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Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day Food Ideas

Originally begun as a holiday to honor the workers of North America (the day is celebrated in both the United States and Canada although each nation enacted its own laws for the holiday separately), Labor Day has since evolved more into more of a day for families to relax and have fun together.

Memorial Day has also evolved into a similar day for family gatherings (although with our soldiers again in harm's way, Memorial Day's original focus on honoring our war dead is more pronounced than Labor Day's focus on workers) and both holidays, coming as they do with one falling at the beginning of summer and the other at the end, have come to represent the beginning of the summer activity season (Memorial Day) and the end of the summer activity season (Labor Day).

Click to View this Cook Book

When families and friends gather together, the celebration most always includes food and holidays like Labor Day are no exception. Because it is a summer holiday, the food is generally prepared and eaten out of doors.

To assist you with ideas for Labor day food here is a video and links on food and food preparation suggestions for your Labor Day partying enjoyment.

Links for additional recipes:

Instructions for peeling and preparing a mango for eating
Mango on Plate With Seed and Sliced Mango on White Plate
(Photo Copyright © 2008 by Chuck Nugent)

An easy to make homemade pizza recipe

A recipe for a cool and tasty Strawberry Salad

Tired of plain old hot dogs? Here is a simple recipe to spice it up with curry to convert it to Currywurst - a tasty German favorite.

Links for my Other Labor Day Articles:

Labor Day and the North American Labor Movement

What is Labor Day?

Labor Day 2011

Labor Day in America

Monday, July 28, 2008

Author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit Born on This Day

Today, July 28th, is the birthday of Beatrix Potter author of one of the all time classic children's stories, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which involves a mischievous young rabbit named Peter who disobeys his mother and sneaks into the garden of a cranky old farmer named Mr. McGregor. Peter's reward is a nice meal of greens but his joy only lasts until Mr. McGregor comes by and spies Peter eating up the produce of the garden which he has worked so hard at growing. Grabbing a rake, Mr. McGregor goes after Peter intending, not just to scare Peter off, but to catch and serve him for dinner - just as he served Peter's father who was unlucky enough to be caught while raiding Mr. McGregor's garden. Peter, of course manages to escape but not before he loses the new jacket his Mother had just made for him. Happy to still be alive Peter goes home to a scolding from his Mother and is sent to bed without supper.

This classic tale first appeared in a letter to the child of a friend of Beatrix Potter. The boy was sick and, to cheer him up, Beatrix, who was both a talented artist and naturalist, wrote the story in the form of a letter to the boy. Interspersed among the text were pictures, drawn by Beatrix, that illustrated it.

A few years later, seeking additional income, Beatrix Potter decided to try to have her work published and choose the tale of Peter Rabbit for her first book. Despite being turned down by every publisher she showed the book to, she decided to have 250 copies published at her own expense. Those who read it liked it and soon after she found a publisher who agreed to publish it. The 250 books that Beatrix paid to have printed had been released in 1900 and in December of 1901 the first publisher's edition of 8,000 books hit the market. The book was an immediate commercial success and has remained popular to this day.

Click here for a related article I published on Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit on my BlogEvolve blog.

My BlogEvolve

My HubPages

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fourth of July Fireworks

Fireworks on the Fourth of July are a long standing American tradition. There is nothing more spectacular than seeing the night sky lit up with the fiery colors of exploding fireworks. Add some lighting, which is a common site on summer evenings in the Arizona desert and the show is even more spectacular.

Click on the videos below to see and hear the sights and sounds of an Arizona Fourth of July Fireworks display. Watch closely and you will catch quick flashes of lighting streaking across the sky behind the fireworks.

For more about the 2008 Fourth of July Celebration in Marana, Arizona, including more videos click here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Celebrating Butterflies

June 19th is the day that butterfly lovers around the world have selected to celebrate as BUTTERFLY DAY.

In honor of this day I have decided to display pictures that I took of Butterflies earlier this year while visiting the live butterfly exhibit at the Tucson Botanical Gardens in Tucson, AZ.

