What Shall We Bake Today?

Today is National Carrot Cake Day, so let’s make one of those.  I have tried many recipes—some use jars of carrot baby food, some used pineapple and coconut, but this is my favorite.  I’ve included the recipe for cream cheese frosting even though I personally despise it.  (I just use my regular frosting for this cake.)


1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

2 cups Gold Medal™ All-Purpose Flour

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups shredded carrots (5 medium)

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 to 3 teaspoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups powdered sugar

Nutmeg, if desired


Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and sides of one 13×9-inch pan or two 8-inch or 9-inch round pans with shortening; lightly flour. In large bowl, beat granulated sugar, oil and eggs with electric mixer on low speed about 30 seconds or until blended. Add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, 1 teaspoon vanilla and the salt; beat on low speed 1 minute. Stir in carrots and nuts. Pour into pan(s).

Bake 13×9-inch pan 40 to 45 minutes, round pans 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool rectangle in pan on cooling rack. Cool rounds 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

In medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, on low speed until smooth and spreadable. Frost 13×9-inch cake or fill and frost round layers with frosting. Sprinkle nutmeg on frosted cake, if desired. Store in refrigerator.


Wake Up, Phil!

Groundhog Day is a popular tradition celebrated in Canada and the United States on February 2nd. It derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks, and if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early.

The groundhog (Marmota monax), also known as a woodchuck is a rodent.

It belongs to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots.

The groundhog is the most widespread North American marmot species.

It is found through much of the eastern United States across Canada and into Alaska.

This species inhabits many different ecosystems. It is typically found in low elevation forests, small woodlots, fields, pastures, and hedgerows.

In the wild, groundhogs can live up to 6 years with 2 or 3 being average. In captivity, groundhogs reportedly live up to 14 years.

Groundhogs are stocky in appearance and often stand up on their hind legs, making them look tall.

Adults measure from 16.5 to 27 inches in total length including a tail of 3.7 to 7.4 inches.

Weights of adult groundhogs, typically at least, fall between 4.4 and 13.9 lbs.

Male groundhogs average slightly larger than females and, like all marmots, they are considerably heavier during autumn than when emerging from hibernation in spring.

Thick fur on the upper parts ranges in color through various shades of brown; the feet are darker, and the underparts are buff. Melanistic (nearly black) and albino individuals sometimes occur in some populations.

Groundhogs are territorial and non-social.

They are mostly diurnal, and are often active early in the morning or late afternoon.

Groundhogs are good swimmers and can climb tall shrubs and sizable trees.

Mostly herbivorous, groundhogs eat primarily wild grasses and other vegetation, including berries and agricultural crops, when available. In early spring, dandelion and coltsfoot are important groundhog food items. Groundhogs also occasionally eat grubs, grasshoppers, insects, snails and other small animals, but are not as omnivorous as many other Sciuridae.

Groundhogs have four incisor teeth which grow 0.06 inch per week. Constant usage wears them down again by about that much each week. Unlike the incisors of many other rodents, the incisors of groundhogs are white to ivory-white.

Groundhogs are excellent burrowers, using burrows for sleeping, rearing young, and hibernating.

They are one of the few species that enter into true hibernation, and often build a separate “winter burrow” for this purpose. This burrow is usually in a wooded or brushy area and is dug below the frost line and remains at a stable temperature well above freezing during the winter months.

The breeding season extends from early March to mid- or late April, after hibernation. A mated pair remains in the same den throughout the 31- to 32-day gestation period. As birth of the young approaches in April or May, the male leaves the den.

One litter is produced annually, usually containing two to six blind, hairless and helpless young. Groundhog mothers introduce their young to the wild once their fur is grown in and they can see. At this time, if at all, the father groundhog comes back to the family. By the end of August, the family breaks up; or at least, the larger number scatter, to burrow on their own.

The groundhog is classified as a species of “least concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The groundhog has many lesser-known names including chuck, wood-shock, groundpig, whistlepig, whistler, thickwood badger, Canada marmot, monax, moonack, weenusk, redmonk and, among French Canadians in eastern Canada, siffleux.


