Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells....

Jingle Bells, jingle bells...

It's that time of the year again when the sound of holiday music fills the air and one of the most popular songs of the season is "Jingle Bells." But did you know...

  • "Jingle Bells" was written by James Lord Pierpont (1822-1893), a New Englander who moved south along with his brother, the Reverend John Pierpont, when the Reverend accepted a position at a church in Savannah, Georgia. When trouble began brewing in the southern states, the Reverend Pierpont headed north, but James stayed in the south. James eventually joined the Isle of Hope Volunteers of the 1st (later the 5th) Georgia Calvary where he served as a company clerk. During his stint in the army, he composed confederate patriotic songs including, "We Conquer or Die."

  • "Jingle Bells", published and copyrighted in 1857 as "The One Horse Open Sleigh,"  was originally written as a Thanksgiving song.  In 1859 it was re-released as "Jingle Bells or The One Horse Open Sleigh".

  • There are plaques commemorating the composition of "Jingle Bells" in both Medford, Massachusetts, and Savannah, Georgia.

  • It was first recorded by the Edison Male Quartette in 1898. Since then, the song has been recorded many times by everyone from the Chipmunks, to the Sex Pistols, to Michael Buble'.

  • "Jingle Bells" was the first song performed in space. On December 16, 1965, Walter M. "Wally" Schirra and Thomas P. Stafford performed the tune on a tiny harmonica and five small bells. The harmonica and bells can now be found at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

  • The barking dog version of the song came out in 1955 and it's official title is "Don Charles presents The Singing Dogs directed by Carl Weismann."

From 1857 until now "Jingle Bells" has come a long way. One has to wonder what James Lord Pierpont would've thought, if he could've known, that his simple song would end up being performed by Chipmunks, barking dogs, and astronauts!
This and That...

Word of the Week - "salubrious" - from the Latin "salus" - means "wholesome" or "conducive to health"

Quote of the Week - "Remember that men will go on doing the same things even if you should burst in protest." Marcus Aurelius

Don't Forget Small Businesses in the Holiday Rush

Small businesses help our economy and our communities; don't forget them in the holiday rush!

* Buy a sandwich from your local deli or maybe a slice of pizza from a local restaurant.

* Buy a cup of coffee from your neighborhood Mom and Pop quickstop.

* Buy a poinsettia from a small, local garden center.

* Buy local apples for your holiday baking. Some fruitstands are open year round.

Visit a local, year round farmer's market and buy some cookies or whoopie pies.

* Take a stroll through a small town holiday bazaar and buy a gift or two from a vendor.

* Enjoy a local museum or other tourist attraction. A lot of small tourist railroads operate Christmas trains through the holiday season, and many historic homes are decorated for the holiday and offer tours.

* Check out a local hardware store for holiday needs, or maybe a bag of bird seed to scatter for your feathered friends.

* Get a haircut at a neighborhood barbershop or hair salon.

* Splurge on a real Christmas tree or holiday wreath.

A Tale of Two Thanksgivings

(image source)
A Tale of Two Thanksgivings?

When we think of Thanksgiving here in the U.S., we think of pilgrims and Native Americans and the Mayflower and Massachusetts. If you are of a certain age, you may even remember school pageants celebrating Thanksgiving. Perhaps you got to dress up as a "friendly native", or a prim pilgrim in stiff black and white clothes. But is that the real story of Thanksgiving? Not according to some people!
A controversy rages as to who celebrated the first Thanksgiving, and where it took place.

Was the first Thanksgiving in Florida?

On September 8, 1565 over 600 Spainards under the leadership of Don Pedro Menendez Aviles came to what would be known as St. Augustine, Florida.
They celebrated the first Mass of Thanksgiving, and then partook of a meal, inviting the local natives, who according to records, "imitated all they saw done".
The celebrant of the Mass was chaplain of the Menedez ship, and St. Augustine's first priest, Father Francisco Lopez de Medoza Grajales.

Or was the first Thanksgiving in Virginia?

On December 4, 1619 a ship from England landed in Virginia carrying 38 colonists who were to settle "The Berkeley Hundred." The Berkeley Hundred was a land grant given to  a Richard Berkeley, William Throckmorton, and others by the Virginia Company of London. The new plantation's charter included instructions that the colonists keep the day of their ship's arrival perpetually as a day of Thanksgiving. According to the stories, upon their arrival, the colonists knelt in prayer and began the Thanksgiving tradition.
This first Thanksgiving, held in Virginia, was recognized by President John F. Kennedy. Written on November 5, 1963, his Thanksgiving proclamation began:
"Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time for Thanksgiving..."

