Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Types of Chocolate and Cacao Beans.

Heart, Chocolates, Gift, Packaging

I love chocolate.  I find certain types of chocolate to be addictive while others I can eat a single square without feeling as if I must have that next piece and next piece and next piece.  My downfall is milk chocolate of any sort but especially the version I got in Iceland.  The chocolate melted so smoothly in my mouth that I couldn't help but have another piece. I think I ate half the bar before I gathered my resolve to put it away.

There are many types of chocolate depending on if you are cooking with it or eating it.  The first type is unsweetened chocolate also known as bitter chocolate, baking chocolate, chocolate liquor, or pure chocolate because it is 100 percent chocolate with no added sugar.  This type of chocolate is used primarily for baking, not eating.

Next is bittersweet chocolate also known as dark chocolate in Europe must have at least 35 percent pure chocolate with some added sugar.  It is often used in baking and eating.  There is semisweet chocolate must also be 35 percent pure chocolate and a bit of sugar but it has cocoa butter where bittersweet does not.  Then there is the all time favorite of Milk chocolate which must have at least 10 percent pure chocolate, sugar, and added cocoa butter.

Although there is white chocolate it is not legally a chocolate because it contains no pure chocolate, only cocoa butter, sugar, milk solids, and a flavoring such as vanilla.  If you are like my parents, they always kept cocoa powder in the house. Cocoa powder is pure chocolate with the cocoa butter removed. 

Much of the flavor of any chocolate is based on the type of cocoa bean used.  Cocoa beans also known as Theobroma Cacao originated in South America.  The first variety, Criollo which means "Native Birth" was discovered by the Europeans because when properly processed it produces a low acid chocolate with a complex flavor.  Unfortunately, it is the hardest type of cacao to grow so it only provides one percent of the worlds cocoa production.

The second type, Forestero, was found in the Amazonian basin.  Although its bean is much more bitter, it produces more fruit and is much hardier than the Criollo.  Consequently, it accounts for 92 percent of the worlds production. 

The third type, Alemalando , also found in the Amazonian basin soon traveled to West Africa because of its hardiness.  Its flavor is best for use in milk chocolates.  Another type, the Trinitario from Trinidad, gained prominence when the  Criollo plantations were devastated in the 1700's.  New trees (Forestero) were brought in from Venizuela and planted.  The two types of trees bred to produce the Trinitario and now accounts for 5 percent of the worlds cocoa production. 

The final variety is the Nacional is another Forestero hybrid found in Ecuador but whose origins maybe unknown but whose beans make up 2 percent of the worlds cocoa production due to its sweet and fruity. 

I remember the chocolate whisperer episode on Leverage in which the con woman tasted a piece of chocolate, thought about it and then named the bean. Honestly, I'm not that good at all.  I can tell you if I like the chocolate but that is all I'm capable of.

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

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Book Thief, The Movie.

Bear, Teddybear, Toy, Cuddly Toy, Teddy  During my trip back up from Washington state, I got a chance to see a nice little movie titled "The Book Thief." I suspect its already on DVD but I watched it on the plane. 

It was a quiet movie filled with plot and you came to care for the characters rather than the action.  The book begins with Death talking about occasionally taking an interest in the living.  In this case, we follow Liesel who we first meet on the train with her mother and brother but her brother is too sickly and passes on.  he is buried in a grave near the tracks. 

Liesel notices a book on the ground that fell out of one of the grave digger's pocket, so she quickly swoops in and pockets it.  Soon after, her mother gives her up and she is adopted by a couple who are a bit older.  The man discovers she cannot read so he sets about teaching her using the grave diggers handbook that she "borrowed". 

We follow her life through the years from just before World War II to the end.  We see Hitler's influence on the young and we see how she finds it difficult to do everything the Reich demands of her.   The title comes from the fact that she steals books. She stole the grave digger's manual.  She broke into the Bergermeister's house to steal a variety of books to read to the man hidden in their basement.

Through this all, she has one true friend who guesses her family is hiding a man yet refuses to turn them in.  At one point he helps her protect her diary from a young man who has totally embraced Hitler's ideology and threatens them.

The movie focuses on normal German families whose men have been conscripted to serve at the front lines.  We see her father go off and returns after suffering a hearing loss.  We see her and her neighbors cram themselves into a basement designated as a shelter.  It is in these same shelters, she shares stories with everyone to take their minds off of the bombing.

Toward the end of the film, we meet Death when he comes to claim Liesel's family, and neighbors due to a bomb landing on their houses.  She survives because she is writing in the basement.  The time jumps to the end of the war, then to the future when Liesel is finally claimed by Death after a long, productive life.

I enjoyed the film due to the characters being regular ordinary people who might live next door to anyone of us and their struggles in a world lead by someone who is convinced his people will reign supreme.  The movie is based on a book by Australian Markus Zusak originally published in 2005  but the movie was released in 2013.

If you haven't seen it, give it a chance.  

Monday, January 29, 2018

Pamela Ann

My sister has been fighting cancer for the past 6 years. She first was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the moment of that diagnosis, she started treatment. The guys in the family shaved their hair the day she had to shave hers. They sent the photo of unity out to everyone.  Through this whole ordeal she continued to work. Then one day, we received a note that she was in remission.

Over the next couple years, as nothing happened, we started to breath easier until one day she went into the doctor for her back. The cancer had been working quietly behind the scene. The cancer was in her spine. From that point onwards, she was getting regular treatment.

She would tell us about all the different treatments were available and how hers was doing but one new medicine they tried put her in ICU because she was one of those one percent who could not tolerate it. Over the months we’d get reports of how her markers were dropping and everyone held hope she would win the battle.

