Gosh Darn You, Martha Stewart!

I fell in LOVE with the cover of Martha’s Easter Issue. I was positively obsessed!!

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I mean, what’s not to love, right??

So, with my characteristic over-enthusiasm, I decided to recreate Her basket for my daughter’s in-law’s Easter Table. That won’t be too hard, I told myself.

Around two hundred dollars’ worth of Martha Products later, I have a reasonable facsimile of Her Easter basket, if I do say so myself. Minus the adorable lop-eared bunny, of course!

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Martha may not have a warm and fuzzy personality, but She’s still one of my Pantheon of Women Goddesses. Hey, Athena wasn’t Miss Congeniality either! And who else could have had a bunch of federal prison inmates crafting?? To gild the lily, She’s an avid beekeeper too!!

She’s the tops in my book.

Have a wonderful Easter, Martha.  I was just kidding You in the title of my post.  🙂

 

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens rediscovered the great Christian festival that  had been on the wane in Great Britain since the latter part of the eighteenth century.  The fact is that  Dickens more than anybody else revived the English Christmas traditions which had nearly died out.

the man who invented christmas

Professor Les Standiford, author of  The Man Who Invented Christmas, says: “Dickens is responsible for Christmas as we know it. He obviously didn’t invent it as an idea, but what he did with A Christmas Carol began the process that led to what we have today.”

Christmas was barely celebrated at the start of the 1800s and December 25 was just a normal working day.“The holiday was still suffering the effects of the Puritan era and seen as a Pagan enterprise,” says Professor Standiford.

“The publication of A Christmas Carol added an emotional component to Christmas and changed it. We will never know what Christmas would be like without Charles Dickens, but it would never have been quite the same as we enjoy today without him.”

christmas carol

Although Dickens celebrated the festival of Christ’s birth in numerous works, it is A Christmas Carol, published on 19 December 1843, that has preserved the Christmas customs of olde England and fixed our image of the holiday season as one of wind, ice, and snow without, and piping hot turkey, and family cheer within. Coming from a family large but not-too-well-off, Charles Dickens presents again and again his idealized memory of a Christmas associated with the gathering of the family which “bound together all our home enjoyments, affections and hopes” in games such as Snap Dragon and Blind Man’s Buff, both of which his model lower-middle-class father, Bob Cratchit, runs home to play on Christmas Eve.

Pickwick papers

Idealized images of snow-carpeted streets evoked by Dickens are to blame for our preoccupation with white Christmases, according to experts. The author persistently wrote of a Britain smothered in snow, which is actually rare in the UK.

A decade of unusually cold weather during his childhood influenced his description of Britons “scraping the snow from the pavements in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses” on Christmas morning.

Six of Dickens’s first nine Christmases were white, including one in the winter of 1813-14 during which the ice on the River Thames was thick enough to bear the weight of an elephant.

snowy christmas

The Christmas tree, a German tradition, was introduced into England by Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Albert in December, 1840, the couple having been married just the previous February. The tree, lit by candles still in European countries, complemented the holly and mistletoe that the Anglo-Saxons ever since their arrival in Britain in the fifth century had used to decorate their homes at the mid-winter festival. Before Prince Albert’s innovation, better-off English homes had used the “kissing bough” as the main decoration for the season. Two hoops were joined to make a globe, decorated with greenery, oranges, and apples, and, of course, mistletoe.

victorian christmas tree

The Christmas cards we send each other bear mute testimony to the pervasive influence of the Dickensian Christmas, as if our cultural notion of the holiday is permanently arrested in the early 1830s in rural England, when Dickens, then just a cub reporter for the True London Sun was racing around the countryside covering political events. Christmas was never far away for Dickens at any stage of his life; it is there in his first book, The Pickwick Papers (which contains the prototype of A Christmas Carol, “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton,” the curmudgeon being the delightfully named Gabriel Grubb) and somewhat more gloomily in his last, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

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One of his sons wrote that, for Dickens, Christmas was “a great time, a really jovial time, and my father was always at his best, a splendid host, bright and jolly as a boy and throwing his heart and soul into everything that was going on…. And then the dance! There was no stopping him!”

Isn’t that the true spirit of Christmas even today?

