Straw Hat Month

You might not think straw hats need an entire month to celebrate them, but it’s true. April is Straw Hat Month. We often think of straw hats as belonging to folks who work outside, from cowboys, to farmers to workers in rice paddies, though those aren’t the only places to find them. They are popular for such, however, being relatively cool because they are woven, yet they provide good protection from the sun. You may also see them in movies or TV shows of British government officials in some of their former colonies in warmer climates, or in the form of Mexican Sombreros. Some of those can be very colorfully decorated.

Straw hats have been around a long time. Click here for an example of field workers in straw hats from the Maciejowski Bible manuscript from 1250. That is just the oldest link on this delightful page organized for the Society for Creative Anachronism, for suggested straw hats for costumes for role-playing. One of my favorites this French peasant woman, from 1577. What a great hat!

Because straw hats appear in many cultures in the world, they have been made of many different kinds of materials. According to Days of the Year, “Some of the most common are wheat straw hats, most commonly found in the Italian Peninsula, rush straws, palm leaves … and of course rice straw and bamboo that are used in Asian Conical hats.”

April may strike you as an unlikely month for straw hats, because at least in my area of the country, it is not warm enough yet to wear them, but it is windy enough to blow that hat off your head. But this gives you time to find the perfect hat to wear for summer.

The graphic I have chosen is Sylvester McCoy in his trademark straw panama hat from Doctor Who.

Quotes about straw hats

Year’s end still in straw hat and sandals.–Matsuo Basho

At Dresden on the Elbe, that handsome city,
Where straw hats, verses, and cigars are made,
They’ve built (it well may make us feel afraid,)
A music club and music warehouse pretty.
Heinrich Heine

Always buy your straw hats in the Winter–Benjamin Graham

Australian schools have cool uniforms. I wish I had to wear a woven straw hat for maths.–Harry Styles

Buy straw hats in the wintertime. Summer will surely come.–Bernard Baruch

You know, for most of its life bluegrass has had this stigma of being all straw hats and hay bales and not necessarily the most sophisticated form of music. Yet you can’t help responding to its honesty. It’s music that finds its way deep into your soul because it’s strings vibrating against wood and nothing else.–Alison Krauss

The best way to garden is to put on a wide-brimmed straw hat and some old clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other, tell somebody else where to dig.–Texas Bix Bender

I turned on the pillow with a little moan, and at this juncture Jeeves entered with the vital oolong. I clutched at it like a drowning man at a straw hat.–P. G. Wodehouse

Hope is a straw hat hanging beside a window covered with frost.–Margaret George

The straw hat is the typical hat Cubans use. It’s cool and keeps the sun away from your face.–Desi Arnaz

The Italians always made good wine, but you had the impression they were friendly guys in straw hats running family vineyards with slaves or something so that the vino was never more than ten bucks a bottle.–Joe Bob Briggs

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Earth Day

Since 1970, we have celebrated Earth Day on April 22 each year. In 1969, peace activist John McConnell proposed to UNESCO a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, which would be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. A bit later, Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed his own version of Earth Day, as a day to teach about environmentalism. This day was set for April 22. It went international in 1990. One hundred ninety-two nations now observe the day, coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network. Some have declared it the largest secular holiday in the world.

According to the LiveScience website, “Earth Day created public support for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and contributed to the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Endangered Species Act, and several other environmental laws.” Also, on Earth Day 2016, the United States, China, and some 120 other countries signed the Paris Agreement towards a climate protection treaty.

On the Earth Day Network page, you can find all different ways to get involved in this day which brings attention to our environment. In 2017, it is also the day of the March for Science. The main march is happening in Washington, DC, but you can find local actions for your area of the country or world by going to the March for Science Website. The marches are not just to celebrate science, but to do teaching about how important science is to our very lives and planet.

As they say on the Website: “In the face of an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery … can [scientists] afford not to speak out in its defense? There is no Planet B.” If you appreciate breathable air and drinkable water, I hope you will give a thought to getting involved in some way in this important day.

Quotes about nature

All the works of Nature are Miracles, and nothing makes them appear otherwise but our familiarity with them.–Samuel Butler

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.–John Muir

Except for children (who don’t know enough not to ask the important questions), few of us spend time wondering why nature is the way it is.–Carl Sagan

The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders.–Ed Abbey

If I have learned nothing else in all these months in the woods, I have thoroughly learned to keep hands off the processes of nature.-Laura Lee Davidson

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, Rejoice, for your soul is alive.–Eleanora Duse

Let us leave a splendid legacy for our children…let us turn to them and say, this you inherit: guard it well, for it is far more precious than money…and once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price.–Ansel Adams

Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty if only we have the eyes to see them.–John Ruskin

The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.–John Steinbeck

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International Cli-Fi Day

Are you wondering what in the world this could be? I did. It sounded vaguely naughty. But since my go-to page for strange holidays doesn’t go in for that sort of thing, I looked it up. Cli-Fi is a new genre of fiction, related to science fiction, but specifically speculating about what climate change might mean for the future of humanity.

