Sunday, January 12, 2014

Holidays and Observances for January 12th 2014

National Marzipan Day

The mighty almond, crushed and mixed with sugar and egg whites, takes a fancy form: marzipan. January 12th is National Marzipan Day!

This dainty confection has elaborately covered cakes with commendable definition, is rolled into an infinite variety of imaginative shapes, may be stuffed into chocolate pieces or dipped in liquid chocolate. Marzipan has a sweet, nutty flavor worth revealing about!

Marzipan’s pliability makes it a favorite with pastry chefs. Oftentimes, marzipan is tinted with food coloring, leaving the artist-molded marzipan shape to be so realistic as to be confused with the real thing!

Almond paste is not marzipan! Rather, marzipan is one of many forms of almond paste. Marzipan may be differentiated from almond paste in that marzipan contains more sugar. The exact ratio of sugar to almond paste may be debated for hours, as no concrete formula has evolved.

History of Marzipan
There are proposed two lines for its origin; they are not necessarily contradictory and may be complementary, as there have always been Mediterranean trade and cooking influences. In both cases, there is a reason to believe that there is a clear Arabic influence for historical reasons (both regions were under Muslim control). Other sources establish the origin of marzipan in China, from where the recipe moved on to the Middle East and then to Europe through Al-Andalus.

Northeast Mediterranean line
Although it is believed to have originated in Persia (present-day Iran) and to have been introduced to Europe through the Turks (badem ezmesi in Turkish, and most notably produced in Edirne), there is some dispute between Hungary and Italy over its origin. Marzipan became a specialty of the Baltic Sea region of Germany. In particular, the city of Lübeck has a proud tradition of marzipan manufacture (Lübecker Marzipan). The city's manufacturers like Niederegger still guarantee their marzipan to contain two thirds almonds by weight, which results in a product of highest quality. Historically, the city of Königsberg in East Prussia was renowned for its marzipan production. Today, the term Königsberger Marzipan still refers to a special type of marzipan in Germany. In Sicily it was (1193) known as panis martius or marzapane, i.e., March Bread.

Iberian Peninsula line
Another possible geographic origin is in Spain, then known as Al-Andalus. In Toledo (850-900, though more probably 1150 during the reign of Alfonso VII) this specialty was known as Postre Regio instead of Mazapán) and there are also mentions in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights of an almond paste eaten during Ramadan and as an aphrodisiac. Mazapán is Toledo's most famous dessert, often created for Christmas, and has PGI status. Almonds have to be at least 50% of the total weight, following the directives of Mazapán de Toledo regulator counseil. Another idea to support this line is the important tradition of another Spanish almond-based Christmas confectionery, the turron.

Under EU law, marzipan must have a minimum almond oil content of 14% and a maximum moisture content of 8.5%. Optional additional ingredients are rosewater, honey, pistachios, preservatives, and sometimes hazelnut. In the U.S., marzipan is not officially defined, but it is generally made with a higher ratio of sugar to almonds than almond paste. One brand, for instance, has 28% almonds in its marzipan, and 45% almonds in its almond paste. However, in Sweden and Finland almond paste refers to a marzipan that contains 50% ground almonds, a much higher quality than regular marzipan. In Germany, Lübecker Marzipan is known for its quality. It contains 66% almonds. The original manually produced Mozartkugeln are made from green pistachio marzipan.

National Pharmacist Day

The day is dedicated to the pharmacists who play a very important role in medical care. A pharmacist is the person who has the knowledge of the chemical composition of all medicines. They are the ones who can explain you about all the aspects of the prescribed medicines and the side-effects of the drugs. There are people who have to take lots of drugs together. The pharmacists can only realize and warn you about the interaction of drugs together. National Pharmacist Day is about recognizing the important role of the pharmacists. If you are visiting a pharmacy on the day, make sure that you wish your pharmacist a very happy National Pharmacist Day.

There is no doubt about it that the National Pharmacist Day was created by some pharmacist group. But there are still studies and researches going on to find that group. Another important thing about the day is, though it is a very important day in medical care, it is not truly a "National" day which would have required an act of Congress.

National Pharmacist Day is all about honoring our pharmacist friends, all those men and women, who are an integral part of the medical care. The day is about saying them “Thank You,” the words that they don’t get to hear too often. Let’s take the day as the perfect occasion for thanking them for being in the front lines of pharmacy, and having lots of patience and compassion. Let’s thank them for being committed and dealing with love and sympathy to rude patients, reading the doctors handwriting and for smiling always, in spite of working that extra hour.

