31 December, 2009
Happy New Year!!!
30 December, 2009
Kwanzaa is a celebration of family, community and culture. It is a week long celebration which begins on December 26th and concludes on January 1st. First celebrated in 1966, Kwanzaa was created to reaffirm and restore African American's rootedness in African culture. Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious one.
The focus of this celebration revolves around seven principles, called the Nguzo Saba (in Swahili). Each day is assigned a principle with the first day being Umoja which is Unity...to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race. Day 2 is Kujichagulia or self-determination...to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves. The third day is Ujima or collective work and responsibility...to build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together. Day four is Ujamaa or cooperative economics...to build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together. The fifth day is Nia or purpose...to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness. The sixth day is Kuumba or creativity...to do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it. The final day is Imani or faith...to believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
There is a specific way that the celebration is to take place, but over time people have personalized them so celebrations can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. Some families have daily ceremonies and others do a big celebration on the final day. There are several symbols that are used in conjunction with these celebrations. The most familiar is the Kinara which holds the Mishumaa Saba (a set of seven candles representing the Nguzo Saba---3 red candles, 1 black candle and 3 green candles). The Kinara sits on the Mkeka (mat) along with the Kikombe cha Umoja which is a unity cup.
I hope that you enjoyed learning a little bit about my culture and Kwanzaa. For more information visit: http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org
Harambee! Harambee! Harambee!!
24 December, 2009
But I did want to post some pictures from a recent adventure that I had touring around as a tourist in my own city.
A week or so ago, my friends Kara and Stephanie and I decided to take our first ride on the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) Holiday Train. This train is no normal train by any stretch of the imagination, but instead looks like something straight out of the North Pole. The train is decorated inside and out. The outside is covered with lights and seasonal decorations and has Christmas music playing. The inside of each car has specifically upholstered seats, candy cane wrapped poles, red and green lights, and the ads are custom tailored to the theme too. And inside each car is a Santa Helper passing out candy canes to all who board. But the thing that makes this train the most special, is that right in the middle is a flatbed type car where the big guy, (yes, Santa himself) rides and waves as he passes by. After we rode the train, we decided to stop at a few of the attractions downtown to check out the festivities and decorations. Our first stop was an unplanned stop. As we were passing by one of the buildings, we spied the lovely lobby display and went in to check it out. There was a very nice display that reminded you of Christmas in Miami. There were dolphins, palm trees and even pink flamingos. Very cute! Next we stopped at the Daley Plaza to see the City of Chicago Christmas Tree and the ChristkindlMarket. This was the first time in several years that the city used one tree instead of building the enormous tree from hundreds of smaller trees. The reviews were mixed, but I think it's beautiful! The ChristkindlMarket is the largest traditional German holiday market outside of Germany in downtown Chicago on Daley Plaza. There were several outdoor booths set up. Some had gifts from other countries and others had food from other countries. It was a great place to find cute little unique gifts and the prices weren't bad either.
Our next stop was Macy's to see the infamous Christmas Windows. The theme was The Journey of Letters to Santa and the windows were very colorful and mostly rather futuristic. As you walked from window to window you saw how the letter you write gets processed and delivered to Santa. The Windy Pixel has better pix than mine if you'd like to check it out. After a brief stop in Filene's Basement for a quiick warm up, we went to our final stop, the Lions at the Art Institute. Each year there is a wreathing ceremony where the two lions receive each receive a wreath so that are "dressed" for the season. This year the Art Institute opened it's new Modern Wing so they decided to kick off the season with modern wreaths and then midway through change to the traditional wreaths. We were lucky? enough to see the modern wreaths. Here's a link to the tradition wreaths. I'm usually a modern girl, but prefered the traditional wreaths for these landmarks. Well, I hope that you enjoyed my brief (ha ha!) re-cap of a cold, pre-Christmas evening in Chicago.
Now...time to get those cookies and glass of milk in place. Santa is on his way!!
15 December, 2009
May God bless those who put their lives on the line for the safety and protection of others!!
TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,
HE LIVED ALL ALONE,
IN A ONE BEDROOM HOUSE MADE OF
PLASTER AND STONE.
