June 30th National Handshake Day

In the old days men fought with knives and swords so combat was much more hand-to-hand. Since 2 B.C. when they wanted to talk peace, or be friendly, they would offer their hand to the person opposite them to show they held no weapon. Since the majority of people were right-handed, they would offer their right hand. Left-handed people could be very sneaky this way by offering their right hand while still holding a weapon in their left hand, pulling an enemy in when it appeared they were offering peace.

Handshakes are often used to seal deals and have actually been used in court as proof that both parties intend to close their agreements honorably.

It is said that a person with a firm grasp in their handshake shows confidence, while a light handshake, means they are shy.

There are many correct ways to shake hands and many not-so-correct ways to offer you friendship by a handshake.

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The crusher is a definite no-no. Breaking all the bones in someone’s hand does not generally lead to friendship. Try to meet a handshake with the same strength as is offered. You’ll know more about the person you are dealing with when you use their handshake to gauge their personality.

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By placing a second hand on the person’s hand you are shaking normally means you are being genuine with that person, that you honestly care about them. It’s sort of like showing you don’t have a weapon in the other hand.

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The political handshake is over-the-top. When someone grasps your hand with both of theirs, clasping it firmly, it generally means they want control over you. Instead of showing sincerity it demonstrates exactly the opposite.

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The Bro handshake is genuine enough. It’s also a wrestling grip, something you might do with a friend or someone you are close to. It is generally followed with a chest bump or a light hug, always with the fist-gripped hands kept between those shaking hands. I think this came about while helping a friend back to their feet, perhaps after you have knocked them down!

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This version of the Bro shake is also identified as not being acceptable. It’s sort of saying you are my Bro but remember I can pull you over and hurt you. Again it is a control issue, even if not intended.

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I’m not really sure what this handshake means. It is showing closeness, like your lives are intertwined with each other. It is normally followed by some other sign like beating your chest with your other hand and shouting, “Power to the people!”.  It does show being united on some sort of front but that does not always mean friendship.

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Then there is the fist bump. You have to be careful with this one as it is easy to bump a little too hard. Oddly, this one is preferred by those in the medical field since it does not allow close contact and avoids the spreading of germs.

Women tend to not shake hands like men do. They often grasp each other’s hands but there is generally no shaking involved. However, that is somewhat easier to understand because women in the old days, did not carry weapons very often. When they do shake hands it is generally just to be social and very little can be obtained about the woman from the way she shakes hands.

How to celebrate: Try to read each and every handshake you get. Try changing your handshake to confuse people. Offer everyone you see today a handshake, see if they welcome it.

June 29th National Camera Day

In the late 1700s, Thomas Wedgwood created shadow image photograms making him the first photographer in history. In 1822, Nicephore Niepce, took the first picture that could be recognized but his process was not fast or easy – the subject was required to remain still for several hours while the picture “took”. Unfortunately he broke the plate while trying to make copies and literally destroyed his work.

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Niepce joined with Louis Daguerre who began work more as a chemist than a photographer. With Nicephore’s process the image was required to remain still for several hours while the picture “took”.  When Nicephore died in 1833, Daguerre was forced to move on by himself. In 1838, he took a picture that required the image remaining still for only 10 minutes and the art of modern photography had begun.

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Many others helped bring the art up to the standards it is today. Hercules Florence, John Herschel, Frederick Scott Archer, and Gabriel Lippman are among a few of those names.

Anthony-Phantom-CameraProbably the most recognized is George Eastman. He invented the use of modern ‘film’ in 1885.

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How to celebrate: Go out and take some pictures, Buy a new camera, Find a place where you can get an old-time photo made, Make “sunprints”.

June 28th National Paul Bunyan Day

It got very cold and boring in the north for the brave men, and sometimes women, that worked as lumberjacks. There was little available to entertain these hard working woodsmen. They frequently sat around their campfires making up stories to tell one another.  And so, Paul Bunyan was born, perhaps dating back as far as 1837 during the Papineau Rebellion.

Though the legend of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe had been told for years around the logging camps, he appears to be first mentioned to the public in the Duluth News Tribune in 1904.  William P. Laughead (1882-1958) is the first recorded author who wrote down these stories as promotional materials for the Red River Lumber Company in 1916.

