Archive | December, 2013

Henri Matisse’s Birthday

matisseFrench artist Henri Matisse was born on December 31, 1869. He is best known for his use of expressive color and exaggerated form to convey emotion, and was a member of a group of early 20th century modern artist known as “les Fauves.” His influential career spanned over six decades.

His deep love for creating art began when Matisse was 21 and began painting as he was recovering from illness. Realizing that this is what he was meant to do, Matisse moved to Paris in 1891 to begin his formal artistic schooling. While attending famous schools like Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts, he was taught the “academic method” of painting and drawing, which involved observing live models and copying techniques of older famous artists. Being exposed to this classic form of training and also observing Post-Impressionist artists Paul Cézanne and Vincent Van Gogh helped him to develop his unique style.

He began showing his work in the 1890s and gained recognition from a small audience. At the beginning of the 20th century, Matisse’s work took a more progressive turn as he was inspired by the Pointillist work of artists like Paul Signac and Georges Seurat, who painted using small dots of color rather than heavy brushstrokes. He began to show his work at more progressive independent salons rather than the more traditional official salons he had exhibited in previously.

From 1904-1905, Matisse began to have several artistic breakthroughs when visits to southern France and the Mediterranean inspired him to paint bright vivid imagery with distorted color and form. It was during this time that he produced some of his most important works including Open Window and Woman With a Hat. At one of his Parisian exhibitions in 1905, a contemporary art critic reviewed the show, speaking of the distorted work of some artists calling them “fauves” or “wild beasts.”

Fauvism became the term used for Matisse’s style of painting, which he continued to express through bold color choices and undulating brushstrokes. Now that Matisse had developed his signature style, his popularity began to soar, and he remained well-known for his work even after the luster of Fauvism had faded. He began to travel the world searching for inspiration, and famous collectors like Gertrude Stein purchased his works.

Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, Matisse continued to paint with his signature use of saturated colors and strong outlines, but he also dappled with geometric forms often used in Cubism, which was pioneered by his lifelong friend and artistic rival, Pablo Picasso. Though he adopted some other abstract tendencies, his subject nature was still mostly traditional.

He moved to Nice in the French Riviera in 1921, mostly painting nudes in the comfort of his own studio and thoroughly exploring the world of printmaking. During the 1920s, he also was the subject of a scholarly book, which anchored his importance in the world of modern art, even as the movement was still going on and evolving. Matisse was also hired to paint several major commissioned pieces and draw illustrations for limited edition poetry books.

By the 1940s, his health had declined and he was mostly bedridden, drawing from bed using a long pole with pencil or charcoal attached to the end to reach the canvas. His later works were just as vibrant and experimental as his earlier pieces, and for one of his last major projects from 1948-1951, he designed stained-glass windows, murals, furnishings, and even sacred vestments for church priests at the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence on the French Riviera.

Matisse died on November 3, 1954 in Nice. His decades of work and pivotal role in the modern movement make him one of the most highly respected artists of the 20th century.

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, Huffington Post

 

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Festival of Enormous Changes at the Last Minute

December 30, the day before the last day of the year, is known as the Festival of Enormous Changes at the Last Minute.

The new year is approaching fast. Are you worried you didn’t accomplish what you wanted to this year? Do you want to make your resolutions for next year before it’s too late? Today is a day dedicated to making those big changes before the year comes to an end! Spend the day reflecting on the past year(s) and making those positive life changes a reality.

Is there anything you resolved to do in the past year that you didn’t quite get to? You’ve got two days until the new year – do your best to make it happen! If two days isn’t enough time to take the leap and make those big changes in your life you’ve been meaning to, then spend the next two days planning out your resolutions for next year. Don’t wait until midnight on New Year’s Eve to decide on those important changes that will make you feel better about the life you’re living. If you’re pondering what you can resolve to do in the New Year, but are coming up blank, we’ve got a few ideas to get your resolution juices flowing:

  • Get healthy. Whether this means eating healthier, exercising, or doing anything else that will make you a healthier person, this is your year!
  • Get inspired. Go on adventures, challenge yourself, create! Do whatever you can to inspire yourself and those around you!
  • Go green. Show some love to the environment you live in!
  • Get organized. Get rid of those stacks of paper on your desk, make a schedule, and clean up that messy life you’ve been living!
  • Learn a new language. Expand those linguistic skills and make another language less foreign to you!
  • Laugh more. Tell a joke, watch a funny movie, and spend more time with those who bring a smile to your face!

