October 17th National Pasta Day

It’s just water and flour mixed together but oh what you can do with it. Basically, the only difference from one pasta to the next is how you cut it and what flavors you add to it. Pasta, in Italian, means dough.

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It is believed Marco Polo brought back the idea of pasta to Italy from his travels to China. No one seems to know how long it had been in use in China but evidentially it had been use for quite some time (Some think as far back as 5,000 BC.) Apparently, it changed life in Italy from there on out! His travels would have been in the mi 1200’s but there is also evidence that pasta was in use in the Arabic nations in the 1200’s as well.

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Thomas Jefferson, serving the US after the revolution, spent a great deal of time in Europe and brought back pasta to the US from his time spent in Naples. He also determined that tomatoes were not poisonous as originally thought and probably started the tomato sauce craze.

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Pasta makes up a tremendous amount of our diet in the US, and across the world. Mac & Cheese, Spaghetti, ravioli, it’s actually hard to think of a meal where we don’t use some sort of pasta whether as a main dish or a side dish.

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In fact Americans eat over 20 pounds of pasta a year. That’s a lot of dough!

How to celebrate – Use pasta in your meal tonight! See if you can make the world’s longest strand of spaghetti! Invent a new shape of pasta to entertain your friends and family.

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July 4th Independence Day

Today, on July 4th, 1776, we Americans proclaimed our freedom from Britain. Whether the reasons or thoughts behind the war were justified or not, for the next 7 years our country would be at war, finally ending on September 3rd, 1783.

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Though Thomas Jefferson presented his declaration for signing on July 4th the document was not signed by all of the Continental Congress until August. Travel time and weather prevented all the signatures from actually be done on the same day.

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The Siege of Yorktown ended the war. This could not have happened without the assistance of the French, particularly their navy who kept British rescue ships from reaching the troops trapped inside the fortress. This is not to diminish the efforts of the Americans who were mainly farmers and townsfolk who fought the professional armies from Europe. The few soldiers in America divided themselves being loyal to England and the freedom fighters.

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Though in thought, and mind, we remained very British, we were different simply because of the needs and challenges facing Americans. Europe was set in their life styles while Americans were still discovering new lands.

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Today we celebrate with fireworks, among other traditions, brought on by the Star Spangled Banner, though Francis Scott Key did not write the anthem until the War of 1812, the rockets red glare over the fort at Baltimore. Since it was still against England, I guess it counts!

How to celebrate – Go to a fireworks show. (If you do fireworks of your own be careful. I have seen people blow their fingers off trying to do their own.) Have a picnic. (Which many civilians did while watching the battles take place in front of them during the war.) If just for today, take pride in being American.

January 4th National Spaghetti Day

Spaghetti is not actually a food, it is a shape. In fact it is 1 of over 600 shapes pasta is cut, formed and molded into. And another shocker, Marco Polo did not bring spaghetti back from China to Italy. The fact is, it had been in use in Europe long before Marco Polo made his trip to China.

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The Chinese are the first known to use spaghetti some 5,000 BC. The Arab communities used a dried spaghetti type pasta in their meals around 1200. And here’s an appetizing thought, spaghetti in Italian roughly means string or twine.

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Thomas Jefferson brought spaghetti to America after spending time in Italy before he became President. Later, the flood of Italians coming to a new life in America spread it’s popularity across the United States.

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You can top spaghetti with just about any topping you choose. The traditional tomato sauce is just one style. Butter, garlic, cheese, chicken or beef broth… you can even put ice cream on it! It’s a great meal by itself or as a side dish with practically anything. It’s hard to find anybody who doesn’t like spaghetti.

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Some a little too much.

How to celebrate – Have some spaghetti for lunch or dinner today, maybe even breakfast. Create your own spaghetti dish involving something no one else has ever thought of. See if you can dry out wet spaghetti back to it’s original form.

April 13th Thomas Jefferson Day

Thomas Jefferson will always be remembered as the chief writer of the Committee of 5 that crafted the Declaration of Independence.  Though born of Welsh parents and a British citizen, he felt called to help form a new nation that he loved deeply but was well aware of all her faults as well.

Born on April 13th, 1743 he became master of his own destiny at 14 when his father died.  All the proper own was split between two brothers, Thomas recieving Monticello and 5,000 acres.  He graduated from William & Mary College and became involved in legal and governmental issues of his time.  He served in the House of Burgesses as a representative in Virginia.

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When it became clear a seperation from Britan was eminent he joined the Continental Congress as a representative from Virginia.  As one of the Founding Fathers, hecontinued to serve in Congress as the war broke out.  From 1779-81 he was the war Govenor of Virginia.  He was, and would remain, a proponent of democracy, republicanism and the rights of the individual.

In 1785, after the war, he served as the U.S. Minister to France, a very important position in the new government. From 1790-93 he served as the countries first Secretary of State from 1790-93.  It is very unlikely he was ever caught using his personal email to send or recieve emails.

Jefferson and Madison formed the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose The Federalist.  He was very concerned with states having their rights above those of the Federal government.  In 1797 he became the 2nd Vice President of the United States.  He served in that position until becoming the 3rd President of the U.S. in 1801.

As President, serving two terms until 1809, he dealt with the 1st Barbary Pirates War, the Louisiana Purchase, The Embargo Act where Britan was interfering with America trade, and sent Lewis and Clark (1806) on their exploration of the west.

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Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton, who had been married preivoiusly, in 1772.  They had six children but only two fo their daughters reached adulthood.  Martha died in 1782.  Thomas became a very lonely man who apparently found some solice in the arms of Sally Hemings.  Through DNA tested, historians believe the two had several children together.  Sally was a slave.  Though Jefferson deplored slavery he had many slaves used to operate his numerous plantations.  When he left the Presidency he founded the University of Virginia.

He played the violin, was a surveyor, inventor, horticulturist and teacher of mathematics.  In 1785 he wrote, “Notes on the State of Viginia”, considered one of the most important book written prior to the 1800’s.

He was fluent in English, Latin, Greek, French, Italian and Spanish.  He considered himself a Christian as Jesus woud have required, though not terribly religious.

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When the British burned the Library of Congress in the War of 1812, Jefferson sold the government 6,000 books from his personal library to reopen the insitution.  Having given away most of his books he found himself being acollector once again as he could not stand to be without books.

Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of Americas claim to liberty.

How to celebrate:  Read a copy of the Declaration of Independence, Visit the state of Virginia, track Lewis & Clark’s expedition.