Friday, March 29, 2019

Where To Go To April

Morocco, City, Historic, Village, ClayApril begins next week and is time to look at the best places to visit during the month.  I wish I had time to visit some of these places but I'll have to put it off for a couple of years.

Suggested place are spread out all over the globe from north to south and east to west.  Its time to check out the list.

1. Start with Marrakech, Morocco, a beautiful place in Africa.  April is a great month to visit Marrakech due to the great weather.  You can stay in one of the hotels near the Medina so you get a better feel for the city.  If you want to do something unique, sign up for a tour of the city from a vintage side car or visit the Yves St. Laurent Museum showcasing his most personal work.

2.  Check out Kyoto, Japan in April to enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms.  It is a science over there to predict when the blossoms will open.  Its usually late March through mid April.  Other things to see include the Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion which has stood in the same place since 1397, or any number of other temples or shrines.

3. What about Porto, Portugal with tons of wine bars, great seafood, and beauty.  The town is similar to Lisbon without all the crowds.  It has a great riverside area, museums, bridges, and tons of other wonderful tourist areas.  April is one of the best months to visit because its before the tourist rush of summer.

4. If you want to stay in the United States, check out Savannah, Georgia because it has a nice mild climate at this time of the year, fewer crowds and cheaper accommodations.  Savannah is the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts.  There are wonderful trolley tours, museums, and other great tourist attractions.

5. Then there is Merida, Mexico located on the Yucatan peninsula. The colonial city has a thriving art movement and is seldom overrun by tourists.  The place has wonderful Spanish Architecture, great Mayan food, natural swimming pools to cool off in, check out the Mayan ruins of Uxmal, and other great things.

6.  Even though San Juan Puerto Rico is still undergoing some reconstruction, it is a great place to visit.  You can hang out on the beach, wander through Old San Juan with its colorful colonial architecture, and a Pina Colada which is a drink supposedly invented there about 50 years ago.

7. Are you interested in going on a Safari, head for Botswana, to check out its breath taking wilderness areas.  April is the beginning of the dry season so you stay much dryer.  Its possible to meander down a river filled with hippos, lions, elephants, and rhinos, at the More Game Preserve.

8. Check out Newport Beach, California in April when the fantastic Newport Beach Film Festival happens.  The eight day festival attracts over 50,000 people to enjoy lots of films, nightly galas, and premier parties.

9.  If you ever dreamed of visiting Greece, head for Crete in April before the temperatures have a chance to rise.  Its also before the masses head for this country.  One can visit the old part of town, check out beaches, The Palace of Knossos, or the Samaria National Gorge.

10.  The last place suggested is Raleigh, North Carolina filled with tons of craft breweries, a downtown diner, museums, food halls, and other fun things.  April is a great time to visit because its before the summer rush while the temperature is still great.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  I'm looking at checking out Croatia this summer for a short visit.  I'll let you know if I go.  Have a great day.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Seward's Folly

Christmas, Happy, Woman, Lights, Joyful
Sorry about no post yesterday but the internet and cell phones decided to be snarky and its finally up enough for me to get this written.

 This past Monday was the official day to celebrate the purchase of Alaska from Russia.  It's named after the gentleman who arranged the purchase.

He negotiated with Russia and at 4:00 on March 30, 1867, the United States and Russia signed a deal where the United States purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million.

At the time, most people did not consider this a good purchase because Alaska was thought of as a "Frozen Ice Box". This was often referred to as "Seward's Folly".  Many satirist had a great time creating cartoons such as one where Seward is rubbing some Russian Salve on President Andrew Johnson's head.  In the background, there is a map of Alaska showing Uncle Sam trudging across the state planting United State Flags across the mountain tops.

Russia was open to the offer because they were not sure they could defend Alaska against Great Britain because at the time, Great Britain controlled Canada.  In addition, the Russian company who ran Alaska was low on money so in March of 1867, the Russian Minister contacted Seward to see if the United States wanted to purchase the land.

Russia had been farming Alaska for its furs they could take back and sell to their own population.  At one point they settle in part of California to grow grains to ship back to Alaska to support themselves. Unfortunately, it wasn't cost efficient. So when Russia approached Seward, he offered them $5 million but the Russians wanted more and the price rose to $7 million.  At the last minute, several concerned Russian officials expressed their feelings and the price went up to $7.2 million.

The proposal was signed on March 30, 1867 but it was not approved by Congress until April 9th.  President Johnson added his signature to the document on May 28th but the official transfer did not occur until October 18, 1867.

The $7.2 million broke down to about $0.02 per acre and if out into today's dollars, we would have laid out $120 million.  This ended Russia's expansion into the Americas and was the United States first step into a presence in the Pacific region.  Although most Alaskan's are aware of this, they are not aware that Russian had approached the United States back in 1859, offering Alaska for sale but the Civil War prevented the purchase at this time.

The United States government didn't pay any attention to the state until gold was discovered in 1896 and then it suddenly gained everyones attention as thousands rushed north, following their dreams to become rich.

One of these days, I'll share more about the development of Alaska. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed reading this.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Printed Crochet Patterns Fairly Recent.

Hands, Old Hands, Age, Grandma, FoldDo you like to crochet?  I do.  I've been known to use older patterns so I can recreate fine lace for my historical recreations.  I love the look but I'll tell you that trying to read the patterns can sometimes be difficult due to they way they are written and the fact I have to use extremely fine thread.  I"m not the best crochet person and I don't always have the time I want to spend on it but its fun.

