National Sticky Bun Day

February 21 is National Sticky Bun Day. These sweet treats are made from regular yeast dough but are put into a pan with brown sugar and butter in the bottom. You can add other things like cinnamon or honey or orange zest or nuts of some kind, but only the first two are actually needed. Most of the information on the Web shows these made much like cinnamon rolls, with brown sugar and butter and cinnamon placed on rolled out dough, then formed into a log shape and cut off, putting the buns on top of the brown sugar and butter in the pan. I suppose that must be the official way, but that’s not the way my mother made them. She put the brown sugar and butter and walnuts in the bottom of the pan, but then she cut about two inch round balls from the main dough, and rolled them out and formed them into a pretzel shape to lay in the pan. They were wonderful. Though I do a lot of baking myself now, I have never been able to recreate my mother’s sticky buns. But oh, I can taste them now!

The actual origins of the first sticky bun are unknown, but it looks like it came to the United States with the German settlers to Pennsylvania. They were originally called schnecken. Even now Philadelphia is known as the place to find a sticky bun. Some folks say it is only another name for cinnamon roll, but they are wrong.

You can find many recipes on the Web if you would like to try your hand at these. Simply enter “sticky bun recipe” into your favorite browser, and there you are.

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Needless to say, there aren’t really any quotes about sticky buns, so here are some about bread.

There is not a thing that is more positive than bread.–Fyodor Dostoevsky

Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.–James Beard

The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.–M.F.K. Fischer

If I survive, I will spend my whole life at the oven door seeing that no one is denied bread and, so as to give a lesson one is denied bread and, so as to give a lesson of charity, especially those who did not bring flour.–Jose Marti

Without bread all is misery.–William Cobbett

Avoid those who don’t like bread and children.–Swiss Proverb

With a piece of bread in your hand you’ll find paradise under a pine tree.–Russian Proverb

Rather a piece of bread with a happy heart than wealth with grief.–Egyptian Proverb

Better dry bread in peacetime than meat in wartime.–Hungarian Proverb

I judge a restaurant by the bread and by the coffee.–Burt Lancaster

I like reality. It tastes like bread.–Jean Anouilh

Man does not live by bread alone, even presliced bread.–D. W. Brogan

Bread is a staple article of diet in theory, rather than in practice. There are few who are truly fond of bread in its simplest, most pure, and most healthful state….Is there one person in a thousand who would truly enjoy a meal of simple bread of two days old?–William Andrus Alcott

…is there anything in the world lovelier than fresh warm bread and a mug of sweet golden tea?–Frank McCourt

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Library Lovers Month

February is Library Lovers Month. There are many different kinds of libraries. Colleges and universities have large research libraries. Towns and cities have public libraries, holding more fiction and popular books, though there are materials for research as well. Businesses have special libraries of materials helpful to their employees. Often these are in the form of periodicals in the area of the business, as well as database access. Law libraries hold volumes of old court decisions to help lawyers as they prepare cases. Schools have school libraries to serve the children in their care. My own local library also has collections in the senior center and the jail. Each of these will hold different kinds of materials for different needs.

Contrary to popular belief, librarians don’t spend their time reading. They are likely to be helping patrons, choosing books, evaluating newer kinds of materials, purchasing items, applying cataloging information so that the books on a particular topic can be found shelved near each other, and many other tasks. Within that world, only those with a master’s degree in library science or closely related field are actually called librarians. Others receive on the job training and do some of the more mundane tasks such as checking out books, shelving materials, getting books ready to be used by the public and other such. But all have the same goal, which is to best serve the patrons, so they can be connected with the information they need, whether that’s looking up an arcane law, getting the latest Stephen King book, participating in a book club, watching a film, doing genealogy, bringing a child to story time, or much, much more.

It is very appropriate to celebrate libraries in this day and age when so many are closing from lack of funds. There are multiple reasons. People with the means are likely to just purchase what they need, or use Google. But as Neil Gaiman says, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.” So show your local library some love this month.

