Dec 13, 2015

Ugly Christmas Sweater Cake

I used this tutorial from and this tutorial from Jennifer Valentine to create this fun 
"Ugly Christmas Sweater" Cake.

Jan 31, 2013

Dear Readers,

Thank you to any and all who have taken the time to visit my blog. For the time being, due to time constraints, I am unable to update my holiday lists or submit any new posts. Please refer to the following sites to find helpful information concerning upcoming holidays and events.

Brownielocks and the Three Bears
Holiday Insights
State Symbols USA

Sep 6, 2012

Grandma Moses Day

grandma moses
We celebrate "Grandma Moses Day" every September 7th in commemoration of the birth date of American artist, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as "Grandma Moses", born September 7, 1860.

"Grandma Moses" was unique and inspirational in that she did not begin her painting career or become a famous artist until she was in her late 70's. Her American Folk Art/"Primitive" style paintings of quaint farms, villages, and countrysides evoke comforting, "down home" feelings and are loved and prized by many. Her cheerful, unassuming, and at times "spunky" ways endeared her to all.

Childhood History
Anna Mary Robertson was born on September 7, 1860, in Greewich, New York. She was the third of ten children born to Russell King Robertson and Margaret Shanahan. Anna Mary grew up on a farm where she and her siblings were taught the virtues of hard work. Despite times of tragedy and sadness, such as the burning of her father's mill and illnesses which took the lives of two of her brothers and one sister before adulthood, Anna Mary spoke of her childhood as a happy time, she said, "Those were my happy days, free from care or worry; helping mother... sporting with my brothers, making rafts to float over the mill pond, roaming the wild woods, gathering flowers, and building air castles."

As a child, Anna Mary loved to draw. Her father, who loved to see his children's drawings, would procure large sheets of blank newspaper upon which they could draw. Anna Mary attended school sporadically and only in the warmer months of the year, as she did not have sufficient warm clothing for the winter months. At age twelve, Anna Mary went to work at a neighboring farm as a "hired girl". She continued this type of work into adulthood, when in 1887, she met and married a farm worker named Thomas S. Moses.

Family Life
Soon after their wedding, Thomas and Anna Mary Moses boarded a train for North Carolina where Thomas had secured a job as the manager of a horse ranch. On the way to North Carolina, the couple stopped in Staunton, Virginia to sleep for the night. While there, they were convinced to take over as tenants for a local farm. Anna Mary loved the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. While in Virginia, Anna Mary gave birth to ten children, five of which died in infancy. Thomas and Anna Mary worked hard to earn enough money to buy their own farm. Anna Mary bought a cow and churned butter to sell. Later, when times got hard, she made and sold potato chips to help the family get by. Eventually, the couple was able to buy their own farm in Virginia.

In 1905, Thomas, who was feeling homesick for New York, persuaded Anna Mary to leave her beautiful Virginia home, and they returned to buy a farm in Eagle Bridge, New York, not far from Anna Mary's birthplace. They named the farm "Mount Nebo" after the biblical mountain where the prophet Moses disappeared. In 1927, Thomas Moses died of a heart attack. Anna Mary continued on at the farm. With the help of her son and his wife, Anna Mary continued to work the farm until 1932, when she left the farm to care for her daughter Anna, who had contracted tuberculosis.

A Hobby Rekindled
As a young mother in Virginia, Anna Mary used her creative abilities to beautify her home. Her earliest known painting was done on a fireboard in her Virginia home. While doing a bit of wallpapering, Anna Mary did not have quite enough paper to cover the fireboard (a piece of wood that people used to cover their fireplace during summer months) so she decided to paint a landscape on it. The fireboard now hangs in the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont.

At one point, Anna Mary's daughter, Anna, showed her mother an embroidered picture and asked if she could duplicate it. Anna Mary did, and with that she had a new found hobby. She embroidered pictures and gave them away as gifts to family and friends, but as the years progressed, Anna Mary's hands began to develop arthritis and she could no longer grasp the needle comfortably. Her sister, Celestia, suggested she work on developing her gift for painting to replace needle working, so Anna Mary did.

Anna Mary drew inspiration from Currier and Ives prints and illustrated books, but mostly from memories of her own life experiences. As a child, she and her brothers and sisters would go for long walks with their father. Anna Mary learned to be very observant of nature and the world around her. When she painted she would close her eyes, remember, and imagine how things used to be. She would paint pictures of farm scenes and activities of rural life such as maple sugaring, apple butter making, candle making, and haying. She was able to capture the beauty and excitement of winter's first snow, the joy of a Christmas feast, and the cheerfulness of a county fair. Anna Mary said she would sit quietly, think and remember, "Then I'll get an inspiration and start painting; then I'll forget everything, everything except how things used to be and how to paint it so people will know how we used to live."

A Star is Born
Anna Mary began to give her paintings away as gifts to friends, family, the postman, anyone and everyone. She also decided to try to sell them in the Hoosick Falls drugstore at the price of $2.00 for small paintings and $3.00 for large. One day, in 1938, a man by the name of Louis J. Caldor, a New York engineer and art collector, drove through Hoosick Falls and saw several of Anna Mary's paintings in the drugstore window. He went inside, purchased all of the paintings, and inquired about the artist. Upon learning where Anna Mary lived, Mr. Caldor went to her home and purchased ten more of her paintings. Caldor told Anna Mary that one day she would be famous, a sentiment that she could hardly believe. Anna Mary was 78 years old.

