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Picasso’s First Exhibition

On June 24, 1901, 19-year-old Pablo Picasso had the first major exhibition of his artwork shown at a gallery in Paris on the famed rue Lafitte. The exhibition featured 75 original pieces of the relatively unknown Spanish artist, and the first critics of his art applauded his showing but blasted him for the quantity of influence from French painters. He would go on to harness a style that was completely his own, often marked by periods (Blue, Rose, Cubism, etc.).

Check out some of our awesome 2014 art calendars featuring work by none other than Pablo Picasso!

Sources: History, OUP Blog

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Beatlemania Premiers

Beatlemania, the musical, premiered on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theater on May 31, 1977.

The Broadway feature was advertised as a “rockumentary” that centered on the music of The Beatles and the madness that surrounded them during the 1960s; Beatlemania was “Not The Beatles, but an incredible simulation.”

Beatlemania ran from 1977 through 1979 and was performed upwards of 900 times. The show had over 50 cast members that would rotate due to the vocal strain on the performers, and was staged in many cities in the United States and around the world. Many revival tours based on the original Beatlemania have popped up over the years, some even running today.

Sources: Wikipedia, Playbill Vault

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First Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is a high stakes horse racing event that takes place every year on the first Saturday in May at the Churchill Downs track in Louisville, Kentucky. The racing field is made up of a number of 3-year-old Thoroughbred horses that compete over a distance of 1.25 miles (or 2 km).

The first ever Kentucky Derby was held on May 17, 1875 with a field of 15 Thoroughbreds and an audience of 10,000 people. In its inaugural year, the Kentucky Derby track was 1.5 miles long, but was reduced to the current length in 1876. Aristides was the winning horse that first year, ridden by jockey Oliver Lewis.

The Kentucky Derby has been run every single year since its introduction in 1875, and has come to be known as “The Most Exciting 2 Minutes in Sports” or “The Run for the Roses”, as the winning horse is adorned with a blanket of roses.  Today, the Kentucky Derby draws a crowd of around 150,000 spectators each year.

Sources: Wikipedia,

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Fred Astaire’s Birthday

Dancer, choreographer, singer, and actor Fred Astaire was born on May 10, 1899. He was credited by many as the greatest popular music dancer of all time, and is acknowledged as a main influence by scores of professional dancers. Fred Astaire’s stage and film career lasted for 76 years, during which time he starred in 31 musical films.

After achieving roles in many Broadway productions, Fred Astaire received his big break when he landed a small role in the Joan Crawford film, Dancing Lady. He went on to become one half of American film’s most beloved dance team alongside Ginger Rogers. The pair starred in ten films together, including: The Gay Divorcee (1934), Top Hat (1935), and Follow the Fleet (1936).

Fred Astaire died of pneumonia on June 22, 1987 at the age of 88 in Los Angeles, California, leaving behind his legacy of one of Hollywood’s greatest talents.

Sources: Wikipedia, Biography

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Turn Your Luck Around

Superstitions have existed as long as belief in the supernatural has, and people all over the world have been coming up ways to combat bad luck and superstitious beliefs ever since.

There are many superstitions that have become commonplace like how breaking a mirror, having a black cat cross your path, or walking under a ladder can bring you bad luck, but there are several other lesser-known superstitions that exist across the globe. In Turkey, it is said that if you chew gum at night, you are actually chewing the flesh of the dead. In 19th century England, men sometimes avoided eating lettuce because it was thought to have negative effects on fertility, thus if you ate lettuce, you may not be able to have a family. In Japan, if you pass by a graveyard or hearse and keep your thumb exposed, it could be bad luck for your parents because the Japanese word for thumb literally means “parent finger.” In some places, dropping a comb while combing your hair means disappointment is in your future. Another lesser-known superstition is that if you hear a dog howl while someone in your home is sick, it is a bad omen. The list of strange superstitions goes on and on and on, and many of them sprung from hoaxes or jokes.

To combat these superstitious beliefs or unlucky happenstances, different cultures have acquired various symbols and rituals over the years to increase the luck in their lives. In China, red is considered a lucky color meant to bring happiness. Doors of homes are often painted red to bring good omens, and red lanterns can be seen hung in many places around China. When five red bats are found together, they represent the “five good fortunes” of health, love, longevity, wealth, and virtue. The Dutch believe that circles are a symbol of success, and donuts are often eaten at New Year’s celebrations to bring luck for the rest of the year. People also wear circular items like hoop earrings to bring success into their lives. The Japanese eat soba noodles at the year’s start because long noodles are a signifier of a long and prosperous life. The 5 Yen coin in Japan is also considered lucky, and many Japanese carry one of these coins around at all times. Pronounced “go-en,” the name of these coins is close to the words for destiny, karma, or good luck. In Norse folklore, acorns and their bearers, the oak tree, are supposed to bring good fortune. Acorns are said to prevent lightening when set on a windowsill. Native Americans created dream catchers to catch negative images from dreams while asleep. Nautical stars have been seen as luck symbols that help provide guidance for sailors for many years. Then there are the old lucky standbys, like the four-leaf clover and rainbows. The number seven is also often considered a lucky number. In Japanese mythology, there are the Seven Gods of Fortune, which represent various aspects of life in which people wish to prosper like health and wealth.