Since today is a “festival,” it makes sense to let your friends and family know about the importance of today. Celebrate together by all coming up with New Year’s resolutions or accomplishing what you haven’t before the year is over!

Sources: Zany Holidays, Giftypedia

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Pepper Pot Day

It’s Pepper Pot Day, a celebration of a thick, spicy soup called pepper pot!

According to legend, pepper pot was first concocted during the Revolutionary War – December 29, 1777, to be exact. It was a cold, harsh winter for the Continental Army in Valley Forge. Food was scarce – farmers in the area sold their food to the British Army for pounds over the Continental Army’s weak currency. Thus, the troops created a soup that included all they could find.

And apparently all they could find were scraps of tripe (aka animal stomach), beef stock,  peppercorn and a few vegetables, as these are the main ingredients of pepper pot.

Though pepper pot may not sound like much to celebrate, the soup got the soldiers through the harsh winter, earning it the title “the soup that won the war.”

Celebrate Pepper Pot Day by making yourself a pot of pepper pot soup (recipe), but don’t eat it yet. Fill your bowl and head out into the cold outdoors to get the full effect of the soup’s warming powers.

By the way, we’ll totally understand if you substitute the tripe with chicken or beef. And if not, we’ll understand that, too.

 

Sources: holidayinsights.com, punchbowl.com, wikipedia.org
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Pledge of Allegiance Day

Girl Pledging Allegiance to the FlagOn December 28, 1945, the Pledge of Allegiance was officially recognized as the American flag salute by the U.S. Congress.

Baptist minister Frances Bellemy wrote the verse in 1892 and it was published in a children’s magazine called The Youth’s Companion. The first version of the pledge was simpler than the one we know today and read, ”I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The pledge has since gone through a few revisions, the first being in 1923 when it was updated to say, “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” In 1954, it was again revised to include the words “under God,” due to the urging of Dwight Eisenhower, who feared communism at the time. This addition has proven to be controversial in the years since its addition.

Prior to World War II, the pledge was recited with the right arm raised up, pointing toward the flag. Because this was a gesture used by Nazis during WWII, the gesture made while reciting the pledge has since been changed to putting the right hand over the heart while reciting the pledge.

To celebrate this day, you can reflect on what the words of the Pledge of Allegiance mean to you, learn more about the history of the pledge, and recite it when you are in the presence of those red, white, and blue stars and stripes!

Sources: Life123.com, Every Day is Special

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Radio City Music Hall Opens

radiocityOn December 27, 1932, Radio City Music Hall, a famous entertainment venue located in New York City‘s Rockefeller Center was opened. The hall was the number one tourist attraction in the city at one time, and gained the nickname the Showplace of the Nation.

In 1929, when the stock market in the United States had crashed and the Great Depression began, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., a member of the extremely wealthy Rockefeller family, was holding a $91 million, 24-year lease from Columbia University on a piece of property located in midtown Manhattan known as the “speakeasy belt.” Because the economy was starting to crumble, plans to gentrify the area and build a new Metropolitan Opera House at this location were thrown out. Rockefeller made a risky decision to build a series of spectacular buildings that would attract huge commercial tenants despite the bleak outlook of the forthcoming depression in a city that was full of vacant rental spaces.

The first tenant in Rockefeller’s complex was the Radio Corporation of America. RCA was a very young company who was producing popular radio programs and motion pictures through the National Broadcasting Company and RKO Studios, both of which were desired distractions in this depressed era. Rockefeller, RCA chairman David Sarnoff, and Samuel Roxy Rothafel, who was the well-known theatrical genius behind the Roxy Theater, teamed up to build an elaborate venue that would entertain, inspire, and elevate the deflated American public.

Originally named the International Music Hall, the venue was soon renamed “Radio City” due to the complex’s first tenants. The space was designed by architect Edward Durell Stone and interior designer Donald Deskey in a grandious Art Deco style. The main idea behind its construction was to build an elaborate tribute to “human achievement in art, science and industry.” Various materials were used in the construction including precious materials like gold foil and marble, and industrial materials including aluminum, permatex, glass, and cork. Deskey made art a major focus of the interior, enlisting fine artists to create murals, sculptures, and wall coverings to add to the already spectacular interior decoration. The most famous and noteworthy part of the interior is the Great Stage which measures 60 feet wide and 100 feet long and resembles a setting sun. Technical experts consider the stage to be the most well-equipped stage in the world featuring hydraulic-powered elevators which allow for incredible special effects and quick scene changes during performances.

