Monday, March 29, 2010

A brief history of Gummi Candy

The first gummi candi was invented by a man named Hans Riegel during the 1920s. Riegel owned a German candy company called Haribo.

Gummi candy made its debut in North America in 1982.

The gummi worm, 2 inches in length, was made by another German gummi candy manufacturer called Trolli. Ever since Gummi worms are the most popular gummi candy ever made.

Gummi candy is made with edible gelatin which gives it elasticity, the desired chewy consistency, and a longer shelf life. Gelatin is not new. It has been in use since the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs.

The ingredients of gummi candies are simple. Corn starch, corn syrup, sugar, gelatin, color, and flavor.

The ingredients are mixed and pumped into a coil candy cooker approximately 128 feet long made of stainless steel that cooks the candy by steam outside of the coil. When it's done cooking the cooker pumps the gummi into a vacuum chamber where excess moisture is removed. AFter the vacuum chamber the candy moves to a mixing station where colors, flavors, acids, and fruit concentrates are added. Next, a starch moulding machine pumps the gummi stock into starch filled mould boards for shaping. AFter curing a while, the gummies are removed from the moulds, packaged, delivered, and sold.

Gummi bears have become so popular, they have their own cult following and even a hit song. Enjoy.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Heloise (1101 - 1162)

Heloise was completely unlike my perceptions of what medieval women were like. I was under the impression that the women of this time period were weak in spirit, obedient, and usually chaste. I did expect that some women might have engaged in pre-marital sex, but I thought that these women would have regarded such behavior as a disgrace. Heloise completely changed my misconceptions of medieval women; she seems more like a twentieth century woman in her strength and personal characteristics.

While Heloise did succumb to her husband’s, Abelard, desire for her to join a convent, this action of Heloise’s does not exhibit weakness but rather is an indication of her innate strength. I believe a weak woman would have found another man, since Abelard was now unable to satisfy a woman physically. In joining the convent, Heloise proves that she was not a slave to human desires but was a slave, perhaps, to the man she loved unconditionally. This kind of love that Heloise had for Abelard is one that only people strong in spirit can have for another human being. Her love did not fade at all, even though they were separate for many years.

Heloise joined the convent for two reasons: Abelard wished for her to do it and she deemed it as retribution for Abelard’s castration. Abelard wrote in his Historia calamitatum that Heloise opposed their marriage and said “the world would justly exact punishment from her if she removed such a light [meaning Abelard] from its midst” (Abelard 70). It is obvious that Heloise viewed the convent as her punishment for marrying Abelard and his subsequent mutilation.

Many people might think that Heloise’s submission to Abelard is weakness but I do not. Heloise was a very intelligent and educated woman; her submission was the result of the love she had for him, not inherent weakness. It takes great strength of mind to put aside our own desires and put someone else’s wishes before our own. This is what Heloise did. She wrote in her letter to Abelard, “God knows I never sought anything in you except yourself; I wanted simply you, nothing of yours. I looked for no marriage-bond, no marriage portion, and it was not my own pleasures and wishes I sought to gratify, as you well know, but yours” (Heloise 113). To be so enamoured of someone requires tremendous strength.

Even though Heloise was extremely successful as a nun and an abbess and was praised by many, there is no indication that Heloise was completely in the service of God in her duties as a nun. Heloise wrote this to Abelard:

It was not any sense of vocation which brought me as a young girl to accept the austerities of the cloister, but your bidding alone, and if I deserve no gratitude from you, you may judge for yourself how my labours are in vain. I can expect no reward for this from God, for it is certain that I have done nothing as yet for love of him (Heloise 116).