Friday, June 06, 2008

National Donut Day

The first Friday in June is national donut (or doughnut) day in the United States. Friday is probably a good day to celebrate donuts since it tends to be a slower and more casual day at many businesses with employees gearing down and getting ready for the weekend and therefore more likely to bring in donuts for the office to celebrate the end of the work week.

National Donut Day does not appear to be any sort of official holiday in the sense that the President, a Governor or even a Mayor have issued an official proclamation designating the day as some sort of official holiday. Ironically, despite the fact that donuts are big business, the holiday did not originate with any donut companies so it is not a commercial holiday designed to get people to eat more donuts (as if people need to be encouraged to eat donuts).

While the motive in creating this holiday was not profits or the celebration of some great event in the nation's history the day does have its roots in money and American History. The fact is that National Donut Day was first proclaimed in 1938 by the Salvation Army in Chicago. Their motives were two fold. First, as a ploy to raise money to help in their feeding of the poor during the Great Depression; and, second to commemorate and honor the Salvation Army "Lassies", young women who volunteered to go to France with the Salvation Army during World War I to prepare and serve donuts to the American soldiers fighting in the trenches of France.

World War I was America's first major overseas war (the Spanish American War was fought overseas but it was just a small, quick war and nowhere near the scale of World War I) and, along with the thousands of men who went over to fight, were thousands of women volunteers with organizations like the Salvation Army and Red Cross who went to France as nurses, caring for the sick and wounded, or canteen workers, many of whom risked their lives near the front lines, operating rest stations where soldiers could take a break from the war and relax with a cup of coffee and a donut.

Donuts have a long history. Basically, what we know as donuts originated in Germany and Holland where bakers, rather than discarding the small scraps of dough left over from making bread, would gather up the scraps and deep fry them in oil then roll them in fried cakes or olie-koecken. The Dutch went a step further by molding the dough into decorative shapes before deep frying them and then rolled them in sugar when they finished cooking. The Dutch brought this practice with them to their colony of New Amsterdam (now New York) in the New World and some say that this is how donuts were introduced into the U.S. Others claim that the Puritans, who first fled from England to Holland before deciding to move to the New World where they settled in what is now New England, learned the custom of making olie-koecken and brought it with them to the New World. Probably both have some truth to them.

Today donuts can be either the traditional circle with a hole in the middle or small little somewhat oval shaped cakes with a cream or fruit filling in the center. While the small somewhat oval cake shape is probably the original shape there is problem with these in that, when cooking, the outer parts cook sooner and the center remains uncooked and tends to collapse as a result when cooking.

 There appears to have been two solutions to this. One was to cut out the center, thereby creating the common round donut with the hole in the center, or inject cream or a fruit filling in the center to support it during cooking. The version with the hole in the center is the more common traditional donut although, now days the other is just as common thanks to our desire for variety. However, some apparently consider the cream or fruit filled donuts to be different enough to warrant a separate holiday and that, somewhat lesser known and much newer holiday is observed on September 14th and is known as National Cream Filled Donut Day.

Finally, there is the question of the origin of the name, which is disputed. There are a number of accounts with one being that the Dutch in shaping the donuts often chose a knot shape giving rise to the name dough knots which evolved into donuts by our time. Another has it that the New York author Washington Irving first referred to them as doughnuts in his History of New York published in 1809. Although WikiPedia also cites a 1808 short story that refers to "fire-cakes and dough-nuts" speculating that the dough-nuts referred to were actually the donut holes that had been cut out and cooked separately. The version I like is one that an English teacher friend told me and that is that they were originally referred to in England as dough naughts meaning zeros (naught is an old term for zero) made out of dough. That makes as much sense as any of the other explanations.

Regardless of the origins of the name, I am perfectly to celebrate every day as National Donut Day by eating a donut. Unfortunately, my waistline doesn't agree but I can console myself with the thought that, at least on the first Friday in June and on September 14th I should get into the spirit of the holiday by having a donut with my mourning coffee.