For its opening in 1932, the first performance was an extravagant stage show featuring  Ray BolgerDoc Rockwell and Martha Graham. The high-class variety show that was presented was not successful because of its longevity and the individual acts seemingly getting “lost” in the huge space. Soon after, the theater changed its performances to include playing feature films with a concurrent stage show performance. This format continued until the 1970s, with four performances happening every day. In the 70s, the films the hall could secure for showing were limited due to new film distribution and their preference to only show G-rated movies. Because of this setback, regular film showings at Radio City ceased in 1979.

After the discontinuation of film showings, plans were made to convert Radio City into an office space. These plans were met with vehement opposition by preservation committees and commercial stunts, like one famous response by John Belushi on Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update. In 1980, the theater was renovated and once again opened up to the public. Under new management by the Madison Square Garden Company, Radio City still sometimes hosts feature films and film premieres, but the vast majority of performances are concerts and live stage shows. Various award shows have also been held in the venue such as the MTV Video Music Awards, the Grammy Awards, and the Tony Awards. The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, which started in 1933, is still a major attraction and has featured the dance troupe The Rockettes since its inception in the 30s.

In 1999, Radio City went through another major renovation costing $70 million. The theater still boasts the title today as the largest indoor theater in the world.

Sources: Wikipedia, RadioCity.com, History.com

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Harry Truman Dies

Harry S. Truman holding up a copy of the Chicago Tribune with the incorrect headline after the won the presidential election.

Harry S. Truman holding up a copy of the Chicago Tribune with the incorrect headline after the won the presidential election.

On December 26, 1972, Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States, died.

Truman was born in Missouri on May 8, 1884. He grew up on a farm, and worked a variety of jobs after high school from railroad timekeeper to bank bookkeeper, and never attended college. He went back to farming before volunteering for duty during World War I. This was an interesting move for Truman because he was already 33 years old (two years older than the draft age limit), and eligible for exemption due to his status as a farmer. During his service, he helped organized the National Guard regiment and was promoted to captain. He gained the respect of his men and led them through heavy fighting.

He married his childhood sweetheart, Elizabeth “Bess” Wallace, after returning from the war and unsuccessfully opened a hat shop in Kansas City with an associate. The Great Depression caused the business venture to fail, and Truman owed $20,000 to creditors, which he slowly paid back over the course of 15 years. During this time, Truman was approached by Thomas Pendergast or “Boss Tom,” who was a Democratic political boss in Kansas City. Pendergast’s nephew had served in the war with Truman, and Pendergast appointed Truman to be overseer of highways for Kansas City. He was soon after chosen by Pendergast to run for a few different county judge positions. He was finally elected as a presiding judge in 1926 and kept this position until he ran for senator.

In 1934, Truman was elected to the United States Senate and began paving his way to the presidency. He helped allocate tax money for railroads, shipping, and interstate transport under Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s New Deal project. As the chair of a special committee investigating the National Defense Program, he helped to prevent unnecessary defense spending and war profiteering. This gained him much respect from his peers as well as from the general public.

For the 1944 presidential campaign, FDR chose Truman to run alongside him for Vice President over Henry Wallace, who was FDR’s Vice President during his first term. Speculation abounded that FDR would not survive this term, so the choice of the responsible and socially accepted Truman as his running mate was an important one. They won the election in 1944, and just 82 days after they took office together, FDR died of a stroke and Truman was sworn in as President of the United States on April 12, 1945.

In the midst of World War II, Truman started his term. His first six months of presidency were a whirlwind – he announced the German surrender from the war, dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and signed a charter sanctioning the United Nations. Though this war had come to an end, soon after tensions with the Soviet Union flared and the Cold War began.

After Republicans took control of the House and the Senate in 1946, reelection of Truman for a second term seemed unlikely. This unlikely reelection caused the Chicago Tribune to famously go to print with a headline reading “Dewey Defeats Truman,” stating that New York governor Thomas Dewey had won the election before all of the results were in. In a surprising turn of events, Truman won a second term.

His second term proved to be a challenging one. Initially, he set up a domestic policy called the Fair Deal to increase minimum wage, set up universal health care, provide more funding for education, and give equal rights under law to all citizens. Many had mixed feelings about the policy and parts of it were rejected. 1950 saw the beginning of the Korean War, and Truman sent in troops because he believed the invasion of South Korea by North Korea was effected by the Soviets and could potentially start another world war. This move was soon met with criticism and Truman changed his tactics to focus on preserving the independence of South Korea rather than trying to eliminate communism in North Korea.