As a baby, it is said it took 5 storks to carry Paul to his parents (I found no reference to his parents). When he clapped and laughed as a youth he would break windows in neighboring communities. His heritage was French-Canadian American.

As a young man he is said to have gone for a walk with Babe, dragging his huge axe behind him, forming the Grand Canyon. It was also reported that he created the Great Lakes when Babe needed a water bowl.

In 1958, Walt Disney Studios created an animated short musical to celebrate Paul Bunyan. His popularity spread quickly.

To give you some idea how big Paul Bunyan was said to be look at the photo above. Focus in on the adults standing at the end of Paul’s axe and Babe’s front left leg. In the minds of those who created him, sitting around a campfire in the frozen north, he had to have been even bigger, if you consider cutting the Grand Canyon with his axe.

As with so many legends, they are created larger than life because those dreaming them up need heroes bigger than themselves to make the world seem right.

How to celebrate: Watch the Disney video about Paul Bunyan. Try and come up with a few places you think Paul could have created. Make up a legend of your own.

June 27th National Sunglasses Day

Protective eye wear has been around since the prehistoric days. Yep, even caveman needed to be able to see better if for no other reason to tell when a man-eating critter might be nearby.  They used flattened walrus ivory glasses, looking through narrow slits to block out a part of the sun. It worked, though there were complaints of cavemen walking into trees for apparently no reason – Lol! They may have looked a little like the glasses below.

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Even Nero used a kind of sunglasses. They were green because he liked to watch the Gladiators fight in an emerald world.

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The Chinese invented their own type of sunglasses to cover their faces so that witnesses could not see the nobles’ facial expressions as they testified. I think they might have looked like the sunglasses below.

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In 1752 James Ayscough began experimenting with what would eventually become the modern-day sunglasses. He tinted glass with blues and greens, not to keep the sun out but to improve general vision. It sort of worked because it blocked out the sun causing less glare. In the 19th century glasses were made out of amber, yellow, or brown because of the sensitivity those with syphilis had to sunlight. Sort of makes you think twice about using those colors today, doesn’t it?

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Tinted glasses were used by sharpshooters during the Civil War. No one reasoned why, but targets were much easier to spot because of the colored glasses. It wasn’t until 1920, before sunglasses actually became the sunglasses we know and love today. They rapidly became popular as fans saw the stars of the day hiding behind the glasses so no one would know who they were. Even back then, the protection the glasses provided from harmful UV waves was not complete understood.

Sam Foster made a cheap pair of sunglasses that anyone could afford. He sold his Foster Grants at Woolworth’s on the Atlantic City pier. In 1936, Edwin H. Land, invented the polarized sunglasses that changed the world forever. By 1937, more than 20 million pair of sunglasses had been sold in the US.

How to celebrate: Get the best pair of sunglasses you can afford, you won’t regret it. Imagine you are a celebrity trying to hide behind your sunglasses.  Try out the sunglasses the cavemen wore, but watch out for those trees.

June 26th National Chocolate Pudding Day

It’s National Chocolate Pudding Day! For those who love chocolate pudding this day must be Heaven on Earth. Of course, you can have chocolate pudding everyday but then it’s not a national holiday like today.

Chocolate pudding is made from milk, sugar, and chocolate, with a little vanilla added to even out the flavor. Add flour or cornstarch and you have pudding!  Add eggs and you have custard!

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The first mention of chocolate pudding came in, Mary Harris Frazer’s Kentucky Recipe Book, in 1903. Another recipe appeared in, Fanny Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Book, in 1918.  Both recipes used eggs instead of cornstarch though (doesn’t that make it custard???)

Anyway, in 1934, General Foods (Jello) started producing chocolate pudding for the public. It was a prepared mix you had called, “Walter Baker’s Dessert”(remembering Baker’s chocolate). Then it was up to you whether or not to make chocolate pudding or chocolate custard.  In 1936, for some unexplained reason they changed the name to “Pickle’s Pudding”.  I am betting that chocolate pudding sales went down!

