Friday, January 23, 2015

Holidays and Observances for Jan 23 2015

Measure Your Feet Day

When it comes to holidays, January 23 has a little something for everyone! Not only is it National Handwriting Day, National Reading Day and National Pie Day, which means free and cheap pie, it is also Measure Your Feet Day, too! No foolin!

Having a day dedicated to feet seems like a bizarre concept, but surprisingly, one does exist. Measure Your Feet Day is a holiday with a difference, and one where you have the opportunity to give your feet a little more attention! People rarely think about their feet, but they are a vital part of our everyday lives and require as much care as any other part of our bodies.

Making sure that you have shoes that actually fit your feet is one of the best ways to keep them healthy and prevent any problems occurring. When was the last time you took a proper measurement of your feet?

There’s no better time to get the tape out the bottom of your drawer and recheck their size than Measure Your Feet Day. Make sure you take a note of the exact measurements so you can get properly fitting shoes.

While the origins of this annual holiday are unknown, perhaps the day was created by a shoe salesman, designer, podiatrist or even a shoemaker, which just happens to be my maiden name!

In honor of Measure Your Feet Day, why not get out the old ruler and give it a go? Or celebrate by enjoying a much deserved pedicure. Today also provides the perfect excuse to splurge on those fabulous shoes you've been eyeing!

Fun Feet Facts
  • All babies have flat feet.
  • About 25 percent of the bones in your body are located in your feet! Each foot contains 26 bones.
  • If you have sweaty feet, it's not your imagination! There are 250,000 sweat glands in your feet.
  • The average person walks about 10,000 steps each day.
  • Toenails grow more slowly than fingernails.
  • You can pick up a variety of foot issues including ringworm, Athlete's Foot and plantar warts, from communal showers.
  • Women have more foot problems than men - probably due to high heels.
  • Nine out of 10 women wear shoes that are too small.
  • The best selling shoe size for American women is 8 1/2 and 10 1/2 for men.
  • Did you know your feet are actually larger at the end of the day?
  • Nicknamed "Bigfoot," Matthew McGrory won the Guinness World Record for World's Largest Toe.
  • While size does matter sometimes, the correlation between shoe size and the size of a man's penis is unfounded despite what you may have heard.

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!

National Pie Day

Which pie should you choose for your National Pie Day party? The pie-sibilities are endless! Will it be one of the 231 varieties of apple pie, the favorite of 36 million Americans? Perhaps pumpkin pie, which was first introduced to the holiday table at the pilgrim's second Thanksgiving in 1623? Or maybe a pecan pie, which is the third most popular choice in our nation of pie lovers? We are encouraging pie lovers everywhere to teach someone to make a pie during the month of January in honor of National Pie Day.

They're simple, they're American and come Thanksgiving, everybody saves room for them. But the pies we know today are a fairly recent addition to a history that goes back as long as mankind has had dough to bake into a crust and stuff to put inside it. In medieval England, they were called pyes, and instead of being predominantly sweet, they were most often filled with meat — beef, lamb, wild duck, magpie pigeon — spiced with pepper, currants or dates. Historians trace pie's initial origins to the Greeks, who are thought to be the originators of the pastry shell, which they made by combining water and flour. The wealthy Romans used many different kinds of meats — even mussels and other types of seafood — in their pies. Meat pies were also often part of Roman dessert courses, or secundae mensea. Cato the Younger recorded the popularity of this sweet course, and a cheesecake-like dish called Placenta, in his treatise De Agricultura.

Contrary to grade school theater productions across the United States, there was no modern-day pie — pumpkin, pecan or otherwise — at the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621. Pilgrims brought English-style, meat-based recipes with them to the colonies. While pumpkin pie, which is first recorded in a cookbook in 1675, originated from British spiced and boiled squash, it was not popularized in America until the early 1800s. Historians don't know all the dishes the Pilgrims served in the first Thanksgiving feast, but primary documents indicate that pilgrims cooked with fowl and venison — and it's not unlikely that some of that meat found its way between sheets of dough at some point. The colonists cooked many a pie: because of their crusty tops, pies acted as a means to preserve food, and were often used to keep the filling fresh during the winter months. And they didn't make bland pies, either: documents show that the Pilgrims used dried fruit, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg to season their meats. Further, as the colonies spread out, the pie's role as a means to showcase local ingredients took hold and with it came a proliferation of new, sweet pies. A cookbook from 1796 listed only three types of sweet pies; a cookbook written in the late 1800s featured 8 sweet pie varieties; and by the 1947 the Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking listed 65 different varieties of sweet pies.