I’m not certain it is celebrated on April 20. I’ve read both that it is always on this date and that it is tied to Earth Day, which will be Saturday. But whether it is officially on this day or not, cli-fi serves a useful purpose. The term cli-fi was coined by blogger Dan Bloom in 2007. It entered into mainstream use when Margaret Atwood tweeted about it in 2013.

One of the things that the writers of cli-fi hope to accomplish is to make the dangers of climate change accessible to non-scientists. Dan Bloom says, “literature has an important role to play in getting people (and especially our political leaders) to understand on an emotional and moral level just how important it is to alter our plush, gas-guzzling, CO2 emitting, coal-burning, slash-burn-consume lifestyles before it is too late.” He went on to say that he hopes for a modern day equivalent of On the Beach by Neville Shute, which awakened the world to the dangers of atomic war.

Since people are becoming interested in The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood, I’ll just mention here her cli-fi trilogy, MaddAddam. Your local library probably has some other cli-fi, but you won’t find it listed under that. Some will be found by using the subject “dystopian fiction,” but that covers other kinds of disasters than those caused by climate change, and besides, not all cli-fi is dystopian. Some stories tell the tale of how humanity survives the challenges.

If you are more of a visual person, one such movie is The Day After Tomorrow

So whether this intrigues you or not, you have learned a new word today!

Quotes about climate change

All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man, increasingly dangerous weather patterns and devastating storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not climate change is real. Not only is it real, it’s here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.–Barack Obama

The warnings about global warming have been extremely clear for a long time. We are facing a global climate crisis. It is deepening. We are entering a period of consequences.–Al Gore

Global warming is not only the number one environmental challenge we face today, but one of the most important issues facing all of humanity… We all have to do our part to raise awareness about global warming and the problems we as a people face in promoting a sustainable environmental future for our planet.–Leonardo DiCaprio

Climate change is a terrible problem, and it absolutely needs to be solved. It deserves to be a huge priority.–Bill Gates

Climate change is a planetary crisis. We’ve got to act, and we have to act boldly.–Bernie Sanders

As governor I have seen the tremendous changes over the last few years; the amount of land that we have lost, the trees that we have lost, the homes that we have lost, lives that have been lost, and it is due to a large extent to global warming.–Arnold Schwarzenegger

I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?–Robert Redford

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National Columnists Day

April 18 is a day set aside to honor columnists. The National Society of Newspaper Columnists chose this day because Pulitzer Prize winner Ernie Pyle died on April 18, 1945. He was a well-known newspaperman in World War II, dying while covering the war in the East. The holiday highlights both the dangers faced by columnists, but also their importance. Though this started out as a day for those writing for newspapers, it now covers YouTube, bloggers, and vloggers – just about anyone who posts on any kind of media. As I read somewhere, all you need to be a columnist is access to media, and opinions.

Columnists come in various categories. Right now, probably those most in the spotlight are political columnists. Whether you are liberal, conservative, or middle of the road, you can find someone who sees the world as you do and writes about if regularly. Of course, it’s also good to read those you don’t necessarily agree with to get a more rounded view.

Second for me are those who write on religious issues. You can find the Christian viewpoint – both fundamentalist and progressive – the Jewish or Muslim viewpoint and the thoughts of those not so fond of religion, such as the secular humanist page on Facebook. All bring unique viewpoints to my day.

One of the most famous columnists of all times is Dear Abby, who gives advice about people’s problems. Originally written by Pauline Phillips, her daughter has now taken over the reins.

We also have those who write in genres, such as science fiction or mystery, and those who even write about specific shows on television. There are columnists who write about sports, about finance and business, about food and wine, about traveling or life in particular countries. Chances are there is at least one columnist you follow. So give a thought for them today and all the work that goes into producing regularly scheduled short opinion pieces.