The word crochet is derived from the French word "croche" meaning hook.  It is thought that crochet might have evolved from a Chinese embroidery, the forerunner of  Tambour in the 1700's. Tambour uses a hook which is used to bring yarn or thread from the back of stretched fabric to the front, creating a loop.  It is believed the background material used in Tambour was discarded so that people created the needle work in the air.  No one is really sure where it originated nor how it spread across the world because there is no real evidence of the craft before it gained popularity in the 19th century Europe.  

Although the first printed crochet patterns appeared in 1824, it is believed that women shared crochet patterns long before this point. It is thought they shared the patterns verbally but this resulted in inaccurate replication of the original patterns so the practice of creating small samples that could be stitched into a book and replicated with more accuracy.  These books could then be shared more easily.  People have found books like this dating back to the early 19th century.

The first printed crochet patterns were for luxury items such as purses made of gold or silver thread.  Crochet took off when Mlle. Riego de la Branchardiere was able to successfully translate patterns for needle and bobbin lace into crochet patterns.  This lead to her publishing many pattern books used by women to make their own crochet.  Furthermore, it is said, this lady also created the "Lace Like" crochet also known as "Irish" crochet.

This type of crochet turned out to be a life saver for the Irish during the potato famine.  Men, women, and children were organized into cooperatives so they could make crochet which was then sold overseas.  It brought money in so people were able to survive long enough to save e money to immigrate to the United States.  It is said that two million left Ireland for the United States between 1845 and 1859.  

Small stitched books were not the only way women shared patterns.  Sometimes, they crocheted samples into one long thing bands so they could refer back to them.  Often these bands accumulated patterns over the years. In Victorian times, women made bird cage covers, flower pot holders, baskets for visitor's cards, lamp shades, and so much more.  By 1900, women were crocheting afghans, assorted rugs, cushions, hot water covers, and the crocheted pot holder made its appearance during this time.

During the 1960's and 70's free from crochet took off and people began creating 3 dimensional sculptures, clothing, or tapestries. This has lead to complex and intricate patterns for people to make.  

Monday, March 25, 2019

It Didn't Work Out As Planned!

Writing, Pen, Man, Ink, Paper, PencilsBack in January, I turned in my notice that after this school year, I wouldn't be working here.   I'm burned out, tired of the lack of communication, the lack of student motivation, and so many other things.  I had my future laid out in front of me, sort of.

I began exploring the possibility of teaching overseas.  I've been looking at starting my own business to share my knowledge with others, or become an educational consultant but it doesn't look as if that will be happening.

One of my coworkers urged me to apply for a job at the school where he and his wife are from.  It's in a nice part of the state with lots of trees and water.  In winter, it doesn't get that cold, and they don't get tons of snow.  Sounds nice.  Then I noticed a position open in a school district that would allow me to start working the end of August and begin my summer, earlier in May.

Another coworker got a job with a district and suggested I apply for a job there.  I figured why not but it won't allow me to go to Europe to attend an international conference.  I have an interview this afternoon and I think I have a fairly good chance of getting it because less than five minutes after reading my cover letter and resume, he sent a date and time for an interview.

I think I'm burned out teaching in this place because the number of alcoholic parents have increased along with the amount of pot.  I know that three generations in one household all smoke pot.  Its sad because we are starting to see birth defects associated with too much pot smoking. Unfortunately, many students lack motivation to do their best so they either don't try or they think a "D" is good enough.

I decided to try working elsewhere to see if I'm truly burned out or if its just this location.  I hate to give up because I have so much knowledge and so many ideas that I don't want to quit just yet but it is time for me to move on.  If I don't, I'll hate myself and I'll hate the job.

Unfortunately, about 3/4th of the staff is leaving. That is an extremely high number because in the time I've been here, no more than about 1/3rd move on at the heaviest year but this is odd.  It is an indication of how the year is going itself.  Yes there are teachers who have been here for more than five years who have chosen to move on.

To me that says something is wrong with the system here if so many people choose to leave. Almost everyone who is leaving, already has a job and only a few do not yet but they aren't worried because there is a shortage of teachers up here.  Its a sad commentary of this school district.

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

Friday, March 22, 2019

Cultural Heritage Days Again.

 Since I work in a small village in Alaska, the school has two celebrations a year where students learn more about the culture.  The first is in August when they go out to berry pick, fish, etc

In the spring, usually in March, they have three days where they learn more about their culture by listening to elders about the old ways.  Local groups such as the tribal council visit to share with high school students the options available for them while the elementary does age appropriate activities.

The picture above was taken just after the opening ceremonies for the Cultural Heritage celebration.  The whole school meets in the gym and the man in charge of it all welcomes people, introduces visitors and such before having everyone line up from pre-kindergarten to high school.  One of the local deacons says a prayer before everyone in the gym is smudged with the smoke from a local plant.

Then students go off.  The high school spends the mornings listening and learning to elders and groups so they know more about their culture, their heritage, and what the village offers.  In the afternoon, the high school breaks up into different hands on activities such as beading, making fish hooks, making traps, sewing Kuspuks or crocheting.  At the end of the week, they have something to take home.

For two nights, the children beginning in grade 3 perform dances for their families. The first night is strictly for the students and their teachers to dance while the family comes up to join the children on the second night. The above picture is of 6th graders dancing.  The young lady in the blue hoody is my "granddaughter" in the local tradition.

Her mother decided I looked like her mother so she gave me her mother's native name so I'm called grandmother even though I am younger than the mother.  It's all part of the culture there. 

The last day is the day when a couple of the women take some girls to the home economics room to make tons of fry bread and agutuq or eskimo ice cream made up of crisco, mashed potatoes, milk or water, sugar that is whipped together to form a light fully mass and then fruit is stirred in.  It is so good and everyone loves it. 

I'll try to get pictures of it for the weekend.  Have a great day and let me know what you think.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Glue from Fish?

