Thursday

Fascinating Character--O. Henry (Birthday Version)

"The true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and greet unknown fate." ~O. Henry

I don't know why William Sydney Porter created the pen name O. Henry, but throughout his life, he seemed obsessed with changing his name. For instance, in 1898, when he was 36, he changed his middle name's spelling from "Sidney" to "Sydney." Also, he didn't always use the pen name O. Henry. Sometimes he was Olivier Henry or Oliver Henry.

When I tell you about the scandal, though, it may make sense.

In 1891, Porter began working at the First National Bank of Austin, and also began to embezzle. Yup. So they fired him in 1894 without reporting him to the Feds. However, in 1896, while Porter was working for the Houston Post, he was arrested for embezzlement. The Feds had decided to audit the bank, and found the inconsistencies. Oh my!

It gets even better. After his father-in-law bailed him out of jail and the day before his trial,  Porter fled the country and settled himself in Honduras. In 1897, he returned to the US because his wife was dying of tuberculosis. He surrendered himself to the court and was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to five years.

So, I guess we see now why Henry seemed fearless in the quote above to face any adventure--he lived a real-life adventure for most his his days.

Anyway, back to his aliases. I think a man with these criminal tendencies may not want to publish under his own name. Or, perhaps he was always thinking he may have to run, so having an alias on the ready was just a wise practice. Those are my two best theories.

O. Henry is best known for . . .

  • Authoring short stories
  • His ironic twists at the end of his fiction
  • The Gift of the Magi (the only tale about a hair comb that will make you cry)
  • Coining the term "banana republic" (in Cabbages and Kings)

There's more drama where "O." is concerned, but I leave you to his Wikipedia page for that.

Is he pondering the meaning of life, 
or a jewelry heist?

Source Articles: Wikipedia; Brainy Quote O. Henry Quotes

Friday

Theme of the Month-- August is National Peach Month

"... I prefer a really intense fruit taste. You know, when a peach is absolutely perfect... it's sublime. I'd like to capture that and then use it in a dessert." ~ Kathy Mattea

August is National Peach Month and I'm celebrating with some fascinating peach facts and yummy peach recipes. Lets start with some peachy info:


Peach Blossoms, aren't they pretty?
You don't eat this part.

  • The peach hails from China, which produces the most peaches in the world
  • There are yellow flesh and white flesh varieties
  • They credit the Silk Road for the import of peaches to the West
  • Europeans like the white-flesh peach over the yellow
  • The white-flesh variety is the sweeter of the two
  • Europeans once believed that the peach came from Persia, thus its scientific name prunus persica
  • Growers harvest the peach anywhere from May to late July, depending on the variety
  • Georgia is famous for its yummy peaches ("Georgia peach")
  • There are two main categories of peach cultivar: freestone and clingstone because with some varieties the flesh sticks to the pit, and with others it doesn't.
  • I like saying the word "cultivar." :D

My favorite peach recipe is my own Easy Peach Cobbler, which is really a dump cake. I found a link on the internet for my exact recipe, which I've posted below with other recipe links. Basically, all you do is take a large can of peaches in heavy syrup, pour them into a 9 x 13 pan, dump a box of yellow cake mix on top, dot with butter, and bake. So easy and so YUM.


photo credit: madlyinlovewithlife via photopin cc



The Peach has it's own Wikipedia Page; Here are some books about peaches on Amazon.



Wednesday

Fascinating Character--Doctor Peter Piot, Ebola Co-Discoverer and AIDS Pioneer

“There were many people who were not available or were too scared to go, but I was 27, therefore being scared was not in my dictionary. I was so excited that I was not afraid of anything. It was the excitement of discovery.” ~Peter Piot, co-discoverer of Ebola

You know, the archetypal movie plot where the people sin and the monster comes to get vengeance. There is no escape. People die because the town is dumping waste, or the mayor cares more about the tourist trade than he does lives...you've seen this movie.



The monster, Ebola, broke out in 1976 in Sudan and Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Some theorized that the virus hid in the jungle for centuries, and, because of deforestation, it emerged on a vulnerable public. Many blamed the greedy for the deforestation, and thus the Ebola outbreak.

Then the hero entered. The medical doctor and microbiologist, Dr. Peter Piot, who rode off to the unknown wild to pioneer and discover what was causing Death. Soon, he found out...it was Ebola.

Later, he dubbed it, "A spectacular virus."

But this hero did not stop there. In 1983, again in Zaire, he pinpointed the AIDS virus as a global enemy, and by 1995, he was the Founding Executive Director of UNAIDS, the UN's organization that focuses on preventing and battling AIDS globally.

He described the discovery of Ebola and the pandemic nature of HIV/AIDS as "two of the most extraordinary adventures of our time." Well, they were, at least, for him. :D

Our hero, Dr. Piot, champions the fight against
this monster--Ebola

Here are more fascinating facts about Dr. Piot--

  • He was born in a small Belgian town, Leuven, in 1949
  • He could not wait to grow up and leave that town!
  • He has a title -- Baron
  • He left UNAIDS in 2008 to lead the Institute for Global Health at Imperial College London.
  • Currently he is director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

The video below is an interview led by the ever-so-fascinating Christiane Amanpour in July 2014, not long after the most current African outbreak of Ebola threatened to become pandemic.



