National Chocolate Day
Today is National Chocolate Day! Just what you've been waiting for – a reason to eat more chocolate! Americans consume an average of 12 pounds per person per year. Do you help contribute to this staggering stat?
The first recorded evidence of chocolate as a food product goes back to Pre-Columbian Mexico. The Mayans and Aztecs were known to make a drink called "Xocoatll from the beans of the cocoa tree. In 1528, the conquering Spaniards returned to Spain with chocolate still consumed as a beverage. A similar chocolate drink was brought to a royal wedding in France in 1615, and England welcomed chocolate in 1662. To this point "chocolate" as we spell it today, had been spelled variously as "chocalatall, "jocolatte", "jacolatte", and "chockelet.11
In 1847, Fry & Sons in England introduced the first "eating chocolate," but did not attract much attention due to its bitter taste. In 1874, Daniel Peter, a famed Swiss chocolateer, experimented with various mixtures in an effort to balance chocolates rough flavor, and eventually stumbled upon that abundant product -- milk. This changed everything and chocolate's acceptance after that was quick and enthusiastic.
Cocoa beans are usually grown on small plantations in suitable land areas 20 degrees north or south of the Equator. One mature cocoa tree can be expected to yield about five pounds of chocolate per year. These are planted in the shade of larger trees such as bananas or mangos, about 1000 trees per hectare (2,471 acres).
Cocoa trees take five to eight years to mature. After harvesting from the trees, the pods (which contain the cocoa beans) are split open, beans removed, and the beans are put on trays covered with burlap for about a week until they brown. Then they are sun dried until the moisture content is below 7%. This normally takes another three days.
After cleaning, the beans are weighed, selected and blended before roasting at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours. Then shells are removed leaving the "nib." Nibs are crushed to create a chocolate "mass." This is the base raw material from which all chocolate products are made.
Valentine’s Day and Easter are two of the top holidays for buying chocolate, but you can’t forget about Christmas or Halloween! However, many will argue that chocolate is best enjoyed year-round.
To celebrate National Chocolate Day, enjoy some chocolate with each meal today! Try hot chocolate or chocolate donuts for breakfast. A fun lunch idea is to pair your favorite dish with a tall glass of chocolate milk. For dinner, try a traditional mole sauce, made with cocoa powder. Top it all off with a decadent chocolate dessert!
Give a friend a box of chocolates, try a new recipe using chocolate, or treat yourself to some!
Plush Animal Lover's Day
Plush Animal Lovers Day is a day of celebration that is held every year to show your favourite stuffed toy some extra special love and appreciation.
The original origins of the day’s creation are vague but there is an unconfirmed Urban Legend that the day first came about after a collectibles dealer named Royal Selangor came up with the idea of a Teddy Bears Picnic Day in the late eighties. Other stuffed toys became jealous that Teddy Bears were being singled out for their own celebration and demanded a special day all of their own! Not long after, Plush Animal Lovers Day quickly replaced Teddy Bears Picnic Day in popularity!
Plush Animals Day is a great opportunity for you to share your love of your favourite toy with the rest of the world. Try taking them to your Office, school or work-place or by giving your toy an extra special tea party all of their own. Take this day to show your favorite toy just how much they have been loved in all the time you've been together and remember – a stuffed toy is for life, not just for Christmas!
Childhood memories are filled with colorful plush toys, and stuffed animals filling up a bed. Everyone has their own favorite stuffed toy, whether they cried into a teddy bear or got it from someone that they would eventually marry. But how long ago did these cuddly creatures start springing up in toy shops?
Historical records indicate that the ancient Egyptians could probably be credited with the first plush toys. There are actually no stuffed animals that have been unearthed from any of the archaeological digs in Egypt, but hieroglyphics and paintings indicate that they were present. They were not stuffed toys, however, but representatives of real animals that could be used in ceremonies.
The 1830's saw the introduction of stuffed animals as toys. These were not the soft, stuffing-field plush toys that we have today, however. These were made at home from cloth and straw, and were more like sock puppets than the factory-made toys that we now have. The original idea, moreover, to stuff animals also came from taxidermy, where real animals are stuffed, and where the process is far more expensive (not to mention dangerous, if you're after stuffed moose).
Finally, in 1880, stuffed animals finally took on the look of the toys that we see today. They were first made and sold in Germany. They were made from rather expensive materials, but with more technology and tests on the softness of plush animals, cotton and even synthetic fibers became more popular as materials. Even small beans were used to stuff toys, which could then be tossed around and played with.
The teddy bear, it is said, was named after President Theodore Roosevelt, who was approached by a toy manufacturer interested in having a line of stuffed animals. So having plush toys isn't just about getting the right materials, it's also having the right people to inspire you!
Today, stuffed animals are still selling, whether they're from classic cartoons or modern-day Disney characters. There is also a market for older, antique plush toys, which are now considered rare, if not at all precious collectors' items. Whether they're gathering dust and grime in your attic, or still sitting in your bedroom, these cuddly creatures really do make our lives brighter.
Statue of Liberty Dedication Day
On this day in 1886, President Grover Cleveland dedicates the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
The statue’s full name was Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World. It had been a gift from French citizens to their American friends in recognition of the two countries’ commitment to liberty and democracy and their alliance during the American Revolutionary War, which had begun 110 years earlier. The 151-foot copper statue was built in France and shipped to New York in 350 separate parts. It arrived in the city on June 17, 1886, and over the next several months was reassembled while electricians worked to wire the torch to light up at night.
As President Cleveland accepted the statue on behalf of American citizens, he declared "we will not forget that liberty here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected." The statue quickly became a symbol of America’s humanitarianism and willingness to take in the world’s "tired, poor and huddled masses"—in the words of the poem by Emma Lazarus inscribed on the monument’s pedestal—who yearned for freedom and a better life.
"Lady Liberty" was originally intended to work as a functional lighthouse and, from 1886 to 1901, the statue was operated by the United States Lighthouse Board. In 1901, the War Department took over its operation and maintenance. The statue and the island on which it stands, now known as Liberty Island, were together proclaimed a national monument by President Calvin Coolidge on October 15, 1924, and, in 1933, the National Park Service assumed oversight of the monument. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan established a commission tasked with restoring the deteriorating Lady Liberty in time for a centennial celebration in 1986. A joint French-American preservation and rehabilitation group cleaned the statue and replaced the glass and metal torch with gold leaf. The original torch is on display in the statue’s lobby.
Today, the Statue of Liberty is a major tourist attraction, hosting as many as 5 million people every year. Although access to the statue’s crown was restricted following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, tourists can still visit Liberty Island, and the statue’s pedestal observation deck and museum.