Saturday, August 24, 2013

Holidays for August 24th 2013

National Waffle Day

August 24th is National Waffle Day. Great sales for waffles will be available at local grocers across the nation—just in time for the school season—to purchase a variety of waffles. Whether you choose the convenience of prepackaged frozen or to make them from scratch, waffles are a wonderful addition to eat for breakfast or even as a dessert.

Consumers who are strapped for time and find it difficult to make waffles from scratch, grocery stores will carry a plethora of ready- to -heat and serve waffles. Frozen waffles are made available in whole grain, oats, or even with granola found in the Kellogg's Eggo brand line up.

Coupons can be found in your local Sunday newspaper (look for the coupon inserts) or at online grocery coupon clipping service sites for a nominal fee.

With summer winding down and the return of the school season, this is a wonderful time to stock up and start your family off with delicious hot waffles.

National Peach Pie Day

Fresh, ripe peaches are one of my favorite treats.  Biting into a ripe peach, ignoring the fuzz and letting the juices run down my fingers...Make a trip to any grocery store now and there are small mountains of them just waiting to be bagged up and brought home.  Same thing if you visit the farmers markets too only there you may have more varieties to choose from.  Whether they are the standard yellow flesh variety, white flesh or donut peaches, any of them will do for eating out of hand.  Better still is the fact that any one of them will make a wonderful pie to celebrate National Peach Pie Day.

Peaches are versatile and can be blended with many flavors.  Try soaking peeled slices in red wine.  Blend them with blackberries, raspberries or blueberries.  Grate some fresh ginger into the mix or just make them spicy with some pumpkin pie spice.  For a more exotic flavor, cut some Thai basil leaves into thin strips and enjoy the intoxicating combination of the sweet-anise flavor of the basil with the peaches.  Not quite ready to try such an exotic combination?  Scrape part of a vanilla bean into a bowl, add some lemon zest and rub it together with the sugar to distribute the flavor.  Vanilla blends beautifully with peaches and you will not be disappointed.

To save time in the kitchen, purchase premade sheets of pie dough and spend the time peeling and slicing fresh ripe peaches.  Line a pie plate with one sheet of dough and place it on a sturdy baking tray.  For every pound of peach slices, roughly 2 cups of gently packed peach slices, combine 1/2 cup sugar(or more if they are tart), 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and your chosen flavoring ingredients.  A general rule of thumb for dry spices is 1-2 teaspoons per pound.  For ingredients like fresh ginger and basil, you need to be a little cautious.  Add a smaller amount and allow the filling to sit for 10 minutes before tasting-remember it is easy to add more but impossible to remove it once it has been added.  When using vanilla beans, usually a quarter to a half of a bean will suffice but you won't really taste it until it is baked-cooking brings out the flavor of vanilla beans.  When using lemon zest, generally 1-2 teaspoons of fresh zest will be enough to impart the lemon flavor.  Just toss it all together, gently and pour it into the pie shell.  Use the second sheet of dough to make thin lattice strips.  Lay half of the strips across the top of the pie, trimming the excess as you go.  Turn the pie slightly and lay the second set of strips on top of the first so that long diamond shaped openings are formed.  Trim the excess and brush the top of the pie with a little egg wash, sprinkle it with sugar and bake.  A 9" pie will require 1 1/2 pounds of peaches (3 cups, sliced) and will take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to bake at 350 degrees.  Use one temperature for a perfectly baked pie and lattice top.  The pie is finished when the juices in the center are bubbling.  Do not try to serve it hot from the oven, fruit pies need to set up after baking and if it is too hot, it will be runny and messy.

Have a happy National Peach Pie Day!

Strange Music Day

Strange Music Day was started by Patrick Grant, a Julliard graduate and professional musician.  Patrick is also the founder and artistic director of Strange Music Inc., an organization dedicated to releasing recordings and presenting compelling new work.

The purpose of Strange Music Day is to listen to music you have never heard before, just for the heck of it.  This is especially fun with children, since it gives you the opportunity to introduce new music to them.

One of my girls' favorite things is to learn about mom and dad (or even grandma and grandpa) when we were young.  They love to look at photos, report cards and "works of art" from my childhood -- I think it's fun for them to imagine the adults in their lives as little girls and boys.  Now that they're teenagers, they especially seem to enjoy mocking our hairstyles and the size of our glasses *grin*.