I HAD COME DOWN THE CHIMNEY
WITH PRESENTS TO GIVE,
AND TO SEE JUST WHO
IN THIS HOME DID LIVE.
I LOOKED ALL ABOUT,
A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,
NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS,
NOT EVEN A TREE.
NO STOCKING BY MANTLE,
JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,
ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES
OF FAR DISTANT LANDS.
WITH MEDALS AND BADGES,
AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,
A SOBER THOUGHT
CAME THROUGH MY MIND.
FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT,
IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,
I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER,
ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.
THE SOLDIER LAY SLEEPING,
CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR
IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.
THE FACE WAS SO GENTLE,
THE ROOM IN SUCH DISORDER,
NOT HOW I PICTURED
A UNITED STATES SOLDIER.
WAS THIS THE HERO
OF WHOM I'D JUST READ?
CURLED UP ON A PONCHO,
THE FLOOR FOR A BED?
I REALIZED THE FAMILIES
THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,
OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS
WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.
SOON ROUND THE WORLD,
THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,
AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE
A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.
THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM
EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,
BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS,
LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.
I COULDN'T HELP WONDER
HOW MANY LAY ALONE,
ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE
IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.
THE VERY THOUGHT
BROUGHT A TEAR TO MY EYE,
I DROPPED TO MY KNEES
AND STARTED TO CRY.
THE SOLDIER AWAKENED
AND I HEARD A ROUGH VOICE,
'SANTA DON'T CRY,
THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE;
I FIGHT FOR FREEDOM,
I DON'T ASK FOR MORE,
MY LIFE IS MY GOD,
MY COUNTRY, MY CORPS.'
THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER
AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,
I COULDN'T CONTROL IT,
I CONTINUED TO WEEP.
I KEPT WATCH FOR HOURS,
SO SILENT AND STILL
AND WE BOTH SHIVERED
FROM THE COLD NIGHT'S CHILL.
I DIDN'T WANT TO LEAVE
ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,
THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR
SO WILLING TO FIGHT.
THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER,
WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,
WHISPERED, 'CARRY ON SANTA,
IT'S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE.'
ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH,
AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.
'MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIEND,
AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.'
This poem was written by a Marine
The following is his request......
PLEASE, would you do me the kind favor of sending this to as many people as you can? Christmas will be coming soon and some credit is due to our U.S. service men and
women, for our being able to celebrate these festivities.
Let's try in this small way to pay a tiny bit of what we owe. Make people stop and think of our heroes, living and dead, who sacrificed themselves for us. Please, do your small part to plant this small seed.
Celebrate...and plant a small seed of gratitude!
04 December, 2009
01 December, 2009
Growing up in Chicago, it seems that one of the local traditions (I've not found anyone outside of the Chicago area who remotely knows what I am talking about with this) was the viewing of 3 short animated films that were always played on our local network, WGN. I was excited to find them on YouTube last year and I posted them here (December 15, 2008 post). So since these speak Christmas to me, I thought I would try to make this an annual tradition. So without further adieu. I bring you...
SUZY SNOWFLAKE (courtesy of the Museum of Broadcast Communications)
FROSTY THE SNOWMAN (courtesy of the Museum of Broadcast Communications)
HARDROCK COCO AND JOE (courtesy of the Museum of Broadcast Communications)
And remember...only 24 more days (23 more shopping days) until Christmas!!!
Celebrating...the Christmas season!!
26 November, 2009
As you celebrate your day of thanks, I would like to share with you something to make you smile (or even laugh). This is something that I remember seeing in my childhood and I hope that you enjoy. (Isn't it funny how cartoons can be entertaining for children and in a totally different way entertaining for adults?)
Celebrate it all!!
20 November, 2009
17 November, 2009
With Thanksgiving coming up, I was looking for some new items to add to the list of old favorites when they introduced an Orange Cornmeal Cake. This cake is a cross between a coffee cake and a regular cake and supposedly is good as a dessert or even as breakfast with coffee or tea. It's supposed to be light and not too sweet.