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Quotes about libraries

The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.–Albert Einstein

A library of wisdom, is more precious than all wealth, and all things that are desirable cannot be compared to it. Whoever therefore claims to be zealous of truth, of happiness, of wisdom or knowledge, must become a lover of books.–Richard de Bury

To ask why we need libraries at all, when there is so much information available elsewhere, is about as sensible as asking if roadmaps are necessary now that there are so very many roads.–Jon Bing

The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community.-–Paula Poundstone

We may sit in our library and yet be in all quarters of the earth.–John Lubbock

A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination.–Caitlin Moran

What in the world would we do without our libraries?–Katharine Hepburn

Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest.–Lady Bird Johnson

The library houses thousands of imaginations, thoughts of the living and the dead. A good day in the library means you see the world differently when you depart.–Robin Ince

More than a building that houses books and data, the library has always been a window to a larger world–a place where we’ve always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts that help move the American story forward.–Barack Obama

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Champion Crab Races Day

Yes, it’s true. February 17 is Champion Crab Races Day. If you read about this online, many of the posts are quite snarky about people gathering to watch hermit crabs race. But it doesn’t seem any hokier to me than the rubber duck races down the Willamette River that happen in Oregon. It used to be part of the Rose Festival, as a way to raise money for charity. People would pay $5.00 and be given the number of their duck. Then a huge truck would park on one of the bridges and dump out thousands of yellow rubber ducks into the water, where they would be carried away by the current. People would run alongside the river yelling “Go number 54!” and other such. It was good fun.

Anyway, the crab races seem more to involve children than adults. The owners bring their hermit crabs in their colorful shells which mark them as individual. They may also be given a number. In groups of about ten by the looks, crabs are held under a plastic container on a round table. The container is lifted, and the crabs scatter. The first across the yellow line near the edge of the table wins and advances to the next race. The prizes are small – up to about a hundred dollars and a ribbon. You can see a video of it here. I’m not quite sure what the ASPCA would have to say about it, but the folks watching the race are certainly having fun.

The National Crab Racing Association has a website, with all the information you could ever want to know. Their headline reads “Welcome to the Unique World of Professional Crab Racing.” The racing can be done at any time of the year and can be used to raise money.

If you are into crabs (we used to buy crab-themed gifts for my Dad – long story) you can find some suggestions here. But whatever you do to celebrate this unique day, do watch the video above. It will make you smile.

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Quotes about Crabs

Have you ever watched a crab on the shore crawling backward in search of the Atlantic Ocean, and missing? That’s the way the mind of man operates.–H. L. Mencken

So if anybody wants to get me something, get me 60 crabs – one for each year. I don’t want no diamonds, I don’t want no shoes, I don’t want no party. I want some crabs.–Patti LaBelle

Crabs walk sideways and lobsters walk straight. (lyrics of a Smothers Brothers song. Listen to it here.

You cannot teach a crab to walk straight.–Aristophanes

As the sea-crab swimmeth always against the stream, so doth wit always against wisdom.–Pythagoras

It was quite a challenge to make people eat crab ice cream.–Heston Blumenthal

We spent a lot of time on the beach when I was young so I’d also take pictures of seaweed and crabs.–Graeme Le Saux

Washington is gripped by crab-in-the-bucket syndrome. And there’s no cure in sight. Put a single crab in an uncovered bucket, and it will find a way to climb up and out on its own. Put a dozen crabs in a bucket, and 11 will fight with all their might to pull down the striver who attempts escape.–Michelle Malkin

My father was a preacher in Maryland and we had crab feasts – with corn on the cob, but no beer, being Methodist – outside on the church lawn.–Tori Amos

Think about a hermit crab, okay? And it’s a shell. It’s like, they go from one shell to the next. And that’s what I am. I’m just a hermit crab changin’ shells.–Danny McBride

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National Jell-O Week

The second week in February is National Jell-O Week. For many, this will seem like a blast out of the past, as Jell-O has decreased in popularity. It has, in fact, become a bit of a joke: looking down at someone living in a trailer park, eating Jell-O, or as an old-time traditional dish to take to church potlucks, or as shorthand for hospital food. Personally, I still like Jell-O, though now I use sugar-free, and put fruit in it to make it healthier.

National Jell-O Week started in Utah when Salt Lake City students started a petition to have the state of Utah declare Jell-O the official state snack. The product itself didn’t start there, however, but in Le Roy, New York, a charming little town in the middle of the state, where the product was created in 1897 by a carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer, Pearle Bixby Wait. Two years later, he sold the rights to Jell-O for $450 to a Le Roy businessman, Orator Woodward of the Genesee Pure Food Company. The product was only marginally successful until in 1904, in a stroke of marketing genius, Woodward sent armies of salesmen into the field to distribute free Jell-O cookbooks. In less than 10 years, Jell-O was grossing $1 million a year. The brand is now owned by Kraft Foods.

