News of the Week: February Blues, Cursing in Virginia, and How to Make a Chilly Night a Chili Night

Okay, I’m Ready for Winter to Be Over

Regular readers of this column know that I much prefer the cold days and nights of the fall and winter over the warm days and nights of the summer. Actually, regular readers of this column might be a little sick of hearing that. But I bring it up again so I can say this: I’m ready for spring.

I love the cold temps and the fact that it gets dark early, and I even love snowstorms (yes, I’m one of those people), but there comes a time, right around the end of February, when even I have had enough. I want to put the shovels away for the season, the chill in the air and the dry skin start to get to me, and I’m ready for more tennis to be shown on my television. So bring on the warmer temperatures.

Of course, stay tuned to this spot in July, when I’m sure I’ll be complaining about how humid it is, the ants and the bees, the fact that I have to wear shorts, the tourists that double the population of my town, and how Labor Day can’t come soon enough.

Oh, who am I kidding. I’ll be complaining in June.

Maybe what I’m really itching for isn’t spring, but fall. Maybe the only reason I’m ready for warm weather to come is that it means we’re that much closer to September.

The Closest Thing to Home

That was McDonald’s slogan in the late 1960s. Now it looks like they’re literally trying to make that happen.

The fast food chain is selling six scented candles that smell like beef, cheese, ketchup, pickles, onions, and a sesame seed bun. I know they’re going for a Quarter Pounder theme here, but I think it’s a mistake that there’s no candle that smells like french fries.

The best thing about these candles is that they’ll make your home smell like a McDonald’s. The worst thing? They’ll make your home smell like a McDonald’s.

Here’s the first appearance of Ronald McDonald, in a 1963 commercial, long before the company thought of selling candles. That’s former Today show weatherman Willard Scott under the makeup. He has a tray of food on his head.

Uploaded to YouTube by VintageTVCommercials

This Woman Has Been Selling Girl Scout Cookies Since 1932

This weekend is officially Girl Scout Cookie Weekend. The cookies are available from your local scouts or online (yes, there’s an app for that), including the best ones, the Samoas (they may be called Caramel deLites, depending on where you live).

If you’re near Wernersville, Pennsylvania, you can buy them from Ronnie Backenstoe. She’s been selling the cookie for 88 years. Back when she started there were only three flavors of cookie, many troops baked their own, and Herbert Hoover was president.

It’s worth noting that she’s not still selling the same boxes of cookies she was selling in 1932. That’d be weird.

Road Trip!

Breaking News: You can now legally swear in Virginia.

RIP Clive Cussler, Katherine Johnson, B. Smith, Hosni Mubarak, Sy Sperling, Larry Tesler, Diana Serra Cary, and “Mad” Mike Hughes

In addition to writing or co-authoring more than 80 books, including popular novels like Raise the Titanic! that featured his hero Dirk Pitt, Clive Cussler led various expeditions to shipwrecks and lost treasure. He died Monday at the age of 88.

Katherine Johnson played a major role in getting Americans to the moon in 1969. She was one of the subjects of the Oscar-nominated 2016 film Hidden Figures. She died earlier this week at the age of 101.

B. Smith was a style and home decor expert who was also a successful restaurateur and author. She died last weekend at the age of 70.

Hosni Mubarak was the former president of Egypt. He died Tuesday at the age of 91.

Sy Sperling was not only the president of the Hair Club For Men, he was also a client. He died last week at the age of 78 with a full head of hair.

Larry Tesler was the computer scientist we can thank for creating the cut, copy, and paste functions we use every day. He died last week at the age of 74.

Diana Serra Cary — aka Baby Peggy — starred in several popular silent movies when she was a child. After leaving the industry at a young age, she went on to author several books. She died Monday at the age of 101.

You can donate to her GoFundMe page to help pay for medical bills and funeral costs.

“Mad” Mike Hughes was a daredevil and inventor who was convinced the Earth was flat. He died when his rocket crashed on Saturday. He was 64.

Quote of the Week

“They asked Katherine Johnson for the moon, and she gave it to them.”

—opening line of Margalit Fox’s obituary for Johnson, in The New York Times

This Week in History

First Woolworth’s Opens (February 22, 1879)

I miss this chain. I have a lot of great memories of shopping and eating there when I was a kid.

