National Croissant Day

January 30 is National Croissant Day. Unlike you might expect from the name, croissants are not originally French. They were introduced to France by Marie Antoinette – at least that’s the story.

As to their origin, the legend is that when the Turkish Empire laid siege to Vienna in the 17th century, they were unsuccessful in conquering the city by force. They decided, therefore, to try to tunnel in underground. The bakers of Vienna, who worked in basement areas heard the digging and alerted the army. The Turks were defeated, and the bakers honored for their service. In celebration, they baked their bread in the shape of a crescent moon—the symbol of the Ottoman Empire. Other, less delightful information says that the kipferi, the ancestor of the croissant was made in Austria from at least the 13th century, and crescent shaped breads may go back much further than that. The first of what we call today croissants were made August Zang, a Viennese baker in the early 1800s.

According to the National Day Calendar: “The key to a perfect croissant is laminating the dough. Laminating the dough is a process by which butter is folded into the mixture creating multiple thin layers of butter and dough. The result is a mouth-watering flaky crust and airy body.”

Croissants have traditionally been eaten plain, but you can now get them filled with all sorts of things, including chocolate, which needless to say, is my favorite. They also make great sandwiches.

Though time-consuming to make, there are no odd ingredients in croissants, which have the usual flour, yeast, etc. You can find recipes by the dozens online. So celebrate today by making croissants, or by just buying one to eat, and enjoy!

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Quotes about croissants (& a couple about bread in general)

My weak spot is laziness. Oh, I have a lot of weak spots: cookies, croissants.–Anthony Hopkins

Part of life and part of the enjoyment of life is a croissant and a chocolate cake and eggs and milkshakes and oatmeal.–Nina Dobrev

Paris in the early morning has a cheerful, bustling aspect, a promise of delicious things to come, a positive smell of coffee and croissants, quite peculiar to itself.–Nancy Mitford

“Croissant”: However you choose to pronounce it at home, it is perhaps worth nothing that outside the United States, the closer you can come to saying “kwass-ohn,” the sooner you can expect to be presented with one.–Bill Bryson

You know why the French hate us so much? Thay gave us the croissant. And you know what we did with it? We turned it into our croissandwich, thank you very much.–Denis Leary

I realize it has become too easy to find a diet to fit in with whatever you happen to feel like eating and that diets are not there to be picked and mixed but picked and stuck to, which is exactly what I shall begin to do once I’ve eaten this chocolate croissant.–Helen Fielding

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

Do you know on this one block you can buy croissants in five different places? There’s one store called Bonjour Croissant. It makes me want to go to Paris and open up a store called Hello Toast.–Fran Lebowitz

I love having a croissant and a great cup of coffee. Just one cup.–Marcus Samuelsson

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

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National Kazoo Day

January 28 is the day we celebrate kazoos. For most people, a kazoo is something you give a small child to keep them busy, but kazoos were first conceived as legitimate instruments. The kazoo is based on an African instrument and was invented in the 1840s by a former slave, Alabama Vest. That is to say, he devised the plans, and the instrument was built by Thaddeus von Clegg, a German immigrant clockmaker. They introduced it at the Georgia State Fair in 1852. Commercial production began in 1912.

Kazoos are part of the “mirliton” or “membranophone” family. These instruments all have a vibrating membrane that can be covered or partially covered to make a variety of sounds. To play the kazoo, you merely have to hum into it. According to some I read, the only true kazoos are manufactured in their plant in Eden, New York (south of Buffalo), where there is also a museum.

I must admit this day caught my eye because I was part of a (successful) attempt in Rochester, New York on New Year’s Eve in 2006 to set a Guinness world record for the most number of kazoos played. 2679 people were involved, and it was a lot of fun.

You probably didn’t know that classical musicians like Richard Wagner, Leonard Bernstein and Charles Ives actually wrote pieces using the kazoo, and the instrument was also utilized by Frank Zappa, the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, who used the kazoo for his classic “Crosstown Traffic.”

You can actually find a fair amount of kazoo music on YouTube, from Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” played as a kazoo solo, to “Kazoo’s of Destiny,” by someone called Mister Tim, which is billed as a full album of relaxing kazoo music. One I really like is “My Gal Sal,”  played by the Mound City Blue Blowers from 1929.

