Happiness is …

Here’s what Carol had on her computer screen this week … just had to share!

Continue reading

checking the mail

While it’s sadly disappearing nowadays, checking the mail used to be a pretty titillating experience. After all, you had pen-pals, letters from relatives, brown paper packages tied up with string, maybe even a letter from Ed McMahon himself, letting you know you finally won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. Whether you had a mailbox with a flag at the end of a dirt driveway, or a drop slot in the door to your city apartment, or a key to a copper-colored box in the office itself, checking the mail was just plain fun.

In the ’80s, little girls sent SLAMs with their bubble-gum-scented Lisa Frank stationery letters. Remember those? Handmade questionnaires you filled out, then passed along. Once full, they were mailed back to the original maker, and voila! You had a dozen new friends from all over the world.

There are plenty of fun things you can still mail, without even bothering with the packaging. Believe it or not, the post office allows you to affix postage to:

  • coconuts (they’re considered a “self-contained unit”)
  • a potato (because, well, it’s Idaho!)
  • a flip-flop (but you should probably send two)
  • a box of candy that is less than 13 oz.
  • a sombrero
  • a lime (to go with the above sombrero)
  • a rock or brick (though we don’t know why you’d want to)
  • an inflated beach ball
  • a piñata (Fill it with candy first. Best. Birthday. Invite. Ever.)
  • plastic water bottles filled with treats
  • a Frisbee
  • plastic Easter eggs
  • basketballs

But did you know back in the day, as they say, you could even mail your children?? Don’t get too excited, Mommies, it was a short-lived period in history. I guess (we grudgingly admit) it’s not the safest way for little Junior to travel, even if you find yourself tempted after he shaves the dog, smears peanut butter all over his bedspread, and/or pours your salon-brand shampoo down the tub.

According to the Smithsonian Institute, ‘Just a few weeks after Parcel Post began, an Ohio couple named Jesse and Mathilda Beagle “mailed” their 8-month-old son, James, to his grandmother, who lived just a few miles away in Batavia. According to Lynch, Baby James was just shy of the 11-pound weight limit for packages sent via Parcel Post, and his “delivery” cost his parents only 15 cents in postage (although they did insure him for $50). The quirky story soon made newspapers, and for the next several years, similar stories would occasionally surface as other parents followed suit.’

There’s even a famous story of a girl named Charlotte May, in 1914. She was 4 years old, living near our neck of the woods, in Grangeville, Idaho, and her parents mailed her to Gramma, who lived about 73 miles away. With a 53-cent stamp attached to the back of her coat, the good-natured postal clerk wrote her down as “poultry post,” and joked that she was the biggest chick on record. When asked why the odd mode of transportation, the mother replied, “It was cheaper than a train ticket.”

Someone even wrote a book about Charlotte’s trip (she made it safely), and you can find it here. Perfect for the grandchildren in your life, the whole book is made to look like a suitcase that you unfold to read, with the title being framed in postage stamps. Just make sure your little chickadees don’t get any ideas to mail themselves to you!

Maybe we just like our mail in Idaho, because here’s another nostalgic photo, taken this time in Fruitland. Are these little ones checking the mailbox for a letter, a package, or perhaps a returning sibling?

Photo by Dorothea Lange via the Library of Congress.

And let’s not forget how our humble mail service began here in the States. The Pony Express is an intriguing bit of history we can’t set aside, no matter how much we love our e-mail and smart phones. A difficult and dangerous job, the original advertisement looking for Pony Express Riders read like this: “St. Joseph, Missouri, to California in 10 days or less! WANTED: Young, skinny, wiry fellows. NOT over 18. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. ORPHANS PREFERRED.”

Gulp. They were not messin’ around. Here’s a photo of four fearless early Pony Express riders. Either these guys didn’t see the “under 18” request or this was a job that aged you fast!

Photo by Earnest and Elaine Hartnagle via Wikimedia Commons.

Continue reading

World Beard Day

What, you didn’t know?

You mean to tell me you’ve never properly celebrated this upcoming important holiday?

Fitzhugh Lee Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

That’s okay, I forgive you. But in order to show proper penance, I’d like to you to memorize these whisker-ocious facts (and maybe post a photo in the comments of the most highly groomed bearded man in your life).