Heloise viewed herself as a hypocrite; she said that men who did not know her secret longings praised her for her virtue. She wrote Abelard, “How can it be called repentance for sins, however great the mortification of the flesh, if the mind still retains the will to sin and is on fire with its old desires?” (Heloise 132). This sentiment proves Heloise never gave herself completely to God, because she always belonged to Abelard. To shut oneself in a nunnery when one’s heart is not in it requires enormous strength.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Margaret Mitchell (1900 - 1949)

Margaret Mitchell


I was born in Atlanta, Georgia to Eugene Mitchell, a lawyer, and Mary Isabelle, much referred to as Maybelle, a suffragist of Irish Catholic origin.  My brother, Stephens, was four years my senior.  My childhood was spent in the laps of Civil War veterans and of my maternal relatives, who had lived through the Civil War.

After graduating from Washington Seminary, I attended Smith College, but withdrew during my freshman year in 1918.  I returned to Atlanta to take over the household after my mother's death earlier that year from the great Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

Shortly afterward, I defied the conventions of my class and times by taking a job at the Atlanta Journal. Under the name Peggy Mitchell I wrote a weekly column for the newspaper's Sunday edition, thereby making my mark as one of the first female columnists at the South's largest newspaper.  My first professional writing assignment was an interview with an Atlanta socialite, whose couture-buying trip to Italy was interrupted by the Fascist takeover.

I married Berrien “Red” Upshaw in 1922, but we were divorced because he was a bootlegger and an abusive alcoholic.  I later married his friend, John Marsh, on July 4, 1925; who had been best man at my first wedding.  Both men courted me in 1921 and 1922, but unfortunately Upshaw proposed first.

I wrote the novel Gone with the Wind, selling nearly as many copies as the bible.

I began writing Gone With the Wind while bedridden with a broken ankle.  My husband, John Marsh, brought home historical books from the public library to amuse me while I recuperated.  After I read all the historical books in the library, he told me, "If you want another book, why don't you write your own?" I liked that idea and drew upon encyclopedic knowledge of the Civil War and dramatic moments from  own life, and typed her epic novel on an old Remington typewriter.  Originally, I called the heroine "Pansy O'Hara", and Tara was "Fountenoy Hall".  I also considered naming the novel Tote The Weary Load or Tomorrow Is Another Day.  Finally I settled on a phrase from a favorite poem by Ernest Dowson: "I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind..."

I wrote for my own amusement, and with solid support from my husband, kept my novel secret from my friends.  I hid the voluminous pages under towels, disguising them as a divan, hid them in my closets, and under my bed.  I wrote the last chapter first, and skipped around from chapter to chapter.  My husband regularly proofread the growing manuscript to help in continuity.  By 1929, my ankle had healed, most of the book was written, and I lost interest in pursuing my literary efforts.  The bulk of the work was written between 1925 and 1930 in an apartment I called "The Dump": the Crescent Apartments are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are operated as a museum to my memory.

Although I insisted that my Gone With the Wind characters were not based on real people, modern researchers have found similarities to some of the people in my life, and people I knew or heard of.  For example, the character Rhett Butler may have been modeled after my first husband.  The last thing he said to me was, "My dear, I don't give a damn", which Rhett says to Scarlett before he leaves her in the book. "Frankly" was added for the movie. 

I lived as a modest Atlanta newspaperwoman until a visit from Macmillan editor Harold Latham, who visited Atlanta in 1935. Latham was scouring the South for promising writers, and I agreed to escort him around Atlanta at the request of my friend, Lois Cole, who worked for Latham. Latham was enchanted with me, and asked if I had ever written a book. I demurred. "Well, if you ever do write a book, please show it to me first!" Latham implored. Later that day, a friend of mine, having heard this conversation, laughed. "Imagine, anyone as silly as you writing a book!" she said. I stewed over this comment, went home, and found most of the old, crumbling envelopes containing my disjointed manuscript. I
arrived at The Georgian Terrace Hotel, just as Latham prepared to depart Atlanta. "Here," I said, "take this before I change my mind!"

Latham bought an extra suitcase to accommodate the giant manuscript. When I arrived home, I was horrified over my impetuous act, and sent a telegram to Latham: "Have changed my mind. Send manuscript back." But Latham had read enough of the manuscript to realize it would be a blockbuster. He wrote to me of his thoughts about its potential success. MacMillan soon sent me a check in advance to encourage me to complete the novel — I had not composed a first chapter. I completed the work in March 1936.