It's also fun to share popular music from "back in the day".  Nothing makes the girls giggle harder than when mom and dad break into song (and sometimes dance!) to oldies on the radio.  Using's MP3 store craft ideas , I-Tunes (or similar), you can download single songs for about $1 -- sometimes the older music is even free.

Sturgeon Moon Day

Native American tribes, particularly in the Great Lakes region of the United States, have celebrated the late midsummer full moon, tagging this lunar occasion as the Sturgeon Moon. Historians attest that the Sturgeon Moon honors the teeming supplies of sturgeon fish in the waters of the North American Great Lakes (Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario and Lake Superior) during this time of year.

The Sturgeon Moon occurs in late August. Other names for the Sturgeon Moon include the Dog Moon (as in the Dog Days of Summer), the Grain Moon, the Green Corn Moon, the Lightning Moon and the Red Moon.

Although the actual full moon date may vary, August 24th may be seen by many as Sturgeon Moon Day, celebrating the end of mid-summer.

National Knife Day

Today is National Knife Day, a day that celebrates the ancient tool that has survived as long as man has—evolving from stone and obsidian to carbon and stainless steels.

Nearly everyone remembers receiving their first knife. It’s a rite of passage into responsibility and usefulness

I remember receiving my first knife, which was an old white Swiss Army knife. I looked for opportunities to use it around the house, like slicing tape or opening junk mail. The feel of opening up the tiny blade and using it purposefully was something I hadn’t felt until then. The tool felt like it fit perfectly in my hand.

But to many people, a knife isn’t just a tool, it’s a way of life. For the fisherman, the hunter, the doctor, the chef, the rescue worker, knives are an essential element. They save lives, aid in operations, skin the fish we eat, slice the rope we use. In nearly anything you do, you can’t avoid being the beneficiary of a blade.

Through the centuries, the knife has persevered, despite those who misuse the tool. Great companies like Victorinox, Cold Steel and Spyderco have created a custom of high quality knives for the everyday user.

Knife enthusiasts, collectors and casual users should take a moment today to pick up their knives—whether on their belt, in their pocket, around their neck or in a drawer—and admire the simplicity and purpose of a tool that man has used for millions of years and will likely use for millions more.

Pluto Demoted Day

August 24, 2006 was a sad day for Pluto. Formerly known as a planet, Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet that day. August 24 is now recognized as Pluto Demoted Day. Use the day as an opportunity to learn about Pluto, its new status and its connection to central Illinois.

Although Pluto is no longer a planet, there are still many interesting facts to learn about it. Pluto was discovered in 1930. Until 2006, it was classified as the ninth planet in our solar system. Pluto cannot be seen without the use of a telescope, and not much is known about what it is like. In 2005, NASA sent New Horizons, an unmanned spacecraft, to Pluto, but it will not approach Pluto until 2015. The dwarf planet has a tilted orbit, and at times in its orbit, it is closer to the sun than Neptune and Uranus. It takes Pluto 249 years to make one trip around the sun.

These days, Pluto is regarded as a dwarf planet. To qualify as a dwarf planet, an object must be fairly round and orbit the sun. Unlike a planet, a dwarf planet has not cleared the area around its orbital path. Also, it is not a satellite, also known as a moon. The decision that cost Pluto its planetary status also outlined three categories of solar system objects: planets, dwarf planets and small solar system bodies.

Although Pluto is no longer considered a planet, its discovery was still significant, and Illinoisans have a connection to that discovery. Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto, was born and raised in Streator, Ill. in the early 1900s. He did not find Pluto until 1930, long after he'd left the area, but it was in Illinois that he first became interested in astronomy. In an interview with the Academy of Achievement, Tombaugh explained that he became quite interested in geography during his elementary school years in Streator, and that interest led him to wonder what the geography of other planets was like. In addition, his uncle who lived nearby had a telescope, and with that telescope, young Clyde was able to observe Saturn's rings, the moon's craters and the moons of Jupiter. Illinois residents can appreciate that Tombaugh's time in Illinois had an influence on the discovery of Pluto.

On August 24, take a minute to remember Pluto, even if it is just a dwarf planet. And while you're at it, remind your children that the things they learn in their childhood have the power to take them awfully far in life. If you pursue your interests and gain as much knowledge as you can, you never know what amazing things you might discover.