Unfortunately, she caught a bug just before she died that ravaged her compromised immune system. I got a call on Saturday, January, 20th to fly down immediately to say good bye. I understand when the doctor told her this was it, she told the doctor “No, I have 10 or 15 more treatments I can try”

By the time I got there, she was just hanging on and I had the chance to say goodbye. She would not go until everyone but her husband and kids had left for the night.  Pam was always the hostess who made sure she didn't relax until all her guests had left for the evening.  I think it was the same for her at the end.  She had to wait till everyone left for the night before she moved on.

When we grew up, we shared a room for most of our childhood.  She was extremely neat and I, well I was not noted for my neatness.  I drove her crazy and I knew it drove her crazy so I never wanted to clean up.  There was another time, she decided to mimic a shampoo commercial using a bottle of ketchup but she forgot to check the lid so when she lifted it up and turned it over her head, the ketchup poured out all over her hair.

It will be a while before I work through my grief because this wonderful talented lady has move on, leaving a hole in me.  Thank you for allowing me to share this.  I know I feel better writing about her.

Monday, January 22, 2018

My Sister

I received a call Saturday afternoon letting me know my sister was in the hospital on her deathbed. I managed to fly down in time to spend time with her before she passed on. I will be back on Monday after the funeral and everything else

Friday, January 19, 2018

The History of Movies

Film, Film Roll, Filmstrip, Analog  If you read my short history of Hollywood, you know the movie industry began on the east coast but what about movie making itself?  When did that happen?

The predecessor to actual films originated in the late 1800's when someone invented motion picture toys which were designed to trick the eyes and brain into seeing these toys move.  They did this by showing a series of still one right after another so you "saw" movement.

In 1872, Edward Muybridge set up 12 cameras at a racetrack, so as the horses ran in front of them, each camera captured a photo.  The sequence of photos showed the horse running and at one point all four legs were off the ground. He wasn't thinking of film, he was trying to answer the question "Does a horse become fully airborne while running."  The answer of course is yes.

In 1885, the first film for motion pictures appeared after being made by George Eastman and William Walker.  Shortly afterwards the Lumiere brothers invented a hand cranked machine which captured and project stills in rapid succession. By 1890, a motor powered camera which could pictures came out of Edison's lab.  Although Dickson, his employee, developed it, Edison changed his business to Edison studios but the camera itself used film 35mm wide and used sprockets and holes in the film to move it thus creating moving pictures.

During this time, Edison and his employees created films, small viewing boxes, and obtained patents for all the equipment.  He also built the first film studio to record films.  His company filmed a man sneezing and then obtained the first copyright ever granted on a film.   About this same time, theaters opened filled with viewing boxes each individual used to watch these shorts but in 1894 the first film was projected on a screen in Indiana.  In addition, the first color film made its appearance of a vaudeville dancer.  Color films at this time were hand tinted rather than using a true color film.

Throughout this decade, improvements and changes occurred in rapid fire including former employees of Edison.  It wasn't long afterwards that people began exploring backdrops, editing, even the flow of a story by creating films but most films were silent with pianists who provided music and the dialog was printed on a still.  

One of the earliest and most well known film "The Great Train Robbery" appeared in 1903, created by Edward S. Porter. Although many theaters had already opened, more popped up.  These theaters build a market and provided funding for films and provided a place to show World War I propaganda films.

By the mid teens, film makers moved out to Los Angeles to film their movies due eternal sunshine which was needed since this was a time before lighting and possible tax breaks along with the distance from the east coast and Edison.  But it was the 1920's when film making exploded and the first "movie stars" emerged along with the first recognized directors.

The 1930's were known as the  Golden Age of Hollywood with major film studios, film stars, the introduction of sound and the creation of different genres such as action, mystery, etc. In addition, audio sound tracks were used regularly.  Although the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 caused the movie industry to slow down, they recovered strongly with new technological advances such as special effects and better sound recording.

Over the next few decades, television entered homes, and Hollywood changed its focus to attract the younger generations so they could stay in business.  In addition, independents sprung up, producing movies. Unfortunately, the increased use of special effects has increased the cost of making films making the cost of attending films more expensive and certain stars are able to command multimillion dollar fees which also drives the cost up.

The film industry is still there, producing films for theaters before going to DVD or direct to DVD which are rented either from a store or more likely being streamed direct to the consumer.  The industry is still changing as technology changes.

I hope you like the brief history of the movies.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Quackery Cures from History

Pill, Gel Capsule, Medicine, Health  The other day, I wrote about a book I was reading devoted to discussing cures which were more likely to kill a person than cure them.  As mentioned earlier, when radium was discovered people jumped on the wagon to market it in everything from water to toothpaste.

It didn't matter what substance we are talking about, as soon as it was discovered, people jumped on the band wagon, adding it to their latest "medicine" to cure anything and everything.

By 1905, there were over 28,000 different medications on the market. These were often referred to as patent medicines made or marketed in the United States.  Most of these were totally worthless but their advertisements  convinced people they offered cures.  Time to look at some of the most famous medicines sold by various perveyors throughout history.

Lets start by looking at the famous "Snake Oil Salesmen".  The most famous was Charles Stanley who marketed himself as the Rattlesnake King.  He killed a rattlesnake every time he made his pitch. He stated it would cure every thing from toothaches to sprained ankles.  He maintained he'd gotten the recipe from an Indian medicine man who taught him how to mix snake oils.  When the government checked his cure in 1917, they discovered it was made of mineral oil with a bit of beef fat and flavored with red pepper, and turpentine.  He was driven out of business by the government but the term Snake Oil salesman continued.