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Quotes about kazoos

I think the kazoo and chocolate-chip cookies have a lot in common. All you need is a mouth to appreciate either one.–Wally Amos

What, exactly, is the internet? Basically it is a global network exchanging digitized data in such a way that any computer, anywhere, that is equipped with a device called a ‘modem’, can make a noise like a duck choking on a kazoo.–Dave Barry

Know someone you hate? Give their kid a kazoo!–Dana Gould

That’s me: an old kazoo with some sparklers.–Bette Davis

She felt like a world-class musician standing before a full auditorium and handed a kazoo.–James S. A. Corey

 

And quotes on music in general

Beauty addresses itself chiefly to sight, but there is a beauty for the hearing too, as in certain combinations so words and in all kinds of music; for melodies and cadences are beautiful…–Plotinus

For heights and depths no words can reach, music is the soul’s own speech.–Author unknown

I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.–George Eliot

Music cleanses the understanding; inspires it, and lifts it into a realm which it would not reach if it were left to itself.–Henry Ward Beecher

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.–Victor Hugo

Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.–Ludwig van Beethoven

Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you. And all you can do is to go where they can find you.–A. A. Milne

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Lotus 1-2-3 Day

January 26 is Lotus 1-2-3 Day. Probably many reading this will never have heard of Lotus, let alone used it, but I’ve been working with computers a lo-o-o-ng time, and in fact cut my teeth, so to speak on version 1A, so this brought back memories for me. In the old days (in computer years) I used WordStar, Lotus 1-2-3, and dBase II and wrote programs in BASIC, so that’s how ancient of a nerd I am!

The computer I first used this on was an IBM 8088, one step newer than the original 8086. It was the very early days of personal computers, and though I didn’t realize it at the time when Lotus was introduced in 1983, it was the original killer app which shot sales of PCs through the roof. It completely eclipsed its nearest spreadsheet competitor VisiCalc.

You probably already know Lotus is a spreadsheet program, written to deal mainly with numbers and math. It was a major innovation for businesses, which could now do calculations which would have taken hours by hand with a single command. It also allowed them to help forecast the future by seeing what would happen if sales went up by 10%, or you reduced the price of something by the same amount. Also, realtors found it very helpful in assisting clients to decide on down payments and mortgages.

Lotus was retired in 2013, thirty years after its introduction, in favor of Excel, which came as part of Microsoft Office. I use it now for budgeting and practically anything else that works best as data presented in a table format. I can’t imagine what I would do without it.

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Quotes about computers in general

Spreadsheet:  a kind of program that lets you sit at your desk and ask all kinds of neat “what if?” questions and generate thousands of numbers instead of actually working.–Dave Barry

Computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don’t need to be done.–Andy Rooney

If computers get too powerful, we can organize them into a committee — that will do them in.–Bradley’s Bromide

Why is it drug addicts and computer aficionados are both called users?–Clifford Stoll

To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.–Bill Vaughan

Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.–Isaac Asimov

Computers can figure out all kinds of problems, except the things in the world that just don’t add up.–James Magary

No computer has ever been designed that is ever aware of what it’s doing; but most of the time, we aren’t either.–Marvin Minsky

Never let a computer know you’re in a hurry.–Unknown

Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.–Joseph Campbell

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.
–David Dixon

A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history – with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila.–Mitch Ratcliffe

A computer will do what you tell it to do, but that may be much different from what you had in mind.–Joseph Weizenbaum

The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.–Sydney J. Harris

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National Compliment Day

January 24 was designated National Compliment Day by Kathy Chamberlin, of Hopkinton, NH and Debby Hoffman, of Concord, NH, in 1998. Compliments are one of those strange things. Too often they are insincere, or we feel they are, so when someone we trust compliments us on something we do well, it can be an amazing feeling. I was in a group once, where we each wrote down one thing we appreciated about each person there. It was quite uplifting to hear people say nice things about oneself. Just the fact that it felt so strange tells us how seldom we compliment others.

Today is a day to look especially at those you know well and comment on one of their strengths that you recognize and appreciate. It’s said someone is more likely to pass on a compliment to another if they have been complimented themselves, so if enough people get behind this, we could start a revolution in kindness! If you are a Twitter user, the hashtag for today is #honestcompliment. If you want more of a challenge, try to find something nice and sincere about someone who isn’t your friend – perhaps a boss or coworker – or even a stranger, such as the checker in the supermarket.

I’m a Quaker, and we are really into queries, which is a fancy word for a thoughtful question. This may be helpful if giving compliments is not your default setting. I know it’s not often the first thing I think about! These come from the Website Idealist Careers.

  • What is your favorite type of compliment to give and why?
  • What’s the best compliment anyone has ever given you? What made it special to you?

These may help you to frame compliments to others.

So, my dear readers, I appreciate you taking the time to check out my blog. You mean a lot to me!

