Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Recycle Wednesday

It's recycle Wednesday, where I share fun posts that I've found elsewhere on the Internet. Read and enjoy. Feel free to leave a link to one of your favorite posts in the comments. 

From Mental Floss: 10 Secrets From Flight Attendants - Although some of this stuff I didn't want to know.

From Impatient Optimists: Dr. Seuss and the Seven Dwarves Fight Malaria 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Soup Swap

A big pot of bubbling, homemade soup is winter at it's finest, but it's hard to eat the same soup meal after meal. This solution to this problem was originally what gave birth to the soup swap.

Here's how it works. You and five friends each make a batch of soup, enough to fill six disposable plastic containers. The hostess (that's me) makes lunch for everyone and you get together and exchange the soups.  At the end of the party not only did you get to catch up with everyone, you now have six yummy meals you don't have to worry about.  It's ideal to label your soups so a month from now you don't have to play lunch roulette and it's fun when you bring a recipe. If you want to expand the party past six total attendees I ask people to just bring six containers. Every person doesn't get every kind of soup, but that's OK, they still get six. We've found that any more than two containers and you are making so much soup you can't do it in one pot.

Now my freezer is full of wonderful soup ranging from Lemon Chicken with rice to Sweet Potato Lentil to Broccoli, Potato, Garlic. Now my biggest decision is which one to eat first....hmmmm.

Here's my friend Dory's recipe for Chick-Pea and Spinach Soup with Garlic:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cleveland Speakeasy: 'Speakeasy'

Hello everyone. My name is Kim Hammond and I’m your guest blogger today. I’m an avid mystery reader, aspiring writer, and Mystery Playground Deb and I met at a mystery convention many moons ago.

I’ve been out of school for over two decades, so homework assignments are thankfully a thing of the past for me. So when Deb called me with a “homework assignment” I was ready to protest, until I realized it involved a girls’ night out, fun and drinks. Three of my favorite things, so how could I refuse?! Plus, I couldn’t say no to a good friend.

As many of you know, Mystery Playground visits speakeasies all over the country. What you may not know is that 2013 is the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. Can you imagine if that was still in effect? I shudder to think.

What I didn’t know is that there’s a speakeasy in my own town. I can’t believe I’ve missed this gem in the 22+ years I have lived here. So, armed with two girlfriends, my camera and an itch for adventure, off we went on a Friday night.

The Bier Markt is Ohio’s only Belgian Bier Bar and is tucked away in the historic Ohio City district on Cleveland’s West side. We were headed to the Bier Markt’s lower level where this speakeasy, actually called "Speakeasy", is located.

You go down a dark staircase with a stunning chandelier holding court above you. The first thing you notice is the floor that is made of beautiful reclaimed barn wood found in an early 1800’s barn. The walls are original, made from hand-cut sandstone that date back to a department store in this location in 1868.

The space is quaint and cozy. The pictures on the walls are circa 1930’s and you just want to walk around and look at everything in sight. The bar is in the middle of the room, inviting you to belly-up.

Our first order of business, a drink. I ordered a Belgium Chocolate Truffle. The mixture of Stoli Vanilla, Godiva Dark and Baileys was smooth and delicious. I felt inclined to drink with my pinky in the air.

Trina ordered a Framboise Martini made with Framboise, Stoili Razz, Chambord and orange. It was fruity and refreshing. If you weren’t careful, you could drink it right down, but you’d feel it when you got up from your seat.

Next on our list was food. We ordered a mixed olive platter of oregano, chili, garlic and lemon olives and a bianco pizza with garlic, mozzarella and olive oil. The pizza was baked in a stone oven and was perfect. The assorted marinated olives were a nice compliment to everything. Thumbs up on the food and the service. Our bartender was attentive and patiently answered our various questions. Never once did he roll his eyes or tell us to scram.