The etymology of the name woodchuck is unrelated to wood or chucking. It stems from an Algonquian (possibly Narragansett) name for the animal, wuchak. The similarity between the words has led to the popular tongue-twister:

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could
if a woodchuck could chuck wood!

The Columbia Disaster

The Columbia disaster, the breakup of the U.S. space shuttle orbiter Columbia on February 1, 2003, that claimed the lives of all seven astronauts on board just minutes before it was to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Columbia, which had made the shuttle program’s first flight into space in 1981, lifted off for its 28th mission, STS-107, on January 16, 2003. STS-107 was a flight dedicated to various experiments that required a microgravity environment. The crew was comprised of commander Rick Husband; pilot William McCool; mission specialists Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, and Laurel Clark; and payload specialist Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut. As Columbia was reentering Earth’s atmosphere, it broke apart over Texas at approximately 9:00 am Eastern Standard Time at an altitude of 40 miles, showering debris across southeastern Texas and southern Louisiana. The disintegration of the craft was recorded by television cameras and U.S. Air Force radar. Its major components and the remains of the crew were recovered over the following month.

The destruction of Columbia followed by almost exactly 17 years the loss of Challenger in a launch accident on January 28, 1986. Ironically, the cause of the Columbia catastrophe soon was determined to be launch-related as well. Films showed that a piece of insulating foam broke loose from the external propellant tank and struck the leading edge of the left wing approximately 81 seconds after liftoff. Bits of foam had detached in past missions without serious mishap, and, at the time of the Columbia launch, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) engineers did not think that the foam carried enough momentum to cause significant damage. In fact, as demonstrated in post-accident tests, the foam was capable of punching a large hole in the reinforced carbon-carbon insulation tiles that protected the shuttle’s nose and wing leading edges from the extreme heat of atmospheric reentry. Although some engineers had wanted ground-based cameras to take photos of the orbiting shuttle to look for damage, the request did not get to the right officials.

During Columbia’s atmospheric reentry, hot gases penetrated the damaged tile section and melted major structural elements of the wing, which eventually collapsed. Data from the vehicle showed rising temperatures within sections of the left wing as early as 8:52 am, although the crew knew of their situation for perhaps only a minute or so before vehicle breakup. Subsequent investigation by NASA and the independent Columbia Accident Investigation Board uncovered a number of managerial shortcomings, in addition to the immediate technical reason (poor manufacturing control of tank insulation and other defects), that allowed the accident to happen.

The most palpable result of the accident was a grounding of the remaining three shuttles—Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour (the last built to replace Challenger)—until NASA and its contractors could develop means to prevent similar accidents, which included kits for repairs in orbit.

Assembly of the International Space Station (ISS) in Earth orbit was suspended after the Columbia accident until shuttle flights could resume. Limited research on the ISS was conducted by rotating two-person crews launched in Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The shuttle did not return to space until the STS-114 mission, which launched on July 26, 2005.

I found these segments from a site called Ranker:


The team on the ground knew Columbia’s astronauts would not make it home and faced an agonizing decision – should they tell the crew that they would die upon re-entry or face suffocating due to depleted oxygen stores while still in orbit? 

In the end, it was decided it was best for them not to know. On his blog, former shuttle project manager Wayne Hale revealed that Jon Harpold, Director of Mission Operations, told him:

You know, there is nothing we can do about damage to the TPS. If it has been damaged, it’s probably better not to know. I think the crew would rather not know. Don’t you think it would be better for them to have a happy, successful flight and die unexpectedly during entry than to stay on orbit, knowing that there was nothing to be done until the air ran out?

This was not the first time foam had broken off in space flights. In fact, it had happened several times before (and without incident), so much so that it was referred to as “foam shedding.” NASA engineers dismissed the problem of foam shedding as being of no great urgency.

When a NASA engineering manager, Don L. McCormack Jr., told Mission Management Team member Linda Ham of his concerns about the issue, he was told by her that it was “no issue for this mission.”

After the horrific crash, Columbia’s debris field stretched from Central Texas to Western Louisiana. A team of more than 25,000 professionals and volunteers searched an area of 2.3 million acres to recover everything possible that remained from Columbia. Due to the large area and extensive number of fragments, pieces are still being found to this day. 

