National Coconut Torte Day

coconut torteMarch 13 is National Coconut Torte Day! A torte is a luscious multi-layered cake dessert filled with heavy creams or fruits. You can deduce then that a coconut torte is a multi-layered creamy treat topped with coconut goodness. Yum!

What makes a torte different from a regular cake, you say? Tortes differ from cakes in that they are usually made with very little or no flour. Instead, breadcrumbs or ground nuts take the place of flour as the base and sugar, eggs, and other flavorings are added as well. In between the spongey layers of the torte, you will usually find buttercream, whipped cream, mousse, jam, icing, or fruit. The torte is then typically cooled, glazed and garnished. Because today is National Coconut Torte Day, be sure to top your torte with coconut, and maybe add some to the layers in between for good measure.

To celebrate, try one of these coconut torte recipes below, and add a scoop of ice cream on the side if the torte itself is not enough indulgence for you!

Sources: CNN’s Eatocracy, Examiner.com, Wikipedia

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The Cat in the Hat Published

cat in the hatOn March 12, 1957, children’s story The Cat in the Hat was first published. The story, penned by Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, follows an anthropomorphic cat who wears a red and white hat and a bow tie.

The creation of this famous children’s tale began when William Spaulding, then the director of Houghton Mifflin’s educational division, saw a Life magazine article in 1954 written by John Hersey. The article was called  ”Why Do Students Bog Down on First R? A Local Committee Sheds Light on a National Problem: Reading,” and covered a topic that was a major concern of the time – why children couldn’t read. The conclusion of the article was that most children were bored of the story most used to teach children to read at the time – Dick and Jane. In the article, Spaulding suggested that Dr. Seuss write a new book for children to take interest in. Spaulding was intrigued by the idea and issued it to Dr. Seuss as a challenge.

thing1thing2This challenge spurred Dr. Seuss to write The Cat in the Hat, which went on to become a huge success. Dr. Seuss had achieved considerable fame as a children’s author before this, but The Cat in the Hat put him on the map and made Dr. Seuss a household name. The Cat in the Hat was Seuss’s 13th book, and has since become his most prolific.

The storyline of The Cat in the Hat follows an anthropomorphic cat in a large red and white top hat to the home of two children on a rainy day when their mother is out of the house. The cat brings with him two mischief-making friends named Thing One and Thing Two. The three try to impress the children with their various tricks bringing energy and exuberance into the house on what would’ve been a dreary day. Along with this excitement comes some chaos. The children’s articulate goldfish is vehemently opposed to the behavior of the cat and his friends. The children eventually get things under control, and the cat cleans up the mess he’s made in the house and disappears mere seconds before the children’s mother returns home.

This famous children’s story is not only praised for engaging children and making them want to read, but also is praised from a literary standpoint for its incredible feats in writing. The entire story follows a strict triple meter, keeps a tiny vocabulary that is easily understood by children, and weaves an intriguing tale that doesn’t bore its readers. The story only uses 223 different words, with 33 of these words only occurring twice, and 54 only once.

The Cat in the Hat is the 9th bestselling hardcover children’s book of all time and sold over 7.2 million copies in the United States alone.

Sources: Wikipedia, PBS, Seussipedia, NPR

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Worship of Tools Day

OutsetMarch 11 is Worship of Tools Day! If it weren’t for tools, how would we have built the world around us? Celebrate every tool in its glory today!

We can thank our Neanderthal ancestors for the invention of tools, who used tools made from stone, like hand axes and cleavers, to hunt, kill, and skin their food. They also used tools to carve pictures into stone. Though the origin of this strange holiday remains unknown, we can use this day to appreciate the tools we use regularly use (as well as the ones that are lonely in our toolbox) for all the things they have helped us create, build, and fix over the years.

You can celebrate today by carefully thinking about what needs to be repaired in your life, and showing your tools love by using them to complete these old projects. Even if you don’t have anything that needs to be fixed, you can get crafty and think of a new DIY project to use what tools you have at your disposal. Help others celebrate by buying your loved ones some new tools and helping them take on projects of their own.

