Archive | December, 2013

Beatrix Potter Dies

beatrixpotter1On December 22, 1943, English writer, illustrator, and conservationist, Beatrix Potter, died. She is best known for her children’s tales and illustrations. The most notable of these is The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

Potter was born in London in 1866 to a lawyer and a wealthy merchant. Both her parents had artistic talents, which they passed on to their daughter. She was always a very solitary person, even as a child because her only brother was sent to a boarding school as soon as he came of age. She cared for a variety of animals as a child including frogs, rabbits, and bats. Because she spent the majority of her time alone with her animals, she honed the artistic skills she learned from her parents and began to draw her pets. Natural history also became a notable interest of Potter’s, and she would spend several hours drawing things like flowers and fungi.

Her interest in science was something Potter wanted to pursue professionally for a brief period of time. For a while, she worked on developing a theory of spore germination to demonstrate that algae and fungus were of the same family. Her uncle, who was a well-known chemist, tried to help her enroll in the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, but she was rejected for being female.

As Potter grew older, her parents tried to set her up with suitable men to marry, but she rejected all of them and stayed vehemently independent. She had no domestic aspirations because she thought her life would be too uneventful. Instead she stayed single and at home the majority of the time, working on her illustrations and developing them into children’s stories.

While still in her 20s, Potter made several attempts to get her stories published, but was unsuccessful for the most part. Frederick Warne & Company eventually took on Potter as a client. The company did not have high hopes for Potter’s stories, and turned the project over to Norman Warne, their youngest brother. They initially envisioned it to be a test for Norman, but he took on the project with a great amount of passion, and he developed a close relationship with Potter, carefully pouring over every detail of her book. Potter’s first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was published in 1902 when she was 36, and was very successful. By the end of the year, 28,000 copies of the book had been printed. An excellent business woman, Potter patented a Peter Rabbit doll in 1903 and continued to make a profit from it, adding to her new found wealth.

beatrixpotter2Norman Warne and Potter developed a close relationship the more they worked together, and were engaged to be married in 1906. Tragically, Norman passed away from leukemia just a few months after the two were engaged.

She was devastated by his death, but made a promise to herself that she would start fresh and be happy again. With her love for nature and animals still very much alive, Potter bought Hill Top farm, in Sawry, Cumbria and continued to live there for the rest of her life. The beginning of her time living here was her most prolific writing period. It was here that she created some of her most popular characters like Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail. She personified them by dressing them in human clothing and having them go through normal trials and tribulations most people experienced at one point or another in their lives.

In 1909, when she set out to buy the nearby Castle Farm, she met her future husband William Heelis, who helped her purchase her new land. She was 47 when they married.

In the following years, her eyesight began to diminish and so did the time she spent writing and creating new illustrations. She spent the majority of her time acquiring new land and raising sheep.

On December 22, 1943, she died due to complications from pneumonia and heart disease. Due to an inheritance she had received from her father and the wealth she made from selling her stories, she bought a large amount of land towards the end of her life. Upon her death, she left over 4,000 acres of land, sixteen farms, cottages and herds of cattle and Herdwick sheep to the National Trust. Her’s was one of the biggest legacies ever made.

Sources: Biography Online, Wordsworth Country

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National Flashlight Day

Flashlight-Tag-GameDecember 21 is National Flashlight Day! Today also happens to be the Winter Solstice which is the longest night of the year. Though we are not sure if these two days coincide on purpose, you won’t be left in the dark!

Flashlights first became a tool for exploring the darkness at the end of the 19th century. The first dry cell batteries were invented in 1896, which allowed electronic devices to become portable because they used an electrolyte paste instead of liquid, preventing spillage. David Misell, an English inventor who worked for the American Electrical Novelty and Manufacturing Company, obtained a patent for the first flashlight in 1899.

Misell created an “electric device” which consisted of “D” batteries arranged front to back inside a paper tube with a light bulb and brass reflector attached at the end. Some of the devices created by Misell were given to the New York City Police Department and were met with approval from officers. Because of the zinc carbon batteries used in these early devices, they could not provide a steady current and needed to “rest” periodically to continue working. The lights thus could only be used for short intervals, hence the name “flashlight.”

We’ve come up with a couple of ways you can celebrate National Flashlight Day:

  • Make shadow puppets on the wall.
  • Play a rousing game of flashlight tag.
  • Plan a nighttime scavenger hunt.
  • Stay up reading a book under the covers.