Truman’s reputation was damaged further at home due to a labor dispute between the major steel mills and the United Steel Workers of America. A wage increase was requested by union workers, but mill owners did not want to provide more money to the workers unless the government allowed them to increase the prices of their consumer goods. Truman was not able to come to an agreement with mill owners and refused to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act which would have kept union workers from striking. He then seized the mills in the name of the government and was met with the companies filing a suit against the government which went to the Supreme Court. The steel mills won the case and Truman was once again viewed in an unfavorable way by the American public.

Since he no longer was seen in a positive light by Americans, Truman announced that he would not be running for reelection and returned to his home of Independence, Missouri. He spent his remaining years writing his memoirs and overseeing the construction of his presidential library. He died on December 26, 1972 after suffering from organ failure.

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia

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New Year’s Resolution: Spend More Time With Your Kids

Family schedules can be crazy and hectic. Between school, work, chores, extracurricular activities and whatever else your family has on its plate, it can be difficult to spend quality time together. The new year is approaching fast, so if you’ve felt that you did not get enough bonding time in with your kids this past year, we have thought of some excellent ways to resolve this.

familygame1. Start a family board game night. Pick one night of the week to keep everyone’s schedules clear – don’t schedule any extra curricular activities, make sure all your chores are done that night, and set aside those distracting electronic devices you are constantly glued to. Switch it up every week by letting a different member of your family pick the game for the week. Playing games together is a great way for your family to actively engage with one another, and having a specific night for this will give your children and yourself a sense of stability and relaxation to interject into your busy schedules.

2. Cook together. Even if your child is very young, they can still help you do simple things like mixing pre-measured ingredients together, tearing up lettuce, or garnishing dishes. If you ask your children to help you plan meals, it will make them feel special for contributing to an important part of family life. As your children grow older and begin making their own meals, they will appreciate the time you took showing them how to plan and prepare meals.

3. Have family dinners. Segwaying from cooking together, having dinner together is another important step in building relationships with your children. Studies on families have shown that having family dinners together have a  significant impact on your child’s life. Children who often eat dinner with their families tend to make better grades and are less likely to develop rebellious habits. Families can discuss their daily happenings over dinner, sharing successes, failures, and staying constantly tied in with each other’s lives.

4. Work together. No matter the size of your family, there are always chores to do and projects to work on at home. Including your children in chore duties and house projects can help them feel a sense of accomplishment and pride while working alongside you and spending quality time together. It can also help them feel independent and responsible as they grow older because they will have the know-how to take care of themselves and their future homes.

drsuess5. Read together. Reading with your child, especially starting at a young age, is not only a wonderful way to spend time with them, but they will also learn a great deal about language, rhythms, sounds, and grammar. It’s no secret that exposing your child to a variety of literature while they are young will help them a great deal in school. Reading with your children is also an excellent opportunity to bring up topics that might not come up in normal conversations. It’s a calming and relaxing experience as well as a way to increase brain power!

Use these methods and any others you can think of to bring your family together and create lasting and loving relationships that are sure to last a lifetime!

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Humphrey Bogart’s Birthday

bogeyOn December 25, 1899, legendary American actor Humphrey Bogart was born in New York City. He is best known for his roles in such classic films as The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and The African Queen.

Bogart was born to a wealthy Dutch family. His father was a heart surgeon and his mother was a talented painter and art director for a popular fashion magazine of the time. Bogart’s parents were rarely affectionate with his sisters or him, which may have contributed to his stern personality. He developed an interest in chess and sailing as a child, two loves he would have for the rest of his life. Bogart attended several prestigious schools, but was mostly disinterested in his school work or following rules. His rebellious nature led him to being expelled from the last boarding school he attended.

In the midst of World War I, after he was ejected from school, Bogart enlisted in the Navy. The famous scar on Bogart’s lip, and subsequent lisp it caused, is something he is rumored to have gotten while he served in the Navy. Though several stories abound among friends of Bogart’s, the most widely-known story involves Bogart escorting a prisoner off a boat. When the prisoner distracted Bogart by asking for a cigarette, he struck Bogart in the mouth with one of his cuffed hands.

After being discharged from the Navy, Bogart ventured into the world of acting. For his first role, he spoke one line as a Japanese waiter in the play Drifting. Upon seeing his son perform, Bogart’s father nudged his neighbor saying, “The boy’s good, isn’t he?” This first taste of the stage fueled him to pursue acting as his career. Unsuccessful at first, Bogart spent more than a decade portraying minor characters before his breakthrough performance as a villainous escaped killer in the play The Petrified Forest. Two years later he revived his character in the movie version of the play, and Hollywood grasped onto him as  a typecast criminal.

