Archive | December, 2012

Hanukkah – December 21

What is Hanukah?

Hanukkah begins on the 25th of the month of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and lasts for eight days. Hanukkah, which means “dedication,” commemorates the cleansing and re-dedication of the holy Temple of Jerusalem after the Jewish people’s successful rebellion against the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E. Although they only had enough ritual oil to keep the lamp burning for one day, the oil miraculously lasted for eight days.

Learn more about the history of Hanukkah here.

When is Hanukkah?

The first day of Hanukkah falls on a different day each year. In 2012, Hanukkah begins on December 9.

How do people celebrate Hanukkah?

Those of Jewish faith commemorate the miracle of the Hanukkah oil by lighting a nine-branched menorah, or hanukkiyah. Each night of Hanukkah, another candle is added to the menorah and lit after sundown. Hanukkah traditions and celebrations also include eating food fried in oil, such as potato pancakes and jelly-filled donuts, and exchanging gifts. Children also play a Hanukkah game that involves spinning a dreidel, a four-sided spinning top.


Photo Source: Dov Harrington, CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Mary’s, Queen of Scots, Birthday

On this day in 1542, Mary, Queen of Scots, was born. The only legitimate child of King James V of Scotland, Mary succeeded the throne six days later, upon her father’s death, and was crowned on September 9, 1543.

Though Mary was the queen of Scotland, she was raised in France. In 1558, she married Francis II, Dauphin of France, and became queen consort of France when Francis II was crowned King in 1559. Almost a year after King Francis II’s death in 1560, Mary returned to Scotland to begin her reign as queen regnant of Scotland.

However, her reign ended in 1567 when she was forced to renounce the throne and pass the crown over to her one-year-old son, James, from her second marriage to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Seeking the protection of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, Mary fled to England where she spent the rest of her life – mostly confined, as she was considered a legitimate heir to English throne and a threat to Elizabeth.

Mary was eventually beheaded on February 8, 1587 after being convicted of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth.

Celebrate the birth of Mary, Queen of Scots, by learning more about Mary’s life. You can also take a virtual tour of Edinburgh Castle, where Mary was born.


Sources: Wikipedia,,

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Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is observed on December 7 to commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and remember those who were injured or lost their lives as a result. To honor those who died, the American flag is flown at half-mast. Other activities performed to honor the victims of the attack include memorial services, wreath-laying ceremonies, media stories and specials on the attack, and school activities that educate students about the Pearl Harbor attack and its relation to World War II.

The attack on Pearl Harbor, located in Hawaii,  was made by the Japanese Imperial Navy during World War II. It came as a complete surprise to Americans, who had yet to enter into the war. Though the Japanese Imperial Navy bombed all eight of the U.S. Navy battleships and some of the other vehicles and aircraft at the Pearl Harbor naval base in order to prevent the U.S. from interfering with Japan’s military actions in Southeast Asia, the attack actually escalated the war.

On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt declared December 7 “a date which will live in infamy” and called for a declaration of war on Japan. Within an hour after President Roosevelt’s speech, Congress had formally declared war on Japan and the U.S. entered World War II.

Learn more about the attack on Pearl Harbor at


Sources: Wikipedia,,

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5 Awesome Personalized Calendar Ideas

You’ve heard about our Custom Photo Wall Calendars, and you’ve seen how easy it is to create one. If you’re struggling to come up with a theme or choose worthy photos from the hundreds you’ve taken over the years, have no fear – we’ve put our heads together and we’re ready to share our ideas with you. Go ahead…pick one (or two, or three) and get customizing!

1. Baby’s First Year – Your best friend welcomed a little bundle of joy to the world just about a year ago, and you want your gift to outshine all others at the upcoming 1st birthday bash. So, gather a picture of the little guy/girl from each month of the first year of his/her life and help your bestie relive that precious year all over again. Don’t forget the bathtub and spaghetti face moments. The other party guests have no hope (mwahaha).