If you happen to be in Bakersfield, California, at some point, you can eat at the last remaining Woolworth’s lunch counter in America, at the Five and Dime Antique Mall.

Ben Hecht Born (February 28, 1894)

The writer of such movies as The Front Page, Wuthering Heights, Some Like It Hot, and dozens where he didn’t even get credit wrote several short stories for the Post, including “Swindler’s Luck,” featured in our January 12, 1952, issue.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Party Holding Up the Elevator (February 25, 1961)

I bet the people on the first floor in this Ben Kimberly Prins cover are swearing like people in Virginia.

Illustration showing the a party holding up an apartment building's elevator

There’s Still Time for Chili

Sure, it’s been warm lately and I’m ready for spring, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still have some cold nights ahead of us in the next month or so. And what better to eat on those nights than chili?

Here’s a recipe for Cowboy Beef and Black Bean Chili, and here’s one for Turkey Pumpkin Chili, which won a contest among Post staffers in 2009. If you’re looking for something a little more healthy, how about this Vegetarian Chili?

There’s even a Chocolate Chili, though I don’t know if you can use the chocolate from Samoas or Thin Mints, but hey, give it a shot.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Leap Day (February 29)

How are you going to take advantage of the extra day we have in February this year? Call in sick? Take a trip? Go shopping? Clean the house? Get married? Maybe you can just sleep in late.

South Carolina Primary (February 29)

… or maybe you can celebrate the day by watching live coverage of this Democratic Primary.

Super Tuesday (March 3)

Here are all the states holding primaries on Tuesday: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and #%$&! Virginia.

Featured image: Shutterstock

News of the Week: Willard Scott, Words of the Year, and Way Too Much Happiness

Willard Scott Retires

Longtime Today weatherman Willard Scott retired this week after 65 years (!) at NBC. For the past several years he has been doing his birthday wish segments from his home in Florida. On Tuesday the cast and crew of Today paid tribute to Scott , a tribute that includes an appearance by someone you probably haven’t seen in many years … Gene Shalit!

And if being on NBC for 65 years wasn’t enough of a career, Scott was also the very first Ronald McDonald. A very odd, very scary Ronald McDonald:

Hopefully one day Scott will be honored with his own tribute and Smucker’s jar on Today when he reaches the age of 100.

The Words of the Year

What happens when you get a word that isn’t actually a word? You get the Word of the Year.

Merriam-Webster has announced their word of the year, and it’s “-ism”. That’s not a typo, that’s the whole word. It isn’t really a word, of course, it’s a suffix, the ending of many of the most-searched-for words from 2015, like socialism (thanks, Bernie Sanders!), racism, terrorism, and fascism.

Meanwhile, picked “identity” as their word of the year. I guess we can be thankful that Merriam-Webster and didn’t pick an emoji as the word of 2015.

For the Love of God, That’s Not a Hoverboard!

No hoverboards

We’ve seen the words of the year, but what’s the worst toy of the year? It’s Barbie!

That’s according to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, who picks the worst toy of the year every year. The 2015 award didn’t go to the Sky Viper Video Drone, the Bratz Selfie Stick Doll, the Nerf Rebelle Charmed Dauntless Blaster, the Tube Heroes Collector Pack, or the Brands We Know book series, which teaches kids about famous companies and products. It went to Hello Barbie. That’s the Barbie that you can talk to and will talk back to you (ah, the magic of computers and “the cloud”). In the words of CCFC’s Josh Golin: “It’s the perfect storm of a terrible toy, and threatens children’s privacy, well-being, and creativity.”

What does he mean by the doll threatening the privacy of children? It turns out that Barbie can be hacked. Bring on the class-action suit!

While we’re on the subject of toys, can we talk about the hoverboards that seem to be sweeping the country this Christmas season? First, several airlines have banned the toys on flights because there have been several reports that they actually catch on fire, and Amazon has stopped selling many of them until companies can prove that they’re safe.

But I wanted to mention one important thing in this discussion: THEY AREN’T HOVERBOARDS! There’s nothing about them that “hovers.” Maybe companies want to tie Back to the Future 2 into their products somehow, but real hoverboards don’t have wheels. These are more like mini hands-free Segways.