More than 14 years later, only about 84,000 pieces – or 40% – of Columbia have been recovered and are still being studied. 

Grey Towers National Historic Site

Grey Towers National Historic Site, also known as Gifford Pinchot House or The Pinchot Institute, is located just off US 6 west of Milford, Pennsylvania, in Dingman Township. It is the ancestral home of Gifford Pinchot, first director of the United States Forest Service (USFS) and twice elected governor of Pennsylvania.

The house, built in the style of a French château to reflect the Pinchot family’s French origins, was designed by Richard Morris Hunt with some later work by H. Edwards Ficken. Situated on the hills above Milford, it overlooks the Delaware River. Pinchot grew up there and returned during the summers when his later life took him to Washington and Harrisburg. His wife, Cornelia Bryce Pinchot, made substantial changes to the interior of the home and gardens, in collaboration with several different architects, during that time.

In 1963 his family donated it and the surrounding 102 acres to the Forest Service; it is the only U.S. National Historic Site managed by that agency. Three years later the Department of the Interior designated it a National Historic Landmark. Today it is open to the public for tours and hiking on its trails; it is also home to the Pinchot Institute, which carries on his work in conservation.

Building and grounds

The mansion itself is a three-story L-shaped fieldstone chateau. Conical roofed towers at three of the corners give the property its name. A service wing juts out from the fourth corner. As originally built, it contained 43 rooms, with the first floor featuring a large entrance hall, billiard room, dining room, library and sitting room. Bedrooms were located on the second floor, with more on the third floor plus storage spaces and children’s playrooms.

The house boasts a number of outbuildings. On the 303 acres of the combined parcels that made up the original estate, there are 48 total buildings, structures and sites, all but eight of which are considered contributing to its historic value. These include nearby cottages known as the Letter and Bait Boxes, a unique outdoor dining facility called the Finger Bowl, a Forester’s Cottage used as a residence by the Pinchot descendants, an open-air theater, the former Yale School of Forestry’s summer school, and a white pine plantation established by Gifford Pinchot.

The Finger Bowl

In the early 1930s, Cornelia Pinchot hired William Lawrence Bottomley to create a unique addition known as the Finger Bowl, an outdoor dining area consisting of a raised pool surrounded by a flat ledge. Chairs were pulled up to the ledge and food was served from bowls floating on the water. It was sheltered by a wisteria-covered arbor supported by 12 stone piers. In the late 1930s, Gifford Pinchot started the White Pine Plantation to reforest some old farmland near the mansion. He was particularly interested in that species since it was the dominant tree in the forests of Pike County and had been heavily harvested during the previous century.

Forest Service

After his mother died in 1960, Gifford Bryce Pinchot donated the building to the Forest Service, as the family had planned. The agency intended to use the house as a conference center, and had to replace some interior walls that had suffered insect and water damage. Various other rooms in the wing and second floor were converted to storage or office use, and the swimming pool was filled in, in 1979, when it became a safety and maintenance problem. A parking lot was built to the northwest.

The Pinchot Institute, which also has a role in administering the site, was dedicated by President John F. Kennedy on September 24, 1963. That same year Grey Towers was one of the first sites declared a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior.

In 1980, the USFS realized how much its renovations had damaged an architecturally significant structure and began trying to undo some of the changes it had made. It developed a plan to restore the house and estate to a condition similar to the way it had been in Pinchot’s era, in consultation with the Park Service’s Harper’s Ferry Center, and hired staff with expertise in landscape and architecture. After a brief closing for this renovation, it reopened on August 11, 2001, Gifford Pinchot’s birthday. The state of Pennsylvania’s Department of Natural Resources also made a $2 million grant available for renovations to the entrance, entry road and parking facilities. In 2007 the USFS restored the swimming pool.


I’ll bet you didn’t know what ‘barding’ meant either!!! I saw something on Antiques Roadshow about a headpiece for a horse and it caught my interest. In some ways, this also parallels my etymology series, after a fashion. So, without further ado…..

