Monday, September 30, 2019


This past weekend, the district held its cross country regionals out in the same area they had the last race.  It's just past the new dump, out near the turn taking you toward the Bible camp or back to town the long way.  I took a picture facing towards town.  If you look carefully, you can see the bay, the land that curves all the way around and the windmills.  There are several students waiting for the races to begin.  It was a bit damp but not bad.  The weather began around 43 degrees with a light wind but as the morning progressed, sprinkles of water began.  The district provided a tent with hot chocolate, coffee, bananas, and oranges.

The above photo is looking back from the tent, towards the mountains.  You can see the road that takes people the long way back to town.  The pole there, just in the forefront marks the beginning of the race.  Regionals had three races. The first were the boys, who ran down the road towards town but they turned off to run twice around a loop off into the countryside before running past the starting line to the finish.                                                                     

The winning time for the high school boys race was 20 minutes and 7 seconds with second and third just a few seconds between them. The slowest runner took almost 35 minutes to finish the course but he did it.  Those of us volunteering at the finish line cheered him in as if he were arriving in first place.

 Most schools had a few runners each but my school had one high school boy and two high school girls.  The high school girls began arriving after 24 minutes but again the first few positions were quite quick.  The last group were both the middle school boys and girls with a couple of coaches running in the open division.  One coach ran side by side with one of his boys while the other two coaches ran for themselves but both took care they did not come in first.  

State cross country is next week and I don't know if any of the students from my school will go since none of them were in the top three positions.  The important this is that every child completed the run.  A couple took a while but they were cheered in as much as those who arrived in first place.

We can't go very late into the year because snow can arrive early.  Just last week, the hills received a light dusting of snow but we are at the time when its not quite cold enough to get much snow so instead we get tons of rain.

I hope you enjoyed a few views of the area surrounding town and a bit of info on the regional cross country. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Fall is Here

Snow Mountain, Muddy Field, Country

Fall has arrived.  There is snow on the hills outside of town.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Best Places to Visit in October.

Bench, Fall, Park, Rest, Sit, AutumnOctober is coming with Halloween and some people take their holidays this month because they want to avoid the crowds.  There are some great places to visit in October that are better than any other time of the year.

1.  Check out Darjeeling, India, the same place they grow Darjeeling tea.  October is the end of monsoon season, the rain and fog disappears so the Himalaya's appear as their majestic self.  It is a great time to spot Mount Everest along with several other mountains.  This is the place to enjoy Victorian teas or ride a local steam engine.

2.  There is Vienna, Austria to check out, famous for its urban vineyards in addition to its imperial palaces and musical history with people such as Mozart and Beethoven.  It's easy to take a tram to the outskirts of town to watch the grape harvest at different vineyards.  There are designated trails to follow which will take you through several vineyards with free samples.  The weather is great with mild days.

3.  Hop across the Atlantic to visit Churchill, Canada, known for the number of Polar Bears in the area.  Due to the Hudson Bay freezing, it makes it easier for Polar Bears to travel around the area looking for seals.  It is possible for visitors to take specially reinforced buggies to take tours out for closeup views of the animals.  October is when the largest number of bears are congregating in the area, some even hanging around bus stops.

4.  If Asia is more to your liking, you might check out the Japanese Alps, in Japan.  The trees covering the Alps turn red, gold, and orange creating cascades of color.  The number of people who head for the trails to hike increases but the beauty of the mountains makes up for the traffic.  There are huts spread around for people to rent a private room with a bento box of dinner.  In addition, there are wonderful spas and hot springs sprinkled around so people can relax after a long day of hiking.

5.  Another place to check out in October is the Atacama Desert in Chile.  The desolate scenery is stark but beautiful.  It is so stark, Mars rovers are tested there before they are sent into space.  The good thing is there are fewer visitors heading for this desert, temperatures are more moderate, and its cheaper to visit.  The area has red canyons, steaming volcanoes, erupting geysers, salt flats, and hot springs spread out all over the place.  Due to the lack of water, there are fewer villages which makes it a great star gazing location.

6. Perugia, Italy is a great place to visit during October due to the ten day celebration focused on Baci, a sweet chocolate kiss.  There are cooking classes, exhibitions, and lots of samples.  The Baci comes wrapped in romantic poems and proverbs.  In addition, the town is rich in history, art, aqueducts, and crazy staircases.  

7.  Have you been wanting to visit Hawaii?  Think about going there in October because most of the summer visitors are gone and the winter visitors have yet to come.  Temperatures are nice, prices drop, and rainfall is rather low.  One can check out the Volcanoes on the Big Island at the Volcano National Park, or visit the Orchid store.  Or head over to any of the islands because each one offers something special.  I would suggest you not be in Waikiki for Halloween because it is crowded and so loud.

8.  If you've ever wanted to visit the Galapagos Islands, October is the best time to visit.  Most of the tourists have gone back to work, and its towards the end of the best part of the year to view fish and birds.  In addition, the sea begins to warm up so one can take a dip so you can check out the marine life.