The sign out front

The Bier Markt and Speakeasy are located at 1948 W 25th Street, Cleveland, Ohio. You dont need reservations, but beware that the Speakeasy does private parties, so you may want to call ahead and make sure it will be open to the public when you want to check it out.


What Are Speakeasies?

Speakeasies were essentially secret bars that sprang up when the United States outlawed alcohol in 1919. 

Most speakeasies were housed in unmarked locations, many required a password to get in and some may have even moved from place to place to stay ahead of the law. Many think the name came from patrons being told to "speakeasy" or to lower their voices so no one suspected they were serving alcohol. 

Today, there are many modern speakeasies that retain some of these traditions. Usually they feature fresh ingredients in their food and drink, and though the secrecy is no longer needed, many are in discreet locations that lack signage. Some even require passwords.

You can read about Mystery Playground's other speakeasy adventures here.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Captain Hook: A History

OUAT Hook vs. an illustration Walt Disney Presents Peter Pan (book), circa 1969

Captain Hook has been a favorite of mine ever since I was a little girl and my Dad would pretend to invite him to Saturday morning breakfast.  Imaginary villains "ate" with us almost every weekend, but Hook held special status and came most weeks while other villains might have made only one or two appearances.  (For some reason these villains were never hungry, so Dad graciously ate their pancakes.)

What makes this captain, so special?  There are so many reasons:

1) He has a disability and has turned it into an advantage. I don't know anyone who would trade a hand for a hook, but this captain certainly makes the best of his situation. It's admirable.
2) His nemesis is really The Croc. I can't think of another Disney villain who has an animal chasing after him like that on a permanent basis. If you think of one, let me know. 
3) In the Disney animation classic, he's comical -- especially when he's yelling for Smee. Can you imagine laughing at Malificent or Snow White's Evil Queen? I can't. (Although I do find the Queen of Hearts laughable, in the Lewis Carroll novel and the Disney animation version.)

But Walt Disney and his studios did not originate the character of Captain James Hook, that honor belongs to J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan

Here is how J.M. Barrie introduces Hook to his readers (it's worth reading the original):

"In the midst of them, the blackest and largest in that dark setting, reclined James Hook, or as he wrote himself, Jas. Hook, of whom it is said he was the only man that the Sea-Cook feared. He lay at his ease in a rough chariot drawn and propelled by his men, and instead of a right hand he had the iron hook with which ever and anon he encouraged them to increase their pace. As dogs this terrible man treated and addressed them, and as dogs they obeyed him. In person he was cadaverous [dead looking] and blackavized [dark faced], and his hair was dressed in long curls, which at a little distance looked like black candles, and gave a singularly threatening expression to his handsome countenance. His eyes were of the blue of the forget-me-not, and of a profound melancholy, save when he was plunging his hook into you, at which time two red spots appeared in them and lit them up horribly. In manner, something of the grand seigneur still clung to him, so that he even ripped you up with an air, and I have been told that he was a RACONTEUR [storyteller] of repute. He was never more sinister than when he was most polite, which is probably the truest test of breeding; and the elegance of his diction, even when he was swearing, no less than the distinction of his demeanour, showed him one of a different cast from his crew. A man of indomitable courage, it was said that the only thing he shied at was the sight of his own blood, which was thick and of an unusual colour. In dress he somewhat aped the attire associated with the name of Charles II, having heard it said in some earlier period of his career that he bore a strange resemblance to the ill-fated Stuarts; and in his mouth he had a holder of his own contrivance which enabled him to smoke two cigars at once. But undoubtedly the grimmest part of him was his iron claw."

Barrie's Hook more closely resembles the Disney Animation Hook than more modern Hook from Storybrooke who has cut his hair and ditched the clothes of a cavalier. 

J.M. Barrie's inspiration for Captain James Hook, was according to some sources, the infamous pirate, Blackbeard (believed to be a man named Captain Edward Teach, but never confirmed.) Blackbeard was not surprisingly known for his long black beard. At six feet tall he was an imposing figure and sometimes he wore a bright red coat like the one Hook does in the books and the Disney classic Peter Pan (We've yet to see Hook on Once Upon a Time don a red coat. That seems to be reserved for Rumple.)