Barding (also spelled bard) is body armour for war horses. The practice of armoring horses was first extensively developed in antiquity in the eastern kingdoms of Parthia and Pahlava. After the conquests of Alexander the Great, it likely made its way into European military practices via the Seleucid Empire and later Byzantine Empire. Though its historical roots lie in antiquity in the regions of what was once the Persian Empire, barded horses have become a symbol of the late European Middle Ages chivalry and the era of knights.

A museum display of a 16th century knight with an armoured horse

During the Late Middle Ages, as armour protection for knights became more effective, their mounts became targets. This vulnerability was exploited by the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn in the 14th century, when horses were killed by the infantry, and by the English at the Battle of Crécy in the same century where long-bowmen shot horses and the then-dismounted French knights were killed by heavy infantry. Barding developed as a response to such events.

Examples of armour for horses could be found as far back as classical antiquity. Cataphracts, with scale armour for both rider and horse, are believed by many historians to have influenced the later European knights, via contact with the Byzantine Empire.

Example of Cataphract

There are a number of bits and pieces that make up the barding. The chanfron (also spelled chaffron, chamfron, champion, chamfron, chamfrein, champron, and shaffron) was designed to protect the horse’s face. Sometimes this included hinged cheek plates. A decorative feature common to many chanfrons is a rondel with a small spike.

A chanfron made in Italy in the early 16th century

The chanfron was known as early as ancient Greece, but vanished from use in Europe until the twelfth century when metal plates replaced boiled leather as protection for war horses. The basic design of the chanfron remained stable until it became obsolete in the seventeenth century, although late examples are often notable for engraved decoration. A chanfron extended from the horse’s ears to its muzzle. Flanges often covered the eyes. In an open chanfron, the eyes received no protection. Hinged extensions to cover the jowls were commonly used for jousting tournaments.

Torrs Pony-cap, as displayed in 2011 The enigmatic Torrs pony-cap from Scotland appears to be a bronze chanfron from about the 2nd century BC, perhaps later fitted with the bronze horns found with it.”

The criniere (also known as manefaire or crinet) was a set of segmented plates that protected the horse’s neck. In full barding this consisted of two combinations of articulated lames that pivoted on loose rivets. One set of lames covered the mane and the other covered the neck. These connected to the peytral and the chanfron.

Light barding used only the upper lames. Three straps held the crinet in place around the neck. It is thought that thin metal was used for these plates, perhaps 0.8 mm. Mail armour was often affixed to the crinet and wrapped about the horse’s neck for additional protection.

Fragments of a set of armour with a criniere (protecting neck), peytral (protecting chest), and the croupiere (protecting hind quarters). This set was created by Lorenz Helmschmied and Konrad Ssusenhoffer for Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor and later also used by his son Maximilian I.

The croupiere (also crupiere bacul or crupper) protected the horse’s hind quarters. It could be made from any combination of leather, mail, or plate armour.

The flanchards, used to protect the flank, attached to the side of the saddle, then around the front or rear of the horse and back to the saddle again. These appear to have been metal plates riveted to leather or in some cases cuir bouilli armour (which is boiled or treated leather sealed with beeswax or the like).

(Boiled leather, often referred to by its French translation, cuir bouilli, was a historical material common in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period and used for various purposes. It was leather that had been treated so that it became tough and rigid, as well as able to hold a mold.)

They sometimes had openings designed to allow the rider to use spurs.

Barding was often used in conjunction with cloth covers known as caparisons. These coverings sometimes covered the entire horse from nose to tail and extended to the ground. It is unclear from period illustrations how much metal defensive covering was used in conjunction. Textile covers may also be called barding.

(This 15th-century depiction of a tournament shows fully caparisoned horses, from Le Livre des tournois by Barthelemy d’Eyck.)

Another commonly included feature of barding was protection for the reins, so they could not be cut. This could be metal plates riveted to them or chainmail linked around them.

The full bard is a “complete ensemble of horse armour,” created for Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, by master armourers from Augsburg and Innsbruck like Lorenz Helmschmied and Konrad Seusenhofer. The development of the full bard was also connected with the development of Maximilian armour and the Landsknecht (all three arose from the time Maximilian was in Burgundian Netherlands), as both human and equine combatants required more and more protection. But the full bard was expensive and only the richest knights could afford it.

