Friday, February 26, 2010


Lemon Drop Cookies

This recipe I have made on numerous occasions.  I sometimes substitute almond extract in lieu of the lemon.  They always turn out great.  
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In an electric mixer on medium speed, beat eggs, milk, lemon extract, sugar and oil until well blended.
On low speed, add flour and baking powder.  Mix until just blended.  The dough should be soft and sticky.
Lightly dust the dough and your fingers with a little additional flour.
Drop the dough from a teaspoon onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, spacing the cookies 2 inches apart.
Bake immediately for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly browned.
Remove cookie sheet from oven.  Using a metal spatula, remove cookies from sheet onto wire racks.
Cool on wire rack.
Frost with Lemon Confectioner's Frosting.  If it is necessary to freeze cookies, use heavy-duty plastic freezer bags and freeze the cookies unfrosted.
Confectioner's Frosting
6 cups confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup water
In an electric mixer on medium speed, beat all ingredients untill smooth.
Using a metal spatula, frost the tops of the cookies.  The frosting will drip down the sides and coat the cookies.
Dry the frosted cookies on wire cooling racks.  Store in an airtight container. 
Yields enough for 50 cookies. 
The original recipe comes from the cookbook, Italian Cookie Tray by Maria Bruscino Sanchez.

Zelda Fitzgerald (1900 - 1948)

Zelda Fitzgerald
The Woman behind the Artist
(1900 - 1948)
Now on virtually all high school reading lists, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels, especially The Great Gatsby, were initially commercial failures. Although we now consider Fitzgerald one of America’s greatest writers, he died young, penniless, and forgotten, until scholarly research revived his writing and reputation almost half a century later. But, what most don’t know is that his wife, Zelda Fitzgerald, was also a writer--or at least an aspiring one.
Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald began writing her first book while being treated for schizophrenia at the Phipps Clinic of John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Zelda finished writing her almost entirely autobiographical novel, Save Me the Waltz, in a two-month manic frenzy. She sent her manuscript to the renowned literary editor Maxwell Perkins.

Scott read the book after Zelda sent it out, and he was furious. He had been working for years on what would become Tender is the Night, and he felt that Zelda “plagiarized” the material he was using for his own book, which was also based on the couple’s life together. Scott insisted the book would not sell, calling Zelda a “third-rate writer.” Nonetheless, Perkins agreed to publish her book, although it was, as Scott predicted, received poorly. Save Me the Waltz was later reprinted in 2001.

In Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda, their marriage is documented in a series of love letters. Zelda was an unstable, gregarious socialite, and Scott was jealous, obsessive, and domineering. Still, the letters demonstrate an astoundingly deep affection for one another. Shortly before their marriage, in a letter to a friend, Fitzgerald calmed fears that the marriage might not work: “I fell in love with [Zelda’s] courage, sincerity, and her flaming self-respect, and it’s these things I’d believe in even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all that she should be. But of course the real reason…is that I love her and that’s the beginning and end of everything.”

As Fitzgerald turned to the bottle more and more, Zelda’s behavior grew increasingly erratic. After Save Me the Last Waltz was published, she spent the rest of her adult life in and out of mental hospitals. Although she never published work after her first failed novel, she dabbled in both art and ballet. Her interest in ballet was especially troubling, as she practiced to exhaustion, putting in eight hours of work every day.

When Scott died in Hollywood from a heart attack at 44, Zelda, staying at a hospital in North Carolina at the time, was unable to attend the funeral. Zelda died in a fire at the same hospital eight years later. We remember Zelda, whom her husband proclaimed “the first American flapper,” for her tumultuous love affair with one of America’s greatest artists. Yet she should still be understood as a fascinating figure in her own right, a woman who defined an era.

This guest post is contributed by Pamelia Brown, who writes for the site associate degree . She welcomes your comments at her email Id:


Monday, February 22, 2010

Giuseppina Pollari Terranova

Josephine Pullare Terranova (April 21 1889 - July 16, 1981)was born in San Stefano, Sicily but immigrated to New York City with her widowed mother.  After years of sexual abuse at the hands of her aunt and uncle, she stabbed them to death and was brought to trial on double murder chargesl. 

But the trial itself took an absurd turn when she was put through a battery of tests to see if she was sane enough to stand trial for murder.  The experts shot electricity through her body, jabbed needles into her cheeks, hit her ankles with steel and dropped rocks on her toes.  She pleaded with them to let her return to the Tombs.  She was steadfast in declaring she was neither crazy nor afraid.  Many New Yorkers were horrified at what the young teenage girl was made to endure.

The jury acquitted her in what was widely regarded as an act of jury nullification. She later moved west and finally settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, allegedly with the financial assistance of William Randolph Hearst.