2. My Best Instagram Photos – You’ve spent way too much time choosing the right filter and the most promising hashtags for those oh-so-artistic cell shots just to let them fall off the feed and never be seen again. You have like 200 followers and National Geographic ‘liked’ your #bestnatureshot for crying out loud! Put them together into a calendar and enjoy them on your wall all year long. Or better yet, try our new Personalized Social Photo Booksand let our app pull your Facebook or Instagram photos into a photo book instantly!

3. Best. Vacation. Ever.– You love vacation- everyone does. Whether it was that long and torturous road trip from New York to Florida, or that Mediterranean cruise that left you on cloud nine, there are memories from vacations you don’t want to lose. A calendar with your best vacation photos would make the perfect gift for your travel buddies.

4. My Favorite Dishes– You’re a regular ol’ Bobby Flay. The only reason you watch the clock all day at work is because you can’t wait to get home and heat up the kitchen. Because you’re such a culinary genius, you obviously snap a shot of every single one of your mouth-watering creations. Now those would make a perfect kitchen calendar!

5. I Am the 12th Man – You’ve held season tickets for the past 8 years, your tailgating parties attract everyone parked in lots A and B, and your closet looks like a team store. Everyone says it, but you really are the biggest fan. We know you’ve been to way more than 12 or 18 games, but put yourself at the stadium every day with a calendar featuring photos from the most memorable ones. Sure, you and the mascot can go on two months.

If you have another awesome personalized calendar idea, please share it by commenting below! Remember: You can start a Custom Photo Wall Calendar on any month of the year, and they are printed on quality paper stock. So, you don’t have to throw those calendars away when the 12 or 18 months are up. Consider framing each image to create a wall collage, for example. Hmm…perhaps another blog post for the future?

A big thanks to our guest blogger for the day, Christine D., for her awesome ideas!

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St. Nicholas Day

Happy St. Nicholas Day !

St. Nicholas is the legendary 4th-century saint and Greek Bishop who inspired the figure of Santa Claus. Known for his generosity and gift-giving to children and those in need, such as leaving coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, St. Nicholas is honored and celebrated all around the world on the anniversary of his death on December 6, 343 AD.

St. Nicholas Day celebrations include the popular tradition of  leaving one’s shoes by the front door on the night of  December 5 to find them filled with small gifts and treats the next morning. Find more ways to celebrate here!

Learn more about St. Nicholas by clicking here.


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Repeal Day

Rose wine What is Repeal Day?

Remember that whole Prohibition thing back in the 1920s, early 30s? You know, when alcohol was prohibited in America under the 18th Amendment? If not, you can read all about it here before sighing in relief that December 5 marks the anniversary of the day that prohibition was officially repealed in 1933 under the 21st Amendment.

How do people celebrate Repeal Day?

According to Jeffrey Morenthaler, a bar manager in Oregon who created in his effort to spread the word about Repeal Day and its importance, Americans don’t celebrate Repeal Day enough:

Repeal Day is not celebrated [...] in this country, yet it is the only day which truly has any connection with alcohol. December 5th is the anniversary of the day the United States repealed the Eighteenth Amendment and gave us the constitutional right to consume alcohol.

- Jeffrey Morgenthaler

In other words, that’s something to celebrate! Share a glass of wine with your loved one, meet your friends for a round at the local bar or throw a bar tending party and create new drinks.

Remember: Repeal Day commemorates our right (if 21 or older) to purchase, consume and enjoy alcohol responsibly. Please drink responsibly and do not drink and drive.


Photo Source: Samantha from Scotland UK (Rose wine) via Wikimedia Commons
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Interview with Sherri Buck Baldwin

Sherri Buck Baldwin’s studio, Heart in Hand Ltd., is located in Madison, Wisconsin. Here she finds inspiration in the beauty of the changing seasons.

Buck’s favorite subjects are her gardens and the birds that visit the feeders and houses. For the past twenty years, Buck’s artwork has appeared on many Christmas and greeting cards, calendars, and a wide variety of kitchen, decor, and giftware items. She is also a published illustrator of children’s books such as Special Friends and What’s Inside Miss Molly’s Locket?.

