Monday, April 23, 2012


  1. A group of vampires has variously been call a clutch, brood, coven, pack or clan. (a clan if their Scottish!)
  2. The Muppet vampire, Count von Count from Sesame Street, is based on actual vampire myth. One way to supposedly deter a vampire is to throw seeds ( usually mustard) outside a door or place fishing net outside a window. Vampires are compelled to count the seeds on the holes in the net, delaying them until the sun comes up.
  3. A rare disease called porphyria vampire like symptoms, such as an extreme sensitivity to sunlight and sometimes hairiness. In extreme cases, teeth might be stained reddish brown, and eventually the patient may go mad.
  4. One of the most famous "true vampires" was Countess Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614) who was accused of biting the flesh of girls while torturing them and bathing in their blood to retain her youthful beauty. She was by all accounts a very attractive woman.
  5. Vampire legends may have been based on Vlad of Walachia, also known as Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476). He had a habit of nailing hats to people's heads, skinning them alive, and impaling them on upright stakes. He also liked to dip bread into the blood of his enemies and eat it. His name, Vlad, means son of the dragon or Dracula, who has been identified as the historical Dracula. Though Vlad the Impaler was murdered in 1476, his tomb is reported empty.
  6. One of the earliest accounts of vampires is found in an ancient Sumerian and Babylonian myth dating to 4.000 B.C. which describes ekimmu or edimmu (one who is snatched away). The ekimmu is a type of uruku or utukku (a spirit or demon) who was not buried properly and has returned as a vengeful spirit to suck the life out of the living.
  7. Prehistoric stone monuments called "dolmens" have been found over the graves of the dead in northwest Europe. Anthropologists speculate they have been placed over graves to keep vampires from rising.
  8. Chinese vampires were call a ch'iang shih (corpse-hopper) and had red eyes and crooked claws. They were said to have a strong sexual drive that led them to attack women. As they grew stronger, the ch'iang shih gained the ability to fly, grew long white hair, and could also change into a wolf.
  9. In 2009, a sixteenth-century female skull with a rock wedged in its mouth was found near the remains of plague victims. It was not unusual during that century to shove a rock or brick in the mouth of a suspected vampire to prevent it from feeding on the bodies of other plague victims or attacking the living. Female vampires were also often blamed for spreading the bubonic plague throughout Europe.
  10. According to several legends. If someone was bitten by a suspected vampire, he or she should drink the ashes of a burned vampire. To prevent an attack, a person should make bread with the blood of vampire and eat it.
  11. The legend that vampires must sleep in coffins probably arose from reports of gravediggers and morticians who described corpses suddenly sitting up in their graves or coffins. This eerie phenomenon could be caused by the decomposing process.
  12. According to some legends, a vampire may engage in sex with his former wife, which often led to pregnancy. In fact, this belief may have provided a convenient explanation as to why a widow, who was supposed to be celibate, became pregnant. The resulting child was called a gloglave in Bulgarian or vampirdzii in Turkish. Rather than being ostracized, the child was considered a hero who had powers to slay a vampire.
  13. Folklore vampires can become vampires not only through a bite, but also if they were once a werewolf, practiced sorcery, were excommunicated, committed suicide, were an illegitimate child of parents who were illegitimate, or were still born or died before baptism, in addition, anyone who has eaten the flesh of a sheep killed by a wolf, was a seventh son, was the child of a pregnant woman who was looked upon by a vampire, was a nun who stepped over an unburied body, had teeth when they were born, or had a cat jump on their corpse before being buried could also turn into vampires.
  14. Mermaids can also be vampires--but instead of sucking blood, they suck out the breath of their victims.
  15. In some vampire folktales, vampires can marry and move to another city where they take up jobs suitable for vampires, such as butchers, barbers, and tailors. That they become butchers may be based on the analogy that butchers are descendants of the sacrificer.


   Tall and beautiful, sweet and tart, this cake has lots of lemon flavor and plenty of style, too. It's the perfect finale for a St. Patrick's Day dinner or other special occasion.