Through history, there were all sorts of child calming medications that proved to be filled with some very unhealthy ingredients such as opium and alcohol which made children sleep and calmed them down when fussy.  The folks who manufactured these syrups made a lot of money because they allowed parents to sleep through the night but the unfortunate side effect was that many children died or became addicted.  By the 1900's the AMA began publishing warnings against the medicine and its use decreased.

In the early 1900's it was discovered that many hot springs had a certain level of radioactivity in the water so it was assumed that radioactive water was good for people.  Even the U.S Surgeon General and reputable medical magazines all supported the use of radium to cure everything from diarrhea to malaria so it opened the door for anyone to add radium to their product.

Someone even came up with a machine that allowed people to create their radioactive water for drinking purposes.  The use of this declined when a famous person of the time ended up dying of radium poisoning from drinking lots of radioactivity water every day.

Then there were various cures for baldness guaranteed to feed the starved roots of the hair and killed the bacterial which caused hair loss.  When people began to check out the ingredients, it was discovered many mixtures contained lead which darkened the hair and poisoned the consumer.  Other cures were quite safe but ineffective because they were filled with coconut oil.

If you look at other medications you'll find they might contain cocaine, silver nitrate, heroine, mercury, lead, arsenic,  even blood mixed with alcohol.  Even Coco-cola and Dr Pepper began as patent medicines which later made their mark as sodas.  The thing all these medicines had in common was they were marketed to cure anything from colds to cancer.

Fortunately, the Food and Drug Administration made an appearance in the early 1900's when it began to regulate patent medicines making it safer for consumers.

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Soft Pretzel Sandwiches.

Pretzel, Bread, Market, Stall, FoodHard pretzels are something you eat with your beer or snack up if you need a quick snack.  Soft pretzels on the other hand you drown in cheese or mustard and enjoy.  I remember the pretzel place I always passed between flights where you could get the highly salted creation in any of several ways.

 A friend who recently visited Germany told me all about soft pretzel sandwiches he ate there.  Apparently, its one of those things you can get anywhere and is eaten by everyone. 

It turns out that in German, the type of dough used in pretzels is referred to as Laugen.  The bread is dunked in a lye or baking soda solution before being baked to create the harder crust and the soft inside.  The term bretzel or pretzel as we call it refers to the shape the laugen is made into.

So bakeries make the Laugen, shape it into the familiar pretzel or in rolls, or knots, or any other shape.  The bread is often finished off with a sprinkle of large grains of salt, seasme seeds, poppy seeds, and sometimes even pumpkin seeds.  No matter the shape, the outer crust has the traditional dark hard appearance.  When they talk about soft pretzel sandwiches, they often refer to the type of bread rather than the shape.

The Laugen, sometimes in the pretzel shape is cut in half, then smeared with butter or creme cheese to protect the softness of the bread from the filling of salami, or cheese and finished with lettuce.  These sandwiches can be purchased at any bakery in Germany. They make a nice quick lunch and are as popular as the Plowman's lunch in the UK.
Bakery filled with soft pretzel sandwiches in Germany

They do not use mustard on pretzels because mustard is reserved for sausage.  The Germans firmly believe mustard is to be eaten with meat, not bread but a sandwich can be eaten with mustard covered meat.  The cost of a soft pretzel sandwich is cheap and easy on the budget.

The pretzel itself has been around since 600 AD when Italian monks presented students with pieces of bread dough twisted into the shape of crossed arms because  the standard way to pray was with crossed arms.  As the shape spread through Europe, the three holes came to represent the father, son, and holy ghost.

These beauties met the Catholic Church's rules on fasting and avoiding certain foods because they were made of flour, water, and salt. The dough was turned into soft squishy balls much like today's German bread.  By the Middle Ages, the pretzel had become the symbol of good luck, prosperity, and spiritual fulfillment. In 1510, the pretzel made great strides when the Turks tried to invade Vienna by digging tunnels under the walls.  The monks were making pretzels in a basement and heard the digging so they alerted the authorities who drove off the Turks.  As a reward, the emperor granted the pretzel makers their own coat of arms.

One legend says in 1614, royal couples incorporated the pretzel into the wedding ceremony.  It is thought this is where the phrase tying the knot came from.  While in Germany, children in the 17th century wore necklaces made out of pretzels around their necks in the hopes of having good luck and prosperity in the coming year.  No one is sure when the pretzel arrived in America but the first commercial pretzel factory opened up in 1861 in Lititz Pennsylvania. 

It wasn't until 1935 that someone created a machine to automatically make pretzels.  Up till then, they were manufactured by hand.  Even now, Pennsylvania makes 80 percent of the pretzels produced in the country.

I've never seen a pretzel sandwich served in the United States, but I can't wait to try one when I go to Germany next summer.  I'm heading over for a wedding and debating whether I should stay for two weeks just to wander around and check out the country.

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Blowing Smoke up Your Rear and Other Sayings.

Fire, Smoke, Smoke Fire, Match, Burn  I started reading a book called "Quakery: The History of the worst ways to cure anything.", a fascinating book which I'll review another day.  It talked about "blowing smoke up your ass".  I think everyone has heard it but never knew how it originated. 

Now a days it means someone is saying nice things to you but insincere when doing it.  That is not what it originally meant.  It originated back in the 1700's as a method of resuscitation.

You read that correctly.  At the time, the medical establishment believed one should blow smoke up a person's rear, it could help resuscitated them after being drowned. it was such a common procedure the city placed kits along major waterways such as the Thames for use by the resuscitation crews who regularly patrolled rivers etc.