See all of Sherri Buck Baldwin’s 2013 calendars.

Please describe your art style and technique.
I have been an artist for most of my life and I enjoy creating artwork in a variety of mediums, which include primarily ink, watercolor, colored pencil, soft pastels, and most recently, relief printing. I have also just begun to experiment with combining digital art with my hand drawn imagery. I enjoy drawing more than painting because I like the control it allows so I usually prefer to combine watercolors with ink or pencil rather than painting with them alone. I majored in printmaking in college, specializing in etching and stone lithography due to my love of linework. Drawing with soft pastels gives me the opportunity to loosen up my highly rendered style.

The birds you include in your art are incredibly detailed and lifelike.  What’s your inspiration for achieving such realistic depictions?
For several years now I have produced a calendar with birds and flowers as the theme. It started out as “Birds in the Garden”, but is currently titled “Birds and Blossoms”. I am an avid gardener, but no garden is complete until it is populated with all variety of birds. I put out feeders which entice several bird species to visit, and place birdhouses in several areas of my large yard to entice them to stay. I look forward to each spring when the wrens return and their song fills the summer days. I am fascinated with photographing birds and my camera is always on the tripod pointing out my studio window directly at my feeders. With a remote control shutter I can be quite successful at getting shots of birds coming and going from the feeders. My biggest challenge is capturing them in flight since I like to draw them with their wings outspread. It is often surprising to see how much they look like they are swimming through air. I have created extensive photo files of birds which I study when I work on my bird art. Two years ago I was rewarded with a visit for several days from a Varied Thrush which is native to the Northwest, but somehow found itself in Wisconsin one winter. It became a subject for my 2012 Birds and Blossoms calendar.

Your paintings have amazing depth and a rich pattern-upon-pattern effect.  How do you accomplish that?
My bird calendar images are actually two layers of artwork. The top layer is drawn in colored pencil on frosted Mylar, while the layer underneath is a collage created from vintage paper ephemera I collect. I like the resulting transparent, layered artwork. The combination of printed materials, especially antique maps, underneath the bird’s bodies and wings is quite evocative. It’s hard to believe that a creature as small and fragile as a hummingbird can fly all the way from Wisconsin to Mexico, so I like to place a piece of map from both their summer and winter destinations underneath the body of the birds. Bits of lace, vintage writing, and words like ‘fragile’ have also been tucked underneath my bird drawings. It’s subtle, but an interesting added dimension to the artwork.

How do you come up with ideas for your art?  Please describe your creative process.
My ideas come to me most often when I am outdoors, especially when walking my dogs or working in my gardens. Whenever I feel stuck, I grab their leashes or my garden gloves and head outside. I’m lucky to live in Wisconsin, with its beautiful lakes and rolling hillsides.

Please describe the environment where you work.
My studio is located in my home and the room was added onto our house by my husband. I have been able to work at home for the past 24 years while my children were growing up and that is something I have been extremely grateful for.

You’re also an avid gardener.  Please tell us about your favorite plants and experiences in the garden and the role they play when you create your artwork.
Gardening is a passion of mine, one that I discovered after I married and moved to Wisconsin. I grew up with a gardening mother and realized I had absorbed much more about the subject than I thought I had when it came time to contend with a yard of my own. Now, most of my entire front yard is a garden, with only a small amount of lawn. Not confining my gardening efforts to the backyard is something I learned from going on several garden tours throughout England, one of my favorite destinations. I enjoy practicing the art of fruit tree espalier and have trained two pear trees into flat candelabra shapes against a wall of my house, with six additional dwarf apple tree espaliers trained in a cordon around two curved rock walls in front of my house. Espalier is a technique for training fruit trees against a wall in order to conserve space. I created a deep perennial border along the entire length of the lawn in my backyard. In addition to my home garden I tend a local park’s garden on the lake where I have created ‘drive-by’ garden borders in 3 medians in the road for a total of 150’. Each year I try to plant surprises for the village residents, like tall sunflowers mixed in with the perennials. My favorite flowers are the simpler shapes like tulips, sunflowers, poppies, and hollyhocks. The patio outside my studio is filled with containers of all sizes in the summer, which are planted with annuals that hummingbirds are attracted to, like lantana, abutilon, and salvias of all kinds. I also grow herbs in pots as well as a few vegetables.

