National Cotton Candy Day

I really did think about doing a more serious piece on Pearl Harbor Day, but there will be lots of other people doing that. Instead, I want to celebrate a treat from childhood. Many will remember eating cotton candy at the circus or a fair or as I did, at the zoo. I loved it when I was a kid, at least partly because I loved watching it being wound around the stick as the machine spun it out.

However, I didn’t love it as much as the Days of the Year Calendar does. Here is how they rhapsodize about this confection: “There exists in the world small clouds of utter delight, floating multicolored strands of spun-sugar all wrapped around a stick or served in a bag. Everything from the machine the produces this treat, to the men and women who operate it, and the very flavor it leaves in your mouth is purely magical. When a treat has gained notoriety around the world and utterly defines what it means to attend a country fair, you know that it deserves a holiday of its very own.”

It’s unclear exactly when and where and by whom cotton candy (candy floss in England) was invented. We know that John C. Wharton and a dentist friend of his (yes, a dentist) William Morrison created a machine to make cotton candy (called fairy floss then) in the late 1800s. They presented it at the 1904 World’s Fair, where it’s said they sold 68,655 boxes for twenty-five cents each, which doesn’t sound like much but was half the price of the admission into the fair itself.

One good question someone asked on one of the sites I read is why is cotton candy day celebrated in December when most of it is eaten in the summer? There seems no good answer.

One piece of trivia: cotton candy is 100% sugar, but actually has less sugar than a can of average soft drink, because it is all fluffed up with air.


Quotes about cotton candy and then about candy in general

Cotton candy is the most amazing form of caramelization ever invented by man.–Jose Andres

I think life is cotton candy on a rainy day. For those who grew up with cotton candy the old-fashioned way, it is very delicate. Pre-made cotton candy that has preservatives is not nearly as good or true. True cotton candy is sugar, color, and air and it melts very quickly. That was the metaphor – it can’t be preserved, it can’t be put aside, it can’t be banked. It has to be experienced, like life.–Nikki Giovanni

I feel like cotton candy: sugar and air. Squeeze me and I’d turn into a small sickly damp wad of weeping pinky-red.–Margaret Atwood

But if they ever saw a sunrise on a mountain morning
Watched those cotton candy clouds roll by
They’d know why I live beneath these Western Skies.
~ Chris LeDoux

All I really need is love, but a little candy now and then doesn’t hurt!–Charles Schulz

Once in a young lifetime one should be allowed to have as much sweetness as one can possibly want and hold.–Judith Olney

Candy is childhood, the best and bright moments you wish could have lasted forever.–Dylan Lauren

Fruit only angers my need for chocolate.–Jason Love

There’s no denying that candy is comfort food and it’s affordable.–Dylan Lauren

Every once in a while, my sweet tooth gets the best of me and I have to snack on some candy.–Derrick Rose

I think people always want candy, whether you’re a kid or an adult.–Dylan Lauren

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December 5 is Krampus, sometimes called Krampus Night, or Krampusnacht. This is a custom from western Europe which never became popular in the New World. Where we think of Saint Nicholas (his day is tomorrow), or Santa Claus tending to both the good and the naughty children, in some countries, such as Germany or Austria, we have Krampus who attends to the naughty children. In some ways, he is Saint Nicholas’ shadow.

What is Krampus? He has sometimes been described as half-goat, half-demon, wearing chains, is usually brown or black, has cloven hooves, and horns. The origins of the figure are not known. Krampus is probably pre-Christian, an old horned god, but in later centuries, he became identified with the devil. In middle Europe, there are still Krampus festivals, and people send Krampus cards, but it isn’t really an amusing figure. Krampus carried a basket in which to place naughty children to carry off for drowning, eating, or transport to hell. I get the feeling that in modern times, though, the festivals are more a chance to raise a ruckus than anything else.

If the story of Krampus intrigues you, it is possible to buy a Krampus tree topper from Archie McPhee. (If you have never looked at their catalog, this is a great time of year to do so. You can find all sorts of strange and weird things for that hard-to-buy-for person on your Christmas list.)

I must admit I’m glad only Saint Nicholas made it over here!


There don’t seem to be any quotes about Krampus, except from the 2015 movie, so here are some quotes about Santa Claus.

Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy; who gives himself by thought or word or deed in every gift that he bestows; who shares his joys with those who are sad; whose hand is never closed against the needy; whose arm is ever outstretched to aid the weak; whose sympathy is quick and genuine in time of trouble; who recognizes a comrade and brother in every man he meets upon life’s common road; who lives his life throughout the entire year in the Christmas spirit. –Edwin Osgood Grover

Here comes Santa Claus!
Here comes Santa Claus!
Right down Santa Claus Lane!
He’s got a bag that is filled with toys
for the boys and girls again.
Hear those sleigh bells jingle jangle,
What a beautiful sight.
Jump in bed, cover up your head,
–Gene Autry, Oakley Haldeman

They err who thinks Santa Claus comes down through the chimney; he really enters through the heart.–Mrs. Paul M. El

Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year.–Victor Borge

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He’s making a list,
He’s checking it twice,
gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town!
–Haven Gillespie

Alas! How dreary would be the world if there was no Santa Claus! … There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.–Francis P. Church

All the world is happy when Santa Claus comes.–Maud Lindsay

Christmas is coming; it is almost here!
With Santa and presents, good will and cheer!
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies!–Francis Pharcellus Church

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there
Clement Moore

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National Cookie Cutter Week

One of my fond memories growing up is making sugar cookies at Christmas time. I loved helping cut out the cookies and then helping to frost them and sprinkle on the colored sugar. We had cutters shaped like a tree, a bell, a star, and, of all things, a chicken.

The first week in December is National Cookie Cutter Week. The holiday was started by Paula Mullins of Kentucky in 1996. When she was gathering signatures for the petition to create the holiday, she gave a cutter shaped like a horse’s head to each person who signed. Members of the Cookie Cutters Collector’s Club can sign up each year to receive a newly created cutter during this week. You can see some of them on their page here.

By the way, the name cookie comes from the Dutch word koekje or koekie meaning “little cake.” According to Gone-ta-Pott, there are four basic ways to cut out cookies:

  • Cutouts: Cutouts are the simplest of cookie cutters and only “cut out” the shape in the dough.
  • Detail Imprint: Imprints not only cut out the dough they also leave an imprint in the dough that will last through baking.
  • Cookie Molds: Springerle molds are the most ancient of examples (can be traced back to the 14th century) and perhaps the beginning of cookie & cracker shaping.
  • Cookie press: Automated or hand operated press used to make large batches of cookies quickly (note from me – when I use a cookie press, nothing happens quickly except I get frustrated!)

Did you know there is a cookie cutter museum? It is located in Joplin, Missouri, and its official name is the National Cookie Cutter Historical Museum. A free plastic cookie cutter is available to any visitor who wants one.

When I was looking up quotes about cookie cutters, I quickly realized the phrase is most often used pejoratively, meaning something not original – a cookie cutter plot is one with no imagination. Guess it’s best to stick to actual cookies!


Quotes about cookies

Cookies are the sweetest little bit of comfort food. They are very bite-sized and personal.–Sandra Lee

Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap.–Barbara Jordan

The house smelled musty and damp, and a little sweet, as if it were haunted by the ghosts of long-dead cookies.–Neil Gaiman

“Empty?! You took all the cookies!”
“They were crying to get out of the jar… Cookies get claustrophobia too, you know!”–Charles M. Schulz

I am sorry; I cannot help you. I am only a cookie.–Chinese fortune cookie

Whatever happened, at least we had cookies.–Diana Rowland

Everyone knows that if you eat a cookie, and the cookie next to it is broken, you’re required to eat that broken cookie as well to keep the package looking clean.–Michelle M. Pillow

In the cookie of life, friends are the chocolate chips.–Salmon Rushdie

My grannies would both bake things like shortbreads and cookies. I think whenever I smell those kinds of things it really takes me back to my childhood.–Curtis Stone

I like cookies, any cookie you put in front of me – animal cookies, sugar cookies, anything crunchy.–Maria Shriver

I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas.–Hillary Clinton

Christmas for me is all about spending time with my family. I cherish any chance we have to spend all day together making gingerbread houses, baking cookies, or sitting around and watching movies.–Blake Lively

Christmas cookies can’t help but be retro – they are memory first, sugar-flour-egg-redhot-gumdrop-sparkle reality second.–Dana Goodyear

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Antarctica Day

December 1st seems like a good time to feature Antarctica. In 1959 the Antarctic Treaty was signed on that day by 12 nations (now 48 nations), setting aside nearly 10% of the Earth “forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes… in the interests of all mankind.” Although the treaty was signed way back then, the holiday is relatively recent, being first celebrated in 2010. It was initiated by the Foundation for the Good Governance of International Spaces as an annual event to build global awareness of this landmark institution that brings hope and inspiration for future generations.

The Good Governance site mentioned above, called Our Spaces, has lots of activities and information. You can launch a virtual balloon to celebrate the day either from their site or by clicking here. You can download, or read online, a book written to explain the treaty to younger folks. Adults might also find it helpful, and besides, it has adorable penguin pictures. There’s even a movie about international flags made by children all over the world and sent to McMurdo Station.