Repair, Glue, Fix, AdhesiveI do not remember what I was watching the other day when one of the characters made comment about fish glue being used as an adhesive before the current type of adhesive.

My ears perked up because I was unaware that anyone had ever used fish to make a glue.  Fish glue is also known as isinglass.  It is a transparent, water soluble glue made from different varieties of fish.  For a while, the best grade of fish glue was made from the Beluga Sturgeon but due to over fishing, they had to quit doing that.

Fish glue is quite sensitive to humidity and temperature changes and often shrinks as it dries.  It does not dry quickly so you have time to get it applied properly but you must clean any brushes up when the glue is still damp otherwise it is difficult to remove.  Fish glue can be cooled but it cannot be frozen or it becomes useless.

There are references to using fish glue as far back as about 3500 years ago in Egypt but it appears the quality varied according to how it was produced. There are even references of fish glue being used in Ancient China.  Flash forward to an eighth century manuscript which makes reference to fish glue being a material they painted on.  Fish glue is again mentioned in a twelfth century manuscript where the author mentions mixing ground up gold mixed with fish glue so manuscripts could be gilded.

Around 1390, the first comments appear on how great fish glue is for fixing lutes, fine paper, or objects made of wood or bone.  During Medieval times, they wrote on parchment that was frequently reused.  To make it reusable, parchment had to be sized and one way of sizing it, was to use fish glue. In addition, the fish glue was used to repair damaged parchment.

Several artists discovered that fish glue could not be used alone in the seventeenth century or the final product became extremely brittle.  This lead to the use of a "plasticizer" such as honey or molasses when restoring earlier art works containing fish glue.

In the nineteenth century, artists developed a new technique where they coated paintings with fish glue mixed with gouache to create the same shine as oil paint.  Unfortunately, the paintings began cracking over time.  Furthermore, another artist created a technique where they applied water color to a specially prepared Bristol board so it was finished with a solution containing fish glue before a final layer or regular varnish.

Artists tried mixing fish glue with pastels and other materials to create new looks, new uses, and the perfect media. As you can see, fish glue has a long history of being used as an artistic media rather than just a material to stick two things together like Elmer's.  I'd never heard of it till this reference and its interesting to discover more about it.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Company + Money = Cheating

Dollar, Currency, Money, Us-DollarLiving where I do, I'm usually behind on the news so when a friend sent me a link to a scandal that happened a few days ago, I was both shocked and not really shocked.

I am talking about the story in which people paid a company to "help" student gain entry into an elite college either through getting their children on a 504 plan so they could get more time on the ACT or SAT.

Or the company could arrange for a test administrator to adjust some answers so the student scored much higher than they normally would.  Or they got the student into college as an "athlete" even thought they were not.

I appreciate the fact the government is prosecuting as many of the core group as they can.  By core group, I'm talking about the testing officials who changed answers, the college athletic directors who allow students in via their sport, the directors who arranged it all and people who used the service.

My father once told me that if you want a degree from an elite college, there are ways to do it than by attending all four years there.  He said you can look at the catalogue from say Harvard,  make sure you take all the correct courses and then transfer in for your senior year.  The cost is much less, it's easier to get admitted by transferring in, and the diploma shows Harvard.  It doesn't say you only attended there one year.

I don't understand the drive of the parents to get their students admitted to an elite college for all four years.  Sometimes, it's much better for a student to attend a community college to strengthen their skills before transferring in.  The end result is the same and on future job applications, they do not ask if you went to the school for all four years.   They only care that you graduated and the name of the college.

Of course the idea of an elite college really depends on what you plan to major in.  If you are going into Engineering or other type of scientific discipline, you might want to at a school of mines in Colorado, New Mexico, or perhaps MIT or Rochester Institute of Technology. 

I'm sorry the parents felt driven to do this.  I wonder how it will effect the child in the future. Could it possibly throw a negative light on them?  I don't know but it seems to me that once this is but to rest, another one will pop up in a few years and we'll gasp at this scandal. 

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Moon, Moon, and More Moons.

Moon, Full Moon, Sky, Nightsky, Lunar Last night as I walked back from Eskimo dance practice, I glanced up in the sky and saw the full moon in the sky.  It wasn't dark yet so it was quite bright but the moon was beautiful and bright.

I usually refer to the moon based on the time of its cycle but there are other ways to refer to the moon.

1. The super moon which refers to the moon when it is large and quite bright due to being closer to the earth.  There will be three super moons during 2019.  One was on January 21, February 19, and the last one will be on March 21st. The one in February was the brightest one for the year.

2. On the other hand, there is the micro moon where it is seen at its smallest size because its at its farthest point from earth.  There are two micro moons schedules during 2019. One happened on February 4th while the other one is not due to happen until September 19th.

3.  Of course, there is the Blood Moon which happens during a full lunar eclipse, giving off red and orange hues.  There are none really scheduled for another 20 years or so that meed the definition of a full blood moon.

4. Remember the phrase "Once in a blue moon"?  Well Blue moon refers to the second full moon that occurs in a month.  It does not refer to the color of the moon.  In addition, some folks refer to a blue moon in terms of  the third or fourth moon during a season but more often people use the first meaning. There will be a seasonal blue moon in May of 2019 but the two moons in a month won't happen until Halloween of 2020.  The term "Blue Moon" originated during the 1940's.

5. The Wolf Moon occurs in January.  It got its name because people often heard the wolves howling at this time of the year.  There are other names for the moon seen in other months such as the Pink Moon or the first full moon in April around the time of the Cherry Blossoms, The Flower or Milk Moon is the first full moon in May, or the Snow Moon from the moon light of the full moon in February which lights up the snow.

6. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs in September or October, closest to the Autumn equinox.