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Quotes about compliments

There is no effect more disproportionate to its cause than the happiness bestowed by a small compliment.–Robert Brault

An occasional compliment is necessary to keep up one’s self-respect. The plan of the newspaper is good and wise; when you can’t get a compliment any other way, pay yourself one.–Mark Twain

The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions – the little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss or a smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment.–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Pay with compliments and you will always be wealthy.–Mike Dolan

Candor is a compliment; it implies equality. It’s how true friends talk.–Peggy Noonan

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.–Leo Buscaglia

The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked what I thought, and attended to my answer.–Henry David Thoreau

Nothing is so silly as the expression of a man who is being complimented.–André Gide

To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.–Unknown

Everybody likes a compliment.–Abraham Lincoln

If you’re not the one cooking, stay out of the way and compliment the chef.–Michael Strahan

Compliment three people every day.–H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment and endorse virtue and effort.–Gordon B. Hinckley

I am very happy when people write that they have worn out my books, or that they are held together by Scotch tape. I consider that the ultimate compliment.–Richard Scarry

You have to love yourself or you’ll never be able to accept compliments from anyone.–Dean Wareham

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Winter

I hadn’t yet done a post on winter, and this seemed like a good time.

Anyone who knows me knows that winter is not my favorite time of year. In fact, I often say, “I don’t complain in summer no matter how hot it gets because I reserve the right to complain all winter long.” And I do. Right now I am heartily sick of snow. I feel like I’m living the Mary Dodge Woodward poem:

It is shovel, shovel, snow,
Shovel everywhere you go,
Shovel high and shovel low,
Shovel, shovel, shovel snow.

But of course, winter is important in the seasons of the year. It is the time of year when nature rests, when the seeds in the ground are getting ready for spring. It can be a time for reflection and quiet, for sitting before the fire, or wrapped in a blanket, drinking cocoa and reading. When the snow first falls, it brings a clean, quiet, white world.

Winter can also be a time of surprises. I was out walking a couple of days ago, looking down at the ground to help keep the sun out of my eyes, when I saw something that looked like deer tracks. I followed them with my eyes, and there standing not ten feet from me were a doe and two young deer. And yesterday, I had two other deer just outside my dining room window, eating my bushes. That’s not something I would see in summer.

So for those of you who love winter, I salute you. And for those of you more like me, it’s only a few weeks until it’s officially spring.

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Quotes about winter

The cold spurred her ambition. When frost came, you had to decide things.–Ruth Suckow

Come lovely Morning, rich in frost
On iron, wood and glass…
Come, rich and lovely Winter’s Eve,
That seldom handles gold;
And spread your silver sunsets out,
In glittering fold on fold.–W. H. Davies

I am younger each year at the first snow.–Anne Sexton

I love the scents of winter! For me, it’s all about the feeling you get when you smell pumpkin spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, gingerbread and spruce.–Taylor Swift

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.–Anne Bradstreet

In the winter she curls up around a good book and dreams away the cold.–Ben Aaronovitch

In winter’s tedious nights sit by the fire
With good old folks, and let them tell thee tales
Of woeful ages, long ago betid…–William Shakespeare

January has only one thing to be said for it: it is followed by February. Nothing so well becomes its passing.–Katherine Tynan

The large white snow-flakes as they flutter down, softly, one by one, whisper soothingly “Rest, poor heart, rest.” It is as though our mother soothes our hair, and we are comforted.–Ralph Iron

Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.–Pietro Aretin

Thank goodness for the first snow, it was a reminder – no matter how old you became and how much you’d seen, things could still be new if you were willing to believe they still mattered.–Candace Bushnell

There is a wilder solitude in winter
When every sense is pricked alive and keen.–May Sarton

There seems to be so much more winter than we need this year.–Kathleen Norris

What fire could ever equal the sunshine of a winter’s day?–Henry David Thoreau

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.–Edith Sitwell

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Penguin Awareness Day

January 20 is Penguin Awareness Day. (Not to be confused with World Penguin Day, which is April 25.) I couldn’t pass this up, as a very dear friend of mine used to collect penguins, and I still have a few around my house in memory of her.

Everybody loves watching cute penguins, but life is not easy for these beautiful creatures. There are officially eighteen different species of penguins, and only five of those are considered not threatened in any way. Here is what Penguins World has to say about them:

Least Concern Species (LC)

  • King Penguin
  • Adelie Penguin
  • Chinstrap Penguin
  • Gentoo Penguin
  • Little Blue Penguin

Near Threatened Species (NT)

  • Emperor Penguin
  • Magellanic Penguins
  • Royal Penguin

Vulnerable Species (VU)

  • Humboldt Penguin
  • Macaroni Penguin
  • S. Rockhopper Penguin
  • Fiordland Penguin
  • Snares Penguin

Endangered Species (EN)

  • Galapagos Penguin
  • African Penguin
  • N. Rockhopper Penguin
  • Erect-crested Penguin
  • Yellow-eyed Penguin

Penguins are endangered for many reasons: overfishing destroying their food source, humans and other predators, contamination of ocean water, and global warming which is destroying their habitats.