Quotes about and by columnists

As a columnist, I realize that whatever amount of corruption I expose, half my readers will block it out, although they may get a frisson of joy in the process.–Margaret Carlson

Don’t commit to being a columnist unless you’re willing to do it right. Report your behind off, so you have something original and useful to say. Say it in a way that will interest someone other than you, your family and your sources.–Allan Sloan

The best way to get thrown out of the columnists’ club is to be uncertain about anything whatsoever on this earth.–Eric Sevareid

I was a kid who sometimes got in trouble because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, which turned out to be an advantage when I became an opinion columnist.–Anna Quindlen

It makes me cry to think that I’m a nationally syndicated personal finance columnist for one of the world’s best newspapers and my core advice comes from my black grandmother who was a nurse’s aide with just a high school education.–Michelle Singletary

I think blogging and the ability to instantaneously respond to news items has changed the way we approach all media. We’re seeing people talking back to columnists… I read almost all the media I do read online, and plenty of other people do, too.–Rachel Kramer Bussel

The wonderful thing about being a New York Times columnist is that it’s like a Supreme Court appointment – they’re stuck with you for a long time.–William Safire

When the political columnists say ‘Every thinking man’ they mean themselves, and when candidates appeal to ‘Every intelligent voter’ they mean everybody who is going to vote for them–Franklin P. Adams

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people try their hand at this demanding profession (humor columnist). After a few months, almost all of them have given up and gone back to the ninth grade.–Dave Barry

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Easter and Other April Holidays

This year, April 16 is Easter for both Western, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. The celebration of Jesus rising from the dead is the holiest Christian holiday or festival of the year. It is, however, not the only religious celebration of April.

In Hinduism, there is the festival of Hanuman Jayanti, celebrating Lord Hanuman. He is often called the son of the Wind God. The festival is the day when the Vanara god is believed to have taken birth. Known for his strong will, grit, and physical energy, Hanuman was able to assume any form. Devotees worship him and his magical strengths to ward off evil and any other troubles that have been affecting them.

In Buddhism, mainly in Southeast Asia, an April celebration is Theravada New Year. It is celebrated for three days from the first full moon day in April. Theravada is from the Sanskrit and means “school of the elder monks.” In Burma and Laos, there is a custom to buy live fish and release them into the wild, thus showing compassion for living beings

In Judaism, the festival is called Pesach or Passover. This, of course, celebrates the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Back when Israel had been conquered by Rome, this was the day when nationalistic fervor ran highest, and the Jews hoped for deliverance from the Empire. Later in the month is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we remember all those Jews who died in the camps in World War II.

The Baha’i faith celebrates the 12 days of Ridvan this month. It was during the Festival of Ridvan that Baha’u’llah, for the first time, publicly declared His station as a Manifestation of God, as the Promised One foretold in all the world’s religions. He brought with Him a Revelation that heralded a new era – the beginning of the Baha’i Faith.

Lailat al Miraj is a Muslim holiday that commemorates the Prophet Muhammad’s nighttime journey from Mecca to the ‘Farthest Mosque’ in Jerusalem where he ascended to heaven, was purified, and given the instruction for Muslims to pray five times daily.

And at the very end of the month on April 30 at moonrise begins Beltane, the Celtic/Pagan spring festival, rejoicing in the returning fertility of the earth.

Quotes about April and Spring

April is hope.–Gladys Taber

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.–T. S. Eliot

April is a promise that May is bound to keep, and we know it.–Hal Borland

Suddenly a mist of green on the trees, as quiet as thought.–Dorothy M. Richardson

Spring would not be spring without bird songs.–Francis M. Chapman

Spring was running in a thin green flame over the valley.–Ellen Glasgow

Spring still makes spring in the mind
When sixty years are told.
Love wakes anew this throbbing heart,
And we are never old.–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Spring slides gradually into the farmer’s consciousness, but on us city people it bursts with all the relish of a sudden surprise, compensating for much of what we lose.–Mrs. William Starr Dana

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”–Robin Williams

It was a perfect spring afternoon, and the air was filled with vague, roving scents, as if the earth exhaled the sweetness of hidden flowers.–Ellen Glasgow

In spring, nature is like a thrifty housewife … taking up the white carpets and putting down the green ones.–Mary Baker Eddy

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoyed the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved, to have thought, to have done.–Matthew Arnold

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International Moment of Laughter Day

On April 14, we celebrate laughter. It seems quite appropriate, as this is usually the day before taxes are due in the United States, which is pretty much the opposite. Izzy Gesell, a professional speaker, trainer, author and humor consultant, created his holiday that “encourages people to forget the stresses of daily life and give into the healing and relaxing power of laughter.” Gesell calls himself a humorologist, and explains why this is different from a comedian. “I’m interested in the science and structure of humor, as well as its delivery. I’m like the magician who takes you backstage and shows you how the tricks work.” I checked some videos by Gesell on YouTube, and he made me laugh. Find them here.

A website called Punchbowl, says, “In addition to spreading joy, laughter has many health benefits. Studies have shown that there is indeed some truth to the old saying, ‘laughter is the best medicine.’ Laughter can act as an antidote to pain, stress, and conflict. It also strengthens our immune systems, boosts circulation, and relaxes muscles.”

So celebrate today by watching a silly movie, or telling jokes, or going out for a fun time with friends. We all need to laugh more often. Psychology Today tells us “the average four-year-old laughs 300 times a day. The average 40-year-old? Only four.” So today, look for the amusing side of life. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.

