Monday, February 28, 2011

Mystery Mondays: Diane Mott Davidson's Goldy Schulz Mystery Series


Goldy Bear Schulz is a Colorado caterer as well as an amateur sleuth in Diane Mott Davidson's mystery series.  Divorced from an abusive husband and with a young son, Goldy settles into life as a caterer in the small, upscale town of Aspen Meadows, only to find herself involved in solving a series of murders that she just cannot seem to stop encountering.  In spite of Goldy's unusual penchant for finding murder victims, her Goldilocks' Catering company becomes a very successful business, and she does meet and marry police detective Tom Schulz as a result of these crimes, so life is really not so bad for this intrepid entrepreneur!  These culinary mysteries are fun to read, and the included recipes are top-notch.  There are fifteen books in the series so far, and the sixteenth is due out soon.  Anyone who loves a good mystery will find this series delightful, and anyone who loves to cook will find the recipes delectable!
 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend Wonders: The Plight of the Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus)

By Hal Brindley

When I was a child I had a white stuffed polar bear toy named Snowy.  He was my faithful companion for many childhood adventures of the imagination, and thanks to Snowy I have a special fondness for polar bears.  Today is International Polar Bear Day, and a good day to take a look at the threat to the survival of this marine mammal.

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) inhabit the northern Arctic and spend most of their time on sea ice.  They are the largest land carnivores in the world.  Their diet consists mainly of young seals, but they are omnivores and can ingest a wide variety of foods if necessary to survive.  Females usually give birth to twins, who stay with their mother for about two years.  For more interesting information about polar bears check out this site.

Currently global climate change is considered the most pressing threat to polar bear survival due to significant melting of sea ice, which reduces the habitat needed by this species to find sufficient food.  The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has stated that if present climatic trends continue, polar bears may disappear from most of their range within 100 years.  In 2008, the United States Department of the Interior listed the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

One of the best ways to save polar bears from their plight is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to global climate change.  For suggestions on how to reduce your carbon footprint, websites like greenwikia.com or sustainability.publicradio.org are great information sources.  Another way to help the polar bear would be to become more aware of the politics involved and petition your elected officials to support any legislation that will decrease threats to polar bears.  Donations to organizations like Polar Bears International, Defenders of Wildlife, or the National Wildlife Federation will help them continue their work to ensure that this issue does not get ignored.

Rest assured that if we cannot reverse the trend toward extinction for the polar bear, the same fate will undoubtedly befall other species.  We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg right now, and we would be wise to heed the warning before it is too late.
   

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekend Wonders: Promote Children's Literacy

By AKARAKINGDOMS

Library Lovers' Month is coming to a close and today is Tell a Fairy Tale Day, so what better way to spend a little time today than by promoting literacy for children.  The Literacy Site makes it so easy -- all you have to do is click and this site, along with its partner, First Book, will provided children from low-income families with books to take home and keep.  Did you know that here in the United States, the only variable that directly correlates with reading scores is the number of books in the home?  Since low-income families are much less likely to own or have access to books, this program helps increase the probability that these children will learn to read.  Head on over there to click now, and place some books in the hands of these children now!
   

Friday, February 25, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook


As a college undergraduate in the 1970s, I just missed the rather militant student rebelliousness of the '60s.  I was, however, witness to a quieter dietary revolution.  Vegetarianism was just becoming a focus, especially on college campuses, and as a student at Cornell University I found myself in an area where this idea was at the forefront.  Moosewood Restaurant began operations in Ithaca, New York, in 1973 as a member-owned collective, featured vegetarian food, and it is still a popular dining destination to this day.  In 1977, Ten Speed Press published the Moosewood Cookbook written by Mollie Katzen, once a Cornell student and one of the Moosewood Collective members.  This book, hand-lettered and illustrated by the author, put into print many of the restaurant's vegetarian recipes.  At a time when vegetarianism was still a new concept for most, Katzen's unique book helped move this idea into the mainstream.