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Chocolate pudding is used in many cake recipes to make them moist and full of flavor. This is very popular in the UK. Heck, it’s  actually very popular anywhere.

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There’s also chocolate pudding pie.  Maybe not as popular but still good.

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And of course there is the dark chocolate pudding, adding a little mint and a raspberry or two, just for good measure.

Chocolate pudding is readily available today under the label Jello, made by Kraft Foods and Snack Packs by Hunts.

How to celebrate: Have a chocolate bar, it’s easier. Go to your local gas station and buy a package of chocolate pudding and share it with the mechanic. Add a little whip cream to your chocolate pudding and live on the edge.

June 25th Log Cabin Day

We can thank the Log Cabin Society, Virginia Handy, and the Bad Axe Historical Society for Log Cabin day. There is a bit of disagreement on whether June 25th or June 26th is Log Cabin Day. Why not celebrate both days!

When the settlers first came to America they built their homes out of wood. It was the easiest and most plentiful thing to do. Williamsburg, Virginia is a prime example. You can visit and see for yourself the construction of of an era long since gone.

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Many of these buildings have survived over 200 years and function just as well today as they did back then, maybe even better. Brick and other construction materials were eventually brought in or manufactured and you will see those buildings there as well, but the average settler could not afford these costly materials.

As people began to move west they built more and more homes out of wood, many in the traditional log cabin style we think of today. They were easier to build, and America back then, was like one major forest from coast to coast.

The original log cabins were nearly always one room where the entire family lived, ate and slept… clearly the desire to spend time outdoors was pretty high.  They had either one window or no windows. Since they did not travel with any glass tucked under their arms, windows were not really a necessity.

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The main focus of the cabin was the fireplace. Meals were cooked over the open fires and they kept the owners warm during the winter months. The cracks that appeared between the logs were filled with mud, making them relatively warm and dry when needed the most.

Since many settlers would stay in one location for a short time before moving on, the log cabin became essential since they were not leaving anything of great value behind except for their time.  Of course these vacant buildings were rapidly filled by new travelers moving west.

Today, most of those old cabins are gone. A few remain, used as museums and historical markers. However the log cabin has not been abandoned.  They are bigger and better than ever before!

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They are no longer owned by the poor, but rather by those few that can afford them. They are also seen on many children’s playgrounds where it is hoped they may learn something about our past.

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Even children want their own log cabins like the one below. Who wouldn’t want one like this.

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How to celebrate: Read about Abraham Lincoln’s early life living in a Log Cabin.  Build your own log cabin out of Lincoln Logs. Visit one of the historical log cabins in your area, nearly every state has a log cabin on exhibit somewhere. Binge marathon – Little House on the Prairie!

June 24th Pralines Day

Pralines are confections made from nuts, whole or crushed, and sugar syrup.   Most today have an added chocolate flavoring to them (particularly Belgian and French). In Europe, most pralines are made with almonds. In the US they generally use pecans. Really, any kind of nut can be used.

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In the 17th century, at Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte (France), Marshal du Plessis-Praslin (who lived from 1598 to 1675) inspired the first praline when he came up with a caramelized sugar poured over almonds. The idea caught on. In fact, any food that contains ground nuts and sugar syrup is considered a praline. The action of crushing the nuts and placing them in sugar is called pralin. So pralines exist in cakes and even ice cream.

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There are basically three types of pralines: Belgian, created with a hard chocolate shell and a soft or liquid inner core, French, made with almonds and caramelized sugar, and the American, made more like a fudge with any type of nut and the sugar made into a creamy or milky coating.

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When the French colonized Louisiana they brought their recipes with them.  Since nuts and sugar cane were readily available in the area it was only natural that they began producing pralines.  New Orleans chefs substituted the pecan since it was easier to find and they added cream to the mixture to make it richer.

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How to celebrate: Go buy some pralines, they are readily available at nearly any grocery or candy shop. Enjoy some praline ice cream. Make your own pralines from the recipe above.

June 23rd National Pink Day

Not to be confused with International Pink Day in April, today is National Pink Day (although I think they are pretty much the same). “Pink” has been around since the 14th century – the word, not the color. In 14th Century France,”To Pink”, was to decorate with a perforated or punch pattern.