Vesuvius Day

After centuries of dormancy, Mount Vesuvius erupts in southern Italy, devastating the prosperous Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing thousands. The cities, buried under a thick layer of volcanic material and mud, were never rebuilt and largely forgotten in the course of history. In the 18th century, Pompeii and Herculaneum were rediscovered and excavated, providing an unprecedented archaeological record of the everyday life of an ancient civilization, startlingly preserved in sudden death.

The ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum thrived near the base of Mount Vesuvius at the Bay of Naples. In the time of the early Roman Empire, 20,000 people lived in Pompeii, including merchants, manufacturers, and farmers who exploited the rich soil of the region with numerous vineyards and orchards. None suspected that the black fertile earth was the legacy of earlier eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. Herculaneum was a city of 5,000 and a favorite summer destination for rich Romans. Named for the mythic hero Hercules, Herculaneum housed opulent villas and grand Roman baths. Gambling artifacts found in Herculaneum and a brothel unearthed in Pompeii attest to the decadent nature of the cities. There were smaller resort communities in the area as well, such as the quiet little town of Stabiae.

At noon on August 24, 79 A.D., this pleasure and prosperity came to an end when the peak of Mount Vesuvius exploded, propelling a 10-mile mushroom cloud of ash and pumice into the stratosphere. For the next 12 hours, volcanic ash and a hail of pumice stones up to 3 inches in diameter showered Pompeii, forcing the city's occupants to flee in terror. Some 2,000 people stayed in Pompeii, holed up in cellars or stone structures, hoping to wait out the eruption.

A westerly wind protected Herculaneum from the initial stage of the eruption, but then a giant cloud of hot ash and gas surged down the western flank of Vesuvius, engulfing the city and burning or asphyxiating all who remained. This lethal cloud was followed by a flood of volcanic mud and rock, burying the city.

The people who remained in Pompeii were killed on the morning of August 25 when a cloud of toxic gas poured into the city, suffocating all that remained. A flow of rock and ash followed, collapsing roofs and walls and burying the dead.

Much of what we know about the eruption comes from an account by Pliny the Younger, who was staying west along the Bay of Naples when Vesuvius exploded. In two letters to the historian Tacitus, he told of how "people covered their heads with pillows, the only defense against a shower of stones," and of how "a dark and horrible cloud charged with combustible matter suddenly broke and set forth. Some bewailed their own fate. Others prayed to die." Pliny, only 17 at the time, escaped the catastrophe and later became a noted Roman writer and administrator. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, was less lucky. Pliny the Elder, a celebrated naturalist, at the time of the eruption was the commander of the Roman fleet in the Bay of Naples. After Vesuvius exploded, he took his boats across the bay to Stabiae, to investigate the eruption and reassure terrified citizens. After going ashore, he was overcome by toxic gas and died.

According to Pliny the Younger's account, the eruption lasted 18 hours. Pompeii was buried under 14 to 17 feet of ash and pumice, and the nearby seacoast was drastically changed. Herculaneum was buried under more than 60 feet of mud and volcanic material. Some residents of Pompeii later returned to dig out their destroyed homes and salvage their valuables, but many treasures were left and then forgotten.

In the 18th century, a well digger unearthed a marble statue on the site of Herculaneum. The local government excavated some other valuable art objects, but the project was abandoned. In 1748, a farmer found traces of Pompeii beneath his vineyard. Since then, excavations have gone on nearly without interruption until the present. In 1927, the Italian government resumed the excavation of Herculaneum, retrieving numerous art treasures, including bronze and marble statues and paintings.

The remains of 2,000 men, women, and children were found at Pompeii. After perishing from asphyxiation, their bodies were covered with ash that hardened and preserved the outline of their bodies. Later, their bodies decomposed to skeletal remains, leaving a kind of plaster mold behind. Archaeologists who found these molds filled the hollows with plaster, revealing in grim detail the death pose of the victims of Vesuvius. The rest of the city is likewise frozen in time, and ordinary objects that tell the story of everyday life in Pompeii are as valuable to archaeologists as the great unearthed statues and frescoes. It was not until 1982 that the first human remains were found at Herculaneum, and these hundreds of skeletons bear ghastly burn marks that testifies to horrifying deaths.

Today, Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on the European mainland. Its last eruption was in 1944 and its last major eruption was in 1631. Another eruption is expected in the near future, would could be devastating for the 700,000 people who live in the "death zones" around Vesuvius.