A newer version of the book was published in 1992 and featured more health-conscious versions of the original recipes as well as some new ones.  The original Moosewood Cookbook was followed by the publication of The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (Ten Speed Press, 1982), which offered more in-depth coverage on some topics from the first book as well as additional vegetarian recipes.  An updated version of this book was published in 1995.  Katzen has published a number of vegetarian cookbooks over the years, and has become a well-known authority on vegetarian cooking.  However, her latest book, Get Cooking (Harper Studio, 2009), is not vegetarian.  It is geared toward beginning cooks and contains recipes with a minimum number of ingredients plus detailed instructions.

The New York Times has listed Moosewood Cookbook as one of the ten best selling cookbooks of all time.  In 2007, the James Beard Foundation inducted this book into its Cookbook Hall of Fame.  Author Mollie Katzen was named one of five "Women Who Changed the Way We Eat" by Health Magazine in 1999.

I own copies of both versions of Moosewood Cookbook.  After all of these accolades, I decided to post a recipe from the original book here, but found myself unable to choose just one.  As a result, two of my favorites (modified only slightly from the original recipes) are posted today!  I am not a vegetarian, but I do not eat much meat and actually prefer to have meatless meals often.  I think that even meat-lovers might enjoy these recipes.  Go ahead and add some meat if you want --  I won't tell!

Gypsy Soup

2 C. diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 C. peeled, diced sweet potatoes
1/2 C. diced celery
3/4 C. diced green bell pepper
3 T. olive oil
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. salt
dash of cinnamon
dash of cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
3 C. stock or water
1 T. soy sauce
1 C. diced tomatoes
1 1/2 C. cooked chickpeas

In a large pot, sauté the first five ingredients in olive oil for about five minutes.  Add seasonings and stock or water.  Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and heat through.  Serves 4.

Note:  This recipe is only found in the original version of the cookbook, and not in the updated one.  The soup should be a combination of an orange and a green vegetable, but any similar-colored vegetable can substitute for the ones called for in the recipe.  Since I have never liked green bell peppers, I use frozen peas instead.

Spinach-Ricotta Pie

Crust:
1 C. flour (4/5 white plus 1/5 whole wheat is nice)
1/3 C. cold unsalted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
3 T. cold buttermilk

Cut together flour, butter, and salt with pastry blender or two knives until blended and crumbly.  Add enough buttermilk so that mixture holds together and forms a ball.  Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill one hour.  On a floured surface, roll out into an 11-inch diameter circle and fit into a 9-inch pie pan.  Flute edges of crust.

Filling:
8 oz. baby spinach
1 small onion, diced
1/2 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1/2 tsp. basil
1 T. butter
1 lb. ricotta cheese
3 beaten eggs
3 T. flour
1/2 C. grated cheese
dash of nutmeg

Sauté first five ingredients in butter until spinach is wilted and onion is soft.  Combine all ingredients until well blended.  Pour into crust.  Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes until crust is golden brown and filling is set.  Serves 6.

Note:  The original recipe calls for 1 C. sour cream spread over the top of the pie and sprinkled with paprika before baking, but I leave this step out.  Also, feel free to used a pre-made crust if you would rather not make your own.
           

Thursday, February 24, 2011

This 'n That Thursdays: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes Mysteries

Watson and Holmes

Almost anyone who loves mysteries has read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series.  These works, set in Victorian London, epitomize the classic mystery story, and Sherlock Holmes is probably the most famous fictional detective ever created.  The stories are usually narrated by Holmes' friend and biographer, Dr. John H. Watson, who describes the brilliant but eccentric detective's method of deductive reasoning for solving crimes.  Holmes first appeared in the short story "A Study in Scarlet" in 1887.  His popularity grew when the stories began to appear in the Strand Magazine in 1891.  At one point Conan Doyle grew tired of his fictional detective and actually killed him off in the 1893 short story "The Adventure of the Final Problem".  Outcry was so great, however, that ten years later Conan Doyle yielded to public pressure and brought Holmes back to life in the 1903 story "The Adventure of the Empty House".  Sherlock Holmes was eventually featured in a total of four novels and 56 short stories.