(Albrecht May, Master-of-Arms, entering Namur, riding a horse wearing his master Maximilian I’s bard in 1480. The bard is crafted by Lorenz Helmschmied. The female figure is likely Mary of Burgundy, the contemporary ruler of the Burgundian State and wife of Maximilian, holding the combined heraldry of Austria and Burgundy.)

(Maximilian I on an armored horse, ca. 1575)

A cataphract was a cavalryman in full armour riding an (partially or fully) armoured horse. This type of cavalry originated from central Asia and was adopted by the eastern satrapies of the ancient Persian Empire. The Seleucid cataphract used scale armour for its flexibility and effective protection against archers and also because unlike regular metal types, it was not too heavy for the horses.

(Taq-e Bostan: equestrian statue of Khosrow II as a cataphract)

The Challenger Explosion

Today is the 37th anniversary of the Challenger explosion that killed all 7 astronauts aboard. I found the following information on the Britannica website:

The primary goal of shuttle mission 51-L was to launch the second Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-B). It also carried the Spartan Halley spacecraft, a small satellite that was to be released by Challenger and picked up two days later after observing Halley’s Comet during its closest approach to the Sun.

The Crew

Greatest visibility among the crew went to teacher-in-space Christa McAuliffe of Concord, New Hampshire, the winner of a national screening begun in 1984. McAuliffe was to conduct at least two lessons from orbit and then spend the following nine months lecturing students across the United States. The goal was to highlight the importance of teachers and to interest students in high-tech careers. Other members of the crew were commander Francis (Dick) Scobee, pilot Michael Smith, mission specialists Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Ronald McNair, and Hughes Aircraft engineer Gregory Jarvis.

Challenger disaster: icy conditions on day of launch

The mission experienced trouble at the outset, as the launch was postponed for several days, partly because of delays in getting the previous shuttle mission, 61-C (Columbia), back on the ground. On the night before the launch, central Florida was swept by a severe cold wave that deposited thick ice on the launch pad. On launch day, January 28, liftoff was delayed until 11:38 am. All appeared to be normal until after the vehicle emerged from “Max-Q,” the period of greatest aerodynamic pressure. Mission Control told Scobee, “Challenger, go with throttle up,” and seconds later the vehicle disappeared in an explosion just 73 seconds after liftoff, at an altitude of 46,000 feet. Tapes salvaged from the wreckage showed that the instant before breakup Smith said “Uh-oh,” but nothing else was heard. Debris rained into the Atlantic Ocean for more than an hour after the explosion; searches revealed no sign of the crew.

The incident immediately grounded the shuttle program. An intensive investigation by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and a commission appointed by U.S. Pres. Ronald Reagan and chaired by former secretary of state William Rogers followed. Other members of the commission included astronauts Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride, test pilot Chuck Yeager, and physicist Richard Feynman. What emerged was an appalling pattern of assumptions that the vehicle could survive minor mishaps and be pushed even further. The ill-fated launch brought to the fore the difficulties that NASA had been experiencing for many years in trying to accomplish too much with too little money.

The immediate cause of the accident was suspected within days and was fully established within a few weeks. The severe cold reduced the resiliency of two rubber O-rings that sealed the joint between the two lower segments of the right-hand solid rocket booster. (At a commission hearing, Feynman convincingly demonstrated the loss of O-ring resiliency by submerging an O-ring in a glass of ice water.) Under normal circumstances, when the shuttle’s three main engines ignited, they pressed the whole vehicle forward, and the boosters were ignited when the vehicle swung back to center. On the morning of the accident, an effect called “joint rotation” occurred, which prevented the rings from resealing and opened a path for hot exhaust gas to escape from inside the booster. Puffs of black smoke appeared on the far side of the booster in a spot not visible to most cameras.

As the vehicle ascended, the leak expanded, and after 59 seconds an 8-foot stream of flame emerged from the hole. This grew to 40 feet and gradually eroded one of three struts that secured the booster’s base to the large external tank carrying liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for the orbiter engines. At the same time, thrust in the booster lagged slightly, although within limits, and the nozzle steering systems tried to compensate. When the strut broke, the booster’s base swiveled outward, forcing its nose through the top of the external fuel tank and causing the whole tank to collapse and explode. Through ground tracking cameras this was seen as a brief flame licking from a concealed spot on the right side of the vehicle a few seconds before everything disappeared in the fireball. Even if the plume had been seen at liftoff, there would have been no hope for crew escape, because the shuttle orbiter could not survive high-speed separation from the tank until the last seconds of the boosters’ two-minute burn.