I thought this might be one of those interesting recipes to try. The recipe and photo below are from Simply Recipes. But I've noted a few differences that I remember from viewing the Everyday Baking segment.
Orange Cornmeal Cake Recipe Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. (Click this link to see a video of this cake being made)
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan (*make sure it's regular olive oil not extra virgin, which is stronger)
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup for the topping (*Everyday baking recommended Sanding Sugar for the topping)
1/2 cup orange juice (or dry white wine)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal (make sure it's finely ground)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 large orange
1 Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan with oil (can use butter for this too); line the bottom of the pan with wax paper or parchment paper, and brush the top of the paper with oil.
2 In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, 1 cup of the sugar, and orange juice until smooth. Add flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and orange zest; whisk lightly to combine.
3 Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan; sprinkle the top evenly with the remaining 1/3 cup sugar. Bake until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25-35 minutes.
4 Cool the cake in the pan 20 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to separate it from the edge of the pan. Invert the cake gently onto a plate, and remove the parchment paper. Re-invert the cake onto a rack to cool completely before serving.
Seems perfect to have as a light breakfast before taking off for those wonderful Black Friday sales. Enjoy!!
Celebrate...and get ready for the food time of the year!!
14 November, 2009
The one thing that I do remember is that as a general rule, when eating you start with the outside utensils and work your way in. But suppose you are planning to give an elegant dinner party and want to set an extravagant table? I found some helpful hints from The Emily Post Institute:
The placement of utensils is guided by the menu, the idea being that you use utensils in an “outside in” order. For the illustrated place setting here, the order of the menu is:
Appetizer: Shellfish First Course: Soup or fruit Fish Course Entrée Salad
a. Service Plate: This large plate, also called a charger, serves as an underplate for the plate holding the first course, which will be brought to the table. When the first course is cleared, the service plate remains until the plate holding the entrée is served, at which point the two plates are exchanged. The charger may serve as the underplate for several courses which precede the entrée.
b. Butter plate: The small butter plate is placed above the forks at the left of the place setting.
c. Dinner fork: The largest of the forks, also called the place fork, it is placed on the left of the plate. Other smaller forks for other courses are arranged to the left or right of the dinner fork, according to when they will be used.
d. Fish fork: If there is a fish course, this small fork is placed farthest to the left of the dinner fork because it is the first fork used.
e. Salad fork: If salad is served after the entrée, the small salad fork is placed to the right of the dinner fork, next to the plate. If the salad is to be served first, and fish second, then the forks would be arranged (left to right): salad fork, fish fork, dinner fork.
f. Dinner knife: The large dinner knife is placed to the right of the dinner plate.
g. Fish knife: The specially shaped fish knife goes to the right of the dinner knife.
h. Salad knife: (Note: there is no salad knife in the illustration.) If used, according to the above menu, it would be placed to the left of the dinner knife, next to the dinner plate. If the salad is to be served first, and fish second, then the knives would be arranged (left to right):dinner knife, fish knife, salad knife.
i. Soup spoon or fruit spoon: If soup or fruit is served as a first course, then the accompanying spoon goes to the right of the knives.
j. Oyster fork: If shellfish are to be served, the oyster fork is set to the right of the spoons. Note: It is the only fork ever placed on the right of the plate.
k. Butter knife: This small spreader is paced diagonally on top of the butter plate, handle on the right and blade down.
l. Glasses: These can number up to five and are placed so that the smaller ones are in front. The water goblet (la) is placed directly above the knives. Just to the right goes a champagne flute (lb); In front of these are placed a red (lc) and/or white (ld) wine glass and a sherry glass (le)
m. Napkin: The napkin is placed on top of the charger (if one is used) or in the space for the plate.
- Knife blades are always placed with the cutting edge toward the plate.
- No more than three of any implement is ever placed on the table, except when an oyster fork is used in addition to three other forks. If more than three courses are served before dessert, then the utensil for the fourth course is brought in with the food; likewise the salad fork and knife may be brought in when the salad course is served.