Happy Worship of Tools Day!

Sources: Holiday Insights, Examiner.com, Delaware County News Network, Zillow

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Middle Name Pride Day

March 10 is Middle Name Pride Day! This day is meant to celebrate and encourage people to take pride in their often not known and seldom used middle names.

Middle names are given to children by their parents as a way to make their names unique. This holiday was created by a man named Jerry Hill, who thought that by creating this day, he could help those who are ashamed of or hate their middle names to instead embrace their unique middle names and take pride in them.

It just seemed that people can tend to hide a middle name. They might do so for any number of reasons. What MNPD represents is a chance to let a person’s middle name receive the recognition that its giver most likely intended for it.

- Jerry Hill

Parents often pick middle names to honor a family member or friend. Sometimes bolder middle names are given to children if their parents feel the name might not work as a main name. Your middle name is just as much a part of your name and who you are as your first or last name, so even if it is cringe-worthy or strange, today is the day to put your shame aside and shout our your middle name with pride!

If you’re not sure what the origin of your middle name is, then celebrate today by finding out from your parents. The story may be more interesting than you think! You can also celebrate today by calling your friends and having them call you by your middle name. You might learn something new about some of your closest friends that you might not have known otherwise.

Happy Middle Name Pride Day!

Sources: Examiner.com, Holiday Insights, Days of the Year

 

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Barbie Day

barbie calendarOn March 9, 1959, the first Barbie doll was released at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Barbie was the first mass produced doll made in the United States with adult features and has since become a cultural icon as well as a subject of much controversy.

The idea for Barbie came from the mind of Ruth Handler, who co-founded Mattel, Inc. with her husband in 1945. She noticed that her young daughter had stopped playing with her baby dolls in lieu of playing with paper dolls that looked like adults. Handler realized that this specific niche of dolls modeled after adults was something that had yet to be tapped into. Playing with these adult dolls allowed children to imagine the future of themselves as grown-ups.

Barbie’s design and inspiration came from a German doll named Lilli. Lilli was a comic strip character, who was turned into a doll meant to be sold as a gag gift for men sold in tobacco shops. Lilli unexpectedly became a popular toy with children, and Mattel bought the rights to her so that they may create their own version. The name “Barbie” came from Handler’s little girl who was named Barbara. In 1955, Mattel became the first toy company to broadcast commercials targeted at children due to their sponsorship from The Mickey Mouse Club.

After her introduction at the American Toy Fair, and the new use of commercial ads, the popularity of Barbie skyrocketed. The demand for the doll was so great that soon Handler created a boy version of the doll and named it Ken after her son Kenneth.

Along with Barbie’s popularity came a significant amount of controversy. Some thought that Barbie’s mass amounts of material items – her dream house, her multiple cars, and her huge closet of “designer” outfits gave children the idea that being materialistic was a normal and good thing. The thing about Barbie that caused the most outrage though was the size of her waist and breasts which scores of people thought gave children negative views on body image, equating skinny with pretty.

Even with all this criticism though, Barbie has remained a popular and well-known figure in the world of children’s toys and her impact on the toy market is one that will and has go down in history. She has now become a global phenomenon.

Sources: History.com, Wikipedia, dolls4play.com

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Fight of the Century

life-frazier-cover frank sinatraOn March 8, 1971, two World Heavyweight Champion boxers, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali faced off at Madison Square Gardens in the “Fight of the Century” to determine the true world champion.

At the time of the fight, both boxers had a legitimate claim to the title “World Heavyweight Champion.” Ali won the title in 1964 from Sonny Liston with an undefeated record, but had been stripped of the title when he refused to register in the draft in 1967. He won an appeal for his conviction and 5-year prison sentence in front of the Supreme Court in 1971 and returned to fighting. During Ali’s hiatus, Frazier had fairly won the title, and soon a match between the two champions received considerable hype and was billed the “Fight of the Century.” Surprisingly, the fight lived up to its name.