Aside from these lucky symbols, there are also a plethora of rituals people partake in to try and get luck on their side. Well-known ones in the United States include throwing coins into a wishing well or breaking a wishbone in half. Whoever gets the bigger half of the bone gets to make a wish. Many have also been known to blow away stray eyelashes and make a wish, or wish on shooting stars seen in the night’s sky. In Turkey, those wishing to banish their luck participate in a ritual where a pot of boiling water is held over their head. Liquid lead is then dropped into the water where it instantly solidifies. The solidification is said to absorb that person’s bad omens. In Tahiti, getting tattoo is said to bring good luck and protection. The word “tattoo” comes from the Tahitian word “tatu,” and tattoos are meant to represent your history, background, and include symbols that represent good fortune. In several countries there are also rituals pertaining to marriage. In Morocco, unmarried women burn chameleons in glasses to rid themselves of bad luck. In Italy, grooms carry pieces of iron in their pockets to keep evil spirits away and brides rip their veils to bring the couple good luck. In Singapore before wedding ceremonies, a prosperous man will decide the place where the marrying couple’s bed should go, and then a young male relative will roll in the bed to bless the couple with fertility.

Whether you decide to paint your door red or drop lead over your head, there are many ways to combat bad luck and superstitious beliefs. Perhaps you can even come up with your own!

Sources:, Listverse, Lists O’ Plenty, List25, Pimsleur Approach


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Luck Around the World

Luck is an uncontrollable and unpredictable force that can shape your life in a favorable or unfavorable way. Good luck charms, talismans, and rituals vary greatly depending on where you live and what your beliefs are. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to look into the different forms of luck around the world. Read on and maybe you will find something new to try to switch your luck in a different direction.

Depending on where you are in the world, luck can come in a variety of forms. Many different animals are thought to bring luck. In China, dragons, fish, elephants, and cranes have been known to represent good luck and prosperity. Tigers are also considered to be protectors against evil in China. Across Asia, crickets are also a sign of luck. This has been seen in popular culture in movies like Mulan, where the title character carries a cricket friend with her. Scarabs have been thought to bring good fortune since ancient Egyptian times, and ladybugs are also widely believed to be a lucky insect. Germanic cultures have often seen the pig as a lucky animal, and dolphins were symbols of luck in several ancient cultures including Greece, Sumer, Egypt, and Rome. For Christians and Native Americans, the dolphin is a symbol of protection, and its image is said to bring good luck. Certain animal parts have also been linked to luck. Western cultures have a long-held belief that rubbing a rabbit’s foot will bring you good luck, and alligator teeth are supposedly good luck for gamblers. Another well-known symbol is the horseshoe, which when hung with the open side up is a bringer of luck.

If you’re doing some traveling, and looking for luck in places you visit, we’ve found a few well-known lucky locations across the globe. In Ireland, kissing the famous Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle has been said to endow the kisser with the gift of eloquence and good luck in communicative skills. The Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine in Japan has been noted as a lucky spot for entrepreneurs to travel. The United States is home to some lucky spots as well. In Seattle, rubbing the nose of Rachel, a 700-pound bronze pig in Pike Place Market will bring luck. Hoover Dam is home to a 30-foot sculpture who is said to bring you luck when you rub her feet. Lincoln’s tomb in Illinois is a noticeably different color on his nose, where visitors have rubbed for luck. Back in Europe, a visit to the statue of St. John Nepomuk in Prague is said to bring visitors luck and guarantee a return visit to Prague someday. Be sure to pay proper respect to Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, before heading off on any journey.

Wherever you are in the world, you are sure to find ways to improve your luck and perhaps turn it around!

Sources: Gadling, Huffington Post, Yahoo, Divine Caroline

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Kwanzaa Begins

Kwanzaa, a celebration of African-American heritage and culture, is celebrated for one week every year from December 26 to January 1.

Created by Africana studies professor and activist, Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966. Karenga created Kwanzaa to ”give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.” Unlike Christmas and Hanukkah, which are religiously associated holidays, Kwanzaa is meant to be a cultural Pan-African holiday, meant to bring together people of African descent no matter where they live. The name of the holiday comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means “first fruits of the harvest.”

Kwanzaa lasts for seven days, and each day brings focus to one of the seven guiding principles of Kwanzaa. The principles are as follows:

  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems, and to solve them together.

  • Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

  • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

  • Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

  • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Kwanzaa celebrations usually include readings and reflections on African culture and history, libations, musical and artistic performances, a candle lighting ritual, and a feast. Kwanzaa was at first celebrated as a completely different entity from the holidays surrounding it, but many African Americans now celebrate Kwanzaa alongside Christmas, New Year’s, and other winter holidays. Many cultural exhibitions have been created to celebrate Kwanzaa including African dance, music, and poetry readings.