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Much Ado About The Origins Of Thankgiving

Recently it occurred to me that my knowledge of the origins of Thanksgiving in America was sketchy at best.

I had the simplistic schoolgirl belief that Thanksgiving originated in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621 when the English Pilgrims sat down with Squanto and a bunch of other Wampanoag Indians and had one great big happy feast.

Plymouth Thanksgiving

I thought we Americans had merrily celebrated in the same way for the next 392 years or so, except with more football and fewer Indians.

Like most things in life, the real story is considerably more complicated.

To begin with, the idea of holding a feast of thanks for a good harvest was not something new. Many cultures throughout history have held feasts and banquets honoring their individual deities or simply being thankful for the bounty.

Then there are numerous other claims on the holiday. Texans claim that the explorer Coronado hosted the first thanksgiving in May of 1541.

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Others believe that the “real” first Thanksgiving took place in St. Augustine, Florida in 1565.

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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. —Forget the turkey, the silly Pilgrim hats and the buckles.
Forget Plymouth Rock and 1621.
If you want to know about the real first Thanksgiving on American soil, travel 1,200 miles south and more than 50 years earlier to a grassy spot on the Matanzas River in North Florida.
This is where Spanish Adm. Pedro Menendez de Aviles came ashore on Sept. 8, 1565. This is where he, 500 soldiers, 200 sailors, 100 civilian families and artisans, and the Timucuan Indians who occupied the village of Seloy gathered at a makeshift altar and said the first Christian Mass. And afterward, this is where they held the first Thanksgiving feast.
The Timucuans brought oysters and giant clams. The Spaniards carried from their ships garbanzo beans, olive oil, bread, pork and wine.

First Thanksgiving - St. Augustine

Virginians would tell you that the first ever “official” Thanksgiving on American soil took place in 1619 at Berkeley Plantation (a location which also lays claim to the perhaps-just-as-important distinction of being the site where Bourbon Whiskey was first distilled) along the James River in Tidewater Virginia.

First Thanksgiving - Berkeley

The first actual mention of the word “Thanksgiving” in early colonial history was not associated with any of the events described above. The first time this term was associated with a a feast or celebration was in 1623. That year the pilgrims were living through a terrible drought that continued from May through July. The pilgrims decided to spend an entire day in July fasting and praying for rain. The next day, a light rain occurred. Further, additional settlers and supplies arrived from the Netherlands. At that point, Governor Bradford proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving to offer prayers and thanks to God. However, this was by no means a yearly occurrence.

The next recorded day of Thanksgiving occurred in 1631 when a ship full of supplies that was feared to be lost at sea actually pulled into Boston Harbor. Governor Bradford again ordered a day of Thanksgiving and prayer.

The truth is that many times when a group was delivered from drought or hardship, a day of prayer and thanksgiving would be proclaimed.

During the mid-1600s, Thanksgiving as we know it today began to take shape. In Connecticut valley towns, incomplete records show proclamations of Thanksgiving for September 18, 1639, as well as 1644, and after 1649. Instead of just celebrating special harvests or events, these were set aside as an annual holiday. One of the first recorded celebrations commemorating the 1621 feast in Plymouth colony occurred in Connecticut in 1665.

In 1782, near the end of the American Revolution, the Continental Congress issued a Proclamation of Thanksgiving to God for His deliverance of the newly independent Nation from her enemies.

First Thanksgiving - Washington

The first Thanksgiving Day proclamation in the newly established constitutional Republic, was delivered by His Excellency, President George Washington in 1789, following the precedent set by the Continental Congress in setting the date on the last Thursday in November.

Finally, Thanksgiving Day became a permanent holiday in 1863, when President Lincoln issued the proclamation that set the precedent for its annual celebration:

First Thanksgiving - Lincoln

There are a multitude of  claims, then, as to what is the “real ” first Thanksgiving. But less important than which was first is the fact that throughout her history our Nation has sought to give thanks for the blessings and graces that have been bestowed upon her.

The Full Beaver Moon, Meteors and A Comet – November 16-17

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The Full Beaver Moon comes Sunday, brightening the sky and unfortunately making the Leonid meteor shower’s peak and Comet ISON more difficult to see.