7.  You might hear someone refer to a "Black Moon" which is the second new moon appearing in a month.  These occur only once ever 32 months or so.  A second meaning for "Black Moon" is when no moon appears during a full month.  It is only possible for this to occur during February because the month only has 28 days while the moon takes 29.5 days to circle the earth.

This is only a sample of some of the names of the moons.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, March 18, 2019

10 Interesting Facts About Saint Patrick

Clover, Shamrocks, Irish, Day, LuckFriday, I gave information about his life but today, we'll look at myths and facts about his life that have grown since his death.  Some of these facts were mentioned Friday but not all and I'm going into more detail.

1.  Patrick was not Irish.  He was born in Britain and lived there until he was 16.  It was after that point that he lived in Ireland.  He began converting the Irish to Christianity but he was not the first one there to do it. There were some Christians in Ireland before he arrived.

2. Although it is believed that you must wear green on Saint Patricks day, the original color for him was blue.  In 1793, the Order of Saint Patrick was founded.  They needed to choose a color to make them stand out, they chose blue because dark green was already taken.

3.  Saint Patrick is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland and into the sea but it appears snakes never inhabited Ireland.  The icy sea surrounding the country would automatically discourage them from coming to the island and it appears snakes never crossed the land bridge before it disappeared. It has been suggested the snakes represented those who were not Christian and who were encouraged to leave or convert.

4.  Saint Patrick was never canonized by the Pope so his title is more of a gesture such as Elvis being referred to as a "King".  Often times, people were given the title of saint in the early days if they were seen as doing extraordinary work or they were martyred for their faith.  Officially elevating someone to sainthood came later.

5.  Saint Patrick was captured with many of his neighbors, taken to Ireland and sold as a slave.  He spent six years herding sheep in the west of Ireland.

6.  While herding sheep, he'd pray multiple times a day to God and one day he heard a voice telling him to board his ship.  He listened to the voice and made his way to a ship waiting on the east coast of Ireland.

7.  The captain of the ship, didn't like the looks of him, so he asked Patrick to undergo a ritual acknowledging his authority.  Patrick refused and then tried to convert the crew because neither the captain nor the crew were Christian.  Even with this happening, the captain still took him aboard.

8. There is no mention in early literature of Patrick using a shamrock to explain the trinity.  This story appeared in 1684, when an English visitor mentioned the Irish chewing shamrocks to sweeten their breaths.  He also noted they wore shamrocks and few were sober on any night.

9.  Something Patrick did in his early life, came back to haunt him in later years.  He mentions this in his writing but never actually identifies what he did.  He only says, he'd already confessed to it when he was young.

10. Supposedly, we celebrate the day of his birth but the saints day is usually the day of their death.  In all the literature on Patrick, there is no mention of the date of his death so no one is sure how this date was chosen.

There are more misconceptions out there.  These are only 10 of the ones floating out in the world.  Let me know what you think.  I hope you had a great St. Patricks day.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Who Was St. Patrick?

Distressed Clover, St Paddy'S DaySunday, is St. Patricks day. The day when people celebrate with beer, corned beef, and cabbage.  Its a day with parades and green.  I remember if you didn't wear green in school, other kids would pinch you.  It has its traditions associated with it.  I've heard, Ireland has like a 4 day celebration for this day.  But when all is said and done, can you honestly say you know who St. Patrick was?

This man was born in 387 in England, just below Hadrian's wall.  He was born in the Roman settled area of Britain, so he was probably Roman and not Irish. In addition, there is evidence, he was already a Christian before being  captured by Irish pirates in his early teens.  They took him to Ireland to work as a slave for six years.

During the  six years of working alone as a herdsman, he turned more to his religion. One night, he had a dream telling him how to escape from his captivity.  Although he escaped and returned to his family, he'd come to love the Irish spirit and vowed to return there some day.

Once he returned to his family, he studied to become a priest.  Over time, he became a bishop and eventually the Pope assigned him to Ireland.  Patrick went and worked on spreading Christianity through the countryside.  At this time, Christianity was on the rise and the old ways disappearing.  It is said that as he traveled through the countryside, he tore down anything pagan to establish the Catholic Church.  By 444 AD, He arranged for the first church to be built in Armagh.

During his time in Ireland, he baptized and confirmed people, ordained priests, established school and monestaries. It is said that during his 30 years there, he converted all the people to Christianity.  When he died in 461, he was buried in Downpatrick, in Northern Ireland. Now, he is considered the patron saint of Ireland and Engineers.

During his life time, he wrote only two books.  The first Confessio, his spiritual autobiography and Coroticus in which he complained about the treatment of Irish Christians. By the end of the seventh century, he'd become a legendary figure.  Some of the stories are that he drove all the snakes from Ireland into the sea, he raised at least 33 people from the dead, he used the three leafed clover to explain the trinity, and several other stories.

That is who St. Patrick is in a nutshell.  Check Monday's column out for actual facts about St. Patrick.  Thank you for reading.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The 10 Most Expensive Chocolates

Chocolates, Chocolate, Nibble, Sweetness  I love chocolate.  I am a chocaholic.  I adore chocolate and could sit there and eat pounds of it in one sitting.  I don't need to have a reason to enjoy it, I will eat it just because.

Unfortunately, I am a bit of a heathen.  I can't tell a good chocolate from a great chocolate. I do know if its really bad but otherwise, I just go for what tastes good to me.  However, if you have money and you want to spend it on something special, check some of these out because they are considered the most expensive chocolates in the world.

1. Vosges Haut Chocolate is produced by a chocolate company in Chicago, IL.  The chocolate has a reputation for having unusual ingredients mixed in to produce unique flavors.  For instance you'll find chocolate with bacon, or chili, or wasabi.  The owner, Katrina Markoff, decides what flavors go into her chocolates which start at $90.