Captain Hook, in the Disney animated version and the OUAT version, lacks Blackbeard's beard, and his thirst for blood. 

Which brings us back to the Hook from Once Upon a Time. It seems that Rumple is his Croc, who follows him around trying to inflict more damage after successfully taking the hand, and we suppose his true love. Do we really know why these two are sworn enemies? I don't think we know enough of the story to justify their behavior just yet, but of the two I prefer Hook to Rumple, But then I would. 

illustration from a book called Walt Disney Presents Peter Pan, circa 1969

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Christie's The Labors of Hercules & Poirot

Of all of Agatha Christie's creations Hercule Poirot is my favorite and one of my favorite of Christie's short story collections is The Labors of Hercules. 

In the Labors of Hercules, Poirot decides to slow down his case load in semi-retirement and to only take cases that relate to the Twelve Labors of Hercules, his namesake. Now I suppose that I knew that Hercule was named after Hercules of classical mythology (son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmene), but it is so ridiculous a comparison physically that I never gave it much thought. While re-reading this book recently, I can see how Hercule is like Hercules in some ways. People rely on both Hercule and Hercules in impossible situations and he uses his amazing powers to help them or to bring bad guys to justice. Of course, Poirot's powers are mental and Hercules powers are physical. And the fussy little Belgian is great at solving crime, but not so good at stopping it. Hercules actually does stop it sometimes.

Matching Hercule's twelve labors to Hercules twelve labors makes an excellent book which is really comprised of twelve standalone short stories. Each story is a bite sized chuck of mystery goodness that is ideal when one story is read right before bed time. Some of the story connections are a little bit tenuous - the Nemian Lion story turns out to be more about a dog than a lion, but that doesn't really detract. It makes it more amusing as Poirot himself is the one trying to match his cases to the tasks of Hercules.

This book was first published in 1947, and unlike much a of the literature of that time, it still holds my interest. Maybe it's because I love Poirot, or perhaps because Christie was an amazing writer. If you get a chance, I highly recommend that you read or re-read it.

The binding is separating a little from the cover.

I love it when these old books have maps and drawings on the back.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Manhattan, Lower East Side Speakeasy: Death & Company

Continuing our series on modern day speakeasies, today's feature is about a little place called Death & Company. This smart little bar is tucked away in a corner of Manhattan's East Village. 

In 1919, temperance became popular and Prohibition made it illegal to serve alcohol.  Drinking was compared by those who favored temperance to 'live a life shadowed by death'. This is where Death & Company takes it's name. 

I recently visited this little establishment with friend and mystery writer, Cathi Stoler, author of the wonderful book, Telling Lies (How many lies does it take to get away with murder?). I always think it best to visit bars with the word death in the name with a mystery writer or two.  Don't you?

Both Cathi and I had a drink called the, Run for the Roses, which contained "Rose peddle-nfused" Lillet Rose, Kirsch Brandy (I usually put this in cheese fondue), Knappogue Irish Whiskey and Champagne.  The only thing I could taste in the first version was the Irish Whiskey. I asked for them to leave out the whiskey on the second round, but was told they can't alter the drinks because they won't taste right. While I prefer to have my drinks the way I like them, rather than the way someone else likes them, the second round was quite good when they went lighter on the whiskey, and they did go lighter on the whiskey. 

There were many appetizer type food offerings and the nibbles here were tasty. We had truffle oil soaked fries and mushroom tarts (really sautéed mushrooms in puff pastry). The mushroom tarts were my favorite. 

