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Archive for November, 2011

KELLING (participial vb.)
A person searching for something, who has reached the futile stage of re-looking in all the places they have looked once already, is said to be kelling.

Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, The Meaning of Liff

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I (In Relief)

From: In Relief

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I (In Relief)

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n ancient times, verdigris was used as a pigment, and pieces of copper were exposed deliberately to acetic acid, or vinegar, to obtain it.  Verdigris—the greenish patina that forms naturally when copper, brass or bronze are exposed to the weather—can be one of several chemical compounds depending on the exposure which caused it. In the case of acetic acid, it is copper acetate which forms, and green pigments of this sort were used by painters up to the 19th century, when other more stable (and less toxic) sources became available.

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Not a quote as such…

My reading time has been a bit short this week.  How short, you ask?

"Getting together with old friends brings new adventures."

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Apple Cider Gingerbread

For some reason, plain water in a recipe just seems to offend my creative instincts. I’m always doing things like saving the juice drained from canned tomatoes to cook my rice in, and when I see water among the ingredients of a recipe, some tiny part of my brain always goes, “Water?  That’s so boring.  I wonder what would happen if I add…[insert some other liquid with more flavor here] instead?” So, it’s no surprise that I decided to substitute apple cider for the hot water in my favorite gingerbread recipe once, and it turned out so well that I’ve been making it that way ever since.

My well-worn copy of The Southern Living Cookbook.

The original recipe in question was “Old-Fashioned Gingerbread”, from The Southern Living Cookbook.  Specifically, from the 1987 edition, which, it turns out, is a bit of a story unto itself. My copy has seen years of faithful service, and it shows. It was branded by a burner on its back cover one time when I got a little too distracted (also the reason the dust jacket is no longer with it), and it’s bristling with loose papers and post-it notes—like the one for the apple cider substitution, stuck beneath the gingerbread recipe. It lives in my kitchen. But when I went looking for an online copy of this book to link to, I got a couple of surprises…

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H (Mullions)

From: Mullions

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H (Mullions)

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ouses made of brick are famously sturdy—just ask any preschooler. While much is made of brick’s superiority in withstanding Big Bad Wolves, brick houses did offer a very real safety improvement over wood and thatch: their resistance to fire.  For this reason, brick often replaced wood as the most commonly used building material, particularly in crowded cities. In London, for example, when the Great Fire of 1666 destroyed many of the earlier wooden structures, the rebuilding was done primarily in brick.  Even brick has its weaknesses, however; in recent times, use of brick has declined in regions where earthquakes are common.

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Homemade syrups, ready for lids and labels.

I like giving homemade gifts—especially food gifts; I feel like I’m giving something that stands a better chance of actually being used and bringing joy.  And, let’s face it, I’d rather spend time making something from scratch that I know is good, than spend that same time trying to find and acquire a bauble of dubious usefulness, thereby demonstrating that I spent a requisite amount of money.  Do I sound like a curmudgeon?  Maybe I do.  But, money is an unavoidable issue—especially these days—and I know that I can make gifts that will be of better quality than I could afford to give otherwise.

Making wax paper candy cups to hold truffles.

There’s still a certain amount of research and forethought needed, though.  Not everyone likes sweets, enjoys spicy things, or what have you, and food allergies and other dietary concerns are more prevalent than one might realize.  Perhaps that’s why homemade gifts can sometimes have a bit of a reputation, like the oft-lampooned fruitcake. I’ll confess, ever since I began contemplating a post on homemade gifts, I have not been able to get the Pink Bunny Suit from A Christmas Story out of my head (this is a problem, because I don’t type well as it is, and the giggling isn’t helping).  But, if Aunt Clara had only done a little research, she would have known that Ralphie was neither four years old, nor a girl. Just imagine if her present had been a Red Ryder costume instead.

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We are so used to having a lot of comfort in our lives—to being clean, warm, and well fed—that we forget how recent most of that is.  In fact, achieving these things took forever, and then they mostly came in a rush.

Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life

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