During the Middle Ages, pink came into it’s own as a color. Probably some Knight washed his red flag with his white flag in hot water and the color pink was invented – LOL! Apparently no one wrote down when the color was actually created. It was occasionally used in women’s apparel but was more common in the art work of the Middle Ages when used for hands and faces. Christ as a babe was often wrapped in pink swadling.

The Rococo Period became the golden age of the color pink. Nearly every court was draped in pink to show nobility.  From 1728-1777 pastels became very popular with the people, perhaps boosted when King Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompador, wore pink nearly exclusively to “please” her king.

In 1931 “Shocking Pink” was added to the spectrum to usher in a new era of color and fashion. Pink is, however so much more than just a color, it has all sorts of meanings.

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The biggest today is, of course, breast cancer awareness. Which may in a round about way have some connection to being “In the pink”, an old saying about feeling at the top of your game, or at least what we wish would be the case.

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To “see the pink elephant” is a polite way to say smeone is drunk.

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To be tickled pink is to be thrilled or find something very enjoyable, maybe like the Pink Panther.

Then there is the “Pink Slip”, which none of us ever want to see – meaning you’ve been fired. There’s “Pink Collar” workers – which is what one might call “Women’s work” (I did not create this, just reporting). There’s “Pink Money” , which is symbolic of the money the LGBT puts into the community.

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And the picture above – well… it’s just wrong.

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The color pink is most associated with femininity, sensitivity, childhood, and romance. When pink is mixed with violet or black, it also means eroticism and seduction. The innocence of white mixed with the passion of a little red.

How to celebrate: Wear something pink today. Have some pink lemonade. Put up a pink flag, maybe with a little black lace or black ribbon to show your passionate about the day.

June 22nd National Chocolate Eclair Day

What combination is more perfect than chocolate, fluffy pastry, and a creme or custard filling? The word eclair in French actually means “lightning”, supposedly because of the glistening flash of chocolate covering the top. It may not make a lot of sense but who cares?

The chocolate in an eclair can be dark chocolate, milk chocolate, or even white chocolate. It sits on top of the “Chouk” (French for dough). The fondant icing is rich and gooey but subject to freezing if left in the freezer (duh, what doesn’t freeze in a freezer). The dough is normally a light, flaky pastry which is stuffed with a creamy custard. Oh, and to make it a little more special, add some whipped cream.

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French Chef Antonin Careme is credited with the invention, called “pain a la duchesse” in French. Careme lived from 1784 to 1833 so though no date is actually given for his invention, it had to appear sometime in his lifetime.

In 1884, the Eclair first appeared in a cook book in the US. Mrs. D.A. Lincoln included the recipe, along with others used in her cooking classes, and was the first English version ever in print. I wonder if she ever thought about adding strawberries as in the photo below.

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Long Johns are a type of eclair in the United States but they are actually a doughnut covered in chocolate with a custard or creme filling. There are even eclair cakes made today, though they seem very similar to what we refer to as a Boston Cream Pie.

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How to celebrate: Have an eclair. Make your own eclair (the eclair in blue at the beginning of this blog links to several examples). Go to a doughtnut shop and enjoy a Long John.

 

June 21st National Peaches n Cream Day

Peaches n Cream is probably the most refreshing summer solstice treat in the world. I remember eating fresh peaches served up with a bowl of homemade vanilla ice cream as a child and knowing that I had just had one of the best moments of my life.

I lived in Illinois at the time and even though peaches are primarily grown in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and California, they find their way all over the world.

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Sometimes they are served on top of ice cream, served hot in a tart or a pie (normally ala mode), or served on top of pancakes or waffles, but nearly every version has cream served with them – a match made in Heaven.

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One interesting side note is that the common belief is that Typhoid Mary spread the bacteria around the countryside by cutting up and distributing fresh peaches that were contaminated. So if you indulge, make sure you wash your hands first, and the peaches as well.

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Here are a few recipes you can try out.  Peaches.

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How to celebrate: Find some fresh peaches and make some ice cream.  Throw a Peaches n Cream party!  Go on vacation to Georgia and pick your own peaches. Read or watch James and the Giant Peach!