Traditional round donuts on sale in a grocery store
 Now, if they would just carve out one more day of the year to celebrate the chocolate covered donut...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mathew Ben Rivers - World War I Hero

Genealogy can be a very rewarding hobby but, until the advent of the Internet, the research needed to find information, beyond what was stored in the family's attic, was a long and slow process. If the ancestor's you were researching happened to have lived in a far away place it was even slower and more limited unless you had the time and money necessary to travel to those places and spend days going through files in libraries, courthouses and other records depositories.

However, with the Internet the process is becoming much easier since much of it can be done from your computer.

While not an ancestor of mine, I became interested in Mathew Juan after seeing the following inscription on a monument dedicated to him in Sacaton, Arizona:

Dedicated to the Memory of
Co, K 28th Infantry
First Arizonan
Killed in the
World War
Battle of Cantingy
May 28, 1918

Prior to seeing this inscription, I had never heard of him. But my curiosity was aroused and, following about twenty hours of research on my computer over a three day weekend I came up with sufficient information to publish the following article on HubPages:

Mathew B. Juan – Native American Hero of World War I

Of course, I also came up with a mystery which I have yet to solve and that is why did he choose to enlist and serve under the name of Mathew B. Rivers? The answer given in all the information I found about him was that he was below the minimum age to enlist so he used a different last name when he enlisted. However, as I pointed out in my article, that argument does not make sense for a number of reasons which I explain in the article.

In the course of my research I came across the following sites for genealogical research:

Funeral Records from Fisher Funeral Home in Casa Grande, Arizona 1920 - 1929

Passenger Lists and other information for Cunard Lines

World War I Casualty List of soldiers from Oklahoma who died when SS Tuscania was sunk by a German U Boat on Feb 5, 1918

U.S. National Archives site for accessing and ordering military records. an online archive of genealogical records

Casa Grande, Arizona Library Newspaper Archive - free access to archive of Casa Grande, Arizona newspapers from early part of 20th century.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Solving the Mystery of Who's Who in Old Photos

Have you ever opened an old photo album or box of old pictures from your grandparent's generation and wondered who the people in the pictures were? Unfortunately, our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. were as careless as we are about labeling the pictures we take. After all, I know who the people are in the photo. So, why bother?

Fortunately, or unfortunately, pictures outlast us, but our memories don't, so we end up leaving behind a trove of photos full of, by now, nameless faces.

However, there are ways to identify people in photos even if the photo is 50 - 100 years old and one way is by showing the picture to people in the family who are older than us and are closer to the people in the photos. One technique for doing this is to sit down with a grandparent or great aunt or great uncle and show them the pictures, asking questions as you go along. With luck you will find that they will often either recognize people in the photographs or recognize or remember something about the situation (wedding, anniversary, birthday, holiday, etc.) when the picture was taken which will give you evidence to use when talking to others or searching other sources like old letters, diaries, etc. With even more luck, the picture will spark memories and you may get some good stories as well as identifying people in the pictures. My sister, in an article entitled Time the Identity Thief that she wrote, suggests taping (with permission) these interviews so that you can record the information and stories even if they talk faster than you can write. While the tapes may be looked upon simply as a tool for gathering the information, if stories are involved, the tapes themselves could become as valuable a family treasure as the pictures.

As children, by brother and I got my Uncle Willard started on his World War I stories and taped them on my father's old reel to reel tape recorder so that we could remember them. The tape got put away and twenty some years later my Father transferred the stories to a cassette and sent it to me. My uncle had since died, so I put it away and saved it. A few years ago, with the tape getting older, I transcribed it to save the stories and then, last year I got a program for my PC to handle recording and used the program to digitize the stories on the tape. I then burned some CDs and shared them with my cousins and with my mother's cousin (my Uncle Willard's son) all of whom appreciated the memories of Uncle Willard and his stories.

Recording and saving sound on a computer is easy and inexpensive. While there are numerous options, with prices to match, I have found the following inexpensive hardware and software sufficient to do what I want. Of course there are other, usually more expensive, options as well and many of these offer higher quality and more options for manipulating the content with the computer.

