Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Holidays and Observances for June 24 2015

Celebration of the Senses Day

Today June 24 is Celebration of the Senses Day – a day to remind yourself of your body’s amazing sensory abilities.

Given that, at any moment in time, we are bombarded by such a diverse combination of sensory experiences, our appreciation of the individual senses can become somewhat muddled. Our taste experience is affected by the smell, texture and temperature of our food. Similarly, our hearing is said to decrease after overeating, and our sight is affected by noises around us. Sight can also be hampered after eating fatty foods.

On Celebration of the Senses Day, how about conducting a couple of in-house experiments to give your senses a shake up?  Have a blindfolded smell-a-thon of items in the fridge. Listen to a piece of music in a pitch dark room. While you’re at it, dance around in the dark! Mix up your food experience by mashing, freezing or coloring different foods to create new and surprising sensory variations. Look at things around you through a looking glass. In short, utilise your senses to experience the world anew.

Here’s another interesting snippet – if a sad, depressed person tells you their world is dull and grey, and flowers have lost their smell, they’re not just speaking metaphorically. Research shows that sensory perception can actually be diminished in depressed individuals.

So focusing on a renewed appreciation of your senses can actually even help you to get out of that emotional rut you’re in.

Five senses? Try ten!
The categorization of our five primary senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch) is attributed to Aristotle. While this categorization is still valid, humans have a number of additional ‘sensory abilities’ not covered by the above. These secondary senses include:
  • Sense of balance and acceleration – the ability to sense body movement, direction and acceleration, and to maintain balance and equilibrium.
  • Temperature sense – the ability to sense heat and the absence of heat (cold).
  • Kinesthetic sense – the ability of the brain to be aware of the relative positions of various parts of the body without sensing these via the ‘normal’ senses (like being able to touch your nose with your finger, with your eyes closed).
  • Sense of Pain – the sense of pain was previously believed to be an overloading of pressure receptors, but it has since been identified as a distinct phenomenon that intertwines with the other senses, including touch.
  • Sense of Time – the ability to perceive the passage of time, both short passages as well as longer time cycles.
Cool, isn't it?  Even more senses to experiment with on Celebration of the Senses Day… Have fun!

Flying Saucer Day

June 24 is Flying Saucer Day. Whether you are a skeptic, conspiracy theorist or unidentified flying objects (UFOs) enthusiast, extra-terrestrials, aliens, and flying saucers have been a subject of debate for decades.

Flying Saucer Day marks the anniversary when in 1947, pilot Kenneth Arnold was flying in a private airplane near Mt. Rainier when he spotted not one, but nine circular, high-speed objects in the sky. He watched the metallic like objects that were dipping and swerving and “flying like a saucer would” for about two minutes before they simply disappeared. When he landed, Arnold recanted his story and was interviewed by reporters. Folks have been talkin’ about it ever since.

Roswell UFO Incident
UFOs have been the topic of debate for 64 years. One of the most famous incidents involving a mysterious object crashing to the ground happened in 1947 near Roswell, New Mexico. With rumors of conspiracy and government cover-ups, the Roswell UFO incident continues to be the subject of controversy and debate.

Roswell UFO Festival
Each year, the City of Roswell is invaded with thousands of believers and non-believers during the annual Roswell UFO Festival. This out-of-this- world fest includes a light parade, battle of the bands, alien chase and a costume contest for two and four-legged aliens. Fun! Other Highlights include guest speakers, authors, food, live music and more. The 2013 event takes place from July 5 - 7, 2013, and many events are free.

How to Celebrate Flying Saucer Day
  • Flying Saucer Cocktail Recipe – This cocktail recipe calls for bourbon, cognac and orange flavored brandy!
  • DIY Flying Saucer Craft for Kids– This simple craft project for the little ones, is sure to be a big hit on Flying Saucer Day. You’ll need paper plates and decorative “objects.”
  • Flying Saucer Day Greeting Cards- Send a free card to all your friends on Flying Saucer Day.
  • UFO Slideshow - See for yourself - "real" photographs of UFOs.
  • Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) – Skeptical and want to know more? MUFON offers the “scientific study of UFOs for the benefits of humanity.”News and resources, an online store and events are also included.
  • Watch E.T.- Make it movie night and watch one of the all-time classic movies about a stranded alien - E.T.
International Fairy Day

It’s International Fairy Day! Today is a day for fairy believers young and old to celebrate the stories, magic, and history of the Fair Folk. For centuries, fairies have been an important part of Celtic culture. In all of the ancient legends, these mythological creatures are described as intelligent, mischievous, and magical. They have the ability to fly and cast spells, and they live in “Tír na nÓg,” the land of eternal youth. Mortals don’t often see fairies because of the division between the two worlds, but sightings can occur at twilight or during Beltane, Mid-Summer’s Eve, or All Hallow’s Eve.