According to the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists, the goals of Antarctica Day are:

  • To demonstrate how diverse nations can work together peacefully, using science as a global language of cooperation for decision making beyond national boundaries.
  • Provide strategies for students learning about Antarctica through art, science and history.
  • Increase collaboration and communication between classrooms, communities, researchers and government officials around the world.
  • Provide a focus for polar educators to build on each year.

So if you are like me and don’t like to be cold, you can celebrate this day where people are much colder than you are! And if you love the cold, you can dream about going there.


Quotes about Antarctica

If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it.–Andrew Denton

At a time when it’s possible for thirty people to stand on the top of Everest in one day, Antarctica still remains a remote, lonely and desolate continent. A place where it’s possible to see the splendours and immensities of the natural world at its most dramatic and, what’s more, witness them almost exactly as they were, long, long before human beings ever arrived on the surface of this planet. Long may it remain so.–David Attenborough

Antarctica is otherworldly, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Stark, cold, beautiful desolation.–Mark Hoppus

Antarctica is a very alien environment, and you can’t survive here more than minutes if you’re not equipped properly and doing the right thing all the time.–Jon Krakauer

Some journalists have described the South Pole as “hell on earth.” Others refer to my time here as “an ordeal.” They would be surprised to know how beautiful Antarctica has seemed to me, with its waves of ice in a hundred shades of blue and white, its black winter sky, its ecstatic wheel of stars. They would never understand how the lights of the Dome welcomed me from a distance, or how often I danced and sang and laughed here with my friends. And how I was not afraid.–Jerri Nielsen

The literature of the emperor penguin is as forbidding, as inaccessible, as the frozen heart of Antarctica itself. Its beauties may be unearthly, but they are not for us.–Ursula K. Le Guin

I am hopeful that Antarctica in its symbolic robe of white will shine forth as a continent of peace as nations working together there in the cause of science set an example of international cooperation.–Richard E. Byrd

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Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott was born on November 29, 1832, in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott in New England, she grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Per the UK Telegraph site: “Women growing up in 19th Century Massachusetts were not expected to be particularly influential, or to fight for human rights, but Louisa May Alcott, one of the best-known female authors of the time, was rarely one to conform to type.” She became a famous feminist and campaigned for the abolition of slavery.

As her family were not wealthy, Louisa worked to help support them as a housemaid and teacher. When the Civil War broke out, she volunteered as a nurse. She wrote up her experiences there as Hospital Sketches. She had already been publishing writing under various pseudonyms, but the success of this book led her to have the courage to use her own name. Shortly afterward, she wrote her coming of age novel Little Women, for which she is best known today. It was based on her own family. Again quoting from the Telegraph article. They say the book “may seem overly moralistic and formal by today’s standards, but set a mark for female individualism in the 1860s. The women were at the centre of the book and fully formed characters who grappled with their own choices, even within traditional domestic roles.” Alcott went on to write several novels in the series, such as Little Men, Jo’s Boys, and Eight Cousins. Today we celebrate a brave, independent nineteenth-century woman.


Quotes by Louisa May Alcott

I like good strong words that mean something.

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.

Let my name stand among those who are willing to bear ridicule and reproach for the truth’s sake, and so earn some right to rejoice when the victory is won.

“Stay” is a charming word in a friend’s vocabulary.

The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely.

A faithful friend is a strong defense;

And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.

I want to do something splendid… Something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead… I think I shall write books.

Love is a great beautifier.

Wild roses are fairest, and nature a better gardener than art.

Simple, genuine goodness is the best capital to found the business of this life upon. It lasts when fame and money fail, and is the only riches we can take out of this world with us.

The emerging woman … will be strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-souled, and strong-bodied … strength and beauty must go together.

I don’t pretend to be wise, but I am observing, and I see a great deal more than you’d imagine. I’m interested in other people’s experiences and inconsistencies, and, though I can’t explain, I remember and use them for my own benefit.

Nothing is impossible to a determined woman.

Some books are so familiar that reading them is like being home again.

Women work a great many miracles.

… for when women are the advisers, the lords of creation don’t take the advice till they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they intended to do. Then they act upon it, and, if it succeeds, they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it. If it fails, they generously give her the whole.

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In most, though not all, Christian traditions, today, November 27 marks the first Sunday of Advent. Advent comes from the Latin adventus a word related to “coming.” The season consists of the four Sundays before Christmas, and ends on Christmas Eve, as we symbolize the wait for Christ to come as a baby born in Bethlehem. It also marks the beginning of the liturgical year.