So where did the first Thanksgiving take place?

Florida? Virginia? Some believe it was Texas, but that is a whole 'nother story.

Traditions are hard to change. For most of us, Thanksgiving will always be about pilgrims, and native Americans and a big turkey dinner. But regardless of the who, and the where,  the tradition began, it has been, and should always be, about giving thanks.
This and That...

Word of the Day - "dendrology" - "the study of trees". From the greek 'dendron' - "tree" and 'logia' - "the study of"

Quote of the Week - "Do not neglect your music. It will be a companion which will sweeten many hours of life to you." (Thomas Jefferson to his daughter)

Get Your Vitamin D

Get Your Vitamin D

Essential for healthy bones...
experts recommend 600 IU's of vitamin D per day for most adults.
Vitamin D, along with calcium, helps prevent osteoporosis in older adults.
Older adults can be at risk of vitamin D deficiency because they are likely to spend more time indoors, and also as people age, their skin doesn't synthesize vitamin D as efficiently.

How to get your vitamin D -


People get part of their vitamin D from sun exposure on their skin. The experts recommend five to thirty minutes of sun exposure at least twice per week during the sunniest part of the day, 10am to 3pm, on the face, arms, legs or back.

From foods -

Vitamin D is found naturally in a few foods: salmon, mackeral, and tuna are the top vitamin D foods.

Most people in the U.S. get the majority of their vitamin D from foods fortified with the vitamin:  milk and some yogurts contain vitamin D, as do some ready-to-eat cereals and some brands of orange juice. Check your labels.

Supplements -

Vitamin D is also available as a supplement. Ask your doctor if you should take vitamin D. And remember to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist about any supplements and medications you are taking - some supplements can interfere, or interact, with medications.


Simple Tuna Burgers

Drain and flake a can of tuna packed in water.
Add a couple of teaspoons or so of flour, enough to make the mixture hold together.
Form into patties and fry in hot oil until lightly brown.
Flip and fry the other side.
Serve plain or as a sandwich. Tartar sauce or ketchup makes a tasty tuna burger topping!

Cream of Tuna

Melt 4 Tablespoons of butter or margarine in a heavy saucepan over low heat.
Add 4 Tablespoons of all purpose flour and stir until smooth.
Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Slowly add 2 cups of milk, stirring constantly (a whisk works great for this part!)
Increase heat to medium and cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.
Add one can of drained, flaked tuna.
Cook and stir for another minute or so.

Serve over crispy toast.

(Note - When your bread is starting to go past it's last sale date, plan a meal that uses toast or breadcrumbs and use it up!)

Gratitude - Pay It Forward

Having a gratitude attitude has many positive affects; it increases your optimism, and gives you a greater sense of well-being. Feeling grateful can even make you more motivated to exercise! But according to the experts, being grateful can make you look at others differently. Studies show that being grateful makes you more empathetic towards other people and less likely to judge a person based on their material goods.  

Being grateful also makes you more likely to help other people. In one study, people who kept a gratitude journal helped others more often than those who kept journals of normal daily events or of what they thought they had and others didn't.

Also, people who were made to feel as if someone was grateful for them or their actions were more likely to pay it forward and help someone else.   

Can you increase your gratitude attitude?
Start keeping a daily gratitude journal!
Are you grateful for your significant other? Your children? Your job? Are you grateful you woke up this morning? Are you grateful for a beautiful day?

Idea - if you are on Twitter, why not send out a daily gratitude tweet and spread around the positive?

And don't keep your gratitude to yourself - remember always to say "thank you!"

One Item, Two Uses

One Item, Two Uses

Using common household products and items for more than one use is a great way to save money.

Vinegar is inexpensive and can be used in a variey of ways. Here are just a few -

Clean Shower Heads - Vinegar works well to remove hard water deposits from shower heads. Remove the shower head and soak it in a mix of half hot water and half vinegar for an hour.
Buttermilk Substitute - Have a recipe that calls for a cup of buttermilk but you don't have any on hand? Just take one tablespoon of vinegar and add milk to make one cup. Let sit for ten minutes and it's ready to use.