For lemon curd

  • 2 1/3cupssugar
  • 2teaspoonscornstarch
  • 1cupfresh lemon juice
  • 4large eggs
  • 4large egg yolks
  • 3/4cup(1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

For frosting

  • 3/4cuppowdered sugar
  • 2cupschilled whipping cream

For cake

  • 1 1/2cupscake flour
  • 1 1/2cupssugar
  • 2 1/2teaspoonsbaking powder
  • 3/4teaspoonsalt
  • 4large egg yolks
  • 1/4cupvegetable oil
  • 1/4cuporange juice
  • 1 1/2teaspoonsgrated lemon peel
  • 8large egg whites
  • 1/4teaspooncream of tartar
  • Lemon slices, halved, patted dry


Make lemon curd:

  • Combine 2 1/3 cups sugar and 2 teaspoons cornstarch in heavy medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in fresh lemon juice. Whisk in eggs and yolks; add butter. Whisk over medium heat until curd thickens and boils, about 12 minutes. Pour into medium bowl. Refrigerate until cold, at least 5 hours. DO AHEAD Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.

Make frosting:

  • Beat powdered sugar and 1 1/4 cups lemon curd in large bowl just until blended. Beat cream in medium bowl until firm peaks form. Fold cream into curd mixture in 3 additions. Chill until firm, at least 4 hours.

Make cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides; line bottoms with parchment paper. Whisk 1 1/2 cups cake flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Add 4 yolks, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, orange juice, lemon peel and 3/4 cup curd to bowl (do not stir). Combine whites and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar in another large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1 cup sugar, beating until stiff but not dry. Using same beaters, beat yolk mixture until smooth. Fold whites into yolk mixture in 3 additions.
  • Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; peel off parchment. Cool cakes completely.
  • Spoon 1 cup frosting into pastry bag fitted with plain round tip; refrigerate bag. Place 1 cake layer on cake platter. Spread top of cake layer with 1/3 cup curd, then 1 cup frosting. Top with second cake layer; spread with 1/3 cup curd and 1 cup frosting. Top with third cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Spread remaining curd over top of cake, leaving 3/4-inch plain border around edge. Pipe chilled 1 cup frosting in bag in small mounds around edge of cake. DO AHEAD Cake can be prepared 1 day ahead; refrigerate. Place lemon slices between mounds of frosting. Slice cake and serve.


Oxford and Cambridge Crews

    The event generally known as "The Boat Race" is a rowing race in England between the Oxford University Boat Club and the Cambridge University Boat Club, rowed between competing eights each spring on the Thames in London. It takes place generally on the last Saturday of March or the first Saturday of April. The formal title of the event is the Xchanging Boat Race, and it is also known as the University Boat Race and the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.
    In 2010 an estimated quarter of a million people watched the race live from the banks of the river and millions on television.

    Members of both teams are traditionally known as blues and each boat as a "Blue Boat", with Cambridge in light blue and Oxford dark blue. The race was in 1829 and it has been held annually since 1856, with the exception of the two world wars. The most recent race was on Saturday, March 26th 2011, with Oxford winning. The 2012 event is to be confirmed.
    The race is governed by a Joint Understanding between Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Clubs.


    The tradition was started in 1829 by Charles Merivale, a student at St. John's College, Cambridge, and his schoolfriend Charles Wordsworth, who was at Oxford. Cambridge challenged Oxford to a race at Henly-on-Thames. The second race occurred in 1836, with the venue moved to be from Westminster to Putney. Over the next couple of years, there was a disagreement over where the race should be held, with Oxford preferring Henly and Cambridge preferring London. Cambridge therefore raced the Leander Club in 1837 and 1838. Following the formation of the Oxford University Boat Club, racing between the two universities resumed and the tradition continues to the present day, with the loser challenging the winner to a re-match annually.

    The race in 1877, was declared a dead heat. Legend in Oxford has is that the judge, "Honest John" Phelps, was asleep under a bush when the race finished, leading him to announce the result as a "dead heat to Oxford by four feet".
Cambridge produced one of the legends of the Boat Race and of rowing worldwide. Stanley Muttlebury, whose crew won the race in the first four of the five years he was a member, 1886-1890. He was viewed as "the finest oarsman to have ever sat in a boat".

1959 Oxford Mutiny

   Oxford in the Autumn of 1958, had a large and talented squad. It included eleven returning Blues plus Yale oarsmen Reed Rubin and Charlie Grimes, a gold medallist at the 1956 Olympics. Ronnie Howard was elected OUBB President by the College Captains, beating Rubin. In 1958, Howard had rowed in the Isis crew coach by H.R.A. "Jumbo" Edwards, which had frequently beaten the Blue Boat in training.
    Howard's first act was to appoint Edwards as coach. Edwards was a coach with a strong record, but he also imposed strict standards of obedience, behavior and dress on the trialists which many of them found childish. As an example, Grimes withdrew from the squad after Edwards insisted he remove his "locomotive driver's hat" in training.