To this day Sherlock Holmes has a devoted fan following, with many societies worldwide.  These well-told tales are worth reading and rereading, so much so in fact that I would not mind owning the leather-bound, gold-accented, three-volume set of the complete works available from Easton Press.  Every mystery lover should read the entire Sherlock Holmes collection at least once, and will most likely return to these stories repeatedly.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wish List Wednesdays: The Perfect Home Library

From analogdialog

This home library could not be more perfect.  The room is all about the books -- I get a little tired of that designer trick of removing most of the volumes from bookshelves, arranging the remainder in odd stacks, and filling the empty spaces with decorative non-book items.  Only books belong on bookshelves, and preferably in some recognizable order so I can find the volume I am seeking easily!  Plus there is a second story in this library filled with even more books -- genius!  The huge window with sunlight streaming in is an added bonus.  Then there is the comfortable reading chair, with reading lamp and small table for books and perhaps a beverage to be consumed slowly while reading -- ideal!  And last but certainly not least, the spiral staircase.  I am a huge fan of spiral staircases.  I have always wanted one in a home, but have not yet had the pleasure.  The only thing missing as far as I am concerned is a fireplace, but there may be one in the area that we cannot see (I will pretend that this is the case, anyway!).  I am determined that my next home will have a room just like this -- and then I will never move again!
   

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays: Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936)


The ghost stories of M. R. James are considered to be among the best of the genre.  Born in Kent, England, and educated at King's College, Cambridge, James was an eminent medieval scholar and a provost at Cambridge and later at Eton College.  His life as an antiquary heavily influenced the style of his supernatural writings, which became known as "antiquarian ghost stories".  He first wrote many of these tales to be read aloud at Christmas Eve gatherings.  His story-telling method, now known as "Jamesian", is characterized by several distinct elements, including a setting in an English or European town or village, or at an abbey or university, a gentleman scholar as protagonist, and the discovery of an antiquarian object to which an unsavory supernatural force is connected.  The supernatural entities in a James story are always of a menacing rather than sympathetic nature, and the outcome of a tale is often unpleasant.  However, overt violence is rare, as James preferred to let the reader imagine such events through implication and suggestion.  His ghost stories were published in four collections: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904); More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911); A Thin Ghost and Others (1919); A Warning to the Curious and Other Ghost Stories (1925).

More information about M. R. James can be found at The Literary Gothic and at Ghosts & Scholars.  All of his ghosts stories can be found at A Thin Ghost.  Although now out of print, one of the most thorough collections of all of James' ghost stories as well as other works is found in the 712-page volume, A Pleasing Terror: The Complete Supernatural Writings of M. R. James, published by Ash-Tree Press.  Illustrations and articles by others about James are included as well.

Several of James' ghost stories were adapted for television.  Only one tale, "Casting the Runes", was the basis for a motion picture.  This was the 1957 film "Night of the Demon" (aka "Curse of the Demon"), which has been described elsewhere on this blog.

Collections of M. R. James' ghost stories are fairly easy to find (check out Barnes & Noble) and a book of his complete works is a worthy addition to any library, whether devoted to supernatural fiction or not.  A revival of the Christmas Eve telling of ghost stories is long overdue, and James' tales should top the list!

"Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You My Lad"
 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mystery Mondays: Jo Dereske's Miss Zukas Mystery Series


Since February is Library Lovers' Month, I thought I would start this week off with Jo Dereske's Miss Zukas mystery series.  Miss Helma Zukas is a librarian in the city of Bellehaven, Washington, who epitomizes the stereotypical middle-aged spinster librarian.  She is prim, proper, and uptight -- her daily routine is organized and unvarying, and she is perfectly content to let it stay that way despite the admonitions of her free-spirited friend Ruth Winthrop.  However, a murder in her beloved library forces Miss Zukas out of her normal routine, and she soon discovers that she has a previously unsuspected knack for solving crimes.  The attentions of the chief of police also threaten to disrupt her orderly existence, but as detection becomes more and more a part of her life, Helma Zukas begins to feel that perhaps this disruption is not such a bad thing after all!  There are eleven books in the series, with a new one due out some time this year.  The books are well written and the contrasting characters of Helma and Ruth are delightful.  The transformation of Helma Zukas from rigidly repressed to more spontaneous is a slow but inevitable process (and often amusing as well!), and you will find yourself drawn back to this series if only to check on Helma's progress!
   

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Holiday Hits: Love Your Pet Day

By graur razvan ionut

In honor of Love Your Pet Day, make sure you give your beloved animal companions some extra attention today!  Take them for an extra walk, give them a special treat, groom them, play a favorite game with them, or just make sure they get lots of extra love, pats, and affection.  Your pets will be grateful for the special treatment, and don't they deserve it anyway?
  

Friday, February 18, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Black Bottom Cupcakes

By alpineberry

This is one of my favorite chocolate recipes, so I thought it only fitting to share it this week.  Cupcakes are all the rage right now, and this recipe is quite easy to make.  The combination of chocolate cake with cream cheese filling is irresistible, and is sure to satisfy any chocoholic's cravings!

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Cake:
3 C. flour
2 C. sugar
1/2 C. cocoa powder
2/3 C. vegetable oil
2 C. water
2 tsp. baking soda
2 T. vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg

Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 C. sugar
1 egg
1 C. semisweet chocolate chips

Combine first three cake ingredients.  Stir in remaining cake ingredients until thoroughly blended.  Combine filling ingredients.  Line muffin tins with paper or foil cups and fill 1/2 to 2/3 full with batter. Place a large teaspoon of filling in the middle of each cupcake.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Makes 30 cupcakes.
 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

This 'n That Thursdays: Theobroma cacao (Cocoa Tree)

By Nestlé

The chocolate that we all know and love is made from the seeds, or beans, of the Cocoa Tree (Theobroma cacao).  This small evergreen tree is native to tropical America.  The genus name Theobroma means "food of the gods", which most would agree is quite appropriate!  The beans are contained within pods that grow on the trunk and older branches.  A tree begins producing pods at four to five years old, and averages 20 pods a year.  About 300 to 600 beans are needed to produce one kilogram of chocolate.  The beans are roasted and the shells are removed, resulting in a product called "nibs".  The nibs are ground into chocolate liquor or cocoa paste.  This product is then further processed into either chocolate or cocoa powder.

The flavonoids in chocolate have been shown to have beneficial cardiovascular health effects in humans.  Darker chocolate has more flavonoids and is thus a better choice for health reasons, but because of chocolate's high fat content it is best not to overindulge.  Unfortunately, the theobromine in chocolate is detrimental to many animals, including dogs and cats, who should never be fed chocolate.

So remember, savoring a little chocolate on a regular basis is actually good for you, but do not share this sweet treat with your animal companions!

By m_bartosch
 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wish List Wednesdays: Chocolate Hedgehogs


What could be sweeter than these chocolate hedgehogs from Stafford's Famous Chocolates?  They are available as a boxed set of twelve, and come in dark, milk, white, or a combination of all three.  You can also choose them with or without sprinkles, or as a half-and-half mix.  And at $15 a box, these are certainly an affordable treat.  The only problem I can see is that they just may be too adorable to eat!
    

