A new friend from my book club introduced me to Downton Abbey last year and I only had to watch the very first episode to be hooked. Today I saw that Dooce, otherwise known as Heather Armstrong of blogging fame had recommended this video in her Friday feature, "Stuff I Found While Looking Around". I love it!
The house was crafted by Curtis Jensen, who says it took him nearly 2 weeks of evenings and weekends to complete. The window 'glass' is crushed butterscotch candies.
If you are ever lucky enough to travel to Ireland, make sure you visit Newgrange
in County Meath in the Boyne River Valley on the east side of the Republic of Ireland.
Newgrange in the Summer
Facing east: the Winter Solstice sunrise shining through the roof box down the passage
Facing west: with the entrance behind the camera.
The stones lining the chamber are called orthostats.
This amazing prehistoric monument predates the Pyramids in Egypt and Stonehenge in Britain. The early (primitive??) people who built this structure had knowledge of the skies and built the monument in such a way that on Dec. 21, the Winter Solstice, and for a few days before and after, the rising sun shines downward through a roof-box located just above the entryway into a 19-metre long passage, eventually reaching all the way to the back and lighting up the chamber there.
During most of the year, this illumination is simulated using electric lights. But from approximately Dec. 18 to Dec. 23, people are permitted to witness the event in real time. The sun rises at this time of year just before 9:00 a.m. The lucky ones who see this for themselves are chosen by lottery.
Of course being able to see the sunrise is weather-dependent.
This is the east-facing entryway with the roof-box above. You can also see the incredible carvings in the stone which sits in front.
are some pictures from last year's Winter Solstice.
This video shows Plucky playing soccer. He's a bit older now and his breast, genetically engineered to be big, is starting to upset his balance on those spindly legs and his neck now twists to one side.
Plucky shares his life with another rescued turkey, Dark Wing, a month younger, who was rejected by the other poults when he was hatched because of his unusual colouring.
Both turkeys live at Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary near Stratford with other rescued farm animals. There's an interesting story by Niamh Scallan at The Toronto Star
and that is where the still photos came from.
From Ireland: Damian McGinty and Celtic Thunder. Damian is the young guy with the amazing baritone voice. He performed with Celtic Thunder for four years, starting when he was 14. In 2011 he won The Glee Project, winning a guest role on Glee and left Celtic Thunder to pursue other opportunities
The idea for this front door mega-wreath came from Pinterest. It was easy to do and then there was a bit of fine-tuning. Since our front door is inset on the porch and is a bit dark, it was hard to see Mr. Snowman's hat, so a bit of trimming was necessary. I love the result. Maybe over the next year I will knit our snowman a special Christmas scarf.
Soon after I posted about the utility pole in the middle of the Quebec road, I read in the newspaper about this apartment building in China.
The owners are an elderly couple who are holding out for a better deal from the government. Apparently the phenomenon of a house left in the middle of the road is so common in China that there is a term for them: nail houses. The owners refuse to be hammered down and such houses stick up like a sore thumb and are difficult to remove. Often the government will cut off water and hydro to such homes, but in this case, such measures have not yet been taken. The man and his wife sleep in different parts of the building to deter demolition occuring when they're not looking.
The road itself has just recently been finished and leads to the railroad station. It has not yet been opened to traffic.
Crews have fixed the dangerous curve in the road, but for the last couple of months motorists still have had to avoid this hydro pole in the middle of Hwy. 251 in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Thankfully, it was finally removed just the other day. Snowplows will now be able to carry on unhindered.
Using an old supply cupboard, an old telephone bell, some used books and some innovation and imagination, Craig Small in Toronto has created the Biblio-Mat, a vending machine for books inside The Monkey's Paw, a store ownded by Stephen Fowler on Dundas St.
The Biblio-Mat is a retro-looking device, with no window and no choice available. One simply inserts a toonie and a book emerges into the tray - and it's a mystery every time!
There is an awesome dance, called
the Thousand-Hand Guanyin, which is making the rounds across the net.