Jell-O currently comes in more than 25 flavors of gelatin and 30 flavors of pudding products. Some of the more interesting discontinued flavors are: celery, coffee, root beer, Italian salad (yes, really!), mixed vegetable, maple syrup, seasoned tomato, chocolate (the gelatin, not the pudding), concord grape, and watermelon candy.

The Jell-O museum in Le Roy has a Webpage you can visit. It tells the history of the product, has a lovely selection of gifts, in case you have a Jell-O lover in your life, and offers a few recipes, including Grown-Up Cranberry Jell-O, which contains port wine.

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Quotes about Jell-O

“I don’t think Kitchen makes this. What’s it called again?” “Jell-O Surprise.” Link grinned. “What’s the surprise?” Ridley examined the red gelatin more closely. “What they put in it.”–Kami Garcia

Molded salads are best served in situations where they have little or no competition … Like television, gelatin is too often a vehicle for limp leftovers that couldn’t make it anywhere else.–Peg Bracken

It’s as if we spend our entire lives avoiding Jell-O but it is always there at the end, waiting.–John Grisham

I, for one, would much rather swoon over a few thin slices of prime beefsteak, or one small serving of chocolate mousse, or a sliver of foie gras than indulge to the full on such nonentities as fat-free gelatin puddings.–Julia Child

Whoever said nothing is impossible obviously hasn’t tried nailing Jell-O to a tree.–John Candy

The human brain is very soft, having a consistency similar to soft gelatin or firm tofu.–Unknown

What To Do When You Encounter Jell-O:

  1. Never let it see you’re afraid. Jell-O loves this.
  2. Smile. Say you are a friend, you come in peace.
  3. Reason with it.
  4. Offer it a gift.
  5. Find out what it wants.
  6. Let it see you have no weapons.
  7. If it continues to jiggle menacingly, Stab it to death with a kitchen knife and throw it in the sink.”
    –3rd Rock from the Sun: The Official Report on Earth by High Commander Dick Solomon

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Saint Valentine

Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, this seems like a good day to talk about the man behind the holiday. There is some confusion about just who he was. There was a man named Valentine who was martyred by Claudius II on February 14, 269 (or 270, depending on your source). One reason for the confusion is that Valentinus, the Latin form of his name means worthy, strong, or powerful, which was a popular name around that time, so there are stories about several men called the same.

One of the two most likely stories is that Valentine was a temple priest, beheaded for helping Christian couples wed. Soldiers in particular, were forbidden to wed, as it was believed that married men would be worried about their families, and so might not fight as hard, or alternatively that he married couples so the husband wouldn’t have to go to war. He was also convicted of trying to convert those of other religions to Christianity, which was frowned upon by Rome. The other story is that Valentine was Bishop of Terni, who was also martyred by Claudius.

One story about Valentine says that while imprisoned he healed the jailer’s blind daughter. On the day of his execution, he left the girl a note signed, “Your Valentine,” but we don’t really know for sure how his name became to be associated with love. It is possible that his feast day was set here in opposition to Lupercalia, the Roman festival of fertility, which was celebrated about this time of the year.

The man known officially as Saint Valentine of Rome is called on to watch over the lives of lovers, and for interventions regarding beekeeping and epilepsy, as well as the plague, fainting, and traveling. He’s also the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages.

Saint Valentine
Saint Valentine

Quotes about love

All you really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.–Charles Schulz (via Lucy Van Pelt)

Always love your enemies–nothing annoys them so much.–Oscar Wilde

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.–Thomas Merton

Children need love, especially when they do not deserve it.–Harold Herbert

The cure for all the ills and wrongs, the cares, the sorrows, and crimes of humanity, all lie in that one word “love.” It is the divine vitality that produces and restores life. To each and every one of us it gives the power of working miracles, if we will.–Lydia M. Child

Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.–Mother Teresa

The first duty of love is to listen.–Paul Tillich

Forgiveness is the final form of love.–Reinhold Niebuhr

From all the offspring of the earth and heaven love is the most precious.–Sappho

The greatest weakness of most humans is their hesitancy to tell others how much they love them while they’re alive.–O. A. Battista

I don’t want to live. I want to love first, and live incidentally.–Zelda Fitzgerald

If we found out that we all had five minutes to live, every phone line in the world would be tied up with people calling other people to stumble about how much they love them. So don’t wait until we only have five minutes to live–do it now.–Trisha Wright

In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness or control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.–John O’Donohue

The only thing we can do about other people is to love them.–Dorothy Day

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Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week

The first full week in February is Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week, when we celebrate those who write and illustrate books for children. The special week was begun to help boost literacy rates across the world and increase engagement with reading for young people. Using art and illustration has proven to be a powerful tool to keep everyone, young and old engaged in books, share stories and capture imaginations.