They used tobacco to provide the smoke because they felt the nicotine would stimulate the heart to beat better causing the lungs to work.  Although they sometimes caused it to go into the body via the nose and mouth, doctors felt it was more effective to force it up the rear using tubing.

Another saying "Turning a blind eye" which currently means to ignore a particular reality.  This came from the British Navel officer Horatio Nelson who when told they should surrender during an the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, put the telescope to his blind eye, stating he saw nothing.  The British went on to win the battle.  Historians believe this is a historical myth but it has stood the test of time.

What about "Shedding crocodile tears" meaning a person cries but is not sincere in their sorrow.  This saying comes from the belief that crocodiles cried tears when they killed and ate their food. This thought comes from a book published in the 14th century which tells of a knight's adventures through Asia.  This book was extremely popular with the myth of crocodile tears making it into one of Shakespeare plays when it became a widely used idiom.

The term "Diehard" actually came from the 1700's to describe those who took longer time to die when hung by the neck to die.  Later in the 1800's it took on new meaning during the Battle of Albuera in 1811when the commanding officer told his soldiers to go forth and die hard.  They earned the title of the "Die Hards."

Have you ever read the "Riot Act" to your kids or your parents did it to you?  This is based on a real document passed by the British back in 1715.  The Riot Act gave the British the ability to label any group of 12 or more people as a threat to the peace. The official would read the riot act to the gathering of people and anyone who had not dispersed within the hour could be arrested and subject to charges.

"Painting the town red" originated from a drunken endeavor by the Marquis of Waterford who lead a group of drunk people through town.  During the trip, they damaged flower pots, doors, windows and to top it all off, they painted several doors and a statue red.  Although the Marquis and his friends paid the city for the damage done, the term remained to mean a wild night out.

Did you ever wonder about the phrase "Running Amok"?  It originated in the 18th and 19th centuries based on The English observing certain Malaysians who would suddenly went crazy and brutally killed people as they went on killing sprees.  Amok describes the Malay and Javanese warriors who carried out indiscriminate violence.  These warriors fascinated the English, even Captain Cook, because it was thought these people were possessed by evil spirits but has since become a diagnoseble  mental condition.

I hope you enjoyed reading about these.  More another time.  Have a great day.  Let me know if you enjoyed it.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Hooray For Hollywood.

Usa, Los Angeles, Hollywood Sign  Growing up, I remember my parents talking to me about the stars who had been discovered when they got to Hollywood.  One of my relatives tells me, she went to the same junior college in California was the lady who portrayed Miss Kitty on the old Gunsmoke series. 

Another relative talks about a classmate who went off to Hollywood for a career in movies and guest shots but never made it too big.  He'd seen a movie and recognized her on the screen.

Even today, it has an allure all its own.  It calls people to rush out to try for fame there even though few make it as stars, only about 1percent make a living acting but what do you know about the town itself.

The town began with one adobe house in 1853.  It was located a short distance from Los Angeles but over the years the area became known as a great agricultural area.  Up until the 1880's it remained an outpost.  A land speculator purchased 160 acres after moving from Kansas. Since it was basically unnamed, he allowed his wife to select a name.  She chose Hollywood after hearing about another person's home town of the same name.  So on February 1, 1887, he submitted a grid of his new land to the Los Angeles County Recorder's office with the town labeled Hollywood.

The first street was named Prospect Avenue but was later changed to Hollywood Blvd.  The place continued to grow.  By 1900, the town had a population of 500 people with a post office, hotel, newspaper, and two marketplaces.  In addition, there was a single street car that traveled through seven miles of orange groves to Los Angeles but the two hour trip was made on an irregular schedule.

A couple years later, the first part of the famous Hollywood Hotel was built and two years after that, the city installed a new trolley system which cut travel time.  About the same time, city voted to allow itself to be annexed by Los Angeles due to needing access to a new aqueduct. 

Around 1900, movie makers moved to the Los Angeles from the east coast because of the strict rules set by Thomas Edison's Motion Picture Company in New Jersey.  Since he owned most movie making patents, he sued most movie companies to stop production.  In addition, the area offered great weather conditions, a wide range of terrains, and most important, the location was close to Mexico because they could escape there when Edison's agents came out looking for productions.

Within the next 20 years, there was an explosion of studios appeared in Hollywood but the first moving picture studio appeared in 1919 in Edendale the next town over.  Over the next few years, the movie industry continued to grow until it was decided to hold the first ever Academy Awards in 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.  Between 1927 and 1948, movie studios had so much power, they controlled what films were made or shown across the country.  If you wanted to be a star, you had to become part of the system. 

Studios owned movie theaters nation wide but in 1948, the supreme court ruled that studios could no longer own theaters where they showed only the films made by the with actors employed only by them.  This opened the door for the independent movies.  In addition, television made an appearance which caused changes to Hollywood.  In addition to movie studios, television and music studios sprung up and the KTLA, the first commercial television station began broadcasting in 1947.

Hollywood weathered the communist scare in the early 50's, the changing face of the 60's and the rise of cable.  Hollywood is 3.51 square miles with about 90,000 people living there.

Let me know what you think.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Have a great day.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Goober Peas and Ground Nuts

Nuts, Peanut, Roasted, Cores, Snack  There was a song my grandfather used to sing.  I only remember a few words but one line was something like "Peas, peas, peas, peas, eating goober peas."  I had no idea at the time the song referred to peanuts.  Nor did I know that song has been around since the Civil War.