Death + Company can be found at 433 E. 6th Street on 6th between 1st Avenue and Avenue A.  The door is well marked. There was a greeter outside the night we went. The bar opened at 6:00pm that night but they weren't ready exactly at 6:00 pm and we had to wait for about five minutes. Death + Company was standing room only by the time we left at 8:00ish. If you go later, expect a line. We didn't need a password to get in.

What Are Speakeasies?

Speakeasies were essentially secret bars that sprang up when the United States outlawed alcohol in 1919. 

Most speakeasies were housed in unmarked locations, many required a password to get in and some may have even moved from place to place to stay ahead of the law. Many think the name came from patrons being told to "speakeasy" or to lower their voices so no one suspected they were serving alcohol. 

Today, there are many modern speakeasies that retain some of these traditions. Usually they feature fresh ingredients in their food and drink, and though the secrecy is no longer needed, many are in discreet locations that lack signage. Some even require passwords.

You can read about Mystery Playground's other speakeasy adventures here

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Once Upon a Time: In The Name of The Brother

We had a great episode of Once tonight, filled with intrigue, thoughts of murder and the usual obfuscation of clues and such. Let's get started on the commentary, shall we?
Belle & Rumple
Belle fell over the Storybrook town line when Hook shot her last week, and now she doesn't remember Rumple, or why she ever loved him. Now he has to earn her love all over again. Can he do it? I hope not.

I'm not really enamored of this little romance, so I'm cheering for Belle not to remember. I know she is supposed to be in love with the Beast, but as we saw her captivity with Rumple in the flashbacks it seemed more like Stockholm Syndrome to me than anything else. The Beast in the Disney classic doesn't kill people or do one fifty-millionth of the bad things Rumple does. At least we didn't see him do it. Anyway, Rumple seems more evil than a beast to me. I've been advocating for Belle to get some therapy and free herself of trying to save Rumple. Maybe this will help her do it.
Hook, Wonderful Hook
Hook is in the hospital, and although he is in pain, he still has time to flirt pretty heavily with Emma.  All Emma cares about is the whereabouts of Cora. Or maybe she does care about something else, but is just really, really good at hiding it. I know who my favorite pirate is (come back to Mystery Playground this Friday for a special post on pirates. We just love pirates -- as long as they are good-looking & fictional and/or dead.)

Dr. Frankenstein, I presume?
The black and white scenes showing Victor Frankenstein turning his beloved brother into a monster in a bizarre yet oddly heroic attempt to earn his father's love were beautifully done. Although, Victor wasn't so broken up about his father's death was he? (Shades of Sark from Alias). I loved how Rumple was in color but Victor's world was in black and white, perhaps to underscore the point of his world being without magic. Once Henry learned that Whale was Dr. Frankenstein, his reaction was much like mine when we learned Whale's identity (The Whale connection with Frankenstein is tenuous -- James Whale was the name of the Director of the 1931 movie Frankenstein) - he's not in the fairy tale book, so anyone in Storybrook could be anyone. Henry's right. All bets are off.

The scenes between our two beloved monsters - Whale and Ruby were also quite touching. I think Ruby really got rooked when they all remembered their past - she did, after all, eat her boyfriend. It was good to hear her acknowledge her evil, and to let us know she is struggling to come to terms with it.
The Stranger
Stranger Greg takes pictures of himself on vacation, tweets photos of his food and has the theme to Star Wars on his cell phone (a little homage to the Disney purchase of the Star Wars franchise, perhaps? Personally, I think this was a brilliant deal.) 
When they first started this whole 'OMG, real people may find out about magic' story line, I had flashbacks to practically every magical movie and TV show since the dawn of time. I was so relieved when Grumpy acknowledged that with his Splash, ET reference. Still, I do hope this isn't a big story line, the real people seeing the magic. I am a wee bit apprehensive about the cliche of it all.