Challenger disaster: remains of the crew

Challenger broke up in the explosion, but the forward section with the crew cabin was severed in one piece; it continued to coast upward with other debris, including wings and still-flaming engines, and then plummeted to the ocean. It was believed that the crew survived the initial breakup but that loss of cabin pressure rendered them unconscious within seconds, since they did not wear pressure suits. Death probably resulted from oxygen deficiency minutes before impact.

The boosters also survived the fireball and righted themselves to continue flying, something totally unexpected. Range safety officers finally detonated their charges 30 seconds later to prevent them from overflying land. After the accident, NASA immediately began work on a redesigned solid booster for future launches.

Challenger disaster: recovered main engines

An intensive salvage operation was organized to retrieve as much of the wreckage as possible and the bodies of the crew. The task was complicated by the force of the explosion and the altitude at which it occurred, as well as the separate paths taken by the boosters.

The Rogers Commission report, delivered on June 6 to the president, faulted NASA as a whole, and its Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and contractor Morton Thiokol, Inc., in Ogden, Utah, in particular, for poor engineering and management. Marshall was responsible for the shuttle boosters, engines, and tank, while Morton Thiokol manufactured the booster motors and assembled them at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The Rogers Commission heard disturbing testimony from a number of engineers who had been expressing concern about the reliability of the seals for at least two years and who had warned superiors about a possible failure the night before 51-L was launched. One of the Rogers Commission’s strongest recommendations was to tighten the communication gap between shuttle managers and working engineers. In response to this implied criticism that its quality-control measures had become slack, NASA added several more checkpoints in the shuttle bureaucracy, including a new NASA safety office and a shuttle safety advisory panel, in order to prevent such a “flawed” decision to launch from being made again.

Aside from these internal fixes at NASA, however, the Rogers Commission addressed a more fundamental problem. In NASA’s efforts to streamline shuttle operations in pursuit of its declared goal of flying 24 missions a year, the commission said, the agency had simply been pushing too hard. The shuttle program had neither the personnel nor the spare parts to maintain such an ambitious flight rate without straining its physical resources or overworking its technicians.

This judgment cut to the core of the way in which the national space program had been conducted in the shuttle era. Indeed, the Challenger accident merely focused attention on more deeply seated problems that had existed for as long as 15 years. From the time it was approved by Pres. Richard Nixon in 1972, the shuttle had been conceived as a “do-everything” vehicle for carrying every kind of space payload, from commercial and scientific satellites to military spacecraft to probes bound for the outer planets. NASA’s fleet of conventional “expendable” rockets such as the Delta and Atlas had been phased out in the shuttle era as a result and were being used primarily to reach polar orbits that the shuttle could not reach from Cape Canaveral.

Although this reliance on the shuttle was the officially stated national space policy, the Department of Defense had begun to retreat from relying exclusively on the shuttle even before the Challenger accident. Concerned that shuttle launch delays would jeopardize the assured access to space of high-priority national security satellites, the Air Force in 1985 began a program of buying advanced Titan rockets as “complementary expendable launch vehicles” for its own use.

Other, less powerful groups came forward after the Challenger accident to express their long-standing unhappiness with exclusive reliance on the shuttle for their access to space. Among those calling for a “mixed fleet” of shuttles and expendable launchers were scientists whose missions now faced long delays because the shuttle had become the only existing means of carrying their spacecraft.

By July, when NASA announced that the shuttle would not be ready to fly again until 1988, there was still no decision from Congress or the White House as to whether another orbiter would be built to replace Challenger. Proponents argued that another vehicle—perhaps two more—would be needed to meet the launch needs of the 1990s, which would include construction of NASA’s international space station, a permanent facility in Earth orbit.

