Monday, March 5, 2012


   Effortlessly elegant, chocolate mousse makes a cool partner for any occasion. For a party-pretty presentation, chill individual portions in heart-shaped ramekins or china teacups, and serve the sauce on the side in a cream pitcher. 

Chocolate Mousse Loaf with Raspberry Purée Recipe



  • 2 cups whipping cream, divided
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages semisweet chocolate squares
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed
  • Garnishes: fresh mint sprigs, fresh raspberries


  1. Line a 9- x 5-inch loafpan with plastic wrap, extending edges of wrap over sides of pan; set aside.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup whipping cream, chocolate squares, corn syrup, and butter in a heavy saucepan; cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until chocolate melts. Cool.
  3. Beat remaining 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla at high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form; fold into chocolate mixture. Pour into prepared pan, and chill at least 8 hours.
  4. Process raspberries in a blender or food processor until smooth, stopping once to scrape down sides. Pour purée through a fine wire-mesh strainer, if desired, pressing with the back of a spoon; discard seeds. Chill.
  5. Invert mousse loaf onto a serving platter, and remove plastic wrap. Slice loaf, and serve with raspberry puree. Garnish, if desired.                           


    Let’s be honest with ourselves, with so many dead spirits roaming the planet, there are bound to be uncanny consistencies. I mean, how many of us have been walking around a public place or watching television and seen our doppelgänger? So why can’t the same be said for ghosts? They are bound to see other, more well-known spirits haunting us living souls, and thought, “I can do that!” And so a clone ghost story is born. Obviously, unoriginal apparitions are the best explanation for for our fireside stories sounding so close together, right? No way us humans spread the fake lore ourselves, that would be preposterous.

Only Reacts to One Gender

   So there was this young girl, right? She bites it, probably from getting jilted by her husband. Well, a husband, not necessarily hers. She’s pretty down in the dumps, now she hates men, and she either gets sick and dies or takes the ghosts’ favorite way out, suicide by hanging. Either way, she is dead, but it wouldn’t be a ghost story if she didn’t remain to haunt (pick one of the following: her old residence, her burial site, a favorite location of her and her lover, or the place where she died). You and your friends, naturally, go in search of the spirit. But, you are all guys, and the story says she hates men so she will only react to a girl. Better bring somebody’s girlfriend, fellas, and hope she doesn’t freak out too easily so your ghost hunt doesn’t get flushed down the toilet. Or, maybe a few states or provinces away, a similar spirit will only torment your male friends. Either way, it will be frustrating to prove this is legit.

Abandoned Buildings
Ruins-Of-Detroit Marchand-And-Meffre 18

   What is creepier than an abandoned building? Who knows what could be in there? Creaky floors, holes in the walls, feral dogs, a vagrant or two or three. Anything I’m forgetting? Oh, duh, ghosts! Evil entities and sorrowful spirits flock to abandoned locations like it’s a pilgrimage to Mecca. Where else is better? You can lurk in peace, and those pesky kids with their cameras will wander around, looking over their shoulder at every tiny noise you make. They’ll blame it on the floor creaking or building settling at first, but soon you will get your credit where it’s due. Wait until their breathing is at its fastest to pop into one of their pictures, that is the best time to do it!

Blacked-Out or Distorted Photos

   Speaking of photos, many haunted locations have the ability to distort your photos or black them out entirely. Many a camera malfunction has probably unnerved an unwitting photographer, but how do you explain when faces are blurred out or certain features get scratched out? Back in the heyday of film cameras, this could easily be explained as a bad exposure. After all, those darkrooms have a tendency to live up to their names. But at some point, it has to be a ghost or demon marking his next victim, right? I would say so. Look for this spooky element in the trailers and posters for the upcoming film Harry Potter and the Woman In Black.

Moving Objects

   In this item, we will not be discussing poltergeist activity (visualize plates flying all over the place while the doors and cabinets slam open and shut, and confused parents and an angst teenager watch from the other room). We will be discussing the behind-closed-crypt-doors rearranging of which the dead seem so fond. A prime example is a local legend from my neck of the woods, where a young girl hung herself from a tree in the back of a small cemetery, and has to constantly pick up and move her tombstone in the front to the spot where she died, in the back. A more internationally accessible example is the Chase Vault in Barbados, where coffins are continuously moved and rearranged in the vault. If the people burying the dead got the Feng Shui right the first time, the deceased souls wouldn’t have to do it themselves. That’s like asking somebody to come in for a shift after they retired, so inconsiderate.