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays: The Naked Jungle (1954)


This seems to be chocolate week for me, and my movie choice continues the theme!  "The Naked Jungle" from 1954 stars Charlton Heston as Christopher Leinengen, a cocoa plantation owner in South America who worked hard to carve his successful domain out of a flooded piece of land in the jungle.  Feeling the need for a wife to begin his dynasty, he asks his brother, who lives in their home city of New Orleans, to find him a mail-order bride.  The offer is accepted by Joanna (Eleanor Parker), who marries him by proxy and is brought by boat to the plantation by the local Commisioner (William Conrad).  Secrets from the past of both, however, cause them to quarrel and Leinengen decides that Joanna must go back to New Orleans.  But before she can leave, they learn that the Marabunta, or South American army ants, are on the move.  These voracious creatures destroy everything in their path, and they are headed straight for Leinengen's plantation.  Leinengen is determined to stay and fight to save it, and whether he likes it or not Joanna decides to stay with him, despite the Commissioner's objections.  Will she be a help or a hindrance, and what will be the outcome of Leinengen's challenge?

The story and setting of this movie are compelling and the actors do an excellent job of adding drama and romantic tension, but in my opinion the Marabunta steal the show -- they are a fearsome, resourceful, and relentless force of nature.  The ants remind Leinengen that he is only a bit player in this untamed jungle, and he must play his part perfectly or risk being overwhelmed.  In spite of a couple of gruesome scenes at the river, this movie is worth seeing just for the many fascinating topics covered, including a little about the workings of a cocoa plantation!

Interesting Fact:  William Conrad, who plays the Commissioner, voiced the lead role of Lienengen in the Escape radio series version of Carl Stephenson's short story called "Leinengen Versus the Ants", upon which this movie is based.

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 1
  

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mystery Mondays: JoAnna Carl's Chocoholic Mystery Series


Happy Valentine's Day!  What could be better for the day than mysteries with a chocolate theme?  The Chocoholic mystery series by JoAnna Carl follows the adventures of Lee McKinney, a tall and blonde former beauty queen from Texas who leaves an unhappy marriage and moves to the resort town of Warner Pier in Michigan to become business manager for her Aunt Nettie's chocolate shop, TenHuis Chocolade.  Lee is a smart woman, but her unfortunate tendency toward malapropisms when she is nervous or excited often causes people to underestimate her intelligence.  Shortly after her arrival in town, a murder involving the shop's chocolates gets Lee caught up in the investigation, and her career as an amateur detective takes off.  She also meets the man she will eventually marry, and soon becomes an integral part of the town's community.

These books are well written and the heroine is quite likeable.  The addition of chocolate lore sprinkled throughout the book only adds to their appeal, and the descriptions of the chocolates made by TenHuis Chocolade will make your mouth water.  There are ten books in the series so far, and another is on the way.  Even those who do not care for chocolate will appreciate this series, and chocoholics will not be able to resist!
  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weekend Wonders: Lindt Lindor Truffles

By CandyWarehouse.com

By Nifty Nut House

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, and that means chocolate!  My favorite chocolates these days are Lindt Lindor Truffles -- that perfect, one-bite, melt-in-your-mouth goodness is just irresistible.  I love the Hazelnut, Peanut Butter, and Milk Chocolate flavors most, but all of them are worth a try.  You can even build your own Lindor Truffles gift bag of 100 truffles with up to five different flavors!  So drop a hint to your sweetie, or just treat yourself, and indulge in chocolatey delight for Valentine's Day!

By Princeton Deals

Friday, February 11, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Lemon Ginger Scones


Few foods accompany tea more perfectly than scones, and since this has turned into "tea week" for me I am providing a recipe for Lemon Ginger Scones.  Scones are like slightly sweet American biscuits and are very quick and easy to make.  I found this recipe at JoyofBaking.com and knew I would like it because it combines two of my favorite flavors in one of my favorite baked goods.  Whip up a batch of these, brew a pot of tea, and savor a little quiet time with your treats!

Lemon Ginger Scones

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 C. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1/2 C. crystallized ginger, diced
zest of 1 lemon
2/3 C. buttermilk

In large bowl, whisk together first 5 ingredients.  Cut butter cubes into flour mixture with pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in ginger and lemon zest.  Add buttermilk and stir just until dough comes together (do not over mix).

Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and knead gently 4-5 times, then pat into a circle about 7 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches in thickness.  Cut into 8 pie-shaped wedges and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Brush tops of scones with a little cream or milk.

Bake at 400 degrees about 20 minutes, until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.  Makes 8 scones.

Note:  Watch carefully during last 5 minutes of baking to prevent scones from becoming overdone.
               

Thursday, February 10, 2011

This 'n That Thursdays: Tea!

By Carlos Porto

It must be obvious by now that I love tea!  I am not a coffee-drinker, so I have tea every morning with breakfast, and occasionally I will have a cup in the afternoon as well.  Black tea is my preference, but I also enjoy a good white tea later in the day.  My favorite tea is Twinings.  The taste is always excellent, and I like a lot of their flavored varieties.  Darjeeling and English Breakfast are my staples, and Mixed Berry and Blackcurrant Breeze black teas are my favorite flavored types.  If you are unsure as to what your preference might be, they even have a "Tea Explorer" to help you choose!

Celestial Seasonings is best known for their herbal teas and seems to be phasing out its line of black teas, but they still make my favorite Christmas black tea called Nutcracker Sweet.  Another company that I like is Bigelow.  They are best known for their Constant Comment tea, but I prefer the Cinnamon Stick, Lemon Lift, and Vanilla Caramel flavors.  And just for Valentine's Day, Bigelow is offering a flavored black tea called White Chocolate Kisses (I've tried this and it is delicious!) as well as an herbal blend called Sweetheart Cinnamon.  Harder to find in the United States is Harney & Sons tea.  Their English and Irish Breakfast teas are very good, and for Valentine's Day they are offering a Valentine's Blend of black tea with chocolate and rosebuds!

Perhaps the most unique tea packaging comes from Williamson Tea --  their tea bags are available in an elephant-shaped tin!  You can choose from English Breakfast (blue tin), Darjeeling (pink tin) or Earl Grey (grey tin).  My personal favorite, Traditional Afternoon tea, is coming soon in a green tin!

Okay, I'm thirsty now -- time for a nice cup of tea!



Update: Williamson Traditional Afternoon Tea in the green elephant tin is now available for purchase! 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wish List Wednesdays: Dalmatian Teapot


I love Dalmatians and I love tea, so this Dalmatian Dog Tea for One Glazed Ceramic Tea Pot Cup is the perfect gift for me.  Fortunately, I no longer have to covet this one, as my husband gave me one for Christmas!  It will be perfect for Valentine's Day -- the pot and cup are covered with red hearts as well as black Dalmatian spots, and the pot lid handle is a Dalmatian with a red heart toy in its mouth.  Now all I have to do is find the perfect Valentine's Day tea -- perhaps Twinings' Mixed Berry Black Tea flavored with strawberry, cherry, raspberry, and red currant.  With a little honey and cream added,  what a "berry" delicious way to start the day!
 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays: Curse of the Demon/Night of the Demon (1957)


Since I started the week off with a tea theme, I thought it would be appropriate to review a proper British horror movie here, to watch accompanied by a fortifying pot of tea.  Originally released in Great Britain as "Night of the Demon", this 1957 movie was re-released in the United States as "Curse of the Demon".  Dana Andrews plays Dr. John Holden, an American psychologist who specializes in debunking allegedly paranormal phenomena.  He travels to England for a conference on the subject, only to find that his collaborator, Professor Henry Harrington, has died in a horrible accident under mysterious circumstances.  Holden and Harrington were to expose as a fraud one Mr. Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis), a supposed satanic cult leader.  Dr. Holden happens to meet the man at the British Museum, where Karswell requests that Holden cease his investigation.  Holden refuses, and is warned that he will regret that decision.  At first Dr. Holden does not take the threat seriously, but after meeting Professor Harrington's niece, Joanna (Peggy Cummins), and experiencing strange and frightening events, he eventually comes to believe that Julian Karswell truly does have the ability to summon the devil, and must find a way to escape from Karswell's curse.