Ali had become well-known over the years for his speed and dexterity despite his large size. Frazier was known for his unmatched left hook and the way he would ferociously attack his opponent’s body. At a time when the country felt divided, the two fighters came to represent the two politically and socioeconomic sides of America. Ali represented the anti-establishment left-wing liberals, while Frazier was seen as a symbol for the blue collar pro-war conservatives. This parallel symbolism of the two fighters added to the hype of the highly anticipated fight.

ali calendarBoth fighters were guaranteed a $2.5 million purse for the fight, which was a record for any single prizefight at the time. Madison Square Garden had a raucous atmosphere on the night of the highly publicized fight with tons of police officers on hand to keep the crowd under control, and countless celebrities in attendance. Among them were Norman Mailer, Woody Allen, and Frank Sinatra, who was there taking photos for Life magazine because he was unable to obtain a ringside seat.

Unexpectedly, the fight lasted a full 15 rounds. Ali was on top for the first three rounds, delivering several quick jabs to Frazier’s face, causing it to welt up. Things turned around at the end of round three though, when Frazier struck Ali’s jaw with one of his famous hooks, causing Ali’s head to snap backwards. Frazier followed up by ferociously attacking Ali’s body as he was stunned. The bodily blows wore out Ali, and Frazier began to dominate the match in the fourth round.

By the sixth round, Frazier had attacked Ali with a flurry of his famous left hooks and Ali began to look noticeably run down. Ali still had a speed and combo advantage that kept the match close until the eleventh round. In the eleventh round, Frazier cornered Ali and pummeled him with another one of his left hooks which nearly floored Ali. Ali survived the round and the next three, though Frazier was in the lead for all of them. At the beginning of round 15, Frazier once again struck Ali with a left hook, sending him to the floor on his back. Refusing to give up, Ali stood up with a swollen jaw and lasted the rest of the round despite the terrific amount of blows issued by Frazier. The judges unanimously declared Frazier the winner, and Ali faced his very first loss.

The fight no doubt lived up to its name, and is still considered one of the greatest boxing matches in the history of the sport.

Sources: Wikipedia, LIFE, ESPN Boxing

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National Cereal Day

cerealMarch 7 is National Cereal Day! Cereal is a breakfast food that comes in all flavors, shapes, and sizes and is usually served with milk.

The word cereal was derived from Cerealia. This was an ancient Roman celebration that celebrated the goddess of grain, Ceres. In the late 1800s, Americans’ diets were mostly high-protein meat-based ones. The unhealthy effects of this were noticeable – laziness, fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems abounded. Cereal was created as a healthy breakfast alternative.

If you’re skeptical of the health benefits of cereal and why our ancestors chose this alternative, you should know that when cereal was first created it was not the sugar-filled food it has since become. Older versions of cereal were dense and bran-packed. They often had to be soaked overnight so that digestion would not be difficult. The fiber rich food was much healthier than meaty meals that were the norm then.

Dr. James Caleb Jackson created these bran nuggets for visitors to his sanitarium, which we liken these days to a health resort. At his sanitarium, he provided healthy food options and treatments for those looking to improve upon themselves. John Kellogg, who was a surgeon and fellow health food nut, took Jackson’s idea and began to experiment. John Kellogg and his brother, Keith Kellogg, began to test out new foods made from boiled wheat. As a sheer accident, the two left out some of their creations overnight. When they returned the next morning, they found the batch had gone stale. Rather than throwing the batch out, they decided to experiment more. They rolled out the batch and noticed that each wheat berry turned into its very own flake. Taking the idea and using corn instead, they created one of the most well-known cereals of all time – Corn Flakes!

Over the years, others began to experiment with cereal making and brands like Grape Nuts, Post Toasties, and Cheerios were created. In 1939, the addition of sugar began to change cereal’s previous status as a health food. The first sweetened cereal to hit the shelves was Ranger Joe Popped Wheat Honnie. Statistics say that 49% of Americans today have cereal for breakfast.

You can celebrate today by chowing down on your favorite cereal. Healthy or not – make sure to have a bowl!