I suspect like many who are near to my age, I first met good children’s literature on Captain Kangaroo. There we were introduced to such classics as The Story of Ping, about an adventurous duck that lived on the Yangtze River, Caps for Sale, a book whose subtitle is A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, who dug so well and so fast they forgot to leave themselves a way out of the hole, and the beloved Caldecott winner Make Way for Ducklings, among others.

The American Library Association, specifically now the Association of Library Service for Children chooses a book each year as the best children’s book of that year and awards it the Newbery Medal, and the best illustrated book, which is awarded the Caldecott Medal. They have been awarding these since 1922 and 1938 respectively. There are also awards for African America authors, foreign titles, translations, spoken word, and video. Besides bringing attention to worthy titles, the awards make it much more likely that the books will remain in print for generations to come.

You can find lists of award books online, but your best bet is to visit your local library where the children’s librarian will be glad to lead you to great stories for children.

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Quotes from children’s literature

Promise me you’ll remember, you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think. from Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

Sometimes, I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result, she now has a pig. A small one to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly. from Charlotte’s Web by E. B, White

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. from The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WONT’S
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be. from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia. from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

There is nothing sweeter in this sad world than the sound of someone you love calling your name. from The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

I don’t understand it any more than you do, but one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to understand things for them to be. from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

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National Bagel Day

February 9 is National Bagel Day (also known as Bagel and Lox Day). We think the bagel was invented in Poland. What we do know for sure is that by the mid-seventeenth century the bagel had become a staple of the Polish diet in particular, and the Slavic diet in general. By the mid-nineteenth century, bagels were for sale in London, where they were displayed in the windows of bakeries on vertical wooden dowels, up to a meter in length, on racks. People think bagels came to the United States with Jewish immigrants from Poland. They were widely available in New York City for a long time but didn’t really become popular in the rest of the country until the last 25 years of the twentieth century.

Bagels now come in a wide variety of flavors, but they all have one thing in common – they are boiled, often with malt powder, before they are baked. Recently, some have taken to steaming them instead of boiling, but true bagel aficionados do not consider them the same at all. According to the National Bagel Day website, there are two kinds of bagels: “the Montreal and New York styles. The Montreal style has malt and sugar and no salt. It’s boiled in honey-sweetened water and then baked in a wood-fired oven. The New York style has salt and malt and is boiled in water before being baked in a standard oven. The New York bagel is puffier and has a smaller hole than its Montreal counterpart. Montreal bagels are sweeter and less dense. They’re also crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.”

So have a bagel to celebrate today! My current favorite is a pumpernickel bagel with garlic cream cheese from my local bagel shop. By the way, it is also National Pizza Day, and to celebrate, Thomas’ is offering a limited option of pizza flavored bagels. You might want to get to a grocery store and check them out!

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Quotes about bagels

The first printed mention of bagels…is to be found in the Community Regulations of Kracow, Poland, for the year 1610 which stated that bagels would be given as a gift to any woman in childbirth.–Leo Rosten

The bagel is a lonely roll to eat all by yourself because in order for the true taste to come out you need your family. One to cut the bagels, one to toast them, one to put on the cream cheese and the lox, one to put them on the table and one to supervise.–Gertrude Berg

I’ve said this before, and I say it again. Bagels can be an enormous power for good or for evil. It is up to us to decide how we will use them.–Daniel Pinkwater

I served seven years as the chair of the Princeton economics department where I had responsibility for major policy decisions, such as whether to serve bagels or doughnuts at the department coffee hour.–Ben Bernanke

According to a new poll, Republicans are more likely to have a doughnut for breakfast, while Democrats prefer to eat bagels and croissants. While Independents are that annoying friend who’s still looking at the menu after 15 minutes.–Jimmy Fallon

I definitely invented the everything bagel. There’s no doubt. It’s undeniable truth. It’s one of those things that’s 100% true, 50% of the time.–Joe Bastianich

In New York, I like it when you can get bagels at 3 in the morning.–Shepard Smith

Bagel in the morning is the ultimate breakfast for me; they’re just good.–Lee DeWyze

Romanians have a saying, ‘Not every dog has a bagel on its tail.’ It means that not all streets are paved with gold.–Nadia Comaneci

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