Before I get into goober peas, ground nuts and other names, peanuts are not nuts, they actually belong to the same family as peas and beans.  They are legumes. and the nuts form when tendrils reach down from the plant, dig in the ground, and produce the nuts. 

Peanuts were brought to America by the African slave trade but it didn't originate in Africa.  It came from South America,  where it spread to Europe, Africa, and Asia due to the Portuguese and the Spanish.  It took off in Africa and Asian because it was easy to grow and people found uses for it. When the African were captured and brought to American, they brought peanuts with them.

At first, peanuts were grown by slaves as food or fed to the hogs because their owners because them to be below them. In fact, peanuts were not grown extensively as a commercial in the United States early on because they were difficult to harvest so their growth remained in the south.  Furthermore, when the Civil War began, the south was not in a good position because they'd been importing most manufactured products and they had a poor railroad system.  

By the turn of the century, George Washington Carver published his work on peanuts and the name peanut has won out but if you read agricultural publications or literature from the mid to late 1800's you'll find the peanut referred to as ground nuts, goubers, goober peas, pindar pea, earth nut, ground pea, mandubi, and monkey nut. 

Although peanut won out in official usage, you'll find older names are still used in certain areas in the south.  Many times you'll find goober is still in use when you have a slice of goober pie, goober cake, or boiled goobers.  In fact, there is one town in New Mexico where they refer to a town as "Goober Gulch" since its where peanuts are regularly gown.

Interesting facts about peanuts
1.  India and China are the world's largest producers of peanuts with the United States placing 3rd on the list.

2. It was just after the turn of the 20th century that peanuts replaced cotton as the leading cash crop in the south.

3. In the United States, peanuts are primarily used in peanut butter and according to regulations, peanut butter must be at least 90 percent peanuts. 

4.  Both Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter were both peanut farmers.

5. George Washington Carver the father of the modern peanut industry developed over 300 uses for the peanut.  He could make a complete meal from soup to dessert out of peanuts.

6. The term peanut gallery originated in the late 1800's to refer to the cheap seats in the balcony.  If they did not like a performance, the audience was known to throw peanuts at the performer.  Peanuts were the cheapest snack available at a theater.

7. Race car drivers often ban peanuts from their cockpits because of superstition dating from 1937 when it was rumored they found shells at the site of two different crashes.

8.  The "Peanuts" cartoon was named after Howdy Doody's peanut gallery which as an onstage audience of about 40 kids.

I hope you enjoyed the history and facts on peanuts.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

14 Obscure Sports

Ironing, Iron, Press, Clothing, Clothes  The other night while watching Rizzoli and Isles, there was a comment about Rizzoli being an attacker in field hockey.  This got me to wondering about other weirdly named positions in various sports but before I could find anything like that I stumbled across a list of obscure sports.

Sports, I never thought existed but they do.  Are you ready for them?  Here goes!

1.  Extreme ironing where the inventors have combined extreme sports with ironing shirts.  Imagine someone on water skis while attempting to iron a shirt on the ironing board set on another ski.  The sport began in England and has spread world wide.  It has been done underwater, in the mountains, and while parachuting. 

2. Gaga ball, no its not related to Lady Gaga.  Its a sport that is similar to dodge ball but its played inside a wooden octagon and players must be hit below the knee in order to be considered out.  The sport is said to have originated at summer camps in Israel.

3. Cheese rolling is a localized sport in England where a round of cheese is rolled down a hill with competitors rolling down the hill after it.  The object is to catch it but the cheese can get to speeds of 70 mph so the person who crosses the finish line, usually wins the cheese.

4. Snow Polo, yes polo that is played on the snow complete with horses and mallets.  It began in Switzerland in 1985 but has spread around the world including Aspen Colorado.  It is still a rich man's sport.

5. Kanin hop or bunny jumping where rabbits are trained to jump over obstacles.  This sport originated in Sweden.  It resembles equestrian show jumping.

6. Underwater hockey where the puck is at the bottom of the pool.  Players use a blade like implement to push it around. They do not use tanks so players have to head up to the surface to grab another breath before diving to do play more. 

7. Bog snorkeling where people use fins to "swim" 120 meters through a bog. They are not allowed to use any normal swimming strokes.  The sport originated in the United Kingdom as the result of a bet.

8. Chess Boxing which combines the two sports.  There are eleven alternating rounds of boxing and chess.  At the end, the winner can win by knockout, checkmate, or judges decision.  Apparently, the sport was created by a cartoonist.

9. Buzkashi, the national sport of Afghanistan, where riders on horseback compete in teams.  The idea is to steal the carcass of a headless goat, run with it and toss it across the goal line. It is played across southeastern Asia,

10. Ferret legging, a sport designed to have people hold ferrets in their pants for as long as possible. The record stands at over five hours.

11. Toe wrestling, much like thumb wresting, originated in the United Kingdom.  It is considered good manners for competitors to remove each others socks and shoes prior to the match.

12. Mountain unicycling.  People ride unicycles up mountains which is much harder than using a bicycle because unicycles do not have gears. This sport is growing in the midwest.

13. Bossa ball from Spain which combines volleyball, soccer, and gymnastics played on an inflatable trampoline.  You can hit the ball with any part of your body but it has to go over the next by the 6th hit.

14.  Wife carrying in which a man carries a "wife" over his shoulder through an obstacle course. The wife need not be his own and she must be over 17 years of age.  They are carried over the shoulders.

There are more odd sports around but these peaked my interest.  I hope you got a nice laugh out of them.  Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Best Items to Put in Your Carry On For Travel.

