bridal shower was her gift to the bride.  Of course there is also the thought that the bridal shower began as a way to sell more merchandise but I suspect that is not true.

At one point, it was traditional for the maid of honor to organize and throw the party but over time, things have changed.  Now it might be the parents or even the couple themselves who throw the party.  Since many women are working and have lived on their own for a long time, they don't always need much for the marriage.  Another change is instead of only females, it is now acceptable for bridal showers to be coed. Furthermore, the new parties don't always follow traditional bridal party etiquette.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.