9.  If you hate super crowded places like Tokyo or Seoul, look at Taipei instead.  It has Taoist temples, skyscrapers, night markets, and wonderful shopping malls.  Taipei has wonderful street food where you can get a beer or grilled cuttlefish or if you prefer something more, there are great clubs to visit.  Towards the end of October, the humidity drops, skies clear up so visitors can get a better view of the skyline.  For the adventurous, check out the 230 ft Ferris wheel or the 89th floor of an extremely tall building.

10. Are you looking for some place new?  Check out Vietnam with natural beauty, misty treks, cities including Hanoi with condensed milk flavored coffee and awesome foods.  Hop over to the Mekong Delta with its canals and streams filled with life, or the Cafe Apartment in Ho Chi Minh City.  The Cafe Apartment has 9 floors in one block filled with mini boutiques and craft coffee stores.  During October, the dry season begins and come November, visitors begin arriving in droves.

These are just ten of many possible places to visit during October.  If you are into traveling in October, check these out.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Civilization and Toasters

Toast, Toaster, Food, White Bread There are days I enjoy toast for breakfast instead of eating cereal.  Other days, I want a poached egg over toast so the egg yolk is runny and soaks into the seriously buttered bread so the flavors blend together.  I use my toaster to toast bread and bagels.

For the most part, bread was placed over a hot stone by an open fire to be toasted since at least Roman times.  Romans toasted their bread to help keep it longer and carried it with them as they conquered the world.  It is said the Romans learned how to toast bread from the Egyptians.  The word toast came from the Latin word "tostum" meaning to burn or scorch. Once people started using wood and coal burning stoves,  someone invented pyramid shaped tin and wire contraption they heated on the stoves to toast bread.

Electric toasters have only been around a bit over 100 years.  The first one came out in 1893 after a Scottish inventor created it and called it an "Eclipse Toaster."  In 1909, another person redid the toaster in the United States.  He patented his "D-12" toaster which was built and marketed by General Electric but it has a small problem.  The "D-12" toaster had a problem in that it only toasted one side of the bread at a time and someone had to stand next to it watching to turn the bread when toasted.  In addition, at this time, few homes had electricity so the use of the "D-12"was used only in restaurants.

Over the next few years, companies made small improvements such as the one who in 1913 made small adjustments to create a toaster that automatically flipped the bread so people no longer had to stand next to the toaster to turn bread.  but it wasn't until 1919 that Charles Strite invented the first pop-up electric toaster complete with a timer so no one had to watch it.  In 1926, another company readjusted a few things to improve it and marketed it as the Toastmaster. The Toastmaster was really the first toaster available to the public.  It was advertised as a machine designed to make perfect toast every time with no fuss, no muss, and no one watching.  This was true but only for the first slice of toast.  Subsequent pieces of toast ended up darker.

About the same time, other inventions came about that made it easier to make toast.  A man began working on a bread slicing machine in 1912 but it wasn't until 1928 he was able to market a machine that sliced and wrapped bread to keep it from getting stale.  A company in Missouri began marketing sliced bread as "Kleen Maid Sliced Bread" possibly the first sliced bread to hit the shelves.  In 1930, Wonder began marketing sliced bread nationwide and this created a need for the toaster because the bread fit perfectly in the slots.  Prior to the development of the commercial bread slicer, people had to carefully slice bread so the slices would fit in the toaster slots.

Since then, improvements have only made the toaster better.  Improvements such as the microchip, which made it possible for the toaster to measure the amount of moisture in different breads and heat them to the proper temperature.  Another important development was the creation of heat resistant plastics that could replace the metal making toasters lighter and more portable.  In addition, it opened the way for different colored toasters.  Small adjustments continued to be made to toasters so they would toast either bread or bagels.

I own a toaster that will do bagels or toast but I have to be careful how thick I cut my home made bread or it won't fit into the toaster correctly.  Let me now what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Social Dancing - Where Has It Gone.

Dancing, Couple, Swing, Tango, Leisure I remember as a child, my dad would put on his suit, make sure he polished his shoes while my mother made sure she had a nice dress on with heels and then they'd go out for the evening to dance.  They'd spend the whole evening dancing and socializing with others.  Unfortunately, over the past couple of decades, the number of places to dance have dwindled until ones happen a couple times a hear.

I've never done that much social partner dancing because they seldom danced with partners at school sponsored dances.  I can dance by myself but I'm not very good at dancing with someone. I occasionally am able to attend social events where people recreate dances from the 1500's on which involve partners and long lines of dancers.

Early social dances from the 1500's were only done by the upper classes.  These dances involved simple steps as couples formed processionals around the room.  People could flirt, hold conversations, or even switch partners through out the dance.  People socialized as they danced.

Social dancing changed during the seventeenth century when the focus changed from large group patterns to patterns of the couples by moving to the waltz.  Although it freed people from the poses of prior dances, it was considered rather indecent until the 19th century which made it even more popular.

Around the beginning of the 18th century in England and the United States, blended group dances with couples dances to get "Contra Dances" or "Cotillions" or "Square Dances".  These dances required a person to call the next move just before it happened.  Some of the moves had people shift partners on a regular basis leading to more social interaction.

Through the 19th century, English Country Dancing, the Waltz, joined the Polka, the Pavan, the Two Step and other dances as the ones done during social dancing.  Towards the end of the 19th century, dance became influenced by African based dance with the Cakewalk.  South America also added an influence with the Tango.