Sources: Punchbowl, National Cereal Day, Al.com

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Michelangelo’s Birthday

michelangelofaceItalian Renaissance painter, Michelangelo, was born on March 6, 1475 in Caprese, Italy. Considered one of the greatest artists of all time and an influential figure in the development of Western art, and he is probably best known for his sculptures Pietà and David and for his remarkable painting of the ceiling and altar of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Michelangelo was born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni to small-scale banker and magistrate Leonardo di Buonarrota Simoni and Francesca Neri. He was the second of five sons born to the couple. As with most prodigy-like artists, Michelangelo took an interest in painting, drawing, and other forms of art at an early age as he watched painters at nearby churches. Early Michelangelo biographers claim that Francesco Granacci, one of Michelangelo’s grammar school friends introduced Michelangelo to painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. Not blind to Michelangelo’s disinterest in regular schooling and the potential takeover of their family’s financial business, Michelangelo’s father sent him to apprentice under Ghirlandaio. He learned fresco painting during his time apprenticing with Ghirlandaio, who was a master of the technique.

In 1489, Ghirlandaio was asked by the de facto ruler of Florence, Lorenzo de’ Medici, to present his two best pupils. At age 14, Michelangelo was sent to study classical sculpting techniques and philosophy at the Humanist academy at the Medici gardens. He gained access to Florence’s social elite and was exposed to some of the greatest artists, writers, and philosophers of the time. He also was granted permission by the Catholic Church to study cadavers and gain insight into human anatomy. These years of study greatly contributed to Michelangelo’s style which combined a precise realism with a lyrical beauty. The only two works that have survived from this time in Michelangelo’s life are  Madonna of the Steps and Battle of the Centaurswhich show his exceptional talent even in his teen years.

After moving to Rome in 1498, a still young Michelangelo began to work under the wing of Cardinal Jean Bilhères de Lagraulas. The cardinal commissioned him to do what would become known as one of his greatest pieces, PietàPiet means “pity” or “compassion,” and the sculpture was a six-foot wide and six-foot tall piece of marble carved into the shape of Mary cradling a dead Jesus in her lap. Michelangelo finished the piece in less than a year when he was only 25 years old. It was erected in the church which contained the cardinal’s tomb, and has since been moved five times and now rests at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. This work is the only of Michelangelo’s that bears his name, as he carved it on the sash Mary wears after hearing spectators attribute the work to another artist.

Michelangelo became well known for Pietà, and was commissioned to finish the work of two other artists who had failed to complete a statue of David. He sculpted a strong, yet vulnerable figure from 17 feet of marble, and the Statue of David became a symbol of Florentine pride and freedom. It is one of the most renowned works of the Renaissance.

Pope Julius II invited Michelangelo back to Rome in 1505 to build a series of sculptures that would be part of the pope’s tomb. This project was interrupted when the pope asked Michelangelo to begin painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Originally commissioned to paint the Twelve Apostles on the ceiling, Michelangelo asked for more freedom in his work and began painting complex scenes representing representing the Creation, the Fall of Man, the Promise of Salvation through the prophets, and the genealogy of Christ. When finished, the ceiling included over 300 figures. After firing all his assistants and finishing the 65-foot ceiling himself, he revealed his work on October 31, 1512. Michelangelo returned to working on the tomb of Pope Julius II over the next few decades, but never completed the project.

michelangelo2Painting the Sistine Chapel took a great physical toll on Michelangelo, and he began to focus on architecture. He was at the head of several projects including the Medici Chapel and the Laurentian Library, though his greatest was probably St. Peter’s Basilica, which he became chief architect for in 1546. He dealt with many conflicts later in life, including backlash after creating the large fresco in the Sistine Chapel, Last Judgement, which included several nude figures thought inappropriate for such a holy place.

Due to his harsh personality and short temper, Michelangelo had rocky relationships with most people he encountered, especially his superiors. He turned to writing as a way to express his melancholy and other feelings about his mostly solitary life. He composed hundreds of poems, sonnets, and other literary works towards the end of his life.