Today is also the perfect day to make sure your family knows where your flashlights are in the case of a power outtage or other situation which may cause you to need your trusty flashlight to find your way. Be sure to test all your flashlights and make sure the batteries are all working.

Happy Flashlight Day!

Sources: Giftypedia, Holiday Insights, National Whatever Day

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National Sangria Day

sangria-3December 20 is National Sangria Day! Sangria is a fruity wine punch which typically consists of red wine, seasonal fruit, spirits, and simple syrup.

This beverage is usually enjoyed in the summertime in the United States, so why are we celebrating its intoxicating effects in the winter? To answer this question, we can turn to the origin of this widely popular concoction. “Sangria” is derived from the Spanish word “sangre” meaning blood, likely due to the beverage’s usual crimson color. In Spain and most other Spanish-speaking countries, where the beverage as we know it today first gained popularity, sangria is enjoyed year-round. The drink was first introduced to America in 1964 during the World’s Fair in New York.

The key to making a delicious sangria punch lies in the fruit. It’s important to use fruits that are in season, and to let the fruit marinate for several hours so your sangria will have an optimal flavor. The most commonly used spirit in sangria is brandy, but any of your favorite liquors may be substituted, depending on the flavor and how alcoholic you would like your sangria to be. Some sangria lovers opt for adding in soda water for carbonation. Sangria blanca is sangria made using white wine and complementing fruits rather than the standard red wine.

Since sangria involves many different ingredients and is often made in large batches meant for sharing, it’s a great drink to make for holiday parties or get-togethers with family and friends. Check out the following recipes we’ve found, and whip up a batch to enjoy with your loved ones!

Red Sangria

  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 orange (ends cut off), thinly sliced
  • 1 red apple, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 bottles well-chilled dry red wine, such as Rioja or red Zinfandel
  • 1 cup club soda
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice

In a large pitcher, stir together brandy, orange and apple slices. Let stand 15 minutes. Add wine, club soda, and orange juice. Serve over ice.

Christmas Sangria

  • 2 bottles Zinfandel
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 2 limes, sliced
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 8 oz. Orange juice
  • 8 oz. Cranberry juice
  • 12 oz simple syrup
  • 1/2 bottle Cava
  • Cranberries (optional)

Muddle fruit, then combine all ingredients except Cava. Mix in the Cava at the end and serve in a wine glass over ice, garnished with cranberries.

White Sangria

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 shots Calvados or other apple liquor
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 2 ripe peaches, cut into wedges
  • 3 ripe green apples seeded and cut into wedges
  • 1 bottle white Rioja Spanish wine or other dry white wine
  • 1 pint raspberries
  • Sparkling soda water, for topping off glasses of sangria at table

Combine sugar, Calvados, lime, lemon, peaches and apples in a large pitcher. Cover with 1 bottle of Rioja wine and chill sangria several hours. To serve, spoon fruits into glasses or goblets, adding a few fresh raspberries in each glass, pour wine over top of the fruit. Top glasses of sangria off with a splash of soda water and serve.

Sources: National Sangria Day,




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Alyssa Milano’s Birthday

alyssamilanoDecember 19 is Alyssa Milano’s birthday! Alyssa Milano is an American actress best known for her various television roles, most notably Who’s the Boss?, Melrose Place, and Charmed.

Milano was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 19, 1972 to a fashion designer mother and a film music editor father. She unexpectedly took on acting at the age of 7 when her babysitter took her to an audition for the musical Annie, and she landed a part of an orphan. She spent the next 18 months of her life traveling with the show and knew this is the career she wanted for the rest of her life.

A few years later, at the age of 12, Milano was offered a role in the hit sitcom Who’s the Boss?, playing star Tony Danza‘s young daughter. She spent the entirety of her adolescence on the show, turning her into a 1980s teen icon. To keep herself from being typecast as a wholesome teenager, she began to take more daring and risqué roles.

Breaking back into the scene again as an adult, Milano’s next big leading role was in the cult TV hit, Charmed, a show about modern-day witches. Though there were clashes between Milano and her co-star, Shannen Doherty, who left the show after the third season, Charmed lasted for eight seasons and attracted an entirely new fan base for Milano.

An avid baseball fan since childhood, she published a book about her love of baseball called Safe at Home: Confessions of a Baseball Fanatic in 2010 and regularly writes a blog on Major League Baseball’s website about the Los Angeles Dodgers. After noticing that most sports teams did not offer apparel that was specifically tailored for women, Milano pitched a female-targeted teamwear line to the MLB. Soon she had her own line called “Touch” which has now expanded to other sports than just baseball.

