Monkey Fist or Sheepshank?

Knots are so cool! And they’re everywhere you look. Shoes, hair (good knots and bad knots), clothes, presents, trees, food, clothing and more. 

Getting ready for my morning run today, I paused for a minute as I tied my running shoes.  Who came up with this knot and how come I can rely in it to perform while running?  And why do we use the same approach to hold things 1000’s of years after the first caveman laced up his Nike’s?  Think about it.  With so many different ways to fasten an item – buttons, Velcro, snaps, elastic, clamps, clips and more, we still use the simple shoelace knot, often referred to as a bow knot, for shoes, sneakers, boots and bow ties.
I think as a kid Mom called the loops “bunny ears” to help me master the technique. Jackie and I certainly used the same technique when teaching our girls how to tie their shoes, and it worked great!  As I love to do, I dove into the internet, and found some great references and stories about knots – one recently published in Smithsonian, where engineers used heat sensitive rope and microscopes to test the strength points of rope.  Of course, being the head “thermal distortion” geek here at KHT, working on your PIA (Pain in the @%$) Jobs! I gobbled up the article.  Take a stroll through the info below and enjoy a visit with Des Pawson, a remarkable keeper of all things knots in England.  Special thanks to Wikipedia, Smithsonian, and the New York Times for the info/articles and You Tube for the videos – great stuff.  And be sure to include the Knot Tyers Guild annual convention in your travel plans. Enjoy!

  • Knot enthusiasts like to say that civilization is held together by knots. (learn more at HERE.  Your shoes are undoubtedly tied with the first knot that you ever learned, the famous shoelace knot, the shoelace knot is: a doubly slipped reef knot formed by joining the ends of whatever is being tied with a half hitch, folding each of the exposed ends into a loop (bight) and joining the loops with a second half hitch. The size of the loops and the length of the exposed ends are adjusted when the knot is tied. It has the stability of the reef knot but is significantly easier to untie, simply by pulling the ends away from the center of the knot.
  • Glance in the mirror and you may find more knots: the one in your necktie, perhaps, or the one made by the elastic band that is wound around to hold your hair in place. Your hair itself might be plaited into a braid: another knot. Over the years I have successfully completed numerous French braids for my daughters!
  • Now consider the clothing you’re wearing. Your cable-knit sweater is a whole lot of knotting, as is your shirt, your pants, your socks, your underwear: These sewn or knitted or woven garments are likely held together by knots, and what’s more, the materials from which they’re made — cotton or wool or acrylic or what have you — are themselves glorified knots, fibers that have been twisted together to form stronger tensile strands.
  • How about the knot in the cinnamon bun on your breakfast table. There were definitely knots in the fishing net that caught the halibut on your dinner plate. Did everyone see how I was able to “TIE” this back to food!  Doctors staunch the bleeding in an open wound with tourniquets bound by knots, and they employ knots when stitching up a body after surgery.
  • Knots are used in the construction of houses and skyscrapers; the cables supporting suspension bridges extend time-honored principles of cordage and knotting to “ropes” of galvanized steel wire.
  • Knots are an ancient technology. They predate the axe and the wheel, quite possibly the use of fire and maybe even man himself: Some scientists have speculated that the first knotters were animals, gorillas who tied simple “granny knots,” interlacing branches to construct nests. But in a century of digital tech and robotics, knots remain indispensable, with an Englishman Des Pawson, committed to celebrating the history of knots. From his house that sits along a well-trafficked residential through street a couple of hundred yards from the River Orwell in the town of Ipswich, in Suffolk, southeast England. Use that door knocker and you will be greeted by Des Pawson, a vibrant 67-year-old man with large round eyeglasses, a white beard worthy of a biblical patriarch and hair that stretches down nearly to his shoulders.
  • Pawson’s mane is partially concealed beneath a red Kangol cap – (hope you read our KHT hats post from last week) Pawson says. “I want the rope makers, I want the riggers, I want the sailmakers to be recognized for their contributions. They are a huge part of the story of knots.”
    Pawson is one of the world’s foremost knot experts, a co-founder of the International Guild of Knot Tyers, and a prolific author of knotting books. His home, which he shares with his wife, Liz, is a shrine to knots. (see the video HERE ) (check out some of his books on this website too) Pawson opened the place in 1996; in 2007, he was awarded an M.B.E. (Member of the Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth “for services to the rope industry.”
    The museum also holds mementos of Empire — the glorious and sordid age when Britannia ruled the waves. Pawson points out an improbably chunky piece of age-blackened rope, more than two feet in circumference, as thick and gnarled as a tree trunk. It is a part of the anchor cable from the H.M.S. Victory, the ship that Lord Nelson commanded, and died aboard, in the Battle of Trafalagar. Another display case is filled with slim wooden sticks, handles wrapped in threaded rope. These nightsticks, or “coshes,” were sailors’ weapons. Pawson says: “If you’re in the stews of Liverpool or San Francisco, you want a bit of protection, don’t you?”

Alexander the Great cutting the Gordian Knot (Donato Creti, 1671-1749)

  • There are knots of legend, like the Gordian knot that Alexander the Great sliced open with a swing of his sword to become the leader of Europe – read the legend HERE
  • There are knots reputed to have magical properties: the knots tied by Laplander shamans in handkerchiefs, which, when loosed, would raise a mighty wind and knots used by witches to cast spells.
  • The Elizabethan poet Philip Sidney wrote. We speak of marriage as “tying the knot,” a figurative knot that is likely derived from literal ones — from so-called true lovers’ knots, various knot forms, found everywhere from Scandinavia to East Asia to Mexico, that symbolize affection, commitment and betrothal. Watch these crazy marriage proposals HERE  making plans to tie the knot.
  • Fibers that change color under pressure helped researchers predict knot performance
  • The new study, published in the journal Science, paired mathematical knot theory with a color-changing fiber developed in 2013. Because the fiber changes color under pressure, the researchers were able to measure physical properties and add data to their computational knot models. They came up with three rules that determine a knot’s stability.
  • The researchers identified three characteristics that allow a knot to put up with more strain:  1) knots are more stable with each additional crossing point, where one length of rope comes in contact with another. 2) if strands at neighboring crossing points rotate in opposite directions, it will create opposing friction and also increase stability. 3) friction from strands sliding against each other in opposite directions provides the final contribution.  In the future, this type of research could be used to choose or create the right knot for any application.
  • So, just how many knots are there, and what is the strongest knot ever? It appears mathematicians and scientists have created an amazing array of knots.  Click HERE to visit the Rolfsen Knot Tables, and click on any knot image to learn more about each one … (we’ll check back in with you in a few hours as this will tie you up for a bit – couldn’t resist)  And HERE is a link to one of the strongest molecular knots ever created. Which could make more comfortable surgical sutures and even more protective bulletproof vests.

 


 

Hats Off

 

Hats. They can help to define who you are, what you do, feed your ego, keep you safe or simply keep your head warm. Hey, don’t forget to click the link in the story below to see how one kind of hat is made. It’s pretty interesting.

 

I hope everyone had an amazing holiday break – I know I did.  Now that we’re all back on the job (some of us never left…) I wanted to share some interesting facts about a topic I thought I’d never write about … hats.  You see, for the past few weeks I’ve been torn as to what to wear, if anything at all, while running.  The temperature here in Cleveland has been WAY above average, with warm, sunny days and low winds, I’ve been a bit challenged as to what to place atop my most precious folic-ly challenged dome. When I go with one of my prized baseball caps, my ears tend to get cold.  When I use a knit cap, it’s often a bit too warn, and when I use one of my headbands … well, not so good on top. Now when I am dressing up, I either don my favorite wool “Ivy” or my KHT baseball hat – all depends on how I am feeling!  So being the curious type, I looked online for some “hat” info, and was blown away – wow! I never knew so many hat types existed. (check out the link at the end of the post).  So, for my trivia buds, test your knowledge of coverings – between the big floppy akubra and the tiny kippah – perhaps see if you can guess the difference between a deerstalker, homburg, patka or saturno.  Enjoy – and thanks Wikipedia, historyofhat.net, the BBC and mentalfloss.com. And thanks Mr. Hetherington for making that public nuisance.

 

Hats are worn for various reasons, from fashion to protection, for ceremonies and rituals, for women and men. Throughout history hats represented markings of a class to which a wearer belonged and used to differentiate nationalities, branches and ranks in military.

One of the first images that show a hat, is a painting in a Thebes tomb. It depicts a man that wears a conical hat made of straw. Pileus appeared also very early and it was a simple skull cap.

In Ancient Greece and Rome when a slave was freed, he was given a Phrygian cap as a symbol of freedom. That is why Phrygian caps were called Liberty caps while they were worn during French revolution.

The First hat with a brim is an Ancient Greek petasos.

One of the basic materials that hats are made of is felt. Felt was discovered at different times in different parts of the world. Ancient Egyptians found felt when they noticed that camel hair that falls into the sandals becomes compact from pressure and moist. Native Americans found felt in their fur moccasins. It is told that St. Clement found felt when he filled his shoes with flax fibers. That is why he is pronounced patron saint of felt hat makers.

In 16th century, women began to wear structured hats, similar to those that were worn by men. In 18th century milliners started appearing, usually women, that created hats and bonnets but also designing overall styles. Materials of the highest quality and best hats came from Italian city of Milan. That is where term “milliner” comes from.