In mid-August Pres. Ronald Reagan announced that construction of a replacement shuttle orbiter (later named Endeavour) would begin immediately. When the shuttle resumed service, however, it would no longer be in the business of launching satellites for paying customers but would be devoted almost exclusively to defense and scientific payloads. The Reagan administration had long had the goal of stimulating a private space launch industry, and now, with the removal of a heavily subsidized competitor from the market, three different companies stepped forward within a week’s time to announce plans for operating commercial versions of the Delta, Titan, and Atlas/Centaur launchers.

Source: https://www.britannica.com/event/Challenger-disaster

What Shall We Bake Today?

Today’s entry, in honor of Chocolate Cake Day, is German Chocolate Cake.  It’s a recipe I’ve won many awards for in high school. 

German Chocolate Cake

For the Cake:

4 oz German sweet chocolate (I use Bakers)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites; stiffly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350*.  Line the bottom of 3-9inch round baking pans with waxed paper.  Spray sides with Baker’s Joy. 

Put chocolate in a bowl and pour boiling water over it to melt.  Set aside to cool slightly.  In another large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy, add egg yolks one at a time.  Mix in vanilla, and chocolate. Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk. Fold in egg whites. Pour into 3 pans.   Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

Frost tops with Coconut Pecan Frosting, leaving sides unfrosted.

Coconut Pecan Frosting

1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine all except coconut and pecans in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, about 12 minutes. When mixture thickens, remove from heat. Stir in coconut and
pecans. Cool until spreadable.

This is extremely delicious but can be a pain in the butt to make.  I no longer use this recipe…I opt for a simpler choice:

(Pat’s TIP: Use 2 cans of frosting—it’s the BEST part!)


Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a flowering plant whose rhizome, ginger root or simply ginger, is widely used as a spice or a folk medicine.

Ginger originated in the tropical rain forests from the Indian subcontinent to Southern Asia.

It is now cultivated in the U.S. (including Hawaii), India, China, the West Indies, and other tropical regions.

Ginger is one of the world’s more well-known and useful plants, being used for centuries as a spice for flavoring food and as a medicinal plant.

Chinese and Ayurvedic practitioners have relied on ginger for at least 3,000 years for its anti-inflammatory properties, and have used it as a “carrier” herb, one that enables other herbs to be more effective in the body.

As one of the first spices exported from the Orient, ginger arrived in Europe during the spice trade, and was used by ancient Greeks and Romans.

By the 11th century, it was a common trade article from the East to Europe.

The Spaniards brought it to the West Indies and Mexico soon after the conquest, and by 1547 ginger was being exported from Santiago to Spain.

Jamaicans and early American settlers made beer from it; and today, natural ginger ales made with fresh ginger are available as a digestive tonic.

Ginger is a perennial reed-like plant with annual leafy stems, about 3 to 4 feet tall. It produces clusters of white and pink flower buds that bloom into yellow flowers. Because of its aesthetic appeal and the adaptation of the plant to warm climates, it is often used as landscaping around subtropical homes.

The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. It is covered with a brownish skin that may either be thick or thin, depending upon whether the plant was harvested when it was mature or young.

There are 80 calories in 3.5 ounces of Ginger.

Ginger contains a diverse array of many important vitamins and minerals. It also contains gingerol, a compound with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that has been linked to many unique health benefits.

The health benefits of ginger include reduce hypertension, inflammation, DNA breakage, nausea, migraines, and amyloid beta build-up, which is involved in Alzheimer’s disease. Ginger may also reduce DNA damage from radiation and provide some protection from industrial pollutants.

Ginger has a sharp, pungent taste and aroma.

Ginger rhizomes are often pickled in vinegar or sherry as a snack or cooked as an ingredient in many dishes. They can be steeped in boiling water to make ginger herb tea, to which honey may be added. Ginger can be made into candy or ginger wine.

The spice has a slightly biting taste and is used, usually dried and ground, to flavor breads, sauces, curry dishes, confections, pickles, ginger ale and ginger beer.

Its generic name “Zingiber” is derived from the Greek zingiberis, which comes from the Sanskrit name of the spice, singabera.

In Japan and elsewhere, slices of ginger are eaten between dishes or courses to clear the palate.

In Burma, ginger is used in a salad dish called gyin-tho, which consists of shredded ginger preserved in oil, and a variety of nuts and seeds.