Mr. Caldor began showing Anna Mary's paintings to galleries and museums, but even those who were interested in her work quickly lost interest when they heard her age. At 78 years old, it may not be worth it to them to put time and expense into an artist who may not be around much longer. In 1939 though, Louis Caldor was able to get three of Anna Mary's paintings into an exhibition of "Contemporary Unknown American Painters" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In 1940, Anna Mary's first solo exhibition entitled, "What a Farm Wife Painted", was showcased at Galerie St. Etienne in New York City, and from there, she was on a roll. She began to be featured in gallery showings across the U.S. and other countries. Her highly sought after paintings were reproduced into posters, greeting cards, china plates, and drapery fabrics, and her popularity began to grow as people learned of the "rags to riches" story of the petite 80 year old woman whose charming, homespun paintings rocketed her into worldwide fame.

Over the years, from the time that Anna Mary's children were young and began to grow, her neighbors lovingly referred to her as "Mother Moses". Once she became famous, the press christened her with the name of "Grandma Moses", and that is how she became to be known around the world.

Grandma Moses lived to be 101 years old. On her 100th birthday, Governor Rockefeller proclaimed her birthday as "Grandma Moses Day". In her three decades of painting, "Grandma Moses" painted more than 1600 paintings. Her work was cherished and admired by many, as she herself was among all who knew her. As a friend of Norman Rockwell, she can be found on the left side of his painting, "Christmas Homecoming". Grandma Moses died on December 13, 1961, in Hoosick Falls, New York.

In her autobiography, "My Life's History", Grandma Moses wrote, "I look back on my life like a good day's work, it was done and I feel satisfied with it. I was happy and contented, I knew nothing better and made the best out of what life offered. And life is what we make it, always has been, always will be."

To learn even more great stuff about Grandma Moses and her paintings click on my sources below.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4
Image: Flickr

Aug 27, 2012

National Cherry Turnovers Day

Art of Pastry Week 2:  Cherry Turnovers

National Cherry Turnovers Day is celebrated every August 28.

A cherry turnover is a pastry made by placing a small amount of cherry pie filling on a piece of dough, usually puff pastry dough or a shortcrust pastry dough, then folding or "turning" one side over to cover the cherry filling. The turnover is then baked, or occasionally fried, then glazed with a sugar glaze or dipped in sugar.

Here's a yummy looking Cherry Turnover recipe which uses homemade puff pastry dough, or you could just run down to this place and get one of their delicious cherry turnovers. Yum! 

Image: Flickr

Aug 23, 2012

What's Pluto's Story Anyway?

August 24th is "Pluto Demoted Day".

On August 24, 2006, the heavenly sphere known as Pluto was reclassified from being one of the nine planets in the Solar System to a classification of dwarf planet. Have you ever wondered why? Well, for an extensive explanation, check out Pluto - on Wikipedia. For a simpler explanation, watch this video in which Dr. Robert Hurt explains, or read my post below.

Pluto's Story
In the late 1800's, through astronomical observations, astronomers speculated that Uranus' orbit was being disturbed by another planet besides Neptune. From Wikipedia we read, "In 1906, Percival Lowell, a wealthy Bostonian who had founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1894, started an extensive project in search of a possible ninth planet, which he termed, "Planet X". Lowell and his observatory conducted his search until his death in 1916, but to no avail."

Thirteen years after Lowell's death, the project was given to 23 year old astronomer, Clyde Tombaugh from Kansas. Again from Wikipedia we read, "Tombaugh's task was to systematically image the night sky in pairs of photographs taken two weeks apart, then examine each pair and determine whether any objects had shifted position. Using a machine called a blink comparator, he rapidly shifted back and forth between views of each of the plates to create the illusion of movement of any objects that had changed position or appearance between photographs. On February 18, 1930, after nearly a year of searching, Tombaugh discovered a possible moving object on photographic plates taken on January 23 and January 29 of that year. A lesser quality photograph taken on January 21 helped confirm the movement. After the observatory obtained further confirmatory photographs, news of the discovery was telegraphed to the Harvard College Observatory on March 13, 1930."

Naming the New Planet
News of the discovery of a ninth planet in the Solar System quickly spread throughout the world, and, of course, this new planet needed a name. Thousands of suggestions poured in from people all around the world. Percival Lowell's widow, Constance, suggested three names: Zeus, Percival, and Constance. All were rejected.

Finally, the name of Tombaugh's newly discovered planet came from a nine year old girl from Oxford, England. Venetia Burney, who was interested in mythology as well as astronomy, thought that Pluto, the name of the Greek god of the Underworld, would be a perfectly suitable name for a "presumably dark and cold world". After a unanimous vote from the members of the Lowell Observatory, the planet was officially named "Pluto" on May 1, 1930.