The Prize

    With selection for the crew highly competitive, the squad split along the lines of the presidential election. A group of dissidents called a press conference, announcing that they wanted to form a separate crew, led by Rubin and with a different coach. They then wished to race off with Howard's crew to decide who would face Cambridge.
Faced with this challenge, Ronnie Howard returned to the College Captains for a vote of confidence in his selected crew and the decision not to race off with the Rubin crew. He won the vote decisively and the Cambridge president also declared that his crew would only race the Howard eight.
    Three of the dissidents returned and Oxford went on to wind by six lengths.

1987 Oxford Mutiny

    In 1987, another disagreement arose amongst the Oxford team. A number of top class American oarsmen refused to row when a fellow American was dropped in preference for the Scottish President, Donald Macdonald. They became embroiled in a conflict with Macdonald and with coach Dan Topolski over his training and selection methods. This eventually led most of the Americans to protest what they perceived to be the president's abuse of power, by withdrawing six weeks before the race was due to start.

   To the surprise of many, Oxford, with a crew partially composed of oarsmen from the reserve team, went on to win the race. One aspect of the race was Topolski's tactic , communicated tot he cox while the crews were on the start, for Oxford to take shelter from the rough water in the middle of the river at the start of the race, ignoring conventional wisdom that center steam is fastest even if rowing conditions are poor.


   The course is four miles and 374 yards from Putney to Mortlake, passing Hammersmith and Barnes; it is sometimes referred to as the Championship course, and follows ans S shape, east to west. The start and finish are marked by the University Boat Race Stones on the south bank. The clubs' presidents toss a coin (the 1829 sovereign) before the race for the right to choose which side of the river (station) they will row on: their decision is based on the day's weather conditions and how the various bends in the course might favor their crew's pace. The north station has the advantage of the first and last bends, and the south station the longer middle bend.

    The race is rowed upstream, but is timed to start on the incoming flood tide so that the crews are rowing with the fastest possible current. If a strong wind is blowing form the west it will be against the tide in places along the course, causing the water to become very rough. The conditions are sometimes such that internationals regatta would be cancelled, but the Boat Race has a tradition of proceeding even in potential sinking conditions. Several races have featured one, or both of the crews sinking. This
happened to Cambridge in 1859 and 1978, and to Oxford in 1925 and 1951. Both boats sank in 1912, and the race was re-run, and in 1984 Cambridge sank after crashing into a stationary barge while warming up before the race.

    The race is for heavyweight eights (for eight rowers with a cox steering, and no restrictions on weight). Female coxes are permitted, the first to appear in the Boat Race being Sue Brown for Oxford in 1981. In fact female rowers would be permitted in the men's boat race, thought the reverse is not true.


There is no doubt that food is constantly on my mind.  Here are some food facts that should be surprising to the majority of our readers. If you have others you think we missed, be sure to add them to the comments.

10. Fortune Cookies
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   The fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco in 1909, at the Japanese Tea Garden Restaurant. In 1916, Los Angeles noodle manufacturer David Jung claimed to be the inventor, but a San Francisco court ruled that Makoto Hagiwara, caretaker of Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden, was the creator of the cookies, which he served to guests of the gardens.

9. Tonka Beans
Jean Paul Hevin Tonka 1

   The deadly tonka bean (often added to perfume as a cheap alternative to vanilla) is banned outright in the United States as a food additive. Despite its highly poisonous qualities, it is popularly enjoyed in France in high quality pastries (pictured above is Jean Paul Hévin’s famous “Tonka”). Despite its reputation as a killer, only a few countries ban its use in food. The smell of fresh tonka beans is like a combination of bitter almond, vanilla and clove. It is unique in its mix of tastes, which is why it is so highly prized in the best European pasty houses.

8. Chicken Tikka Masala

   Chicken tikka masala, the hugely popular Indian curry, is not Indian. It was invented in Glasgow, Scotland. Yes, one of the most loved Indian dishes comes from the home of haggis and hogmanay. It is, according to statistics, the most popular “Indian” dish in Britain.