Quotes about laughter

Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.–Mark Twain

The best way of removing negativity is to laugh and be joyous.–David Icke

The Creator made humans able to walk and talk, to see and hear … to do everything. But the Creator wasn’t satisfied. Finally the Creator made humans laugh, and when they laughed and laughed, the Creator said, “Now you are fit to live.”–Traditional Apache Story

Get into the habit of laughing; too many of us have forgotten how to laugh. As people grow older, they sometimes forget that they ever laughed. It is a part of their childhood that they can no longer remember.–Maxwell Maltz

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.–Irish proverb

A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other one thing.–Laura Ingalls Wilder

He who laughs, lasts.–Mary Pettibone Poole

The head thinks, the hands labor, but it’s the heart that laughs.–Liz Curtis Higgs

Humor and laughter are not necessarily the same thing. Humor permits us to see into life from a fresh and gracious perspective. We learn to take ourselves more lightly in the presence of good humor. Humor gives us the strength to bear what cannot be changed, and the sight to see the human under the pompous.–Joan Chittister

I have always felt that laughter in the face of reality is probably the finest sound there is and will last until the day when the game is called on account of darkness. In this world, a good time to laugh is any time you can.-—Linda Ellerbee

I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.–Bob Hope

If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas. And, if I can persuade you to laugh at a particular point that I make, by laughing at it, you acknowledge it as true.–John Cleese

If you can laugh at it, you can live with it.–Erma Bombeck

If you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think.–Clarence Darrow

Laugh as much as possible, always laugh. It’s the sweetest thing one can do for oneself & one’s fellow human beings.–Maya Angelo

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Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day

April 12 is the day we celebrate one of the ultimate comfort foods, grilled cheese sandwiches. Melting cheese on bread has been around at least since the Romans, but grilled cheese sandwiches as we know them today didn’t become popular until the 1920s. When cheese became readily available, and so did sliced bread, a culinary delight was born. Though in the U.S., it is customary to have simply cheese melted on bread, there are international variations. In France, people enjoy Croque Monsieur (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich) while in Switzerland it is customary to melt the cheese and toast the bread separately before combining them. Coca Cola’s page about Grilled Cheese naturally suggests having a cold coke with your meal. 🙂 You can also check out the Facebook page for this day here. It has information and where to go for a free sandwich if you live in the right city.

Only three ingredients are necessary for your grilled cheese, of course: bread, cheese, and butter. But after that, you can add what pleases you. Personally, I love to pair tomato with mine, either a sliced tomato on the sandwich itself or a bowl of tomato soup. A couple other suggested variations are a Pesto Grilled Sandwich made on Italian bread. The recipe is here. There is also an Italian Grilled Cheese with garlic, oregano, and marinara sauce. You can find that recipe here.

Quotes about grilled cheese

Everyone prefers some foods over others, but some adults take this tendency to an extreme. These people tend to prefer the kinds of bland food they may have enjoyed as children – such as plain or buttered pasta, macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza, French fries and grilled cheese sandwiches – and to restrict their eating to just a few dishes.–Andrew Well

Grilled cheese and tomato soup is the ultimate comfort meal.–Ina Garten

I’m into grilled cheese.  Grilled cheese makes me feel beautiful!–Emma Stone

I’m just a regular 16 year old kid. I make good grilled cheese and I like girls.–Justin Bieber

I make this really good tomato soup from scratch and I do it with grilled cheese sandwich dippers on the side. That’s really, really, really good. And my grandma loves that. My grandma is the best cook ever so for her to love that makes me think it’s probably the best thing I make.–Gigi Hadid

My father, the lone male in our estrogen-heavy household, had always dealt with any kind of emotional situation or conflict by doing something concrete and specific. … Coming home in tears for reasons you just didn’t want to discuss? He’d go make you a grilled cheese, which he’d probably end up eating.–Sarah Dessen

I gut check my show. I say, I say, “Gut, gut, does that feel true to you?” And Gut says, “Yes it does, Stephen. Let’s get a grilled cheese sandwich.”–Stephen Colbert

How might an omnipotent being with the long view of history respond to those who visit the traveling exhibit of a grilled-cheese sandwich, sold on eBay, that is said to bear the image of the Virgin Mary? It certainly argues against intelligent design, or at least intelligent design in humans.–Anna Quindlen

I do like a little romance… just a sniff, as I call it, of the rocks and valleys. Of course, bread-and-cheese is the real thing. The rocks and valleys are no good at all, if you haven’t got that.–Anthony Trollope

The poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.–Gilbert K. Chesterton

Age is of no importance unless you are a cheese.–Billie Burke

When cheese gets its picture taken, what does it say?–George Carlin

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