A famous story out of England goes like this…
The man who gave hats a head start into fame and fashion was haberdasher John Hetherington who, on January 15th, 1797 appeared in court after he had stepped out onto the streets of London wearing the distinctive headgear and caused a sensation.

So much so that a crowd formed, and Hetherington was eventually arrested and given a summons for disturbing the public peace. In court, found guilty of wearing a hat “calculated to frighten timid people”, he was bound over to keep the peace in consideration of a sum of 50 pounds.

The arresting officer told the court that nobody had seen anything like it before: “He had such a tall and shiny construction on his head that it must have terrified nervous people. The sight of this construction was so overstated that various women fainted, children began to cry, and dogs started to bark. One child broke his arm among all the jostling.”

The next day, The Times newspaper reported: “Hetherington’s hat points to a significant advance in the transformation of dress. Sooner or later, everyone will accept this headwear. We believe that both the court and the police made a mistake here.”

The newspaper was right. The top hat, which went by several names including Toppers, Chimney Pots, and Stove Pipes, grew in popularity, finally achieving the ultimate stamp of respectability in 1850 when Prince Albert, no less, began to wear one, giving the headgear the royal seal of approval. There was no going back after that . . .

In the 19th century, brim size of bonnets changed from very large to small (when parasols became fashion). At the same time, hats reentered the scene and were in fashion as much as bonnets. They started as riding woman’s riding hats and were made as highland caps, little circular pork pie hats, doll hats decorated with feathers and tall hats.

The 20th century saw woman’s hat change from smaller to big with large brim to small again. It changed with fashion and hairstyles, economic and social changes, wars, rationing.

Man’s hats also changed through history. Simple skull caps changed into Capotain (tall hat with small brim and a belt with a buckle) and that one into a broad, round-brimmed hat that protected from sun and rain, which transformed into tricorne. Tricorne evolved into bicorn (Napoleon wore a bicorn hat).

Here are some Interesting Facts about Hats You Can Impress Your Friends With:

  • London black taxies are made tall so that a gentleman can ride in them without taking off a top hat.
  • In the middle of 19th century baseball umpires wore top hats during the game.
  • White tall chef hats traditionally have 100 pleats to represent hundreds of ways an egg can be prepared. They were invented by cuisine inventors Marie-Antoine Carème and Auguste Escoffier as a method of establishing hierarchy in the kitchen.
  • Elisabeth I had a law according to which every person older than 7 years had to wear a cap on Sundays and holidays.
  • Trilby, a variant of fedora, was named after heroine Trilby O’Ferral of a George du Maurier novel.
  • Process of making felt involved use of mercury which is toxic and prolonged exposure use can cause damage in nervous system, tremors and dementia. From that originates phrase “Mad as a hatter”.  Watch this great You Tube video from Australia of hat’s being made -WOW – tons of handwork!!
  • Fedora was first a women’s hat than men’s – Now it is both.
  • In 1920s there was an odd custom in America that it was common that if people wore straw hats after the September 15 they were beaten up.
  • First “Dunce” hat was introduced by medieval theologian John Duns Scotus (1265-1308). HIs idea was that a conical hat funneled knowledge from God into a head of the… dunce.
  • Panama hat has never made in Panama. It is made in Equador.
  • Those who supply men’s hats are called hatters while those who supply women’s hats are called milliners.
  • Vikings never whore horned helmets.
  • French Magician Louis Comte was first to pull out a rabbit from a top hat in 1814.
  • First record of a hat is in a painting in a cave at Lussac-les-Chateaux in Central France and it dates some 15.000 BC.
  • There is a law in Wyoming that prohibits wearing of a hat that obstructs a view in a theatre or some other place of amusement.
  • In Fargo, North Dakota, There is a law that forbids dancing while wearing a hat under the penalty of jail.
  • There is still a law in Kentucky that forbids a man to buy a ten-gallon hat if his wife is not present to assist in choosing a model.
  • The smallest hat worn by men was from 18th century and it was a small tricorn hat with dimensions of two inches by four inches and it was worn on the top of the wig.
  • Fedora was named after the Princess Fedora Romanoff from play Fédora by the French author Victorien Sardou.
  • Colors of hard hats can have meaning and are used to distinguish roles on construction sites and for safety. White hard hats are worn by supervisors or engineers, blue hard hats by technical advisers. Safety inspectors wear green hard hats. Yellow hard hats are worn by laborers while orange or pink is reserved for new workers or visitors.

For more history, go HERE.
For great hat trivia, go HERE.
For an amazing recap of hat types, go HERE.
For the top “most famous” hats wearers, go HERE.

 

 

Thank You Norman

Norman Rockwell. Love this guy!!. 

 

For those of you who know me best, you already know how much of a little kid I am when it comes to Christmas.  I love it all – the lights, the presents, the goodies, going to Mass and celebrating our Lord, putting out cookies for Santa and the time with family and friends. (even the eggnog). I still get all giddy the night before Christmas and wake up extra early on Christmas morning. It will be even more fun this year as a Grandpa, now officially allowed to spoil the dickens out of the next generation.  For many years, KHT has featured the amazing work of Norman Rockwell, an American treasure, who could illustrate and paint like no one of his time.  A bit idealized at times, there’s still something magical about his work, especially when it comes to capturing the season of Christmas.  He had a knack of finding the right pose, the right expressions and the amazement inside all of us.  On behalf of the whole gang at KHT, I say Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to all – may the good Lord bless you and your families this season, and may the big guy in the red suit bring you joy and happiness again this year.  (“and no Rob, you’ll shoot your eye out”).  Special thanks to biography.com and the Norman Rockwell museum for the history and use of the images.  Enjoy!

Born Norman Percevel Rockwell in New York City on February 3, 1894, Norman Rockwell knew at the age of 14 that he wanted to be an artist, and began taking classes at The New School of Art. By the age of 16, Rockwell was so intent on pursuing his passion that he dropped out of high school and enrolled at the National Academy of Design. He later transferred to the Art Students League of New York. Upon graduating, Rockwell found immediate work as an illustrator for Boys’ Life magazine.

By 1916, a 22-year-old Rockwell, newly married to his first wife, Irene O’Connor, had painted his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post—the beginning of a 47-year relationship with the iconic American magazine. In all, Rockwell painted 321 covers for the Post.

Some of his most iconic covers included the 1927 celebration of Charles Lindbergh’s crossing of the Atlantic. He also worked for other magazines, including Look, which in 1969 featured a Rockwell cover depicting the imprint of Neil Armstrong’s left foot on the surface of the moon after the successful moon landing. In 1920, the Boy Scouts of America featured a Rockwell painting in its calendar. Rockwell continued to paint for the Boy Scouts for the rest of his life.

The 1930s and ’40s proved to be the most fruitful period for Rockwell. In 1930, he married Mary Barstow, a schoolteacher, and they had three sons: Jarvis, Thomas and Peter. The Rockwells relocated to Arlington, Vermont, in 1939, and the new world that greeted Norman offered the perfect material for the artist to draw from.

Rockwell’s success stemmed to a large degree from his careful appreciation for everyday American scenes, the warmth of small-town life in particular. Often what he depicted was treated with a certain simple charm and sense of humor. Some critics dismissed him for not having real artistic merit, but Rockwell’s reasons for painting what he did were grounded in the world that was around him. “Maybe as I grew up and found the world wasn’t the perfect place I had thought it to be, I unconsciously decided that if it wasn’t an ideal world, it should be, and so painted only the ideal aspects of it,” he once said.

Rockwell didn’t completely ignore the issues of the day. In 1943, inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he painted the Four Freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear. The paintings appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post and proved incredibly popular. The paintings toured the United States and raised in excess of $130 million toward the war effort.

In 1953 the Rockwells moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where Norman would spend the rest of his life.

Following Mary’s death in 1959, Rockwell married a third time, to Molly Punderson, a retired teacher. With Molly’s encouragement, Rockwell ended his relationship with the Saturday Evening Post and began doing covers for Look magazine. His focus also changed, as he turned more of his attention to the social issues facing the country. Much of the work centered on themes concerning poverty, race and the Vietnam War.

In the final decade of his life, Rockwell created a trust to ensure his artistic legacy would thrive long after his passing. His work became the centerpiece of what is now called the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.

In 1977—one year before his death—Rockwell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford. In his speech Ford said, “Artist, illustrator and author, Norman Rockwell has portrayed the American scene with unrivaled freshness and clarity. Insight, optimism and good humor are the hallmarks of his artistic style. His vivid and affectionate portraits of our country and ourselves have become a beloved part of the American tradition.”

It is estimated he painted over 4,000 pieces of original art in his lifetime, along with thousands of test paintings.  Norman Rockwell died at his home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on November 8, 1978.

 

Watch This!

If you’ve ever been touched by Rockwell’s art, you must spend 46 minutes of your life with this beautifully produced show about his life at Biography.com

What’s New Einstein?