Michelangelo died in 1564 at age 88 in Rome after suffering a short illness. By his request, he was buried in Florence at the Basilica di Santa Croce, and Florentines revered him as the “father and master of all arts” at the time of his death. He is one of the lucky few artists who became wealthy and famous during his lifetime and saw two biographies about him completed. Along with Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, his name has become synonymous with the Florentine High Renaissance, and his life’s work remains legendary.

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia, Michelangelo Gallery

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Patsy Cline Dies

patsy clineOn March 5, 1963, American country singer Patsy Cline died. She is best known for hit songs like “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “I Fall to Pieces,” and “Crazy.” Cline’s career was short, but she helped pave the trail for women in the then male-dominated country music scene.

Cline was born on September 8, 1932, in Winchester, Virginia as Virginia Patterson Hensley. It wasn’t until she began performing professionally that she adopted the stage name “Patsy.” Her mother Hilda was only 16 when she married Cline’s father, Samuel, who was 25 years her senior. Her parents split when she was in high school, and Cline was forced to drop out of school to take on odd jobs to help support her family. Meanwhile, she had been nursing a passion for music since she was 8 years old. She had perfect pitch, and couldn’t read music, but taught herself how to play piano at this early age. On the side of her odd jobs, she began performing on several local radio programs as well as in variety and talent showcases. These small performances began to slowly attract a large following of fans who were drawn to her contralto voice and emotionally expressive singing style.

When she began performing with bandleader Bill Peer, who was also her second manager, he convinced her to go by the name “Patsy,” which was the shortened version of her middle name and her mother’s maiden name. The second half of her famous stage name came in 1953 when she married Gerald Cline. Facing lifestyle differences (Gerald wanted Patsy to become a housewife), they divorced in 1957. Peer helped Cline get her first recording contract with Four Star Records in 1955. She recorded a few honky tonk singles within the first two years of her contract, but they failed to mobilize her career.

Finally in 1957, Cline earned a spot performing on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts. She performed “Walkin’ After Midnight,” which she thought at the time to be ”just a little old pop song.” She was the unanimous winner of the competition, and after listeners began avidly requesting to hear the song on the radio, Cline released it as a single. She became one of the first country artists to have a crossover hit when the song reached No. 2 on the country chart and No. 16 on the pop chart. A short time after her success began to take hold, Cline married her second husband Charles Dick, with whom she had two children.

In 1960, Cline signed a new recording contract with Decca Records and began recording a series of hit singles, the first of which was “I Fall to Pieces,” which was her first No. 1 song on the country charts. Her successful crossover presence became concrete with this song, which also charted on the pop and adult contemporary charts. She began to positively influence other female singers in the male-dominated country music industry including  Loretta LynnDottie WestJan Howard, sixteen-year-old Brenda Lee and a thirteen-year-old Barbara Mandrell. Cline was known for “…giv[ing] anyone the skirt off her backside if they needed it,” according to Opry star Del Wood. Even when she didn’t have much money herself, she often paid expenses for these young female country singers to keep them in Nashville and help their careers thrive. Also in 1960, Cline’s request to join the Grand Ole Opry was accepted – she was the only performer in history to become part of the Opry in this way.

After giving birth to her son in 1961, Cline was involved in a head-on car collision with her brother which nearly took her life. This was the second near-fatal accident she had been in during her lifetime. She spent a month recovering in the hospital, with a broken wrist, dislocated hip, and a jagged cut across her forehead which required stitches and left a scar she later covered using make-up and wigs. Because the time she spent recovering, she wasn’t able to help publicize “I Fall to Pieces” as much as she would have liked and began searching for her next hit. A song written by Willie Nelson called “Crazy” was offered up to Cline, but at first she had a small amount of disdain for it due to its composition and Cline’s inability to hit the high notes in the song due to rib injuries she sustained from her accident. Initial tries at recording the song were unsuccessful. The next week, after Cline’s injuries had more time to heal, she was convinced to record the song again, using her own style and not trying to mimic Nelson’s original demo. Cline recorded the song in one take, hitting all the high notes she had previously been unable to. The song went on to become her greatest pop hit.