- Dessert spoons and forks can be brought in on the dessert plate just before dessert is served or they may be placed above the dinner plate with the spoon facing left.
(information from The Emily Post Institute )
Hope these hints help you when you create your next fancy dinner party!!
12 November, 2009
It all started as a joke. Ellen DeGeneres instead of making a new year's resolution this year, started her "O Yes I Can" campaign to be pictured on the cover of O Magazine with Oprah. At the time, no one had ever shared the cover with Oprah, so it really seemed like an impossible feat. But then the April issue was released and The First Lady, Michelle Obama, appeared on the first shared cover with Oprah. Obviously Michelle Obama was featured for different reasons than Ellen could be...First Lady vs talk show host/comedienne, but Ellen persisted.
It took dedication, persistance and a really creative staff who made several mock-up copies of magazine covers, but about 2 weeks after the Michelle Obama cover was announced, Oprah popped in on Ellen's show (via satellite) and invited Ellen to join her on a future magazine cover. Ellen was genuinely excited! But who wouldn't be? She set a goal and worked her hardest to make it happen.
So while making the cover of a magazine might not seem like a deep or profound goal, the lesson to be learned is that anything can happen...you never know until you try...and any number of other appropriate clichés that fit here. The bottom line---set a goal and work your hardest to achieve it. You never know where it might take you!
Oh and since Ellen won't be the first to share a cover with Oprah, Orpah decided to try another first. This will be the first issue where there will have 2 covers. Newstands will have one cover and subscribers will receive another cover. To check out the two covers, along with 2 others that were shot, see below. If you are a collector, you might want to pick up your copy early. They are expecting this to be the highest selling issue of O ever. The December issue of O Magazine is available on newstands today or you can order thru Oprah's website or Ellen's website.
Optional Cover 1Optional Cover 2
Celebrating because dreams can come true!!
11 November, 2009
07 November, 2009
Sweet Dreams by Kirstin Lepore
Celebrating...the art of it all!
05 November, 2009
Google has some of the cutest pix on their website...and this one was just to fun to not share!! Happy 40th Anniversary Sesame Street!!!
04 November, 2009
The recipe is from Cakespy and it's really super easy! So gather up all of your candy (or if you have kids, grab them and their candy), get or make a pie crust, throw in your candy, bake and serve. (for exact directions check the instructions on the link)
The direct link is:
It might be tricky mixing flavors and candy types, but all in all it looks like this is a win-win situation!! Enjoy!!
02 November, 2009
The latest commercial that has captured my heart is the little girl who loses her dog, Sara. The commercial is for a phone company advertising their wireless phone features, but it brilliantly combines their features with social networking and a college campus. The result is that as the little girl is walking around posting flyers for her dog, the technology has her dog waiting for her on her front steps.
Are people really this nice? I look back to my college days and yes, I do think that college kids would do something like this to help a little kid get their dog back. But today? I'm not sure. People are so "busy" with their lives...do we really, as a society, take the time to help our fellow man? Would we even take the time to read a posted flyer about a lost dog?
I look at this commercial and there is a spark of hopefulness ignited. And I think, what can I do to help steer mankind in that direction? Well, I have a blog that is here for the world to read, so I decided to write about it. So here is my small effort that I am hoping will somehow help to make a difference to make the world a better place.
Take a look at the video...
Ahhhh...now don't you have a good feeling?
01 November, 2009
It's time to start thinking about the turkeys and the cranberries and the pumkin pies...and then putting up the Christmas tree! Christmas is a magical time for me. I love it from the religious aspect and I must admit that I also love it from the commercialism standpoint. The closer that Christmas gets, the nicer people get. It's the time of year when people actually step back and think of others more than they think of themselves. And I also think that people in general are just happier for some reason.
Whatever the reason is, I love it! It's like you go the entire year, which starts off dark and drab and cold and snowy (at least here in Chicago), and and the year gets better and better until the climax of Christmas (and the after party, New Year's Eve/Day).
So you've been put on notice...time to start turning your thoughts to Thanksgiving and Christmas. But as you do, take a little time to enjoy the last remaining leaves on the trees. Happy November!!