It’s hard to believe, but I flipped my calendar to January to book an appointment, and realized we’re closing in on the end of the decade – (just typing the numbers 2020 felt odd – something out of a sci-fi flick for sure).  It got me thinking about the amazing guys I get to work with here at KHT – the cast of “problem solvers” that come to work every day and tackle your PIA (Pain In the @%$) Jobs!  It’s a little stretch for me to call their work “decade worthy breakthroughs”, but I’ll be honest, some days the stuff they do truly amazes me – along with our beloved customers who trust us to solve their problems.  That said, I found this way-cool article from our friends at Smithsonian Magazine showcasing the “Top 20 Scientific Discoveries of the Decade” and just had to share.  I was surprised, and a bit disappointed, I did not find anything for life-saving drugs, fake beet juice burger meat or the latest IPA local brewery pub recipe – instead these are some real “biggies” – stuff you need to know about.  I chose a few of my favorites for this week’s post – for my information lovers and science geeks out there, here’s a link to the whole “Top 20” article HERE.

Detecting the First Gravitational Waves
In 1916, Albert Einstein proposed that when objects with enough mass accelerate, they can sometimes create waves that move through the fabric of space and time like ripples on a pond’s surface. Though Einstein later doubted their existence, these spacetime wrinkles—called gravitational waves—are a key prediction of relativity, and the search for them captivated researchers for decades. Though compelling hints of the waves first emerged in the 1970s, nobody directly detected them until 2015, when the U.S.-based observatory LIGO felt the aftershock of a distant collision between two black holes. The discovery, announced in 2016, opened up a new way to “hear” the cosmos.

In 2017, LIGO and the European observatory Virgo felt another set of tremors, this time made when two ultra-dense objects called neutron stars collided. Telescopes around the world saw the related explosion, making the event the first ever observed in both light and gravitational waves. The landmark data have given scientists an unprecedented look at how gravity works and how elements such as gold and silver form.


Shaking up the Human Family Tree
While primitive in some respects, the face, skull, and teeth show enough modern features to justify H. naledi’s placement in the genus Homo. Artist John Gurche spent some 700 hours reconstructing the head from bone scans, using bear fur for hair.  The decade has seen numerous advances in understanding our complex origin story, including new dates on known fossils, spectacularly complete fossil skulls, and the addition of multiple new branches. In 2010, National Geographic explorer-at-large Lee Berger unveiled a distant ancestor named Australopithecus sediba. Five years later, he announced that South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind cave system contained fossils of a new species: Homo naledi, a hominin whose “mosaic” anatomy resembles that of both modern humans and far more ancient cousins. A follow-up study also showed that H. naledi is surprisingly young, living at least between 236,000 and 335,000 years ago.


Revolutionizing the Study of Ancient DNA
As DNA sequencing technologies have improved exponentially, the past decade has seen huge leaps in understanding how our genetic past shapes modern humans. In 2010, researchers published the first near-complete genome from an ancient Homo sapiens, kicking off a revolutionary decade in the study of our ancestors’ DNA. Since then, more than 3,000 ancient genomes have been sequenced, including the DNA of Naia, a girl who died in what is now Mexico 13,000 years ago. Her remains are among the oldest intact human skeletons ever found in the Americas. Also in 2010, researchers announced the first draft of a Neanderthal genome, providing the first solid genetic evidence that one to four percent of all modern non-Africans’ DNA comes from these close relatives.


CRISPR
The 2010s marked huge advances in our ability to precisely edit DNA, in large part thanks to the identification of the Crispr-Cas9 system. Some bacteria naturally use Crispr-Cas9 as an immune system, since it lets them store snippets of viral DNA, recognize any future matching virus, and then cut the virus’s DNA to ribbons. In 2012, researchers proposed that Crispr-Cas9 could be used as a powerful genetic editing tool, since it precisely cuts DNA in ways that scientists can easily customize. Within months, other teams confirmed that the technique worked on human DNA. Ever since, labs all over the world have raced to identify similar systems, to modify Crispr-Cas9 to make it even more precise, and to experiment with its applications in agriculture and medicine.

While Crispr-Cas9’s possible benefits are huge, the ethical quandaries it poses are also staggering. To the horror of the global medical community, Chinese researcher He Jiankui announced in 2018 the birth of two girls whose genomes he had edited with Crispr, the first humans born with heritable edits to their DNA. The announcement sparked calls for a global moratorium on heritable “germline” edits in humans.


Making Interstellar Firsts
Future historians might look back on the 2010s as the interstellar decade: For the first time, our spacecraft punctured the veil between the sun and interstellar space, and we got our first visits from objects that formed around distant stars.  In August 2012, NASA’s Voyager 1 probe crossed the outer boundary of the heliosphere, the bubble of charged particles our sun gives off. Voyager 2 joined its twin in the interstellar medium in November 2018 and captured groundbreaking data along the way. But the interstellar road is a two-way street. In October 2017, astronomers found ‘Oumuamua, the first object ever detected that formed in another star system and passed through ours. In August 2019, amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov found the second such interstellar interloper, a highly active comet that now bears his name.


Opening doors to Ancient Civilizations
Archaeologists made many extraordinary discoveries in the 2010s. In 2013, British researchers finally found the body of King Richard III—beneath what’s now a parking lot. In 2014, researchers announced that Peru’s Castillo de Huarmey temple complex still had an untouched royal tomb. In 2016, archaeologists revealed the first Philistine cemetery, offering an unprecedented window into the lives of the Hebrew Bible’s most notorious, enigmatic people. The following year, researchers announced that Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre dates back more than 1,700 years to Rome’s first Christian emperor, appearing to confirm that it’s built on the site identified by Rome as the burial place of Christ. And in 2018, teams working in Peru announced the largest mass child sacrifice site ever uncovered, while other scientists scouring Guatemala detected more than 60,000 newly identified ancient Maya buildings with airborne lasers.


Changing the Course of Disease
In response to the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, public health officials and the pharmaceutical company Merck fast-tracked rVSV-ZEBOV, an experimental Ebola vaccine. After a highly successful field trial in 2015, European officials approved the vaccine in 2019—a milestone in the fight against the deadly disease. Several landmark studies also opened new avenues to preventing the spread of HIV. A 2011 trial showed that preventatively taking antiretroviral drugs greatly reduced the spread of HIV among heterosexual couples, a finding confirmed in follow-up studies that included same-sex couples.


Pushing Reproductive Limits
In 2016, clinicians announced the birth of a “three-parent baby” grown from the father’s sperm, the mother’s cell nucleus, and a third donor’s egg that had its nucleus removed. The therapy—which remains ethically controversial—aims to correct for disorders in the mother’s mitochondria. One 2018 study made precursors of human sperm or eggs out of reprogrammed skin and blood cells, while another showed that gene editing could let two same-sex mice conceive pups. And in 2018, Chinese scientists announced the birth of two cloned macaques, the first time that a primate had ever been cloned like Dolly the sheep. Though researchers avow that the technique won’t be used on humans, it’s possible that it could work with other primates, including us.


Discovering—and Rediscovering—Species
Modern biologists are identifying new species at a blistering pace, naming 18,000 new species a year on average. In the past decade, scientists described several charismatic mammal species for the first time, such as the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, the Vangunu giant rat, and the olinguito, the first newfound carnivore in the Western Hemisphere since the late 1970s. The ranks of other animals groups also swelled, as scientists described newfound fish with “hands,” tiny frogs smaller than a dime, a giant Florida salamander, and many others. In addition, some animals, such as Vietnam’s saola and China’s Ili pika, were spotted once again after having gone missing for years.


Redefining the Units of Science
To understand the natural world, scientists must measure it—but how do we define our units? Over the decades, scientists have gradually redefined classic units in terms of universal constants, such as using the speed of light to help define the length of a meter. But the scientific unit of mass, the kilogram, remained pegged to “Le Grand K,” a metallic cylinder stored at a facility in France. If that ingot’s mass varied for whatever reason, scientists would have to recalibrate their instruments. No more: In 2019, scientists agreed to adopt a new kilogram definition based on a fundamental factor in physics called Planck’s constant and the improved definitions for the units of electrical current, temperature, and the number of particles in a given substance. For the first time ever, all our scientific units now stem from universal constants—ensuring a more accurate era of measurement.

You can nerd-out the nerdiest of your friends with this cool Planck’s Constant t-shirt! Get it HERE. Also makes for a darn nice Christmas gift for that special geek in your life. 
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Run, Run, As Fast As You Can – You Can’t Catch Me, I’m the ____!

 

What to listen to while you’re reading this week’s post:

  1. The Gingerbread Man, A Song for Children
  2. Gingerbread Man by Melanie Martinez – (Official Audio)
  3. The Gingerbread Man Song (From a scratchy 78 rpm record.)

 

Now that Thanksgiving is over, (and you’ve eaten the last piece of leftover pie, turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce et.), and you survived Black Friday and Cyberweek, it’s time to turn our attention to more goodies – Christmas cookies.  Now I do have a few (actually many) favorites, but for me nothing says “the holidays are here” quite like gingerbread and gingerbread cookies – (ok, I’ll admit it – I love almost all the cookies!!).  There’s something special about the aroma filling the house of gingerbread cooking in the oven.  Occasionally Jackie tolerates my decorating expertise, but only for a little while, and then it goes back to the female masters in my life. I am normally able to decorate a single cookie!  Someday I will share my special cookie decorating talent.  I did some digging, and found this great PBS article, (special thanks to ToniAvey.com) along with some tidbits found on the internet.  Enjoy, and be sure to try the recipe below (and then box some up and send them to me at KHT HQ). My team is always willing to try new things!