In his 1904 play Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie wrote that when the first baby laughed, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and that was the beginning of fairies. International Fairy Day is the perfect opportunity to relive your childhood fantasies and celebrate the joy and magic of the fairy world. Read a classic fairy tale, build a fairy house, or take a stroll through the woods. You never know when you might stumble across something magical!

Museum Comes To Life Day

This just seems like a way cool day. It feels like it could really happen at the end of Midsummer celebrations. I would like to be in any museum that came to life, even the ones with the scary exhibits. It would just feel like we were in the middle of a movie, wouldn't it?

Unfortunately, I could only find one museum that actually claims it comes to life on the proper day, and it's in Oklahoma. But, here is a list of museums in the United States, so I am sure that you will be able to find one to go to today... and just maybe some magic will happen.

Just think about what it would be like at some of the biggest museums...

The British Museum: Now this could be a bit scary. There are mummies at the British Museum. In fact, according to this catalog there are 8663 different exhibits containing human remains. Imagine if they all came to life; it would be like a living zombie movie.

The American Museum of Natural History: Cool. A real life Jurassic Park-type experience. Just make sure you were hiding well when visiting the Fossil Halls because more than 600 of their exhibits are from real fossils. The Mammal Halls would be cool, but dangerous because of the bears. You don't want to mess with bears. Especially bears that haven't eaten anything for many years.

I would recommend staying far, far away from the Bird Hall, because birds will peck your eyes and ears out, as well as the Hall of Primates, because monkeys are evil. (You don't think so? Just look at all the evil monkey movies: Planet of the Apes, Congo, the evil monkey on Family Guy, and The Wizard of Oz.)

So, we are avoiding the monkeys and birds, but everyone likes beaches and the oceans. Oh, no! Poor ocean life! Over at the Hall of Ocean Life, think of the poor whales flopping around without water!

I wonder what happens when art museums come to life? Do the people walk out of their paintings? Do sculptures move? In the Bargello, would Donatello's David take off his hat? And would we really want that, because then the poor boy would be standing there naked! And, can anyone even begin to comprehend what the Louvre would be like if it came to life?

If those things happen, I want to be in a modern art museum. I would like to see a cubist figure walk around in the third dimension. I sense that like it would walk like a dancer.

I love the San Francisco MoMA, but I probably would be quite disturbed if their furniture exhibits came to life. I think that would give me nightmares, and I would have to defurniturize my apartment, my office, my friends' homes.

National Pralines Day

Pralines were originally created in France by coating almonds in caramelized sugar. The praline got its name from French soldier and sugar industrialist, Marshal du Plessis-Praslin, as it was his cook who invented it.

It’s hard to find one definitive history of the pecan praline in the southern United States. Although the stories surrounding the creation differ, it is widely agreed that pralines are named after French diplomat from the early 17th century whose name and title was César, duc de Choiseul, comte du Plessis-Praslin. The actual creator of the praline is believed to be his personal chef, Clement Lassagne, but there are many versions of the story.

Some versions have Lassagne getting the idea from children who were scavenging for scraps in the kitchens, nibbling on almonds and caramel leftover from one of his pastry creations. In another tale, the children were discovered stealing almonds from the kitchens when Lassagne followed the delicious smell to find them caramelizing the almonds in sugar over a candle. Yet one more version has Lassagne getting the idea from a clumsy young apprentice who knocked over a container of almonds into a vat of cooking caramel. A more playful account paints du Plessis-Praslin as a notorious ladies man, who asked his chef to come up with an irresistible treat he could present to the women he would court. He would put the sweet sugary nuts into little parcels marked with his name, so people began to call the sweets after him.

Buy Pralines OnlineWhatever the real story, we know that the original praline was roughly a sweet confection made of almonds and some sort of creamy sugary caramelized coating. The candy was named praslin, after the owner of the kitchen instead of the chef, but Lassagne did well enough for himself, eventually opening a sweet shop in France called the Maison du Praslin, which still exists in some form to this day.

In Europe, the praline has evolved to an entirely different candy altogether. In Belgium and France, praline is a smooth paste of cocoa blended with finely ground nuts and used to fill chocolate bon-bons, but when it came to New Orleans it took another road.

It is believed that pralines were brought over from France by the Ursuline nuns, who came to New Orleans in 1727. They were in charge of the casket girls¹, young women sent over from France at the request of Bienville to marry New Orleans’ colonists. The nuns instructed the casket girls to be upstanding women in society as well as good wives to the settlers, and in the course of their scholastic and domestic educations, the girls were taught the art of praline making. Eventually the casket girls were married off and began to settle throughout New Orleans and around southern Louisiana, and their culinary education combined with local traditions become the foundations of the famous creole cuisine we know today.