After portraying similar characters in a string of crime and gangster movies, Bogart finally broke free from his usual bad guy role to play the sharp and honorable private detective Sam Spade in one of the first film noir movies, The Maltese Falcon. Bogart showed his range in acting just in time to be cast as Rick Blaine in Casablanca, a 1942 war romance. The film has been highly regarded ever since, winning three Academy Awards and often ranked at the top of many all-time best films lists. Bogart is also credited with saying some of the movie’s most memorable quotes like, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” and “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” which are listed on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 quotations in American cinema.

His popularity swelled tremendously after his performance in Casablanca, and “Bogey,” as his friend’s started to call him, went on to act in over 75 feature films in his career. He received his first and only Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in 1951′s The African Queen, which he starred in alongside actress Katherine Hepburn.

Bogey was married several times, all of which ended in divorce except his last one to model and actress Lauren Bacall. His marriage to Mayo Methot was his most volatile, and the papers pegged them as the “Battling Bogarts” due to their public disputes. Lauren Bacall starred in her first movie ever, To Have or Have Not, alongside Bogart, and the two were instantly drawn to one another. Just a few months after his divorce from Methot, Bogey and Bacall were married, and remained together until his death. They were some of the founding members of the infamous “Rat Pack,” starred in three more movies together, and had two children together.

Due to a lifetime of heavy drinking and smoking, Bogart was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1956 while still in the prime of his career. Even after surgery and treatment, Bogart died in his sleep at his home on January 14, 1957 at the age of 57. After his death, Bogart’s rankings in Hollywood history rose even more, with several articles published about him, praising his notorious anti-Hollywood persona and his films gaining a cult following. Bogart remains a film icon named “the number one movie legend of all time” by Entertainment Weekly in 1997 and the American Film Institute’s greatest male movie star of all time in 1999.

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, IMDB

 

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National Eggnog Day

EggnogNot only is today Christmas Eve but it’s also National Eggnog Day! Makes sense, since making a batch or two of eggnog is a common Christmas Eve tradition.

Eggnog is a popular holiday drink in the U.S. and Canada and is made with milk and/or cream, sugar, raw eggs (beaten), spices (particularly nutmeg) and (optionally) liquor, such as brandy or rum. It’s also very tasty…and very high in fat and sugar. Seriously. You might want to pass it up this year if you’re cutting back the calories. However, you can still enjoy eggnog without the high amount of fat and cholesterol by making or purchasing  eggnog with skimmed, low fat, soy or rice milk.

Celebrate National Eggnog Day by making eggnog for your family! (But we won’t be disappointed if you go with commercial eggnog.)

Eggnog drink recipes:

Eggnog

Eggnog Drinks from Allrecipes.com

Alcoholic/Non-alcoholic/Easy/Healthier Eggnog Recipes

If you want to go all out on National Eggnog Day, whip up one of these eggnog-based desserts:

Golden Eggnog Cupcakes

Easy Holiday Eggnog Muffins

Cranberry Eggnog Muffins

Eggnog Drink and Dessert Recipes

 

Note: Commercial eggnog does not contain raw eggs. However, when making homemade eggnog (which includes raw eggs), use pasteurized eggs. Some recipes may also instruct you on how to cook the eggs for additional safety.

 

Sources: holidayinsights.com, punchbowl.com, wikipedia.org
Photo Source: Konstantin Ryabitsev, CC-BY-SA-2.O, via Wikimedia Commons
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Roots Day

December 23 is Roots Day! Roots Day is all about celebrating your heritage and learning about your ancestors. With the holidays in full swing and many returning to their homes to spend time with their families, it’s the perfect time to find out more about your genealogy.

Ironically, the origins of this holiday are unknown, but that doesn’t mean yours have to be! Delving into your family’s lineage can be a long and interesting journey. You may find out things you never knew before or piece together what you already knew. You may discover that you have relatives from distant and exciting places, or even that you are related to famous historical figures. Often your family tree may branch out several times before coming to a dead end. You may even find that someone else in your family has done the same research you have.

Though a family tree may seem like a clean-cut way to look at your genealogy, it misses some connections your relatives may have and the complex and various ways your family is connected. Your roots, just like the roots of a tree, are tangled and reach deeper than you may ever know. This holiday season, ask your older relatives questions about your family’s past. Stories that are glossed over or untold could come out and you may end up learning more about your family than you would ever know just by connecting the lines in your family tree.

Today, celebrate the underlying connections – your roots – and the history that made your family what it has become!

Sources: Holiday Insights, Punchbowl, Sister Disco

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