After a life-changing trip she took to South Africa in the early 2000s, Milano became an ambassador for both UNICEF and the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, and she often encourages her fans to donate to these charitable causes and others. She also appeared in an advertisement for PETA and helped film a viral Funny or Die sketch to bring attention to the Syrian civil war.

Though she has had much success in the entertainment industry, Milano values her philanthropic work as her greatest accomplishment saying, “I think I’m most proud to be an ambassador for UNICEF. That’s probably the work I’m most proud of. It’s very humbling and wonderful.”

Sources: Wikipedia,

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Bake Cookies Day

cookieDecember 18 is Bake Cookies Day!

In the midst of the holiday season, today is the perfect day to escape from your holiday stress and that winter weather, and spend your day in a warm kitchen baking sweet treats!

Though the origin of this day remains unknown, the origin of the cookie dates back to Persia in 7th century AD after the use of sugar became more prevalent. The cookie quickly spread through Europe and then to America because of the popularity of global travel, and the treat’s easy traveling capabilities.

Spend the day baking cookies and trying new recipes. Better yet, host a cookie exchange with your friends. A cookie exchange is a great way to find new recipes (and indulge in even more new delicious sweets).

Looking for new cookie recipes? Browse through the recipes below!

Or, be healthy and make over your cookies!

Sources:, Wikipedia,

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First Airplane Flies

On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, made the first successful flight of a gas-powered, self-propelled airplane. Although the plane only stayed aloft for 12 seconds and flew only 120 feet, it was still considered a successful first flight.

However, on the last of the three flight tests made that day, the plane flew 852 feet in 59 seconds. This historic flight in airplane history was even captured on film. Check it out!

If you happen to be traveling by plane today, take a moment to appreciate how quickly that plane gets you from point A to point B and to thank the Wright Brothers for making it happen.


Sources:, Wikipedia,

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Boston Tea Party Day

Boston Tea Party-1973 issue-3cHappy Boston Tea Party Day!

On December 16, 1773, colonists in Massachusetts protested against the East India Company’s monopolization on American tea importation, as granted by Parliament, by boarding three British tea ships in Boston Harbor and dumping 342 chests of tea into the harbor.

Click here to find out why!

Did You Know…that the Boston Tea Party was one of several tension-building events that lead to the American Revolutionary War between the North American colonies  and Great Britain? The Boston Tea Party was the turning point in which colonists started to consider forming a united resistance against British rule.


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Bill of Rights Day

On December 15, 1791, the United States adopted the Bill of Rights, enshrining in our Constitution the protection of our inalienable freedoms, from the right to speak our minds and worship as we please to the guarantee of equal justice under the law.”

- President Barack Obama, Presidential Proclamation, Bill of Rights Day 2011

On this day in 1791, the United States adopted the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments of the U.S. constitution.

Written and introduced to the first U.S. Congress by James Madison, who later became the 4th U.S. President, the Bill of Rights protect the individual rights of U.S. citizens by limiting the federal government’s power and granting some power to the states and the public.

Bill of Rights Day was created not only to commemorate the establishment of this significant symbol of freedom but to remind us of that freedom, which we sometimes take for granted.

Celebrate Bill of Rights Day by reading, understanding, and appreciating the Bill of Rights. If you’ve got a little more time, read the U.S. constitution while you’re at it.

Having trouble understanding the Bill of Rights or looking for fun yet effective ways to teach kids about the Bill of Rights? You’ll find plenty of educational resources at the Bill of Rights Institute.


Sources: Holiday Insights, Wikipedia, Bill of Rights Institute

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National Bouillabaisse Day

Flickr - cyclonebill - Bouillabaisse med rouilleHappy National Bouillabaisse Day!

Celebrating Bouillabaisse Day, Part I: Learn about bouillabaisse

1. Bouillabaisse = fish stew/seafood soup/fish soup.

2.  Bouillabaisse contains various types of cooked fish and shellfish (at least five kinds) and vegetables, such as leeks, onions, tomatoes, celery and potatoes. It’s flavored with a variety of herbs and spices, such as garlic, orange peel, basil, bay leaf, fennel and saffron.