2. Amedei Porcelana created by Amedei who used the word Porcelana because of the special type of cocoa bean from Venezuela used in the chocolate.  This particular chocolate has won many different awards and the price begins at $90 per bar.

3. Gran Cru by Pierre Marcolini of Belgium.  This chocolate uses only the highest quality cocoa beans from the best producers in the world.  Pierre developed a special way of flavoring his chocolates with vanilla that has won him awards.  This chocolate goes for $102.50.

4. Richart's chocolate is another chocolate where the creator mixes in unusual flavors and ingredients in mouth watering combinations.  The beans come from Venezuela, Haiti, and Madagascar, three of the top growers in the world.

5. The Aficionado's Collection by the House of Grauer  from Switzerland.  This particular chocolate claims to be able to bring to life the tastebuds of cigar smokers.  They use a variety of ingredients such as Japanese Matcha Tea,  Organic French Bee Pollen, or Turkish Star Anise to create up to 14 unique chocolates.  This chocolate goes for $210.

6.  Amedei Toscano Black Truffles are unique  mix of black truffles, champagne, and gold into the chocolate before being placed into a box with Swarovski's crystals making these extremely desirable. They are only sold at Harrod's and the London department stores in London.  A box of these sell for $294.

7. DaLefee sells chocolates made with edible gold.  The company gets the beans which produce an extremely rich chocolate from Equador before adding edible gold flakes.  These go for a measly $508 which makes them quite expensive.

8. Debauve and Gallais, a company from the 1800's, produces Le Grand Louis XVI which is quite different from most other chocolates in that it is 99 percent cocoa making it quite bitter.  This company has provided royal houses with its famous chocolates including this one which sells for $900.

9. Cadbury, the everyday chocolate company produces one version that sells for $1,600.  It is a bar of chocolate wrapped in an edible gold leaf.  Its said they are worth every penny.

10. The most expensive chocolate in the world, selling for $2,600, is Chocopologie Chocolate Truffle made by Fritz Knipschildt, a Danish citizen.  This chocolate is made of 70% Valrhona Dark Chocolate, vanilla, truffle oil, sugar, and heavy cream to create a rich, luxurious delight. This delight cannot be purchased directly off the shelf.  It must be special ordered and it must be eaten within 7 days of purchase but its so good, most people eat theirs within a couple hours of buying them.

So if you have any extra money you want to blow on a good quality chocolate, check one of these out.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Chocolate vs Compound Chocolate.

Chocolate, Praline, Sweet Have you ever wondered why some chocolates melt in your mouth and you melt as the flavor oozes into your pores while others are just "ok"?  I wondered because I've had both.

It more than just this chocolate vs that chocolate.  So back to the beginning.  In general, cocoa comes from a bean that is grown, fermented, then processes and dried.  At some point they are roasted.  It is the length and temperature of the roasting that effects the final flavor of the chocolate.

A quick rundown is that once the roasting is finished, they remove the outer shell to reveal the cocoa nibs which is about 50% cocoa butter.  The nibs are then ground into a cocoa liquor before it is pressed to squeeze out the cocoa butter leaving behind the cocoa cake.  The cake is then ground up into cocoa powder.

The cocoa butter is mixed with the cocoa powder and sugar to make chocolate.  The cocoa butter controls the melting quality of the chocolate.  When they add milk to the mixture, they make milk chocolate while white chocolate is made up of only the cocoa butter without the powder.  Sometimes they add flavorings such as vanilla, or stabilizers, or emulsifiers such as lecithin but it is the quality of these ingredients that determine the quality of the final product.  The more pure the flavorings, the better the product.

Not all chocolate flavored candies are classified as chocolate according the complex FDA rules because the FDA requires chocolate to have a certain amount of chocolate liquor.  If the product does not meet that minimum standard, it is labeled as chocolate flavored or chocolatey and is called compound chocolate.

Compound chocolate usually has chocolate powder for flavor but instead of cocoa butter, it uses some other type of oil, such as vegetable oil.  If you look at the ingredients, you'll see partially hydrogenated palm, soy, or cottonseed oil.  Without the cocoa butter, the chocolate does not have the same smooth, melty taste associated with the better quality chocolates.

Manufacturers use vegetable oil for two reasons. First it is cheaper and second, it is easier to work with because it does not have to be tempered in the same way cocoa butter is.  If cocoa butter is not properly tempered, the candy does not come out right.  In addition, when you see a percent listed on the wrapper, that tells the total amount of cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, and cocoa powder but it doesn't indicate quality.

So how do you tell more about the quality of the chocolate.  First, the chocolate needs to have a glossy surface, free of blemishes.  If it scared, cloudy, or gray, it is not a good sign because it might indicate the chocolate is old or it has been exposed to extremes in temperature.  Second, if the chocolate bends or crumbles rather than snapping cleanly when broken, it is either of low quality or its old.

Third, smell the chocolate for that chocolatey smell.  If it smells too much of vanilla or other added ingredients, it won't taste like chocolate.  In regard to chocolate, it has a tendency to absorb smells from its environment.  Finally taste the chocolate.  Does it taste rich and smooth or is it rather waxy, dense or unusually chewy.

So the next time you head out to buy chocolate, look at the ingredients list.  Look for the cocoa butter, chocolate liquor, chocolate powder, sugar, and not a lot of added ingredients for the best chocolate.  I prefer dark chocolate because its easier to take one piece and stop.  With milk chocolate, I could sit there and eat a pound.

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Poker Flats, Alaska

Soyuz Launch, Space, Shuttle, SpaceshipThis past Saturday night, Poker Flats celebrated its 50th anniversary.  Imagine, a place for 50 years responsible for launching rockets into space but only during the winter time.  I have a friend who went and checked it out.  He said that there were so many people it was busy.