7. Korean Table Manners

   In Korea, to this day, when a young person is eating with someone older, they must turn their face away from the elder member of the table and shield their lips with their hand when taking a sip of alcohol. This is done as a sign of respect. The importance of respect is found everywhere in Korea: the Korean language has over 600 different word endings to be used in different social situations, depending upon seniority. This makes Korean the hardest language in the world to learn, despite its simple 24 letter alphabet (Hangul).

6. Fish ‘n’ Chips
Rig Shark 2

   Shark and Tatties (pronounced “shark and tay-tees”) is the New Zealand slang term for fish and chips – the crispy alternative to the British version, which is usually soggy and served with skin on, accompanied by a side of grey overcooked ‘mushy’ peas (sorry, Brits – but it’s true – NZ fish and chips is always cooked to order). As the name suggests, the most commonly used fish in New Zealand for this delightful dish is shark (rig shark to be exact – pictured here). Due to people possibly being upset, the meat is marketed as “lemon fish”. In a strange meld of rich and poor, equally popular with shark and fries is deep fried battered Bluff Oysters, the best in the world, which are nearly ten times more expensive than the fish.

5. Indoor BBQ

   Cooking with charcoal inside the house can be deadly, due to the release of carbon monoxide. Despite this, white charcoal (binchotan charcoal) is commonly used inside homes in Japan and Korea, as well as in Asian restaurants all around the world (at least two restaurants in California use 100% indoor charcoal grills). With good ventilation, white charcoal can be safely cooked on, even in close quarters. It produces no smoke due to the manner in which it is made, and consequently it lends a subtle and pure flavor to barbecued meat. The US Center for Disease Control says that charcoal should never be used indoors (including white charcoal) as there is a risk of death by carbon monoxide, but that hasn’t stopped people in Asia from continuing their 1,000+ year tradition of doing so. White charcoal is a special type produced in a very different way to black charcoal. It is as strong as steel, and when you have finished cooking you can dump water on it and use it again, at least three more times.

4. Tea Time
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   Would you like to come for tea? If you visit the British Empire (and its commonwealth nations) you might be surprised at what you get if you say yes. Tea, for most commonwealthers and many Brits, means the main meal of the day (at night) – not a cup of tea with scones (pronounced like shone – not moan) eaten in the afternoon – as it was known by the upper class English. How has this come about? The most likely explanation can be found in the menu of the Titanic:
Upper class and second class menu involved: breakfast, luncheon, dinner. The third class menu was: breakfast, dinner, TEA (main meal), supper.
Primarily the settlers of the commonwealth were of the third class variety. If you want to see what the different classes actually ate on the Titanic (their final voyage in fact), you can.

3. Hot or Cold

   Have you ever eaten a peppermint and inhaled at the same time, only to find that your mouth burns? In fact, your mouth is getting cold! Peppermint contains high traces of menthol (making it, and spearmint, the main sources of menthol for other uses) which triggers your mouth’s cold receptors. On the opposite side of the scale chili peppers trigger the mouth’s hot receptors. If you want to try a weird experiment, chew a chili and a peppermint at the same time. Oh – and to make things even more interesting- while the mint makes you think you are eating something cold, the actual temperature of the area affected remains the same before, during and after the consumption.

2. Lobster Color
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   Lobsters are always red. Before you cook a lobster it looks grey-blue, and when you cook it it turns pink. But this is not because something is changing color- the red pigment is already there. The red pigment in the lobster’s shell is surrounded by other pigments (the grey and blue), and when those pigments are heated they are destroyed, whereas the red pigments can stand the heat and they remain. The red pigment is called astaxanthin.

1. Jelly? Jello-o? Jam? Conserve?
Screen Shot 2011-03-24 At 9.16.10 Am

   Jelly and jam are different things. Jam is cooked crushed fruit (with sugar), jelly is gelatinized fruit juice (with sugar) but is called Jell-o in the United states (US Jelly is jam without the fruit pulp). And to make matters more confusing we have conserve. Conserve is a whole fruit jam made of one or many fruits cooked with sugar. Making conserve is harder than jam or jelly, as the fruits must remain in their whole shape through the cooking process. Oh – and did you know that gelatine is made from the hooves of animals?