Waiting Area, Luggage, Bag, Travel  It is much harder to travel in the winter.  Flights are cancelled due to major storms blanketing multiple states at once.  In Alaska, weather can change in a moment and you end up grounded for anywhere from one to several days.  The longest, I've been stuck is 5 days.

Over the years, I've started carrying certain things in my carry-on so if I get stuck, I am prepared. It is a good thing to carry things with you just in case. When you are headed out to the bush, you leave your luggage at the airlines overnight, grab your carry-on and head out.

I do not worry about shampoo or conditioner because hotels generally supply enough to use if needed. 

I usually carry a toothbrush, travel size toothpaste, travel size face cleaner, travel sized sunscreen number 50 for my personal items. In addition, I throw in two pair of underwear, two bras, two pair of socks, and a clean shirt.  I don't worry about a second shirt because I can wash the first one in the sink and hang it up to dry.  I can help the drying process by using the blow dryer or iron.

The rest of my carry on has a few tea bags because I am a tea drinker and no all hotel rooms provide tea.  They usually provide coffee but not tea.  Furthermore, the coffee maker has coffee oils all over it and you cannot make tea with that water but places sometimes have hot water in the lobby.  I hate Lipton so that's another reason for bringing my own tea.

The last few items I toss in my carry-on include a couple of tablets, cords, power strip with both plugs and USB ports because most rooms do not have enough plugs for my mobile devices.  I find its easier to bring my own.  In addition, a friend gave me a USB plug with three cords on it that fit my phone, a couple of tablets and my iPod.  You will find a couple of pens, my identification, money, and something to write in.

It is recommended you do not pack your coat, sweatshirt, or sweater in your carry-on.  Just carry them with you when you board and shove them under the seat in front of you because most airlines do not count these as luggage.  I've carried a huge winter coat on with my carry-ons.  Made it easier.

According to most articles I've read on the subject, I'm packing exactly what I should except the articles recommend you throw in your medicine.  I don't take any, so I do not bother with it but I have a friend who has to take medications and he keeps them in one of those 7 day containers with both an AM and PM section.  He says this way, he can take enough medication for 14 days.

Occasionally, I throw in sandals if I am flying from Alaska to a much warmer climate in the middle of winter.  My carry-on has a nice pocket they fit in, otherwise I throw in tennis shoes to wear rather than my winter boots.

I can actually take everything I need for two weeks in my carry-on but I don't always because I plan to stop in Anchorage on my way home to pick up some great fruits and vegetables so I have a suitcase to haul them in.  You never go into town without bringing fresh stuff back.

I hope this helps you when you think about traveling.  I'd love to hear what you think.  Let me know.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Dreaming of The Future.

Quote, Wall Art, Message, Dream, Achieve  This is a very important phrase because when we have dreams for the future, it gives us a path we can follow in life.

Dreams help us set goals.  Dreams help us figure out how to accomplish those goals.  This blog is one of the ways I have to accomplish my goal of becoming a writer.

Yes I have several ideas I want to turn into books but I don't always have the time right now to do it.  Instead, I keep a diary with the story ideas for when I make the time.

I also have several nonfiction books I want to write.  I have started those but I keep getting distracted by my day job. Yes, I allow myself to get distracted.

I still want to get a job as a stewardess for one of the local airlines.  I've discovered that I can get hired once I retire from my current job. I wanted to be a stewardess beginning in seventh grade but life interrupted and that had to be put on the back burner.  Imagine how excited I got when I discovered that age is no longer as much a factor as it was when I was young.

In addition, I want to start two different businesses. One is to design and make hats while the other is to create unique jewelry that people will demand.  I've got the patterns already for the hats with much of the business plans figured out.  As for the jewelry?  Well, I've got some ideas, I just have to figure out the mechanics to see if I can do it.

I plan to open a youtube channel for some of my educational ideas.  I am aware, I will have to create a following an provide something a bit different so I stand out.  I love creating greenscreen videos for use in my classroom.

I think dreams give us hope when life gets too real.  Dreams give us that push we need to keep going because dreams are the what if for a time that has not yet arrived.  The future is filled with so many possibilities.  Sometimes too many possibilities.

I often feel like a puppy as I bounce back and forth between the things I want to do.  I am not going to quit my job to pursue these possibilities because I need the security of having enough savings to survive pursuing my dreams.

I know people quit and head off around the world but I've had too many experiences where I was working multiple jobs to survive and at that point I had no insurance.  I was happy, I never got sick or I would have been in severe trouble.

Will I make it in the future as a writer, hat designer, or jewelry artist?  Who knows but it is great that I have these possibilities to pursue.  I love having dreams and I'll have them until I die.

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

Monday, January 8, 2018

I'm Home But Not Everyone Made It.

Wreath, Home, Interior, Decoration  Weather has been unusual for almost a year.  We've had more fog, higher temperatures, and more cancelled flights than usual.  I returned on January 4th and I was extremely lucky in that flights made it out all day long.

The days prior and after had a weather issue in that the morning flight made it out and weather went down for the rest of the day.  Yesterday, a plane load flew out and in the hour it took to get out here, a ground fog arose and visibility dropped to near zero. 

The plane circled a couple of times before heading back to Bethel but once they got there, they couldn't land due to either fog or wind. I'm inclined to think it was wind because someone else who waited in Anchorage said all flights out had been cancelled.

Out here, people do a lot of texting to get updates on weather, finding out phone numbers to find someone to pick them up at the airport, or notify the school of an absence.  When the person boarded the plane on Sunday, they texted me for an updated weather report.  At that point, it was clear and beautiful.  Perfect weather for landing.  By the time they made it out, fog covered the village.  Unfortunately, the fog did not dissipate quickly so nothing would be flying.