For software I use a product called Audacity which is an open source product that is offered for free under a GNU General Public License (GPL). It has been created by a group of volunteer programmers who maintain and update it with new releases. It can be downloaded from on the web. While they don't charge for the product, the Audacity team does accept donations of cash as well as time from developers and programmers who would like to help with the project. They also sell T-shirts and other clothing with the Audacity name and logo along with some recording equipment at their I personally have found this to be an easy to use tool that meets my, admittedly limited, digital sound recording and editing needs.

For hardware I purchased a simple microphone from a computer store which I just plugged in to PC. The cost of the microphone was less than $20. Lacking a cassette tape player, I purchased a cheap $15 cassette player from Wal-Mart and plugged speakers rather than headphones (the player was designed to be worn on a belt and played through headphones) into the outlet on the unit. Placing the microphone near, but not too close, to the speakers connected to the cassette player I started the Audacity program on the computer, pushed the play button on the player and quietly left the room while the recording was made.

Add a scanner to scan the old pictures and a CD or DVD recorder to your PC (most come with one or both of these now days) and, with a little creativity you can create and distribute your own memory book with pictures and sound.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Letters From Iwo Jima - A Movie Review

This is Clint Eastwood's companion to his film Flags of Our Fathers which was the story of the battle for Iwo Jima and the men who raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi.

Like Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima tells the story of the battle through the eyes of the soldiers who fought there. Although this is an American production, almost all of the dialog is in Japanese with English subtitles. The only time when English is spoken in the film is in the few scenes in which Americans are present. Watching both films, one finds themselves gasping at the horror that each side had to endure. Unlike Joyeux Noel, which told the story of the unofficial World War I Christmas truce in which Scot, French and German soldiers crossed the lines and celebrated Christmas with each other, there is very little feeling of goodwill toward the other side in either film. This is war most brutal.

Yet the foot soldiers on each side really had more in common with each other than they had differences. Their nations are at war and the politicians on each side, sitting safely behind the lines, urge them to fight harder. Yet most of these foot soldiers are just ordinary men who have been yanked away from their jobs and families to fight. Their main objective, while doing their duty to their respective countries, is to stay alive and get back to their families and their lives.

One of the amazing things about this film is that it is an American film attempting to tell the story from the Japanese point of view. Of course, in reading some reviews there are criticisms from some Japanese quarters complaining about little American basis that creep in here and there. Given Japan's near refusal to even acknowledge, let alone apologize for the suffering inflicted on countries like China and Korea during the war by Japan, it seems strange to criticize an American film for not presenting the Japanese view with 100% accuracy. After all, how many nations, a mere 60 years after a bitter war have a scene in a movie, as this one does, showing their troops shooting prisoners who have already surrendered?

Like Flags of Our Fathers, before it, this is a film about ordinary soldiers struggling to do what is expected of them and to survive in conditions that are difficult outside of battle and pure horror during the battles. Politics and ideology are largely absent in both films and this makes it easier for the viewer to emphasize with the soldiers in both films.

NOTE: This review was first published by me on and Blogevolve two sites with low readership and where no longer (in the case of FusePress) publish or rarely publish (Blogevolve).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Easter Bunny

Like St. Nicholas' name morphing into Santa Claus, so too has the Easter Hare evolved into the Easter Rabbit and Easter Bunny. In a previous article entitled The Origins of the Easter Rabbit I discussed how the word Easter itself and the tradition behind a hare or rabbit delivering eggs at Easter came from customs associated the old Saxon Vernal (Spring) Equinox festivals which survived and merged into our present day Easter customs when the Saxons converted to Christianity. Like many of our Christian holiday customs, the Easter Rabbit has its roots in pre-Christian customs which survived the abandoning of the old religion and embracing of the new Christian religion. At Easter this is especially true of customs involving the celebration of rebirth and renewal, which were associated in pagan times with new life of spring, as Easter is the Christian celebration of Christ's resurrection and new life for mankind.

