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Beauty and Brains

Celebrating National Women’s History Month!


Hedy Lamarr:  Brilliant, Beautiful and Bold

Our blog post today honors Hedy Lamarr, a woman who truly “had it all”! Often called “The Most Beautiful Woman in Films,” Hedy Lamarr’s beauty and screen presence made her one of the most popular actresses of her day.  While it’s unlikely that students in today’s FACS classes would be familiar with her work on film, they all owe Hedy a debt of gratitude.  You see, her work off screen led to the development of one of the most used items in today’s world:  the cell phone!

She was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler on November 9, 1914 in Vienna, Austria.  At seventeen years old Hedy starred in her first film, a German project called Geld auf der Strase.  Hedy continued her film career by working on both German and Czechoslovakian productions.  The 1932 German film Exstase brought her to the attention of Hollywood producers, and she soon signed a contract with MGM.

Once in Hollywood, she officially changed her name to Hedy Lamarr and starred in her first Hollywood film, Algiers (1938), opposite Charles Boyer.  She continued to land parts opposite the most popular and talented actors of the day, including Spencer, Tracy, Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart.  Some of her films include an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat (1942), White Cargo (1942), and Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah (1949) and The Female Animal (1957).


As if being a beautiful, talented actress wasn’t enough, Hedy Lamarr was also extremely intelligent.  In addition to her film accomplishments, Hedy patented an idea that later became the foundation of both secure military communications and mobile phone technology.  In 1942, Hedy and composer George Antheil patented what they called the “Secret Communication System.”  The original idea, meant to solve the problem of enemies blocking signals from radio-controlled missiles during World War II, involved changing radio frequencies simultaneously to prevent enemies from being able to detect the messages.  While the technology of the time prevented the feasibility of the idea at first, the advent of the transistor and its later downsizing made Hedy’s idea very important to both the military and the cell phone industry.

This impressive technological achievement combined with her acting talent and star quality to make “the most beautiful woman in film” one of the most interesting and intelligent women in the movie industry.

Have a great weekend!





Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, FACSessorize, Family and Consumer Science Education, Family and Consumer Sciences Day, FCS, Food and Culinary Arts, For the Love of FACS, George H.W. Bush, Historical FACS, Home economics, Presidential palates

Presidential Palates, Part 13

At an outdoor news conference, George H.W. Bush (1989 – 1993) revealed his distaste for broccoli stating that he wouldn’t eat it.  His distaste for broccoli raised quite a stir among parents and health professionals concerned that the public, and particularly children, would limit consumption of broccoli.  In March of 1988, when President Bush expressed his fondness for fried pork rinds dipped in Tabasco sauce in a TIME magazine profile, pork rind sales jumped 11 percent.  As a result, he was crowned “Skin Man of the Year” by pork-rind manufacturers.  These opposite reactions to a sitting president’s food preferences, demonstrates the interest that the American public has in what their leaders eat, even if their food choices are a little offbeat.

Andrew Johnson (1865 – 1869) became president following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  He assumed the office of the presidency at one of the darkest times in American history, the reconstruction era following the end of the Civil War.  As a result of the deep divides in the government, Johnson became the first US president to be impeached.  He survived the impeachment trial by just one vote.

In spite of the turmoil Johnson faced while in office, this native Tennessean enjoyed light-hearted entertaining in the White House.  It turns out that he was ahead of his time when it came to throwing a party because one of his favorite forms of entertaining was to throw a popcorn party for his guests.  These parties were much like the Popcorn Bars that are popular today.  Pretty cool, right?

While your students create their own version of a Popcorn Bar, you can share information about Andrew Johnson as well as the science explaining why popcorn pops.  If you need to refresh your memory on the science, this site can help. http://www.popcorn.org/Facts-Fun/Our-Story

Perfect Popcorn

3 tablespoons peanut or canola oil (high smoke point)

1/3 cup high quality popcorn kernels

Butter to taste (optional)


  1. Heat the oil in a 3-quart, thick-bottomed saucepan, which has a tight-fitting cover.
  2. Put 2 or 3 popcorn kernels in the oil.  Cover.
  3. When the kernels pop, add the remaining 1/3 cup popcorn kernels in an even layer over the bottom of the pan.
  4. Cover, remove from heat for 30 seconds. This method first heats the oil to the right temperature, then waiting 30 seconds brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping temperature so that when they are put back on the heat, they all pop at about the same time.
  5. Return the pan to the heat.  The popcorn should begin popping soon, all at once.  Once the popping starts in earnest, gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner.
  6. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release, producing drier and crisper popcorn.
  7. Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn immediately into a wide bowl.  With this technique, nearly all of the kernels pop, and nothing burns.
  8. If you are adding butter, you can easily melt it by placing the butter in the now empty, but not hot pan.  Drizzle the melted butter over the popcorn and toss to distribute.
  9. Salt to taste

Yield:  2 quarts popcorn

Suggested toppings for your Popcorn Bar:

  • Gummy bears
  • Skittles
  • M & M’s
  • Reese’s Pieces
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Powdered Cheese
  • Cocoa powder
  • Mini Chocolate chips
  • Sprinkles
  • Cinnamon and sugar
  • Granulated sugar
  • Crumbled cookies or cake

Organizing your Popcorn Bar

Display popcorn and toppings in attractive, see-through jars/containers or shakers.  Label each jar to make it easier for guests to make their choices.  Provide a serving scoop or spoon for each topping container.  Guests will also need bowls or bags to hold their popcorn concoctions.


Barack Obama, FACSessorize, Family and Consumer Science Education, Family and Consumer Sciences Day, FCS, Food and Culinary Arts, For the Love of FACS, Historical FACS, Home economics, Presidential palates

Presidential Palates, Part 12


President Barack Obama (2009 – 2017) is a big fan of salty-sweet treats.  The President was introduced to Fran’s Smoked Salt Caramels by Democratic fund-raiser Cynthia Stroum during a campaign event in Seattle, Washington.  “He had it backstage before he came out to make his speech,” she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2008.  “As he was entering the stage, he saw me and whispered in my ear, ‘Oh my, what were those?  Those are phenomenal.  I want more.’ So that became my little treat for him.”  The candies are made of buttery caramel coated in milk chocolate and sprinkled with smoked sea salt.  Check out  Smoked Salt Caramels at https://www.franschocolates.com/frans-story/.

  “I’ve been using this chili recipe since college and would bring it to any potluck.  I can’t reveal all the secrets, but if you make it right, it’s just the right amount of bite, the right amount of oomph in it and will clear your sinuses.”  Barack Obama

Early in his presidency, President Obama revealed that he loves to cook a pot of chili from his own personal recipe.  I can’t guarantee that this chili recipe  will measure up to the White House version, but I believe that your students will enjoy making and eating it!


Easy Homemade Chili

1 pound ground beef

1 onion, chopped

1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes

1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans

1  1/2 cups water

1 pinch chili powder

1 pinch garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the beef and onion and sauté until meat is browned and onion is tender.
  2. Add stewed tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, beans and water.
  3. Season with the chili powder, salt and ground black pepper to taste.
  4. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Yield:  4 servings