 

  • No confection symbolizes the holidays quite like gingerbread in its many forms, from edible houses to candy-studded gingerbread men to spiced loaves of cake-like bread.
  •  In Medieval England, the term gingerbread simply meant preserved ginger and wasn’t applied to the desserts we are familiar with until the 15th century. The term is now broadly used to describe any type of sweet treat that combines ginger with honey, treacle or molasses.
  •  Ginger root was first cultivated in ancient China, where it was commonly used as a medical treatment. From there it spread to Europe via the Silk Road. During the Middle Ages it was favored as a spice for its ability to disguise the taste of preserved meats. Henry VIII is said to have used a ginger concoction in hopes of building a resistance to the plague. Even today we use ginger as an effective remedy for nausea and other stomach ailments. In Sanskrit the root was known as srigavera, which translates to “root shaped like a horn” a fitting name for ginger’s unusual appearance.
  •  According to Rhonda Massingham Hart’s Making Gingerbread Houses, the first known recipe for gingerbread came from Greece in 2400 BC. Chinese recipes were developed during the 10th century and by the late Middle Ages, Europeans had their own version of gingerbread. The hard cookies, sometimes gilded with gold leaf and shaped like animals, kings and queens, were a staple at Medieval fairs in England, France, Holland and Germany.
  •  Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the idea of decorating the cookies in this fashion, after she had some made to resemble the dignitaries visiting her court. Over time some of these festivals came to be known as Gingerbread Fairs, and the gingerbread cookies served there were known as ‘fairings’.  The shapes of the gingerbread changed with the season, including flowers in the spring and birds in the fall.
  •  Elaborately decorated gingerbread became synonymous with all things fancy and elegant in England. The gold leaf that was often used to decorate gingerbread cookies led to the popular expression “to take the gilt off of gingerbread.”  The carved, white architectural details found on many colonial American seaside homes is sometimes referred to as gingerbread work.
  •  Gingerbread houses originated in Germany during the 16th century. The elaborate cookie-walled houses, decorated with foil in addition to gold leaf, became associated with Christmas tradition. Their popularity rose when the Brothers Grimm wrote the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which the main characters stumble upon a house made entirely of treats deep in the forest. It is unclear whether or not gingerbread houses were a result of the popular fairy tale, or vice versa.
  • Most gingerbread men share a roughly humanoid shape, with stubby feet and no fingers. Many gingerbread men have a face, though whether the features are indentations within the face itself or other candies stuck on with icing or chocolate varies from recipe to recipe. Other decorations are common; hair, shirt cuffs, and shoes are sometimes applied, but by far the most popular decoration is shirt buttons, which are traditionally represented by gum drops, icing, or raisins.
  • According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world’s largest gingerbread man was made by the staff of the IKEA Furuset store in Oslo, Norway, on 9 November 2009. The gingerbread man weighed 1,435.2 pounds. See it HERE.
  •  The newest “largest” winning gingerbread house, spanning nearly 40,000 cubic feet, was erected at Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas. The house required a building permit and was built much like a traditional house. 4,000 gingerbread bricks were used during its construction. To put that in perspective, a recipe for a house this size would include 1,800 pounds of butter and 1,080 ounces of ground ginger. Sounds more like a gingerbread resort! See it HERE.
  •  Gingerbread arrived in the New World with English colonists. The cookies were sometimes used to sway Virginia voters to favor one candidate over another. The first American cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, has recipes for three types of gingerbread including the soft variety baked in loaves.
  •  This softer version of gingerbread was more common in America. George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington, served her recipe for gingerbread to the Marquis de Lafayette when he visited her Fredericksburg, Virginia home. Since then it was known as Gingerbread Lafayette. The confection was passed down through generations of Washington’s.

Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
You will need: medium saucepan, large mixing bowl, sifter, wax or parchment paper, rolling pin, cookie cutter(s) of your choice, baking sheet, nonstick cooking spray or silicone baking sheet.

  • ¾ cup unsulphured molasses
  • ¾ cup butter
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • 4 ½ cups flour, plus more for rolling surface
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 3 ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Royal icing (optional)
  • Sprinkles, cinnamon candies, or any other decorations of your choice (optional)

In a medium saucepan, heat the molasses to the simmering point. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until it melts. Stir in the brown sugar. Allow to cool.  In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, ginger and cinnamon. Add the cooled molasses and the egg to the flour mixture and mix very well until a dough forms. You may need to use your hands to really incorporate the wet mixture into the dry mixture.  Wrap dough in wax or parchment paper and chill for 1-2 hours, or until firm enough to roll.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Transfer chilled dough to a lightly floured rolling surface and roll out the dough to one-quarter inch thickness. Roll out a quarter of the dough at a time.  Cut cookies with your choice of cookie cutter. I chose a traditional gingerbread man, but you can get creative with any kind of cookie cutter you’d like.  Transfer cut dough to a baking sheet that has been lightly greased with nonstick cooking spray or lined with a silicone baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes. The cookies will puff up but won’t spread much.  Cool completely on a rack before decorating with royal icing, decorative sprinkles and candies.

 

 


 

First You Get the Ladder…

The fun of the season. Getting the house all lit up and glowing. It can be hazardous as those few pictures suggest so be careful out there. Below those images are a couple of really old ads for lights. That black & white ad is selling the safety of electric lights vs candles which may burn down your house. I’m sold. And a couple of old boxes of lights. Remember those bubble lights? I thought those were the greatest. Still do. Then there are the photos of some way over the top lighting displays. Love it!!!

Yep – it’s that time of year, my annual ritual of lighting up the house for the holidays.  Like you, I’m torn – my logical brain says I should take advantage of the warmer weather and hang the lights before Thanksgiving, cleaning out the gutters and avoiding the cold.  But my “do other chores or just watch football” brain says – oh, you can wait – and then I find myself outside in the freezing wind, shaking on the ladder as I hang half frozen bulbs across the gutters …  To be honest, my lovely wife Jackie helps me decide … 🙂  Now, although I love how our home looks all lit up,  I have reached a point where Jackie and I have agreed that I am not allowed to be climbing, crawling, kneeling, hanging on the roof any longer.  For some reason the downsides of falling off outweigh the upsides of hanging lights all over the roof-windows, etc!  With this in mind, I started to think about the design and manufacturing marvel those tiny little bulbs are.  Talk about a PIA (Pain in the @%$) Job – figuring out an efficient, low cost way to manufacture billions of bulbs to meet our ongoing desire to light up our homes both inside and out.  Here’s some cool history and info on the manufacturing of holiday lights. Thanks to the genius of Edison, and all those engineers who machined, (heat treated YEA!!) built the machines and make them go. Enjoy.  And special thanks to howmade.com and Business Insider for the videos.