The case was a major and sensational news story at the time, leading to a widespread public debate on the proper role of psychiatric expertise in judicial proceedings.  It was largely forgotten until the appearance of a 2004 article in the Western New England Law Review by Brown University Professor Jacob M. Appel.

Here is what the original article in The New York Times on February 24th, 1096 reported right after the crime took place:


Friday, February 19, 2010

Almond Puffs

This has got to be the most popular recipe I own. I've made it for wedding and baby showers, family get togethers, and pot luck dinners. Every time I do, I get asked for the recipe by just about everyone there. I think the almond puffs look difficult and fancy, but in reality, they are deceivingly simple.

These are not freezable and are terrible keepers. So when you make them, ensure you use them the same day or even the next.


Bottom layer:

1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons water

Middle layer:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup
3 eggs

Confectioner's Sugar Glaze

1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 or 2 teaspoons warm water
Chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut 1/2 cup butter into 1 cup flour. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons water over the mixture. Mix with a fork. Round into a ball. Divide in half. On an ungreased baking sheet, form each half into a strip 12 x 3 inches long. I do this with my hands. It's easier that way. The two strips should be 3 inches apart.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and quickly stir in almond extract and 1 cup flour. Stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, beat in eggs, all at one time until smooth. Divide in half. Spread each half evenly over strips, covering completely.

Bake about 60 minutes. Cool.

Mix 1 1/2 cups icing sugar, 2 tablespoons softened butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract, and 1 or teaspoons of warm water in a bowl.

Frost strips with confectioner's glaze. Sprinkle with almonds.

Adelina Patti (1843 - 1919)

Adelina Patti
1843 - 1919
Opera Singer

When it comes to opera, I was one of the most highly regarded female singers of the 19th century.  I earned exorbitant fees at the height of my career and was considered one of the most famous sopranos in history due to the beauty of my lyric voice and the unsurpassed quality of my bel canto technique. Giuseppe Verdi, wold famous composer, called me the greatest vocalist that he ever heard.

I was the youngest child of tenor Salvatore Patti (1800–1869) and soprano Caterina Barilli (died 1870).  My Italian parents were both working in Madrid, Spain, at the time.  My elder sisters, Amalia and Carlotta Patti were also singers. 

My family moved to New York City when I was a young child.  I grew up in the Wakefield section of the Bronx.  To this day, my family's home still stands. 

Age 15

My professional singing career began in childhood where I developed into a coloratura soprano.  I learned much of my singing technique from my brother-in-law Maurice Strakosch, although later in life Patti, like many famous singers, I claimed that I was entirely self-taught.

In 1861, at the age of eighteen, I was invited to Covent Garden, to take the soprano rôle of Amina in Bellini's La sonnambula.  My performance was a resounding success.  With the proceeds, I purchased a house in Clapham from which I travelled to perform in Paris and Vienna regularly.

In 1862 I sang John Howard Payne's Home, Sweet Home at the White House for Abraham and Mary Lincoln, who were mourning for their son Willie, who had died of typhoid.  The Lincolns were moved to tears and requested an encore.  This song would forever became associated with me.  I performed it many times as an encore by popular request.

I  sang in the United States, all over Europe, including Russia; and in South America, inspiring popular frenzy and critical raves wherever I went.  My girlish good looks made me an appealing stage presence.  In my prime, I reportedly had a beautiful soprano voice of birdlike purity.

I helped give fame to the title "Diva".  In my prime, I demanded to be paid $5000 a night, in gold, before the performance.  My contracts stipulated that my name was to be top-billed and larger than any other name in the cast.  My contracts also said that while I was "free to attend all rehearsals, I was not obligated to attend any."  I was known to have a stubborn personality and sharp business sense.  I had a parrot whom I had trained to shriek, "CASH! CASH!"

My last tour to the United States in 1903 was a critical and personal failure.  From then on I restricted myself to the occasional concert here or there, or to private performances at the little theater I built in my home at Craig-y-Nos in Wales.

By my 60s, my voice was well past its prime.  Many decades of busy use had weakened my breath control.  Nonetheless, the purity of my tone and the smoothness of my legato line remained uniquely impressive.  The records also display a lively singing personality as well as a surprisingly strong chest voice and a mellow timbre.  My trill is wonderful and my diction excellent.  Overall my recordings have a charm and musicality that hint why, at my peak, I commanded $5000 a night.