The local airlines use small Navajo Caravans which take 6 to 9 people plus their luggage.  Sometimes, they schedule fewer people on the flight so they can bring out mail and cargo but if flights have been cancelled, so there is a backlog of passengers, they schedule as many full flights as they can.

In fact, the airlines have not been able to fly to at least one village about 25 miles away for a full week.  They hopped a flight to my village because they could have family members drive over and take them back.  Driving over means they pulled out a snow machine, gassed it up, perhaps threw a sled on the back for luggage. 

They meet the flight, grab the person and their stuff before heading off.  As mentioned earlier, weather can change within an hour so they want to get home before that happens.  Its important not to get stuck on the trails or lost in a dense fog.  Fortunately, most trails are well marked for easy use but you have to know the way to know what to look for.

I've never actually been on the trails but everyone here knows them well.  In fact, if people cannot land here, they often try to get to one of the two nearby villages so they can have family members pop over to pick them up.  20 to 25 miles may not sound like much but it can take an hour to cover the ground depending on conditions.

I am thrilled I made it home when I did because if I had not, I would have been stuck in a place where hotel prices rival the better hotels in the city.  You end up paying between $150 and $250 per night for a room no better than a motel 6.  Of course, Bethel has a place you do not want to stay unless you are absolutely desperate or totally drunk. 

I will post an update if people made it in later on Sunday.  Let me know what you think.  I'd love to hear.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Pikes Place Market

 The other day, I drove down to Seattle to visit relatives and to check out a large Korean market in Linwood.  While visiting relatives, we popped down to Pikes Place Market a place with multiple levels and small shops crammed in here and there.  Just off from the market is a huge Ferris wheel with LED lights attached to it, so even on a overcast rainy day, it was easy to see the ride.  It wasn't open yet when I was there but even if it had been, I would not have ridden it due to a fear of heights.

Pikes Place market is near the water.  You can see it but its a bit of a walk.  The market itself reminds me of those Souks described in books.  The market places filled with little shops.  I found used bookstores, record shops, shops with jade, candy, hand made items and a magic shop. 

The magic shop had some great posters outside of it.  Posters that looked as if they came from another time when they traveled with carnivals.

On the bottom level, I stumbled across the Japanese Commissary  with some foods but they had Japanese Kimonos that had been repaired so you could buy one and own it.  They also had hot pots, etc.

On the floor above the Japanese Commissary I found the Our Fabric Stash, a consignment shop for fabrics etc.  I managed to get out without buying anything but it was close.
This wonderful stained glass type sign hung over the walkway, near a shop with great t-shirts.  I loved them but I don't need any more to add to my already extensive collection.

Over near the magic shop, I found a shop with information on the tallest man in the world who has since passed on.  Into the wall, the shop had incorporated several viewing windows filled with giant shoes. 

You know the ones you put a quarter in and the lights come on so you can see the items.  It had a feel of something you'd see in the past when people's curiosity made them pay the money.
Final picture is of a sign propped in the window of a barbershop.  If you can't quite read it, it says "Customers wanted, no experience necessary, apply within."

I read it and broke out in laughter because I've never seen anything like this before.  It wasn't busy at that moment but I'm sure it does brisk business.

In  case you are wondering, I did buy one thing while at the market.  I purchased a bottle of Pomegranate Molasses, something I find it hard to find where I live.

I didn't get to see the whole market place.  That will require a couple of days because its more of an area than a simple building.  It is a huge tourist place down near the waterfront.  I will be going back.  Let me know what you think.  I'd love to hear.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Waterfalls, Lakes, and Beauty.

I've been spending the holidays in Bellingham, Washington visiting relatives who I only see once or twice a year.  While visiting, I sometimes take time to explore the area to check out places that are quiet away from the beaten path.  Honestly I prefer being out in nature than in the middle of a ton of people so I like to know where I can go to get away.  So off I went to enjoy a couple of places out and around.  The first place I explored was the fish hatchery just outside of town on the road to Mount Baker.  If you weren't watching, you'd miss it. 
 In fact, I missed the turn when taking my parents back to show it to them.  The fish tanks are there but the better place were the falls next to it.  I took a shot of the falls from a bridge built by in 1939/1940 by the WPA.  The stone bride has moss growing on it but the whole scene is wonderful.  Although I saw several people heading off with fishing rods, they were not visible at that point.  The only person I saw was a photographer poised at the side of the falls, getting a closeup.

The water fell down the rocks, flowed under the bridge before going on its merry way down the hill.  This photo is taken from the other side of the bridge.  The bridge is sort of the center of the universe.

There are paths around the area I want to explore come summer.  When its a bit warmer and not as rainy.  I prefer exploring things in warmer weather.  The day I went, the sky was overcast and drizzling cold rain.

From there, I headed off to Toad lake, a small lake located in the hills back of Lakeway drive. Its not a big lake, nor is there much parking. Its more of a small neighborhood place. As you arrive, you see a sign saying no entrance because the "road" is actually a driveway into private property. The picture to the left, gives you a bit of a view to enjoy the lake. I love that it is surrounded by trees and a few houses. Most of the lakes in the area have houses which are more expensive than others. Fortunately, there is a small parking area there.