  • Festivals in a number of ancient civilizations were celebrated with lights; any and all of these may have been the inspiration for the lights we use to decorate Christmas trees and the exteriors of homes.
  • The Druids in both France and England believed that oak trees were sacred, and they ornamented them with candles and fruit in honor of their gods of light and harvest. The ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia included trees decorated with candles and small gifts. The worship of trees as the homes of spirits and gods may have led to the Christmas tree tradition and that tradition has long been accompanied by the companion custom of decking the tree with brilliant lights evoking stars, jewels, sparkling ice, and holiday cheer.
  • From the beginnings of Christianity to about 1500, trees were sometimes decorated outdoors, but they were not brought into homes. One legend has it that Martin Luther (1483-1546), the father of Protestantism, was walking through an evergreen forest on Christmas Eve. The beauty of the stars sparkling through the trees touched him, and he took a small tree home and put candles on its branches to recreate the effect for his family.
  • Similarly, German settlers brought the Christmas tree to America where the first tree was displayed in Pennsylvania in 1851. Candles were attached to the boughs of the trees with increasingly extravagant candle-holders, some with colored glass that made the lights appear colored. Of course, the practice of using candles was hazardous; many fire brigades were called to extinguish fires started by candles that had ignited the trees or the long hair or dresses of the ladies. Candles on trees were lit for several minutes only and sometimes only on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day; the custom of lighting trees for extended periods of time had to wait until the invention of the electric light bulb.
  • The first electric lights for Christmas debuted only three years after Thomas Alva Edison invented the lightbulb in 1879. Edward Johnson, a resident of New York and a colleague of Edison’s, was the first to have an electrically lighted Christmas tree in his home in 1882.
  • The tiny bulbs were hand blown and the lights were hand-wired to make this event possible, but it opened an avenue for Edison’s electric company that produced miniature, decorative bulbs for chandeliers and other uses from its earliest days. Electric lights appeared on the White House Christmas tree in 1895 when Grover Cleveland was President.
  • General Electric (GE) bought the rights to light-bulb production from Edison in 1890, but GE initially only made porcelain light bulbs. To light a tree, the family had to hire a “wireman” who cut lengths of rubber-coated wire, stripped the ends of the wires, fastened them to sockets with brass screws, fitted a larger socket to a power outlet or light fixture, and completed assembly of a string of lights. This was too expensive and impractical for the average family. This was a major PIA (Pain in the @%$) job!
  • In 1903, the Ever-Ready Company of New York recognized an opportunity and began manufacturing festoons of 28 lights. By 1907, Ever-Ready was making standard sets of eight series-wired lights; by connecting the sets or outfits, longer strings of lights could be made.
  • Ever-Ready did not have a patent on its series-wired strings of lights, and this basic wiring system was adapted by many other small companies. These sets were not always safe, and episodes of tree fires raised public alarm.
  • In 1921, Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL) established the first safety requirements for Christmas lights. A number of light manufacturers merged in 1927 to form the National Outfit Manufacturers Association (NOMA), which went on to dominate the Christmas light business, with GE and Westinghouse as the leading bulb makers. Also in 1927, GE introduced parallel wiring that permitted light bulbs to keep glowing when one on the string burned out.
  • Bulb shapes also evolved. In 1909, the Kremenetzky Electric Company of Vienna, Austria, began making miniature bulbs in the shapes of animals, birds, flowers, and fruit. Companies in the United States, Japan, and Germany also made figurative bulbs, but Kremenetzky consistently made the most beautiful glass that was hand-painted.
  • World War I ended the influx of Austrian lights. GE made machine-blown shapes beginning in 1919, and the Japanese light-bulb industry, then in its infancy, began filling the void left by the Austrians. The Japanese techniques continued to improve and were quite sophisticated by 1930, but this trade ended with World War II.
  • NOMA started to make tiny lampshades with Disney figures on them to fit over standard miniature bulbs in 1936. The most spectacular miniature bulb success was the bubble light. Carl Otis invented it in the late 1930s, but World War II also interrupted this development. Bubble lights were finally introduced in 1945, peaked in popularity in the mid-1950s, and declined by the mid 1960s. So-called midget lights, midget twinkle lights, or miniature Italian lights began arriving from Europe in the 1970s and became the best sellers of all time in the Christmas tree light business.
  • Today, holiday lights are made of three sets of materials. The strings are composed of 22-gauge copper wire that is coated in green or white polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. Specialized manufacturers supply the wire on spools that hold 10,000 ft of wire. Two plugs begin and end each set of lights, and they are made of injection-molded plastic. The lights are held in lamp holders that are also injection-molded plastic and contain copper metal contacts.
  • The second set of materials goes into the making of light bulbs. The bulbs are made of blown glass, metal filaments, metal contact wires, and plastic bases. Bulbs are made in clear glass to produce white light, or they are painted to shine in assorted colors.
  • Finally, the finished sets of lights require packing materials. These include a molded plastic tray, a folded cardboard display box, and shipping cartons that hold multiple sets of boxed lights. The shipping cartons are made of corrugated cardboard. Each set is also packed with adhesive-backed safety labels and paper instruction and information sheets. All of the paper goods are made by outside suppliers and are produced from recyclable materials.
  • The basic design for holiday lights consists of a tried-and-true string of green plastic-covered wires with clear or colored light bulbs. Design aspects include the number of lights on the string (in multiples of 25 with 25, 50, 100, or 125 bulbs) and whether the string contains only clear bulbs, bulbs of a single color, or assorted colors of lights.
  • Green wires were made originally to blend in with the green branches of evergreens, either as indoor Christmas trees or outdoor shrubs. The tiny lights are used for many other holidays and for garden displays, so strings with white wires are made for other decorating uses. Plastic covers for the lights are also designed with Christmas and childhood themes as well as an extraordinary range for party decorating from aquarium fish to chili peppers.
  • The newest designs to take the decorating market by storm are nets of lights that can be spread over shrubs to save time in decorating, and icicle lights that look like long white icicles hanging from house eaves. Fiber-optic lights also became available in the 1990s; they are basic strings of wire and light bulbs, but each bulb is the source of light that passes through clusters of fiber-optic wire held in plastic covers that clip onto the bulb. Usually, they resemble flowers or other designs that take advantage of the cluster-like display of optic wires.

The Manufacturing Process – watch video or read the steps HERE

 

 


 

“Sunny Days, Chasin’ the Clouds Away…”

(top) The gang is 50?? They don’t look a day over 5. (row two) Jim Henson and Bert & Ernie. (row three left) There’s no shortage of Sesame Street gear like this Sesame Street Bert Face T-Shirt HERE; (row three right) Cookie Monster Plush Interactive 13 Inch Cookie Monster, Says Silly Phrases & Belly Laughs HERE; Saw these cookie Monster slippers on Nordstrom’s site, lost the link. Sorry; (row four) Cool Sesame Street gang t-shirt HERE; Nursery Rhyme Elmo reading stories HERE; (row five) “K” is for Kowalski Heat Treating; And Make an Elmo birthday cake instructions HERE; (bottom) Okay, kids break out your red crayons and color Elmo!

Go ahead.  Sing it.  I know it’s a part of your memory bank.  All of us can remember growing up with the main characters, episodes, songs and awesome music of our beloved Sesame Street – an American gem for sure – celebrating 50 years this week. I spent some time online finding some history on the early days and a few “tidbits” I hope you will enjoy – Hats off to the visionaries and creative efforts behind the show, its mission and those lovable characters Bert, Ernie, Elmo, The Grouch, Big Bird, Snuffy, the Count and of course my favorite Cookie Monster (we both love to eat) – what fun!  Here’s to another 50 great years ahead.  The history is fascinating! Enjoy the tidbits!

  • The preschool educational television program Sesame Street was first aired on public broadcasting television stations November 10, 1969, and reaches its 50th season this year.
  • The history of Sesame Street mirrors changing attitudes in developmental psychology, early childhood education, and cultural diversity. Featuring Jim Henson’s Muppets, animation, live shorts, humor and celebrity appearances, it was the first television program of its kind to base its content and production values on laboratory and formative research, and the first to include a curriculum “detailed or stated in terms of measurable outcomes”, a term not commonplace when all this began.
  • Initial responses to the show included adulatory reviews, some controversy and high ratings. By its 40th anniversary in 2009, Sesame Street was broadcast in over 120 countries, and 20 independent international versions had been produced. To date, it’s won eleven Grammys and over 150 Emmys – more than any other children’s show.
  • The show was conceived in 1966 during discussions between television producer Joan Ganz Cooney and Carnegie Corporation vice president Lloyd Morrisett. Their goal was to create a children’s television show that would “master the addictive qualities of television and do something good with them”,such as helping young children prepare for school. After two years of research, the newly formed Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) received a combined grant of $8 million from the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation and the U.S. federal government to create and produce a new children’s television show.
  • By the show’s tenth anniversary in 1979, nine million American children under the age of six were watching Sesame Street daily, and several studies showed it was having a positive educational impact. The cast and crew expanded during this time, including the hiring of women in the crew and additional minorities in the cast.
  • Because of the popularity of the Muppet Elmo, the show incorporated a popular segment known as “Elmo’s World”. In late 2015, in response to “sweeping changes in the media business”, HBO began airing first-run episodes.  Episodes became available on PBS stations and websites nine months after they aired on HBO.
  • As of its 50th anniversary in 2019, Sesame Street has produced over 4,500 episodes, 35 TV specials, 200 home videos, and 180 albums. Its YouTube channel had almost 5 million subscribers, and the show had 24 million followers on social media.

Development Genius & The Early Days – A Real PIA (pain in the @%$) Job!