As women were freed from the more restrictive dress, dances also became less restrictive with the Turkey Trot, the Grizzly Bear, and the Bunny Hug.  Most dances had a strong beat, with lots of hugging, close moves, and swaying.  World War I and II helped spread the Charleston, the Lindy, and other dances to other parts of the world.

Along the way schools opened to teach social dances to those who wanted to learn the current dances, meet people, and socialize.  There are still social dance clubs around but I don't think they can be as easily found as they used to.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

It's How Old?

Waffle Irons, Waffle, Kitchen UtensilI adore waffles covered with real butter and real maple syrup.  I actually will order waffles over pancakes any time because they are lighter and fluffier.  I've been playing around with yeast raised waffles but it's taking a bit to get the waffle just right.

In order to get the waffle, you have to cook it in a waffle iron.  According to records, there are indications that something similar to a waffle existed in Ancient Greece. The Ancient Greeks would pour a batter into hot iron plates with long wooden handles to cook Oblieos over a fire but we might not think of them as waffles because they were neither sweet nor savory.

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church produced large, unleavened wafers known as "oublies".  Originally they were imprinted with biblical scenes or crosses but once the Catholic Church gave permission to artisans to begin making them, these new "oublies" had pictures of family crests, landscapes and other designs. As knights came back from the Crusades, they brought cinnamon, and ginger with them.  These spices livened up the "oublies".  In addition, butter, cream, leavening agents, and creme were added to the basic grain flour and water recipe making the final product lighter and more cake like.

Furthermore, the irons used to make wafters deepened so they product changed from wafers to a wafel as the Dutch called them.  By the 15th century, the Dutch switched over to rectangular shape from the traditional circular shape and began using a grid pattern.  No one is sure why the grid pattern started, but it is thought the grid allowed cooks to use less batter over a larger area.  These were the ancestor to the modern waffle.

In 1725, Wafel changed to Waffle when Englishman Robert Smith spelled it that way in his influential   "Court Cookery" which had a the first known Waffle recipe.  Various European countries developed their own version of the waffle.  Germany had the coffee waffle while the French made their waffles with Spanish wine, cloves, and lemon zest.  Most waffles eaten in Europe were snacks, eaten by hand.  It wasn't until the Dutch brought the waffle to the United States that they were doused with maple syrup.

Thomas Jefferson so loved waffles, he brought several waffle irons back from Europe with him but waffles didn't become a main stream meal until 1869 when Cornelius Swarthout patented the first stove top cast iron waffle iron with a handle and clasp so the iron could easily be flipped without loosing the waffle.  His invention, made it so people no longer had blistered hands they used to get when making waffles.  Furthermore, about 1890, a company produced the first commercial pancake and waffle mix called "Aunt Jemima" named after a minstrel show character. About 135 years ago Mrs Fisher, the first published African American cookbook author recommended lots of oil to keep waffles from sticking.

Soon after the beginning of the 20th century, both General Electric, and Westinghouse began working on  electric waffle irons with a heating coil that produced enough heat to cook a waffle but it was the Simplex Electric Company out of Massachusetts, who marketed the first viable electric waffle iron in 1906.   General Electric began producing their own version of the electric waffle iron in 1911 and it resembled the ones we use today.  In 1932, the Dorsas created and marketed the first waffle mix that only required milk to produce a thick waffle mix.

Over the next few decades, minor changes were made but it wasn't until plastics became common that the price of waffle irons dropped making them much more affordable but what really made waffles part of most people's diet was when the Dorsas created a machine in 1950 that produced thousands of waffles that were then frozen and marketed as Eggo waffles. The same ones marketed under "Leggo my Eggo." phrase.

Along the way, Belgian waffles came over at the beginning of the 20th century, adding a new dimension to the waffle story.  These were thicker than normal waffles and became quit popular.  I remember a waffle maker my parents had when I was young.  It was quite thin when compared to Belgian waffles.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The Rise of Motels

Wildwood, New Jersey, Motel, Rooms Most people who have driven cross country have stayed at one or more motels on the route.  Some motels were part of nationwide chains while others are small mom and pop facilities in those little places in the middle of nowhere.

Motels have their origin back with the rise of the automobile.  Once Ford began cranking out cars that could be afforded by everyone, people started traveling further and further away from home.  If they got too far from home, they might have to stay in an expensive hotel, rent a room in a house, or camp in a field by the roadside.  For those who didn't want to arrive at a hotel, covered in dirt and looking a bit worse for the wear, camping was a wonderful alternative.  People were more likely to rent rooms to tourists in the east while camping was much more popular in the west.

As the depression hit, and more and more people traveled the roads looking for work or a better life, farmers and municipalities began throwing up small gas stations surrounded by small cabins to attract those in "Tin Lizzies" .  These cabins might be constructed out of prefabricated kits or thrown together from scratch.  Some owners charged different prices based on if there was a mattress in the room or came with sheets and blankets while other let travelers stay for free. Either way these cabin camps offered places for people to spend the night.

During the late 30's and 40's business owners began building sturdier and better cabins situated in round courts.  These facilities were also known as tourist courts, were so much better than the original dry cabins because they might include running water, laundry facilities, flush toilets.  These cabins were much more traveler friendly because they could park they automobiles next to the cabin or under a carport.  Soon, gas stations, and restaurants grew up around these cabin courts offering travelers even more.  By 1935, it is estimated there were over 10,000 cabin courts crossing the nation.