    When the moon is full it is said that the canine shape shifters prowl the night seeking new prey! Gypsies around the world tell folktales that warn about the anthropomorphic wolf-men cursed to endure a life of transmutation when the moon is full, becoming a predatory killer until the sun rises.
    Are these half-human, half-wolf "monsters" real, or are they a figment of our imagination, that people ages ago created to explain shadows in the night? Could these shape shifters actually exist? Perhaps Hollywood has instilled a false memory and predisposition for beings of the night, like vampires, zombies and werewolves. Maybe latent fear of the unknown drives the human mind to justify their fear of the dark by creating and believing in strange and bizarre creatures.
    Then it may also be true-werewolves may be more than mythical creatures in stories told by many people with roots that run deep in the old country of their origin. The gypsies may tell tales embellished by years of remembering, but based upon a truth shrouded in mystery and intrigue.

Common Beliefs About Werewolves
  1. The modern day name may come from the Old English "wer-wolf" (where 'wer' means 'man).
  2. Then again the name could come from the Norse legends about the 'berserkers'. who were crazed warriors that dressed as wolves when they savagely raided and pillaged villages in the northern land or Europe.
  3. One more good possibility could be it came from the word "warg-wolf". another name of Norse origin which denotes a rogue or lone wolf type of character prone to stalk their prey before dealing the death blow.
  4. Were-wolves eyebrows come together and there is no skin space between them.
  5. It is said by some that they have "bristles" under their tongue.
  6. When they are in the wolf form they have no tail, keep their human eyes and can speak in human language,not just canine woofs and howls.
  7. When they shift into wolf mode they are said to have super strength and extremely sensitive senses, such as sight and scent.
  8. It is reported in Europe in the 1700's that werewolves would dig up freshly buried corpses to eat.
  9. Scandinavian were-wolves were reported as being old women with poison claws that could paralyze children with their glaring eyes.
  10. The curse which transforms a person into a werewolf is often seen as occurring from a evil allegiance or by being bit or scratched by one who is a werewolf. It has also been deemed by many cultures as being a "divine punishment". During the dark era of the Middle Ages the Catholic Church investigated excommunicated priests who were accused of becoming werewolves.
  11. Taking an oath with Satan or powers of evil is usually the reported path to becoming a werewolf and transformation from bites is rarely a recorded occurrence in historical writings.
  12. The fact that they can be killed by silver bullets is a modern movie generated folk factoid. All tales about werewolves prior to the late 1800's do not talk about silver as a protector from the creatures.
  13. Religious holy water or icons (such as a crucifix) do not keep them away.
  14. Items that will protect you from a werewolf are garland of fresh rye, mistletoe and garlic cloves.
  15. Some modern day researchers believe that werewolves were real people afflicted with a medical condition called hypertrichosis. This is a hereditary disease that caused extreme hair growth all over the body, especially on the face and hands.


    The Feria de Abril de Sevilla, literally Seville April Fair, is held in the Andalusian capital of Seville, Spain. the fair generally begins two weeks after the Semana Santa, or Easter Holy Week.
    The fair officially begins at midnight on Monday, and runs for six days, ending on the following Sunday. During past fairs, however, many activities have begun on the Saturday prior to the official opening. Each day the fiesta begins with the parade of carriages and riders, at midday, carrying Seville's leading citizens which make their way to the bullring, La Real Maestranza, where the bullfighters and breeder meet.

    For the duration of the fair, the fairgrounds and a vast area on the far bank of the Guadalquivir River are totally covered in rows of casetas (individual decorated marquee tents which are temporarily built on the fairground). Some of these csetas belong to the prominent families of Seville, some to groups of friends, clubs, trade associations, or political parties. From around nine at night until six or seven the following morning, at first in the streets and later only within each caseta, you will find crowds partying and dancing "Sevillanas", drinking Jerez sherry, or manzanilla wine, and eating tapas.

    The Fair dates back to 1847 when it was originally organized as a livestock fair by two coucillors, Jose' Maria Ybarra and Narciso Bonaplata. Queen Isabel II agreed to the proposal, and on April 18th, 1847, the first fair was held at the Prado de San Sebastian, on the outskirts of the city.
    It took only one year before an air of festivity began to transform the fair, due mainly to the emergence of the first three casetas, belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier, the Town Hall , and the Casino of Seville. During the 1920's, the fair reached its peak and became the spectacle that it is today.


    La Feria of Abril is accompanied by men and women dressed up in their finery, ideally the traditinal "traje corto" (short jacket, tight trousers and boots) for men and the "faralaes" or "trajes de flamenca" (flamenco style dress) for women. The men traditionally wear hats called "cordobes".