Herschel Brickell, a famous literary critic for the New York Evening Post, reviewed my book in an article titled " “Margaret Mitchell’s First Novel, ‘Gone With the Wind,’ a Fine Panorama of the Civil War Period.” His review helped launch my career by calling attention to what would become one of the best novels of the Southern Renaissance. Over time, we became extremely close; much of our correspondence has been published and is available in the archives at the University of Mississippi. Brickell was also a correspondent, friend, and adviser to other southern writers including Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, William Alexander Percy, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Zora Neale Hurston, Stark Young and Allen Tate.

Gone With the Wind was published on June 30, 1936. The book was dramatized by David O. Selznick, and released three years later. The premiere of the film was held in Atlanta on December 15, 1939.

It was such an overnight success that its publisher George Platt Brett, President of Macmillan Publishing, gave all its employees an 18% bonus in 1936.

My grave is in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. I was struck by a speeding automobile as I crossed Peachtree Street at 13th Street with my husband, John Marsh, on my way to see the British film A Canterbury Tale at The Peachtree Art Theatre in August 1949. I died at Grady Hospital five days later without regaining consciousness. The driver, Hugh Gravitt, was an off-duty taxi driver. He was driving his personal vehicle at the time, but his occupation led to many erroneous references over the years to my having been struck by a taxi. After the accident, Gravitt was arrested for drunken driving and released on a $5,450 bond until my death several days later. Georgia Gov. Herman Talmadge announced that the state would tighten regulations for licensing taxi drivers.

Gravitt was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served 11 months in prison. His conviction was controversial because witnesses said I stepped into the street without looking, and my friends claimed I often did this.

The house where I lived while writing my manuscript is known today as The Margaret Mitchell House and  located in Midtown Atlanta. A museum dedicated to Gone with the Wind lies a few miles north of Atlanta, in Marietta, Georgia. It is called "Scarlett On the Square", as it is located on the historic Marietta Square. It houses costumes from the film, screenplays, and many artifacts from Gone With the Wind including  my collection of foreign editions of my book. The house and the museum are major tourist destinations. The 1994 TV movie A Burning Passion: The Margaret Mitchell Story, starring Shannen Doherty, told the story of my professional and personal life through the time of the publication of "Gone With the Wind."
Clayton County, the area just south of Atlanta and the setting for the fictional O'Hara plantation, Tara, maintains "The Road to Tara" Museum in the old railroad depot in downtown Jonesboro.

For decades it was thought that I had only ever written one complete novel. But in the 1990s, a manuscript by me of a novel entitled Lost Laysen was discovered among a collection of letters I had given in the early 1920s to a suitor named Henry Love Angel. The manuscript had been written in two notebooks in 1916. In the 1990s, Angel's son discovered the manuscript and sent it to the Road to Tara Museum, which authenticated the work. A special edition of Lost Laysen — a romance set in the South Pacific — was edited by Debra Freer, augmented with an account of my romance with Angel including a number of my letters to him, and published by the Scribner imprint of Simon and Schuster in 1996.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Queen Eadgyth (910 - 26 January 946)

For an author of historical fiction, nothing is more gratifying or exciting than one of your characters returning to life or to the world today.

Anyone who knows me, can tell you that I've been busy at work writing a novel about Queen Mechthild, the first queen of Germany in the 10th century.

It is suspected that the tomb and bones of Eadgyth, the granddaugher of Alfred the Great and sister to King Athelstan, has recently been rediscovered in a grave in Magdeburg Germany, her remains intact.  According to my research, she was indeed buried there, as was her husband, Otto the Great, son of Queen Mechthild and King Heinrich the Fowler. Authorities will be verifying her DNA.

The discovery of the tomb was made during a wider research project into the cathedral in 2008 by a German team.

Researchers originally thought the tomb was a cenotaph, but when they removed the lid they discovered the lead coffin which bore her name, Queen Eadgyth, and accurately recorded the date - 1510 - when her remains were transferred there.