Unfortunately, the shortages during World War II caused people to decrease their travels but the military men who crossed the country for training, etc saw parts they wanted to return to when the war ended.  Any motels built during the war, were built in long buildings with connecting rooms rather than individual cabins. Since the rooms used one foundation, one roof, and shared utilities so the cost of constructing the new motels decreased significantly and parking moved to the front of the building.

 It was during the expansion of the road system commissioned by Eisenhower, that the motel was born.  The name was short for a motel-hotel or a motor hotel for those in cars.  People still traveled what roads they could, stopping a fully integrated facilities near towns or off the roads.  Once the interstate highways were finished, they kept people off the smaller roads causing the small motels to go out of business. At the same time, chains of hotels such as Holiday Inn were actually a cross between motels and hotels started growing during the late 1950's and 60's.  These chains grew from single story to double and triple story facilities, some with swimming pools to make a stay even nicer.    During the same time period, the number of mom and pop motels decreased being replaced by the chains.

Today, there are some mom and pop motels left in smaller out of the way places but most people choose to stay at the more well known motel chains.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Disposable Tissues

Kleenex, Tissue, Paper Towels, CleanMy father is one of those men who even today uses linen or cotton handkerchiefs rather paper tissues.  My mother has always washed and ironed them so they'd be fresh and ready for use. Historically, men always had handkerchiefs in pockets to use in cases of colds or sneezing but this all changed in the early 20th century.

Paper tissues or Kleenex came about when the company, Kimberly-Clark, decided to create a substitute for cotton during World War I.  Due to a shortage of cotton, companies and people searched for a substitute for use in surgical bandages in battle field medical facilities and hospitals.

Kimberly-Clark created a Cellucotton, an absorbent substitute for cotton. In addition to being used in surgical bandages, it was also used in gas masks as part of the filtration systems.  When the war ended, Kimberly-Clark had a huge surplus of Cellucotton and searched for ways to use it in civilian life.  The first product they marketed, in 1924, was a cold creme tissue they named the Kleenex Kerchief.  Using Hollywood stars to endorse the product as the best way to remove make-up, and its sales took off.  At this point, women began writing the company to complain their husbands kept blowing their noses into the cold creme tissues.

Due to all these letters, Kimberly-Clark carried out a test in Peoria, Illinois newspaper.  They placed two ads, one advertising tissues to remove cold cream while the other said it was a disposable handkerchief for noses.  The readers were asked to indicate which way they used the tissues and over 60 percent indicated they used it for their noses.

As a result of these results,  Kimberly-Clark began marketing their tissues in 1928 in perforated popup boxes much like we use now.  In addition, they also changed their advertising focus to the product being for noses, not cold creme and sales increased significantly. One year later, they introduced colored tissues for the first time so people had choices other than white.  In 1932, Kimberly-Clark introduced the small pocket sized packets to the public.  About this time, one of their researchers convinced the company to begin advertising these tissues as a way to prevent the spread of germs because it is the handkerchief that is thrown away.

In 1941, the company introduced its Kleenex Mansize tissue for men but then  World War II broke out.  This meant shortages resulting in a decrease in production of paper products so Kimberly-Clark changed the focus of tissue technology back to producing field bandages and dressing for the war effort.  This boosted their image in the eyes of the public and they continued producing tissues.

Four years after the war ended, Kimberly-Clark introduced Kleenex designed specifically to clean eye glasses.  As the sales of tissue continued to increase,  Kimberly-Clark became an official sponsor of the Perry Como show.  In the 1960's, the company began supporting daytime programming  to create more interest in the product.  They also introduced additional sizes of tissues to suit more people. Along the way, other companies entered the market with their versions but marketed under their own names such as Angel Soft, Puffs, and Scotties.

Over the next few decades, Kimberly-Clark introduced scented tissues, patterned tissues, and tissues impregnated with lotion for red noses or disinfectants to make them anti-viral.  If you ever wondered where the name Kleenex came from, it was a combination to two things.  The first Kleen a weird spelling of clean and the ending ex from another product they marketed, thus Kleenex.  Kleenex is a trade marked product but over time it has become the term used to refer to generic tissues.

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

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Over 100 Years Later, Where Are They?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Strange Animals

Gharial, Crocodile, Reptile, Ganges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 16, 2019

Common Substitutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Friday, September 13, 2019

Bridal Showers - Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Where, Oh Where To Do My Laundry

Laundromat, Washer, Dryer, MachineIt is quite common for people in Alaska to do their laundry at laundromats because so many people do not have running water.  When I'm home in the summer, I end up taking my stuff to the laundromat because the water at my house sort of works.

Laundromats are also quite popular when traveling because they allow you to take fewer pieces of clothing and you can wash them frequently but have you ever wondered when and there they got started?

Places that will do your laundry for you have been around a very long time.  For a very long time, people were paid to hand wash clothing and sheets.  Eventually, people began tinkering with ideas and in 1858, the first washer was invented.