The moon will be full at 10:16 a.m. EST Sunday, which actually means Saturday night’s moon will appear the closest to full.

The moon gets its name from the fact that November was the time of year fur trappers set their snares, before swamps froze, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. November’s full moon is also known as the Frosty Moon.

This month’s full moon unfortunately coincides with two other sky  watching opportunities,the Leonid meteor showers and the comet ISON.

The Leonid meteor showers, which appear to emanate from the constellation Leo, peak Sunday. Debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle’s debris can produce up to 15 meteors per hour, best seen in the hours just before dawn, according to Astronomy magazine.

Leonid

The Leonids have produced in the past some of best shows of all of the meteor showers. In 1966, for instance, THOUSANDS of meteors per MINUTE were seen over a 15-minute period of time on the morning of November 17th.

According to the EarthSky article EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2013 people watching the shower said it felt like the meteors fell “like rain”.

And, “Some who witnessed the 1966 Leonid meteor storm said they felt as if they needed to grip the ground, so strong was the impression of Earth plowing along through space, fording the meteoroid stream.” (One wonders, considering it was the sixties, whether the observers were under the influence of hallucinogens!)

Comet ISON meanwhile could be visible in the early morning using binoculars by looking to the southeast horizon near the bright star Spica, part of the constellation Virgo, according to EarthSky.org.

The moon sets at 5:46 a.m. Sunday and 6:44 a.m. Monday, while the sun rises shortly before 7 a.m., so Sunday could be your best bet for early morning sky watching.

 

The Full Hunter’s Moon – Friday, October 18, 2013

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There’s something about the full moon in October that is especially mystical.

Many people, including myself, believe that the full moon is responsible for erratic behaviors, psychiatric hospital admissions, suicides, homicides, emergency room calls, traffic accidents, fights at professional hockey games, dog bites, insomnia and all manner of strange events. While men of science may scoff at this belief, most of us have a full moon story or two.

Native Americans called this moon the Hunter’s Moon, which isn’t spooky at all.  It was also called the Blood Moon, which is much more satisfying.

The leaves are falling from trees, the deer are fattened, and it’s time to begin storing up meat for the long winter ahead. Because the fields were traditionally reaped in late September or early October, hunters could easily see fox and other animals that come out to glean from the fallen grains. The Hunter’s Moon historically served as an important feast day in both Western Europe and among many Native American tribes.

Hunter's Moon

October’s full moon has a bonus in store for  this year.

A penumbral lunar eclipse — so called because only the incomplete outer portion of the Earth’s shadow, or penumbra, falls across the moon — is expected to reach its deepest point at 7:50 p.m. ET on Friday, Oct. 18.

Unlike total eclipses, in which Earth’s umbra — the central region of its shadow — darkens the moon entirely, a penumbral lunar eclipse involves only a slight dimming. Skywatchers should expect to see a much more subtle sight — with a shadow on the lower half of the full moon — like the eclipse pictured below.

PHILIPPINES LUNAR ECLIPSE

The REAL Pink Full Moon …

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Last month I mistakenly posted that the March full moon was the pink one. I was wrong. 😦

Here is a great article from the Huffington Post about tomorrow night’s “Planetary Event!!”

By: Joe Rao

Published: 04/22/2013 06:32 PM EDT on SPACE.com

This month’s full moon, which falls on Thursday (April 25), always reminds me of one of the first times I viewed the April full moon

When I was very young boy living in New York, there was a popular television weathercaster by the name of Carol Reed. While not a meteorologist, she had an upbeat personality and always finished her reports with what became her personal catch phrase: “And have a happy!”

One evening, Carol commented that it would be clear for everyone to get a good view of that night’s “pink” full moon. When it got dark, my mother accompanied me outside expecting to see a salmon-colored moon, but all we saw was a full moon that looked the way it always did: yellowish-white with not a hint of pink.

While I don’t recall the year of this episode, I can state most definitely that it took place in the month of April, since many years later I learned that traditionally the full moon of April is called the “pink moon,” a reference made to the grass pink or wild ground phlox which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring season. [How 2013’s Full Moons Got Their Peculiar Names]

So on Thursday night, when you look skyward at this year’s version of the “pink” April full moon, remember not to take the term literally!