Exclusive to the Moon Phases

   Well, we went to our local haunted cemetery, snapped photos, recorded unanswered questions asked to thin air, and just all-round wasted our night walking around in the cold, looking for the apparently non-existent ghosts. We went home, put our heads in our hands, and determined there must not, in fact, be ghosts. After one member of our ghost hunting team couldn’t handle the declaration as truth and ran crying from the room, we reread the legend and came to a happy conclusion. Our lack of evidence was due to the fact that we didn’t search during a full moon! If we came back in a few weeks, we were bound to get something. In the meantime, we are going to embark on a road trip to the next state over to catch that hitchhiker that only appears in your backseat during new moons.

Ambiguous or “Lost” Locales

   What a great legend! Let me tell you about it. So there was this girl, and she jumped off of a bridge… What was that? You asked what bridge? Well… I’m not sure, EXACTLY, but, okay, I have no idea where this ghost story happened. I Googled it, and it got hits in five states and three other countries. Well, I can tell you about this other legend, we will totally have to check it out… Well, the house it happened in got moved by the original owners to a knew location. Or maybe it was the one that got demolished? Actually, let’s just play Modern Warfare 3 instead.

Summoning the Spirits
Ghosts&Klein Seance Ghostsm

   Like a rockstar from his dressing room or a silver screen starlet from her trailer, some spirits only reluctantly make an appearance when they are relentlessly summoned. The biggest celebrity in this summoning spirit game is our favorite, Bloody Mary. Like any good ghoul, Miss Mary has plenty of variations around the world, but she isn’t the only ghost to come when called. Introducing Bloody Mary’s understudy in case she doesn’t show, the Midnight Man. His full ritual can easily be found online, but his rider contract is a little more extensive than Mary’s. It involves candles, blood, and perfect timing. After the Midnight Man enters your place of residence, and stalks you and your friends for 3 and a half hours. Make sure your candle stays lit, and if it blows out you better work quick to surround yourself with the mythical circle of salt, or prepare to face the horrific hallucinations of your worst fears incarnate. Tell us about your favorite spirits to summon and how well it worked out for you, in the comment section!

Unfinished Business
Jo Scream

   Let’s not drag this one. It’s high up on the list because of how common it is, but we can smell the cliche from a mile away. “Oh, dammit!” our featured apparition presumably says, “I bit the dust too early, I never got to spin a clay pot with my lover!” Now the poor lost soul has to haunt some place, looking for somebody sensitive enough to paranormal entities to pick up your signal, interpret it, and squash the urge to run away screaming long enough to help you accomplish your task.

Civil War Ghosts

   That would be the American Civil War specifically I have no idea how this war differs from the rest of them in creating ghosts to eternally haunt former battlefields, but it just seems to be greatest war for ghosts. How many times have you been flipping through your television channels, and you stumble upon a documentary featuring “ghosts of Gettysburg” or some such nonsense. I have barely heard tales from either World War, The American Revolution, and forget wars from other countries. They get no international love, as far as I have heard. But the American Civil War? Forget it, as far as I’m concerned, every soldier from North and South who died in combat, died of infection, or passed on from dysentery, is still in this Earthly realm, and still hates their counterparts to the north or south.

Perceptible to Children or Animals
Scared Dog1

   Well, consider this the catch-all explanation for why you don’t get to see and hear the ghosts in your house. You aren’t a five year old, that’s all! Or a dog. Does you toddler point at the “bad man” in the corner? Does your dog start growling at the empty hallway? Cat hiss when the room temperature inexplicably drops a few degrees? Does your children wake you up at night claiming the strange lady is at the foot of her bed again? Many stories the world over, and reports of actual activity, claim that only children and animals can perceive the beings haunting our dwellings (or at least perceive them better). As paranormal studies is not yet a proven science, only straw-grasping and indecisive explanations have cropped up, all of them explaining the children’s and animals’ odd behavior. I hear these odd stories, personally, and remember two things: a lot of animals have heightened senses compared to humans (dogs have better hearing and smell, remember?), and I don’t know about you, but I had quite the active imagination as a kid. So I’ll leave this one up in the air.


    The Carnival of Brazil, is an annual festival held 46 days before Easter. On certain days of Lent, Roman Catholics and some other Christians traditionally abstained from the consumption of meat and poultry, hence the term "carnival", from carnelevre, "to remove meat". Carnival celebrations are believed to have roots in the pagan festival of Saturnalia, which, adapted to Christianity, became a farewell to bad things in a season of religious discipline to practice repentance and prepare for Christ's death and resurrection.