Emma seems to think that her asking The Stranger what he saw at the scene of the accident and then letting him off the "Hook" (little pirate pun there) for the whole running Hook  down while texting thing means he is telling the truth. Nice sheriff-ing work there, Emma. But really, what stranger is going to go popping off about magic from a hospital bed after he ran someone down???? 
Emma should know The Stranger wouldn't tell her if he saw Rumple's magic. But we know he knows because he called his "honey," who we only know as "Her" from his cell phone and told her. BTW - Who identifies their girlfriend or wife as "Her"? (besides Rumpole of the Bailey...he actually called his wife, 'She Who Must Be Obeyed. Good man)
I'm going to go out on a limb here. I don't think The Stranger is Baelfire. And I don't think he is a random human from human land. I think he's someone we know from fairy tale land or another tale - a big mouth of sorts, and that once we know the identity of "Her," all will become clear. It's just a nascent theory right now and it's all I've got. Feel free to weigh in below and tell me I'm wrong.
Super Creepy Cora
Cora is super creepy this week...from insisting Rumple kiss her ("Let's seal the deal like we used to) to the smelling of Regina's clothes before she finds Henry's plaster hand print. How would you feel if your mother did this? Even creepier is when she magically makes herself look like Henry to get close to Regina, tells her as Henry that he knows she's innocent. Exactly what Regina wants to hear. But when Regina asks Henry how he knew she was innocent, having dreamed the answer of how much he loved her, Cora reveals herself and admits she "did it." Yikes. All sorts of issues.

Rumple, Rumple, Rumple
Wasn't it pure genius on the writer's part when the key to finding Baelfire is Cora bringing him a magic globe/spindle? Seriously, don't answer that. Just agree with me. 

Rumple pricks his finger on the spindle on top of the globe and the drops of blood show us where his darling Baelfire is. My only problem is there are kinda of two dots - the white one, looks like it's somewhere in Pennsylvania (which brings us back to the stranger and the license plate from last week -2KFL138, still don't know what that means ) and the red area which looks like DC to me. (But perhaps the red there was just lawmakers arguing over the debt ceiling last week, it's really hard to tell.) If you have a better map interpretation, I'm all ears. Here's the map... (I took the photo from the TV screen, so please excuse the quality.) 

And now he wants Emma to go trekking with him in the outside world to find Baelfire. What if Baelfire is Henry's dad? Who will keep Cora in check? If Emma leaves who will Hook flirt with? Hmmm. Lots of possibilities.

And what about the postcard that went to the white rabbit in the first episode of season 2? Are we ever going to know about that?

Three week hiatus - boo 
Looks like we have a three week break from the show and when it returns, so does as the Giant from Jack and the Bean Stalk (Jorge Garcia from LOST, gotta love it). I don't think he will be in a good mood because apparently Cora kidnaps him. Cora needs to get some hobbies besides the kidnapping, and the framing, and the involuntary heart removal, etc. Perhaps she would like Bikram yoga. It's very relaxing.

Other than that, I have to say the preview for ABC's Zero Hour looked interesting and we start our in-depth coverage of Mardi Gras with a contest to win a book bag signed by Charlaine Harris, creator of Sookie Stackhouse, on February 1st. Come on back and enter.

As usual, this post is more commentary than recap. There's a great OUAT recap, here.

I'm off to watch DowntonLove to hear your thoughts...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Poe's Birthday: Let's Lift a Cask of Amontillado

Today is good ole' Edgar's birthday so let's life a Cask of Amontillado. Even today this brilliant story holds up and gives me a chill (and you can read it below). Rather than write something new about Poe, I have linked to my top three favorite blogs by Poe experts below. 

