Heated Political Battle Led to Frosty Dessert: by Marilyn Ostermiller

Looking for a romantic treat for special someone? You might want to consider whipping up a Baked Alaska, the classic dessert that’s fiery hot on the outside with a melting heart and richly delicious all over.

In it’s traditional form, Baked Alaska is concocted with hard ice cream on a base of sponge cake and covered in a shell of toasted meringue. Plan ahead because the cake must be baked and cooled before topping it with layers of firmly frozen ice cream. Just before it’s time to serve dessert, whip several egg whites into a stiff meringue, spread it completely over the ice cream and cake and place it in a very hot oven for a couple of minutes, until the meringue begins to brown. The trick to making sure the ice cream doesn’t melt is to seal the cake and ice cream with the meringue. Here’s a recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/baked-alaska-recipe.html


If the classic form is daunting, consider a small version made with brownies that children with some experience in the kitchen can help assemble. This version with easy-to-follow directions comes from Baking Bites, a food blog written by Nicole Weston, a pastry chef, food writer and recipe developer based in Los Angeles, CA http://bakingbites.com/2015/07/brownie-baked-alaska/

Baked Alaska Day is commemorated nationally in February.

According to the National Day Calendar organization, Baked Alaska was created by a celebrity Victorian chef, Charles Ranhofer. The Frenchman was the chef at the swanky Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City in the mid 1860s, where he became notorious for naming new and renaming old dishes after famous people and events.

In 1867, a political debate was raging over the potential purchase of Alaska from Russia. Secretary of State William Seward agreed to a purchase price of $7 million and Alaska became a United States territory. Those who were of the opinion the purchase was a giant mistake referred to the purchase as “Seward’s Folly”.

Capitalizing on the heated controversy surrounding the purchase in the frozen north, Ranhofer’s Baked Alaska fit the bill. It was cold, nearly frozen and quickly toasted in a hot oven prior to serving.

Who knew!?       Marilyn Ostermiller

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

Anyone out there “daring” enough to try making your own BAKED ALASKA? If you do, send me the photo and I’ll post it here on the blog!


Marilyn Ostermiller Rides the Rails For Summer Fun!

Tracking Back Through Time by Marilyn Ostermiller

Got a yen to get off the fast track? If you’re looking for a summer adventure that takes you back to the trains that ran 100 years ago, you can ride on any of the numerous restored steam locomotives across the country. These trips offer views that can’t be enjoyed from the highway. And, depending of which train you hop on, you can enjoy the scenery in accommodations reminiscent of drawing rooms from that period.

This sampler of vintage train tours starts with an East Coast option and heads west:

  • Black River & Western Railroad, which dates back to 1854. Board at Flemington, N.J for a 25-minute trek to Ringoes, N.J. After a 10 to 15 minute stop, which includes a visit to a museum car and a gift shop, it’s all aboard for the return trip. For information about tickets, train schedule, special events visit: org
  • Strasburg Railroad, Ronks, PA. A 45-minute, round trip through the tranquil Amish countryside to Paradise, PA, and back. Travelers pass by more than 1,000 acres of farm fields. The excursion can be extended by getting off mid-trip at two convenient recreation areas. Choice of seating includes first-class, open air, coach and dining cars. For information visit: Strasburgrailroad.com or call (866) 725-9666.
  • Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Board in Durango, CO. and travel 45 miles north through the valley of the Animas River before the canyon narrows, all roads vanish and for 30 miles there exists only the railroad, the glacial green waters of the river and the peaks of the San Juan Mountains. Narrators relate historic tales of the settling of the west dressed in period clothing. Season ends Oct. 29, 2016. Information: durangotrain.com. Reservations: (970) 247-2733.     473 Higline Sept2013 YLashmett wm
  • Grand Canyon Railway. Board at Williams Depot in Williams, Ariz. and arrive at the Grand Canyon Depot, just 200 yards from the edge of the canyon’s South Rim. The 2 1/4 hour trip covers 65 miles of classic Old West territory, including high desert plains with vistas, small arroyos and portions of the world’s largest Ponderosa pine forest. Vintage 1950s and 1970s-era diesel locomotives are used throughout the year. On select dates, the historic steam locomotive is put on the front of the train for the round trip journey. For reservations, call 1-800-THE-TRAIN (1-800-843-8724) or visit:  thetrain.com

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

Link to Youtube video:  https://youtu.be/E4cTE18NnY8        Marilyn Ostermiller






Looking for LOVE in all the Right Places: by Marilyn Ostermiller

LOVE is in the air.

And on the sidewalk.