    Rhythm, participation, and costumes vary from one region of Brazil to another. In the southeastern cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, huge organized parades are led by samba schools. Those official parades are meant to be watched by the public, with mini parades ("blocos") allowing a public participation can be found in other cities. The northeastern cities of Salvador, Porto Segur and Recife have organized groups parading through streets, and the public interacts directly with them. This carnival is heavily influenced by African-Brazilian culture. Crowds follow the trio electricos floats through the city streets. Also in northeast Olinda, carnival features unique characteristics, part influenced by Venice Carnival mixed with cultural depictions of local folklore.

    Carnival is the most famous holiday in Brazil and has become an event of hug proportions. The country stops completely for almost a week and festivities are intense, day and night, mainly in coastal cities. The consumption of beer during the festival accounts for 80% of annual consumption and tourism receives a 70% boost of annual visitors. The government distributes condoms and launches an awareness campaign at this time to prevent the spread of AIDS and other STD's.

History of Carnival

    The modern Brazilian Carnival originated in Rio de Janeiro in 1641, when the city's bourgeoisie imported the practice of holding balls and masquerade parties from Paris. It originally mimicked the European form of the festival, later absorbing and creolizing elements derived from Native American and African cultures.
    In the late 19th century, the cordoes (cords, laces or strings) were introduced in Rio de Janeiro. These were pageant groups that paraded through city avenues performing on instruments and dancing. Today they are known as Blocos (blocks), consisting of a group of people who dress in costumes or special t-shirts with themes and/or logos. Blocos are generally associated with particular neighborhoods. They include both a percussion or music group and an entourage of revellers.

    Block parades have become an expressive feature of Rio's Carnival. Today, they number more than 100 and the groups increase each year in size. Blocos can be formed by small or large groups of revelers with a distinct title with an often funny pun. They may also not their neighborhood or social status. Before the show, they gather in a square, then parade in sections of the city, often near the beach. Some blocos never leave one street and have a particular place, such as a bar, to attract viewers. Block parades start in January, and may last until the Sunday after Carnival.

    Samba schools are very large groups of performers, financed by respected organizations who work year round in preparation for Carnival. Samba schools perform in the Sambadrome, which runs 4 entire nights. They're part of an official competition, divided into 7 divisions, in which a single school is declared the winner, according to costume, flow, them, and band music quality and performance. Some samba schools also hold street parties in their neighborhoods, through which they parade along with their followers.
    Carnival time in Rio is a very interesting, but also the most expensive time to visit Rio. Hotel rooms and lodgings can be up to 4 times more expensive than the regular rates. There are big crowds at some locations and life is far from ordinary in many parts of town.


    The Carnival parades in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo take place in the Sambodromo, locate close to the city center. In the city of Rio, the parades start at roughly 9-10 p.m., depending of the date and end around 5 in the morning. The Rio Metro (subway) operates 24 hours during the main parade days.
    The actual amount of spectators in the Sambodromo may be higher than the official number of seats available. Like any other event the better the seats the higher the price for them.


    The Samba originated in Bahia from the African rhythms, it was brought to Rio around 1920 and is still one of the most popular styles of Brazilian music, together with Samba-pargode and Samba-reggae. From intimate samba-cancoes ( samba songs) sung in bars to explosive drum parades performed during Carnival, samba always evokes a warm and vibrant mood. Samba developed as a distinctive kind of music at the beginning of the 20th century in Rio. In the 1930's, a group of musicians led by Ismael Silva, founded in the neighborhood of Estacio de Sa, the first Samba school, Deixa Falar.
    In the following years, samba has developed into several directions, from the gentle samba-cancao to the drum orchestras which make the soundtrack of carnival parades. One of these new styles was the Bossa Nova.

    In the beginning of the 1980's, after having been sent underground due to styles like disco and Brazilian rock, the Samba reappeared in the media with a musical movement crated in the suburbs of Rio.
    This is not exactly about style or musical movement, but rather about a useful brand name given to artists from Salvador who made music in northeastern Brazilian, Caribbean and African rhythms with a pop/rock twist, which helped them take over the Brazilian hit parades since 1992. Axe' is a ritual greeting used in Candomble' and Umbanda religions, and means "good vibration". The word music was attached to Axe', used as slang within the local music business by a journalist who intended to create a derogatory term for the pretentious dance-driven style.