This movie was directed by the highly acclaimed Jacques Tourneur, whose original intent was to rely solely on the suggestion of a demon rather than an actual presence.  The producer disagreed, and added two scenes which show a demon.  There are many who feel that these scenes detract from rather than enhance the film, but most agree that the rest of movie is very well done -- I especially like the scenes where Holden and some of his fellow conference attendees discuss whether or not the devil truly does exist.  The movie is based on a story by British writer M. R. James called "Casting the Runes".  James is considered one of the finest writers of supernatural fiction, and this tale is among his best.  "Curse of the Demon" is another film that should be seen by anyone who loves a good scare.

Karswell's mother even offers a cup of tea to Professor Harrington, which Karswell quickly vetoes, but I am sure she would be happy to offer the same to us as we watch this scary British film about ancient cults and curses!

Interesting Fact:  This movie as well as the previous three I have reviewed ("The Uninvited", "Dead of Night", and "The Haunting") are all on director Martin Scorsese's list of "11 Scariest Horror Movies of All Time".

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 0
 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mystery Mondays: Laura Childs' Tea Shop Mystery Series


Tea is my favorite beverage, and Laura Childs' Tea Shop mystery novels are my favorite books to read with a good cup of tea!  Theodosia Browning, her Indigo Tea Shop, and her "Dalbrador" (Dalmatian-Labrador mix) dog Earl Grey are charming and irresistible.  Theodosia is a smart, attractive woman who leaves a successful career in advertising to follow her dream of opening a tea shop.  She turns out to be just as savvy at tracking down murderers as she is at running her business, and even finds time for a little romance.  The quaint Charleston setting and the city's distinctive residents add to the ambience of these stories.  Charleston and the tea shop are destinations anyone would love to visit, and the descriptions of Theodosia's tea adventures are just as enticing as the mysteries she investigates.  Tea-time tips and recipes are included in each book.  There are eleven novels in the series with a twelfth due in March.  If you love genteel Southern living, tea, and a good mystery then these novels are for you!
   

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Holiday Hits: World Nutella Day


Today is World Nutella Day, a time to celebrate that chocolatey hazelnut spread from Italy.  On a cold February day, what could be more delightful than a comforting mug of Nutella Hot Chocolate?  Just whisk 1/3 cup of milk with 3 tablespoons of Nutella over medium heat until smooth, add another 1 cup of milk and heat over medium-high heat until hot, pour into a mug, top with whipped cream if desired, and enjoy.  Happy World Nutella Day, everyone!
   

Friday, February 4, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Slow Cooker Mushroom Pot Roast


As another arctic chill sweeps across the nation, I decided this would be a good time to post my favorite slow cooker recipe.  Pot roast is one of the ultimate comfort foods, and this version is easy, flavorful, and budget-friendly.  I found the recipe in a Better Homes and Gardens Magazine special issue a few years ago, and have made it several times, always with excellent results.  I rarely cook with canned soup because of the high sodium content, but this is one of the few recipes using condensed soup that I will make because it is so good!

Slow Cooker Mushroom Pot Roast

4 medium unpeeled thin-skinned potatoes, quartered (1 1/2 lbs.)
1 bag (16 oz.) peeled baby carrots
1 can (4 oz.) mushroom stems and pieces, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1 1/2 lbs. boneless chuck or rump roast, trimmed of fat
1 can (10 3/4 oz.) condensed golden mushroom soup

Combine first four ingredients in a 4-quart slow cooker.  Top with meat, cutting to fit if necessary.  Pour soup over meat.  Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 10-12 hours or high-heat setting for 5-6 hours.  Serves 6.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Holiday Hits: Chinese New Year 2011

By luigi diamanti

Today is the beginning of the Chinese New Year.  This is a day for celebration, a time for fun and feasting with family and friends.  According to the Chinese calendar, 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit.