Originally the rabbit associated with Easter was a hare which is a close cousin to the rabbit and is found in both Europe (where it is more common) and the United States (the jack rabbit of the Southwest is a hare and not a rabbit). The main difference between a rabbit and a hare is that hares tend to be larger, nest in shallow indentations above ground rather than in underground burrows and, finally, hares give birth to young which have fur and whose eyes are open at birth as opposed to rabbits who give birth to young who are initially hairless and whose eyes do not open until a few days after birth.

In The Origins of the Easter Rabbit article I discuss how the tradition of the Easter Rabbit evolved and made its way from Germany to the rest of Europe and then to North America and beyond.

While it is easy to explain how the Easter Hare became the Easter Rabbit given that the two are practically identical as far as looks are concerned and the fact that rabbits are more common in the U.S. But, the question of how did hares and rabbits come to be known as bunnies is a more difficult question. In fact, in my research, the best I could do is find a consensus, of sorts, of guesses.

The consensus of guesses that I found was that our word bunny comes from the Scots Gaelic word bun which was used to describe a swelling, a stump or a root. The term bun appears to have made its way into English where, in the sixteenth or seventeenth century, it was used to describe swellings, human rear ends, and the small tail of rabbits. The word was also applied to small, individual loaves of bread which came to be known as buns (more commonly dinner rolls in the U.S.). As near as most can determine, the term bun was applied in English first to the tail of the rabbit, then its entire rear end. Ironically, the word was also originally applied to the tail of a squirrel. Somewhere along the line the diminutive bunny appeared, first as a term of endearment to describe a child or woman and then later it began to be used to describe young rabbits and squirrel's. In time the term was dropped from squirrels but stuck with rabbits, especially young rabbits. It also tended to fall out of use as a term of endearment for women and children.

Regardless of its origin, the term bunny is now used almost interchangeably with rabbit. However, while synonymous with rabbit, the term bunny still conjures up a softer, cuter image in most people's minds and this can be seen more vividly when comparing images of the Easter Rabbit from a century ago with more recent images of today's lovable Easter Bunny.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

In honor of St. Patrick's Day her are some traditional Irish Blessings and bits of Irish Wisdom:

May the love and protection St. Patrick can give
Be yours in abundance as long as you live

Tis better to buy a small bouquet and give to your friend this very day,
then a bushel of roses white and red to lay on his coffin after he's dead

May there always be work for your hands to do
May your purse always hold a coin or two
May the sun always shine warm on your windowpane, may a rainbow be certain to follow each rain. May the hand of friend always be near you, and may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you!

These things I warmly wish for you:
Someone to love,
Some work for your hands to do,
a bit o' sun
a bit o' cheer
and a guardian angel always near

And here is a good Irish Joke:

The 98-year-old Mother Superior from Ireland was dying. The nuns gathered around her bed trying to make her last journey comfortable. They gave her some warm milk to drink, but she refused.

One of the nuns took the glass back to the kitchen. Remembering a bottle of Irish whiskey received as a gift the previous Christmas, she opened and poured a generous amount into the warm milk.

Back at Mother Superior's bed, she held the glass to her lips. The mother drank a little, then a little more, and before they knew it, she had drunk the whole glass down to the last drop.

"Mother," the nuns asked with earnest, "please give us some wisdom before you die."

She raised herself up in bed and with a pious look on her face said,

"Don't sell that cow !!"

Here are some links to some of my other articles on St. Patrick's Day and Other Things Irish:

St. Patrick's Day Article

Eamon de Valera - Ireland's First President

Dual Irish and American Citizenship

Edward O'Hare - the Name Behind Chicago's Famous Airport

Hugo O'Connor the Founder of Tucson

Wrong Way Corrigan - New York to Los Angeles via Dublin

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Jacques de Meulles and His Playing Card Money

As the Intendant of the French colony of New France (Canada) in 1684, de Meulles solved the problem of lack of currency in circulation resulting from the failure of the French government to send money to pay the troops stationed there by placing a number and his signature on the backs of playing cards and using them as the official currency.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Edward O'Hare - the Name Behind Chicago's Famous Airport

There is a heroic and colorful story behind the man after whom one of the nation's busiest airports, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, has been named after.

read more | digg story

Saturday, February 16, 2008

How to Show Love for Step Children

Brief article detailing how to raise step-children as your own. George Washington is cited as an example of a good step-parent.

read more | digg story

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Make Money and Win Prizes Writing for HubPages

There is a new contest at and it is a good opportunity for new bloggers on that site to get off to a fast start. The contest is called HubLove and began at noon (Pacific Time) February 14th (Valentine's Day) and will end at noon (Pacific Time) on March 15th.