Pralines were one of the more popular recipes adapted from the old French tradition. Almonds being in short supply, cooks began substituting the nuts of the native Louisiana pecan trees, and the forefathers of our modern pecan pralines were born. The praline became a sugary, creamy, pecan-laden candy. Praline pecans were known as individual pecans covered in the sugary coating. These new pecan pralines quickly spread throughout the New Orleans culture and became a common confection in the area. Soon, praline sales were a small but historically significant industry for the city.

Making PralinesPralinières were the women who used to sell pralines on the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans during the mid-to-late 19th century, providing a unique entrepreneurial opportunity to les gens de couleur libres (free people of color). Not only was being a pralinière a source of income, it was more importantly a means of providing for oneself without any strings attached. This was a rare situation for economically less-fortunate, but resourceful women of that time period, who were often employed as indentured servants or forced by need and without choice into plaçage, as kept-women of wealthy businessmen.

Being a thriving port city, people from all over the world came through New Orleans to the rest of the country, and the praline spread with them. Nowadays most people are unaware of the candy’s historical origin, and the praline is thought of as a southern confection not necessarily specific to New Orleans. Some believe the pecan praline is a Texan candy, whereas others assume it came from Savannah. The pronunciation of the candy is a bit of a point of contention as well. In New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, where there are many communities settled by the French, the pronunciation is prah-leen, with the long aaah sound, which is closer to that of the candy’s namesake du Plessis-Praslin. Other regions of the country, including parts of Texas, Georgia, and New England have anglicized the term and pronounce it pray-leen (we’ve even been asked in the store if a praline was a fish!). Other terms for pralines include pecan pralines, pecan candy, plarines and pecan patties, to name a few.

Pecan PralinesModern day New Orleans pecan pralines are not very different than the ones made one hundred years ago. The common factors are dairy, sugar, and pecans. Some people use water or evaporated milk; others use vanilla, maple, and sometimes broken bits of pecans. Since 1992, Southern Candymakers pralines are made simply of fresh milk, cream, butter, sugar, and jumbo pecans halves the traditional way, each one scooped by hand to cool on a marble slab. And although many shops, ours included, make an array of flavors -from coconut to sweet potato- the original flavor is just creamy and sweet, and the one you should try first. The best way to do it is to come into one of our French Quarter shops where we’re making pralines fresh every day,all day long, and try a piece hot off the slab. Close your eyes and you can easily imagine yourself in Lassagne’s kitchen, savoring the delicious aroma of his sweet invention nearly 400 years ago!

Pralines now come in many flavors and include several different types of nuts. It's no wonder they have their own day. Happy National Pralines Day!

National Swim a Lap Day

The weather is finally warm enough to go outside and get wet. June 24 is National Swim a Lap Day. This is the day to get yourself outside, swim a few laps in the pool and work on your fitness. However, this is also the perfect day to get your children in the water. Even if they are too young to swim a few laps in the pool, they can still celebrate this holiday. Below are a few ideas for how your little ones can celebrate National Swim a Lap Day.
  • Have a pool party - Let your children put on their swimsuits, invite their friends and have fun in the pool. Blow up water balloons or buy squirt guns and let them enjoy the warm weather and water. You can have the pool party in your backyard or go to a local pool. Bring snacks and music and let them have a fun time. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!
  • Sign up for swim lessons - If your children are old enough, sign them up for swim lessons. Swim lessons are critical if you want to teach your children proper swim techniques. Children of all ages can take these lessons to help them perfect their skills. These lessons also help children feel more comfortable while in the water. Swimming, especially in deeper waters, can be frightening for children. But, if they are comfortable and have the proper training, it can be a fun and worthwhile experience. National Swim a Lap Day is the perfect day to help get your children prepared.
  • Teach basic strokes - In addition to signing your children up to swim lessons, take them to a pool and go over basic swim strokes. Help familiarize your children with the different skills they need to help keep them a float while in the water. The five basic swim strokes include the freestyle, breast, back, butterfly and side. As you do this, be excited about your children learning to swim. If you are excited, they will be also and they will be anxious to return to the water.
  • Teach poolside safety - Swimming pools are a lot of fun, but they can also be very dangerous. Teach your children poolside safety. Go over basic rules such as no running or diving in the shallow end. It is also a smart idea to set your own personal rules such as your children are not allowed in the deep end of the swimming pool unless accompanied by an adult or they cannot enter the pool without a life vest or another type of floatation device.
It's important to take the time to teach your children how to float. If they accidentally fall into the pool, they need to know what to do before someone is able to rescue them. Sometimes floatation devices are not enough and so it is critical that you take the time to teach them this vital, life-saving skill. Get them comfortable in the water and prepare them for any event that may occur.

Even though your children may not be old enough to swim several laps, they can still celebrate this wet holiday. The above suggestions are just a few ideas to help you and your children enjoy National Swim a Lap Day.