First a bit of information on the facility. Poker Flats is the only scientific rocket launching site owned by a university.  It is also the largest land based launch site in the world and the only high latitude launch site in the United States.

The actual site is located about 30 miles north of Fairbanks.  Although the University operates the facility, it is used under contract by the part of NASA that is associated with Goddard Space Center.  It is located in the interior of Alaska which means the area is sparsely populated and they are able to launch a variety of rockets.  This is all done with permissions from the Federal, State, and Tribal governments.

Poker Flats was established back in the 1960's when someone at the University of Fairbanks suggested a rocket launching range be constructed because the area was just south of the active auroral area.  Unfortunately, there had already been a launch range built in Canada in the 1950's but its location was inside the auroral range so that created some problems.

In 1968, the Geophysical Institute was given a contract to create a minor launch site to launch six barium release rockets for the Department of Defense.  The University secured a lease for 5000 acres of land to build the launch site on.  The man who got this contract also agreed to help monitor chemical signatures from these rockets if the government would allow him to launch his auroral research rockets from this site.

The government agreed. After his seven rockets were launched, the University continued the rocket range, running it on a shoe string until the facility proved itself.  In 1970, the University gained the contract to launch seven more rockets and construction began on the new facilities.  Over the years, things have been added and now they can construct and launch rockets to meet scientific needs.

Most launches happen at night during the winter when the moon is dark because that makes it easier to launch.  All launches have a window of opportunity which is limited by weather, conditions, etc so they are often ready to launch for days at a time.  Once everything is perfect, the rocket is launched.

According to my friend, Poker Flats provided two buses to bring people out to the celebration and they were full.  I gather they expected maybe 700 people and ended up with closer to 1500.  They were giving tours to the upper range which is highly unusual.  Normally, you can get a tour of the facilities during the summer when its the off season but to visit during the busy season is unheard of.

The lines of people waiting for the buses taking people to the upper range were long. My friend said the waiting time was probably closer to an hour and in the meantime, they had a walking tour.  They saw so much.  My friend said he got home late because the celebration ran from 8:00 to Midnight.

I honestly wish, I'd been closer because I would have gone.  Something like that happens so seldom, it is a privilege to attend.  He'll be sending me pictures, I plan to share with you later in the week when I get them.

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

Monday, March 11, 2019

Jumping Forward

Clock Tower, Historically, Movement It's that time of year again, when we turn our clocks one hour forward and suffer with our internal clocks being off for at least a week.  Where I live, its suddenly light until after 9:00 at night.  Its hard to get to bed at a reasonable time, when its light so late.  It gets harder as the season progresses and it doesn't get dark much at all.

From some reading I did, it appears that there is a movement afoot to get rid of jumping forward every spring and falling back every fall.

Right now Hawaii, Arizona, and Puerto Rico currently do not participate in this traditional dance but other states wish to join them in avoiding the change.  The shifting is covered by the Uniform Time Act of 1966 which imposed and regulated going on and off Daylight Saving Time.

It is well known there is an increase in heart attacks, car crashes, and increased lengths of judicial sentences every time we go onto Daylight Saving Time but people have become tired of it. When Daylight Saving Time was originally introduced in 1966, no one knew much about it except it seemed to give people time at the end of the day but over time, scientists have researched it effects and have concluded there are no real benefits to use it.

Although the Uniform Time Acts of 1966 controls when things change, it does allow states to opt out of this at anytime and remain on Standard time but it doesn't cover states opting out and remaining on Daylight Saving time year round.  Congress would have to change the wording to allow it.

Many states are considering opting out but they want to be on Daylight Saving Time year round.  A large number of people, over 60%,  in California signed a ballot proposition to remain on daylight savings time year round and then at least one lawmaker has submitted a proposal to have California remain on daylight savings time.

In addition, last year Florida passed declared they would not go off of Daylight Saving Time pending congressional action to change the Uniform Time Act.  Oregon and Washington States are also going this way but there is another way to go onto Daylight Saving Time year round without opting out of the Uniform Time Act.

The other way would be to have your state moved one time zone east, thereby putting themselves effectively on Daylight Saving Time year round.  This requires approval of the Department of Transportation rather than Congress.  Many New England States such as New Hampshire, and Maine have proposed doing that and moving to "Atlantic Standard Time".  This will accomplish the move to Daylight Saving Time year round.

This could create an interesting dilemma in that a person crossing state lines could end up moving two hours ahead instead of one.  Its possible other states might be on the same time during certain times of year when they are all on Daylight Saving Time and could be an hour apart when on Standard time.

Its an interesting movement.  I know in Alaska, we don't know why we have to shift on and off because we have such a huge difference between summer and winter in terms of the length of daylight that I'd just as soon not do it.

Let me know your thoughts, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Friday, March 8, 2019

Chocolate Fudge, Mint Fudge, What's Your Choice

Fudge, Sugar, Marshmallow, Sweet, FoodMy father loves fudge.  If we go anywhere that sells fudge, he has to stop and buy some.  Over the years, he acquired multiple recipes including one that could be made in the microwave.  I've never liked fudge that much because it contains too much sugar.

As far as anyone can tell, fudge is an American invention, just like Brownies.  The story goes that a batch of caramels didn't go well and was described as "fudged"or bungled, thus it got its name.

Fudge is defined as a candy with a crystalline structure.  If the sugar solution is properly heated, the crystallization will lead to a great fudge.  In fact, it is the temperature that makes the difference between hard caramels and fudge.