And in the park, as Valentine’s Day approaches.

That’s LOVE as in Robert Indiana’s iconic sculpture. The image is the word LOVE in upper-case letters, arranged in a square with a tilted letter “O.” The face of LOVE’s letters are scarlet, set off with vivid shades of blue and green.     

Philadelphia LOVE Statue

Manhatten LOVE Statue

Indiana created the image in 1965 when he was commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art to design a Christmas card. The next year Indiana’s sculpture of his LOVE image was featured in a solo exhibition at the Stable Gallery in New York City. That marked a turning point in the pop artist’s career.

Since then, LOVE has been emblazoned on countless prints, paintings, banners, rings, tapestries, and stamps. In 1973, the U.S. Postal Service put LOVE on the first of its regular series of “love stamps.”

LOVE sculptures have been installed in New York and Philadelphia. Additionally, Indiana created similar sculptures in French and Hebrew. They are in accessible locations and are popular photo settings for the romantically-inclined.

Where to visit them:

— New York City: The corner of Sixth Avenue and 55th Street It is on the street, accessible 24/7.
— Philadelphia: JFK Plaza, 1599 John F. Kennedy Boulevard. It is unofficially known as Love Plaza. It was installed there diagonally across from City Hall.

Also in Philadelphia through this coming spring is the AMOR sculpture, which Indiana created in 1998. It is similar to the LOVE sculpture, even the “O” is tilted the same way. The Philadelphia Museum of Art borrowed it to honor Pope Francis when he visited the United States last year. The colorful, six-foot-high sculpture can be visited on the museum’s East Terrace, overlooking the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. That was the site of the public papal mass that culminated the World Meeting of Families 2015. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA. Open Tuesday through Sunday. http://www.philamuseum.org

The AMOR sculpture is owned by The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden, which is on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW. It is on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art from the Morgan Art Foundation.

Images of the art Indiana created throughout his career can be found online at http://www.robertindiana.com where Indiana had this to say about his LOVE image:

“I had no idea LOVE would catch on the way it did. Oddly enough, I wasn’t thinking at all about anticipating the Love generation and hippies. It was a spiritual concept. It isn’t a sculpture of love any longer. It’s become the very theme of love itself.” — Robert Indiana

Marilyn Ostermiller
This post was prepared by Marilyn Ostermiller, a long-time business journalist who has begun writing for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

Home From School:Be Prepared With a Snow Day Survival Kit by Marilyn Ostermiller

Even though it’s been a mild winter so far for most of us, we WILL get snow.  And there WILL be snow days when the kids are off from school.  Before they get bored or antsy from being stuck indoors, have a SNOW SURVIVAL KIT ready.  Here’s Marilyn Ostermiller to tell you what you need.

Snow Day.

Do those two words elicit joyful shouts at your house on a wintery school day? They promise plenty of family fun, especially if you have surprises ready.

The children will want to build a snowman, sled down a hill, build a snow fort, have a snowball fight or even help shovel.

BE PREPARED: Check now to be sure everyone has boots, jackets, mittens and caps that fit.

Mother Nature supplies the raw material, but here are extras to tuck away:
— My Very Own Snowman Kit from Bed Bath & Beyond includes black top hat, “coal” buttons, a red, fringed scarf and a nonperishable carrot.
— Ideal Sno-Brick Maker can speed the building of snow forts. http://www.amazon.com

AFTER SNOW FUN: When the children come in with rosy cheeks and a hearty appetite your pantry can hold all the ingredients for seasonal cookies and hot cocoa.

Melting Snowman Cookies recipe
from Angela Gray at http://www.justapinch.com

12 sugar cookies, 3 or 4 inches in diameter. (Bake your own, use prepared refrigerated sugar cookie dough or buy packaged cookies.)
12 large marshmallows
Small tubes of “Writing Icing” in red, green, blue and black. Yellow optional.
Royal icing (1/4 cup pasteurized egg whites, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3 cups powdered sugar.)                                       IMG_0520

1. Set on cookies on a flat surface.
2. Prepare Royal Icing. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/royal-icing-recipe
3. Spread icing unevenly on each cookie so it looks like melting snow.
4. To heat marshmallows, spray a microwave safe plate with cooking spray, and place marshmallows on it. Set the microwave for 30 seconds, but watch the marshmallows as they cook. Stop the microwave as soon as they start to get puffy. Do not let them double in size.
5. Carefully pull the marshmallows off, by the base, and set them on top of the frosted cookies. It is easier if you spray your fingers with cooking spray or grease them up with shortening. Push in the tops very gently. You may need to use a little icing on the bottom of the marshmallow to get it to stick to the icing.
6. Using the “Writing Icing” draw twigs for arms, facial features, buttons and scarf.