3. Bouillabaisse originated in Marseilles, France around 600 B.C. but was referred to as “kakavia,” which is Greek because the people living in Marseilles at the time were Phoceans (aka Ancient Greek people), not French people. The Phoceans founded Marseilles in 600 B.C.

4. Bouillabaisse is rarely made for less than 10 people. More people = more fish = yummier bouillabaisse.

Celebrating National Bouillabaisse Day, Part II: Now that you know a little more about bouillabaisse, make enough bouillabaisse for at least 10 people…

Summer Tomato Bouillabaisse with Basil Rouille (by Bon Appetit)
Bouillabaisse (by Food & Wine)
Bouillabaisse (by Simply Recipes)

Celebrating National Bouillabaisse Day, Part III: Find 10 people to eat it…


Photo Source: cyclonebill, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Wassily Kandinsky Dies

kandinskyOn December 13, 1944, famous Russian painter and theorist, Wassily Kandinsky died. He is known for painting the first purely abstract pieces of art.

Kandinsky was born in Moscow in 1866 and had a close personal experience with art from a young age. With the perception that “each color lives by its mysterious life,” Kandinsky’s childhood artwork utilized very specific color combinations. Even though his inclinations toward making art were strong, stating that he felt as though drawing and painting lifted him out of reality, he pursued his parents’ wishes for him to attend law school. He married his first wife in 1892 and began working at the Moscow Faculty of Law, managing an art-printing works on the side.

Two events led to Kandinsky quitting his law work and turning his full attention toward creating art – seeing a French Impressionists exhibition, including Claude Monet‘s Haystacks, in Moscow and hearing Richard Wagner‘s Lohengrin at the Bolshoi Theatre. The powerful sense of color in Monet’s work and the way Wagner pushed the limits of music and melody beyond standard lyricism inspired Kandinsky to move to Munich to pursue studying and making art full-time.

He was accepted into a prestigious private painting school and went on to study at the Munich Academy of Arts. Though he was in school, his artistic studies were mostly self-taught, and during this time he started to become known as an art theorist as well as a painter. At first, his art was more conventional, but his spiritual studies and the connection he made between music and color triggered the art theories he became known for and displayed in his works. By the beginning of the 20th century, Kandinsky became known as the father of abstract art.

Harnessing his physiological gift of synaesthesia cognate which allowed him to hear color and see sound, Kandinsky began to use color as an expression of emotion rather than just a physical attribute of an object. He befriended several other artists of the time and often showed his work in exhibitions while also publishing his artistic theories and ideas.

In the early 1900s, he divorced his first wife and met art student Gabriele Münter with whom he traveled extensively. He also formed a group of artists that was fundamental to Expressionism called The Blue Rider with fellow artist Franz Marc. The group held two important exhibitions in 1911 and 1912. After returning to Russia and teaching art, he was influenced by the constructivist movement and began using more geometrical forms and hard lines in his work. He met and married Nina Andreevskaya and had a child with her, who only lived until the age of 3. Devastated by his son’s death, Kandinsky began to focus his restless energy on the reformation of art and government-run programs in Russia and helped establish Moscow’s Institute of Artistic Culture and Museum of Pictorial Culture. Kandinsky’s spiritual and artistic position was denounced and eventually his Soviet citizenship was revoked. He fled Russia in 1921 and joined the Bauhuas Movement in Weimer, Germany. Kandinsky was invited to teach at the Bauhaus, which was an innovative school of art and architecture. He taught classes on design, advanced color theory, and abstract painting and wrote plays and poems.

The Nazis shut down the Bauhaus in 1933 and many of Kandinsky’s works were confiscated after an exhibition. He fled to a small suburb of Paris called Neuilly-sur-Seine, but lived the rest of his life in seclusion, suffering from depression because his art was no longer selling well. Though Kandinsky didn’t think highly of himself, he was still known for being a controversial artist and theorist, and he became internationally known for his exhibitions, which he continued to do until his death. He gained an important fan in Solomon Guggenheim, a U.S. businessman and art collector, who began collecting Kandinsky’s works and later started his own foundation and museum which still holds art from some of the most important expressionist and surrealist painters of the 20th century.

Most of the work Kandinsky produced while he was in Russia did not survive, although most of his German works are still in existence. Kandinsky’s paintings are known for fetching a high price when they are put up to auction with most selling for over $20 million.

Kandinsky died on December 13, 1944 after suffering from cerebrovascular disease at his studio in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

Sources: Wikipedia,, IMDB


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