Cline’s fame only grew further from this point, and she became the first female artist to be billed above the male artists she performed with while touring. She befriended other country and pop music legends of the time including Johnny Cash, June Carter-Cash and Elvis, who she lovingly referred to as “Big Hoss.” Within the following year she became the first woman in country music to perform at Carnegie Hall, recorded and released more hits like “She’s Got You,” and began recording her fourth studio album.

In 1962 and 1963, many of Cline’s friends recalled her saying she felt a sense of impending doom and that she thought she might die soon. She began writing her will on Delta Airlines stationary, giving away personal belongings to friends, and asking those near her to take care of her children after she was gone. One night, as she was leaving the Grand Ole Opry, a fellow musician recalled her saying, “Honey, I’ve had two bad ones (accidents). The third one will either be a charm or it’ll kill me.”

On March 3, 1963, a benefit concert for disc jockey  ”Cactus” Jack Call, who had died in a car accident a year earlier, was held in Kansas City, Kansas. Cline was among the slew of other musicians who performed at the benefit, and she received a standing ovation after singing her last song, “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone.” Anxious to get back to her family in Nashville, she refused a 16-hour car ride with friend and fellow country singer Dottie West, and instead boarded a private jet the next day. Cline’s then manager, Randy Hughes, piloted the plane and they took off toward Nashville despite warnings of high winds and inclement weather.

When the plane did not arrive at the Nashville that night, friends and family began to worry. The next morning the plane was found 90 miles outside of Nashville. It had crashed nose down and all riders died instantly. Aside from Cline and her manager, two other country artists who had performed in the benefit, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins, lost their lives. Soon after the bodies were recovered, looters scavenged the plane, and the remnants of Cline’s belongings, her wrist watch stopped at 6:20, her Confederate flag cigarette lighter, her studded belt and three pairs of her gold lamé slippers were donated to the Country Music Hall of Fame. She was buried in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia.

For her contributions to country music, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame 10 years after her death, making her the first female solo artist to be inducted. She received several other posthumous awards and her life has been recalled in several biographies and biopic movies. After her death, three of her singles, “Sweet Dreams,” “Leavin’ On Your Mind,” and “Faded Love” all reached top 10 success on the country music charts. She was buried in her hometown of Winchester, Virginia and her headstone reads, “Virginia H (Patsy) Cline ‘Death Cannot Kill What Never Dies: Love’”.

Sources: Wikipedia, Biography.com, Citypages Blogs

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National Pound Cake Day

lemon-pound-cake-DSC_2814March 4 is National Pound Cake Day! Pound cake is a rich dessert made using a pound of sugar, a pound of flour, a pound of butter and a pound of eggs.

Pound cake was first introduced as a popular baked good in the 1700s, and its recipe spread quickly because it was so easy to remember and mimic. Typically, the recipe was meant to feed multiple families because of it’s large amount of ingredients. Due to the pound cake’s equal ratio of ingredients though, smaller versions of the cake can be made just as long as you stick to the 1:1:1:1 ratio. Even when using a smaller amount of each ingredient, these cakes are still referred to as pound cakes.

While we find nothing wrong with the original simplistic version of the pound cake, over the years, many have began to slightly alter the recipe by adding other flavors. A recipe dating back to 1851 used additives of lemon and orange juice to slightly change the texture and flavor of the cake. Other popular additions include vanilla or almond extract, chocolate, dried fruit, nuts. Some additions are dusted in flour to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the cake batter. Cake moistness can be altered by making substitutions like cooking oil or sour cream instead of butter.

The traditional pound cake is made in a bundt pan or loaf tin, but shapes have begun to vary based on cooking utensils. Some like their pound cakes plain, but if you’re craving some extra sweetness, you can top your cake with a sugar glaze, powdered sugar, icing, fruit, or anything else you desire!

We’ve found a couple of recipe variations on the traditional pound cake for you to try to celebrate today!

Sources: CNN’s Eatocracy, Wikipedia, Examiner.com

 

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