Considering the tight coordination required,their accomplishment is nothing short
of amazing, even if they were not all deaf.
Yes, you read
correctly.All 21 of the dancers
are complete deaf-mutes.Relying only on signals from trainers
at the four corners of the stage,these extraordinary dancers deliver a
visual spectacle that is at once intricate and stirring. Its first major
international debut was in Athens at the closing ceremonies for the 2004
But it had long been in the repertoire of the Chinese
Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe and had traveled to more than 40
countries. Its lead dancer is 29 year old Tai Lihua, who has a BA from the
Hubei Fine Arts Institute. The video was recorded in Beijing during the Spring
Festival this year.
Other than being forced to watch ridiculous ads on TV we rarely talk about menstruation: the event that every woman of child-bearing age endures every month as part of her reproductive cycle. Yes, it's often inconvenient and messy. We accept it all, not necessarily without complaint, but we carry on, rarely thinking about other women around the world or wondering how they handle it.
The story of this Indian entrepreneur was in the Globe and Mail the other day, in an article by Stephanie Nolen, the Globe's Correspondent in India.
In many developing countries women are unable to afford, or they live in places where such conveniences are unavailable, sanitary supplies for their monthly cycle. Instead of the convenient sanitary supplies - napkins, tampons etc. - that women in developed countries such as Canada take for granted, women in India use old newspapers, rags, torn-up saris, or perhaps moss. Such products are not only uncomfortable, but unsanitary as well. The inconvenience is so terrible that often girls cannot attend school or women must stay home from work for part of the month.
Arunachalam Muruganantham, a son, husband and brother to menstruating women finally noticed that they were having a problem and he wanted to help. In India, a man's interest in these certain affairs of women is viewed with extreme distaste and suspicion. Muruganantham persevered, trying different materials to make, at home, different types of sanitary napkins and then finding women to try them out and to give him feedback. There were many failures. His wife was so embarrassed and distraught that he was talking to other women, especially about such personal issues, that she left home and asked for a divorce. Then his mother also left home in disgust. He kept on.
Eventually he had some success in creating a product that was both useful and affordable. He talked some women into helping him distribute them by moped and happily, the important women in his life eventually returned.
Now his story is in the Globe and Mail. Read it and see more pictures here
This morning, in the car I was listening to Jian Ghomeshi on CBC Radio One interviewing David Hockney, a well-known British artist
based in Yorkshire.
A few years ago Hockney began to create pictures on his iPhone to email to his friends. When the iPad was introduced, he moved to the larger screen and the rest is history.
Hockney has now had several major exhibits of his digital art including one currently at the Royal Ontario Museum.
You might wonder how art created on iPhones and iPads is displayed and the answer is: using those devices themselves and taking advantage of the backlighting. Here is a video explaining:
Most people know that vanilla comes from Madegascar. Did you know that Mexico, India, Uganda and Indonesia also have vanilla crops?
About 70 to 80 % of the world vanilla crop comes from Madegascar (2000 tonnes annually) but it is under threat because of civil unrest (2009 coup d'etat) and falling prices for vanilla. Many farmers there are turning to other cash crops. Presently Madegascar food-grade, black vanilla pods go for $30 to $40 per kilogram, but back in 2003 the price hit a record $550 per kilogram of pods thanks to a hurricane that wiped out much of the crop on the island. Once the crops recovered the following year, the price fell and has stayed low ever since.
The low price of Madegascar vanilla is, in part, due to the emergence of natural and synthetic vanilla substitutes which have been filling the market. In addition, poor weather and drought conditions in Mexico (50 tonnes annually) India and Indonesia have decimated their crops and since production has fallen, the food industry is, instead, reaching for the synthetic alternative. Most synthetic vanilla is a by-product from the pulp used in paper-making.
David van der Walde, director of Aust & Hachmann, a Montreal-based vanilla importer, describes the world's vanilla market as "struggling at best".