  • In the late 1960s, 97% of American households owned a television set, and preschool children watched an average of 27 hours of television per week.  Programs created for them were widely criticized for being too violent and for reflecting commercial values. Producer Joan Ganz Cooney called children’s programming a “wasteland” as many children’s television programs were produced by local stations, with little regard for educational goals, or cultural diversity.
  • Early childhood educational research had shown that when children were prepared to succeed in school, they earned higher grades and learned more effectively. Children from low-income families had fewer resources than children from higher-income families to prepare them for school. These trends in education, along with the great societal changes occurring in the United States during this era, the time was ripe for the creation of a show like Sesame Street.
  • Since 1962, Cooney had been producing talk shows and documentaries at educational television station WNDT, and in 1966 had won an Emmy for a documentary about poverty in America. In early 1966, Cooney and her husband Tim hosted a dinner party at their apartment in New York; experimental psychologist Lloyd Morrisett, who has been called Sesame Street’s “financial godfather”, and his wife Mary were among the guests. Cooney’s boss, Lewis Freedman, whom Cooney called “the grandfather of Sesame Street“, also attended the party, as did their colleague Anne Bower. As a vice-president at the Carnegie Corporation, Morrisett had awarded several million dollars in grants to organizations that educated poor and minority preschool children.
  • Morrisett and the other guests felt that even with limited resources, television could be an effective way to reach millions of children.  Morrisett hired her to conduct research on childhood development, education and media, and she visited experts in these fields across the United States and Canada. She researched their ideas about the viewing habits of young children and wrote a report on her findings.
  • Cooney’s study, titled “Television for Preschool Education”, spelled out how television could be used to help young children, especially from low-income families, prepare for school. The focus on the new show was on children from disadvantaged backgrounds, but Cooney and the show’s creators recognized that in order to achieve the kind of success they wanted, it had to be equally accessible to children of all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.
  • As a result of Cooney’s proposal, the Carnegie Corporation awarded her a $1 million grant in 1968 to establish the Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) to provide support to the creative staff of the new show. Morrisett, who was responsible for fundraising, procured additional grants from the United States federal government, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Ford Foundation for the CTW’s initial budget, which totaled $8 million; obtaining funding from this combination of government agencies and private foundations protected the CTW from economic pressures experienced by commercial networks. Sesame Street was an expensive program to produce because the creators decided they needed to compete with other programs that invested in high quality professional production.
  • After being named executive director of the CTW, Cooney began to assemble a team of producers: Jon Stone was responsible for writing, casting, and format; David Connell took over animation and volume; and Samuel Gibbon served as the show’s chief liaison between the production staff and the research team.
  • The CTW hired Harvard University professor Gerald S. Lesser to design the show’s educational objectives and establish and lead a National Board of Advisers. Instead of providing what Lesser called “window dressing”, the Board actively participated in the construction of educational goals and creative methods. At the Board’s direction, Lesser conducted five three-day curriculum planning seminars in Boston and New York City in summer 1968. The purpose of the seminars was to ascertain which school-preparation skills to emphasize in the new show. The producers gathered professionals with diverse backgrounds to obtain ideas for educational content. They reported that the seminars were “widely successful”,and resulted in long and detailed lists of possible topics for inclusion in the Sesame Street curriculum.
  • Instead of focusing on the social and emotional aspects of development, the producers decided to follow the suggestions of the seminar participants and emphasize cognitive skills, a decision they felt was warranted by the demands of school and the wishes of parents. The objectives developed during the seminars were condensed into key categories: symbolic representation, cognitive processes, and the physical and social environment. The seminars set forth the new show’s policy about race and social issuesand provided the show’s production and creative team with “a crash course” in psychology, child development, and early childhood education. They also marked the beginning of Jim Henson’s involvement in Sesame Street. Cooney met Henson at one of the seminars; Stone, who was familiar with Henson’s work, felt that if they could not bring him on board, they should “make do without puppets”.
  • The producers and writers decided to build the new show around a brownstone or an inner-city street, a choice Davis called “unprecedented”.  Stone was convinced that in order for inner-city children to relate to Sesame Street, it needed to be set in a familiar place. Despite its urban setting, the producers decided to avoid depicting more negativity than what was already present in the child’s environment. Lesser commented, “[despite] all its raucousness and slapstick humor, Sesame Street became a sweet show, and its staff maintains that there is nothing wrong in that”.
  • The new show was called the “Preschool Educational Television Show” in promotional materials; the producers were unable to agree on a name they liked and waited until the last minute to make a decision. In a short, irreverent promotional film shown to public television executives, the producers parodied their “naming dilemma”. The producers were reportedly “frantic for a title”;  they finally settled on the name that they least disliked: Sesame Street, inspired by Ali Baba’s magical phrase, although there were concerns that it would be too difficult for young children to pronounce. Stone was one of the producers who disliked the name, but, he said, “I was outvoted, for which I’m deeply grateful”.
  • The responsibility of casting for Sesame Street fell to Jon Stone, who set out to form a cast where white actors were in the minority. He did not begin auditions until spring 1969, several weeks before five test shows were due to be produced. He filmed the auditions, and Palmer took them into the field to test children’s reactions. The actors who received the “most enthusiastic thumbs up” were cast. For example, Loretta Long was chosen to play Susan when the children who saw her audition stood up and sang along with her rendition of “I’m a Little Teapot”. Stone reported that casting was the only aspect that was “just completely haphazard”. Most of the cast and crew found jobs on Sesame Street through personal relationships with Stone and the other producers.  Stone hired Bob McGrath (an actor and singer best known at the time for his appearances on Mitch Miller’s sing-along show on NBC) to play Bob, Will Lee to play Mr. Hooper, and Garrett Saunders to play Gordon.
  • The producers of Sesame Street believed education through television was possible if they captured and sustained children’s attention; this meant the show needed a strong appeal. Edward Palmer, the CTW’s first Director of Research and the man Cooney credited with building the CTW’s foundation of research, was one of the few academics in the late 1960s researching children’s television. His research was so crucial to Sesame Street that Gladwell asserted, “… without Ed Palmer, the show would have never lasted through the first season”.

Bet you didn’t know …
1. THE IDEA FOR SESAME STREET CAME FROM ONE VERY SIMPLE QUESTION – According to The Hollywood Reporter, the original idea for Sesame Street came about during a 1966 dinner party hosted by Joan Ganz Cooney, who was a producer at New York City’s Channel 13, a public television station. Lloyd Morrisett, an experimental educator at the Carnegie Corporation, was one of Cooney’s guests and asked her the question: “Do you think [television] can teach anything?” That query was all it took to get the ball rolling on what would become Sesame Street.
2. SESAME STREET ALMOST WASN’T SESAME STREET AT ALL – When the idea for Sesame Street was first being talked about, the original title being discussed was 123 Avenue B. Eventually, that title was nixed for both being a real location in New York City that would place the show right across from Tompkins Square Park, and also for being too specific to New York City.
3. KERMIT THE FROG WAS AN ORIGINAL CAST MEMBER – Before he became the star of The Muppet Show (and the various Muppet movies), Kermit the Frog got his start as a main character on Sesame Street.
4. KERMIT WAS VERY SIMILAR TO HIS CREATOR – Most people considered Kermit the Frog to be an alter ego of creator Jim Henson.
5. CAROL BURNETT APPEARED ON SESAME STREET’S FIRST EPISODE – Guest stars have always been a part of the Sesame Street recipe, beginning with the very first episode. “I didn’t know anything about [Sesame Street] when they asked me to be on,” Carol Burnett told The Hollywood Reporter. “All I knew was that Jim Henson was involved and I thought he was a genius—I’d have gone skydiving with him if he’d asked. But it was a marvelous show. I kept going back for more. I think one time I was an asparagus.”
6. OSCAR THE GROUCH USED TO BE ORANGE – Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two. How did the show explain the color change? Oscar said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.
7. COOKIE MONSTER ISN’T COOKIE MONSTER’S REAL NAME – During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.
8. C-3P0 AND R2-D2 PAID A MEMORABLE VISIT TO SESAME STREET – In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.
9. MR. SNUFFLEUPAGUS HAS A FIRST NAME – It’s Aloysius. Aloysius Snuffleupagus.
10. RALPH NADER APPEARED IN AN EPISODE – Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang “a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood.”
11. OSCAR THE GROUCH IS PARTLY MODELED AFTER A TAXI DRIVER – Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar’s voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.
12. IN 1970, ERNIE BECAME A MUSIC STAR – Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit “Rubber Duckie.”
13. COUNT VON COUNT ISN’T THE ONLY COUNT ON SESAME STREET – One of Count von Count’s lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who’s also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.
14. AFGHANISTAN HAS ITS OWN VERSION OF SESAME STREET – Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover, and Elmo are involved.
15. CULTURAL TABOOS PREVENTED OSCAR AND THE COUNT FROM BEING A MAJOR PART OF BAGHCH-E-SIMSIM – According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim “due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism.”
16. BREAKING BAD AND BETTER CALL SAUL’S GUS FRING PLAYED BIG BIRD’S CAMP COUNSELOR – Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad’s super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird’s camp counselor Mickey in 1982. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.
17. THE BIG IN BIRD BIRD’S NAME ISN’T A MISNOMER – How big is Big Bird? 8’2″.
18. BEING THAT BIG OF A BIRD REQUIRES A LOT OF FEATHERS – In order to craft Big Bird’s iconic yellow suit, approximately 4000 feathers are needed.
19. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN BRITISH COUSIN – His name, appropriately, is Biscuit Monster.
20. “GUY SMILEY” IS JUST A STAGE NAME – Sesame Street’s resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.
21. THE COUNT IS REALLY, REALLY OLD – The Count was born on October 9, 1,830,653 BCE—making him nearly 2 million years old. Try putting that many candles on a birthday cake!
22. SESAME STREET’S FIRST SEASON HAD A FEW SUPERHERO GUEST STARS – In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what to watch on TV. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.
23. TELLY WASN’T ALWAYS TELLY – Telly was originally “Television Monster,” a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.
24. SESAME STREET IS HOME TO THE ONLY NON-HUMAN WHO HAS TESTIFIED BEFORE CONGRESS – According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that “when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play.”
25. MOST MUPPETS ONLY HAVE FOUR FINGERS – According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street’s main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.
26. THERE WERE NEVER ANY PLANS TO TURN COOKIE MONSTER INTO VEGGIE MONSTER – In 2005, Sesame Street made healthy eating one of its main themes for the season—which led to some speculation that Cookie Monster might be trading in his cookies for something a bit more green and healthy. But these rumors were just that: rumors!
27. THERE ARE VERSIONS OF SESAME STREET ALL OVER THE WORLD – According to Sesame Workshop, there are currently more than 150 different version of Sesame Street—in 70 different languages—being produced around the world.
28. SESAME STREET IS ABOUT TO MAKE HISTORY AT THE KENNEDY CENTER HONORS – In December 2019, Sesame Street will receive a Kennedy Center Honor—making it the first TV show ever to earn the distinction.
29. SESAME STREET IS NOW A REAL STREET IN NEW YORK CITY – In early 2019, Sesame Street finally became a place in the real world. In honor of the show’s 50th anniversary, and its impact on New York City in particular, the intersection of West 63rd Street and Broadway in Manhattan was rechristened as “Sesame Street.”
30. WHAT ABOUT MISS PIGGY? – Despite misconceptions and rumors to the contrary, Miss Piggy has never appeared on Sesame Street.  While Kermit the Frog is well-known for his many appearances on Sesame Street, Miss Piggy (and her Muppet Show co-stars Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Bunsen & Beaker, Animal, and others) have not appeared.

 

 


 

 

Hello – is Anybody Listening?