Interestingly, rumor is that in 1930, in honor of the planet Pluto, Walt Disney introduced a canine pal for Mickey Mouse whose name was, of course, Pluto. Also, following with the tradition of naming elements after planets (uranium after Uranus, neptunium after Neptune) in 1941, Glen T. Seaborg named the newly created element plutonium after Pluto.

Characteristics of Pluto
Because Pluto is so far away from the Earth, it has been difficult for astronomers to make an in-depth investigation of it. They do, however, know many things (please refer to Wiki), a small part of which are: that Pluto is relatively small. It is approximately one sixth the mass of the Earth's Moon and one third it's volume, and it is composed primarily of ice and rock.

A spacecraft is at this very moment heading towards Pluto to gather further information. The New Horizons spacecraft was launched on January 19, 2006 (interestingly just months before Pluto's classification was changed). It's closest approach to Pluto will be on July 14, 2015. It will make scientific observations of Pluto for six months prior to that date and one month after. Aboard the spacecraft are some of the ashes of Pluto's discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh, who died in 1997. Cool!

Pluto's Demotion
In 1992, a discovery was made of the Kuiper Belt (pronounced Kiper). This is a region in the Solar System containing small (relatively speaking), icy objects which are remnants of the formation of the Solar System. Pluto is among the objects in the Kuiper Belt.

There are three components which classify a planet: (from Wikipedia)

  1. The object must be in orbit around the sun. (Pluto is).
  2. The object must be massive enough to be a sphere by it's own gravitational force. More specifically, it's own gravity should pull it into a shape of hydrostatic equalibrium. (Pluto's does).
  3. It must have cleared the neighbourhood around it's orbit. (This is where the question with Pluto lies).

With the discovery of the Kuiper Belt and Pluto's place within it, controversy arose among astronomers and scientists as to whether Pluto was a separate planet or simply a large piece belonging to the mass of objects in the Kuiper Belt.

On August 24, 2006, after a vote between 424 astronomers belonging to the International Astronomical Union, Pluto was designated, by them, as no longer being a "full-fledged" planet but rather a dwarf planet. This decision, while upheld by hundreds of astronomers, is still opposed by hundreds more and by many people around the world.

My mind may tell me Pluto is a dwarf planet, but my heart tells me it's a planet.

Aug 22, 2012

Valentino Day ~ August 23

Each year, on August 23rd, we commemorate the anniversary of Rudolph Valentino's death (May 6, 1895 - Aug. 23, 1926).

Rudolph Valentino, whose given name was Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi D'Antonguolla, was born in Italy and immigrated to America when he was 18 years old. In America, he became a silent film star who rose to fame in the 1920's as a sex symbol and exotic "Latin Lover".

On August 15, 1926 Valentino collapsed and was taken to the hospital. He was suffering from appendicitis and a ruptured ulcer. Emergency surgery was performed and Valentino was thought to be on the mend, but within days his condition worsened as he developed peritonitis and pleurisy. On August 23, 1926, without being apprised by the doctors of the seriousness of his condition, Rudolph Valentino slipped into a coma and died a few hours later. He was 31 years old.

News of Valentino's death spread through America like a shock wave. Valentino's fans were devastated. Some distraught fans actually committed suicide upon hearing of his death.

Charlie Chaplin said of Rudolph Valentino - "I believe there was a fine tenderness in his acting. His ability as an actor, seldom given credit, is the great reason for his success." 

Rudolph Valentino Biography

Aug 21, 2012

National Pecan Torte Day ~ August 22

mocha pecan torte
National Pecan Torte Day is celebrated every year on August 22nd.

You may be asking yourself, "What is a torte anyway?" I was fully prepared to tell you that a torte was a multiple layered cake with some sort of filling, such as frosting, fruit, or nuts, between the layers, but I decided before I opened my mouth, that I should find out what a torte really is. I found out that in a way I was right, but I was also wrong.

First, tortes originated in Europe, and are a type of cake, but they differ from the traditional cakes that we know here in America. A traditional cake consists primarily of flour, usually cake flour, and various typical baking ingredients including baking soda. When baked, these ingredients make the cake light and fluffy, and give it height. A traditional torte uses smaller amounts of flour to which is added ground nut meal or breadcrumbs, along with sugar, eggs, and flavorings. The nut meal/breadcrumbs causes a more dense batter which, when baked, results in a flatter, heavier cake. 

Secondly, cakes are typically assembled with some type of frosting between the layers and then simply frosted on the top and sides. Tortes are usually frosted between the layers with rich buttercreams, mousses, and jams. The cake layers themselves are sometimes soaked in simple syrup or liquer. The torte is then frosted or glazed, and garnished with fruits, nuts, or chocolate. The ingredients used in making a torte are usually of the highest quality, like fine chocolates and liquer, which causes tortes to be on the more expensive side. 

Lastly, a torte may range from being a single layer cake like the Linzer torte from Austria, to having two layers like the Sachertorte from Vienna (Austria), to multiple layers like the Dobos torte from Hungary. 

Here, at, you'll find a recipe for a European Style Pecan Torte. Enjoy National Pecan Torte Day! 

Picture: Flickr