Most people, reaching for a tasty treat of ice cream or baked goods only care that it tastes good and are not concerned about whether real vanilla or a substitute has been used in the treat's manufacture. Real vanilla may be going the way of the dodo to the loss of us all.
This short film features the arcade created out of cardboard last summer by 9-year old Caine Monroy in his dad's East Los Angeles car parts shop. He put it all together, organized tickets, prizes, tokens, business cards, then waited for some customers. And waited and waited. Eventually the first customer, Nirvan Mullick, a filmmaker searching for a part for his old Corolla, stumbled upon the Arcade and was blown away by Caine's creativity and entrepreneurial-ship. He asked Caine's dad if he could make Caine's Arcade the subject of a documentary and used social media to create a flash mob appearance at the car shop location to surprise Caine. Then the 37-year old filmmaker set up a website to raise a college fund for young Caine. $100,000 has already been donated. The family is reportedly refusing to accept any more donations.
An LA pinball shop recently invited Caine to test out their wares and presented him with a vintage pinball machine, so now Caine's Arcade has a "real" game. I wonder if it's as much fun as the cardboard games.
In a recent post about Anniversaries I noted that both the Sinking of the Titanic and the Opening of the Chateau Laurier occurred 100 years ago this April.
What I didn't realize is that the official launch of the Chateau Laurier
, originally due to open on April 26, 1912 had to be postponed when it was discovered that owner and Grand Trunk Railway President, Charles Melville Hays, an American, had lost his life that fateful night of April 14/15 when the Titanic hit an iceberg and went down.
The Chateau Laurier recovered from this inauspicious beginning to become one of Canada's best known hotels. Located adjacent to Canada's Parliament Buildings in downtown Ottawa, the Chateau has hosted royalty and dignitaries from every walk of life and was home (on the 3rd floor) for many years to famed photographer, Turkish-born, Yousuf Karsh and his wife, Estrellita. Karsh had his studio on the 6th floor of the Chateau from 1973 to 1992. The elegant lobby is a showplace for many Karsh photographs of famous people. His photographic equipment is now displayed at Ottawa's Museum of Science and Technology, while the National Archives preserves more than 300,000 Karsh items, including negatives, prints and manuscripts.
In 2000 Karsh and his wife moved to Boston, where he died in 2002 at the age of 93. He is buried in an Ottawa cemetery
Plans to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the opening of the Chateau Laurier include an on-going memorabilia search, public Open Doors events June 2/3 with costumed guided tours, a year-long Centennial Tea starting April 26 and a "culinary journey through time," with menus reflecting the past decades.
Shortening is one of those baking ingredients that I used liberally, making cookies and other baked goods when our family was younger. We all ate it up!
Shortening makes baking tender and flaky, but it fell off its pedestal as the go-to fat when it was divulged that, as a partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, it was high in trans-fats and, therefore, bad for our arterial health.
Then about 5 years ago Crisco, the had-been staple in my pantry, underwent a transformation to make it safer to use for all of us health-conscious folks. With 50% less saturated fat than butter and zero grams of trans-fats per serving, shortening may again be used with impunity for all that delicious baking.
Here's another Anniversary
that I didn't know about until I looked at the Toronto Star this morning:
the 100th Anniversary of the Oreo Cookie!
Oreo, the world's top-selling cookie turns 100 years old today, March 6, 2012.
There are 21 Oreo factories in the world and the cookie is sold in more than 100 countries. Canada is the fourth largest market after the US, China and Venezuela.
To celebrate the great occasion of Oreo's 100th Birthday, the Montreal Oreo Factory has been opened for visitors and corporate chefs came up with a couple of special recipes. There's more information and an interesting video at The Toronto Star.
Here are the recipes:
Oreo Cookies & Cream No-Bake Cheesecakes
24 Oreo cookies
2 cups (500 ml) whipping cream 250-g package cream cheese, at room temperature 1/4 cup (60 ml) granulated sugar 1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract 8 Mini Oreo cookies (optional garnish)
Finely chop 8 Oreos. Spoon into eight clear glasses. Coarsely chop remaining 16 Oreos.