(top to bottom) Voyager 2 Factoids; Where the Voyager twins are now; Two awesome artist renderings of the probes in space; Get those cool his/hers black Ts being modeled HERE; The Voyager 40th anniversary logo T HERE; And the Voyager 2 Neptune black T HERE; Then get the coolest model of the Voyager—all steel, no glue required HERE; Humans certainly are amazing to have figured out how to do this. But I guess once we’ve applied ourselves to a problem, any problem, solutions keep coming. Kind of like what we do with your impossible PIA jobs, eh?

Space travel.  The stuff of Buck Rodgers, Neil Armstrong and Captain Kirk.  As a kid, I was fascinated by space and space travel. In full complete disclosure, I fully believe there is life out THERE!  Somewhere!  I’ll admit, I still struggle with the concept of distance in space, especially when coming across terms like “light years” and “billions of miles”.  Recently I read an article about Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 “still going” and wanted to share some of the cool info.  Talk about a PIA (Pain in the #%$) Jobs! – yikes!  Let’s see.  Design and build a never before done/long lasting spacecraft.  Check.  Make it power itself.  Check.  Put it inside a rocket.  Check.  Launch it into space.  Check.  And then release it, so it travels through space “forever”, transmitting back to earth for the next 50 years or more.  What?  Who does this stuff?  (rocket scientists?).  Any who, one year ago, this week, NASA’s Voyager 2 became only the second spacecraft in history (think Voyager 1 as the other) to reach interstellar space, the region between our suns reach and the stars (wrap your head around that tidbit.  And this week, several new research papers in Nature Astronomy Journal described what scientists observed during and since Voyager 2’s historic crossing.  According to Ed Stone, project scientist for Voyager and a professor of physics at Caltech, “The new findings help paint a picture of the “cosmic shoreline” where the environment created by our sun ends and the vast ocean of interstellar space begins. The Voyager probes are showing us how our sun interacts with the stuff that fills most of the space between stars in the Milky Way galaxy.” Now that’s cool!  Enjoy the info and images – special thanks to Doyle Rice of USA Today and my trusty Wikipedia to fill in the holes. (or should I say empty space 🙂 )

  • Studies say Voyager 2 has left the heliosphere – the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by our sun – at a distance of about 11 billion miles from Earth, well beyond the orbit of Pluto. (Voyager 1 headed into interstellar space in 2012)
  • The heliosphere can be thought of as a cosmic weather front – a distinct boundary where charged particles rushing outward from the sun at supersonic speed meet a cooler, interstellar wind blowing in from supernovae that exploded millions of years ago.
  • “In a historical sense, the old idea that the solar wind will just be gradually whittled away as you go further into interstellar space is simply not true,” said the University of Iowa’s Don Gurnett, corresponding author on one of the studies. “We show with Voyager 2 – and previously with Voyager 1 – that there’s a distinct boundary out there.”
  • Voyager 2 is only the second spacecraft to travel this far out into the solar system. The craft was launched slightly ahead of its twin, Voyager 1, in 1977 and has been traveling through space for the past 42 years.
  • “We certainly didn’t know that a spacecraft could live long enough to leave the bubble and enter interstellar space,” Stone said at a media teleconference to announce the findings. “We had no good quantitative idea of how big this bubble is.”
  • Even though the spacecraft are out of the sun’s bubble, the Voyagers are still technically in our solar system, NASA said. Scientists maintain that the solar system stretches to the outer edge of the Oort Cloud. It will take about 30,000 years for the spacecraft to get that far. (please help me grasp this…)
  • Voyager 2 is a space probe launched by NASA on August 20, 1977, to study the outer planets. Part of the Voyager program, it was launched 16 days before its twin, Voyager 1, on a trajectory that took longer to reach Jupiter and Saturn but enabled further encounters with Uranus and Neptune.[4] It is the only spacecraft to have visited either of these two ice giant planets.
  • Its primary mission ended with the exploration of the Neptunian system on October 2, 1989, after having visited the Uranian system in 1986, the Saturnian system in 1981, and the Jovian system in 1979. Voyager 2 is now in its extended mission to study the outer reaches of the Solar System and has been operating for 42 years, 2 months and 16 days as of November 6, 2019. It remains in contact through the NASA Deep Space Network.[5]
  • At a distance of 122 AU (1.83×1010 km) (about 16:58 light-hours) from the Sun as of November 4, 2019, moving at a velocity of 15.341 km/s (55,230 km/h) relative to the Sun, Voyager 2 is the fourth of five spacecraft to achieve the escape velocity that will allow them to leave the Solar System. The probe left the heliosphere for interstellar space on November 5, 2018, becoming the second artificial object to do so, and has begun to provide the first direct measurements of the density and temperature of the interstellar plasma.
  • Constructed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Voyager 2 included 16 hydrazine thrusters, three-axis stabilization, gyroscopes and celestial referencing instruments (Sun sensor/Canopus Star Tracker) to maintain pointing of the high-gain antenna toward Earth. Collectively these instruments are part of the Attitude and Articulation Control Subsystem (AACS) along with redundant units of most instruments and 8 backup thrusters. The spacecraft also included 11 scientific instruments to study celestial objects as it traveled through space.
  • Built with the intent for eventual interstellar travel, Voyager 2 included a large, 3.7 m (12 ft) parabolic, high-gain antenna to transceive data via the Deep Space Network on the Earth. Communications are conducted over the S-band (about 13 cm wavelength) and X-band (about 3.6 cm wavelength) providing data rates as high as 115.2 kilobits per second at the distance of Jupiter, and then ever-decreasing as the distance increased, because of the inverse-square law. When the spacecraft is unable to communicate with Earth, the Digital Tape Recorder (DTR) can record about 64 megabytes of data for transmission at another time.
  • Voyager 2 is equipped with 3 Multihundred-Watt radioisotope thermoelectric generators (MHW RTG). Each RTG includes 24 pressed plutonium oxide spheres and provided enough heat to generate approximately 157 W of electrical power at launch. Collectively, the RTGs supplied the spacecraft with 470 watts at launch (halving every 87.7 years) and allows operations to continue until at least 2020.

 

 


 

“Chicken Feed”

Candy Corn…I’m not a fan but a lot of people are. And I have to say, they are THE iconic candy of Halloween. You can even get that plush toy at the bottom left for your kids HERE. Or the one on the right for your dog HERE.

 

Now that Halloween is over, the odds are you have sorted your candy and have some “not my favorite” sitting around the house – that Halloween favorite Candy Corn – loose in bowls, in tiny plastic bags, or in half used bags tucked in the back of the pantry.  You know all about it – that white, orange and yellow treat that’s intriguing to eat, but not quite what your stomach can take.  Seems like all of us like to eat them in stages – bite the white tip, then the orange center, then the yellow bottoms – (silly traditional, much like unscrewing Oreo’s and teeth-scaping the frosting).  At my house we purchase a few bags of these each year to set out in some of Jackie’s favorite Halloween bowls. All I can say is that we only eat them because they are sitting out! After that I will actually silently judge myself….again and again!

Anyway, here is some trivia about this iconic Halloween (and now other holidays) treat.  Special thanks Wikipedia and National Confections Association for the info. Enjoy.

Chicken Feed (Candy Corn as we know it today) has been around for more than 100 years. According to oral history, George Renninger, an employee of the Wunderlee Candy Company, invented the popular confection in the 1880s and Wunderlee became the first to produce the candy. The Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly Candy Company) started producing the confection around the turn of the century and still produces the popular Halloween candy today.

Candy corn first appeared when America was largely an agrarian society. The tri-color design was considered revolutionary and the public went crazy for it. We don’t know if the fact that so many Americans had farm experience at that time, if urban dwellers found it charming or if it was some combination of the two that made it so popular. Lack of machinery meant that candy corn was only made seasonally, probably gearing up in late August and continuing through the fall. It has remained unchanged for more than 100 years and is a favorite at Halloween.

The taste of candy corn can be described as somewhat polarizing and has been a subject of wide debate.

Originally the candy was made by hand.  Manufacturers first combined sugar, corn syrup, carnauba wax, and water and cooked them to form a slurry. Fondant was added for texture and marshmallows were added to provide a soft bite.  The final mixture was then heated and poured into shaped molds. Three passes, one for each colored section, were required during the pouring process.

In 1900, it was the job of many men to produce candy corn several months of the year.  Sugar, corn syrup and other ingredients were cooked into a slurry in large kettles. Fondant and marshmallow were added to give a smooth texture and bite. The 45 pounds of warm candy was poured into buckets called runners. Men dubbed stringers walked backwards pouring the candy into cornstarch trays imprinted with the kernel shape. Originally, it was delivered by wagon in wooden boxes, tubs and cartons.

The recipe remains basically the same today. The production method, called “corn starch modeling,” likewise remains the same, though tasks initially performed by hand were soon taken over by machines invented for the purpose.

A popular variation called “Indian corn” features a chocolate brown wide end, orange center and pointed white tip, often available around Thanksgiving.  During the Halloween season, blackberry cobbler candy corn can be found in eastern Canada.

Confectioners have introduced additional color variations suited to other holidays.