It appears that fudge was first sold in Baltimore in 1886 at 40 cents per pound.  It was made by the cousin of a student at Vassar College.  Someone found a letter at Vassar College in which Emelyn Battersby Hartridge requested the recipe from that student's cousin. The recipe was sent and Emelyn made 30 pounds for the Senior Auction.  It proved to be so popular that many students tried making it in their rooms by cooking it over gas lamps.

In 1894, a student sent her father a batch of fudge as a birthday present.  She included a note explaining what went into making her gift.  References to this activity began appearing in newspapers and in 1895, an article appeared in the Brownsville, Texas newspaper.

This is at a time when it is believed that females needed to eat bland food so as not to upset their delicate constitutions.  In fact, many considered fudge to be a vice along the same lines as smoking or drinking.  At the same time as articles were appearing in the newspapers, many schools worked to develop their own fudge recipes.

By 1903, recipes for Vassar Fudge and Smith College Fudge started appearing in cookbooks.  The basic recipe for the early fudges are simple.  Its a mix of sugar, butter, and milk or cream cooked to the soft ball stage and then beaten till the mixture has obtained a smooth creamy stage.  In these early days, many people did not own candy thermometers so they had to rely on dropping a bit of fudge in a glass of water.  The mixture often ended up undercooked or over cooked.

This lead to people developing fool proof recipes that added corn syrup  to prevent crystallization or by adding marshmallow creme, sweetened condensed milk, or other ingredients guaranteed to prevent crystallization but these additives did not guarantee the same creamy texture.

Over time, everyone has adopted their favorite recipe. As I said, my father always made microwave fudge which wasn't always smooth.  In fact it was more crystallized but he loved it anyway.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Unique History of Brownies

Brownie, Dessert, Cake, Sweet, Delicious I am known at work for my brownies.  I've never been one to make cookies but brownies, ohh yes, I love making them for events.  That is my contribution to potlucks and other things.  My mother was not much of a baker.  In fact, she wasn't much of a cook.  My father was the one who did more cooking.

I love brownies that are gooey and filled with deep chocolate that explodes in your mouth with each bite.  I never worry if there are nuts because they are a side note but add in some cheesecake and I'm in heaven.

It appears the brownie was born in America rather than coming over from another country.  There are several "stories" circulating about its origin.  One story says brownies were born when a chef accidentally added chocolate to his biscuits while another claimed a cook who didn't have enough flour went ahead and baked it anyway.  The third story says a housewife in Bangor Maine forgot to add baking powder to her chocolate cake, so it didn't rise.  She went ahead and served it

One of the more accepted stories says the wife of the owner of The Palmer House in Chicago was asked to create a dessert for boxed lunches at the Woman's Pavillion found at the 1893 World's Fair.  It's said she asked her chef's to make a dessert that was easier to eat than a pie but smaller than a cake.  They topped the fudge dessert with walnuts and apricots and it is still served today.

In 1897, Fannie Farmer adapted one of her cookie recipes to be baked in a rectangular pan but it did not contain chocolate.  It was basically a recipe for what we call "Blond Brownies" today.  The first recipe for "brownies, appeared in a Sears and Roebuck catalogue the same year.  It was listed under Fancy Crackers but it appears they were actually made of  molasses and was actually a blond brownie.

The first reference to chocolate and brownies in the same sentence appeared in "The Kansas City Journal" in 1898 which contained an advertisement for Chocolate Brownies but the first real recipe for chocolate brownies appeared in a cookbook in 1899.  The recipe had chocolate, flour, milk, and baking powder.  One reason for this change from Blond Brownies to Chocolate based Brownies was the decreased cost of chocolate itself.

The next recipe appeared in a 1904 Cookbook but it was called "The Bangor Brownie".  Even Fannie Farmer printed both a blond brownie and a  chocolate brownie in her 1906 edition of her Cookbook.  Through all the years, no one is sure how the name came about.  Some believe its because the desert is a dark chocolate brown, while other claim its based on the name of a book on Brownies.

It wasn't until the 1920's that brownies took off and became a part of the American Culture.  By this point, chocolate was much more affordable for people and was easier to obtain.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  I love brownies so much that I do not keep the ingredients around otherwise I'd eat them daily.  Keep your eyes for a future entry on flavors of brownies.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Quick Way To Do 10,000 Steps.

Kid, Happy, Smiling, Basketball, FunIt is spring again and time for the elementary basket ball tournament has begun.  I think every kid between third and sixth grade played as long as they were eligible.  The third and fourth graders have parents laughing while calling out things like "foul!" or "out of bounds!".  The fifth and sixth are a bit better in that regard but they still have their issues.

Every year, I volunteer my time to ref all games they play including the finals.  Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I've been spending two or so hours each day running up and down the while trying to watch the action.

The refs have to spend more time paying attention to the younger ones because they literally try to tackle each other, push, shove, grab the ball and run with it and never bounce the ball.  I feel like I spend more time trying to keep my eyes on them while chasing them across the half court so no one gets hurt.

In the first game, it took till the fourth quarter before either side managed to score.  Back and forth, back and forth, watching for kids shoving others while the other tried to shoot.  We had to stop play a few times because someone had to retie their shoe in the middle of play so no one would get hurt. I am positive we could have made a call every minute on some sort of foul but we just grabbed what we could see clearly, made sure no one was hurt and they didn't hurt each other.

Although each quarter for this group is four minutes long, they stop play every two minutes to switch out players.  Each team has between 8 and 15 players depending.  The idea is to give everyone a chance to play so they can all develop.  After 16 minutes of play, I know I was on my way to a great workout.   There are four teams so I ran for two games or around 35 to 40  minutes of play.

Add to this the older students in grades five and six and I get a lot more exercise.  Although the older students are not quite as rough as the younger ones, they can be just as agressive and we have to watch for pushing and shoving.  The nice thing is they don't fall on the ball the ways the younger ones do.