About 20 years later another man invented a household washer as a gift to his wife.  Unfortunately these machines tended to be quite expensive.  The first electric wringer washers made their appearance in the early 1900's but they were quite dangerous because the motor was directly beneath the tub so if water spilled out it could cause the motor to short out or shock the user.  Over the next few years, inventors tweaked it to make it safer.

Eventually someone in Fort Worth, Texas got the idea to start something called a Wash-a-teria during the early part of the Depression around 1934.  Instead of doing laundry for people, it offered the machines so people for a much lower cost could do all their laundry.  At this time, these facilities  charged by the hour to cover the cost of use including water and electricity.  Since many people could not afford a personal machine, these facilities allowed them to do laundry when they might not be able to afford it otherwise.  Three years later, the first automatic washers were released so it made doing laundry much easier.

In the following years, laundromats became much more popular and in  1945, someone invented the first coin operated machines so people no longer had to collect the fees and by the late s1940's facilities were open 24/7 but unmanned. So over time these facilities began looking quite shoddy and worn down.  During the 1950's management realized they needed a more hands on approach by continually monitoring the equipment, keeping the places clean, and offering laundry services for those who didn't want to do it themselves.  The use of laundromats continued increasing in the 1960's and 70's.

Over the past few decades, improvements have been made to both washers and dryers so they are much more energy efficient, and are much faster.  In addition, many wash-a-terias have machines that accept credit cards in addition to coins.  Unfortunately, many laundromats are located on prime urban land so owners can make more money by selling off the land.  Furthermore, the actual use of Laundromats has decreased on average 20 percent since 2005.

The original self serve laundromats were referred to as Wash-a-terias, Washeries, and eventually the name became "Laundromat" named after a line of washing machines sold between 1940 and 1945 when they went out of business.

So now you know about  laundromats and where they developed.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Raining Cats and Dogs and Other Sayings

Dog, Cat, Animals, Dog CatThe other day, I used the phrase, more bang for your buck and my students had to ask me what it meant because its not one used locally.  I know it means the most value for your money but I didn't know its origin.

 It is a phrase that seems to have come into use during the 1950's when Dwight D Eisenhower was trying to increase the military while cutting their budget.  The military spend money on Nuclear Weapons because they could get by with fewer men while maintaining their ability to defend the United States. The earliest known usage of the phrase is from 1940 when it appeared in an ad in the magazine "Metals and Plastic Publication.  Over time, the phrase has shifted from referring to weapons to a general usage of more value for the money.

Raining cats and dogs has an interesting background.  No one is exactly sure of its origin but the first related reference appeared in 1651 in a poem by Englishman Henry Vaugh.  He commented on a roof that was so sturdy it would hold out against "dogs and cats rained in a shower".  One year later, an author referred to raining dogs and polecats.  Polecats are similar to weasels not cats. However, it was Jonathon Swift, in 1738, who in a satire making fun of the upper class had a character comment about "rain cats and dogs." Although Swift didn't coin the phrase, he is attributed with making it popular.

One thought of the origin of raining cats and dogs is that it is from the word catadupe which was corrupted into cats and dogs.  The word catadupe from Old English meant waterfall so when you say its raining cats and dogs, you are saying there is a fall of water coming down.  Another thought is that it comes from the Greek expression catadoxa which means contrary to belief so raining cats and dogs means it is raining unusually hard. The bottom line is that no one is sure.

Getting out of hand means when someone looses control which is sort of where the phrase came from but not quite.  This dates back to when people used horses.  If the rider did not keep a firm control on the reigns of a horse, the horse could "get out of hand".  On the other hand, making the grade really has nothing to do with getting a high grade.  It'a roots go back to the days when they were building railroads across the land.  The word grade is short for gradient and back in the 19th century, engineers had to carefully calculate grade so nothing was too steep.  If the math was correct, the track "made the grade" for was not too steep for the engines and the railroad cars.

The interesting thing about the phrase "hitting the nail on the head" is that it may or may not mean being precise and correct or making the point.  The first reference is found in a book dating from 1438.  It is the autobiography of Margery Kempe, a religious visionary of the time.  This book gives a peek into religious life of the times so scholars believe the phrase had an entirely different meaning than it does today.

"Under the weather" simply means you aren't feeling well or you are sick.  The original meaning had a much narrower usage. At first it was used to describe sailors who when sick were sent under deck to get better away from things.  So when they were under the weather, they were under the deck.  Your ears are burning came from Roman times when people believed your ears started burning when someone spoke ill of you.  They said if your left ear burned, someone was speaking ill of you but if your right ear burned, people were saying good things about you.

The Romans were also responsible for "Waking up on the wrong side of the bed."  They believed if you got up on the left side of the bed you would give you bad luck all day long and you worked hard not to do it.  The English were responsible for the "Skeleton in the closet."  This phrase came from a 19th century English family who hid their son in the closet when visitors came to keep anyone from mowing about his illness.   The phrase made its appearance in the Eclectic Review in 1816 and at this time skeleton was another name for illness or disease.

These are just a few phrases that have fun histories.  I hope you enjoyed reading about them.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

When Did Take Out Start?

Pizza, Food, Supper, Takeaway, Takeout We don't think anything of phoning in an order for something quick for dinner.  We call and its delivered or we can pick it up if we want but when did it start?