But I don’t want this post to be all depressing because penguins are so delightful. One of my favorite penguin illustrators is Sandra Boynton who has done a small book called Your Personal Penguin, which is available not only as a book but also as a music video on YouTube. I dare you to listen to it and not find yourself humming it all day. Let us not forget the popular movie, March of the Penguins. And on Bored Panda, you can find some amazing high-quality penguin pictures.

So celebrate Penguin Awareness Day by wearing black and white or a tuxedo if you want to go all out. It is also popular today to tell a penguin joke or two. (I was going to post one to get you started, but they were all so terrible, I decided not to!)

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Quotes about penguins

It’s practically impossible to look at a penguin and feel angry. Joe Moore

Graham glared him into silence, his eyes cold enough to make a penguin wish it had stocked up on thermal underwear.–Ian Barker

I am glad The Worst Journey is coming out in Penguins: after all it is largely about penguins.–Apsley Cherry-Garrard

The penguins that spent most of their time fighting were the ones with no chicks…It’s like they’re supposed to be taking care of their chicks. But because they don’t have any, they have nothing to do with all their energy. So they just pick fights.–Maria Semple

If ever the difficulties of your life seem overwhelming, consider the prospect of being eaten alive by savage penguins and rejoice that such horrors are unknown to you.–A. L. Kennedy

Sure, the lions the king of the jungle but airdrop him into Antarctica, & he’s just a penguin.–Dennis Miller

I think penguins are cute.–Zooey Deschanel

Who would have thought that a tap-dancing penguin would outpoint James Bond at the box office? And deserve to?–Robert Gottlieb

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Peter Roget

Peter Mark Roget was born in London on January 18, 1779, the son of a Swiss clergyman. He is, of course, best remembered today as the original compiler of Roget’s Thesaurus, but that was his project in retirement. During his lifetime, he did a wide variety of things.

He was originally trained as a doctor, graduating from Edinburgh University in 1798. Early in his career, he published works on tuberculosis and on the effects of nitrous oxide, known as ‘laughing gas,’ sometimes used as an anesthetic. According to one piece I read, he was a very solemn man and swore the laughing gas had no effect on him. After an active practice in Bristol and Manchester, he moved back to London, where he was a lecturer in medical topics. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society and from 1827 to 1848 served as its secretary. And he was one of the founders of London University.

In 1814 he invented the slide rule, which was used to calculate roots and powers of numbers until the invention of the pocket calculator in the twentieth century. He was interested in other things as well and discovered that images were retained by the retina of the human eye for fractions of a second before being replaced by the succeeding ones. He created the thaumatrope in 1825, which has two different images, one each side, which when spun, appear to make the images merge, creating the very first ‘motion picture.’ Some consider him the father of animation. You can see a thaumatrope in action on YouTube. He also wrote on a wide range of topics, contributing to encyclopedias of his time.

It seems Roget was what we might call today obsessive compulsive, and he had been making all sorts of lists since he was a small boy. When he retired in 1840, he spent the rest of his life creating his thesaurus (a Greek word meaning treasure house), officially called Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases. He first published it in 1852, and it has been in print ever since. During his lifetime the work had twenty-eight printings; after his death in 1869 it was revised and expanded by his son, John Lewis Roget, and later by John’s son, Samuel Romilly Roget.

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In honor of his thesaurus, which I love, quotes about words

All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.–Kahlil Gibran

I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.–Emily Dickinson

It has not been for nothing that the word has remained man’s principal toy and tool: without the meanings and values it sustains, all man’s other tools would be worthless.–Lewis Mumford

It’s always a bit of a struggle to get the words right, whether we’re a Hemingway or a few fathoms below his level.–Rene J. Cappon

Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grows together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing.–Henry Hazlitt

The power of words is immense. A well-chosen word has often sufficed to stop a flying army, to change a defeat into victory, and to save an empire.–Emile de Girardin

To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.–Truman Capote

We have an obligation to use the language. To push ourselves: to find out what words mean and how to deploy them, to communicate clearly, to say what we mean.–Neil Gaiman

Words are the most powerful thing in the universe… Words are containers. They contain faith, or fear, and they produce after their kind.–Charles Capps

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