  • World Beard Day is celebrated on the first Saturday of September (mark those calendars).
  • You may think this is a new holiday, but, my mustached friend, you’d be wrong. There is actually evidence that the Danish Vikings had their own Beard Day as far back as 800 AD. And you know those Vikings—they really knew how to party.
  • In Donksburg, Sweden, they banish all of the un-bearded to the forest to spend a day and a night (probably thinking about what they’ve done!). Their effigies are burnt to a satisfying crisp in the village by those who have the very best in facial hair. Seems a tad bit harsh … but also humorous.
  • In southern Spain, the locals enjoy a boxing match between a bearded man and an un-bearded one. The bearded one always wins. Of course, he’s the only one allowed to be armed, so things are a bit swayed in his favor.
  • It is considered extremely disrespectful to shave on World Beard Day. Don’t even think about it! Prefer your hunk of burning love to be smooth skinned? Best have him shave the day before and ignore a little stubble.

photo, Ikie2 Designed by Incredibeard via Wikimedia Commons

If you or the significant other in your life can’t quite wrap your brain around (or can’t quite grow) a fully impressive set of whiskers, perhaps a mustache is the place to start. He can even participate in the highly competitive The World Beard and Mustache Championships, located this upcoming September in Northern California. There are all sorts of categories to sign up for, from the humble Dali Mustache to the Imperial and the Freestyle Goatee. Check out these past winners and prepare to be inspired by follicle greatness!

Whatever your preference, opinions about facial hair are varied and sometimes quite amusing. Check out these quotes about the fabulous beard:

“I have the terrible feeling that, because I am wearing a white beard and am sitting in the back of the theatre, you expect me to tell you the truth about something. These are the cheap seats, not Mount Sinai.” ~ Orson Welles

“You know, I just tend to grow my beard out for ‘Parks and Rec.’ As an actor it’s always easier to shave or cut your hair for a role, but it’s hard to put fake hair on or grow hair for a role. When you look at pictures of me, the longer my hair is, the longer my facial hair is, that’s just the longer I haven’t gotten a job.” ~ Chris Pratt

“I will never shave off my beard and moustache. I did once, for charity, but my wife said, ‘Good grief, how awful, you look like an American car with all the chrome removed.” ~ Rolf Harris

“A man’s face is not a rich person’s lawn; you are wasting resources if you devote that much energy to trimming your beard, sideburns, or mustache just so. Nor is a man’s face the woods; there need not be the tangled weeds, shrubbery, and wildlife/eggs benedict that get ensnared in them.” ~ Ellie Kemper

“A decent beard has long been the number one must-have fashion item for any fugitive from justice.” ~ Craig Brown

“Kissing a man with a beard is a lot like going to a picnic. You don’t mind going through a little bush to get there!” ~ Minnie Pearl

Well, have I convinced you? Raise your pint of ale high to this most manly of all holidays. (And be prepared to share your styling gel. Just sayin’.)

None of the men in my family are sporting beards this summer, but the ear of fresh sweet corn I had last night for dinner had a kind of beard …

and my bees are “bearding” (forming “beards” on the outside of the hive during hot weather to keep the hive from overheating).

Continue reading

Weird Food of the Decades

Strange things to eat have been around since we started stuffing delicacies in our pie-holes (and our cheeseburger-holes and our pasta-holes). And lest you think only the peculiar is plated in exotic locales—that’s a whole nuther kettle of fish—we’ll just stick to the good ol’ U.S. of A.

What was en vogue the decade you were born? And if your mama was eating it in utero with you, maybe that explains some things.

Here are some of the most atypical foods I could find, and if you have an all-time weird food recipe in your collection, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

