Yearly Archives: 2014
Post by Mark T. Locker
Have you heard of this fabled “Money Pit” on a small island in Nova Scotia? I just learned about this in a book I got for my son called “The Big Book of WHAT?” that features all kinds of amazing but true stuff, like the weird Winchester House and this “Money Pit”.
Apparently, a couple hundred years ago, some folks excavated this unusual depression in the ground. Every 20 feet or so (I guess it was metres, since we’re in Canada) they would find layers of logs or coconut fibers or stones, weird stuff to find in a hole. Suddenly, the tunnel flooded with seawater. Over the centuries others have tried to excavate this spot. There seems to be some kind of trap set up, tunnels that lead to the ocean which are triggered at a certain depth. A fellow even proved this bizarre fact by coloring the water in the hole and pumping air into it. Lo and behold, the colored water was spotted leeching into the ocean in two different spots! Crazy, right?
Enter the History Channel, whose skill at sensationalizing just about anything you can imagine, and who pushes the definition of “history” to the very limits. A couple retired brothers have bought a controlling interest in the company that owns Oak Island and are now determined to uncover the mysteries of this place. Even without the excessive sensationalizing, it’s a pretty weird place. Throwing in suggestions that the Ark of the Covenant is buried there takes away some of the credibility but the stories surrounding the island are real and date back centuries. It’s a fun and fairly brainless show to enjoy.
Post by Kyle St. Romain.
Throughout history beds have been used as a symbol of wealth – the more ornate and grand the bed, the wealthier its owner. Early in the evolution of the bed, anything raised from the floor was thought to be luxurious enough. After all, it beat sleeping on the floor! In the 13th century, however, the idea of a bedchamber was becoming more popular, i.e., enclosing the sleeping area with fabrics. The earliest bedchambers suspended fabrics from the ceiling to create a private sleeping environment. This concept later evolved into a four-poster bed, thought to have first been used in Austria, which created a more luxurious look and feel. Featherbeds, woolen blankets, and silk sheets were also introduced around this time, which made the beds functional and beautiful.
As trade and craftsmanship continued to grow, so did the bed. No longer a raised assemblage of wooden planks, beds had become works of art intricately carved, gilded with gold, and adorned with fine fabrics and precious stones. Four-poster beds were also quite large, with the Great Bed of Ware (which can be seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum) measuring a full 11 feet square. A bed of that size will make you second-guess whether a California King is really big enough!
The traditional four-poster bed would have been made from thick oak posts (up to 18 inches in diameter in some of the grandest examples), attached to the floor (not the bed), and connected by a series of rails along the top. Today, the posts of four-poster beds are usually connected to the bed itself, and come in almost every style imaginable — limited only by your taste and budget.
If you’re considering a four-poster bed, Charles Rogers makes a couple different styles of canopy beds made out of iron that can be draped in fabrics to create a very luxurious look. You can also check out the Houzz gallery to see how other people have dressed up their four-poster beds.
Post by Alison Hein.
Finding myself with a plethora of mixed nuts on hand after the holidays, I decided to make a sweet, dense walnut bread. Dark brown sugar provides a lovely colored base and texture for the deep, nutty flavor. A couple of eggs and a healthy dollop of sour cream add the needed lift, and a dash of cinnamon infuses a faint, lingering spice after each bite.
I wanted to give some Walnut Bread to a couple of friends, so I used three mini-bread pans for baking. You can also use a muffin tin, if you like. Just be sure to check on and monitor your baking a little earlier in the process to avoid over-cooking. Other types of nuts such as pecans or hazelnuts can also work well here, of course depending on your preference. Or, halve the amount of nuts used and add an equal amount of raisins or dried cranberries.
It doesn’t take long to mix up and bake this batter, but be prepared to wait until your bread is completely cooled before slicing or you may find yourself with a handful of sweet crumbles instead of sweet, crumbly slices.
A little more cakey than bread, and definitely more bready than cake, Walnut Bread is delicious at tea time with a strong cup of English Breakfast tea. Or, if you prefer, save it for the morning, slice it up properly and enjoy a sweet, nutty breakfast in bed.
6 tablespoons butter, softened
¾ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sour cream
1½ cups chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°, and lightly grease 1 large bread pan, or 3 mini bread pans.
In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until fully blended and slightly creamy. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Gradually add dry ingredients to the butter mixture, stirring until mixed to a light, sandy texture. Mix in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and sour cream until smooth batter forms. Fold in chopped walnuts. Spread batter in greased pan(s). Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack at least one hour before slicing.
Note: If using mini-pans, bake for 35 to 40 minutes, then test with toothpick.
Chomp by Carl Hiaasen.
I’ve heard a lot about Carl Hiaasen. Lots of monosyllabic titles. Darling of the state of Florida. Hoot, Flush, Chomp, Scat are among his children’s titles. I read Chomp because it was what happened to be available. The story tells of a boy by the name of Wahoo Cray. He and his father Mickey are professional animal wranglers. Since a head injury involving a dead iguana falling from a tree, Mickey has been unable to work and Wahoo has been taking up the slack. As you can imagine, animal wrangling is not a very financially stable career so when Derek Badger, the obnoxious, chubby star of a reality survival series shows up needing a gator and a snake to “encounter” Wahoo is more than happy to comply.
Although he has always faked the show, Derek’s encounter with the gator, in which he almost dies, is inspired to make this show for real and hires the two to lead him into the Everglades. Accompanied by Wahoo’s friend Tuna (their immediate bond is their unfortunate fish-related names) their short trip to the swamps turns into a real survival show, as well as a manhunt and much more.
Hiaasen is a pretty funny writer and clearly knows his home state, not to mention its flora and fauna, very well. I’m going to go read Flush next. I’ll let you know how it is.