Each day at noon California time a clue will appear on the contest page. The first person to guess the single word to which the clue refers receives one point. Users then have 24 ours to write an original article of 300 words or more in which the word is used both in the text of the article as well as used as a tag for the article (HubPages provides an easy to use feature for tagging the articles they publish on the site. Users can submit up to ten articles per day on the topic for that day and receive one point for each article submitted plus 5 points if the judge, who rotates every day and is always one of the writers for Hub pages and not an employee of HubPages, selects your page as the winner. Since the Hub writer who is selected as judge for the day is not allowed to participate in the contest that day, he or she is rewarded with 5 points for being judge.

Top contestants and their scores are posted on a leader board each day. On March 15th the person with the most points will be declared the winner and will receive a prize of electronic equipment worth close to $5,000.

This contest will be more difficult to win than the one HubPages ran in the Fall of 2006. In that contest they provided a list of topics people wanted and writers were encouraged to write an article on one of these topics. Each day HubPages would draw one article written on a topic from the topic list and published that day and award that person a cash prize. HubPages were relatively new at the time so it didn't have the huge body of writers that it has now. Also, on many days very few people submitted articles. I tried to submit one or more articles each day during the contest and frequently I won simply because no one else submitted an article from the list that day. It is more competitive now and there is only one grand prize rather than a daily prize.

However, as I see it and as I wrote in an article on HubPages after the contest ended was that, while the cash prizes were great, the real value of the contest to me was that my competitive nature compelled me to write and enter a lot of articles. It also forced me to write on a wide range of topics. The end result was a that I started 2007 with close to 100 hubs, many of them the result of the contest and many of these contest hubs became very popular and continue to this day to generate Google AdSense revenue for me. So, if you enjoy writing and would like to make some money writing, click here to get the details on the HubLove Contest and join HubPages (it is free).

Saturday, February 02, 2008

It's Official – Punxsutawney Phil Predicts Six More Weeks of Winter for 2008

Today is February 2nd and that means it is Ground Hog's Day. The day on which rodents commonly called groundhogs are supposed to crawl out of the holes in which they have been hibernating these past few months and check to see if spring has arrived.

Like any human being awaken by an alarm clock early on a cold winter's morning, rising on a wintery day such as today must be difficult for groundhogs as well. But, thanks to whatever alarm clock nature has programmed into their brains, arise they do on this day every February second, and, despite the cold, leave their warm winter shelter and perform the duty that nature has thrust upon their species.

Like clockwork, the nation's official groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, rose at sunrise this morning and, after crawling out of his warm bed, nodded at the crowed assembled before him, sniffed the air and looked upon the ground to see if his shadow was visible.

Sure enough, Phil's shadow was visible to both him, his handlers and Bill Cooper the President of the Punxsutawney association responsible for Phil's upkeep. Where upon President Bill Cooper proclaimed to the assembled crowd which included representatives of the world's press:

As I look around me, a bright sky I see, and a shadow beside me.
Six more weeks of winter it will be!

And so, the news has been flashed around the world that winter will linger in North America for another six weeks. With his duty done and the world informed, Phil crawled back into bed for another six weeks of sleep and the little town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania settled back into obscurity for another twelve months.

More Groundhog Day Links:

The Origin of Groundhog Day A brief account of the origins, history and traditions associated with Groundhog Day.

Official 2007 Groundhog Day Forecast Includes photo and information about Canada's Official Groundhog Wiarton Willie

Candlemas - The End of the Christmas Season Learn about the link between Groundhog Day and the Christmas Season.