1) Ten Weird Things You Didn't Know About Poe including he liked and had a cat.  Hard to imagine after reading The Black Cat

2) Edgar Allen Poe, Pioneer of True Crime a great run down of the life of the inventor of the detective story it also talks about the inspiration for Murders in the Rue Morgue

3) Summaries of all of his stories from, goes way beyond the Raven.


by Edgar Allan Poe

THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled --but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.
It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my in to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my to smile now was at the thought of his immolation.
He had a weak point --this Fortunato --although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially; --I was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.
It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.
I said to him --"My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day. But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts."
"How?" said he. "Amontillado, A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!"
"I have my doubts," I replied; "and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain."
"I have my doubts."
"And I must satisfy them."
"As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me --"
"Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry."
"And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.
"Come, let us go."
"To your vaults."
"My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive you have an engagement. Luchresi--"
"I have no engagement; --come."
"My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre."
"Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchresi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado."
Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm; and putting on a mask of black silk and drawing a roquelaire closely about my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.
There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honour of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned.
I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giving one to Fortunato, bowed him through several suites of rooms to the archway that led into the vaults. I passed down a long and winding staircase, requesting him to be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the foot of the descent, and stood together upon the damp ground of the catacombs of the Montresors.
The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap jingled as he strode.
"The pipe," he said.
"It is farther on," said I; "but observe the white web-work which gleams from these cavern walls."
He turned towards me, and looked into my eves with two filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of intoxication.
"Nitre?" he asked, at length.
"Nitre," I replied. "How long have you had that cough?"
"Ugh! ugh! ugh! --ugh! ugh! ugh! --ugh! ugh! ugh! --ugh! ugh! ugh! --ugh! ugh! ugh!"
My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes.
"It is nothing," he said, at last.
"Come," I said, with decision, "we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchresi --"
"Enough," he said; "the cough's a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough."
"True --true," I replied; "and, indeed, I had no intention of alarming you unnecessarily --but you should use all proper caution. A draught of this Medoc will defend us from the damps.
Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I drew from a long row of its fellows that lay upon the mould.
"Drink," I said, presenting him the wine.
He raised it to his lips with a leer. He paused and nodded to me familiarly, while his bells jingled.
"I drink," he said, "to the buried that repose around us."
"And I to your long life."
He again took my arm, and we proceeded.
"These vaults," he said, "are extensive."
"The Montresors," I replied, "were a great and numerous family."
"I forget your arms."
"A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel."
"And the motto?"
"Nemo me impune lacessit."
"Good!" he said.
The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled. My own fancy grew warm with the Medoc. We had passed through long walls of piled skeletons, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs. I paused again, and this time I made bold to seize Fortunato by an arm above the elbow.
"The nitre!" I said; "see, it increases. It hangs like moss upon the vaults. We are below the river's bed. The drops of moisture trickle among the bones. Come, we will go back ere it is too late. Your cough --"
"It is nothing," he said; "let us go on. But first, another draught of the Medoc."
I broke and reached him a flagon of De Grave. He emptied it at a breath. His eyes flashed with a fierce light. He laughed and threw the bottle upwards with a gesticulation I did not understand.
I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the movement --a grotesque one.
"You do not comprehend?" he said.
"Not I," I replied.
"Then you are not of the brotherhood."
"You are not of the masons."
"Yes, yes," I said; "yes, yes."
"You? Impossible! A mason?"
"A mason," I replied.
"A sign," he said, "a sign."
"It is this," I answered, producing from beneath the folds of my roquelaire a trowel.
"You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. "But let us proceed to the Amontillado."
"Be it so," I said, replacing the tool beneath the cloak and again offering him my arm. He leaned upon it heavily. We continued our route in search of the Amontillado. We passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame.
At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less spacious. Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. Three sides of this interior crypt were still ornamented in this manner. From the fourth side the bones had been thrown down, and lay promiscuously upon the earth, forming at one point a mound of some size. Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, we perceived a still interior crypt or recess, in depth about four feet, in width three, in height six or seven. It seemed to have been constructed for no especial use within itself, but formed merely the interval between two of the colossal supports of the roof of the catacombs, and was backed by one of their circumscribing walls of solid granite.
It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, endeavoured to pry into the depth of the recess. Its termination the feeble light did not enable us to see.
"Proceed," I said; "herein is the Amontillado. As for Luchresi --"
"He is an ignoramus," interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadily forward, while I followed immediately at his heels. In niche, and finding an instant he had reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his progress arrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment more and I had fettered him to the granite. In its surface were two iron staples, distant from each other about two feet, horizontally. From one of these depended a short chain, from the other a padlock. Throwing the links about his waist, it was but the work of a few seconds to secure it. He was too much astounded to resist. Withdrawing the key I stepped back from the recess.
"Pass your hand," I said, "over the wall; you cannot help feeling the nitre. Indeed, it is very damp. Once more let me implore you to return. No? Then I must positively leave you. But I must first render you all the little attentions in my power."
"The Amontillado!" ejaculated my friend, not yet recovered from his astonishment.
"True," I replied; "the Amontillado."
As I said these words I busied myself among the pile of bones of which I have before spoken. Throwing them aside, I soon uncovered a quantity of building stone and mortar. With these materials and with the aid of my trowel, I began vigorously to wall up the entrance of the niche.
I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when I discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had in a great measure worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man. There was then a long and obstinate silence. I laid the second tier, and the third, and the fourth; and then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labours and sat down upon the bones. When at last the clanking subsided, I resumed the trowel, and finished without interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh tier. The wall was now nearly upon a level with my breast. I again paused, and holding the flambeaux over the mason-work, threw a few feeble rays upon the figure within.
A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back. For a brief moment I hesitated, I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier, I began to grope with it about the recess; but the thought of an instant reassured me. I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the catacombs, and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall; I replied to the yells of him who clamoured. I re-echoed, I aided, I surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and the clamourer grew still.
It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to a close. I had completed the eighth, the ninth and the tenth tier. I had finished a portion of the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight; I placed it partially in its destined position. But now there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head. It was succeeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognizing as that of the noble Fortunato. The voice said--
"Ha! ha! ha! --he! he! he! --a very good joke, indeed --an excellent jest. We will have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo --he! he! he! --over our wine --he! he! he!"
"The Amontillado!" I said.
"He! he! he! --he! he! he! --yes, the Amontillado. But is it not getting late? Will not they be awaiting us at the palazzo, the Lady Fortunato and the rest? Let us be gone."
"Yes," I said, "let us be gone."
"For the love of God, Montresor!"
"Yes," I said, "for the love of God!"
But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. I grew impatient. I called aloud --
No answer. I called again --
No answer still. I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture and let it fall within. There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so. I hastened to make an end of my labour. I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Magic 8 Ball