Tell us what a typical day for you is like.
I’m an early-riser so my day begins soon after dawn. Once my pair of Border Terriers is walked I head into my studio for most of the day to put pen, brush, or pencil to paper. I also spend time emailing with my designer in Texas on projects we are working on for my own line of paper products. I am excited about finally realizing this dream after spending nearly 25 years in the world of art licensing.

How long does it generally take you to complete a painting for your calendars?
I try to complete a calendar drawing or painting in a week, but sometimes it takes a bit longer due to the detailed nature of my work.

Are you as good at cooking and preparing food as you are painting it?
I enjoy cooking with the herbs and vegetables I grow myself, as well as the produce I get each week at Farmer’s Markets in my area. My efforts are usually well-received by my family. My teenage son is the resident tomato-growing expert and a pretty good cook, too.

How did the ideas and paintings for your new Field to Market calendars come about?
Madison, Wisconsin, has a weekly Farmer’s Market with a national reputation for the quality of the produce for sale and I am fortunate to live only a few minutes away from this weekly event around the Capitol Square. I head there early on Saturday mornings with both my bag and camera in hand. The tables laden with vegetables, fruits, breads, jams, and flowers are stunning to behold and wonderful subjects to photograph. With the growing trend for buying local organic produce it seemed a good time to combine these colorful wholesome images into a calendar called Field to Market. I enjoy painting the rich colors of blue-black eggplants, red strawberries, orange carrots, all the various shades of green lettuces, and the sunlight shining through jars of jams, honey, and vinegars. It doesn’t get much better than that!

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National Cookie Day

Ann Gordon plate of cookiesWith Christmas right around the corner, it’s time to start baking some holiday cookies. Luckily, National Cookie Day falls on December 4, giving you a head start on your holiday baking.

Of course, we realize that the cookies you make today won’t last til Christmas. So think of National Cookie Day as a practice run: bake a batch of all your favorite cookies, ask your friends to do the same, then invite everyone over for a cookie tasting. Indulge your sweet tooth while discovering new cookie recipes to add to your holiday spread!

Just want to make some cookies? Click here to find recipes for almost every kind of cookie you can think of!

Did You Know…that cookies were once called “little cakes”? Find out why and learn more about the history of cookies by clicking here.

Happy National Cookie Day!


Photo Source: Ann Gordon, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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National Roof Over Your Head Day

December 3 is National Roof Over Your Head Day!

National Roof Over Your Head Day is all about appreciating  everything thing we have, starting with the shelter of our home. At a time when more and more people are losing their homes and homelessness continues to grow, taking a day to appreciate something as seemingly simple as the  roof over your head can help you appreciate what you do have and stop worrying about what you don’t have.

But don’t stop celebrating National Roof Over Your Head Day there. Head over to to find facts on homelessness, how you can help, and more.

You can also help build homes for families in need by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.


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Eat a Red Apple Day

December 1 is Eat a Red Apple Day!

Eat a Red Apple Day is pretty self-explanatory: celebrate apples (particularly the red ones) by eating at least one apple today.

Manzanas - Apples

Why? Because they are good and good for you, and they can be cooked, baked or eaten raw. Click here to learn more about the health benefits of apples and to find quick apple snack ideas and recipes. Then go eat some apples!

Look! More recipes! We really want you to eat more apples:

Curried Pumpkin (and Apple) Soup

Baked Apples

Healthy Apple Recipes


Photo Source: johannrela CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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