The queen was known to have been buried initially in the Monastery of Mauritius in Magdeburg, and if bones were to be found, they would have been moved later to this tomb.

Here's what it must have looked like when they looked down on her tomb:

The casket inside was made of lead.

Her body was wrapped in silk and is believed to be 30 or 40 years old.  This is consistent with the knowledge that she died at the age of 36.

Here's the photo of them raising her body from the tomb.

The bones have now been brought back to Eadgyth's native Wessex for scientific tests to fully confirm her identity. 

And thus, after more than a thousand years, the granddaughter of Alfred the Great, sister of King Athelstan, and wife of Otto I the Great, has finally returned home to Wessex England.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sarah Helen Power Whitman (1803 - 1878)

Sarah Helen Power Whitman
1803 - 1878


I was born in Providence, Rhode Island on January 19, 1803, exactly six years before Edgar Allan Poe was born.  In 1828, I married the poet and writer John Winslow Whitman.  John had been co-editor of the Boston Spectator and Ladies' Album, which allowed me to publish some of my poetry using the name "Helen".  My husband died in 1833.  We never had any children together.

I had a heart condition that I treated with ether which I breathed in through my handkerchief.

I was a good friend of Margaret Fuller and other intellectuals in New England.  I became interested in transcendentalism through this social group and after hearing Ralph Waldo Emerson lecture in Boston, Massachusetts and in Providence.

I also became interested in science, mesmerism, and the occult.  I had a penchant for wearing black and a coffin-shaped charm around my neck and practiced séances in my home on Sundays, attempting to communicate with the dead.

I first met Edgar A. Poe in Providence in July 1845.  He was attending a lecture by friend and poet Frances Sargent Osgood.  As Poe and Osgood walked, they passed by my home while I was standing in my rose garden.  Poe declined to be introduced to me.  By this time, I was already an admirer of Poe's stories.

"I can never forget the impressions I felt in reading a story of his for the first time... I experienced a sensation of such intense horror that I dared neither look at anything he had written nor even utter his name... By degrees this terror took the character of fascination—I devoured with a half-reluctant and fearful avidity every line that fell from his pen".

A friend, Annie Lynch, had asked me to write a poem for a Valentine's Day party in 1848.  I agreed and wrote one for Poe, though he was not in attendance.  When Poe heard about the tribute, "To Edgar Allan Poe," he returned the favor by anonymously sending his previously-printed poem "To Helen".  I did not know it was from Poe himself and therefore I did not respond.  Three months later, Poe wrote me an entirely new poem, "To Helen," referencing the moment from several years earlier where he first saw me in the rose garden behind my house.

Poe was on his way to see me at the time of his alleged suicide attempt.  Before boarding a train to Boston from Lowell, Massachusetts on his way to Providence, he took two doses of laudanum.  By the time he arrived in Boston he was very sick and close to death.  He spent four days in Providence with me immediately after.  Though we shared a common interest in literature, Poe was concerned about my friends, many for whom he had little regard, including Elizabeth F. Ellet, Margaret Fuller, and several other Transcendentalists.  He said to me, "My heart is heavy, Helen, for I see that your friends are not my own."

We exchanged letters and poetry for some time before discussing engagement.  After Poe lectured in Providence in December 1848, reciting a poem by Edward Coote Pinkney directly to me, I agreed to an "immediate marriage".  Poe agreed to remain sober during our engagement — a vow he violated within only a few days.

My mother discovered that Poe was also pursuing Annie Richmond and childhood sweetheart Sarah Elmira Royster.  Even so, the wedding had come so close to occurring that, in January 1849, a newspaper in New London, Connecticut and others announced our union and wished us well.  At one point, we chose the wedding date of December 25, 1848, despite criticism of the relationship from friends and enemies alike.

I received an anonymous letter while I was at the library suggesting that Poe had broken his vow to me to stay sober, directly leading to the end of our relationship.  Poe addressed a letter to me in which he blamed my mother for our break-up.