Glass Cleaner - Vinegar and water make a great glass cleaner. Just mix half vinegar and half water in a clean spray bottle. You can use the mix on windows and mirrors to make them squeaky clean!

Note - if you are going to reuse an old spray bottle, make sure to wash it very well before you put the vinegar and water into it!

Clean Your Coffee Maker - Vinegar works great to clean drip coffee makers! Pour straight vinegar into the water resevoir. Put a filter in the filter basket. (This will catch any little hard water bits that come through the line.) Put the coffee pot in place and start the brew cycle. When the vinegar reaches the halfway point in the coffee pot, turn the switch off and let it sit to 'soak' for half an hour. When the half hour is over, turn the switch back on and let the rest of the vinegar run through. Dump the vinegar and then run two brew cycles using only clean water.

Clean Your Floors - You can clean no-wax floors with a vinegar and water mix. Just add one cup of vinegar per gallon of water.

Note - Instead of throwing away the vinegar you used to clean your coffee maker, why not reuse it in your mop water? Just dump a cup of the vinegar into a bucket and add a gallon of water.

Vinegar isn't the only common item around the house that has more than one use! 

Mayonaise -

Hair Conditioner - Did you know mayonaise makes a great hair conditioner? Instead of tossing that last bit of mayo in the jar, spoon it out and massage it through your hair. Comb it through using a wide-tooth comb and leave it in for half an hour. Then wash your hair as usual. Makes your hair shiny!

Furniture Polish - Out of furniture polish? Put a little bit of mayonaise on a soft cloth and polish away. Wipe again with a clean cloth to remove any residue.

Note - A little "mayonaise furniture polish" goes a long way. Try just a teaspoon or so to start.

Soda Pop -

Toilet Bowl Cleaner - Cola can be used as a toilet bowl cleaner. Pour a can of cola into the commode, let it sit for an hour. Clean using a toilet bowl brush and then flush.

Loosen Bolts - Cola can also be used to loosen a rusty bolt. Soak an old cloth in cola, wrap it around the bolt and let it sit for a while.

Baking Soda -

Clean Your Stovetop - Baking soda makes a great no-scratch cleaner for your stovetop. Sprinkle a little baking soda on a crusty food spot and then scrub it with a wet dishcloth.

Freshen Your Carpets - Sprinkle some baking soda on your carpets and let sit for a few minutes. Vacuum as usual. The baking soda acts as an odor absorber!

Fabric Softener Sheets -

Dust Your TV - Reuse fabric softener sheets that have gone through the dryer to dust your tv screen. It helps reduce static that attracts dust.

Deoderize boots - Got stinky work boots? Stick a couple of used dryer sheets in them over the weekend to absorb moisture and give a clean scent.

Old Socks

Clean Window Blinds - Use a clean, old sock to dust window blinds. Just slip it on your hand like a mitten and dust away!

Cobweb Catcher - Old socks can be used to get cobwebs out of the corners - slip a clean, old sock on the end of the broom handle and use a rubberband to hold it on. Swish it around the corners to grab the cobwebs.

What is your favorite "second use" item or product?
This and That...

Word of the Week - "mononymous" - being known by one name; examples - Abraham, Shakespeare, Cher.

Quote of the Week - "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith." King Solomon 

Stay Warm With Thrift Store Finds

Winter is coming quickly and fuel prices are rising...

and everyone is trying to find ways to save money.

Take a trip to your favorite thrift store and search for these "stay warm" items -

Search for heavy curtains -  Using heavier curtains in the winter will block drafty windows. Close them at night and then open them up during the day to let the sunlight in.
Your thrift store curtains don't have to be stylish or match your decor if you're using them to keep warm. If someone comments about them, you can always say you are recycling, saving money, staying warm, and the money the thrift shop makes goes to a worthy cause!
If you can't find heavy curtains, consider a blanket or a quilt. You can tack it up or hang it over the curtain rod at night.

Search for scarves and turtleneck sweaters - A scarf or a turtleneck sweater will help keep you toasty on a cold winter's day. Layering clothing retains body heat better than just wearing one heavy layer; so consider buying a sweater in a size larger than you normally wear and you can easily toss it on over another shirt.

Search for blankets - Keep a blanket or two in the living room or den to snuggle under while you're watching tv; when you're sitting still you are more apt to feel the chill.