Christiane Amanpour interviews Dr. Peter Piot CNN
July 2, 2014

If this were a movie, the good guys win. As Piot states in the video interview above, Ebola isn't hard to contain. It takes just basic medical protocols to keep it from spreading. And now, the experimental treatment he talks about in the video (a drug called ZMapp) seems to be a cure!

In August 2014, doctors at Emory University Hospital used ZMapp on the two infected American healthcare workers, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. On August 19th Writebol was released from the hospital--cured. Dr. Brantly left the hospital just two days later, also cured.


Read Peter's Wiki Page and his book No Time to Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses




Thursday

Fascinating YouTube Character--The Phffffffttt Guy

"You can't get away from your heart because life is a paradox. It's a mirror of confusion. So LOVE NOW!" ~ The Phffffffttt Guy

My friend shared on Facebook that she was trying to find an overall purpose for her life. It was frustrating and she was asking her FB friends for insight. Coincidentally, I ran into the Phffffffttt Guy and realized he might have answers for her.

All right, he isn't the most coherent man on the planet, and he is either crazy or high, BUT, oddly, you can strew together the meaning of life from him. Sort of. ;)

And you'll laugh!

Phffffffttt!




Don't you feel all wise and happy after that? :D

Tuesday

Theme of the Month--July is National Blueberry Month

“Have blueberries whenever you are low – destiny will change and you will be high.” Adam Voichester

Happy National Blueberry Month! July is it, baby! It's all about that little blue fruit that finishes sweet and stains the tongue.

PattsBlueberries.jpg
The blue ones are ripe.

The two main types of blueberries are--wild (small) and commercial (larger). I prefer to buy the frozen wild ones. They make a great pie (see below).

Wild berries are called "low-bush berries," because the wild bush lays closer to the ground than commercial berries ("high-bush berries").  There is also a hybrid "high-low" bush, but no one talks about it. It's hush hush. ;)

It is appropriate that blueberries are celebrated in July. That is their harvest time--late July through mid-August.

Oregon is known for having the best blueberries--both wild and commercial. I knew a couple who bought Oregon property and spent much time and effort to clear the land of solid, wild blueberry bushes.

Oh man! All. Those. Blueberries. Wasted! So sad. :(

As a suburban girl, I've never seen a blueberry bush. According to Wikipedia, the bushes flower.


You have to be careful with blueberries when they are turned into blueberry candy in a magical candy factory. A disaster happened to a friend of mine, Violet Beauregard, when she was a child. She ate some blueberry candy from said factory and POW--she grew into a fat, human blueberry! I'll never forget the callous statement of Willy Wonka, the factory owner, when he said,

"It happens every time. They all become blueberries." (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1971).

Before I introduce you to my blueberry pie recipe, I must tell you about Adam Voichester. If you Google him, he is only known for one thing, the quote at the top of this article! That's it. It's his claim to fame. He may not even exist! Go ahead, Google Image him. He comes up various blueberry dishes, like this:

Adam Voichester
You see what I mean?

Okay...time for blueberry pie!

Denise's Easy Blueberry Pie
I use refrigerated pie crusts. The frozen ones are horrid. Stay away from them. But the refrigerated ones (like Pillsbury) are very good.

Blueberry Pie Filling:
4 c. fresh blueberries or other berries (this is 4 of the 6-8oz. containers they come in) OR 1 10-12 oz pkg. of frozen berries (the frozen wild blueberries are nice).

1 c. sugar                                      
1/4 cup cornstarch (this is 4 T)
¼ t. ground cinnamon (optional)
¼ t. ground nutmeg (optional)

1 T. lime juice (water if in a pinch)
2 T. butter (optional, I often don’t include it)

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F  
  2. Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, then mix with blueberries.
  3. Line pie dish (I use a 10-inch deep dish, but a 9-inch will do) with one pie crust. Pour berry mixture into the crust and dot with butter. 
  4. Add the other pie crust on top. Crimp and flute edges, then cut four slits in the dough with a knife.
  5. Place on cookie sheet and place in oven.
Bake pie on lower shelf of oven for about 50 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.


The best thing to do with a July harvest of blueberries!

MORE recipes for blueberries! Sally's Baking Addiction: Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake; Joy of Baking: Blueberry Trifle; Lemon Ice Cream Sandwiches with Blueberry Swirl; Fine Cooking: Blueberry Vanilla Cream Cheese Pies; Crazy for Crust: Blueberry Slab Pie; Pretty Fit Life: Blissful Blueberry-Baked Oatmeal; Hungry Rabbit: Everlasting Blueberry Almond Coffee Cake; She Wears Many Hats: Blueberry Pie Ice CreamEat at Home: Blueberry Butter; Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds: Your New Summer Cocktail: Blueberry Vodka Lemonade.

Blueberry has a Wiki Page. You may also enjoy reading these articles: Blueberries, Blueberries, Blueberries!; The History of Blueberries (Commercial, with more recipes!); The History of Blueberries (Wild).

Source Articles: Wikipedia; The Farmer's Almanac: Blueberries; IMDb Willy Wonka Quotes; iFood.tv Quotes.