A bit of an eclipse

While this month’s full moon may not look pink, if you live in Europe, Africa or much of Asia, you will notice something a bit different about it, because it will take place on the night of a lunar eclipse.

Unfortunately, in North America, none of this eclipse will be visible, since the actual instant of full moon occurs on Thursday afternoon (April 25), when the moon is below the horizon.

Beginning at 2:04 p.m. EDT (1804 GMT), the moon begins to meet the Earth’s shadow; a little over two hours later it arrives under the middle of that shadow. By then the moon will have just risen and will be visible low to the east-southeast horizon as seen from Ireland, and will be setting over south-central Japan in the morning hours of Friday, April 26.

Feeble at best

If we were to rank a total eclipse of the moon as a first-rate event, then what is scheduled to be seen on Thursday for those living in the Eastern Hemisphere would almost certainly fall into the third- or even fourth-rate category; in fact it might add new meaning to the term “underwhelming.”

During the first 110-minutes of the eclipse, the moon’s northern hemisphere pushes ever-so-gradually into the Earth’s partial shadow, called the penumbra. The outer two-thirds of this are too subtle to detect; but then perhaps by 3:30 p.m. EDT (1920 GMT) you may realize you are beginning to detect the ever-so-slight gradient of a soft grey darkening around the top of the moon.

At 3:54 p.m. EDT (1954 GMT), the moon’s northern limb finally makes contact with a much more abrupt shadow, the blackish-brown umbra. This chord of shadow on the moon grows and retreats over a span of less than half an hour; yet at its deepest at 4:07 p.m. EDT (2007 GMT), the partial eclipse will reach its peak at a puny 1.48 percent as the moon’s northern (upper) limb literally grazes the umbral shadow and remains in contact with it until 4:21 p.m. EDT (2021 GMT).

This dark shadow’s coverage can be described as feeble at best. To the unaided eye, even to those with acute visual skills, it will hardly cause a perceptible dent on the lunar disk. However, anyone who glances up at the moon around that time will likely notice that the uppermost part of the disk of the moon will appear smudged or tarnished. This effect will probably fade away by around 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT), with the moon appearing as its normal self. Officially, though, the moon will not completely free itself from the outer penumbral shadow until 6:11 p.m. EDT (2211 GMT).

In spite of the fact that this isn’t much of an eclipse, I suspect that more than a few skywatchers across the big pond will still take time out to watch it. That is, after all what a true amateur astronomer is: patient, undemanding, and willing to accept even the smallest crumbs from the star tables.

Oh — and have a happy!

The Full Pink Moon

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The March 2013 full moon will be out all night on March 26, shining in front of the constellation Virgo the Maiden. 

The moon turns precisely full on March 27 at 9:27 Universal Time (4:27 a.m. CDT in the central U.S.). In North America, that means the moon reaches the crest of full phase in the wee hours before sunrise on March 27. But no matter where you live worldwide, watch for the brilliant lamp of the full moon to light up the nighttime from dusk till dawn. Look for the moon low in the east at dusk – at its highest point in the sky around midnight – and low in the west before the sun comes up.

Photo credit: Aunt Owwee

For the Northern Hemisphere, this is the first full moon of springtime. We in this hemisphere call it the Pink Moon, to celebrate the return of certain wild flowers. Other names are Egg Moon, Sprouting Grass Moon, or Easter Moon. In most years, the Christian celebration of Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the Northern Hemisphere spring. So tonight’s Easter Moon heralds the coming of Easter Sunday on March 31, 2013.

In the Southern Hemisphere, this is the first full moon of autumn. It’s the Southern Hemisphere’s Harvest Moon – the closest full moon to the autumn equinox. The Harvest Moon ushers in the year’s longest procession of moonlit nights, because the moon rises fairly soon after sunset for several nights in a row. If you live at middle or far southerly latitudes, look for the moon to shine from dusk till dawn for a few to several days in succession.

The first full moon to follow the March equinox faithfully shines in front of Virgo, the harvest goddess, to signal the change of seasons. Watch the March full moon shine all night from sundown to sunup.

The constellation Virgo. Image credit: Wikipedia