The final stop was at Lake Samish just south of Bellingham on the way to Mount Vernon.  We stopped at a park on the north side of the lake.  The park had a small playground, a swimming area, and a view of the lake.  Up behind the park is a path to climb up to a beautiful waterfall.  Yes I love watching waterfalls and enjoy being near water. I love the sound of the whispering and whooshing of the water.  The water from this fall tumbled down the hill to join the lake. 
The lake is huge with some houses built around it.  I drove across the one lane bridge just next to the park. Most of the houses are on pieces of land barely bigger than the houses themselves. Development has not gone far up the side of the hill.  In fact there were only houses on each side of the road and no farther.  It was a wonderful day of beauty.
Tomorrow, I'll share some pictures from Pikes Market in Seattle.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Our Fabric Stash

Our Fabric Stash
 The other day, I drove down to Seattle to visit relatives.  As part of the visit, we ended up spending an hour or so at Pikes Place Market.  If you've never been Pikes Place Market is a huge winding multilevel structure filled with nooks and crannies.

One of those crannies I stumbled across on level 3 down under is Our Fabric Stash, a place for those who collect and stash fabric.  I'm sure your family has one or two.  I'm the one in my family. 

Crates of Quilting Fabric
This awesome store is filled with all sorts of materials from beaded that would be fantastic done up in a 1920's flapper dress to silks, to a wall of quilting fabrics.  One of the ladies with me saw this beautiful embroidered pin, purple, and silver leafy material. I have no idea what she saw it in but it told me, it would be best made up into a Disney type gown for like Snow White or Cinderella.

One wall had crates filled with quilting fabrics of all colors and patterns.   Off in the corners, I saw books on sewing, beading, and other related topics.  The whole feel is as if you are walking into an old fashioned general store filled only with fabrics.  I loved the whole look.

I didn't know it was a consignment shop when I walked in.  I just saw the beautiful fabrics in the store and I immediately headed in much like a moth to a flame..  It was only after I spoke to the sales clerk, I discovered this. The sales clerk said this is the only fabric consignment store in the nation.  The great thing is that you do not have to live near Seattle to take advantage of their services.

Containers of Fabrics
They charge a fee of $25 per year but you can send your fabric to them to sell with a 60/40 split once its sold.  The sales clerk indicated that out of state folks can send the fabric to them, they unpack it and sell it but you have to price it, tag it, and provide an inventory of what is being sent.  You get paid soon after its sold.

You have to pay the fee of $25 per year in order to get your own unique consignment number. The tags on the material I looked at had amount, price, and a consignment number, no names.   I was impressed by what I saw. I also feel wonderful that I made it out of there without spending anything.  

In addition, the sales person indicated in another month or two, everything will be on the website so you can see what they have in stock.  Their website is nice with the information on memberships easy to find. 

All I can say is that if you are addicted to fabrics and the possibilities they offer, you need to check this place out.  You can find it at Pike Place Market #326 in Seattle.  Their phone number is 206-4196 any time between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm Monday through Saturday or 11:00 am to 5:00 pm on Sundays. 

As I said, I kept finding materials that spoke to me about what they needed to be made into.  Check it out if you are in the area, otherwise, look at the website. Have fun.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Korean Skin Care.

Oil, Geranium, Leaves, Flowers  Growing up, my mother always recommended I use moisturizer so my skin would always be nice.  She didn't talk about much else in terms of taking care of your face but that was it.

On Christmas day, at the big family gathering with everyone from 2 years to 93 years old, gathered to exchange gifts, enjoy great food, and play a gift stealing game.  I had a lovely visit with my niece who keeps track of things like the best hair color product, skin care, etc.

She said she's started using the Korean skin care system which is not a set of brand products but a system using which ever brand you choose to use. She raved about it and tried to explain how it differed from standard systems.  I'd never heard of it but I checked my books and found I have a book on it.

The idea behind the Korean skin care system is to hydrate the skin so its clear, dewy and makes you look younger.  These products do not contain alcohol because Koreans feel it hurts the skin rather than helps it.

The system begins with two cleanings, the first an based cleaner designed to remove makeup, etc effortlessly while the second is a water based that removes anything left on the skin and
 leaves the skin nice.  This cleansing is designed to remove make-up, sunscreen, clean the skin of impurities, and does not remove the natural oils present.   Next, you exfoliate the skin to get rid of the dead cells and its finished by using a toner.

The toner is designed to sooth the skin while balancing the PH to about a 5.5 or so which is considered perfect.  This is topped by a essence which is more fluid than a serum and helps moisturize the skin. The serum is next and it targets specific needs of the face such as dry areas, or fine lines.  After you've finished applying the essence and serum, its time for a mask and not the usual one.

The mask is actually a sheet filled with moisture you place on your face for 10 to 20 minutes before removing it but it is only used a few times a week.  The sheet mask has lots of good ingredients for your skin. This is followed by a moisturizer for the eye area and the rest of the face.  The eye cream should help eliminate the puffiness around the eye, protect the thin skin, and brighten the are.  The face moisturizer is the layer that locks in the rest of the moisture and nutrients you've applied up to this point.

The final step in the morning is to apply a light weight sun screen with a good SPF on your fact.  This system should be done two times a day, once in the morning, and once in the evening.  They recommend using a sleep mask ( a mask applied at night instead of a moisturizer) a few times a week to improve your skin and is designed to remain there all night rather than being washed off.

Yes, I ordered some things off of Amazon but they will take several weeks to get here.  Since I'm currently in Washington state and family plans to take me to a huge Korean market down in Linwood later in the week.  I am going to get a few things to start me off on the regime so I can check it out.

Winter in Alaska can be hard on anyone's skin so if this works, I'm always looking for products that improve my skin, protect it, and keep it looking good so I don't look twice my age.  I'll report back on how it works sometime in February or March when I've gotten everything and give it time to work.

Let me know what you think.  I'm always happy to hear.