The most loving gift that you can gift your pharmacist is a big ‘thanks’. You can also give him/her a pharmacist themed gift to bring a smile on his/her face. Here is a list of all the things you can do on National Pharmacist Day:
  • If you are a pharmacist or a pharmacy manager, you should organize an event to honor the pharmacists who are hard-working and invaluable to the society.
  • You can organize something like a luncheon, pizza party or pot luck on the day.
  • Give out some tokens as recognition for their hard work, like gift certificates, corsages, name tag holders, mugs etc.
  • Arrange an education and cross-training program for them where they will exchange their experiences as a pharmacist.
  • Give out a certificate of appreciation from the pharmacy management to the pharmacists.
  • Take a picture of all the pharmacist staffs, pin it on the bulletin board, and write an inspiring message to them.
Stick To Your New Year's Resolution Day

Besides ringing in the New Year with a glass or two of your favorite bubbly with friends and family, part of the New Year tradition for many folks includes making resolutions. Whether you are determined to finally quit smoking, manage those overwhelming finances, exercise on a regular basis and/or finally fit into those skinny jeans that have been hanging in your closet for eons, resolutions provide incentives to let go of old habits and look forward to a newer and better you. That is, if we can keep them!

January 12 is Stick to Your New Year's Resolution Day, an annual "holiday" that gently reminds us to stick to those resolutions, whatever they may be. While you may have gotten a bit off track, today is the perfect day to start back up again and stick to those resolutions.

According to, popular New Year's resolutions include:
  • Drink Less Alcohol
  • Eat Healthy Food
  • Get a Better Education
  • Get a Better Job
  • Get Fit
  • Lose Weight
  • Manage Debt
  • Manage Stress
  • Quit Smoking
  • Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
  • Save Money
  • Take a Trip
  • Volunteer to Help Others
Google's New Year's Resolution Map
Although making resolutions are simple, sticking with them is an entirely different matter. The folks at Google created an interactive resolution tracker to help. You can add your own resolution(s) or take a peek at resolutions other people have made by hovering your mouse over the colored dots. The resolutions are available in their native languages as well.

National Handwriting Day

Today is National Handwriting Day in the United States, a time for acknowledging the history and influence of penmanship. Established in 1977, it’s celebrated on January 23, the birthday of John Hancock. The American founding father often remembered for his iconic signature on the Declaration of Independence would have turned 275 this year. We commemorate the holiday below with a look at how handwriting has evolved—and, some would say, declined—over the centuries.

Borrowing aspects of the Etruscan alphabet, the ancient Romans were among the first to develop a written script for transactions and correspondence. By the fifth century A.D. it included early versions of lowercase letters and sometimes flowed like modern cursive. After the Roman Empire fell, penmanship became a specialized discipline that primarily blossomed in monastic settings, specifically the medieval scriptoria that churned out Christian and classical texts across Europe. Styles varied widely by region, however, so in the late eighth century Charlemagne tasked an English monk with standardizing the craft. Influenced by Roman characters, Carolingian minuscule was designed for maximum legibility and featured lowercase letters, word separation and punctuation.

As the price of parchment and demand for books soared in the later Middle Ages, a denser style of writing evolved for European languages. Johannes Gutenberg used this Gothic approach for his printing press in the mid-15th century. Italian humanists soon revolted against the heavy look by reverting to a more Carolingian script and inventing a cursive form of it, known as Italic. Elegant handwriting emerged as a status symbol, and by the 1700s penmanship schools had begun educating generations of master scribes.

During the United States’ infancy, professional penmen were responsible for copying official documents, including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Among amateurs, meanwhile, signature handwriting styles became associated with various professions and social ranks; women and men were also expected to embrace flourishes unique to their sex. In the mid-1800s an abolitionist and bookkeeper named Platt Rogers Spencer attempted to democratize American penmanship by formulating a cursive writing system, known as the Spencerian method and taught by textbook, that many schools and businesses quickly adopted. (Ornate and sinuous, it can be seen in the original Coca-Cola logo.)

By the turn of the century, an approach introduced by Austin Norman Palmer replaced the Spencerian method in American classrooms, where students learned to form loopy characters between horizontal lines on chalkboards; its predecessor, D’Nealian script, originated in the 1970s and was designed to ease the transition from printing to cursive writing. Another handwriting style, developed by Charles Zaner and Elmer Bloser for elementary-aged children, dominated textbooks for much of the 20th century.

As typewriters and word processors swept the business world, schools began to eliminate penmanship classes, and by the 1980s many U.S. children received little formal training. (This was not the case in many European countries, where students are given rigorous handwriting instruction to this day.) While penmanship studies haven’t completely disappeared from the American curriculum, schoolchildren today spend more time mastering typing and computer skills than the neat, standardized cursive of their parents and grandparents. As early as 1955, the Saturday Evening Post had dubbed the United States a “nation of scrawlers,” and studies show that handwriting abilities have largely declined since then.

Bemoaned by many (but not all) educators, the loss of penmanship as a requisite skill inspired the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA) to create National Handwriting Day in 1977. According to the group’s website, the holiday offers “a chance for all of us to re-explore the purity and power of handwriting.” How can you celebrate? The WIMA suggests you pick up a pen or pencil and put it to paper—so get off the computer and start writing!