In medium mixing bowl, beat cream with mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Reserve 1/2 cup (125 ml) for garnish; refrigerate until ready to use.
In medium mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla on high speed until creamy. Stir in remaining whipping cream. Add coarsely chopped cookies; mix lightly. Spoon over cookie crumbs in cups. Refrigerate until chilled, about 6 hours.
To serve, garnish with reserved 1/2 cup (125 ml) whipped topping and mini cookies, if desired.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat cream on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar until stiff peaks form. Whisk in coffee, if using.
Layer half chopped cookies and half whipped cream mixture in six dessert dishes, clear glasses or martini glasses. Top each with bananas and dulce de leche. Top each with remaining whipped cream mixture and remaining cookies.
Serve immediately or refrigerate several hours. Makes 6.
We all know we should be very careful about eating salty foods. The recommended amount of sodium for people aged one year and over in ranges from 1000mg to 1500 mg per day. The actual amount of sodium on average that we consume in Canada is more than twice that amount. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, a major factor for stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Sodium intake has also been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis, stomach cancer and severity of asthma.
In Canada, governments at the federal, provincial and territorial levels are all committed to helping Canadians to reduce sodium intake. One way to accomplish this is by developing guidelines for industry to assist in reducing sodium levels in processed foods.
A federal task force has recently delivered a plan for Canadians to cut their intake of salt to one teaspoon a day, a change that could save thousands of lives every year and some major restaurants and food companies have already made commitments to sodium reduction. Campbells, which has already made changes to many of its products, also plans to cut sodium by 25% in 24 varieties of soup, on top of previous sodium cuts.
While Burger King, Boston Pizza and McDonald's have also announced lower sodium in some menu items, many products, such as McDonald's grilled chicken classic sandwich (reduced from 1010 mg. sodium to 810 mg., still one-third of the total daily recommended amount) are still considered to be excessively high in sodium.
Now here's the interesting part:
Most of us already know to be moderate in our consumption of fast food, processed foods and salty snacks. But do you know what food is the Number 1 source of salt in our daily diet?
It's not that bread itself is so salty. What makes bread products the biggest culprit is the fact that people tend to eat so much of them and the sodium in these foods adds up over the day, accounting for more than twice as much sodium as snacks like potato chips and pretzels.
So BE AWARE! If we have toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and more bread at dinner, we may be contributing to that salt overload without even realizing it.
Stream videos at Ustream
In Decorah, Iowa eagles are incubating their first egg of 2012. There may be another egg today and possibly a third egg in another few days. In approximately 35 to 42 days there will be eaglets.
Tuesday am update: Second egg arrived last night. Mom looks exhausted!
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory
recently released the following video of a tornado on the surface of the sun. The stunning video shows the sun's plasma sliding and spinning around in the star's magnetic fields for 30 hours earlier this month.
Terry Kucera, a solar physicist with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, told Fox News that the tornado might be as large as the Earth itself and have gusts up to 300,000 miles per hour. By comparison, the strongest tornadoes on earth, F5 storms, clock wind speeds at a relatively paltry (though incredibly destructive) 300 mph.
Everone knows how tiring and stressful air travel can be. This new Yoga Room
at the San Francisco Airport will be welcomed by many who will appreciate the opportunity to get away in a quiet area for some stretching (especially good for that long trip across the ocean or the continent so as to avoid embolisms) and mental preparation for the journey ahead.
Of course, there are always those who think the airport should focus on getting us through in less time instead of devising more ways for us to spend our time while waiting around.
Would I rather wait in a crowded area with other bored people or do some beneficial stretching in
a yoga room? Yoga Room for me! I wonder if so many others will agree with me that it will be necessary to reserve a time there.
200th birthday of Charles Dickens
Dickens' biographer, Claire Tomalin, wonders what Dickens would make of the world on his 200th birthday in this letter
to him published in The Guardian.