In China, sliced or whole ginger root is often paired with savory dishes, such as fish.

The oil of ginger may be used for perfume and medicine.

Source: JustFunFacts

You Might Be a Redneck Part 2

The tobacco chewers in your family aren’t just men.

You had to remove a toothpick for wedding pictures.

You’ve never paid for a haircut.

You’ve ever hit a deer with your car…on purpose!

You have a hook in your shower to hang your hat on.

You dated your daddy’s current wife in high school.

You stare at a box of orange juice in the morning that said concentrate on it.

You go to a stock car race and don’t need a program.

You’ve ever fed your date French fries in a Denny’s.

You have 5 cars that are immobile and a house that is!

People hear your car a long time before they see it.

Your wife’s job requires her to wear an orange vest.

You’ve ever filled your deer tag on the golf course.

You owe the taxidermist more than your annual income.

You just bought an 8-track player to put in your car.

There are more than five McDonald’s bags in your car.

When you run out of gas, you put gin in the gas tank!

You’ve ever picked up a woman in a convenience store.

The gas pedal on your car is shaped like a bare foot.

Jack Daniels makes your list of “most admired people”.

Your wife has a beer belly and you find it attractive.

You have a rag for a gas cap (on a car that does run).

You have the local taxidermist’s number on speed dial.

The taillight covers of your car are made of red tape.

Your house doesn’t have curtains, but your truck does.

You grow flowers in an old commode in your front yard.

You use the term `over yonder’ more than once a month.

You have more than two brothers named Bubba or Junior.

You were shooting pool when any of your kids were born.

You prominently display a gift you bought at Graceland.

Your family reunion features a chewing tobacco spit-off.

If the fifth grade is referred to as “your senior year,”

Your wife’s best pair of shoes are steel-toed Red Wings.

You roll you hair with soda cans.

You tape phone numbers on the back of your cell phone.

You might be a redneck if your school hands out race tickets for perfect attendance.

Your front porch collapses and kills more than five dogs.

Three quarters of the clothes you own have LOGOS on them.

Your wife’s hairdo has ever been ruined by a ceiling fan.

It’s easier to spray weed killer on your lawn than mow it.

You’ve ever worn shorts to a funeral home.

Exxon and Conoco have offered you royalties for your hair.

Your child’s first words are “Attention K-Mart shoppers!”.

You have to go outside to get something out of the ‘fridge.

There are four or more cars up on blocks in the front yard.

There has ever been crime-scene tape on your bathroom door.

You can’t take a bath because beer is iced down in your tub.

You can tell your age by the number of rings in the bathtub.

Directions to your house include “Turn off the paved road.”

You view the next family reunion as a chance to meet girls.

Your stereo speakers used to belong to the Drive-in Theater.

The neighbors started a petition over your Christmas lights.

After making love you ask your date to roll down the window.

Taking your wife on a cruise means circling the Dairy Queen.

You think that potted meat on a saltine is an hors d’oeuvre.

You have a hefty bag where the window of your car should be.

The best way to keep things cold is to leave’em in the shade.

Chiggers are included on your list of top 5 hygiene concerns.

You have spray painted your girlfriend’s name on an overpass.

In tough situations you ask yourself, “What would Curly do?”

You think that safe s** is a padded headboard on the waterbed.

Your idea of a 7-course meal is a bucket of KFC and a six pack.

You can change the oil in your truck without ducking your head.

Your idea of talking during s** is “Ain’t no cars coming, baby!”

Your dad walks you to school because you’re in the same grade.

If you’re eating duck and it still has a pulse.

You need an estimate from your barber before you get a haircut.

Someone asks to see your ID and you show them your belt buckle.

You have a color coordinating rope that ties down your car hood.

You consider orange peels left on the coffee table as potpourri.

You have spent more on your pickup truck than on your education.

You’ve ever been involved in a custody fight over a hunting dog.

You’ve ever been kicked out of the zoo for heckling the monkeys.

Your favorite Christmas present, was a painting on black velvet.

Going to the bathroom at night involves shoes and a flashlight.

You’ve been to a funeral and there were more pick-ups than cars.

Going to the laundromat means cleaning out the back of the truck.