Poe ended his relationship with me on the day before our wedding by committing unnamed drunken outrages and made a necessary a summons of the police".

I died at the age of 75 in 1878 at the home of a friend at 97 Bowen St. in Providence, Rhode Island, and was buried in the North Burial Ground.  In my will, I used the bulk of my estate to publish a volume of my own poetry and that of my sister.  I also left money to the Providence Association for the Benefit of Colored Children and the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Matilda of Flanders

Matilda of Flanders
(1031 - 1083)
Queen consort of the English
Duchess consort of the Normans

My true name is Maud Le-Vieux, but I was crowned Matilda of Flanders.  I was Queen consort of the Kingdom of England and the wife of William I the Conqueror.

I was the daughter of Baldwin V, Count of Flanders, and Adèle (1000-1078/9), daughter of Robert II of France.

I was extremely short of stature and gained fame as being England's smallest queen.

When the representative of William, Duke of Normandy (later king of England as William the Conqueror), came to ask for my hand in marriage, I replied that I was far too high-born (being descended from King Alfred the Great of England) to consider marrying a bastard.

When that was repeated to William, he rode from Normandy to Bruges, found me on my way to church, dragged me off my horse by my long braids, threw me down in the street in front of my flabbergasted attendants, and then rode off. 

Naturally my father took offense at this but, before they drew swords, I settled the matter by deciding to marry him, and even a papal ban (on the grounds of consanguinity because we were cousins) did not dissuade me.  We were married in 1053after we promised the pope to build an abbey.

There were rumours that I had been in love with the English ambassador to Flanders, a Saxon named Brihtric, who declined y advances.  Whatever the truth of the matter, years later when I was acting as Regent for William in England, I used my authority to confiscate Brihtric's lands and throw him into prison, where he died.

When William was preparing to invade England, I outfitted a ship, the Mora, with my own money and gave it to him.  For many years it was thought that I had some involvement in the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry, but it was commissioned by William's half-brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, and made by English artists in Kent.

I bore my husband eleven children, and he was faithful to me, at least up until the time our son Robert rebelled against his father and I sided with Robert against William.

After I died, in 1083 at the age of 51, William became tyrannical, and people blamed it on his having lost me in death.  Contrary to the belief that I was buried at St. Stephen's, also called l'Abbaye-aux-Hommes in Caen, Normandy, where William was eventually buried, I am entombed at l'Abbaye aux Dames, which is the Sainte-Trinité church, also in Caen.

Of particular interest is the 11th century slab, a sleek black stone decorated with my epitaph, marking my grave at the rear of the church.  It is of special note since the grave marker for William was replaced as recently as the beginning of the 19th century.

In 1819 and 1959 my incomplete skeleton was examined in France, and my bones were measured to determine my actual height.  The 1819 estimate was under five feet, while the 1959 estimate was 5' (152 cm) tall. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sentence of Marriage by Shayne Parkinson

Sentence of Marriage is the first of three books of the saga Promises to Keep by Shayne Parkinson, which takes us to New Zealand, 1880.

Twelve-year-old Amy lives on a farm and dreams of becoming a teacher and work in a big city. However, her dreams are thwarted when her father brings a new wife to be stepmother to Amy and her two brothers.

Amy, who has lost her mother far too soon, lives on a farm in New Zealand. She has big dreams which are nurtured by the village’s teacher. Although her father is not pleased, she aims to become a teacher, too. When she loses her grandmother, she cannot pursue her dreams any further, but must run the household. She manages well until one day, her father returns with Susannah, his new wife, from a trip to Auckland. Susannah loathes the hard farm life and especially Amy. When Susannah’s brother James comes to spent the summer, love spins Amy’s life out of control.

Shayne Parkinson allows us to acquaint ourselves with Amy and her world gradually. ‘Sentence of Marriage’ takes us back in time and introduces us to the realities of a young girl, growing up on a farm. There are friends and fiends, laughter and tears, injustice and hope. The plot is a bit predictable, but the characters are painted with love – and this shines through the work.

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