Joyous Kwanzaa!

Sources: Wikipedia, How Stuff Works

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Gifts That Makes the Heart Grow Fonder: Long-Distance Love During the Holidays

In the case of long-distance love, all those miles can make your heart grow fonder— or, tangle it up in a frustrating knot. Either way, sending your long-distance love a thoughtful gift is a must this holiday season. There are more than 14 million long-distance relationships in the U.S. right now, and 3.75 million long-distance marriages, according to That’s a lot of late-night Skyping and frequent flier miles!

If you are determined to make it work, then it’s time to dive into the world of intimate, heartfelt gifts (note: gentlemen, “intimate” does not mean “erotic”) for that lovely lady you miss curling up with every night.

For the Traditional Trend-setter

No matter how much the lady doth protest, women love flowers. They might say they’re cliché, but that’s generally code for, “I’m used to not getting flowers.” If that’s the case, make this the year that changes— send roses.

In this on-the-go era of cell phones, traffic jams and back-to-back meetings, chances are good your special lady needs some good old-fashioned romance. Flowers will enchant her.

If she’s worth going the extra mile for all year long, consider sending a seasonal bouquet about once a month. Flowers symbolize love, growth and beauty, all the things she embodies. Flowers are the ultimate gesture of chivalry and care.

For the Sweetly Sappy

This gift is enough to melt any heart. When you’re visiting your long-distance love this holiday season, arrange for a photographer to meet the two of you at a park or your favorite hotel for an afternoon photo shoot. This will testify to your desire to see her lovely face every day and commemorate your special time together. Her heart will sing.

Next, frame your favorite image of the bunch in matching frames and hang them up over your respective fire places. Every time one of you walks by and the other isn’t there, each will fondly recall your afternoon photo shoot – and, each other. Ah, love.

For the Organized

Or is that the disorganized? Either way, calendars and planners make a thoughtful and useful gift. They make them for every personality type out there, from animal lovers and tea drinkers to unicorn aficionados and food-o-philes. With 2013 stretched out before her like a wide open field, they’ll help keep her on track— not to mention, she’ll think of you every day of the year. Not that she doesn’t already, of course.

For the Avant Garde

If your lady loves to learn new things and explore the finer things in life, aim to transcend distance and time apart through art or literature.

Find out her favorite author or artist and do a little investigating. If she digs Victor Hugo or Charles Dickens, then the likelihood of finding or affording a signed copy or first edition of their work is slim. If, however, she has a slightly less well-known favorite book, you’d be surprised by some of the great deals on first editions and signed copies you can find on local auction sites.

The same goes for her favorite artist. Look around; you may be able to nab a signed print from someone local. You most likely can’t afford an original Picasso, but you can probably afford a high-quality Picasso print and a custom frame job. She will be elated.

Whatever you decide to get your long-distance love this holiday season, make sure it is reflective of who she is and how much you care for her. Whether she lives across town or across the world, give her something special to remember you by when you can’t be there.

A big thanks to our guest blogger, George Brown, for this article!

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Thanks Given to

A customer called in to asking for Mary Engelbreit 2012 Desk Calendars. Knowing that the year was almost over and these calendars were close to useless, our customer service representative wanted to make sure she actually meant 2012. That simple question provided a heartwarming story that we had to share.

Joann’s mother loved Mary Engelbreit; she was one of her favorite artists. Years ago, Joann bought her mother a plaque of one of Engelbreit’s painting depicting a mother and daughter with a touching caption that reminded her of their relationship. Her mother passed away this year on May 22, and when she went to her mother’s house to sort through her belongings weeks later, she noticed her mother’s Mary Engelbreit calendar. The calendar was still on May 22, and on that day was the same depiction of the mother and daughter from her gift years prior. Joann felt comforted by this strange coincidence, and wanted the 2012 desk calendars to give as keepsakes to the other women in her family.

We were so touched by this story, that we had to share it with the Engelbreit studio and Andrews McMeel publishing. Through a joint effort, we were able to send Joann a print of that painting signed by Mary Engelbreit herself.

“Thank y’all so much for requesting it or doing whatever you did to get that to me. I’ve framed it and have it in my office and it is almost like having my mother there… Thanks again and Happy Holidays.”

This is why we love our jobs. Happy Thanksgiving and be sure to spread joy when you can.

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National Wear Red Day

Happy National Wear Red Day!

National Wear Red Day occurs on the first Friday in February to help raise awareness of the dangers of heart disease to women.  Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women in the country, so in 2004 the American Heart Association (AHA) started the Go Red for Women Campaign to inform women of the dangers of this silent killer.

Each year, companies and organizations across America join forces to raise awareness and money to support education and research. Women can find information about diet choices and exercise routines to help lower their risk, and anyone who wears red this weekend will receive a special 20% discount at Macy’s stores.

Donate today or find an event near you!


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