Without a doubt, this week's Fortune Friday feature is about that old reliable decision maker, the Magic 8 Ball. Officially born as a commercially available toy in 1950, the idea for the Magic 8 Ball is believed to have first appeared in a Three Stooges movie short called, "You Natzy Spy".  In a strange twist of fate, Moe becomes the dictator of a place called, "Moronica." And Moronica is true to it's name, Moe decides "Loyal Moronicans should never read," so he orders books to be burned (I just hate that concept). Anyway, a beautiful woman shows up with a large 8 ball and claims the spirits send her a message through the ball...

The Magic 8 Ball has made other movie appearances, most recently as a character in all three Pixar Toy Story movies. This one talks back in Woody's voice. 

You don't actually need a physical Magic 8 Ball any more because like so many other things, the Magic 8 Ball can be outsourced to an Internet application. You can find electronic magic 8 balls all over the web: herehere and here. I admit that I found the last link a wee bit scary since it logged the questions asked and I clearly don't need to know anyone else's Magic 8 Ball question. But that's just me.

Mattel, the current maker of the Magic 8 ball, also offers a Magic 8 Ball iPhone app for a mere 99c. You ask a question and shake the iPhone. It delivers you an answer in true Magic 8 Ball fashion and with a press of a button you can share you answer on Facebook or Twitter. 