My piano accompanist Landon Ronald wrote: "When the little trumpet gave forth the beautiful tones, she went into ecstasies! She threw kisses into the trumpet and kept on saying, ‘Ah! Goodness me! Now I understand why I am Patti! Oh yes!  What a voice!  What an artist!  I understand everything! Her enthusiasm was so naïve and genuine that the fact that she was praising her own voice seemed to us all to be right and proper."
My personal life was not as successful as my professional life. I had a dalliance with the tenor Giovanni Mario, who later bragged at my first wedding that he had made love to me many times.

Engaged as a minor to Henri de Lossy, Baron of Ville, I married three times: first, in 1868, to Henri de Roger de Cahusac, marquess of Caux (1826-1889).  The marriage soon collapsed; we both had affairs and de Caux was granted a legal separation in 1877 and divorced in 1885.  The union was dissolved with bitterness and cost me half my fortune. There was a report in The New York Times in April 1875 that the Marquis was killed in a duel in St Petersburg whilst I was fulfilling a professional engagement!

I lived with the tenor Ernesto Nicolini (1834-1898) for many years until, following my divorce from Caux, and was able to marry him in 1886. That marriage lasted until his death and was happy, but Nicolini cut me out of his will, revealing tension between us in the last years.

My third and last marriage was to Baron Rolf Cederström (1870–1947), a priggish, but handsome, Swedish aristocrat many years my junior.  He severely curtailed my social life.  He cut down my domestic staff from 40 to 18, but gave me the devotion and flattery that I needed.  He became my sole legatee. After my death, he married a woman much younger than he. Their only daughter, Brita Yvonne Cederström (born 1924), became my sole heir.

In my retirement, I, Baroness Cederström, settled in the Swansea valley in south Wales, where I purchased Craig-y-Nos Castle.  There I had my own private theatre, a minature version of the one at Bayreuth.  I made some of my recordings at Craig-y-Nos.

I died at Craig-y-Nos and eight months later was buried near my father at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Queen Mary I (1516 - 1558)

I was born in England 1516.  I was the child of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. I spoke Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, Greek and was tutored in science and music.

In 1547, my father died and my half brother Edward VI assumed the throne as England's first Protestant monarch.

Edward VI

I did not wish to convert and practiced my Roman Catholic faith in private in my own chapel.  Edward discovered this and ordered me to immediately cease and desist.  I appealed to my cousin, Emperor Charles V who came to my aid.  He threatened to declare war against England if they continued to deny my rights to practice my faith. This worked and I was allowed to worship, but always in private.

Charles V

In 1553, while I was staying at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, Edward died.  In his will, he tried unsuccessfully to exclude me and my half sister Elizabeth from the line of succession of the throne of England. His attempt failed and because was next in line, I assumed the throne.

One of my first acts was to replace my half-brother's protestant proclamations with old English laws in order to allow Catholicism back in England.  This action on my part made heresay against the church punishable by death and earned me the nickname "Bloody Mary". Although my reign was short, 300 of my loyal subjects were charged with heresay and burned at the stake including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer.

Thomas Cranmer

I needed to produce a male heir to succeed me.  In 1555 I married Prince Philip II of Spain, regardless of the disapproving English population.

Phillip II of Spain

On two occassions during our marriage, I thought I was pregnant, but both times the symptoms were false. In the end, I remained barren.

At the behest of my husband, I supported Spain during the war against France. As a result, England lost Calais, her only foothold in the country.  In 1558, Philip II left me and returned to Spain to claim the Spanish throne.

Alone and childless, I turned my attentions upon my half-sister, Elizabeth, who was next in line to the throne of England. Elizabeth was an Anglican Protestant and I tried diligently to get her to convert to Roman Catholicism. All my attempts failed.

Druing the years of my reign, England suffered.  The economy was in ruin and there was much religious dissent. England's power and influence over Europe no longer existed.

In the end, it was influenza and uterine or ovarian cancer that claimed my life. I died at the age of forty-two at St. James's Palace on 17 November 1558.
They buried me in Westminster Abbey beside Elizabeth. The Latin inscription on their tomb translates to:

"Partners both in Throne and grave, here rest we two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hope of one resurrection".

Monday, February 15, 2010

1850 Vampire Killing Kit

Recently, vampire killing kits have begun to resurface, no doubt due to the popularity stirred up by the Twilight series of novels. The kits were put together in Boston in 1850's. They are beautifully crafted, elegant in their trappings and come complete with stake and holy water and sometimes a pistol.

The kits are reportedly produced a man by the name of Professor Ernst Blomberg.  Several of these kits have surfaced recently, many selling at auction between $12,000 and $20,000.

