Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Great British Bake Off

Many of us are fans of British television. Think Downton Abby, Sherlock, and the recent Dr. Who revival. So I was intrigued to learn about Britain’s most popular show, The Great British Bake Off, a reality-based, amateur baking competition that’s quickly becoming a cultural phenomenon. Now ending its fifth season, The Great British Bake Off displays none of the hallmarks of American reality television; the majority of the show is set inside tents filled with cooking stations, and the contestants themselves are regular people who just love baking and live in their own homes during the filming of the show.


The biggest difference? There’s no prize money. So why do people love it? From what I can gather, the contestants’ lack of glamour makes them relatable to viewers. There are no ulterior motives, and because there’s no prize money, contestants aren’t sabotaging each other to get ahead. And the parts of a baking show you might think would be boring, like waiting for pastry to bake or bread to rise, actually end up building great suspense.


Chief executive Richard McKerrow says, “Bakers are really good people. The very act of what they do is to make something for lots of other people. That makes them really refreshing.”

I couldn’t agree more, and I hope our American television execs soon take a cue from our British friends across the pond.



Something’s Fishy

If you have already penciled Legos or other plastic building kits into your kids’ Christmas list this year, I dare you to reconsider as you ponder this peculiar play set instead:


Photo courtesy of artist Roshildur Jonsdottir via

“What on earth are they?” you gasp.


Image courtesy of Weird Tales (September 1941, vol. 36, no. 1) via Wikimedia Commons

But it might be more appropriate to ask, “What in the sea … ?”

Something’s fishy around here!


Photo by CPSH via Wikimedia Commons


The curiously creepy-looking toys (yes, they are toys!) in the photo above are components of Something Fishy, a genuine fish-bone modeling kit created by Icelandic artist Roshildur Jonsdottir.


Photo courtesy of artist Roshildur Jonsdottir via

Each kit consists of over 50 completely clean, sterile, and scentless bones from haddock and cod, plus the jagged jawbone of a wolf fish. Creative kids can assemble the surprisingly strong and flexible bones to fashion frightful and fun monsters, spaceships, angels, aliens, and more. Younger kids can enlist the help of a grownup to glue the bones together before painting their creations (glue and paint are included in each kit).

“I call [the kit] the ‘Icelandic Lego,'” says Jonsdottir. “I created this product when I was researching the use of Icelandic animal products in design through the ages. My ancestors used to use every part of the animal for food, clothing, household items, farming tools, toys, and even building material. Each of these products took a lot of imagination, time, and nurturing and was thus used to the fullest and even passed from generation to generation.”


Photo courtesy of artist Roshildur Jonsdottir via

She goes on to say, “Today, we throw away tons of bones, hides, horns, and other side products of fish and meat. Now, most of our everyday imported objects have very little sentimental value to us and, in general, we have far too many of these items. This is very true of toys, most of which are plastic imitations of everyday items which leave very little to the child’s imagination or creativity. This means that they don’t appreciate each toy for very long, and we buy even more. As soon as we create our own things, which takes time and nurturing, we immediately feel differently about them. We don’t throw them in a box with all the other goods, we display them and feel proud of them. I hope I have created something which will help us to remember that we can create our own products from local materials and that we might be happier with fewer but better objects in our lives.”

Jonsdottir says that her own son is quite proud of his fish bone models—his “most cherished toy” is a space shuttle that he made himself, and the family even uses some of his sculptures as ornaments.

You can order a Something Fishy kit online from Iceland’s web-based Reykjavik Corner Store for about $65 (including international shipping).

Of course, if you’re an intrepid fisherwoman, you might just decide to make your own from the bones of your locally harvested quarry. In that case, do show and tell!


Photo by Robert Baade, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, via Wikimedia Commons






Knitting Glass

These darker, shorter days tend to veer my crafting to projects that might keep my hands happily busy for the winter months. Knitting and embroidery are hands-down my favorites. On a recent foray into cyberspace for some ideas, I happened upon Carol Milne, a Seattle-based artist from Canada who knits with glass. Yes, you heard that exactly right, she knits with glass!


Milne has developed a technique for pouring glass into molds of designs made from wax, a new twist on the ancient art of lost wax casting. She uses a slender and very elastic candle to make different patterns, then surrounds them with a high-temperature plaster to make a mold. Each stitch of her knitted design must be carefully created by hand because using needles tends to stretch the wax. After the molds are dry, the wax is melted with hot steam and replaced by liquid glass. When the glass has slowly cooled, the molds are chiseled away in archeological fashion to reveal intricately knitted structures.

Milne first embarked on this technically challenging journey back in 2002 as a way to couple her knitting passion (she’s been wielding needles since she was 10) with her love for cast glass sculpture. I think I’ll have to stick with yarn, but how inspiring to combine her two passions into timeless art.




Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Linda Van Ausdell!!!

Linda Van Ausdell (#4347) has received a certificate of achievement in Cleaning Up for earning an Intermediate Level Recycling Merit Badge!

“I have been recycling for many years. When we had our kitchen redone, I put in a recycling center. I take my recycling every 2 weeks or so, and we only take in one garbage bag a week.

I works great and I don’t mind the extra time it takes. It’s worth it.”




She’s 100!

That’s right, the little cutie we all know as the Morton Salt Girl—yellow dress, umbrella, and spilling salt carton—has been with us for a century. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Why, she doesn’t look a day over eight.

1968-cmyk [Converted]

Needless to say, Morton’s advertising campaign has been nothing short of genius, varying only seven times over the decades, just enough to keep our favorite rainy-day doll in fashion. The girl above has been used since 1968, and was just updated this year in honor of her 100th birthday. “Ever since the introduction of anti-caking salt in 1911, the Morton Salt Company had been trying to develop a concept that properly illustrated this innovative feature,” explains the company’s website. “While several plans were proposed, an originally disregarded concept was noticed by Sterling Morton, the son of founder Joy Morton. This idea was that of a young, umbrella-toting 8-year-old, who was accidentally pouring salt while walking in the rain.”

“She is so much a part of the daily lives of Americans that many people see a resemblance to a sister, cousin, or niece, and they often write us to ask the name of the real person who was the model for the Umbrella Girl (in fact, there never was a real model).”



There’s no doubt that the graphic was a winner, staking a claim in our national consciousness, but did you know that Morton’s slogan is every bit as iconic? The company’s original idea for a catch phrase was too wordy: “Even In Rainy Weather It Flows Freely.” They tried others (“Flows Freely,” “Runs Freely,” and “Pours”). At last, they fell back on the old proverb, “It Never Rains But It Pours.” The company put a more positive spin on the saying and coined the now famous slogan, “When It Rains It Pours.”

The Morton Salt Girl’s first ad debuted in Good Housekeeping in 1914, introducing her to the world. Here’s one from 1952:



Interesting to note that the early ads all seem to feature illustrations that are different from the logos.

One hundred years later, she celebrated her 2014 centennial by landing a permanent spot on the Advertising Week Walk of Fame on Madison Avenue in New York City. “This honor is the icing on the Morton Salt Girl’s birthday cake,” said Shayn Wallace, Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Morton Salt’s Consumer and Industrial Businesses.

In honor of her 100th birthday, the company donated $100,000 to fund Morton Salt Girl Centennial Scholarships that benefit select fine arts and culinary arts students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Kendall College School of Culinary Arts.