Have the ingredients for making your hot cocoa ready: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/9335/hot-cocoa-mix/   or add hot water to packets of cocoa drink mix. Pour into mugs and top with the extra marshmallows.

These snow day adventure books, http://www.amazon.com, round out the fun:

The Snowy Day, a 1963 Caldecott Medal winner, written by Ezra Jacks Keats. This picture book tells the tale of a boy waking to discover a snow-draped city. He spends the day experimenting with footprints, knocking snow from a tree, creating snow angels, and trying to save a snowball for the next day.

Fancy Nancy: There’s No Day Like a Snow Day by Jane O’Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser. Ooh la la! It’s a blizzard. School is cancelled. And Nancy, JoJo, Bree, and Freddy are “tres” excited to go outside and play. From making snow angels to building snowmen to catching snowflakes . . . everyone has “snow” much fun!

Happy Snow Days!               Marilyn Ostermiller
This post was prepared by Marilyn Ostermiller, a long-time business journalist who has begun writing for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne 

It’s Time to Visit the Pumpkin Patch by Marilyn Ostermiller

Pumpkins are ripe on the vine and ready for picking now through early November. A trip to a pumpkin patch can be fun for the whole family. Even toddlers can manage to capture one just the right size.

Some search for the perfect pumpkin to sculpt into a Jack O’ Lantern. Others are interested in making their own seasoned pumpkin seeds or even pumpkin pie.

There are two types of pick-your-own pumpkin patches, those where you go out into the field and pull them off the vine and those where the pumpkins have already been pulled off the vine. Those that are off the vine are usually displayed either out in the field where they grew or on tables. Some pumpkin patches provide entertainment and seasonal treats like apple cider and donuts.                    IMG_1022

Where to pick pumpkins:
For a list of pumpkin patches across the country, visit the Department of Agriculture website in states were pumpkins are grown.

Here’s a trio of popular pumpkin patches in New Jersey:
Alstede Farms, 1 Alstede Farms Lane, Chester, NJ 07930. Phone: 908-879-7189. Email: info@alstedefarms.com. Weekend activities include picking, hayrack rides and a 10-acre corn maze.
Terhune Orchards, 330 Cold Soil Road, Princeton, NJ 08540. Phone: 609-924-2310. Email: info@terhuneorchards.com. Weekend activities include hay bale maze, adventure barn, pony rides.
Johnson’s Farm, 133 Church Road, Medford, NJ 08055. Phone: 609-654-8643. Email: farmerjohnson@johnsonsfarm.com. Hay wagon rides to the picking areas, petting zoo, playground.

If you go:
• Call first to make sure they have an ample supply of ripe pumpkins.
• Wear clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
• Take a plastic or recyclable bag big enough to tote the pumpkin.
• Take water or juice and hand sanitizer.

Learn More:
America’s Greatest Pumpkin Patches by Randy Schmitz. Published in 2014 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. The book introduces readers to the five big-gest pumpkin farms in the United States. In addition to full walk throughs and histories of those farms, there are descriptions of 11 more pumpkin farms around the country. Appropriate for adults looking for the ultimate family pumpkin picking experience. Non-fiction.

The Pumpkin Patch (Robin Hill School) written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by Mike Gordon. The story is about a class trip to a pumpkin patch and a search for a perfect pumpkin. Early reading book suitable for Preschool through First Grade. Fiction

It’s a Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, written by Charles Schultz and illustrated by Scott Jeralds. Published by Simon Spotlight with audio recording in 2015. The Peanuts gang is up to their old tricks. Suitable for Preschool and older.

Life Cycle of a Pumpkin, written by Ron Fridell and Patricia Walsh, Published by Heinemann in 2009. An in-depth look at pumpkins from planting the seeds to harvesting a ripe one. Suita-ble to First through Third Grades. Non-fiction.

ROTTEN PUMPKIN, author David Schwartz, photographer Dwight Kuhn 2013 Creston Books               RottenPumpkinCvr001
Compost won’t mean the same thing to you after you’ve seen the amazing transformation of Jack from grinning pumpkin to mold-mottled wreckage to hopeful green shoot. The story of de-composition is vividly told so that science comes to life (and death). Part story, part science, and a whole lot of fun.

These books are available at http://www.amazon.com

This post was prepared by Marilyn Ostermiller, a long-time business journalist who has begun writing for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.      

With Marilyn Ostermiller

With Marilyn Ostermiller