Search for rugs - An area rug will provide an extra layer of insulation against the cold. Scatter rugs work, too - put a rug in front of your favorite arm chair or desk chair to keep your feet off the cold floor.

Search for draft blockers - You can roll up a thick towel or even a heavy shirt, and tuck it at the bottom of a drafty door. Wrapping it with heavy string or putting some rubberbands around it will hold your make-do draft blocker together.

Search for your own keep warm ideas - While you shop around in the Goodwill, Salvation Army or other fine thrift store, see what you can find to make your winter warmer!

This and that...

Word of the week - "derring-do" - meaning "daring to do"; used especially of heroic deeds.

Thoughts -
"It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one." (George Washington to his niece.)

Potato, spud or tater

Potato, spud, tater - whatever you call them you probably eat a lot of them...

The average American eats about 130 pounds of potatoes yearly and fifty-four percent of us eat potatoes in some fashion every day.
From it’s humble beginnings in the Andes mountains as a staple in the diet of the Incas, this fantastic tuber has grown to become the world fourth largest food crop with a yearly worldwide production of 320 million tons.

Simple Potato Soup

This easy to make soup is a warm comfort food on a cold winters day and also a soothing
dish when you feel a little under the weather -

Peel, chunk and cook potatoes like you would for mashed potatoes. You can experiment with the variety of potato you use; white potatoes will make a thinner soup; russet potatoes will make a ‘meatier’ soup.

When the potatoes are tender, pour off most, but not all, of the water. Leave the potatoes a little “sloppy.”

Add some salt, pepper and butter or margarine to taste and beat using an electric mixer.

Add milk until the mixture is the consistency of a thick cream soup.
If mixture seems too cool, reheat it to serving temperature.

Dish up in bowls and top with a favorite seasoning- a shake of parsley or chives works well. Or you can stir in a little extra butter, a spoonful of sour cream, or a shake of garlic powder.


A Cyclamen Can Brighten Up Your Home

Need a little color to brighten up your home?
Enjoy the beauty of a cyclamen
It is the time of year when cyclamen are showing up in abundance in grocery stores and garden centers. In folklore this lovely plant means resignation and goodbye - what a colorful way to say “goodbye” to the old year!

cyclamen in bloom

With green leaves, sometimes mottled with silver, these delightful plants have abundant white, red pink, or purple flowers reminiscent of butterflies perched atop tall stems. With a little care they will bloom right into the next year.

Choosing - find a plant with some flowers, and look to see if there are buds tucked down in the leaves. These will grow and develop into more flowers!

Temperatures - Cyclamen like it cool - 40-50 degrees at night and 68 degrees during the day. That is cooler than most homes, so consider moving your cyclamen to a cooler area at night and then bringing it back out during the day.

Light - Cyclamen need bright, diffused light. Keep them in a bright room, but away from sunny windows.

Water and fertilizer - Watering down through the top can cause the plants tuber from which it grows to rot, so lift the leaves and water from the side. Fertilize every third time you water with a balanced fertilizer diluted to half strength.

Helpful hints - Allow your cyclamen to dry, but not wilt, between waterings. Overwatering can easily kill a houseplant! Also consider using plain, bottled water on your houseplants; some plants can be affected by the chemicals found in tap water. Or you can save a little money and go green - put a bucket outside to catch rainwater to use to water your houseplants.

Cold Weather Blues

Here are three easy things that might help you break out of the blahs...

1. Make a list of things that pique your interest. If you can’t think of anything, go on a search. Take a drive or a walk through town to see what’s around. Is there a new shop you’ve never been in? A sign for an upcoming local event? Or search online and see if something sounds interesting. Check out news sites, blogs, ezines. An interesting article or a stroll through a neighborhood bazaar might just make you refocus and feel refreshed.
2. Change one thing. If you always drive a certain way to work, change your route for a day. If you always drink your morning coffee at the dining room table, try having it in the kitchen, or in bed snuggled under the covers. If you always vacuum on Tuesday afternoon, do it in the morning instead. Do you always seem to eat the same thing every week? Check out the frozen food or produce section and pick out one thing you’ve never tried. Have you ever had a perogi? How about a kiwi fruit?
3. Think of a question and search for it’s answer online. Did you ever wonder why we have daylight savings time? Whether or not George Washington went to college? When Stonehenge was built? Why men wear ties? Where the Happy Birthday song originated? What have you always wondered about?