The quarters for the older students are six minutes long with breaks every three minutes or 24 playing minutes so double that and I spend another 55 or 60 minutes moving.  So probably a good 100 minutes minimum although it usually takes two full hours from start to finish. This group plays the full court and I usually cover the side closest to the crowd and one end.

I need to wear a pedometer sometime and actually count steps but it feels like I'm going that many over all four games.  Up and down, up and down,  enough to feel as if I've gotten a good workout by the end.  This does not prevent me from doing a 15 to 20 minutes high intensity workout because in my mind, working four games is not exercise even though I am sometimes a bit breathless.

I love it, and I'm sure I get a good workout doing it.  It feels as if I am working out because I seldom stay still and am usually moving.  I've decided this is a quick easy way to do 10,000 steps in a day.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Circuses Are Fading Into The Past

Circus, Arena, Ring, Manege, Fun, Show When I was younger, I remember getting excited when the circus came to town.  One didn't see elephants, or clowns that often so it was a treat to be taken to enjoy watching them in action.  Unfortunately, time has not been nice to them.

Circuses originated in Ancient Rome as a place for displaying horsemanship, equestrian ability, and gladiator skills.  What we think of as a circus appearing in the mid 1700's when Philip Astley created the first modern circus in England.

Over time, things were added until we have the midway and the big tent with all the great acts.  In the 1800's, circuses began flourishing in the United States and names such as Barnum and Bailey emerged as forerunners.  In addition, what was popular in a circus changed over time such as the "freak" show began fading away as people's perspective changed along with the change in how animals were treated.  Barnum and Bailey, one of the last famous circuses, closed in 2017 after being sued by animal rights activists, bad press, and published videos caused ticket sales to drop drastically, forcing them to close.

There are still some traditional circuses around but they are not as prevalent as before.  Some of the remaining circuses include the Big Apple Circus, The Cole-All-Star Circus, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, Carden Circus International, Circus Bella, and others.  These operate differently than the traditional ones did.  Many of these work with schools to perform in school auditoriums, or with communities to perform in parks or with shriners.  These groups are more community oriented than the original ones.

At the same time, jugglers added objects to their repertoire, the young wanted to return to a single ring rather than competing in three rings, and the new circus movement was born in the 1970's.  One of the biggest acts coming out of that is Cirque du Soliel .  In reality, the new circus movement gave theatre people a new outlet for their type of performances.  Instead of always being held outdoors in tents, these circuses can also be found in theaters and on stages.  There are seldom any animal acts, relaying on human acts instead.  Furthermore, these new circuses prefer using stories and more character based acts, etc.

So the traditional circus with hundreds of people and animals are being replaced with smaller units that do not travel across the country but focus more on certain regional areas.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Finally Back!!!!!!

Blogger, Cellphone, Office, BusinessIts been really hard being without phones or internet.  If you saw my entry Saturday, you know the landlines came up, well mostly and the internet at the school came up, for the most part but nothing else was up until about 7 PM our time last night.

Our village wasn't the only one out.  The next village over about 18 miles away lost all their cell phones, landlines, and internet too.  Apparently, there was a small piece on one of the relay's.

A bit more before I describe what it took to get things up and running.  With no cell phone, landlines, or internet, the planes couldn't come because there was no way they could check to see if the runway was clear without flying out and getting close enough to call the village by VHF.

Our kids were due to travel over to another village but couldn't contact them for an updated weather report so they went on blind faith. Hoping it wasn't bad over there.  That village, SB, was the only one with the ability to phone out.  They were also closest to the relay tower that needed repairing.

Since we couldn't contact the phone company to tell them to switch our internet over to the satellite, we had to send an employee over there by snow machine.  It took him about an hour each way. They were aware of the outage but couldn't do much about it because the part needed to switch our signal to satellite had been used  the last time we had issues with the relays.  So he had to jury rig something to get it.

In the meantime, the phone company was supposed to send the part and technicians into SB to fix things but weather there is always problematic so there was no guarantee anyone could get there.  I think they got someone in because late Friday night, the landlines finally came up, mostly.  Direct dial worked well but you couldn't call  any 1-800 numbers.

Anyone calling in, might or might not make it, depending.  I had someone trying to call me but it took them some time and multiple tries.  The agent for one of the airlines, promptly came over and borrowed the school phone to call Bethel for updates on his airlines.

The internet also came up but it was irregular in that it would be nice then slow down to a crawl but it only worked at the school, not anywhere else.  If anyone wanted to use the internet, they had to go over to the school to use the computers in the Library.  Not much fun because the only people at school over the weekend were teachers.

I think it was about 7:10 last night, I heard a funny beep, beep from my cell phone.  It delivered the text's people sent while everything was down.  It was awesome to discover I could get out.  I promptly told my neighbor and he called his wife.  He's the one who told me the lines were up at the school and to use his phone to call my family, letting them know I was alive.  When the cell phones were not working, he had to go over to the school to call his wife, now he could call her from home.

Its really difficult when all forms of communication were down.  I'm told the clinic has a satellite phone just in case of emergencies like this but they don't use it very often.  The bad thing, is with no planes flying, no one could get in or out and its been quiet.  One of my coworkers was going crazy because she had to go without texting for several days.  She was undergoing cell phone withdrawal.

Tomorrow I should be back to normal with topics.  I hope you never have to undergo what I did.  Have a great day and let me know what you think.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Off The Grid

The Prohibition Of, The Ban On Phone Use

Everything, the cell phones, land lines, and internet went out on Wednesday night. The land lines and limited internet came on last night but they are shaky at best. No cell phones for the immediate future. I had to pop over to work to get this because its the only building in town with internet. I hope to be back to normal soon. I will update everyone Monday.