100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic
One way to memorialize this momentous historical event is to take an Anniversary Cruise. Of course you might have second thoughts about doing so after the recent Costa Concordia disaster.
100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts of America
Juliet Gordon Low gathered 18 girls together in Savannah, Georgia for that historical first meeting in 1912. Girl Guides of Canada had by then already been meeting for 3 years.
100th Anniversary of the Publication of Stephen Leacock's Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town
Leacock's lens focused onto the quirkiness of our humanity. His self-deprecating humour showed us how we can laugh at ourselves, without taking ourselves too seriously and, as a result, set the standard for what is now typical Canadian humour.
Any other Major Anniversaries in 2012 that you know of?
Next day update:
100th Anniversary of the Opening of The Chateau Laurier
Building of the hotel cost $2 million back then and guest rooms were $2. In the intervening years the hotel has seen many famous guests. It remains fabulous, inside and out.
50th Anniversary of the United Church Women
Canada-wide network of women
working together to promote truth, justice, peace, caring and sharing with respect for all in the community and wider world.
Queen's Diamond Jubilee
60 Years on the Throne in the UK. More info here.
We've been thinking about marshmallows recently and how they are made with gelatin, a by-product of the beef industry. Marshmallows are not a choice that a vegan would knowingly make but they are so convenient and so yummy.
Last week at the White House, an eighth-grader from Arizona showed off his air cannon built for a science fair. The ammunition? A marshmallow! His helper? President Obama. The result? Some fun and a few laughs.
In a previous post
we looked at the possibility that our brains are shriveling as a result of so much screen reading. We are not allowing ourselves as much time as our fore-fathers and -mothers did to dive deeply into books, ideas and thoughts. Our human psyches prefer instant gratification.
Another possible instance of our brains deteriorating is our dependence on GPS systems when we travel. We used to pore over maps and memorize streets and landmarks in order to find our way. Now we are letting a device do that job for us. As a result, our brains are undergoing changes which cause spatial memory to decline. The way to bring it back? Turf the GPS and look at a map.
See this article in the New York Times for more information.
A group, labeling its members Kopimists, has claimed religious status in Sweden. Followers believe that file sharing is holy and information, sacred. Among its sacred rituals are the keyboard shortcuts for "copy" (Ctrl -C) and "paste" (Ctrl-V)
While some of us may view this new religion as a joke, its believers are quite serious. A Swedish philosophy student, 20-yr. old Isak Gerson, has been appointed to the religion's highest office, Spiritual Leader and official rites, such as marriage, could follow.
Kopimists also exist in North America, where they meet in offices or on-line for worship. Worship involves an exchange of information and privacy is key. This article in the Toronto Star on Feb. 5 suggests that Kopimism may be a cover-up for on-line piracy.
Agni Ortez, a 49-y.r old British Columbia businessman and Kopimist Spiritual Leader for the Americas insists that Kopimism is more than just a philosophy, since members are very heartfelt about it, but David Reed, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto and a researcher into new religious movements, states that Kopimism would not fit the definition of religion since there is no spiritual deity involved. Information, while powerful, is still created by humans.
Many parents are discovering that their children are learning math concepts using different techniques and language from what they learned in school 20 or 30 years ago. As a result, many parents are feeling it a challenge to help their kids when it's homework time and their kids are scratching their heads in bewilderment.
Toronto dad Gerry Dunn was so befuddled that he was inspired to find out what all the different terms mean: eg. "regroup", "making equivalent fractions" and "tesselation" etc. He has decoded the modern math for parents of Grade 5 students across the Toronto District School Board.
This 140-page book is a refresher course for parents and will enable them to better understand the way math is being taught today. More information here and here.
You can tell that I find the subject of modern math and modern families of interest and concern. See my previous post.
This photo made the front page of the Toronto Star the other day. It was taken by photographer, Michael Chrisman using a pinhole camera with photo-sensitive paper and a 365-day exposure, January 1, 2010 to January 1, 2011
The progression of both the day and the year are evident in the streaks of the sun across the sky.