Star Trek Beyond Trailer

There’s a really big movie opening today. That’s right, Sisters, the new comedy with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler premieres! (You can see that Star Wars movie when it comes out on DVD — little artsy movies like that always look better on the small screen anyway).

In other movie news, the trailer for Star Trek Beyond debuted this week, and if you’ve always wondered what Star Trek would be like with a Beastie Boys soundtrack, well, here you go:

Too Much Sleep, Too Much Happiness


I was reading recently about a guy who sets his alarm clock to wake him up in the middle of the night. He doesn’t have to get up at that time, he just likes the feeling of being awakened in the middle of the night and being able to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep, knowing he still has several hours of sleep ahead of him.

I thought of that person when I read these two stories, about how too much sleep isn’t good for you and how too much happiness actually doesn’t make you live longer. In fact, experts say that getting too much sleep can be as bad for you as smoking cigarettes! It’s best to get less than 9 hours of sleep a night. And don’t sit a lot either. People who sit and sleep a lot are four times as likely to die young.

So I guess the takeaway from these studies is this: Stand around and smoke more cigarettes and strive to be as miserable as possible.

Sliced Chocolate?

So you love chocolate, but you’ve always been frustrated that you haven’t been able to buy it in a form like Kraft wrapped cheese slices? Well, you’re in luck. Introducing sliced chocolate! A Japanese company called Bourbon created the dessert product and there are a lot of uses for it. You can eat it just as it is or you can put it in desserts or in crepes, or even on white bread with some ham and mustard (note: I’m not responsible if you actually try that last one). They’re available in Japan, but you can also get them online.

Now we just need to see cheese in the shape of Santa Claus every holiday season, so we can put them in stockings.

Pickles and Pine Trees

I love television this time of year. Not only do we get Christmas specials to watch, we also get Christmas episodes of our favorite TV shows.

CBS has been doing something interesting the past few holiday seasons. They’ve been showing classic, colorized episodes of I Love Lucy, and they get good ratings every year. This year the network is doing a little more for Christmas. On December 23 at 8 p.m., they’re going to show the I Love Lucy Christmas Special, which will include the 1956 Christmas episode and also the classic episode where Lucy does a commercial for Vitameatavegamin (which I watched again recently, and it’s still very funny). Then on Christmas night, the network is going to show two colorized episodes of The Andy Griffith Show: “The Christmas Story” (the one where the gang has to deal with Mayberry’s Scrooge-like department store owner) and “The Pickle Story,” which happens to be the favorite episode of several Andy Griffith Show cast members (and mine too). It’s the one where Aunt Bee enters a pickle contest but her pickles taste like kerosene.

I’d love to see more networks do this, air episodes of classic TV shows from decades ago. Looking at the ratings, viewers love to see stuff like that, and not just on Me-TV or TV Land.

Christmas Recipes

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but it has been in the 50s (and some days almost 60) here in Massachusetts. So maybe it has been hard for you to get into the Christmas spirit. But it’s only a week away so you don’t have much time to get into that spirit. Here are some recipes that might help.

How about some Stuffed Celery, which sounds like an appetizer you would serve at a holiday party. Though keep in mind that New York Times food editor Sam Sifton is against appetizers. Or maybe you’re in charge of making the potatoes this year and you want to try some Rosemary Mashed Potatoes. For dessert you could make one of the 20 Christmas desserts suggested by Martha Stewart. And for a snack that also makes for a great gift, how about some Peppermint Bark?

Upcoming Events and Anniversaries

National Christmas Tree
By White House photo by Susan Sterner. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

National Crossword Puzzle Day (December 21)

The ______ (Comes before second – 5 letters) crossword puzzles appeared in ______ (Country where Winston Churchill was born – 7 letters) in the 19th ______ (Another word for 100 years – 7 letters).

Beethoven’s Fifth debuts (December 22, 1808)

Is there a more famous opening to a piece of classical music? You can listen to the entire piece here.

Van Gogh cuts off his ear (December 23, 1888)

Why did he do it? The truth may be different than you think.

First National Christmas tree lighting (December 24, 1923)

President Calvin Coolidge pressed the button to light the first National Christmas Tree, but he probably didn’t say much after pressing it.

Christmas (December 25)

This day we celebrate the birth of another great man. That’s right, writer and Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, born in 1925.