One such kit is described at the Museum of Supernatural History website:

"The Vampire Killing Kit was sold by Professor Ernst Blomberg in the second half of the 19th century. The kit was made by Nicolas Plomdeur, a well-known gunmaker from Liège.  This particular box, which has been in the Surnateum's collection since the late 19th century, has recently been reunited with the accompanying pistol (made in Spain in the late 18th century, originally a flintlock but later converted to a percussion cap in the first half of the 19th century); the gun was lost under circumstances described below. Manufactured in two separate stages, it contains all of the accessories used to maintain the pistol, as well as a large bottle of holy water, small bottles which once contained Professor Blomberg's anti-vampire serum and garlic juice to impregnate the silver bullets, a small bottle of sulphur powder, whose odour could drive off vampires. A crucifix made of wood and copper, various blessed medals, a small bottle of salts, a copy of the 1819 book entitled Histoire des Fantômes et des Démons by Gabrielle de P. (see the Library)."


Friday, February 12, 2010

Marguerite Pitre

Marguerite Pitre
Unknown - January 9, 1953)


Marguerite Pitre had the misfortune of meeting Joseph Albert Guay through her brother, Generoux Ruest, who was an employee of the notorious Mr. Guay.

Joseph Albert Guay was born in Quebec in 1917. As the youngest of 5 children, he was the center of attention. In his youth, he sold watches and jewellery and worked solely on commission. Being the spoiled youngest child of his family, he was used to having his way, so he evolved into a very tenacious successful salesman.

In 1939, at the start of World War II, he got a job at Canadian Arsenals Limited at St. Malo, Quebec. While working there, he met and married Rita Morel. It was a very happy marriage at first, full of love and brimming with joy. Then, Rita gave birth to their first child. The honeymoon was over, for Joseph did not like playing second fiddle to an infant.

He worked at the Canadian Arsenals until the arsenal closed in 1945. That's when he returned to what he knew best and he started a small jewelry and watch repair shop in Quebec City. But business was slow and Joseph struggled to scrape out a living. His debts piled up. His eye began to wander the more his marriage failed.

Then, he met Marie-Ange Robitaille, a very beautiful young waitress. They began dating. She knew him only as Roger Angers. When her father learned of her illicit affair, he kicked her out of the house. Joseph came to her rescue. He proposed to her, ring and all, and with Marguerite's help, set his lover up in a small cozy apartment, even though he was not free to marry. In those days, Quebec was very Catholic and a divorce was out of the question.

Unfortunately, Rita discovered the arrangement and confronted the pair. Marie-Ange immediately left Joseph.

Joseph was furious at Rita. In his ire, he began to plot her death. At first, he considered poison. But then a brilliant idea came to mind. As a jewelery and watch repairman, he had travelled frequently by airplane to deliver or receive merchandise. The easiest way to get rid of his wife, once and for all, was to get her on a plane and then bomb it in mid flight.

Marguerite's brother, Genereux, designed, built, and packaged a timed bomb for Joseph. Joseph convinced Marguerite to deliver the package to Canadian Pacific Airlines where it would be flown to Baie-Comeau, on the same flight as Rita.

On the morning of September 9, 1949, Joseph took Rita to the airport in Quebec City. It was common to purchase flight insurance at the time, so Joseph took out a $10,000 policy on her life.

41 minutes after the flight took to the skies, the plane exploded over Sault-aux-Cochons, a town located at the confluence of little St. Francis River and the St. Lawrence. All 23 persons on board, including Rita, died in the explosion.

Joseph was overjoyed. He was finally free of his wife and had a cool $10,000 in his pocket.  Marguerite, however, was horrified at what she had done. She attempted suicide 10 days after the bombing. While in hospital, she confessed to her part in the crime which led to all three being arrested.

Guay was arrested two weeks after the crash. He was tried in 1950. Pitre testified against Guay in his trial, describing how she bought dynamite at his instruction and delivered a “mystery parcel” to the air freight on the doomed plane. Guay lost his trial and was sentenced to hang. After his conviction, he issued a statement, claiming that Ruest and Pitre had knowingly abetted his plans. He executed on January 12, 1951, at the age of 33. His last words were “Au moins, je meurs célèbre.” (At least I die famous).

It was Ruest’s turn to face trial. He too was convicted and sentenced to hang. On the day of his execution on July 25, 1952, he was suffering from osseous turberculosis and had to be brought to the gallows in a wheelchair.

Pitre was the last to face her trial. She described how Guay had made her do it. Pitre insisted, though, that her own involvement was unintentional, and that she thought the box held a statue even though it was her own brother who had fashioned the explosives into a time bomb. She lost and was also sentenced to hang. Thirty-five minutes past midnight on January 9, 1953, Marguerite Pitre became the 13th and last woman executed in Canada. She faced her sentence in Montreal’s Bourdeaux gaol.


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