At this point in time, about six percent of the American population calls their favorite restaurant for a delivered meal each day.  Ordering can be via phone, an app, or the internet.  Take out is not exactly an American invention.  There are records of the butchers in 14th century Paris who sent freshly cut meat to the homes of the wealthy.  On the other hand, there are records of people in India back in the 19th century delivering freshly made hot meals to the hungry around town.

As far as America goes, there are advertisements dating back to colonial times in which hotels offer freshly made meals to families who send their servants over to pick it up.  Any families who took advantage of the offer, had to choose from whatever was cooked that day.  They didn't have standard menus like today.  Then after the Civil War, restaurants offered lunches put in cracker boxes for Sunday picnics.  This continued into the early 1920's with restaurants still offering boxed lunches with foods such as chicken sandwiches, roast chicken, club sandwiches or salads.  These lunches could include ice cream for dessert.

During the late 19th century up into the early  20th century, most take out foods were purchased at transportation hubs such as railway stations or major road intersections where a lot of people passed.  Even in the Far East, travelers could purchase boxed lunches to eat on trains.  In the South, one often purchased meals from African American women who offered home cooking rather than relying on restaurants because restaurant food was said to be horrid.

In addition, take out lunches became quite popular because many workers had to travel farther from home and this made it easier for them.  They didn't have to worry about cooking or having facilities to cook.  Now if you look at takeout with a more modern look, check out the Kin-Chu cafe in China Town in Los Angeles that offered delivered Chinese Food back in 1922.  They were the first to offer a real delivery service.

The idea of delivering prepared food didn't take off until after World War II when people purchased homes out in Suburbia and purchased their first televisions.  This lead to a decline in people going out to eat at restaurants so the eateries began offering to deliver food from the menu  in the 1950's.  This move lead to an increase of sales from 20 to 50 percent in just one year.

While this was happening, the demand for pizza also increased because many soldiers who'd been stationed overseas came back with a desire to eat Italian food.  They hunted for Italian restaurants, looking for pizza.  In response, they began offering piping hot pizza one could take home to enjoy.  Again in Los Angeles, the Casa D'Amore pizza play offered free delivery as long as they ordered at least $2.50.

As people bought automobiles and started traveling more, the fast food joint was born to service these people with takeout and eventually companies soon offered delivery of boxes filled with everything  needed to prepare meals including recipes.  Now its even easier to order takeout by calling one number which will then forward your order to the restaurant of choice and it is delivered to you.  These services still offer takeout to travelers who don't want to have to find a restaurant in town.

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

Monday, September 9, 2019

History of Street Food

Korean Food, Korea, Cuisine, DeliciousThroughout history, people have eaten street food, made and sold by independent vendors.  No one is exactly sure when people began selling food on the streets but there appears to have been people selling fried fish to the poor.

There are records showing that the poor ate food prepared by venders on the street because tenement housing did not have cooking facilities available.  There are also records of street food being available to the poor in China but the wealthy people sent their servants to purchase food for them to eat in the privacy of their own homes.

In fact, street food was really the first fast food sold because venders could make good, filling, food for great prices so people could pop out, get food, before heading back to work.  People could stop in and get hot fresh food without ever entering a building so this type of eating fit in well with trying to eek out a living.  Almost every culture and civilization has had street food venders.

In 14th century Egypt, one could easily purchase Lamb Kababs, rice or fritters while in Colonial America one was more likely to purchase oysters, tripe, roasted corn, fruit, or sweets.  The ancient Aztecs enjoyed Atolli ( a gruel from maize) and a variety of tamales stuffed with different meats and in 19th century Paris, one could purchase strips of fried potatoes thought to be the forerunner of French fries.  Even street venders in Transylvania had sold cookies, corn mixed with cream, and bacon. Londoners could enjoy tripe, pea soup, pea pods in butter, prawns, and jellied eels.

In Indonesia, street food is sold from carts and bicycles rather than motorized trucks as is done in the United States.  In Bangkok, 20,000 street food venders feed around 40% of the population.  In Brazil, the most popular food sold is the chips or a small baked cheese flavored roll.  Mumbai, India has over half a million street food venders to serve the population.  The Polish sell a bread grilled with mushrooms, cheese, and some sort of meat called Zapiekankas while the most popular street food in the United States is the Hot Dog. The pizza sold by street venders in Italy is sold with a thick base that is baked and then sold in squares or rectangles.

In case you wonder, street food is not more contaminated that that sold in restaurants.  One thing, to know is that in some cultures it is considered rude to consume your street food while walking.  There is an estimated 2.5 billion people who eat street food every single day.  The thing about street food, is you can see it being prepared so you know if you want to try it.

From a entrepreneurs point of view, this type of business is easy to start since it requires a much lower investment than going the route of a restaurant.  In Fairbanks, many people begin with stalls at the local farmers market or set up a food truck to build clientele before investing in a restaurant in a building.  Furthermore, it allows venders to be more competitive and offer food that is usually cheaper than the same foods sold in a restaurant.

In some places such as Hawaii or Portland, there are blocks where people park their food trucks to sell foods.  I love that so many different foods can be found in such a small area for a reasonable price.  I admit, I often stop at street venders to purchase foods rather than going to sit downs because I like the foods I've found and I've done it in several countries because it gives me a better variety of choices.