According to Wikipedia, there are twenty potential answers from the Magic 8 Ball:
It is certain
It is decidedly so
Without a doubt
Yes – definitely
You may rely on it
As I see it, yes
Most likely
Outlook good
Signs point to yes
Reply hazy, try again
Ask again later
Better not tell you now
Cannot predict now
Concentrate and ask again
Don't count on it
My reply is no
My sources say no
Outlook not so good
Very doubtful

There are now many derivative Magic 8 ball products, including:
-  The fashion fun ball, co-branded with Bloomies. This one tells you if you've made a fashion faux-pas. 

- A Glee Magic 8 Ball, from the TV Show. This ball also talks and some of the answers are sung back to you. 

- A Therapy Magic 8 Ball, which gives you answers like, "How do you feel about that?" and "Talk to your mother."

Have you ever asked a Magic 8 Ball a question? Signs point to yes. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Flesh Eating Plants

Who knew you could actually grow flesh eating plants in the comfort of your own home... Until my friend Karen gave me this handy little kit, I had no idea (Thank you, Karen!). It actually comes with seed packets for three separate insect eating plants and a handy manual with comprehensive instructions. 

One of the plants included is a Venus Fly Trap. Turns out the Venus Fly Tap plant is only found natively in North and South Carolina, which I did not know. 

Here is a handy video with growing tips for the Venus Fly Trap:

And here is a Venus Fly Trap in action.

If you'd rather watch a movie than grow your own flesh eating plant, may I suggest Little Shop of Horrors. In this movie a florist grows a man eating plant with hilarious and deadly results. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Appetite for Murder

One of my favorite Christmas gifts is a wonderful murder mystery themed cookbook, called Appetite for Murder, by Kathy Borich (thank you Bianca, Dave, Jack and Sam).

The cookbook has chapters devoted to dining with Sherlock Holmes, tea with Miss Marple, potluck with Edgar Allen Poe, pub food with Chief Inspector Morse and Christmas with Ellery Queen, among others. Each chapter begins with a summary and analysis of a particular story and is followed by the suggested menu and recipes. 

In one of the Sherlock sections, called Lederhosen and Legerdemain: An Alpine Affair with Pastry Light as Air, Kathy talks about what happens in the Conan-Doyle classic, 'The Adventure of the Final Solution,' and pairs it with dinner. 

As Sherlock fans can attest, this is a hard story to cook to, because this particular story set at the infamous Reichenbach Falls of Switzerland, doesn't end happily.

On this occasion, Appetite for Murder treats us to an decadent swiss feast. The meal includes sumptuous dishes such as Tarte Bourbonnaise and Prunes and Figs Soaked in Wine, Fondue Brillat-Savarin with Sliced White Truffles and Drunken Strawberries Featuring a Fruity Young Pinot Noir.

Now tell me that wouldn't make a memorable book club dinner. 

Here is Kathy's easy-to-make recipe for Drunken Strawberries:

Drunken Strawberries

  • 4 Cups Fresh, Ripe Strawberries 
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Sugar 
  • Fruity Young Pinot Noir or Beaujolais 
  • *Crème Fraiche 
Wash and trim 4 cups strawberries. Cut into quarters. Sprinkle with sugar and toss. Serve in goblets with just enough wine to cover. Dollop with crème fraiche.

*Crème Fraiche Literally fresh cream, creme friche is a rich, heavy country creme with a tart flavor, similar to our dairy creme but richer and sweeter. The French use the creme fraiche for many purposes, from thickneing and enriching soups and sauces to garnishing desserts and pastries. This easy method of creatring the cream enables you to produce a variety of fresh fruit desserts in minutes. To create this simple version, combine 2/3 cup whipping creme with 1/3 cup dairy sour cream. 
I have to admit, that I went for the Rediwhip when I made this and it was still fabulous. 

If you want to recreate additional Sherlock inspired recipes, you can find more here on Criminal Element or more here on Kathy's site
It is great fun.