This is the prediction for the year, according to The Holiday Spot:
  
"A placid year, very much welcomed and needed after the ferocious Year of the Tiger...  A congenial time in which diplomacy, international relations and politics will be given a front seat again.  We will act with discretion and make reasonable concessions without too much difficulty.
  
A time to watch out that we do not become too indulgent... rules and regulations will not be rigidly enforced.  No one seems very inclined to bother with these unpleasant realities...  The scene is quiet and calm, even deteriorating to the point of somnolence.  We will all have a tendency to put off disagreeable tasks as long as possible.
  
Money can be made without too much labor.  Our life style will be languid and leisurely as we allow ourselves the luxuries we have always craved...  A temperate year with unhurried pace.  For once, it may seem possible for us to be carefree and happy without too many annoyances."
  
Sounds good to me -- I think I'm going to like the Year of the Rabbit!
  

This 'n That Thursdays: Embrace Beige!

From Materials-World

Sometimes I get a little tired of interior design experts telling us that beige is boring and should be avoided when decorating a space.  Personally, I appreciate all colors, and that includes beige!  Like anyone else, I prefer certain colors over others (I for one am not happy with the current popularity of the color grey) but I would never omit a color from my repertoire just because too many other people have a tendency to choose it.  Admittedly many may pick beige because they are too timid to try anything more bold, and it does not hurt to suggest other options, but there is a place in the design world for beige.  It is a soothing and serene color, and for someone looking to create a quiet retreat in their home this may be the perfect choice.  Just look at the following array of beige rooms, all featured on the website of HGTV:


While I am not sure I would like to see an entire house done in beige, these rooms prove that, when done right, any room can look good in this color.  To all of you naysaying designers I must protest -- let us have beige!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wish List Wednesdays: Dog Print Bedding



I seem to have an obsession with fun print bedding, and this Happy Hounds Percale Bedding from Garnet Hill certainly fits the bill!  It comes in two colors, driftwood and green, and is even more fun when the duvet cover and shams are paired with Garnet Hill's Dot to Dot Percale sheet set.


Other fun dog print bedding includes the Cat and Dog Percale Sheet Set from The Vermont Country Store (top left), the Labrador Plaid Bedding Set from Plow & Hearth (top right), and the Dog Run Flannel Bedding from The Company Store (bottom).

Uniquely patterned bedding tends to come and go quickly, so if any of these sets appeals to you snatch it up now before it is gone.  All of them are amusing and attractive, and best of all these dogs won't wake you up in the middle of the night or attempt to hog the bed!
    

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Terrifying Tuesdays: The Haunting (1963)


"The Haunting(1963) is a classic example the psychological horror film.  Often considered one of the best of the genre, this film is scary without ever actually showing or even acknowledging the existence of the supernatural.  In the movie, Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson) gets permission from the owner to investigate Hill House, an eerie mansion with a ghostly reputation, for paranormal activities.  Markway is convinced that the house is haunted and invites known psychics to assist him in proving his belief.  Only two women, Eleanor (Julie Harris) and Theodora (Claire Bloom), accept his offer.  A fourth person, Luke (Russ Tamblyn), the nephew of the current owner, also accompanies the group.  Once they arrive at Hill House, a series of terrifying events occur, mostly centered on Eleanor, who is fearful of and yet drawn to the sinister place.  The longer she stays, the more convinced Eleanor becomes that she belongs in this house, resisting efforts by the rest of the team to get her away.  Even though nothing supernatural is ever actually shown, the film does an excellent job of getting the viewer to feel the terror experienced by the group through atmosphere -- the spooky look of the mansion, the frightening sounds, and most of all the reactions of the characters to their surroundings all lead to the conclusion that this residence does indeed deserve its reputation for being haunted.  This film is a must-see for anyone who is a fan of scary movies.

Interesting Fact:  Dr. Markway's wife is portrayed by Lois Maxwell, who played Miss Moneypenny in  the first fourteen James Bond films.

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 0