There are few things as American as apple pie, as the saying goes, but like much of America's pie tradition, the original apple pie recipes came from England. These pre-Revolutionary prototypes were made with unsweetened apples and encased in an inedible shell. Yet the apple pie did develop a following, and was first referenced in the year 1589, in Menaphon by poet R. Greene: "Thy breath is like the steeme of apple pies." (500 years later, we have "I'm Lovin' It", thanks to McDonald's and its signature apple pie in an individual-serving sleeve.) Pies today are world-spanning treats, made with everything from apples to avocados. The winners of this year's annual APC Crisco National Pie Championship included classic apple, pumpkin and cherry pies, but citrus pies, banana foster crème and Wolf Pack trail mix pies have all made the awards list. Pies have come a long way since the days of magpie and pepper, but many bakeries — including The Little Pie Shop in New York City, in the audio below — say a classic apple pie is still their top holiday seller.

National Rhubarb Pie Day

Today, January 23rd, is National Rhubarb Pie Day.

Rhubarb is nicknamed "pieplant" due to its popularity in pies, but it also works well in savory dishes.

Rhubarb, botanically-known as Rheum rhabarbarum , comes from a combination of the Greek word Rha for the Volga River, and the Latin word barbarum , for the region of the Rha River inhabited by non-Romans. The popular edible species, Rheum rhaponticum , originated most likely in Mongolia or Siberia. It was introduced to Europe by Italian botanist Prosper Alpinus in 1608 as a substitute for Chinese Rhubarb whose roots were used medicinally.

Ben Franklin is credited for bringing rhubarb seeds to the North American east coast in 1772, yet the red stalks did not catch on until the early 1800s, when it became a popular ingredient for pie.

In the late 1800's, rhubarb was brought to Alaska by the Russians and used as an effective counter-agent for scurvy. By the mid-1900s, its popularity was firmly entrenched in the New England states where it was used as pastry and pie fillings and also to make homemade wine.

The term rhubarb has also come to mean a "quarrel" or "heated discussion." This comes from theatrical direction, believe it or not. Stage and movie directors would have actors repeat "rhubarb" and various other phrases over and over to simulate background conversations or mutterings of a surly crowd.

When making a rhubarb pie, the stalks are cut into short pieces and stewed in boiling water, with sugar added, until they are soft. The resulting cooked rhubarb can then be added to a pie case. Sometimes apples are included in the pie to counteract the tartness of the rhubarb, rather than just using sugar.

Snowplow Mailbox Hockey Day

Hockey is back! And not just in the ice rink, but on the streets of our cities and towns as well. "Snowplow Mailbox Hockey Day" was created by the good folks at Wellcat Holidays. It gives all our awesome snowplow drivers the chance to have a little fun by competing to see who can knock down the most mailboxes!

Every winter the men and women that plow are roads, in the dead of night to early morning and at times longer, for us to get to where we are wanting to go. School, work, church and so on. So for this day allows them a chance to have fun while they clear our roads.

Here is how it is played by the snowplow drivers in the rural areas. See how far you can whack a mailbox with just your snowplow! 20 extra points if you hit it out of the zip code!

Disclaimer: Please think of this as a weird holiday. Snowplow drivers really do not play this. We do not endorse the destruction of property, and you should remember that mailboxes are government property. So please, do not seriously celebrate Snowplow Mailbox Hockey Day.

This game is easy enough for your average snowplow, but for super plows it's a no brainer! Syracuse, N.Y., is one of the snowiest cities in the country, averaging more than 114 inches of snow each year. A few years back it boasted the biggest snowplow in the world, measuring 32 feet wide and four feet tall. It can clear 8,500 cubic yards of snow in just one hour.