  • The Christmas variant (sometimes called “Reindeer Corn”) typically has a red end and a green center.
  • the Valentine’s Day variant (sometimes called “Cupid Corn”) typically has a red end and a pink center.
  • In the United States during Independence Day celebrations, corn with a blue end, white center, and red tip (named “Freedom Corn”) can be found at celebratory cook outs and patriotic celebrations.
  • the Easter variant (sometimes called “Bunny Corn”) is typically only a two-color candy and comes with a variety of pastel bases (pink, green, yellow, and purple) with white tips all in one package. In 2014, carrot corn was also introduced for the Easter season, typically being green and orange, and having a carrot cake type flavor.
  • In 2011, there were caramel apple and green apple candy corn variants.
  • In 2013 there were s’mores and pumpkin spice variants.
  • In 2015, birthday cake and “Celebration” candy corn was introduced for the Independence Day season.

The National Confectioners Association estimates that 35 million pounds (over 9000 metric tons) of candy corn are sold annually.

 

 


 

Poor Old Jack

It’s that time, folks! Get out your tools and start carving your pumpkins. Doing it outside is a good idea but the weather might keep you in. There’s one couple in the third photo at the top who thought it’d be a good idea to carve theirs under water. Makes for easy clean-up. No matter what your skill level, it’s really fun to create your very own jack-o-lantern. I have to say, there are some really clever and talented pumpkin carvers out there.

 

Traditions. Memories and family fun.  Does it get much better than everyone around the table carving pumpkins?  It’s one of my favorites! Growing up, all of my brothers and sisters would be working on carving the pumpkins together, you can only imagine the amount of pumpkin goo and seeds flying around everywhere. It took us as long to clean up the kitchen and dining room as it did to carve the pumpkins. As my own daughters got older, they all came to appreciate my sense of style, especially when using the power tools to REALLY carve the pumpkins. For some unknown reason I have never won any best pumpkin carving awards!   I went on line to get some really fun images and ideas to inspire you – for more, just type in great pumpkin carving ideas, and dozens of websites will pop up.  Here’s just a bit of trivia on Old Jack himself, and some practical guidelines to make your carving time fun, efficient and not too messy.  Thanks to kitchn.com, pumpkinnook.com and jessicagavin for the info.  Enjoy, and send me photos of your masterpieces!

 

The Irish brought the tradition of carving pumpkins into Jack O’Lantern to America. But, the original Jack O’Lantern was not a pumpkin. Pumpkins did not exist in Ireland. Ancient Celtic cultures in Ireland carved turnips on All Hallow’s Eve, and placed an ember in them, to ward off evil spirits.

The Tale of Stingy Jack and the Jack O’ Lantern goes back hundreds of years in Irish History. Many of the stories, center round Stingy Jack. Here’s the most popular story:

Stingy Jack was a miserable, old man who took pleasure in playing tricks on just about everyone: family, friends, his mother and even the Devil himself. One day, he tricked the Devil into climbing up an apple tree. After the Devil climbed up the tree, Stingy Jack hurriedly placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. Unable to touch a cross, the Devil was stuck in the tree. Stingy Jack made the Devil promise him not to take his soul when he died. Once the devil promised not to take his soul, Stingy Jack removed the crosses, and the Devil climbed down out of the apple tree.

Many years later, Jack died, he went to the pearly gates of Heaven and was told by Saint Peter that he was mean and cruel, and had led a miserable, worthless life on earth. Stingy Jack was not allowed to enter heaven. He then went down to Hell and the Devil. The Devil kept his promise and would not allow him to enter Hell. Now Jack was scared. He had nowhere to go, but to wander about forever in the dark Netherworld between heaven and hell. He asked the Devil how he could leave, as there was no light. The Devil tossed him an ember from the flames of Hell, to help Stingy Jack light his way. Jack had a Turnip with him. It was one of his favorite foods, and he always carried one with him. Jack hollowed out the Turnip, and placed the ember the Devil had given him, inside the turnip. From that day onward, Stingy Jack roamed the earth without a resting place, lighting his way as he went with his “Jack O’Lantern”.

On all Hallow’s eve, the Irish hollowed out Turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets. They placed a light in them to ward off evil spirits and keep Stingy Jack away. These were the original Jack O’Lanterns. In the 1800’s a couple of waves of Irish immigrants came to America. The Irish immigrants quickly discovered that Pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve out. So they used pumpkins for Jack O’Lanterns.

What Variety of Pumpkin Should I Choose?
If you’re looking for specific varieties to hunt for, the ladies of The Peterson Sisters Pumpkin Patch suggest the Hobbit pumpkin, especially popular on the West Coast, or the Autumn Gold. Hobbits are 10- to 12-pound pumpkins and are considered a medium-sized variety. Autumn Golds are a very manageable variety, weighing between seven and 10 pounds. They turn a beautiful golden-orange color before fully ripe and are easy to carve, compared to other varieties.

Christy Lehner of Lehner’s Pumpkin Farm in Radnor, OH, says that the Gold Rush and Wolf varieties are popular for people who want larger jack-o’-lanterns. Both of these types of pumpkins weigh between 15 to 35 pounds, although they’re not necessarily the easiest to carve. If you’re looking for a statement-making pumpkin and aren’t afraid of using a little elbow grease, give one of these a try.

How to Pick a Pumpkin for Carving:
1. Pick it up and tap it: It should feel sturdy. When you tap it, you should hear a hollow sound.
2. Check the coloring: Choose one that has consistent coloring throughout.
3. Look for bad spots: Try to choose a pumpkin without any scratches, bruises, or dark spots.
4. Apply pressure: Flip the pumpkin upside down and apply pressure with your thumbs. If it’s not completely sturdy, the pumpkin isn’t fresh and will rot quickly.
5. Set it down: Make sure it sits flat! (Unless you want your jack-o’-lantern to sit a little crooked.) Imagine which side will be the front facing one with your decoration.
6. Be sure to carry it from the bottom: Don’t carry it by the stem — instead, cradle it from the bottom or tote it home in a bag.

Foolproof Method to Carve a Pumpkin
Carving a pumpkin isn’t rocket science, but it’s still wise to have a game plan. Before you lop off the top of that pumpkin and grab a handful of gooey squash guts, take a look through our basic guide to carving the best Halloween pumpkin.  Follow these steps and you’ll end up with a cute and classic jack-o’-lantern with easy, no-fuss cleanup afterwards.
1. First rule of pumpkin carving: Do it somewhere you don’t mind getting messy, ideally outdoors. Line your work surface (a sturdy table or the ground) with something you’ll throw away later — like butcher paper, newsprint, or flattened brown paper grocery bags. If using the latter, simply cut down one side of the grocery bag, then cut off the base of the bag so you have a big rectangle of brown paper. Layer a few of these on the table and you’re good to go.
2.  Once you’ve got your work surface ready, it’s time to assemble the proper tools. You can totally get a pumpkin carving kit from your local drugstore, supermarket, or Halloween pop-up shop. Or you can use a few tools from your kitchen. Make sure you have everything ready so you don’t have to traipse back through your kitchen with pumpkin-gut-covered hands. Two key tools for carving include a good cook 4.5-Inch vegetable knife and a strong ladle/spoon for scooping.  For more elaborate carvings, many creative designers add in an electric drill and multiple smaller carving knives and an X-ACTO knife.
3. Draw Before You Carve – In addition to your carving tools, you’ll need a pen for drawing your design onto the pumpkin, and couple big bowls — one for the seeds (the best part of pumpkin carving!) and one for the rest of the pumpkin goo and throwaway bits leftover from carving.

Whatever you do, save those pumpkin seeds! They’re so, so good roasted simply with oil and salt. It’s not hard, but here’s a link to a simple recipe.

Step By Step Instructions:

  • Set up your workspace: Line a sturdy table with flattened grocery bags, newsprint, or butcher paper. Have your permanent marker, carving tools, and bowls nearby.
  • Draw your design: After you’ve determined the best side of your pumpkin for a face, use the permanent marker to sketch out eyes, a nose, and a toothy grin.
  • Draw your lid: Outline a circular lid around the pumpkin stem, about 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Add a notch in the back if you like — this makes it easier to line up.
  • Cut out the pumpkin lid: With a slim pumpkin carving knife (the carving tool with a toothed blade like a mini-saw) or serrated knife, cut along the outline of your pumpkin lid. Make sure you slice through the pumpkin at a 45-degree inward angle, so you’ll be able to replace the lid without it falling in.
  • Remove the pumpkin seeds: The seeds are all attached to the pumpkin and each other by thin strings. Grab the big bunches of seeds with your hands and place them in one of the bowls, to be cleaned later.
  • Scoop out the insides of the pumpkin: Using a ladle or the scraper that came with your kit (or a metal spoon if you don’t have this tool), clean out the inside of the pumpkin until no stringy bits remain. Discard the pumpkin guts in the second bowl.
  • Wipe off the pumpkin: Use the kitchen towel to wipe off the outside of the pumpkin so that it will be easier and safer to carve.
  • Cut out the design: Make straight cuts into your pumpkin along the lines of your design, removing the pieces and discarding them in the refuse bowl.
  • Clean up the details: Go back in and scrape out any stringy pieces or jagged lines with an X-ACTO knife or the wire tool from your carving kit. You can also scrape off the marker lines while you’re at it, though they won’t be visible in the darkness of night.
  • Light your pumpkin: Insert a tea light candle in the bottom of your pumpkin. Use a long match or lighter to light the pumpkin and replace the lid. Tip: If you’re having trouble lighting the candle, try going through the mouth of the jack-o’-lantern instead of the top.
  • Make roasted pumpkin seeds: Clean and dry the pumpkin seeds, then toss with oil, salt, and any desired seasonings, and roast in a low oven until golden brown.