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

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Friday, September 6, 2019

Ratios in Cooking

Woman, Kitchen, Man, Everyday LifeIt seems as if most recipes have measurements in fractions such as 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup or 1 1/2 cups but not always.  It is said one way for people to become a great cook is to use ratios rather than standard recipes.

Many types of food are set up so that only the main ingredients are counted in the ratio set up.  Smaller things like salt, pepper, etc are not counted.  For cooking the ratios are preset proportions of ingredients so the results are always consistent.

Furthermore, since the basic ratios make up the recipe it is still possible to adjust them to individualize them by adding a bit of spice, flavoring, etc.  There is even a cookbook dedicated to teaching people about every major ratio used in cooking.

Some of the standard ratios used cover everything from bread, to vinaigrette, to crepes, to cookies. The ratios are general but they hold consistent as long as the units are the same.  If you have a 3 to 1 ratio, it will be the same using cups - 3 cups to 1 cup, or 3 cans to 1 can, or 3 tablespoons to 1 tablespoon.  It all depends on how much you want to make.

 1. Vinaigrette or salad dressing uses a ratio of 3:1 or three parts oil to one part water.  Then you add any flavorings you want such as herbs, mustard, or even spices to individualize it.

2. Brines are 20:1 or 20 parts water to one part salt.  This brine can be used for meat, poultry, or pork.  It's when they add herbs, etc that it makes it more personalized.

3. Basic soup stock is 3:1 or 3 parts water to one part bone.  Throw the bone in the water, add your onion, carrots, etc and cook.  One word of advice, weigh the bone so you can get the correct amount of water.  3 ounces of water to one ounce of bone.

4. Pie Crust is a 3:2:1 or three parts flour to two parts fat to one part water to make the perfect pie crust.  Always make sure the fat is super cold so it blends properly with the flour.

5. Bread is 5:3 or five parts flour to three parts liquid with a bit of yeast or baking powder to make it rise.  They don't count the salt used for flavoring or the bit of sugar to feed the yeast.  It also doesn't count the herbs, spices, raisins, or nuts used to add character to the recipe.

6. Pasta uses a 3:2 ratio or three parts flour to two parts eggs so this ratio requires both the flour and eggs be weighed to get the proper ratio.

7. Crepes require a 1:1:0.5 ratio or one part egg, one part liquid and half a part of flour.  The type of flour can change but the ratios remain the same.

8 Pancakes use a 2:2:1:0.5 ratio or two parts flour, two parts liquid, one part egg and half a part fat.  So the ratio are a bit different than the one used in crepes.

9. Biscuits are a 3:1:2 ratio or three parts flour, one part fat, and two parts liquid. This will give you those wonderful flakey biscuits. Again, they do not count the salt or flavorings to personalize these.

These are just a few basic ratios for making everyday things.  A quick search of the internet will pull up additional ratios used for cooking.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Depression Era Cooking

Cake, Eat, Food, Sweet, Eating, Dessert The other day, I went looking for a chocolate cake recipe my mother used to make.  She's moved so many times, she doesn't remember where it went but she does know what I'm talking about.  It used flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder or soda, maybe some oil, and a combo of vinegar and water.  The vinegar reacted with the baking soda or powder to make it rise and then you shoved it in the oven to bake.

As a child, I loved it because I didn't have to whip, cream, or do anything fancy and at the end, I'd have dessert.  So when I tried to find a recipe for it, I ran across something called a depression cake.  A "Chocolate Depression Cake" with basically those same ingredients I remembered.  The only difference between what I remember and this recipe is it uses vanilla and I don't remember using any.

While looking for this recipe, I came across some interesting Depression era dishes that are rather different but for people out of work, these dishes developed out of necessity.  Some are ones we'd look at but probably never make while others are possibilities.

The Poor Man's Meal fried  diced potatoes and chopped onion in oil until brown and softened.  At this point add sliced hot dogs and cook till hot and ready, then serve.  I gather hot dogs and potatoes were quite inexpensive back then.

Another dish, Creamed Chipped Beef, was served by the military to its personnel in both World War I and World War II and was eaten frequently during the depression. Melt some butter in a pan, add flour to make a roux, then slowly add milk, stirring so it turns into a thickened creamy sauce before adding shredded dried beef.  This is the dish soldiers and sailors made fun of because it wasn't that good.

Then there was Hoover Stew, named after President Hoover who was in office in 1929 when the Stock Market Crash hit.  First cook one pound of macaroni, spaghetti, or other pasta till almost done and then drain it.  Return the pasta to the pot and add sliced hot dogs, a couple cans of stewed tomatoes, and a can or so of mixed vegetables.  Bring to a boil and cook till pasta is done.

Then there is the Egg Drop Soup recipe that has nothing to do with Chinese cooking.  Dice both potatoes and onions.  Cook them in oil till the onion is soft, then add a bay leaf or two, salt and pepper before adding enough water to fill the pot about half full.  Cook at a simmer till the potatoes are soft, before adding a couple of eggs to the pot while stirring around.  Add a bit of cheese before serving over toast.