1920 Cookbook created to push Jell-O via Wikimedia Commons.

  • Sauerkraut Chocolate Cake. Recipe here if you dare.
  • “Weiner-Roni” Casserole with Karo Syrup. Mmmm, can you say health problems on a fork?
  • Creamed Tuna with Noodles in a Jell-O Mold. My tummy hurts.
  • Speaking of Jell-O, what was the 1970s obsession with congealing meat products in fruit-flavored gelatin? Chicken, seafood salad, creamed beef … it all went in a package of Jell-O with a dollop of Miracle Whip on the side.
  • Spam Italiano. In other words, Spam with tomato sauce and cheese. But methinks the Italians look askance at this concoction.
  • In the ’50s, Kraft released a Potato Fudge. Like, fudge sauce for your baked potato. The tagline read, “In the heart of your baked potato, spoon a big swirl of Kraft’s Potato Fudge! That chocolatey, gooey goodness your kids crave will melt right in and even the most finicky eater will have a smile! And you’ll love the healthy vitamins and minerals!” Don’t care for fudge on your baked spud? That’s okay, they made a butterscotch version, too.
  • Fiesta Peach Spam Bake. Um, I’m not convinced that those two should ever mingle in my belly.
  • Veg-All (remember those cans?) Pie. Again with the Jell-O. I think all the Virginia Slims the ladies were smoking were affecting their taste buds. Oh, and don’t forget to garnish this pie slice with … wait for it … tartar sauce. Yep.
  • Okay, I’m back. How about Ruby Chicken soup? This recipe came about in case you needed to use up a couple cans of cranberries leftover from Thanksgiving. Too bad the finished product looked a chicken being boiled in its own blood. Um, thanks, but we’ll pass. Not even for Halloween is that appropriate.
  • Kraft Squeeze-A-Snack. A squeezable cheese-like product. Kraft, we’re onto you.
  • Pink Buttermilk Congealed Salad. Don’t even get me started on how this uses Jell-O: I can’t get past the word Congealed used in a recipe title.
  • Fruit Cocktail Topped Hash. Cuz nothing says hash like … fruit?
  • Broiled Bologna Cups with Canned Peas. At least this recipe tried to be fancy: evidently if you broil bologna slices, the edges curl up into a nicely shaped bowl. To cradle your canned peas. Ew.
  • Ketchup Pineapple Upside Down Cake. That’s alright, Heinz, we pass.
  • Shrimp Salmon Mold. Made with … you guessed it: Jell-O. But the clincher was the snazzy way the cook molded it back into a salmon shape. What’d that salmon ever do to you?
  • Milk Chicken with Banana Buttons. Um. How before-dinner martinis did you need to make this one?
  • Pimento Puree. Apparently, pimentos were the kale of their time.
  • Liver Loaf Shaped as a Pineapple. Because it was classy, people!
  • Lest you think we’re only picking on the 1970s, let’s take a moment to remember (maybe not so fondly) the 1980s: they brought us Sloppy Joes, Manwiches, Bisquick everything, Shake and Bake, cereals shaped and flavored like donuts/cookies/candy bars (part of your nutritious breakfast!), American cheese slices, Salisbury steak TV dinners, Dr. Pepper chili, pizza rolls, and bagel bites. I can feel my arteries hardening.

Well, I could keep going with this gastronomic game of Truth or Dare, but I think you might need a Pepto break.

Continue reading

Argan oil

If you’re a fan of argan oil in your skin-care routine, I have a bit of historical (er, biological?) trivia for you.

It begins with the stout seeds of the shrubby Moroccan Argania spinose tree …

Photo by Songwon Lee via Flickr

Seeds that are gathered by … goats.

Photo by Grand Parc – Bordeaux, France via Wikimedia Commons

That’s right, we’re talking about those wacky tree-climbing goats that scream, “Photoshop!”

But there’s no technological trickery at work here.

These goats do defy gravity, and while they are loping about in the limbs of trees, they eat argan seeds.

Can you see where I’m going with this? (Just be glad you get your argan oil from a bottle.)

Here’s the history of argan oil, in a nutshell, according to Michael Graham Richard of Mother Nature Network:

“Argan oil is quite popular these days in skin- and hair-care products, but this is nothing new. Indigenous Berber tribes in the region actually did something similar, though they didn’t get the argan oil out of a bottle that they bought in a store; goats would climb up argan trees and eat the fruits, swallowing whole the core, which looks a bit like an almond.”

Photo by Fred Dunn via Flickr

Okay, we’re all caught up to that point, so …

“This nut would pass through the goat’s digestive system and end up in goat droppings, where it would be collected. To get at the oil inside, you would then have to crack it open with a stone, and grind the seeds inside. The resulting oil was then used for cooking and as a skin treatment.”

Photo by Chrumps via Wikimedia Commons

Now you know.

As with so many modern manufacturing practices, the middlemen (middlegoats?) have been cut from the process of processing argan oil, but that doesn’t stop them from climbing trees to eat seeds.

Watch and laugh:

Continue reading