Q. How do they get salt inside the shell of peanuts?
B.W., Ballplay, Ala.
A. I’m afraid you might be disappointed; there is nothing magical or high-tech about the salting process. The peanuts are soaked in brine (a mixture of salt and water) and then roasted dry. The result is the salted peanut still in the shell.
Q. We have a daughter who has a fear of needles. Is there a special name for this phobia?
A. There are several terms for a fear of needles. If you want a fancy term, aichmophobia will work.
Q. Actors Maria Montez and Jean-Pierre Aumont had a daughter. Whatever happened to her? Is Jean-Pierre Aumont still alive? I know Maria Montez died at a young age. What was the cause?
A.M.D., Pembroke, Mass.
A. Maria Montez and Jean-Pierre Aumont’s daughter, Maria Christina Aumont, was born in Hollywood in 1946. She appeared in her first film in 1966, and she retired in 2000 after a successful career. She suffered a pulmonary embolism while in France in 2006.
Jean-Pierre Aumont died of a heart attack in 2001 at age 90. Maria Montez died in 1951 at age 39. She is believed to have suffered a heart attack and drowned in the bathtub.
Q. On the Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers Christmas CD, “Once Upon a Christmas,” Dolly sings a song called “Hard Candy Christmas.” What is a hard candy Christmas?
G.W., Rockton, Pa.
A. During tough financial times, many families need to cut back on gift giving during Christmas. Instead of giving an expensive gift, you might give a much less costly item, such as a bag of penny candy. Poetically, you could call this a “hard candy Christmas.”
Writer and filmmaker Nancy Fulton published a book in 2008, “31 Ways to Enjoy a Hard Candy Christmas.” It provides cost- effective and practical ways to make a cheap Christmas one of the best.
Q. When the president signs a bill, he often uses different pens to complete his signature. Why?
C.H., Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.
A. It’s routine for the president to use multiple pens when signing a bill. These pens are given to sponsors and co-sponsors of the bill as a souvenir.
Recently, I answered a question about Chef Boyardee. I received a note from M.E., a longtime employee of ConAgra Foods in Milton, Pa. She tells me this is the 75th anniversary of the Chef’s company, and that it will celebrate the business all year. Some of the Boiardi family still lives in the area.
Q. Is the poet Rod McKuen still living?
S.E.B., Fort Scott, Kan.
A. Rod McKuen is very much alive. He lives in Southern California with his brother and four cats.
Rodney Marvin McKuen was born in Oakland, Calif., in 1933. After leaving home at a young age, he had a series of jobs, including logger, ranch hand and rodeo cowboy. He lacked a formal education, but he kept a journal, which helped develop his writing and poetry skills.
During the Korean War, he worked as a newspaper columnist. He settled in San Francisco and read his poetry in clubs and performed as a folk singer.
He achieved regional recognition with his poetry readings in the 1950s and national fame in the late 1960s. Although critics panned him, he wrote more than two dozen books of poetry and recorded nearly five dozen albums and seven dozen other recordings, including soundtracks and performances with other groups.
McKuen was nominated for two Academy Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for his musical compositions.
Q. What is the name of the gap between two teeth? This gap is prominent on several well-known individuals, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and David Letterman.
L.H., Douglas, Ariz.
A. “Diastema” is the gap or space between two teeth. A few more celebrities with diastema are Elton John, Madonna, Lauren Hutton and Ernest Borgnine.
Q. When was the National Rifle Association organized, and where is its headquarters?
J.N., Manchester, Vt.
A. The NRA was founded in 1871 in New York. The organization’s first president was Ambrose Burnside, a Civil War Union general and U.S. senator. The NRA claims to be the oldest continuously operating civil liberties organization in the U.S. It also claims to have more than 4 million members. Its headquarters are in Fairfax, Va.
Q. For my birthday, I got a necklace with one of the most beautiful stones I’ve ever seen — it’s called pietersite. What can you tell me about this stone?
B.D., Waco, Texas
A. Sidney “Sid” Pieters (1920-2003) discovered pietersite in 1962 while prospecting on a farm in Namibia, Africa. Pieters described it as one of the most beautiful gemstones he had ever seen. It is considered a tiger’s eye: The stone is composed of veins and swirls of one rich color intermingled with splashes of another color, or sometimes several colors. Because of its beauty, pietersite is one of the foremost stones used in jewelry making worldwide.
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2013 Gary Clothier