No one can say for sure when this festival started. We know it was in existence by 480 C.E., but that is the farthest back it can be traced with reliability. In the old days, this was a much more serious and solemn time of year and was treated much as lent is before Easter, a time of fasting and repentance. It was sometimes called the Nativity Fast.

The usual liturgical color associated with Advent is purple, signifying royalty, or blue, signifying hope. Traditionally three candles in the Advent wreath are purple, though that can also vary. The first candle is associated with the patriarchs of the Old Testament and is sometimes called the candle of expectation or hope. The second is associated with the prophecy of Christ’s birth and may be called the candle of prophecy, or of peace. The third, often a rose color, is the candle of joy, signifying the birth announcement by the angels to the shepherds. The forth is sometimes called Mary’s candle and is often called the candle of love.

In Christian tradition, the month of December is known as Advent; Christmas begins on December 25 and continues 12 days to January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany when the Wise Men visited Jesus and his family. That’s where the song The Twelve Days of Christmas comes from. So rather than Merry Christmas, allow me to wish you a Happy Advent!


Quotes about Advent

Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God’s own love and concern.–Mother Teresa

Advent is the time of promise; it is not yet the time of fulfillment. We are still in the midst of everything and in the logical inexorability and relentlessness of destiny…–Alfred Delp

These special holidays give rise to various liturgical calendars that suggest we should mark our days not only with the cycles of the moon and seasons, but also with occasions to tell our children the stories of our faith community’s past so that this past will have a future, and so that our ancient way and its practices will be rediscovered and renewed every year.–Brian D. McLaren

What has happened to the old-fashioned, spiritual Christmas? The cause is our disregard of Advent. The church set aside this four-week pre-Christmas season as a time of spiritual preparation… It is a time of quiet anticipation.–John R. Brokhoff

Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us … a healing memory; it brings hope.–Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. Advent is a winter training camp for those who desire peace. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide…–Edward Hays

Life is a constant Advent season: we are continually waiting to become, to discover, to complete, to fulfill. Hope, struggle, fear, expectation and fulfillment are all part of our Advent experience. … May this Advent season be a time for bringing hope, transformation and fulfillment into the Advent of our lives.–Unknown

It is fitting that the feast of St. Nicholas comes at the beginning of Advent and the beginning of the shopper’s season. As the patron saint of shoppers he proclaims, “Keep it simple!” Keep it simple enough to fit in a shoe or a stocking.–Edward Hays

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Buy Nothing Day

This year November 25 is Buy Nothing Day. It is an international day of protest against consumerism. It is celebrated in the United States and some other places, on the same day as Black Friday, which is the busiest shopping day of the year. In other places, it is the last Saturday of November.

The idea for this day began in Canada in 1992. Soon, campaigns started appearing in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, the Netherlands, France, Norway and Sweden. Participation now includes more than 65 nations.

Critics of the day say it simply means people shift their shopping to the next day, but the idea is to get folks thinking about spending less on things, and more on what matters – giving the gift of time instead of money, or making handcrafted items, or using the day as a time to give back to the community through local charities or the world through contributions to an organization doing good work, rather than buying presents. Some have also used this day as a call to buy locally rather than from national chains. I have found wonderful, unique gifts from the craft sales in my area.

As a Quaker, one of the things I value is simplicity, and I see Buy Nothing Day as a call to live out that value. Much of what I give is handcrafted, and I love giving those gifts that cost my labor, not my pocketbook, or donating to a good cause – in my case Friendly Water for the World who build filters to create clean water in Africa and other places– instead of buying something unneeded.

So I urge you to get creative in what you give for Christmas this year. It’s okay to start small and take baby steps.


Quotes about frugality and how we spend money

Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.–Elise Boulding

Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.–Stephen Butler Leacock

But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy something, which does not represent your life and talent, but a goldsmith’s.–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.  ~Mohandas K. Gandhi

You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.–Vernon Howard

The only reason a great many American families don’t own an elephant is that they have never been offered an elephant for a dollar down and easy weekly payments.–Mad Magazine

Debt, n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver.–Ambrose Bierce

The hardest thing is to take less when you can get more.–Kin Hubbard

Who covets more, is evermore a slave.–Robert Herrick

The trouble with us in America isn’t that the poetry of life has turned to prose, but that it has turned to advertising copy.–Louis Kronenberger

Live simply that others might simply live.–Elizabeth Ann Seton

We don’t need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants. Not wanting something is as good as possessing it.–Donald Horban

We can tell our values by looking at our checkbook stubs.–Gloria Steinem

…existence has become an unreasoning, wild dance around the golden calf, a mad worship of God Mammon. In that dance and in that worship man has sacrificed all his finer qualities of the heart and soul – kindness and justice, honor and manhood, compassion and sympathy with his fellowman.–Alexander Berkman

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