FDR's wife, Elenor highly recommended spaghetti with carrots and covered in a white sauce.  First thing is to cook the carrots till soft then boil the spaghetti until soft and mushy.  Make a white sauce from milk, flour, butter, salt, and pepper.  Mix it all together, place in a tray, and cook like a casserole till done.

Some other odd foods included a peanut butter stuffed baked onion, or oatmeal cookies with bacon grease instead of butter, fruit pies made with apple cider vinegar and no fruit to produce a custardy filling, and all types of loaves made with meat, or lima, or liver padded out with crackers, oatmeal, bread, cheap sauces, or tapioca.

I hope you enjoyed reading about these dishes.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Best Countries to View The Northern Lights

Northern Lights, Sky, ThreeYesterday, I spoke about planning a trip to Iceland at Christmas and wanting to sign up for a night tour to check out the northern lights while I'm there.  I usually travel with someone on these trips and he has one of those apps that notifies him when auroral displays are happening.  That is one reason for Iceland but I wondered what other places are just as good to view the lights for future trips.

Fairbanks, Alaska is considered one of the best places in the world to view the Aurora Borealis due to location within the ring shaped area surrounding the North Pole. They are most often seen between 10 PM and 2 AM.  I usually see them when I fly into Fairbanks in October or even at Christmas time.

Trosmo Norway, located just above the Arctic Circle, is another prime place located within the Auroral ring.  The best months are between October and March.  If you visit in January, you can check out the Northern Lights Festival where people celebrate with live music, and outdoor activities.  You might want to hit the Lofoten Islands in Norway for a great view.  This place has instruments that track magnetic activity so there is a better idea of when to view them.

Of course Iceland is great for seeing the northern lights from August to April or even into May.  Once can see pink and purple lights in addition to the standard green here.  The last time I visited Iceland, I thought I saw the aurora in the sky when we were approaching Iceland and I might have indeed seen them because it was August.

If you don't want to go quite that far north, you might want to check out the Shetland Islands in January.  These islands are the northern most part of Scotland where it is possible to see the northern lights.  These lights are referred to as "merrie dancers", are often seen as sheets or curtains of light filling the sky.

Fortunately, you don't have to go too far to see the lights.  You could pop up to Alberta, Canada where the lights are visible through the whole province but if you pop up to the Jasper National park, you should have a spectacular view because it has no  manmade lights shining into the sky.  You could drive on over to the Yukon Territory to Dawson to check out their Northern Lights Center to learn more about them.

Northern Finland has a reputation for being able to see the Aurora just about every other day from September to March for some of the best viewing.  If you'd prefer Sweden, they also have some great viewing for those same months.

Actually, just about any country that lies by the Arctic Circle or above will give you a chance to explore the northern lights.  They arrive quickly, dance across the sky capturing your attention before disappearing into the night sky.  Sometimes, they stay awhile to play while other times, they are there long enough to identify them before they speed away.

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Planning for Christmas Holidays

Godafoss, Iceland, Waterfall, Falls I will spend this week buying my tickets, securing a place to stay, and setting up tours for my visit to Iceland in December between Christmas and the new year.  About two years ago, I visited Reykjavik in August when it was still summer.  I took a tour around the southern part of the country but I want to go back to experience what it offers in the winter.

I realize its going to be cold but I live in Alaska so I doubt its going to go below 40 degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit.  I also have my own winter gear so it won't cost anything to take it with me.

One of the main reasons I want to go back is to enjoy the northern lights.  I've seen them here in Alaska but I want to check them out in another country.  There is a tour to take you out side of town far enough to increase your chances of seeing the northern lights. Many of these guides know where the best places are and even provide photography tips for getting the best pictures of the aurora.

 I also plan to take a tour checking out the food because this time I'm staying downtown in a place that offers a free breakfast, shared kitchen and clothes washing facilities.  The cool thing about food tours is they give you a chance to check out various eating establishments so you know which ones you want to return to and you get a wonderful view of downtown.

I can also sign up for a quick tour of the city itself so I get a quick history lesson of the various buildings from churches to the theaters to the government.  These types of tours give you so much history while checking out buildings so you know which ones you might want to return to.  In addition, if you select the correct tour, admission is already included in the price so you don't have to worry about having enough money for it because you've paid for it in advance.

I might even sign up for a tour of the one of the hot springs Iceland is famous for. I love lounging in  a nice hot springs so you stay warm, in the winter..  We have a hot springs in Alaska where it is so cool to swim in the geothermal waters while watching the aurora and I bet this is a wonderful an experience.

I will be there 6 nights so I figure I'll mange three tours for the whole stay.  That is like one every other day or three in a row.  I know it will not give me as much time to enjoy just wandering but it will allow me to see more of the country than I might otherwise see.

I'm starting now, because Iceland is quite popular most of the year and quite a few hotels and hostels are already sold out.  I'm happy I was able to find a reasonably priced guesthouse for my stay.  Since it includes breakfast, it means I don't have to worry about finding anywhere to eat. It advertises access to a shared kitchen so I can buy ingredients to make meals anytime I want.

So I'll have all my tickets by Friday and everything set up by the time Thanksgiving arrives.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Last Trip? Maybe

Westerschelde, To The North Sea

Barges try to make one last trip in the fall before it gets cold to deliver anything too expensive to ship by air.